|Archibald Johnston mansion|
A number of citizens voiced opposition to sketch plans recently submitted for the development of Green Pond as well as the old V-7 driving range. But one citizen made the mistake of asking a question during the middle of the meeting, after courtesy of the floor was over. Another asked to address the Board at the end of the night, though he had spoken earlier.
President Marty Zawarski cautioned the audience that, in the future, they should limit their public comments to courtesy of the floor. Commissioner Michael Hudak agreed. "Open debate, commenting on other commenters, is counterproductive," he said.
Under the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act, the public has a right to address municipal bodies before they vote on a matter. But the Board has the option of limiting all comment to the beginning of the meeting. Hudak stated that comments at other times "hinders our ability to do our job in a timely fashion."
In other business, Commissioners made several moves concerning Housenick Park. This 55-acre passive recreation park, located off of Christian Springs Road, includes the mansion built in 1923 by Archibald Johnston, Bethlehem's first Mayor. His architect was Spillman Farmer, which has retained the original drawings. The board voted unanimously to hire this firm, at a cost of $17,0000, to draw up plans to preserve the exterior of the building, along with ADA-accessible restrooms.
"It's a well known, respected firm," noted Zaworski, which will insure that the mansion is "restored in a manner that is respectful to the home."
Commissioners also gave engineer Evan Stone the green light to move forward with bids for the $455,000 trail construction project. Part of this funding will come from a $204,000 Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Grant.
Stone warned that the discovery of a bald eagle nest, right across the Monacacy Creek and just outside the park, may alter some of the trail planning. He stated that there must be a 660' buffer between the nest and any work.
A $2 million trust set up by Janet Housenick before her death will provide the remaining money for the trails as well as the architectural services.
Commissioners also moved ahead with the anticipated appointment of former Commissioner Paul Weiss to serve as a volunteer consultant at the park.
Finally, Commissioners unanimously agreed to seek a $50,000 Gaming Authority grant, available to all county municipalities, to clean and restore the interior of the mansion.
With Housenick out of the way, four of the five Commissioners agreed to send a letter supporting the Bethlehem Area Public Library's 2014 Keystone Grant application to expand the children's library. Pat Breslin voted No without explanation.
They also approved Building Code Official Training for newly hired Planning Director Nathan Jones. That;'s good news for Jones, who already was in Harrisburg and taking the four-day course.