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Friday, August 08, 2014

Senior Centers Leave Easton - Blame Parking And Crime

Debbie Mertz
At one time, the Eagles' building along Sullivan Trail in Forks Township was home to wedding receptions and weekend dances. But now, a portion of the property will have a new use as a new community center for Northampton County seniors, replacing two aging facilities in downtown and South Side Easton. By a 6-3 vote at their August 7 meeting, County Council approved a six-year lease with prominent area restaurateur Georges Moussa, with an initial monthly rent of $8,000. Rent will increase three per cent every year.

Council members Mat Benol, Lamont McClure and Bob Werner voted against the proposal without explanation. Some had previously worried that the move would inconvenience Easton seniors. But Debbie Mertz, Director of the Easton Area Senior Center, put those concerns to rest. She argued the move to Forks is necessary because of parking woes and high crime in Easton's downtown.

"When I first started 15 years ago, we had 90 visitors a day," she explained. "It's dropped to 8."

Mertz said that 15 years ago, the City was much more accommodating to senior concerns. There was art in the circle, flea markets, little crime and easy parking. But all that has changed. The Area Agency on Agency has repeatedly tried to get parking permits for seniors visiting the center, without success. Easton refused permission for a space in front of the center so aging seniors could be dropped off, especially in the winter. The City also refused to allow seniors to use six handicapped spots in front of the South Side center on street cleaning days.

"I can't even have a dance," lamented Mertz, noting that Easton enforces parking meters late into the evening and even on Sundays. "If they get a ticket, seniors can't afford it."

She also pointed to a recent holdup at a business just a few doors from the down center.

In contrast, there is "oodles of parking" at the Eagles building, as well as brand new bathrooms and a modern kitchen. Lafayette College has already approached Mertz about gardening plots for seniors, which are being called "Lafarms". Seniors will also be able to use a trail and even a boccie ball court.

Council member Glenn Geissinger, the only member of Council to address the lease proposal, said his concerns were allayed after speaking to the Area Agency on Aging. He added there is no truth to "rumors that we are closing senior centers."


Anonymous said...

Panto and Easton hate seniors. They don't protect seniors and try to rifle their wallets and purses at every turn The Easton miracle is a sham. Panto barely controls four square blocks of that dangerous town. He declares neighborhoods clean and safe right before the shooting breaks out. He thinks his town is the circle and the four blocks leading from it. The rest of the city is ignored. He lies about raising taxes by jacking up the highest fee structure in the Lehigh Valley, then taxes McDonalds kids and seniors to pay for his endless, uncontrolled spending. Seniors will be safer and more welcome in Forks, a community that knows well what a cancer Sal Panto is to quality of life. Hats off to Lafayette for their pledged cooperation.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The problems with parking pre-date Panto, according to Mertz. I asked her last night.

Anonymous said...

Easton has never been good to the seniors, they find them a distraction to the artsy fartsy crowd they think they attract. It has become worse under Panto.

It is a shame as any urban center should have a senior center. However, you can't blame the seniors since ducking bullets and knives gets harder with age.

The new Easton!

Amend Wun said...

Artsy fartsy? What are you 12? No one has a problem with seniors in Easton. The real issue is that the county is terrible at maintaining its holdings. How many buildings have they run into the ground and then abandoned? The fact that the county chose to rent from Moussa shows how little they know about who's who and what's what.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Amend, I'm no expert on downtown Easton, and am reporting what Ms. Mertz said. I do know parking is tough, although I always manage. Those are not county-owned buildings, although the county has historically been bad at maintenance. Also, I know Chicken George pretty well. He's even taught me some Lebanese. Back in the day, I visited his places and always liked them. It seems like a good deal for the County's seniors. Moussa is getting some $ to renovate, there will be lots of parking and even gardening.

Don't be offended by the term "artsy-fartsy". I wish I had a greater appreciation. My Dad did, and even collected, but I'm more interested in words.

Anonymous said...

Way to keep it classy, Easton

Amend Wun said...

Bernie- my point about the county and Maintanence was in relationship to how they deal with the properties they own and use. Don't be surprised if a few years from now, these seniors are living in a similar situation in Forks. If people really loved these seniors, no obstacles would keep them from visitng their loved ones, parking included. That's just BS. And not to be confrontational, but you'll dig up every bit of dirt you can on business deals involving the city administration, which you have the right to, but you'll give the county a pass on this one. Ask questions about those involved, like you've been doing with Panto recently, and see what kind of answers you get.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Amend, though I usually only see your comments at LehighValleyLive, I'm glad you're here and disagreeing, especially since you are regularly accused of being me. I would not wish that on any one.

To your points:

1) historically, the county has done a terrible job at maintenance. Needed repairs are always delayed as money is thrown at the latest crisis. Though promises to improve are always made, I expect this Council and admin. to be no different than their predecessors.

2) I actually have pretty much giveN Easton a pass and focus primarily on the County.

3) you are implying something is amiss in this deal. Please explain in more detail and I can guarantee I will look into it. I'm much better suited to the county anyway. But your implication shocks me. This is directly from John Mehler. He runs the Area Agency on Aging. He is not a politician, and is driven by a desire to serve area seniors. His integrity is beyond reproach. The two Easton directors were at the meeting, begging for the switch. So please fill me in.

Amend Wun said...

It's not the agency I question, and I don't feel comfortable discussing certain things out "in the open", if you know what I'm saying. Apologies for misrepresenting you on the LVL. I also wouldn't want to saddle anyone with the reactions to my opinion.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Amend, your thoughtful comments on LVL are appreciated. I don't mind being accused of being you or Bakerdude. You can email me your concerns about this lease at Bohare5948@aol.com. If something shady is going on, I will pick up on it.

Anonymous said...

"She argued the move to Forks is necessary because of parking woes and high crime in Easton's downtown."

I have seen this comment in other newspapers. Hell of an indictment about Easton coming from a county official. ". . high crime" That should be the issue. She's right about parking- it is difficult in an urban area. But, the senior center served the elderly that lived in several elderly housing projects within two blocks of the center. Something does not add up. If the attendance was so low and elderly are concentrated in apartments along 4th Street, what is missing in this equation? Parking would have never been a problem for a two block walk.

Bernie O'Hare said...

For some of these folks, it is. Especially last winter. She was also concerned about a hold up near the downtown center. The elderly, as I'm sure you know, are more vulnerable to crime.

Anonymous said...

There is always crime near where ever you are. But to say high crime. I infer much from that statement and the stats do not support the statement. I still say that the problem is that the program did not attract attendance considering the elderly population that lived within two blocks. I will buy the rationale behind the move if it is to expand the program to attract more attendance. That is not what is being said. all those elderly who live on forth street are cruising around downtown obviously not deterred by the "high crime" Yep, got to take a bus to another bank because I might get robbed coming out of one of downtown's banks. You know those robberies happen every day and they always target old people.

Anonymous said...

Bakerdude said...

I appreciate Amend's comments on LVL as well. I am alleged to be Bernie and Amend on occasion, by jackasses who couldn't tell their bungholes from holes in the ground.

I don't mind being confused with either of you, because you are far more insightful and versed in community and political issues. It's just frustrating that there are such brain dead people in the world.

Carry on.