|Comm'r Michael Hudak|
This bathroom will service fans watching games involving the Bethlehem Township Athletic Association, known as the Bulldogs. That nonprofit organization, which consists entirely of volunteers, has had a contractual relationship with the Township that goes back to 1969. It offers recreational cheerleading, football, soccer, basketball, wrestling, softball, and lacrosse to all Township residents. Under the terms of its contract, it must maintain liability insurance, and the Township has agreed to subsidize the organization. Over 1,500 children participate in one or more of these sports. They receive an annual subsidy of $40,000.
Complaints About $350,000 Public Restroom
"I'm speechless, I'm speechless," complained Hudak, who argued that this proposal is opposed by 95% Township. "It's gotten so bad we had to get a guy on speaker phone so he can cast a Yes vote," he added, referring to a vote cast by vacationing Phil Barnard via speakerphone.
Noting that there are no public restrooms at four other Township parks, Hudak conjectured that the money could have instead been used to develop a brand new park along Cabernet Drive or Hope Road. Contrary to what Hudak asserted, there are public restrooms at the Township park along Farmersville Road.
"The community does not want this," he concluded.
Whether that's true is debatable, but Chetwin Terrace residents Wayne Kresge and Roy Roth spoke against spending $350,000 for public restrooms. Kresge and Roth have complained for years about storm waters coming from William Penn Highway that flood their yards during heavy downpours like one that coincided with the meeting that evening. Though the Township has taken remedial action, they have stated it is inadequate.
Of the two, Roth was more conciliatory. "I agree the kids need facilities, but do we need a Cadillac?" he asked. Much harsher, Kresge complained about spending a "small fortune" on a facility that he said would only serve 11% of the population."Is 11% of the population is worth more than my house?" he asked. "Times change," he asserted.
Kresge also questioned whether the Bulldogs have liability insurance or vendor licenses for the concession stand. Hudak stated he made the same request himself, and suspected that the answer is No.
Township Manager Melissa Shafer responded that the Bulldogs do and are required to have liability insurance, but is looking into whether a vendor's license for snacks is needed.
The $250,000 grant was recommended by the Recreation Board at their June 8 meeting by a three to two vote, with one abstention.
On talk radio, Commissioner Pat Breslin claimed he could raise $100,000 for bathrooms without involving the government. But he made no such claim at any meeting of Commissioners and said nothing before voting against seeking this grant. Shock jock Bobby Gunther Walsh suggested that this $350,000 was included in the budget so that Commissioners "can then comp one of our cronies."
Bathroom to Serve as Storage Facility
Critics of this bathroom failed to mention is that this bathroom will also double as a storage facility.
The Bethlehem Bulldogs currently pay almost $700 a month (app.$8,000/year) for storage of equipment and supplies during the off season. This facility will also provide permanent storage for shoulder pads and other equipment, much like the Steelers have in Bethlehem. Because the Bulldogs no longer will have to pay rental, they have agreed to an $8,000 cut in their annual allotment from the Township. That annual savings will probably pay for most if not all of the cost of the bathroom over its anticipated lifespan.
Why Does the Bathroom/Storage facility Cost $350,000?
In a memo prepared for Commissioners, Manager Shafer explained that the high cost for the combination bathroom and storage building is the result of the 2009 International Building Code and Township Plumbing Code. Based on parking lot capacity, she reports that the public restroom must include the following: six women's toilets; two men's toilets and one urinal; two lavatories (sinks) in each restroom; Handicapped accessible facilities for each gender; two drinking fountains (one each for wheelchair and standing persons); a service closet with water heater, mop sink, and cleaning supply storage; and a separate, "family assisted use" restroom.
Supporters of the grant offered no arguments.