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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

In Split Vote, Bulldogs Recognized as "Official" Township Sports Group

By a 3-2 vote, Bethlehem Township Commissioners recognized the Bethlehem Township Athletic Association, known as the Bulldogs, as an "official" township youth sports group at their June 1 meeting. What this means is anyone's guess, but it rankled Bulldog critics like Commissioner Michael Hudak and Rec Board member Barry Roth. Both have complained often about favoritism they believe is shown to this group.

Just two weeks ago, Hudak spearheaded a discussion on establishing a formal policy concerning field use by the Bulldogs. That proposal was supported unanimously.

Prior to that, Hudak has argued that the Bulldogs should "pay to play." He has noted that the group gets $40,000 every year from the Township, which also spends $30,000 per year to mow the grass. In addition, $20,140 in field rental fees are provided at no charge. As a matter of fairness, Hudak has argued that it's time that the Bulldogs start paying for field use.

Resident Barry Roth, who serves on the Township's Recreation Board, has also complained at several meetings about the Bulldogs. He has seen the Township provide an office for Bulldog records and spend $280,000 for athletic fields that were intended to be a band shell. He also complains that the Township spent $300,000 for lights that are sometimes left on until 6 am.

Both Hudak and Roth have complained bitterly about a bathroom planned for the athletic fields. It may cost as much as $350,000, though Commissioners unanimously agreed to seek a $250,000 grant in a resolution adopted earlier that evening.

First formed in 1968, the Bulldogs are a nonprofit organization made up entirely of volunteers who offer recreational cheerleading, football, soccer, basketball, wrestling, softball, and Lacrosse. The $40,000 received annually from the Township is actually $15,000 less than was provided before the Great Recession. It is considered a feeder program for Freedom High School.

Proposing a resolution recognizing the Bulldogs as an official Township-sanctioned sports group was Tom Nolan, a steadfast advocate. At courtesy of the floor, Barry Roth asked for permission to discuss it when it came up, which President Marty Zawarski denied.

"How can I discuss the resolution without knowing what it says?" asked Roth, with no reply from Zawarski.

Nolan argued that, given what the Bulldogs do for the community, "I thought it's time that the Board recognizes the organization formally."

Hudak countered that if the Board recognizes the Bulldogs, it should also recognize the Freemansburg Bethlehem Township Athletic Association, known as the Blue Barons. That group only offers one sport - baseball. It also receives an annual contribution from the township. Hudak argued that the Blue Barons be recognized, too, and "not just the select group or special few."

Nolan stated he was perfectly willing to recognize the Blue Barons in a separate resolution. "Certain members of this Board are trying to contaminate this issue," he warned, adding that there are no legal issues.

Both Marty Zawarski and Phil Barnard sided with Nolan. Barnard noted that people visiting the township already identify the Bulldogs with the Township, and the relationship should be recognized.

Pat Breslin sided with Hudak. While claiming to be a big proponent of youth sports who just gave a speech to one group near Philly, Breslin reasoned that "we should focus on issues that matter.

Right after the vote, Barry Roth complained from the back of the room about being denied the right to speak about it himself. "Any other resolution we have a chance to discuss," he exploded, and stormed out of the meeting.

"He's absolutely right," muttered Hudak to Breslin.

Before voting, Zawarski mentioned that he was once an umpire for the Blue Barons, but quit because mothers kept throwing things at him for making bad calls. He must have had a few flashbacks.


Anonymous said...

Hudak is a joke. As a Township resident with grown children, it is the purview of the Township and my township taxes to support our youth in athletics. It is money well spent and I'd advocate a tax increase if Hudak is so worried about paying the expenses. Grow up, act like a steward of the community, not some tax cutting hick who wants BTwp to be like Slatington or something.

Anonymous said...

8:22 am
Where you there? I was. All I heard was hudak supporting BOTH athletic organizations instead of picking one over the other. I also heard that he played for the bulldogs, must of been while you were still living in NJ, so I assume he has been a township resident for at least 50 years. Also know he has grown children and grandchildren all of whom play organized sports. Barnard just supports the bulldogs because he feels they sit at the right hand of God and both him and his close friend and financial supporter Abe Atiyeh both have children in the organization. Thought he was elected to represent the people not his friend and the bulldogs. Nolan only cares about his ego, i puke a little in my mouth everytime he opens his and zawarski clearly voted yes just to get the Bulldog votes.
Breslin and Hudak at least seem to have the balls to make the hard decisions no matter how unpopular and stand by them. Can't say that about Nolan or zawarski and Barnard, well he just sits there and wonders why they call them stands if everybody is sitting.
I'm glad you want your taxes to go up because I live on a fixed income along with a lot of other seniors/VOTERS in this township and I dont. So when we have to raise taxes I think the commissioners should get the names of people like you and all the other "Athletic Supporters" in the township and reassess just them.
And by the way genius your use of the word purview here is wrong here. Guess your hudaks neighbor up there in slatington.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Hudak did advocate for recognizing both groups, but voted against an attempt to recognize one of them despite assurances that a separate resolution would be offered for the other. He called the Bulldogs the "special few."

Anonymous said...

Amen 10:12am!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mr. Hudak that both groups should be equally recognized since both work for the good of our children. A single resolution recognizing both equally seems more equitable to me than battling single resolutions, which may or may not happen. Also, the general agreement to remove the word "support" from the resolution was not included in the resolution which passed.

My objection to the process, however, is that this resolution was passed on an item listed under the agenda heading of "DISCUSSION ITEM" and I was blind-sided when a discussion item morphed into an action item without warning and without allowing public input. Granted this was a minor matter in that it has little impact on our lives generally but it does put us on notice to be more questioning of seemingly innocuous agenda items.

I have asked the Township Manager to look into whether Township rules allow this procedure. If allowed, our officials should look into advisability as just because something can be done doesn't mean that it should be done. And this, in my opinion, is a very bad precedent.


Anonymous said...

This board is becoming so political it is sick. People are talking everywhere about Bethlehem Twp being the most political board they have ever dealt with. NO merit, just flavor of the day with them.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ben, I believe it was a Sunshine Act violation. The Board took official action on a matter without receiving input from the public. This resolution was not part of the agenda posted online, so Zawarski should have allowed Roth to weigh in when the item came up and was explained. I could probably could Roth by heart bc I've heard this from him 1,000 times, but he has that right.

Anonymous said...

File a violation of the Sunshine Act

Bernie O'Hare said...

I would think the Township might be persuaded to vote again after taking comment.

Anonymous said...

Marty again trying to keep people from their rights and speaking. He does not like to allow residents to speak.