Northampton County's jail, built in 1871, is one of the oldest in the nation. It cost $200,000 to build.
"I wanted to just publicly thank the Board from West Easton for allowing us, because without that change, we would be kind of where we were before," Brown remarked. "This is a huge step forward."
Brown also told Council that he is relaxing the agility testing for new corrections officers so that he can eliminate the nearly 40 vacancies among corrections officers.
Brown also reported that the County is participating in a joint study with Bethlehem, Lehigh County and Allentown to study the feasibility of a regional 911 center.
When Pat Broscius is sworn in as a Magisterial District Judge in January, she will have a courtroom and office in which to hear cases. It will be at the Trolley Station at 3650 Nazareth Pike, the same place where Magisterial District Judge Joe Barner mediated disputes. By an 8-0 vote, Northampton County Council approved a 10-year lease for 2,520 sq ft of office space with Bethlehem Village Associates at a rate of $4,410 per month. Bethlehem Village will be responsible for most utilities and improvements.
In other business, Council approved some personnel requests. An accountant in Court Administration will be reclassified as a Court Fiscal Administrator with a top salary of $69,359. Sixteen part-time Registered Nurse Supervisors were approved at a salary of $29 per hour. These measures passed 8-0, but Mat Benol was troubled by a request to transfer a painter from Housekeeping at Gracedale into the Maintenance department and also, to add a second painting position at a top salary of $43,349.
Though this salary has already been set, Benol complained that taxpayers are really paying between $60,000-75,000 for these positions, when benefits are included.
"Yeah, but that's $10 below prevailing wage for what painters are paid in the county," responded Ken Kraft, a business agent with a local painters' union. "I was going to make a motion to increase the rate $10,000 more so it's equivalent to the prevailing wage rate for the county."
"$75,000 for a painter!" continued Benol, saying he'd prefer to have jail inmates do the work."This is just a lot of money that the county is spending." Executive John Brown observed that bringing people from the jail would actually cause more work than the painters themselves. "Sometimes, it makes sense to add a particular position," he argued.
Only Benol voted against the painting transfer and new hire.
Council voted 8-0 to approve two bridge repair contracts
The first of these was with Bi-State Construction Co.for stream and channel cleaning at three county bridges. Bi-State bid $82,875. for the work, which was much lower than a $210,932.17 bid.from Bill Anskis Company, Inc.
The second bridge contract was with Clearwater Construction,Inc. for a bituminous concrete overlay on eight county bridges. Continuous bid $228,805,00, which was lower than the $364,004.00 bid submitted by Barker and Barker Paving.
Seth Vaughn, who missed the committee meeting in which this purchase was discussed, asked Public Works Director Stan Rugis, "What's a bituminous concrete overlay?"
"Basically, it's asphalt."
"So these bridges are in need of it?"
"No, they're just doing it for fun," wisecracked Scott Parsons
Finally, Council voted 6-2 to approve a no-bid contract with Xerox for blade servers and upgrades at a cost of $241,987.20. Xerox is the County's IT provider and is able to use Xerox' global reseller status for cost effective purchases. Glenn Geissinger and Benol voted against this purchase without explanation.
Lamont McClure was unable to attend the meeting as a result of a business conflict, and Glenn Geissinger participated by phone.