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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Bethlehem Tp To Survey Public Concerning Library

Judge Jennifer Sletvold administers oath to Kutzler
Back in January, Bethlehem Tp Commissioners were poised to ask the public by way if referendum whether the Township should continue its participation in Bethlehem Area Public Library. President Mike Hudak complained that only a small percentage of residents use it, but the annual fee is $17.25 per capita. But they discovered that the Library Law makes it virtually impossible to ask voters directly whether they want to remain. So they've come up with another way to gauge public opinion - a survey.

At their August 7 meeting, Commissioners voted 4-0 (Malissa Davis was absent) to enter into a $14,265 agreement with National Citizen Survey for a public opinion poll. Manager Melissa Shafer advised that a questionnaire, sent to 1,500 people, will register sentiments concerning the library and other issues.

Bethlehem Area Public Library is financed by Bethlehem, Bethlehem Tp, Hanover Tp and Fountain Hill Borough. Bethlehem Tp has 9,749 cardholders, including 528 new cardholders in 2015. That translates to 41% of the Township's population. In addition to the annual per capita assessment of municipalities, the library benefits from nearly $215,000 in donations and grants each year.

Though the Township failed to budget for this survey, Shafer said she could use unspent money in the Planning Department.

There's no need to survey public opinion about all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). In recent years, there's been a rash of complaints about the noise and dust they cause. So Commissioners voted 4-0 to ban their use between dusk and dawn. They must also stay at least 100' away from the property line of any adjacent owner.

ATVs include snowmobiles, motor driven vehicles having two or more wheels (commonly known as trail bikes), dirt bikes, mini bikes, and all other vehicles (licensed and unlicensed) commonly used for off-road purposes. ATVs used for emergencies, residential gardening, property maintenance, or agricultural purposes are exempt.

According to HG, a legal information site, 135,000 people are injured every year in ATV accidents. Over 700 are killed every year, and a third of them are under 16.

In other business, Commissioners authorized an appeal to the Township's own Code Appeals Board concerning the stringent code requirements for a controversial public restroom near the athletic fields, called the North 40.  The most recent cost estimates for this, according to Mike Hudak, are $460,000-$495,000.

According to the Uniform Construction Code, the Township would be required to install six women's toilets; four men's toilets and a separate, "family assisted use" restroom. Shafer is proposing that four family rest rooms should suffice.

Hudak suggested tabling this appeal because he had just become aware of an opportunity to purchase at a cost of between $30,000-60,000.  Though Tom Nolan agreed that the trailer option should be pursued, he recommended that the Board pursue the appeal as well. The Board voted 3-1 to do so,with Hudak dissenting.    

Howard Kutzler, who was appointed on July 31, was sworn in by Judge Jennifer Sletvold just as the meeting started. The Township's newest Commissioner, its former Planner and Manager, needed and got no time to get used to the job. He began his first meeting by proving he is the fiscal conservative he said he is.

On the agenda were three major purchase orders totaling $95,672. Two of these orders - one for the outdoor pool and another for line painting - were already a part of the budget. But the third - $46,642.90 to purchase two small leaf trucks - was not.  Kutzler forced a separate vote on that item, and it failed.

As a final matter, Commissioners considered a proposal to give volunteer firefighters a tax credit, either from real estate taxes or Earned Income Tax., at the suggestion of  Tom Nolan. This is pursuant to a recent state law authorizing municipalities to provide a tax credit of up to 20% to active volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians.

"Our volunteer firefighters are out daily, said Kutzler. "We're blessed in this community." But Kutzler and Hudak both said they need time to study the proposal.


Anonymous said...

"Manager Melissa Shafer advised that a questionnaire, sent to 1,500 people, will register sentiments concerning the library and other issues."

There are more than 1500 residents, a select few? And if Howard was so fiscally conservative, why allow an un-budgeted item even if unspent in planning?

Anonymous said...

While the number 1500 likely refers to the number of households that will receive the survey, it is still less than 1/6 of the number of households in the Township.

Anonymous said...

The survey of 1/6 the households is more than a representative sample and if they get 20% of those back statistically they'll be doing well. Seems to me this is their attempt to garner support to leave the BAPL and seek an alternative.

Anonymous said...

$9.51 per answer if all 1500 respond so average return (hopeful) of 20% is 300 respondents (25k+ residents including children who have a voice) and, @ $47.55 is not fiscally conservative and representative of township residents by any means. This seems to be a #FAKESURVEY geared toward leaving the BAPL which is a disgrace!

Ovem Lupo Commitere said...

I have always loved and supported libraries. I still read hard copy books, and there is just something about walking through stacks of books (sometimes I still go to Linderman just to take it in). I know this was a contentious and divisive issue back in the 80s, and a few times since then. However, and I really hate to say this, times change and the Township public's support may have changed too.

The reality may very well be like my phone service. For years I resisted the idea of getting rid of my landline. It was "nice to still have access to" (I recall during Superstorm Sandy, cell service was out for a bit, but landlines worked). But times change: 99% of calls to the house went unanswered because on caller ID they were telemarketers or scammers, and I can't remember the last time I needed to send a fax on the secondary number. So why pay over $1300 a year for something I really don't need when the family pays for cells, and the internet that ARE used daily? I just cancelled my landline earlier today.

I like knowing the library is there, and if I lived within walking distance maybe I'd still actually use it. I think for City residents it is still an asset. But for the Township? I don't know anymore. It should be interesting to see the results.

Anonymous said...

Spending millions in the community center and fund its operation monthly through the general account and as a resident, I still have to pay a fee to enter the facility. Let's see how fiscally conservative Howard is!

Bernie O'Hare said...

It's too bad the Library Law prevents a direct vote so that we really know what the public thinks. I am very pro-library. Unlike landlines, I believe they have changed with technology. Many of the books I borrow there are on my iPhone. Also,if the Township drops out, residents are unable to borrow from other libraries. I believe in democracy, but a survey gives library proponents or opponents no opportunity to campaign and inform residents. But this should help commissioners make their decision.

Bernie O'Hare said...

1:39, Kutzler voted against something bc there was no money for it in the budget. That is evidence of fiscal conservatism. You respond by slamming him bc you have to pay $5 to use a state-of-the-art community center builtbover a decade ago, and approved by other Commissioners. Howard has been a Comm'r for one meeting. Your anonymous attack betrays a personal animosity and is illogical. I suggest you go to the trails outside the community center and take a long walk. Maybe some medicinal marijuana.

Anonymous said...

We all know you love Kutzler but his entire appointment dance was nothing but insider good old boy politics at its worst. As will his endorsement by the republican establishment this Fall>

Bernie O'Hare said...

I respect Howard. I have never met him socially, would not know his wife or children if I tripped over them. I found that, in his years as Planner and Manager, he always returned calls and was more than willing to help me inform my readers. I saw him interact with the public at meetings, and he was always professional. He was wearing both the Planner and Manager hat. As a result of a poor economy, the Township was not hiring and everyone who was there had to make the best of things. I thought Howard excelled under very trying circumstances.

The notion that his appointment was an inside decision is utter horseshit. Tom Nolan and Mike Hudak, the two board veterans, are diametrically opposed to each other about almost everything. That they agreed on Howard is quite a compliment to him. Malissa Davis is anything but an insider. She is an outsider who ran for office under the Save Green Pond banner. But she thought Howard the best of four good choices. Breslin is a lame duck who has lost the respect of his fellow Commissioners, and for good reason, but even he voted for Howard.

The Rs will certainly name Howard as their candidate. But the Dems can run a candidate, too. Will you call that person an insider?

Anonymous said...

How much do judges charge to swear in commissioners?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Don't be ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

$300 per hour + expenses.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have just confirmed that this is utter nonsense.