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LST Council: A Farce in 3 Acts – Act 2

The latest development in the ongoing saga of library services for Lower Saucon Township was a public statement released by Bruce Eames, Board President of the Southern Lehigh Public Library (SLPL), following their board meeting on July 19 (see below).  In it, Mr. Eames explains that the library has decided to accept the $50,000 that Lower Saucon has been trying to give them in an attempt to pressure SLPL into making Lower Saucon a part of the SLPL system.  

A check written in January was eventually voided when SLPL declined to accept it.  It was reissued in May in another attempt to get SLPL to bite.  It has languished in the meantime as various groups that provide financial support for SLPL have tried to pressure them into accepting the check.  Eames particularly mentioned pressure from the Upper Saucon Township Board of Supervisors and Lower Milford Township.  We also know from a recording of a public meeting of the Southern Lehigh School Board that the School Board wanted the library to accept the donation so that they could consider reducing their support for the library by an equivalent amount.

In his public statement Mr. Eames makes clear that “the Board accepts this donation with serious trepidation.”  He then goes on to outline in detail why they are accepting the donation with misgivings – the fact that it was offered in the midst of the ongoing dispute between LST Council and the Hellertown Library, the fact that they are being pressured into it, and the fact that LST is requesting to become part of the SLPL service area which may or may not be a good thing for SLPL.

From the perspective of Lower Saucon Township residents, these are all determinations that SLPL has to make on its own. In fact, SLPL would have to invite LST to join their service area.  LST cannot demand to be included.  As Mr. Eames points out in his statement, this is a long and uncertain process, at least in part because it is unprecedented.  The SLPL is studying the pros and cons of the situation.  Certainly the addition of 11,000+ new customers would present significant financial challenges.

Instead, let’s step back and see where we are as this specifically relates to Lower Saucon Township and what’s being done with our tax dollars, because the situation is so rife with idiocies that it’s hard to make any sense of it.

  1.  The letter from Solicitor Treadwell (see below) expressly states that “the donation is unconditional, and was made in appreciation of the services provided by the Southern Lehigh Library to Township residents over the past 10 years.”  In the words of Mr. Eames, “its [Lower Saucon’s] residents will not benefit from the donation, except to the extent they use the SLPL through the Access Pennsylvania program.”  Translation:  Lower Saucon Township just handed SLPL $50,000 as a contribution for which we receive no additional library services that weren’t already available to us.

The resolution passed by the Township Council on January 19 says that the $50,000 check is to be issued “so LST residents can have access to the additional library facilities provided by Southern Lehigh Library.”  Except that LST residents already had access to those library facilities through Access Pennsylvania and the check didn’t provide any additional access.  So the $50,000 check presented to SLPL was a contribution and should have been passed as that. It was not.

The LST budget for 2022 has an account for contributions (#01.400.500).  It specifies which organizations will receive contributions from the Township.  It includes 13 separate organizations for a total of $21,200.  It does not include the SLPL.

The LST budget for 2022 has an account for library services (#01.456.500).  It is described as: “Under the consolidated library plan that was adopted in 2013, the Township contributes to the Hellertown Area Library for library services for its residents. Included is the amount requested from the library which represents $9.66 per capita of 11,094 residents.”  This is the account out of which the $50,000 check (#78946 dated May 12, 2022) for SLPL was paid.

If LST Council was going to offer the $50,000 as an “unconditional” donation for which no services were received, then they needed to have passed a new resolution to that effect and made the necessary budget adjustments to pay the $50K out of the Contributions account.

  • Here’s a very helpful map created by John Schubert of a 3-mile radius around each of the libraries – Hellertown and SLPL.  As you can see, a 3-mile radius from SLPL covers only a sliver of the area of Lower Saucon. How can it make any sense to make library access more difficult for what looks to be about 80% of the Township? And why would the 80% of people who live in that part of the Township want their tax dollars to go to SLPL?  Let alone those in the other 20% of the Township who are quite happy with the Hellertown Area Library (HAL).
  • Where is the Office of Commonwealth Libraries and the Governor’s Advisory Council on Library Development in all this?  Out to lunch.  So far their major contribution has been to say that HAL must continue to provide services to LST whether or not they get funding from LST at least until January 1, 2024.  How does that make any sense?  How is that supportive of a library, making them give away services for free?  And don’t they know the word “NO”? Can’t they see that what LST’s council is proposing is not representative of the desires of their constituents?  Just say “no” and we’re done with this nonsense.
  • State Representative Bob Freeman in particular and State Senator Lisa Boscola have been involved in trying to resolve this issue with the OCL.  Where is the person that represents Lower Saucon in all this?  Do you mean Missing-in-Action Milou Mackenzie?  Not a peep from what I can see.  And you won’t find any mention of anything she’s done on the issue in that glossy, taxpayer-paid “newsletter” you get in the mail either.
  • It would be interesting to see if the Southern Lehigh School District has reduced its funding for SLPL now that SLPL has accepted the $50,000 check.  More to come.
  • It’s also a curious coincidence that our newly appointed LST council person is Mark Inglis and a member of the Upper Saucon Township Board of Supervisors that has been putting pressure on SLPL to accept the check is John Inglis.  My understanding is that they are related.  Brothers, perhaps?  If you recall, there was no information on who else applied for that council position or why Inglis was chosen.

So now we wait. The next SLPL Board meeting is Tuesday, August 16, at 6:30 PM in the library’s meeting room. Mr. Eames indicated in his statement that the library board hoped to have a response to many of their own questions at this meeting.


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