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About That Offer

By now I’m certain that you’ve all heard about the offer to Hellertown Borough that the Lower Saucon Township council sprung out of the blue at their September 20 meeting (see letter at end of blog).  Where to begin to unpack this pile of rubbish?  Let’s try an FAQ format.

Why did the LST Council suddenly decide to make this offer now?

Excellent question.  First and foremost, it’s important to remember that this is a strictly political maneuver on the part of Banonis et al in an attempt to get his slate of sock puppets elected in November.  This has nothing to do with what’s good for the Township or Hellertown Borough or Hellertown Area Library.  Instead, this is a frantic, hail Mary attempt to try to put back together all the pieces that Humpty Dumpty broke and claim no harm-no foul in time for the November general election.

This is all about control and power.   If Banonis and his cronies lose control over the council, it jeopardizes whatever it is they’ve agreed to deliver to the landfill owners.  And the landfill is a much bigger plum than a couple hundred thousand dollars thrown at the library.

Consider these facts:

  1.  The Council created these problems on their own in January 2022.  Despite their repeated claims to the contrary, it was our council that refused to negotiate a new contract with HAL in good faith.  Instead, they offered a take-it-or-leave-it offer of a $50,000 contribution which was less than 50% of what HAL needed, no contract, no guarantee of future funding.
  2. Again, despite their attempt to spin the facts otherwise, in January 2022 when LST made the insulting non-offer to HAL, LST still had seats on the HAL Board.  It was only when it became clear that LST was not going to enter into any kind of contract with HAL nor provide a sufficient level of funding and that Hellertown Borough was going to be saddled with the full cost of supporting HAL, that HAL, at Hellertown Borough’s request, revised its by-laws to remove LST’s board seats as a protective move.  Ask yourself – would you allow people to sit on your Board and vote if they were making zero contribution to your organization?  I think not.
  3. All the remaining difficulties between LST and Hellertown Borough (the Compost Center, the pool, the Saucon Valley Partnership) flowed from this initial refusal by LST to accept any of its financial responsibilities regarding HAL.  Instead, they arrogated library services for the remainder of 2022 with no financial contributions after January 31, 2022.

Isn’t the $125,000 per year for 2 years more than HAL asked for in 2022?

Yes, it is.  The proposed contract with HAL asked for about $110,000 for 2022.

So it would cost LST more now than it would have if we had just gone ahead and signed the contract in 2022?

Bingo.  And that’s not because HAL has requested that amount.  That’s because LST has offered it.  What brilliant negotiating skills – unless of course you want to be sure that HAL accepts it so you can claim it’s all been cleaned up by Election Day.  But wait – there’s more.  In the meantime, LST has spent more than $206,829 between January 2022 and July 31, 2023, on legal fees just for library issues.  I’m sure there have been more since.

This September 21 letter is addressed to Hellertown Borough.  Why?  Shouldn’t an offer to pay library costs go to HAL?

Why yes, it should.  It has been astounding to see how much the Council and Solicitor have not bothered to learn about how libraries operate in Pennsylvania.  LST can offer Hellertown Borough whatever amount they want but two things pertain:  1) Hellertown can’t accept the money from LST and then pass it along to HAL and have it count as an LST contribution and 2) as HAL and Hellertown Borough have explained multiple times, HAL is its own incorporated 501(c)(3) organization.  It has its own Board of Directors and its own by-laws that govern its actions.  It is not controlled by Hellertown Borough (although Banonis et al have been pushing that falsehood for months) any more than it was controlled by LST when we were part of its service area and a party to the library contract. 

So Hellertown can’t make the decision to accept the offer on behalf of HAL?

Correct.

If HAL accepted this offer of funding, would that mean we could get our Access PA privileges back?

Probably not for 2024 at least.  Along with the many other things that LST Council and Solicitor seem clueless about is a little requirement of commonwealth libraries known as the State Aid Library Subsidy Applications (SALSA) that are due to the state by 11:59 PM on October 1 (today).  As part of that application, a library has to identify the service areas it will be covering for the next year.  

If this offer has not been resolved by today, which is unlikely, then HAL is forced into a quandary.  Should it include LST as part of its service area for 2024?  If they do, then LST users would have Access PA privileges.  But HAL then risks having LST pull out of the agreement just as they did in 2022 after HAL had included them in their service area in October of 2021, leaving HAL to once again be forced to provide services for 2024 with no financial contribution by LST.  If HAL does not include LST as a service area in the SALSA due today, then HAL would not be LST’s home library of 2024 and LST users would not have Access PA privileges for 2024 so the “offer” from LST is impossible to complete since HAL can’t force the Office of Commonwealth Libraries to let HAL add LST at a later time.  Given HAL’s experience with LST’s history of reneging on its commitments, would you be inclined to believe they’d live up to them this time?

Why do they want to keep suing the PA Office of Commonwealth Libraries?

Not clear.  It seems the most dubious of all the lawsuits.  They claim that OCL did not provide them with “due process” before agreeing to allow HAL to remove LST from its service area.  This goes along with the continued drumbeat of lies about how LST was “kicked out of the library” by HAL.  I’m getting a bit tired of explaining this but on May 18, 2022, per the approved meeting minutes, p. 3, “Mr. Banonis moved to direct our Solicitor to issue a letter to the HAL, directing the library to not include LST’s population in its application to the Office of Commonwealth of Libraries (OCL) for State Funding for calendar year 2023 and also issue a letter to the OCL advising it that it should not include LST’s population in its calculations for the formulation of State Funding for 2023.”  The motion was seconded by Carocci.  The motion was approved 3-2, Mrs. deLeon voting no and Mrs. Zavacky absent.

There was another interesting component to that motion that was approved on May 18, 2022.  Again from the approved meeting minutes, p. 3, “He [Banonis]’s also included in that, an agreement that LST will allocate to the HAL $32,000 which equals the amount that HAL would receive by 2023 based upon the inclusion if it was to include LST’s population in its State Aid application.”  That $32,000 was never paid to HAL and seems to have vanished into thin air. 

Why should Hellertown Borough have to provide LST with a statement regarding proposed Borough funding levels over the next five years for HAL if LST isn’t required to provide the same information to Hellertown?

Good question.  I suspect this goes along with Banonis’s recitation of all of Hellertown’s financial challenges that he regaled us with before he presented the “offer.”  First, I wouldn’t believe any numbers he spews, especially after we’ve seen the baloney he claimed about the costs to residents of the dump not expanding. Second, this is all wrapped up in his Great White Hope presentation of LST charging in on its stallion to save Hellertown Borough and HAL from their financial woes.  Gag me with a spoon. 

If I were Hellertown Borough, I wouldn’t want to have to listen to that kind of condescending nonsense for the next 20 years. 

What’s with this continued insistence of regional libraries or digital libraries?  I thought Upper Saucon, Lower Milford and Coopersburg already belonged to a regional library.

You would be correct and you would therefore know more than Banonis et al about how regional libraries work in PA.  Through the Southern Lehigh Public Library, Upper Saucon, Lower Milford and Coopersburg are already part of a thriving regional library, the Lehigh Carbon Library Cooperative.  This is a bi-county regional consortium of 11 public libraries.  Interesting fact that we learned in our attendance at Southern Lehigh Public Library meetings – any of the 11 participating libraries cannot join with other libraries outside of those 11 without the agreement of the other 10 libraries.  Of course, Inglis would have known that as the library “liaison” from LST but I guess he wasn’t listening.  I’m thinking it might be kind of difficult to get those other 10 libraries to agree to let SLPL “go rogue.” For more on the Cooperative you can read here.   

As far as this carrying on about a “digital library of the future”, there is no clearer tell that these council members aren’t familiar with any library than the fact that they don’t know that virtually all public libraries these days are digital libraries with extensive databases of resources and e-books and e-reading materials. And if the library you belong to doesn’t have enough digital resources, you can always get a free library card from the Free Library of Philadelphia which gives you access to their even larger digital resources.  It will not, however, no matter how many times Carocci claims otherwise, allow you to use Access PA.  LST residents have tried taking their Free Library of Philadelphia cards to both the Bethlehem Area Public Library and the Southern Lehigh Public Library to check out books and been turned away.

One small clarification.  It’s true that the Access PA program is the program that gives you access to interlibrary loans but I suspect that is not the primary attraction for LST residents.  For those of our residents who prefer to check out books from either BAPL or SLPL, Access PA is what lets you do that, as well as any other library in the state as long as you return the book to the library from which you borrowed it.  

Enough about the library.  Why are the compost center and the pool included in this offer?

Good question.  By rights, the compost center and the pool should have each been separate from the library, just as the library offer should have been two separate offers – one to HAL and one to Hellertown Borough covering each of their separate roles in the library.  But both the agreements for the compost center and the pool are two components of the intermunicipal relationship that LST also broke, so it would be hard for them to claim that they had fixed everything if one or more of the 3 components were still not settled.

As far as the compost center is concerned, I’d be really leery of the statement that LST will provide compost services to Hellertown Borough residents “for a period of ten years, subject to renewal…”. We know exactly how diligent LST is in keeping its promises.  Instead of all the buying and selling, why doesn’t LST just offer to correct the zoning of the land that the compost center is on to let the compost center be a permitted use?  We know they already know how to do that.

It also raises another question.  Hellertown holds the permit for the compost center because LST can’t qualify for one.  If you have an open burn ordinance – which LST does – you can’t get a compost center permit which is why Hellertown has had to hold the permit all these years.  So the issue is not just one of LST buying the property from Hellertown.  LST can’t operate the Center.  How are they going to handle that?

Why did Mrs. deLeon vote against making this offer? She’s been our biggest library champion.

See all of the above. This offer was only presented to Mrs. deLeon in the executive session immediately before the September 20 meeting. There was no time to review or revise it. In fact, there was apparently no written description of the offer at all, just Banonis’s reporting of it just like he did in the Council meeting. Mrs. deLeon’s instincts told her this was not right, especially if the offer was being made to Hellertown Borough and not HAL. Hence her “no” vote.

Hope this has answered most of the questions that are flying around out there about the “offer.”  It’s not my place to tell either Hellertown Borough or HAL how they should respond to it, but I would offer one piece of advice.  Remember that if you agree to this offer, the people on the other side of the offer will be the same people who caused all of this trouble in the first place.  Have you seen anything in their behavior since to tell you that they will behave any differently than they have before?  In the immortal words of Maya Angelou,

“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”


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