Home | About | Support | Follow us on Facebook

The Year in Review

I know many of my readers are probably very disappointed that because of the length of the Council meeting on December 21 they didn’t get to hear Banonis’ self-serving year-end wrap-up like the one he subjected us to last year.  In order to fill in that tragic gap, I’m happy to provide a review of Lower Saucon Township’s annus horribilis (horrible year, in the words of the late Queen Elizabeth II).  The short version is in the Scorecard.  The detailed version of the year follows that.

The 2022 Scorecard

January 1, 2022

  •   Full library services at HAL
  •   275.7 acres of beautifully forested land surrounding the landfill
  •   Free access to the Yard Waste Center
  •   Reduced membership prices at the Hellertown Pool
  •   A wobbly reputation within the Lehigh Valley and deteriorating relations with Hellertown

January 1, 2023

  •    No library services at HAL
  •    275.7 acres of beautifully forested land under direct threat to be clearcut and turned into landfill
  •    No access to the Yard Waste Center
  •    A tortured system to be reimbursed for pool memberships
  •    A laughingstock within the Lehigh Valley and no relationship with Hellertown

2022 In Detail

January

Ah yes!  Back when the year was young and full of promise and we were all so full of hope!  Who am I kidding?  The storm clouds were already on the horizon, even before the Jan. 3 organizational meeting. 

In a brilliant move to promote opportunities for constituent input, the Council passes (4-1) Resolution #31-2022 – Revision of Agenda Policy and Code of Conduct for Council Meetings, boxing residents and taxpayers ONLY into a 3-minute limit on comments on agenda items before the meeting and non-agenda items after the meeting.

Now firmly muzzled, residents watch in horror (including on the livestream provided by Saucon Shenanigans) at the next meeting on Jan. 19 as Council votes (4-1) to offer the Hellertown Area Library less than ½ of the requested amount while it refuses to sign a new agreement for library services.  Newbie Zavacky offers the lame explanation that we will now just be “donors” and we’ll donate the other half of the budgeted amount to Southern Lehigh Public Library (SLPL).  Why? Damned if I know even after a year of persiflage.  And as icing on the cake, they vote (4-1) to authorize the solicitor to sue HAL if they refuse service to LST residents.

In a surprise move the following week, HAL refuses the $50,000 check.  Hellertown, now faced with being a signatory to a tripartite agreement without the third party’s buy-in, renegotiates a bilateral agreement with HAL.  And so it begins.

And then the township manager resigns.

February

HAL revises its by-laws based on the new bilateral agreement with Hellertown Borough and removes all LST board members.  Hellertown Borough suspends all Intergovernmental Committee and Partnership participation by the borough with LST pending further review of the resolution of the library issue.

Ms. Huhn’s 20 years of service to the township is given less time and notice than a Boy Scout who built a kiosk.

Banonis, Carocci and Zavacky make a big deal about turning down their councilperson pay reminding us all once again that you get what you pay for.

LST doesn’t even put the library issue on the agenda.

March

HAL offers a substantive proposal to negotiate a new agreement.

LST doesn’t even put the library issue on the agenda.

April

HAL extends the deadline to begin negotiations on a new agreement.

Pastor Spohn tries to broker a solution.  Banonis and Zavacky introduce the “regionalization” red herring, then do nothing publicly visible to pursue it.

LST doesn’t put the library issue on the agenda.

May

On May 12, Cathy Forman writes a check to SLPL for $50,000 to replace the check that had been written in January and never cashed.  This is not mentioned at any Council meeting.  SLPL holds the check while they are pressured by the Southern Lehigh School Board and Upper Saucon Township to accept it.

From the Council minutes, May 18: “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.” Motion passed 3-1. deLeon, No; Zavacky, Absent. Remember this when we get to the end of December.

Zavacky resigns.

June

Mark Inglis is appointed to replace Zavacky.  We are not informed who else applied for the position or why Inglis was chosen. Still don’t know, except that he’s related to Zavacky by marriage.

LST Council tries to muscle its way into the Saucon Valley School Board’s business to get them to hire a School Resource Officer despite having been told that they should stay in their lane.

Laura Ray’s repeated request for a citizen’s forum as provided for in the administrative code is finally placed on the agenda.  The forum is scheduled for Nov. 23.  Mrs. deLeon objects that that is not a regularly scheduled meeting night but rather the night before Thanksgiving.  Banonis rudely informs her that she’s wrong and it doesn’t have to be on a regularly scheduled meeting night. In fact, he’s wrong and the meeting has to be rescheduled.

LST doesn’t put the library issue on the agenda.

July

Hellertown Borough votes on July 5 to sever its ties with LST relative to the Saucon Valley Partnership, the community pool and the yard waste center effective December 31.

LST abruptly cancels its regular meeting on July 20 and schedules a “special meeting” on Friday, July 22 at 9:30 AM severely limiting the number of residents who can attend.  They hire a new township manager, Mark Hudson, at a 22.7% increase over the budgeted salary for the township manager.  No information is available on him.  Council also approves a bid for the paving of Saucon Terrace for $1,070,793 which as far as I can tell had not been specifically budgeted but Banonis informs us that’s okay because we’re running a surplus.  Remember this when they tell you about how we can’t live without the landfill.

SLPL Board accepts “with serious trepidation” the $50,000 check from LST but only after receiving a letter from Treadwell stating 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 SLPL Board President Bruce 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.”  

August

LST doesn’t put the library issue on the agenda.

On his way out the door, Interim Township Manager Peter Marshall finds multiple ways for the township to spend money on new software, new job titles, raises, compensation studies, etc., all of which get approved even though budgeting season is coming up in 6 weeks.

September

LST doesn’t put the library issue on the agenda.

October

At the Oct. 5 draft budget meeting, from the minutes, Cathy Gorman reported, “We have made those budget transfers during the year to accommodate some of the additional expenses we have received. Those came from our fund balance and she’s projecting that the fund balance, without using the landfill funds [emphasis added], should be adequate.”  Council, by consensus but without Mrs. deLeon’s agreement and with no rational explanation, tells Gorman to increase the budget item for library services for 2023 from $100,000 to $160,000.

And then along comes the real stunner.  Here comes Bethlehem Landfill asking for zoning changes and text amendments to more than double the size of the landfill.  Next time any of the landfill cheerleaders on Council claim this doesn’t mean a landfill expansion, read them this: [from the October 19 minutes:] “Mr. Lawson said the request for zoning map and text amendment is the first step towards an expansion for BLC.” 

When I started Saucon Shenanigans, I said there would be 3 guiding principles.  One of them was “Follow the money.”  It’s been a long, winding road, but it’s finally clear where it leads.

November

From here to the end of the year, things get really ugly, really fast.

On Friday, November 11, the agenda for the Nov. 16 meeting announces the Citizens’ Forum which we had been requesting since before June will be held that night, Nov. 16 at 5:50 PM.  Five days’ notice after a six month wait.  Even so, a decent sized crowd shows up but in a supreme act of arrogance, neither Banonis nor Carocci do.  There are some lame excuses but then, all of a sudden, they’re magically there in time for the Council meeting at 6:30, putting to bed the belief that they care at all about what the residents of LST think.  Yerger, Inglis and Mrs. deLeon are there but Yerger and Inglis are virtually mute the whole time.  Mrs. deLeon answers questions but frankly, we all know what she supports and believes in so there aren’t many questions directed to her.  

Treadwell, however, after neglecting to introduce himself (which triggers a question by one resident, “Just exactly who are you?”), answers the majority of questions with the equivalent of “I don’t know” or “Not my job.”  What’s going on with the library? We’re working on it.  What’s going on with the zoning? There’s a hearing scheduled. Why haven’t you told us anything about the library?  I’m just the solicitor. What do we do at the end of the year? The council has to decide. Mark Hudson, the township manager, hides behind the classic, “I’m new here.  I really don’t know.”  

Well, who the hell is running this township then?

During the actual council meeting (now with Banonis and Carocci in attendance) here come the Bethlehem Landfill people to gaslight us on how they’re going to provide all kinds of conservation easements to make everything pretty and safe.  Wonder why those easements would have any more strength than the current ones you’re going to run roughshod over now?  An additional Council meeting needs to be added on December 21 to accommodate advertising, etc. for a public hearing on the zoning changes and text amendments.  It also conveniently puts it only 4 days before Christmas in a pretty blatant attempt to reduce the number of residents who might come and testify.  Keep in mind, there is no time clock ticking on this.  It could have been considered in January or February or March.  But then, more people might have shown up.

There’s no discussion of the library nor is it on the agenda.

Then, the following Monday, who should turn up on the Southern Lehigh School Board’s meeting agenda than none other but our own dear solicitor to explain all about what’s going on with LST’s quixotic search for someone to give them some library love.  We heard all about a library-type authority in western PA that was the holy grail of how we should organize all of our library system and how this is what he was proposing for the supporting municipalities and school district of SLPL and LST (of course, Hellertown’s not invited nor is the Saucon Valley School District).  And while the underlying idea is actually an interesting one to consider, its development and implementation would take years, possibly legislative action, and the kind of public education, consensus-building, and communication and collaboration skills that frankly this collection of bozos can’t even begin to understand how to put together.  But at least we know how to get an answer to what’s going on in our township.  Pay our solicitor $220/hour, send him across county lines and let him babble on to a school board that isn’t connected to the school district in our own township.  Perfect.

December

At the December 7 meeting, Banonis takes aim again at Hellertown, this time over the yard waste center.  He wants to send a letter to DEP to tell them that LST is no longer a part of the yard waste center and therefore not part of the permit.  Because of that, he wants DEP to cancel the permit.  Of course, he hasn’t bothered to check and see that LST was NEVER a part of the DEP permit.  Treadwell doesn’t know (he should).  And they’re too arrogant to listen to members of the audience who tell them they’re not part of the permit.  I bet DEP laughed themselves silly over that.  

Next up comes a threat that the zoning officer needs to see if the yard waste center is zoned for that use and if not, send a cease-and-desist order to Hellertown.  Explain to me how, when you’ve been using the land yourself as a yard waste center for a couple of decades(?), you can suddenly claim it’s not a proper land use.  They actually follow through on that moronic plan, creating more good feeling between neighbors just like they’ve been doing all year.

Then, despite all their best efforts, the December 21 public hearing amazingly draws, by your writer’s count, 139 people.  Of that, between 75 and 80 speak, all except the final one – an engineer for Bethlehem Landfill – in opposition to the zoning changes, the text amendments, the expansion of the landfill, the scheduling of the meeting 4 days before Christmas and sharing the perception that it’s a done deal and nothing they say matters.

Sure enough, it doesn’t.  The 4-part resolution passes (3-2, deLeon and Yerger-No).  

If you find Yerger’s “no” vote surprising, don’t.  Keep these facts in mind – she’s up for re-election in November and Banonis knew he had enough votes to pass the resolution without her vote, so she could vote “no” and he still wins.  When she tries to campaign on “I opposed the landfill expansion” in November, remember all the 4-1 votes on the library and the landfill and almost every other issue up until that night.  It was a pure political play.

At the tail end of the meeting they approve $40,000 more or less to buy and install a two-way live-streaming A-V system to cover future meetings. Of course, it will take 3 months to get it installed. For those keeping track, that will be about 21 months since the Council went back to in-person meetings and was asked to provide some kind of streaming service and 15 months since Saucon Shenanigans started live-streaming meetings as a public service. Good work.

Then, as the year ends, the PA Office of Commonwealth Libraries confirms what we all knew was going to happen – and what the LST Council had itself requested back in May – that HAL has the right to no longer provide service as a “home library” to LST residents effective 1/1/23.  And with that, we are deprived of a library.  The township provides little to no information on where you might find other library services, at least in part because there are no other places to find library services that include the PA Access program.  That’s because if your township doesn’t identify and support a “home library,” you can’t participate. Simple as that and what we’ve all been explaining since last January.

Their solution?  It’s the same as their solution to everything – sue.  Waste more of your tax dollars to fix the things that they broke. To date they have spent $63,345.61 on this idiocy, not including charges for December. Plus the $50,000 given, no strings attached, to a library in a different county for services we were already able to access for free. Is that how you wanted your tax dollars spent?

You can change this. Election Day is November 7. You have the power. Use it.

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

NEXT COUNCIL MEETING: TUESDAY, JANUARY 3, 6:30 PM. ORGANIZATIONAL MEETING

As a service to the community, the January 3 Council meeting will be live-streamed on the Saucon Shenanigans Facebook page. Thank you to Laura Ray for her service.

DAYS TILL WE LOSE LIBRARY SERVICES: 0

DAYS TILL THE NEXT GENERAL ELECTION: 311


Thank you for reading Saucon Shenanigans!  While this will remain free to readers as a public service, if you find what I write valuable and would like to support this work, you can make a contribution by clicking the "support" button below.  Any support will be greatly appreciated.