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BASIC MATH

There’s great news and there’s disturbing/annoying news and there are compelling reasons for you to come to the December 6 council meeting.  Let’s start with the great news first!

Congratulations to the three members of Saucon Valley Together – Priscilla deLeon, Victoria Opthof-Cordaro and Laura Ray – on their election to the Lower Saucon Township Council along with Lynn Hill as our incoming Controller!  They all waged vigorous, honest campaigns of which they can be proud.  But even more importantly, congratulations to the residents of Lower Saucon Township who took the time to learn about the issues facing the Township and then came out and used the power of the ballot to reject the politics of division and disrespect. Because of their votes across party lines, we can look forward to a new climate of community and cooperation both within the Township and with our neighboring municipalities.

And although Saucon Shenanigans does not specifically cover the Saucon Valley School Board, there is ample cause to celebrate there as well.  Tonight four new school board directors were sworn in who come to their positions with a fresh perspective on the purpose of education and a clear vision of how to deliver quality education to the next generations of students.  For that we should all be grateful to our fellow residents in LST and our neighbors in Hellertown.  See how that can work?

Of course the losers will not go quietly or graciously.  Already a gaggle of voices is trying to spread the word that the future of LST is run by a minority of people.  My only reply to that is that those voices are either flat-out liars or else they have the most appalling math skills of anyone I know.  Let’s review.

Here’s a screen shot of the results of the LST Council race.  As you can see, the Saucon Valley Together slate won a total of 7,095 votes.  All the other candidates won a total of 4,641 votes.  That comes out to 60% to 40%.  That’s not a minority.  That isn’t even close.  That’s a 20-point difference or, as they call it on TV, a landslide.

Here’s a screen shot of the results of the write-in race for Controller.  Lynn Hill received 340 write-in votes.  All the other write-ins together received a total of 286.  While not the landslide that the Council vote was, it’s a solid majority of 54% to 46%.  I hope those naysayers aren’t SVSD grads because if they are, we’re in worse shape than I thought, education-wise.

Now on to the disturbing/annoying news.

If you’re even thinking of having second thoughts about your vote for the Council winners, let me share what happened at the November 15 Council meeting.  It will immediately calm your fears as to your choice.

LUSTING AFTER THE COMPOST CENTER

The Council came out of an Executive Session prior to the meeting and Banonis immediately moved to acquire a 37-acre property identified only as Parcel ID number: R7-12-3-0719E.  While it’s legal for a council to only identify a property by Parcel ID, it’s certainly not the best way to inform the public of where or what that property is.  After some discussion among council members only – the public was not allowed to comment as usual – the vote was taken.  Mrs. deLeon, not surprisingly, voted “no”.  But in what was a surprise to most onlookers, Mrs. Yerger and Mr. Inglis both also voted “no”, killing the measure.  I would say Banonis had a tough time keeping his feelings hidden after being rebuffed.  It was only the following day, when residents had had a chance to identify the parcel, that it became clear that what Banonis wanted to seize by eminent domain is the Compost Center currently owned by and operated by Hellertown Borough.  

Just to catch you up – the Compost Center was built on land owned by Hellertown Borough but located within LST.  Hellertown Borough holds the Department of Environmental Protection permit for the Center because LST can’t qualify for a permit.  To have a compost permit, you cannot allow open burning in the municipality and LST does permit open burning. When the library issue blew up in 2022 and Hellertown withdraw from any joint agreements with LST because of LST’s unreliability as a partner, the Compost Center was no longer available to LST residents.  There was also some disagreement about unpaid fees by LST that resulted in a lawsuit brought by Hellertown Borough.  LST Council also threatened to take action against Hellertown Borough because the land is not currently zoned for composting even though LST has been using it that way for decades.  At the present, LST residents can use the Compost Center if they are willing to purchase a card from Hellertown Borough.  I believe the fee is $25/year.

So in this slimy November 15 maneuver, Banonis and Carocci (who also voted in favor of the condemnation) tried to sneak through an attempt to seize the Compost Center land by not mentioning what the obscure parcel number referred to.  Whether seizing property by eminent domain to use it for the exact use it’s currently being used for is completely legal seems to be an open question, but since the motion was defeated, it’s moot.  Unless they try again before the end of the year.

ILL-ADVISED TAX REDUCTION

When it came time to vote on the proposed 2024 township budget, Banonis had another little trick up his sleeve. After a fear-mongering recitation of a class action suit against a school board for holding on to too much tax money (does he understand that this is a municipality and NOT a school district?) followed by a protracted soliloquy on how “the government should not be holding taxpayer’s hard-earned money in a savings account. The taxpayer should keep their money.“ he then proceeded to move to reduce the township real estate tax from 4.39 mills to 2 mills, maintaining the fire tax at .75 mills.  Carocci seconded (of course). 

In the lengthy discussion that followed there was an incredibly vague and confusing discussion about exactly how much money the township actually did have in reserves and what was usable and what wasn’t.  When directly asked by Mr. Inglis “what would be a normal savings amount for a Township of our size? What should we keep in reserve?” Finance Director Gorman provided by my count somewhere between 2 and 3 different answers and summarized with “the parameters as to what their mark was has never really been set by Council as to the amount of money they should be setting aside in normal operating costs.” There was similar confusion about how much budget surplus we might end up with in 2024 and how a changed budget had to be advertised and Banonis again waved the threat of a class action lawsuit around and on and on and on.

The final vote:  the motion went down to defeat 2-3 with Mrs. Yerger and Mr. Inglis surprisingly voting with Mrs. deLeon to kill the monstrosity.

LUDICROUS ELECTION DISCUSSIONS

I’m not even going to get into the detail of all the ignorant claims of election connivance that were promoted by Banonis and Carocci. Suffice it to say that it was very apparent to those of us who have actually been paid election workers for years that they had no understanding of the mechanisms of running a municipal election nor did they even understand the basic concept that LST has NO part in administering the election.  FYI, municipal elections are administered by the County in which they occur.  If you want to read all the drivel, I direct you to the council minutes of 15 November, pages 14 through 22.  Good luck if you can make sense out of them.

However, it did give Banonis an excuse to attempt to smear St. Luke’s University Health Network for a letter that they had mailed out before the election expressing their concern about the expansion of the dump and how St. Luke’s had a compelling interest in not having that happen.  And in one of his favorite maneuvers, he doxxed the CEO and President of St. Luke’s by reporting their salaries in public in the meeting.  He likewise treated Mr. Bubba, the attorney from St. Luke’s, with remarkable rudeness when Mr. Bubba attempted to contradict the lies that Banonis was spewing, once again coming close to having the police escort Mr. Bubba out.

If we weren’t already the laughingstock of the region because of previous shenanigans, this put the icing on the cake.

SPENDING MORE MONEY

Two more items of concern were still to be dealt with.  First was the sudden need to put out for bid the “accessories” for the Easton Road ballfield.  Those were the approximately $1.3 million in additional add-ons to the ballfield that had been deferred at the council meeting on August 16 when the bulk of the costs were approved.  All of a sudden, it became incredibly important that the township get bids and lock in a contract for all of those additional items before the end of the year.  In fact, let’s go back and see what Mr. Banonis said about those add-ons back on August 16. “Mr. Banonis said his thoughts are to move forward with the $1.88 million plus the $69,000.00 sod alternate and with regard to the other parts that are here, which are the site and field lighting, pre-cast concrete dugout, bleachers and structures above the dugouts, pre-cast concrete press boxes and score boards and double tunnel batting cages that we defer any action on those items. We’ve heard from the baseball organization that they would be interested in doing some fundraising. Maybe we can get some corporate business partners in the community or the LV to support this, maybe even the Iron Pigs and see if we can get some fundraising for that and move forward with the base projects plus the sod and maybe rebid out each of the component parts here to individual subcontractors.”4  

It’s amazing how the loss of an election and the desire to lock the township into unnecessary expenses in order to attempt to force the expansion of the landfill and to try to put the winning candidates in a bind can just take those thoughts of “fiscal responsibility” and send them right into the dumper.

And then there was the incredibly pressing issue of a $1 million paving project for the summer that needs to be contracted just as soon as possible. So putting the roads that Roger identified out for bid was also approved.

What I find truly laughable about all this is how apparently that $7 million in reserves is burning a hole in Carocci’s pocket.  He brought it up as part of the justification for trying to lower the millage rates “Mr. Carocci said Cathy, there’s $7 million in the bank and next year we will get another $2.5 million from the landfill projected?”   Then here it comes again for the road paving. “Mr. Carocci said there is $7 million in the bank, the roads should be good…”

Just to be clear about some numbers.  According to calculations by our incoming controller, the proposed tax millage decrease would have cost us about $900,000 in revenue.  Add to that the extra $1.3 million for the ballfield accessories and the $1 million for the road paving plus whatever is on the agenda for December 6 (and there are cost items), that’s about a $3.5 million swing in the negative direction for that $7 million that Carocci keeps harping on. Not my definition of fiscal responsibility.

AND NOW FOR DECEMBER 6

The dump is back on the agenda for December 6. This time they want approval of their Preliminary Land Development & Lot Consolidation Plan for Phase V (aka the expansion.) This is to try to obtain Council approval to be ready to go when the Court cases are resolved. They are assuming they will be resolved in the dump’s favor – a big assumption.

There are a number of points you should be aware of that might be good to raise regarding this maneuver, perhaps in public comments?

  1. There is a letter from Hanover Engineering dated 10/19/23 which is in the backup documents to this agenda item (see here:) that raises a very large number of concerns about the plan. The dump is attempting to get those items waived. The concerns raised deal with critical parts of the plan and need much further review and resolution. They should not be waived, i.e. forgotten about.
  2. 3 minutes is not enough time to articulate all the issues with the land development plan that do not meet the subdivision and land development ordinance.
  3. Because the current council made dumps a “by right” part of the zoning, they have removed several layers of review and approval, leaving only the council to review it. Needless to say, the council does not have the technical knowledge or expertise to do an acceptable job of review. The dump wants to push this through while they have a council that’s on their side. This puts our residents and our environment at significant risk because of all of the levels of review that this council has eliminated. We deserve a more stringent review.
  4. There is no requirement that the council approve this plan right now. They have every right to reject it or to require additional study and review and to demand that the dump correct the deficiencies outlined in the Hanover letter.
  5. There are more than enough questions raised by Hanover Engineering to make it a wise move to vote “NO”.
  6. This is a blatant attempt to counteract the wishes of the residents of LST as expressed in the recent general election results.

Please join us on December 6 and make your voice heard.

Spirk and his Steel Club developments are back on the agenda too.  I guess he needs to get his stuff pushed through before his buddies lose control of the council.

LSFR wants to order a pumper tanker for almost $1.4 million.  It will take 4 years to be delivered and there are a complicated variety of ways to pay for it but there can be a large upfront cost involved depending on how they decide to do it.

The 2024 budget still has not been passed.  That is required by the state by 12/31/23.  Is Banonis going to play his “let’s reduce the millage” game again to just delay approval further?

They’re going to beat the dead horse about the election issues again.  Can’t wait to see the results from that Voter Incident Survey which, by the way, is still up on the website.  Considering that the election has already been certified, that’s kind of like locking the barn door after the horse has left. (Yes, I know, mixed metaphors.)

And of course, as they hinted at last month, they’re going to discuss another council meeting on December 20 because, hey, that worked so well for the zoning hearing on the dump expansion last year, the Wednesday before Christmas.

Reminder: the December 6 meeting is at Se-Wy-Co, not Town Hall.


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