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It Ain’t Over Yet

When I began writing this blog last week after the election results were in, I tentatively titled it “Let the Healing Begin” but after the agenda for the November 15 council meeting was posted on Friday, I realized I’d have to postpone using that title until after January 2.  The new council members will not be sworn in until the reorganizational meeting on January 2 and until then, the poisonous venom that has coursed through our township council will continue to eat at the heart of the township.

The agenda that was posted on Friday, Nov. 10 has already been revised once to add another opportunity to tie up more township money.  The agenda was already longer than any that we’ve seen in recent months, cluttered with irrelevant items to disguise the basic purpose which is to commit the township to excessive and unwarranted spending.

I divide the agenda into four parts.

  1.  Necessary regular business
  2. Clutter 
  3. Inappropriate but highly emotional political issues
  4. Additional spending items to lock in township costs

Let’s look at each group.  If you want to follow along at home, I’ll include the item number per the revised agenda.

Necessary regular business

These are things that come up in the normal course of business.

4A and 4B – Developer Items including two Zoning Hearing Board Applications.  One might raise one’s eyebrow at the reappearance of a variance request for that cellphone tower that Verizon wants to install.  It’s been moved over to Route 378 from on top of the mountain. We’ll see how that’s handled.

5A, 5B, 5C – Adopting the 2024 proposed budget and fixing various tax levies.  This has to be done each year and this was the published date for budget adoption

5IAuthorization to purchase backhoe, paver and two patrol units.  Notes attached as back-up seem to indicate that these items are already included in the 2024 budget that will be voted on tonight.  The only question is whether the paver quote is still valid since the paperwork indicates that the quote was only good for 30 days from August 23 with the vendor reserving right to requote after that time.  Since we’re past the 30 day limit and I don’t think people do paving in the winter, why the rush to buy it right now?

5K – Review and Consideration of Resolution #67-2023.  This is the City of Bethlehem’s request for LST to adopt the City’s Special Study re: wastewater disposal and management needs of the municipality.  The City requested the resolution be passed by the end of the year so it could have been postponed till December’s meeting to shorten this meeting but it’s still normal business.

5N. Donation of unclaimed bicycles.  They’re taking up space and Chief Barndt wants them out of the way.  We’ve done this donation stuff before.

Clutter

5G – Discussion and Possible Action on Joint Comprehensive Plan.  Don’t you just love it when agenda items come with fuzzy wording, no explanation of what action might be considered and absolutely no backup documentation?  There couldn’t have been a copy of the Joint Comprehensive Plan attached? Pretty good clue that this is not a critical issue at this particular time or place.  But I’ll bet it will eat up time.

5L – Review of Bethlehem Township Comprehensive Plan Update.  This request from Bethlehem Township to review their Comprehensive Plan Update was received by LST on September 22.  Bethlehem Township requested feedback by Nov. 20 when they will be holding a hearing.  Since September 22 there have been 2 LST Council meetings where this was not on the agenda.  Now here it is at the last minute on a lengthy agenda. Maybe clutter, maybe just unnecessary delay.

5M – Saucon Creek Watershed Donation Request.  This one is definitely clutter. The letter from the Watershed was received by the township on August 14.  And it took this long to get it on an agenda?  Corollary question – was it considered or added to the township contributions in the 2024 Proposed Budget?  If not, why not?

Inappropriate but highly emotional political issues

5D, 5E, 5F – LST Voter Complaints on Election Day, Voting Machine Issues on Election Day, St. Luke’s Hospital Network Political Activity.  Again, three items with fuzzy wording, no explanation of what action might be considered and no backup documentation, but boy, are these highly emotional issues guaranteed to wind up supporters of people who recently lost an election.

Let’s take some time out here for Civics 101.  Elections are not run by municipalities.  They are not controlled by municipalities.  They are often not even staffed by residents of the particular precinct of the municipality.  Elections are run by the County Board of Elections.  Complaints should be directed to the County Board of Elections which will be holding a public session (as they do after each election) next Tuesday, November 21 at 3 PM at the Northampton County Courthouse.  If you have a complaint, show up there and make it.

Municipalities (like a township) have no standing to sue regarding an election or its outcome.  That’s because a municipality represents ALL of its residents, not just the ones whose candidates lost.  This is a concept that the current council clearly has had difficulty understanding in the past few years – that they represent ALL the residents, not just some.  In the most recent election, clearly the majority of LST residents were quite happy with the outcome because they voted for that outcome by a large majority. 

The people who can sue regarding an election are the candidates who actually lost the election or, and here I’m assuming, the political party they are a member of.  I’m assuming that latter point because it’s the only reason I can think of that the Republican Party would have held multiple meetings over the weekend to solicit people to report what they consider election aberrations and to gather their contact information and complaints on cards.

Of course, since there is no back-up documentation or detailed explanation of expected action, we can only surmise what is planned.  The same is true of the St. Luke’s matter.  If you are not aware, Richard Andersen, President of St. Luke’s, sent a very direct message to St. Luke’s staff and patients who might be affected by the dump expansion, prior to Election Day, explaining why St. Luke’s has joined the opposition to the expansion.  How that involves St. Luke’s in LST’s municipal election is unclear to me.  Last time I looked, companies were allowed to explain their corporate choices to their staff and customers.  But, who knows?  Maybe it’s something else completely.  Maybe they’re just planning on sending a sternly worded letter. Again, no backup, no detail.

Additional spending items to lock in township costs

5J – Authorize preparation and advertisement of a bid for a 2024 paving project. This was the item that just got added in the days since the original agenda came out on Friday.  No back-up or documentation. Where’s the paving project to be?  Addresses?  How big a project?  Is it in the budget for next year? Again, who does paving in the winter?  Or is the council trying to get the bid in and get a contract signed before end of year and before end of control of council?

5O – Replace parking lot wood steps with concrete.  Why in the winter?  Who pours concrete when it’s below freezing?  I suspect not a big ticket item, but why now?

5H – Possible action on remaining improvements for Easton Road ballfield.  And here’s the real big ticket item.  To refresh your memory, at the August 16 Council meeting, the Council voted to go ahead with Easton Rd. ballfield renovations in the amount of $1,887,464.13 plus an additional amount of $69,806.00 for sod1.  As a part of that motion, the Council would “ask that the Township Manager, Engineer and Solicitor coordinate another round of bid proposals for the alternates 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 that are on here, which specifically are the site and field lighting, pre-cast concrete dugouts, bleachers and structures above the dugouts, pre-cast concrete press boxes and scoreboard, double tunnel batting cages so we can find if there is better pricing on that and to also pursue any grant money that may be available for those items as well as any other public or private partnerships that could be used to help fund those and to also coordinate with SV Diamond Sports any fundraising opportunities that may exist between the organization and the community to help offset those costs.”2 That motion passed 4-1, Mrs. deLeon voting no.

Now here we are barely 3 months later and we need to have a discussion and possible action on the remaining improvements for the ballfield?  Why?  The current project isn’t even finished yet. Has the Council received responses to a new round of bid proposals for those improvements?  Have they found better pricing?  Have they pursued grant money for these items or public/private partnerships?  Have they coordinated fundraising opportunities with SV Diamond Sports?

The accompanying document with the agenda item is a spreadsheet dated 8 August 2023 compiling all the bids received by that date.  They are not new bids with possibly lower prices.

So what’s changed since August 16 that all of these items that everyone agreed could be deferred are suddenly back on the agenda for discussion?  My guess – an election.

Before the election, it was prudent to look fiscally responsible and especially to not be tagged with having contracted for a $3,229,826.97 ballfield.  Remember the hullabaloo that was raised when some council members claimed that opponents were saying the ballfield would cost $4 million?  They huffed that that was ridiculous and it was only $1,957,270.13 of which $508,860 came from a state gaming grant.  Now, since that sham fiscal responsibility didn’t do the job it was supposed to do, the goal is to tie the new council down to as much spending as possible in order to make it more difficult to oppose the dump expansion.  

We see you.  Too bad you put all those restrictions in that August 16 motion.

January Can’t Come Soon Enough

To all of you who voted for a change in direction for LST, thank you.  We all share the desire for a Council that cares about LST’s residents and works to make their lives better rather than trying to manipulate township issues out of some kind of spite or payback for losing. 

If you can, come to the Council meeting tonight at 6:30 PM and voice your disapproval of this kind of behavior.  Or ask some pertinent questions about the unexplained agenda items.  There’s lots of info above on which you can base questions.

And look forward to better days ahead!

1LST Council Minutes, 16 August 2023, p. 5 of 15

2LST Council Minutes, 16 August 2023, p. 7 of 15

Happy Thanksgiving from Saucon Shenanigans!


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