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The Good, the Bad, the Ugly – Part I, The Good

It’s been a while.  Occasionally it’s necessary to take a mental health break from all the nonsense going on at township meetings.  However, rest assured, I’m still following them on the livestream.  Rather than catch up in one long blog, I’ll be catching up in three separate blogs, each focusing on one aspect of what we’ve been seeing in the last three meetings.  We’ll start with the good things that have been accomplished.  Then we’ll look at the bad things that have happened or that have been proposed.  Finally, we’ll review the ugliness that passes for council behavior these days by Banonis and Carocci with supporting roles by their audience plants and by landfill attorney Maryanne Garbage (oops, Garber).

Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash

Beginning with the April 3rd meeting, there has been some good work that’s been done, generally by a 3-2 vote but occasionally a unanimous vote. To wit, Cathy Gorman was appointed Acting Township Manager, retroactive to March 28, Mark Hudson’s resignation date.  Her appointment was accompanied by generally positive comments from the public on the work she’s been doing.  She was also appointed Township Secretary, a position that is usually filled by the Township Manager, and Planning/Zoning Administrator, again a position that is usually part of the Township Manager duties.

Two draft ordinances have been approved.  One deals with the setting of council term limits as approved by voters in the November 7 election.  Beginning with terms starting on January 5, 2026, council members are limited to two consecutive elected terms of four years each. The other ordinance brings LST’s peddling and soliciting ordinance into compliance with the state peddling and soliciting ordinances.  That ordinance changes the approved peddling hours to 9 AM to 7 PM from October 1 through March 31 and 9 AM to 8 PM from April 1 to September 30.  It also permits peddling on Sundays which had previously been forbidden. In case you were unaware, you can have your address added to a “Do Not Solicit” list by contacting the Township office and asking to be added.

An addition to the Town Hall Park Tot Lot* was approved for a total cost of $99,199, offset by a grant the township received for $20,000.  The summer recreational program for the Saucon Valley Community Center was approved at a cost not to exceed $34,900.

Maryanne Garber announced that Bethlehem Landfill is donating the $1500 necessary for Eagle Scout Jaramillo Zamora to construct a Gaga Ball Pit in Polk Valley Park, a project that had previously been approved by Council, as well as any cost overruns.  How big of them!

Council approved the release of the annual funding for Lower Saucon Fire Rescue following the completion of the 2023 Fire Funding Audit. The funding is $225,000 plus an additional $10,000 for retention and recruitment. The Council appointed the law firm of Hoffman and Hlavac as the township’s labor attorney* at an hourly rate of $225.  This replaces the law firm of Eckert Seamans that charged $290/hour and was located in Harrisburg, not the Lehigh Valley.

In further mundane Council actions, the Council approved recognizing National Police Week, International Firefighters’ Day and National Public Works Week, all by 5-0 votes.  See, they can work together.

The decision concerning the rejection of the conditional use application of the cell phone tower* was announced.

Attorney Steven Goudsouzian was appointed Township Solicitor*, removing the “interim” designation from his title.

Adjustments were made to compensation for the Acting Township Manager and the two Administrative Assistants*.  The Acting Township Manager will be paid $125,795.20, Ms. Werkheiser will be paid $57,419.07 and Ms. Schneider will be paid $55,923.20, all retroactive to March 28 when Mr. Hudson ended his employment with the Township.  Some explanation is in order on what happened with these new salary discussions.  

At the April 17 meeting, it was moved to increase Ms. Gorman’s salary to $135,795 retroactive to March 28. Banonis insisted that it needed to be $150,000.  Only Carocci agreed with that. However, following discussion and before the resolution was voted on, Ms. Gorman requested that the Council also increase the compensation for Ms. Werkheiser and Ms. Schneider since their workloads had also increased with Mr. Hudson’s leaving.  She suggested that the increases for Ms. Werkheiser and Ms. Schneider could come out of the increase for her compensation rather than putting an additional financial burden on the Township, which was incredibly generous of her.  The resolution was withdrawn so that Ms. Gorman could have time to recommend how much the administrative assistants should receive.

At the May 1 meeting, the Council approved the compensation amounts listed in the second paragraph above, again over the objections of Banonis and Carocci.  These were the amounts that Ms. Gorman had worked out and recommended.  Council saw no reason to ignore her recommendations.  All the changes were retroactive to March 28.

On April 15, Solicitor Goudsouzian submitted papers to the Court indicating that the Township was changing its position* on Count 2 of the declaratory judgment case and would uphold and enforce the scenic and conservation easements. Needless to say, this sent the Landfill and their two Council supporters into a tizzy.  There will be a hearing before Judge Kassis on June 13 to sort out all the various legal maneuverings here.  If you want more detail on what’s happening, I recommend you go to the website of Citizens for Responsible Development-LST at www.lstlandfillexpansion.org for clarification of what will be covered on June 13.

Also in the legal sphere, Eckert Seamans has been instructed not to take additional action in the lawsuit that they filed on the Township’s behalf against the Office of Commonwealth Libraries (that happened earlier this year) and there are ongoing discussions with Hellertown Borough on the lawsuits with them as well as ongoing discussions with HAL on repairing the rupture in our relationship.

So you see, positive things can happen.  And sometimes even by a vote of 5-0.  Unfortunately, too many of the positive things are wrapped in some pretty ugly behavior, especially the ones that happen with a 3-2 vote.  Those items marked above with an * will also show up in the Bad and the Ugly parts of this blog.  

Also, for those of you eager to resolve the many difficulties that the previous Council imposed on us, as we all are, remember that they had at least two and in some cases four years to destroy what we liked most about the township.  It will definitely take more than four months to repair the damage.  I urge you to have patience and to continue to support the Council in those actions that are fulfilling the promises they made in their campaign.

Next up:  Part Two – The Bad

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