Allentown plans to spend $1.3 million on Cedar Beach

Posted by 69News:.

Allentown plans to spend about $1.3 million to recreate its Cedar Beach pool by next summer — with new attendance-boosting features including water slides, in-pool climbing walls and designated lanes for swimming laps.

It also plans to improve the filtration system at Mack pool and upgrade Bucky Boyle spray park — including adding new water features.

Lindsay Taylor, the city’s parks and recreation director, reported on plans for all the city’s pools during City Council’s parks and recreation committee meeting Wednesday evening.

She said the city will seek bids for all three projects in early fall and anticipates those improvements will be completed by June 2016.

No 2016 improvements are planned at the Jordan and Irving pools — or the long-closed Fountain Park pool.

At least a couple members of City Council want Fountain Park’s pool brought back by next summer.

“Something has to be done,” declared council president Ray O’Connell. “It’s imperative that we get something down at Fountain pool for the inner-city kids. I’m just not going to let it go.

“I’d love to see something at Fountain Park by 2016.”

Council member member Cynthia Mota, who chairs the parks and recreation committee, agreed with O’Connell that something should be done soon at Fountain pool.

But Taylor said Allentown’s other four pools should be considered first for improvements because they are operating and serving a need in the community.

Cedar Beach is the top priority because it is the city’s most popular pool, explained Taylor, with the highest attendance and revenue figures.

“We do believe people will come and pay to use that pool,” she said.

The parks director made a case that improvements should be made because attendance at the city’s four operating swimming pools has dropped by more than 33 percent — from more than 72,000 in 2011 to 48,600 in 2014.

She explained that decrease does not include 2015 attendance, because the Cedar Beach pool never opened this summer due to a major leak.

Taylor said the trend in aquatics “is toward facilities that offer variety for all ages” — including sprays and other water features — “and focus more on accessibility for all pool patrons, with zero-depth entry.”

She said the Jordan and Irving pools, as well as the Mack pools, will continue to operate as decisions are made about their future improvements.

“We will continue to evaluate the remaining pools to determine which ones will be done next,” she said, adding there is no firm timeline regarding when those pools will be renovated.

She indicated Jordan will be done before Irving and that it will get a variety of features similar to those planned for Cedar Beach.

Two pools in the existing Mack pool complex also eventually will be upgraded, although no changes are planned for Mack’s competition pool.

Spray pools are possibilities in at least two city locations. Those are shallow pools, four or five feet feet, with spray features that children play in. Taylor said those pools are deep enough for children to learn to swim.

Another possibility is the Fountain Park pool could be replaced with a spray park, where children get wet playing in water features but can’t swim because that water drains away.

Council member Jeff Glazier suggested spray parks primarily are for younger children and that 12-18-year-olds need places to swim.

Allentown plans to spend an estimated total of $1,725,000 at Cedar Beach, Mack and Bucky Boyle by the time next summer arrives.

O’Connell said $3 million is in the city’s budget for swimming pool upgrades, which means about $1.3 million will be left after those improvements are made.

Taylor said that’s not a lot of money to upgrade pools that have not been significantly improved for decades.

She said the city will seek grants to help pay for the pool projects and also will consider selling naming rights to the pools, as well as sponsorships.

Cedar Beach pool

Taylor said the Cedar Beach pool will remain in the same location, using its existing “footprint,” even though it is in a flood plain along Cedar Creek in west Allentown — and does get flooded.

New features in the pool will include water slides, a climbing wall, a section with designated lanes for swimming laps, a water feature area for younger children and in-pool bench seating.

She said the pool will be fully accessible to the handicapped, with programming for all age groups and abilities.

The new pool will have different sections, separated by concrete peninsulas.

By adding those peninsulas, Taylor said the amount of water surface in the pool will be dramatically reduced, “which reduces operating costs regarding chemicals because there is less water in the pool.”

Resident Tom Hahn expressed skepticism about having swimming lanes at Cedar Beach, saying people swimming in lanes keep others out of that part of a pool.

Hahn claimed those lanes and other “obstacles” planned for that pool will limit the number of people who can use it and create safety hazards.

The Cedar Beach pool also will get new piping underneath a new floor.

Mack pool

The city intends to spend an estimated $400,000 to replace the filtration system at Mack’s competition pool.

Taylor said that rough estimate includes replacing a roof and garage door on the pool’s filter building.

She said it is the original filtration system for that pool, which was built in 1962, and warned “it really can go at any time.”

She said the competition pool at Mack is a steel shell so, by replacing the filtration system, “that pool will be ready to go for many years.”

She said it is the only 50-meter pool within a 100-mile-radius of the city and presents an opportunity to bring people into the city for swimming meets.

“Mack Pool will be the city’s competition pool for many years to come,” said Taylor.

She explained the other two pools that are part of the Mack Pool complex in south Allentown will be considered for improvements at a later date. One of them may be turned into a spray pool.

Bucky Boyle spray park

After its spray park is improved in the coming months,“Bucky Boyle will continue to provide free relief to many residents with new water features and the upgraded water system,” said Taylor.

She said the free spray park is very popular but its water system and features are reaching the end of their useful life.

But she said the city can upgrade that spray park with its own workers “at significant savings.”

She estimated the cost of those renovations at about $25,000.

Bucky Boyle is in along the west bank of the Lehigh River.

Jordan pool

Taylor reported Jordan Park’s pool on the north side of town is third in attendance and revenue.

She said the pool has a leak but, so far, the staff has been able to control it.

Because Jordan is located in a popular community park, Taylor said the scope of improvements being considered for that pool is similar to those planned for Cedar Beach.

Irving pool

Irving Pool in east Allentown is the smallest and oldest of the city’s pools. It was built in 1939.

Taylor said it averages only 7,500 patrons per season.

She said Irving does not have a leak and still operates “pretty well.” But she also said the pool is obsolete and has to be demolished.

Her department is considering replacing Irving with a spray pool.

Fountain pool

The parks director said the Fountain Park pool along Martin Luther King Drive has been closed for at least five years.

Prior to its closing, she said attendance was very light even though Fountain was a free pool.

Taylor promised council members that Fountain will get equal consideration for a pool or spray park that meets the needs of children.

“We want to make sure we do the right thing.”

She even wants to get suggestions from children who would use a pool or spray park in Fountain Park.

She later indicated a final decision on the future of the Fountain pool site still may be two or three years off.

She said the shell of the existing pool will have to be demolished because it is in such bad shape.

Lawyer asks DA to drop charges against singing man

Posted by 69News:.

A lawyer representing the Allentown man who was busted while singing a Beach Boys song outside a center-city restaurant last month is asking Lehigh County’s district attorney to drop the charges against him. 

James W. Ochse was arrested by Allentown police outside Shula’s Steak House on Aug. 14 and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

A letter dated Sept. 2 was sent to District Attorney James Martin by Atty. Richard J. Orloski, who said he is representing Ochse. 

Wrote Orloski: “I respectfully request that you personally review this matter, including the videotapes, and that you withdraw any and all charges against Mr. Ochse for singing on the streets of Allentown.”

Copies of Orloski’s letter were given to members of the news media during Wednesday night’s Allentown City Council meeting.

Walking unsteadily with the assistance of a cane, the 61-year-old Ochse stood to address council during the meeting.

People at the restaurant had shot video of the confrontation between Ochse and police, which began with him singing “Barbara Ann” and ended with him being taken to the ground and handcuffed.

Some maintain the video displays police brutality and have called for the firing of the officer involved.

“The video speaks for itself,” Ochse told council in a prepared statement also given to the news media. “Is that how you want your officers to treat your citizens?”

He said it is the job of City Council to be guardians over the police department “and I am here to remind you that the citizens of Allentown expect that of you.”

Police who arrested Ochse said they were responding to complaints about a man singling loudly and bothering restaurant patrons. They also said he became extremely hostile.

While he did not perform for City Council, Ochse said he loves to sing “and I’m pretty good at it.” He said he especially loves singing songs from his youth, particularly Beach Boys songs.

Reading from his statement, Ochse said: “I am not anti-cop.” He said many cops on the Allentown police force are his friends and that “a good police officer is worth his or her weight in gold. There are many officers just like that in Allentown.” 

He told council: “It is your job to make sure all of our police officers are the best they can be.”

Ochse, who lives in the 400 block of West Hamilton Street, said he is a long-time city resident. “I want to tell you who I am because I am more than what appears on videotape when I was arrested.”

Reciting what sounded like a resume, Ochse said he was honorably discharged after serving as a medical corpsman in the Marines and as a reserve officer in the Army.

He said he was a teacher for many years in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and worked 10 years as an athletic trainer at De Sales University in Center Valley. He told council he is working to earn a PhD in sports medicine at United State Sports Academy.

Two other city residents at the council meeting stood to speak in defense of city police.

Ken Laudenslager is a long-time resident and a volunteer fire police officer who frequently works with the police department.

“In all those years I have never seen a policeman out of line, despite being taunted, challenged and even confronted,” said Laudenslager. “Our police force is very professional.”

Candida Affa said she’s been in the bar business for 35 years, but could not have stayed in business even one year if not for the police department.

“There is not one time in 35 years when they were unprofessional,” said Affa “They not only helped me out, but they were courteous.”

She said city police “are in the belly of the beast 24 hours a day. We cannot live without our police department. I always have their back, because they’ve always had ours.”

Loan OK’d for purchase, development of former Glidden Paints site in Reading

Posted by 69News:.

A state loan will help paint a brighter picture for one Reading neighborhood.

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development announced Wednesday that the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority has awarded a $1.35 million, 15-year loan at 2.75 percent to the Greater Berks Development Fund.

The money will be used to acquire and develop the old Glidden Paints property on Bern Street, between Centre Avenue and North Fifth Street, in Reading.

The 19.4-acre site, which once had 67 buildings situated on it, was used for the manufacturing of latex, solvent-based paints and resins.

Glidden left the site in 2007, creating the need for cleanup and environmental remediation, officials said.

The $2.25 million development costs will include the remediation, as well as sidewalks, curbs, lighting and landscaping. Work is set to begin this fall and take 18 months to complete.

The GBDF told 69 News it is seeking funding from another state program to make up the amount of money not covered by the loan.

The GBDF also said it does not yet have a tenant for the site, which will be used for industrial purposes.

Also approved by the PIDA on Tuesday was a $400,000 loan to the Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corporation, on behalf of Little Hill Farm LLC, for the construction of two modern broiler houses in Bethel Township, Lebanon County.

Food pantry to help hungry Kutztown University students

Posted by 69News:.

Kutztown University’s Food Pantry Committee is trying to make sure college students do not go hungry.

The committee, consisting of students and staff, is teaming up with Friend Inc. to allow students access to its food pantry.

After doing a needs assessment in April 2015, Kutztown University found about 300 students would benefit from access to the pantry.

“I think most people assume, well they are students, they live on campus, they have food plans. But over half our students live off campus and we have a lot of non-traditional students,” said Jerry Schearer, Associate Dean for Inclusion and Outreach at Kutztown University.

Schearer said that their non-traditional students are those that live off campus, commute or have their own families to provide for.

“We have a wide range of students that need help and sometimes it is just getting to the end of the month, like anyone in our community,” said Schearer.

Through a food drive, the school helped about 90 students in May.

But now with the help of Friend Inc., they will be able to feed the additional students in need.

Friend Inc. is a community service that provides a food pantry, along with social services such as helping people find jobs, providing financial management programs and information and referrals to other social service agencies.

“They are going to transport the students which is great and we will have the food. Their students are even going to volunteer that day. So I think it is going to work out well,” said Sandra Wise, executive director at Friend Inc.

Friend Inc. already provides food for about 300 families each month. So, with the added need of students, it now needs the community’s help.

Managers say you can always donate nonperishable food, such as peanut butter, cereal and tuna, but a monetary donation would go a lot further.

“We buy our food from the Greater Berks Food Bank and we can get a whole cart of food for $5 compared to what you can get in the grocery store,” said Wise.

You can make a donation to Friend Inc. through paypal  or mail a check to 658D Noble St., Kutztown, PA 19530.

Great Allentown Fair has something for everybody

Posted by 69News:.

The Great Allentown Fair has officially rolled into town. This year organizers are expecting over half a million to come out and join in on the fun.

“We’ve got any kind of fair foods that you could like, and they are delicious,” Marc Janas of Powers Great American Midways said.

All told, between rides and attractions, there are nearly 50 different exhibits to check out.

“It is a huge attendance here and there is great concerts here every night,” Janas said.

Big names like Little Big Town and Carrie Underwood, just small sampling of the lineup.
 

On 70th anniversary of World War II, local veterans honored

Posted by 69News:.

More than two dozen local veterans were honored for their contributions to our country, on the 70th anniversary of World War II.

Three Montgomery County legislators came together to recognize and serve lunch to local heroes at Berean Bible Church in Pottstown.

“We wanted to give them a hearty celebration and a really hearty thanks for their service,” said PA State Representative Tom Quigley (R-146).

“It was a blessing to be here,” said Paul Stephenson, who served in the National Guard in World War II.

The idea is to not only honor this aging population, but to also to bring local vets together to share memories and stories.

“Being on the islands with these marines was very impressive,” said McGinley.

Now, 70 years after their military service, these veterans are living very different lives

“I’m about sitting on the park bench.,” said Stephenson.

However, they say no matter how much time has passed, it’s important to never forget the sacrifices all veterans have made for our country.

“If we haven’t thought for what we thought was right, they wouldn’t be enjoying what they are today,” said McGinley.

Quakertown pension contributions to increase to more than $1M

Posted by 69News:.

Quakertown Borough Council has announced that its 2016 Municipal Minimum Obligation will amount to slightly more than $1 million.

Municipal Minimum Obligation (MMO) is the minimum amount mandated by the state that a municipality must contribute to its employee pension plan.

At Wednesday evening’s meeting, council President L. James Roberts said the police pension amounts to $545,802, the non-uniformed personnel pensions will be $398,790 and the money purchase plan will amount to $65,520.

The MMO last year totaled $991,809.

The amounts, Roberts noted, will be inserted into next year’s budget.

According the Roberts, the 2016 MMO amount exceeds the total borough budget when he first served on council.

“When I started, the total budget was $1 million,” he said.

Pursuant to Act 205, every odd year an actuary of the borough’s pension fund must be taken. The actuary determines what the MMO must be.

In other business, council unanimously approved the following events:

• Quakertown Fellowship of Christian Athletes High School Club free fall at the Main Street Park noon to 5 p.m. Sept. 26, with a rain date of Oct. 3;

• Borough fall festival at Memorial Park Oct. 23 and 24. The admittance fee for those over five years of age is $7; families will be charged $20; and

• Healthy Kids Run Series at Memorial Park Sept. 20 and 27 and Oct. 4, 11 and 18.

Also during the meeting, council unanimously approved a bid in the amount of $34,560 for the roof replacements of the Memorial Stadium and Well House 14. Morris Roofing Solutions, Inc. of Shippensburg will perform the work.

Council will hold its next workshop meeting 7:30 p.m. Sept. 28 in the borough municipal building, 35 N. Third St.

Police: Officer assaulted, thrown over embankment

Posted by 69News:.

Police in Schuylkill County are investigating an incident involving a police officer being assaulted. 

According to officials, West Penn police sergeant Melissa Ruch was traveling on Route 309 north when she saw a disabled or parked vehicle on the side of the road next to a guard rail. Ruch stopped and approached the vehicle when a man came around the car, picked her up and threw her over the guard rail down a steep embankment. 

Police from several counties responded to the scene but when officers arrived the man and the car had left. 

Ruch was flown from the scene to a Lehigh Valley hospital. Officials said her injuries were not life threatening. 

State police are handling the investigation. 

Route 309 and roads around Blue Mountain are closed in the area of Mountain Road as crews search for the man. 

Stay with wfmz.com for more information on this developing story. 

Description released in police officer assault manhunt

Posted by Real-Time News.

Authorities have released a description of a man accused of assaulting a police officer Wednesday in Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill County. RELATED: Pennsylvania police officer assaulted; perpetrator sought, report says A 911 dispatcher in Schuylkill confirmed the description broadcast of the individual sought in the West Penn Township as: A dark-complected Hispanic male, 6 feet 2 inches to 6 feet 4 inches…

Authorities have released a description of a man accused of assaulting a police officer Wednesday in Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill County.


RELATED: Pennsylvania police officer assaulted; perpetrator sought, report says


A 911 dispatcher in Schuylkill confirmed the description broadcast of the individual sought in the West Penn Township as:

A dark-complected Hispanic male, 6 feet 2 inches to 6 feet 4 inches tall and 240 to 260 pounds with a tattoo under his eye possibly of a tear drop or star, and last seen wearing jean shorts to below the knees, a dark-colored shirt and driving a Nissan Maxima possibly with a license plate painted on.

Police are advised to use caution.

Authorities ask anyone with information on the man to call Schuylkill County’s 911 non-emergency line at 570-668-6100 or Pennsylvania State Police at Frackville at 570-874-5300.

Kurt Bresswein may be reached at kbresswein@lehighvalleylive.com. Follow him on Twitter @KurtBresswein. Find lehighvalleylive.com on Facebook.

Gallery preview 

Lopatcong considering discipline for mayor after harassment investigation

Posted by Real-Time News.

A high-profile attorney found evidence of harassment by the mayor and deep, politically paralyzing divides in the township.

Lopatcong Township is considering what discipline may be appropriate following a scathing report that found evidence the mayor made sexually harassing statements about the township clerk.

The report, obtained this week by lehighvalleylive.com, described a feud between Mayor Tom McKay and Clerk/Administrator Beth Dilts as a symptom of deep, political divides paralyzing the township government and preventing it from functioning.

Some actions were taken based on the investigator’s recommendations.

“Our job is to mitigate liability to the township,” Council President Lori Ciesla said after proposing that the clerk report to her rather than the mayor.

That vote passed, though McKay and Councilwoman Donna Schneider abstained. The council was unanimous in a vote to begin engaging employees about proper conduct.

Ciesla said no discipline would be meted Wednesday, and any vote would follow discussion with the township’s attorneys.


MORE: ‘Nasty’ political feud causing dysfunction, investigator finds


The investigation

The township in June hired high-profile attorney Lee Vartan, a partner in the New York City-based international law firm Holland & Knight, to investigate a complaint by Dilts.

Lopatcong Township Clerk Beth DiltsBeth Dilts

The complaint alleged McKay and two employees questioned the sexuality of Dilts and a township volunteer while they were away for a conference in May.

Vartan’s investigation could not find enough evidence to verify that specific complaint, but did determine through interviews that the mayor has made disparaging comments about the clerk — including, by McKay’s own admission, calling Dilts and another woman “man-haters.”

The investigation report recommended the mayor be disciplined for his comments. It also suggested immediate counseling for all township employees on harassment and discrimination policies.

The report stated that Dilts and various political factions within the township also bear responsibility for the dysfunction. It recommended that the chain of command in the municipal building be more clearly defined and that an independent mediator be hired for interactions between the mayor and Dilts.

The animosity described in the report on display in spurts Wednesday night as council members snapped back and forth with each other and residents in the audience on unrelated topics.

Past problems

It’s been a rocky year for McKay, who took office in January.

At his first meeting, there were legal questions over his planning board appointments.

In March, he was criticized for accessing municipal building security footage, though he was eventually allowed to continue.

Before he took office, a police report was filed against McKay, then mayor-elect, when he tried to attend an closed-session interview for the township’s chief financial officer position.

Dilts has also faced trouble in her official capacities. In April, she was fined for twice using municipal resources to campaign for council and school board candidates.

She is the township’s highest-paid employee, working several positions. In 2013, she made a total $165,336. The township eliminated her $15,600 administrator salary this year.

Steve Novak may be reached at snovak@lehighvalleylive.com. Follow him on Twitter @type2supernovak. Find lehighvalleylive.com on Facebook.

Gallery preview