Archive for category Bethlehem

Northampton Community College professor to explain Saucon Valley, Cement Belt and other Lehigh Valley geographical names

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Professor Doug Heath is presenting a talk on the Lehigh Valley's vernacular regions at the Bethlehem Area Public Library on Wednesday night.

Northampton Community College Professor Doug Heath is presenting a talk on the Lehigh Valley’s vernacular regions at the Bethlehem Area Public Library on Wednesday night.

Heath’s talk, which runs from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., will examine why Lehigh Valley and Dutch County have no formal definition or legal jurisdiction but are nevertheless very real to thousands of people who routinely use these names.

He’ll also discuss why some regions such as the Slate Belt and Saucon Valley still exist, while others like the Cement Belt and A-B-E Area have nearly disappeared; why some like Jim Thorpe have mixed identities, and others like Quakertown have none.

Heath has been teaching geography, geology, and environmental studies at Northampton Community College for 38 years. His talk will take place in the library’s main branch at 11 W. Church St. in Bethlehem.

The program is free and open to the public but registration is required at or 610-867-3761 ext. 224.

Man admits beating elderly Bethlehem woman during house break-in

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Bethlehem police said Ricky Rose got into an apartment at Woodmont Mews in the 1300 block of Martin Court through a sliding glass door around 3:40 a.m. Oct. 13, 2013.

A 26-year-old Allentown man admitted today to assaulting an elderly Bethlehem woman after drunkenly breaking into her home last year.

Ricky Rose pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and defiant trespass before Judge Robert Steinberg. Rose is scheduled to be sentenced next month; under the terms of the plea deal, he will receive a county sentence, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Jay Jenkins.

Rose had been free on $20,000 bail but Steinberg revoked his bail after the plea hearing, Jenkins said.

Bethlehem police said Rose got into an apartment at Woodmont Mews in the 1300 block of Martin Court through a sliding glass door around 3:40 a.m. Oct. 13, 2013.

The woman who lived in the apartment confronted Rose and hit him with her cane, police said.

Rose, of the 2600 block of South Arch Street, lashed out in retaliation, knocking her to the ground and leaving her with a large lump on her head, police said.

The victim was not in court today, but Jenkins said he did discuss the plea deal with her.

Sarah Cassi may be reached at Follow her on Twitter@SarahCassi. Find Lehigh County news on Facebook.

Witness to South Side Bethlehem gunbattle had gunshot residue on his hands, defense says

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

A bystander told police Jose Gonzalez attacked Javier Rivera-Alvarado, and police found gunshot residue on his hands, defense attorneys said.

Defense attorneys in the South Side Bethlehem gunbattle trials said a witness for the prosecution had gunshot residue on his hands hours after a five people were wounded and a woman was killed.

Jose Gonzalez testified this morning that he saw a bald man pull a gun on his uncle, Orialis Figueroa, after an altercation inside the Puerto Rican Beneficial Society Dec. 2, 2012. Figueroa stumbled to safety, he said, and managed to sneak up on the shooter and knock him out with a baseball bat.

Gonzalez testified he went inside his uncle’s van before hearing more gunshots outside. When he emerged, Yolanda Morales was dead, his uncle Angel Figueroa was paralyzed and Orialis Figueroa, Rene Figueroa and Javier Rivera-Alvarado were wounded, police said.

Authorities allege Rene Figueroa fatally shot Morales, among other charges,, and he could face the death penalty if convicted of her murder. Rivera-Alvarado is charged with attempting to kill Orialis Figueroa, Morales and Luis Rivera.

The defense teams, however, alleged Orialis Figueroa and his nephews attacked Rivera-Alvarado outside the club. Rene Figueroa fired a shot into the air in an attempt to scare them away, they said, but the men returned fire, wounding Rene Figueroa. Angel Figueroa and Morales were caught in the cross-fire, they argue.

Defense attorney Ed Andres, who represents Rivera-Alvarado, said a bystander identified Gonzalez as one of the men who attacked his client. Police detained Gonzalez for questioning, and testing revealed gunshot residue on his hands, the defense teams said. Gonzalez denied firing a gun during the firefight or even being near one of the weapons when it was fired.

“How then do you explain the gunshot residue got onto your hands?” asked defense attorney Jack McMahon.

“I can’t answer that because I didn’t handle a gun,” Gonzalez answered.

“Did the gunshot residue trick down from the sky?” McMahon asked before First Assistant District Attorney Terry Houck objected.

Gonzalez testified he tried to help Rivera and Angel Figueroa after the shootout. Rivera was lying next to the van and barely conscious, he said, so he put him in the driver seat because he was worried more shooters may be around. He went to Angel Figueroa and held his head until police and ambulances arrived, he testified.

Police reports indicate Gonzalez never mentioned handling his relatives during questioning, but Houck presented Gonzalez’s clothing from that night as evidence. His ripped jeans had bloodstains on the front leg and backside, and Gonzalez said he had wiped Rivera’s blood off his hands onto his pants.

Andres noted that Gonzalez and four of his relatives were nearby when a gunman supposedly held Orialis Figueroa at gunpoint, but Gonzalez could not say what they did or where they went during the shootout. Gonzalez defended his testimony, saying the chaotic scene played out in seconds.

“My focus was on the gun behind his head,” he said.

Bethlehem fire damages home

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Flames were reported about 6:50 p.m. Monday at the front and back doors of 436 Milton St.

Fire struck a Bethlehem home Monday night.

Flames were reported about 6:50 p.m. at the front and back doors of 436 Milton St., near Stefko Boulevard and East Market Street, according to emergency radio broadcasts.

A firefighter was taken to the hospital with an ankle injury, but no residents were reported hurt, the broadcasts indicated.

Flames were reportedly limited to the first floor, and the fire was reported out by 7:24 p.m.

There was no immediate word on whether anyone, or how many people, would be displaced.

Bethlehem schools pleased with outsourcing substitute teachers despite lagging rates

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Substitute Teacher Services is lagging slightly behind the district's own placement rates last year.

The company the Bethlehem Area School District hired to handle its substitute teacher staffing is lagging slightly behind last year’s placement rates but officials remain pleased.

The district hired Substitute Teacher Services last year and this is the first year the company is handling all sub staffing. The Allentown School District is considering hiring Substitute Teacher Services as well.

Comparing the first seven weeks of this school year with last school year:

“We did better by 2 percent last year,” said Russell Giordano, Bethlehem Area director of human services.

Superintendent Joseph Roy said the region’s pool of substitute teachers has shrunk and filling vacancies in schools is increasingly difficult. STS has folks in its call centers calling potential subs long before district staff would be able to.

“The question is: Where would be without them this year?” Roy said.

Bethlehem is locked into a two-year contract that costs the district 28 percent of the wages it pays to subs. The company has recruited 147 teachers and has 29 in the pipeline.

“Our goal is to always have the best person we can have on any given day in a classroom,” Giordano said. “We are taking certain actions to both increase the pool and attempt to recruit the best qualified subs we can.”

Previously, district retirees could only sub on a limited basis in emergency situations due to restrictions on pension double-dipping, he said. Now, the subs are no longer district employees so retirees can sub regularly.

Bethlehem Area is sending letters to all recent retirees that have not yet signed up to explain the restrictions are lifted. The district is also reaching out to teachers who have applied for jobs but haven’t been hired, Giordano said.

Temporarily, the district is making substitute postings available to a greater pool earlier in the day, he said. Filters were in place so only certified math teachers saw math sub positions.

The district is also considering using emergency teacher certifications for hard to staff areas in subjects like French, Giordano said.

Director Shannon L. Patrick asked if the company followed through on its promise to open a local office. Bethlehem is providing office space in Northeast Middle School. She also asked if certain schools were harder to staff than others.

The day of the week seems to matter more than schools, Giordano said.

When Bethlehem can’t get enough subs, district teachers fill gaps, which Giordano acknowledged is not ideal.

New traffic signal coming to William Penn Highway

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

The board will vote on the new traffic light Oct. 20.

William Penn Highway will have a new traffic light outside of Farmersville Elementary School due to increased traffic expected from a planned shopping center across from the school.

The Bethlehem Area School Board learned of the new signal at a Monday night board meeting. The school driveway will have to be realigned to accommodate the light and create a new exit driveway.

This will result in a reconfiguration of the bus loop, said Mark Stein, director of facilities and plant operations.

Stein called all of the required work a positive for the district.

“I think the traffic light will be a benefit,” Stein said.

The William Penn Commons project across from the school is expected to bring a Sheetz gas station and a commercial plaza to Bethlehem Township, Pennsylvania.

Director Michele Cann questioned if it will come at any cost to the district, to which Stein said no.

The district will also have to enter into a construction easement agreement with the developer to allow for a storm water pipe to be constructed on Farmersville property.

The board will vote on the light and agreement at its Oct. 20 regular board meeting.

Lehigh University holding community open house Halloween event

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

The university's annual Spooktacular includes pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating, crafts and a haunted house.

Lehigh University is holding its 13th annual Spooktacular, a community open house Halloween event.

The event runs from 12 to 3 p.m. Sunday on the lawn uphill from Packer Avenue in front of the University Center. The free family event includes pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating, crafts and a haunted house.

The event is intended to strengthen the connection between Lehigh and the South Bethlehem community.

For more information, contact Lehigh’s Community Service Office at 610-758-4583 or by email at

Dolan Grand Jury Report – A Wake Up Call to Local Officials Involved in NonProfits

Posted by Lehigh Valley Ramblings.

The Grand Jury report concerning Karen Dolan should be a wake-up call to every municipal government in the Lehigh Valley. Even if a municipal official is an unpaid participant in a local nonprofit and volunteers countless hours in what he or she considers the public interest, he owes his loyalty to the people who elect him. He violates the public trust when he uses his influence as an elected official or municipal employee, to advance the cause of that non-profit. That’s what Dolan did. In her case, she was attempting to enrich herself as well. She was a paid Executive Director. But it makes no difference. It makes no difference in Nazareth, either, where several borough officials are using their positions to enhance the bottom line of Nazareth Ambulance.

The Dolan Grand Jury heard from 20 witnesses. Among them is Robert P. Caruso, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission (See pages 37 – 40). He explained that the Ethics Act exists to prevent the private interests of people in public office from conflicting with the public trust.

According to Caruso, it is unlawful for any public official to use his public position for the private pecuniary benefit of himself, a member of his immediate family or a business with which he is associated. That includes nonprofits. Caruso states that if a public official is a director, officer or employee of a non-profit, and that person through his public responsibilities engages in conduct that facilitates or attempts to facilitate a financial benefit to that nonprofit,that conduct is a “conflict of interest” as that term is defined under the State Ethics Act.

The Ethics Commission can recommend felony charges be brought for violations

Caruso was asked specifically about Dolan, and concluded her conduct is a potential violation. It makes no difference whether she was actually being paid.

He was not asked about Nazareth, but the actions in that government is a potential violation as well.

In early September, I first told you about Nazareth Ambulance, a nonprofit staffed by paramedics and EMTs who provide emergency care to the sick and injured in the Nazareth area, including Gracedale. I have no quarrel with Nazareth Ambulance itself, which does outstanding work. My concern is with its board. It’s comprised almost entirely of people who already have a role in Nazareth government.

According to the 2012 nonprofit tax return for Nazareth Ambulance, the most recent one on record, its eight-member board included Nazareth’s Treasurer, the Nazareth Borough Solicitor, the Mayor, the Borough Council President and a Borough Council member. I have no idea whether that’s still the case, but suspect it is.

In 2013, when Nazareth Borough Council voted to condemn 9 acres (J7-16-2a), which is part of the new ambulance center. None of the ambulance directors recused themselves from the vote. They used the authority of their office (Borough Council) for the private pecuniary benefit of a business (Nazareth Ambulance) with which they are associated. It is unknown whether any Council members or the other borough officials are paid in connection with their board duties. But it does not matter. They engaged in a conflict of interest.

In 2012, when Nazareth applied for a $50,000 County Gaming Grant to extend G.W. Stoudt Boulevard from from its current terminus at the Highway Garage to intersect with Gracedale Avenue in Upper Nazareth, Nazareth makes clear that the grant was for the benefit of Nazareth Ambulance, not borough residents. With this road extension, response time to Gracedale would improve. So would response time to the western portion of Upper Nazareth.road, But none of that has anything to do with the Borough. The Borough officials who prepared this grant request were also members of the Ambulance Board. This is a conflict of interest.

In September, right after I told Nazareth Borough Council about this conflict of interest, members till unanimously voted on at least one matter involving the ambulance company. Dan Chiavaroli,, the Council President, did abstain in the second matter.

Like Bethlehem,Nazareth and probably most Lehigh Valley communities need to enact policies and procedures to guard against future conflicts of interest.

Puss N Boots performs at ArtsQuest Cafe: PHOTOS

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

The band features acclaimed singer-songwroter Norah Jones.

Singer-songwriter Norah Jones, the vocalist whose solo album sold 26 million copies in 2002, performed Sunday night at the Musikfest Cafe in Bethlehem with her Brooklyn-based band Puss N Boots.

Joining her in the band, which formed in 2008, were percussionist Sasha Dobson and bassist Catherine Popper. Jones plays guitar and sings with the group.

Their debut album, “No Fools, No Fun” was released in July. In addition to “Don’t Know What It Means,” the album features covers of Neil Young’s “Down By the River” and Jeff Tweedy’s “Jesus, Etc.”

Upper Saucon Township woman, 22, charged with DUI following I-78 crash

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

An Upper Saucon Township woman is facing DUI charges following a roll over crash along I-78, state police said.

An Upper Saucon Township woman is facing DUI charges following a roll over crash along I-78, state police said.

Brooke Grace Finkbeiner, 22, of Upper Saucon Township shortly before 3 a.m. Sunday lost control of her vehicle while driving along I-78 west in Bethlehem, state police in Belfast said.

The vehicle left the highway, drove off into the center grassy median and slid down the dividing cable, striking the guide rail and causing it to roll over at least once, police said.

Police say Finkbeiner was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash and didn’t sustain injuries. Police later determined she was allegedly under the influence of alcohol prior to the crash and was arrested.

Pamela Sroka-Holzmann may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @pamholzmann. Find Nazareth area news on Facebook.