Archive for category Bethlehem

Bethlehem plans to start ambassadors program in South Side business district

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

The ambassadors will help keep the business district clean and also make connections with business owners and residents.

Bethlehem plans to start an ambassadors program in the South Side business district similar to Easton’s ambassadors program.

The ambassadors will help keep the business district clean and also make connections with business owners and residents, said Alicia Karner, Bethlehem’s community and economic development director.

Bethlehem Economic Development Corp. is paying for the program, and city officials tonight said there are partners contributing funding. Karner declined to identify the partners because they have not yet been announced.

BEDCO has received a wide variety of bids for the program and its cost will depend on which company is selected, Karner said. The organization is expected to pick an ambassadors company next week, she said.

Bethlehem officials hope the ambassadors will help direct the many visitors to the SteelStacks arts complex to also visit the Third and Fourth streets business district, Karner said.

“This is a very important step toward shoring up the business district,” she said.

The ambassadors are proposed to walk the business district between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. In addition to directing visitors, the ambassadors also would remove graffiti, clear snow, pick up litter and maintain flower boxes.

The new program was announced at Bethlehem City Council’s community development committee meeting. Committee Chairman Bryan Callahan said he thinks both this program and the plans for additional surveillance cameras in the neighborhood will go a long way.

“These are both steps that will get us further down the road to a cleaner and safer South Side,” Callahan said.

Fellow committee members Karen Dolan and Adam Waldron also both said they strongly support the proposed ambassadors program.

“I just think this is wonderful and I just wish we could do this in more neighborhoods,” Dolan said.

Establishing ambassadors in the South Side business district was one of the goals of a proposed Community Benefit District that would have taxed district members for such amenities. The proposal was withdrawn earlier this year after some negative feedback and Karner tonight said there are no current plans to restart the effort.

Woman forges signatures of Lehigh Valley residents on state tax documents, court records say

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

The 41-year-old said she was under a lot of pressure and experiencing personal troubles when she decided to resort to forgery, according to court documents.

A Pennsylvania Department of Revenue worker blamed her troubled personal life and hard-to-attain quotas for forging Lehigh Valley residents’ signatures on tax documents, according to court records.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office brought charges against Thessalye Christine Scheffey, 41, of Boyertown, Pennsylvania, for allegedly tampering with public records several times between July 2012 and September 2013.

Scheffey worked as a revenue enforcement collection agent in the state’s Bethlehem office. She delivered tax delinquency letters to businesses and residents in Lehigh and Northampton counties and explained how they could handle their problems, according to court records.

Scheffey’s direct supervisor Debra Saul grew suspicious of Scheffey on Sept. 12, 2013, when the 41-year-old failed to deliver letters for approval after claiming she served six or seven that day, court papers say. Saul followed up with some of those named in the paperwork on Sept. 16 and all of them denied having met with Scheffey, authorities say.

When confronted, Scheffey allegedly denied forging documents and insisted she met in person with each person to whom she delivered a letter. An internal investigation led to Scheffey’s termination on Nov. 5, 2013, according to authorities.

Saul met with the state attorney general’s office in May and an investigation concluded the signatures on several letters — many destined for Allentown businesses — were forged and many of those questioned said they’d never met Scheffey, according to court papers.

Investigators met with Scheffey on July 9 in her Boyertown home, records say. When presented with the interviews from business owners, letters purportedly forged and private notes of Scheffey’s that appear to show her practicing different signatures, authorities say she broke down.

She told authorities she was under a lot of pressure, court records say.

“I had to meet quotas. I forged some signatures. I made some bad choices,” Scheffey allegedly told authorities.

She agreed to cooperate with the investigation, court documents say. 

Scheffey was arraigned today before District Judge Roy Manwaring on eight counts each of forgery, tampering with public records and tampering with public records with the intent to defraud.

She was released on $15,000 unsecured bail.

Scheffey could not be reached for comment.

Suspect follows victim outside of Bethlehem bar before shooting 24-year-old in back, records say

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Manuel Collazo is being held in Northampton County Prison in lieu of $250,000 bail.

Manuel CollazoView full sizeManuel Collazo, 30, of Cleveland, Ohio, is now in the Northampton County Prison after being extradited in an attempted homicide case.

The Ohio man accused of shooting a Lehigh County man outside a South Side Bethlehem bar earlier this month is now in Northampton County Prison.

And while court records reveal more detail about what happened that night, the one thing still missing is a motive.

Manuel Collazo, of Cleveland, was in Bethlehem visiting his mother prior to the Aug. 7 shooting, according to court records. Collazo’s brother, Jose Caraballo, told police he saw the 30-year-old drinking on the back porch of their mother’s Atlantic Street home alongside Collazo’s fiance, according to court papers.

Video footage from inside the Happy Tap Bar, 601 E. Fourth St., shows Collazo speaking with only a few customers, police say. Before he leaves the bar just after midnight, he hugs and kisses a woman later identified as his mother, Juanita Gallardo, according to court records.

Collazo can be seen adjusting his waistband throughout the evening, and when he catches sight of Sheldon Hottenstein leaving the bar, he follows close behind, according to authorities. Just before Collazo is out of frame, police say he appears to pull something from his waistband.

Brian Douglas and Mark Gutierrez told police that they followed Collazo out of the bar and were surprised when he pointed a handgun at them outside, according to court papers. Collazo allegedly pointed the gun at Hottenstein and fired as the 24-year-old’s back was turned.

Douglas and Gutierrez agreed that Collazo was not a regular at the bar, court records indicate. Neither recalled seeing him before, according to police.

Court papers say Hottenstein was struck in the back with a single gunshot, which exited through his rib cage. Bethlehem police said Hottenstein ran from Collazo, who was in pursuit.

Police found the victim near Founders Way, authorities reported.

Staff inside the Happy Tap told police Collazo was one of Gallardo’s children, court papers indicate. Authorities say they used Gallardo’s Facebook profile to find Collazo.

Photos of Collazo matched images of him on security footage, according to police.

Caraballo was also able to identify his brother in the bar surveillance footage, police say.

Collazo surrendered to Lake County, Ohio, authorities Aug. 11. The shooting was one of several violent crimes that plagued the city during the week of Musikfest.

He was arraigned at 2:30 a.m. before District Judge David Tidd on charges of attempted homicide, aggravated assault, possessing an instrument of crime, making terroristic threats, reckless endangerment and firearms violations. He’s in Northampton County Prison in lieu of $250,000 bail.

Lehigh University to pay for $150,000 of additional surveillance cameras off campus

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Today's announcement took place on the block where a 17-year-old allegedly broke into a Lehigh student's off-campus apartment and tried to rape and kill her.

Lehigh University is buying $150,000 worth of new surveillance cameras to install in off-campus neighborhoods, Lehigh and Bethlehem officials announced today.

The funding will pay for 10 new cameras, which will be installed in neighborhoods where students live near both the eastern and western borders of the South Side campus, Lehigh police Chief Ed Shupp said.

“Providing a safe environment for our students while they’re here at Lehigh and call Bethlehem home is our top priority,” the university’s interim President Kevin Clayton said.

Today’s announcement took place in the 400 block of Carlton Avenue, where a 17-year-old Bethlehem boy last month allegedly broke into a Lehigh student’s off-campus apartment and tried to rape and kill her.

After the 10 new cameras are installed, Lehigh will have about 70 cameras both on- and off-campus, Shupp said. Bethlehem has between 75 and 80 cameras citywide, Mayor Bob Donchez said.

The cameras in the city neighborhoods near Lehigh can be viewed through both Lehigh’s and Bethlehem’s surveillance systems, Bethlehem police Chief Mark DiLuzio said.

“(They) will greatly enhance our ability to investigate and solve crimes against residents in the neighborhood and businesses in the neighborhood,” DiLuzio said.

The Bethlehem and Lehigh police departments are jointly seeking a Northampton County Gaming Revenue and Economic Redevelopment Authority grant to install three or four more cameras on Fourth Street near campus, DiLuzio said.

Lehigh officials at today’s announcement also emphasized the university’s new app that allows students to connect with campus police from their iPhones and Android phones. The free EmergenSee app connects students directly to police dispatchers through video, audio and text.

Donchez said he hopes Bethlehem and Lehigh continue to partner on more public safety and other efforts.

“We want you to be part of our city. We want you to come off campus, shop at our stores, eat at our restaurants,” Donchez said to the couple dozen students who attended today’s announcement.

Students Dylan Ross, Laura McNeill and Casey Colangelo said they generally feel safe at school except when there are reports of serious crimes such as the July 16 home invasion. More recently, a student was a victim of a strong-arm robbery on campus.

“It’s only when you hear that, it’s terrifying,” Ross said.

The three juniors all want to live off campus next year and said they hope neighborhood safety improves by then.

“I hope what they’re putting in place works,” Colangelo said. “I feel a lot safer on campus than off campus.”

Teen accused of using brass knuckles during Musikfest brawl charged as adult

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

The 17-year-old struck the face of a man who was trying to intervene in an altercation between his wife and the suspect's female companion, according to court documents.

The 17-year-old accused of using brass knuckles during a fight on Bethlehem’s Main Street during Musikfest is now being charged as an adult.

William Anthony Rivera, 17, of the 1300 block of Marvine Street in Bethlehem, was arraigned today before District Judge Roy Manwaring.

Authorities say Rivera and his juvenile companion were attending Musikfest Aug. 2 when the juvenile female — identified only as M.M. in court papers — began arguing with Jennifer Sabater in the 400 block of Main Street. Wilfredo Sabater, husband to Jennifer, intervened in the argument, court papers say.

Witnesses told police they saw Rivera pull out a set of brass knuckles and stick them on his hand before striking Wilfredo Sabater in the face, according to court records.

Three police officers in the area observed the fight, court papers say, and rushed to intervene. Authorities say Rivera, blood smeared on his hands and face, tried to leave the area, but was stopped by police at West Church and Main streets.

Police recovered the set of brass knuckles near the scene of the fight, court records say.

Sabater was treated at St. Luke’s University Hospital for his injuries, according to police.

Rivera today was charged with aggravated assault, possession of a prohibited weapon, harassment, recklessly endangering another person and simple assault. He was released on $15,000 unsecured bail.

Bethlehem high-schoolers take first steps into engineering labs with STEM program

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

The programs launched today.

Five years ago, Beth Guarriello and Mark Hoffman came to the Bethlehem Area School Board and pleaded for funding for a hands-on STEM curriculum.

The board agreed Project Lead the Way’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics-themed high school curriculum would challenge students. But it balked at the $500,000 start-up costs over four years.

Guarriello and Hoffman never gave up the idea and Monday students walked into new engineering labs at Liberty and Freedom high schools.

“It is a dream come true,” Hoffman said standing in his classroom before school began last week. “It’s an awesome program. This is going to be the highlight of my career.”

In June, the school board passed a budget that hiked taxes by almost 5 percent and included funding to launch the STEM curriculum in the district’s two high schools.

Bethlehem joins neighboring Saucon Valley School District along with the Parkland School District in offering the engineering program.

Next year, Bethlehem will become the first in the Valley to launch the biomedical sciences program, said Guarriello, now an assistant principal at Liberty.

Project Lead the Way is recognized by both employers and colleges as a stellar preparatory program, Guarriello said. It educates students for the jobs of the future, Hoffman said.

The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates jobs in STEM are expected to grow by 17 percent by 2018, nearly double the growth for non-STEM fields, according to Project Lead the Way. By 2018, the U.S. will have more than 1.2 million unfilled STEM jobs due to a lack of qualified workers.

“In 10 years there will be a critical shortage,” Hoffman said.

The programs tie into Bethlehem’s implementation of career pathways in the high schools. Freshmen will select from four pathways: health and social services; science, technology, engineering and math; arts, humanities and communications; and business, finance and law. Then they can find suggested courses, community service and career opportunities for their pathway.

The Project Lead the Way courses build upon each other, culminating in a

project lead the way labPhysics Teacher Mark Hoffman, works on the software August 18, 2014 in the engineering labs at Liberty High School. 

capstone course. Bethlehem can eventually pursue accreditation, as Parkland did, that will allow students to earn college credits.

About 160 Bethlehem students have signed up for the introduction to engineering design course this semester, although currently it’s just an elective, not an honors course.

“We could’ve run more sections,” Guarriello said.

The four teachers who will be teaching the courses spent two weeks at Bucknell University training during the summer. Teachers completed the entire course over that period, said Walter Marshaleck, a Liberty physics teacher and mechanical engineer.

“It was intense,” he said. “But it was fun. There’s additional training each summer and I’m excited to go back.”

Project Lead the Way’s courses are hands-on, problem-solving courses where much of the learning is student led, Marshaleck said.

“The teacher takes on a role of more of a facilitator,” Hoffman said.

The courses require specialized labs with computers capable of running professional engineering software. The district received a $30,000 grant from Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp.’s Bethlehem office to help outfit the labs.

Students will get to work with 3-D printers and in the next course robotics.

“Theoretically, whatever they draw and model we can build with the printer,” Hoffman, who is an electrical engineer, said.

Students will be working with a variety of complex software, like AutoCAD Inventor, but also standard software like Microsoft office suite.

“Project Lead the Way pushes a lot of literacy,” Guarriello said.

She praised the teachers for their passion for the course and dedication getting the program off the ground and thanked the school board for supporting the program.

“All that training, they’re not getting paid,” she said.

They meet weekly to coordinate the curriculum and plan to allow Liberty and Freedom students to collaborate via Skype.

“We’re learning just a little bit ahead of the students” Marshaleck said.

Adam Waldron, Willie Reynolds at Veggie Fest

Posted by Lehigh Valley Ramblings.

Bethlehem City Council members Adam Waldron and Willie Reynolds were at Bethlehem’s veggie fest on Saturday. They were judging pumpkins, and pinned a ribbon on me.


Man assaults Bethlehem McDonald’s drive-thru worker because he was upset with order, police report

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Bethlehem authorities say they're closing in on a lead in the case.

bethlehem police carView full sizeBethlehem police are investigating a Thursday harassment report at the McDonald’s restaurant, 442 Wyandotte St. 

A man unhappy with his order at a South Side Bethlehem McDonald’s allegedly grabbed the drive-thru employee by the shirt, according to Bethlehem police.

Authorities say the man was given his food at 1:45 a.m. Thursday at the McDonald’s drive-thru, 442 Wyandotte St., but was agitated by what he received. 

The man grabbed the employee after parking his vehicle and walking up to the drive-thru window, according to authorities. The assailant then fled, police said.

Bethlehem police Lt. Jeffrey Herzog said the case remains open, but the department is closing in on a lead. 

Allentown protesters rally against police violence in light of Ferguson shooting

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

The local protesters drew chalk outlines of bodies on the sidewalk, imitating a police crime scene.

Watch video

About two dozen protesters rallied outside a police substation before marching through Allentown this afternoon to send authorities and residents the message they won’t let the city become “another Ferguson.”

The activists from Allentown and Bethlehem borrowed chants like “No Justice, No Peace,” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” The phrases have become rallying cries for those in Ferguson, Missouri, who have skirmished with police as they protest the deadly shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old.

The local protesters also drew chalk outlines of bodies on the sidewalk, imitating a police crime scene.

Cynthia Rodriguez, who has lived in the city for more than 20 years, said the protesters wanted to show authorities they aren’t going to tolerate the kind of behavior displayed by police in Missouri.

“Sometimes it takes something like (Ferguson) that’s on national news at night for people to recognize there’s a problem,” Rodriguez said. “Allentown is not going to become another Ferguson. We want to try and prevent that.”

Mayor Ed Pawlowski did not immediately return a voice message requesting comment late this afternoon.

Rodriguez held a sign she made that read “Attention Police: Anything you say and do can and will be posted on YouTube.” Exposure, she said, is a big way to prevent police from exercising unnecessary force because they’ll know people are watching.

Members of the Lehigh Valley Chapter of Decarcerate PA organized the gathering.

Rodriguez said she plans to hold a candlelight vigil at Seventh and Hamilton streets in a few weeks to recognize and pray for victims of police violence and their families.

Many drivers honked as they passed the protesters as they stood on the corner of 10th and Hamilton Streets with signs that read, “Don’t condone violence with apathy – Stand up!” and “Stop Police Brutality.” The latter sign had a crossed-out picture of a police officer brandishing a club.

Jahnaiya Branford, a 13-year-old Allentown resident, said getting traced for the chalk drawing was difficult for her.

“I feel bad for the people who have been shot for no apparent reason,” Branford said.

After a little more than 30 minutes, the protesters made their way down Hamilton Street and continued their demonstration at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at the intersection with Seventh Street.

Their march eventually brought them to the Lehigh County Jail on North Fourth Street, where inmates heard their shouts and started banging on the windows. A police officer who drove past the group gathered across the street from the jail honked, smiled and waved.

Maurice White, who moved back to Bethlehem from Virginia, said he knows there are great police officers, but they’re standing behind the bad ones because of the Blue Wall — an unwritten rule that police won’t report wrongdoing by one of their own. White said it needs to stop, and citizens need to support police who are willing to break it.

It’s up to residents to make sure law enforcement is doing right by them, White said.

“If we don’t stand up for justice in our country, we can’t expect someone else to do it for us,” he said. “We are supposed to monitor what the government is doing in our name.”

Should alcohol be allowed at public parks, pavilions? Local municipalities consider relaxing rules

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Moore Township and Bethlehem are considering relaxing rules governing alcohol use at public facilities.

With a milestone 250th anniversary celebration approaching, Moore Township is considering changing a rule that’s lasted more than 30 years.

They might allow alcoholic beverages at the township recreation center.

The township isn’t alone in considering relaxed rules for alcohol consumption. Bethlehem has proposed new park rules that would allow wine in addition to beer at its pavilions and permit all kinds of alcohol at Illick’s Mill, the ice house and the ice rink.

Officials see alcohol as a possible revenue generator.

In communities where alcohol is permitted in parks, there are strict regulations.

When a group in Easton wants permission for alcohol at recreation facilities for a picnic or event, they must first obtain a permit from the city and provide a security deposit, according to city Administrator Glenn Steckman.

Special rules apply for Easton events such as Heritage Day or the farmers’ market but every request must come through the city so officials can keep things under control.

“The parks are there for everybody’s use. They are not there for people to have parties without approval from the city,” Steckman said. “They are there for the enjoyment of everybody, families, kids.”

In Upper Macungie Township, alcohol is banned at all seven township pavilions but it’s allowed by permit at the Independent Park Community Center, which often hosts family reunions and sweet 16 parties.

You need $1 million in liability insurance naming the township as additionally insured before you can serve alcohol in the township. You also need an Upper Macungie Township staff member present, and you could need chaperones depending on the number of people.

Phillipsburg bans liquor at all parks and town-owned properties. Even if you get a permit for a special occasion for one of their facilities, alcohol is still prohibited.

Town ordinances allow the mayor to designate a special permit for alcohol consumption but Phillipsburg recreation director Dawn Slifer said she can’t remember the last time one was granted.

“Alcohol adds to the potential problems that you have,” said Phillipsburg Mayor Harry Wyant Jr. “Some people don’t know how to handle their alcohol and we try to keep our public places family friendly.”

In Moore Township, supervisors have asked the township solicitor to draft a resolution amending the law to allow alcohol consumption on a limited basis. They will vote on that resolution next month.