Back Room Meetings Too Frequent in Bethlehem Tp

Posted by Lehigh Valley Ramblings.

While the dais is empty, about 25 citizens are waiting.

People who visit Bethlehem Township Commissioners for a meeting can usually set their clocks back 15 minutes or longer. That’s because, with increasing frequency, Commissioners are huddled in a back room. When they come out, there will eventually be announcement that they were in Executive Session for “litigation” (the litigation is never described) or personnel matters. They almost never take any formal action on whatever was discussed behind closed doors. This breeds suspicion. As stated expressly in the Sunshine Act, “[S]ecrecy in public affairs undermines the faith of the public in government and the public’s effectiveness in fulfilling its role in a democratic society.”

In addition to being secretive, this behavior is rude. Other municipal bodies have more respect for the citizenry than to schedule a meeting and then force the public to wait because a chosen few are cowered in some dark corner. These executive sessions should occur, if at all, after the people’s business has been concluded.

Top Ten Things To Blame on NorCo Exec John Brown

Posted by Lehigh Valley Ramblings.

Late yesterday, one of my readers posted this list of things that we can lay at John Brown’s feet. I have to share it. If you can improve on it, please be my guest. I’ll take the best answers and incorporate them into a new post on Wednesday. This might be a regular feature down the road. Top Ten Things to Blame on County Council might be next.

Things John Brown is responsible for:

1) the death of every county employee
2) Ebola
3) Bernie’s drinking
4) The Cubs
5) The Centralia mine fire
6) Kids’ discomfort with nines
7) Global Warming
8) Straight to DVD movies
9) Barron’s lisp
10) Mezzacappa’s bad hair

Bethlehem Tp Comm’rs Approve Duplex Over Neighbors’ Objections

Posted by Lehigh Valley Ramblings.

Despite forceful objections by three neighbors on Spear Street, Bethlehem Township Commissioners last night approved plans by Allentown’s Robert James to tear down a single home at the southeast corner of Fifth and Spear Street and replace it with a duplex. Commissioner Tom Nolan told protesters the development is “by right permissible,” meaning that it is an expressly permitted use under the zoning ordinance.

The vote was 3 to 1, with Nolan, Marty Zawarski and Phil Barnard supporting the development. Pat Breslin voted No, without explanation. Michael Hudak was absent.

Richard Brescia, who lives on Spear Street, questioned whether this is really a “by right” development. He noted that, though the zoning ordinance does allow for duplexes in that zoned area, it also mandates a balancing act, under its express terms, to “carefully control the types of housing to ensure compatibility with existing homes.” He denied that a duplex is compatible with the existing homes in that neighborhood,

Brescia was joined by two Spear Street neighbors, Charles Milositz and Joe Stofanak. who stated the nearest duplex is a mile away. “It just doesn’t fit,” added Milositz.

These neighbors they were absent when this matter was presented to the Planning Commission, and have no plans to sue.

After the meeting, Phil Barnard took no pleasure in voting against these neighbors. “We were kind of handcuffed,” he observed. Nolan had previously stated, “We have to uphold our ordinances.”

In other business, Commissioners got an earful from a frustrated Anthony Billone. He told Commissioners that his father’s home, located on Farmersville Road directly across the street by Deja Vu Kennel, is being treated as both a parking lot and bathroom stop for the pets. Customers even park in and block his father’s driveway. When he’s called the police, he’s been told it’s a zoning issue, When he’s called zoning, he’s told to call the police.

Deja Vu Kennel is exempt from the zoning requirements of off-street parking because it existed before the ordinance went into effect. But that’s no consolation to Billone. “We can’t get in and out of our own driveway,” he complained.He indicated one truck with all kinds of lawn maintenance equipment is deliberately parked on his father’s property. No Trespassing signs are torn down.

Nathan Jones, Bethlehem Township’s new Planning Director, stated that some type of enforcement action is being pondered, and would call Billone with an answer today.

In addition to dealing with unhappy neighbors, Commissioners voted 4-0 in support of an amendment to the Township’s Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance that will require owners to bear the costs of streelighting in future non-residential development.

They also authorized their Solicitor, John Harrison, to “intervene” in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s pre-application hearing with respect to the PennEast Pipeline. That pipeline is currently scheduled to slice through the eastern portion of the Township.

Harrison explained that it is currently too early to intervene. The motion gives him the authority to do so when the time is right. He added that intervention does not mean that the Township is taking sides, either in support of or against the pipeline. For now, it is acting as an observer.

Refinancing could save Bangor $260,000 a year

Posted by 69News:.

With interest rates at historic lows Bangor Area School District officials have been crunching numbers and believe they can save $260,000 a year if the district refinances a $9.1 million bond, business manager Mark Schiavone said Monday night.

Interest rates have been dropping in the wake of global fears, ranging from economic weakness in the Europe to ebola, because investors have been putting their money into U.S. bonds.

All of that could work in favor of Bangor as it looks to save money and cut costs.

The board will hear details of the idea at its meeting Monday, when Schiavone said bank representatives are scheduled to appear.

Schiavone said the refinancing plan would not increase the debt or extend the terms of the original bond.

The references to the extremely low borrowing rates, and the fear that interest rates are bound to head higher in the future, touched off a discussion on whether the district should take advantage of the attractive rates and borrow now for a growing list of capital improvement projects.

The district has been facing costly repairs for years at several of its schools, including a $1 million water tank project at the middle school, another $3.5 million project to fix the roof, and another $500,000 for the parking lot, said board member Bob Cartwright.

Frank DeFelice, the district superintendent, said the district is working on a list of projects and expects it to be completed in a few weeks.

Bethlehem Township investigating kennel parking

Posted by 69News:.

One Bethlehem family says it is dogged by a kennel parking problem.

The name of the kennel is Deja Vu, and that’s also what some of its neighbors say they’re experiencing in dealing with an on-going parking issue.

Township supervisors on Monday heard from Joseph and Anthony Billone, a father and son who say the kennel’s customers have been taking advantage of their Farmersville Road property.

“They use our driveway as our parking lot,” said Anthony Billone, who invited township officials to come to the family’s home to investigate. “You can come and sit and watch in our living room. It’s all day.”

The Billones say they’ve been frustrated by past efforts to get help from the township, hearing that it was either a zoning or police matter, depending on who they asked.

On Monday again, the board suggested they get photos of cars from the kennel on their property as stronger proof.

“I have to laugh at that,” Anthony Billone said. “Stronger proof? I’ve given the police pictures.”

The kennel is grandfathered against having to provide off street parking, which means customers either use the Billone’s driveway, turn around on their lawn, or park on the side of the road, creating what Billone said is a dangerous situation for passing drivers.

The father and son left the meeting frustrated, although township manager Melissa Shafer said the township’s planning director and zoning officer would meet first thing Tuesday to investigate the issue.

Representatives from Deja Vu were unavailable for comment Monday evening.

Commissioners are sticker shocked by office renovation costs in Muhlenberg

Posted by 69News:.

Muhlenberg Township Commissioners were faced with another round of high dollar change orders for the new township office building, located at 210 George Street at the board meeting, on Monday night.

The board has had to approve several change orders for issues arising during the renovations of the office since start of construction.

E.R. Stuebner is the contractor on the project.

Jamal Abodalo, Director of Engineering and Codes, admitted that the large number of change orders are a result of “a clear lack of coordination between the architect and his professional team.”

Board of Commissioners President Michael Malinowski called for a vote on each change order individually.

“The way all these change orders came in arbitrarily, I just won’t vote for them without learning a little more,” Malinowski said.

This week’s changes totaled $74,555 and included nearly $2000 to finish framing the canopy over the police entry and more than $1300 to repair the brick walls.

Commissioners approved those changes but did not approve an additional $500 to repaint interior walls with accent colors.

They acknowledged that request as another example of the contractor and architect not communicating with the interior designers.

The board also tabled a request for an additional $8000 for security shutters in the customer service area.

The largest change order requires more than $62,000 to address a moisture issue in the building’s basement.

Abodalo confirmed that it is not only E.R. Stuebner calling for moisture mitigation, but that an independent third-party contractor visited the site and came to the same conclusion.

The board begrudgingly approved the order based solely on the consideration that excessive moisture in the building could lead to health issues for the employees in future.

Commissioner Steven Wolfinger acknowledged that the board was invested in the project, but does not understand the persistent changes to the estimate the board initially accepted. “I don’t like being held hostage by a contractor, ” said Wolfinger.

The township is scheduled to move out of its current location on Leesport Road by the end of the year, but the board is not confident they will be able to meet that deadline with so many issues in construction.

Man accused of burglarizing Berks County church 6 times

Posted by 69News:.

A man accused of burglarizing the same church six different times is heading to trial.

Michael Ressler waived his preliminary hearing Monday.

Investigators say Ressler admitted to burglarizing Immanuel United Church of Christ on South Waverly Street in Shillington multiple times.

He was arrested last month, after police said he was seen walking away from the church with a stack of church envelopes sticking out of his back pocket.

Investigators say he used a credit card and metal wire to get inside.

Yoga goes ‘AntiGravity’ in Lehigh Valley

Posted by 69News:.

Kristine McCreary is a Pennsylvania native, an entrepreneur and yoga lover.

“In yoga they call it your bliss,” said the owner of AntiGravity Yoga Lab, Kristine McCreary. “This is my bliss.”

But yoga wasn’t always so central to her life. After suffering through six miscarriages, fertility experts suggested Kristine calm her nerves with yoga classes.

Soon after, she welcomed her baby girl Kaden into the world.

“Not just in conceiving a child but just dealing with life in general, I literally breathe with everything in life right now,” McCreary said.

After her experience, Kristine decided to combine her business savvy with her passion for yoga to bring her home in Lehigh Valley a taste of an experience that changed her life.

“My intention here is to really to just see people come, enjoy themselves,” McCreary said. “Touch their lives in any way that I can to make their life better.”

Just this month Kristine opened the doors to the first anti gravity fitness facility in Pennsylvania. While regular yoga classes are also offered, Kristine says the anti gravity experience lets participants test their full potential.

“The hammock is actually used as a fitness device to help you deepen your yoga poses,” McCreary said. “It acts as a support in your yoga poses.”

Kristine says if you can do three consecutive sit ups you are in good enough shape to try one of these anti gravity classes. For now she is offering rates for drop in classes as well as class packages to clients who want to give her yoga labs a try.

PA House okays bill to widen gun law challenges

Posted by 69News:.

A bill to give groups like the NRA the legal standing to launch court challenges to local gun laws is on its way to Gov. Tom Corbett’s desk.

The House voted by a comfortable margin Monday to approve the legislation to let membership organizations to sue if any of its members is adversely affected by an illegal local gun ordinance.

Opponents say its main targets are the dozens of local laws that require people to report to law enforcement whenever a gun is lost or stolen.

The NRA supports the proposal.

Another section of the bill requires the state police to send existing mental-health data to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System within 90 days so it can be used to check the background of people nationwide who are trying to acquire a firearm.

Cook from Palmer Township competes on reality TV show

Posted by 69News:.

She made the perfect Beef Wellington, but in the end a seafood dish sent her packing.

Now, Palmer Township resident, Ashley Sherman, is talking about her experience on a cooking reality show.

It’s the first time Ashley Sherman says she’s had a chance to breathe in awhile.

“I went into Hell’s Kitchen with the same passion that I came out of Hell’s Kitchen with,” added Sherman. “Maybe with a little more inspiration involved in it because you got to see some amazing things.”

Originally from New Jersey, Ashley has worked as a lead cook at Artsquest in Bethlehem for the last five years.

You would think jumping from the view of the blast furnaces to the burning flames of Hell’s Kitchen would be bad.

In the first episode, Chef Gordon Ramsey paid her a great compliment.

He told her she cooked the perfect Beef Wellington.

“Kind of a weight lifted off of your shoulders because you’re like. I can cook.”

Six weeks after that, Ashley’s team put her on the chopping block.

Something she understands, even if her fans do not.

“It is what it is,” said Sherman. “I did screw up so I’m not upset about it. There can only be one winner, you can’t change it. It’s nice to hear people say things to keep your spirits up.”

Since the show there have been all types of events, cooking at the Philly Food and Wine Festival, and speaking engagements.

“I did cooking in Quantico with one of the other contestants Steve, who is still going on the show as of right now. We cooked for some Marines, it was awesome.”

Ashley says plenty of doors have opened since her television debut.

She thanks her co-workers and bosses for being supportive and giving her a little push.

“Got me to do something insane and I will forever be in debt and grateful to them,” added Ashley. “Keep an eye out for me because I might be doing some cool stuff coming up and it might be real fun to watch.”