The Ida-delayed Lower Saucon Township council meeting took place on Thursday, September 9 before a decidedly unimpressively-sized audience. In fact, the room of about 15-20 people dwindled considerably after the introduction of the junior council persons for the 2021-22 school year. Once they were introduced and appointed, the six students left.
The remaining ten or so audience members soldiered on. Natasha Manbeck from McMahon Associates presented the final Active Transportation Plan funded by the WalkWorks Grant that McMahon Associates had put together for the township. It included three categories of projects: currently ongoing ones such as the Meadows Road bridge replacement, early action items that are of lower cost and less complexity, and other projects that will require more time and more cost. There was not much time spent in detailing these projects so I suggest you take some time to look at the finished plan on the township’s website.
Two financial items were covered: presentation and review of the capital improvement plan 2022-2026 and a review of investment options. The second item was particularly obscure, dealing with various financial instruments that could be used in the township’s bank account based on the fact that apparently the bank will begin charging additional fees if things stay as they are. With no accompanying visual aids, it was not clear at all what the differences were. Mrs. Stauffer tried to get some clarification, but that was fruitless. Since neither subject apparently required a vote, the Council moved on with just concerned-looking head-nodding.
After approving some Saucon Rail Trail events, the Council moved to cleaning up some more business left over from the fire service ordinance last month. According to township requirements, Special Fire Police need to be appointed by resolution of the Council. At the current time, the approved Special Fire Police include members of the Steel City Fire Company as well as Lower Saucon Fire Rescue. Since the township is no longer utilizing the services of Steel City, it was necessary to rescind the previous appointments of all the Special Fire Police and then reappoint the LSFR Special Fire Police. This was done by a vote of 5-0.
After the vote, Mr. Kevin Kalman, Steel City Fire Police Captain, rose to object to the fact that he was having difficulty joining LSFR because their regulations require that he resign his membership in Steel City to be considered for LSFR. Several Council members, particularly Mr. Carocci, pointed out that it was his decision to make and that LSFR did not need to have members who also belong to other fire companies since LSFR has mutual assistance agreements with other companies.
Moving On . . .
Following approval of a resolution to submit an application for a grant to Northampton County for a public works storage building, the Council approved a resolution proposed by Mr. Banonis that the Township give priority in the purchasing of items to those manufactured in the United States, subject to some possible exceptions for the inability to find equivalent items in either the U.S. or other democratic countries. The word “democratic” was not defined. It will be interesting to see how this new requirement is applied when the Council takes up the purchase and installation of additional audio-visual equipment to provide interactive video for future meetings. Most electronics equipment is not made in the U.S. these days.
Mrs. DeLeon had requested that a discussion of a mask mandate in the Township building and particularly for the Council meetings be added to the agenda. Of course, as happens with discussions of this matter at other public meetings these days, at this point the conversation took a turn into an alternative universe as we were treated to all kinds of ridiculous rationales as to why this was unworkable or undemocratic or unhealthy (really?). Absolutely no acknowledgement that acting out of a concern for one’s neighbor or one’s own children was a value that the Council might want to promote. No acknowledgement from Mr. Carocci, Mr. Banonis or Mrs. Yerger that they gave a rap about the health of those attending Council meetings or doing business at the township building. We even were treated to two township residents with disgustingly selfish justifications for why the poor little dears couldn’t stand to wear a mask and the old reliable argument about “freedumb.”
I’m sure Mrs. DeLeon knew that her motion to require masks was DOA when she looked around the room and noticed that of the about 20 or so people there, only 3 (Mrs. Stauffer, Mrs. DeLeon and your trusty blogger) were wearing masks. And of course, it was voted down, 2-3, only Mrs. DeLeon and Mrs. Stauffer voting yes. But I give them both props for at least trying to show concern for the health and safety of their fellow citizens. And on behalf of my two grandchildren, ages 1 and 5, I thank them as well.
A Classic Saucon Shenanigan
Now here’s where a classic Saucon Shenanigan comes in. Following the vote on masks, Mrs. Stauffer suggested that an alternative solution might be to require that residents offer proof of vaccination before attending the meetings and, if they didn’t, that they would have to wear a mask. That was met with another pile of bogus objections but the most bogus was Mr. Banonis’ claim that Mrs. Stauffer couldn’t offer a motion because the subject wasn’t on the agenda and the Sunshine Law, blah-blah-blah. Mrs. Stauffer did not make the motion.
Watch this clever trick. Within just a few minutes, Mr. Banonis made a motion to task Ms. Huhn with looking for funds for the projects in the Active Transportation Plan, to talk with the Public Works Department about what they could do on their own and to initiate talks with PennDOT about their possible partnership in implementation. Wait. What? That wasn’t on the agenda. You can’t do that. Mrs. Stauffer and Mrs. DeLeon quickly pointed out the hypocrisy involved. But not to fear. Here comes Solicitor Treadwell to the rescue. Apparently you can make motions that are not on the agenda as long as “the matter is de minimis in nature and does not involve the expenditure of funds or entering into a contract or agreement”.
So—-Mrs. Stauffer’s motion really would have been in order? But it was only when Mr. Banonis made his motion that the Solicitor felt compelled to jump in and offer legal counsel so that he could go ahead with what he wanted? See – shenanigans.
Incidentally, these new revisions to the Sunshine Law are going to really put a crimp in Mr. Banonis’ and Mr. Carocci’s style. If you recall, it was as a non-agenda item during Council member reports that Mr. Carocci moved last year that the footnote about the requirements for the two fire companies to merge before they received funding be added to the 2021 budget. That’s clearly out of line now. Score one for good government.
As mentioned before, the agenda for the September 15 meeting includes a report on the quote received for additional A/V equipment to livestream future Council meetings along with the ability for remote viewers to participate. It will be interesting to see how committed to transparent government this Council really is. Zoom meetings over the past year have averaged around 30-40 attendees, occasionally quite a few more. With the fire company issue resolved, that number has dropped dramatically with in-person meetings. Hellertown Borough does this. Will LST?
One More Item
Just a reminder that we have not heard any more about the data breach investigation that was mentioned at the July meeting. It’s not on the upcoming agenda. What’s up with that?
Next Township Council Meeting – Wednesday, October 6, 2021 – 6:30 PM at Town Hall
Next General Election – Tuesday, November 2, 2021