For those of us who have been watching the slow-moving dumpster fire that masquerades as a township council for the last three years, it’s hard to be shocked by their behavior because every time you think it can’t get worse, it does. But if you’ve never seen it in person, it can be quite an appalling experience.
I didn’t realize when I shared Dean Shaffer’s letter to the Council in last month’s Saucon Shenanigans that he had never been to an actual meeting. He decided to go to the one on January 18 and see what was happening. I’ll let his words tell the story.
“For the first time ever, I attended a Lower Saucon Township Council meeting last night. WOW!!
No Democracy Here
If it weren’t for the painful lack of democracy on display in that council forum, or the shocking level of disrespect shown to residents of the township, it would have been funny. But when you see that most of the council members are outwardly annoyed having to listen to the people they are supposed to represent, then it’s clear that things have to change.
No Discussion Here
The council meetings are not really a place for discussion. Residents (and ONLY residents) are allowed three minutes each to speak on agenda items before the actual business takes place (only if they sign up before the meeting). Once the council starts their official proceedings, residents may sit quietly – no asking questions, no commenting, and no discussion. In fact, the council ringleader doesn’t even allow other council members to ask questions or seek clarification. It appears that decisions are made in advance of the meeting by the council president and his “yes” people; everything is set in stone before the public gets a chance to have any input.
If you don’t believe me, attend one of the meetings. What you’ll see is a travesty of an open public forum. The arrogance, contempt, and rudeness demonstrated by several members of council is simply unbelievable; not a drop of professionalism to be found.
Beware: If you happen to feel the need to speak up during their meeting, there’s a good chance they will motion for the police to escort you from the room.
To bring you up to speed, the council, with one obvious exception, is made up of a group of apparently self-serving individuals who clearly have personal agendas that are at odds with the welfare and the wishes of many (dare I say most?) township residents.
Library services, compost center, swimming pool
If you have been paying attention, you know that the council eliminated library services for township residents. A couple of the council members are intent on severing ties with their neighbor, Hellertown, on many fronts, and at any cost. Their actions include trying to force the township’s residents to use Southern Lehigh’s Library, rather than the Hellertown library. The Council refused to pay the township’s share of the Hellertown Area Library’s services, and refused to sign a contract with them, forcing the library to cut its services for township residents.
Council also behaved in such an egregious manner that, in order to protect themselves, Hellertown Borough Council withdrew from the mutual agreement on the use of the Compost Center and the swimming pool. LST Council will stop at nothing to cut ties with Hellertown, and for no stated reason. (There are rumors circulating as to why the council is behaving the way it is; there must obviously be a reason why they are behaving so poorly. A properly functioning council would want to do what’s best for the citizens of the township!)
Perhaps the most serious issue, and one that affects many in the Lehigh Valley, is the decision by Council to change the zoning to accommodate expansion of the current Bethlehem Landfill. The Council appears to be coddling and courting the huge landfill company that provided funding to the PAC that supported their election campaigns. The council is doing its very best to see that the existing Bethlehem landfill is expanded to more than twice its current size, at the expense of the health, safety, and welfare of the residents of the township. They want to remove natural forested areas and cover the area with mountains of trash collected not only from Pennsylvania, but from New York and New Jersey as well.
What will the legacy of this council be? If they have their way, Lower Saucon Township will be known for its mountain of garbage, not its “pastoral farmlands, tranquil woodlands, and gently rolling hills” (Lower Saucon Township website).
Toxic? Who cares?
Never mind that the current landfill has some serious, unresolved DEP issues. Never mind that the expanded landfill would have a devastating impact on the natural environment and waters that feed into the Lehigh River. Never mind that over a million gallons of leachate leak into the groundwater every year. Never mind that there is radioactive waste, toxic waste, and deadly gas being emitted by the current landfill. The council wants to expand the dump, making life even more hazardous and unpleasant for everyone in the township and surrounding communities.
From my outsider’s perspective, it appears Council has done no environmental studies of this landfill expansion, had no conversations with nearby residents, and has requested no impact studies. No responsible action is evident except for council wanting to do something for the company that helped get them elected.
What can we do?
Apparently, the only thing that will stop this unwanted action by Council is lawsuits. They seem to like lawsuits as the preferred means of getting their own way. Perhaps they will understand things more clearly when they are the subject of lawsuits. Sadly, our tax dollars will likely be used to fight those lawsuits. However, I stand firmly behind the appellants. They know it’s the only way to stop the actions of a Council dead set on making this expansion happen.
I personally feel that the landfill does not need to be expanded. I think we’ve collected enough garbage from the region, and from outside the region. Now we need to make sure that the existing landfill doesn’t continue to pollute the environment we live in.
I think we need to be more concerned about protecting our natural resources. We should work for clean air, clear water, and a healthy environment. Our children should not have to deal with a toxic wasteland brought about because our current leaders are intent on making bad decisions.
Speaking of a toxic environment, why not attend the next Lower Saucon Township Council meeting?”
Dean R. Shaffer
Thank you, Dean. Your words hit the nail on the head. I’ll add a few more things we can do.
Regular Township Council Meeting – Wednesday, February 15 – 6:30 PM Town Hall
The next township council meeting includes a number of items related to the landfill including appointing an outside attorney to conduct the Conditional Use Application Hearing on Feb. 27 (more detail below) who appears to be so inattentive to detail that he misspelled Phi Beta Kappa on his resumé and discussing a proposed agreement between our Council and Bethlehem Landfill to work together to defend against the lawsuits brought by Township citizens. Be aware that they will be using your tax money to pay for those attorneys’ fees. It also includes an item about a proposed Yard Waste Collection Facility over on Polk Valley Road. There are no costs identified for this Facility in the accompanying documents. Perhaps someone might like to question what this will cost us when we already have a fully functional yard waste AND composting facility within the township that the Council’s behavior has now made unavailable to our citizens. Wouldn’t it be cheaper for them just to apologize to Hellertown rather than build a new facility which will NOT compost but will require trucking the yard waste out of the township? Are they planning on taking it to the dump – oh, I mean, landfill?
Conditional Use Application Hearing – Monday, February 27, 9 AM Se-Wy-Co (Lower Saucon Fire Rescue) Hall
This hearing is an attempt to cram through the dump’s Conditional Use Application even before the legal questions regarding the validity of the zoning changes that were passed in December and raised in one of the lawsuits filed by our neighbors are settled in court. To be clear, if the Court invalidates the zoning changes, this Conditional Use Application becomes moot. But they want the Application on record to muddy the waters before the Court rules.
We need as many citizens as possible to appear at this hearing and ask to be made parties to the hearing. You can find additional information on what you need to do here. The basics are: you will need to provide your name, address, state that you want to be a party to the hearing and why you are impacted by the current landfill and expansion. You do NOT have to live in Lower Saucon Township to be a party to the hearing. Translation: invite everyone you know who is at all impacted by the landfill to come to the hearing. That includes people who use the D&L Heritage Corridor Trail, kayak or boat on the Lehigh River, fish in the Lehigh River, hunt on the lands that have been rezoned or close to them, birdwatch along the Lehigh River, smell the dump from where they live or when they drive by, deal with the muddy run-off from the dump when they drive by, feel unsafe because of having to negotiate the number of large trucks on their way to and from the dump, have a view of the forested area that will be destroyed by the dump’s expansion. Use your imagination – I’m sure there are at least another 20 reasons.
The township has indicated that if the hearing goes beyond the first day (we have every reason to believe it will) that they will continue it on consecutive days until everyone has been heard. This is deliberate to make it grossly inconvenient for you to testify. Don’t let them get away with it. Also, this hearing will be conducted by an “independent” attorney chosen by (guess who?) the Township Council.
Substantive Appeal to the Zoning Hearing Board – Monday, February 27, 7 PM Se-Wy-Co (Lower Saucon Fire Rescue) Hall
Yes, it’s the same day as the Conditional Use Application Hearing. How obvious can they be that they don’t want you to show up? Show up anyway.
This is the legal appeal filed in opposition to the zoning changes that were made on December 21. I know, this gets confusing. This is what is called the substantive appeal, meaning that there are issues of substance that the residents who brought the appeal feel were ignored and that the Zoning Board did not give appropriate weight to all of the issues that should have been considered before the zoning changes were approved. There will be considerable expert testimony for this appeal. We still need to show up and support our neighbors. This is our Zoning Hearing Board. It should answer to us, not to Banonis and his gang or to the Bethlehem Landfill. It’s supposed to act in our best interest. We can’t make that point often enough.
Thanks again to Dean Shaffer for his excellent contribution to the blog. Please put as many of these dates on your calendar as you can possibly make. If you have to prioritize, the February 27 at 9 AM is the most critical.
NEXT COUNCIL MEETING: WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 6:30 PM TOWN HALL
As a service to the community, the February 15 Council meeting will be live-streamed on the Saucon Shenanigans Facebook page.
DAYS WITHOUT FULL LIBRARY SERVICES: 46
DAYS TILL THE NEXT GENERAL ELECTION: 265