Last week’s meeting of the Lower Saucon Township council was again devoted primarily to township housekeeping matters. It was a relatively short agenda. The new Junior Council Persons for the 2020-2021 school year were welcomed on board. The execution of a DUI grant was authorized. There was a quarterly report on the Bethlehem landfill, a discussion of LED streetlights, and the submission of the 5-Year Capital Plan (more on that later). On the whole, a well-run meeting with a high level of collegiality and all 5-0 votes.
I especially want to applaud the civility with which the council members approached some disagreement about an upcoming meeting regarding the Creek Road development request. There was no disagreement on the fact that the Council is absolutely opposed to the development of that property as requested. The disagreements came in relation to how best to handle the Township’s response to the developer’s latest legal maneuver. Since the City of Bethlehem is actually the governing zoning authority, Lower Saucon is only an interested party and the sense of Council was that they didn’t want to lose that standing in any future considerations by the City of Bethlehem.
There was extended discussion around the best way to do that. Some supported sending a letter, some supported sending a township solicitor, some supported a Council member attending in person. The rather lengthy discussion was eventually amicably resolved with everyone having an opportunity to state his/her position and be thoroughly heard. On the whole, well done.
However, for those of us playing along at home, it seemed that the entire discussion could have been wrapped up much more expeditiously if the township solicitor, Attorney Treadwell, had taken the time at the beginning of the discussion to simply lay out the various options. Most of the discussion was protracted because Council members didn’t have a clear idea of how the various solutions protected or didn’t protect the Township’s position. If the solicitor had listed the options, along with the resulting township status of each action and the possible outcomes, everyone would have been starting from a common baseline of knowledge of the law regarding the situation.
For example, if he had said, “if you choose option A, your legal status will be X and the possible outcomes will be 1, 2, 3. If you choose option B, your legal status will be Y and the possible outcomes will be 4, 5, 6.” You get the idea. I have observed a number of solicitors over the years and I know that some of them prefer to not enter Council discussions without being directly invited or questioned, but in this situation, it would have been helpful.
Part of my purpose in creating this blog was to provide additional opportunities for Lower Saucon residents to access information they might find helpful and also to encourage more residents to be involved in Township decisions. To that purpose, there were two upcoming plans that I’d like to bring to your attention in case you’d like to read more about either of them
As mentioned above, one agenda item was the submission and review of the 5-Year Capital Plan (2021-2025). This is the plan that lays out anticipated capital expenses (as opposed to operating expenses) for the Township for the next 5 years. Township Finance Director Cathy Gorman, who is a true Township treasure in her custodianship of township finances, has produced a very detailed document explaining the purposes of a 5-year capital plan, the areas that it encompasses, and then all of the numbers to back all of that up. You can find the plan by clicking on the heading of this section.
This Plan is the blueprint for generally big-money expenditures and it should track with Township objectives. The Plan is up for its annual review. It does not get adopted until the regular budget cycle for 2021. As we approach the end of the life of the landfill in the Township, the funding for the Capital Plan becomes an issue of some significance since it has been primarily funded to date by tipping fees.
I urge you to take a look at the Capital Plan, familiarize yourself with the kinds of areas it covers, and provide any questions or input to Council through the normal channels. I had asked Ms. Gorman if she would consider preparing a short, executive-type summary for the Plan for those who are not into serious number-crunching which she agreed to do. I don’t see that on the site yet, but hopefully it will be coming soon. In the meantime, she provides a very clear, detailed explanation of the contents of the Plan.
I’ll let the words of the Saucon Valley Partnership’s website listing speak for themselves: “The Saucon Valley Partnership (consisting of Hellertown Borough, Lower Saucon Township and the Saucon Valley School District) will be soliciting feedback, through upcoming hearings, regarding our Multi-Municipal Comprehensive Plan update and your participation is appreciated. Please take some time to view the interactive story map, click here to access the proposed updates to the growth in our community.”
Again, this is a long-range plan for a broader swath of the Saucon Valley than just the Township. It’s worth a look if you want to see where the area is headed. It’s a very cool site full of fascinating data and hard work envisioning the future of the Saucon Valley area.
The Partnership is taking questions and input from the public. You can find meeting dates and sites on the Township website. It’s another way to keep up-to-date on the possibilities for the future.