As I was watching the Tennessee legislature’s attempt to destroy democracy by ousting two duly elected representatives for “decorum” violations, I agreed with the commentator who said that what they were really doing was not showing overly large concern over the events that had taken place in the legislature, but rather that they were “sending a message”.  The message was that the Republican majority had no need to pay any attention to anything that either of those two representatives said or to anything that their now-unrepresented constituencies needed.  

To put it bluntly the message was “Sit down. Shut up. We don’t have to listen to you.”

To those of us who have been watching the behavior of the Lower Saucon Township council since at least January 2022, those words and that message should sound very familiar.  That’s what we have been hearing over and over and over again.  “Sit down. Shut up. We don’t have to listen to you.”

Let’s go back and look at that dog’s breakfast of a public comment policy that Banonis shoved down our throats the minute he was elected Council president. This would be Resolution #31-2022, adopted 3 January 2022.  It was slightly revised and replaced by Resolution #31-2023, adopted 3 January 2023.  The only amendment was to remove the requirement that residents who wish to comment must state their full address before commenting.  The courts ruled that was illegal.  It took more than a few months for our council to revise that.  [Note to residents:  If you’re still announcing your address when you speak, you don’t have to do it.  If you choose to, that’s up to you.]

If you read all the “Whereas” paragraphs in the Resolution you’ll notice such piffle as “the Council is strong [sic] advocate of free speech and wishes to promote an atmosphere of reasoned expression of ideas” and “the Council recognizes public comment is intended to afford citizens an opportunity to bring important matters to the attention of Lower Saucon Township Council” but what you WON’T find is any statement that the Council has a responsibility to actually listen to and consider what you have to say.  In fact, while you have the right to bring matters to the attention of the Council, they don’t have to pay attention to you at all, especially when they’re fiddling with their phones.

Back in 2014, the last time they revised the Code of Conduct (Resolution #32-2014, adopted 19 February 2014), these were all the lines devoted to behavior at the meetings:

6. The President of Council shall preside over all periods of public comment and shall: 

C. Rule “out of order” any scandalous, impertinent, or redundant comment or any comment the discernible purpose of which is to disrupt or prevent the conduct of business of the meeting.

That was it.  That was all that was necessary in 2014. In the new 2023 resolution, there are now 26 specific items dealing with the behavior of the public at meetings.  There are exactly ZERO items dealing with the behavior of the Council members at meetings. Here’s an interesting one:

“21.  Any conduct disruptive of the Township . . . and/or the use of a cell phone shall not be tolerated.”

Why doesn’t it say that applies to Council members also?

Or this one:

“22. The Council President . . . will rule out of order any speaker or comment which is defamatory, contentious, scandalous, impertinent, redundant or disruptive to the proceedings of the meeting.”

I’d love to see a definition of each of those terms.  And where does it say that Council members won’t make any such comments?  Because they do. Often. Banonis is particularly redundant, droning on and on whenever it suits his purpose.


“26. The purpose of Public Comment . . . Council will not respond to comment made during the public portion of the meeting unless it is necessary to ask a clarifying question, correct a factual error, or provide specific information. . .”

Anyone who was at the April 4 Special Council meeting knows that Council members, in particular Carocci that night, just interrupt whenever they feel like it, in his case getting louder and more belligerent as the public comment period wore on.

Bottom line, they demand behaviors from the public that they don’t observe themselves.  They are arrogant and condescending in their remarks.  Does everyone from the public get a chance to speak?  Oh yes, Banonis goes out of his way to make a big display of allowing everyone to speak but don’t ever walk away from the podium till you’re sure they’re not going to attack you or your position because if you walk away and they attack, you can’t reply.

Pettiness Personified

Then there are the snotty comments in calling the names of people to speak.  At the April 4 meeting, Banonis called “Victoria O period C period,” pretending not to know who that was and saying that he was only reading what was on the sign-in sheet.  I find it amazing that he doesn’t recognize the name of one of the people who is currently running for Council and who ran against him last time.  You remember that time – that’s when the slate of 3 Republicans sued the slate of 3 Democrats in an attempt to basically impose prior restraint on their speech while they were actively campaigning.  We have a First Amendment that says you can’t do that and the Court – rightly – tossed the lawsuit.  At a previous Council meeting – I believe it was March 22 – he mispronounced Victoria’s name. Not, I suspect, an accident.

Also at the zoning hearing held on March 22 during a regular Council meeting, he called on Kathy Pichel McGovern to speak.  But he garbled her name and she corrected him.  When she then was on the list to speak after the meeting in the non-agenda comment period, he managed to get her name right but when someone said she wasn’t there, his comment was, “She’s not interested. She left.”  In case you don’t know, Ms. McGovern is running against Yerger and Inglis on the Republican ticket for Council.  So he thought he’d get a little dig in, although he has no problem lecturing other candidates not to his liking on their “politicking” in their comments.

I won’t waste your time recounting all the times he or Carocci have tried to tell Mrs. deLeon that she isn’t allowed to speak.  Say what?  Where exactly is the rule that says that a Councilperson can’t comment on business before the Council? Meetings of functional municipal councils often feature lively discussions of the pros and cons of various issues.  Not here.  You speak when Banonis tells you that you can. 

Misinformation, Disinformation, and Just Plain Lies

Reporting on relations with either of the libraries – HAL or SLPL – is now so distorted that it’s a good thing I’ve been keeping track of what’s really said.  You can find most of the corrections in my blog of April 3, 2023. Suffice it to say that at the April 4 meeting we were again treated to the fanciful notion that HAL kicked us out of the library and that they denied us Board seats when in fact all of that was a result of either a request from the LST Council (removing LST from HAL) or by LST’s refusal to sign a new agreement with HAL.  Nobody gets a Board seat if you don’t sign an agreement and pay your fair share.

We’ve been told that the new yard waste center won’t cost anything.  Good thing Banonis is a lawyer and not a finance person or he’d have no career at all. Someone needs to give him a short course in accounting.  And then I’d like to know where we store the excess pile of asphalt that we got for free to use in the new waste center.  And of course that free compost that you used to get before isn’t available but this Council doesn’t care because that’s a loss out of your pocket, not out of the Township’s budget.

How Many More Times Will We Be Ignored?

Let’s consider over a year’s worth of the Council ignoring the residents who come to either comment or actually testify at Council meetings and zoning hearings.

Carocci dazzled us with his counting abilities at the April 4 meeting when he reported that 55 people were at the meeting.  He knew because he had counted them all by himself.  The implication was that that wasn’t very many people to show up in opposition to the SLPL issue.  But let’s consider how many hundreds of residents (I know, because I can count too, up to much higher numbers) have attended meetings since January 2022 to speak about the library issue, the various zoning issues, the landfill expansion, the lack of two-way livestreaming of Council meetings, the relationship with Hellertown, the loss of the yard waste center and other issues.  Every single one of those residents has been roundly ignored.

functional, healthy municipal Council would consider the input from their taxpayers before making a decision.  Not here. At many meetings, because the comments are only allowed before an issue is discussed, it’s difficult for residents to know how to focus their remarks.  Even when there is a presentation before public comment, there is a miniscule amount of time and very little discussion between the end of public comments and the vote (always in favor) on the issue.

Couple of examples:  at the April 4 meeting, Dave Willard, a former township councilperson, suggested that one idea the Council could consider might be to make the same offer to both HAL and SLPL for a long-term agreement and see which one would be most interested or amenable to LST’s terms.  *Crickets* Then Rev. Spohn suggested that he would be willing to mediate another round of discussion about the library issue and the relationship with Hellertown.  *Crickets* At the zoning hearing on March 22, a resident who would be impacted by the zoning change to Light Industrial along Easton Rd. suggested that perhaps a General Business zoning would be a better choice.  No more warehouses. It could include small businesses and reduce the impact on the value of those who have homes in that area.  Again – *Crickets*

Any of those suggestions were worth tabling the issue until there could be more discussion or research on the possibilities.  Fuggedaboudit!  Don’t you know there’s an election coming up and the current Council is desparate to look like they’re doing something constructive? So it doesn’t matter that this is not what the residents want.  It’s damn well what they’re going to get.

This is just a small portion of all the dysfunction that pollutes this Township.  Even little stuff like – why aren’t there minutes from the April 4 meeting available to approve at the April 19 meeting?  Granted the minutes usually suck but any decent transcriptionist shouldn’t take 10 days to prepare them. Why is the April 19 meeting only available on YouTube which means it won’t be two-way communication?  You can watch, but you can’t participate. This Council turned down a $17,000 estimate on a two-way system and purchased a $40,000 system instead and it’s still not two-way?  And by the way, those new microphones aren’t much better than the old ones.

According to Banonis on page 11 of the August 17, 2022, minutes, “We are a first-rate Township and we want to have first rate people working here.”  Not even close, buddy.


Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

So what can we do as residents?  I know that most of my readers are aware that there is a primary election coming up in May and a general election in November.  You can exercise your right to vote out those who think this is a good way to run a township.  I’ll have more to say on that closer to the elections.

But you don’t have to just take all this guff in the meantime.  Here are a few suggestions:

*1. If you haven’t already, send emails to the SLPL Board members explaining why you would prefer to partner with HAL. Do it before Tuesday.  If you have other information about what’s been going on here, you might share that too.  We all know that they are dedicated volunteers who have been pummeled and pressured not only by our Council but by their funding municipalities, especially Upper Saucon Township and the Southern Lehigh School District.  Let them know you understand and support them.  Here are the email addresses for the SLPL Board.

Bruce Eames beames@solehipl.org

Candi Kruse ckruse@solehipl.org

Kat Moyer  kmoyer@solehipl.org

Kathie Parsons  kparsons@solehipl.org

John Schubert  jschubert@solehipl.org

*2. There is an SLPL Board meeting on Tuesday, April 18 at 6:30 PM at the library. Be there if you possibly can.  Treadwell has sent them a letter with the outlined agreement that follows mostly the outlines discussed at the April 4 LST meeting.  LST is trying to shove this down SLPL’s throat.  This will be the last regular meeting of the SLPL Board before the May 4 date that LST demands for SLPL to make a decision.  Of course, the LST Council ignores deadlines whenever they feel like it, but so far I’ve observed that the SLPL Board is more responsible.

*3. At past SLPL Board meetings, they have allowed visitors to speak about agenda items.  I don’t know if they’ll do that this time, but come prepared to speak about why this is not a good idea for either us or them.

*4. Keep coming to LST Council meetings no matter how unpleasant they are.  Keep commenting on both agenda and non-agenda items.  They’ll ignore you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t speak.  Sometimes when you get people riled, they say the wrong things.  Keep listening carefully.

*5. Keep an eye on what they’re doing with our money.  On what planet is it acceptable to take $250,000 (that’s a quarter of a million dollars) and give it to a library that’s not even in our county so that their current funding partners can get off the hook for some of their costs.  Because you know that’s why there’s so much pressure.  The Southern Lehigh School District and Upper Saucon Township in particular see this as a gold mine so they can reduce their contributions.  Is that what the federal government expected us to do with the Covid money (ARP) that they gave us?  What else could we be doing with that kind of money that the majority of residents might actually be happy about?

*6. And while you’re watching the money, don’t forget to question everything about the landfill.

*7. Finally, start listening carefully now to what the various candidates for Council are saying.  Ask questions.  And whatever you do, don’t just vote based on a party label.  You’re smarter than that.

See you Tuesday and Wednesday.  And just to be sure you really can watch the LST Council meeting on Wednesday, I’ll be prepared to livestream on the Saucon Shenanigans Facebook page in case there are any unexpected “technical glitches”.





CODSWALLOP, TWADDLE AND CLAPTRAP – Take Another Spin on the Library-Go-Round

If you haven’t heard, the LST council has called a special council meeting for Tuesday, April 4, 2023, at 6 PM at Town Hall.  Here are the only business items on the agenda:  A. Discussion on Southern Lehigh Public Library’s correspondence dated February 24, 2023 — 1. Possible action on SLPL offer to provide “Limited” Library Services — 2. Possible action on sending a proposal to SLPL for “Full” Library Services.

First, I urge you to be there if you can.  There will be the usual public comment periods – before the meeting on agenda items and after the meeting on non-agenda items.  Of course, you won’t know what they’re proposing to do about those agenda items so good luck commenting intelligently on what they’re proposing to do.  But you can at least come and express your support for reconnecting with Hellertown Area Library (HAL) and dropping this ridiculous attempt to hook up with Southern Lehigh Public Library (SLPL).  

I don’t know why they’ve suddenly discovered such a compelling interest in solving this problem after months of total inactivity but, unlike Solicitor Treadwell who sees no problem in imputing motives to people he knows nothing about (see letter dated 3/20/23, Treadwell to Leeson – “a small minority of LST residents who are attempting to force LST to capitulate to the financial demands made by HAL” and later “a small number of LST residents who appear to have an agenda that hurts the long term financial health of SLPL”), I will simply suggest that it’s long past time that this council got its act togther to solve this problem of their own creation.

Unlike the usual agendas we get from the council that provide minimal context or support documentation, for this meeting we are graced with copies of 4 letters relevant to the discussion.  You can find all of them here: https://go.boarddocs.com/pa/lowersaucontwp/Board.nsf/public.  I will be referring to them in this blog, as well as minutes from previous council meetings.  Let me add that in reading this correspondence I am not surprised that there has been a reluctance to keep us apprised of discussions regarding the library situation.  This is a steaming pile of, as Colonel Potter used to say, “horse hockey.”

In order to prepare for Tuesday’s meetings, I suggest you consider the following items:

LST Residents Concern About Possible Connection to SLPL

Ltr, 3/20/23, Treadwell to Leeson:  “The SLPL representatives appear to be placing an inordinate amount of emphasis on the opinions of a small group of LST residents who appeared at the SLPL January 17, 2023, Board meeting.  I have reviewed the minutes from that meeting, which indicate that 7 individuals spoke and suggested that SLPL not provide full library services to LST residents.  The minutes also indicate that 21 LST residents sent emails suggesting the same.”

Let’s consider the fact that the 7 individuals who spoke (which did not include all the individuals who attended), represents 7 more people than the number of LST Council members (excluding Priscilla deLeon who has attended several SLPL Board meetings) who have ever bothered to attend an SLPL Board meeting in spite of repeated requests from the SLPL Board for LST Council members to appear in person to explain what exactly they would like. Nor have any LST residents spoken to the SLPL Board in favor of the proposed merger.

Then consider that the 21 LST residents who took the time to send emails suggesting that a merger between LST and SLPL might not be a good idea represents 21 MORE LST residents than sent emails supporting the idea.  While Treadwell chooses to identify this as “a small group”, it’s bigger than his.

Treadwell also fails to mention that a larger group of LST residents attended the February 13 SLPL Board meeting as well as a group of LST residents at the March 14 SLPL Board meeting.  No supporters of the proposed partnership from LST were present at either of those meetings.

Not Subject to Political Considerations

Please try not to spit out your gum when you read this one.  Treadwell refers to comments that were made by SLPL Board members in a Southern Lehigh School District (SLSD) meeting in which they mentioned the November election and the “political climate” in LST, based on comments they claim were made by LST residents about waiting until after the November elections to make any decision regarding a partnership.  I can attest to the fact that that argument was made because I was one of the people making it.  Treadwell then, apparently with a straight face, writes [Ltr, 3/20/23, Treadwell to Leeson] “Please allow me to respectfully suggest that library services should not be subject to political considerations.”

Have you stopped laughing yet? It’s true that in a township run by leaders of good faith and concern for the community good, a decision for library services should not be a political one.  It should be based on what’s good for the community and the desires of the community balanced against what the community can afford. But there are a few problems here:

  1.  The proposals that LST has made for partnership with SLPL would actually end up costing more than the previous partnership with HAL.
  2. The majority of LST residents who have registered their position on the library question publicly have clearly indicated they are opposed to partnership with SLPL.
  3. When township leadership keeps discussions of proposed partnerships secret and refuses to share the effects that their decision will have on residents (i.e. not providing information on what library status will be after 12/31/22), and when leadership expresses clear disdain and disinterest in the public comments made by residents against the proposed partnership with SLPL, then the residents are left with no recourse that is not political.  If they won’t listen, then you vote them out.
  4. It is only prudent for SLPL to be aware of the political climate in LST in case they put in place an agreement that can be withdrawn whenever new leadership takes over and suddenly decides they don’t want to support a library.  Certainly HAL never expected that to be the case when they entered into an agreement with LST, but they got screwed anyway because the agreement did not take into account the possibility of a change in the political leadership.

No Means No

Moving on.  From Ltr, 3/20/23 Treadwell to Leeson, “If SLPL is not interested, then please ask your client [meaning the SLPL Board] to just say that so that LST can pursue other options.”  How many times must SLPL say it’s not interested until LST Council hears the message?  In January 2022, LST Council proffered a check for $50,000 to SLPL which they refused.  In May, LST tried again, issuing a new check for $50,000, under what authority is not clear.  But that’s an issue for another day. Under pressure from some of their funding partners, SLPL accepted the check but only after requiring a letter from Treadwell clearly stating that there were no expectations of services from SLPL because of the payment.  I believe the words that Board President Bruce Eames used at the time were “the Board accepts this donation with serious trepidation.” Not exactly a rousing endorsement of a future partnership.

By September, the SLPL Board had felt it was incumbent upon them to do some serious financial number-crunching to see what this proposed partnership would cost them.  The preliminary numbers prepared for the September SLPL board meeting indicated at least a $153,217 operating budget shortfall as well as an additional cost of about $150,000 to add required space to accommodate increased staff, patronage and books.  Following consideration of that reality plus the significant amount of time that the SLPL Board felt they had already invested in a proposed partnership they did not want, the Board advised LST that they would do no more work on the idea until LST Council sent a Council representative to a regular SLPL Board meeting to explain why they wanted a partnership and until LST listed the proposed partnership as an agenda item on a regular Council meeting agenda so that LST residents could comment on it.  LST Council didn’t reply.  I was at the SLPL Board meeting and it certainly sounded to me like “ball’s in your court.  We don’t want to do this, so if you do, take the time and effort to tell us why.”

Sometime prior to the January SLPL Board meeting, Treadwell suggested that LST would be willing to pay SLPL $10,000/month in exchange for library services.  The response to that suggestion is the letter dated February 24, 2023, from Leeson to Treadwell.  It sounds like another attempt at “no” to me.  Now we get Treadwell’s letter of 3/20/23 back to Leeson trying once again to push a 10-year funding/service arrangement.  Are ye deef, mon?

The 5 Inane Questions

Next up a collection of questions the answers to which are so obvious that it seems ridiculous to waste the paper to answer them.  But here goes. And maybe it will save SLPL’s solicitor some time and SLPL’s Board some money by replying here.

  1.  Ltr. 3/20/23 Treadwell to Leeson: “Why does the SLPL proposal offer only ‘limited’ library services to LST residents, in return for a contribution of $3,750.00 per month, when it offers ‘full’ library services to other municipalities for less?”  Because SLPL identifies to OCL that it has included those other municipalities in its home library service area.  They don’t want to include LST in that designation so it’s an apples to oranges comparison.  SLPL can create whatever separate agreement they want with LST.
  2. Ltr. 3/20/23 Treadwell to Leeson: “Why is the SLPL proposal specifically designed to prohibit LST from having any representation on the SLPL Board when other municipalities have SLPL Board representation yet provide a smaller contribution?”  Duh.  See answer to question #1. In the insurance trade this is called risk management.
  3. Ltr. 3/20/23 Treadwell to Leeson: “Has the SLPL Board considered offering to sell library cards to LST residents?…” Yes, it would be a terrific idea to spend the time and energy to put together a plan to sell library cards to LST residents to accommodate all the 99 (as I believe was reported at the last SLPL Board meeting) LST residents who have acquired SLPL cards since January 1, 2023.  And I know for a fact that at least some of them only did that until HAL put their program in place.  Those people immediately switched back to HAL.
  4. Ltr. 3/20/23 Treadwell to Leeson:  “Why does it appear that the majority of the SLPL Board is relying on statements and information provided by a small number of LST residents who appear to have an agenda that hurts the long term financial health of SPL?”  Perhaps it’s because those LST residents have been the only ones to show SLPL the courtesy of coming to their meetings and sharing their concerns with SLPL directly.  And also because SLPL’s own internal estimates indicate that a partnership with LST is what will damage the long term financial health of SLPL.
  5. Ltr. 3/20/23 Treadwell to Leeson:  “…What is standing in the way of this type of an arrangement?”  How about the LST Council’s demonstrated perfidious behavior in regards to HAL and SLPL’s unwillingness to open themselves to the same risk?

Just Who Works for Whom Here?

Treadwell claims that statements by SLPL Board members at the March 13, 2023, meeting are incorrect in their claim that LST requested that HAL remove LST from its service area.  He says, “At no point did LST request that HAL unilaterally remove LST from its service area.” [Ltr.3/20/23 Treadwell to Leeson]. He then goes on to attach a letter from him to HAL counsel Mark Aurand [Ltr. 5/20/22 Treadwell to Aurand] that states as part of a proposal that “HAL and the Township will cooperate to remove the Township from the HAL direct library service area, effective at the conclusion of 2022.  This cooperation will include HAL removing the Township from the request for state funding to be received in 2023, notification of the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, and any other necessary actions required to effectuate such removal.”

However this letter does not comport with the resolution passed by the Council on May 18, 2022, which reads as follows:

“Mr. Banonis moved to direct our Solicitor to issue a letter to the HAL, directing the library to not include LST’s population in its application to the Office of Commonwealth of Libraries (OCL) for State Funding for calendar year 2023 and also issue a letter to the OCL advising it that it should not include LST’s population in its calculations for the formulation of State Funding for 2023….” [Council Minutes, May 18, 2022, page 3.]. When you “direct” the library to not include LST’s population in its application, you are not making a proposal that HAL and the Township “will cooperate”.  You are unilaterally instructing HAL to remove us from their direct library service area. Likewise if you issue a letter to the OCL “advising it” to not include LST’s population in its calculations for state funding, you are not seeking a cooperative solution with HAL in communications with OCL on the calculations for state funding.

So the council gives the solicitor specific direction on what they want communicated to HAL and then the solicitor redefines his instructions and communicates something different.  Is that how this is supposed to work?   And then uses his arbitrary changes to the council instructions to claim that “at no point did LST request that HAL unilaterally remove LST from its service area”? [Ltr. 3/20/23 Treadwell to Leeson]. Just exactly who works for whom here and what is a solicitor’s responsibility to follow the directions the council provides to him?  If he’s going to revise the instructions in the resolution, isn’t it his responsibility to come back to the council to request a revised resolution?

All Those Times Library Services Were On the Agenda

Treadwell claims in his letter of 11/4/2022, to Karley Biggs Sebia, Solicitor at the time for SLPL, that “the Lower Saucon Township Council has held multiple public meetings where ‘library services’ was a specifically identified agenda item”.  This is just wrong unless the definition of “multiple” is “2”.  From the January 19, 2022, council meeting when “Discussion Regarding Library Services” was listed on the published agenda, an item related to library services appeared only one more time on the published agenda.  That was on May 18, 2022, when “Discussion Of Library Services” was an item on the published agenda.  Except for those two times, there have been no other items on any published agendas for council meetings that refer to or even hint at “library services”.  Two times in sixteen months.

As to his claim that “public comment on both agenda and non-agenda items is available at all Council meetings,” [Ltr. 11/4/22, Treadwell to Sebia] that’s a true statement.  But of the sixteen months under consideration, public comment was only available in the period BEFORE a council meeting in 2 (TWO) months, the first one being the night that the initial library bombshell was dropped and the second one on the night when the council directed HAL to remove LST from consideration for state funding.  All the other meetings required that residents sit through entire council meetings in order to comment on the status of the library problem at the end of the session.  And as anyone who has been to an LST council meeting knows, you are only allowed to “comment.”  You are gavelled down by Banonis if you ask a question and request or expect an answer or any information on the issue you’re raising.  So while it’s called a “comment” period, it should not be misunderstood as an opportunity for any real or valuable communication from the council members.  In fact, when Mrs. deLeon attempts to respond to citizens’ concerns, she is rudely and arrogantly chastised by Banonis and is told that this is not the time for council to respond.  As we all well know by now, there is NO appropriate time for council to respond to citizens’ questions or concerns because they don’t consider that their responsibility.

In Conclusion

This has been very long and if you’ve hung in here until now, you are truly a dedicated citizen.  Thank you.  I have taken the time and trouble to lay out all of this information so that you are well-prepared for the special meeting on Tuesday, April 4, when you can expect a huge serving of codswallop, twaddle and claptrap.

And just in case you think that the reason there’s no resolution for you to review that the council’s going to vote on included in the supporting documentation for the meeting, is that the council will first honestly listen to the residents who speak and then carefully consider the appropriate response to make to SLPL’s letter, then all I can say is – you haven’t been listening to what’s been going on for the last 16 months.

Hope to see you all there.

Township Council Becomes Even More Toxic

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.

Some Background

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!) 

Landfill expansion

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.


As a service to the community, the February 15 Council meeting will be live-streamed on the Saucon Shenanigans Facebook page.



The Year in Review

I know many of my readers are probably very disappointed that because of the length of the Council meeting on December 21 they didn’t get to hear Banonis’ self-serving year-end wrap-up like the one he subjected us to last year.  In order to fill in that tragic gap, I’m happy to provide a review of Lower Saucon Township’s annus horribilis (horrible year, in the words of the late Queen Elizabeth II).  The short version is in the Scorecard.  The detailed version of the year follows that.

The 2022 Scorecard

January 1, 2022

  •   Full library services at HAL
  •   275.7 acres of beautifully forested land surrounding the landfill
  •   Free access to the Yard Waste Center
  •   Reduced membership prices at the Hellertown Pool
  •   A wobbly reputation within the Lehigh Valley and deteriorating relations with Hellertown

January 1, 2023

  •    No library services at HAL
  •    275.7 acres of beautifully forested land under direct threat to be clearcut and turned into landfill
  •    No access to the Yard Waste Center
  •    A tortured system to be reimbursed for pool memberships
  •    A laughingstock within the Lehigh Valley and no relationship with Hellertown

2022 In Detail


Ah yes!  Back when the year was young and full of promise and we were all so full of hope!  Who am I kidding?  The storm clouds were already on the horizon, even before the Jan. 3 organizational meeting. 

In a brilliant move to promote opportunities for constituent input, the Council passes (4-1) Resolution #31-2022 – Revision of Agenda Policy and Code of Conduct for Council Meetings, boxing residents and taxpayers ONLY into a 3-minute limit on comments on agenda items before the meeting and non-agenda items after the meeting.

Now firmly muzzled, residents watch in horror (including on the livestream provided by Saucon Shenanigans) at the next meeting on Jan. 19 as Council votes (4-1) to offer the Hellertown Area Library less than ½ of the requested amount while it refuses to sign a new agreement for library services.  Newbie Zavacky offers the lame explanation that we will now just be “donors” and we’ll donate the other half of the budgeted amount to Southern Lehigh Public Library (SLPL).  Why? Damned if I know even after a year of persiflage.  And as icing on the cake, they vote (4-1) to authorize the solicitor to sue HAL if they refuse service to LST residents.

In a surprise move the following week, HAL refuses the $50,000 check.  Hellertown, now faced with being a signatory to a tripartite agreement without the third party’s buy-in, renegotiates a bilateral agreement with HAL.  And so it begins.

And then the township manager resigns.


HAL revises its by-laws based on the new bilateral agreement with Hellertown Borough and removes all LST board members.  Hellertown Borough suspends all Intergovernmental Committee and Partnership participation by the borough with LST pending further review of the resolution of the library issue.

Ms. Huhn’s 20 years of service to the township is given less time and notice than a Boy Scout who built a kiosk.

Banonis, Carocci and Zavacky make a big deal about turning down their councilperson pay reminding us all once again that you get what you pay for.

LST doesn’t even put the library issue on the agenda.


HAL offers a substantive proposal to negotiate a new agreement.

LST doesn’t even put the library issue on the agenda.


HAL extends the deadline to begin negotiations on a new agreement.

Pastor Spohn tries to broker a solution.  Banonis and Zavacky introduce the “regionalization” red herring, then do nothing publicly visible to pursue it.

LST doesn’t put the library issue on the agenda.


On May 12, Cathy Forman writes a check to SLPL for $50,000 to replace the check that had been written in January and never cashed.  This is not mentioned at any Council meeting.  SLPL holds the check while they are pressured by the Southern Lehigh School Board and Upper Saucon Township to accept it.

From the Council minutes, May 18: “Mr. Banonis moved to direct our Solicitor to issue a letter to the HAL, directing the library to not include LST’s population in its application to the Office of Commonwealth of Libraries (OCL) for State Funding for calendar year 2023 and also issue a letter to the OCL advising it that it should not include LST’s population in its calculations for the formulation of State Funding for 2023.” Motion passed 3-1. deLeon, No; Zavacky, Absent. Remember this when we get to the end of December.

Zavacky resigns.


Mark Inglis is appointed to replace Zavacky.  We are not informed who else applied for the position or why Inglis was chosen. Still don’t know, except that he’s related to Zavacky by marriage.

LST Council tries to muscle its way into the Saucon Valley School Board’s business to get them to hire a School Resource Officer despite having been told that they should stay in their lane.

Laura Ray’s repeated request for a citizen’s forum as provided for in the administrative code is finally placed on the agenda.  The forum is scheduled for Nov. 23.  Mrs. deLeon objects that that is not a regularly scheduled meeting night but rather the night before Thanksgiving.  Banonis rudely informs her that she’s wrong and it doesn’t have to be on a regularly scheduled meeting night. In fact, he’s wrong and the meeting has to be rescheduled.

LST doesn’t put the library issue on the agenda.


Hellertown Borough votes on July 5 to sever its ties with LST relative to the Saucon Valley Partnership, the community pool and the yard waste center effective December 31.

LST abruptly cancels its regular meeting on July 20 and schedules a “special meeting” on Friday, July 22 at 9:30 AM severely limiting the number of residents who can attend.  They hire a new township manager, Mark Hudson, at a 22.7% increase over the budgeted salary for the township manager.  No information is available on him.  Council also approves a bid for the paving of Saucon Terrace for $1,070,793 which as far as I can tell had not been specifically budgeted but Banonis informs us that’s okay because we’re running a surplus.  Remember this when they tell you about how we can’t live without the landfill.

SLPL Board accepts “with serious trepidation” the $50,000 check from LST but only after receiving a letter from Treadwell stating that “the donation is unconditional, and was made in appreciation of the services provided by the Southern Lehigh Library to Township residents over the past 10 years.” In the words of SLPL Board President Bruce Eames “its [Lower Saucon’s] residents will not benefit from the donation, except to the extent they use the SLPL through the Access Pennsylvania program.”  


LST doesn’t put the library issue on the agenda.

On his way out the door, Interim Township Manager Peter Marshall finds multiple ways for the township to spend money on new software, new job titles, raises, compensation studies, etc., all of which get approved even though budgeting season is coming up in 6 weeks.


LST doesn’t put the library issue on the agenda.


At the Oct. 5 draft budget meeting, from the minutes, Cathy Gorman reported, “We have made those budget transfers during the year to accommodate some of the additional expenses we have received. Those came from our fund balance and she’s projecting that the fund balance, without using the landfill funds [emphasis added], should be adequate.”  Council, by consensus but without Mrs. deLeon’s agreement and with no rational explanation, tells Gorman to increase the budget item for library services for 2023 from $100,000 to $160,000.

And then along comes the real stunner.  Here comes Bethlehem Landfill asking for zoning changes and text amendments to more than double the size of the landfill.  Next time any of the landfill cheerleaders on Council claim this doesn’t mean a landfill expansion, read them this: [from the October 19 minutes:] “Mr. Lawson said the request for zoning map and text amendment is the first step towards an expansion for BLC.” 

When I started Saucon Shenanigans, I said there would be 3 guiding principles.  One of them was “Follow the money.”  It’s been a long, winding road, but it’s finally clear where it leads.


From here to the end of the year, things get really ugly, really fast.

On Friday, November 11, the agenda for the Nov. 16 meeting announces the Citizens’ Forum which we had been requesting since before June will be held that night, Nov. 16 at 5:50 PM.  Five days’ notice after a six month wait.  Even so, a decent sized crowd shows up but in a supreme act of arrogance, neither Banonis nor Carocci do.  There are some lame excuses but then, all of a sudden, they’re magically there in time for the Council meeting at 6:30, putting to bed the belief that they care at all about what the residents of LST think.  Yerger, Inglis and Mrs. deLeon are there but Yerger and Inglis are virtually mute the whole time.  Mrs. deLeon answers questions but frankly, we all know what she supports and believes in so there aren’t many questions directed to her.  

Treadwell, however, after neglecting to introduce himself (which triggers a question by one resident, “Just exactly who are you?”), answers the majority of questions with the equivalent of “I don’t know” or “Not my job.”  What’s going on with the library? We’re working on it.  What’s going on with the zoning? There’s a hearing scheduled. Why haven’t you told us anything about the library?  I’m just the solicitor. What do we do at the end of the year? The council has to decide. Mark Hudson, the township manager, hides behind the classic, “I’m new here.  I really don’t know.”  

Well, who the hell is running this township then?

During the actual council meeting (now with Banonis and Carocci in attendance) here come the Bethlehem Landfill people to gaslight us on how they’re going to provide all kinds of conservation easements to make everything pretty and safe.  Wonder why those easements would have any more strength than the current ones you’re going to run roughshod over now?  An additional Council meeting needs to be added on December 21 to accommodate advertising, etc. for a public hearing on the zoning changes and text amendments.  It also conveniently puts it only 4 days before Christmas in a pretty blatant attempt to reduce the number of residents who might come and testify.  Keep in mind, there is no time clock ticking on this.  It could have been considered in January or February or March.  But then, more people might have shown up.

There’s no discussion of the library nor is it on the agenda.

Then, the following Monday, who should turn up on the Southern Lehigh School Board’s meeting agenda than none other but our own dear solicitor to explain all about what’s going on with LST’s quixotic search for someone to give them some library love.  We heard all about a library-type authority in western PA that was the holy grail of how we should organize all of our library system and how this is what he was proposing for the supporting municipalities and school district of SLPL and LST (of course, Hellertown’s not invited nor is the Saucon Valley School District).  And while the underlying idea is actually an interesting one to consider, its development and implementation would take years, possibly legislative action, and the kind of public education, consensus-building, and communication and collaboration skills that frankly this collection of bozos can’t even begin to understand how to put together.  But at least we know how to get an answer to what’s going on in our township.  Pay our solicitor $220/hour, send him across county lines and let him babble on to a school board that isn’t connected to the school district in our own township.  Perfect.


At the December 7 meeting, Banonis takes aim again at Hellertown, this time over the yard waste center.  He wants to send a letter to DEP to tell them that LST is no longer a part of the yard waste center and therefore not part of the permit.  Because of that, he wants DEP to cancel the permit.  Of course, he hasn’t bothered to check and see that LST was NEVER a part of the DEP permit.  Treadwell doesn’t know (he should).  And they’re too arrogant to listen to members of the audience who tell them they’re not part of the permit.  I bet DEP laughed themselves silly over that.  

Next up comes a threat that the zoning officer needs to see if the yard waste center is zoned for that use and if not, send a cease-and-desist order to Hellertown.  Explain to me how, when you’ve been using the land yourself as a yard waste center for a couple of decades(?), you can suddenly claim it’s not a proper land use.  They actually follow through on that moronic plan, creating more good feeling between neighbors just like they’ve been doing all year.

Then, despite all their best efforts, the December 21 public hearing amazingly draws, by your writer’s count, 139 people.  Of that, between 75 and 80 speak, all except the final one – an engineer for Bethlehem Landfill – in opposition to the zoning changes, the text amendments, the expansion of the landfill, the scheduling of the meeting 4 days before Christmas and sharing the perception that it’s a done deal and nothing they say matters.

Sure enough, it doesn’t.  The 4-part resolution passes (3-2, deLeon and Yerger-No).  

If you find Yerger’s “no” vote surprising, don’t.  Keep these facts in mind – she’s up for re-election in November and Banonis knew he had enough votes to pass the resolution without her vote, so she could vote “no” and he still wins.  When she tries to campaign on “I opposed the landfill expansion” in November, remember all the 4-1 votes on the library and the landfill and almost every other issue up until that night.  It was a pure political play.

At the tail end of the meeting they approve $40,000 more or less to buy and install a two-way live-streaming A-V system to cover future meetings. Of course, it will take 3 months to get it installed. For those keeping track, that will be about 21 months since the Council went back to in-person meetings and was asked to provide some kind of streaming service and 15 months since Saucon Shenanigans started live-streaming meetings as a public service. Good work.

Then, as the year ends, the PA Office of Commonwealth Libraries confirms what we all knew was going to happen – and what the LST Council had itself requested back in May – that HAL has the right to no longer provide service as a “home library” to LST residents effective 1/1/23.  And with that, we are deprived of a library.  The township provides little to no information on where you might find other library services, at least in part because there are no other places to find library services that include the PA Access program.  That’s because if your township doesn’t identify and support a “home library,” you can’t participate. Simple as that and what we’ve all been explaining since last January.

Their solution?  It’s the same as their solution to everything – sue.  Waste more of your tax dollars to fix the things that they broke. To date they have spent $63,345.61 on this idiocy, not including charges for December. Plus the $50,000 given, no strings attached, to a library in a different county for services we were already able to access for free. Is that how you wanted your tax dollars spent?

You can change this. Election Day is November 7. You have the power. Use it.

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com


As a service to the community, the January 3 Council meeting will be live-streamed on the Saucon Shenanigans Facebook page. Thank you to Laura Ray for her service.



Destroying Quality of Life in Lower Saucon Township

I promised a more expansive blog on the landfill expansion issue.  This is it.  It’s long, so I’ve included a table of contents in case there are some parts of it you already know about or don’t care about.

  • Background
  • Current Zoning Change Request
  • Why It’s a Bad Idea
  • Why Now?
  • The “Raising Taxes” Red Herring
  • I Don’t Live Near There.  Why Do I Care?
  • What You Can Do


Landfills have lifespans.  They have a certain number of acres that can be legally filled with garbage and then their life is over.  Done.  No more garbage; no more revenue; just ongoing maintenance costs.

Bethlehem Landfill was reaching that limit.  In 2015 they applied for the Southeastern Expansion.  The expansion was granted in 2017.  It supposedly granted the landfill about 5 more years of life.  In 2020 they applied for the Northeastern Realignment Expansion.  It has not yet been granted but it would supposedly provide an additional 5 or 6 years of life to the landfill.  Both of these were requests for changes in how the land that already made up the landfill could be used, allowing for more dumping.  It wasn’t for new land.

Apparently Waste Connections, the parent company of Bethlehem Landfill, isn’t about to settle for that solution.  As far back as 2015, a Political Action Committee (PAC) named Responsible Solutions of Pennsylvania1, started sending out flyers in support of Sandra Yerger and Tom Maxfield, Republican candidates who supported landfill expansion.  Notice the coincidence with the 2015 Southeastern Expansion application.  Only Yerger won. Then in 2021, a PAC by exactly the same name which was founded by Andrew Moss, the Northeast Division government affairs manager for Waste Connections, received a donation of $75,000 from Waste Connections2 and began a campaign that supported three more Republicans, Banonis, Carocci and Zavacky, who supported the Northeastern Realignment Expansion of the landfill.  They all won.  Let’s face it.  $75,000 is a big chunk of money to dump into a local race.

And now, just one year after that election that put a Republican majority on the township council, here comes Waste Connections with a request to double the size of the current landfill and remove various environmental and conservation restrictions.  And the four Republican council members have shown no interest in performing any kind of due diligence as to whether this is a good or bad thing for the township.  What a strange coincidence!

Current Zoning Change Request

So what is it that Bethlehem Landfill wants?  They’ve apparently been quietly buying up land adjacent to the current landfill and now have 275+ acres under their control.  The problem is, that land is zoned Rural Agricultural (RA) and you can’t put a landfill on RA land.  So they need to get the RA land rezoned to Light Industrial (LI). Ah, but therein lies another problem.  If you have LI land, you can only put a landfill on it by Special Exception.  To get a special exception granted, you have to jump through all kinds of hoops, including going in front of the Zoning Board to get their blessing.  But if you ask the township council to move a landfill use out of Special Exception and into Conditional Use, then you only need the township council’s approval to go ahead and build your garbage dump.

Special Exception uses in LI zones include a lot of rather unpleasant uses that need to be tightly controlled such as salvage yard, petroleum & hazardous substance storage, production of chemical products, mineral extraction. And landfill and waste disposal facilities.  The only thing allowed under conditional use is tower-based commercial communication facilities.  Do you really think that landfills require as little oversight as cellphone towers?  I don’t.

A third requested change is to remove the requirement to undergo the site plan approval process and requirements.  This removes one layer of oversight from the entire process.  Every layer that gets removed leads to more opportunities for inappropriate usages to sneak in.

The fourth request, and I think this is the sneakiest of them all, is to permit the creation of a Natural Resource Mitigation Alternative.  What this means is that if the landfill wants to build on more property than that which meets the “permitted net buildable site area,” they can do that if they dedicate land in excess of the amount of land that they want to use to the township.  However, it specifically states that “the land proposed for dedication does not need to contain the same environmental resource as those resource protection lands on the subject property.”  In other words, they can dedicate to the township any kind of crappy old land in exchange for cutting down forests and destroying natural habitats.  

Also in this fourth request is the most egregious of all the requests.  That instead of dedicating other land to the township, they can instead give the township money by means of a “fee-in-lieu of dedication.” Translation:  they can buy off the township to get the extra land they want.

If you want to read all of this proposed ordinance 2022-02, you can find it all here.  

Why It’s a Bad Idea

The answers to this are so obvious that it almost seems insulting to have to outline it but let’s make a list:

From the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission:

  • “The proposed text amendments do not align with the intent of FutureLV:The Regional Plan to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public.  Landfills and Waste Disposal Facilities are high intensity land uses that pose adverse impacts on the public, and these impacts must be carefully considered and mitigated.”
  • “The addition of a Natural Resources Mitigation Alternative does not align with the intent of  FutureLV to protect high-priority natural lands.”
  • “The areas proposed to be rezoned…are in a Character Defining Area of the Future Land Use Plan, representing the natural and scenic character of the Lehigh Valley, including High Preservation Priority features of the Natural Resources Plan such as woodlands, steep slopes and Natural Heritage Inventory Core Habitats.”

You can find the complete letter from LVPC here.

From Representative Bob Freeman:

  • “Releasing the conservation easements completely undermines the original intent of those easements to protect environmentally sensitive areas in the township.”
  • “It should also be noted that the removal of forested areas is a detriment to ground water quality as forested areas act as natural recharge zones for groundwater.”
  • “These 275 acres serve as a buffer area around the landfill, and preserves the wonderful view shed afforded by the forested mountain area that overlooks the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor…”
  • “The Township should be requesting input from contiguous neighboring communities before proceeding with any change that would contradict the [Multi-Municipal Comprehensive P]lan.”
  • “[Applebutter Road] was not built to withstand the heavy trucks that travel to the landfill.”

You can find the complete letter from Representative Freeman here.

Here are a few more that any rational person can come up with:

  • When landfills reach their expiration date, you are left with nothing but a mound of useless garbage.  Although landfills will try to tell you that there are good afterlife uses for landfills, there really aren’t.  Roger Bellas of the DEP reports that there are no landfills in the Northeast that currently have after-use proposals.  Remediation is expensive and generally not cost-effective for the landfill company.
  • If you give up the conservation easements on current lands, how will you protect any conservation easements in the future?  It will have set a precedent.
  • Once you cut down trees, you can’t put them back.

And finally, from the Pennsylvania Constitution:

PA Constitution Article I, Section 27: 27.

The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come.

Why Now?

Ah yes, good question.  When the township council listed their meeting dates for 2022, the December date was set for December 7.  Then in October along comes this rezoning request from Bethlehem Landfill and all of a sudden, we need to have a hearing in a regularly scheduled meeting so we schedule a meeting for December 21 and put the hearing on that date since apparently they couldn’t get the hearing together by December 7.

Why the rush?  There’s not one item on that agenda that is time-sensitive or time-critical.  Nothing on that agenda can’t wait until the regular meeting in January or later, including the rezoning hearing.

However, if you don’t want many people to show up and you don’t want many people to know about it, schedule it the week before Christmas on a date that wasn’t announced at the beginning of the year.  Bonus points if it’s the same night as the high school’s Christmas program (although I doubt they were smart enough to know that).

Likewise if you don’t want residents to have time to get the word out about what you’re doing, then by all means, cram it in before the end of the year.  

The “Raising Taxes” Red Herring

This is my favorite boondoggle. “If we lose the landfill income, we’ll have to raise taxes to make up for it.”

Pardon my French but – bullshit.

When I first started paying attention to township matters a number of years ago, I was told that because the landfill was close to capacity, the township was doing everything it could to mitigate that drop in revenue.  And the actions they took seemed to indicate they were taking prudent steps to do that – paying off debt and managing expenses.  Of course, most of the current people weren’t on council back then except for Mrs. deLeon.  By 2019, we were informed that all of the township’s debt had been paid off.  Bravo!  Next step, developing new income streams!

Oh, hold it.  That’s too much work.  If we just let the landfill expand, we get more money, they get what they want and we don’t have to go to the trouble of figuring out how to find more revenue.  And so we have seen no substantive actions to develop other revenue for the township in the last year or two.  

But even more concerning is the fact that we keep producing year-end reports that show that we are running a surplus EVERY SINGLE YEAR!  And not by a small amount.  By almost as much as we take in from the landfill.  Consider the following:

Lower Saucon Township’s primary sources of revenue:

            Enabling taxes (EIT) – 40%

            Landfill host fees – 24.9%

            Real estate taxes – 22.5%

As you can see, once we paid off our debt, we’ve been running surpluses each year equal to or in excess of the amount of revenue we receive from the landfill.  Which means if the landfill income disappeared tomorrow, we would still have enough revenue to run the township.  With a concerted economic development effort, we’d be doing even better and those sources of revenue might have more longevity – and certainly less odor – than the landfill.

Perhaps the more pertinent question to ask would be “Why have we been piling up all these surpluses when we could have been reducing taxes instead?”  We sailed through COVID with 29% and 30% excesses when other municipalities were suffering.  

Perhaps it’s time for us all to demand a reassessment of our properties.

I Don’t Live Near The Landfill. Why Do I Care?

Because these are our neighbors, dammit!  Oh, being a good neighbor isn’t enough of an answer?  Try these.

The bigger the landfill gets, the worse our reputation becomes.  Oh, you know Lower Saucon, that’s the landfill township.  You don’t want to buy a house there.  You can’t be sure what they’ll do.  They don’t abide by any of their agreements, cf. the Library.

The worse our reputation becomes, the more our property values decline.

Some of us use the resources that will be destroyed by the landfill expansion, most particularly the D & L Heritage Corridor with all of its beautiful scenery.  Or we kayak on the Lehigh River.  Or we birdwatch along the corridor.  Or we fish in the river.  Or we have to breathe as we drive past the landfill and smell the stench.

We have children and grandchildren for whom we have a responsibility to protect all of the natural beauty of this area.

Or maybe you’re just sick of these arrogant bullies destroying our quality of life in Lower Saucon Township. They clearly don’t share the values of most of us who live here.  If they did, they would never entertain this expansion.  And they wouldn’t have lost us our library services. And they wouldn’t have harassed our neighboring borough so much that they cut ties with us.  At what point do we say enough is enough?

What Can You Do?

Come to the zoning hearing tomorrow evening, Wednesday, Dec. 21 at 6:30 PM at Town Hall.  Sign up to speak.  Be there by 6 in order to get your name on the list.  Tell them why you oppose this disgusting idea.  If you need some idea of what to say, you could use some of the arguments in the blog.

Hold Thursday, Dec. 22 in case they decide to extend the hearing at SeWyCo.  No time announced yet.  Come and sign up to speak.  They’re hoping you won’t be bothered.  Prove them wrong.

Contribute to our GoFundMe  https://gofund.me/b436437f  This is going to be a long battle and we’ll need financial resources to wage it.  They get to use your tax dollars to fight for the landfill.  We need to fight back.

Tell all your friends and neighbors, not just in Lower Saucon, but also those who care about the environment everywhere.  We need their help.

Read up on all the issues at our website:  LSTLandfillExpansion.org and our Facebook page:  Fighting Landfill Expansion in Lower Saucon Township.  If you have questions, email us at:  LSTLandfillExpansion@gmail.com

Watch out for their tricks – be sure to check off on the sign-in sheet that you want to speak.  If you don’t check it off, Banonis will try to prevent you.  Be sure to get there in time to sign up.  They’ve been picking up the sheets at 6:30 so if you come late, you can’t sign in to speak.  Dirty little trick.

Here’s What We Have

Here’s What They Want Us to Have




LST Council – A Farce in 3 Acts – Act 3

At its July 5 meeting, Hellertown Borough (HB) Council voted to sever its ties with Lower Saucon Township relative to the Saucon Valley Partnership, the community pool and the compost center, effective December 31, 2022.  Letters to that effect were sent to LST dated July 19, 2022. (see below)

The 3 unanimous votes came after six months of analysis by the HB Council of the value or lack of same of the collaborations.  This was all a result of the fallout from the disagreements over funding of the Hellertown Area Library (HAL) and the attendant, appallingly arrogant and disrespectful behavior of the Lower Saucon Township (LST) Council.

Frankly, no one can blame the Hellertown council for these actions.

On the agenda for the August 17 LST council meeting are the 3 letters from the Borough and the 2 letters sent in response to them by the outgoing Interim Manager Peter Marshall. (see below)

The first question that pops to mind is:  Since the original letters from the Borough solicitor were directed to Banonis for the Saucon Valley Partnership and to Treadwell for the pool and compost center, why are the letters in response written by an interim manager who is days within leaving his position and has no history in the township whatsoever?  Wouldn’t it be appropriate for Banonis and Treadwell respectively to respond to the letters directed to them or possibly Treadwell could answer all three? Just exactly what standing does Marshall have to write these responses, especially the one regarding the compost center with its rather unsubtle hints of action against Hellertown?  I urge you to read the nonsense Marshall put in that letter regarding the compost center.

Second, why is there no letter in response to the changes at the pool?  Does the Council not care about those changes?  Are they going to tell us that it doesn’t matter because no one uses a public pool anymore?  (just like no one uses a library)

To clear up a question that I have often heard about the compost center, it is true that the center is physically located in Lower Saucon Township.  However, the land on which it sits is owned by the Borough of Hellertown.  And, possibly more to the point, the DEP permit to operate the center is held by Hellertown Borough alone.  Lower Saucon is not eligible to have such a permit because the township permits open burning, making it ineligible.  Hellertown does not permit open burning.  Which makes a rather fine point that if LST residents have no access to the compost center, LST can’t create its own unless it rescinds the open burn ordinance.

As to the pool, for years it has been operating with LST residents able to buy pool passes at the resident rate.  Hellertown keeps track of how many passes are sold at the lower rate and then LST reimburses Hellertown for the difference between the resident and the non-resident costs once a year.  Hellertown has indicated that they will continue to allow LST residents access to the pool, but each LST resident will now have to pay the full non-resident rate either per session or per season.  In effect, LST has now stopped underwriting the cost of the use of the pool by its residents and the full cost will now be borne directly by LST residents.  Will your taxes decrease because the township doesn’t have to pay the difference?  Don’t hold your breath.

As far as the Saucon Valley Partnership is concerned, it was created in 2004 as a Council of Governments by the Borough of Hellertown, Lower Saucon Township and the Saucon Valley School District.  The County of Northampton was added as an associate member in 2009.  An ad hoc committee of Hellertown and Lower Saucon had been meeting for years before the actual COG was created.

According to the webpage on the Lower Saucon Township website, “the Partnership will provide an opportunity for the members to foster communication, regional cooperation and joint action on regional issues and problems.  By working together as a group, the partners can build stronger relationships and pursue strategies that improve the efficiency and effectiveness of municipal services to save tax dollars.”

It has not met since late 2021.

It’s unfortunate that Hellertown Borough has come to this decision because the purpose of the Saucon Valley Partnership is exactly the direction that municipalities should be going.  The 62 municipalities of the Lehigh Valley are a case study in wasted money and effort as there is so much duplicative cost and programming in so many areas that could be conducted in collaboration.  That’s what the Partnership was designed to alleviate and what it seemed to be fairly successful at.  

But then we read this from the minutes of the January 19 Lower Saucon Township council meeting. Following a long and exhausting iteration of what later turned out to be significantly skewed and self-serving information about the history of the Township vis-à-vis the Hellertown Library and the Borough, Council President Banonis said this: “They want to take your money and malign this Council and insert politics into yet another fundamental, such as reading and learning. He also hopes that some now recognize and appreciate that treating Lower Saucon like an ATM is done, especially when we’re treated so underhandedly at every turn.”

Do those sound like the words of someone looking to “foster communication” and “build stronger relationships”?  I don’t think so.  It was at the next Borough council meeting that their council people voted to review all of the borough’s relationships with LST.  Their actions on July 5 are the result of that review.

What Is a Community?

At the heart of all the fracture and division that’s been happening in the Saucon Valley since January 2022 is the question of what is a community?  Is a community simply defined by its legal borders?  Is Lower Saucon Township a different community from Hellertown Borough?  Are there walls at the borders?  Do I become a different person when I drive to Hellertown to shop at the Giant? Do we breathe different air?

What about the children who go to the same school district?  Are they perceived as representing two entirely different communities?  Should the child who resides in one community have different resources available than the one who resides in the other community?  Should they play on different teams or in different bands? What responsibility do we as adults and voters have to provide the best possible environment for the education of the next generations collaboratively?  What responsibility do we have to treat each other as neighbors? 

What we’ve witnessed in the last 9 months or so is the type of outcome expected of a dysfunctional family. The leadership of LST – with the obvious exception of Mrs. deLeon – has behaved like spoiled brats, unwilling to engage in substantive discussions that acknowledged their commitments to the shared resource that is the Hellertown Library.  Instead, they threw a fit and, when the Borough and the Library refused to cave to their demands, they stomped off in a pout, abandoning all of their responsibilities but still demanding all the services.  It’s a little like your 7-year-old saying “I won’t make my bed but you still have to feed me dinner.”

Like most families faced with this level of dysfunctionality, the Borough of Hellertown and HAL have reacted the way most psychologists will tell you is rational.  They have taken steps to protect themselves from the dysfunctional family member.  HAL refused LST’s insultingly reduced $50K “donation” because LST would not negotiate an agreement in good faith that would have outlined their responsibilities as a library partner.  Hellertown Borough has withdrawn from these other three collaborations as protection against being stiffed like the library was stiffed.  And let’s point out – Hellertown Borough was also stiffed because they ended up ponying up a $75,000 additional donation from their American Rescue Plan monies to help the library cover its lost revenue.  What confidence can they have in any partnership with LST based on what they just saw happen?

If at any point in the last 9 months there had been anything even remotely resembling a rational explanation for why LST should abandon HAL and, even more inexplicably, go strong-arming Southern Lehigh Public Library (SLPL) for affiliation, some of this might make sense to those who have watched this insanity.  But there hasn’t been.  There has been precious little communication.  Some of the communication has been demonstrably false.  There has been a steadfast refusal to put discussion of the library situation on the council agenda.  There have apparently been communications and negotiations behind the scenes that have not been shared with the public.  Imagine how surprising it was to attend a Southern Lehigh Public Library board meeting on August 16 and hear that LST had offered a site for a satellite library within the township in its discussions with SLPL.  What???

It is embarrassing to be a resident of LST these days.  Not only has this council disrupted the library services of its own residents and now their cost of using the pool and their access to the compost center, but they have similarly caused upheaval for HAL, the Borough of Hellertown and the leaders of SLPL who have explicitly stated, more than once, that they are not interested in entertaining a larger service area.  For those outside the township who know what’s going on, we are a laughingstock.  

And through it all runs an ugly stream of class division.  How else to explain why the township would want to redirect its library services to a library that is within a 3-mile radius of only about 20% of the township and make the other 80% of the township travel a greater distance at greater inconvenience?  I’ll bet if you research the median income for the eastern part of LST vs. the southwestern part, you’ll find a considerable difference. Or not want to continue collaboration with a borough – perhaps because they have a lower median income?  Or insultingly claim that the borough is using the township as “an ATM?”  

That pretty much tells you where their focus is.

It’s not on community.

As a Lower Saucon Township resident, is that what you want your Council members to be doing on your behalf? Is that who we are?

SVP – Page 1
SVP – Page 2
Yard Waste Recycling Center – page 1

Yard Waste Recycling Center – page 2

LST Council: A Farce in 3 Acts – Act 2

The latest development in the ongoing saga of library services for Lower Saucon Township was a public statement released by Bruce Eames, Board President of the Southern Lehigh Public Library (SLPL), following their board meeting on July 19 (see below).  In it, Mr. Eames explains that the library has decided to accept the $50,000 that Lower Saucon has been trying to give them in an attempt to pressure SLPL into making Lower Saucon a part of the SLPL system.  

A check written in January was eventually voided when SLPL declined to accept it.  It was reissued in May in another attempt to get SLPL to bite.  It has languished in the meantime as various groups that provide financial support for SLPL have tried to pressure them into accepting the check.  Eames particularly mentioned pressure from the Upper Saucon Township Board of Supervisors and Lower Milford Township.  We also know from a recording of a public meeting of the Southern Lehigh School Board that the School Board wanted the library to accept the donation so that they could consider reducing their support for the library by an equivalent amount.

In his public statement Mr. Eames makes clear that “the Board accepts this donation with serious trepidation.”  He then goes on to outline in detail why they are accepting the donation with misgivings – the fact that it was offered in the midst of the ongoing dispute between LST Council and the Hellertown Library, the fact that they are being pressured into it, and the fact that LST is requesting to become part of the SLPL service area which may or may not be a good thing for SLPL.

From the perspective of Lower Saucon Township residents, these are all determinations that SLPL has to make on its own. In fact, SLPL would have to invite LST to join their service area.  LST cannot demand to be included.  As Mr. Eames points out in his statement, this is a long and uncertain process, at least in part because it is unprecedented.  The SLPL is studying the pros and cons of the situation.  Certainly the addition of 11,000+ new customers would present significant financial challenges.

Instead, let’s step back and see where we are as this specifically relates to Lower Saucon Township and what’s being done with our tax dollars, because the situation is so rife with idiocies that it’s hard to make any sense of it.

  1.  The letter from Solicitor Treadwell (see below) expressly states that “the donation is unconditional, and was made in appreciation of the services provided by the Southern Lehigh Library to Township residents over the past 10 years.”  In the words of Mr. Eames, “its [Lower Saucon’s] residents will not benefit from the donation, except to the extent they use the SLPL through the Access Pennsylvania program.”  Translation:  Lower Saucon Township just handed SLPL $50,000 as a contribution for which we receive no additional library services that weren’t already available to us.

The resolution passed by the Township Council on January 19 says that the $50,000 check is to be issued “so LST residents can have access to the additional library facilities provided by Southern Lehigh Library.”  Except that LST residents already had access to those library facilities through Access Pennsylvania and the check didn’t provide any additional access.  So the $50,000 check presented to SLPL was a contribution and should have been passed as that. It was not.

The LST budget for 2022 has an account for contributions (#01.400.500).  It specifies which organizations will receive contributions from the Township.  It includes 13 separate organizations for a total of $21,200.  It does not include the SLPL.

The LST budget for 2022 has an account for library services (#01.456.500).  It is described as: “Under the consolidated library plan that was adopted in 2013, the Township contributes to the Hellertown Area Library for library services for its residents. Included is the amount requested from the library which represents $9.66 per capita of 11,094 residents.”  This is the account out of which the $50,000 check (#78946 dated May 12, 2022) for SLPL was paid.

If LST Council was going to offer the $50,000 as an “unconditional” donation for which no services were received, then they needed to have passed a new resolution to that effect and made the necessary budget adjustments to pay the $50K out of the Contributions account.

  • Here’s a very helpful map created by John Schubert of a 3-mile radius around each of the libraries – Hellertown and SLPL.  As you can see, a 3-mile radius from SLPL covers only a sliver of the area of Lower Saucon. How can it make any sense to make library access more difficult for what looks to be about 80% of the Township? And why would the 80% of people who live in that part of the Township want their tax dollars to go to SLPL?  Let alone those in the other 20% of the Township who are quite happy with the Hellertown Area Library (HAL).
  • Where is the Office of Commonwealth Libraries and the Governor’s Advisory Council on Library Development in all this?  Out to lunch.  So far their major contribution has been to say that HAL must continue to provide services to LST whether or not they get funding from LST at least until January 1, 2024.  How does that make any sense?  How is that supportive of a library, making them give away services for free?  And don’t they know the word “NO”? Can’t they see that what LST’s council is proposing is not representative of the desires of their constituents?  Just say “no” and we’re done with this nonsense.
  • State Representative Bob Freeman in particular and State Senator Lisa Boscola have been involved in trying to resolve this issue with the OCL.  Where is the person that represents Lower Saucon in all this?  Do you mean Missing-in-Action Milou Mackenzie?  Not a peep from what I can see.  And you won’t find any mention of anything she’s done on the issue in that glossy, taxpayer-paid “newsletter” you get in the mail either.
  • It would be interesting to see if the Southern Lehigh School District has reduced its funding for SLPL now that SLPL has accepted the $50,000 check.  More to come.
  • It’s also a curious coincidence that our newly appointed LST council person is Mark Inglis and a member of the Upper Saucon Township Board of Supervisors that has been putting pressure on SLPL to accept the check is John Inglis.  My understanding is that they are related.  Brothers, perhaps?  If you recall, there was no information on who else applied for that council position or why Inglis was chosen.

So now we wait. The next SLPL Board meeting is Tuesday, August 16, at 6:30 PM in the library’s meeting room. Mr. Eames indicated in his statement that the library board hoped to have a response to many of their own questions at this meeting.

Big Time Summer Shenanigans

Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

So many things to cover.  Let’s start with why, as I write this on Wednesday, July 20, there is no Lower Saucon Township council meeting going on.  You know, the one that was scheduled for this evening at 6:30?  It was marked “tentative” on previous schedules and Banonis did tease back in June that it might not be held.  Then all of a sudden on Monday, tonight’s meeting is cancelled and a “Special Meeting” is scheduled for Friday, July 22 at 9:30 AM.  Not a typo – 9:30 in the morning on a weekday.  

Wow!  What’s so critical that it can’t happen at a regular evening meeting but requires that a special, daytime meeting be held?  Let’s check the agenda!

Hmmm, only 2 items.  Appointment of a new township manager and bidding on a paving project.  I can’t wait to hear the excuse for why this has to be held at 9:30 on a Friday morning.  I doubt it’s the bidding on the paving project since it’s probably too flippin’ hot to do any paving right now anyway.  Must be appointing the new township manager.  Wonder why they want to do it in a big rush at an incredibly inconvenient time for most township residents? Things that make you go “hmmmmm.”

Lest you’ve forgotten, this is the township manager position that Carocci told us back in June probably wouldn’t be filled until August.  And at the time, he sure didn’t seem very concerned about that timing.

BTW, if you’re looking for any information on Mr. Mark Hudson who will be considered for the township manager position, don’t plan on finding anything publicly available on the website.  There’s no supporting information with the agenda item on this person to whom we will be paying more than $100,000 per year plus benefits, based on the current township budget.  Wonder if they’ll bother to say anything about him on Friday?

The June 15 Meeting

As long as you’re here, let’s go back and look at some of the previous serious shenanigans from the June 15 meeting.

First, completely in line with the council leadership’s unwillingness to share any information about appointments with the residents, we had the appointment of Mark Inglis last month to replace the recently departed Jenn Zavacky as a councilperson. Despite significant attempts by Mrs. deLeon to get Banonis, et al to share information about the new councilperson or the process, there was none forthcoming.  This in spite of the fact that Mrs. deLeon herself is a councilperson.  For example:

  • How many people applied for the opening?  Someone let slip that there were 4 applicants
  • Who were the others?  Don’t know.
  • What were their qualifications?  Don’t know.
  • What were Mr. Inglis’s qualifications that made him a better choice?  Don’t know.
  • Were any other applicants interviewed? Either no or don’t know.  Not clear on that. Banonis said he got to talk to “some” of them.  He doesn’t know how many other Council people talked to any of them.
  • Will there be an opportunity to interview any of the 4 in public?  Nope.
  • Hasn’t that been the Council’s past practice?  Not when Carocci was appointed, even though Mrs. deLeon distinctly remembers that being done in the past.
  • How long has Mr. Inglis lived in the Township?  Don’t know.
  • What does he do?  Don’t know.
  • What kind of service or involvement has he had with the Township?  Don’t know. 

It took 7 minutes and six more agenda items before we even got the correct spelling of Mr. Inglis’s name. 

Stay tuned. More to come.

Next for your consideration. Council seems to feel it’s their responsibility to stick their noses into the Saucon Valley School Board’s business.  To that end, there was a discussion of the possibility of the township supporting a School Resource Officer (SRO) for the district.  According to resident Barrett Geyer, who spoke during the public comment period in support of that idea, this is not something that the school board has considered important enough to address and therefore has not deemed it necessary to put this issue on their agenda.  It’s only been raised in their public comment.  But apparently the township needs to get involved in this so they passed a resolution to request a meeting with the school board to address the school board’s needs and then possibly add it to the August agenda or, if it’s REALLY important, hold a special meeting before then. Oh wait, we’re already doing that and it’s not on the agenda.  As I believe this council has been told in the past regarding this issue, “Stay in your lane.”

Moving right along.  Township resident Laura Ray had done research into the requirements for holding a citizens’ forum or town meeting in order to have a general discussion of residents’ concerns over the council’s behavior and actions.  She sent a request for such a forum to the Township Manager and Council. First, she was ignored.  Then the request was added to the June 15 agenda.  Here’s what the code says: 

“Article III. Legislative Officials

ss5.8 Council (3) 

On a regular basis, time shall be provided for a citizens’ forum or town meeting to be held at the beginning of the regularly scheduled Council meetings. Such meetings shall be limited to 30 minutes’ duration. Additional time may be designated at the discretion of the Council.”

Banonis then proceeded to announce that the forum would be held on Wednesday, November 23, which is not a regularly scheduled Council meeting.  It is, however, inconveniently, the night before Thanksgiving.  The regularly scheduled Council meeting would be Wednesday, November 16.  Mrs. deLeon objected to the fact that this was not a regularly scheduled meeting.  She was informed, very rudely, that she was wrong and it didn’t have to be a regularly scheduled meeting.  At least one person in the audience (your humble writer) objected verbally that this was contrary to the administrative code.  However, because there are no comments allowed during the meeting, those objections were also ignored.

Banonis is wrong.  The meeting is incorrectly scheduled.  It needs to be rescheduled at the time of a regularly scheduled Council meeting – unless they’re going to move the Council meeting to the night before Thanksgiving.  And Attorney Treadwell, who later in the meeting got his shorts all in a twist because he claimed Mrs. deLeon was questioning his knowledge of the administrative code, apparently didn’t know enough about the administrative code to know that what Banonis had done was, in fact, out of line.

Here’s another one.  When Mrs. deLeon was the liaison to the Landfill Committee, Banonis and Carocci often loudly objected to her reading reports regarding the landfill during her council member report time. She was accused of wasting the Council’s time.  One evening, she was told that residents could go read those reports on line and there was no need for her to read them into the record.  Nevertheless, she persisted.  And so she was removed as liaison to the Landfill Committee.  Apparently those concerns don’t apply to Banonis.  He spend five solid minutes reading reports about the state of the landfill that I’m fairly sure were of no interest to the people there nor were they understandable to most residents.  Of course the gist of them was that everything is hunky-dorey. But when he does it, it’s fine.

Of course, there’s always a public comment by someone about the library situation because otherwise the council would just try to ignore it completely.  Jo Ellen Thomson raised a question about the $50,000 check that was written to Southern Lehigh Public Library on May 12.  She was concerned that the prior check to SLPL had been voided and wondered how the council could write a new one without authorization.  Banonis tried to duck the question.  When Mrs. Thomson pressed him, his response was that the resolution passed in January authorizing the check had never been rescinded.  However, that leaves open the question of whether the May 12 check was for the same purpose as the January check.  On the surface, it would appear not.  More to come.

Now you’re up to date.  Oh – except for the tiny fact that Hellertown Borough at their borough meeting on Tuesday, July 5, voted to sever their intermunicipal agreements with LST regarding the pool, the compost center, and the Saucon Valley Partnership effective December 31, 2022.  And of course there’s the on-going, unresolved Hellertown Area Library issue.  But hey, none of those were worth holding a council meeting tonight to discuss and they certainly wouldn’t require a special meeting on Friday.  Only hiring a township manager is that important and time-critical.

Next Township Council Meeting – Friday, July 22, 9:30 AM – Township Hall

As a service to the community, the meeting will be live-streamed on the Saucon Shenanigans Facebook page.



Fixing the Library Problem

While it’s morally satisfying to call out the repugnant behavior of four members of the Lower Saucon Township Council in their dealings with both township residents and other municipalities, and while it’s very important to continue to keep township residents up-to-date on what is happening, the reality is that it’s not moving the problem towards resolution.

To date the LST Council members (Mrs. deLeon always excepted) have dragged their feet, gaslighting us and showing exactly no interest in spending the time and energy necessary to resolve the problem.  They have deliberately obfuscated the issue with detours and sidetracks and flat-out lies. So I’d like to lay out a process by which we might actually get to resolution.

The Basics

With all due respect to Pastor Spohn’s well-intentioned attempt at mediation, the fact is that this problem is an LST problem, pure and simple. LST Council created the problem; they exacerbated the problem, and they have refused to deal with solving the problem.

Hellertown Borough and HAL have a functional bilateral agreement that delivers library services to Hellertown residents to both parties’ satisfaction for 2022.  Where they go for 2023 and beyond is up to them. If they have to continue without LST’s participation, that will be up to them to decide.

Before anything else, as a gesture of good faith, the LST Council needs to agree to 1) pay its budgeted support to HAL for the remainder of 2022 and 2) drop its threat to sue the library.  Without that minimal action, HAL should immediately cut off all services to LST residents for lack of payment.  LST budgeted $107,168 for HAL for 2022, or $8931/month.  Based on LST’s population, the state provided HAL with $22,968.  LST paid for one month of services for January.  The state money covered an additional 2.6 months of services.  That amount was exhausted on April 18.

Next, these questions need to be answered:

  • Do the residents of LST want library services?  We know that as of January there were 3,328 residents who were members of the library (2,513 adults/815 juveniles).  The 2020 census counts 11,094 residents in the township.  So 29.998% of LST residents held library cards.  Let’s call it 30%.  But that number doesn’t necessarily represent the number of residents who want to have access to a library.  There may be far more who at least want access even if they don’t currently utilize it.  And that number doesn’t include children who don’t hold their own library cards but use the facilities on their parents’ cards.  There hasn’t been a survey about library services since back in 2014? 2015? when LST cut ties with the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

So let’s get an accurate count. There’s a primary election coming up in a little over 3 weeks on May 17.  Let’s set up a table outside each of the polling places in the township and ask every voter one question:  Do you, as a resident of Lower Saucon Township, want library services?  Yes or No, as simple as that.  No complicating questions about how to pay for it or clouding the issue with “regionalization” or anything like that.

Do you, as a resident of Lower Saucon Township, want library services?

Collect each person’s name, address and how many people are in their household.  This will cover juveniles who cannot get library cards on their own.

After that, cross reference the responses with the resident lists and send a letter with a self-addressed, stamped postcard to every resident who has not responded on May 17 that asks: 

Do you, as a resident of Lower Saucon Township, want library services?

At the same time create a page on the township website where residents can respond to one question:

Do you, as a resident of Lower Saucon Township, want library services?

Set a deadline. Count up the responses.

  •  What is the minimum number of responses required for this to be deemed a valid survey?  And what is the minimum threshold that is required to pursue library services for the township?  0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, some other number?  The LST Council should be forced to set both these numbers before any results are tallied.
  • It is at this point that we come to a crucial question.  Does the LST Council even have any intention of providing library services to its residents at all?  It’s a legitimate question because up to this point, their actions (and remember, watch what they do, not what they say) have indicated that they are driving us down the path to losing all library services on December 31, 2022.

If they have no intention of providing library services to LST residents, they should be required to state that clearly before July 1, 2022, so that HAL will know not to include LST population numbers in their 2023 request for state funds.  If they refuse to state their intentions clearly and in writing before July 1, 2022, HAL should, for its own protection, not include the LST population numbers in their 2023 request.

If the answer is “no,” then let them take their chances at the ballot box in November 2023.

If The Answer is Yes

Step 1.  Agree to a One-Year Extension of the Agreement with HAL to Cover 2023

Step 2. Appoint a Library Committee

If the LST Council does intend to go forward with providing library services for its residents, the next question is:

What is the best way to provide library services?

In order to answer that question, the Council should appoint a Library Committee tasked with determining what the various possibilities are for funding library services for the Township.  The committee should be composed of township residents who are willing to commit the time and energy to investigate the various options and have indicated their support for the township providing library services.  The committee should NOT include:

  • Council members except for one Council liaison and that should be Mrs. deLeon since no other Council members have voted in favor of continuing library services to this point.
  • Members of the HAL Board
  • Employees of HAL
  • Members of Friends of HAL
  • The township solicitor

The following people should be asked to provide subject matter expertise if requested by the committee but should not have a vote on the committee:

  • Members of the HAL Board
  • Employees of HAL
  • Members of Friends of HAL
  • The township solicitor
  • Representatives from the Office of Commonwealth Libraries
  • Representatives from other municipalities and libraries
  • Other subject matter experts as deemed necessary by the Committee

Step 3.  The Library Committee Charge and Deadline

Charge the Library Committee with determining what the various possibilities are for funding library services for the Township.  This might include but not be limited to:

  • Continuing a relationship with HAL on a bilateral basis
  • Reinstating a relationship with HAL in conjunction with Hellertown Borough
  • Implementing a library tax to support an agreement with HAL
  • Entering into a regional library arrangement which does not currently exist, dependent on the regulations of the Office of Commonwealth Libraries
  • Other configurations

Provide whatever funding and administrative support is needed by the Committee.

Set a deadline for the Committee to complete its work and submit its report.

Step 4.  Town Hall Meeting

Schedule a town hall meeting of at least one hour to hear the results of the Library Committee’s work and provide for public discussion of the options presented. Arrange for the meeting to be livestreamed or, better, available through interactive video.

Step 5.  Adopt and Implement One of the Committee’s Recommendations

Because the LST Council will have previously committed to providing library services to its residents, the Council will then be expected to choose one of the available recommendations and begin implementation as early as possible.

There you have it – one path to fixing the library problem.  I’m certain there are a number of equally viable possibilities as well as a number of tweaks that would make this path more effective.  Whether this is the best option or not, it is a process for movement towards resolution.  It is not a continuation of the foot-dragging gaslighting that we’ve watched since almost a year ago.  

It is the least the township residents should expect of their duly elected “leaders.”

What’s the Excuse This Time?

Coming up on a Lower Saucon Township Council meeting next Wednesday, April 20, and once again there is no agenda item for negotiations or an agreement with the Hellertown Area Library.

No Action

We’re now 3½ months into 2022 and to date the Council has managed to avoid doing anything productive as far as the Library is concerned. In January following a specious recounting of the timeline of interactions between the Library, LST and Hellertown Borough by Banonis, the Council (minus Mrs. deLeon) voted to cut funding in half and refused to sign an agreement going forward, wanting to just “be a donor.” Not surprisingly, the Library turned that down but graciously allowed LST residents to still use the library’s facilities for another month.

In February, despite a request from Mrs. deLeon to put the Library on the agenda, the other four council people didn’t consider that important enough and so another month passed with no substantive action.  Of course, there was a report by Zavacky on the status at that meeting which was filled with gobbledygook and nonsense.

In March, the issue once again did not make the agenda despite a substantive proposal being provided by the Library to the Council which required no more than the Council agreeing in writing to negotiate a new agreement. Not SIGN an agreement, just NEGOTIATE one before July 1, 2022.  With a week to consider that, the Council still couldn’t come up with a decision. Council member Carocci could, however, again spew malarkey about how the Library was still considering taking the check from January (HINT:  they weren’t.  They voted that down at the public January 25 Library Board meeting but, hey, why let the truth hinder the spin?). 

The latest update is that weeks ahead of the April 20 council meeting, the Library has extended the deadline for the Council to agree to negotiate (again: negotiate NOT sign on to) a new agreement.  And has once again graciously agreed to continue to provide library services to the delinquent citizens of LST.  But still no item on the April 20 agenda.  In the past we’ve been falsely informed that you can’t put an item on the agenda unless there is action to be taken (that’s not true).  But now there is something to take action on – an invitation from the Library to negotiate a new agreement.  So why isn’t it on the agenda?  Here’s one hint:  if they put it on the agenda, they have to let the public comment on it at the beginning of the meeting.  Hmmm, that might mean more people would show up and comment.  Probably don’t want that.

What’s Behind All This Delay?

There’s been quite a lot of speculation about what is behind all of this library nonsense and why it’s taken so long to get it resolved.  After all, when the whole situation blew up in January, Hellertown Borough managed to resolve their portion of it in about 2 weeks.  Setting aside the conjecture that much of this is a result of personal animus, let’s look at the whole Library issue from a completely different perspective.  What if, in fact, the Council never did intend to sign the agreement with the Library and has no intention now of resolving the issue in favor of continuing library service to the LST residents.

Look at the facts in that light.  Discussions on the new 5-year agreement began almost a year ago, in Spring 2021.  They dragged on and on. Whenever Kristen Stauffer, the previous Council library liaison, would raise concerns or seek guidance on where the Township stood on budgetary issues, she would be belittled or ignored and no progress would be made.  Former Township Manager Leslie Huhn was in charge of working with the Hellertown Township Manager and Library personnel to work out the new agreement.  But somehow the usually capable Ms. Huhn couldn’t manage to get those 3 entities to work together or, supposedly, to respond to her, although we now have a more accurate timeline that indicates that probably wasn’t the case.  Of course, she’s now conveniently gone – resigned – so we can’t get her input on this.

Wouldn’t all that be very useful if you really didn’t want to sign a new agreement?  Hellertown Borough, seeing the December 31 renewal date coming up fast, responsibly took action to guarantee library services for its residents.  LST punted time and time again due to “concerns” and Solicitor Treadwell claimed he couldn’t share the concerns with the public. Then LST fashioned a guaranteed-to-be-rejected insulting solution of cutting support in half and signing no agreement.  Now, according to them, it became the Library’s fault that we’re in the situation we’re in.  And they changed the rules for putting an item on the agenda to guarantee that Mrs. deLeon, the only real library supporter, can’t get anything considered going forward.

So in January the four Council members spring the new 50% cut/no agreement motion on the public with no mention on the agenda of what the “library services discussion” would entail; in February Mrs. deLeon can’t get a second Council member to agree to put the item on the agenda because of the lies about “no action to be taken;” in March the excuse is that the request came on too short notice to put it on the agenda (another falsity since the Sunshine Act provides for last-minute and emergency additions to agendas) and Mrs. deLeon again cannot get a second to put it on the agenda although she reads it into the minutes, and now it’s April and it’s still not on the agenda.

What’s behind all of this?  Why not sit down and negotiate and work this out like reasonable people and elected public servants?  I have two ideas that may or may not be intertwined.

Idea #1 – Bullying Gone Bad

We’ve watched members of this Council over the past two years employ bullying tactics in the place of honest negotiation to get what they want.  The whole Steel City/LSFR merger issue comes most prominently to mind.  You just push and pressure and turn the screws until your opponent caves.  Other bullying tactics were employed in relation to the delay in approving the Covid bonuses for the police department until after their contract was agreed to. More subtle, perhaps, but arm-twisting no less.  And then, miraculously, there was another $500 per person available after they approved the contract, beyond what every non-police employee had gotten!

In the case of the Library, I think the groundwork was laid last February when Carocci began making noises about LST being disrespected by the Library and asking what we were getting for our money.  Did he do anything to actually find an answer to that question?  No, he just wanted to get the idea out there.  Typical Fox News tactics.  The approach all through 2021 was to ratchet up the pressure on the Library to get whatever terms it was LST Council wanted.  Of course, we don’t really know what those terms were because according to Treadwell, he couldn’t share any of that with us, but there were vague comments about “financial issues” and “concerns about management.” But nothing you could really check out.  Just insinuations.

Of course the assumption might have been that as the December 31 deadline approached that the Library, always short on funding and dependent on the support of the Borough and the Township, would just fold.  But then, two things happened.

Oops, Not What They Expected?

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

First, Hellertown Borough threw a monkey wrench into all of that when, as good public servants do, they stepped up and signed the agreement on behalf of providing library services to their residents.  And then, when the December 31 date came and went and LST came up with its insulting “we just want to be donors” solution on January 19, the Board of HAL said thanks, but no thanks.  We’ll work this out another way.

All of that left the LST Council scrambling.  They have a constituency that clearly wants library services and they’ve backed themselves into a corner.  Southern Lehigh Public Library (SLPL) has publicly stated they’re not interested.  Bethlehem doesn’t want them back. They now either have to negotiate honestly with HAL which most bullies would see as “losing” or they have to admit that they’re fine with LST residents having no library, something for which I would hope they would pay dearly at the ballot box. 

The analogies to Putin in Ukraine are ironic.  Someone badly miscalculates, executes incompetently, and has no viable Plan B.

Idea #2 – You’re Not Entitled to Library Services

One thing we’ve watched consistently from the ultra-right authoritarian playbook since the Reagan era and most explicitly over the last five years is the concept that it’s not the responsibility of government to provide services to the public that the entitled white people (usually male) in charge don’t feel they have a right to.  While this is often used in a racial context, it can just as well be a class issue.  We’ve heard some of this from people up on that rostrum in Town Hall with statements like, “nobody uses libraries anymore,” “you can just order the books you need from Amazon,” “only 30% of the residents use the Library,” and the observation that HAL is not as convenient for most LST residents as the SLPL (the implication being that the only people that count live in the southwest quadrant of the township).

In this explanation, LST Council is more than happy to steal services from HAL for as long as HAL (who are suckers in their opinion) is willing to supply them and then, when that ends, we’re all just out of luck.  Or perhaps we will have forgotten about it. It’s in this context that the threat of a lawsuit is useful.  The idea is that the Township has the funds to sue the “poor” library and so the Library will just kowtow to the township’s demands.  

Nowhere in this scenario is there any understanding of elected officials as public servants or as people who represent the entire township instead of just a precious few (probably those who can afford Amazon and contribute to their campaigns).   This is, to put it mildly, despicable.  It is also not, by any explanation, how a democracy is supposed to work.  

But How About Pickleball?

Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash

Be aware that these condescending comments and rules only apply to those things that the elected Council members consider not of interest to them.  When it comes to pickleball, on the other hand, it doesn’t really matter how many people might use those courts if a Council member wants them. To that point, tell us, Zavacky, what were the results of the survey that you conducted to find out what percentage of residents might use those pickleball courts?  You did do that, right? Took a survey? Oh no?  Really?  Well, my guess is that when you do, there are going to be a lot less potential users than the 3,328 residents that would represent 30% of the most recent census numbers.  But then, you don’t care, do you?

As my friend Beau from the Fifth Column says, “It’s just a thought.”

Two more library things.  Saucon Source reported on March 28(!) via Ken Solt, President of the HAL Board, that the Township had sent the Library a check for $41,644.67, an amount which reflects a deduction for library services the township paid for in January as part of their agreement extension. Give it up. What part of “we turned your check down” don’t you get? It had been over 2 months since the Library voted not to take it.

Second, in the “for what it’s worth” department, if I were on the Board of HAL, I’d give the money back to the Commonwealth for the amount that covers LST and then close off all services to LST residents except for those that are available to any citizen of the Commonwealth, i.e. walk in the door, read the books/contents, leave.  No borrowing, no PA ACCESS cards, no meeting rooms, etc.  Or charge LST residents individually for use of the facilities.  

Stop letting LST Council take advantage of your kindness and stop letting them hide behind the ongoing services, hoping that no one will notice that nothing’s happening. When the services stop, a lot more residents will start complaining.

Here are a few other thoughts:

  • Back at the October 27 meeting, our new state representative Milou Mackenzie showed up to tell us all about how she’s here to help the residents of LST.  Well, Milou, where are you now?  Bob Freeman has been very visible in trying to facilitate discussions between the state’s Office of Commonwealth Libraries and HAL and Hellertown Borough.  Where are you?  What have you done?
  • A big shout-out to our interim Township Manager, Peter Marshall, for calling out the appalling state of whatever it is that passes for “minutes” of Township meetings.  Those multi-page abominations have nothing to do with the definition of minutes in Robert’s Rules of Order.  And if you want to argue that they’re transcriptions of the meetings, they’re virtually useless for that too because there’s no attempt to turn the transcriptions into understandable sentence structure.  There are incorrect words, misspelled words, run-on sentences with unclear attributions as to who is speaking.  Thank you for pointing out that whatever we’re paying for them is a giant waste of township money.  Please, get this man some chairs just for calling attention to that.

Next Township Council Meeting – Wednesday, April 20, 6:30 PM – Township Hall

As a service to the community, the meeting will be live-streamed on the Saucon Shenanigans Facebook page.