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  • Saucon Voice

Hellertown Borough Rejects Lower Saucon Library Offer


During its October 2, 2023, meeting, Hellertown Borough Council discussed and ultimately rejected the offer presented by Lower Saucon Township related to the Hellertown Area Library, compost center, and Hellertown Pool. You can read more about that offer in this article.

Upon summarizing the offer, Hellertown council members took turns expressing their opinion of the proposal. Matt Marcincin said, “the library is a 501c3 entity and Hellertown Borough Council really has nothing to do with the organization.” Because of this, he doesn’t feel Council can accept the offer at all.

Council member Liz Thompson followed up by stating, “As a council we cannot act on behalf of the Hellertown Library.” Council member Terri Fadem, who said she “appreciates the offer” also noted, “I think we have a long road ahead of us, but I’d have to say no.” Earl Hill also expressed his agreement stating, “there’s no way to not reject this, and I hope people understand what [Lower Saucon] is really trying to do here.”

Mayor David Heintzelman added “I do agree that this was politically motivated. And politics aside, we need to come together, and work together, but not under the time constraints or the language provided.” President Rieger added, “when it really comes down to reading and understanding the offer, [Lower Saucon] wants total control…”

Council members also made a point to express that they have tried, for close to two years, to resolve this problem. The consensus among members was that the deal appeared political in nature. After members of council had their chance to express opinions, Council opened discussion to the public.

One resident, who serves on the HAL board stated, “I agree with everything [Council] is saying, but after Lower Saucon’s letter, I got quite a few phone calls from people stating ‘wow, Lower Saucon is wonderful, look what they’re doing’…” Based on this, she felt a rebuttal from Council was needed.

A resident of Lower Saucon Township asked if Council could “go on the offense and offer something to Lower Saucon?” He was curious if there was any part of the offer that Hellertown Council could use as a way to open dialogue and continue discussion. While he understands the actions of Council, he stated, “Lower Saucon made a statement to you [Hellertown Council], can you make a statement and negotiate back?”

That resident went on to address some of the concerns about the demanding nature of the offer, expressing, “I know when you start a negotiation, you want it all. They [Lower Saucon] want it all. I understand that. Well, someone’s got to give. And I’m just wondering if there is something that this Board can do to throw an olive branch out.”

Council President Rieger stated, “we’re open for negotiation, but not a scolding. And not a…hostile takeover. This is not a business. This is a community. It does not work the same way.”

Lower Saucon Township, in offering the deal to Hellertown Borough, had made a point to bring up the Borough’s financial health as rationale for accepting the deal. Those concerns were covered in this Saucon Voice article – Hellertown Borough Facing Budget Challenges Heading into 2024.

Rieger addresses those concerns to validate that Hellertown did not need Lower Saucon’s money. “A picture was portrayed of the Borough that we’re millions of dollars in debt, that we don’t have control of our budget or expenses, and painted a picture that is simply not true. Yes. Did we take out a $2 million loan. Did we refinance $700,000? Absolutely. We took advantage of lower rates to accomplish things that this Borough has been working on for over 65 years.”

Rieger went on to list the numerous ways that the Borough has reinvested, pointing to items such as building a new public works building, replacing worn carpet, and reinvesting in infrastructure, and other items to “ensure a brighter tomorrow” for the Borough. “Do we have debt? Absolutely. So do I at home. So do a lot of people around this table. They all have mortgages. And that’s what [the Borough’s debt] essentially is.

Another resident from the Borough took a different approach with her public comments, focusing on HAL’s actual finances. “About two years ago, there was enough money in the library savings account to operate for about two-and-a-half years. Now we’re two years into it, and on top of that, there or four or five right to know requests, so the library’s money is getting pretty thin.”

“If we don’t do anything, the library is going to close its doors. If the library closes its doors, we are a municipality without a home library. Which cuts off all the [PA Access] cards.”

She went on to outline that the library does have several options. The option most “homeowners” would take would be to cut expenses. While this only delays the inevitable, it gives you a longer period of operation. If that doesn’t work, she suggested that “Hellertown will have to step up” to fully fund the library.

Council agreed to authorize the drafting of a ‘letter to the community’ to explain the Borough’s justification for not accepting the offer presented by Lower Saucon Township Council.

The full Council meeting can be viewed, in its entirety, on the Borough of Hellertown's Facebook Page, found here.



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