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  • Peter Herzer

Opinion: Lower Saucon Shouldn't Be Hellertown's ATM

This opinion piece was submitted by a resident of the community.


The life and times of Hellertown Borough (HB) have certainly not been boring in the last few years. Most recently, there was the divorce from Lower Saucon Township (LST) over the township’s refusal to pay for the Hellertown Area Library’s (HAL) expenses for the next five years in an arrangement in which payment rates were disproportionate to the LST population using the library, rates could increase without constraint, and LST would have no say in governance.

When LST balked at this arrangement, HB took its football and went home not once, but twice, showing how sorry it could make LST by denying access to the swimming pool and then the recycling center. They swapped Fountain Hill for LST as swimming-pool partners resulting in “unruliness” and “inappropriate behavior.” This “inappropriate behavior” included vandals clogging toilets and defecating in the changing rooms. These problems emerged during the few days that the borough was able to keep the pool open. In the end, HB was forced to rehire the original successful longtime pool manager it had earlier replaced in favor of local YMCA management services.

Now HB has some more bad news. The borough came up $2,000,000 short in its operating budget over “unexpected expenses.” The dust hadn’t even settled when a second wave hit – potential financial improprieties forced the borough to accept the resignation of the police chief. The police chief’s predecessor (and the predecessor’s secretary) resigned under similar cloudy circumstances in 2009. The matter with the current police chief will come under investigation by the PA State Attorney General and, depending upon findings, could possibly net other borough employees/officials.

These recent alleged financial irregularities with a borough official are not the first. In 2016, it was uncovered that the Dewey Fire Company’s Treasurer embezzled $400,000 to fuel a gambling addiction. In 2017, it was discovered that a borough council member and company administrator had falsely billed the fire company for 2,810 hours ($38,427) on his timecard. As if this weren’t bad enough, in 2019 a former employee was arrested and charged with stealing $700 on Christmas day from the fire company’s social club.

If I were a businessman or company looking for a partner, it would certainly not be HB.

A few weeks ago, LST extended a very gracious, generous, and honest offer to HB to resolve the library, swimming pool, and compost center issues. The borough rejected it as a political ploy but it was, in reality, a sincere first step toward potential reconciliation and cooperation. The cynicism of HB officials is captured in the mayor’s comments “let’s see what the elections bring.”

What does this comment portend? What will the elections bring?

At present, LST is well managed and fiscally sound. It even runs a surplus. Imagine! For the opposition, this is a very bad situation. It wants to trick LST into paying for HAL and the progressive agenda that will likely emerge once LST is legally locked into financial support. To this end there are yard signs, disruptions at council meetings, name calling, and foul-mouthed blogs, one of which eloquently enough focuses on the size of male council members’ genitalia as a central component of the issues. The township is criticized for having a financial reserve, and there is the lament that LST is so rich that paying the neighboring borough’s bills should be a foregone matter. Clearly, in their view, LST is stingy. Well, maybe LST has a reserve because it’s well managed.

Articles and letters to the editor published elsewhere are equally feeble and dishonest. Although one author makes claims to the contrary and accuses LST of yet more sin for not paying HAL’s bills no questions asked, the Saucon Valley School District (SVSD) certainly can be first-rate without a home library because the school already offers PA Access and all the other benefits of a home library. One would think that this editorial was the product of one of SVSD’s failed students and surely it is, but the endorsement of certain political candidates contained in each of the letters to the editor in a series tells that it is the opposition’s machine producing this dreck. And first and foremost, they think you’re stupid.

Similarly, the landfill is an issue which receives the same treatment. There are the yard signs posted mostly on properties completely unaffected by anything that goes on at the landfill and nowhere near it, dramatic performative disruptions of council meetings because democracy is best served by shouting down every other voice and opinion, and the usual propaganda on the companion blogs.

Among the opposition’s attacks are defamatory statements, vulgarities and vulgar gestures, repeated doxing, and even death threats against elected unpaid council members with whom they disagree. This is the kind of ad hominem barrage one expects from people who are desperate because they have no valid arguments and can’t debate.

These blog authors know better. At least one has been active at meetings involving engineers for the landfill, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and the City of Bethlehem, in which there was an attempt to make trouble by involving the city in hearings regarding landfill reconfiguration.

The facts are simple, painfully obvious, and basically irrefutable: if the landfill were in violation of environmental standards, the DEP would shut it down. Leachate is stored in tanks and then transported to the Bethlehem Water Treatment Plant so that none is ever released into the Lehigh River, especially during rain events. When the landfill announces the preservation of green space, the company means it, and that habitat will continue, the designated areas forever.

The landfill has also worked to be a good neighbor and has made such significant strides in minimizing odor events that complaint calls fell to a new low in 2022, the year the landfill implemented its odor reduction initiative. Between 2019 and 2022, calls to the landfill dropped from 63 to 15. They skyrocketed, of course, more than tripling in the following year to 78, once the landfill became a political issue.

Of the callers approximately 17 of 78 were made by drive-bys rather than being reports of events on callers’ properties, half were likely made by a publicly avowed enemy, half were made anonymously with no address, and quite a few always started “another odor complaint for the Bethlehem landfill.” This last crop with its common language clearly consists entirely of unique calls from people who don’t know each other, right?

And here is some of the charming language to which one blog treats the public:

You see, it doesn’t matter how much tinsel you put on a pile of s**t, it’s still a pile of s**t. There will still be acres and acres of trees destroyed and animals driven from their homes and odors created and methane pumped into the air and leachate into the river when we have huge rain storms.

The landfill is going to kill Bambi and all the nice little fishes in the river!

Of course, if they get their way with the landfill, these people will be nowhere to be found when taxes make a nosebleed upward jump. The other blogs are more family friendly in their language but just as disingenuous.

The battle at the next local election will not be over the library or the landfill, it will be over access to the hard-earned taxpayer dollars of LST residents.

If the opposition is successful, LST will be paying for every progressive cause in the valley (and likely for the promotion of the opposition itself). LST will become HB’s ATM. The coffers will be emptied in no time with nothing in return except, of course, the distinguished blue-city honor of begging the federal government for financial help.

Given the current state of affairs and recent history, LST needs to rethink the relationship with HB. Even more importantly, LST residents need to think carefully about their votes in the upcoming elections.

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Publication of this opinion piece should not be construed as an endorsement by Saucon Voice of the views expressed. We encourage all readers to consider multiple sources and perspectives when forming their own opinions. Anyone is welcomed to submit content for publication. Visit our Contact page to submit something.


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