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  • Saucon Voice

Lower Saucon Township Council in Disarray

At a glance: Township Solicitor hired and resigns under cloudy circumstances. Three on Council move to immediately raise taxes. New majority slashes citizen committees. New President sets arbitrary time limits on land use hearing.


Newly appointed Lower Saucon Township Solicitor Mark Freed apparently has submitted his resignation to the Township, after only 16 days on the job. Appointed at the Township’s January 2, 2024, Reorganizational Meeting, Mr. Freed was brought in to replace longtime solicitor and Saucon Valley alum Lincoln Treadwell once the new Council majority was sworn in.


lower-saucon-council-in-disarray

The letter, dated January 18, 2024, and addressed to Council, states:

 

“We believe it is the best interests of both Curtin & Heefner LLP and Township Council that Curtin & Heefner LLP terminate its representation of Lower Saucon Township as Solicitor and Labor Counsel. Accordingly, Curtin & Heefner LLP is resigning as the Township’s Solicitor and Labor Counsel, effective January 31, 2024.”

 

Fireworks flew almost immediately as Lower Saucon Council began its scheduled meeting. One of the first major items of business was a public hearing for a conditional land use application from Allentown SMSA Limited Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless. The hearing related to the applicant’s desire to construct a cell phone tower to be located on land at 4235 Lewis Avenue.

 

Township Solicitor Freed opened the conditional use hearing by stating, “I suspect that we will not finish the entire proceeding tonight. Council is allotting about an hour and a half for tonight’s proceedings.” The seemingly arbitrary time limit was questioned by both Councilmembers Tom Carocci and Jason Basonis.

 

When asked directly when a vote was taken to limit the hearing to only one and a half hours, or how it was otherwise determined that the timing should be limited, Council President Priscilla deLeon sniped, “I don’t ever recall you (Jason) referring to me and asking me any questions when you were president…”, completely avoiding the legitimate question that was asked.

 

Banonis pointed out the significant inconvenience that this created, to not only the witnesses who would receive party standing, but also the technical experts who traveled to provide context for the hearing. He said, “I didn’t put a time limit on a meeting where there are representatives that are here from a company, who have taken time to travel to this community, to present something to us.”

 

After about an hour of the incomplete hearing, a motion to close the hearing and reopen it on February 7, 2024, was approved by a 5-0 unanimous vote. Township Manager Mark Hudson closed the hearing by stating, “see you all on the 7th”. However, it is now unclear whether the hearing will take place and conclude on February 7 given the Township does not have a solicitor to conduct the hearing.

 

The Council meeting then moved on to the general budget discussion for 2024, but not before public comment. Several residents spoke out against the approved tax decrease from December 2023. But comments from Township resident Mark Ozimek ignited a verbal yelling match between several in the audience and on Council. 

 

“Ok, Mr. Banonis, so you want to give everybody their money back, and you want to reduce the millage rate down to zero. Next week, we have an explosion, and it takes out this building. Takes out the entire block and a couple of houses across the street.” At that point, Councilmember Banonis interrupted to ask, “Is this a threat, sir? Are you threatening us?” [Related: Lower Saucon Township Man Found Guilty of Threatening Elected Official]. Ozimek responded, “Your ass motherf--kers. You want to start with me? Any f--king time you’re ready.” (watch video).

 

After more discussion (and public comment), a motion to approve the advertisement of the 2024 amended proposed budget, with a general fund millage of 4.24 and fire millage at 0.9 (totaling 5.14) was made and approved, 3-2 (Banonis and Carocci, no).

 

Closing out the 5+ hour meeting, Council also approved eliminating several Township committees and subcommittees.

 

The Open Space Committee (established by Resolution #36-2023) was eliminated. The Committee to explore library services for the Township (established by motion on August 30, 2023) was eliminated. And perhaps most detrimentally, the Fire Services Subcommittee (established by Resolution #34-2023) was also eliminated. Readers can learn more about the proposed fire consolidation plan that was presented in 2023 by clicking here. At this point, it is unknown if this plan still has any relevance for the Township.

 

According to a recently posted announcement from Friday, January 19, 2024, Lower Saucon Council will be holding a special meeting on January 24, 2024, at Lower Saucon Town Hall. This will mark the fourth meeting held by the new Council in as many weeks. The complete agenda can be found by clicking here, but there is only a single business item – Resolution 34-2024 to appoint Goudsouzian and Associates and Steven N. Goudsouzian as Interim Township Solicitor.

 

New Council President Priscilla deLeon and newly elected Councilmembers Laura Ray and Victoria Opthof-Cordaro have not stated publicly why Mr. Treadwell, Lower Saucon’s former longtime solicitor, was not reappointed. They have also not stated how Attorney Mark Freed was selected nor explained why Mr. Freed resigned after just two weeks in the role.


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