Two new commissioners-elect attend first meeting
In a short meeting Nov. 8, Lehigh County commissioners approved some appointments, one bill and listened to complaints and suggestions from residents.
They also welcomed two commissioners-elect who won elections the night before.
Amy Zanelli, the new representative for District 3, which includes West Bethlehem, was there with her wife and children.
Zanelli will replace David Jones who will step down from the commissioner’s office.
Nathan Brown, representing District 5, which includes Emmaus, also attended.
Brown, who serves on the Emmaus Borough Council, said he will resign that position. Brown will replace Mike Schware.
Commissioner Percy Dougherty, who was re-elected, sat with his fellow commissioners on the board.
Commissioner-elect Marc Grammes was unable to attend.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Lehigh County employee Sam Bourizk asked commissioners to make the county’s website, as it relates to the section on benefits, easier for employees to calculate retirement benefits.
Bourizk also lamented what he called the current policy of allowing a subsequent spouse to assume the lifetime benefits that might have been due to an employee’s first spouse.
“I know I’m opening a can of worms but nobody gets a free ride,” Bourizk said.
In other business, Schware withdrew a proposed bill to amend the Home Rule Charter giving commissioners the authority to determine which media forms can be used to present the budget.
Schware said he is convinced commissioners can resolve the issue without passing a new ordinance.
According to Commissioner Dan Hartzell, a request by one of the commissioners for an electronic version of the 2018 annual budget was not immediately granted by the Lehigh County Executive’s Office.
The budget was released electronically a few days after it was publicly released in paper form.
This led to a general idea electronic versions of the budget should be released together with the traditional paper “budget books” commissioners receive at the time the county executive has the public conference explaining the proposed budget for the coming year.
According to Commissioner Amanda Holt, the proposed ordinance “will clarify that the board of commissioners has the authority to request and to receive an electronic copy of the budget when the executive releases the budget on Sept. 1.”
This will give commissioners the most time to propose changes to the budget, according to Holt.
At least one Lehigh commissioner wants the Lehigh County executive to present the annual budget to the board of commissioners at a meeting in the board’s Seventh Street meeting room instead of an off-site venue such as Cedarbrook Nursing Home, Coca-Cola Park or other venues as has been done for the past several years.
For example, this year Lehigh County Executive Tom Mueller introduced the 2018 budget at Cedarbrook.
Dougherty said the practice of having the annual budget presented at off-site venues is“demeaning to the commissioners.” Dougherty currently has 24 years service as a commissioner.
Dougherty later spoke with The Press.
“We’ve been caught by surprise in the past. It used to be presented to us before anyone else got it.”
He said he also wants to see everything available online.
“The budget should be online immediately when the budget is released. The current Board believes in transparency in government,” Dougherty said.
Commissioners also approved a motion approving the expenses for Commissioners Dougherty, Marty Nothstein, Brad Osborne and Commissioner-elect Brown to attend the 2017 County Commissioners’ Association fall conference in Hershey Nov. 19-21.
The board also approved a perpetual easement between the county’s administration building and the adjacent Trust Building to extend and connect roof flashing.
Director of General Services Rick Molchany addressed commissioners and suggested as the meeting was being held just before Veterans Day, the board might want to recognize veterans at the meeting who served their country.
The board agreed and recognized Jones, who served in the U.S. Army from 1981-85, Schware who served in U.S. Army Green Beret/Special Forces from 1983-87, and Molchany who served in the U.S. Navy Nuclear Propulsion/Submarine Service from 1977-81.