Parkland Press

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Article By: DOUGLAS GRAVES Special to The Press

Thursday, February 20, 2020 by DOUGLAS GRAVES Special to The Press in Local News

Former 911 dispatcher LoriAnn Fehnel told Lehigh County commissioners and county Executive Phillips Armstrong Feb. 12, that she was “disappointed” in their decision to fire three supervisors and force the resignation of seven dispatchers who used rum-laced eggnog to toast the New Year while on duty in the dispatch room.

Fehnel, who said she was a 911 dispatcher from 2007 through 2010 for Allentown, said she felt like someone needs to speak up for the dismissed emergency services personnel.

“People would like to speak up but they fear retribution,” said Fehnel, of Whitehall Township.

“These people are tired. You have no idea what it is like to be in that seat. People say, ‘You signed up for it.’ Yes, we did because we want to help the public.”

“Do the right thing Mr. Phillips Armstrong. Reinstate them.”

The Press spoke with Fehnel.

“It was not a justified firing,” Fehnel said. “Suspension would have been more appropriate.”

She said the county executive doesn’t understand how stressful the job is.

“They work 12- to 16-hour days. They get tired,” she said.

Later in the meeting, Armstrong introduced his new Public Information Secretary Specialist Laura Grammes.

Armstrong said there were 32 applicants for the job previously held by Joshua Siegel, who was recently elected to Allentown City Council.

Grammes is the daughter of Lehigh County Commissioner Marc Grammes.

In other matters, Commissioner Grammes told the board of a $200,000 grant that will be administered by the Lehigh Valley Homeless Veteran Fund recently established to assist Lehigh Valley homeless veterans.

The creation of the fund was announced by local officials Feb. 10 at the Lehigh County Government Center.

Grammes referred to the yearly Point-In-Time count in 2019, an annual one-day effort held each January to identify the homeless throughout a community.

The count identified 38 homeless veterans in the Lehigh Valley.

This number has held fairly steady since 2013 when veterans became a subcategory of the Point-In-Time count, according to a statement released by state Sen. Pat Browne Pat Browne, R-16th.

In other business, commissioners approved a new 20-year lease with the Lehigh Valley Zoological Society.

This $1 per year lease extends the previous lease in which the county provides the Trexler Nature Preserve on which the Lehigh County Zoo operates and contains a clause for reimbursable expenses for the daily care of the herds of bison, horses and elk owned by the county.

Commissioners also approved a lease agreement with Sovereign Executive Offices Inc. for office and storage space.

Armstrong announced he will present the state of the county address 4 p.m. Feb. 27 at Coca-Cola Park.

Armstrong also announced that the recently announced plan for Allegiant Air to move its regional hub to Lehigh Valley International Airport will bring 60 new jobs to the Lehigh Valley.

In other business, the commissioners appointed several nominees to fill positions: Tracy Roman, Aging and Adult Services Advisory Council; Norma Cusick, Lehigh County Authority; Sheila Alvarado, Matthew B. Malozi and Jennifer Ramos, Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority; Jamie Johnson, Joshua Siegel and Amy Zanelli, Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.