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SSTF-Long COVID hiatus ended

It was kind of like a family reunion when the Mayor’s South Side Task Force reconvened Sept. 29 at the Bethlehem Skateplaza. The last time they met to discuss happenings on the South Side was at the end of February, before coronavirus swept into Pennsylvania.

Their March meeting was canceled after Gov. Tom Wolf shut down the state. With nothing much happening due to the pandemic, there was no need to meet until recently. The Task Force chose to gather at the outdoor park’s pavilion as social distancing restrictions still apply at Northampton Community College’s East Third Street campus, where they previously met. While wearing masks, they took turns informing the others about what has been going on in their parts of the district. They also occasionally took turns stomping on annoying spotted lanternflies.

Chairman Roger Hudak reported “The Southside Spruce Up” community clean-up event is happening Oct. 10 and 11 from 1-3 p.m. each day. Hosted by the Southside Arts District Organization Committee, volunteers will help with trash pickup, painting sidewalk bollards and flowerpots, as well as tending to the plants in the planters.

He lamented that structural work on the city parking garage on the north side may possibly delay construction on the Polk Street garage on the south side of the Lehigh River. With more development planned for the district, including an additional hotel on Wind Creek property and “Four 10 Flats,” a commercial and residential building project nearby, Hudak said there will be an increased need for more parking.

Hudak noted the historic former Saints Peter and Paul Church at the corner of E. Fifth and Edward streets may be the future site of a church-affiliated shelter.

Adrienne McNeil from Lehigh University said the college is currently seeking someone to replace President John Simon when he retires in June 2021.

Captain Rich McGarr from the Lehigh University Police Dept. spoke about ongoing patrols around the off-campus student housing areas near the university to keep parties under control while “educating” revelers on “alcohol awareness.” He explained how university police work closely with city police in the program, which is funded by a state liquor control grant.

Lehigh Patrol Officer Lora Martin said the pandemic prompted the department to retool their “Shop with a Lehigh Cop” program for financially disadvantaged families. The campus police plan to drop off the gifts at the recipients’ homes.

Her fellow officer, C.R. Stokes, said the Hoover-Mason Trestle is still closed to the public due to the pandemic.

According to Stephanie Augello from the mayor’s office, a Northampton County mail-in ballot drop-off box has been installed inside Bethlehem city hall. It is one of four drop-off boxes located around Northampton County. She cautioned that only registered voters who live in Northampton County should place their mail-in ballots there.

She mentioned that Captain Michelle Kott has been selected by Mayor Bob Donchez to be the next City of Bethlehem Police Chief.

Augello announced the Bethlehem Health Bureau will be offering free drive-thru flu shots Nov. 14 at East Hills MS.

For residents who wish to report non-emergency issues, Augello said the Bethlehem Service Center can be reached at 610-865-7000 or via email at bethlehemservicecenter@bethlehem-pa.gov .

Although the annual “Steelwalker” tours are back at SteelStacks, the closing of the Hoover-Mason Trestle have altered their plans, reported Susan Vitez from the Steelworkers’ Archives. Former steelworkers will lead sidewalk tours through the Bethlehem Steel plant site. The tours start at 11:30 a.m. from the plaza outside the National Museum of Industrial History (NMIH) on E. Second St. These are limited to six guests per tour and face masks are required. Tickets can be purchased at www.steelstacks.org.

Vitez said grant funding for the canceled “Steeples and Steel” bus tours will be repurposed for an upcoming event that more easily follows social distancing protocols.

The Mayor’s South Side Task Force meets regularly on the last Tuesday of the month.

Press photos by Ed Courrier The Mayor's South Side Task Force gathers for the first time since their February meeting. From left, Vivian Robledo-Shorey representing BASD, officers Lora Martin, CR Stokes and Captain Rich McGarr from the Lehigh University police department, Audree Chase from NCC, and Chairman Roger Hudak.
Mayor's South Side Task Force Chairman Roger Hudak describes the need for more parking for the South Side.
Adrienne McNeil from Lehigh University announces the college is currently seeking someone to replace President John Simon when he retires in June 2021.
Stephanie Augello from the mayor's office mentions a Northampton County mail-in ballot drop-off box was installed inside Bethlehem City Hall.
Left: Lehigh University Officer Lora Martin explains how the pandemic prompted the department to retool their “Shop with a Lehigh Cop” program. Next to her, from left are her colleagues Officer C.R. Stokes and Captain Rich McGarr.