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Council hears Walnut St. property concerns

At the Feb. 19 Catasauqua Borough Council meeting, two residents brought their concerns before council about a property in the 400 block of Walnut Street. The property was identified by one of the residents as a drug rehabilitation site or halfway house and questioned the zoning for the property.

Council members confirmed the house in question is being used for residential purposes so it falls within the appropriate zoning usage for the area.

Borough Manager Glenn Eckhart reported the property in question failed its inspection six months ago. However, it passed the inspection three months ago, with one update waiting for warmer weather. He also reported the number of residents falls within the acceptable range for the property.

When the concern for safety and suspected drug activity was mentioned, Officer John Wiseman told the residents they should report any concerns to the police department so officers can investigate.

Council members assured the residents they are aware of the property and are keeping an eye on any concerns.

In other business, Debra Mellish shared some information regarding the proposal to revert a section of Front Street to a one-way traffic pattern. The agenda included the ordinance changing Front Street to one way from Bridge to Union streets.

Mellish said she previously served on a traffic parking committee and shared a report from 2016 using vision and master plans, reports and studies from a number of areas and organizations recommending Front Street be open to two-way traffic for the benefit of the business district. She asked council members to keep this recommendation in mind when making their final decision.

A Catasauqua business owner also addressed council, saying he prefers the two-way traffic for the convenience for his customers.

Council decided to table the ordinance regarding the Front Street traffic pattern and moved the issue back for committee discussion.

Regarding ordinances, council approved ordinance 1436 involving the municipal pool. The action closes the pool indefinitely and repeals Article IV of Chapter 195 concerning mentions of the pool from the borough ordinances.

Regarding personnel, council approved Ray Anthony to serve as the emergency management coordinator, with an annual stipend of $2,000. Anthony has experience also working as a part-time police officer and fire marshal.

Additionally, council approved a memorandum of understanding with Gerald Gallagher to serve the borough as a police consultant. It was noted the borough was interested in more assistance, following the recent state Department of Community and Economic Development report.

Gallagher has served with the Pennsylvania State Police and previously served as police chief for other municipalities. Additionally, he earned both an associate and bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in his retirement.

Borough council bid farewell to Solicitor Christy Schlottman. The Feb. 19 meeting was her last with the borough. She accepted another job opportunity.

“It was my pleasure to serve the borough the last year,” Schlottman said. “I know you’re doing the right thing, and the borough is going in the right direction.”

Council members and Mayor Barbara Schlegel thanked Schlottman for her work in the borough. She received a round of applause from council and the audience.

She introduced Charles Smith, who will be serving the borough in her stead. Smith was approved to fill the role at the Jan. 16 meeting.

Councilwoman Tara Nicholas commented there are openings on the borough zoning hearing board and planning commission. The resignation of Todd Richards from the zoning hearing board was on the agenda for the meeting.

Engineer Vanessa Nedrick reported there was only one bid received for the inflow and infiltration project put out for bids. She noted the bid exceeds the grant funds they received for the project, so the borough has two options. It can accept the bid and cover the difference or reject and rebid the project. She recommended the latter, suggesting council encourage bidders to come and see the site in person.

Council unanimously agreed to reject and rebid the project.

Nedrick also reported bids will be opening shortly for the Race Street parking lot project and the water interconnection project. She noted there is a lot of interest in those projects so she is hoping for a competitive bidding process.

Additionally, Nedrick mentioned she sent council a list of grant opportunities and encouraged pursuing some of them for future projects.

Eckhart noted work will begin on Race Street before the parking lot is ready. This will cause some logistical concerns for residents, who will not be able to park on Race Street between Front and Pineapple streets. He said he understands this is not how things should have been done, but the timing was out of their hands since they did not receive the needed grant funding in a timely manner.

It was reported the Iron Works project, in conjunction with the Lehigh County Redevelopment Authority, was put out for bid but did not have any takers. It was noted they might consider adjusting the price before rebidding. Nothing was decided.

Councilman Eugene Schlegel reported the pool deconstruction is moving along. They are expected to get the area filled in early spring. He also mentioned wanting to get the pool house roof inspected before it gets replaced.

Joe Kovacs, in collaboration with Councilwoman Kim Brubaker, Catasauqua Main Streets and Catasauqua American Legion Post 215, thanked council members for their support of the Hometown Heroes project. Kovacs noted they have approximately 50 heroes represented and want to add more.

He also wanted to present a gift card to the public works department for its assistance in hanging the banners.

Council will hold committee meetings March 4, starting 6 p.m. The next borough council business meeting is set for 7 p.m. March 18. Meetings are held at the municipal complex, 90 Bridge St.

PRESS PHOTO BY SAMANTHA ANDERSON Catasauqua Mayor Barbara Schlegel issues the oath of office to Ray Anthony, the new emergency management coordinator, at the Feb. 19 borough council meeting.