In spite of Lower Saucon Township Council’s decision last month to reject a new agreement with the Hellertown Area Library, there is still hope for the issues related to that decision to be resolved, according to a letter from a township official to residents.
In the Feb. 3 letter by township council vice president and library services liaison Jennifer Zavacky, residents were told that talks involving Zavacky, township solicitor Linc Treadwell and Hellertown Area Library Board of Trustees president Ken Solt are continuing.
“Lower Saucon Township has continued efforts since Jan. 19, 2022 to discuss and meet with Hellertown Area Library Board leadership to resolve each party’s concerns and work toward a mutual understanding,” Zavacky said. “Since the Lower Saucon Council meeting on Jan. 19, our Solicitor and I have made outreach efforts directly to HAL and its attorney. We would like the public to know that LST has a strong desire to conduct these
important discussions as soon as possible.”
The letter does not mention that at the Jan. 19 township council meeting, in addition to approving a $50,000 donation to the library in lieu of the five-year agreement that was sought and which Hellertown council had already approved, council voted 4-1 to pre-emptively authorize initiation of a lawsuit against the Hellertown library if its residents are denied access to it, due to the change in how the township provides funding for it.
The Hellertown library board of trustees later voted to reject the $50,000 donation.
Zavacky’s letter also did not address a $50,000 donation to the Southern Lehigh Public Library township council also approved on Jan. 19; a gift that has been the subject of speculation in the community, particularly since it remains unclear if SLPL will accept it.
Solt, in a Jan. 31 letter to the community, said township residents won’t be denied access to the Hellertown library through Feb. 28. However, he also said it can’t guarantee that all services will be available to Lower Saucon residents without an agreement in place, since some are only available at the discretion of district and state library officials.
In her letter to residents, Zavacky said requests for clarification from state officials on the issues being discussed have so far been ignored.
“We have also sent written communication to the state asking for clarification on the Pennsylvania Library Code and the regulations that interpret that code,” she said. “Those requests have gone unanswered by the Office of Commonwealth Libraries. It is our understanding that HAL Board is experiencing a similar lack of response and support from the state level.”
Zavacky confirmed that a meeting between Hellertown library officials and township representatives is tentatively scheduled for this Friday, Feb. 4.
“It is our intention to include related information, updates and documentation for our residents and fellow Council members to review for the upcoming LST Council Meeting on Feb. 16, 2022,” she said. “We continue to be optimistic in working toward a solution to the issues at hand and provide clarity in how we can move forward in providing library services to LST residents with HAL in mind.”
Assuming that Lower Saucon Township officials reach a new agreement with the Hellertown library, it still won’t guarantee that damage to the township’s relationship with the borough by its rejection of the former tripartite agreement will be undone.
Hellertown Borough Council President Tom Rieger said last week that Lower Saucon Township council’s actions “have truly fractured beyond immediate repair the once close relationship we shared.”
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He went on to say he believes the borough’s “community vision is no longer shared with Lower Saucon Township Council” and that “the time has come to re-examine every joint project, committee, organization and intermunicipal agreements we have with Lower Saucon Township.”
At a special meeting held Monday night, Hellertown Borough Council voted to approve a new two-year agreement between the library and the borough, as well as to allocate $75,000 in American Rescue Plan emergency funding to the library, which otherwise could soon face budgetary woes due to the loss of funding from Lower Saucon Township.
The next Lower Saucon Township Council meeting will be held Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 6:30 p.m. in-person at Lower Saucon Town Hall, 3700 Old Philadelphia Pike, Bethlehem, Pa.
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