Note: This story has been updated with additional information.
A division between the Borough of Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township that began with a disagreement over funding for the Hellertown Area Library seemingly grew deeper–and darker–following a decision by borough council earlier this month to end several intermunicipal agreements with the township at the end of this year.
At council’s July 5 meeting, borough council president Tom Rieger said discussions about possibly ending formal agreements with the township had been ongoing for six months.
“I think intermunicipal agreements have been a benefit to our community in the past, and to this day the borough maintains intermunicipal agreements with other communities,” Rieger added. “We just entered one last month with Fountain Hill borough that’s beneficial to both parties, and when it’s beneficial to both parties I think it’s beneficial to both resident bases.”
However, in the case involving the municipality which nearly surrounds the borough, Rieger was not optimistic about benefits for Hellertown. “I believe our relationship with Lower Saucon Township’s council is fractured beyond immediate repair,” he said.
“Obviously the situation with the library is not resolved,” he added, noting that his position “has not changed since the beginning of the year” and that the relationship between the borough and the township “has probably gotten worse over six months.”
Rieger then outlined several options that were before council, including severing its intermunicipal compost center and pool agreements with Lower Saucon Township.
Councilman Matt Marcincin subsequently made a motion to sever the Saucon Valley Partnership, pool and compost center intermunicipal agreements the borough has with Lower Saucon Township effective Dec. 31, 2022.
“We’re not reducing any access to the Hellertown Pool” and resident rates won’t change as a result of the termination of that specific agreement, Rieger clarified. Lower Saucon Township residents will be charged the non-resident fees to access the pool, he said later.
The pool is located in the borough, however the compost center the two municipalities have jointly operated for years is located in the township. Rieger explained later that the land on which the compost center is located is owned by the borough and that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permit that allows it to operate is in the borough’s name.
Councilman Andrew Hughes said he agreed about the importance of intermunicipal agreements, but drew a distinction between the current situation involving the borough and township, and agreements in general.
“We have to make sure that we stand up for the residents,” he said.
“We don’t have the benefit we once did (from the agreements),” added Rieger.
The vote to sever the agreements was unanimous, with all seven council members voting in favor of cutting ties.
A Hellertown Borough Council meeting will be held Monday, July 18 at 7 p.m., both in person and online via the Zoom platform and the borough’s Facebook page.
A Lower Saucon Township Council meeting that was scheduled for Wednesday, July 20 has been canceled, the township announced Monday, and a special council meeting will be held Friday, July 22 at 9:30 a.m. in-person at Lower Saucon Town Hall.
“The only two topics for discussion and potential official action are the hiring of a Township Manager and the awarding of the bid for the Saucon Valley Terrace paving project,” an email from the township said.
To view the meeting agenda for Friday posted on the township’s website, click here.
To view borough council’s meeting agenda and access the meeting online, click here.