Hellertown Borough Council will hold a special meeting Monday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. to discuss the Saucon Valley Compost Center and to address the potential for litigation with Lower Saucon Township amid the two municipalities’ deteriorating relationship.
The compost center’s operation has long been a joint venture involving both the borough and the township–in which it is physically located–but that is about to end.
Earlier this year, borough council voted to sever ties with the township by removing it from shared use agreements for both the compost center and the Hellertown Pool.
On Monday’s meeting agenda are several ordinances that–if adopted–will codify those decisions, along with the borough’s decision to formally withdraw from the Saucon Valley Partnership, a local council of governments. All three decisions are byproducts of an ongoing dispute between borough and township officials that began nearly a year ago with a disagreement over financial support for the Hellertown Area Library.
Lower Saucon Township Council in January voted to offer the library a one-time donation of $50,000 instead of adopting a new five-year agreement worth approximately $500,000. Hellertown Borough Council had adopted the agreement in late 2021, and the failure to secure funding from Lower Saucon Township put the library in financial peril.
Hellertown officials ultimately approved stop-gap funding to help the library remain operational in 2022, while it continued to serve both borough and township residents.
The library’s board of trustees rejected the donation offer from the township and later requested that the township be removed from the HAL’s service area; a request that was granted by the Office of Commonwealth Libraries and is set to take effect on Jan. 1.
That is also the date when the joint compost center agreement will no longer be in effect, meaning township residents will no longer be able to dispose of yard waste or drop off Christmas trees there.
At their meeting Wednesday, township council members discussed their plans to open their own compost center in the spring.
Township manager Mark Hudson also announced that Christmas trees and other yard waste debris will be collected at the township public works garage on three consecutive Saturdays–Jan. 7, Jan. 14 and Jan. 21–from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Hudson said a new township compost center will open in April. He did not say where it will be located, but said further details will be shared with residents in the future.
Council president Jason Banonis asked Hudson if the township is a DEP co-licensee for the Saucon Valley Compost Center. Hudson said he had not seen a copy of the DEP permit for the compost center, but was told that the township was not a party to it.
“You need to find that out,” councilwoman Priscilla deLeon said. “What I’m hearing is you’re not really sure.”
Township solicitor Linc Treadwell said some compost centers have DEP permits and others have letters of approval to operate, and he wasn’t sure which exists for the facility on Springtown Hill Road.
Banonis said he hoped the township’s zoning enforcement officer will be monitoring the compost center property.
“You can’t allow a use that’s inconsistent with the zoning of that property to continue,” he said, “so I’m hoping that the zoning enforcement officer is going to be monitoring that property to make sure that it’s being used for only the approved use, and if it’s not, to enforce it and issue a cease and desist.”
Banonis made a motion for Treadwell to author a letter to the DEP advising them that the township will no longer be a participant in the compost center’s operation; a motion that passed 3-1, with deLeon voting against it.
Under New Business on Monday’s Hellertown Borough Council meeting agenda, the first item listed is the appointment of a special legal counsel “for all matters pertaining to Lower Saucon Township” and the second item appears to spell out the borough’s plan to defend itself against legal action by the township “due to the termination of intergovernmental relations.”
Another item listed under New Business is a “general public discussion and possible action regarding Hellertown Borough and Lower Saucon Township relations.”
The full Dec. 12 meeting agenda may be viewed on the borough’s website.
Video of the Dec. 7 Lower Saucon Township Council meeting can be viewed on the Facebook page for Saucon Shenanigans, a blog about the government of the township published by resident Andrea Wittchen.
The Hellertown Borough Council meeting will be held in Borough Hall, in-person, as well as online in livestreams on Facebook and Zoom. To view and participate in the meeting via the Zoom platform, use this link after 6:50 p.m. along with the passcode 2022. Per the agenda, the meeting ID is 874 5493 4305 and the phone number is 1-301-715-8592.
Lower Saucon Township Council’s next scheduled meeting will involve discussion of a proposed 275-acre expansion of the Bethlehem Landfill facility on Applebutter Road and will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 21 at 6:30 p.m., in-person, at Lower Saucon Town Hall.
Leave a Comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.