Community Family Government

In Letter to Patrons, Library Board Confirms Jan. 1 Split With Lower Saucon

Hellertown Library

For Lower Saucon Township residents who use the Hellertown Area Library, any hope that library officials could still broker an agreement with the township has all but vanished.

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Hellertown Library

The Hellertown Area Library is located at 409 Constitution Avenue in Hellertown, Pa. (FILE PHOTO)

UPDATE: At the Wednesday, Dec. 21 meeting of Lower Saucon Township Council, council solicitor Linc Treadwell told members that as of that date he had not received an official notification from the Office of Commonwealth Libraries confirming that the township has been removed from the Hellertown Area Library’s service area.

For Lower Saucon Township residents who use the Hellertown Area Library, any hope that library officials could still broker an agreement with the township has all but vanished.

Although it was more or less already a done deal, library board of trustees president Ken Solt confirmed in a Dec. 20 letter to HAL patrons that as of Jan. 1 the library “will no longer be able to serve residents of Lower Saucon Township…in the same manner it has since 2014.”

The split with the township has its roots in negotiations for a new library services agreement with both Hellertown borough and Lower Saucon.

The borough adopted the five-year, roughly $500,000 agreement in late 2021, but township officials delayed taking action and ultimately rejected it in January, instead offering the library a one-time donation of $50,000 which the board of trustees rejected.

After subsequent efforts to reach an agreement also failed, the library requested that the Office of Commonwealth Libraries remove Lower Saucon Township from its service area; a request that was approved by the head of the state agency.

Disagreement between between borough and township officials over their differing levels of support for the library and different interpretations of how the agreement was negotiated has also sparked a bitter, ongoing split on other previously-shared resources.

Earlier this month, Hellertown Borough Council voted to end joint agreements that allowed township residents to use the borough’s compost center on Springtown Hill Road and provided access to the Hellertown Pool at reduced, resident rates.

The township responded to the borough’s decision to end the 15-year-old compost center agreement by announcing plans to open a separate facility for township residents and by sending a “possible notice of violation” letter to Hellertown officials, who have DEP approval to operate their yard waste facility in the township.

Although a $50,000 donation by the township to the Southern Lehigh Public Library was accepted earlier this year, the township is not currently part of SLPL’s service area, which includes Upper Saucon Township, Lower Milford Township and Coopersburg borough.

SLPL officials have expressed skepticism about the feasibility of expanding their service area to include Lower Saucon, and said they felt pressure to accept the donation from some of the elected officials in the municipalities and school district they currently serve.

In an October letter, the SLPL board–which has agreed to study the Lower Saucon scenario–made several requests of township council that apparently have not yet been met.

Meanwhile, without a home library, as of Jan. 1 Lower Saucon residents will not be able to access materials, programs and other resources available from public libraries throughout the state via the Office of Commonwealth Libraries’ ACCESS program.

Solt’s letter didn’t address that fact directly, but stated that the decision to remove Lower Saucon Township was “made with great difficulty” and “for the financial stability of the library, now and into the future.”

“All those involved with operations of the Hellertown Area Library wish to convey deepest gratitude to you for continuing to support the library financially and in all other ways since its inception in 1992, especially during the difficult situation into which it has been placed over the last two years,” he said.

In January, when township council voted 4-1 to make a donation to HAL in lieu of entering into the proposed agreement, council also voted 4-1 to authorize legal action against the Hellertown Area Library if it later removed Lower Saucon from its service area. At the time, council asserted that the donation of $50,000 should be sufficient to preserve ongoing access to the library for residents.

It remains unknown if such action will be taken in the new year, but last week Hellertown Borough Council voted unanimously to to appoint special legal counsel to represent the borough in all matters pertaining to Lower Saucon Township in the future.

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About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at josh@sauconsource.com.

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