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So. Lehigh Library Board Divided Over Lower Saucon Council Proposal

Southern Lehigh Library

The Southern Lehigh Public Library board’s meeting Tuesday evening was a highly anticipated one, as the board was expected to consider a $1 million library services proposal from Lower Saucon Township. However, the meeting’s results proved anticlimactic.

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Southern Lehigh Library

The Southern Lehigh Public Library board debated a library services proposal from Lower Saucon Township at their meeting Tuesday. The board neither approved nor rejected the proposal, which several members said was deficient because–at the township’s proposed funding level–it would put the library further in the red. Ultimately the board voted 6-0 to approve a motion to hold a special public meeting with its current funding partners to discuss the ramifications of potentially expanding the SLPL service area under a permanent agreement for full library services with Lower Saucon. Pictured above, from left, are library director Lynnette Saeger, Office of Commonwealth Libraries liaison Mark Sullivan, board member Bruce Eames, board member John Schubert, board solicitor Joe Leeson and board president Candi Kruse.

The Southern Lehigh Public Library board’s meeting Tuesday evening was a highly anticipated one, as the board was expected to consider a $1 million library services proposal from Lower Saucon Township. However, the meeting’s results proved anticlimactic.

After hearing from more than a dozen Lower Saucon Township residents, most of whom asked them to reject Lower Saucon’s bid, a clearly divided SLPL board struggled to reach a consensus.

The board deadlocked on four different motions before finally voting unanimously to schedule a separate public meeting “at a date and time amenable to all parties” to discuss Lower Saucon’s proposal and its ramifications. The motion stipulated that constructive feedback will be sought from the library’s four current funding partners prior to the meeting and stated that representatives from the governing bodies for Upper Saucon Township, Lower Milford Township, Coopersburg borough and the Southern Lehigh School District will be asked to attend it.

Although a date hasn’t yet been announced, a June timeframe was mentioned, and the meeting will thus likely be held after the May 4 deadline Lower Saucon Township gave the SLPL board to respond to its offer has passed.

Lower Saucon Township’s offer included a $250,000 up-front payment to the SLPL if library services for Lower Saucon residents begin by June 1. After that, it promised the library $75,000 a year for 10 years, beginning on Jan. 1, 2024. The $250,000 would come from the township’s Covid relief funds, township council said earlier this month.

Several SLPL board members expressed concern about the amount of money being offered by Lower Saucon Township, which board president Candi Kruse said would be equivalent to a per capita rate of $8.59 for Lower Saucon residents. Board members contrasted that amount to Upper Saucon Township’s current funding level, which is equal to nearly $12 per capita. Coopersburg’s per capita rate is currently over $9 and Lower Milford’s is between $5 and $6, however those municipalities–which have much smaller populations–do not have voting representation on the board. Lower Saucon Township’s offer to the SLPL stipulated that it receive full board representation proportionate to the amount of funding it provides the library.

“This whole proposal stinks,” said SLPL board member Bruce Eames, who is one of four Upper Saucon representatives on the library board. “I don’t think they thought it out. I think they made up some numbers.”

SLPL board member John Schubert, who also represents Upper Saucon, likewise expressed dissatisfaction with Lower Saucon’s proposal and said he regretted voting for a limited library services proposal that the board made to Lower Saucon Township in February.

“We voted to jump into the tar pit, and this is tar,” he said.

A common theme among the remarks by Lower Saucon residents who addressed the board was a concern that exit clause penalties included in Lower Saucon’s proposal would likely mean there will be no opportunity to rejoin the Hellertown Area Library’s service area for at least 10 years. Without Lower Saucon’s support, they said, they fear that the Hellertown library will cease to exist.

“There’s thousands of people that want to use the HAL library in Hellertown,” said Laura Ray, a township resident who is currently running for a township council seat.

“There is an election this November,” said fellow candidate Victoria Opthof-Cordaro, “and many of our constituents have indicated that they are really hopeful that a new Lower Saucon Township Council will bring forth our Saucon Valley community.”

Running alongside Ray and Opthof-Cordaro is incumbent Lower Saucon councilwoman Priscilla deLeon, who was present at Tuesday’s SLPL board meeting and has been vocal in her support for renewing the relationship the township had with HAL until earlier this year.

“I don’t envy your position here tonight,” deLeon told the board.

Lower Saucon councilman Mark Inglis, who voted in favor of the counterproposal council sent to the SLPL board earlier this month, was also present at the meeting but did not address the board.

The SLPL board’s next regular business meeting is scheduled to be held Tuesday, May 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the library, which is located at 3200 Preston Lane in Center Valley.


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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

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