Lehigh Valley

Departing Bethlehem Township manager praised

Stormwater control project moved forward

BETHLEHEM TOWNSHIP, Pa. - Bethlehem Township will be hiring when current Manager Melissa Shafer steps down February 14 after four years of service.

The Board of Commissioners appointed Doug Bruce, current director of administration, as acting township manager at Monday’s regular meeting.

Bruce will serve until officials select a permanent replacement. He filled the role previously during the search that brought Shafer onboard.

Residents and commissioners thanked Shafer for her positive drive and her respect for township residents, which they said moved the township in a positive direction.

“We’ve been very fortunate over the last four years to have her,” Commissioner Thomas Nolan said.

Shafer said big projects like the community center renovations, the Brodhead Road repaving or the ongoing Housenick Park improvements came to mind when thinking over the past four years.

Rainstorm a catalyst 

But Shafer said her most memorable event was the June rainstorm of 2015 when nearly six inches fell within hours. Shafer drove through the township to survey ongoing flooding and help close roads. 

“We trapped ourselves,” Shafer recalled with a laugh.

That storm proved a catalyst for the township, which hired a stormwater engineer to help fix persistent flooding problems. 

On Monday, commissioners approved the 2018 agreements with T&M Associates and BCE Planning & Engineering for stormwater consulting and modeling services.

Stormwater modeling — a step beyond outflow mapping — takes mapping data from outflows and provides a realistic look at how surface water flows within the township.

Once they have a working model of current conditions in mid-April, township stormwater engineer Gregory Duncan said he can use it to test mitigation efforts. With eyewitness accounts and long-term monitoring, the model will become more accurate over time.

At $111,550, the cost is high, but Duncan says it’s a necessary cost to save money in the future.

"Spend tens of thousands now, save millions later,” Duncan, from BCE Planning & Engineering, said.

Shafer said the township has made stormwater progress by its own work and through partnering with neighboring municipalities.

“I think we’re setting the bar in the Lehigh Valley,” she said.

Other business

Renovations on the Bethlehem Township Community Center are complete, with only some cleanup issues left for officials to approve. And the township is hosting an open house at the Johnston Mansion at Housenick Parkon on February 17 to show off the site’s improvements.

Also, Bethlehem Township commissioners appointed Zachary Malkin as patrol officer to the police department at Monday’s regular meeting, filling a vacancy due to retirement.

A civil service commission came up with three candidates for the township to review. The board approved Malkin, subject to standard testing, in a 3-0-2 vote, with Michael Hudak and John Merhottein absent. 

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