Lehigh Valley

Northampton Co. is waiting on a better picture before moving on Louise Moore Homestead

EASTON, Pa. - Northampton County Council is delaying contracts for the Louise Moore Park Homestead renovation project after a misunderstanding about architectural costs.

Council President John Cusick said the council shouldn’t approve additional architectural costs until it decided whether they were necessary.

The county awarded USA Architects a $57,375 contract for architectural planning on the Louise Moore project. But in April the county executive requested they award the firm an additional $28,201, which is over the allowable contingency cost.

Council members were left flummoxed and appalled by the request until Cathy Allen, Director of the Department of Administration, explained that it had come from in-house, not the architect.

“This was an addition by us and not the contractor,” Allen said, adding that the original contract had included first floor ADA work but not through to the second floor.

The change request that resulted in an extra $28,000 cost came down to maximizing public use and preventing lawsuits, Allen said.

Allen said both the architect and engineer tried to persuade her out of the decision, assuring her that the house was grandfathered into the ADA. So long as no structural changes were made, the building’s status would stand.

“But what’s that going to do the county when someone is threatening a lawsuit?” Allen said. “We’re going to pay a whole lot more than $28,000 in a lawsuit.”

Cusick asked the county solicitor to determine whether the county was liable if the building was grandfathered before the council made a decision.

Council member Ken Kraft said the council owed USA Architects an apology.

“We just called their firm ‘no good’ two nights in a row,” he said, frustrated.

​Also, Northampton County awarded several Open Space grants, including one for the phase two of Charles Chrin Community Center in Palmer Township.

The grant was approved under the condition it would only take effect after phase one was completed.

Palmer Township Chairman David Colver said the condition wouldn’t interfere with ongoing work at the center.

Council also approved $86,779.50 to the Comer Park Rehabilitation project in Bethlehem Township.

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