Jordan Creek Greenway is being developed between Allentown and the Trexler Nature Preserve in Lowhill and North Whitehall townships. County officials estimated it will be a nearly 13-mile-long trail.

Someday it may extend all the way to Leaser Lake and the Appalachian Trail, which runs along the top of the Blue Mountain at the north end of the county.

In 2011, the county allocated $1 million to help with the development of that trail, explained Glenn Solt, the county’s general services director.

He said South Whitehall’s section of the trail will cost a total of $675,000, including the $260,000 it is requesting from the county.

Solt said that would leave more than enough money in the county trail fund to create minor parts of the trail that are the county’s responsibility.

Right now that county trail fund totals $845,810. Solt said three allocations already have been made from that $1 million fund, including two to Wildlands Conservancy, with the approval of county commissioners.

Solt said he doesn’t know who else will request some of that money, adding: “It kind of becomes first-come, first-served.”

Schware said it would be helpful to see how much of the trail has been completed and for the county to determine “where our money is best spent.” He said that could be in South Whitehall “or somewhere else.”

Solt said the trail will go under Route 309, but must pass over Cedar Crest Boulevard.
Commissioner Lisa Scheller suggested that part of the project might become a financial bottleneck where the county’s remaining fund money will be needed.

Said Ott: “We don’t want to get a couple of years down the road here and find out we’ve begun to build a pathway and we’re not able to complete it.”

Law firm hired to fight employee lawsuit

Commissioners voted to pay $390 an hour to a Philadelphia law firm.

It is being hired to defend the county in a lawsuit brought on behalf of employees, who claim it has violated the Fair Labor Standards Act in the county juvenile detention home.

County Solicitor Matthew Sorrentino explained the issue involves one shift handing off work to the next shift. He said the suit seeks employee compensation for that 10 or 15 minutes of hand-off work done either before or after a shift.

Because the employees already are working full-time, they are seeking overtime for that extra time worked, explained the solicitor. He said the 40 employees involved are not covered by any collective bargaining agreement.

He said the suit is being brought by one employee, identified only as Sacknoff, on behalf of all 40 of them.

Sorrentino said the suit, which has just been filed against the county, is best handled by a specialist in that field of law.

He said the Duane Morris LLP law firm has the greatest amount of experience with such cases and has been very successful. Sorrentino said $390 an hour is significantly below that firm’s actual hourly rates.

The solicitor said he does not think the legal costs will exceed $100,000.

Considering the amount of money that may be spent, Ott pressed for details and questioned “the legitimacy of defending ourselves.”

Sorrentino told commissioners he would not discuss the merits of the case in a public forum. He said it is a much more common type of litigation in the health care field, such as hospitals with nursing shift changes.

“There is a myriad of defenses,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you as I sit here what they are.”

The solicitor told commissioners he will share more about the case with them in a closed-door executive session after a Sept. 5 conference with Duane Morris.

Sorrentino told commissioners: “In the seven years I’ve been on this job, this is one of the few times we’ve had to come to you to ask for outside counsel. Typically, our office can handle just about everything.”

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