Outgoing economic development director's stock is high among Bethlehem city council members

Author: , WFMZ.com Reporter
Published: Dec 02 2013 11:50:39 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 03 2013 07:47:55 AM EST
Joseph Kelly, outgoing economic director, Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

Bethlehem city council took time out from crunching budget numbers Monday night to say thank you to the city's outgoing director of community and economic development.

Joseph Kelly, who has held the director's job in Mayor John Callahan's administration since 2011, was showered with accolades after presenting his final department budget to council.

Council president Eric Evans praised Kelly's "excellent work, all of it."

Council member Michael Recchiuti said Kelly made the city "a better place," while council member J. William Reynolds lauded Kelly's knack "for putting the right people in the right places."

"The city moves more efficiently now," he added.

Even council member and Mayor-elect Robert Donchez made it a point to thank Kelly for his service.

Donchez recently announced Alicia Miller Karner will replace Kelly when Donchez's administration takes over in January.

Karner was among the handful of people in Town Hall at Monday night's budget hearing, the third of four sessions on a proposed $71 million spending plan for 2014.

Kelly ticked off a list of accomplishments he was most proud of before council members began their commendations.

Kelly pointed to a plan put in place that eventually will extend the greenway from Water Street in Hellertown to Hayes Street in Bethlehem. "A person can travel three miles without ever crossing a roadway, if it [the plan] all goes through, and I think it will," Kelly said.

He also highlighted changes at Bethlehem's Compost Center, which include turning over the making of compost at the center at 1480 Schoenersville Road to a private company and the city leasing land there to a private company for a "materials recovery center."

"You now have a sustainable operation there," Kelly said. By contracting out to get mulch, the city saved as much as $2 million by not having to spend on new equipment, he added.

By having a materials recovery facility at the site, the city will realize "significant transportation savings," said Kelly, noting that the city now trucks everything but textiles to Hamburg, Berks County, a couple of times a week.

Construction of the facility should begin early next year, Kelly noted. "There's no [potential financial] harm to the city [because] this is not a joint venture," he said. "I only can see an upside for us."

Council will hold a fourth and final hearing on the proposed 2014 budget at 7:00 p.m. Dec. 12. Council has scheduled a vote for Dec. 17 on adopting the budget, which has no property tax increase but a hike in water and sewer rates.