Northampton County former union workers lose bid for retroactive raise


Northampton County Council approved a resolution Thursday night in favor of a national infrastructure bank that supporters say could raise trillions of dollars to pay for transportation projects.

The resolution is symbolic, asking the U.S. Congress to create such a national bank. Supporters of the plan point to earlier efforts by presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, along with Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

More recently, the idea of such a bank was promoted by Lyndon LaRouche. He was a self-trained economist who ran for president eight times, once, as the New York Times noted in his obituary, from a prison cell. LaRouche died earlier this year at age 96.

Angela Vullo of Virginia, a member of the pro-bank coalition, told the council that "misinformation" linking the group to the LaRouche organization is false. Stuart Rosenblatt, another member of the coalition, declined to comment before the meeting on any LaRouche connections.

Members of the pro-bank coalition said the bank would "monetize the debt," to help fund infrastructure improvements.

The coalition has asked many state and local governments to pass the resolution, and claims successes in multiple states. The group includes Lisa Ditalia of Bethlehem, who has twice spoken before the council to seek support for the resolution. The longer the U.S. waits to fix its infrastructure, the more the cost will go up, the coalition said.

"This makes so much sense to me," Council member Tara Zrinski said of the bank plan.

She voted in favor of the resolution, as did Kevin Lott, Matthew Dietz, Lori Vargo Heffner and William McGee. Margaret Ferraro voted against the resolution by telephone. Robert Werner, John Cusick and Council President Ronald Heckman were absent, for a final 5-1 tally.

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The council also approved contributions to two land-preservation purchases. The county will put up $300,000 of the $675,000 appraised value to buy the 71-acre Dally property in Bushkill Township. It will also pay $85,837 to help preserve the 29-acre Russell property in Williams Township. In both cases, the townships will pay the balance with Williams Township pitching in $81,750 for the Russell property.

The vote for an employee referral program was 6-0. The county will pay employees $250 for referrals that lead to the hiring of registered nurses at the Gracedale nursing home, and $100 for referrals for other jobs at Gracedale.

The six voting members approved unanimously four appointments to county boards. Elaine Arnts of Palmer Township and Robert Pretopapa of Bethlehem Township were confirmed to the board of the area agency on aging. Leona Demko of Bath was appointed to the housing authority board, and Marvin Boyer of Palmer to the personnel commission.

Dietz asked the county administration to look into reported problems with the 911 center possibly missing calls. He said the center may not be aware of which bridges are closed, leading to delayed responses.

Zrinski presented a proclamation on behalf of the county recognizing the environmentally friendly agriculture practiced by Richard DiFebo and his son Dohl at their Harvest Home Farms near Bangor.

Before the meeting, County Executive Lamont McClure said his administration is still talking with the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission about getting more transportation funding dedicated to projects in Northampton County.