Lehigh Valley

Lehigh County Commissioners approve long-term spending plan

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Lehigh County Commissioners approved County Executive Phillips Armstrong's five-year, $56.8 million 2020-2024 capital spending plan during Wednesday night's meeting.

Excluding Lehigh County's biggest planned expense – the $68 million renovation of Cedarbrook nursing facility – the 2020 overall spending plan is projected about 5.4% lower than last year, according to county documents. The approved plan also calls for $23.3 million in bond financing for projects including various jail, IT systems and recreational facility upgrades. Further, the old courthouse and parking deck renovations will also require acquiring bond debt.

The plan also commits seeking bond financing for additional farmland preservation efforts. The five-year capital plan includes $10.6 million and a goal to add 1,750 acres to Lehigh County's list of preserved farms.

In other news, commissioners forwarded a collective bargaining agreement between the county and the Lehigh County/Pennsylvania Social Services Unit, SEIU Local 668 on first reading. The deal, which was added last minute and not on the formal bill agenda, is for a four-year period commencing Jan. 1, 2019 through Dec. 31, 2022.

"This has been a marathon negotiating session," Commissioner Percy Dougherty said. "… I think we have settled on very good terms."

Commissioner Marc Grammes said that while the negotiations were at times hard fought or tedious, both parties involved had to "have faith in the process" of reaching a contract. Both commissioners praised Lehigh County Human Service Department employees for their contributions to Lehigh County.

"You are appreciated," Dougherty said to SEIU officials in attendance.

In other business, commissioners approved a resolution stating their commitment to the "phase two" renovation of Cedarbrook Senior Care and Rehabilitation. "Phase one" of the project has a projected cost of $47 million. The second phase covered by this resolution will include cosmetic and structural upgrades to the facility "as deemed fit and necessary through the evaluation of future board of commissioners."

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