Last week, Bethlehem City Council shot down by a 6-1 vote the administration’s nomination of Bethlehem Area School District engineer Arif Fazil to the city’s Planning Commission.
One council member and one sage member of the public who got up to speak raised the potential of conflicts of interest that could arise involving a school district that, of late, has been rather aggressive with its building projects and a commission that would have to approve any future land development plans.
“As exemplary an individual as he is, he should stay with the school district,” said William Scheirer, a frequent speaker at council meetings.
Councilwoman Karen Dolan was more critical, saying Fazil’s involvement in school board business has been rife with its own conflict issues.
As the school district’s engineer, he has sat on committees to pick general contractors for building projects. And often, that general contractor has turned out to be D’Huy Engineering, Fazil’s employer.
“The school board seems to tolerate this,” Dolan said. The city should not, she said.
Only Councilman J. William Reynolds voted for Fazil’s appointment.
The city is looking to replace Lawrence Krauter, who stepped down from the commission as he prepared to move to Spokane, Wash., where he is the new director of the Spokane International Airport. He had been the interim director at Lehigh Valley International Airport before he left last month.
Here are some other tidbits from the last council meeting:
Officer’s Request for Continued Leave of Absence Ignored
Bethlehem Police Officer Joseph Occasio, who has not returned to full duty since a car accident seriously injured him in March 2009, had his request for extended leave of absence denied by indifference.
No one on City Council would make a motion to approve six more months of leave, an extension of one granted in October, after Occasio had exhausted his one year of eligibility March letter to Police Commissioner Stuart Bedics, Occasio wrote that he is unable to return to full duty, but believes he is making progress.
After council’s rejection of Occasio’s request, Deputy Commissioner Jason Schiffer said he is not certain what that will mean for the officer’s future in the department. Department officials had not expected council to ignore the request without discussion, he said.
Quote of the Night
After Guishu Fang, a neighbor of the , once again implored City Council to continue to support her and other neighbors in their appeal of a Zoning Hearing Board decision of the market at Linden Street and Johnston Drive, William Scheirer framed his support for the neighbors like this:
“We should erect a plaque at the Elias Market: ‘You are now witnessing the largest roadside stand in the state of Pennsylvania.’ ”
Located in a rural residential zone, neighbors argue that is now four times the size it was when it opened as a roadside stand to sell fruits and vegetables sold at an adjoining farm that no longer exists.
Next Meeting: Why That Night Really Will Be Like Any Other Night
During the second courtesy of the floor of the meeting, gadfly Stephen Antalics asked council to reconsider its just-announced decision to reschedule its next meeting from Tuesday, April 19 to Monday, April 18.
Ostensibly, council made this call to avoid conflict with the Passover holiday. Antalics suggested Wednesday, April 20 as an alternative date.
Antalics’ reasoning was that the next Bethlehem Area School Board regular meeting would also be held that same Monday and some people like to go to both.
In reality, there was an equally if not more obvious reason why rescheduling was misguided. On the Jewish calendar, days begin at sundown, meaning that Passover actually begins on the evening of Monday, April 18, right about the time the meeting would start.
OK. We understand there may be no rabbinical scholars on City Council. But the city’s own events calendar makes mention of the holiday, very plainly stating that on April 18, “Passover Begins at Sundown.”
On Thursday, Assistant City Clerk Nanette S. Snyder sent out an e-mail, informing that the meeting had been changed back to its normal Tuesday date.
Apparently, neither the school board nor Bethlehem Township Commissioners have plans to change their meetings from Passover night.