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Lehigh Valley mayors, business leaders gather for luncheon

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Feb 13 2013 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 14 2013 04:37:26 PM CST

Top officials from five Lehigh Valley municipalities spent part of their day Thursday trying to whip up enthusiasm for their communities over lunch with about 90 area business people.

WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. -

Top officials from five Lehigh Valley municipalities spent part of their day Thursday trying to whip up enthusiasm for their communities over lunch with about 90 area business people.

The mayors of Allentown, Whitehall Township, Northampton, Coplay and Catasauqua spoke at the second annual Mayoral Luncheon, sponsored by the Whitehall Area Chamber of Commerce.

The mayors sprinkled humor into their reports about how they are handling the challenges faced by their communities, and Whitehall Mayor Ed Hozza also brought some breaking news to the gathering.

Hozza announced that after eight months of negotiations, Whitehall just reached a $310,000 agreement of sale for the 10-acre Prydun Farm at 3540 South Ruch St., next to Hokendauqua Park and Playground.

Whitehall's share of the cost is $20,000, with the rest coming from Lehigh County's Green Futures Fund and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Hozza said.

Hozza said by keeping the land as open space, the township can protect a historic 18th-century farmhouse on the property as well as the Coplay Creek Watershed and the Ironton Rail Trail, which adjoins the property.

The purchase will also allow residents of the Arlington Knolls neighborhood legal access to the rail trail and to the Hokendauqua Park and its swimming pool, Hozza added.

Before his announcement, Hozza asked the crowd to push for the widening of Route 22; to back state legislation allowing municipalities to use radar "to enforce speed limits and save lives," and to support Communities That Care pilot programs being instituted in Whitehall and Salisbury townships to help young people avoid behaviors that threaten their well being as well as their families and neighborhoods.

Northampton Mayor Tom Reenock touted the new middle school being built in the borough, which he called "almost a miracle," because "we got the school board and borough council to work together." He also delivered some of his address in Pennsylvania German.

Reenock needled Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski's proposal to lease the city's water and sewer systems to raise money to pay pension and other bills, saying Northampton officials considered "selling the whole borough, taking the cash and making a run for it," before cooler heads prevailed.

Pawlowski spoke about Allentown being in "a state of transformation," 

and how city officials saw "the need to connect the dots" of finances, public safety and investments in children, community development and infrastructure to make Allentown a desirable place. "If Allentown succeeds, everybody's boat will be floated," he said.

Catasauqua Mayor Barbara Schlegel said her borough is concentrating on revitalizing the downtown by "looking for unique businesses" that will provide something different from nearby malls.

She mentioned two student projects -- painted fire hydrants and holiday window painting -- that have enhanced the downtown area, and said public safety has increased with the establishment of a K-9 unit, a police bike patrol and cameras in police cars and in certain parts of the borough.

Coplay Mayor Joseph Bundra, who has been in office a little more than a year, said he's had to deal with Hurricane Sandy, which knocked out power to 70 percent of his borough for several days, and a streetlight scam that cost Coplay more than $160,000 -- the equivalent of 15 percent of the borough's budget.

But he said cooperation from his fellow mayors in neighboring communities on other matters have helped make things easier.