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Task force hears concerns about Bethlehem losing its 911 service

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Jan 29 2013 07:19:12 PM CST

Roger Hudak of the Bethlehem Southside Task Force

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

The prospect of Bethlehem eventually losing its 911 center is raising concern among some members of the Mayor's South Side Task Force.

The issue came up at a task force meeting Tuesday afternoon at Northampton Community College's Fowler Family Southside Center, as task force leader Roger Hudak spoke to about 15 members about his recent two-hour meeting with Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan. (Last week, Callahan sent a letter to Northampton County Executive John Stoffa asking for a study on a possible merger.)

Hudak said if city merged its 911 center with Northampton County's, the police's ability to fight crime by using strategically placed cameras throughout the city would be compromised. "I worry about us,"
Hudak said. "If you have all those cameras and nobody's watching them, what good are they?"

Hudak acknowledged that the cost of maintaining Bethlehem's 911 center will continue to increase, and said the city will likely have to merge with the county eventually because of decreased state funding.

But he said he was wary of claims that a merger would save city residents money. "They would be transferring what they are paying in city taxes to the county," Hudak said. "So are you really saving [taxpayers] money? No."

Task force member Steve Antalics, who regularly attends and speaks at city council meetings, said he used to be for a merger but now opposes it. "Council is one vote away from moving it out," he said, implying that three of council's members favor the merger. "It scares me."

Hudak said whatever council decides will be difficult, and "I'm glad I don't have to make that decision."

In other business, Hudak said one of two closed bridges that used to serve residents along Ravena Street near Saucon Park will likely be restored, but not until sometime next year.

Both the High Street and Apples Grove bridges are closed, and that leaves Ravena Street residents isolated when the Saucon Creek floods Silvex Road -- their only way out of the area and the only way emergency vehicles can get in, according to Hudak.

Design work for the 103-year-old, one-lane High Street Bridge is underway, said Hudak. The bridge was closed in June 2011, after a state report detailed its structural deficiencies.

Task force member Eugene Brown reported that the 2nd annual Eastern Pennsylvania Health and Wellness Expo will be held 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
April 20 at SteelStacks.

He said this year, the expo will offer 12 kinds of screening -- including breast cancer, eye, dental, hearing and lung capacity -- compared to four last year.

The expo will have an obstacle course for children and a fitness challenge for adults, as well as "an old-school hula hoop contest,"
Brown said.

The task force set April 6 as the tentative date for this year's South Side Spring cleanup. The event will be discussed further at the task force's next meeting on Feb. 26 at the Fowler center.