The Saucon Valley Library Task Force met for its final meeting Aug. 9 and put the finishing touches on the "Conclusions and Findings" report prepared for the Lower Saucon Township and Hellertown Borough councils, as well as the Board of Trustees.
The report--which concluded that it is "feasible" for Lower Saucon Township to consolidate library services for its residents at the HAL--was presented to Lower Saucon Township Council Aug. 15 and will be presented to Hellertown Borough Council on Aug. 20 at 7pm (at ) and the HAL Board of Trustees on Aug. 28 at 6:30pm (at the Hellertown library).
At its final meeting, the task force voted unanimously to approve the report, except for task force member Lynn Koehler, who abstained.
Koehler cited her position as Lower Saucon Township's representative to the Bethlehem Area Public Library Board of Trustees as the reason for her abstention.
As a member of the task force, however, she represented Lower Saucon Township rather than the BAPL.
In an Express-Times story published Aug. 14, Koehler was quoted as telling the BAPL Board of Trustees that she believes the township will ultimately leave the Bethlehem library, but most likely with a year's notice.
Township council vice president Tom Maxfield refuted the idea that one course of action is more likely than another, however.
"No minds have been made up anywhere," he said Wednesday at the township council meeting.
According to the Express-Times story, a request by Koehler that the Bethlehem trustees consider the option of allowing the township to split its annual library funding between the BAPL and the HAL was summarily rejected.
That idea was also raised in front of township council, when alternate task force member Allen Johnson asked council to consider exploring the split funding option.
“To me, it seems to be the fairest thing to do,” Johnson said.
With 50 percent of township residents who hold a BAPL card also holding a HAL card, and with township residents representing 35 percent of the HAL's total cardholders, others have also said splitting funding will bring a level of fairness to the library services equation.
Lower Saucon Township currently contributes nothing to the Hellertown Area Library's annual budget; a situation township council vice president Tom Maxfield called "not tolerable."
“By giving no money to Hellertown…we’re probably paying Bethlehem for services that we’re not getting,” Maxfield said.
Maxfield served as a liaison to the task force, and commended its members for their diligence and hard work over many months, as did other council members.
“Thank you guys for believing in library services so much to go through the process,” said Jess Goedtel, a task force member and member of the HAL Board of Trustees, to council.
A number of other task force members--including chairperson Kim LaBrake--were present for the council meeting to help outline the report's conclusions and answer questions.
Among them was Michael Karabin, who asked council to consider turning the library services question into a voter referendum.
Karabin stressed that he was speaking for himself and not the task force in making that request.
Council solicitor Linc Treadwell questioned whether a referendum on the library services agreement could be placed on the ballot, but township manager Jack Cahalan said there are precedents among local municipalities for putting that particular question to voters.
Goedtel, in turn, questioned the cost that might be involved with such an undertaking.
"(With a referendum), you do have to work very hard to educate the public," she said. "That also costs money. That’s money the library doesn’t have right now."
Council president Glenn Kern, who noted the more-than-100-page report's "voluminous" size, said he looked forward to "reading and digesting it."
Editor's Note: The full report is also attached to this story.