State of the Region
Annually, Whitehall Township and Coplay Borough get together to present a State of the Region luncheon where political leaders outline their plans for the future and report on the year’s accomplishments. The annual event is sponsored by Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and was held Feb. 8 this year.
Dr. Lorie Hackett, superintendent of Whitehall-Coplay School District, led the presentations with a list of initiatives for the school district. She focused on the district’s desire to add a full-day kindergarten class. The district is one of the few in the state that does not offer full-day kindergarten. The program comes with tax increases and a building project to accommodate the 240 students in kindergarten.
Hackett also emphasized the need for third-grade reading proficiency.
“This is a key to academic success,” she said. “If they miss this bench mark, there is a 75-percent likelihood of not graduating.”
Hackett joins other educators in their opposition to charter schools, and those in attendance at the seminar agreed with her position. The school district contends it can provide charter school students with a better education at a lower cost. The school system is key to a vibrant community, she said, and residents must feel certain their children are going to receive an education that allows them to be competitive.
Coplay Councilman Stephen Burker took to the podium to outline the progress being made in the borough. Burker explained Coplay is seeking bids for a new municipal building on property purchased from General Supply. The borough is prepared to follow through with the new building if the costs can be justified.
Coplay is pursuing renovations at Saylor Park, thanks to a $250,000 matching grant with Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
“The new park adds to the quality of life in our borough,” Burker said.
This summer starts the borough’s yearlong 150th celebration. The borough will again offer a free concert series this year at its Community Plaza.
“The Community Plaza was built entirely with donated funds,” he said.
Burker also announced the borough will hold a parade March 24 to honor Saquon Barkley, Coplay resident, Whitehall High School graduate and Penn State football standout. (See related story on page A1.)
Mayor Edward D. Hozza Jr. finished the presentations with a rousing summary of accomplishments in Whitehall. This was Hozza’s last State of the Region meeting as Whitehall’s mayor, as he transitions to a position with Lehigh County.
Hozza outlined that the township’s $23 million budget included $5.5 million for the police.
“We have a young force that is well trained and eager to serve the public,” he said.
Another $5 million of the budget is dedicated to public works.
“We spend $1 million on recreation, with three swimming pools and six athletic associations. That’s larger than municipalities around us,” he said.
Hozza said he is proud of two major accomplishments: The Greenway trail is complete after nine years of effort, and township debt is at its lowest level. For the future, the township will acquire a new firetruck and five new police vehicles. All 2,000 streetlights will be converted to LED energy-saving technology.
Hozza ended his presentation with a tribute to the volunteers who serve the township.
“We could not make Whitehall as great as it is without the help of the thousands of volunteers who serve this community,” he said.