Whitehall-Coplay Press

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

WCSD to add resource officer

Wednesday, March 7, 2018 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Local News

Township can apply for grant to fund new middle school position

During its workshop meeting Monday, Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners agreed to move forward with hiring an additional resource officer for Whitehall-Coplay School District in the wake of last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead.

“What happened in Florida — we don’t want to see that happen here,” board President Dennis Hower said at the workshop meeting. “This is an important topic, given what’s going on in the world today.”

The officer, who would start at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, will work in Whitehall-Coplay Middle School, Acting Mayor John D. Meyers said. He mentioned the cost would be between $110,000 to $115,000. The officer would be recruited from Whitehall Township Police Department; the subsequent vacancy in the police department would be filled with a new officer.

A Whitehall Township police officer currently works as a resource officer in Whitehall High School.

Hower said the township could apply for grants to help fund the new resource officer position, but any grants would come off the top, and the township and school district would split the rest of the cost annually.

In other news, board members expressed concerns about trucks pulling in and out of a new CVS Pharmacy that will be built at 1223-1225 Third St.

Township Engineer Frank Clark assured them that developers had agreed to widen the entrance and flare the curb, so the trucks can safely make the turn, and they agreed to move the project forward.

“We don’t want to delay this,” board Vice President Philip Ginder said.

The board also discussed a requested deferment of building sidewalks in a small subdivision of two homes at 1313 Pennsylvania St. Ginder said he visited the site and was concerned about the traffic on nearby Mauch Chunk Road, which is only 21 feet wide in that area.

“The cars really mow through there, and there’s nothing to control speed,” he said.

Ginder said installing sidewalks would give people a place to walk instead of forcing them to walk in the street and risk being hit. He said there are no sidewalks on Mauch Chunk Road.

Robert Piligian, who is a consultant for property owner Bruce Fritzinger, said the property butts up against the Allentown city line and if sidewalks were installed on Mauch Chunk Road, it would be under Allentown’s jurisdiction.

Ginder said he would like to see sidewalks put in on Pennsylvania Street up to the township line.

“We don’t want to wait for Allentown,” Ginder said. “Our No. 1 priority is safety. We need to take the bull by the horns and deal with it in Whitehall.”

Meyers told the board the township also will start installing Elsag license plate readers and cameras. He said the cameras would be installed over traffic signals and could assist police by reading license plates in the event of a robbery. It is part of a long-term statewide project that will ultimately have the cameras record if a vehicle is unregistered.

Lee Rackus, bureau chief, planning, zoning and development, recommended the township opt out of the Community Development Block Grant program for the year. The program provides communities with funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

She said the township gets $60,000 to $70,000 a year, but it is often difficult to use the funds because “so many strings are attached.”

“The grants are for low- to moderate-income areas, and it is difficult to identify qualifying streets,” Rackus said.

Hower argued that “it is still money we can use” and asked her to see if there was any way to take advantage of the funds.

“We can always use it for handicapped ramps,” Rackus said. “We’ll look at the number of intersections with ramps and see if it’s viable.”

The next board of commissioners meeting is 7 p.m. March 12.