Friday, April 13, 2007

West End Allentown Block Party

Join NET in the West End for their very first block party! Volunteers are needed to supply baked goods and man the table. Please drop off baked goods at 1716 K Sherwood Court, Allentown on Friday, April 27 from 5:30 – 7:30, or Saturday, April 28 from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. Items must be pre-wrapped (ie Saran wrap or baggies). No cupcakes.

When: Saturday, April 28, 11:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., rain reschedules for Sunday, April 29

Where: West End of Allentown, 19th Street between Allen and Liberty

Cost: FREE

Contact: Dan Morick at

Northampton County wants to partner with communities to preserve open space

With land prices rising and more acreage on Northampton County's farm preservation list than it can afford to buy, there is talk of taking a fresh look at the current system that protects land from development.

Partnering with local communities is a central theme.

''We're going to sit here forever and never reduce this list if we don't make some bold moves,'' Councilman Ron Angle told a group of municipal officials. Angle, the county's representative on the Northampton County Farmland Preservation Board, said the county wouldn't have enough money for ''many years'' to purchase the development rights to the 27 farms now on this year's preservation waiting list.

''It could be a good many years until we get to some at the bottom,'' he said. The makeup of the list changes each year, depending on who applies.

Angle suggested communities that have increased their earned income tax a quarter percent and dedicated that increase to preserving open space might want to consider some options to yield a larger return. He said options include the possibility of municipalities using a county authority for local bond issues to purchase farmland development rights. The money from the increased earned income tax would be used to pay the bond debt.

He said another option would be for municipalities to target farms at the bottom of the preservation list, while the county money with its state funding match would still be used for parcels at the top of the rankings. ''I think if we were to work this thing from both ends, we would have more success,'' he said.

State Department of Agriculture statistics show Northampton County has so far preserved nearly 8,300 acres of farmland. Lehigh County has more than 16,700 acres preserved.

Applying for the farm preservation program is voluntary and the county does not solicit property owners, said Northampton Farmland Preservation Administrator Maria Bentzoni. Some farms that apply don't qualify. Bentzoni said farmland preservation has been allocated $5 million from the open space initiative approved by voters several years ago. The final $1 million of that total is being allocated this year, she said. All those funds have not been expended because Bentzoni said completing the process takes about two years and settlements on easements accepted in 2005 are just now being finalized.

With limited funds, Angle said some previous applicants have grown weary of waiting and no longer apply each year. Bentzoni said the county uses its funds now and a state-required ranking system to preserve the best and the most productive ground. ''We're basically, in essence, taking the cream of the crop off the list,'' she said, noting that farms lower on the list are not bad land. The county simply doesn't have the funds to reach them in any given year and those parcels may not be as desirable for a number of reasons, including clustering potential.

Another idea being researched, said Angle, is whether a municipality could use its money to buy development rights, and then have those rights purchased by the county at a later date. Other ideas also have been floated. The county could establish a cap on how much it will pay per acre to preserve farmland, or set a cap on the percentage it would pay of the appraised value. Municipalities could chip in to make up the difference, using their dedicated open space funds.

Finally, Angle said he would poll fellow council members on whether they might support the idea of a one-time county grant to municipalities so the communities can buy farmland rights. The county might be involved in contributing 20 percent of the cost in such a program.

Plainfield Township Supervisor Matt Glennon, who owns preserved farmland, said local funding option should increase the total pool of money available. He also suggested the study of capping acreage prices, a point that also interested Northampton County Executive John Stoffa. ''I think we should look at a cap,'' Stoffa told Angle and municipal leaders.

Glennon said the best option would be to find a way to match municipal funds with state funds.

He also suggested the county consider running an ''easement purchase insurance'' plan where municipalities would promise the county money each year from their dedicated earned income tax money for the county to use for matching purposes from the state. The additional money would only be enough to buy one or two extra easements a year. But Glennon said periodically the county would be called on to ''balance up'' with easement purchases for any township left out.

Bentzoni said the goal should be to link contiguous areas to create larger blocks of protected land.

If the county participates in easement purchases with municipalities, Bentzoni said the county can be reimbursed by the state for thousands of dollars worth of incidental expenses tied to things like surveys, appraisals and title work. If a municipality goes on its own, it can't be reimbursed for those costs, she said.

Bentzoni said partnering with local municipalities would make the county's money and the accompanying state matching funds go farther.

''The discussion is well-timed and entirely necessary,'' said Williams Township Supervisor Robert Doerr, who also sits on the county's farmland board. ''It makes all the sense in the world for municipalities to cooperate with the county and make county dollars go further.'' He said the task now is to work on the mechanics to make that happen.

Doerr said the county farmland board recently amended its program guidelines to allow cooperation with municipalities in farmland easement purchases. ''We kind of recognized that this is a natural progression,'' he said.

More buses proposed for I-78 commuters

An agency studying how to reduce congestion on Interstate 78 has proposed a new commuter bus route that would take Lehigh Valley residents to jobs in New Jersey.

Buses would depart from the William Penn park-and-ride lot in Bethlehem Township and go to Alpha, N.J., south of Phillipsburg, where officials are proposing a park-and-ride lot. The buses would go on to places such as Clinton, N.J.

Group members hope that companies would run shuttle buses that would take workers from the drop-off points to their offices.

The suggestion is part of a multi-year effort by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to reduce the number of cars on I-78 during the peak morning and evening commutes.

Traffic on I-78 has jumped 66 percent in a decade, based on the number of vehicles crossing the Delaware River bridge. That increase comes in part from a growing number of people who live in eastern Pennsylvania but work in New York and New Jersey.

A new the study will focus on extending rail service to Phillipsburg because the town received a federal grant to examine the possibility of restoring rail service to New York, which ceased in 1983.

Make a donation to the NET Team for the Asthma Walk

Help me BLOW the whistle on asthma by making a donation. joining my team. Please make a donation today, then we can fight the asthma epidemic together. Help us raise $1,000.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Lend a hand for the Great Pennsylvania Cleanup

Join NET members and Emmaus residents by cleaning up downtown Emmaus. Emmaus is participating in the Great PA Clean Up - a statewide effort to remove litter and trash from our downtowns, neighborhoods, roadways, parks, forests, riverbanks and open spaces - on Saturday, April 21st. Rain or shine.

Sponsored by the Borough of Emmaus/Upper Milford Township Joint Environmental Advisory Council and the Great PA Cleanup

When: Saturday, April 21, 8:45 a.m.

Where: Weis Parking lot in Emmaus (corner of Chestnut Street and Cedar Crest Boulevard)

Cost: FREE

Contact: William Ahlert at

Love Your Local Trail

Do you know Lehigh Valley has the most bike trails per capita than any other place in the world? Join NET in learning about the extensive bike trail system in the Lehigh Valley just in time for spring.

Sponsored by the Coalition for Appropriate Transportation and Network of Young Professionals

When: Tuesday, April 24th, 7 p.m.

Where: UPDATE LOCATION CHANGE: Lehigh County Commissioners Chambers, Lehigh County Government Center, 17 South Seventh Street, Allentown PA 18101-2400

Cost: FREE

Contact: Vanessa Williams at

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Allentown seeks to cut costs

Allentown is taking the next step in the state's early intervention program for cities with financial difficulties, hoping to identify ways to earn money and cut costs.

The city received a state grant of $86,000 last week that will pay for most of the work, which includes updating its five-year financial plan laying out the money-making and saving strategies. The city will pay about $22,000.

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski's administration says it is continuing with the program because suggestions identified in the first phase two years ago helped. The first phase cost Allentown about $64,000.

The plan, written by consultant Public Financial Management in Philadelphia, suggested the city levy an emergency and municipal services tax and resolve its police pension issue.

The $52 annual tax was enacted, with voter approval, last year. It collects about $2 million annually from people who work in Allentown and use city services while on the job. The tax, though, is being challenged in court.

Also last year, the city reached a court-brokered settlement with its police union over the pensions of 53 officers. It is projected to cut the cost by $16 million over 20 years.

The second phase of the program aims to identify other sources of income, such as selling advertising space on city vehicles and property, its Web site and in mailings such as bills.

The city also intends to begin charging fees to connect new buildings to its water and sewer systems, Hilliard said. The fees are common in other places.

Visitors center and walking trails planned in Lower Mount Bethel

Two years ago the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission gave Lower Mount Bethel $1.2 million and PPL donated 9 acres near Riverton to the township.

Those two actions provided the foundation for the township to create a visitors center, a park-and-ride lot and the first part of two pedestrian trails between Riverton and Martins Creek.

John Mauser, the township's grant administrator and a member of the Environmental Advisory Committee, said the project should become a reality within the next 20 months.

Work on the trail will begin this fall and is expected to be finished by the end of late summer 2008.

Zoning approved for Allentown's Riverfront Project

The Allentown Planning Commission unanimously approved creating a zoning district Tuesday to accommodate the $175 million redevelopment of the former Lehigh Structural Steel site.

Zoning is the first of several hurdles that Dunn Twiggar Co. of Hanover Township, Northampton County, must overcome to build The Waterfront, a 26-acre community aimed at opening the Lehigh River for public enjoyment.

The developers intend to begin construction in three years and complete the project in a decade.

Other hurdles include cleaning up pollution and managing traffic.

Initial studies show less contamination than expected.

''I wouldn't eat the dirt down there, but it's much cleaner than anyone anticipated,'' developer Andy Twiggar said.

The Waterfront is anticipated to employ 610 people and generate $6.6 million in taxes, up from 150 jobs and $55,000 in taxes generated by the current industrial businesses.

More on the project.

Allentown receives $150,000 to clean up 7th Street

Seventh Street may have small chance of becoming one of the world's premiere shopping destinations, but on Tuesday a program that is geared to give it a boost officially was launched.

More than 150 people gathered at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, 417 N. Seventh St., to celebrate receiving a $150,000 grant from the state's Main Street Program under the Department of Community and Economic Development.

Several other municipalities, including Emmaus and Bangor, take part in the program, which is intended to spark economic development and promote tourism while it rehabilitates decaying buildings.

The city hired Peter Lewnes as manager of the local Main Street Program, which he oversees from an office down a short flight of stairs from his Seventh Street home.

Bethlehem City Council approves $9.3 million bank note

''This is an unprecedented, $5.5 million investment in public safety. We're updating the entire radio system and committing to other very important projects,'' Mayor John Callahan said. ''This, in conjunction with additional personnel, will continue to make Bethlehem the safest city in the state'' with a population over 30,000.

In addition, the city will set aside $100,000 of the debt to perform a facilities plan, determining whether the city is using its space efficiently or whether the city needs to acquire more property. Part of the plan will address whether the city should buy the adjacent Van Bittner Hall, the headquarters of the once-mighty steelworkers union, at 53 E. Lehigh St. In the five-year plan, the city proposed $1.3 million for property acquisition next year should the city decide to buy Van Bittner.

Lehigh River named River of the Year

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced this week the Lehigh River as the state's River of the Year for 2007 and will create a Rivers Month poster of the Lehigh in June.

DCNR annually designates a river to laud local residents, governments, nonprofit and conservation organizations working to improve waterways and the quality of life in their watersheds across the state.

An annual River Sojourn, sponsored by the Wildlands Conservancy in Lower Macungie Township, is planned for June 22-27. For details on the sojourn, as well as other activities involving the Lehigh River throughout the year, visit the conservancy's Web site at .

For more information on DCNR's rivers program, visit and click on ''Rivers.'' For more details on sojourns planned for at least 11 other state waterways, visit

Good times at Our Beerbelly's

In case you missed it: A dozen NET members gathered last night for some wings and trivia at Our Beerbelly's in Bethlehem. We had such a good time, we'd like to do it again. Would you be willing to host another trivia night on Tuesday, May 8th? If so, please send a note to All that would be required is to arrive at 7 p.m. and grab a large table or two to accommodate everyone.

Robata of Tokyo Allentown Fundraiser

Mayor Ed Pawlowski invites you to join him for an enjoyable evening at Robata of Tokyo to help raise funds to support progressive and professional candidates who will help shape a new Allentown.

Robata of Tokyo is Allentown's premiere Japanese restaurant for the last 20 years. Mr. & Mrs. Shindo have owned several Japanese restaurants in Pennsylvania and decided to add an Allentown location in 1985.

Please RSVP by April 17th 2007 by calling Heather Dorn at 610-967-4444

CHECKS SHOULD BE SENT TO: Friends of Ed Pawlowski, P.O Box 9366 Allentown PA 18105

Contributions not tax deductible for income tax purposes. No corporate checks accepted.

When: Monday, April 23, 7 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Where: Robata of Tokyo, 39 South 9th Street, Allentown

Cost: $75 per person

National Day of Action on Climate Change

On April 14, citizens across the country will hold more than 1,000 rallies to demand strong action on climate change. Thousands of people will come together
with the message that we need to act on climate change now: Step It Up Congress! Cut Carbon Dioxide Emissions 80% by 2050!

The day’s events:

1 pm to 5 pm
* Create messages to let our elected officials know we need to act on climate change
* Talk to more than 15 organizations and get ideas of positive things YOU can do to make a difference on climate change
* See demonstrations including a car that runs on biofuels
* Ask the expert! Get your climate change questions answered

1 pm to 2 pm
Music: Singer Songwriter Prem Siri Kaur

2 pm to 2:30 pm
Jamie Harkins, The Climate Project (confirmed)
Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan (confirmed)
Northampton County John Stoffa (invited)
Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham (invited)
State Representative Steve Samuelson (confirmed)
Staff of U.S. Representative Charlie Dent (invited)

2:30 pm to 2:40 pm
Pictures! Group picture in front of banner (to be sent to Step It Up and local elected officials)

2:40 pm to 3:30 pm
Music: The Paul Thiessen Band

3:30 pm to 4 pm
Speakers: From Lehigh Valley organizations (to be determined)

4 pm to 5 pm
Music: The Octave Below

Visit to learn more about the day’s events, both in the
Lehigh Valley and nationally, or contact Clothesline Organics at 610-691-0111.

When: Saturday, April 14, 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Where: Southside Bethlehem, 3rd and New Streets

Cost: FREE

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Ethnic Eats: Amigo Mio Cafe

Amigo Mio Café
545 Cleveland St
Allentown, PA 18103
(610) 776-2026

The best traditional Mexican by far in Allentown. It is a very small family-run place with strange hours, so call ahead to make sure they're open.

Lymes Disease: What you need to know

Eileen Zarnas of the Weller Center will discuss the effects of Lymes Disease and how we outdoor people need to be prepared.

Sponsored by the Appalachian Mountain Club, Delaware Valley Chapter

When: Wednesday, April 18, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Friends Meeting House, Bethlehem

Cost: FREE

Contact: Phil Hunsberg

Monday, April 09, 2007

NET Volunteer Positions

Thank you to all of you who have stepped up to the plate to contribute your time to the NET. As a result, the NET is becoming a more active, vibrant organization. Through partnerships with the Appalachian Mountain Club, and Rotoract we are able to offer more events to our members. If you know of an organization that would be interested in partnering with the NET please contact our president Abraham Nemitz at

Please consider donating your time. If you want to start out small, NET needs event hosts. Event hosts, do just that, host events. Usually, all that is required is your e-mail to RSVP and
for you to show up at the event. Some more complex events require reservations or site/presenter coordination, but usually only a few hours of your time are needed. If you are interested in hosting or organizing an event please e-mail Wendy at

We still have one leadership position still open.

* Sports Coordinator

It has always been the goal of NET to create intramural sports teams like softball, frisbee, and volleyball. In addition, the sports coordinator could organize group outings like hiking, biking, and running as well as trips to sports venues. If interested contact vice president Wendy Gerlach, at

* NET Marketing Committee
If you're in the advertising, marketing or public relations sector help form
the Marketing Committee and get the word out about the NET. Possible tasks
include: design and execution of advertisements, flyers, signs and other
print materials; oversee the website reformat and redesign; promote the NET
through PR efforts including press releases and media events. Expand your
portfolio with professional pieces for a worthy cause. There is a special
need for graphic designers. Interested parties please contact marketing
chair, Vanessa Williams at

* NET Sales Associates
Through the next year one of the NET's primary goals is to raise enough
funds to increase the quality of the events and for the first time retain
staff support. And we're off to a good start with a $5,000 sponsorship from
PPL. NET is currently seeking Sales Associates to meet with top area
companies to recruit funds and help us meet our financial goals through the
next year. If you are a talented young sales professional and want to help
with this crucial effort please contact our treasurer, Patric Dublin at

* Grant writer
Grant writers are needed to help apply for local, state and federal grants.
Please contact our treasurer, Patric Dublin at if you
possess this unique talent.