Salisbury Press

Thursday, December 14, 2017

LEHIGH COUNTY COMMISSIONERS

Wednesday, August 9, 2017 by douglas Graves Special to The Press in Local News

Osborne concerned with slowness of decisions at Cedarbrook

Lehigh County Commissioner Brad Osborne has expressed frustration at what he sees as slow progress on decisions concerning the 370-bed Cedarbrook Nursing Home, South Whitehall.

According to Osborne, a much anticipated operational analysis, which has been two years in the making, for Cedarbrook, was delivered to Lehigh County Executive Tom Muller July 21.

However, according to Osborne, Muller sent commissioners an email indicating he does not plan to forward the report until the Aug. 23 board meeting.

Osborne would like to see it sooner.

“If the county has the document, the board of commissioners should be able to see it,” Osborne said at the July 26 commissioners’ meeting. “The county [administration] has seen the report but the board will not see it until next month.”

Osborne said seeing the document earlier would allow more time to consider its recommendations before the county budget is presented to the commissioners Aug. 31.

Commissioners will have until Oct. 25 to approve the budget, he said.

Muller sees Osborne’s concerns as a lot of “campaign speaking” in reference to Osborne’s political aspirations.

Osborne, who has been a commissioner since 2012, was a South Whitehall Township commissioner for seven years.

He announced in January he would seek election to the office of Lehigh County executive.

Muller said in an interview he had received the Cedarbrook analysis but had asked Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital to clarify some aspects of the report.

He would like the analysis to be submitted to commissioners Aug. 9.

This goal commitment is consistent with a statement from Commissioner Dan Hartzell who told commissioners he had taken advantage of Muller’s “open door policy” and discussed the operational analysis.

Hartzell said at that meeting, Muller expressed a desire to present the operational analysis at the Aug. 9 meeting.

Cedarbrook Senior Care and Rehabilitation is a county-owned organization with one set of buildings in South Whitehall near Dorney Park and with another facility in Fountain Hill.

Both are operated for the county by Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital.

Muller said operating costs are much more tied to the needs of the occupants than to any particular building option.

Of the 632 occupants, 561 are Medicaid funded.

“We lose money on every Medicaid occupant,” Muller said.

Other occupants are on Medicare, while 40 are on private pay plans, which according to Muller do not cost taxpayer money.

Muller added he sees an increasing number of dementia patients at the county facility.

He put the current number of dementia patients between 360 and 380.

Muller said he expects to address this issue to commissioners soon.

In other business, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Project Manager Brandy Rotz and others representing PennDOT explained the status of the planned replacement for the bridge where Lehigh Street crossed Little Lehigh Creek, not far from Mill Street.

The bridge, built in 1940, is structurally deficient, according to PennDOT.

Rotz said the new bridge will be 14 feet wider than the current bridge, going from 42 feet to 56 feet wide.

The bridge will be designed to withstand a 100-year flood.

This designates, statistically, the creek’s water level will exceed the capacity of the bridge once every 100 years.

That event, however, may occur more or less frequently than every 100 years.

Rotz also said the bridge design allows for the water to flow over the bridge in a 50-year flood.

Commissioner Dr. Percy H. Dougherty expressed concern a 50-year flood may come more frequently due to stormwater run-off from paved areas.

Mike Ziegler, owner of Ziegler’s RV, 440 Lehigh St., Allentown, attended the meeting and described how backed up stormwater has flooded his business three times since 2001.

The PennDOT team said construction of the bridge, which will cost $4 to $6 million, will take two construction seasons, with construction to commence in 2019 and completed in 2020.

Pedestrian and vehicle access will be continued or maintained during construction.

Also at the meeting, commissioners approved the $134 million Lehigh County Capital Plan for 2018 to 2022 and a resolution to pay for interpreters and translators for the county.