LEHIGH COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
Members of Lehigh County’s Human Services office again made a strong showing at the Lehigh County Commissioner’s meeting April 24. They have been making regular appearances at the commissioner’s meetings arguing for more staff.
“We have a wholesale system breakdown,” Tony Lupo said. He was referring to the ability of existing staff to properly care for children referred to Human Services for care and intervention. “Caseworkers are not able to protect the children of Lehigh County.”
“We can’t keep people,” Lupo said. “They run out the door.”
“I’m at 47 cases; I can’t protect that many children,” Lupo said. “We are all overworked; we’re doing the best we can, but we are burning out. We have to keep people and hire more people – it is essential for the [care of the] most vulnerable people.”
Human Services employee Michele Fritz described the caseworker to endangered child situation as being “terrifying” and “heartbreaking.
“This haunts me every day,” Fritz said.
In other business, Lehigh County Authority, the agency that owns most of the sewer and water infrastructure serving Allentown and nearby municipalities, will get a 43-year extension on its charter. LCA’s CEO Liesel Gross, speaking to the Lehigh County Commissioners said an extension of the charter would provide additional “ability and flexibility” in financial dealings.
A “43-year extension is needed to pursue all available options to include federal programs,” Gross said.
She said the LCA’s communication with the commissioners over the past year has improved dramatically, a trend that needs to continue.
In a first reading or preliminary vote, the commissioners approved 8–0 a resolution that will, when the final vote is taken at the next meeting, extend LCA’s charter until 2063. Commissioner Marty Nothstein was absent from the meeting.
Jeff Matzakin was re-appointed to the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority.
Lehigh County Commissioners gave final approval for the new supervisory accountant position for the county’s Cedarbrook Senior Care and Rehabilitation Center. Commissioners Dan Hartzell and Amanda Holt sponsored the bipartisan bill.
The change is due to Good Shepherd’s GS Management cancelling the operations contract for the facility. This put management back to the county and thus the need to budget for and hire new staff. Good Shepherd ended their contract Feb. 28.
Commissioners also established a health care plan evaluation committee comprised of three county commissioners to include the board of commissioner’s president (currently Marty Nothstein) and three members of the executive branch.
Changes in the names and structure of some county departments and offices within the Lehigh County government prompted commissioners to change the title of some offices, for example, “Director of Cedarbrook” is now “Nursing Home Administrator” and the “Office of Computer Services” is now “Chief Information Officer.”