Bethlehem City Council met on April 6 to discuss a litany of ongoing issues including the reopening of public facilities for the spring and summer, affordable housing, health records and firework disturbances.
Spring and Summer Operations
Business Administrator Eric Evans asked council members to spread the word about the city’s spring and summer operations. In particular, Evans noted the need to fill positions such as lifeguards, which have been posted on the city’s official website.
With the city still looking to reopen a number of its pools for the summer, Evans voiced concern over the lack of available personnel to manage these events, citing a drop from the previous year’s number of registered lifeguards from 84 to 24.
We have the same recruiting strategies, we have three social media sites going on, high schools have been contacted,” Evans said. “But we are having trouble recruiting them, and with that shortage we may have an issue in opening.”
Areas that have already re-opened include Bethlehem’s golf courses and ranges. Evans commended course personnel for their work in ensuring the grounds were maintained with a high standard of quality.
Councilwoman Paige Van Wirt, chairperson of Bethlehem’s Community Development Committee, gave the next report, informing the council of the committee’s recent activities. The committee had met on March 23, with agenda items including the 2021 Community Development Block Grant Home Action Plan and the city’s Affordable Housing Task Force.
“The committee voted to approve the 2021 Action Plan, and authorized the administration to set appropriate approval legislation,” Van Wirt said. “Discussion of affordable housing issues, and the Affordable Housing Task Force, was for informational purposes only and no actions were taken.”
After the council unanimously voted to approve Van Wirt’s plan, the councilwoman inquired about how Bethlehem has been working with the Lehigh Valley Health Network to switch its electronic health record system from NextGen to Epic.
Electronic Health Record System
Kristen Weinrich, director of the Bethlehem Health Bureau, called into the meeting to answer with the reason for the change.
Though NextGen has been a staple of the Lehigh Valley Health Network for the past few years, the system has proved to be clunky, Weinrich said. The onset of COVID-19 has allowed for a serious cost-benefit analysis of keeping the system around long-term.
“We really didn’t have the support from NextGen with billing, we struggled somewhat with billing for clinical services,” Weinrich said. “The decision was made looking at all the factors to move and migrate to Epic, given the fact that my staff are using Epic on a daily basis when we have clients and patients that we share.”
Councilwoman Grace Crampsie Smith addressed the issue of fireworks causing widespread disruption, one of the final issues of the night. The need to repeal Bethlehem’s tolerant firework policies was heavily backed by Crampsie Smith, who said people suffering from PTSD, nighttime workers, and children with sensory disorders are victims of irresponsible firework usage.
These remarks were supported by Councilman William Reynolds who has led the charge against the presence of fireworks in the area for the past several years.
Bethlehem City Council meets every other Tuesday. The next meeting will be held on April 20, at 7:00 p.m. at Town Hall and can be accessed virtually.