On Thursday, Feb 11th, Lamont McClure spoke with members of the AARP Lehigh Valley Advocacy Team about their concerns for seniors in Northampton County. Topics included property taxes, warehouse proliferation, access to the COVID-19 vaccine, the November election, affordable housing and Gracedale Nursing Home.
A participant pointed out that property taxes had not been raised in several years and he worried that this might result in a sudden large increase. McClure assured the group that he’s aware that tax increases are hard on seniors living on a fixed income. It’s been possible to keep taxes at the same rate due to competent fiscal management and a large reserve fund balance. In response to questions about staffing, McClure said that, with 2,200 full and part-time employees, the county is well staffed although Gracedale could use more CNAs.
To combat warehouse proliferation the County is preserving open space and farmland. The County of Northampton has preserved 217 farms so far and is working on doing more.
There is a great deal of frustration, especially among seniors, in trying to get an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine. While many pharmacies and hospitals are taking appointments, not all seniors are computer savvy and they’ve found the process frustrating. McClure explained the vaccines are distributed to the states by the federal government and Pennsylvania’s allotment is only 140,000 per week. When more supplies become available in the future, the County plans to work with PEMA and the PA Department of Health to hold a mass vaccination event.
One AARP member expressed concern about the results of the November election. McClure explained that it took over 1,500 people to run the election and that there were no credible allegations of fraud or misuse. In the future, it would be better if Election workers could start opening mail-in ballots three days before the election so those tallies could be released at the same time as the counts from the voting machines, avoiding swings in the results. With the virus still active in our area, mail-in ballots are sure to continue to be a popular option with voters.
Affordable housing is a big concern in Northampton County. AARP members explained that most municipalities don’t allow the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units or ADUs, on property to house older residents near family members. The County Executive explained that the county has no role in zoning, but he found the concept of ADUs intriguing.
As for Gracedale, McClure says he has every intention of keeping it under county control.
Information provided to TVL by:
Deputy Director of Administration
Northampton County Government Center
669 Washington Street
Easton, PA 18042