Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong Discusses ‘Pushing for Progress’
By Colin McEvoy on February 22, 2019
Just over a year into his tenure as Lehigh County Executive, Phillips Armstrong took to the stage at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown to discuss the accomplishments of his first 15 months in office, as well as his plans moving ahead into the future.
“The story of this administration is delivering on promises and pushing for progress while always being up front with the facts,” Armstrong said to standing room crowd of about 150 people during a State of the County address on Feb. 21.
“I ran for office on the promise to make Lehigh County one of the most desirable places to live with a high quality of life, a healthy balance between development and preservation, and a commitment to serve both our constituents and employees,” he said. “… I will continue to deliver on my promises and I will be pushing for progress that makes us all stronger as a county.”
The State of the County event was organized and hosted by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), which will host the same event for Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure on March 27.
Armstrong discussed several aspects of county government during his address, including infrastructure, public safety, farmland preservation, human services, corrections, voting systems, the county budget, and management of the Cedarbrook Nursing Home.
Regarding infrastructure, Armstrong highlighted the Coplay-Northampton Bridge, which is currently in its second year of a three-year replacement project. The work is on schedule and on budget, he said, and it will be the first bridge to use post-tension technology, and the first in the country to use electronic isolated tendon technology.
Armstrong also said the state-mandated consolidation of the county’s 911 center with the City of Allentown is nearly completion. The $15 million Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) project was completed “without a single county tax dollar,” he said.
Lehigh County has also been recognized as a leader in Pennsylvania for preserving high-quality farmlands, Armstrong said. The county preserved its 300th farm last year and ranks fourth in the state for number of farms preserved, and fifth in total acres preserved at more than 23,000.
“Lehigh County is working every day to optimize and improve its network of trails and hiking paths,” he said. “We will continue to deliver on this commitment.”
The county has resumed management of Cedarbrook, Armstrong said. Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network had been in charge of the daily operations before deciding not to renew its managing contract.
“We are one of the few counties left that still has a home like this as a safety net for its citizens when they reach that point in their lives,” Armstrong said. “When it comes to our seniors, there can be no question that we intend to be there for them and reward them for their years of hard work and sacrifice.”
In the upcoming months, the county Board of Commissioners will be asked to approve the construction plan and bond financing for a $78 million expansion and renovation of the Cedarbrook facility in South Whitehall Township.
Armstrong also announced plans to introduce three legislative items for the Board of Commissioners to debate, pass, and place as home rule ballot questions for Election Day on Nov. 5.
These items include a three-term limit (totaling 12 years) for elected members of the Board of Commissioners, the creation of an independent ethics oversight commission, and a return to the original home rule charter language regarding the announcement of the proposed budget and budget cycle. The latter would restore collective bargain agreement negotiations to the county’s executive branch, instead of the current model of commissioner-led negotiations.
“In regard to the ethics commission, in this day and age, citizens should know that they have a government they can trust,” Armstrong said. “These reforms are critical to guaranteeing honesty and integrity in Lehigh County.”
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