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McClure: Northampton County Governs with “Civility, Compassion, Transparency”

By Colin McEvoy on March 28, 2019

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure delivered his State of the County address at the Historic Hotel Bethlehem on March 27.

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure delivered his State of the County address at the Historic Hotel Bethlehem on March 27.

It’s been just over 14 months since Lamont McClure began his tenure as Northampton County executive, and during his second State of the County address, he said he has worked to execute on the promises on which he campaigned.

“When I spoke with you here last year, one of the things I promised was that we would govern competently with civility, compassion, and transparency,” McClure said. “If I had to tell you what the state of Northampton County is today, it’s that we have met that goal. We have governed in that way.”

McClure delivered his address to a crowd of more than 150 people at the Historic Hotel Bethlehem on March 27, at an event hosted by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC).

He began his address discussing a “$60 million problem” his administration inherited in the form of three distinct challenges: a $38.5 million bridge project, the lack of a forensic center, and a leased human services building which, if the county did not purchase it, would cost another $28 million.

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure

McClure said the solution his administration sought tackled each of these challenges head-on. This involved taking $14 million county council has set aside to purchase the human service building, and instead putting it toward the “P3 Bridge Project,” a plan to repair or replace 33 bridges in the Northampton County.

The county also took out a $35 million bond to purchase a human services building and cover the $10.6 million cost of a new forensic center. As a result of the bond, the Commonwealth will pay rent for the human services building, which will pay off almost the entire interest of the bond, McClure said.

“We came up with a pretty innovative way to tackle all these problems,” he said.

The county is moving to purchase paper-based voting machines in time for the November election, McClure said, which will meet a mandate by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf that counties switch to such machines by 2020.

McClure also reaffirmed his commitment to keeping the Gracedale Nursing Home county-owned. McClure said the county’s annual contributions to Gracedale are now nearly neutral, despite critics who previously argued it would cost the county up to $10 million annually if it did not privatize the nursing home.

McClure emphasized the importance of a regional approach to economic development, and praised LVEDC for ensuring an equal balance between Lehigh and Northampton counties. He also stressed the importance of balance in development to ensure new projects are not limited to big-box warehousing that increases truck traffic.

According to LVEDC research, less than 5 percent of Lehigh Valley’s industrial buildings exceed 300,000 feet. More than 80 percent of the buildings that are greater than 300,000 square feet are used for manufacturing, distribution, or fulfillment, with only 12 percent being used for traditional warehousing.

McClure spent much of his address acknowledging individuals from his administration and staff, as well as members of Northampton County Council who were present.

“I hope to report next year that the state of Northampton County is even stronger than it is today,” he said.

Don Cunningham, LVEDC President & CEO, also discussed the new “Made Possible in Lehigh Valley” campaign that was unveiled this month, as well as the new regional marketing video LVEDC commissioned from FireRock Productions, which can be viewed and shared here.

The Northampton State of the County address was presented by Gross McGinley, the event’s presenting sponsor, with the Lehigh Valley International Airport and Workforce Board Lehigh Valley as gold sponsors.

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