Phillips Armstrong Delivers State of Lehigh County Address
By Nicole Radzievich Mertz on February 28, 2020
Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong struck a tone of compromise Thursday as he delivered his annual State of the County speech.
After thanking the County Commissioners for their willingness to work with him on county initiatives, Armstrong highlighted the passage of a $514 million budget and the progress of key infrastructure projects including the early opening of the Coplay-Northampton bridge that spans the Lehigh River.
On top of that, Armstrong said, the county helped bring in 1,600 more jobs through the federal block grants the county processed for 23 economic development projects, and helped retain another 3,500 jobs.
“The main purpose of this speech today is to tell you the condition of Lehigh County is, in one word, excellent,” Armstrong said. “Excellent — and I’m not just blowing smoke.”
Armstrong delivered his remarks to nearly 200 people gathered at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown for the event organized by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC).
Armstrong told the crowd that the county still had more work to do – particularly in getting the word out about the 2020 Census. He said it was important that everyone participate in the once-a-decade, mandatory counting because it means money for the community.
The Census, among other things, affects how much federal money communities stand to receive for schools, roads, parks, bridges and more. Pennsylvania stands to lose $2,093 per year would be lost for every person not counted.
“I’m really counting on all of you here to please spread that word,” Armstrong said.
On criminal justice issues, Armstrong announced a new a drug court that he said will help divert defendants from jail and get them into treatment programs. Lehigh County Judge Douglas G. Reichley will run the program, which is expected to be launched by September. Reichley and Judge Edward D. Reibman had been researching the program.
Armstrong lauded District Attorney Jim Martin for his leadership in the Blue Guardian program. As part of the program, police officers and program specialists to visit drug overdose survivors days later to persuade them to enter a treatment program.
The county also established The Lehigh Valley Homeless Veteran Fund, where private donations can be contributed, to provide grants to charities supporting programs for homeless veterans. The county is teaming up with the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation. The county is contributing $35,000 and the state $200,000, thanks to help from state Sen. Pat Browne.
Among the county infrastructure projects, Armstrong noted the consolidation of the Allentown 911 center into the county’s operations, the beginning of the design phase for a new nursing home wing at the county-owned Cedarbrook and the pending completion of the holding facility at the juvenile detention center.
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