Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thank You!

The last day of 2011 and my 3,249th and final post on NOC (as first announced at Thanksgiving). Since the first post tracked by Google Analytics there have been 460,000 visits by nearly 98,000 unique visitors and 725,000 pageviews. Wow, and these numbers are less than actual readership since I fragmented traffic in 2010 by posting to Twitter, Facebook, and Posterous. 

Regardless, I'm so pleased that so many people have found the site to be a source of local news and information. I had wanted to have a variety of contributors, but in reality only a handful ever offered to publicly post on the site: Brad Moulton, Jacob Allen, and Chris Moren. My thanks to each of them. Chris provided coverage and started his own blog that I often referenced about Tatamy. Brad and Jacob contributed posts regarding the NASD. I also had reports emailed by Becky Butz regarding Nazareth Borough Council. I have to thank them all.

There have been many groups and organizations that sent me material to share about their events and needs and many thanks to them. Some were students and their families, others were our Library, Fire Department, and other well known groups that we probably take for granted more often than not. To them I have to say thank you for your service to our community!

So many individuals who asked to go unnamed have sent me tips, questions, links, suggestions, and I tried very hard to make a post when possible and to respect the request of the individual to remain unknown and/or anonymous. Many of these I maintain regular email correspondence and that has been a great benefit of having the site.

For me this has been a great way to pull together my interest in my community, its history, digital media, and writing, while keeping abreast of new technology/services being made available and using them.

At the end of the day, this has been a great experience. I've seen that people contribute in a variety of ways. While there may not be a lot of people attending the various meetings, there are some, just as there are some volunteering at their church, civic organization, commission, service organization, scout and brownie troops, youth sports leagues, and cause based organizations.  I've seen first hand that people do care about many issues regarding their local community. I've also seen local governments being more responsive and in some cases proactive as a result of online reporting, not only from this site, but from the many others operating in the Lehigh Valley, particularly Lehigh Valley Ramblings and Lehigh Valley Live (the Express-Times online). I expect this to continue, expand, and evolve.

Residents now have Facebook to connect with one another, ask questions, and share links. FB itself creates Lists (there is one for Nazareth) that pulls people's updates who self-identify as being from Nazareth. While I'm not a fan of the site for a variety of reasons, I'm on it and will probably continue to check-in at least until enough friends move to G+. Having said that who knows what platform will be presented in the next five years, certainly there is a game changer given location based services and the shift to handheld devices.

Looking back at our community since August of 2005 there were many big issues (Teachers Strike, New Nazareth Borough Building, Skate Park, New NASD Middle School were probably the biggest, while ongoing ones included my favorite pedestrian safety, drugs, and vandalism), but there were also many instances of reporting on good things and I always enjoyed reporting on the things that make Nazareth special, our people, heritage, traditions, and events.

I was also very pleased to hold a "Resident to Candidate" night, which was a non-partisan 'how to become a local candidate' session and a pair of "Meet the Candidates" nights back in 2007 when several local issues had many residents upset and complaining, well if you want it done right, here's how to do it yourself;-) They were very successful and the Express-Times covered the event. I had told Editor Joe Owens I wanted to have 20 people, he replied that 20 would be a smashing success. We had 40 not including the presenters and media.

If I told someone in Iowa (popular place right now) that we have an adult soap box derby race each year and Mario Andretti hung out with the locals waiving the checkered flag for an afternoon, I'd be willing to bet they wouldn't believe me. If I told them we have a Kazoo Parade on the 4th of July, I'm sure they'd write me off as telling tales.

Having Martin Guitar in town is special and I'd personally love to see our downtown honor our musical heritage (Moravian Heritage, its historic instruments, and our Community Band) and draw tourists who visit the plant daily in. It is a huge opportunity for us and given the success of Martin on Main it seems with effort this could happen. The foundation is in place, we now need a framework.

Each year our town is home to several parades and great respect is given to our servicemen and women both current and former, from the Memorial Garden at Shafer Elementary to the Parades and Ceremony in Town on Memorial and Veteran's day, not to mention the Quarters for Military Family drives. We saw the re-Dedication of the Canon in the Circle to honor the 100th anniversary of its placement as a Civil War Memorial.

The Halloween Parade has been expanded and is something our family and friends enjoy going to each year. Soundfest draws hundreds to Andrew S. Leh Stadium each fall featuring a band competition held by the NASD Blue Eagle Marching Band.

This year saw the return of the Farmers' Market after a five year absence (I had reported on it ending and happily its revival) and it seemed to be quite a success. Most Saturdays in addition to the fresh local food there was live music from local performers. Unfortunately Evening on Main Street ended, but the Holiday Season now has many activities including the Tree Lighting Ceremony, Nazareth to Bethlehem Peace Walk, Walking Tour, Holiday House Tour, Christmas at the Henry Homestead and many more.

For several years Nazareth was host to the Miss PA Pageant, but unfortunately it was relocated to Western PA.

Summer wouldn't be complete without Nazareth Days, the Sidewalk Sales, the Nazareth Carnival, and the Holy Family Festival.

Back in 2006 the Borough Park Pool turned 70 and I tried to feature the other 'community' parks spread throughout Nazareth, which again is something special we have and hope the Borough continues to maintain and support (here I wrote about Kiwanis Park).

I'm sure I missed more than I included here, but I really wanted to focus on all the positives we have in Nazareth. It is so easy to dwell on negatives, complain, and criticize, but much harder to build on positives, offer alternatives and options, and work toward building coalitions to get things done in the right way. Having said that, I've seen first hand that there are many more people doing the latter in a quiet way here in Nazareth than there are the former. If we each continue to keep one another informed and contribute in the ways that work best for each, then we will be able to continue to build a better community.

The goal from day one was simple, "Life keeps getting busier. NewsOverCoffee is the place where neighbors connect to share news and information about Nazareth, PA. In short, it is where Colonial Hospitality meets information technology to ensure an even better community."

I know this will continue only in a different way than via NOC. Thanks again to everyone this has been a truly unique experience that has taught me so much.

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year!

Posted via email from Ross Nunamaker

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Most Comments on NOC

Through the years a lot of readers have posted comments to NOC. There are currently over 5000 for the the 3,247 posts made to date.

None in my recollection topped the post about the NASD to consider taking the Calandra's Land which had 111 comments.

Planning a new building was contentious enough, stating eminent domain would be considered against the Calandra family was too much for many area residents.

In going back over the comments, to no surprise the MS building was built, enrollment is now down, and sinkholes have made the track unusable for the better part of two years. Operational and staff costs are also up due to the new facility.

Thanks again to everyone whose read and commented through the years!

Have a great New Year!

Posted via email from Ross Nunamaker

Monday, December 26, 2011

Food for Fines Week at the Library


January 9-14, 2012

Exchange canned goods & other foods for library overdue fines to help The Nazareth Area Food Bank during Food for Fines Week, January 9-14, 2012 at the Memorial Library of Nazareth & Vicinity.

Library members will get $1 in current fines* waived for each can or package of food donated during the drive.

Items especially needed include:

·         Peanut butter

·         Canned meats/fish (tuna, beef stew)

*Replacement fees for lost or damaged materials, fees for losses that are in billing or collection stages, and lost card fees are not included in the food drive.

Library Location:

295 E. Center St.

Nazareth ,PA 18064

Hours: Mon 10-5;Tues.-Thurs. 10-8; Fri.-Sat. 10-5

Posted via email from Ross Nunamaker

CNN Blogger Slams Nazareth's History

CNN White House Correspondent Dan Lothian opted to use the religious heritage of Nazareth, PA to speak to intolerance in a pre-holiday post (read it here).

Nazareth, PA was founded by German immigrants in 1740. They were Protestants who had “no room in the Inn” for outside faiths. Non-protestants were not allowed to purchase property in that community, according to accounts of the towns history.

(editor’s note: his typo not mine;-)

He does note that we got better and uses our community heritage as an example for Congress to open up and compromise as well:

Perhaps there are lessons to be learned of tolerance, respect, even compromise, from the history of those two U.S. towns. Nazareth and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania have opened their arms since those days when religious differences dictated whose name could be on a deed.

Obviously a big stretch on this post to tie politics to the holiday season via Nazareth and Bethlehem, but this is also coming from the same post that spoils a gift the president bought for his daughters four days before Christmas.

Always enjoy seeing how the town is represented outside the valley, this one I wasn’t expecting.

Posted via email from Ross Nunamaker

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Hope everyone has a safe and joyous holiday!

Enjoy this song medley by Trevor Gordon Hall from his recent performance at the Nazareth Center for the Arts.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nazareth Area School Board introduces budget with 2 percent hike

victor leskyView full sizeExpress-Times File PhotoVictor Lesky

Layoffs or program cuts will be considered if Nazareth Area School District teachers don't agree to give back some of their raises next school year, according to the district superintendent.

Superintendent Victor Lesky and the Nazareth Area School Board last week unveiled a proposed 2012-13 budget calling for a 2 percent property tax increase. The proposed tax increase is necessary regardless of whether teachers agree to cut their raises, Lesky said.

The teachers union rejected a wage freeze in the 2011-12 budget while support staffers and administrators agreed to give back a portion of their annual raises. The result was the elimination of several teaching positions, a custodian and the district's driver education program.

He said the district faces a $571,452 deficit next year. Administrators are hopeful negotiations with teachers will bridge that gap.

School board member Jerry Treon has suggested administrators meet with the teachers union. 

Teachers union president Aris Asdourian said he can't comment until he receives a proposal from administrators.

"It's premature to talk about salaries because we have other salary issues that have not been resolved since the beginning of this year," he said. "I haven't seen any offers. If there was an offer, we would consider it."

The proposed 2 percent tax hike means the owner of a property assessed at the district average of $67,400 would pay $74 more annually in taxes next year, Lesky said. Next year's proposed $69 million budget is 3.4 percent larger than this year's $68.8 million budget.

“This budget proposes a tax rate of 47.69 mills or a 0.95 mill increase. This tax rate keeps Nazareth’s tax rate 5th of the 8 school districts in Northampton County and below the average Northampton County rate of 48.61 mills,” Lesky said.

The proposed budget does not include any new district employees and all positions would be reviewed for possible cuts, Lesky said. Layoffs also could depend upon the projected student population and the number of staff members who plan on retiring at the end of the current school year, he said, noting that information will be known in the spring.

The teachers' contract calls for the average teacher to get a 3.75 percent raise next year. The district will contribute $1.1 million more next year over this year to a state teachers' pension fund.

Those increases are offset by budget cuts to all district departments. Special education is the only department that faces no cuts. That department faces a rise in the autistic population in the district. Nazareth Area High School reduced expenses by 20 percent largely due to the elimination of the driver education program, Lesky said.

He said the proposed 2012-13 budget is based on a "no increase" scenario in state funding and could change depending on the basic education funding proposal in Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget. The governor’s budget is slated to be released in February. In addition, the district could gain aid in district real estate tax revenue, which will be determined on April 1.

The preliminary budget is scheduled to be adopted on Jan. 23, with final adoption scheduled for May.

Will take a closer look at this later, but most important thing to keep in mind is that giving some pay back now only compounds the problem in the future when the employees get back on their "schedule". This is not a solution it is a band-aid. If positions can be cut, cut them.

Posted via email from Ross Nunamaker

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

District Housing.... Help Needed ASAP! - from Mr. Brad Boandl

Was asked to forward this request for help, if you are interested email and I'll get you in touch with the people who can provide further information.

I apologize for sending the message below for a second time, but we are in need of housing help. We are not filling the list as fast as I had hoped. We only have housing for about 60 kids so far....and I need to house 148 kids next month. Please ask around for me... I really appreciate any help you can offer.
District Band:
Nazareth High School is hosting the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association District 10 Band Festival this school year. The festival takes place from January 11th through the 14th. Over 150 students will be coming to Nazareth for those 4 days. We are in need of host families to help house all of these students. If you are a host family, you would pick up the student from the high school Wednesday evening, feed them breakfast Thursday and Friday morning and then bring them back to the high school. They would then rehearse all day and you would again pick them up Thursday and Friday evening. On Saturday morning you will need to bring them back to the high school for their final concert. We need about 70 households to house all of the student participants. If you are interested, please see the attachments. The first tells a bit more about what housing a student would mean. The second is a Host Family Agreement which needs to be filled out and sent to me at the high school. The paperwork is also on the District website underneath the headlines section. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

Also - feel free to forward this email on to anyone you think would like to volunteer as a host family. We are going to need lots of help to make this happen.

Brad Boandl

Posted via email from Ross Nunamaker