During their first-ever virtual meeting on May 4, the Borough of Bath council made the difficult decision to cancel the fifth anniversary of Spuds and Suds. The financial strain the pandemic has placed on the borough and its businesses, as well as the serious health consequences, made the council wary of moving forward with the event. The decision was made with “much, much regret” in the words of Mayor Fiorella Mirabito.
“I do not feel good myself going after these local businesses…who are hurting…to ask them to sponsor,” said Mayor Mirabito. “[And] the health issue is most important.”
Council worried that Pennsylvania would not be officially open in time for the August event. They also worried about a second wave of the disease even if the state were to open too early.
“If we socialize, have it [scheduled], and have a spike again, we have to shut it down,” said Councilwoman Michele Ehrgott.
Councilman Tony Kovalovsky agreed. He encouraged the borough to follow the advice of medical experts.
“It is gonna be a long time until [people] get interested in being in groups again,” he said.
Added Councilwoman Phyllis Andrews, “I would be nervous…and a lot of people may feel the same way.”
While it was discussed that the decision could be postponed until June, council worried that pushing the decision back would make it difficult to book vendors and entertainment.
“I am all about this,” said Mayor Mirabito. “It is the best thing to ever happen here. My concern is people.”
Jessica O’Donnell, representative from the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, was hopeful that some celebration could be had. She acknowledged that residents are tired of being in their homes and the event would be the opportunity to come together and support local businesses.
However, she was respectful of council’s decision.
“Next year it is going to be a big one, don’t worry,” she said.
“The Chamber will do great next year,” added Mayor Mirabito. “I have no doubt.
Also canceled was the borough’s community yard sale on September 5. Several October events held by Mayor Mirabito may also be postponed, including the annual campfire and Paw Park anniversary celebration. However, no formal decision has yet to be made.
Meanwhile, residents can still look forward to the Bath Farmer’s Market. Opening later this month, the market will be held in Keystone Park with new social distancing guidelines. There will be no crafters, no tastings, no performances, and no farm-to-table dinners. There will be four vendors selling meats, produce, and baked goods. Visitors will be required to wear masks and wash their hands before entering the park. Two wash stations will be available.
“It will be quite different,” said Councilwoman Carol Bear-Heckman, but it will be a benefit to the community and a way to support local businesses.
Like many businesses, the borough is also feeling a financial strain. Finances are down, acknowledged Council President Mark Saginario.
He and the borough’s finance committee put together a COVID-19 response plan. Phase one of the plan freezes all capital projects and office spending. This will save the borough over $300,000. If that is not enough, the borough may move into payroll freezes and furloughs. However, Saginario says he is confident that the borough can save enough money from phase one alone.
Real estate tax due dates were delayed in order to help borough residents experiencing financial hardships. While the borough will have to wait to collect these funds, Saginario said council’s first job is to “take care of our residents.”
The response plan, added Borough Manager Brad Flyn, is aggressive, but it is also safe. He also added that the borough has cash reserves if necessary. He thanked borough staff for assisting in the creation of this plan.
“We have a great staff on hand,” he said.
Saginario agreed. He praised the borough’s ability to work together, saying that he believes the borough will “overcome” these hurdles with this teamwork.