MOVING ALLENTOWN FORWARD: 2014 A YEAR IN REVIEW

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City LogoLast year proved to be quite the year for progress here in the City of Allentown, from the revitalization of the downtown area to the start of construction of the American Parkway Bridge, Allentown saw a year of moving forward like no other.

“What a year,” said Mayor Pawlowski.  “We saw the creation of Allentown 4.0 before our very eyes.  The most exciting part is this is just the beginning.  Allentown 4.0 continues this year, and I can’t wait to see what our city looks like at the end of next year.  What a great time to be in Allentown.”

The most significant achievement was the opening of the new PPL Arena, with a concert by legendary rock band the Eagles in September.  The City celebrated with the “Rise Together Allentown” arts and cultural community celebration the weekend after the concert.  The Philadelphia Phantoms played their first regular season game in October to a sell-out, capacity crowd.  The first building to open in the Arena complex was One City Center on Hamilton Street, which houses the Lehigh Valley Health Network Sports Medicine and Fitness Center.

Two City Center opened shortly afterward across the street from the arena complex, becoming the headquarters for National Penn Bancshares, with other tenants filling it to capacity.  The year also saw the construction of Center City Three on the old Colonial Theater site, and City Center Four, which will house STRATA Flats,which will have 170 luxury apartment units.

Last year, the city booked its first convention for the now-open Marriott Renaissance Hotel when the Pennsylvania Municipal Leagues Annual Convention comes to town in June.

The revitalization of downtown has resulted in over $1 Billion in development, hundreds of jobs for local construction workers, and when completed, bring thousands of permanent jobs and new downtown residents as well.  It is also expected to attract over a million visitors a year who will dine, shop and attend events at the new arena, making center city Allentown a prime destination once again.

The City made it easier to find a job by launching TweetMyJobs, a new online jobs platform that revolutionizes job recruitment by offering an easy and user-friendly online tool to find employment by combining mobile technology and social media.  Allentown also announced a new six-year, $3.3 million initiative aimed at revitalizing the remainder of Center City and surrounding area.

Speaking of dining, several new restaurants opened in the city last year.  The seventh Street Corridor, from Tilghman to Hamilton, saw many diverse ethnic eateries open, too many to mention.  Hamilton Street saw the opening of Crust, Chickie’s and Pete’s, Tim Horton’s Coffee and Donut shop, Roar Social House, Tony Luke’s, Johnny’s Bagels, and the Hamilton Kitchen.  We also received the news that Shula’s Steakhouse will relocate from Center Valley to the first floor of the STRAT Flats at Four City Center building this year, and more new, exciting dining choices are soon to follow as well.

Last year also saw the re-opening of a bigger and better Youell’s Oyster house, which was burned to the ground in a devastating fire, and the return of the Shanty to 19th Street.  Several new stores have opened around the City as well, including the upscale New York Fashion clothing store on Seventh Street near Tilghman.  Shopping and dining became easier with the introduction of the AMP (Allentown Merchant Payment) gift card, which can be used in many businesses in the greater downtown area.

The City saw many other major highlights besides economic development.  Public Safety was increased with addition of more police officers and security cameras.  The Emergency Operations Center re-opened with over $15,000 in renovations and enhancements.  The renovated East Side Fire Station on Irving Street also re-opened with a three-bay, two-story building that can accommodate up to eight firefighters and two paramedics.   The Allentown Fire Department also received a $365,000 grant to purchase new self-contained breathing apparatuses.

The City also saw the implementation of Text to 911, a service for those who are unable to speak to seek emergency help from the Emergency Operations Center.

The Quality of life for residents of Allentown were improved with the opening of a new warming shelter inside Alliance Hall at 6th and Chew for those seeking shelter from the cold weather.

In June of 2014, Mayor Pawlowski was invited by First Lady Michelle Obama to the White House to join her in announcing the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.  He joined other mayors from across the country to pledge to work together to end this growing problem.

The City of Allentown will open the Lehigh Valley’s first Community Center for the LGBT Community.  The Bradbury-Sullivan Community Center will be located at 1021 W. Turner St.

The Inaugural Cops Meet Block Basketball Tournament was held with police officers and young adults playing side by side to further enhance the positive relationship between the two groups.

The City of Allentown was recognized for its premier park system with the designated a Playful City USA for the 6th consecutive year, and the City purchased a portable Skate Park which can be quickly assembled for block parties and community events.

Allentown also received a boost to its fiscal health.  The City saw no tax increase for the 10th straight year, and a stronger fiscal position than is has been in decades thanks to the success of the water and sewer lease.  Allentown also saw a $280, 000 recycling performance grant, awarding the city for keeping the streets clean through an aggressive and efficient recycling program.

Mayor Pawlowski received several honors during the year:  He was appointed to the US Conference of Mayors Advisory Board; received the Distinguished Service Award from the Pennsylvania Municipal League; recognized by the National League of Cities (NLC) for the completion of several health and wellness goals for Let’s Move!  Cities, Towns and Counties (LMCTC).

Finally, the City received national attention when Allentown’s own Andre Reed, a Dieruff High School graduate, was finally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

To say that last year was significant in Allentown’s history is an understatement.  The progress that was made is just the start.  We all look forward to what this year will bring, with the completion of the American Parkway Bridge and the beginning of the Waterfront Development.  Here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015.

 

AFD Receives A New Chief: Kudlak Retires, Laubach Promoted

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Chief LaubachMayor Ed Pawlowski recently announced that Fire Chief Bob Kudlak has decided to retire, and Deputy Chief of Operations Lee T. Laubach Jr. is being promoted to interim Fire Chief.

Kudlak will retire on February 2nd, and has served as interim Chief since January, 2014.

“In his six years at or near the top of this department as Deputy Chief of Operations and then as interim chief, Bob was an effective leader,” said Pawlowski. “He earned the respect of the men who fought alongside him and those who served under his command. The department will miss his direction.”

Kudlak joined the department in 1986. Throughout his career, he has received multiple promotions, and his success has been recognized by the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, U.S Congress, and the U.S Senate.

“It has been my honor and privilege to serve the citizens of Allentown for 28½ years as a firefighter and ultimately the department’s chief officer,” Kudlak said. “I thank Mayor Pawlowski for the opportunity to serve in an administrative capacity over the final quarter of my tenure. The men of this department are some of the most dedicated in the business and I wish them all a rewarding and safe career.”

“I have always been impressed by the dedication Chief Kudlak brought to the table in the daily fulfillment of his duties,” said Pawlowski. “He was the recipient of many awards and citations. They are extensive evidence of the commitment he made to the job.”

Kudlak became a second-generation fire fighter when he chose to follow in his father’s footsteps, after Robert Sr. retired in 1996 after serving the city of Allentown for 27 years.

Pawlowski also announced that Deputy Chief of Operations and Emergency Management Coordinator Lee T. Laubach Jr. would be promoted to Interim Chief. For the past year, Laubach has served as Deputy Chief, and is a 21-year veteran of the department.

Pawlowski said, “Lee has done an outstanding job as the Deputy Chief and as the city’s Emergency Management Coordinator. I know he will make an outstanding chief. He has the confidence of the administration, the fire department and the community.”

Laubach joined the department in 1993, receiving multiple promotions and achievements throughout his career with the department. He was promoted to Assistant Chief of Fire Prevention in September 2010, in addition to being named Fire Fighter of the year for the department that same year.

 

 

INCREASING PUBLIC SAFETY: AFD AWARDED $365,000 GRANT FOR BREATHING APPARATUSES

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ScottAirPak“We are very pleased that our grant application has been approved,” said Mayor Ed Pawlowski, in reference to the $365,000 Assistance to Firefighters Grant awarded to The City of Allentown for new self-contained breathing apparatuses.  “Nothing is more important than public safety. Since 2006, we have made tremendous strides in improving our firefighting capability and enhancing the safety of our firefighters,” he added.

The funding for the new breathing apparatuses (Scott Air Paks) comes from the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Out of the 43 Assistance to Firefighters grants awarded by FEMA, Allentown was given the highest allocation.

The air paks are assigned to city fire engines, with each firefighter receiving their own mask. Interim Allentown Fire Chief Bob Kudlak stated, “We are buying 74 of these units. They will be replacing our current 10-year-old equipment. The existing units were compliant with the standards established at that time; since then the standards have been amended in 2008 and 2013. The new units will comply with the standards currently in place. We hope to have these new units in our possession and in service this summer.”

The city has purchased five new fire-fighting vehicles since 2009, including two new engines, one rescue pumper and two 100-foot aerials. Grant funding was secured to install new ventilation systems in every fire station, and the city has purchased the best gear on the market for full body protection; helmets, boots and gloves. In addition, the completely rebuilt East Side Fire Station opened in February.

Interim Chief Kudlak expressed his appreciation for the award, saying, “The Allentown Fire Department is grateful to receive this Assistance to Firefighters Grant. These funds will play an essential role in ensuring that the department is able to purchase upgraded Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses, which provide breathable air to firefighters while they work to contain a blaze. We thank Senator Pat Toomey for his support of the Allentown Fire Department and for his assistance during the AFG process.”

A NEW CHIEF TO LEAD THE AFD: KUDLAK TAKES OVER

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Bob Kudlak took the oath of office recently as interim fire chief in the City of Allentown during a ceremony in City Council Chambers. “I have always been impressed by the passion and commitment Chief Kudlak has shown in the daily fulfillment of his duties,” said Mayor Pawlowski. “He is the recipient of many awards and citations. They are ample evidence of the time and energy he pours into his job.”

Kudlak has had an impressive journey from his beginnings in the Allentown Fire Department to his current position. A second-generation firefighter for the City of Allentown, Kudlak joined the department in 1986, and in 2005 was promoted to the position of Fire Marshal. In 2007 he became Captain of Public Affairs, and the following year was promoted to Captain of Fire Marshals.

Later that same year, he was promoted to Deputy Chief of Operations, which placed him as the second in command of the department. Among other duties, the Deputy Chief of Operations supervises and evaluates assistant chiefs, battalion chiefs, captains, lieutenants, fire marshals and firefighters assigned to the division as well as being responsible for all personnel and apparatus assigned to the department.

In addition to his promotions within the department, Kudlak has received various Departmental Awards and numerous Unit Citations. The Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, U.S. Congress, and the U.S. Senate have recognized him for his accomplishments. The 27-year veteran of the department has also worked with the Lehigh Valley Hospital Burn Prevention Foundation, and is certified in the Juvenile Fire Setter Prevention Education program for the city.

Kudlak is certified as a Fire Investigator through the National Association of Fire Investigators and is a member of the International Association of Arson Investigators. He is a certified expert witness in the field of arson and fire investigation, and is licensed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a Fire Inspector and Codes Administrator. He has attained additional certifications in Hazardous Materials awareness, water rescue and is an Electronic Search Specialist through Project Lifesaver out of Chesapeake, Va. Kudlak holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from Muhlenberg College.

“This is a great department and I am proud to be its leader,” Kudlak stated. “I am grateful to Mayor Pawlowski for giving the opportunity to direct the department and serve the citizens of the city is this capacity.”

Pawlowski also announced that Assistant Chief Lee T. Laubach Jr. is being promoted to Deputy Chief of Operations. Laubach is a 20-year veteran of the department. He was promoted to Fire Specialist in August of 2002, elevated to Lieutenant in April 2006, and promoted to Fire Marshal in June of 2008. He became Captain of Public Affairs in October 2009, and was promoted to Assistant Chief of Fire Prevention in September 2010. Laubach was also sworn-in during the ceremony.

Pawlowski announced that Deputy Chief Laubach will also serve as the city’s Emergency Management Coordinator and will lead the city’s new emergency management team. He will be joined by Allentown Police Captain William Reinik, Allentown Health Bureau Director Vicky Kistler, Communications Superintendent Mike Hilbert, Interim Public Works Director Craig Messinger and EMS Operations Manager Bryan Fritz.

“Each of these bureaus is critical to responding to emergency situations in the city,” said Pawlowski. “We felt that in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy we could make improvements in our delivery of services. These are some of the people who are on the front lines and with the official creation of the team it is our hope to be able to better coordinate our attack.”