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Gaming Authority Approves Scoring Method for Grant Applications

A controversy arose among members about whether to score the applications based upon a 65-point or 110-point scale.

A disagreement over how grant applications for casino revenues should be scored was resolved at the Northampton County Gaming Revenue and Economic Redevelopment Authority's March 28 meeting, but not before stark differences of opinion among several of the board's members were once again revealed.

, after several municipal officials requested information about how their applications for uncommitted funds grants had been scored, and how they ranked among the 46 applicants for approximately $700,000 in uncommitted funds the authority is prepared to award.

At that time, Gaming Authority Chairman Jay Finnigan said he was uncomfortable explaining to the municipalities how their applications had been scored, and the authority decided to have a subcommittee rescore all of the applications and submit their scores to Northampton County Economic Development Administrator Alicia Karner in advance of the March meeting.

The scoring subcommittee had originally been composed of gaming authority members Christopher Bodnar, Tom Nolan and Gerald Yob. However, since Bodnar resigned his authority seat at the beginning of this year, authority member Stephanie Kovacs was appointed to fill his place on the subcommittee.

At the March 28 meeting, Nolan explained that during the first round of scoring applications he had "scored them with a total point of 65."

He did so by checking off only one category--out of a possible four--on each application, he said.

"I personally had great difficulty identifying more than one category that could be applied to that particular grant," Nolan said.

He added that scoring the applications using a maximum point scale of 110, as Finnigan had instructed the committee to do, in his opinion would not have changed his "top 15 or 16" point-getters from what they were when a 65-point matrix was used.

Kovacs, however, disagreed with this assessment, and called the ability to score applications using a matrix with a maximum of 65 points "a design flaw."

"Some of these applicants have used statistics as a drunken man uses a lamppost--for support and not illumination," she said.

Scoring using a matrix of 65 points "cannot take out the fluff," Kovacs stated.

Yob said that he had scored the applications using both 65-point and 110-point scales, and that his results were very similar both times.

"The first 16 (point-getters) are just about the same like I had before," he said.

Authority member Priscilla deLeon voiced support for scoring the applications using a 110-point scale, which she said was the agreed-to matrix to be used by the authority.

"We already agreed to not change it during the process," she said.

Nolan, however, insisted that a one-category, 65-point matrix would be a more appropriate methodology for scoring the applications, since the projects for which grants are being sought "cannot be four things."

"They should all be one category," he said. "I believe we should go back to one category...and be judged accordingly."

A vote taken to determine which scoring matrix should be used, however, will force Nolan to rescore his applications using a 110-point scale.

"I will do due diligence but I'm sure I'm going to be greatly concerned with the way this is going to shake out and I'm sure Bethlehem Township will be concerned," Nolan said, after a motion to have the subcommittee use the 110-point scale was approved 5-3 with one abstention.

Nolan is a Bethlehem Township commissioner.

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