City Council

Council Minutes

January 7, 2003 Meeting Minutes

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Tuesday, January 7, 2003 - 7:30 PM - Town Hall


President Gregory called the meeting to order and offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Jean Belinski, John B. Callahan, James A. Delgrosso, Robert J. Donchez, Magdalena F. Szabo, and James S. Gregory, 6. J. Michael Schweder was absent, 1.


The minutes of December 23, 2002 were approved.

5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)





A. Assistant City Solicitor - Records Destruction - Police Department

The Clerk read a memorandum dated December 31, 2002 from William Alexander Karras, Assistant City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed resolution for Council's consideration under the previously adopted Municipal Records Retention Act that contains a schedule for the destruction of records. The Department of Police requested to destroy the records listed on the attached exhibit. The Law Bureau reviewed the Act and the records fall within categories where destruction is permitted. It was requested that Council pass the resolution so that the records can be destroyed.

President Gregory stated that authorizing Resolution 11 A is listed on the Agenda

B. Liquor License Transfer Request - From Lehigh Township to 1214 Stefko Boulevard

The Clerk read a letter dated January 3, 2003 from Attorney Gene Roscioli that was accompanied by a copy of an application filed by JGD, Inc. for the transfer of restaurant liquor license number R-7018 from Lehigh Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania to 1214 Stefko Boulevard, Bethlehem, Northampton County, Pennsylvania.

Scheduling Public Hearing

Mr. Delgrosso and Mrs. Belinski moved to schedule the required Public Hearing at the January 21, 2003 City Council Meeting at 7:30 PM in Town Hall.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Delgrosso, Mr. Donchez, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Gregory, 6. The motion passed.


A. President of Council

President Gregory presented the President of Council's Annual Report for 2002, as follows:

" During 2002, my first year as President of Council, more than 28 Committee Meetings were held, 250 Resolutions were passed, and City Council adopted 56 Ordinances.

In light of favorable interest rate climates last year, City Council adopted an Ordinance in March, following review by the Finance Committee, to refund the 1992, 1993, 1995, and 1997 bond issues that yielded savings of $314,000. Interest rate savings of $707,000 were achieved upon Council's approval of an Ordinance in November for the Bethlehem Authority's interest rate swap on a six million dollar portion of the Emmaus General Authority Note of 1997.

Upon the recommendation of the Finance Committee, and after several refinements, City Council adopted an Ordinance in April 2002 to update the City's Business Privilege and Mercantile Tax laws that included a provision for sponsors of temporary events and festivals to submit a list of vendors to the City in advance of the festival.

At the request of the Finance Committee, an Ordinance was adopted in August requiring that transfers of unappropriated funds from the Water Fund Operating Budget or Sewer Fund Operating budget to the General Fund Operating budget cannot be made without prior notice and approval of City Council.

Council considered whether the Bethlehem Authority should have a full time or part time Executive Director, following the Authority's initial request at a Finance Committee meeting. In October, Council adopted an Ordinance to provide funding for the Bethlehem Authority's first full time Executive Director.

Turning to Public Works and related Committee matters, in February City Council adopted the Ordinance that provided a one million dollar Federal Transit Administration Grant for the project to reopen the Broad Street pedestrian mall to traffic that was accomplished in July. In addition, $800,000 was allocated for the new North Street Parking Garage. In May, City Council recommended that the Administration petition the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for a waiver from the drought restrictions for the entire water system, following an initial presentation by the Administration to the Public Works Committee in April. In June, the Commonwealth Drought Coordinator granted an exemption from the provisions of the nonessential use regulations for the City, Fountain Hill and Freemansburg.

An earlier timber harvesting plan was rescinded by City Council in June when a Resolution was adopted that approved plans for timbering to be conducted by the Bethlehem Authority. Council conditioned the activities on the requirement that the Bethlehem Authority retain a qualified forester to provide oversight as well as requiring that the timbering be done consistent with standards and practices of State's Bureau of Forestry.

Additional action related to watershed property taken by Council in November was approval of the Resolution to authorize City officials to enter into a Public Access Program Agreement with the Pennsylvania Game Commission for patrol of the Bethlehem Authority's land at the watershed.

Several revisions to Ordinances setting standards for installation of curb, gutter, and sidewalk were finally adopted by City Council in November, after the issue was followed by the Public Works Committee for more than a year.

Zoning issues came before City Council early in the year and continued throughout 2002.

In January, the proposal for the former Durkee property on Eighth Avenue called for the rezoning of a smaller tract of about 22 acres from LI Light Industrial to CS Shopping Center District, with plans for a Lowe's home improvement store, restaurant, and several other businesses. A lengthy public hearing followed in March, and the Ordinance to rezone the tract was defeated on First Reading in April.

Subsequently in April, a request came before Council to rezone nine acres at Creek Road and Friedensville Road from RR to RG for development of the property as multi-family residential. However, the rezoning request was later withdrawn by the developer in favor of a request to rezone the property to RS Residential that was voted down by City Council.

Other Zoning related action taken by City Council in 2002 was adoption of several Ordinances to permit outdoor dining in the Commercial Business and General Commercial Districts, allowing home offices in rental dwelling units, and updating various zoning provisions for signs. Rezoning of various tracts of land at the eastern end of East Broad Street from Light Industrial and Residential designations to General Commercial zoning and the RT Residential District was approved by City Council in September, after amendment of the Bill on First Reading.

While City Council tabled a Bill in December to delete motor vehicle sales and service agencies in the Light Industrial zoning district, it sent to the Planning Commission a proposal to allow motor vehicle sales and service agencies as a use permitted by right in the General Commercial zoning district.

Focusing on Community Development Committee related matters, the inspection schedule under the City's Regulated Rental Unit Occupancy Ordinance was revised to require inspections on the South Side from July to December and on the North Side from January to June, when Council adopted the Ordinance change in May.

A blight elimination and abatement response program was initiated by Council when it passed a Resolution adopting the new program in July. New international building and related codes were recommended for Council's consideration after presentation to the Community Development Committee. City Council in October adopted the 2000 International Electrical, Plumbing, Mechanical Codes, as well as the Building Code that was amended on Final Reading to delete a proposed property survey requirement for fences.

Months of study and refinement culminated with the adoption in November of updated and revised new animal laws at the request of Council.

After setting aside $200,000 so that activities related to improvements on the South Side could be better defined, City Council in November passed the Resolution setting the Community Development Block Grant program for the upcoming year, following the annual review by the Community Development Committee.

Decorative lighting and streetscape improvements got underway on the South Side last year with the adoption of a Resolution by Council for funding the improvements with a one million dollar grant under the State's Communities of Opportunity Program.

The Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Program, known as the LERTA Program, was continued for another two years for both the Enterprise Development area and North Side Central Business District in the City with Council's adoption of the authorizing Ordinances in December. In December, the Parks and Public Property Committee heard about the idea to hold a collegiate bicycle race in Bethlehem. Council looks forward to hearing more as details of this exciting event unfold.

Following review by the Human Resources and Environment Committee, a Resolution was adopted by Council in May that amended the Rules of Council. The effective date of ordinances was changed to 20 days after final passage by Council and approval by the Mayor, to be consistent with the provisions of the Optional Third Class City Charter Law as recommended by the City Solicitor. This action deleted the provision that made Ordinances effective 10 days after final passage by Council and approval by the Mayor. The 10 day effective date provision had been incorporated in the Rules of Council in 1978 when Council readopted its rules set under a former Resolution. The Public Safety Committee in June undertook a thorough review of the Police Department, Fire Department, and EMS Bureau that comprised updates on various department programs and activities, in addition to facilities and staffing related matters.

City Council in August adopted a Resolution that approved the filing of a Notice of Appeal from the Codes Board of Appeals Decision dated July 26, 2002 pertaining to the issue of a sprinkler installation at the Foulk Lumber Company in order to clarify what the Codes Board of Appeals can and cannot do.

The year 2002 ended with Council's adoption of the 2003 Budget, after serious consideration of the Administration's budget recommendations that included elimination of 13 positions. City Council made numerous budget cuts, reinstated the Network Manager position, moved almost $23,000 of equipment from the Non-Utility Capital Bond Issue to the General Fund, and adopted the Real Estate Tax Ordinance containing a six tenths of a mill tax increase.

I thank the Members of Council for their support during my first year as President of Council, and I look forward to working cooperatively with the Administration as I enter the second year of my Council Presidency."

B. Mayor







A. Authorizing Records Destruction - Police Department

Mr. Donchez and Mr. Delgrosso sponsored Resolution 13,988 which authorized the disposition of records of the Department of Police, listed in Exhibit A, in accordance with the schedules and procedures for disposition of records set forth in the Municipal Records Manual, in accordance with State Act 428, and Resolution 13,076.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Delgrosso, Mr. Donchez, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Gregory, 6. The Resolution passed.

B. HOME Program - Activity Description Clarification

Mr. Donchez and Mr. Delgrosso sponsored Resolution 13,989 to clarify the use of HOME funds, as described in the 2000 Action Plan appropriated for the activity entitled South Side Affordable Housing Projects, by changing the activity description to "Use of funds to provide loans and/or grants to investors for rehabilitation of rental housing in the South Side area."

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Delgrosso, Mr. Donchez, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Gregory, 6. The Resolution passed.

C. Authorizing Land Swap - Stefko Boulevard and Pembroke Road

Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Callahan sponsored Resolution 13,990 authorizing the Administration to enter into an alternative procedure for the sale of the parcel of land owned by the City of Bethlehem located east of Stefko Boulevard and south of Pembroke Road, Fifteenth Ward, Northampton County, designated as Lot "C" outlined on Exhibit A, as authorized in Section 10 of Resolution 9939 as amended by Resolution 11,679, Sale of City Owned Property. The parcel of land designated as Lot "C" has been determined to be necessary for emergency access to the proposed mini-storage business. As part of the sale of the parcel of land owned by the City of Bethlehem, the City will be receiving the parcel of land east of Stefko Boulevard and south of Pembroke Road, Fifteenth Ward, Northampton County, designated as Lot "B" outlined on Exhibit A which is of more or less equal value to Lot "C" outlined on Exhibit A. The cost to the City for the parcel of land designated as Lot "B" is $1.00. The Resolution authorized the Mayor and City Controller to execute all agreements and documents necessary for the purchase by the City of the parcel of land designated as Lot "B" outlined on Exhibit A, at a purchase price of $1.00.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Delgrosso, Mr. Donchez, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Gregory, 6. The Resolution passed.

D. Certificate of Appropriateness - 324 East Fourth Street

Mr. Donchez and Mr. Callahan sponsored Resolution 13,991 which granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the front door and front window on the first floor of the structure at 324 E. Fourth Street.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Delgrosso, Mr. Donchez, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Gregory, 6. The Resolution passed.

E. Certificate of Appropriateness - 115 East Third Street

Mr. Donchez and Mr. Callahan sponsored Resolution 13,992 which granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install an awning sign at 115 East Third Street.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Delgrosso, Mr. Donchez, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Gregory, 6. The Resolution passed.

Adding Resolution 11 F

Ms. Szabo and Mr. Schweder moved to add Resolution 11 F to the Agenda.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Delgrosso, Mr. Donchez, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Gregory, 6. The motion passed.

F. Authorizing Execution of Settlement Agreement - Foulk Lumber Company

Mr. Donchez and Mr. Delgrosso sponsored Resolution 13,993 authorizing the Mayor to sign the Settlement Agreement by and among the City of Bethlehem, the Codes Board of Appeals of the City of Bethlehem, Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Philadelphia Bethlehem and New England Railroad Company, and Foulk Warehousing, Inc., relative to the dispute involving the requirement for installation of an automatic fire suppression (sprinkler) system at the Auxiliary Yard (AY) building occupied by Foulk Lumber.

Mr. Donchez asked for the Fire Commissioner's comments on the matter.

Kevin Moyzan, Fire Commissioner, responded that he does agree as far as signing off on the agreement. Fire Commissioner Moyzan, continuing on to say there has been a lot of input from Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, noted that Attorney Spadoni did a good job representing the interests of the Fire Department, and expressed appreciation for City Council's interest in the matter. Fire Commissioner Moyzan, recounting that the original appeal occurred in April 2002, highlighted the fact that it is almost nine months later and stressed it was in everyone's best interests to set a definitive time frame. He noted it was a reduced time from the original date.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Delgrosso, Mr. Donchez, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Gregory, 6. The Resolution passed.


Possible Appointment of Mayor Cunningham to State Economic Development Position

Mr. Callahan congratulated Mayor Donald T. Cunningham, Jr., on the newspaper reports of Governor Rendell's consideration of Mayor Cunningham for the position of Pennsylvania's Director for Community and Economic Development. While noting there is nothing etched in stone yet, Mr. Callahan stated that just being considered for a cabinet level position says a lot about the job that Mayor Cunningham has done over the last five years, particularly in the area of economic development, and the fact that Bethlehem and the job the Mayor has done is being recognized State-wide.

Mr. Callahan continued on to point out that, although the Mayor has not yet been offered the State job nor has he accepted it, there have also been reports in the newspaper about who would and would not be the Mayor's successor. Mr. Callahan said, regardless of who is chosen by this Council, he would hope that Council would follow the precedent he thought was set by other Councils in sustaining tradition in the City that whoever is chosen by City Council to be interim Mayor not be a candidate for the upcoming special election for Mayor. Continuing on to communicate that he thinks the precedent has served the City well in the past, Mr. Callahan reiterated, regardless of who the person is, he would hope that Council would follow that same precedent and tradition.


Bethlehem Housing Authority

Anthony Spagnola, 325 Spring Street, recounted he spoke to City Council several months ago about the Bethlehem Housing Authority. Mr. Spagnola advised that he contacted Congressman Pat Toomey and Senator Lisa Boscola about the real estate tax. Noting it was reported in the newspaper that the Bethlehem Housing Authority has agreed to give to the City $375,000 a year, Mr. Spagnola remarked that the Executive Director of the Bethlehem Housing Authority had indicated he does not know how that can be justified. Pointing out that 1,000 children at Bethlehem Housing Authority residences attend the Bethlehem Area School District, Mr. Spagnola calculated that the Housing Authority should be giving the City $1.2 million a year, particularly in light of its $9 million savings account, in order to give taxpayers a break. Highlighting the fact that the Bethlehem Housing Authority wants to start a baby sitting service, Mr. Spagnola commented that Tony Hanna will be on the Authority's non-profit housing committee. Mr. Spagnola remarked that lawns were watered during the drought, and there is no Housing Authority staff at their Parkridge development. Mr. Spagnola suggested that these issues could be brought before the Bethlehem Housing Authority Board at its upcoming meeting by Council's liaison to the Housing Authority.

President Gregory, advising that Mr. Spagnola could bring up the issues to the Board, noted that the Mayor has appointed new members who would be willing to listen to concerns, and Mr. Spagnola could speak to Mr. Donchez who is Council's liaison to the Housing Authority.

Ms. Szabo asked if Mr. Spagnola has spoken to the Bethlehem Area School District about the matter. Mr. Spagnola stated that the Bethlehem Housing Authority makes a payment in lieu of taxes to the City but did not think the Housing Authority pays anything to the School District.

Mr. Donchez affirmed that the Mayor has appointed several new members to the Bethlehem Housing Authority Board over the last year. Mr. Donchez continued on to confirm that the Bethlehem Housing Authority Board sets the policy and hires the Executive Director. Mr. Donchez, commending the Administration, highlighted the fact that the Bethlehem Housing Authority's payment of over $300,000 to the City has probably not been done before in other communities. Mr. Donchez continued on to say it would be up to the Bethlehem Area School District if they wanted to take that approach. Mr. Donchez added that, in view of the new members on the Bethlehem Housing Authority Board, a different philosophy will be evident.

Mr. Spagnola queried whether the number of buildings in the City that are non-taxable has expanded.

Mr. Delgrosso commented he does not know that the number has expanded very much. Mr. Delgrosso observed that some type of tax payments from non-profit organizations has been debated at the State level for a long time.

Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, informed Mr. Spagnola that the property owned by the Alliance for Building Communities across the street from Our Lady of Pompeii Church remains on the tax rolls. Mr. Hanna further informed Mr. Spagnola that creation by the Bethlehem Housing Authority of the non-profit housing corporation called Bethlehem Homes, Inc. provides the ability to receive funding from the Bethlehem Housing Authority for that purpose. Mr. Hanna continued on to explain the intent is that Bethlehem Homes, Inc. would do the same types of projects as are done by Alliance for Building Communities in order that some of the surplus money from the Bethlehem Housing Authority can be invested in other worthwhile projects in the City of Bethlehem that would be on the tax rolls.

Salvation Army Kettle

Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, paralleled a story from his childhood on the South Side to an event that occurred on Main Street last month in December 2002. Mr. Antalics recounted that as a child he found a penny at Christmas time and, convinced by his mother's encouragement, put the penny in the Salvation Army kettle located on Third Street. Mr. Antalics, recalling the profound reaction to his gesture by the woman who was ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, likened the reaction he experienced when he was a child to that which he received last month when he placed money in the Salvation Army kettle located on Main Street. Informing the assembly that the woman who was ringing the bell this time was Diane Donaher, Deputy Director for Economic Development, Mr. Antalics communicated her sense of purpose and gracious gratitude for his donation, and thanked her for evoking the childhood memory.


Mr. Antalics noted it was reported in a Morning Call newspaper article that Mr. Hanna had commented that "kitsch lives in the fabric of an architecturally diverse South Side". Mr. Antalics inquired what is meant by and what is the origin of the comment.

Mr. Hanna, commenting that the remarks were taken out of context, explained it was a response to a question from a reporter.

Mr. Antalics distributed to the Members of Council copies of a December 20, 1941 Morning Call newspaper article that contained pictures of both an old and modern view of Main Street looking south from Market Street. Mr. Antalics, insisting that the modern view of Main Street would be almost identical to a picture of Third Street at the time, continued on to enumerate the names of businesses he found listed in the Bethlehem directory on Main Street and Third Street at that time. Mr. Antalics asserted that "if kitsch is typical of the South Side, it's typical of Bethlehem." Mr. Antalics felt that Mr. Hanna should put proper emphasis on both sides of the City.

Density of Rental Units

Mr. Antalics read from a July 3, 2002 Morning Call newspaper article it which it had been reported that "Antalics did win a concession from Council which agreed to set a Committee meeting on the topic after the Administration applied data on how well landlord licensing has worked in its first year". Mr. Antalics continued on to recall he brought up the issue at the time in relation to reducing the number of people in rental properties. Mr. Antalics advised he recently contacted Mr. Hanna who indicated that the topic could be taken up after the beginning of this year, in view of the Budget Hearings that were taking place at the time. Mr. Antalics asked if anyone on the Community Development Committee is willing to set a date when this will be studied.

Mr. Hanna affirmed that he and Mr. Schweder, Chairman of the Community Development Committee, have discussed the scheduling of a meeting.

Courtesy of the Floor - Items Added to Agenda

Patrick Herrity, 432 Hawthorne Road, commented that tonight, as has occurred several times in the past, a Resolution was added to the Agenda. However, at the beginning of the Meeting the audience was unaware of the addition and so could not comment under the First Courtesy of the Floor. Mr. Herrity commented that perhaps a moment could be taken to open up the floor to anyone who wishes to comment on issues that are added to Council's Agenda.

President Gregory, agreeing it is an excellent point, acknowledged that the addition of Resolution 11 F was inadvertently not announced at the beginning of this evening's meeting.

Past Appointments of Mayors

Mr. Delgrosso, with reference to Mr. Callahan's comments, recalled two times when City Council had to appoint individuals to fill vacancies in the office of Mayor. One was when Mayor Marcincin ran for a third term and was elected, after which the issue was challenged by City Council. Mr. Delgrosso explained the Members of Council at that time did not want to appoint someone as Mayor who would subsequently run for election because they felt it would look like a vendetta against a standing Mayor who was removed from office. The second time an appointment was made was when Mayor Smith at the time took a position with Lehigh University in October nearly three months before his term was completed. Since the November election was underway at the time and there were two Mayoral candidates, City Council appointed an individual to fill the vacancy in order to "hold the fort" from the end of October until the following January when the individual elected as Mayor took office. Mr. Delgrosso, commenting he does not know that it has been standing policy or not, denoted that was the rationale behind the two appointments.

Mr. Callahan, while commenting it may be putting the cart before the horse, said since it was brought up in the newspaper today he felt it was appropriate to discuss. Mr. Callahan continued on to say he thought the process served Council well in the past, thought the precedent was set regardless of the reasons for it, and thought that it will serve Council well in this case also.

President Gregory, communicating he would suspect a new precedent will then be set by Council, noted all should wait and see what happens with the Mayor, and action would be taken at that time.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:21 p.m.

City Clerk