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November 5, 2003 Meeting Minutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
Wednesday, November 5, 2003 – 7:30 PM – Town Hall
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President Schweder called the meeting to order. Father Carmen Bolock of Our Lord’s Ascension Polish Catholic Church offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Ismael Arcelay, Jean Belinski, John B. Callahan, Robert J. Donchez, James S. Gregory, Magdalena F. Szabo, and J. Michael Schweder, 7.
Public Hearing - Amending 2003 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program - National Register Nomination for the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District and Wyandotte Street Corridor Traffic and Parking Study
Prior to the consideration of the regular Agenda items,
City Council conducted a Public Hearing to consider amendments
to the 2003 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program
to create two new activities: National Register Nomination
for the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District, and
Wyandotte Street Corridor Traffic and Parking Study.
Dana Grubb, Deputy Director of Community Development, affirmed that the purpose of the Public Hearing is to recognize an amendment to the 2003 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program by which it is recommended that City Council transfer $70,000 from the Acquisition/Demolition Contingency activity into two new planning activities. The first is to transfer $35,000 into a new activity, National Register Nomination for the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District, to provide funds to undertake the preparation of a National Register Nomination through the City's Bureau of Planning and Zoning. The second proposed new activity is a Wyandotte Street Corridor Traffic and Parking Study, and it is recommended that $35,000 be placed into that new activity in order to undertake an overall analysis of the corridor and address not only the traffic issues but also the parking issues. Mr. Grubb continued on to say that, with Council's approval of these two new activities, the Bureau of Planning and Zoning will procure consultants to move the activities forward.
No one from the Public spoke to the matters of the Public Hearing.
President Schweder stated that authorizing Resolution 11 G is listed on this evening's Agenda.
The Public Hearing was adjourned at 7:37 p.m.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The minutes of October 21, 2003 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
6. OLD BUSINESS
A. Deputy Director of Community Development – Amending Article 1160 – Dangerous Animals
The Clerk read a memorandum dated October 23, 2003 from Dana B. Grubb, Deputy Director of Community Development, to which were attached proposed amendments to Article 1160 – Wild and Exotic Animals to deal with the issue of dangerous animals in the City.
President Schweder referred the matter to the Community Development Committee.
B. City Clerk – Article 951 – Pedestrian Malls
The Clerk read a memorandum dated October 31, 2003 to which was attached a proposed Ordinance for consideration concerning amending Article 951 – Pedestrian Malls. As a result of the reopening of the Broad Street Pedestrian Mall to traffic the amendments revise applicable Section 951.01, Definitions and Boundaries, and in Section 951.03, Activities, the reference to the City Center Authority is deleted.
President Schweder stated that the appropriate Ordinance will be placed on the November 18, 2003 City Council Agenda for First Reading.
C. City Solicitor – Amendment No. 1 to Lease Agreement – Ice Skating Rink Food Concession Stand
The Clerk read a memorandum dated October 30, 2003 from Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed resolution and Amendment No. 1 to Lease Agreement between Richard J.H. Keck, Jr., and the City of Bethlehem for lease of the Ice Skating Rink Food Concession Stand, according to the terms and conditions of the agreement.
President Schweder stated that authorizing Resolution 11 N is listed on the agenda.
D. City Solicitor – Proposed Revisions to Animal Ordinances – Amending Article 1159 and Repealing Article 709
The Clerk read a memorandum dated October 28, 2003 from Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed Ordinance which redrafted Article 1159, Animals, to address the lack of the authority of the City to act, where there is a denial of a permit for more than six animals, and what remedies the City would have to address such a problem. Also attached was a proposed Ordinance repealing Article 709, Dogs, since it has been incorporated into the revised Article 1159.
President Schweder referred the matter to the Community Development Committee.
8 . REPORTS
A. President of Council
President Schweder announced the next Budget Hearing, and confirmed that First Reading of the Proposed 2004 Budget Ordinances will take place at the November 18, 2003 City Council Meeting.
Congratulations to Council Members-Elect and Mayor-Elect
Mayor James A. Delgrosso congratulated Mr. Arcelay, Mr. Donchez, and Ms. Szabo on their reelection as Members of Council, and Mr. Gordon Mowrer on his election as a Member of Council. Mayor Delgrosso congratulated Mr. Callahan on his election as the next Mayor, and offered the office of the Mayor for the transition along with any services that the Mayor's office can provide to make the transition smooth and easy for the citizens of Bethlehem. Mayor Delgrosso added that there is office space available to Mr. Callahan on the second floor of City Hall.
1. Administrative Order – Charles Shoemaker – Codes Board of Appeals
Mayor James Delgrosso reappointed Charles Shoemaker to the Codes Board of Appeals, effective until October 2006. Mr. Donchez and Mr. Gregory sponsored Resolution 14,217 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Gregory, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.
2. Administrative Order – Lee Snyder – Codes Board of Appeals
Mayor Delgrosso reappointed Lee Snyder to the Codes Board of Appeals, effective until October 2006. Mr. Donchez and Mr. Gregory sponsored Resolution 14,218 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Gregory, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.
3. Administrative Order – Frank Toth – Codes Board of Appeals
Mayor Delgrosso reappointed Frank Toth to the Codes Board of Appeals, effective until May 2006. Mr. Donchez and Mr. Gregory sponsored Resolution 14,219 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Gregory, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.
4. Administrative Order – Constantine Loupos – Zoning Hearing Board
Mayor Delgrosso appointed Constantine Loupos to the Zoning Hearing Board, effective until January 2005. Mr. Donchez and Mr. Gregory sponsored Resolution 14,220 to confirm the appointment.
C. Finance Committee
Mr. Callahan, Chairman of the Finance Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee's meeting held October 28, 2003 on the following subjects: Transfer of Funds – Golf Course – Temporary Help; Transfer of Funds – Water Filtration – Overtime; Transfer of Funds – Information Services – Temporary Help; and Officers’ and Employees’ Pension Fund – Increase for Active Employees.
Congratulations to Council Members-Elect and Comments of Mayor-Elect
Mr. Callahan said he also wanted to congratulate his fellow Council Members for their victories in yesterday's General Election, as well as former Mayor Gordon Mowrer who was newly elected as a Member of Council. Mr. Callahan stated he looks forward to working with all Members of Council next year "as we try to do what’s best for Bethlehem".
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 48 – 2003 – Amending Article 107 – Transfer of EMS Bureau to Fire Department
The Clerk read Bill No. 48 – 2003 – Amending Article 107 – Transfer of EMS Bureau to Fire Department, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Gregory, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 48 – 2003, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4220, was declared adopted.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Approving 2004 Action Plan – CDBG and HOME Programs
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Gregory sponsored Resolution 14,221 which approved the Action Plan for 2004, containing the City’s 2004 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Programs, and authorized the Mayor to provide the necessary assurances and certifications to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and to submit the 2004 Action Plan for HUD approval.
B. Approving Increase – Skating Fees
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Gregory sponsored Resolution 14,222 which established the Skating Rink Fees for 2003-2004 according to Exhibit A and effective beginning November 14, 2003.
C. Approving Use Permit Agreement – Christkindlmarkt 2003
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Gregory sponsored Resolution 14,223 authorizing the Mayor and Controller to execute the Use Permit Agreement between ArtsQuest and the City of Bethlehem for use of certain City property for Christkindlmarkt 2003 for time periods from November 10 to December 29, 2003, according to the terms and conditions of the Agreement.
D. Approving Use Permit Agreement – Live Bethlehem Christmas Pageant 2003
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Gregory sponsored Resolution 14,224 authorizing the Mayor and Controller to execute the Use Permit Agreement between Live Bethlehem Christmas Pageant Society, Inc. and the City of Bethlehem for use of the Community Arts Pavilion and surrounding field for the 2003 Live Bethlehem Christmas Pageant for the time period December 8, 2003 to January 12, 2004, according to the terms and conditions of the Agreement.
E. Approving Use Permit Agreement – American Association for University Women – 2004 Book Fair
Mr. Gregory and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,225 authorizing the Mayor and Controller to execute the Use Permit Agreement between the American Association of University Women, Bethlehem Branch, and the City of Bethlehem for use of the Memorial Pool Building for the 2004 Book Fair for the time period March 15, 2004 to April 26, 2004, according to the terms and conditions of the Agreement.
F. Amending Fire Civil Service Rules and Regulations – Deletion of One-Year Residency Requirement
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Gregory sponsored Resolution 14,226
which amended the Fire Civil Service Rules and Regulations
to delete the one year residency requirement for applicants
for positions with the Fire Department at or prior to the
date of application, in accordance with State law.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Gregory, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.
Motion - Considering Resolutions 11 G, 11H, 11 I and 11J As A Group
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Arcelay moved to consider Resolutions 11 G through11 J as a group. Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Gregory, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The motion passed.
G. Transfer of Funds – Five Points Traffic Study and
National Register Nomination
Mr. Gregory and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,227 that transferred $70,000 in the Community Development Budget from the Unprogrammed Funds Account to Five Points Traffic Study Account - $35,000, and National Register Nomination - $35,000, to create two new activities to aid in enhancing development opportunities in South Bethlehem.
H. Transfer of Funds – Golf Course – Temporary Help
Mr. Gregory and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,228 that transferred $2,550 in the Golf Course Enterprise Fund Budget from the Golf Course – Plant Maintenance Account to the Golf Course - Maintenance – Temporary Help Account to continue Driving Range operations through the end of the year.
I. Transfer of Funds – Water Filtration – Overtime
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,229 that transferred $15,000 in the Water Fund Budget from the Water Filtration – Chemicals Account to the Water Filtration – Overtime Account to pay for overtime until the end of the year.
J. Transfer of Funds – Information Services – Temporary Help
Mr. Gregory and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,230 that transferred $10,800 in the General Fund Budget from the General Expenses – Professional Services Account to the Information Services – Temporary Help Account to provide funding for the services of a contract website administrator.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 G through 11 J: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Gregory, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolutions passed.
Motion - Considering Resolutions 11 K, 11L and 11M As A Group
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Arcelay moved to consider Resolutions 11 K, 11L and 11M as a group. Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Gregory, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The motion passed.
K. Certificate of Appropriateness – 10 West Fourth Street
Mr. Gregory and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,231 which granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install projecting and window signs on the storefront at 10 West Fourth Street.
L. Certificate of Appropriateness – 511-513 East Fourth Street
Mr. Gregory and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,232 which granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install siding and windows on a residential structure at 511-513 East Fourth Street.
M. Certificate of Appropriateness – 321 South New Street
Mr. Gregory and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,233 which granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a flat wall sign above the storefront at 321 South New Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 K through 11 M: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Gregory, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolutions passed.
N. Authorizing Execution of Amendment No. 1 to Lease Agreement – Ice Skating Rink Food Concession Stand
Mr. Gregory and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,234 which approved Amendment No. 1 to Lease Agreement between Richard J.H. Keck, Jr. and the City of Bethlehem for lease of the Ice Skating Rink at Illick’s Mill Road for a Food Concession Stand for a renewal term of three years, beginning on Opening Day of the 2003-2004 Ice Skating Season and ending on the Closing Date of the 2005-2006 Ice Skating Season, with an option to renew for an additional three year period, according to the terms and conditions of the Lease.
12. NEW BUSINESS
Zoning Hearing Board Meeting - November 12, 2003 - Rezoning and Proposed Development of Former Durkee Property at 1001 Eighth Avenue - Appeal of Remaley and Williams
Ms. Szabo stated that Members of Council received notice of the Zoning Hearing Board meeting on November 12, 2003 at which will be heard the Appeal of Glenn A. Remaley and Elizabeth J. Remaley, Llewellyn A. Remaley and Almeda A. Remaley, and Robert G. Williams and Patricia D. Williams, to challenge the validity of the City of Bethlehem’s zoning revision, from LI Light Industrial to IR Industrial Redevelopment and RT Residential (Ordinance 4188), of the former Durkee site, located at 1001 Eighth Avenue, and also appealing the August 14, 2003 Zoning Officer’s favorable preliminary opinion on the proposed development of a Lowe’s Home Improvement store, a restaurant, and a bank, pursuant to section 916.2 of the MPC, 53 P.S. § 109162, at the former Durkee site. In view of the report in the Express-Times edition of November 4, 2003 that Lehigh County Judge Edward Reibman dismissed the first of three appeals, Ms. Szabo asked whether the Zoning Hearing Board meeting on November 12 will still be conducted.
Joseph Leeson, Jr., City Solicitor, replied that the neighbors who are objecting to the rezoning of the former Durkee property on Eighth Avenue, from LI Light Industrial to IR Industrial Redevelopment and RT Residential District, have filed three separate legal matters. Only one of them has been resolved so far that is the one reported in the Express-Times edition of November 4, 2003. Continuing on to reply there are two other appeals, one of which is to be heard at the November 12, 2003 Zoning Hearing Board public hearing, Attorney Leeson advised that all three cases will be proceeding separately so the Zoning Hearing Board hearing on November 12 will proceed as scheduled.
Rezoning of Former Durkee Property at 1001 Eighth Avenue - Appeal of Remaley and Williams - Entering Appearance on Behalf of City Council
President Schweder, with reference to an October 27, 2003 letter from Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, asked Attorney Spadoni to give the advice that he gave earlier to President Schweder with respect to action that City Council should take at this time.
Attorney Spadoni affirmed that at a previous meeting Attorney Leeson had indicated that the City had intervened in the matter. Attorney Spadoni continued on to advise that, as a result of reviewing the pleadings and speaking with Attorney Leeson and the parties involved, he wrote a letter last week in which he would suggest that City Council consider intervening in the matter as well so that City Council is kept apprised of the action for the protection of City Council's interests in this matter.
Ms. Szabo and Mr. Donchez so moved. President Schweder restated the motion is that City Council will act as an intervener in the proceedings as it pertains to the litigation between City Council and Tiger Den Partners, LLC. Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Gregory, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Voting NAY: Mrs. Belinski, 1. The motion passed.
Watershed - Investigation and Activities
Mrs. Belinski affirmed that on July 10, 2003 she attended a meeting of the Bethlehem Authority. Mrs. Belinski said at that meeting she "expressed the opinion that the people of Tunkhannock Township were very displeased with our investigation of the illegal activities at the Watershed. The City had submitted a report to the District Attorneys in Carbon and Monroe Count[ies], but no one has any knowledge of this report. It's like [a] phantom report. I repeatedly asked about it. And, I have been told repeatedly that what's the point Mrs. Belinski, the statute of limitations has passed. So, I relayed the information to the [Bethlehem Authority] Board. The people at the watershed figured the City had covered up, there was a cover-up of the investigation. Richard Master, Vice [Chairman of the Bethlehem Authority] told me I had made serious accusations and I was asked to show proof. Well, tonight I'm ready to show you that proof. I have invited Mr. David Delgrosso to come here tonight to give you that proof. Mr. Delgrosso has been on patrol at our watershed for the past sixteen years. In my many conversations in the summer of 2002 with the people in Tunkhannock Township, I was the Council person they contacted about the many illegal activities going on up there, and I had many, many conversations with various people in the Township. And over all those conversations, without exception, everyone had the highest praise for Mr. Delgrosso's work over those years. He was the only one they trusted, and could depend on to help them when they had problems. And, now, with your permission, Mr. President, I would like to bring Mr. Delgrosso forward.
President Schweder, while affirming that Mr. Delgrosso signed up to speak under Courtesy of the Floor, noted that under procedures it would not be appropriate to bring Mr. Delgrosso forward at this point. However, President Schweder stated that he would recognize Mr. Delgrosso first under Courtesy of the Floor.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Watershed - Investigation and Activities
Dave Delgrosso, Penn Forest Road, Kunkletown, PA, handed out copies of correspondence to the Members of Council and set up presentation boards containing pictures and descriptions on two easels. Mr. Delgrosso confirmed that, as Mrs. Belinski told the assembly, he has been working at Wild Creek as a patrolman for sixteen years, and has been there for going on twenty years. Mr. Delgrosso communicated that, "over the years, a lot of the things that I've come across up there…things like illegal logging, ATV's, unauthorized people trespassing, poaching, a lot of these findings I would turn in to my supervisors and they would quote unquote take care of them. And, most of this just went by the wayside, and I didn't get much support from them as far as Game laws, and all this different trespassing and stuff. They always told me that they were worried about fears of retribution, people coming in and burning down the watershed, things like that. They also, in a not too subtle way, told me that I should worry about the possibility of my house burning down, or maybe my car getting shot up, things along that nature. So, with that said,…you think twice before you bring stuff up, but over the years I've just seen too much and at this point it's time to bring out a few things.
My first point I want to bring up is I want to discuss tonight three different timber thefts that have occurred. The first one being the most recent out on Stoney Hollow Road. Now, I guess we could call that a timber theft attempt because we did catch the people red-handed. In your packets you will find a letter in the back that I had wrote three weeks ago today, and I had sent to both the Morning Call and the Express-Times, basically correcting the two stories that those newspapers wrote because they were full of errors, inaccuracies, and outright lies. Now they can only print what people give them. So, in those packets you will see what is the truth because I was there. I was on the scene.
Moving up to the older timber thefts, the first one would be what we call the Tunkhannock Township recreation area. Now, on page one of your packet, you'll see a letter from the Tunkhannock Township Supervisors to Attorney Broughal, and in it he mentions [an] upcoming program for clearing out some space for a parking area, and later on down the road they also wanted to clear some more space for an exercise trail. Now, on page two you'll see a…graphic…of a what they have laid out there. You'll also see a basketball court. That basketball court is on City land. It was never included in the program that they asked for as you can see by that letter, and it actually enlarged the area that they clear cut by probably about thirty-five percent. Now, when they clear cut that area for the parking lot, it originally was supposed to be for seventy-five cars. [It] ended up being eighty-three, plus this basketball court that no one knew of. Now, the tree service, Cameron Tree Service from Kunkletown, was the one who worked this project. Now, eyewitnesses have told me that six fully loaded lumber trucks left that area while they were cutting. As you'll see from the pictures, all this in here is a municipal complex. Trucks of this size, six of them, went out fully loaded. Nobody ever received any money for that wood, not the City of Bethlehem, not the Bethlehem water Authority. These witnesses also believed that much more wood was removed after the Township employees left for the day at three-thirty. They believed those trucks were going right up until dark, probably seven, seven-thirty at night. Now, in addition to the area that they had cleared, and they were allowed to clear for this parking lot, evidently they had some kind of a lease worked out with the City, but, in addition to that, they took out nineteen choice black cherry trees, the stumps of which I have marked here. They're also marked with a GPS unit, very clear to find, they're still there, they're numbered one through nineteen on the chart. We believe there was more, but a lot of them were covered up with dirt in an effort to hide them. Cameron Tree Service was paid $3,850 to remove these trees. According to Tunkhannock Township Secretary-Treasurer Maureen Sterner, there was no written agreement. And, in your packet, you'll see a notation from her stating that they had no written agreement. Now, I can't imagine being in business, and not having a contract on paper for a job of this size. Also, being in municipal government, Township Supervisor doesn't put things down on paper. All sounds pretty fishy to me. No written agreement. You need to talk to Tom about that. Well, I think we do need to talk to Tom about that. No written agreement. Where's the money for these trees. Obviously, you can look at these, you'll see there's maple, white oak, some of the infamous black cherry that we've all heard about. And, the only money that has been seen was a $350 check donated to what is known as Tunk fest which is a neighborhood gathering up there they hold every year. They received a check from Mr. Cameron for $350. There's a lot more than $350 laying on the ground in any of these pictures, let alone what's on the truck. What I'd like to know is where is that money for the six loads of trees, where's the money for the nineteen cherry trees that could be worth thousands of dollars a piece. We've seen none of it. Why doesn't this profit show up in any of the accounts, Bethlehem or the water Authority.
Now, Cameron Tree Service, as you can see in these pictures, uses very specialized equipment. It doesn't drag the logs. It literally picks them up and carries them out which doesn't leave drag marks, or skid marks, so you can't see where the trees came from, or if they're even gone, especially if you're covering up the stumps. They also chipped all of these trees. All of the tops were chipped on site so you couldn't count up the number of tops to find out how many trees were there. Now, also in that recreation area, they developed an exercise trail. I believe that exercise trail was nothing more than a path for that piece of equipment right there to go back in and pick those trees up one by one and bring them out. I also find it ironic that on one of these pictures, I believe…this one here, this tree that they're cutting right now actually has a City of Bethlehem boundary line marker on it. They didn't even bother to take it off before they put it on the pile. These stumps that you see here, they all have a twelve inch ruler laying on them just so you can get a perspective of how big they are. Off hand, I'd say they range from about eighteen, nineteen inches up to around twenty-five or twenty-six. Pretty mature trees. This is the basketball court that didn't exist but is there. You'll see there's stumps right here where they're still cutting paths where they can put the basketball court. Same thing with the fire house. There's a new fire house. Got stumps there.
Getting to the fire house, now this cut was done several months later in the year 2000. Township has received land from the City and, in addition to the authorized clearing, Berger Lumber actually worked this job. They're from Kresgeville. In addition to that clearing, twenty-one black cherry trees, and one large white oak were removed from beyond the boundaries that the fire house leased. These trees are also recorded by GPS. They're numbered twenty through forty-one. There's no accounting of funds for these trees, either, not a dime, nowhere. There's also the contention of Art Brooks Forestry, people who did our management study, that the area cleared for the fire house is much larger than agreed upon. These amounts differ greatly from the City Forester's account. When the City was told about these different thefts and other criminal activities, they were told not to use their own Police force because it would just not look good. What's going to happen is there's going to be conflict of interest. Whether they come out untouched or not, it’s just not the way to go. Local residents up there were severely annoyed that Bethlehem was doing their own investigation mainly because Bethlehem Police were accused of some of this wrongdoing. This included unauthorized vehicles on the fire lanes, driving ATV's, baiting deer, poaching, and actually running people off of public lands while flashing their badges. Northampton County D.A., John Morganelli, advised the Cunningham Administration not to use their own Police for this investigation due to the conflict of interest. Bethlehem did not take his advice. And, I spoke to John personally about this, and he told me what he recommended was that they go and see the Attorney General and ask for a Grand Jury investigation. They didn't do that.
I have a few questions about that investigation. First off, why wasn't City Council allowed to do the tour that they had requested. Because, had they come up, they would have been able to see any of this and made their own judgments. Also, why didn't this investigation turn up the forty-one missing trees or the lack of money for them. There was also an alleged report where the investigator from Bethlehem and the City Forester spoke with Pennsylvania State Police and told them they wanted to drop the investigation and do it in-house. Why has no one ever been allowed to see that report. We've heard about it. Nobody's ever heard what's in it. Nobody's been able to see it.
As far as the statute of limitations, on these crimes it's seven years. That means there's still another four years that you can go after these people for what they've done. Other people have said it was only two or three years, and that's why they weren't interested in prosecuting, but it's untrue. There needs to be a Grand Jury investigation as recommended by District Attorney Morganelli as soon as possible.
I came here tonight not to personally accuse anyone, [but] to show Council and the citizens of Bethlehem that they're losing much needed funds, or that they're losing much needed funds due to these illegal activities, and these activities are being done by Bethlehem employees, and by Township officials from Tunkhannock Township. With that said, I'd like to thank City Council for their time and I trust you to convene that Grand Jury investigation. Anything you want to ask me, you can speak with me privately. Ask me now if there's any questions about what you see up here. I also have an index of pictures basically of more of these stumps. I believe there's sixteen in that catalogue."
Mr. Callahan inquired whether the trees are numbered in the packet of information that Mr. Delgrosso handed to the Members of Council. Mr. Delgrosso, referring to the pictures on the presentation boards, replied "no, they're numbered up here…".
Mr. Gregory, commenting that he's heard some of these things before, said, obviously, he wanted to take the tour as Council knows but "the Cunningham Administration for their own reasons said we're going to investigate ourselves, and the Council as a whole didn't want to do it, so we didn't do it…But, there was some concerns about some of the allegations and misuse of police powers, especially of our own Police. Now, is this hearsay, or is this backed up by anyone that can testify this. Because, obviously, a lot has been said…There's a lot of serious things that were mentioned now…Again, a lot of what we've heard up there in the past is hearsay. Whether it's true or not who knows without us going up. But, is this first-hand information?"
Mr. Delgrosso said "what I can tell you is that just about everyone, to a person, has volunteered to come forward and speak in front of a court of law. You know they're tired of it up there. They have spoke to many people and they get nowhere, but it got to the point where they're more than willing. And that hearsay thing that just doesn't wash any more. We have people who are willing to come forward."
Mr. Donchez, with reference to Mr. Delgrosso's remarks about a Grand Jury investigation, stated he thought Mr. Delgrosso phrased it that City Council should conduct a Grand Jury investigation. Mr. Donchez questioned whether Mr. Delgrosso means that the District Attorney has the power to call a Grand Jury investigation, and said he does not believe it would be through Northampton County. Rather, Mr. Donchez thought it would be through the Counties where the Watershed is located, and asked whether he is correct in that. Mr. Delgrosso, confirming Mr. Donchez is correct, continued on to say "the fact that it overruns three counties, because we're talking about Carbon, Monroe, and let's face it the money trail runs down here to Northampton County. So, what I think would have to happen is to have those District Attorneys actually talk to, and correct me if I'm wrong Mr. Spadoni, but I think they would have to contact the Attorney General of the State and he would have to actually convene that Grand Jury."
Attorney Spadoni said that is correct, the Attorney General would convene a Grand Jury upon the request of the District Attorney. Attorney Spadoni added, however, that to his understanding it is not a certainty since he can decline, but certainly the request can be made by a participating District Attorney of any given County.
Mr. Callahan, with reference to Mr. Delgrosso's comments about a recommendation by District Attorney Morganelli, asked Attorney Leeson what was the thought process involved.
Joseph Leeson, Jr., City Solicitor, said he would like to comment on a number of remarks made by Mr. Delgrosso. Attorney Leeson, first turning to Mr. Callahan's question, explained "when this matter was first brought to our attention back when Mayor Cunningham was Mayor immediately we asked an investigation be conducted. I consulted with Mr. Morganelli as one of the first things that I did, and Mr. Morganelli indicated that an investigation should be conducted, and then if evidence of wrongdoing was uncovered it should be turned over to the District Attorneys and to the State Police. The Bethlehem Police did go up and investigate, and interviewed the people who were willing to talk. Anyone who was willing to talk as far as I know was interviewed. Isn't that correct. There was no one who was willing to talk that the Police didn't talk to. When we gathered that information, we then went back to Mr. Morganelli and indicated to him that there was some indication of possible criminal conduct, and possible impropriety. However, we felt that the level of investigation should be deeper, and that the matter should be turned over to the State Police, and I asked him for his guidance. He agreed. We then turned it over to the Pennsylvania State Police as well as the District Attorneys of Carbon County and Monroe County. That matter has been in their hands ever since, and to my knowledge no additional information has surfaced until tonight that has either been brought to our attention or, as far as I know, to the District Attorneys of Carbon and Monroe County. And, as a matter of fact, I would request that the minutes of the meeting tonight, together with your exhibits, be delivered to the District Attorneys of Carbon and Monroe County. The City of Bethlehem has no jurisdiction as far as criminal prosecution is concerned because it's outside of our territory. You've made allegations of criminal conduct against a lumber company involved that was hired by Tunkhannock Township, criminal conduct against another lumber company hired by a fire house. And, I encourage you to turn over every piece of information, every piece of information, that you have to the prosecution up in Carbon and Monroe Counties, to the authorities. And, I encourage you to talk to anybody who has any information about this to go to prosecutors and talk. Now, as far as your allegations involving improprieties involving City of Bethlehem employees, that's a very serious accusation. If you have such evidence, I call upon you to provide that evidence because I can say to you that it's easy to make accusations with the broad stroke of a brush or a pen or from a podium, and you have the right to do that, and when you have the evidence it should be done. But, I think that it's incumbent upon you to furnish that evidence, rather [than] impugn the integrity of the workforce of the City which by and large I have found to be very good, very devoted, and people of integrity. But, if there's a problem, we must deal with it. If you have evidence, you should furnish it, and I encourage you to do so, and to encourage others to do likewise. In my opinion, the matter has been handled appropriately, the law enforcement authorities have been consulted, including Mr. Morganelli who has been in complete accord with the manner in which it has been handled. And, the authority to convene a Grand Jury investigation rests not with the City of Bethlehem, but with the District Attorneys of Carbon County and Monroe County who have the authority to contact the Attorney General to indicate that if there's evidence of criminal wrongdoing that they ask that he convene a multi-jurisdictional or multi-district Grand Jury if, in their opinion, such evidence exists. As far as I know, because we turned this information over was it a year ago, I forget now, time passes so quickly, as far as I know such a request has not been made by the Carbon and Monroe District Attorneys to Harrisburg. But, I have to honestly say that I haven't talked to the Attorney General so I don't know that for a fact but I think if it had been we would have heard something. So, I pledge to you full cooperation from the City to look into matters, but I also need to caution you that we don't have the authority to prosecute. And, I encourage you to take all the information you have delivered as soon as possible, and together with a copy of the minutes that will be prepared concerning tonight's meeting."
Mrs. Belinski, stating she is "in touch with these people on a frequent basis, and it seems the Carbon and Monroe County District Attorneys office know nothing of this investigation. So, where did this phantom investigation's report disappear to. They have inquired on three different occasions to Carbon and Monroe County District Attorney's office and the people in the office know nothing of it."
Commenting he thinks it is a fair question, Attorney Leeson advised that in his files upstairs he has transmittal letters to both the Carbon and Monroe District Attorneys. Attorney Leeson continued on to state that, "in addition, after sending out those transmittal letters with the report prepared by the Police, I personally telephoned their offices and I said to them did you get my correspondence. Did you get the report I sent to you, and they said yes, and I made notes of those telephone conversations. In addition, I made notes of the telephone conversation I had with the State Police asking them did you get the report that I sent to you, and they said yes. Your questions as to their non-responsiveness are fair. But I have to tell you we did our job."
Mrs. Belinski restated the question is "why didn't anyone respond and everyone has no idea where this report is. This man has asked each County on three different occasions and gets no where."
Attorney Leeson noted he cannot "account for the actions of public officials that I have no control over. Obviously, they're distant geographically, and I don't know them personally. They're not friends of mine…I don't run into them in the neighborhood. So I don't know the answer to your question. But I think it's fair to ask them. I've frequently found that when public officials are evasive or non-responsive in terms of answering questions, that sometimes a written letter, certified perhaps, perhaps with copies to the newspaper, has to be sent to those public officials to say I telephoned you, I don't get calls back. I talked to you, you don't answer my questions, what gives…You are experienced in these matters as well getting the answers, and you may have some other ideas on how to get answers. But, this is a situation that we do not have control over…".
Mrs. Belinski remarked "it's our Watershed and we have no control."
Attorney Leeson stated that is correct as far as criminal prosecution is concerned. Attorney Leeson continued on to say, as far as management of property, that is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Water and Sewer Resources. He noted the property is owned by the Bethlehem Authority, but the City leases it. Attorney Leeson commented that he would defer to others more knowledgeable about property management on how to act in order to have a good prevention program and a good policing program in effect so that problems of the type alleged do not recur.
Mrs. Belinski, noting these occurrences happened about three and a half years ago and the statute of limitations has not passed, asked Attorney Leeson how he would suggest "we proceed to find where the money for these trees went, and who were the culprits up there."
Attorney Leeson inquired of Mr. Delgrosso whether this is new information as far as Mr. Delgrosso's sharing it with the City.
Mr. Delgrosso replied "most of it".
Attorney Leeson, commenting "when this matter is turned over to the law enforcement authorities" and adding his thought that the matter should also be turned over to the State Police, further stated "and let them investigate it. I can assure you that the investigatory capacities of the State Police who are on the scene up there are much more effective than Police Officers here in Bethlehem who are geographically distant and don't know the territory quite as well. Let's get the State Police to look at this. Let's have it investigated."
Mrs. Belinski asked Attorney Spadoni what is his opinion.
Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, stating he would concur wholeheartedly with the discussion, noted with this information it should be immediately turned over to the authorities. Attorney Spadoni continued on to say, in addition to letters and phone calls, if Council so desires he would schedule a meeting with the District Attorney's office, or Attorney Leeson, or other individuals from the City to have these issues addressed with this information that is brought before Council, as well as the minutes, and the report, so that they would have a full and complete airing and evaluation of the factual circumstances so that they make an appropriate decision and disposition of what is before them.
Mrs. Belinski said she would vote to allow Attorney Spadoni to follow through on those lines.
Mr. Callahan, referring to comments made that Mr. Morganelli suggested that the City of Bethlehem Police Department not investigate this occurrence, questioned whether that is true.
Attorney Leeson replied "I don't ever recall him saying that. In fact, he was involved, and John and I go back many years as most of the people in the this room know, and before we did anything, I called John, and we didn't take any steps of any kind until it was with his prior knowledge. And the reason we did that is because the City of Bethlehem is largely based in Northampton County. So, each step along the way he was consulted, and I honestly don't recall his saying that. Otherwise, we wouldn't have done that."
Mr. Delgrosso said "I, too, go back a long ways with John. We’ve known each other since kindergarten, and we lived two blocks apart. And, I did have this conversation with him, and he out and out told me that he had advised not to do it. So, that's my story, and that's the truth. And, as far as turning things over to the appropriate police, yes, I do plan on going further with this. And, as I said earlier, the people up in the Tunkhannock area who did not talk to Bethlehem Police investigators didn't talk to them because they were investigating some allegations against Bethlehem Police, so they didn't feel they were going to get their just cause, their just due."
Mayor Delgrosso stated he will make the suggestion that his office, under his signature, will send a letter to the two District Attorneys and the State Police, drafted by Attorney Leeson, asking them if they have reviewed the case, give them the minutes of tonight's meeting with the accusations that Mr. Delgrosso has made, ask them to interview Mr. Delgrosso, and to respond back to the City. Mayor Delgrosso commented that somewhere the matter has to come to closure. Mayor Delgrosso, restating that he would have no problem asking that the matter be reviewed and they look at it again, added that, along with the new evidence, the minutes of the meeting will be sent, the officials will be asked to review Mr. Delgrosso's account and report back to the Mayor's office on the results. Mayor Delgrosso noted if the results are provided before January he will give it to the Members of Council, and commented that, afterwards, he is sure newly elected Mayor Callahan will forward it to Council.
President Schweder, observing that Council Members have not had the opportunity to digest the information at this point, recounted a meeting in the past chaired by Ms. Szabo that was attended by Art Brooks, of Brooks Forestry Consultants. President Schweder recalled that he had asked either Mayor Cunningham, the Police Commissioner, or the Deputy Commissioner about the investigation that had just started and was told it had already concluded. President Schweder queried was that report of the investigation ever shared with City Council as had been requested at that time.
Attorney Leeson, responding he does not recall if it was, commented it was definitely not released for publication. Attorney Leeson explained the reason why was because the report contained names of individuals accused of criminal conduct. However, Attorney Leeson continued on to explain one of the issues in the case is whether there is evidence sufficient to prove any of the charges. Attorney Leeson stated he has no problem with individual Council Members looking at the report subject, however, to the confidentiality of the names. Attorney Leeson commented perhaps the names could be blacked out because it serves no purpose to disclose names of people against who accusations have been made and there is no evidence.
President Schweder commented his only reluctance in blacking out names is that he seems to remember, under a prior Administration, something like that was done and it caused a lot of problems with people being able to read reports. President Schweder, noting the minutes would have to be consulted, said he believes City Council was told they were going to be shown the report by the Administration in that meeting. President Schweder said he does not remember ever receiving the report. President Schweder, in recognition of the fact that there will be a new Mayor in January, expressed the thought that perhaps City Council should empower Attorney Spadoni as well to be involved in the process so that things are turned over not only to the City Solicitor and other authorities but that it also be turned over to the Council Solicitor. Stating that if City Council is in agreement that they do want Attorney Spadoni to play this role, and noting he would seek some consensus among the Members tonight to do so, President Schweder observed that Council would step back tonight and allow Attorney Spadoni and others to digest the information. Then, President Schweder continued on to say, the matter could be addressed, and Members of Council could meet with Attorney Spadoni on an as needed basis. President Schweder observed that everyone would have probably a better comfort level if Council's own Solicitor were involved. President Schweder, saying he seeks input, inquired is there agreement or disagreement that Attorney Spadoni play an active role.
Mr. Donchez, stating he concurs, said he thinks Council should go on record giving its Solicitor the latitude to work with the Administration and the District Attorneys of Carbon and Monroe Counties to keep Council abreast of developments.
Mrs. Belinski said she also concurs.
President Schweder asked is there any disagreement. Hearing no disagreement, President Schweder turned to Attorney Spadoni and queried whether Attorney Spadoni understands the sense of City Council. Attorney Spadoni replied yes. President Schweder communicated that Attorney Spadoni should proceed.
President Schweder inquired whether anyone in the Administration cares to respond any further at this point.
Mr. Donchez, noting that the process goes back about two years, said if he recalls correctly President Schweder is right that City Council was never shown a written report. Mr. Donchez continued on to say that Members of Council, if he recalls, maybe in August of 2001 or 2002, either individually or in pairs, were briefed by Mr. Meixell and shown pictures about possible cutting of wood. But, at that time, it was just in the early stages of the investigation and a written report was promised more towards the end of the year or early January. However, Mr. Donchez stated Council Members never had a written report but some Members of Council were orally briefed by Mr. Meixell and shown some pictures.
Mrs. Belinski said, since she "was the person who was contacted, they called me and I listened and took countless phone calls. And, bottom line is Bethlehem Police were involved. Mr. Meixell…assured me they were not involved. And, I do not think the Bethlehem Police should have been conducting this investigation. It should have been handed over to a neutral party to perform a Grand Jury investigation as to what was going on up there. Whatever we had in the report, it's all hearsay because we're investigating ourself, per se. We're not going to tell everything on ourself, we're going to cover up. So, I don't think the Bethlehem Police should have been involved in the investigation. There should have been a Grand Jury investigation about what was really going on up there. These people have put up with this for [almost] a dozen years, with a lot of abuse. I have taken so many phone calls on this. And, I finally want it resolved and find out who is doing what. And, I don't think we're going to find out unless we have someone neutral like a Grand Jury investigation [to find out] what was going on up there."
Attorney Leeson asked that when people make comments about this they not presume the Bethlehem Police were involved. Attorney Leeson advised that, if allegations had been presented to him about the Bethlehem Police which he assured never have been presented to him until tonight, "we would not have had Bethlehem Police involved." Attorney Leeson stated this is the very first that this has ever been raised with him. Attorney Leeson added that no evidence has been presented tonight to implicate any member of the Police Department. While acknowledging everyone has the right to make charges and accusations, Attorney Leeson noted that to present evidence in support is a different question. Attorney Leeson said "I can assure you that had anything been even suggested about the Police they would not have been involved."
President Schweder, noting that a lot of things were discussed this evening, observed it is reaching a point where people are talking more about things that are accusations. Pointing out that enough has been stated tonight for individuals to work on, President Schweder commented he is not sure that continued discussions of the matter in any specific ways would serve any purpose since it has been decided that both the City Solicitor and Council Solicitor will take an active role in doing what they can concerning the matter.
So that he can be clear, Mr. Callahan asked whether Attorney Leeson is suggesting it is his belief that the Bethlehem Police Department is involved in the matter.
President Schweder, stressing this is where he was suggesting that Council not head, thought that Attorney Leeson's statement perhaps speaks to the seriousness of those types of allegations. President Schweder commented he would prefer that "we not be interrogating one another".
Illick's Mill Restoration Project
Karen Dolan, 55 Bridle Path Road, Executive Director of the Illick's Mill Partnership, announced that she is going to defer to a student regarding the Illick's Mill restoration project and affirmed there is an allocation in the 2004 CDBG Program for the project.
Katy McIlhaney, 1318 Greenview Drive, on behalf of the students on the Illick's Mill Partnership, thanked the City for all its support in the past. She said that the commitment to restoring the building as a community is very strong. Ms. McIlhaney advised that the students work very hard and try their best to raise as much money as possible. Highlighting the fact that it would be difficult to accomplish the goals without the City's help, Ms. McIlhaney thanked the City again.
South Side - Drugs, Trees, and Lighting
Edward Rodriquez, 535 Pulaski Street, said he is speaking on behalf of some of the residents of the City with whom he has contact every day. Mr. Rodriquez commented that he speaks with them about different problems, what happens in the community, drugs, dealing with the City, and how to try to eliminate some of the problems on the South Side, especially drugs. Mr. Rodriquez asserted that the migration of drugs into Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton has troubled him for a long time. Mr. Rodriquez advised he has met with several individuals, including City officials, and the narcotics divisions, and makes calls every day. Stressing there is a severe problem on the South Side of which the narcotics division is well aware, Mr. Rodriquez observed they cannot get a hold on it fast enough. Mr. Rodriquez said he wants to participate because it is going to get worse before it gets better. Focusing on prevention, Mr. Rodriquez advised he spoke with officials about cutting trees and lighting. He added that people could be innocently walking by at any hour and witness drug-related activity. Acknowledging the fact that the Police cannot be everywhere and are trying, Mr. Rodriquez stated that more participation is needed.
Mr. Rodriquez, while saying he is grateful for the lighting, commented that lighting is needed in other areas in addition to the Five Points area. He pointed out that in the 500 block of Pulaski Street only one light covers the entire area. Mr. Rodriquez, continuing on to advise that trees in certain areas are deteriorating and need to be pruned or taken down, explained that some of the trees could fall and cause damage to property and people. He asked if the situation could be addressed as soon as possible.
Parking Permits and Handicapped Parking Permits
Mr. Rodriquez inquired how many parking permits can be allowed on one particular block, and what is the recommended amount of space. Noting that officials have specified 22 feet, Mr. Rodriquez asserted that is being taken advantage of because some individuals are parking all the way back and trapping someone else in the next parking space. Turning again to parking permits, Mr. Rodriquez explained that on Pawnee Street at 431, 434, and 432 there are handicapped parking spaces. Although one of the individuals is now deceased, the handicapped parking space is still in existence. Mr. Rodriquez inquired if that is permissible, asked that the matter be reviewed, and requested that residents be asked to update their medical records as they pertain to handicapped parking permits. Mr. Rodriquez informed the Members that he presented pictures to the Parking Authority but nothing happened.
Stressing that on his own he has and continues to do everything in his power to help his neighbors, Mr. Rodriquez said now he is asking City officials to look into these matters. Mr. Rodriquez thanked Charles Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, and former Mayor Cunningham for their responsiveness. Mr. Rodriquez reiterated his request that the issue of drugs be dealt with first because it is the key problem.
President Schweder affirmed that he spoke with Mr. Rodriquez on Sunday and advised he would contact him about several of the topics.
Watershed - Office of the Inspector General
William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, informed the assembly that in Washington, D.C. there is an office of the inspector general which investigates any accusations against government employees or people having dealings with the government. In listening to the discussion about the Watershed tonight, Mr. Scheirer contended there is obviously some jurisdictional problems and observed it might be worthwhile for Bethlehem to have a similar type office that could be part-time, and could report to the Mayor or City Council, or be an expansion of the City Solicitor's duties.
South Side - Drugs
Francis Donchez, Jr., Police Commissioner, noting that Mr. Rodriquez left the meeting, affirmed that, with respect to some of his comments, as most of the Members are aware, the City not only has its own narcotics unit but is a member of the Northampton County Drug Task Force and works very closely with Mr. Morganelli, Northampton County District Attorney, who supplies the City with needed resources. In addition, the City is a full time member on the DEA Task Force. Police Commissioner Donchez explained that, while at times it may appear that things are not moving as quickly as people would like when it comes to drug investigation, and noting he had been in charge of that unit for three years, it just takes time and certain protocols and laws must be followed in order to gain evidence and probable cause. Police Commissioner Donchez highlighted the fact that these are issues that do not go unaddressed. He added that Mr. Rodriquez does talk with the City's unit and provides information which is not overlooked. Police Commissioner Donchez commented that Francis Barron, traffic engineer, may have some of the answers to the questions about the handicapped spaces. President Schweder stated that the City Clerk will also contact the Parking Authority.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:55 p.m.