City Council

Council Minutes

February 3, 2004 Meeting Minutes

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Tuesday, February 3, 2004 – 7:30 PM – Town Hall


President J. Michael Schweder called the meeting to order. Reverend Stephen A. Roser of Central Assembly of God offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Ismael Arcelay, Jean Belinski, Robert J. Donchez, Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., Gordon B. Mowrer, Magdalena F. Szabo, and J. Michael Schweder, 7.


The minutes of January 20, 2004 were approved.

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



Dangerous Animals

Mr. Arcelay inquired about the status of a proposal addressing dangerous animals.

John Spirk, City Solicitor, responding he has reviewed the file, noted it seems clear that State law does supersede any local ordinance as to dangerous dogs. Attorney Spirk continued on to say that anything the City would do would be in no force and effect in light of the State law. Turning to the issue of dogs running loose or stray dogs, Attorney Spirk pointed out that the State law speaks to that issue, too, but does not specifically prohibit any action on the part of the local municipality. However, Attorney Spirk advised it is an area that requires some further review. Attorney Spirk continued on to say there are other State laws that speak to dangerous or exotic animals but do not preclude any local action. Attorney Spirk, emphasizing that his office is endeavoring to review the matter and bring it to closure, highlighted the fact that he is not yet at the point to present a draft for Council’s consideration.

Mr. Arcelay, affirming he is aware that the State law does supersede City Ordinance, explained he is referring specifically to the unfortunate incident that occurred last year concerning a vicious dog and a young boy and queried what is the City going to do proactively.

Attorney Spirk responded what needs to be done legally as to dangerous dogs is enforce the State dangerous dogs law. Attorney Spirk continued on to say “no action by your body is required to enforce the existing State law as to dangerous dogs.”

Mr. Arcelay observed there appears to be no recourse to the City when there is a complaint about a dog running loose.

Tony Hanna, Director of Community Development, stated he discussed the matter with the City Solicitor and the Police Commissioner. Acknowledging that Police Officers can enforce the State law, Mr. Hanna said “what we are going to try to do is to coordinate an enforcement effort between Police Officers and also our Health Bureau staff, and we have a number of part-time animal control officers. We’re going to try to look at ways to beef that up a little bit, and delineate and define responsibilities.” Mr. Hanna further communicated that, between the new Health Bureau Director and Police Officers, there will be a cohesive enforcement group who will deal with issues and hopefully become more proactive. Mr. Hanna added that the City “can get proactive with the laws that are in place right now.” Mr. Hanna also noted that the Department may need to come back to Council and possibly make a recommendation for a full-time animal control officer within the Health Bureau as is done in Allentown.

Mayor Callahan, affirming there were discussions about the issue at today’s staff meeting, said he is in complete agreement in terms of the desire to get the mechanism in place for enforcement. Mayor Callahan, observing that the City has to work within the confines of the State law, commented then the City has to determine the best way to enforce the State law regarding vicious dogs; e.g., through the Police Department or Health Bureau or both, as well as any training that may be required, and whether a full-time animal officer would need to be considered. Mayor Callahan, stressing he certainly does not want the same situation as last year to occur again between a vicious dog and a young boy, asserted that the City “needs to come down hard in terms of enforcement on the owners of these animals.” Mayor Callahan, restating that the Administration is working towards that, commented once the legal side is worked out then the enforcement side will be worked out.

President Schweder, observing that the modified State law has been on the books since 1996, asked why it has taken until 2004 for the decision that there had to be a policy. Highlighting the fact that City Council in good faith addressed City legislation proposed last year in the belief it needed to be done, President Schweder said he is curious why it has taken eight years when the City had the enforcement ability to do it.

Mr. Hanna responded that he thinks everybody was acting in good faith in drafting an Ordinance and the issue was proceeding under the thought that the City had to draft its own Ordinance, not recognizing there was already something that would supersede a local Ordinance. While apologizing for the time it took, Mr. Hanna communicated what has to be done is to proceed to come up with a plan to enforce the laws on the books.

Dana Grubb, Deputy Director of Community Development, explained that the staff working on the proposed Ordinance amendment that was submitted to Council operated under the presumption that the City needed to create the law. After First Reading of the Ordinance, one of the environmental health staff members had a conversation with someone in the public health field and discovered that this had been tried in another community and it was found that the State law did supersede local Ordinances. Mr. Grubb recalled that is when the Administration and Council were made aware of that fact. Mr. Grubb commented, prior to that, he cannot answer the question of why the City was not doing enforcement under the State law. Mr. Grubb acknowledged at that point in time he was not aware the State law was in effect. Continuing on to say it is important to sort everything out and determine what can be done locally, Mr. Grubb said if the City cannot do anything locally in terms of legislation then the most important step to take is to understand the State law so when such a problem occurs the City can provide guidance on what steps to take. In addition, Mr. Grubb said the other thing that would need to be done is a good public educational effort so everyone understands that State law rules in this case, and what steps need to be taken when there is a situation involving a vicious dog.

Ms. Szabo, advising that dangerous dogs is one of the issues she will be talking about when she meets with Mr. Hanna next week, stated as soon as possible the matter will be passed on to Council for immediate action.

Mrs. Belinski, with reference to a memorandum from Mr. Grubb, noted it states that Third Class Cities do have the option of adopting their own dog law, but only if a City adopts its own licensing and enforcement ordinance.

Attorney Spirk pointed out that does not seem to apply to dangerous dogs.

Water Loss

Mr. Donchez asked whether there is a time frame for bringing a final report to City Council on the water loss issue as far as the results of the study and status of the issue.

Mayor Callahan, noting he has met with the Chairman of the Bethlehem Authority and talked about the water loss issue, advised that a final test to look at the Venturi meters is in process of completion to determine if they are a source of inaccurate readings and what impact that has on actual water loss. Certain smaller meters used to conduct the test are being ordered, and, after the test is completed which would take about six weeks, a final report could be given in terms of a recommendation for the water loss situation and what the City is losing; e.g., is it a matter of the meters not reading correctly, is the water really being lost, or is the water unaccounted for.


A. Liquor License Transfer Request – From Lehigh Township To 1214 Stefko Boulevard

The Clerk read a letter dated January 29, 2004 from Attorney Gene F. Roscioli, as follows: “In January 2003, an application was 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. The application is unchanged.”

Scheduling Public Hearing

Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski moved to schedule a Public Hearing on Tuesday, February 17, 2004 at 7:30 PM in Town Hall.

Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The motion passed.

B. Director of Parks and Public Property – Property Exchange with Donald Ronca – Saucon Park Vicinity

The Clerk read a memorandum dated January 29, 2004 from Charles A. Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, containing a request for exchange of property of Donald Ronca at the corner of Arden and Henry Streets, appraised at $7,000, in exchange for City property at the corner of Arden and Ravena Streets, appraised at $58,500. The property exchange would result in expanding existing Saucon Park property as well as allowing the developer to expand. The Agreement of Sale for real estate was prepared with a $50,000 cash settlement to the City. The proposal is for an alternative procedure for sale in lieu of public bid. The benefit to the City is expansion of the Saucon Park area, generation of additional revenue for the City, and addition of property to the tax rolls.

President Schweder referred the proposal to the Parks and Public Property Committee.


A. President of Council

1. Councilmanic Appointment – Robert J. Donchez – Library Board

Mr. Leeson and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,284 which appointed Robert J. Donchez to membership on the Library Board effective until January 2007.

Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.

Considering Resolutions As A Group

Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Arcelay moved to consider Resolutions 8B2 through 8B7 as a group.

In response to Mr. Leeson’s query about abstaining from voting on Resolution 8B5, Attorney Spadoni pointed out that a Member of Council may abstain from voting if the Member has a conflict of interest. While recognizing that Loretta Leeson is Mr. Leeson’s wife, Attorney Spadoni observed there is no financial interest or personal gain, so he would ask Mr. Leeson to vote on the Resolution.

Mr. Leeson, affirming that he would vote on the Resolution, highlighted the fact that Mrs. Leeson’s service on the Recreation Commission is by virtue of her membership on the Bethlehem Area School Board, and the position on the Recreation Commission is unpaid, with no salary or benefits.

Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The motion passed.

2. Councilmanic Appointment – Janet E. Greenleaf – Library Board

Mr. Leeson and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,285 which reappointed Janet E. Greenleaf to membership on the Library Board effective until January 2007.

3. Councilmanic Appointment – Shaku Jain-Cocks – Library Board

Mr. Leeson and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,286 which appointed Shaku Jain-Cocks to membership on the Library Board effective until January 2007.

4. Councilmanic Appointment – Peter J. Howard – Recreation Commission

Mr. Leeson and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,287 which reappointed Peter J. Howard to membership on the Recreation Commission effective until January 2009.

5. Councilmanic Appointment – Loretta M. Leeson – Recreation Commission

Mr. Donchez and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,288 which reappointed Loretta M. Leeson to membership on the Recreation Commission effective until January 2009.

6. Councilmanic Appointment – Robin Metzler – Recreation Commission

Mr. Leeson and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,289 which appointed Robin Metzler to membership on the Recreation Commission effective until January 2009.

7. Councilmanic Appointment – Francis J. Pecuch, Jr. – Recreation Commission

Mr. Leeson and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,290 which reappointed Francis J. Pecuch, Jr. to membership on the Recreation Commission effective until January 2009.

Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolutions passed.

8. Committee Assignments – 2004-2005

President Schweder, affirming that the Committee Assignments for the years 2004 and 2005 have been distributed, asked that they be entered into the record, as follows:

Community Development Parks and Public
Committee Property Committee

Magdalena F. Szabo, Chairwoman Jean Belinski, Chairwoman
Jean Belinski Robert J. Donchez
Joseph F. Leeson Joseph F. Leeson

Finance Committee Public Safety Committee

Robert J. Donchez, Chairman Joseph F. Leeson, Chairman
Jean Belinski Ismael Arcelay
Gordon B. Mowrer Robert J. Donchez

Human Resources and
Environment Committee Public Works Committee

Ismael Arcelay, Chairman Gordon B. Mowrer, Chairman
Gordon B. Mowrer Ismael Arcelay
Magdalena F. Szabo Magdalena F. Szabo

9. Executive Session Announcement

President Schweder announced that City Council will meet in Executive Session this evening in the Mayor’s Conference Room upon the adjournment of the City Council Meeting for the City Solicitor to report to City Council concerning litigation and issues on which identifiable complaints are expected to be filed.

B. Mayor

1. Administrative Order – Anthony V. Matejicka, II – Medical Director

Mayor John B. Callahan appointed Anthony V. Matejicka, II, as Medical Director effective as of February 3, 2004. Mr. Leeson and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,291 to confirm the appointment.

Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.






A. Authorizing Execution of Polling Place Agreement – Lehigh County – DAR House

Mr. Leeson and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,292 which authorized the Mayor and the Controller to execute a Polling Place Agreement between the County of Lehigh and the City for use of the D.A.R. House – Rose Garden, Eighth Avenue, as a polling place for the years 2004-2005-2006-2007, in accordance with the Agreement.

Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.


Sympathy Card

Ms. Szabo asked for the concurrence of Council to send a letter of sympathy to the family of former State Representative William Rybak who died.

U.S. Conference of Mayors

Ms. Szabo asked Mayor Callahan for a brief summary of his recent attendance at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the feeling of the Mayors about economic development and other major issues and concerns.

Mayor Callahan, thanking Council for the funding of the U.S. Conference of Mayors that is available to cities with populations of 30,000 and above, pointed out it is a resource for the Administration. Mayor Callahan observed there is not a single issue that Bethlehem is dealing with now, whether Brownfields, crime, neighborhood issues, or city design, that is not also faced by every other city. Mayor Callahan pointed out that he had the opportunity to share best practices with other cities and Mayors, and obtained information about customer service delivery. Mayor Callahan stressed “we’re all struggling with the same issues”. Mayor Callahan further stated he is interested in plans that already work and have been successful in other cities. As a result of his attendance at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Mayor Callahan informed the Members that, at no expense to the taxpayers, he will be taking part in the Mayor’s Institute on City Design next week in Charleston, South Carolina for three days. Mayor Callahan explained that, along with representatives from seven other cities, he will have the opportunity to make a presentation, that will be on the Bethlehem Works project, and receive feedback from nationally renowned experts.


First House in Bethlehem

Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, related accounts about the first house in Bethlehem built February 4, 1741 and overlooking the Monocacy Creek bed where the Radisson Hotel Bethlehem parking garage is now located. The Daughters of the American Revolution had a reproduction of the house made and it is located in the Rose Garden on Eighth Avenue. However, Mr. Antalics continued on to point out that another house built along the Lehigh River was swept away by a flood, and the owner built a new house at a safer distance from the stream. The Moravians found shelter there while building Whitfield school and their first house in Bethlehem the next year. Querying what is the first house in Bethlehem, Mr. Antalics said, historically, Mr. Yaslestein gets rewarded since he was here at least 1737 or earlier. Pointing out that the Yaslestein house was built on the South Side while the Moravian’s house was built on the North Side, Mr. Antalics quipped that may be the reason why his house is not recognized as the first house in Bethlehem.

Patriot Act

Peter Crownfield, 569 Brighton Street, said he is at the meeting also as a member of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee of the Lehigh Valley. Mr. Crownfield highlighted the fact that on January 23, 2004 Muhlenberg College faculty passed a resolution, without dissent, expressing concern over the impact of the Patriot Act and related actions including the Homeland Security Act and various other executive orders. It urged local government and area colleges to work together to protect the Bill of Rights, civil liberties, and academic freedom. Referring to an article in today’s Morning Call newspaper, Mr. Crownfield said it liberally quoted a representative from the Department of Justice and omitted information provided to the newspaper specifically relating every paragraph of the Muhlenberg College resolution. Mr. Crownfield expressed his opinion that it was a “blatant attempt to frighten people, to manipulate public opinion, and to stifle dissent.” Mr. Crownfield expressed the hope that in the near future Bethlehem will consider passing a resolution similarly to protect civil liberties as has been done in other cities.

Alex Grosscurth, 39 University Drive, noted he is a student at Lehigh University and is at the meeting representing the Bill of Rights Defense Committee of the Lehigh Valley along with Mr. Crownfield, and also the students of Lehigh University. Mr. Grosscurth stated he is a member of the progressive student alliance focused on fighting the apathy of the student body, and generating civic activity and political action. Mr. Grosscurth communicated that the Patriot Act redefines terrorism so broadly that members of activist groups can now also be considered domestic terrorists. Furthermore, Mr. Grosscurth said the Patriot Act allows the federal government to pursue secret surveillance including monitoring e-mails, Internet activity, and library records. Mr. Grosscurth remarked that personally he finds it very troubling that he could go to the public library, check out a book, and could be sent to a federal list that marks him as a threat to security. Mr. Grosscurth, pointing out that civic activism and dissent of government policies, free speech, and the ability to obtain free information without surveillance are staples of the country’s democracy, said “we feel that these are now being threatened by this Patriot Act. Therefore, I would also like to request that the Bethlehem City Council join the list of over 235 cities that have already passed a resolution against the Patriot Act.”

Jose Pitti, noting he is a student at Lehigh University, said the Patriot Act threatens the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, the Sixth Amendment, the Eighth Amendment, and the Fourteenth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Mr. Pitti added that he would feel a lot safer if the City Council of the City in which he lives passed a resolution protecting his rights, and protecting him from undue searches and seizures of his property. Mr. Pitti asked that Bethlehem, like over 235 other cities across the United States, consider a resolution against the Patriot Act.

President Schweder advised that Mr. Crownfield has met with him, and with Members of City Council. President Schweder, continuing on to say there have been discussions about how to move forward concerning the issue, expressed there would be some resolution probably within the next week or so and he will confer with Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor. Noting he has raised with Mr. Crownfield some of the concerns as far as formalizing the matter, President Schweder commented that many Members share many of the concerns and a decision will be made shortly.

Water Loss

William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, referring to the water loss issue, provided an update on his efforts to do a statistical analysis of the data that was supplied from other systems in the Lehigh Valley to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. Mr. Scheirer noted he requested any additional reports for 2002 because the preliminary number he gave Council was based on half of the reporting for 2002 and half of the reporting for earlier years. Mr. Scheirer, advising he is going to go back to the beginning and eliminate the double counting that exists when one system sells water to another, said this tends to increase the total amount of water, which tends to drive down the percentage of water that is unaccounted for. Mr. Scheirer continued on to say the estimate of 22-1/2% that he gave City Council some months ago is actually on the low side. When he eliminates the double counting, Mr. Scheirer guessed it is not going to go up to the 28-1/2% that Bethlehem reported for 2002 but it will get closer to it. Mr. Scheirer asserted this is only as good as the data that is reported to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:20 p.m.

City Clerk