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March 2, 2004 Meeting Minutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
Tuesday, March 2, 2004 – 7:30 PM – Town Hall
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President J. Michael Schweder called the meeting to order. Reverend Dr. Lloyd H. Steffen of Lehigh University 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.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The minutes of February 17, 2004 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
Dangerous Dog Ordinance
Mr. Arcelay inquired about the status of the ordinance pertaining to dangerous dogs.
John Spirk, City Solicitor, replied that a memorandum has been drafted that will be distributed to City Council providing Attorney Spirk’s opinion as to the legal status of matters. Attorney Spirk continued on to advise that today he spoke with the Police Commissioner and the Community and Economic Development Director about enforcement mechanisms, and possible public education efforts that could be conducted to raise public awareness of who to call and how to make a complaint. Attorney Spirk noted it is the intent, after sending the memorandum, to make a request to appear before the appropriate Council Committee to discuss some of the things that the Administration would like to implement with regards to public education and enforcement, and the possibility of perhaps some legislative action. Attorney Spirk added, however, that the issue of legislation may be covered with a combination of State law and the City’s Ordinances that are already in place.
Mr. Arcelay, noting he attended a Block Watch meeting last night, communicated he thinks the City should be a little more proactive since the weather will be getting warmer, and complaints about dogs are being received again.
A. Police Commissioner – Training Grant – MPOETC
The Clerk read a memorandum dated February 19, 2004 from Francis R. Donchez, Jr., Police Commissioner, requesting consideration of a resolution for approval of a Field Training Officer Course grant application through the Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Commission. The course, scheduled for May 10-13, 2004, is taught by Penn State University, and the cost is $6,200.
President Schweder stated that authorizing Resolution 11 C is listed on the Agenda.
B. Public Works Director – Lighted School Warning Device – William Penn School
The Clerk read a memorandum dated February 26, 2004 from Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, requesting consideration of a resolution to erect, operate and maintain a lighted school warning device for William Penn School in the 900-1000 blocks of Main Street. The design of the traffic signal is complete and acceptable to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation provided the City agrees to erect, operate and maintain it. The total cost of engineering and erection of the light is $8,000. Funding in the amount of $5,000 has been committed by State Representative Steve Samuelson’s office, and the remaining $3,000 will be donated by Moravian College.
President Schweder stated that authorizing Resolution 11 G is listed on the Agenda.
C. City Solicitor – Right of Way and Easement Acquisitions Associated with Paint Mill Bridge Replacement Project
The Clerk read a memorandum dated February 27, 2004 from John F. Spirk, Jr., City Solicitor, requesting approval to execute the Agreements and Sale and all related easement documents with four adjacent property owners concerning the replacement project of the Paint Mill Bridge. The Solicitor’s office has prepared the necessary Agreements of Sale and related documents for the acquisition of the additional rights-of-way and various easements from the four affected property owners: Bethlehem Racquetball Club, Sharkan Realty, Inc., Jeffrey Metzler and Donald Houck, and Gail Beitelman. Approval was also requested of an Ordinance allowing the City to move forward with eminent domain proceedings against Mr. Metzler and Mr. Houck. The eminent domain proceeding can be discontinued in the event of an agreement.
President Schweder stated that authorizing Ordinance 10 B is listed on the Agenda for First Reading.
D. Public Works Director – Amended Federal Aid Reimbursement Agreement – Paint Mill Bridge
The Clerk read a memorandum dated February 26, 2004 from Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, requesting consideration of a resolution for an amendment to Reimbursement Agreement No. 050218-C to add funds in the amount of $1,570,000 for construction and $330,000 for inspection and engineering consultation during construction for the Paint Mill Bridge project. The City will be reimbursed 95% of these costs.
President Schweder stated that authorizing Resolution 11 H is listed on the Agenda.
8 . REPORTS
A. President of Council
1. Administrative Order – Anthony Matejicka, II – Civil Service Board – Engineers’ and Electricians’
Mayor John B. Callahan appointed Anthony Matejicka, II to the Civil Service Board – Engineers’ and Electricians’, effective until February 2008. Mr. Donchez and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,300 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.
2. Administrative Order – David Sanders – Bethlehem Housing Authority
Mayor John B. Callahan appointed David Sanders to the Bethlehem Housing Authority, effective until January 2007. Mr. Donchez and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,301 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.
3. Administrative Order – Cheryl A. Dougan – Fine Arts Commission
Mayor John B. Callahan appointed Cheryl A. Dougan to the Fine Arts Commission, effective until February 2007. Mr. Donchez and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,302 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.
C. Finance Committee
Mr. Donchez, Chairman of the Finance Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee meeting held on Wednesday, February 18, 2004 on the following subjects: 2004 Bond Issue – Non-Utility Capital Budget – General Fund Equipment - $366,120 , and Bond Issue – Sewer Capital Budget – Sewer Projects - $2,000,000.
D. Public Safety Committee
Mr. Leeson, Chairman of the Public Safety Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee meeting held on February 19, 2004 on the following subject: Revisions to Police Civil Service Rules and Regulations – Physical Condition/Agility Test Items, and Nelson-Denny Reading Test.
E. Parks and Public Property Committee
Mrs. Belinski, Chairwoman of the Parks and Public Property Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee meeting held on February 24, 2004 on the following subjects: Lease Agreement – Portion of Johnston Park – Bethlehem Housing Authority; Property Exchange – Saucon Park Vicinity (Ravena, Arden, and Henry Streets) – Donald Ronca; and Saucon Park – Fields and Conditions.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 1 – 2004 – 2004 Bond Issue – Non-Utility Capital Projects-General Fund Equipment ($366,120) and Sewer Capital Projects ($2,000,000)
The Clerk read Bill No. 1 – 2004, 2004 Bond Issue – Non-Utility Capital Projects and Sewer Capital Projects, sponsored by Mr. Donchez and Mr. Arcelay, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM, LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON COUNTIES, PENNSYLVANIA (THE “CITY”), AUTHORIZING AND DIRECTING ISSUANCE OF GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS, SERIES OF 2004, IN THE AGGREGATE PRINCIPAL AMOUNT OF $2,500,000 (THE “BONDS”), AS PERMITTED BY AND PURSUANT TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNIT DEBT ACT, 53 Pa. C.S. § 8001 ET SEQ., AS AMENDED AND SUPPLEMENTED, FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROVIDING FUNDS TO BE APPLIED FOR AND TOWARD CERTAIN CAPITAL PROJECTS; DETERMINING THAT THE BONDS SHALL BE SOLD AT PRIVATE SALE BY NEGOTIATION; DETERMINING THAT SUCH DEBT SHALL BE NONELECTORAL DEBT OF THE CITY; ACCEPTING A PROPOSAL FOR PURCHASE OF THE BONDS, AT PRIVATE SALE, AND AWARDING THE BONDS; PROVIDING FOR MATURITIES AND INTEREST RATES; APPOINTING A PAYING AGENT, REGISTRAR AND SINKING FUND DEPOSITORY; PROVIDING FOR THE TERMS OF THE BONDS INCLUDING DENOMINATIONS, DATE, INTEREST PAYMENT DATES AND RECORD DATES; PROVIDING FOR THE REGISTRATION AND TRANSFER OF THE BONDS; SETTING FORTH REDEMPTION FEATURES AND PROCEDURES; AUTHORIZING THE EXECUTION AND AUTHENTICATION OF THE BONDS; COVENANTING TO PAY DEBT SERVICE AND PLEDGING THE FULL FAITH, CREDIT AND TAXING POWER FOR THE PAYMENT OF THE BONDS; CREATING SINKING FUNDS IN CONNECTION WITH THE BONDS AS REQUIRED BY SUCH ACT; APPROPRIATING PROCEEDS OF THE BONDS; DESCRIBING THE CAPITAL PROJECTS FOR WHICH DEBT OF THE CITY EVIDENCED BY THE BONDS IS TO BE INCURRED AND SPECIFYING A REASONABLE ESTIMATE OF THE USEFUL LIFE OF EACH OF SAID CAPITAL PROJECT; SETTING FORTH CERTAIN COVENANTS RELATING TO THE NON-ARBITRAGE STATUS OF THE BONDS AND DESIGNATING THE BONDS AS QUALIFIED TAX-EXEMPT OBLIGATIONS PURSUANT TO SECTION 265(b)(3) OF THE INTERNAL REVENUE CODE OF 1986, AS AMENDED; RATIFYING PRIOR ADVERTISEMENT AND DIRECTING FURTHER ADVERTISEMENT; AUTHORIZING AND DIRECTING THE PREPARATION, EXECUTION AND FILING OF A TRANSCRIPT OF PROCEEDINGS, INCLUDING A DEBT STATEMENT AND BORROWING BASE CERTIFICATE, WITH THE PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT; AUTHORIZING AND DIRECTING THE OFFICERS AND OFFICIALS OF THE CITY TO EXECUTE AND DELIVER DOCUMENTS AND TO TAKE ACTION AS MAY BE NECESSARY RELATING TO THE ISSUANCE OF THE BONDS; RATIFYING THE PRELIMINARY OFFICIAL STATEMENT AND THE DISTRIBUTION THEREOF AND AUTHORIZING THE APPROVAL AND DISTRIBUTION OF A FINAL OFFICIAL STATEMENT AND THE USE THEREOF IN CONNECTION WITH THE SALE OF THE BONDS; CREATING A CLEARING ACCOUNT AND A PROJECT ACCOUNT; AUTHORIZING THE PAYMENT OF EXPENSES; PROVIDING GUIDELINES FOR PERMITTED INVESTMENTS; AUTHORIZING THE PURCHASE OF A POLICY OF MUNICIPAL BOND INSURANCE; PROVIDING FOR THE AUTHORIZATION OF OFFICERS; ADOPTING THE FORM OF BOND; COVENANTING TO PROVIDE CONTINUING DISCLOSURE; PROVIDING FOR SEVERABILITY OF PROVISIONS AND REPEALING INCONSISTENT ORDINANCES.
Mr. Leeson commented that he has some reservations about the bond issue pertaining to the use of municipal bond proceeds to purchase automobiles; i.e., police cars. Mr. Leeson continued on to say that he personally subscribes to the philosophy that in government when money is borrowed it should really be for capital improvements, repairs to, construction of, and investment in public facilities. Mr. Leeson did not think from a fiscal policy standpoint that it is the most appropriate use of the borrowing mechanism of municipal bonds to purchase items such as police cars. Mr. Leeson said for him “it is analogous to mortgaging the house to pay for the groceries.” Mr. Leeson thought that the indirect, unintended consequence of doing so is to frustrate the concept of competitive bidding. Mr. Leeson explained that all government agencies are required to obtain competitive bids on items and goods to be purchased. Mr. Leeson continued on to say it has been a long-standing obligation and practice of the City to bid things like police cars and the City always gets good prices. However, when money is borrowed for the purpose of purchasing police cars and interest expense is incurred, Mr. Leeson stressed “it really frustrates that goal of getting the lowest price possible for the public, and we end up in a bottom line context of paying more per vehicle because of the allocation of the interest expense incurred in connection with the bond issue. So, we end up paying more than we really should.” Mr. Leeson further remarked that for items such as automobiles, every citizen, as well as every government agency, “should try to have as sharp a pencil as possible to purchase things at the absolute lowest cost possible.” Mr. Leeson restated that he has some reservations about the concept of including that component in the bond issue because he thinks it frustrates the City’s purpose to try to get things at the best price and the lowest cost possible.
Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, replied that the police cars were bid because the City has to go out for bid on the cars and tries to get the lowest price possible.
Ms. Szabo recalled that in December 2003 when there was discussion about the purchase of police cars she asked whether the cars were really needed right now and the answer was that it would be nice to have but the City could do without them. Ms. Szabo said it bothers her, too, that police cars are included in this bond issue, or in any bond issue.
Mrs. Belinski queried what would Mr. Leeson suggest in the way of deleting the cars but still approving the bond issue.
Mr. Leeson, responding he does not know the answer to the question, stated, if he were asked, what would be acceptable to him would be to delete that provision and modify the amount of the bond accordingly. Mr. Leeson said “as it stands now, I don’t favor the bond issue because I think it’s an imprudent incurring of unnecessary expense.” Mr. Leeson added he does not know whether or not it is feasible to modify the bond issue at this point.
Mr. Mowrer asked if Council could hear from Mr. Donchez.
Mr. Donchez, stating that he supports the bond, commented that he would hope in the future that the City does not get into a pattern of putting small items in a bond issue every two years. Mr. Donchez communicated “we all know the debate that we had this past year, and we had the debate two years ago, and I just hope that the precedent stops now.” Agreeing that Mr. Leeson has raised some good points, Mr. Donchez commented that goes across the board with many small items for which the same point of argument could be given. Mr. Donchez said he would hope that, if at all possible, in two years Council does not see such items in the next bond issue. Mr. Donchez, restating that he supports the bond issue, remarked it is the lesser of two evils.
Mr. Mowrer inquired about the amount for the police cars.
Mr. Reichard replied that the amount for three police cars is about $96,000. The total interest cost for the equipment in the Non-Utility Capital Budget is approximately $80,000.
Mayor Callahan, while acknowledging it will be the decision of Council, observed that in using that line of reasoning, the police cars are probably the items that will have the longest life of the equipment.
Mr. Leeson stated that, for the sake of completeness, his comments were focused on all the items including the cars, weed whackers, etc.
President Schweder, advising that he is going to vote against the proposal this evening, observed what Mr. Donchez says is simply what Council said last year. President Schweder asserted that, in looking at the history of the matter, “this is unprecedented in putting these kinds of expenditures into a bond. The reason we did that was because in the one year when we had to pay off the penalty from the Internal Revenue Service…we could not float a bond for that, it had to be taken out of General Fund revenues. Mr. Donchez…who asked me to go to Washington to meet with the Department there to talk about how we could get around the penalty which…came back then as the recommendation that we made. And those [items] were placed into that bond for that one given year for us to be able to make the payment for the penalty that was assessed upon us for…selling the bonds before they had matured and then were taxable at that point. In last year’s budget we went through this, and I supported Mayor Cunningham’s budget at that time including this. But at that time I said this makes absolutely no sense. No business would…run their fiscal matters this way. As we went through that in a given year I had the discussion with our former Mayor, Mr. Delgrosso, [whose proposal this is]…and simply told him that were he sitting there tonight I would be opposed to this.” Aside from the merit of whether or not people think the cars are needed, President Schweder stressed “it is that you simply do not purchase things like this through a bond issue. And, I think that if we are able to defeat this tonight, perhaps another proposal will come back before us, and maybe we will talk about those things that are specifically needed. I think the other thing that we ought to look at here is that going back at least for three or four Administrations is that bond issues were only sent before Council every other year, and what it comes down to is we had that discussion a year ago about that we were not going to see another bond except in the cycle that has always existed, as City Council and previous Administrations have worked. That is not the case. This is back before us [in] one year…And, I think for all those reasons it just makes sense that we not approve this at this point and that, if need be, we will go back and ask to take a look at those things that are strategically and importantly needed that need to be financed through a bond…But this is not a solution as I see it at this point.”
Mayor Callahan, communicating that he echoes many of the sentiments as he has spoken about when he was a Member of Council during the Budget hearings, noted that he does see this as an off-year round of borrowing for a Non-Utility Capital Budget. Mayor Callahan recalled he has often said this is not the ideal way to borrow to purchase equipment of this nature through a bond issue. However, Mayor Callahan said as far as going back to look at which items are absolutely necessary or not necessary “none of these items are budgeted for this year’s budget. So if we didn’t purchase them through a bond issue, there is no money in the Budget to purchase them otherwise. President Schweder interjected he is aware of that. Mayor Callahan observed then, at some point, “we’d have to just do without the equipment this year. Apparently this was equipment that was important enough for Council to vote for in the Budget process, so I don’t know how you reconcile those two things.” Mayor Callahan pointed out that the City would not be able to purchase the equipment items as a free-standing bond issue since it would never make sense to do a bond issue that small. Consequently, Mayor Callahan noted the only way it makes sense is to “piggy-back” it with the Sewer Capital Projects Bond Issue that involves some timing.
Mr. Reichard said he would hope that City Council would at least approve the Sewer Capital Projects Bond Issue “because there are needed capital projects…that need to be done and we don’t have any cash in Sewer…And the reason why we don’t have any cash in Sewer…is…Council borrowed…$4 or $5 million out of the Sewer Fund…And, we were forced to have to do this…Sewer Revenue Bond with the 8% [sewer rate] increase. We kept the increase down figuring we would have the borrowing. But we need the Sewer [Bond] Issue because there are capital needs…that need to be done…The sewer [Bond Issue] is very critical. If you don’t want to do the Non-Utility, that’s up to you…But I would implore you to at least approve the Sewer [Bond] Issue.” Mr. Reichard, informing the Members that the Sewer debt remaining is approximately $795,000 and will be paid off in the next four or five years, pointed out that the sewer fund does not carry a heavy debt. Adding that this will not affect matters related to the Act 537 analysis, Mr. Reichard stressed “these are definite projects we need to do, and we just do not have the cash to do it.”
Mr. Leeson recalled that in December 2003, when he was the City Solicitor, there was a large, unexpected insurance refund that was coming to the City.
Mr. Reichard, confirming there was insurance money that came to the City at the end of last year, advised it is spent. Mr. Reichard stated that the Sewer Fund ended the year with a $175,000 balance versus previous balances in the $5,000,000 range.
President Schweder queried on which budgeted items the insurance refund was spent.
Mr. Reichard responded that the money was spent upfront for the repairs at the Wastewater Treatment Plant as a result of the damage that occurred last year to the digester roof. In turn, the insurance refund was used to reimburse the Sewer Fund for the repair work costs.
Mr. Leeson inquired about the workers compensation refund.
Mr. Reichard replied that the workers compensation refund would possibly be issued this year.
Mr. Mowrer asked, if the matter were referred back to Committee, what would be the alternatives for reexamination.
President Schweder noted that the Committee or Council could amend the Bond Issue with certain deletions, could reject the proposal, the Committee could sent it back to Council, or the Bond Issue could be passed as is. President Schweder suggested that, if the matter is not sent back to Committee, the amendments be made on Final Reading so that they are in writing in advance; or, Bill No. 1 – 2004 could be re-referred to the Finance Committee.
Mr. Mowrer expressed that, since it is an important issue, it would be worthy of taking the time to go back to Committee for re-examination by all Members of Council and “come up with some pretty hard and fast rules about what we think bonding is all about and what we want it for.”
Mrs. Belinski commented that she agrees.
Mr. Mowrer moved to re-refer Bill No. 1 – 2004 to the Finance Committee. Mrs. Belinski seconded the motion.
Mr. Donchez asked how this would affect the bond issue process including the interest rates, etc.
Mr. Reichard, advising that the Bond Issue was going to go to the bond market next week to sell the bonds and then close the Issue at the next City Council Meeting, confirmed that the Bond Issue process will be affected and would have to be halted. Mr. Reichard further observed that, apparently, interest rates will be stable but it is still unknown for certain. Remarking that if the concern of City Council is the Non-Utility portion that contains the General Fund Equipment then the Non-Utility portion could be pulled, Mr. Reichard insisted that the Sewer Capital portion must be done. Mr. Reichard added that, whether it is an off-bond year or not, the Sewer Capital projects need to be done and there is no cash to do them.
President Schweder commented that is why the City is in this position, and in following the lead of proposals that came in past years, is the economic proposals advanced by the Administration and previous Administrations “have all come home to roost”, and there is no cash left in these funds to do those requirements. President Schweder observed that, having arrived at this point and now saying these are of the utmost urgency, this could have been done except for the way the fiscal house was kept over the last six years, and this is just one more step along the way as to why this cannot be done.
Mr. Reichard recounted that during the Budget hearings he mentioned that the Sewer Capital Projects was a point. Mr. Reichard continued on to say that Standard and Poors reaffirmed the City’s rating of A Minus which, he pointed out, is a very good rating for the City based on its financials, audit, and development. Mr. Reichard added that the rating agency was somewhat optimistic about where the City was going to be and reaffirmed the A Minus rating which is excellent considering what a lot of cities are facing. Mr. Reichard reiterated that the Sewer Capital Projects Bond Issue is extremely important to the City and the City needs to go ahead with the Sewer Capital Bond Issue.
Mayor Callahan added that the City continues to pay down more debt than it takes on, so the City’s debt is not being increased over time.
President Schweder noted that more debt could be paid down if this Bond Issue were not done and the City would keep to the schedule it has been on for the last twenty years of paying down debt.
Mayor Callahan stated there have been much needed capital projects at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, and the option in how to deal with those would be to raise sewer rates, do a bond issue, or do nothing. Mayor Callahan continued on to state it was the recommendation of the previous Administration, approved by this Council, to include both an 8% sewer rate increase and a $2 million Bond Issue to address the Sewer Capital Projects. Mayor Callahan, observing it could have been handled in a different way, and the City could choose to do nothing, communicated he does not see one as better than another but rather this is the way it was chosen to do it. Mayor Callahan highlighted the fact that the sewer capital projects will have a life span at least as long as the Bond Issue which is typically how large capital projects are funded.
Mr. Donchez asked if some of the improvements contained in the $2 million Sewer Capital Bond Issue are not made is there a chance the City would be in violation of any codes.
Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, while saying he cannot be sure but does not believe so, stressed they are much needed improvements to prevent breakdown and so on. Mr. Alkhal stated he would have to get back to Mr. Donchez with an answer to the question.
Ms. Szabo asked what are the sewer capital projects that are so absolutely necessary, and what percentage of the Bond Issue is dedicated to these problems at the Sewer Plant.
Mayor Callahan replied that $2,000,000 of the Bond Issue will go towards sewer projects and $360,000 will go towards General Fund equipment. Mayor Callahan, recounting that the projects were reviewed during the Budget hearing process, noted that he does not have the list with him at this evening’s meeting.
Ms. Szabo asked if Mr. Alkhal could refresh Council’s memory as to some of the projects.
Mr. Alkhal, advising he does not have the list with him, stated there are about 20 sewer capital projects that range from replacing outdated pumping equipment, to replacing conveyor belts that are old and experiencing breakdowns, to improving some of the facilities. Mr. Alkhal, commenting that some of the projects have been on the books for several years, noted they had to be prioritized and it is now time to get the projects done before it gets worse.
Ms. Szabo inquired over what period of time will the work be concluded with the $2 million Bond Issue.
Mr. Alkhal replied most projects will be done by the year’s end, and some may carry over into early next year. Mr. Alkhal, advising that the process has been started, explained the Administration has gone as far as it can on the projects without spending money, meaning the projects have been identified, requests for proposal have been developed, and when the bond funds are received the bids will go out. Mr. Alkhal added that, ideally, the Administration was trying to achieve all the projects by the end of the year.
President Schweder, noting that the only thing debatable now is the merits of either sending the matter back to Committee or not, pointed out that Council cannot debate the merits of what is in the proposal.
Mr. Mowrer inquired whether, to help make that decision, it is possible to vote tonight on just the $2 million Bond Issue for the Sewer Capital Projects.
President Schweder noted that an oral amendment could be offered with a second, and all the applicable language would have to be stricken, a majority vote would be needed on the amendment, and if the Bill were passed on First Reading it would come back before City Council in two weeks for passage at the next City Council Meeting. However, President Schweder highlighted the fact that one simple amendment is not possible in that various language in the Bond Issue document would need to be stricken. President Schweder suggested that, if the matter is re-referred to the Finance Committee, he would ask that the Chairman of the Finance Committee review the matter prior to the next City Council Meeting.
President Schweder restated that the motion is to refer the $2,500,000 Bond Issue, as contained in Bill No. 1 – 2004, to the Finance Committee, with the understanding that the matter be reviewed during the next two weeks, work with legal counsel in writing the acceptable amendment, and have the Bill come back before City Council at its March 16, 2004 Meeting. President Schweder further stated that the Members of Council could vote on Bill No. 1 – 2004 this evening on First Reading, and then refer it to Committee, which would keep the Bond Issue on schedule, if that is Council’s wish.
Mr. Leeson, observing that President Schweder’s latter suggestion might keep the process orderly, said he is willing to vote Aye on the Bond Issue as it stands in its current format so that there is no down time and there is also no question at a later date about a procedural process. Mr. Leeson communicated he would vote tonight with the understanding that the matter is going back to Committee, that his vote tonight is without prejudice, and that he would vote yes or no on Final Reading which he would think would be a different document.
Mr. Mowrer said he would withdraw his motion, and stated that the suggestion is acceptable.
President Schweder stated that the roll will now be called on First Reading of Bill No. 1 – 2004.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, and Ms. Szabo, 6. Voting NAY: Mr. Schweder, 1. Bill No. 1 – 2004 was declared passed on First Reading.
Motion – Referring Bill No. 1 – 2004, 2004 Bond Issue, To Finance Committee
Mr. Mowrer moved to refer Bill No. 1 – 2004 back to the Finance Committee. Mrs. Belinski seconded the motion.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, and Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The motion passed.
B. Bill No. 2 – 2004 – Acquiring Right of Way – Paint Mill Bridge Replacement
The Clerk read Bill No. 2 – 2004 – Acquiring Right of Way – Paint Mill Bridge Replacement, sponsored by Mr. Donchez and Mr. Arcelay, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE AUTHORIZING THE CITY SOLICITOR
AND/OR THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC WORKS TO SELECT
AND APPROPRIATE CERTAIN PLOTS OF GROUND WITH
THE IMPROVEMENTS THEREON SITUATED FOR THE
PURPOSE OF ACQUIRING RIGHT-OF-WAY IN
CONNECTION WITH THE REPLACEMENT OF THE PAINT
MILL BRIDGE IN THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM.
Mr. Leeson, while noting he is supportive of the Bill and the road widening project needs to be done, observed that, in essence, a lawsuit is being authorized against some citizens by potentially proceeding in this direction. Mr. Leeson asked if the citizens and property owners are aware and fully briefed on the actions.
Mr. Alkhal replied the only eminent domain action contemplated is against the Metzler-Houck property that is a very small sliver of land, not quite five square feet. Mr. Alkhal, affirming that all are aware, said the City has made very generous offers for the properties involved. Restating it is such a small amount, Mr. Alkhal observed it could be just lack of interest, for example, and the City simply needs to move ahead with the process so that it can be done in time for construction, in the event the City needs to take action in that manner.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 2 – 2004 was declared passed on First Reading.
A. Approving Intermunicipal Liquor License Transfer – Cherryville, Lehigh Township to 1214 Stefko Boulevard, Bethlehem
Mr. Mowrer and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,303 which approved the transfer of Restaurant Liquor License No. R-7018 from Cherryville Restaurant, 4200 Lehigh Street, Cherryville PA 18035, Lehigh Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania to JGD, Inc., 1214 Stefko Boulevard, Northampton County, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
B. Amending Police Civil Service Rules and Regulations – Testing
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,304 which amended the Police Civil Service Rules and Regulations under Appointment Procedure, Page 23, concerning testing under Physical Condition/Agility Test Items and Nelson-Denny Reading Test.
C. Authorizing Application – Police Training Grant – MPOETC
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,305 which authorized obtaining reimbursement of monies for expenses incurred in connection with the Police Department hosting a Field Training Officer Course scheduled for May 10-13, 2004, pursuant to the training provisions of the Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Act, and agreeing that while receiving any funds from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania pursuant to said Act, the City of Bethlehem shall adhere to the rules, regulations and training standards established by the Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission (MPOETC).
D. Authorizing Execution of Lease Agreement – Portion of Johnston Park – Bethlehem Housing Authority
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,306 which authorized the Mayor and the Controller to execute a Lease Agreement and such other agreements and documents as are deemed necessary, according to the terms and conditions of the Lease, between the Bethlehem Housing Authority and the City for lease by the Bethlehem Housing Authority of a portion of Johnston Park.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 129 West Third Street
Mr. Mowrer and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,307 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a flat wall sign and refurbish an existing freestanding sign at 129 West Third Street.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 821-829 East Fourth Street
Mr. Mowrer and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,308 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to paint the front façade and stucco the rear façade at 821-829 East Fourth Street.
G. Requesting Approval – Lighted School Warning Device – William Penn School
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,309 which approved a lighted school warning device for William Penn School in the 900-1000 blocks of Main Street; and that the device shall be installed and maintained in accordance with the Vehicle Code and Regulations for traffic signs, signals and markings of the Department of Transportation.
Mr. Mowrer asked if these traffic devices are located at all the schools.
Mr. Alkhal, replying no, said the only other school that has a device is Donegan School at Fourth and Hobart Streets.
Mr. Mowrer asked why the City, rather than the School District, pays the electricity costs, and whether the City will be expected to install the traffic devices at all the schools.
Mr. Alkhal responded that the City never agreed to have these types of devices installed at the schools, and the schools themselves have refused probably for the same reasons, because the City does not have the funding to support such an activity. Affirming that funding for the traffic device was received, Mr. Alkhal explained that usually a PTA, for example, would try to secure funds. Since funding was successful in this instance, Mr. Alkhal said the City agreed to erect and maintain the traffic device because it falls within the City’s right of way, it is under the Vehicle Code, and is administered by PennDot. In further response to Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Alkhal explained that Moravian College committed $3,000 towards the traffic device. Mr. Alkhal continued on to explain that the City has been working with various parties to try to make some additional safety improvements along the corridor from Union Boulevard to Elizabeth Avenue. Since Moravian College had an interest due to its location in the area, the College completed a streetscape improvements project, and the City completed some traffic calming measures. Mr. Alkhal affirmed that most of the students walk to William Penn School and the traffic device is another effort to enhance safety in the area. Mr. Alkhal highlighted the fact that State Representative Steve Samuelson’s office provided funding of $5,000 towards the $8,000 project, and the City worked with the school to try to find the remainder of the funds. In view of the fact that Moravian College contributed funds previously for a traffic study in the area, Mr. Alkhal advised that the City approached the College and Moravian College graciously agreed to fund the balance.
Mr. Mower asked if the City paid towards the traffic device at Donegan School. Mr. Alkhal replied no, and confirmed that funding was provided through Senator Boscola’s office. Mr. Alkhal further explained that, once funding is received, the City purchases the traffic device, City employees install it, and the City maintains it. Mr. Alkhal informed Mr. Mowrer that the electricity cost is a very small amount.
Mr. Mowrer questioned whether this is something that every elementary school will want to have and what will be the City’s obligation.
Mr. Alkhal advised that the school would have to come up with the funding.
Mr. Mowrer stated he is not questioning that it is a good thing to have, but said he is not sure he understands the process.
Mayor Callahan commented he would take the position that, if a PTA or a State Representative was able to come up with the funding for a traffic light at a school to increase pedestrian safety, he would hope the City could facilitate at least the installation. Mayor Callahan noted it is a relatively small amount in terms of the electricity required in that the light operates only during certain periods of the school day. Mayor Callahan added that, if the funding could be found for lights at other elementary schools, he would be more than happy to have the City try to facilitate the installation and operation.
Mr. Mowrer thought this should be a School District responsibility and did not think it is the City’s responsibility.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Voting NAY: Mr. Mowrer, 1. The Resolution passed.
H. Authorizing Execution of Amended Federal Aid Reimbursement Agreement – Paint Mill Bridge
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,310 which authorized the Mayor and the Controller to execute Supplemental Federal Aid Bridge Project Agreement No. 050218-D between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, acting through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and the City, for the Paint Mill (Schoenersville Road) Bridge over the Monocacy Creek Project, in accordance with the Agreement made a part hereof.
12. NEW BUSINESS
Ms. Szabo requested an Executive Session in Room 504 upon the adjournment of this City Council meeting to consult with the attorney regarding information or strategy in connection with litigation. Mr. Arcelay seconded the motion.
Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, noting he was aware of the matter prior to this evening’s meeting, affirmed it is an appropriate motion under Section 708 of the Open Meeting Law.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The motion passed.
Finance Committee Meeting
Mr. Donchez affirmed that he will have a Finance Committee meeting scheduled on the matter of the Bond Issue.
Acorn Lights Outage - Fourth Street
Mrs. Belinski advised that some of the new acorn lights in the 300 and 400 block of Fourth Street are out.
Mr. Alkhal responded that he will have the matter checked and corrected.
Bond Issue – Bond Counsel
After receiving confirmation from Mr. Reichard that Bond Counsel usually attends the City Council Meetings on Final Reading of Bond Issues, Mr. Leeson noted that questions can be asked at that time.
Mr. Leeson, referring to the Bethlehem Authority Executive Director’s report for February, noted it gave an excellent briefing on a number of matters. Mr. Leeson said he noticed one of the items was that the Bethlehem Authority is seeking proposals to do a strategic plan for the City, and that the Bethlehem Authority is soliciting proposals for a strategic plan. Mr. Leeson observed that, over time, he has noticed that the Bethlehem Authority seems to be transmuting itself from a financing unit into an operating agency. Mr. Leeson stated he is not presupposing whether that is good or bad by making that observation. However, Mr. Leeson pointed out that the agreements between the City and the Bethlehem Authority do not call for that. Rather, the agreements between the City and the Bethlehem Authority call for the Authority to be a financing agency and a conduit. Mr. Leeson highlighted the fact that the Bethlehem Authority owns the water system and has leased the system to the City to operate. Mr. Leeson continued on to note that the City “is really in the driver’s seat when it comes to management of the system”. While acknowledging the help of the Bethlehem Authority is appreciated, Mr. Leeson questioned whether strategic planning is a responsibility of the City government as the operator of the water system. Mr. Leeson further communicated that the idea of strategic planning is of the utmost responsibility of all public agencies for the leadership to do strategic planning as opposed to spending money outsourcing that activity to private consultants.
Mr. Salvesen stated that he was directed by the Bethlehem Authority Chairman to get in touch with Members of City Council, President Schweder, and the Administration to see if a strategic plan is something that was of interest to all parties. Mr. Salvesen continued on to say the Bethlehem Authority has an excess of water and is looking at use of assets, being the lands, trees, and water. With the demise of Bethlehem Steel Corporation, a past large water user, Mr. Salvesen observed that probably as much water is going over the spillway as is being sold. In order to get a definitive direction on where the Bethlehem Authority would go to market water, Mr. Salvesen said “we have to have City Council, the Administration, and the Bethlehem Authority involved in some shape, manner, or form to get this thing moving. And, I think it was the consensus that the Bethlehem Authority would be the driving force rather than the initiator of it.”
Mr. Lesson inquired how much money the Bethlehem Authority is looking to spend for the outsourcing of the strategic plan.
Mr. Salvesen, explaining that it is a bidding process, advised that of the four bidders, one declined. Mr. Salvesen continued on to explain that he asked for a strategic plan in layers meaning a broad scope, another level of sources and uses of funds, and another possible level of “the field of dreams concept”. Observing there is a need in various municipalities to sell water whether it be in bulk or retail, Mr. Salvesen noted the question is “how do we do that, and how do we do it effectively so we don’t put an additional burden on the bondholders to get that increased revenue.”
Mr. Leeson, acknowledging those are all very worthwhile objectives that he endorses and supports, asked that consideration be given, once there is a new Water and Sewer Resources Director in place, to Mr. Salvesen working with that person to do what these consultants are supposed to do. Mr. Leeson, noting there are other water systems in Pennsylvania, they have a pattern set, they have a business model in place, some are for profit, and some are nonprofit, said he thinks “we could probably accomplish the same thing by going out and looking to see what the others are doing.”
Mr. Salvesen, advising that was done, explained that the Bethlehem Authority went to the Lehigh County Authority that did a strategic plan, the first phase of which was done in house. Mr. Salvesen continued on to advise they have a 30 person staff who can assist that operation in contrast with the Bethlehem Authority that has 2-1/2 people.
Mr. Leeson, questioning whether this is a wise expenditure at this time, communicated that it is a responsibility that probably should be put in the lap of the new Water and Sewer Resources Director. Continuing on to note that Mr. Salvesen could assist the new Director in that he is available, very talented, and an engineer, Mr. Leeson said he has a lot of respect for Mr. Salvesen’s abilities. Mr. Leeson restated “this is the kind of thing that we potentially could save some money on.” Mr. Leeson thought this is really a responsibility that, under the agreements, the City government has this responsibility and ought to exercise it.
Mayor Callahan commented he has observed, during his time as a Councilperson and in his short time as Mayor at this point, that there a “blurring of the lines between the operating authority and the financing authority powers being the City, [and] the [Bethlehem] Authority.” Mayor Callahan continued on to say that when Steve Salvesen was brought on as a full-time Director, and noting there is a full time employee patrolling the watershed, “those lines are being blurred.” Mayor Callahan, saying he thinks it is the City’s responsibility to initiate the long term strategic plan which is something that he recommended last year, noted that the Bethlehem Authority for the first time ever would go out in conjunction with the City and work towards a long term strategic plan to address capital project needs, the need to market water, to address the issue of timbering, expansion of the system itself, to talk about those blurred lines, and what should be done to more clearly delineate responsibilities. Mayor Callahan pointed out it is something that he has talked a great deal about in the process of interviews with prospective Water and Sewer Resource Directors, and is something on which he would expect that person to take a lead role. Mayor Callahan, while stating he respects Mr. Salvesen for going out and at least issuing Requests for Proposals (RFP), affirmed that an RFP can be done but it does not have to be accepted. Commenting that in the interim he does not see any harm in having RFP’s conducted to see what the options are, Mayor Callahan said it would be his expectation that as much of this be done in house as possible in that there would be a better sense of what the problems and issues are than an outside consultant; but, if at some point it is needed, then there would be some options to move forward. Mayor Callahan stated that the strategic plan would be driven by the Director of Water and Sewer Resources, Mayor Callahan, the Chairman of the Bethlehem Authority, the Executive Director of the Bethlehem Authority, the Director of Public Works, and the Business Administrator, and he would expect that the City would take a lead role in the plan in conjunction with the Bethlehem Authority Chairman and Executive Director. Mayor Callahan stated that Mr. Leeson’s point is well taken, that he has the same concerns, and that it is hoped the long term strategic plan would address some of those blurred lines in connection with what would be done in the future in terms of expansion.
Mrs. Belinski expressed the hope that, in interviewing and narrowing down the individuals from whom the new Director of Water and Sewer Resources will be chosen, “you’re not turning a blind eye to the sewer plant.” Expressing her agreement that the $2 million Bond Issue for the sewer plant should be passed, Mrs. Belinski said she has talked to some of the employees at the Wastewater Treatment Plant and the conditions cannot be described. Focusing on the issue of selling water, Mrs. Belinski stressed that it cannot just be said that the City will sell water to somewhere because “we have to be able to…pipe that water into the community.” Remarking that the top priority of the former Director of Water and Sewer Resources was supposed to be selling water, Mrs. Belinski continued on to say she thought one of the top responsibilities of Mr. Salvesen was to sell water. Pointing out it is being said that the choice of the new Director of Water and Sewer Resources will be heavily weighted on that person’s ability to sell water, Mrs. Belinski communicated that it “boggles [her] mind that we’re going down the same road again.”
Mayor Callahan clarified he did not indicate that would be heavily weighted in choosing an individual.
Mrs. Belinski commented she just wants to make sure that the person chosen has the same ability to solve the problems at the sewer plant as to solve the problems at the water filtration plant. Mrs. Belinski stressed “we can’t sell more water until we solve the problems at the filtration plant.”
Mayor Callahan noted he would expect that the person he would hire as Director of Sewer and Water would have knowledge and expertise in directing both of those operations. Explaining that the issue of water came up and so he discussed the water side, Mayor Callahan said Mrs. Belinski is right, and the City is in the process of completing the Act 537 plan and will be expanding and modernizing the Wastewater Treatment Plant in the next three to five years.
Mrs. Belinski, stressing there are serious problems that have to be addressed, reiterated that the City should not turn a blind eye to the person’s ability to straighten out the sewer department.
President Schweder recalled there was a meeting at the end of November 2003 that had been requested by Ronald Donchez, Chairman of the Bethlehem Authority, who was present at the meeting, along with Mr. Salvesen, President Schweder, Mayor-Elect Callahan, Mayor Delgrosso, and Mr. Alkhal. President Schweder said he thought at that time, because Mr. Donchez wanted to move ahead, Mr. Donchez was taking the lead on writing a strategic plan. However, at the direction of the Mayor Elect and of Mr. Alkhal that was not to be the case, and the strategic plan was to be written in-house by the Administration because it was suggested that is where it needed to start. President Schweder questioned if what he is hearing tonight is that an RFP may be proposed but would only be executed by the Mayor.
Mayor Callahan, responding in the negative, communicated what was heard tonight, and it was the opinion of Chairman Donchez, was that much of it could be done in-house. Continuing on to say that was the opinion that came out of the meeting and is his opinion, Mayor Callahan noted he also made the observation at the meeting that the most important person in the process was not present at that meeting. At the time, Kathleen Reese was Director of Water and Sewer Resources but was away because of an operation. Mayor Callahan stated he made the observation that it would not make a great deal of sense to move too far down the road in the construction of a long term strategic plan without the most important person being the Director of Water and Sewer Resources. Mayor Callahan said he is of the opinion that “we need to get the right person in place, and I think we are close to being able to do that, and we’ve narrowed it down to four outstanding candidates, and I will interview those candidates in the next week and half…Once that person’s in place, we will begin to really, in earnest, pursue a long term strategic plan. But the most important person, I think, in this process is the Director of Sewer and Water Resources.” In terms of the RFP, Mayor Callahan noted the process of a long term strategic plan is not far along enough to know exactly what the challenges are and whether there are the capabilities to do it in-house or a majority of it in-house. However, if there were a need to use outside consulting services either at the beginning or the end, Mayor Callahan said he does not see any harm in Mr. Salvesen’s having initiated the RFP process but “we’re not going to execute it until we feel it’s necessary.”
President Schweder asked if Mrs. Reese is still employed by the City, and if so in what capacity.
Mayor Callahan, responding that she is, explained she is performing the role of acting sewer and water resources director until that position is filled. Mayor Callahan, commenting that she is doing a good job in her more limited role at this point, explained he would rather have someone helping in the transition than not at all in order to give the Public Works Director some assistance. Mayor Callahan added that he discussed the matter with Michael Alkhal, Public Works Director, and he felt that was the best way to handle this interim transition period.
President Schweder asked if Mrs. Reese is reporting to Mr. Alkhal.
Mayor Callahan replied no, she is reporting to Mayor Callahan.
President Schweder queried, if she is performing the same position, why her approval to continue on never came before City Council along with the other Department Heads who were reappointed by the Mayor in January.
Mayor Callahan replied that he made a decision to keep her in the interim period to perform her duties.
President Schweder suggested that should have had to come before City Council the way the other Department Heads came before City Council for approval of their reappointments.
Mayor Callahan commented that President Schweder may be right.
President Schweder inquired whether there is a set termination date for her service or is it until the Mayor appoints someone to replace her.
Mayor Callahan responded it would be until he appoints someone to replace her.
Mayor Callahan informed Ms. Szabo that Attorney Spirk has left the City Council meeting to meet the guest prior to the Executive Session.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, noted that the Bethlehem Housing Authority and Bethlehem Parking Authority are agencies which are self-sustaining, independent operating agencies, and the only agency that operates in a contrary manner is the Bethlehem Authority as a lessor and the City as a lessee. Mr. Antalics said the very thing being talked about tonight is exactly what has happened over the years and it has cost the City a lot of money because no one took the responsibility to look at the watershed timbering. Mr. Antalics recalled he had suggested some months ago that the Bethlehem Authority could be dissolved and the City could take over the entire operation, or turn Public Works over to the Bethlehem Authority so there is one administration and one head instead of the Public Works Director and Director of Water and Sewer Resources reporting to the Mayor and also being involved with the Bethlehem Authority. Mr. Antalics asserted it is an untenable situation. Mr. Antalics remarked that he brought up with Joseph Leeson, City Solicitor at that time, whether the Bethlehem Authority should be made a full operating authority or not. Mr. Antalics related that he questioned if the Bethlehem Authority can operate as a lessor and also get involved in operation and Attorney Leeson said yes. Mr. Antalics said he respects Mr. Salvesen because he has seen a problem and has taken the “bull by the horns”. Mr. Antalics stated “either you give him a whole operation or take it away from him and put it in Public Works with Public Works and Water reporting to a head who would report directly to the Mayor so we would have, as I said to you months back, accountability and responsibility which you don’t have now.”
Watershed – Investigation of Illegal Timbering
Mr. Antalics recounted that several months ago he inquired about the status of the probe asked by City Council of Monroe County to look into the matter of illegal timbering at the Watershed. Mr. Antalics said at that time he was told “they were leaving it up to the authorities of Monroe County and they would wait for a report.” Mr. Antalics queried if anything has been reported back.
President Schweder noted that correspondence has been received by Mrs. Belinski and the Solicitors, but he does not think any final report has been sent.
Mr. Antalics inquired whether the City has asked for any follow-up or action in terms of concrete statements or something that can be followed-up.
President Schweder stated there has been follow-up and Mrs. Belinski has worked with the Solicitor in drafting those requests.
Mrs. Belinski advised that after having read the latest correspondence she received she is getting very provoked.
Mr. Antalics, stating he has done an extensive investigation, communicated he is not too sure this is a fact but commented when the probe was requested, the District Attorney of Monroe County was Mr. Pazahanich. Mr. Antalics continued on to say many of the interactions of people in the administration and within law enforcement is known and “it’s a family”. Mr. Antalics advised he checked with other authorities and asked them, not to quote who they are, and they said “Mr. Antalics, if you’re waiting for a report, forget it. So, I asked…a number of people…what’s the solution, and I asked this some months back. They said we suggest you go to an outside authority for a grand jury investigation.” Mr. Antalics queried if anyone on Council initiated any action for a grand jury investigation.
President Schweder said he believes the answer is no.
Mr. Antalics advised that he called the Mayor’s office a number of weeks ago and proposed that to him but has not heard from the Mayor. Mr. Antalics asked the Mayor what is his feeling on asking for a grand jury investigation. Mr. Antalics explained the reason he is asking is that this is not trivial. Mr. Antalics continued on to say he has “it by very reliable sources that for the number of acreage illegally timbered can go from two million to nine million dollars, two million being low quality cherry, nine million high quality.” Mr. Antalics communicated it can be assumed that the City has lost between two to nine million dollars, and closer to nine million dollars, for lack of oversight. Observing that “someone has made a lot of money”, Mr. Antalics asked if the Mayor has any plans to ask for a grand jury investigation in view of the possible loss of this amount of revenue.
Mayor Callahan replied at this point the City has “turned over everything that we know about the situation, the investigation the Police Department conducted, all of the information that Mr. Delgrosso presented a number of months ago to [City] Council. We’ve turned all that over to the policing body in that area, and they are…in the process of conducting an investigation based on the information and the facts that we have set out there, and they have not yet reached a conclusion in that investigation, and that’s where it stands.”
Mr. Antalics, observing that the investigation is two years old, pointed out that he was told by those who know Monroe County “don’t hold your breath.” Mr. Antalics added that he talked to people at the State, and County, and local levels and asked what is the answer. Mr. Antalics said “the bottom line was you take it out of the hands of Monroe County because they might be stepping on toes of friends. So, the natural place would be do you plan to contact the State Attorney General in the fact of lack of activity from Monroe County officials.” Mr. Antalics further asked if the Mayor thinks it is a wise idea.
Mayor Callahan responded that he has not made a determination on that yet.
Mr. Antalics continued on to relate that he has spoken to a number of forestry institutes and was told trees that have been timbered “leave fingerprints”. Mr. Antalics said if someone took the time to make that investigation they could come up with a person and designate a person illegally timbering. Mr. Antalics suggested that “someone get on this” and that the Mayor “contact the Attorney General”.
Mrs. Belinski noted this past December 5, 2003 she spoke
to the Pocono Regional Police Chief “and he told me
sometime back he was told by a Bethlehem official that they
weren’t going to take this investigation any further.”
Communicating one can imagine how frustrating it was to her,
Mrs. Belinski stressed she is the one who kept calling, and
giving information to the investigators who were supposedly
doing the investigation. Mrs. Belinski stated, “but
I personally will say that I think it was all a cover up because
nothing came of it.” Mrs. Belinski commented that as
far as she knows the State Police have said the jurisdiction
is the Pocono Mountain Regional Police. Mrs. Belinski further
said when Mr. Delgrosso was the Mayor he wrote a letter to
them and said he wanted a thorough investigation of the latest
timbering charges that were made. Mrs. Belinski noted she
just discovered another area where people were illegally logging
that has not yet been brought up and is waiting in the background.
Dave Sanders, 69 E. Goepp Street, recalled that at the 2004 Budget Hearings, there was a request for six Police cars that was later narrowed down to three. Mr. Sanders wondered how Francis Donchez, Police Commissioner, felt about not purchasing Police cars and whether it would be a concern for the public safety of citizens and business owners. Mr. Sanders questioned if the City can be without the proposed three Police cars if the decision is made to taken them of the Bond Issue.
President Schweder commented he is sure that the Chairman of the Finance Committee may ask the Police Commissioner to come to the Committee meeting and ask those questions.
Bill No. 1 – 2004 – 2004 Bond Issue
Dean Bruch, 625 Hawthorne Road, remarked that he feels it
is very important to do something with the Bond Issue because
it is unknown how long the bond rating will stand as it is
and “we’re treading on some bad times, maybe,
Street Light Outage
Mr. Bruch advised that the street light in his neighborhood is still not fixed after about two and a half months. Mr. Bruch, in response to Mayor Callahan, affirmed that the pole number was turned in twice.
Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, stated that he will meet with Mr. Bruch after the meeting to make sure he has the necessary information.
Mr. Bruch expressed his appreciation that there will be Police training, and communicated that probably some other incidents can be avoided in the future.
Route 412 Widening Project – Relocation of Ginny’s Luncheonette
Frank Halkias, operator of Ginny’s Luncheonette at 129 West Third Street, referring to an article in today’s newspaper, said he has a concern regarding his business in light of Senator Arlen Specter’s visit to Bethlehem and the possibility that the Second Street ramp project might occur sooner than anticipated. Mr. Halkias related that, over the last several years, he has tried to communicate with the Economic Development bureau. While expressing he can appreciate the City’s need to improve traffic conditions, Mr. Halkias stated it is hard to run his business when there are no specifics. Informing City officials that, currently, he is involved in doing some renovations at his business, Mr. Halkias said based on today’s newspaper report he may have to put those renovations on hold. Mr. Halkias noted that he wanted to make City Council aware of this information because he has not been getting very good communication with the City, and advised that most of the information he gets is from the Morning Call newspaper articles. Mr. Halkias said he is asking the Mayor, City Council, and Economic Development Bureau if they can give him specifics regarding what exactly is going on with his property. Mr. Halkias, acknowledging he knows a lot of the project is based on funding rather than specific dates, pointed out it is very difficult for him to run his business otherwise.
Mayor Callahan, expressing his appreciation for Mr. Halkias’ acknowledgment, noted there is some unpredictability in terms of the funding. Mayor Callahan continued on to say that it is hoped the Route 412 expansion and widening project would begin in the Spring of 2006 and be completed in the Spring of 2008 which dates, he pointed out, have been known for some time. Mayor Callahan further commented it is hoped that the City would be so fortunate as to have the project start in Spring 2006. Mayor Callahan noted that, although Senator Specter’s visit brought no money, it is hoped that it would down the road. Mayor Callahan stated that, if more Federal dollars were to be brought to the project, it would not increase the timetable.
Mr. Halkias asked what can he expect from the City as far as help in relocating his business. Mr. Halkias noted that articles in the Morning Call and interviews given by the City have mentioned the word relocation every time Ginny’s Luncheonette is mentioned. However, Mr. Halkias said the last time he had a meeting with someone from the City he was told it was his responsibility alone to try to relocate his business which, he stressed, he cannot really do unless there are “definites involved.”
Mayor Callahan advised that definites cannot be given right now because only half the funding is available, and if all the funding is not received then the project will be pushed back.
Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, communicating that he can appreciate Mr. Halkias’ frustration in feeling he does not have enough information, affirmed that the project is still in the preliminary engineering stages which explains why Mr. Halkias does not have as much detail as he would like and is entitled to. Mr. Alkhal explained, as the project moves forward, PennDot is currently procuring final design services. Mr. Alkhal continued on to explain that, as the process moves toward final design, part of that would be right of way acquisition and that is when the City would contact Mr. Halkias, and more detailed plans will be provided to Mr. Halkias explaining exactly what the impact would be on Mr. Halkias’ establishment so he can make better decisions as to what that means to his business. As far as relocating, Mr. Alkhal stated PennDot has various procedures that are followed and PennDot can explain that to Mr. Halkias as well. Beyond that, Mr. Alkhal noted it would have to be discussed whether the City could be of any additional help.
Mr. Halkias stated one of his main concerns with relocation is that a lot of the properties that would be available right now, for instance, Lehigh Riverport, are already being allocated to different businesses and property owners, and in the meantime he is just waiting to get information which he is getting through the Morning Call.
Mr. Alkhal explained the reason why Mr. Halkias specifically is not contacted yet is because the right of way acquisition phase and the final detail design of the project has not been reached. At that time, Mr. Alkhal noted, more detailed surveying will be done and it will be known exactly how Mr. Halkias’ business will be impacted. Mr. Alkhal continued on to say that PennDot will procure services to assess the value of the property, including the impact as a result of this potential taking of property.
In response to Ms. Szabo, Mr. Halkias advised his business is located across from the Comfort Suites and Perkins Restaurant at 129 W. Third Street.
Ms. Szabo asked if Mr. Halkias’ business will have to be relocated.
Mr. Alkhal responded that prior design calls for some improvement at that intersection such as widening to attain turning lanes, to improve the intersection, and to improve the radius. Mr. Alkhal continued on to advise that, as a result, looking at preliminary plans that are not in detail, unfortunately, the amount of area that is needed would bring the project area “to the doorstep of the establishment”. Mr. Alkhal, noting that a good portion of the sidewalk would be lost, observed it looks like the business will be impacted. Mr. Alkhal further advised that, as the Mayor has stated, the project is proceeding, and there is funding to go through final design to get the project in a position to start construction at the earliest in 2006. However, right now, the date cannot be pinpointed. Mr. Alkhal added that a lot of issues on the funding side need to be worked on. In fact, the construction funding as it stands currently is at less than half the level that is needed and would be available in 2008. Mr. Alkhal restated that the timeframe for the project has not been fixed.
Ms. Szabo stressed that, if it is obvious now, today, that Mr. Halkias’ business will be relocated then he should be getting the help now to relocate and not wait until 2006.
Mr. Alkhal noted that Mr. Halkias will get more detail as the project moves through the process, and once the final design phase is reached the City will be in a better position to review the matter.
Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, responding to the issue of responsibility for relocation, stated it will be a PennDot project when it ultimately gets the final funding. Mr. Hanna explained that, while his Department has been attempting to work with Mr. Halkias, the Department has been dealing with the same uncertainty in terms of the timing of the relocation. Mr. Hanna advised that the City will not be involved in the actual relocation. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDot) will establish a value, and will deal with the relocation issues. Mr. Hanna communicated that the City can certainly work with Mr. Halkias in terms of identifying potential locations but at this point, since there is not a definitive timeline, the City cannot really identify locations unless Mr. Halkias chooses to move now on his own volition without any advance of funds, any establishment of value, or any timing for his property. Mr. Hanna stated that, unfortunately, it is a situation now that is really a PennDot issue. Expressing that the City shares Mr. Halkias’ concern and frustration, Mr. Hanna said at this point the City cannot do much until a timeline and a value are established.
Mr. Alkhal, advising that the exact right of way to be taken has not been delineated, stated that would be the next step during the final design of the project.
Ms. Szabo remarked that, if the decision is not made and Mr. Halkias moves, then Mr. Halkias would not get anything because his would no longer be an existing business.
Route 412 Expansion Project – Ramps - Second and Third Streets
Mrs. Belinski, stating that she has attended several of the Route 412 Expansion Project meetings, noted it was proposed several times that the existing off ramp at the Hill to Hill Bridge coming South to Third Street would be closed. Mrs. Belinski asked what are the plans for this proposal.
Mr. Alkhal replied the concept plans call for removing it and replacing it with a retaining wall, and as much of that on ramp area as possible would be gained for possible use with the adjacent Perkins Restaurant and Petrucci properties. Mr. Alkhal affirmed to Mrs. Belinski that a new off ramp would be built from the Hill to Hill Bridge to Second Street and would be a suspended structure.
Route 412 Widening Project - Third Street Ramp
Patrick Herrity, 732 Hawthorne Road, asked if there is a reason why the Third Street Ramp is going to become part of the Petrucci property and not part of the adjacent parkland.
Mr. Alkhal, replying that is just one option on the table right now, commented that moving towards final design it could change. Mr. Alkhal added what prompted that line of thinking is that the ramp is going to impact the Petrucci property and as a negotiating tool “we were going to offset that impact or try to by giving him the opportunity to obtain some of that right of way…associated with the ramp.”
Mr. Herrity inquired if there are any plans for the park, and how it would be impacted.
Mr. Alkhal responded there should be minimal impact to the park.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:26 p.m.