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March 1, 2005 Meeting Minutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
Tuesday, March 1, 2005 – 7:30 PM – Town Hall
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President J. Michael Schweder called the meeting to order. Reverend Eugene F. Sharkey of Messiah Lutheran Church 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 15, 2005 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
Rail Line – South Bethlehem
Bradford Pease, 2029 East Columbia Street, Allentown, advised he is representing Rail Options for the Valley, and Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers. Mr. Pease stated he wants to reiterate what he said at the February 15, 2005 City Council Meeting since Resolution 11 E, the Reimbursement Agreement with Norfolk Southern Railroad for the City’s acquisition of the railroad right-of-way for a greenway in South Bethlehem, is to be voted on tonight. Mr. Pease stressed the importance of having language that the right-of-way will be kept intact for future use as needed. Mr. Pease continued on to note there has been assurance by Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, and there have been statements by the City in the newspaper, that the right of way will be maintained but, he remarked, “that’s today. Who knows under different Administrations ten or fifteen years from now what the situation might be. So, again, I ask that you please guarantee that that right-of-way will be kept intact.”
Ms. Szabo asked Mr. Pease to explain his request that the right-of-way be kept intact.
Mr. Pease advised some people are afraid that, in the future, due to changes in economics and plans for the South Side, the City might sell off the right-of-way in pieces to different businesses, and it might be lost as a viable right-of-way for passenger rail service. Mr. Pease highlighted the fact that, as he said at the last City Council Meeting, this is part of the national inner-city rail network system, and is the only link by rail from the Lehigh Valley to Philadelphia. Mr. Pease stressed that, if it were chopped up and in some way lost forever, it would be a real tragedy. Mr. Pease, asserting it is necessary to look ahead to the future, pointed out that in today’s newspaper it was reported that Interstate 78 will be hopelessly clogged with traffic in just a few years. Mr. Pease remarked that, as he said before, he thinks rail service will be back inevitably.
William Hubbard, 27 West Washington Avenue, confirming he attended the February 15, 2005 City Council Meeting, said he wants to reemphasize also the matter of maintaining the right-of-way. While acknowledging nobody has said that it is not going to be kept intact, Mr. Hubbard stressed the question is whether it is going to be kept intact, meaning the entire 3.6 miles from the end of SEPTA ownership in Hellertown to the Union Station in Bethlehem. Mr. Hubbard asked has there been any guarantee to that effect.
Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, replied at the present time the City is only negotiating with Norfolk Southern Railroad for the property to the east of the Lynn Avenue Bridge because that is all that the Railroad would allow the City to negotiate with them. Mr. Hanna continued on to say the City has been talking about the possibility of working out an extension to ensure that there is a connection to Saucon Park. However, Mr. Hanna noted the property blossoms out east of Lynn Avenue to the old classification yard that was used by PB&E Railroad, and stated that is off the table as far as sale or negotiation at this point with Norfolk Southern.
Mr. Hubbard inquired whether Norfolk Southern is retaining title to Saucon Yard.
Mr. Hanna said that is correct. Mr. Hanna added that PB&E is retaining title to the Iron Hill piece, and behind it is Norfolk Southern’s property.
Mr. Hubbard observed the City is negotiating with Norfolk Southern for a roughly 60 foot wide by 3.7 mile long piece of property. Mr. Hanna replied that is correct. Mr. Hubbard queried is that now subdivided so it is one piece of property. Mr. Hanna responded it is not subdivided at this point, and survey work is currently being done. Mr. Hubbard asked if Norfolk Southern is retaining title and is not offering for sale the 2.1 miles. Mr. Hanna explained at this point Norfolk Southern has not offered and the City has not been negotiating with the Railroad for anything east of Lynn Avenue. Mr. Hubbard stressed “then that does answer the question. We are in dire danger of having that right-of-way [lost], and if you buy part of it but not all of it, it is in essence cut.”
Mr. Hanna said, based on the input from the February 15, 2005 City Council Meeting, the Administration will be discussing with Norfolk Southern the possibility of at least establishing a linkage to Saucon Park.
Mr. Hubbard, referring to the Parks and Public Property Committee meeting on July 14, 2004 that he attended, recalled that several questions were raised about the proposed agreement between the City and Norfolk Southern Railroad concerning the acquisition of the railroad right- of-way on the South Side. Mr. Hubbard noted that City Council is not voting on any agreement of sale or any lease of the right-of-way tonight, but rather is voting on obtaining the money to pay for it. Mr. Hanna said that is correct. Mr. Hubbard further recalled that at the Committee meeting questions were raised about the lease, and the question was raised that if the City is going to buy the right-of-way then why does the City not buy the whole thing. Mr. Hubbard continued on to say the latter question has been answered by Mr. Hanna in responding that Norfolk Southern is not about to sell the railroad yet. Mr. Hubbard, focusing on the question why the City does not buy the right-of-way all the way to SEPTA ownership, noted Mr. Hanna is saying that is because Norfolk Southern will not sell it, or has not offered it, or nobody has asked them.
Mr. Hanna responded the City wanted to buy the whole thing, and Norfolk Southern said they would only be interested in negotiating to Williams Street, but the City extended it to Lynn Avenue because of the City’s interest. Mr. Hanna confirmed to Mr. Hubbard that when the Lynn Avenue Bridge is constructed it will allow two railroad tracks under it, and added it will respect the existing right-of-way.
6. OLD BUSINESS
Financial Advisor – City Council
Mr. Donchez recounted that at the 2005 Budget Hearings there was discussion about City Council possibly having its own financial advisor on an as needed basis, and City Council did approve funding for the use of a financial advisor in the 2005 Budget. Mr. Donchez commented, if the President and Members of Council would have no objection, he would ask Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, to pursue the matter by drafting a request for proposal so that there would be the opportunity for Council to “have someone on board…on an as needed basis” when the budget hearings occur again or for bond financings, etc. so that Council would have its own expert.
President Schweder, affirming he would not have an objection and observing no one on Council has an objection, confirmed that Members have been supportive of the proposal. President Schweder suggested that Attorney Spadoni proceed and report back.
A. Director of Parks and Public Property – Proposed Motorized Vehicles Ordinance
The Clerk read a memorandum dated February 17, 2005 from Charles A. Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, to which was attached a proposed Ordinance amending Article 941, Parks, concerning prohibiting motorized vehicles on recreational trails.
President Schweder referred the matter to the Parks and Public Property Committee.
B. Director of Planning and Zoning – Zoning Map Amendment – Easton Avenue – RG and RT – Residential to CL – Limited Commercial
The Clerk read a memorandum dated February 15, 2005 from Darlene L. Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, to which was attached a draft Ordinance, correspondence, and maps concerning the proposed rezoning of a portion of Easton Avenue from RG and RT Residential to CL Limited Commercial. The Planning Commission, at their meeting of November 11, 2004, recommended approval of the rezoning.
President Schweder referred the request to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski moved to schedule a Public Hearing on Tuesday, April 19, 2005 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
C. Director of Planning and Zoning – Requested Revisions to Recreation Fee and Traffic Study Proposals
The Clerk read a memorandum dated February 25, 2005 from Darlene L. Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, to which was attached proposed revisions to both the Traffic Study and Recreation Fee proposals. Section 1347.14(b) in the Traffic Study section was proposed to be added to the Ordinance to address any concerns about a possible conflict of interest between the City’s consulting traffic engineer and the developer. Section 1347.10(b) is proposed to be revised to address City Council’s recommendation to include a provision requiring a recreation fee for commercial and industrial properties, in addition to residential properties. Because the changes may be considered a “substantial change” to the Ordinance amendment, additional advertisement will be required before final passage.
President Schweder stated that the appropriate Amendments to Bill No. 14 – 2005 can be considered at the March 15, 2005 City Council Meeting so that the required legal advertisement can be placed.
D. Council Member Leeson – Proposed Balanced Budget Amendment to City Ordinances
The Clerk read a memorandum dated February 25, 2005 from Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., Member of Council, to which was attached a proposed new Ordinance that would require that, in the future, City budgets be balanced to avoid a deficit.
President Schweder referred the request to the Finance Committee.
E. ArtsQuest – Use Permit Agreement Revisions – Musikfest
The Clerk read a letter dated February 24, 2005 from Jeffrey A. Parks, President of ArtsQuest, requesting two changes to the Use Permit Agreement for Public Property for Musikfest 2005, 2006 and 2007. The changes are: (1) Item 2a – Musikfest no longer uses the Community Arts Pavilion nor do they intend to during the term of the proposed use permit; and (2) Item A 20 – Motorized and Non-Motorized Rides was deleted from previous use permits. Musikfest has made the use of some modest non-motorized amusements for the festival for the last several years and this would have a significant negative impact with regard to the festival to leave this clause in.
President Schweder stated that the revisions have been prepared by the Law Bureau and are incorporated into the Agreements that are before Council under Resolution 11 C.
8 . REPORTS
A. President of Council
C. Finance Committee
Mr. Donchez Chairman of the Finance Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee’s meeting that was held February 23, 2005, on the following subjects: Amending General Fund Budget – (A) Southside Recreation Program and (B) Health Bureau – Grant Programs, (C) Music in the Park Program; Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget - (A) Illick’s Mill (1) Grant from Lehigh Valley Community Foundation, (2) Grant from Keystone Nazareth Bank and Trust, (3) Grant from Air Products, (B) Skate Park Project, (C) Playground Equipment and (D) Year End Adjustments; Transfer of Funds – Sewer Capital Budget: (A) Gas Line Replacement, (B) Chlorine Vacuum Switchover, and (C) Digester Optimization; Amending CDBG Budget – Year End Adjustments – CDBG and HOME Programs; Appointing Auditors – 2004 Audit; and Transfer of Funds – City Clerk’s Office – Legal Advertising.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 8 – 2005 – Amending Article 1302 – Definitions
The Clerk read Bill No. 8 – 2005, Amending Article 1302 – Definitions, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 8 – 2005, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4310, was declared adopted.
B. Bill No. 9 – 2005 – Amending Article 1312 – CL District – Use Regulations
The Clerk read Bill No. 9 – 2005, Amending Article 1312 – CL District – Use Regulations, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 9 – 2005, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4311, was declared adopted.
C. Bill No. 10 – 2005 – Amending Article 1316 – LI District – Use Regulations
The Clerk read Bill No. 10 – 2005, Amending Article 1316 – LI District – Use Regulations, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 10 – 2005, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4312, was declared adopted.
D. Bill No. 11 – 2005 – Amending Article 1319 – Off-Street Parking and Loading
The Clerk read Bill No. 11 – 2005 – Amending Article 1319 – Off-Street Parking and Loading, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 11 – 2005, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4313, was declared adopted.
E. Bill No. 12 – 2005 – Amending Article 1322 – Uses Granted Under Special Conditions
The Clerk read Bill No. 12 – 2005 – Amending Article 1322 – Uses Granted Under Special Conditions, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 12 – 2005, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4314, was declared adopted.
F. Bill No. 13 – 2005 – Amending Zoning Ordinance – Appendix A-2, A-3 and A-4 – Table of Area, Yard, and Building Regulations
The Clerk read Bill No. 13 – 2005 – Amending Zoning Ordinance – Appendix A-2, A-3 and A-4 – Table of Area, Yard, and Building Regulations, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 13 – 2005, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4315, was declared adopted.
G. Bill No. 14 – 2005 – Amending Article 1347 – Recreation Fees and Traffic Impact Studies
President Schweder affirmed that, as stated earlier, Bill No. 14 – 2005 will be considered on Final Reading at the March 15, 2005 City Council Meeting.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 15 – 2005 – Amending General Fund Budget – South Side Recreation and Health Bureau Programs
The Clerk read Bill No. 15 – 2005, Amending General Fund Budget – South Side Recreation, Health Bureau, and Music in the Park Programs, sponsored by Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Leeson, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
THE GENERAL FUND BUDGET FOR 2005.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 15 – 2005 was declared passed on First Reading.
B. Bill No. 16 – 2005 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Illick’s Mill, Skate Park, Playground Equipment, and Year-End Adjustments
The Clerk read Bill No. 16 – 2005, Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Illick’s Mill, Skate Park, Playground Equipment, and Year-End Adjustments, sponsored by Mrs. Belinski and Ms. Szabo, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
THE 2005 CAPITAL BUDGET FOR NON-UTILITIES.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 16 – 2005 was declared passed on First Reading.
C. Bill No. 17 – 2005 – Amending Community Development Budget – Year-End Adjustments
The Clerk read Bill No. 17 – 2005, Amending Community Development Budget – Year-End Adjustments, sponsored by Mrs. Belinski and Ms. Szabo, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
THE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT BUDGET FOR
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 17 – 2005 was declared passed on First Reading.
A. Authorizing Records Destruction – Department of Community and Economic Development
Mr. Arcelay and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,572 that authorized the disposition of the public records of the Department of Community and Economic Development -Housing Rehabilitation, as listed in Exhibit A, according to schedules and procedures for the disposition of records as set forth in the Municipal Records Manual approved on July 16, 1993 and Resolution 13,076.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.
B. Authorizing Execution of Use Permit Agreement – American Association of University Women, Bethlehem Branch – 2005 Book Fair
Mr. Arcelay and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,573 that authorized the Mayor and the Controller to execute a Use Permit Agreement between the American Association of University Women, Bethlehem Branch, and the City for use of the Memorial Pool Building for the 2005 Book Fair for the time period March 14, 2005 to April 25, 2005, according to the terms and conditions of the Agreement.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.
C. Authorizing Execution of Use Permit Agreement – ArtsQuest – 2005, 2006 and 2007 Musikfest – Festival Sites
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Leeson sponsored Resolution 14,574 that authorized the Mayor and the Controller to execute a Use Permit Agreement between ArtsQuest and the City for use of various festival sites for Musikfest 2005, 2006 and 2007, according to the terms and conditions of the Agreement.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.
D. Authorizing Execution of Use Permit Agreement – ArtsQuest – 2005, 2006 and 2007 Musikfest – Streets
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,575 that authorized the Mayor and the Controller to execute a Use Permit Agreement between ArtsQuest and the City for use of various City streets for Musikfest 2005, 2006 and 2007, according to the terms and conditions of the Agreement.
E. Authorizing Execution of Reimbursement Agreement –
Norfolk Southern Railroad Right-of-Way Acquisition –
Greenway in South Bethlehem
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,576 that authorized the execution of an agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for the award of $200,000 in TEA-21 funds in connection with the City’s plans to acquire the Norfolk Southern Railroad Right-of-Way in South Bethlehem from Union Station to Daly Avenue, for use as a greenway.
Considering Resolutions As A Group
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski moved to consider Resolutions 11 F through 11 H as a group.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The motion passed.
F. Transfer of Funds – Sewer Capital Budget – Electrical Service
Mr. Arcelay and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,577 that transferred $80,000 in the Sewer Capital Budget from the Belt Filter Press Account to the Digester Optimization Account to provide additional funding needed in the account related to electrical service.
G. Transfer of Funds – Sewer Capital Budget – Gas Line Replacement
Mr. Arcelay and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,578 that transferred $13,000 in the Sewer Capital Budget from the Belt Filter Press Account to the Gas Line Replacement Account to provide additional funds needed to re-bid the project with a revised construction estimate.
H. Transfer of Funds – Sewer Capital Budget – Professional Services Contract
Mr. Arcelay and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,579 that transferred $4,000 in the Sewer Capital Budget from the Belt Filter Press Account to the Chlorine Vacuum Switchover Account to provide funds needed to pay contractual obligations of the Professional Services Contract.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 F through 11 H: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolutions passed.
I. Appointing Auditors – 2004 Audit
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,580 that appointed the firm of Parente Randolph, PC to be retained to provide the City, Single, Wastewater Treatment Plant and GASB 34 Audits for the year ending 2004 at the total amount of $63,700.
Mr. Leeson stated that he would like to amend the authorization given to the Auditors to expand their scope of inquiry to include the books and accounts between the City and the Bethlehem Authority. Mr. Leeson, explaining the reason why he would like to see the Auditors inquiry expanded, recounted that for some time there have been discussions and exploration of the relationship between the Bethlehem Authority and the City of Bethlehem. Mr. Leeson continued on to compliment the Administration for the excellent work done by David Brong, Director of Water and Sewer Resources, to try to bring order and a professional style of management to the operation. However, Mr. Leeson noted one of the unfinished items of business is the intermingled and confusing finances, with the transactions back and forth between the City and the Bethlehem Authority, and the question of how much the City owes the Authority, in view of numbers ranging from $3 to $4 million and varying from month to month depending on when informal inquiries have been made. While denoting that the Bethlehem Authority has commissioned the Public Research Advisory Group to assist in trying to sort out the amounts the City may owe the Authority or that the Authority may owe the City, Mr. Leeson said he views the request as having an audit overlay to the overall equation. Mr. Leeson pointed out that the Public Research Advisory Group is not an auditing firm, and stated whatever the group comes up with he would like to have reviewed by the City’s Auditors. Mr. Leeson continued on to state he would also like to have the City’s Auditors examine the financial relationships between the City and the Bethlehem Authority generally, with a focus on what the City does in fact owe the Bethlehem Authority, and what the Authority may owe the City. Mr. Leeson thought the only way to get to the bottom of the issue would be to have the City’s independent Auditors examine the financial interrelationship between the City and the Authority. Mr. Leeson inquired whether there are any time deadlines concerning the 2004 Audit.
Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator confirmed there are time requirements associated with the City’s filing with the appropriate agencies. Mr. Reichard, confirming that the Bethlehem Authority does have Auditors that conduct the full audit of the Authority’s records, explained that the records are then turned over to the City’s Auditors for incorporation of the numbers into the City’s financial statements. Mr. Reichard inquired whether Mr. Leeson is asking for the City’s Auditors to audit the numbers from the Bethlehem Authority’s Auditors. Mr. Reichard, further advising that last Friday there was a meeting with representatives of the Bethlehem Authority and Administration, said he feels very confident that the City knows what the numbers are and there will be a good resolution to the situation. Mr. Reichard asked if Mr. Leeson wants the City’s Auditors to audit Public Research Advisory Group also. Mr. Reichard pointed out that the dollar amount of the audits would not be able to be approved this evening because City Council’s request to the City’s Auditors would require additional funding to expand the scope of the audit.
Mr. Leeson stated, in light of Mr. Reichard’s comments, he thinks City Council should move forward with the Resolution as is and not delay it. Mr. Leeson, explaining it is a source of wonderment to him that nobody has a handle on this, acknowledged that Mr. Reichard is trying to get a handle on the matter. Mr. Leeson stressed that the City’s and the Authority’s professional advisors should have had a handle on this a long time before now. Mr. Leeson asserted that, in his estimation, this is something that the Authority’s auditors should have caught years ago, and that perhaps the City’s Auditors should have caught years ago. However, Mr. Leeson observed, by taking the results from the Authority’s audit and transporting them into the City’s numbers, perhaps that is the reason why this was not caught. Mr. Leeson pointed out that the City and the Bethlehem Authority have both paid good money to their auditors.
Mr. Reichard noted that the Auditors for the Bethlehem Authority are appointed by the Bethlehem Authority Board. Mr. Reichard, turning to the meeting last Friday, expressed a lot was brought to the table, the parties know the situation, and he does not think the issue is as troublesome as people would think. Mr. Reichard affirmed that the City budgets the operating expenses for the Bethlehem Authority, the Bethlehem Authority requests the money, the General Fund Charges are approved by City Council in the Budget, and beyond that there is the Debt Service Reserve Fund. The rest is controlled by the Bethlehem Authority in view of the fact that they are the financing authority, and other issues are being discussed in the Strategic Plan. Mr. Reichard observed it may be peculiar for the City’s Auditors to audit the Bethlehem Authority’s Auditors.
Mr. Leeson, restating that City Council could act on the Resolution tonight, suggested that contact be established with Parente Randolph, the City’s Auditors, once the results of the Public Research Advisory Group have been obtained, and the matter kept under observation for possible future action and involvement by the City’s Auditors. Mr. Leeson, while expressing that he senses Mr. Reichard’s good question about auditors auditing other auditors, noted the answer is that may be the situation because “somebody’s not doing their job. There’s some professional here who has dropped the ball. And, I don’t know who it is, but my suspicions lead me to believe that it may be the Authority’s Auditors.” Mr. Leeson queried when the information may be available for review.
Mr. Reichard informed Mr. Leeson that the City’s Auditors will be commencing the audit in April. Mr. Reichard, further notifying Mr. Leeson that another meeting with the Administration and the Bethlehem Authority will be scheduled in a few weeks, communicated he would hope to have a resolution within the next three to four weeks.
President Schweder expressed his understanding is that City Council will vote on Resolution 11 I as presented this evening, and Mr. Leeson reserves the right at some future point to propose a new Resolution if needed to add another audit. President Schweder further noted that Mr. Reichard could notify Council of any associated timeframes.
President Schweder asked how long the firm of Parente Randolph has been the City’s Auditors.
Mr. Reichard replied that, as he mentioned at the Finance Committee meeting on February 23, 2005, this is the sixth year, and the City will be issuing Requests for Proposal (RFP) this year. Mr. Reichard advised the reason why Parente Randolph was retained for the 2003 and 2004 Audits is because of the massive GASB 34 undertaking and the firm’s familiarity with the City’s systems. Mr. Reichard confirmed to President Schweder that the RFP will be for the 2005 Audit.
Ms. Szabo asked that Mr. Leeson do research on whether or not the Controller has any responsibility to catch some of the things that have been coming up.
Mr. Leeson communicated he does not have an answer to the question.
Ms. Szabo felt that the use of the Controller’s functions is being overlooked in many instances.
Mr. Reichard noted that the Controller can call an audit at any time.
J. Transfer of Funds – City Clerk’s Office – Legal Advertising
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,581 that transferred $4,000 in the General Fund Budget from the General Expenses – Unforeseen Contingency Account to the City Council – Legal Advertising Account to provide additional funding needed in the account for required legal advertisements.
12. NEW BUSINESS
BEDCO – Board of Directors Meeting
President Schweder affirmed that last Friday he received a letter addressed to the Board of Directors of BEDCO (Bethlehem Economic Development Corporation) from Attorney Scott Allinson in which it was stated that Mr. Hanna and John Englesson asked that Attorney Allinson send notice of the special meeting of the Board of Directors of BEDCO on Wednesday morning, March 2, 2005. President Schweder queried whether he is to assume that in his role as President of Council he is a member of the Board of Directors of BEDCO, and asked whether other Members of Council received the notice.
Mr. Hanna indicated that the letter was only sent to the President of Council. Mr. Hanna, advising that the letter was sent while he was on vacation, affirmed there is a list of the Board if President Schweder would like to receive it.
President Schweder asked when was the last time the Board met. Mr. Hanna replied two years ago. Mr. Hanna, in further response to President Schweder, affirmed there are minutes but they were not provided. President Schweder, noting that listed on the agenda for the meeting is a Resolution to ratify the actions of the organization, assumed those were actions of two years ago or more. Mr. Hanna replied yes. In addition, President Schweder noted the agenda lists approval of the proposed amended by-laws, and City Council inquiry/audit. President Schweder communicated it appears the meeting is being held to cover the shortcomings that were found in the audit of the BEDCO books. President Schweder recounted the audit stated that it could not be determined whether or not under the by-laws anything had ever been done to strike the agreement between the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) and BEDCO to bring about those changes. President Schweder queried whether he is to assume that did not take place two years ago and that is to be done at this meeting. Mr. Hanna, advising that the agreement was ratified at the last meeting of BEDCO and there is a signed copy of the agreement between BEDCO and LVEDC, commented that the Auditors never asked him for it. Mr. Hanna, focusing on tomorrow’s meeting, noted that Attorney Allinson and Mr. Englesson will be conducting the meeting. President Schweder stated he would assume the meeting is open to the public. Mr. Hanna, replying no, further responded to President Schweder that it is not open to the press either. President Schweder asked what is the rationale. Mr. Hanna explained it is a private corporation. President Schweder communicated that he has difficulty understanding how a private corporation can use City Hall to hold a meeting which is closed to the public. Mr. Hanna advised that the BEDCO meetings were always held in City Hall. Turning again to the agenda, President Schweder noted there is a topic listed, for which there was the expenditure of City funds, of the audit of BEDCO requested by City Council, but the meeting is not open to the press or to the public. President Schweder asked if there is a ruling that states the meeting is not covered by the Sunshine Law. As far as whether the meeting can be held in City Hall, Mr. Hanna advised no one has asked for that opinion. As far as whether the Sunshine Law applies to the corporation, Mr. Hanna said it does not. President Schweder noted he was always under the impression that the meetings of BEDCO were open.
Ms. Szabo advised that she attended several meetings and she was not a member of the BEDCO Board.
President Schweder asked to whom else is the meeting open. Mr. Hanna replied just to the Directors. President Schweder queried if it is open to other Members of Council. Mr. Hanna, while noting they are not on the Board, said they are welcome to come. President Schweder inquired if the Council Solicitor would be permitted to attend. Mr. Hanna responded he is not the Board of Directors of BEDCO.
Mrs. Belinski queried what is the justification for the meeting being excluded from the public and the press. Mrs. Belinski said she thought BEDCO was a mix of private and public funds.
Mr. Hanna advised there are no more public funds involved with BEDCO and there has not been for several years. Mr. Hanna explained that, even when there were public funds, their solicitors had ruled it was not subject to the Sunshine Law because it is a 501 C 3 private corporation, just like Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, charitable organizations, and nonprofit organizations. He further pointed out that the local hospitals meetings are not open to the public, and they have public funding involved.
Mr. Hanna communicated that if President Schweder feels uncomfortable attending the meeting that is his prerogative. Mr. Hanna further stated that, if President Schweder would like to have someone correspond with Attorney Spadoni, he would be happy to have someone do so. Mr. Hanna noted that John Spirk, City Solicitor, is in attendance at tonight’s meeting and if he wants could opine as to whether or not a private corporation can hold a non-public meeting in City Hall.
President Schweder asked if Attorney Spirk would comment.
Attorney Spirk stated he would not be prepared to comment on the efficacy of using City Hall, and added he never had that question addressed to him before.
President Schweder inquired whether Attorney Spirk was aware of any other private organizations that would hold private meetings in City Hall.
Attorney Spirk replied that, in the year he has been here, he is not aware of any, but that would not come through his office.
Mr. Hanna noted that action is not unprecedented given BEDCO’s long-standing relationship with the City, and pointed out that all of BEDCO’s meetings were in City Hall.
President Schweder said he is suggesting that he does not think “we should have business as usual any more, in light of what we’ve learned.”
Mr. Hanna, commenting he could make the suggestion, said he does not know what the appropriate disposition would be. Mr. Hanna continued on to say he could make the suggestion that the meeting could be cancelled for tomorrow morning.
Mrs. Belinski recalled that, some time ago, she substituted for Mr. Schweder and went to a BEDCO meeting at Just Born, and queried in what capacity was that, such as liaison from Council to the BEDCO Board.
President Schweder, in response to Mr. Hanna’s comments, said he is not going to suggest that Mr. Hanna stand at the door tomorrow morning and tell people that the meeting is cancelled because as Mr. Hanna said earlier it is not his meeting and it is BEDCO’s to set up. President Schweder commented that he thinks those who feel uncomfortable about this setting will make their own decisions on whether they think this is appropriate. President Schweder said, since Mr. Hanna is telling him that the meeting is closed, he has no intention of attending the meeting. President Schweder stated that, at some point in the future, he would seek that BEDCO’s solicitor would be in contact with Attorney Spadoni.
Mr. Leeson advised that, on February 1, 2005, the solicitor for BEDCO wrote to Attorney Spadoni, on behalf of BEDCO or LVEDC, the following: “Now that City Council has failed to protect the integrity of BEDCO’s records and permitted the disclosure of the audit to the media, I will instruct BEDCO’s chairman to call a special meeting to evaluate BEDCO’s rights as it appears that City Council is attempting to treat BEDCO as an administrative arm of itself.” Mr. Leeson asked is the purpose of the meeting to formulate some legal action by BEDCO against City Council.
Mr. Hanna suggested that the question be directed to Attorney Allinson.
Mr. Leeson further noted that in the letter Attorney Allinson urges that BEDCO’s confidential records, proprietary information, and the audit be secured. Mr. Leeson wondered what are the confidential records that Attorney Allinson is talking about.
Mr. Hanna reiterated that the question be directed to Attorney Allinson who directed the letter to Attorney Spadoni, and noted he cannot answer for Attorney Allinson.
Mr. Leeson, asking who is paying the lawyer, inquired whether BEDCO’s funds are being used to pay the lawyer. Mr. Hanna said that is correct. Mr. Leeson queried who authorized those expenditures. Mr. Hanna replied LVEDC is basically paying the lawyer’s time at this point. Mr. Leeson repeated his question is who is paying Attorney Allinson’s legal fees and asked are they coming out of BEDCO funds or LVEDC funds. Mr. Hanna responded at the present time there has been no billing from Attorney Allinson. Mr. Leeson observed that the letter seems to be suggestive of a desire to “clam up things” with a reference to confidential records, and securing documents. Mr. Leeson, noting that most of the money that went into BEDCO was public money, said he is very dissatisfied with the way LVEDC has interjected itself into this matter, and attempted to thwart the public’s right to know, not only with a closed session tomorrow morning but also the references in the letter. Mr. Leeson thought, going forward, City Council needs to closely evaluate future relationships with LVEDC concerning this attempt to thwart the public’s right to know.
Ms. Szabo, noting she thought BEDCO was swallowed up by LVEDC, asked why does the BEDCO Board still exist.
Mr. Hanna responded that, technically, it is not defunct, hence the need for the special meeting tomorrow. Mr. Hanna thought the plan was to create a new Board of Directors. He continued on to say that, since BEDCO still has assets, there are still assets of BEDCO that were never really moved over to LVEDC. The only thing that was moved over to LVEDC was some operating activities, but the assets of BEDCO still remain. Mr. Hanna, in response to Mr. Leeson’s comment about the confidential nature of the records, noted that, as one will recall, the records were made available to Council and Council’s auditor, they were made fully available, and he made ten years worth of documents available. Mr. Hanna said nothing was kept from the auditors at all. Mr. Hanna thought that Attorney Allinson’s displeasure was related to the release of the audit without any BEDCO representatives getting it before it was released to the public. Mr. Hanna stated it had nothing to do with any kind of confidentiality or “clamming up” in terms of keeping that information from the public.
Mrs. Belinski remarked she has a problem with the delay of five months from the time of the request until the information was made available.
President Schweder stated he gives Mr. Hanna credit because he did volunteer the information. President Schweder continued on to say Attorney Allinson wrote letters back to Council and told them that under no circumstances was Council going to get that information, and it was determined that Attorney Spadoni could be contacted concerning delivering the records or Council was going to subpoena them. As far as the confidentiality of the records, President Schweder pointed out there is no one at the table, including Attorney Spadoni, who ever saw any of the records that Mr. Hanna turned over. President Schweder stated the records were never compromised, and no one looked at them other than the auditors. President Schweder noted the only thing that has been out for public view is the audit report. President Schweder said it certainly has not been the confidentiality of the records that was ever breached by Council because no Members of Council ever looked at them.
Mr. Hanna restated he believes the discussion should be between either Attorney Spadoni and Attorney Allinson, or Council and Attorney Allinson, if Council cares to have him come and address Council. Mr. Hanna said at this point he has no answers to the questions.
Mrs. Belinski commented that Mr. Hanna voluntarily gave up the records after Council threatened him with a subpoena.
Mr. Hanna, saying he would respectfully disagree, stated it was not based upon the threat of subpoena and he was prepared to make the information available. Confirming that he did, Mr. Hanna pointed out it was a very lengthy and laborious process, and he had indicated why it took as long as it did because of lack of staffing, etc. Mr. Hanna said, clearly from the audit, “you weren’t interested, nor were your auditors interested, in ten years’ worth of records. All you were interested in were basically four or five years of expenses, that were basically expenses that you perceived to be incurred by me and by other members of the economic development staff at that point for a four year period. So, ten years worth of records were delivered to your auditors, and to this Council, and your auditors didn’t even look at them.”
President Schweder said that is just not correct.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Watershed - Timbering Plan
David McGuire, 815 Beverly Avenue, representing the Sierra
Club of the Lehigh Valley,
affirmed that for more than four years the organization has been interested in the protection and enhancement of the Bethlehem watershed for the purpose of ensuring a steady supply of quality water. Mr. McGuire noted his remarks are on the subject of the Bethlehem watershed management plan. Mr. McGuire recounted that the Sierra Club of the Lehigh Valley, with more than 1,600 members in the Lehigh Valley and Monroe County, has been actively involved in protecting the water quality and natural resources of the Bethlehem watershed. He stressed that the group vigorously opposed the ill-conceived timbering plan of the Cunningham administration, which sought a short term fix for City finances by extensive timbering of trees, the underlying resource which supports the environmental integrity of the watershed. Mr. McGuire continued on to say, fortunately, a large majority of the Council at that time voted against that proposal. Instead, the Bethlehem Authority began an extended and thoughtful reexamination of how best to protect the natural resources which ensure the water quality.
Mr. McGuire noted that the Bethlehem Authority, utilizing the Brooks Forestry Company, conducted extensive analysis of the watershed over several years, culminating in a partial report to Mayor and Council on September 7, 2004. The final part of the analysis by Brooks Forestry was delivered to the Authority early in February 2005. All this information, including its recommendations, is now available to develop the Bethlehem Watershed Management Plan (WMP). Mr. McGuire remarked it is now time to develop and approve the WMP before any actions are taken, or contracts are let, that could affect the natural resources and water quality of the watershed. While acknowledging there is data, Mr. McGuire asserted as of now there is no plan, consistent and with integrity, that has been approved by anybody. Mr. McGuire pointed out there is a long history of how to develop plans that are available for protecting public resources from natural parks to testing missile ranges, etc. Mr. McGuire stressed that the process of approving the WMP should be public, transparent, participatory, science-based, and have the goal of utilizing Best Management Practices to protect the water quality of the watershed and its underlying natural resources. Further commenting that this process is by no means assured, Mr. McGuire said it is not guaranteed, and there has not been discussion about how there will be a plan that will be approved eventually by public officials and with public input.
Mr. McGuire continued on to say “when the first analysis of Brooks Forestry was available, it was presented on very short notice to the public, and was shoe-horned into an hour prior to a scheduled Council meeting on September 7, 2004. There were no copies of the report available to the public, the Mayor was not present, he having had an earlier presentation, and there was no time for questions or amplification, because the scheduled Council meeting took place almost immediately after the presentation. While this scenario was probably unintended, it was not a good practice. In the future, we strongly urge that the Mayor and Council and Authority be present together, in public, to hear the same presentations, questions, and answers. This is a joint governmental and public matter. The development and approval of a watershed management plan should follow a clear process that follows accepted practice in developing sound natural resource management plans” which, he remarked is not a novel idea and is used across the country. Mr. McGuire informed the Members that the Sierra Club “recommends the following series of steps: (1) compile all relevant material into one supporting studies document; (2) develop a preliminary management plan, with input from the interested public; (3) hold two public meetings, in Bethlehem and Monroe County, to get public comments on the preliminary plan; (4) revise the management plan to incorporate changes and state reasoned answers to changes not made, and produce a draft final management plan, including a schedule of proposed actions; then, hold another two public hearings on the draft final management plan, and modify as needed on the basis of comments. Then, present the final management plan to the Authority Board, and the City Council and/or Mayor, as appropriate, for final approval, and then, finally, implement the approved Bethlehem Watershed Management Plan. We believe that this or a similar process, with open participation, will best preserve the water quality and its underlying natural resources. To ensure the integrity of this process we ask from this time forward that the Council, Mayor, and Authority, keep a record of all written, e-mail, and phone conversations among themselves on the development of the WMP. We urge that any presentations by experts, consultants, and public officials, be done in the joint presence of Mayor, Council, and Authority, to ensure that the same story is heard by all the decision-makers. It should be clear that, in the absence of an approved management plan developed with public participation, the Sierra Club will oppose the bidding or letting of any contract for activity that would potentially harm the watershed. Finally, we commend the tremendous effort made by the Authority Board to develop a watershed plan of highest quality.”
William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, said it seems the data in today’s newspaper about the surge in crime in Bethlehem was accurately reported but the data themselves may not be accurate due to the new data gathering system.
City Council Information – Availability to the Public
Mr. Scheirer, referring to his past suggestion that the packet received by City Council on Friday should be available to the public as well, noted Ms. Szabo made a good point that she did not like to get telephone calls before having read it. Mr. Scheirer said perhaps the information could be made available on Monday to the public, instead of seeing it for the first time prior to the City Council Meeting.
Mr. Scheirer commented that, after having attended the Public Works Committee meeting on the Strategic Plan, he wanted to see the Strategic Plan text itself. Mr. Scheirer, noting his criticism is directed at the City’s policy, enumerated the various steps he had to take in order to obtain a copy at a cost of 25 cents per page for a total of $10.50. Mr. Scheirer, communicating that the Strategic Plan was prepared with taxpayer money, remarked that a taxpayer must pay to obtain a copy. Mr. Scheirer said when the Administration or City Council states they have a document and “it’s really good” that is de facto approval that the public can see it, and the per page cost of copies should be 10 cents.
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, focusing on BEDCO’s assets, said he would remind City officials that a great many were probably purchased using Community Development Block Grant monies. Mr. Grubb continued on to say there is probably some real estate that was purchased in whole or in part using Community Development Block Grant monies. Mr. Grubb stated his recommendation would be that those properties at a minimum be in the hands of the Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority for future disposal, or BEDCO if it is going to exist in some form in the future. Mr. Grubb stressed at no point in time should they be turned over or released to the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation.
Various City Issues
Dean Bruch, 625 Hawthorne Road, said he likes the idea of a balanced budget but there should be a cushion. Mr. Bruch stated that the Auditors should have a financial responsibility, and commented that auditors often audit auditors and they should accept being audited. Mr. Bruch suggested that organizations could be sent a cleaning bill if they want to use City Hall for meetings. Mr. Bruch, remarking that in a round about way BEDCO and the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation get public funds, said he does not see why anybody would have trouble with anyone going to any one of their meetings at any time. Mr. Bruch added that the organizations have the responsibility to report in the news what they have to say at the meetings. He further asserted that if someone works for the City they have the position to tell anything and everything they know because it is not private. Focusing on a new parking area on Wood Street, Mr. Bruch noted that will be a plus for the neighborhood because of the vehicles belonging to workers at the building on East Broad Street that are parked on the streets. Mr. Bruch advised there are still tractor trailers being parked overnight. Mr. Bruch informed the assembly that the waste removal trucks that had been parked overnight at the Milham property are gone. Mr. Bruch felt that the problems with the Bond Issues should come up for a public vote. He said there should be an explanation by the auditors as to whether or not money should come back to the City. Mr. Bruch, commenting that Ms. Szabo’s question about what the Controller does was a good one, asked what the Controller does.
Mayor Callahan replied that Mr. DeCrosta is an independently elected official and it is a good question for Mr. DeCrosta. Mayor Callahan, in further response to Mr. Bruch, expressed the belief that Mr. DeCrosta cannot be ordered to be at the meeting. President Schweder also noted that City Council cannot require the Controller to be at the meeting.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:55 p.m.