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April 5, 2005 Meeting Minutes
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President J. Michael Schweder called the meeting to order. Reverend Jennika Borger, of Edgeboro Moravian Church, offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Jean Belinski, Robert J. Donchez, Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., Gordon B. Mowrer, Magdalena F. Szabo, and J. Michael Schweder, 6. Ismael Arcelay was absent, 1.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The minutes of March 15, 2005 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances
and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, said each man, woman, and child in the City owes about $2,500 in the form of City debt if it were paid immediately, but since interest will have to be paid over time in the amount of another $2,500, the total would be $5,000 per capita. Mr. Scheirer questioned why has the City borrowed so much. He observed that sometimes it does make sense to borrow, as in last year's street light bond issue that enabled the City to repurchase an asset that will last many years and is an unusual expense. He further noted that the refinancing portion of tonight's bond makes sense since it will save money and not increase total debt. Mr. Scheirer stressed, however, that the Bond Issue being considered under Bill No. 19 – 2005 will increase the total debt by over $5 million. Focusing on the equipment portion of the bond that amounts to over $1/2 million, Mr. Scheirer said this year's borrowing for equipment is limited to bigger ticket items because of last year's Ordinance. Mr. Scheirer, questioning whether the City needs to buy equipment every year, queried why should the City borrow to pay for something it has to do every year. Mr. Scheirer remarked that, in a few years, the City will be at the point where principal payments on the equipment portions of past bonds will equal the total expenditures each year on equipment. Pointing out that the City will have to pay interest as well, Mr. Scheirer queried what is the City going to do then. Referring to the capitalized interest shown in the March 31 handout of $76,000 that goes toward making the interest payment due in October of this year on the 2005 Bond Issue, Mr. Scheirer remarked, in other words, the City borrows to pay the first interest payment. Pointing out there are other costs of $212,000, Mr. Scheirer noted the underwriters discount or premium of $49,000 goes to the company that guarantees that the bonds will be sold at a certain price and who sell the bonds. Insurance costing $75,000 guarantees that the bond will be repaid in the event of a default by the City, and improves the rating of the bonds which means that a lower interest rate is possible. Continuing on to state that miscellaneous costs are $13,000 and the other costs of issuing the bonds are $75,000, Mr. Scheirer said these other costs are further broken down into $16,500 in fees and expenses for the bond counsel, and expressed his understanding that these fees are less than the fees of the previous bond counsel. In addition, there is a cost of $27,500 for the financial advisor, and the cost of preparing and printing the Official Statement of $5,000. The bond still has to be rated, and the agent who determines what risk still remains receives $6,000. The paying and escrow agents receive a total of $4,000. The verification agent receives $4,000. Mr. Scheirer said, finally, there is another miscellaneous charge of $12,000 and the two miscellaneous charges together total over $25,000. Mr. Scheirer asserted that is a considerable amount of miscellany for a Third Class City. Mr. Scheirer commented that perhaps between now and the second vote two weeks from now, the financial consultant can provide a miscellaneous breakdown.
Rezoning Union Boulevard and Center Street Vicinity - CB Commercial Business District to RM and RT Residential Districts
William Fitzpatrick, 732 Center Street, asked for City Council’s support of the proposal to rezone the Union Boulevard and Center Street vicinity from CB Commercial Business District to RM and RT Residential Districts. Mr. Fitzpatrick, referring to past comments made by Members of Council calling for a more comprehensive rezoning plan for the City, said he supports that and added he joins with Council in seeking that sort of redress for the entire City. However, Mr. Fitzpatrick asked Council to favorably consider Bill No. 18 – 2005 that addresses a portion of the City because it is thought it would still be in keeping with any other comprehensive plan that Council might seek in the future. Mr. Fitzpatrick advised that the rezoning proposal emanated with a group of neighbors and the Neighbors on Watch Block Watch who voiced concerns about development in what is truly a residential neighborhood. He continued on to say those developments of business have negatively impacted the quality of life for the residents in their opinion. He added that the group had the good fortune of having the opportunity to work with Darlene Heller, Planning and Zoning Director, and Tracy Samuelson, Assistant Director of Planning and Zoning, in planning and to appear before the Planning Commission on numerous occasions to come up with a plan and the map that is before City Council tonight. Mr. Fitzpatrick communicated that the group would suggest this truly redresses an error that occurred a number of years ago, or an effort to develop the City in a certain way which did not happen due to market conditions. Mr. Fitzpatrick, observing that the market has spoken and there has not been massive commercial development of these areas, pointed out they are more than 90% residential and residents hope that any zoning plan of this nature or in the future would truly reflect the character of the neighborhoods or the areas included. Mr. Fitzpatrick, expressing that for the neighbors it is not just a theoretical issue or lines on a map, said it is really a matter of the quality of life for the people who live in the neighborhoods. Mr. Fitzpatrick said “we respectfully ask your support and passage of Bill No. 18 – 2005.”
Carol Ann Krasley, 624 Center Street, commented it is her understanding that the 600 block of Center Street, a half block from East Broad Street to East Raspberry, has been excluded and asked is this correct.
Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, affirmed that is not included in the rezoning proposal.
Mrs. Krasley asked what are the Administration’s plans for that half block.
Ms. Heller, advising there are commercial uses there, stated it is proposed to remain Commercial District.
Mrs. Krasley, saying “we are proposing that the rest of the Center Street block and other areas be rezoned to some type of Residential”, asked why is that half block being excluded.
Ms. Heller explained what the Bureau is trying to do is rezone portions of the block that are already residential to a Residential Zoning District. Ms. Heller confirmed that the block referenced by Mrs. Krasley between Broad and Raspberry Streets has commercial uses in it so it should remain Commercial.
Mrs. Krasley queried whether the rest of her block that is the west side of Center Street is also currently CB Commercial Business District. Ms. Heller responded in the affirmative. Mrs. Krasley, stressing that residents are trying to get that block converted to a different zoning, remarked that the City still wants to hold onto that half block from East Broad Street to East Raspberry Street. Ms. Heller, replying yes, explained it is because Broad Street is a main commercial corridor, and between Broad Street and Raspberry Street it is felt that should remain Commercial zoning. Mrs. Krasley inquired whether the Administration has a 5 year or a 10 year plan. She continued on to communicate that for property owners in the 600 block of Center Street the proposal would only be of minimal help since the other half block that is excluded would still be CB Commercial Business District. Ms. Heller, verifying it is commercial now, restated it is believed it should remain commercial because the block contains commercial uses, and the Bureau does not want to create non-conforming uses. She added that the proposal is to only rezone the areas that have residential uses in them, and it does not include areas that are commercial.
6. OLD BUSINESS
Tunkhannock Creek – Quality Category
Mrs. Belinski, expressing she has been disturbed by proposals to change the designation for Tunkhannock Creek that is now categorized as high quality, pointed out the request has been made to change the category to exceptional quality. Mrs. Belinski, advising that people in Tunkhannock Township have done a lot of investigation on the matter, noted on the surface the change in category seems innocent, but there are layers involved. Mrs. Belinski stressed that, eventually, it would be forbidden to do any logging as she has been told. She continued on to note that, according to the restrictions, farmers would not even be allowed to put lime on their fields. Remarking that the quality has not changed for ten years, Mrs. Belinski noted that no water has been taken from Tunkhannock Creek for at least two years as the valve is broken. Mrs. Belinski said she would hope every effort is made to stop the change in category.
Stephen Salvesen, Executive Director of the Bethlehem Authority, affirmed that a letter was sent to the DEP and he did speak to individuals in Tunkhannock Township. Mr. Salvesen continued on to say he spoke with the supervisors in Tobyhanna Township who do not support the proposition either. Mr. Salvesen, confirming that he presented the matter to the Bethlehem Authority Board, explained they asked him to review it for two items. One is for withdrawal permits to make sure it did not affect the withdrawal permit, and the second item is to make sure that the change from the present designation to exceptional value would not encumber the ability to do any logging.
Mrs. Belinski, commenting that it is not being told upfront and will come later, explained she has been told that eventually the Bethlehem Authority would be restricted even if it wanted to do logging. In addition, Mrs. Belinski expressed her understanding is that Mr. Mateoli, who owns the race track, is upset because it will affect him also in certain ways pertaining to development, and so on.
Watershed – Activities Allowed
Mrs. Belinski, with reference to a letter from Mr. Salvesen, noted it states that the watershed has been opened for public use including hunting and fishing. Mrs. Belinski, advising she was at a previous Bethlehem Authority meeting, communicated her impression that the members were against opening up the area for fishing for the public.
Mr. Salvesen explained this is part of the open lands policy that was signed a number of years ago with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and pointed out that hunting and fishing is allowed by permit in the creeks, but not in the reservoir.
(President Schweder recognized the arrival of Councilwoman Szabo).
A. Bethlehem Authority – Land Donation to Tunkhannock Township
The Clerk read a letter dated March 22, 2005 from Stephen R. Salvesen, Executive Director of the Bethlehem Authority, in which it was stated that the Bethlehem Authority received a request from the Tunkhannock Township Board of Supervisors asking the Authority to consider donating the land that the Township currently leases for recreational purposes. The property is located behind the municipal tract and adjacent to the Volunteer Fire company property and is 16.33 acres in area. The Authority voted unanimously to donate the property to Tunkhannock Township and is seeking Council support.
President Schweder referred the matter to the Public Works Committee.
B. Lehigh University – Street Vacation - Portion of Brodhead Avenue
The Clerk read a letter dated March 30, 2005 from Anthony L. Corallo, Associate Vice President for Facilities Services and Campus Planning, Lehigh University, asking that a portion of Brodhead Avenue beginning at the south side of its intersection with Summit Street and proceeding south approximately 275 feet to the end of the current public street right-of-way be vacated. Lehigh University is the owner of all property on both sides of that portion of Brodhead Avenue and will provide easements as necessary to the City, affected utility companies and private owners for any underground and aerial utilities, and property access within the vacated portion of Brodhead Avenue. Lehigh University will keep the portion of Brodhead Avenue open in both directions to all traffic, both public and private. The described portion of Brodhead Avenue, upon its physical extension to West Eighth Street (University Drive) will primarily serve intercampus transportation needs, and will interconnect with a network of roads owned by Lehigh University. It will also facilitate greatly the construction of an access to the proposed new parking garage at 615 Brodhead Avenue.
President Schweder referred the request to the Planning Commission.
C. Assistant City Solicitor – Lease Agreement – Police Substation – 1337 East Fifth Street
The Clerk read a memorandum from Joseph M. Kelly, Assistant City Solicitor, dated April 1, 2005 to which was attached a proposed Lease Agreement between the City and the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley for lease of 1337 East Fifth Street for a Police Substation for the period of three years, according to the terms of the Agreement.
President Schweder referred the request to the Public Safety Committee.
D. Assistant City Solicitor – Use Permit Agreement – Boutique at the Rink
The Clerk read a memorandum from Joseph M. Kelly, Assistant City Solicitor, dated April 1, 2005 to which was attached a proposed Use Permit Agreement between the City and St. Luke’s Hospital and Health Network for use of the Municipal Ice Rink for the 2005 Boutique at the Rink for the time period May 7, 2005 to June 12, 2005, according to the terms of the Agreement.
President Schweder stated that the appropriate Resolution can be placed on the April 19 Agenda.
8 . REPORTS
A. President of Council
1. Administrative Order – Dr. Joseph B. Lennert – Fire Civil Service Board
Mayor John B. Callahan reappointed Dr. Joseph B. Lennert to the Fire Civil Service Board effective until March 2009. Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,587 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Resolution passed.
2. Administrative Order – H. Frances Doyle – Redevelopment Authority
Mayor Callahan reappointed H. Frances Doyle to the Redevelopment Authority effective until March 2010. Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,588 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Resolution passed.
C. Parks and Public Property Committee
Mrs. Belinski, Chairwoman of the Parks and Public Property Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee’s meeting that was held March 31, 2005 on the following subject: Amending Article 941 – Prohibiting Motorized Vehicles on Recreational Trails.
D. Finance Committee
Mr. Donchez, Chairman of the Finance Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee’s meeting held March 31, 2005, on the following subjects: 2005 Bond Issue – Non-Utility and Sewer Capital Projects and Refinancing of 2001 Bond Issue; Requirement for Balanced City Budgets; Intermunicipal Fund Transfers – City Council Oversight; RFP and Professional Services Agreement – Financial Advisor for City Council.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 18 – 2005 – Rezoning Union Boulevard/Center Street Vicinity – CB Commercial Business to RM and RT – Residential
The Clerk read Bill No. 18 – 2005, Rezoning Union Boulevard/Center Street Vicinity – CB Commercial Business District to RM and RT – Residential Districts, sponsored by Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Donchez, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE AMENDING PART 13 OF THE CODIFIED ORDINANCES
OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM, PENNSYLVANIA,
AS AMENDED, KNOWN AS THE ZONING ORDINANCE OF THE
CITY OF BETHLEHEM, PENNSYLVANIA, BY AMENDING THE
CITY ZONING MAP.
Ms. Szabo asked for the comments of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission contained in their letter of February 24, 2005.
President Schweder, noting that the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission’s letter dated April 1, 2005 affirmed the comments in their letter of February 24, 2005, asked the Clerk to read the February 24 letter, as follows: “The Comprehensive Planning Committee of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission considered the proposed rezonings at the February 22 meeting. The Committee found the rezonings to be matters of local concern only and voted to offer no comments in their regard. These comments are being forwarded to you at present because the Commission’s February 24 meeting was cancelled due to snow. These comments are subject to ratification at the Commission’s March 31 meeting.”
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 18 – 2005 was declared passed on First Reading.
B. Bill No. 19 – 2005 – 2005 Bond Issue – Non-Utility and Sewer Capital Projects, and General Fund Equipment; Refinancing 2001 Bond Issue
The Clerk read Bill No. 19 – 2005, 2005 Bond Issue – Non-Utility and Sewer Capital Projects; Refinancing 2001 Bond Issue, sponsored by Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Donchez, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM, LEHIGH
AND NORTHAMPTON COUNTIES, PENNSYLVANIA, AUTHORIZING AND DIRECTING
THE ISSUANCE OF GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS, SERIES A OF 2005
(THE SERIES A BONDS) IN AN AGGREGATE PRINCIPAL AMOUNT NOT
TO EXCEED $5,500,000 AND GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS, SERIES
B OF 2005 (THE SERIES B BONDS) IN AN AGGREGATE PRINCIPAL AMOUNT
NOT TO EXCEED OF $4,500,000 (TOGETHER THE BONDS) PURSUANT
TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNIT DEBT ACT OF THE COMMONWEALTH
OF PENNSYLVANIA, 53 PA. C.S. CHS. 80-82 (THE ACT); PROVIDING
THE PROCEEDS OF THE SERIES A BONDS SHALL BE APPLIED TO FUNDING
OF CERTAIN CITY IMPROVEMENTS DESCRIBING THE CITY IMPROVEMENTS
(THE IMPROVEMENTS), AND THE PROCEEDS OF THE SERIES B BONDS
SHALL BE APPLIED TO CARRY OUT THE REFUNDING OF A PORTION THE
REMAINING OUTSTANDING GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS, SERIES OF
2001 (THE 2001 BONDS), SETTING FORTH THE ESTIMATED USEFUL
LIFE OF CITY IMPROVEMENTS, AND THE IMPROVEMENTS FINANCED BY
THE PRIOR GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS: COMBINING THE BONDS FOR
SALE AND DETERMINING THAT SUCH SALE SHALL BE A PRIVATE SALE
UNDER THE ACT, AND DETERMINING THAT THE BONDS SHALL BE NONELECTORAL
DEBT OF THE CITY; FIXING THE INTEREST PAYMENT DATES, DENOMINATIONS
AND REGISTRATION, TRANSFER AND EXCHANGE PRIVILEGES OF THE
BONDS AND PROVIDING FOR BOOK ENTRY BONDS THROUGH DEPOSITORY
TRUST COMPANY; SETTING FORTH THE MATURITY DATES, PRINCIPAL
MATURITIES AND CURRENT INTEREST RATES OF EACH SERIES OF BONDS
AND ESTABLISHING A REQUIRED SCHEDULE OF PAYMENTS WITH RESPECT
TO THE SINKING FUNDS, AS HEREINAFTER ESTABLISHED, IN ORDER
TO AMORTIZE THE BONDS; ESTABLISHING THE REDEMPTION PROVISIONS
OF THE BONDS, BOTH OPTIONAL AND MANDATORY; ESTABLISHING THE
NOTICE REQUIREMENTS WITH RESPECT TO THE REDEMPTION OF THE
BONDS; ACCEPTING A BID FOR PURCHASE OF THE BONDS AND AUTHORIZING
EXECUTION OF THE BOND PURCHASE AGREEMENT; DESIGNATING A PAYING
AGENT AND REGISTRAR; DESIGNATING A PLACE AND METHOD OF PAYMENT
OF THE BONDS AND INTEREST THEREON AND MAKING CERTAIN COVENANTS
WITH RESPECT TO THE TAX FREE STATUS THEREOF; ESTABLISHING
THE SUBSTANTIAL FORMS OF THE BONDS AND THE PAYING AGENT'S
CERTIFICATE RELATING THERETO; AUTHORIZING EXECUTION AND AUTHENTICATION
OF THE BONDS; PROVIDING FOR THE REGISTRATION OF THE BONDS,
THE MAINTENANCE OF RECORDS OF REGISTERED OWNERS AND TRANSFER
OF THE BONDS; DESIGNATING A SINKING FUND DEPOSITORY; COVENANTING
TO PAY THE PRINCIPAL OF AND INTEREST ON THE BONDS AND PLEDGING
THE FULL FAITH, CREDIT AND TAXING POWER OF THE CITY TO SUCH
PURPOSE; ESTABLISHING SINKING FUNDS FOR THE RESPECTIVE SERIES
OF BONDS AND AUTHORIZING AND DIRECTING PAYMENT THEREFROM;
SETTING FORTH CERTAIN PROVISIONS WITH RESPECT TO THE INVESTMENT
OF MONIES THEREIN; DESIGNATING A SINKING FUND DEPOSITORY;
SETTING FORTH CERTAIN RIGHTS OF THE PAYING AGENT AND BONDHOLDERS
IN THE EVENT OF DEFAULT AND OTHER RIGHTS OF THE PARTIES WITH
RESPECT TO THE BONDS; PROVIDING FOR THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER
WHICH THE ORDINANCE MAY BE AMENDED OR MODIFIED; PROVIDING
FOR THE TERMS, CONDITIONS AND COVENANTS WITH RESPECT TO THE
BOND INSURER, IF ANY, FOR THE BONDS; AUTHORIZING AND DIRECTING
SPECIFIED OFFICERS OF THE CITY TO DO AND PERFORM CERTAIN SPECIFIED,
REQUIRED OR APPROPRIATE ACTS; AUTHORIZING THE EXECUTION OF
DOCUMENTS FOR SETTLEMENT AND THE PAYMENT OF ISSUANCE EXPENSES;
DECLARING THAT THE DEBT TO BE INCURRED IS WITHIN THE LIMITATION
IMPOSED BY THE ACT UPON INCURRING OF SUCH DEBT BY THE CITY;
AUTHORIZING AND DIRECTING PROPER OFFICERS OF THE CITY TO DELIVER
THE BONDS UPON EXECUTION AND AUTHENTICATION THEREOF, UPON
RECEIPT OF PROPER PAYMENT OF THE BALANCE DUE THEREFOR, AND
ONLY AFTER SPECIFIED APPROVAL, AS REQUIRED, OF THE DEPARTMENT
OF COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH
OF PENNSYLVANIA; SETTING FORTH CERTAIN COVENANTS RELATING
TO THE FEDERAL TAX STATUS OF THE BONDS; PROVIDING FOR COMPLIANCE
WITH SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION RULE 15c2-12; COVENANTING
TO PAY OVER AT SETTLEMENT SUFFICIENT MONIES TO PROVIDE FOR
THE PAYMENT OF THE PRIOR BONDS OF EACH SERIES TO BE REFUNDED
IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE REFUNDING PROGRAM AND AUTHORIZING AND
DIRECTING CERTAIN OTHER ACTIONS AND APPROVING DOCUMENTATION
WITH REGARD TO THE REFUNDING, AND ESTABLISHING SINKING FUNDS
FOR THE BONDS BEING REFUNDED; PROVIDING FOR THE USE OF AND
MAKING A COVENANT AS TO THE ADEQUACY OF THE PROCEEDS TO BE
PAID OVER TO THE ESCROW AGENT FOR PURPOSES OF THE REFUNDING;
COVENANTING AND DIRECTING THE USE OF PROCEEDS FOR THE PURCHASE
OF INVESTMENTS UNDER A BONDS ESCROW AGREEMENT; PRESCRIBING
CERTAIN CONDITIONS OF THE 2001 BONDS ESCROW AGREEMENT AND
AUTHORIZING AND DIRECTING ACTIONS OF THE ESCROW AGENT, AND
SETTING FORTH THE DEFINITIVE FORM OF SAID ESCROW AGREEMENT;
SETTING FORTH CERTAIN COVENANTS WITH RESPECT TO THE ADEQUACY
OF REVENUES TO BE AVAILABLE UNDER THE SAID ESCROW AGREEMENTS;
PROVIDING FOR THE ISSUANCE OF IRREVOCABLE INSTRUCTIONS TO
THE PAYING AGENT FOR THE PRIOR BONDS SUBJECT TO EARLY OPTIONAL
REDEMPTION TO CALL SAID BONDS FOR REDEMPTION ON CERTAIN SPECIFIED
DATES, ALL PRIOR BONDS OF THE SERIES TO BE REFUNDED MATURING
THEREAFTER, AND ESTABLISHING THE FORM OF SUCH IRREVOCABLE
INSTRUCTIONS AND THE NOTICE OF REDEMPTION AND NOTICE OF REFUNDING;
PROVIDING FOR NOTICE TO ANY BOND INSURER; PROVIDING FOR SEVERABILITY
OF PROVISIONS OF THE ORDINANCE; PROVIDING FOR REPEAL OF ALL
ORDINANCES OR PARTS OF ORDINANCES SO FAR AS THE SAME SHALL
BE INCONSISTENT; PROVIDING WHEN THIS ORDINANCE SHALL BECOME
Mr. Donchez observed that representatives of Concord Public Finance, Financial advisors, and King Spry, Bond Counsel, are in attendance this evening. Mr. Donchez asked if the threshold for the refinancing of the 2001 Bond Issue to move forward is within the 2% savings figure, and whether there were any changes since the Finance Committee meeting last week.
Darryl Peck, of Concord Public Finance, responded that based on today’s current market the refinancing would be within the 2% savings figure, and all things being equal in two weeks, the savings would be there again. Mr. Peck added that the clear direction was to achieve 2% savings in order to advance the refinancing of the 2001 Bond Issue.
President Schweder asked Francis Donchez, Police Commissioner, to describe the Police Equipment contained in the 2005 Bond Issue. Police Commissioner Donchez confirmed that radios and Police vehicles were included. President Schweder asked Police Commissioner Donchez to describe the vehicles. Police Commissioner Donchez replied they consist of 2005 Crown Victoria’s, and they are all marked vehicles.
President Schweder, advising that this evening he observed a new vehicle he believes is a Ford Taurus parked in the Police Parking Only space in the City Hall Garage with the license plate MG 2303B, asked if that was included in the Bond Issue.
Police Commissioner Donchez replied no, not that he knows of.
President Schweder queried whether Charles Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, has any knowledge of the vehicle.
Mr. Brown said, if it is a Ford Taurus, yes he has knowledge of it. Mr. Brown confirmed to President Schweder it is not a Police vehicle. Mr. Brown explained it was a car that was purchased for the Director of Community and Economic Development. Mr. Brown added it has to come back to Council. Mr. Brown noted the money was obtained from an escrow account that in the past was earmarked for insurance money received for vehicles that were fixed and is provided for used cars. Mr. Brown, advising that in the 2005 Budget three cars were requested for the Department of Community and Economic Development, noted that request was turned down and it was stated that the Department would be given back-up units from the Police Department when they were turned in so that cars would not have to be purchased. The transmission of the car used by the Plumbing Inspector broke, and the car driven by the Director of Community and Economic Development had about 112,000-113,000 miles on it. As a result, the decision was made to look for a used car and a used vehicle was located at a cost of $12,500 with 40,000 miles on it and a 30 day warranty. The Purchasing Director, through a State contract for vehicles, located a new vehicle at a cost of $14,900. Acknowledging that he took the responsibility for going ahead with the purchase, Mr. Brown verified that everyone involved should have realized that the use of the escrow account needs to be reviewed by the Finance Committee, and noted that he sent a letter today to Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, explaining the situation. He added that if there is a Ford Taurus in the City Hall Garage parked along the South wall it is probably that new vehicle.
President Schweder queried whether retroactive approval will be sought from the Finance Committee.
Mr. Brown, communicating that the car should not have been purchased according to the way it was, said he was in error because he should have known that if $14,000 was going to be moved from an escrow account to the General Fund Budget then it should have been done appropriately. Mr. Brown, denoting it was an oversight, affirmed it has been done in the past for used vehicles and he and the others who dealt with the matter had not given it any thought. Mr. Brown confirmed that he prepared the letter yesterday to be sent to Mr. Reichard and forwarded to the Finance Committee. Mr. Brown, stating that the car has been put on hold, further informed President Schweder that the car would not be titled to the City until it is paid.
President Schweder asked if the Controller’s Office has reviewed the matter and what was their determination. Mr. Brown replied it was that the matter needed to go to the Finance Committee, and they did not approve it.
Mr. Reichard, advising that Wallace DeCrosta, City Controller, spoke with him regarding the matter, affirmed that cars have been purchased at various times out of the escrow account and there was never a problem. Mr. Reichard explained that Mr. DeCrosta’s concern was that because the new car was for Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, the Controller felt that Mr. Reichard should talk to Mr. Donchez, Chairman of the Finance Committee. Mr. Reichard added that he did call Mr. Donchez today to try to get in touch with him. Mr. Reichard continued on to say the discussion he was going to have with Mr. Donchez was that the car had a transmission replaced just recently, $3,000 worth of expenses, with 112,000 miles, and the City obtained a great deal on the new car, and to ask Mr. Donchez whether he wants the matter to be reviewed in Finance Committee. Mr. Reichard advised this has been done on numerous occasions, and auction money and escrow money has been used to purchase cars, and there has never been a problem. Mr. Reichard restated that Mr. DeCrosta had no problem with this except for the fact that it had to do with Mr. Hanna and is why the situation came up. Mr. Reichard added it was known the situation was going to come up because it was heard what was going on. Mr. Reichard, stressing no one is hiding anything, reiterated this has been done before, and the auditors have audited it.
President Schweder, in response to Mr. Reichard, stated no one has accused Mr. Reichard or anyone else of anything tonight. President Schweder, saying this has nothing to do with Mr. Hanna, affirmed he asked the Police Commissioner if it was a Police vehicle and he asked the Director of Parks and Public Property.
Mr. Donchez, commenting that Mr. Reichard called his home, advised he did not return home this evening until about 6:45 PM and was not able to return Mr. Reichard’s call. Mr. Donchez stated that, if a telephone call would have been made prior to today asking him if he had a problem with the matter and would he take it to the Finance Committee, noted he probably would have said he does not have a problem with it and would put it on the next Finance Committee agenda because of the time factor. Mr. Donchez restated that, if a situation were to happen again, a telephone call in advance should be made. Mr. Reichard added that he called Mr. Donchez yesterday when he received the memorandum from Mr. Brown.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 19 – 2005 was declared passed on First Reading.
A. Approving Traffic Impact Study Fees
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,589 that adopted a fee structure for fees related to Subdivision and Development Review before the City Planning Commission for traffic study reviews requiring that for major subdivisions, land developments or site plans where a traffic impact study is required (as described in the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance), the developer shall be responsible for paying all charges related to review of any traffic impact studies by the City’s consulting traffic engineer. A $2,500 escrow fee is required by separate check to cover all such consulting fees. All consultant fees will be deducted from the escrow account and the applicant, at a time when the account falls below 50% of its original amount, shall replenish the escrow account, as necessary, to its original amount. The applicant will receive any residual amount left in the escrow account after all conditions of approval are met.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Resolution passed.
B. Certificate of Appropriateness – 333 South New Street
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,590 that denied a Certificate of Appropriateness to add a dark green awning with “Pacific Smoothie” on both sides and the front at 333 South New Street.
Considering Resolutions 11 C through 11 F as a Group
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski moved to consider Resolutions 11 C through 11 F as a group.
Voting AYE on the motion: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The motion passed.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 734-736 East Fourth Street
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Leeson sponsored Resolution 14,591 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to alter the façade at 734-736 East Fourth Street.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 4 East Fourth Street
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Leeson sponsored Resolution 14,592 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install an 11’6” x 20’ equipment shelter for a cellular base station on the roof of the Fred B. Rooney building at 4 East Fourth Street.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 225 East Fourth
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Leeson sponsored Resolution 14,593 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the solarium windows and aggregate panels below the windows at 225 East Fourth Street.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 309 South New Street
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Leeson sponsored Resolution 14,594 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the existing signage at 309 South New Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 C through 11 F: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Resolutions passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS
Watershed Management Plan – Resignation of Art Brooks
Mrs. Belinski said she was very distressed to find out that Art Brooks, the Bethlehem Authority’s forestry consultant, has resigned. Mrs. Belinski stressed that Mr. Brooks is one of the leading foresters on the east coast and the City was very luck to have engaged his services. She pointed out that Mr. Brooks came up with an excellent, comprehensive watershed management plan to market trees in a responsible, selective manner. Mrs. Belinski, querying why Mr. Brooks left, remarked he will not say and no one is talking. Mrs. Belinski recounted that, at the Finance Committee meeting last week when Mr. Reichard was asked how the holes in the budget are going to be filled, Mr. Reichard said the Administration is working on a plan. Mrs. Belinski asserted the only plan there could possibly be is to sell land at the watershed or cut the trees. Mrs. Belinski stated she puts forth tonight the reason Mr. Brooks left is because he is a responsible man of integrity and would not go along with what the Mayor wanted him to do that is to cut more trees than he thought was responsible to manage the forest. Mrs. Belinski asked if the Mayor has any answer.
Mayor Callahan responded that, as Mrs. Belinski said, he does not have any idea why Mr. Brooks decided to leave so anything beyond that is speculation.
Mrs. Belinski inquired who will the Bethlehem Authority get to equal Mr. Brooks’ caliber. Mrs. Belinski commented that she will be watching over their shoulders.
President Schweder asked whether a finished work plan has been presented by Mr. Brooks.
David Brong, Director of Water and Sewer Resources, replied there is a sequential plan of action that is broken down year to year that involves commercial and non-commercial thinning of certain stands, in order to facilitate regeneration. Mr. Brong expressed the belief that it is a ten year plan. Mr. Brong confirmed there is such a report.
President Schweder asked whether the plan will be followed and implemented.
Mr. Brong replied “our plan was to do that certainly to rationalize it through Mr. Brooks so whoever jumps in that saddle next will certainly have to come up to speed on that plan, and help us implement it.”
President Schweder queried whether it is being said that Mr. Brooks’ plan in a sense may be meaningless.
Mr. Brong responded no, not at all.
President Schweder asked would the next person be able to alter that or decide to come back with recommendations that would run counter to what Mr. Brooks had proposed.
Mr. Brong replied he would imagine there is going be certain flexibilities provided to the forester if there is something that is inconsistent with popular thinking at that point. Mr. Brong said at this point there is the plan in hand, and up until Mr. Brooks resignation there was no intention to deviate from the plan.
President Schweder queried would there be any reason to deviate now.
Mr. Brong said he is not seeing any.
Mayor Callahan commented that, with a new forester, he thinks one would want to have that forester have the opportunity to weigh in on whether the plan makes sense or not. Mayor Callahan exemplified that, when someone gets rid of the head coach, one expects the new coach to bring in a new play book, and one would not expect the new coach to work off the old coach’s play book.
Mrs. Belinski said “Mr. Mayor, you just proved my point…Mr. Brong’s comments, popular thinking, not what a good qualified forester thinks. Popular thinking. They need the money, let’s cut the trees.”
Wastewater Treatment Plant – Conveyor Belt and Digester
Mrs. Belinski, asking what is the situation with the conveyor belt at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, stressed she is disgusted that human beings today have to shovel human waste. Mrs. Belinski, pointing out that the company had a year and a half to fix the problem, highlighted the fact that they are not fixing it.
Mr. Brong, acknowledging he is as frustrated as Mrs. Belinski, remarked it is probably one of the greater engineering failures that he has seen since becoming employed by the City. Mr. Brong explained the problem can be typified by the available expertise trying to troubleshoot the failure modes of the system from afar. Mr. Brong continued on to say nobody is really willing to get on an airplane, come to Bethlehem, witness the failure mode, come up with the appropriate resolutions, and get it in place. Mr. Brong advised there was a meeting this past week, and there are solutions that the original equipment manufacturer believes he has in order to rectify the system. Mr. Brong said “at this point, I believe he’s got one more shot.”
Mrs. Belinski asked if Mr. Brong promises that.
Mr. Brong replied yes. Mr. Brong further informed Mrs. Belinski that not all elements of the system are bad. There is one area that is significantly suspect and is being reviewed.
Mrs. Belinski asked what is the condition of the north secondary digester and if it is functioning.
Mr. Brong notified Mrs. Belinski if it is not on line now it will be within days.
Mr. Leeson complimented the Public Works Department’s Streets Bureau that he said has been doing a great job in the northeastern sector of the City with potholes. Mr. Leeson recalled that, in prior years, things seemed to be working a little slower while this year things seem to be working a little faster. Mr. Leeson asked that a thank you be conveyed to whoever is responsible.
Mr. Donchez, suggesting that the item could be added to the Public Safety Committee agenda, said he has not received any reports dealing with the Paramedics. Mr. Donchez said he is asking that all Members of Council be provided with a first quarter report dealing with the number of EMS calls and responses by the City and outside agencies. In addition, Mr. Donchez suggested that for the Public Safety Committee meeting an update can be given on how the transfer of the EMS Bureau to the Fire Department is working out.
Section 8 Housing
Mr. Donchez, referring to the Communication that was received for the March 15, 2005 City Council meeting containing the Section 8 income limits, said he would like a breakdown of the number of Section 8 housing units for the last five years.
Flooding Conditions – Update
Mr. Donchez asked for an update on the affect of recent flooding conditions that occurred following last weekend’s storm.
Mr. Brown, affirming the City was not hit as hard as it was last September as a result of Hurricane Ivan, advised the areas affected were the towpath, Sand Island, Historic Bethlehem area, Monocacy Park, and Saucon Park. Mr. Brown recounted that some of the damage that occurred after Hurricane Ivan has doubled. Mr. Brown stated that, along with Michael Sankovsky, the City’s emergency management director, a list of damages was submitted that totaled about $42,000. Mr. Brown notified the assembly that Bethlehem was not declared an emergency area, but the City of Easton was. Mr. Brown added that Monocacy Park is bad, and Saucon Park is still flooding.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Water System and Strategic Plan
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, said that comments of Mrs. Belinski and others confirmed 18 of his comments at City Council Meetings concerning what to do about the watershed and the Department of Water and Sewer Resources. Referring to his comments at the March 15, 2005 City Council Meeting about a triangular base that runs the system which is shifting between the Administration, the Bethlehem Authority, and City Council, Mr. Antalics said the Art Brooks issue is that. Mr. Antalics recounted that Mr. Brooks was hired by the Bethlehem Authority and Mr. Brooks’ plan was submitted to City Council. Mr. Antalics said Mr. Brooks is caught between politics. Mr. Antalics, recalling he had suggested looking at things that Mr. Brong had suggested, stated Mr. Brong had a plan as a function of the Strategic Plan that would solve the problem, and read from the minutes of the March 15, 2005 City Council Meeting pertaining to his comments under the second Courtesy of the Floor. Mr. Antalics expressed his understanding is that the Mayor, the President of Council, and the Bethlehem Authority Executive Director have not sat down to discuss the problem.
Mr. Antalics asked President Schweder what he is expecting from the Administration in terms of response. President Schweder advised he would assume when the Administration has a specific proposal it will be forwarded to City Council. Mr. Antalics asked the Mayor what he thinks of Mr. Brong’s presentation in terms of the Department of Water and Sewer Resources being a business, and implementing Mr. Brong’s suggestions based on the Strategic Plan. Mayor Callahan, responding he is fully supportive of the plan that is something for which he brought up the need early on, stated there has been a long term problem and the City needed to come up with a short term plan that would offer some short term solutions and a long term vision for the Bethlehem Authority. Affirming that, to the extent it can, the Administration would want to run the water and sewer departments as a business, Mayor Callahan pointed out it must be recognized that it is not truly a business, and as a municipality running the operations there is a service component. Mayor Callahan advised that the long term strategic plan assumes nothing in terms of the direction of the Bethlehem Authority becoming an operating authority, or existing as it is which is a financing arm, or not being the financing arm. Mayor Callahan continued on to say it does lay out in an a la carte fashion some solutions to the problems, short and long term, that the Bethlehem Authority and the operations are facing. Mayor Callahan, reiterating he is supportive of the plan, said he thinks it is a question now of timing of implementation, and which of the potential solutions is the City going to pick from, and how much of each, such as a rate increase, cutting costs, and so on. Mayor Callahan stated how much of each is chosen to be done will be up to Mr. Brong. Mr. Antalics stated that when he posed the question to the Bethlehem Authority he got a very convoluted, complicated answer to a very simple question, and he is getting that here again. Mr. Antalics queried whether Mr. Salvesen has any comments to make.
Mr. Antalics said Mr. Brong made a very simple plan and all someone has to do is say it is good, let’s do it. Mr. Antalics questioned who is going to say that. Mr. Antalics inquired whether the City can assume financial responsibility for the whole operation that is now being assumed by the Bethlehem Authority, and whether there can be a transfer without a problem. Mr. Reichard pointed out in that case there would have to be a change in the way the Authority is structured, such as making it an operating authority. In further response to Mr. Antalics, Mr. Reichard commented that the City could probably assume the financial responsibility. Mr. Antalics asked for an answer in terms that a middle school student could understand to the question of who takes care of the financial responsibilities of the Bethlehem Authority and where the money comes from. Mr. Reichard advised the money come from water revenues and bond issue proceeds.
Mr. Antalics asked can City Council, the Administration, and the Bethlehem Authority sit down and deal with Mr. Brong’s presentation. and come up with an answer that is real and simplistic that will solve the problem. President Schweder responded that, as the Mayor said, there is no definitive way that the report necessarily directs the Administration to act, it leaves it open, and the Administration has not reached a point of decision with respect to how they want to advance it. President Schweder stated, as soon as the Administration makes a recommendation, he thinks all would be more than willing to sit down and meet. Mr. Antalics felt that simplistically Mr. Brong’s Strategic Plan did in fact answer that, everyone agreed with it, and said “let’s implement the Strategic Plan.”
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, read a passage from a book by Vince Lombardi about truth and leadership. Mr. Grubb, stating he is not a disgruntled ex-employee nor is this to be construed as sour grapes, said he is a resident taxpayer and a former City employee who for a number of years witnessed some very questionable and unethical conduct on the part of a few people in City government. Mr. Grubb said every time he tried to take it up the chain of command it was met with resistance and nothing was ever done. Mr. Grubb continued on to say there are a very few working in City government who should not be there. Asserting that they have no regard for doing the right thing and what is good for the community, Mr. Grubb stated that, rather, they attempt to deceive and manipulate for their personal and/or political benefit, and as a lifetime resident of Bethlehem he resents this kind of conduct. Focusing on the issue of the vehicle addressed earlier, Mr. Grubb said if this was truly an honest budget then the matter should have been brought to City Council before the deal was consummated. Mr. Grubb, expressing his disagreement with Mr. Brown, said there was a request for four vehicles in the Community and Economic Development budget last year for the Bureaus of Health, Code Enforcement, Housing Inspections, and the Director. Mr. Grubb remarked when it looked like there was only going to be one new vehicle the Director announced that he was going to get it. Mr. Grubb related that the chief Code Enforcement Officer had a vehicle that did not work in reverse, and would not climb the hills, and the chief of the Bureau of Inspections had headaches from the engine fumes that entered the passenger compartment of his vehicle. Mr. Grubb said the Department Head lamented the fact that he did not have a new vehicle. Mr. Grubb wondered whether City Council ever received a city employee vehicle use policy from the Administration that was requested at last year’s budget hearings. Mr. Grubb said his point is that there needs to be accountability. Focusing on escalating gasoline prices, Mr. Grubb wondered what is being done about nonessential uses of City vehicles, and questioned why some employees are allowed to use City vehicles to drive back and forth to work. Mr. Grubb stated controlling that through policy will conserve fuel and related costs, insure that existing budgets hopefully will carry the City through the end of the year, and will eliminate the temptations to use City vehicles for personal use. Mr. Grubb, relating that he brought the matter to light in December 2004 because he was concerned about the Budget, pointed out that the City spends over $330,000 in fuel. Mr. Grubb noted this is one of the issues the local press took the Easton Redevelopment Authority to task for because some officials were using vehicles for personal use. In addition, Mr. Grubb said, knowing what he knows about the way City Hall works, later in the year everybody will be asked to conserve fuel when it is much too late to reduce the costs. Mr. Grubb asserted the City cannot afford these kinds of cost increases, and added that many in the community cannot afford to pay the gas prices at the pump. Mr. Grubb said to date fuel costs have risen by approximately 20%. If one assumes that bulk fuel costs have risen by approximately the same amount, the City is already almost $66,000 behind Budget. If the costs continue to escalate, the costs will be about 40% higher that is another $130,000. Mr. Grubb encouraged the Administration to begin looking at the matter now rather than later. He thought a policy needs to be developed so that abuses do not take place. Mr. Grubb, stressing that he and many people in the community cannot afford to be sending City workers back and forth to work when there is no need to do that, pointed out there are a number of non-essential City workers who do not need a vehicle at their disposal. Mr. Grubb communicated there are areas in the Budget that can be addressed through the use of applying prudent management tactics.
Greenway, Saucon Park, Police Substation, and Crossing Guards
Eddie Rodriquez, 436 Pawnee Street, expressed that he is concerned about the Greenway and Saucon Park, as well as other issues and problems in the City. Mr. Rodriquez noted he has a list of things that he brought to the attention of Charles Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, regarding Saucon Park. Mr. Rodriquez asked City officials to support Mr. Brown’s requests for Saucon Park where there is a massive amount of work to be done, invited them to go there, and said he wants to discuss the issues that he has seen personally. Mr. Rodriquez, enumerating that inside the creek there are branches, sand, and rocks, asked that a certain section of Saucon Park be barricaded so that work can be done and have Police presence because there is a potential dangerous and hazardous condition. He continued on to advise that inside the creek there is a retaining wall that is severely cracked an inch and a half to two inches in some sections. Turning to the Greenway project, Mr. Rodriquez asked will it exceed $300,000 and does it have to pass through an environment and section of the City that is negative. Mr. Rodriquez asserted there will be muggings, burglarizing, vandalism, and car thefts. Querying how this can be prevented from happening, Mr. Rodriquez suggested that first the City alert people by educating them to the process of prevention. Further commenting that, by putting up a retaining wall from a certain section of Hayes Street, a lot of the problems will be prevented from happening, Mr. Rodriquez said part of the roadway is on top of a cliff that is eroded already. Since there is a huge tree there, Mr. Rodriquez remarked if the tree is removed the road on top of the cliff and the house on Railroad Street will be affected. Mr. Rodriquez communicated that people should not be subjected to hazardous conditions through Hayes, Hobart and Fourth Streets, Lynn Avenue, South Terrace, Williams Street, and Fifth Street. Mr. Rodriquez asked City officials to consider a Police substation not only on Fifth Street but on Hobart and East Third Streets because that is where the negative environment is located. Mr. Rodriquez suggested that section of the Greenway project be eliminated, cut it off at Hayes Street and form it up the other way to the north side rather than put people in a predicament that endangers them. Mr. Rodriquez asked that crossing guards come out further into the street, and on a timely basis holding the stop sign. Mr. Rodriquez pointed out there is a potential danger at Liberty High School where students are crossing the street.
Darryl Kulp, 1101 Wood Street, said he is at the meeting on behalf of Bethlehem Firefighters Local 735. Noting a conclusion has been reached on the issue of Fire Inspectors, Mr. Kulp thanked Mr. Reichard, the Mayor, and City Council for letting the matter come back to where it should have gone in the first place. Mr. Kulp, affirming there are Fire Inspectors back in those positions, advised he is also here to say that is still not enough. Stating it is still not going to address the main concern that there is not enough people to do the job, Mr. Kulp stressed that four full time steady day spots is still not going to catch the Department up or even bring it close when it is still almost 3,000 inspections behind. Mr. Kulp asked that at the next Public Safety Committee meeting, or if he could set up a meeting with Chairman Leeson, he has some thoughts and ideas on how to address the matter. Pointing out that the plan worked out between the Firefighters Union and the City for inspections was at a very minimal cost to the City, Mr. Kulp commented he would like to see the parties work on this more as time goes on.
New Fire Station – South Side
Mr. Kulp, recalling he had corresponded with Mr. Donchez about a second Fire Station on the South Side, asked has there been any movement or any more discussion concerning the matter. Adding he knows that questions have been raised with some of the developers, Mr. Kulp asked where the matter stands.
Mr. Donchez affirmed that he sent a letter to Michael Perrucci, a developer of the Bethlehem Works site, and to the President of Lehigh Valley Industrial Park (LVIP) asking them to donate land to the City for a possible new Fire Station for the eastern side of the City. Mr. Donchez advised he has not received a written response from the President or LVIP, and noted he has discussed the matter briefly with Mr. Perrucci and intends to discuss it with him again. Observing that a lot depends on some other developments at Bethlehem Works, Mr. Donchez said it is still an ongoing issue.
EMS, Police and Fire Department - Facilities
Mr. Kulp asked whether anyone has looked into seeking any Federal or State grants for building either a new Fire facility, Police station, EMS building, or a combination. Mr. Kulp pointed out that in other cities applications have been made for building a public safety building that housed Police, Fire, and EMS operations, as well as training facilities for the Fire and Police Departments. In addition, Mr. Kulp asked whether there are any plans drawn for such a long term capital project.
Mr. Leeson stated he is not aware of any plans, but thought it was the kind of thing that would be done once a site is donated.
Mr. Kulp asked that he be sent a copy of anything regarding the matter, and communicated if there are any questions he would like to play an intricate part. Mr. Kulp expressed the belief that through the international association of firefighters there is access to key figures and Federal monies. Mr. Kulp said he would like to sit down and start helping to devise a plan because he thinks it is long overdue.
Anthony Rybak, 408 Adams Street, said approximately three weeks ago he made the statement in front of about 20 witnesses that in one year the current Mayor increased the City’s debt load by over 100% from approximately $175,000,000 to over $363,000,000. Mr. Rybak said the Mayor denied any increase in debt at the meeting except for the bond issue involving the Hirko trial settlement. Referring to Mr. Reichard’s statements in the Express-Times Friday edition, Mr. Rybak stated Mr. Reichard confirmed that the debt load under the current Mayor is $363,000,000 and pointed out that the City will have this amount in nine years, and in 14 years it will be 62% of the $363,000,000. Turning to the City’s financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2003 prepared by the independent auditors, and City of Bethlehem inter-departmental correspondence dated March 9, 2005 on the subject of listing of bond issues and unspent bond issue funds, Mr. Rybak noted these documents detail the fact that the City’s debt load has risen from $175,000,000 to $363,000,000 during the current Mayor’s first year in office. Stating that the Mayor has not replied to Mr. Rybak’s correspondence or telephone calls, Mr. Rybak said as a citizen of Bethlehem he respectfully requests that the Mayor address this issue and explain the reasoning for raising the debt load by this obscene amount. Referring to Mr. Reichard’s comments, Mr. Rybak expressed that, with all due respect, he believes the entire City is tired of things being done quietly as too many things fall through the cracks.
Rail Line – South Bethlehem
William Hubbard, 27 West Washington Avenue, noted he is at the meeting on behalf of the Delaware Valley Association of Railroad Passengers and the National Association of Railroad Passengers. He stated that Mr. Pease could not be in attendance this evening, and explained the organizations are following up to find out the status of acquiring the right of way along the Norfolk Southern rail line in South Bethlehem for the Greenway project.
Mayor Callahan responded he does not know that anything has changed since a few weeks ago in terms of the status of the negotiations of the lease agreement between the City and Norfolk Southern Railroad.
Mr. Hubbard asked has anything been done to preserve the entire 3.7 miles right of way.
Mr. Leeson, in response to Mr. Hubbard, said he has heard nothing about a meeting.
EMS, Police and Fire Department - Facilities
Mr. Brown, explaining the matter has been worked on, advised that EMS, Police and Fire have substantiated buildings and square footage. In addition, the Department is contacting local State representatives offices for terrorism grants. Mr. Brown suggested that Mr. Kulp contact him.
Greenway and Museum – South Bethlehem
Charles Nyul, 1966 Pinehurst Road, asked why there should be a Greenway on the South Side, to what does it connect from east to west, and what does it do. Observing the first thing that comes to his mind when traveling to the proposed Greenway is where does he park, Mr. Nyul said it would be nice if the Greenway had 1,000 parking spaces on the west side and 1,000 parking spaces on the east side. Mr. Nyul thought parking would facilitate people coming into the City, parking, going downtown, shopping, and bringing in revenues. Mr. Nyul, querying why a Greenway, asserted if it going to be macadamized it will bring skateboarders, cyclists, and others, and if it is left a mud puddle there will be problems in cleaning it up. Mr. Nyul thought if the Greenway were functional at both ends for something related to the South Side, or provided parking, it would be great. Mr. Nyul, questioning why there should be a museum on the South Side, recounted that at a public meeting several years ago about the redevelopment of the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation property he told Steve Donches that a museum is lousy. Mr. Nyul communicated that the City will not receive money as a result of a museum. Mr. Nyul, querying what is happening to the City, said he is looking for things that are created, uplifting, and good. Mr. Nyul felt these things are going in the wrong direction.
Water Agreement – Bethlehem Steel Corporation
Mr. Nyul, noting he keeps reading in the newspaper that the water problem is being blamed on Bethlehem Steel, said in the archives of the Bethlehem Authority a piece of paper might be found that makes a deal with the Bethlehem Steel Corporation during Mayor Smith’s Administration stating the fact that Bethlehem Steel got a better deal on their water than the citizens of Bethlehem.
Bethlehem Works - Schools
Mr. Nyul exclaimed what should be on the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation property are brand new middle schools and elementary schools, and leave the two high schools where they are. Mr. Nyul noted this would facilitate busing and everything would be in one place, and would be beneficial for the children who will be attending.
Greenway – South Bethlehem
Mrs. Belinski explained that the Greenway on the South Side was proposed because the Sasaki company from New England came to the City and reported on plans they had to improve the South Side such as clean up the streets, fill in empty spaces, safety, more police, and better lighting. Affirming she attended the public meetings held about the Sasaki plan at Broughal Middle School, Mrs. Belinski noted that afterwards some of the citizens related they have been telling the Administration for 20 years about the issues identified by the Sasaki company. Pointing out that the only new item the Sasaki company came up with was the Greenway, Mrs. Belinski continued on to note that the company did work for Lehigh University before working on a plan for the City. Mrs. Belinski expressed her opinion that the purpose of the Greenway was to make an attractive entrance for Lehigh University.
Mr. Nyul recounted that several years ago the City demolished the Aztec Club at a cost of $175,000 and he has yet to see something beautiful in its place.
Various City Issues
Dean Bruch, 625 Hawthorne Road, commented the reason there are authorities is because they get the best bargain rate prices on loans, and added that authorities can be eliminated. Mr. Bruch recalled that when he drove to work at St. Luke’s Hospital he saw tires, strollers, and other things thrown on the embankment along Third Street, and advised that Lehigh University students helped to clean it up. Mr. Bruch thought that cars should be parked out of town, the Greenway should be macadamed, and a means of transportation should be used to bring people into town for which they would be charged. Mr. Bruch observed that Mr. Pektor’s business office on Third Street does not have parking, and there is no parking for the building to be built at Broad and New Streets. Mr. Bruch suggested that the canal towpath can be used for recreational activities. Mr. Bruch thought that one of the blast furnaces on the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation property should be kept. Mr. Bruch, saying he respects Mayor Callahan for what he did but he does not condone what the Mayor did not do, communicated he wants the Mayor to be a success if reelected. Mr. Bruch stated that Mr. Brown is a blessing to the City. Mr. Bruch further commented that Mr. Reichard is a good man. Mr. Bruch remarked that the City has to get over the money problem. Mr. Bruch felt the City should do the things that are necessary, and the unnecessary items will have to wait.
Fund Raising - Police and Fire Departments
Lucy Lennon, of the Dancing Fish Restaurant, stated she is at the meeting on behalf of the South Side merchants. Ms. Lennon advised that some of the proceeds from fund raising efforts for the City’s Police and Fire Departments have purchased thermal imaging cameras for the Fire Department, have sent every participating Community Police Officer to the International Mountain Bicycle Police Association conference over the past three years, have purchased a special lens for surveillance, and have helped refurbish a conference room/training center at the South Side Fire Station. Focusing on the fund raising activities, Ms. Lennon recalled that last year Mayor Callahan was the winner of the firemen’s agility test, and noted that three or four teams consisted of candidates. Noting that Ms. Szabo sponsored a team last year, Ms. Lennon advised that the cost of sponsorship is $100. Ms. Lennon explained that the fund raising activities are a wonderful way for Council Members and candidates to meet people during the team event that will occur on First Friday, restated the money goes for a very good cause, and expressed that it is a fun-filled event.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:30 p.m.