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February 7, 2006 Meeting Minutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, February 7, 2006 – 7:30 PM
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
Acting President Joseph F. Leeson, Jr. called the meeting to order. Reverend Lori Leib, of Bethany United Church of Christ, offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Jean Belinski, Karen Dolan, Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., Gordon B. Mowrer, and Magdalena F. Szabo, 5. Robert J. Donchez, and President J. Michael Schweder were absent, 2.
Citation – Honoring Kevin Moyzan
Acting President Leeson presented a Citation to Kevin Moyzan,
formerly the Fire Commissioner, who retired from the Fire
Department after 31 years of service.
The Members of Council applauded Mr. Moyzan, and wished him well in his retirement.
Citations – Honoring Richard W. Behler and Jeffrey H. LeCompte
Acting President Leeson advised that the Citations honoring Richard W. Behler who retired from the Fire Department after 26 years of service, and Jeffrey H. LeCompte who retired from the Fire Department after 20 years of service will be forwarded to them since they were unable to be present this evening.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of January 17, 2006 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
Zoning Text Amendments for Personal Care and Assisted Living
Facilities and Non-Conforming Uses - First and Final Reading
Acting President Leeson notified the assembly that First and Final Reading of the proposed
Zoning Text Amendments for Personal Care and Assisted Living Facilities and Non-Conforming Uses has been rescheduled from February 7 and 21, 2006, respectively, to the following: February 21, 2006 – First Reading; and March 7, 2006 – Final Reading.
6. OLD BUSINESS
Wastewater Treatment Plant – Employee and Management Issues
Mrs. Belinski asked David Brong, Director of Water and Sewer Resources, to come to the podium. Mrs. Belinski affirmed that Members of Council received a letter from employees of the Wastewater Treatment Plant who, she said, had taken every means available to them to address complaints they had but which were “glossed over”. Mrs. Belinski read from a letter dated November 4, 2005 sent by Timothy Brennan, Assistant City Solicitor, to Martin O’Dennis, Vice President of Local 473, Philadelphia. She noted that in the letter Mr. Brennan stated “You had indicated several of your members felt intimidated by their Supervisor, Wayne Buller. In particular, you indicated there were communication issues between these employees and Mr. Buller. You also indicated there was ambiguity regarding our standard for conduct unbecoming and regarding the use of foul language. Further, you indicated several employees were unhappy with certain supervisors unscheduled visits to the plant.” After following up on these matters, Mrs. Belinski found out that the unscheduled visits involved Mr. Buller climbing over a fence at 2:30 a.m. to check on the employees to see if they were sleeping, and advised that, to her knowledge, Mr. Buller had not found anyone sleeping. She continued on to note that in the letter Mr. Brennan stated “please be assured that substantial threats or threatening behavior directed towards co-workers is not tolerated by the City of Bethlehem.” She continued on to read from the letter that Attorney Brennan stated “should such conditions exist, it should be reported immediately.” Mrs. Belinski said that, at six different times, six different employees went to the City’s Compliance Officer and reported this, and two telephone calls were also made. Mrs. Belinski quoted from Attorney Brennan’s letter further that “As you can see, the use of foul language would violate this policy, as such conduct would violate points one, three and four. Additionally, all employees, whether management or otherwise, are bound by this policy.” Mrs. Belinski commented it does not seem they adhere to that policy. Referring to Mr. Buller’s climbing over a fence at 2:30 a.m. to check on the employees, Mrs. Belinski quoted from the letter that “the exercise of control over the premises and the ability to supervise, direct, and if necessary, discipline employees is the essential distinguishing feature of the managerial role.” Mrs. Belinski said it was reported to her that when this was brought to Mr. Brong’s attention he said he did not care if Mr. Buller parachuted out of a plain or helicopter or slid in on a sewer pipe. Mrs. Belinski commented it was also noted that the employees of the Wastewater Treatment Plant inquired if the City had a policy regarding industrial safety, or contacting employees while on vacation. As to racial and ethic intimidation, Mrs. Belinski noted she has been told that the City has been reported to the NAACP, and the Hispanic organization about those violations. After appealing and going through the process and nothing being done, Mrs. Belinski stressed that 19 employees signed a letter and sent it to Members of Council since they had no where else to go to address the complaints. Mrs. Belinski related she sent a memorandum to the Compliance Officer asking what recommendations had been given to the Administration to address the complaints, and advised she received a letter from the Human Resources Director saying that interviews were being conducted with the employees who signed the letter. Mrs. Belinski affirmed that a four page letter dated January 25, 2006 was received from Mr. Brong in response to the letter sent by Wastewater Treatment Plant employees. Mrs. Belinski denoted she has been tracking the matter for 14 months, and has spent a lot of time on the telephone over the past weeks with many employees “listening to the pitiful things that are going on [at the Wastewater Treatment Plant].” Mrs. Belinski affirmed that she received from the employees a response to the points made by Mr. Brong in his January 25, 2006 memorandum, and she made various references to the employees’ responses as follows. Mrs. Belinski noted it was explained in the employees’ responses that morale went down when Wayne Buller started at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, and it was high when Mark Wood was the Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent. Mrs. Belinski, advising she personally spoke to Mr. Wood, related that Mr. Wood was given a choice. Mr. Brong was removing him as Superintendent but offering him another position that was a demotion. Instead, Mr. Wood chose to get a job with the Easton Wastewater Treatment Plant that is getting commendations, and the City, Mrs. Belinski said, is “getting citations for violations.” The employees’ response to Mr. Brong’s statement that other municipalities outperform in wastewater is that “this is because of Administration selection of management.” In response to Mr. Brong’s statement that some others remained dubious of our intent, the employees’ response was that discussions and meetings were only for a select few, the intent was not only solids discussion but union personnel business, personalities, and management strategies were discussed, meeting minutes were not published, and it seemed like they were secret meetings. On the issue of privatization, the employees’ response was this was more of an issue for management to fear than the Union since the contract will make available jobs for Union employees but not so for TAMS employees. To Mr. Brong’s statement that significant improvements to solids management were identified, the addition of digester mixers was a cornerstone of improvement, and the need to manage digester heat and primary pumpings, the employees’ explanation was that mixers were on the books long before this administration or management took over, it is not a new concept, and there was never any money to do it. The employees’ further explained that primary clarifiers need to be managed better, sludge needs to settle and not be septic before being pumped to the digester for optimum digester productivity, management does not look at entire process, the influent, primary clarifiers, the aeration tank, the intermediate and final clarifiers all must be considered with the digestion/belt filter press process, not just one process at a time. They also explained there was more than one person in management making differing decisions about plant process and not letting enough time for plant to respond properly. Tightly managed procedure translates into discipline and harassment as an excuse for employee initiative. They continued on to state that employees were blamed for management's lack of responsibility. Mrs. Belinski, recalling her comments at a previous meeting about the Plant running out of propane, related that Mark Wood had a contract with a propane dealer to make sure the tank was always full. Expressing that, evidently, Mr. Buller no longer has that contract, Mrs. Belinski said when the propane was empty, the boiler was put out of commission, and there was no hot water for use by the employees in order to shower before they went home. Continuing on to stress that employees were blamed because the propane tank was empty, Mrs. Belinski asserted it was not their responsibility. Focusing on the issue of sleeping on duty, Mrs. Belinski said no employee was found sleeping on duty, but one employee was found who had put drops in his eyes but was accused of sleeping. Turning to makeshift beds in covert locations, Mrs. Belinski stressed a locker room is not a covert location. It is an industry standard to have a place of rest. Mrs. Belinski advised she has been told by people who have lived over 30 years on Applebutter Road that they have never smelled the Wastewater Treatment Plant as badly as it has recently. The employees have told her they have headaches, teary eyes, and fatigue, from the smells. When this happens, rather than leaving and calling in another employee that would result in overtime, the employees have a cot to take a break and rest if necessary. As to the employee who was absent from the Plant thereby leaving the Plant unattended, Mrs. Belinski explained the individual was bitten by a spider and rather than waste three hours in the emergency room he went home where he knew there was medication, and there were other employees still at the Plant. The employees’ in their response explained when they take initiative, they are scolded and harassed and are confused as to what to do. Few standard operating procedures or SOPs exist, they are not updated, and the SOP book was removed from the Ops trailer for some time. There is a lack of training, and the use of a heavy hand and abusive treatment instead of explanations. Turning next to verbal threats made to Wayne Buller, Mrs. Belinski advised the employees related this was a breach of confidentiality on the City's part when an employee was encouraged to express his feelings from the antagonistic behavior of Mr. Buller. Mrs. Belinski stated that the employee did not ever say this to Mr. Buller at the Plant. However, Mr. Brong insinuated in his memorandum that the employee actually threatened Mr. Buller. Rather, Mrs. Belinski explained the employee had confided to the person to whom he complained, and she in turn told Mr. Brong who put it in his response. Referring to the Police being called during an off-shift visit, the employees’ response was that an employee was cornered in a noisy, non-permitted, confined space. The employee had to jump over pipes to escape. Concerning methane production that was improved, fuel oil consumption plummeting, and cost reductions, Mrs. Belinski commented there are other reasons for that since the record was from December 2005 to mid-January 2006 when there were warm, record-breaking temperatures in January that reduced everyone's energy consumption for heat, and a new boiler was installed this year that may also account for the fuel efficiency. To Mr. Brong’s response that Wayne Buller insists on employee responsibility, and as such has created unrest, is extremely direct, and remains frustrated at defiance, the employees related to Mrs. Belinski that Mr. Buller comes “right up in your face and saying the f word and letting loose a stream of curse words.” Mrs. Belinski said, when the employees called a meeting to try to complain about the abusive language that was used, Mr. Brong started out by using a curse word and the meeting stopped. Mrs. Belinski read from the employees’ response that the word “direct” translates to nasty, cursing, hostile, and belittling behavior. Mrs. Belinski related that the first day on the job Mr. Buller called the men “monkeys, and it’s gone downhill since then.” Expressing her understanding that Mr. Buller has had counseling, Mrs. Belinski commented it has not shown to be effective. Observing that the employees’ response noted that management boasts about the good job they are doing, Mrs. Belinski read the employee response that said violations have occurred and the Plant is running worse than it has in a long time. Wasted resources are in great part due to poor managerial/process decisions and planning. Mrs. Belinski recounted that when the Wastewater Treatment Plant was in trouble years ago, a new manager was brought in, Mr. Ronyack, who cleaned up the Plant, gained the respect of the employees, he would join in fixing a problem, he assisted the employees who wanted to take tests for higher positions, and the employees were in awe of his knowledge of the Plant. Mrs. Belinski denoted that, because of other circumstances, the individual left. Focusing on violations, Mrs. Belinski read from the employees response that these violations were due in large part to poor managerial planning. The ammonia permit limit is 5.0 mg/L (milligrams per liter) from May through October and is 15.0 mg/L from November through April inclusive. A management decision to do repair work on a major ammonia-removing process during the lower limit period is poor planning. Also, an inplant bypass was ordered by management for at least one full month. This is not good management practice and there are other ways to handle the situation. Mr. Buller insisted that tank T3 in the aeration tank be shut down, that it serves no purpose and it would help the settling of the sludge, when, in fact, T3 does much ammonia removal and it made the situation even worse. Mr. Buller had also argued with the employees that there was nothing wrong with the intermediate clarifier when the seal was leaking. He said it was impossible for the seal to be leaking, and finally the employees talked Mark Wood into checking into it. Other process decisions contributed to these violations including having only one of three influent bar screens in service at the time. The gravity thickener breakdown was also due to Mr. Buller's inattention to the process and lack of trust of what the employees tell him. Mrs. Belinski further read that there is more of a need for a Chief Operator than an unlicensed, inexperienced laboratory person. She continued on to read the employees’ explanation that so far, change has consisted of exhibiting a behavior of superiority by the Administration, using fear to instill obedience in the employees. Mrs. Belinski advised that employees have told her they were warned it would not be well for them if they reported to Members of Council what was going on. The employees’ further stated in their response that this is not teamwork, and the only employees who want to buy into this are the employees who believe the lies until they become the ones who are scolded, harassed and disciplined. Many employees have bid out or want to. Many compare working at the Wastewater Treatment Plant with prison time; i.e., "I only have this much time until I am vested, or retirement, until the next job opening I can apply for." The employees’ response explained that, before this Administration and Wayne Buller, employees were actually excited to come to work but no longer. Mrs. Belinski advised that in 1993 was when she first became aware of the terrible conditions at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Stressing she was very upset then, Mrs. Belinski communicated she was not surprised afterwards to find out there were violations and the Plant got into trouble. Turning to comments made by Mr. Brong that Council has nothing to do with the running of the Wastewater Treatment Plant, Mrs. Belinski asserted that Council makes the laws, and holds the purse strings. She continued on to point out that the City had to pay a large settlement to the EPA for violations. Advising what she is hearing is that the Plant is probably in violation again, Mrs. Belinski expressed she has reason to believe that lawsuits will be filed against the City because of what is occurring at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. As a Member of Council who has a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of this community, Mrs. Belinski stressed she wants to stop those lawsuits at all costs. Mrs. Belinski asked what Mr. Brong is doing to remediate the situation. She added that, in spite of everything, Mr. Buller still has Mr. Brong’s support 100% and questioned how can that be. Mrs. Belinski asked Mr. Brong how is he going to solve the problems, and what he is going to do.
Mr. Brong, commenting that he will not respond to each point this evening, said he, too, is not happy about the situation at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Mr. Brong continued on to say he is not happy that, in his 25 years of running large operations, both union and non-union, he has run into a situation that makes any other adversity that he has seen pale in comparison, and added he has never seen nor would he imagine anything like it. Mr. Brong stated the Plant is better today without question than it was a year ago. Acknowledging there was a situation in the summer where there were some violations, Mr. Brong advised the violations were a function of catastrophic downtime of not only the intermediate clarifier mechanism, but also the gravity thickener which may or may not be the fault of the maintenance supervisor. Mr. Brong explained both the devices were down catastrophically at the same time for an extended period, and there were ammonia and BOD violations. Mr. Brong, advising there was a tremendous solids inventory at the Plant at that time and the Plant could not get rid of any solids, pointed out that the solids kept building and that caused odors. Mr. Brong expressed if they were avoidable he would have done anything to avoid them. Mr. Brong, adding it was the first time that he heard it should be done in the off-season, stated that was not necessarily an option based on what was found in the intermediate clarifier. He added it was very necessary to do it then based on the conditions of the clarifier. Mr. Brong said he has no other answer for the violations other than “we hopped on it, we communicated with the DEP, we spent a lot of money trying to clean it up; in fact, we have cleaned it up. The odor issues today are nothing compared to what they were at that point in time.” Turning to methane production, Mr. Brong advised it is unbelievably better. Mr. Brong explained that a wastewater plant should not have to burn fuel oil since it should be able to sustain itself on methane. However, Mr. Brong explained the Plant had boilers that were running for five minutes at a time and then kicking off the switching to fuel oil because not enough methane was being generated to fire them. Mr. Brong highlighted the fact that, now, the Plant is firing for hours at a time on methane, even with some faulty storage equipment. Focusing on the solids, Mr. Brong advised they are now tracking into the 12% levels, up from 10%, and it is $250,000 to the bottom line annually. Observing that the City is dealing with an old Plant, Mr. Brong added a situation is being dealt with at the Plant that is very bad with labor and management. Mr. Brong expressed his opinion that “we can’t even perform to the set of rules that we all agreed on from the beginning. We can’t even perform and agree that those are the standards of acceptable performance and conduct, and be within those guidelines.” Mr. Brong remarked, “if you can’t get beyond square zero, you can’t get a whole heck of a lot further beyond that without at least agreeing on that.” Mr. Brong, noting that some changes have been made, thought the changes are well enough detailed in the letter. Continuing on to say those changes are working, Mr. Brong said he is surprised that this is the evening that this entire subject had to be brought before the public. Mr. Brong, stating “the changes seem to be having an impact” added “at least that’s what I’m being told during our employee meetings. Jack Lawrence’s presence [at the Wastewater Treatment Plant] is a voice of reason, and people seem to be getting along.” Communicating what he has found is that when the issues are focused on there really is no disagreement, Mr. Brong stated “our Friday meetings are not about union issues. They’re not about personnel issues…Our meetings on Friday are about operations, period. And, when we focus on operations, we are very productive. And the more that some of this background noise begins to be moved off to the side, the more productive we become.” Stressing that progress has been made, Mr. Brong pointed out that people on the outside are telling him that progress has been made.
Mrs. Belinski wondered how can there be agreement on how employees are supposed to behave when most are excluded from the meetings. Mrs. Belinski stressed the bar screens were down for months and is what ultimately led to the odor violations. Mrs. Belinski expressed her understanding that Mr. Buller has created his own polymer processing, and disconnected safety measures. Mrs. Belinski, referring to when the City’s Landfill was sold, recalled until she brought the agreement to the Administration’s attention, the City was going to process the leachate for 1.27 cents per thousand gallons when the market rate at that time was 1.50 cents per gallon. The Administration at the time said it was a mistake in the decimal point. Mrs. Belinski recounted she brought the matter to Mr. Brong’s attention and asked if there was some way to renegotiate the matter.
Mr. Brong, noting the Landfill was being charged 1.27 cents per thousand gallons, plus a certain capacity fee that took the number higher, said, in fact, the contract reads that the fee tracks the in-City rates. Advising at some point in 2002-2004 that was never changed, Mr. Brong informed Mrs. Belinski that is changed now and the contract says in-City rates.
Turning again to the issue of a new system for polymer processing, Mrs. Belinski related an employee said he did not think it is saving any money but in fact is costing the City more. Recalling that the brand of polymer purchased by Mr. Ronyack was less expensive and more effective, Mrs. Belinski thought Mr. Brong might want to check into it. Mrs. Belinski affirmed that 19 employees signed the letter, and Mr. Brong pointed out that 8 did not. Mrs. Belinski inquired if Mr. Brong checked into Mr. Buller’s prior employment record.
Mr. Brong, replying no, said “his prior record, unfortunately, is no concern of mine because he is not in a hiring situation. He is in an employment situation.” Mr. Brong, expressing there is one way for an organization to succeed, said that is when the workforce is committed to execution, and the management is committed to setting good, aggressive policy, and establishing a good plan to work together. Mr. Brong continued on to say, in the absence of working together, there is failure. Mr. Brong, observing there are issues on both sides of the fence, stated he is doing what he can to fix them. If they continue, Mr. Brong said there will be further action taken to fix them on both sides of the fence. Mr. Brong thought, “we are, without question, on the mend, and I am hoping for that trend to continue…Some of the events that I have witnessed cannot be tolerated, and I don’t think there’s anybody sitting on Council that would recommend to me that I, as a responsible leader, should tolerate those issues. There are rules, and there are standards of performance. We are no where close to where we should be from a process standpoint, and I know that even without years and years of experience in the wastewater field. We need to change. We need to accept that reality, and get going, because time’s a wasting…”.
A. Director of Planning and Zoning – Street Vacation – East North Street
The Clerk read a memorandum dated January 18, 2006 from Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, advising that at its meeting of January 12, 2006 the Planning Commission recommended the vacation of the portion of East North Street east of Stefko Boulevard with the following conditions: (1) a legal description and any necessary easement agreements shall be provided to the City by the petitioner; and (2) any conditions or comments from the Engineering Bureau shall also be met.
Acting President Leeson requested that the Law Bureau draft the appropriate Ordinance.
B. Police Commissioner – Reimbursement for Police Officer Training
The Clerk read a memorandum dated January 30, 2006 from Francis R. Donchez, Jr., Police Commissioner, requesting consideration of a resolution necessary for the City to receive reimbursement from the State for 60% of the salaries of Officers Nicholas DiPaolo, Jr., Jason Ebert, Erik Kaintz, and Shaun Powell for the 20 weeks they will be attending the Allentown Police Academy.
Acting President Leeson stated that authorizing Resolution 11 B is listed on the Agenda.
C. Police Lieutenant – Justice Assistance Grant (JAG)
The Clerk read a memorandum dated January 31, 2006 from Police Lieutenant Joseph Kimock stating that the Police Department is applying for an Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant in the amount of $19,850. The money would be allocated to fund the Police bicycle unit, update computers and electronic equipment, and police officers to work overtime at the high school, middle schools, and parks. This is a joint application with the City of Easton that is receiving $15,352. The City of Bethlehem will be paid 10% to administer the grant.
Acting President Leeson informed the assembly that the authorizing Resolution will be placed on the February 21 Agenda. Acting President Leeson further stated that, under the Second Courtesy of the Floor this evening, he will recognize the public for comment on the application.
D. Director Public Works – Seidersville Road Relocation, Street Vacation, and Dedicating College Drive
The Clerk read a memorandum dated January 31, 2006 from Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, stating that Lehigh University, in agreement with the City, constructed the relocated Seidersville Road in 2001 and has been pursuing the naming of the road to College Drive. A Developer’s Agreement dated June 15, 2001, between Lehigh University and the City, requires the adoption of an ordinance establishing the width and alignment of College Drive and a short section of Apple Street that is a continuation northeastward of College Drive. The vacation of a portion of Seidersville Road is also necessary. There are no City utilities located within the section of Seidersville Road being vacated. It is also recommended that the street name of Apple Street between William Street and Fire Lane be changed to College Drive. Apple Street presently has no dwellings and the City owns the land fronting Apple Street.
Acting President Leeson requested that the Law Bureau draft the appropriate Ordinances.
E. City Solicitor – Records Destruction – Tax Bureau
The Clerk read a memorandum dated February 2, 2006 from John F. Spirk, Jr., City Solicitor, in which it was requested that City Council authorize the destruction of records for the Tax Bureau as listed in the attached Exhibit under the provisions of the Municipal Records Retention Act that was adopted by City Council.
Acting President Leeson advised that the authorizing Resolution will be placed on the February 21 Agenda.
F. City Solicitor – Street Vacation – Service Road #2
The Clerk read a memorandum dated February 2, 2006 from John F. Spirk, Jr., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed ordinance to effect the vacation of Service Road #2 as requested by the Petitioners, and stating that based on previous correspondence, there are no utility service lines located in the right-of-way. As such, no utility easements are needed prior to consideration of the street vacation ordinance.
Acting President Leeson stated that Bill No. 6 is listed on the Agenda for First Reading.
8 . REPORTS
A. President of Council
1. Administrative Order – George Barkanic – Fire Commissioner
Mayor John B. Callahan appointed George Barkanic as Fire Commissioner, effective as of February 7, 2006. Ms. Dolan and Mr. Leeson sponsored Resolution 14,771 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Leeson, 5. The Resolution passed.
2. Administrative Order – Mark P. Jobes – Bethlehem
Mayor John B. Callahan appointed Mark P. Jobes to the Bethlehem Authority, effective until January 2011. Mr. Leeson and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,772 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Leeson, 5. The Resolution passed.
C. Public Works Committee
Mr. Mowrer, Chairman of the Public Works Committee, presented an oral report of the committee meeting held January 31, 2006 on the following subjects: Easement and Indemnification Agreements – Saucon Square; Bethlehem Authority Land Sale – 1509 Clover Avenue; and Amending Article 927 – Sewer Charge Increase.
D. Finance Committee
Mr. Leeson, Chairman of the Finance Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee’s meeting held February 3, 2006 on the following subjects: Amending General Fund Budget – Traffic Maintenance/Department Contracts; Amending General Fund Budget – Mechanical Bureau – Equipment Repairs-Reimbursable; Amending General Fund Budget – Health Bureau - Tobacco Grant Revenue; Amending General Fund Budget – Police Department – Grants for Recruitment and Gang Training/Equipment; Transfer of Funds – Police Bicycle Course; 2006 Non-Utility Capital Budget Adjustments; Bethlehem Authority – Proposed Refinancing of 1998 Bonds; and Proposed City Financing of Sanitary Sewer Project and LED Traffic Signals.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 1 – 2006 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Enterprise Zone Grant
The Clerk read Bill No. 1 - 2006, Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Enterprise Zone Grant, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Leeson, 5. Bill No. 1 – 2006, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4364, was declared adopted.
B. Bill No. 2 – 2006 – Amending Water Capital Budget – Communication System Upgrade
The Clerk read Bill No. 2 – 2006, Amending Water Capital Budget – Communication System Upgrade, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Leeson, 5. Bill No. 2 – 2006, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4365, was declared adopted.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 3 - 2006 – Amending General Fund Budget – Traffic Bureau, Mechanical Bureau, Health Bureau, and Police Department
The Clerk read Bill No. 3 - 2006, Amending General Fund Budget – Traffic Bureau, Mechanical Bureau, Health Bureau, and Police Department, sponsored by Mr. Leeson and Ms. Szabo, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
THE GENERAL FUND BUDGET FOR 2006.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Leeson, 5. Bill No. 3 – 2006 was declared passed on First Reading.
B. Bill No. 4 – 2006 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Parks and Public Property Department and Public Works Department
The Clerk read Bill No. 4 - 2006, Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Parks and Public Property Department and Public Works Department, sponsored by Ms. Dolan and Mr. Leeson, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
THE 2006 CAPITAL BUDGET FOR NON-UTILITIES.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Leeson, 5. Bill No. 4 – 2006 was declared passed on First Reading.
C. Bill No. 5 – 2006 – General Obligation Note – Sanitary Sewer and Traffic Signal Projects
The Clerk read Bill No. 5 – 2006, General Obligation Note – Sanitary Sewer and Traffic Signal Projects, sponsored by Ms. Dolan and Mrs. Belinski, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM, LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON COUNTIES, PENNSYLVANIA, AUTHORIZING THE ISSUANCE OF A GENERAL OBLIGATION NOTE (THE “NOTE”) IN THE PRINCIPAL AGGREGATE AMOUNT NOT TO EXCEED $_________; SETTING FORTH THE PURPOSE OF THE ISSUANCE OF THE NOTE, TO FUND CERTAIN CAPITAL PROJECTS OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM PURSUANT TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNIT DEBT ACT; DETERMINING THAT THE NOTE SHALL BE SOLD AT PRIVATE SALE; DETERMINING THE PROJECTS AND ESTABLISHING THEIR USEFUL LIFE; DETERMINING THAT THE DEBT EVIDENCED BY THE NOTE SHALL BE NONELECTORAL DEBT; SETTING FORTH THE INTEREST RATES, INTEREST AND PRINCIPAL PAYMENT DATES AND FINAL MATURITY OF THE NOTE AND THE PREPAYMENT PRIVILEGES; ACCEPTING A PROPOSAL FOR THE PURCHASE OF THE NOTE; DESIGNATING A PAYING AGENT FOR THE NOTE; SETTING FORTH THE METHOD AND PLACE OF PAYMENT OF THE NOTE; APPROVING THE FORM OF THE NOTE; AUTHORIZING THE EXECUTION OF THE NOTE; ENTERING INTO A COVENANT WITH RESPECT TO THE NOTE AND PLEDGING THE CITY'S FULL FAITH, CREDIT AND TAXING POWER THEREFORE, AND ESTABLISHING A SINKING FUND FOR THE NOTE; DESIGNATING A SINKING FUND DEPOSITORY; SETTING FORTH CERTAIN ADDITIONAL TERMS WITH RESPECT TO THE NOTE; AUTHORIZING APPROPRIATE OFFICERS TO FILE UNDER SECTION 8110 OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNIT DEBT ACT WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, INCLUDING PROCEEDINGS UNDER SECTION 8024 OR 8026 OF THE ACT MAKING CERTAIN FEDERAL TAX COVENANTS AND DECLARING THE NOTE TO BE QUALIFIED TAX-EXEMPT OBLIGATIONS; DECLARING THE DEBT EVIDENCED BY THE NOTE TO BE WITHIN THE LIMITATIONS OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNIT DEBT ACT MAKING CERTAIN FEDERAL TAX COVENANTS AND DECLARING THE NOTE TO BE QUALIFIED TAX-EXEMPT OBLIGATIONS; AUTHORIZING DELIVERY OF THE NOTE; AUTHORIZING INVESTMENT OF THE PROCEEDS OF THE NOTE; PROVIDING FOR INVALID PROVISIONS; PROVIDING FOR INCONSISTENT ORDINANCES; PROVIDING WHEN THE ORDINANCES SHALL BECOME EFFECTIVE.
Ms. Dolan, commending the City for being in the lead in the Lehigh Valley by going to LED traffic signals, said the City is ahead on this, there will be savings, it is a good thing for the City, and a great thing for the environment. Ms. Dolan added she is very happy about that aspect of the financing, as well as the project for improving the sewer system in the neighborhoods of Homestead and Rosemont Avenues.
Acting President Leeson asked whether the Administration wants to address the Issuance Costs for the financing tonight or between now and Final Reading.
Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, affirmed that Issuance Costs are usually addressed at the time of the Final Reading.
Acting President Leeson stated that Council will move to adopt the Ordinance with the proviso, in accordance with the recommendation of the Finance Committee, that the sum of $32,000 will be escrowed for Issuance Costs not to be spent without the approval of Council.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Leeson, 5. Bill No. 5 – 2006 was declared passed on First Reading.
D. Bill No. 6 – 2006 – Street Vacation – Service Road #2
The Clerk read Bill No. 6 – 2006, Street Vacation of Service Road #2, sponsored by Mr. Leeson and Mrs. Belinski, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE AUTHORIZING THE VACATION,
DISCONTINUANCE AND STRIKING FROM THE CITY'S
GENERAL PLAN OF STREETS OF A PORTION OF
SERVICE ROAD #2 IN THE 13TH WARD OF THE
CITY OF BETHLEHEM, COUNTY OF LEHIGH,
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Leeson, 5. Bill No. 6 – 2006 was declared passed on First Reading.
E. Bill No. 7 – 2006 – Amending Article 927 – Sewer Charge Increase
The Clerk read Bill No. 7 – 2006, Amending Article 927 – Sewer Charge Increase, sponsored by Mr. Leeson and Mrs. Belinski, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
ARTICLE 927 OF THE CODIFIED ORDINANCES
ENTITLED SEWER RENTAL.
Ms. Szabo advised she is going to vote in favor of the Bill without prejudice. Ms. Szabo recalled that, at the Public Works Committee meeting, she had asked the question of why the rates charged to other communities that enjoy the services are not going to be raised. The reply was that the charges to other communities are dependent on the contract with each community. Ms. Szabo observed there has been a concern shown by the community that the City’s rates are being increased but the rates of other communities such as Bethlehem Township, for example, are not going to be raised. Ms. Szabo requested that the Administration put out a press release because she believed that the citizens of Bethlehem should be given the answer as to why they are paying a higher rate and others are not. Ms. Szabo asked that it be done before the Final Reading.
Mayor Callahan, noting the answer was given at the Public Works Committee meeting that was attended by the Press and affirming that the Press is present tonight, commented if the Press chooses to report that they can. Mayor Callahan stated there have been a lot of stories written recently about the dispute between the City and Bethlehem Township that is in part exactly what Ms. Szabo is discussing which is the fact that the City has agreements in place with various municipalities that are not all the same. Mayor Callahan explained, in light of those agreements, there is an inability to increase rates. Mayor Callahan said, in the case of Bethlehem Township, the agreement dates back to 1975, and the City is looking for some legal recourse. Mayor Callahan noted, not only is the City being sued by Bethlehem Township, he is being sued in his capacity as the Mayor and also individually, putting his house and family in jeopardy. Mayor Callahan continued on to say he would like to see it resolved in an amicable way and in a way that will meet the current needs of the City as well as the capacity needs of the neighboring municipalities.
Ms. Szabo stressed that a direct address to the public would be far better than depending on the newspaper reporters whose articles are drastically cut by editors. Ms. Szabo asserted that the matter deserves a comment by itself as to why this is happening that would give some explanation.
Mayor Callahan advised in the next few weeks he will be meeting with the editorial boards of each newspaper in order to further discuss this issue in much more detail than he ever could in a press release, and added the newspapers can write whatever editorial they wish based on that meeting.
Ms. Dolan stated that, as someone who worked for the press for several years, she thinks that is a terrific idea. Ms. Dolan, advising that press releases do not tend to get the attention that meetings with the editorial boards do, said that is the most direct way to get a message out.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Leeson, 5. Bill No. 7 – 2006 was declared passed on First Reading.
A. Authorizing Records Destruction – City Solicitor’s Office
Mr. Leeson and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,773 that authorized the disposition of the public records of the City Solicitor’s Office, 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: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Mower, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Lesson, 5. The Resolution passed.
B. Requesting Reimbursement – Police Officer Training
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Leeson sponsored Resolution 14,774 which authorized the City to obtain reimbursement of monies for expenses incurred for Officers Nicholas DiPaolo, Jr., Jason Ebert, Erik Daintz, and Shaun Powell pursuant to the training provisions of the Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Act, and agreeing that while receiving funds from the Commonwealth pursuant to said Act, the City shall adhere to the rules established by the Commission.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Mower, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Lesson, 5. The Resolution passed.
C. Authorizing Execution of Easement Agreement – Wagner Enterprises – Fire Lane
Mr. Leeson and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,775 that authorized the Mayor and the Controller and/or such other City officials to execute a Construction and Access Easement Agreement according to the terms and conditions, with Wagner Enterprises, Ltd., for the purpose of installing and maintaining a stormwater discharge pipe, headwall and rip-rap along Fire Lane.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Mower, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Lesson, 5. The Resolution passed.
D. Authorizing Land Sale – Bethlehem Authority – 1509 Clover Avenue
Mr. Leeson and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,776 that approved the sale of land by the Bethlehem Authority at 1509 Clover Avenue, Lehigh County, Bethlehem, to Chris Brown, of Scottsdale, Arizona, and that the appropriate officials are hereby authorized to execute any and all documents necessary in connection with the sale of land owned by the Bethlehem Authority, in accordance with the terms and conditions of the agreement.
E. Transfer of Funds – Police Bicycle Course
Mr. Leeson and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,777 that transferred $900 in the General Fund Budget from the Unforeseen Contingency Account to the Police Bicycle Course Account to carryover the line item from the 2005 Budget and place it into the 2006 Budget.
Motion – Considering Resolutions as a Group
Mrs. Belinski and Ms. Dolan moved to consider Resolutions 11 F through 11 I as a group.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Mower, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Lesson, 5. The motion passed.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 1 West Fourth Street
Mr. Leeson and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,778 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace windows, install new entry doors, and paint existing sign boards and stucco columns at 1 West Fourth Street.
G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 23 East Fourth Street
Mr. Leeson and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,779 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a neon window sign in the storefront window at 23 East Fourth Street.
H. Certificate of Appropriateness – 425 Wyandotte Street
Mr. Leeson and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,780 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to hang an unlighted sign and install vinyl window signage at 425 Wyandotte Street.
I. Certificate of Appropriateness – 128-136 Graham Place
Mr. Leeson and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,781 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a raised panel oak door, signage and lighting on the Portuguese American Club addition at 128-136 Graham Place.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 F through 11 I: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Leeson, 5. The Resolutions passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS
Las Vegas Sands Meeting at Banana Factory
Ms. Szabo noted that she attended a public meeting yesterday held by the Las Vegas Sands Casino at the Banana Factory. Ms. Szabo expressed the meeting was very well handled and the response was tremendous and very favorable. Ms. Szabo stressed that, whether or not the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approves the application of the Las Vegas Sands to build a slots casino at the Bethlehem Works site of the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation operations on the South Side, many people felt they were greatly helped by the meeting. Ms. Szabo, explaining the meeting was concentrated on Pennsylvania certification requirements for minority and women-owned businesses, highlighted the fact that a lot of attendees did not know they qualified for certification since they thought their business were too small, and other reasons.
Mrs. Belinski asked when the contract will be finalized for maintenance of the City’s street lights. Mrs. Belinski listed locations where the lights were out at the entrance to the City Center Plaza, Church Street, Fahy Bridge, and Minsi Trail Bridge.
Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, affirming the City did pay for the assets in December, advised that a few administrative functions are being finalized, and the City should have control of the lights in about a month.
Employee and Management Issues
Ms. Dolan said she is wondering if there needs to be a refresher on what is the normal chain of command in the City when employees have a grievance about management, and if there needs to be a discussion about how the chain of command is functioning. Ms. Dolan communicated something seems off when personnel issues are being dealt with at open meetings. Questioning whether there is a breakdown or if an assessment is needed, Ms. Dolan queried whether it is a good reason for the Human Resources and Environment Committee to meet.
Acting President Leeson affirmed that, as a Committee Chair, Ms. Dolan has the discretion to put it on an agenda of a Committee meeting. Acting President Leeson acknowledged that the Mayor or the Administration could address it either tonight, or Ms. Dolan could address it in verbal or written form at some future date.
Mayor Callahan replied he does not think that forums such as a City Council Meeting are the proper venue in which to discuss these issues. Mayor Callahan continued on to comment that at a Human Resources and Environment Committee meeting there would be perhaps a fairer and more enlightened discussion on the topic, and added he would welcome that. Mayor Callahan communicated that in having these sort of discussions publicly there is nothing to hide but he does not think it is particularly productive. He added that at some level it undermines the Administration’s ability to govern and to manage the City.
Observing that perhaps the existing system needs to be looked
at, Ms. Dolan said she would inform Council about a Human
Resources and Environment Committee meeting.
Ms. Szabo stated it was her intent to forward a memorandum to Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, to ask if the personnel matter could be discussed in Executive Session. Ms. Szabo suggested that perhaps Ms. Dolan could write a memorandum to Attorney Spadoni and ask for his ruling.
Ms. Dolan commented she would send a memorandum to Attorney Spadoni to clarify the matter.
Acting President Leeson communicated that Council would welcome an opportunity by Attorney Spadoni to give the Members an update on the Sunshine Law.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Traffic Issues – South Side
Eddie Rodriquez, 436 Pawnee Street, referring to a newspaper article today about a slot casino in the City and in which it was noted that there are 250-270 truck deliveries daily on average to a casino in Nevada, observed there is now congestion problems on the South Side at certain peak hours. Mr. Rodriquez further expressed that when the South Side Greenway project gets underway there will be pedestrians trying to get from one point to the next, and it will certainly have an impact on traffic congestion. He felt that changing two way streets into one way, especially in the Five Points area, would not ease traffic congestion. Mr. Rodriquez said there are not areas on streets where trucks can legally park to load or unload merchandise for local businesses. Mr. Rodriquez pointed out that, as he has stated in the past, traffic lights can be synchronized to possibly avoid congestion, and stressed he does not see any of this happening whatsoever. Mr. Rodriquez requested that something be done at Williams Street and East Fourth Street because as one travels down the hill motorists are held up at the traffic light.
City Acquisition of Property – Five Points Area
Mr. Rodriquez recalled he had noted that owners were interested in selling their properties at the Five Points area such as Bethlehem Transmission, and asked is the City interested in trying to buy the property so that the area can be widened.
Mayor Callahan replied the City explored the option but the cost of purchasing the property versus the benefit for traffic management at the intersection was determined not to be favorable, so the City is not currently interested in the property at its current price.
Fire Department – Overtime
William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, informed the assembly he recently had a conversation with a firefighter who wishes not to be identified. The firefighter told Mr. Scheirer that a lot of the firefighters were behind Jeffrey LeCompte when he said on December 20, 2005 that only one person was allowed to help after Hurricane Katrina and who was paid $7,000 by FEMA for two weeks’ work including overtime. Mr. Scheirer related the individual worked 240 hours overtime in two weeks, and added to 80 hours of regular time, the total is 320 hours worked in two weeks or an average of 22 hours and 51 minutes each day. Mr. Scheirer remarked even if the 240 hours were all overtime it would still be over 17 hours per day. The firefighter, who also told Mr. Scheirer there are relatively few firefighters who abuse overtime, had some suggestions for reducing overtime. Mr. Scheirer explained the firefighter suggested that a note from a doctor working for the City be supplied for sick days “to lessen the likelihood of any sweetheart deals between doctors and firefighters,” and that a note could be required after two days rather than three. In addition, a note could be required for the third instead of fourth occurrence. Mr. Scheirer, saying that the force behind overtime is the conflict among the number of firefighters, the minimum staffing of 20 firefighters per shift, and leave time, queried how likely is it that all of the fire vehicles will need to be staffed by 20 firefighters. Mr. Scheirer wondered how much could be lost if one less vehicle were staffed and there were more reliance on neighboring communities. Mr. Scheirer thought there should be a study of substituting more regional cooperation for one less vehicle manned in Bethlehem, perhaps savings hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
Community Development Block Grant and HOME Programs – Federal Cuts
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Street, referring to newspaper articles about further Federal reductions in amounts of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnership funding that the City receives, thought a letter writing campaign to both State Senators from the Administration, Council Members, and the public who benefit from the funding would be very handy. Mr. Grubb said that in the past both Senators Santorum and Specter have been very supportive of the CDBG program and have tried to maintain its funding levels. Mr. Grubb observed that, in view of the cuts and the trend in reductions, the City has probably dropped back nearly ten years in terms of the funding level being received. He stressed this should be of grave concern to Bethlehem as well as cities across the nation. Mr. Grubb pointed out that, in addition to the programs and projects that are funded through CDBG amounts, the salaries of some City employees are funded in whole or in part by CDBG funding. He added that, while positions could be eliminated, they can also remain in the budget at local taxpayer expense. Mr. Grubb advised that he will send letters to both Senators and the Congressman, and encouraged others to do the same. Mr. Grubb noted that CDBG and HOME programs provide a return to local taxpayers on the taxes they send to Washington. He thought a grassroots effort would be very important in not just maintaining but hopefully restoring a level of funding.
Zoning Text Amendments - Personal Care and Assisted Living Facilities
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, focusing on the proposed Zoning Text Amendments for Personal Care and Assisted Living Facilities, communicated that comments made by some Members of Council at the January 17, 2006 City Council Meeting intrigued him since they addressed the quality of life within the affected zoning region. Mr. Antalics, stating the definition from Webster’s Dictionary for zoning, said the definition taken in a municipal setting would designate general zones as commercial, industrial, and residential. Mr. Antalics commented that the quality of life of citizens is clearly protected by these inclusionary zones. Mr. Antalics questioned is subdividing a residential zone an issue of quality of life or an exclusionary issue based on class, race, or materialistic distinction. Mr. Antalics explained that his research indicated that the City of Bethlehem’s first formal zoning code was prepared in 1925. The zones were industrial, commercial, and residential which were designated as A and B. Listing the current residential zones, Mr. Antalics said he discovered there is a linear relationship in descending order between lettered zones and affluence. He thought it could be argued that the origins of the present distinctions are not based on quality of life but possibly founded on social, racial, and materialistic considerations. Mr. Antalics indicated that if residential zones are redesignated by a lettering scheme based on historic precedent the letters might be more plausible. He then enumerated and commented on hypothetical zones. Mr. Antalics remarked that M-FI could reflect the earliest and eventual restrictions in what was early Bethlehem, the M representing Moravian or the area north of the Lehigh River, FI represents the area south of the region of what was then known as the farm invaders. The residential requirement in the M zone was membership in the Moravian congregation. Saying another designation could be WB where a residential zone allowing only one house on a lot with a minimum of 15,000 square feet could be class W, Mr. Antalics commented this restriction assured that only socially acceptable persons who could materially meet that requirement could live there. Continuing on to say a third designation exclusively fitting Bethlehem now is A and E, affluent and elderly, Mr. Antalics stressed this is intended to provoke reflection on why zoning laws originated in the first place. Mr. Antalics asserted this is the issue concerning the proposed Zoning Text Amendments for Personal Care and Assisted Living Facilities, not an issue of quality of life. Mr. Antalics stated the quality of life in this designation would be effective only if the structures planned for these new zones are structures one might see in a commercial or industrial zone. He communicated that good taste and good judgment should determine what type of structures are built in these new zones. Mr. Antalics thought the burden should be with the planners and builders to ensure these areas are given the same sensitive and caring treatment that is given to the historic areas of Bethlehem since all areas of the City deserve the same consideration. Mr. Antalics, insisting that the elderly should not be denied a pleasant place to live, said if that is factored into the decision one would be hard pressed to not support that change.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:25 p.m.