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June 20, 2006 Meeting Minutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street - Town Hall
Tuesday, June 20, 2006 – 7:30 PM
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
Acting President Robert J. Donchez called the meeting to
order. Pastor Richard Collins, of
First Church of the Nazarene, offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Jean Belinski, Karen Dolan, Robert J. Donchez, Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., and Magdalena F. Szabo, 5. Gordon B. Mowrer, and President J. Michael Schweder were absent, 2.
Citation – Honoring George P. Richards
Acting President Donchez presented a Citation to George Richards
who retired from the Fire Department after 29 years of service.
The Members of Council applauded Mr. Richards, and wished him well in his retirement.
PUBLIC HEARING – CDBG and HOME Programs
Prior to the consideration of the regular Agenda items, Acting President Donchez called to order a Public Hearing to consider revisions to the 2005 and 2006 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Programs, and the 2001-2006 Home Investment Partnership (HOME) Programs to reprogram funds from prior year programs, revise specific project budgets, create a new activity, and re-designate certain HOME funds.
Irene Woodward, Housing and Community Development Planner, affirmed that the Public Hearing is a requirement under the Citizens Participation Plan for the CDBG and HOME Programs. Affirming that the items were previously considered at the May 31, 2006 Finance Committee meeting, she noted that the CDBG Program changes reflect the decrease in the City of Bethlehem’s allocation from HUD as well as reprogramming funds from prior years. Ms. Woodward advised that HOME Program changes include reprogramming of funds based on prior contracts, and creating new activities. Ms. Woodward enumerated the items, as follows.
2006 CDBG Budget Amendments - Increasing Southside Recreation Coordinator to include program costs from $20,000 to $25,000 that includes $5,000 for program costs on the South Side.
2005 CDBG Budget Amendments - Decreasing Southside Parks and Playgrounds by $5,000 from $99,088 to $94,088; Decreasing Community Policing by from $191,660 to $168,530; Decreasing Housing Rehabilitation Program, including Grants and Loans, and Relocation Costs by $80,000; Decreasing Community Development Consulting by $12,000, from $45,000 to $33,000; Decreasing Contingency and Unprogrammed Funds from $72,048 to $0;
The CDBG revisions decrease the 2006 CDBG Program Budget from $2,026,508 to $1,844,330.
HOME Program Amendments - Decreasing 2001 activity, Doorways to Home, by $52,687 from $52,687 to $0; Decreasing 2002 activity, Doorways to Home, by $119,350 from $119,350 to $0; Decreasing 2003 activity, Doorways to Home by $30,000, from $80,650 to $50,650; Decreasing 2004 activity, Unallocated Funds by $46,354 from $46,354 to $0; Increasing 2005 activity, YMCA, by $5,000 from $200,000 to $205,000; Increasing Housing Rehabilitation Grants and Loans by $136,354 from $162,400 to $298,754; and, establishing a new activity, Southside Affordable Housing, in the amount of $70,000.
The HOME revisions increase the 2005 HOME Budget from $424,943 to $429,943, and the 2006 HOME Budget from $632,400 to $838,754.
No one from the Public spoke to the matter of the Public
Acting President Donchez stated that the appropriate Ordinance will be placed on the July 5, 2006 Council Agenda.
The Public Hearing was adjourned at 7:40 p.m.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of June 6, 2006 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on Ordinances and Resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening – 5 Minute Time Limit)
6. OLD BUSINESS
Bethlehem Authority Meeting – Tunkhannock Creek Exceptional Value Designation
Ms. Dolan advised that she, along with four other Members of Council, attended the June 8, 2006 Bethlehem Authority Meeting at which a change in the Designation of Tunkhannock Creek from a High Quality cold water fishery to an Exceptional Value Designation was discussed. Ms. Dolan noted at the conclusion of the meeting, Richard Master, Chairman of the Bethlehem Authority, asked the Members of Council in attendance to ask City Council to draft a letter expressing Council’s opinion on the designation change. As Chairwoman of the Human Resources and Environment Committee, Ms. Dolan said in the absence of objections she would like to add the item to the next meeting of the Human Resources and Environment Committee.
Mr. Leeson commented he is glad Ms. Dolan has agreed to help Council study the issue that he pointed out is important. Mr. Leeson recalled he had asked a few months ago for input on the matter because the Members of Council have received a large number of communications from citizens asking Council to consider this important issue. Mr. Leeson stated he looks forward to the product of the deliberations.
Ms. Dolan pointed out she has materials relative to the matter that she would have forwarded to the Members of Council, including materials from the Bethlehem Authority meeting, and those provided to her by the Nature Conservancy, DEP, and others so that Council can make an informed decision.
Acting President Donchez communicated he would appreciate having those materials sent to City Council.
Mrs. Belinski, affirming she attends all the Bethlehem Authority meetings, advised she is well aware of all the details concerning the matter. Mrs. Belinski continued on to say she is in close contact with the former chair of the Tunkhannock Township Supervisors who has given her a lot of inside information that she has passed on to Rick Loomis, of Clean Water Action. Mrs. Belinski confirmed she has been involved and knows the whole scope of the matter. Mrs. Belinski added she is favor of changing the designation.
A. Police Commissioner – Reimbursement for Training of Police Officers
The Clerk read a memorandum dated June 12, 2006 from Randall P. Miller, Deputy Police Commissioner, requesting consideration of a resolution necessary for the City to receive reimbursement from the State for 60% of the salaries of Officers James Schuster, Dale Host, Michael DiLuzio and Manuel Rivera for the 20 weeks they will be attending the Allentown Police Academy.
Acting President Donchez stated that authorizing Resolution 11 A is listed on the Agenda
B. Housing and Community Development Planner - Establishing
Authority - Reuse of the Wilson-Kramer Army Reserve Center
The Clerk read a letter dated June 14, 2006 from Irene Woodward, Housing and Community Development Planner, to which was attached a resolution establishing the City of Bethlehem Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA) for the reuse planning of the Wilson-Kramer Army Reserve Center. The Local Redevelopment Authority will be charged with overseeing the reuse planning of the site to determine the best future use as well as ensuring compliance with federal guidelines. The LRA will be composed of eight members including 6 voting members and 2 ex-officio members.
Ms. Dolan was informed by Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, that the Army Center is located in LVIP I on Airport Road next to the State Police Barracks. Ms. Woodward, in response to Ms. Dolan, advised it is a four acre site. Mr. Hanna continued on to inform Ms. Dolan that ownership is currently vested in the Federal Government that will provide the City with several options in terms of disposition. One option is to consider municipal or governmental uses that would include donation of the property by the Federal Government. Mr. Hanna explained that if the City decided to dispose of the property from an economic development perspective pursuant to the current I – Industrial zoning, or a change in zoning, then the property would have to be sold for fair market value and the proceeds would go to the Federal Government.
Acting President Donchez referred the matter to the Community Development Committee.
C. City Solicitor - Amendment No. 1 to Electrical Bureau Building Lease
The Clerk read a memorandum dated June 15, 2006 from John F. Spirk, Jr., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed Resolution for Amendment No. 1 to Electrical Bureau Building Lease between the City and Allentown SMSA Limited Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless for lease by the City of space at the property located at 248 East Garrison Street for the purpose of granting permission for the installation and operation of Emergency Power Generation Equipment to supply electricity through wires to Lessee's existing fixed phone equipment at the Public Works Electrical Shop.
Acting President Donchez stated that the authorizing Resolution will be placed on the July 5 Agenda.
D. City Solicitor – PennDot Contribution Agreement
- Route 412 and Third Street Project
The Clerk read a memorandum dated June 16, 2006 from John F. Spirk, Jr., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed resolution and Contribution Agreement between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, acting through the Department of Transportation, and the City of Bethlehem in connection with the Third Street TSM Project which is part of the Route 412 capacity improvement project.
Acting President Donchez stated that the authorizing Resolution will be placed on the July 5 Agenda.
E. Street Vacation – Greenleaf Street
The Clerk read a letter dated June 16, 2006 from Attorney James F. Preston on behalf of Ashley Development Corporation requesting the vacation of a portion of Greenleaf Street that connects Ashley Development Corporation's Land Development Plan entitled "Greenleaf Commons" to Best Place.
Acting President Donchez referred the request to the Planning Commission and Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.
8 . REPORTS
A. President of Council
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 20 – 2006 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Illick's Mill, HOME Investment Trust, and Facade Program
The Clerk read Bill No. 20 - 2006, Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Illick's Mill, HOME Investment Trust, and Facade Program, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Donchez, 5. Bill 20 – 2006, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4385, was declared adopted.
B. Bill No. 21 – 2006 – Amending General Fund Budget – Parks and Public Property Department and Health Bureau
The Clerk read Bill No. 21 – 2006, Amending General Fund Budget – Parks and Public Property Department and Health Bureau, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Donchez, 5. Bill 21 – 2006, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4386, was declared adopted.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Requesting Reimbursement – Training of Police Officers
Ms. Dolan and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,863 that authorized the City to obtain reimbursement of monies for expenses incurred for Officers James Schuster, Dale Host, Michael DiLuzio and Manuel Rivera 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. Leeson, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Donchez, 5. The Resolution passed.
Motion – Considering Resolutions as a Group
Mrs. Belinski and Ms. Dolan moved to consider Resolutions 11 B through 11 H as a group. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Donchez, 5. The motion passed.
B. Certificate of Appropriateness – 439 High Street
Ms. Dolan and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,864 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to re-stain the fence at the rear of 439 High Street.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 91 West Broad Street
Ms. Dolan and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,865 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a flat wall sign and paint the storefront at 91 West Broad Street.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 60 East Church Street
Ms. Dolan and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,866 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to restore the rear carriage house to its original appearance and replace the rear fence at 60 East Church Street.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 10 East Church Street
Ms. Dolan and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,867 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to remove several additional trees and replace with new cherry trees along the front of City Hall at 10 East Church Street.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 66 West Church Street
Ms. Dolan and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,868 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to alter and replace the front steps at the Gemeinhaus at 66 West Church Street.
G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 95 West Church Street
Ms. Dolan and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,869 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace painted windows with spandrel glass at the Payne Art Gallery, 95 West Church Street.
H. Certificate of Appropriateness – 262 East Market Street
Ms. Dolan and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,870 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a handrail at the rear of 262 East Market Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 B through 11 H: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Donchez, 5. The Resolutions passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS
Rescheduling First Meeting in July to Wednesday, July 5, 2006
Mr. Leeson and Ms. Szabo moved to reschedule City Council’s first Meeting in July from Tuesday, July 4 which is the Fourth of July Holiday to Wednesday, July 5, 2006 at 7:30 PM in Town Hall.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Donchez, 5. The motion passed.
Finance Committee Announcements
Mr. Leeson, Chairman of the Finance Committee, announced meetings on the following dates: July 12, July 19, and August 9, 2006.
Mrs. Belinski noted that the Members of Council received a copy of a letter addressed to Michael Palos, Chief Housing Inspector, from Richard Sawyer, of Coldwell Banker Heritage Real Estate. Mrs. Belinski read the letter in which Mr. Sawyer advised of the superior assistance and cooperation he received from staff members in the Department of Community and Economic Development, including the Inspections staff, Jody Cosenzo, Allison Smith, Lou Malpedo, and the speed with which the property owners received the City’s inspection report. Mrs. Belinski commended Mr. Hanna for the excellent work of his Department.
Welcoming Home Troops
Ms. Szabo reported that prior to this evening’s Meeting
she spoke with Lt. Dave Kravatz and several other Police Officers
who explained that various Police Officers and Firefighters
voluntarily planned greetings tonight for troops returning
home from Iraq. They put fire ladders in an arch on Third
Avenue, and Police Officers stood at certain corners as the
troops passed. Ms. Szabo communicated it saddened her to learn
that some of the troops may have to return in two years.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, said he came to the meeting to defend his reputation because of a letter that was sent to him by Michael Palos, Chief Housing Inspector. Mr. Rodriquez, while acknowledging that he dumped materials in the yard of George Lawry, advised that the materials were supposed to be taken care of the next day. Mr. Rodriquez added that he called Diane from the Health Bureau, and also spoke to Mr. Palmer of which Mr. Palos is not aware.
Mr. Rodriquez questioned why an individual cannot be stopped after being under surveillance by the Police for drugs and is exiting a building. Mr. Rodriquez asserted that a lot of what he has been talking about on previous occasions has been happening throughout the City and is spreading like wildfire. He added that the Five Points area is getting out of hand, and people are carrying weapons. Mr. Rodriquez expressed his concern about people who are out on the streets at all hours of the night and “these thugs are out there doing whatever they want.” Mr. Rodriquez asked City officials to please do something before it is too late.
Welcoming Home Troops
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, communicated that he attended the planned greetings tonight for troops returning home from Iraq.
Sewer Problems – Homestead Avenue and Rosemont Drive Area
Mr. Grubb stated that the problems involving the sewer lines in the Homestead Avenue and Rosemont Drive neighborhoods still have not been resolved and the weather is now in another hurricane season. Mr. Grubb stressed it is time that the project start to get to some sort of a conclusion. Mr. Grubb thought that the City government is not putting itself in the neighbors’ shoes and is taking what appears to be a rather long period of time to make the needed improvements. He continued on to say no City officials have had human waste in their basements or have had thousands of dollars of insurance damages to their homes. Asserting there are ways to get the project moving, Mr. Grubb thought it is a shame when City government is not being 100% responsive, particularly when last year’s event was not the first time the residents of the neighborhoods have faced the sewer line issue. Recalling that although the issue was discussed during last year’s Budget Hearings, Mr. Grubb stressed it is now six months into the new year and nothing is being done.
Mr. Leeson inquired about the status of the project.
David Brong, Director of Water and Sewer Resources, advised that several meetings were held with the neighborhood residents and City officials were very upfront about the schedule and the scope of work in order to get the project done. Mr. Brong stated at this point the engineering is concluded, the surveying is concluded, and legal descriptions of easements are being drafted. Once the properties are appraised, the properties will be procured. Then, the engineering work will be bid, and work will begin in back of the properties. Mr. Brong pointed out that about three weeks ago through a collaborative effort between sewer maintenance and streets bureau staff every roof drain that was within the vicinity of the Lehigh Shopping Center was reviewed, and none of them was connected to the sanitary sewer system as was believed earlier. Mr. Brong confirmed that very shortly the residents involved will be contacted, starting with the most strategic, and easements will be procured.
Mr. Leeson asked the time frame.
Mr. Brong responded probably within the next 30 days the residents will be contacted. In further response to Mr. Leeson, Mr. Brong confirmed the residents know that easements are needed, and they have been invited to neighborhood meetings. Mr. Brong added he has not heard of anyone who is not participating. Mr. Brong later advised Mr. Leeson that the appraisals are part of the 30 day period.
Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, informed Mr. Leeson that about 9 easements are needed for phase 1, while 2 easements are needed for pre-phase 1. Mr. Alkhal explained that, in pre-phase 1, very effective improvements will be done first for a short stretch of the sewer line because it is felt if that section is improved first it can go a long way to solving the problems.
Mr. Leeson asked if a deadline will be set for property owners to respond. Mr. Leeson commented that, if the residents have been notified and are aware this is coming, he thinks it is appropriate they respond within a certain amount of time in view of the fact that it is a neighborhood issue and has to move forward because it is a critical situation. Mr. Leeson further pointed out that the City has the power of eminent domain to move forward. Mr. Leeson stressed he does not want the sewer backups to go on for another year. Mr. Leeson inquired about estimates for bid dates.
Mr. Alkhal replied construction could start in early October.
Mr. Leeson, inquiring if there is any way to advance that date, highlighted the fact that it would extend through another hurricane season.
Mr. Alkhal, denoting a big factor is how quickly easements can be obtained, said everything else is ready.
Mr. Leeson stated that a target date should be set to acquire the easements, and further stressed that a timetable for the project needs to be accelerated. In response to Mr. Leeson, Mr. Alkhal confirmed that the engineering is done and the specifications are completed. Mr. Leeson observed, in that case, theoretically, if the easements were acquired today then the City could bid the project tomorrow. Mr. Alkhal, while replying in the affirmative, noted there are advertising requirements.
Mr. Leeson requested that for the next City Council Meeting a more aggressive timeline be presented. Mr. Leeson added that, if the property owners affected complain, then the blame could be placed on him because it is being attempted to move the project along for the neighborhood’s benefit.
Ms. Dolan inquired about the status of the project as projected on the schedule that was forwarded previously.
Mr. Brong responded if one were to compare the current project status against the schedule “we are without question on schedule.” Mr. Brong continued on to say the project is a phased plan, and there is about a mile and a half of sewer main that is planned to be upgraded. Explaining it is necessary to take care of the project one part at a time, Mr. Brong expressed that the Engineering Bureau has come up with a creative phased plan in order to accommodate those areas that are most suspect which are located in the backs of yards as opposed to the public right of way in the streets.
Ms. Dolan recalled there was some discussion about temporary measures that some of the citizens were taking which were not long term solutions to the problem. Ms. Dolan queried what percentage of the residents utilized the stop-gap measures, and whether the measures were successful.
Mr. Brong, replying he does not know the percentage, advised that several of the residents have installed check valves. Observing they are not a perfect solution, Mr. Brong noted the solution needs to be an upgrade to the lines. Mr. Brong added the residents should contact a plumber to have a check valve installed.
Ms. Dolan queried whether the property of a resident who was of an opposite opinion regarding the project would prevent a required easement.
Mr. Brong, acknowledging that some good input, although contrary, was provided, noted the thrust was that the City should find the infiltration into the system rather than spending $1-$2 million to upgrade the system. Stating the residents deserve a more immediate response and a more certain result, Mr. Brong advised that is not something with which at this point either he or Mr. Alkhal agree.
Mrs. Belinski recounted she had asked a few weeks ago that Kurt Bartholomew, a former employee, be consulted regarding the matter and inquired whether Mr. Brong followed through on her suggestion, with which Joseph Mari, a current employee, concurred.
Mr. Brong affirmed that Mr. Mari is of the same mind as Mr. Bartholomew who has visited the Sewer Maintenance Bureau.
Robert Lovingood, 3051 Center Street, advised he received a certified letter this morning requesting that trees be trimmed at his house. Mr. Lovingood, affirming he has a lot of trees around his house, confirmed he has people cut and trim them. Mr. Lovingood queried what he should do and what he can do. Mr. Lovingood denoted that the tree canopies keep his house cool in the summer. Pointing out that when the house was built many years ago there was very little traffic on Center Street, Mr. Lovingood highlighted the fact that, at that time, Route 22 did not exist. However, in subsequent years, there is heavy traffic in the area and even more traffic builds up bumper to bumper on Center Street when an accident occurs on nearby Route 22. Mr. Lovingood, communicating he wants to resolve the matter, acknowledged he does like trees and stressed that they add to the elegance of his property.
Request for Additional Police
William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, expressed that he does not feel as safe as he did when he moved back to Bethlehem three years ago. Mr. Scheirer, referring to his past request for four additional Police Officers each year for the next five years, commented it would be good if something could be done right away. Saying one thing City Council could do right away is to pass a Resolution that it is the sense of Council that four additional Police Officers will be in the next Budget, Mr. Scheirer communicated this would send a message to the Police force that help is coming and would make the Police Officers feel better, more motivated, and more enthusiastic.
Mr. Donchez advised he will be discussing that issue with Mayor Callahan in about two weeks for the upcoming Budget.
Additional Police Patrols – Center Street and Raspberry Street Neighborhood
Carol Ann Krasley, Center Street, referred to a newspaper article this morning about a gun fired at an apartment door in the unit block of East Raspberry Street that is a half block from where she lives. Ms. Krasley added that the building previously also had a drug home invasion. In view of the upcoming Fourth of July fireworks celebration, Ms. Krasley asked if perhaps there could be more Police patrols in the alleys in the area that would be much appreciated in the neighborhood.
Sewer Problems – Homestead Avenue and Rosemont Drive Area
Beverly Phelan, 1857 Homestead Avenue, related that at a meeting last April, the residents were told by City officials it was the hope that the sewer backup situation would be resolved the next construction season. Ms. Phelan communicated perhaps the residents mistook that to mean the Spring of 2006. At that time, Ms. Phelan noted it was suggested that the temporary measures the residents could take were to have a check valve installed, close off the sewer drains, toilet, and showers. Ms. Phelan questioned if, in the event there is major pressure in the line, the plugs will hold.
Mr. Alkhal, responding it would depend on the type of plug and the amount of pressure, explained it is difficult to keep the water out unless there is something structurally sound to resist the pressure. Mr. Alkhal advised he could not tell Ms. Phelan tonight without looking at the type of plug and installation. Mr. Alkhal continued on to say, without doing that, there is a good likelihood it would hold unless there were severe conditions.
Ms. Phelan highlighted the fact that she has already incurred a $15,000 loss in the basement, and has spent another $2,500 to have a check valve installed. Ms. Phelan continued on to say some of her neighbors, who have installed plugs, were trusting that this situation was going to be resolved in the next construction season. Ms. Phelan advised that her plumber who installed the check valve “felt that this might blow.”
Mr. Alkhal indicated that the installations would have to
be looked at more closely and a determination can be made
whether or not a failure is likely. Mr. Alkhal commented,
at this point, given the small amount of information and not
having looked at and evaluated the installations, there is
a 50-50 chance the installations would hold. Observing there
have been some fairly severe rainfalls, Mr. Alkhal said he
assumes Ms. Phelan had not yet had a problem. Mr. Alkhal continued
on to advise that the City is trying to move the project as
fast as it can. Mr. Alkhal explained that at the meeting last
April people were working with very rough estimates as far
as what it would take, there were no plans finalized, the
conditions behind the homes were not known, it was unknown
that the existing easements were insufficient to make the
necessary improvements, and funding had to be secured that
became available in March of this year. Adding that meetings
were held with the residents and the plans and schedules were
laid out, Mr. Alkhal stated the City is on target to meet
but the City will make every effort to beat the schedule.
Ms. Phelan asked if it would be an unreasonable request to ask that City Hall continue to meet with the neighborhood and update the residents as to whether the project is moving along or has hit a glitch; or, maybe the temporary measures will not hold, and there will be more costly damage to their homes again. Ms. Phelan continued on to say perhaps the residents may want to reconsider installation of a check valve.
Mr. Alkhal, affirming that plans and schedules were distributed at the neighborhood meeting, explained the plan was that, if there were any change to the schedule, the intent was to meet with the residents again.
Acting President Donchez suggested that, since the neighbors have suffered a financial and emotional hardship that City officials have not experienced, if they are spending an additional $2,500 as a preventive measure he thinks it is the City’s responsibility to see if that is a worthwhile investment. After the update to City Council in two weeks, Acting President Donchez stated that perhaps a meeting could be scheduled with the neighbors so they know exactly what is going to happen, and that City Council could be notified of the date, time, and place of the meeting. Acting President Donchez further suggested that Mr. Alkhal could talk to Ms. Phelan after this evening’s Council Meeting.
Mrs. Belinski recounted she had mentioned previously that she personally visited Mr. Bartholomew, former City employee, who had been in charge of the maintenance of the sewer line when the backup occurred a few years ago. Mrs. Belinski noted that Mr. Bartholomew informed her that the previous Water and Sewer Resources Director had asked Mr. Bartholomew about the maintenance of the line. Mr. Bartholomew told the former Director he had a verbal agreement with the former Public Works Director that since the area was a known trouble spot the line should be roto-rooted every three months. Mrs. Belinski said she did not recall that there was ever a problem under that maintenance schedule. However, the maintenance schedule was not retained under the previous Water and Sewer Resources Director. As a result, Mrs. Belinski asserted there was the terrible catastrophe of the sewer backups in the neighborhood. Mrs. Belinski questioned, before a situation might occur where plugs that the residents install may fail, how is the maintenance schedule being maintained. Mrs. Belinski continued on to say she thinks the City should be very prudent and conducting maintenance even more frequently than every three months if necessary to keep the lines open.
Mr. Brong responded the City does work in the area once every three years to cable the mains. Affirming the City cannot go on private property, Mr. Brong explained the work that was done previously was to cable the laterals but the City is not insured to do that work. Advising that most recently before the surveying started the Department cabled a stretch of sewer main in back yards that was believed to be the most problematic area, Mr. Brong stated there were no obstructions in the sewer main. Mr. Brong continued on to advise, with any impending rain event, the sewer maintenance staff conducts a visual inspection of the flows in the area to insure there is nothing that needs to be taken care of before the rain event.
Mrs. Belinski commented that, evidently, what is being done is not working. Querying whether the City was illegally roto-rooting the lines before, Mrs. Belinski pointed out the residents did not have the current problems before.
Mr. Brong, stating he cannot speak to what was done before, informed Mrs. Belinski this is not a maintenance problem. Mr. Brong continued on to say, if this was merely a matter of maintenance to keep the flow moving in the right direction and from backing up, then the City would do it. Mr. Brong advised “this needs to be upgraded.”
Mrs. Belinski, referring to a hurricane last year, noted the City crews were sent out to check the lines. Stating there was an eye witness who informed her that large tree roots were pulled out, Mrs. Belinski said it was too little too late.
Mr. Brong advised he is not aware of that but could look into it.
Mrs. Belinski, stressing it is the City’s responsibility, highlighted the fact that the residents are paying their water and sewer bill and should be assured they have proper drainage of the sewer lines.
Acting President Donchez, observing this is a problem that has taken place in this area on the west side for 20-25 years, communicated the progress made is that it is being addressed now but it should have been addressed 20-25 years ago. Pointing out it has caused hardship for many residents many times, Acting President Donchez expressed the hope that the project can be expedited as fast as possible. Acting President Donchez commented that every major rainstorm is a stressful time for the neighbors.
Ms. Dolan asked whether a check value was recommended by the City in any of its correspondence with the neighbors, and if that is a good idea.
Mr. Alkhal, confirming that recommendation was made at the meetings held by the City with the residents, said he does not recall if it was included in any of the City’s letters. Mr. Brong affirmed he also did it verbally.
Ms. Dolan stated it might not be a bad idea to send a letter with that recommendation. In addition, she commented that the City could let the neighbors know that the project is on schedule with the construction but that the schedule means it will take place in October. Commenting that the hurricane season started earlier this year than possibly in history, and is predicted to be one of the worst in history, Ms. Dolan pointed out that $2,500 for a check valve could protect perhaps $20,000 of material in someone’s basement. Ms. Dolan suggested that a letter be sent to the residents, whether or not they attend the meetings, to let them know that is the best thing to do and where they could be purchased.
Mr. Alkhal affirmed to Mrs. Belinski that the sewer maintenance staff is actively maintaining the mains in the area. He continued on to say that is the key to minimizing the probability of the problem. Mr. Alkhal explained, if the laterals were to be rooted out and if there were to be a severe rain event, it would actually be counterproductive because when the ground water table rises it submerges the main and water infiltrates the main, causing the water to back up into the sewer laterals and into the homes.
Mrs. Belinski insisted because there is not the proper size sewer line the City is indirectly responsible.
Mr. Alkhal, confirming that an upgrade to the main was identified long ago, advised it was also identified that it would take a very severe event to cause a problem. He continued on to say, unfortunately, in the last five to six years there have been at least three very severe events. Mr. Alkhal added that all along the City was planning to make the improvements as part of the Act 537 Plan, and the present situation has expedited it.
Golf Course – Organizational Changes
Charles Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, informed the Members that he wanted to update Council on several issues. Mr. Brown, referring to the organizational changes made at the Golf Course, noted one of the employees and the Union President is in attendance. Mr. Brown affirmed that the employees work hard and do an excellent job. Pointing out there are three entities being the golf course clubhouse manager, greens manager, and golf pro, Mr. Brown explained it has become difficult to isolate some of the problems in an effort to increase revenues and is one of the reasons he made the changes. Highlighting the fact that there is no reduction in pay, no demotion, and no change in job titles, Mr. Brown stated that Tom Wilchak has been put in charge of maintenance so there is one person to contact. Mr. Brown, stressing there is no disrespect to any individual, advised it was a business move.
Mr. Brown, turning to the issue of cell towers, advised the Department has been working for months to develop a program and continues to work on the matter. Mr. Brown noted he will be bringing the matter to the Parks and Public Property Committee.
Tree Replacement – City Hall
Mr. Brown, focusing on the plans to remove the trees in front of City Hall, explained that although the trees are not in terrible condition, they are not beneficial in that they negatively affect the roof and those with asthma problems. Mr. Brown distributed pictures to the Members of Council depicting how the building will look with newly planted trees and lighting. Mr. Brown further informed the assembly that the work will be done after Labor Day in order to provide time for comment. Mr. Brown confirmed that he did receive some telephone calls about the plans. Mr. Brown, noting the work will be professionally done and will include signs, communicated it will look nice.
Mrs. Belinski stated she has received good comments and feedback about the changes at the Golf Course.
Carey Blake, 47 E. Garrison Street, expressed her support of Mrs. Krasley’s earlier request for more Police patrols in the evening.
Tree Replacement – City Hall
Ms. Blake, expressing her concern about removal of the trees in front of City Hall, said if the City is having financial problems then the trees should be trimmed. Ms. Blake thought the amount of money to replace the trees would be better used to hire more Police Officers. Ms. Blake asserted that the trees could have been trimmed for years and now would not be a problem.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:45 p.m.