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July 5, 2006 Meeting Minutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street - Town Hall
Wednesday, July 5, 2006 – 7:30 PM
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President J. Michael Schweder called the meeting to order. Barbara Taylor, Associate Ministry, St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church, 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., Gordon B. Mowrer, Magdalena F. Szabo, and J. Michael Schweder, 7.
Citation – Honoring Jeffrey Halleman
President Schweder noted that a Citation for Jeffrey Halleman
who retired from the Fire Department after 29 years of service
would be forwarded to him since he was unable to be present
at the meeting.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of June 20, 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)
Commercial Mixed Use (CMU) Zoning District – Eighth and Eaton Avenues
William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, advised that the Bethlehem Citizens Association finds the proposed creation of a Commercial Mixed Use (CMU) zoning district to be premature. Mr. Scheirer notified the Members that he will fully detail the Association’s reasoning at the Public Hearing.
6. OLD BUSINESS
Sewer Problems - Homestead Avenue and Rosemont Drive Areas
Ms. Szabo, referring to her recent memorandum, noted she had requested that Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, and David Brong, Director of Water and Sewer Resources, report on the consequences of the heavy rain and the effect on the Homestead Avenue and Rosemont Drive areas.
David Brong, Director of Water and Sewer Resources, said during the storm of last week there was a sewer overflow in the Homestead Avenue area which was the fourth sewer overflow in the past two years. Mr. Brong stated that, “to the best of knowledge at this point, having surveyed the area and having looked at the amount of surcharge, there were about 8 to 10 homes that were impacted.” Mr. Brong, pointing out that something unique was tried this time, explained the Department tried to bypass the problematic area of the collection system by pumping from a manhole and pumping over ground to a downstream manhole. Unfortunately, the direction was based on the past several events and the system did not behave as it did the past several times. There was a surcharge just upstream from the bypass point which caused repositioning of the pump and the suction end through the upstream manhole and more discharge piping, but between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. there were some homes that were surcharged with sewer flow. Mr. Brong, acknowledging he feels very badly that the effort was not successful, said, however, he was encouraged that every gallon of wastewater flow that was bypassed was a gallon of flow that did not end up in someone’s basement. Mr. Brong continued on to advise that, knowing what is known at this point and recognizing the fickle nature of the system, the pump has been placed as of this morning and the Department was prepared to bypass the area once again based on the heavy rains. Mr. Brong affirmed that, unfortunately, there was yet another event.
Ms. Szabo, referring to the report received by Members of Council this evening about the sanitary sewer matter, remarked it would have been nice if it would have been received earlier so that the Members could read it. Ms. Szabo, asking is there any way that the project can be prioritized because it has been going on for a year, communicated there have been promises, and stressed this is a serious health problem. Ms. Szabo restated is there any way to push the project ahead and put it on top priority over everything else.
Mr. Brong said the answer to the question is yes. Mr. Brong, in response to Mr. Leeson’s request at the June 20, 2006 City Council Meeting, noted he is prepared to provide an update to Council on an expedited, prioritized plan for remediating the issues. Mr. Brong summarized that the effort began last October 2005. Confirming there was another overflow in the neighborhood last October, Mr. Brong recounted there was a meeting, and it was decided at that time that this area of the system needed to be dealt with sooner and more expeditiously than the overall sewer upgrade program contained in the Act 537. Continuing on to say the originally communicated construction start was going to be somewhere around October 2006, Mr. Brong advised what has been decided in an effort to expedite would be to pursue securing a contractor, bidding the project, and obtaining the construction easements concurrently. Focusing on project bidding, Mr. Brong informed the assembly that bids will be advertised for phase 1 in the middle of July, the request for bids will remain open for three weeks, and will close during the first week of August. There will be two weeks for generation of contract documents for the award of the bid and the bonding that the contractor is obligated to do prior to a third week of August notice to proceed. Turning to construction easements, Mr. Brong said there are 8 properties impacted by the project. All 8 of the residents have been mailed a letter indicating the City’s desire to secure easements, that the City will be contacting them shortly, and that the City would like the process to take no more than two weeks in deference to Mr. Leeson’s suggestion to expedite the process. At the present time, the appraiser has two of the eight legal descriptions for the easements, and will be getting the appraisals back for the first two properties in the middle of July at which point the Department will incrementally engage with the homeowners and work towards that resolution. The legal descriptions for the six remaining properties will be made available to the appraiser next week. All appraisals are anticipated to be in City Hall by the first week in August, and the notice to proceed along with the appraisals would be completed by the third week in August. Mr. Brong stated the area that is going to be worked on is deemed as phase 1 of project that has three phases. The first phase is what the Department considers to be the most suspect and problematic area of the system, and once resolved the Department is rather confident that the homes which have been experiencing the difficulties will no longer experience them. Mr. Brong notified the assembly that the project will start at Eaton Avenue and Highland Avenue where a connection will be made to the existing trunk in Eaton Avenue. The work will then travel upstream, as sewer projects generally go, keeping certain facets of the system operational during construction. Work will proceed in a northwesterly fashion, through the easements that are being procured first, and then proceeding out to Homestead Avenue and to Brentlawn Avenue. Pointing out that area of the system is in bad repair, is dipped, and cracked, Mr. Brong stressed that the first phase of the project needs to address it. Advising that the project is expected to take several months, Mr. Brong said he hesitates to give a firm conclusion date because more will be learned once the work commends and the scope of the project is reviewed by the contractor. Observing that work will be done around people’s living areas and existing utilities, Mr. Brong highlighted the fact that three utility crossings will be required for two storm sewers and one existing sanitary sewer. The easements are adjacent to existing easements which was one of the complicating issues with the project. This is not just replacing an existing ten inch main with an eighteen inch main at the same depth. This is a project that will be taking the infrastructure deeper in order to accommodate the houses on Homestead Avenue that are at higher risk based on their elevation. Mr. Brong added that has created a certain amount of complexity and has caused an element of surveying and grade line calculations that were unexpected early on.
Ms. Szabo complimented Charles Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, Mr. Brong, George Barkanic, Fire Commissioner, and Francis Donchez, Police Commissioner, and their staffs for the terrific job they do when there are severe problems with storms. Ms. Szabo, noting she went to the Lehigh River and the staff was working long hours, said all appreciates their efforts. Ms. Szabo asked if there was a lot of damage at the Ice House.
Charles Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, highlighted the fact that because of the cooperation of all City Departments there was not a lot of damage. Mr. Brown noted the air conditioning system was under water and burned out, and the City has requested reimbursement from FEMA.
Sewer Problems – Homestead Avenue and Rosemont Drive Area
Mr. Brown noted he is very much aware of what the people have endured in the Homestead Avenue area because other areas of the City such as the South Side had the same basic problem. Mr. Brown recalled that a former Director of Community and Economic Development who lived on Homestead Avenue had the same problem about two decades ago. Mr. Brown communicated that a remarkable job is being done with the project, and those involved are working hard.
Mr. Leeson recommended to City Council and to the Administration that the Administration have the Ordinances for eminent domain ready for City Council to vote on First Reading at the next Council Meeting. Affirming the Ordinances take two votes, Mr. Leeson said once the Ordinances are passed, if negotiations are fruitful it is not necessary for the eminent domain actions to be filed with the court. Mr. Leeson continued on to say those can be held in abeyance if the Administration is close to striking a satisfactory negotiated fair market value price with the property owner. But, Mr. Leeson pointed out the Administration will have the authority to move immediately if it is found that negotiations are unsatisfactory. Mr. Leeson, asking if it is feasible to bring the Ordinances to City Council in two weeks, said he will expect to see them.
Ms. Dolan said she is happy someone on Council has come up with an idea that will help to be proactive, and noted she will support that.
President Schweder, communicating he is not really pleased, stated that the report Mr. Brong gave to the Members of Council tonight should have been given ten months ago. President Schweder recalled what City Council was presented with ten months ago and the people who live in the neighborhood were told was that this was of immediate importance and it would be corrected immediately. President Schweder recounted what was presented to City Council was almost an ultimatum from the Mayor of the necessity for Council to provide the funding immediately so that the program could take place and be corrected. President Schweder commented one could look at the minutes from meetings last October, November, and December that clearly indicate that. President Schweder stressed he finds it unacceptable tonight that Council is learning about easements today since one would have thought when it was decided in October 2005 that the project needed to be done that someone in the Law Bureau would have looked at the requirement and it would have been part of a master plan. President Schweder pointed out it appears now that the project will not be done until the end of the year, if then, after another hurricane system. President Schweder, communicating that City Council went through every exercise to accommodate every request by the Administration, exclaimed he finds it unacceptable that now in July not one of those steps have been taken up to this point.
Mrs. Belinski said information was given to her that manholes will be put in people’s backyards, and noted people are upset that this may devalue their property in order to fix the problem.
Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, advised there are currently manholes in people’s backyards. Mr. Alkhal explained where a parallel line was going to be located to the existing sanitary line there will be three or four new manholes. Mr. Alkhal, affirming there was a meeting late last year on the project, said “we had every intention to expedite and we did make every effort to expedite this project. There were some things that we’re not pushing, I believe reasonably so…We have scoped out the project…There were no plans prepared yet. Because of the event that took place…we did the best we can with the limited information that was available at that time, in a hurry, and we gave some projections, and I believe the projections were that we will get this started and done this construction season. That was absolutely true, and it was said. That counted on the utilization of existing easements that presently exist…We were going to utilize the same easements to replace the lines. However, when we did some additional investigation, we surveyed the area, [and] it turned out that it was not feasible because…of the need to lower the line…and prevent flooding from some of the low-lying homes, as well as what has taken place over the last 40-50 years in those people’s backyards where a current easement exists. There are patios, there are encroachments up on the existing easements, and given the location where it is at and how deep we need to construct and install the new sewers, we could not use the existing easements. That necessitated to do additional surveying, and when we embarked on that, that was in the dead of winter, and we had delays as a result of that. We had to go out and hire a surveyor in order to prepare legal descriptions of the required right of way, utility easements, as well as construction easements, and those are the primary factors that have pushed the timeline as previously presented before we presented the expedited timeline today…Maybe things could have been done a little bit quicker than they were, but we honestly moved as fast as we can, and there were some legitimate, unforeseen circumstances that put us where we are today.”
President Schweder communicated he will give Mr. Alkhal the benefit of the doubt that he probably unintentionally misled the people who live there and the Members of Council because that is not how it was presented. President Schweder continued on to say if all those questions were left open, then the people who were involved simply could have been told that, and there would have been some understanding on people’s parts that maybe not all the questions had been answered at that point. President Schweder stated that is not what was presented to Council in the Fall of last year.
Ms. Szabo said she wants to make it clear that she is not condemning anybody, but noted it goes back many years at the beginning when it was being built. Ms. Szabo observed after 30 or 40 years the City still looks at plans and says go ahead and do it when the City should be looking deeper into things. Ms. Szabo, commenting this is not the case of today looking at this one place, asserted she thinks it is today that the City has to start looking at plans more seriously that come before City officials.
A. Director of Planning and Zoning – Proposed Zoning Amendments to Create CMU – Commercial Mixed Use Zoning District – Eighth and Eaton Avenues
The Clerk read a memorandum dated June 21, 2006 from Darlene L. Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, in which it was stated that at the Planning Commission's June 8, 2006 meeting the Commission voted to recommend approval of the creation of a CMU - Commercial Mixed Use) zoning district in the area of the intersection of Eighth and Eaton Avenues. The proposal includes both map and text amendments. The CMU zone is proposed to replace the existing CM - Office Research Center zoning district which is outdated and largely includes only nonconforming uses and lots. The CMU zoning district is proposed to provide for development requirements that allow the existing lots to be conforming and to provide for permitted uses that are appropriate to and compatible with the surrounding area.
President Schweder referred the request to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan moved to schedule a Public Hearing on Tuesday, August 15, 2006 at 7:30 PM in Town Hall.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The motion passed.
B. Director of Parks and Public Property – DCNR Grant
Application for Southside
Greenway Skate Park
The Clerk read a memorandum dated June 26, 2006 from Charles A. Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, to which was attached a proposed resolution requesting authorization for the City to submit a DCNR grant application for $200,000 to construct a skate park on the South Bethlehem Greenway. As recommended in the South Bethlehem Greenway Master Plan, the proposed skate park would be situated below the Fourth Street Bridge at Fourth Street and Daly Avenue.
President Schweder stated that the authorizing Resolution can be placed on the July 18, 2006 Agenda, unless the Parks and Public Property Committee wishes to review this matter.
C. Assistant City Solicitor – Use Permit Agreement for Public Property – Richard Scott Kelley and Has Anyone Seen My Balloon?, Inc. – Hot Air Balloon Take Off
The Clerk read a memorandum dated June 30, 2006 from Joseph M. Kelly, Assistant City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed resolution for a Use Permit Agreement for Public Property between the City and Richard Scott Kelley and Has Anyone Seen My Balloon?, Inc., for use of Yellis Park, Monocacy Park Complex Athletic Fields, Saucon Park Complex Athletic Fields, Clearview Complex and the area behind the Municipal Ice Rink for hot air balloon take off for the time period June 1, 2006 to May 31, 2007.
President Schweder stated that the authorizing Resolution will be placed on the July 18 Agenda.
D. Assistant City Solicitor – Third Amendment to Tower Lease Agreement – Cingular Wireless
The Clerk read a memorandum dated June 30, 2006 from Joseph M. Kelly, Assistant City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed resolution for a Third Amendment to Tower Lease Agreement between the City and New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC d/b/a/ Cingular Wireless, as successor in interest to Comcast PCS Communications, Inc., n/k/a/ Delaware Valley Communications, Inc., for the purpose of selling and transferring its improvements located at the City's Tower in South Mountain Park on South Mountain Drive, Lower Saucon Township.
President Schweder stated that the authorizing Resolution will be placed on the July 18 Agenda.
8 . REPORTS
A. President of Council
1. Administrative Order – Randall Miller – Police
Mayor John B. Callahan appointed Randall Miller as Police Commissioner effective as of July 10, 2006. Mr. Donchez and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,871 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.
2. Administrative Order – LauraLynne Burtner – Fine Arts Commission
Mayor John B. Callahan appointed LauraLynne Burtner to the Fine Arts Commission, effective until July 2009. Mr. Donchez and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,872 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 22 – 2006 – Amending Community Development Budget – CDBG and HOME Programs
The Clerk read Bill No. 22 - 2006, Amending Community Development Budget – CDBG and HOME Programs, sponsored by Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
THE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT BUDGET FOR 2006.
Ms. Dolan asked what impact will the CDBG cut have on Community Policing, and whether it will be able to be mitigated.
Randall Miller, Deputy Police Commissioner, advised that the CDBG money goes towards Overtime for Vice and special units, and helps pay for the salaries of three Police Officers, one in each of the three South Side Substations.
Ms. Dolan asked if those positions would be cut, or would funding have to be obtained from some other source in the Budget.
Deputy Police Commissioner Miller expressed he would check into the matter.
Mr. Donchez, noting the decrease would be about $25,000, inquired if it would be possible to shift money from Contingency so that no manpower is lost at the South Side Substations or for Overtime.
Mayor Callahan, commenting that is a possibility, said the other possibility is to utilize funding within the Police Department Budget from savings in the Salaries Account.
Mr. Donchez asked if the Administration could provide a response to City Council prior to the next City Council Meeting so that no manpower is lost and there is no change in the program.
Irene Woodward, Housing and Community Development Planner, confirmed that the allocation for Community Policing had to be reduced based on the CDBG cap for Public Services.
President Schweder expressed the hope that the Law Bureau would review the Resolution in which it is stated that the number of Police Officers would be reduced if there is a cut in grant funding. President Schweder later pointed out that would need to be addressed.
Ms. Dolan inquired what would be cut in the Housing Rehabilitation program.
Ms. Woodward responded that the Housing Rehabilitation program is not being cut. Rather, instead of the funding coming from the CDBG program it will be coming from the HOME program. Ms. Woodward affirmed that the Housing Rehabilitation program is an owner-occupied rehabilitation program for low to moderate income families who qualify.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill 22 – 2006 was declared passed on First Reading.
A. Certificate of Appropriateness – 4 East 4th Street
On motion of Ms. Szabo and Mr. Donchez, Resolution 11 A, Certificate was not considered.
President Schweder asked that the City Council Solicitor and City Clerk to review the matter.
B. Certificate of Appropriateness – 308 South New Street
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Leeson sponsored Resolution 14,873 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to paint the exterior storefront, replace the apartment door, and replace the awning at 308 South New Street.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mower, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 109 West Fourth Street
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Leeson sponsored Resolution 14,874 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to renovate the façade and demolish and rebuild a rear addition at 109 West Fourth Street.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mower, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.
D. Authorizing Amendment No. 1 to Electrical Bureau Building Lease – Allentown SMSA Limited Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless
Ms. Dolan and Ms. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,875 that authorized the execution of Amendment No. 1 to Electrical Bureau Building Lease between the City of Bethlehem and Allentown SMSA Limited Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless, Successor to Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems, Inc., according to the terms and conditions of the Lease 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 located at 248 East Garrison Street (Public Works Electrical Shop).
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mower, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.
E. Authorizing PennDot Contribution Agreement – Route 412 Capacity Improvement Project – "Third Street TSM Project"
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,876 that authorized the execution of a Contribution Agreement between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, acting through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and the City, for Transportation Systems Management (TSM) Improvements necessary for the Route 412 Corridor, in accordance with the Agreement.
12. NEW BUSINESS
Sewer Problems - Homestead Avenue and Rosemont Drive Area
Mr. Donchez asked the tentative timeframe for phase 1.
Mr. Brong replied that phase 1 is anticipated to take five months.
Mr. Donchez inquired how many phases will the project comprise.
Mr. Brong, responding there would be three distinct phases, communicated “we fully expect to be successful in remediating the issues experienced in this area with phase 1. If that is the case, we may include the phase 2 and the phase 3 segments as part of the overall sewer upgrade for the sake of getting a larger scale contract and getting an economy of scale based on that.”
Mr. Donchez observed it could probably be a year for the three phases.
Mr. Brong said, “were we to continue on…that’s accurate…”.
Mr. Donchez highlighted the fact that it is imperative to expedite the project as soon as possible. Affirming that City Council did approve the funding during the 2006 Budget Hearings last year, Mr. Donchez pointed out that City Council has done everything on its side that it could do. Mr. Donchez, emphasizing the project has to be completed before the next hurricane season, stressed “we cannot allow the citizens to go through this.” Mr. Donchez later added “I think we all would hope that this problem would have been corrected by now.” Mr. Donchez remarked he would never want to live under this stress and pressure, and having sewage coming up in his basement.
Mr. Donchez, in view of the fact that there would be a Bond
Issue next year for Capital Projects, asked that the Administration
provide City Council with a list of any other areas in the
City where there are recurring problems of drainage, swales,
and are constantly being flooded, such as the Bridle Path
Road area, etc. Mr. Donchez denoted that, with all the development
in the City, “we really need to take a hard look…when
we take out a bond every two years for $3-$4 million, that’s
where…we make large capital improvements to the City,
and I think we owe it to the citizens to correct these drainage
problems in all parts of town, and that needs to be priority
Mayor Callahan, expressing appreciation for Mr. Donchez’s sense of urgency, noted he was at the neighborhood a year ago and spoke to the residents. Communicating everyone has acknowledged it has been a problem multiple decades in the making, Mayor Callahan denoted this Administration has been the first to tackle the issue, and stated no one has a greater sense of urgency, other than the homeowners themselves, than this Administration to get the problem fixed. Affirming it is a large public works undertaking, Mayor Callahan said the Administration appreciates Council’s putting the money forward in the 2006 Budget and added “rest assured the money will get spent in 2006.” Mayor Callahan advised that the Administration has tackled not only a number of sewer issues but also stormwater issues over the last few years. Noting that a list of projects could be given to Council tomorrow, Mayor Callahan stressed it would take no less than $20 million of borrowing to fix the problems. Confirming this is the most urgent area in the City, Mayor Callahan said “we’re doing everything we can to address it in the most expeditious, cost effective, effective way…”.
Mr. Leeson asked if the project will be bid on unit price or lump sum basis.
Mr. Brong stated that Mr. Alkhal has just noted it will be unit price.
Mr. Leeson inquired if all three phases will be bid at one time.
Mr. Brong, replying no, noted there may be an opportunity to aggregate phase 2 and phase 3 with other sewer upgrade projects. Restating the Department feels rather confident that phase 1 is going to mitigate the circumstances in the Homestead Avenue neighborhood, Mr. Brong said if that is the case, then phase 2 and phase 3 may be rolled into some larger scale efforts.
Mr. Leeson noted he raised the issue in the context of trying to find ways to save time, and pointed out a provision could be written in the contract that all the unit price money does not have to be expended for phases 2 and 3, but the prices would be locked in place. Otherwise, the work would have to be rebid. Mr. Leeson asked that it be considered as a manner of expediting the project.
Mr. Leeson asked if the City’s standard construction documents will be used that may save time, or will a new set of documents be written.
Mr. Brong advised the Department is utilizing the standard construction documents although they may have to be appended.
Mayor Callahan, focusing on the sense of urgency, reiterated it is thought phase 1 will take care of the problem, and said by trying to lump phases 2 and 3 into the bidding of the project it will delay the project.
Mr. Leeson, remarking that is not the way construction works, advised he owns a construction company and knows it will not delay it.
Community Development Committee Announcement
Ms. Szabo, Chairman of the Community Development Committee Committee, announced a meeting on July 18, 2006.
Mr. Mowrer, noting there has been a lot in the newspapers about what cities are doing to eliminate smoking in public buildings, asked what is new as far as what the City is working on.
Mr. Hanna, affirming that monthly reports are issued to Council, explained that the State has not changed the enabling legislation to permit the City to do anything at the local level. He added that the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association supports no smoking.
Mr. Mowrer inquired whether it would be helpful if Council were to pass something.
Mr. Hanna communicated that City Council is welcome to do something that could be forwarded to the Governor and the State Legislature.
Mr. Mowrer asked Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor,
what City Council can do. Attorney Spadoni stated he will
report back to Mr. Mowrer.
Mayor Callahan, observing the tide seems to be turning at the State level, communicated that all of the compelling data is moving the argument to the State level. Mayor Callahan continued on to say he is hopeful some change will be seen at the State level that will enable the City to be more stringent. Mayor Callahan pointed out that, on a practical level, the largest restaurant in Bethlehem and possibly the Lehigh Valley, Starter’s Riverport, is smoke free.
Mr. Mowrer denoted he is looking at the City as being part of the momentum.
Ms. Szabo pointed out that the Health Bureau is working very diligently with restaurant owners. She further noted that fewer and fewer people are seen smoking at a restaurant table.
Norfolk Southern Right of Way
Ms. Dolan inquired about the difference between the Norfolk Southern Right of Way and the responsibilities of other property owners, including responsibility for notifying adjacent property owners about taking down trees, or leaving refuse behind.
Mr. Alkhal advised that the oversight for the railroad companies is the Federal government.
Ms. Dolan observed that Norfolk Southern seems to be able do things that other citizens and owners of property cannot do.
Mr. Alkhal noted that Norfolk Southern would probably not be exempted from getting permits, such as NPDES or erosion control permits. Mr. Alkhal explained, in the case of Biery’s Bridge Road, that area infringed and interfered with Norfolk Southern’s right of way and they removed trees prior to the City’s having knowledge that they would be doing so. Mr. Alkhal continued on to say although they were not required by law to get permits or give notice to the City, it would have been courteous and the proper thing to do in the City’s opinion. Consequently, all the City could do was react to what Norfolk Southern did, and the City did refer some matters to the DEP in the event they had oversight but no response has yet been received.
Ms. Dolan stated she would like to be kept informed regarding the matter, and expressed she was glad there was follow-up with the DEP. Ms. Dolan continued on to point out the proximity of the train tracks to the Monocacy Creek, the railroad’s use of certain stations to grease and de-grease the train wheels, and it sometimes seems random that people who live along the creek are not warned in advance of activities. Ms. Dolan expressed she would be grateful to be informed of anything that can be found out about the railroad’s environmental requirements.
Mr. Alkhal added that the City has erected some signs temporarily, and is working with Norfolk Southern Railroad to get permission to install a guard rail on the railroad’s property. Ms. Dolan, advising she was on site, explained it looked as if the railroad undermined the structural stability of their train tracks. Ms. Dolan queried whether there is the equivalent of an oversight board for the railroad’s activities. Advising that the Public Utility Commission (PUC) would come into play if there are multiple users of the same right of way, Mr. Alkhal affirmed that is not the current situation. He exemplified if the railroad were crossing one of the City’s roads there would be joint rights over the area and the PUC would enter into the matter if there were a dispute or concern such as occurred on the South Side in the case of the condition of the railroad crossings.
Mayor Callahan informed Ms. Dolan that the Federal National Transportation Safety Board would also be another avenue to pursue. Mayor Callahan recounted that in the City’s dealings in trying to acquire the right of way of Norfolk Southern on the South Side for the Greenway project it took a long time. Mayor Callahan, relating he is familiar with the train track area since he jogs there, observed a transportation hazard was created by taking down the trees, and the area aesthetically does not look nearly as well now that the trees have been cut down. However, Mayor Callahan advised the road was built into the right of way so that the City is encroaching on the right of way of the railroad.
Mr. Alkhal pointed out it does appear that Norfolk Southern will cooperate with the City to improve the area.
South Side Farmer’s Market
President Schweder, while communicating that the South Side Farmer’s Market is an outstanding idea, highlighted the fact that the new location has caused virtual gridlock in South Bethlehem. President Schweder, continuing on to say that on Thursday afternoons he has received a number of telephone calls, pointed out the traffic on Third Street is backed up from the Hill to Hill Bridge to Filmore Street and coming down the hill. In addition, the new location has taken away the shortcut that motorists use coming down Wyandotte Street further backing up traffic. Consequently, all the traffic is being pushed into the Five Points area and it is backed up in every direction on Thursdays for the last two weeks.
Mr. Hanna, confirming that the Farmer’s Market is managed by the Community Action Committee of Bethlehem, advised that the group did review their plans with the City, and also talked to Lehigh University about moving the market to Campus Square to generate more activity. Mr. Hanna stated the City could certainly take another look at the plans and review the present situation.
President Schweder, observing it was an unintended consequence, noted that the Farmer’s Market is scheduled to continue until September 28. Mr. Hanna agreed to look at the matter and some remedial actions.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
South Side – Garbage and Incident
George Stenger, Sr. stated he bought a property at 1133 Amplex Street a year ago after his son passed away although he is not yet living there, he had some complaints, the Mayor had the street cleaned up, and Senator Boscola came as well. Mr. Stenger noted that after the City cleans up there is the same problem four or five days later. Mr. Stenger affirmed he is at the property every day, cuts the grass, and cleans up. Mr. Stenger advised he was raised in the City of Bethlehem, moved away in 1942, and exclaimed “we have a beautiful City” but he is ashamed because people do not take care of their properties. He related that car parts and other debris are thrown on the side, and people will not pick it up or clean it up. Mr. Stenger informed the Members that he asked a citizen why she does not clean up the garbage in the yard, and an individual who lives up the street asserted that Mr. Stenger should mind his own business and the individual called the Police. The Police Officer acknowledged that Mr. Stenger did not do any harm, but said that Mr. Stenger must learn to not talk to the people. Expressing his appreciation for the Mayor’s and Senator Boscola’s efforts, Mr. Stenger felt that something has to be done with the weeds in a parking lot near a restaurant on the corner as one comes down to go onto Amplex Street. In addition, Mr. Stenger requested that something be done to clean up the area because it is filled with garbage again, put up signs, or do some enforcement.
Peak Oil and Transportation
Jason Slipp, 624 Lechauwecki Avenue, Fountain Hill, noted about three years ago he heard the term peak oil and researched it since he was not familiar with it. Mr. Slipp explained that humankind and industrial civilization in general have put themselves in a very compromising position with regard to the world oil supply, and rely very heavily on cheap oil for food, housing, heating, and transportation. Mr. Slipp highlighted the fact that there is not one aspect of industrial civilization that does not completely rely on access to cheap oil. Mr. Slipp pointed out that unfortunately access to cheap oil has come to an end. The world oil supply will soon if not already have peaked, and half of the world’s oil supply is already gone. Mr. Slipp observed that oil follows a bell curve, and the same amount will be produced in 2025 as was produced in 1975 when the population was around 4.1 billion versus an expected population of 7.8 billion in 2025. Consequently, about 3 billion more people on the planet will be vying for the depleted resource of oil. In addition, because of natural pressure the oil will become more difficult to get out of the ground. Peak oil came into the mainstream in 1966 when it was predicted by M. King Hubbard that the U.S. oil production would peak in the 1970’s which it did. In 1995, analysts started to apply Hubbard’s message to world oil production, and indicate that the world’s peak oil curve will occur between 2004 and 2008. Expressing it is important to understand that new energy sources will not be magically found, Mr. Slipp communicated that although there are alternative energies they also rely heavily and most exclusively on access to cheap oil, and none of the alternatives supply the energy that oil has. Mr. Slipp informed the assembly that, in response to his research on peak oil, he co-founded a grassroots, volunteer entity called Lehigh Valley Beyond Oil, made up of active citizens attempting to find local solutions to the global problem of peak oil and the future of energy. However, Mr. Slipp notified the Members that in order to make changes and prepare Bethlehem for peak oil the group needs the City’s help. Mr. Slipp asked if City Council will help the group in view of the fact that citizens do want change. He continued on to say that changes in mindset and lifestyle are needed, in addition to changes in transportation, food production, energy conservation, and a whole planet view.
Patrima Agrawal, 2008 Killarney Drive, Bethlehem Township, advised she recently became involved in Lehigh Valley Beyond Oil as part of the transportation subcommittee simply as a concerned resident. Ms. Agrawal remarked that the Lehigh Valley could face several energy related problems in the future due to peak oil resulting in a decreased quality of life and an economic downfall for the area. Focusing on the record population growth of the Lehigh Valley in the past few years, the rising cost of gasoline and food, the problems with traffic congestion, and the ever-looming problem of global warming, Ms. Agrawal communicated those will be the least of the Lehigh Valley’s problems if alternative modes of transportation and energy sources are not studied. In its effort to help the Lehigh Valley succeed in the future in its transportation issues, Lehigh Valley Beyond Oil will continue to gather support from local residents to make several changes and additions to the area. Ms. Agrawal said “we hope that the City of Bethlehem will consider taking an active role in this effort by doing the following: (1) supporting a passenger light rail system that connects our local towns; (2) supporting greater use of the current freight rail system to bring more goods to market while reducing truck transport; (3) making the City more bike and pedestrian friendly by developing more bike lanes and sidewalks in addition to restoring…funding for important transportation [projects]; (4) encouraging employers to create bike and walking paths for their employees and make the place of work more bike and walk friendly; (5) encouraging LANTA to increase its number of bus routes and the frequency of bus routes; (6) encouraging LANTA to use alternative energy volume vehicles for new buses; (7) making zoning and planning changes in the City that support infrastructure for more alternative modes of transportation such as more mixed use zoning and requiring bike racks at all places of work; (8) helping develop community gardens that residents and local businesses such as restaurants can have access to for organic produce rather than having to rely on major food vendors that may be selling at unaffordable rates or may not have stock available due to high shipping costs,…and importing from across the U.S. and abroad; (9) improving the City’s recycling program by providing curbside pickup of newspapers and other paper waste to reduce the number of residents having to drive to the Recycling Center; and (10) developing a City-wide campaign that promotes alternative modes of transportation to begin changing the public’s view of the benefits of choosing to drive…”. Ms. Agrawal communicated that many of the solutions will not only help the area to become self-sufficient but will make the Lehigh Valley a much more attractive place to live and work that can mean economic growth. Ms. Agrawal, highlighting the fact that hundreds of youth leave the area each year to go to major cities, and the area attracts thousands of new residents from metropolitan cities for a cheaper cost of living, said “let’s give all these people a reason to stay in the Lehigh Valley.” Acknowledging that progress cannot be made without the support of local officials, Ms. Agrawal asked, as a concerned citizen who works in the City and on behalf of Lehigh Valley Beyond Oil, City Council to please seriously address this matter, and to instruct the representatives on the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission to do the same. Ms. Agrawal denoted that “together we can set a standard in becoming self-sufficient. We simply can’t afford to ignore all the reasons to do so.”
Sewer Problems – Homestead Avenue and Rosemont Drive Areas
Steve Schlack, 1840 Eaton Avenue, affirming that the neighbors want the sewer problem resolved as soon as possible, said the people with proposed easements were invited to one neighborhood meeting and were notified of the meeting one to two hours before the meeting occurred. The only other information they received was a letter in the mail that arrived last week. Mr. Schlack, stating that the Eaton Avenue properties are basically being kept free and clear in the existing easements, commented that is why they are attractive and why the other existing easement is not. Mr. Schlack informed the Members “we feel we’re being penalized for being good citizens.” Mr. Schlack asked, since a temporary pump around did not work, and a storm water infiltration is the major problem, would it not be better doing a phase 1 of the sewer line from Homestead Avenue back to Pennsylvania Avenue first. Mr. Schlack further asked why is the sewer line not just being continued down Homestead Avenue to Highland Avenue instead of having to secure all the easements.
Mr. Brong responded the reason the project is not starting at Homestead Avenue but is starting at the south end is that the mains are actually being increased in size. If the project were to start upstream, there would be a larger main transitioning into a smaller main that would only move the problem slightly downstream. Mr. Brong said Mr. Schlack is right that Homestead Avenue is very suspect as far as the quality and the age of the main. However, the whole area is slated for an upgrade to 18 inch diameter sewer main. In order for that to be effective, the project has to start at the most downstream point of connection and work upstream. Mr. Brong continued on to reply that the topography of Homestead Avenue negates the ability to take the sewer line all the way down Homestead Avenue to Highland Avenue. If the line gets too deep it would be not constructable and not maintainable at those depths and has caused the City, even in the 1940’s when the development was constructed, to go down through the yards and follow the topography which is normal design practice. Mr. Brong acknowledged that Mr. Schlack’s point about notification of the meeting is absolutely right. Mr. Brong, communicating there has been a lot of “ready, fire, aim with this project”, said the ready happened last November which was the strong commitment to getting the problem fixed. The fire was ensuring the money was in the budget even though the engineering work was not yet conceived. Mr. Brong continued on to say “the aim has been what we are doing along the way which I think is probably a unique concept…for a municipal environment…Unfortunately, the quality of the communication, the timing of the communication, the data bases of people who are impacted for this project suffer, and that’s an apology that I will make to you, but it was in the interest of speed.”
Lehigh Valley Planning Commission – Transportation Issues
Peter Crownfield, 559 Brighton Street, referring to the earlier comment of Ms. Szabo that plans need to be looked at more deeply, thought that everything the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC) does needs to be looked at more deeply. Mr. Crownfield communicated that everyone trusts them to be planning many things about the communities’ future and “they’re not doing a very good job in my opinion. And, in particular, the most recent things are the transportation study plans for the next 25 years or so. I think they missed so many obvious points it’s incredible that they would even pass it off as an actual plan by a professional planning body.” Mr. Crownfield noted that he would provide a copy of a letter from the Alliance for Sustainable Communities that points out many deficiencies in the plans.
Fair Trade Coffee and Tea
Mr. Crownfield, turning to the history of the City that has a long tradition of honoring working people, proposed that City Council do something that hundreds of towns in Europe have done which is to pass a Resolution that the City will buy only fair trade coffee and tea because, he said, “anything else is simply saving a penny here or there by exploiting working people.” Mr. Crownfield felt it is appropriate for Bethlehem to take a lead in something that is so basic to the community as treating working people fairly. Mr. Crownfield advised he is assured by some coffee shop owners that the difference in cost is negligible. Mr. Crownfield expressed that the City should only purchase fair trade certified products and encourage all the local businesses, including restaurants, to do the same.
Lehigh Valley Planning Commission
President Schweder, recalling there was a discussion about three or four years ago about the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission and their transportation ideas, noted it was certainly the majority of Council at that time who opposed it. President Schweder, exemplifying that Members thought the widening of Route 22 makes little or no sense, observed today it makes a lot less sense to him than it ever did. President Schweder commented it is probably a matter that Council should look at again.
Bethlehem Citizens Association
William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, said a group of 30 citizens, living in all areas of the City, have recently met twice on the subject of forming an association devoted to planning in the City of Bethlehem, and the average attendance at the two meetings was 20 people. At the second meeting, the group chose the name Bethlehem Citizens Association (BCA), over a number of acronyms. Mr. Scheirer communicated that the name has the virtue of being simple yet comprehensive, allowing for consideration of issues that are not necessarily planning in nature. Mr. Scheirer informed the Members that at the second meeting the BCA adopted the following mission statement: "Bethlehem Citizens Association is a city-wide, non-partisan, voluntary association of Bethlehem residents and neighbors that strives to ensure sound urban planning and sustainable development that preserves and enhances the quality of life for all Bethlehem residents. BCA plans to provide responsible citizen oversight of all aspects of community and economic development. This includes, but is not limited to: realistic transportation planning for cars, trains, buses, bicycles, and pedestrians; preservation and expansion of parks and other green spaces; housing in livable neighborhoods and communities; support of recreational and cultural activities; effective city and county services; family-sustaining employment and locally-owned retail stores; and vital educational opportunities." The group adopted an action plan, which reads, "To accomplish this, the Bethlehem Citizens Association will identify emerging issues, thoroughly evaluate options for dealing with those issues, and express our positions to the city government, to the citizens of Bethlehem, and to the media." Mr. Scheirer communicated that the group looks forward to presenting insights and positions to City government, including City Council. He announced that the group’s next meeting is July 11, 2006 at 7:00 p.m. in the Tondabayashi Room on the second floor of the Bethlehem Library.
Sewer Problems – Homestead Avenue and Rosemont Drive Areas
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, commented that he personally questions the commitment that has been made for the Homestead Avenue area, knowing what he knows about the neighborhood. Mr. Grubb related that one of the residents of the area approached the Mayor in the recent past downtown one evening and wanted to discuss some issues and the Mayor was off the clock. Mr. Grubb suggested that the Mayor “get back on the clock”, and if the Mayor would reside in that neighborhood the approach would have been vastly different if the Mayor were digging the sludge that some of the residents are digging out of their basements.
Blocking of E-Mail
Mr. Grubb stated that “since late 2004 this City Administration has arbitrarily seen fit to block my primary e-mail address on the City’s main server in an effort to harass me, monitor my contacts with City government, and prevent me from having cyber contact with my local government using my primary and commonly known e-mail address. How many other residents have had this done to them, and why. What policies are in place which don’t make this an arbitrary or vindictive measure. Have I been singled out. Who ordered this put into effect. Why would the City Administration be monitoring my e-mails to the City Clerk on matters that are City Council related. Is this reasonable. What gives any branch of government the right to control access to its offices and resources which are the offices and resources of the taxpayers. This is a serious matter, and I would urge the City Council to consider its rarification not just in my case, but for the Members of Council, and other residents. This Mayor and his Administration have overstepped their boundaries and responsibilities for no apparent reason. If this Administration has any real intention of providing an open, honest, and candid government to our community, what do they fear in allowing e-mail contact between any taxpaying resident and City Hall.”
Tunkhannock Creek - Exceptional Value Designation
David McGuire, 223 North 19th Street, Allentown, stated he is at the meeting to represent the Sierra Club of the Lehigh Valley. Mr. McGuire recalled that over the past six years he, personally, as well as the Sierra Club of the Lehigh Valley has been deeply involved in issues concerning the Bethlehem watershed. Mr. McGuire continued on to say for the past six years he has sat in on almost every meeting of the Bethlehem Authority. Mr. McGuire remarked he has seen the development of a disastrous move to a fine watershed management plan which it is trusted will be implemented, and the Bethlehem Authority Board is committed to that. Highlighting the fact that there is a very important stream that runs through the watershed known as the Tunkhannock Creek, Mr. McGuire advised the Creek is currently designated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a High Quality Stream which is the second highest water quality protection afforded to a stream. Mr. McGuire continued on to affirm that a petition has been made to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to upgrade the Tunkhannock Creek to the highest quality or Exceptional Value stream. Mr. McGuire informed the assembly that DEP seeks input from all interested parties on this designation. Recounting that a few weeks ago the Bethlehem Authority held a meeting for information and questions, and invited the Mayor, the Administration, City Council, the public, and all interested groups to attend, Mr. McGuire observed it was an exceptionally high quality and valuable discussion. Adding it would be a model for how to conduct a meeting of this sort, Mr. McGuire continued on to point out that in attendance were outstanding, highly qualified technical representatives from the State, from Monroe County, and the former DEP counsel for the Northeast Region. Mr. McGuire recounted that, at the end of the meeting, Richard Master, Chairman of the Bethlehem Authority, said he would look forward to having the Bethlehem Authority receive the statements from City Council as to their support for this measure or other information. Mr. McGuire asked if a Committee or any individuals on City Council have taken any steps in that direction.
Mrs. Belinski affirmed that a letter was received from Mr. Master communicating that Stephen Repasch, Executive Director of the Bethlehem Authority, would be given two months to review the issue and then his response is to be forwarded to City Council. In addition, Mrs. Belinski commented that Kathleen McGinty, DEP Secretary, would be having hearings in Harrisburg, and the DEP would be conducting tests in various areas of the Tunkhannock stream. Mr. McGuire said the tests have already been done, but have not yet been analyzed. Mrs. Belinski stated that, after Mr. Repasch’s response is received, then City Council would write a letter to the DEP.
Ms. Dolan communicated that the matter has been referred to the Human Resources and Environment Committee where a recommendation can be made to City Council to write a letter. Ms. Dolan explained that a meeting should be able to be scheduled in the next two weeks.
President Schweder, querying what difference would a letter from City Council to anyone have to do with the decision, expressed his understanding is the only thing that is taken into consideration is the actual findings of the test, and one would not want to obstruct the DEP process by trying to influence a decision.
Mr. McGuire, while commenting that the DEP bases its decision on factual matters that are covered by regulations under the law, said on the other hand DEP does not make its decisions in a vacuum, and takes comments from all interested parties. Mr. McGuire later added that was the impression he got from the DEP representatives at the meeting. He exemplified that at a neighborhood zoning meeting those who have an interest in upgrading the quality of their water would certainly want to make their point of view known.
President Schweder, indicating that is not what was conveyed earlier, noted he would look into the matter.
Northampton County Council Finance Committee Meeting – City of Bethlehem Expenditure
Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, commented that at the June 15, 2006 Northampton County Council Finance Committee meeting there was a discussion about the 2001 Bond Issue pertaining to the Commerce Center Boulevard project. Commenting he believes the City received a $10 million grant towards construction of Commerce Center Boulevard and spent about $8 million, Mr. Pfenning said the City apparently has requested to spend the remaining $2 million on other road improvements in the area. Focusing on the County’s financial shortfalls, Mr. Pfenning observed that the County is looking for money, and he did not think the $2 million would be approved for the City’s project. Mr. Pfenning highlighted the fact that no one from the City attended the Northampton County Council Finance Committee meeting to support the City’s request. Mr. Pfenning expressed the hope that there would be City representation at the next County Council Finance Committee meeting.
Police Department Communications; South Side Task Force
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, expressing his belief that there is a communications breakdown in the Police Department, asked is there is a communications breakdown between Police Officers, and if there is certain information withheld from certain departments such as the narcotics bureau and community police officers. Randall Miller, Deputy Police Commissioner, replied no, and added that the vice unit does not share all their information with the public because of ongoing business. Clarifying he is not referring to the public but rather to communications between the narcotics division and community police officers, Mr. Rodriquez restated his question to which Deputy Police Commissioner Miller again replied no. Mr. Rodriquez reiterated he believes there is a communications breakdown, and noted it is the reason why he would like to talk to Deputy Police Commissioner Miller.
Mr. Rodriquez asked how many members are appointed to the South Side Task Force by the Mayor. Mayor Callahan, responding he does not know how many members are on the Task Force currently, noted there may be some openings, and advised that an appointment to the Task Force has not been made in some time. Mr. Rodriquez asked if the Mayor could appoint him to the South Side Task Force.
Sewer Problems – Homestead Avenue and Rosemont Drive Area
Mike Fetsurka, 1837 Homestead Avenue, informed the Members that his is one of the key properties where the sewer line will be run directly down his driveway, and there will be three manholes, two in his driveway and one in the middle of his backyard. Mr. Fetsurka communicated that he does not want to impede the project and wants his neighbors to get the relief they need. Referring to Mr. Leeson’s comments, Mr. Fetsurka expressed his concern about the issue of eminent domain and said that is not negotiating in good faith and it sends a bad message to him. Mr. Fetsurka advised he does not know what his property is worth and what is a good value price that will be offered to him. Mr. Fetsurka remarked he is afraid that the City is going to “low ball” him, use eminent domain, and he will be stuck with whatever he is offered. Turning to rebuilding, Mr. Fetsurka explained there is a lot of hardscape, the project will go down his large driveway that is in good condition, and it will cost a lot of money to replace. Mr. Fetsurka questioned who will be responsible for that, and what will be the timeframe for rebuilding and reconstruction afterwards. Mr. Fetsurka, focusing on the third manhole, said he talked to Larry Mika, of the Engineering Bureau, and has obtained copies of the drawings as the project relates to his property. Mr. Fetsurka, commenting it is a good plan and he hopes it works, stated he would like to have more input and involvement before it is initiated.
Mr. Alkhal replied that Mr. Fetsurka can come to the Public Works Department offices, and added that the landscaping has to be reviewed.
Mr. Fetsurka asked that it be brought back to the original grade, and added he does have water runoff problems which is also a concern for him.
Mr. Leeson, explaining he was under the impression that the people who were going to have easements across their properties were told a lot of information earlier, said “obviously the ball was dropped. I was not told about that.” Mr. Leeson, noting that an apology was made, commented “you deserve that apology”, and added he wanted to let Mr. Fetsurka know he was not informed about that. Mr. Leeson advised the fact that City Council might proceed with eminent domain does not mean that the City Administration needs to file that with the court. Mr. Leeson noted his suggestion to Mr. Fetsurka, and pointing out that Mr. Fetsurka is free to consult his own advisors, would be that Mr. Fetsurka take Mr. Alkhal up on his offer to look at where an easement is going to go across his property. Pointing out that the City is required to pay Mr. Fetsurka fair and just compensation, Mr. Leeson stated if Mr. Fetsurka feels that whatever the City is offering is inadequate then he has the right to have a real estate expert of his choice come back with a counterproposal, and added he is sure the City will be reasonable in its approach towards valuation. Mr. Leeson encouraged Mr. Fetsurka to exercise his right to come in to City Hall to get the information he needs so he can respond promptly when the City comes up with the dollar figure.
Mr. Fetsurka, highlighting the fact that there is short timeframe within which the actions will happen, stressed he does not “want anything to be ramroded on us.” Mr. Fetsurka, affirming that the Engineering Bureau was more than forthright with information when he went there about a week after the original meeting, noted he was shown the blueprints, the staff talked to him about what was going to happen, and he received copies. Mr. Fetsurka observed “after that it…tapered off.”
Mr. Leeson commented “the ball’s been dropped several times along the way, and there really isn’t any excuse for it. The City has done these kinds of things in the past. There is a pattern set. There is a set of practices in place. I have no idea why you were not informed, and you are owed an apology, [and] you were given an apology…You should have been told a lot earlier than this.”
Mary Pongracz, 321 W. Fourth Street, pointed out that those who have lived in the City all of their lives remember the flood of 1955. Remarking that water, which is a natural development, has always been a problem in the City, Ms. Pongracz said “you cannot solve a problem in a short time if you want to solve the problem correctly.”
Jeannie Kipp, 1146 W. Rosemont Drive, asked how was it known that only 8 to 10 properties received sewerage from the last rain incident.
Mr. Brong replied it was through telephone calls and discussions with residents in the area.
Ms. Kipp expressed her belief that telephone calls to all the neighbors should have been made. Ms. Kipp said she did not believe that 1914 Homestead Avenue was contacted where her 93 year old neighbor lives and where at 4:30 a.m. the neighbor saw the sewage back up in her basement begin and stopped at 7:30 a.m. when the rain slowed down. Ms. Kipp thought there should be a more systematic way to check and not contact just 8 or 10 properties, but to place a telephone call to all the 40 or 50 properties that are involved. Ms. Kipp asked if it was noticed that at the property at the corner of Highland Avenue and Eaton Avenue, which to her knowledge is a rental home, two days after the 3 plus inches of rain the doors and windows were open airing out the home. Saying she would like to know if that could be found out, Ms. Kipp stated “that’s the way you pump, and that’s the property that became flooded years ago…”.
Peak Oil and Transportation Issues
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, commended the young people from Lehigh Valley Beyond Oil who addressed City Council this evening, thought the comments were very insightful, and said he would have expected City Council to at least encourage them to continue comments or refer the comments for further study.
Ms. Dolan advised she had some follow-up questions pertaining to the comments of the young people from Lehigh Valley Beyond Oil.
President Schweder explained it would be more appropriate to refer the matter to a Committee. President Schweder said a lot of the things the young representatives talked about tonight are things he was already contemplating introducing. President Schweder, commenting he had the opportunity to see a movie by Al Gore about global warming in Washington, D. C. about a month and a half ago, invited everyone to see it when it is shown locally. President Schweder stated there are very serious things that government at all levels must do, including City Council. President Schweder continued on to say those are the things he was going to suggest be discussed, and added he will speak to the City Council Solicitor regarding the matter.
Blocking of E-Mails
Mr. Leeson said the blocking of e-mails in his mind triggers First Amendment issues, and the right of the citizenry to communicate with their public servants. Mr. Leeson, advising he would like to know is there anything to this, wondered if he could ask the City Council Solicitor to look into the matter and report back to City Council. Mr. Leeson queried, if e-mails are really being blocked, is it just for one person, is there more than one person, who has the authority to make those decisions, and why were they made. Mr. Leeson, acknowledging the possibility is that there is nothing to it at all, thought any citizen has the right to communicate with their public officials, particularly on a no-cost basis.
President Schweder referred the matter to Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:31 p.m.