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August 1, 2006 Meeting Minutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street - Town Hall
Tuesday, August 1, 2006 – 7:30 PM
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President J. Michael Schweder called the meeting to order. Pastor Don Quayle, of Christ Church-United Church of Christ, offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Jean Belinski, Karen Dolan, Robert J. Donchez, Magdalena F. Szabo, and J. Michael Schweder, 5. Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., and Gordon B. Mowrer were absent, 2.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of July 5, 2006 and July 18, 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)
Proposed Ordinance to Acquire Easements – Replacement of Sanitary Sewers – Homestead Avenue Area
Attorney Tamer Ahmed advised he is at the City Council Meeting this evening on behalf of Mr. and Mrs. Mark Pammer of 1822 Eaton Avenue, Mr. and Mrs. Steven Schlack of 1840 Eaton Avenue, and Margaret Miller of 1820 Eaton Avenue, and he noted Ms. Miller was not at the Meeting this evening. Attorney Ahmed stated he is asking that City Council reconsider the passing of Bill No. 26 – 2006, Acquiring Easements – Replacement of Sanitary Sewers – Homestead Avenue, Highland Avenue and Eaton Avenue. Acknowledging he understands it is the City’s right to pass the Ordinance with regard to condemnation, Attorney Ahmed explained the residents are asking that they have a fair deal in negotiation of their easements. Attorney Ahmed communicated what the passing of the condemnation Ordinance does is take away the fairness in the negotiation process. Communicating the awkwardness “when we’re sitting at a table and I have this condemnation over my head,” Attorney Ahmed said at this time what he is asking is that City Council hold off on the Ordinance and do a good faith effort in negotiating with the property owners as to whether or not the easements can be acquired at a reasonable price. If that fails, Attorney Ahmed stated “we’ll come back here next month and pass the Ordinance.” Attorney Ahmed noted it is his understanding that a letter was sent to the property owners in June saying “you’ll get an offer for this easement and once you get the offer within two weeks you have to reply to us. They didn’t get an offer in June. Again, in July they were here, and they were [told] an offer is coming. They didn’t get an offer. And,…July 28th they get this memo saying, by the way, on August 1st we’re passing this condemnation Ordinance. So, what we’re asking again is that we take a step back, hold off on this condemnation Ordinance, let the City officials and these folks have a good faith effort negotiating this easement, and see where that comes about.”
President Schweder, while noting he will address the subject when it comes before the Members, affirmed all are very cognizant of the concerns expressed by Attorney Ahmed, and stated that a way to work through the matter should be found.
6. OLD BUSINESS
Commerce Center Boulevard Project – LVIP VII – Northampton County Bond Issue
Mr. Donchez recalled that in two newspapers it has been reported that there is $2,000,000 remaining for the Commerce Center Boulevard project at LVIP VII from the $13,150,000 presented to the City of Bethlehem through the Northampton County Bond Issue. Highlighting the fact that the roadway project came in under budget and ahead of schedule, Mr. Donchez expressed concern about the tone of some of the newspaper articles as reported by the County. Noting that Northampton County Council may be voting on the issue this week, Mr. Donchez questioned if City Council should go on record saying that the $2,000,000 was allocated for the City of Bethlehem, a great job was done with the Commerce Center Boulevard project in that it came in ahead of schedule and under budget, and hopefully the $2,000,000 will remain so that more infrastructure improvements can be made in the Commerce Center Boulevard project at LVIP VII, and the money would not be used anywhere else. Reiterating his request, Mr. Donchez queried if it would be worthwhile for Council to go on record stating that the original intent of the $2,000,000 should be used in the City of Bethlehem and it would be used in LVIP VII for the Commerce Center Boulevard project.
President Schweder suggested if that is what the Members of Council want to do then correspondence could be developed and delivered to Northampton County Council prior to their meeting. Upon the indication by Members of Council of their concurrence, President Schweder directed the Clerk to forward requested correspondence.
A. Director of Planning and Zoning – Street Vacation – Greenleaf Street
The Clerk read a memorandum dated July 17, 2006 from Darlene L. Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, advising that at their meeting of July 13, 2006, the Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of the street vacation request for Greenleaf Street. Attached was a memorandum dated July 7, 2006 of Findings of Fact and Recommendation from Ms. Heller to the Planning Commission Members along with the petition to vacate Greenleaf Street submitted by Attorney James F. Preston on behalf of Ashley Development Corporation who has submitted to the City a Land Development Plan entitled "Greenleaf Commons". The vacation eliminates a dead end stub street from the City's public street system, minimizing future maintenance.
President Schweder requested that the Law Bureau draft the Street Vacation Ordinance.
B. Director of Public Works – Paint Mill Bridge Replacement – Federal Aid Reimbursement Agreement
The Clerk read a memorandum dated July 25, 2006 from Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, to which was attached a Federal Aid Reimbursement Agreement for the Paint Mill Bridge Replacement on Schoenersville Road over the Monocacy Creek. This is an amendment to Agreement No. 050218-E to add funds in the amount of $46,423.32 to the total amount of the reimbursement agreement with PennDOT. This amendment is necessary to pay for the (1) completion of miscellaneous extra work items, (2) reconciliation of payment on all construction quantities that differed from estimated bid quantities, (3) increased costs of PPL light pole relocations, and (4) increased costs of Norfolk Southern Railroad to upgrade the railroad crossing near the bridge. The breakdown of the costs was illustrated on the attached spreadsheet. As is standard procedure for this project, the City will be reimbursed 95% of the total increased cost.
President Schweder stated that authorizing Resolution 11 K is listed on the Agenda.
C. City Solicitor – Proposed Ordinance to Amend Article 509 – Enforcement and General Penalty, and Article 717 – Noises
The Clerk read a memorandum dated July 28, 2006 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached proposed ordinances to amend Article 509, Enforcement and General Penalty, and Article 717, Noises.
President Schweder referred the matter to the Public Safety Committee and to the Community Development Committee.
D. City Solicitor – Proposed Ordinance to Acquire Easements – Replacement of Sanitary Sewers – Homestead Avenue Area
The Clerk read a memorandum dated July 28, 2006 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed Ordinance to authorize the acquisition of easements by condemnation in connection with the replacement of sanitary sewers along Homestead Avenue, Highland Avenue and Eaton Avenue. In the memorandum it was noted that the Administration is still proceeding to obtain appraisals in order to attempt to acquire all the easements necessary for this project by agreement with the property owners, and thereby avoid the need for condemnation. However, at Councilman Leeson’s request the Law Bureau simultaneously forwarded the condemnation authorization ordinance, so that if attempts to purchase the easements prove unsuccessful, the City can move without further delay to proceed by condemnation. The ordinance will authorize such condemnation and will empower the City to file a declaration of taking in court any time within one year of the effective date of this ordinance. Condemnation itself does not occur until a declaration of taking is filed in court. If all easements are acquired by purchase, no such court action will ever be necessary.
President Schweder stated that Bill No. 26 – 2006 is on the Agenda for First Reading.
E. Zoning Text Amendment – CS and IR Districts – Licensed Gaming Facilities and Retail
The Clerk read a letter dated July 27, 2006 from J. Scott Kramer on behalf of Bethworks Now, LLC and Sands Bethworks Gaming LLC, owners of the property located at 603 East First Street, proposing Zoning text amendments to the CS and IR Districts for Licensed Gaming Facilities and Retail.
Mr. Donchez commented when he read the proposed Zoning Ordinance he was struck that it did not have some possible restrictions of certain establishments or within a 1,000 feet of certain buildings, etc. Mr. Donchez recalled such possible restrictions were something that have been discussed many times before, such as at the City Council Meeting held at Broughal Middle School last year. Mr. Donchez, noting he is under the impression that the Administration is working on separate Zoning amendments to address some of the concerns he has just referenced, and that other Members of Council have concerns about, said he would like to know what is the timeframe for the second Zoning Ordinance that the Administration is working on to come to City Council so that possibly there could be a Public Hearing on both proposed Ordinances.
Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, responded the Administration looked at the matter as an additional Ordinance that would be additive to the conditions that were raised in the first Ordinance. Mr. Hanna continued on to say the Ordinance that was proposed by Sands-BethWorks had to do with uses so as to clarify the ambiguity around the use per se, and they also addressed a few issues related to parking and mapping. Mr. Hanna continued on to say the Department had always contemplated coming up with an additional Ordinance that would deal with some of the restrictions on uses, particularly in the surrounding neighborhoods. Mr. Hanna advised it is the expectation that something would be ready that would be introduced via the Planning Commission and would then be referred to City Council following the Planning Commission’s meeting on August 17. In order to comply with the 30 day requirement, Mr. Hanna said it would be hoped that the Public Hearing scheduled by Council could be at least 30 days after that Planning Commission meeting. Mr. Hanna stated it would be the expectation that the Department could then refer both the Planning Commission sponsored Ordinance and the Ordinance that has been proffered by Sands-BethWorks to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission on or about August 18, 2006 so that Council’s Public Hearing would be 30 days thereafter or September 19, 2006.
Mr. Donchez asked should the proposed Ordinance that the Department is working on come to City Council at the next meeting to be read into the record and then it would be referred to the Planning Commission.
President Schweder noted the Administration has the discretion to consider it without sending it to City Council first.
Mr. Hanna affirmed that it would be sent to City Council for action as has been done in the past. Mr. Hanna explained there would essentially be two Ordinances tracking through Council, one from Sands-BethWorks and an additional Ordinance from the Administration via the Planning Commission, and City Council would deal with the two Ordinances simultaneously.
Mr. Donchez commented it was his hope that there would be a separate Ordinance addressing some of Council’s concerns and that it be reviewed at the same time as the Ordinance proposed by Sands-BethWorks.
Mr. Hanna, advising that the Department’s proposal would be sent to City Council and to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, said the Department wanted to be sure the two Ordinances could be considered and it would require that the Public Hearing be no earlier than September 19, 2006.
Mr. Donchez requested, as a courtesy, when the proposed Ordinance is sent to the Planning Commission that City Council also receive a copy.
President Schweder, recommending that the proposal contained in Communication 7 E be sent to the Planning Commission and the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, said he would accept a motion that the Public Hearing on the two Ordinances would be held Tuesday, September 19, 2006 at 7:30 PM in Town Hall.
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski moved to set the Public Hearing on the proposed Ordinance from Sands-BethWorks as contained in Communication 7 E and the proposed Ordinance to be received from the Planning Commission on Tuesday, September 19, 2006 at 7:30 PM in Town Hall.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 5. The motion passed.
8 . REPORTS
A. President of Council
C. Human Resources and Environment Committee
Ms. Dolan, Chairwoman of the Human Resources and Environment Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee’s meeting held on July 28, 2006 on the following subjects: Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) – Potential Creation and Tunkhannock Creek – Exceptional Value Petition – Discussion.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 24 – 2006 – Amending General Fund Budget – Parks and Public Property Department – Mechanical Equipment Repairs; Health Bureau – Pediatric Outreach
The Clerk read Bill No. 24 - 2006, Amending General Fund Budget – Parks and Public Property Department – Mechanical Equipment Repairs; and Health Bureau – Pediatric Outreach, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 5. Bill No. 24 – 2006, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4388, was declared adopted.
B. Bill No. 25 – 2006 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Paint Mill Bridge; Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Program
The Clerk read Bill No. 25 - 2006, Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Paint Mill Bridge; Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Program, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 5. Bill No. 25 – 2006, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4389, was declared adopted.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 26 – 2006 – Acquiring Easements –
Replacement of Sanitary Sewers –
Homestead Avenue, Highland Avenue and Eaton Avenue
The Clerk read Bill No. 26 - 2006, Acquiring Easements – Replacement of Sanitary Sewers – Homestead Avenue, Highland Avenue and Eaton Avenue, sponsored by Mrs. Belinski and Ms. Szabo, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE AUTHORIZING THE CITY SOLICITOR
AND/OR THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC WORKS TO SELECT
AND APPROPRIATE CERTAIN PLOTS OF GROUND WITH
THE IMPROVEMENTS THEREON SITUATED FOR THE
PURPOSE OF ACQUIRING EASEMENTS IN CONNECTION
WITH THE REPLACEMENT OF SANITARY SEWERS IN
THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM.
President Schweder asked whether there is an impact or necessity for action related to eminent domain in order to begin in phase 1, if there is a way to do what is necessary without having to bring about eminent domain, and whether a delay will be caused in the City’s ability to do the required work in that neighborhood.
David Brong, Director of Water and Sewer Resources, replied these easements are the most downstream portion of the area of the sewer that is going to be upgraded. Mr. Brong explained the project cannot start from above because of the diameter of the pipe that is going to be increased, and the elevation that is going to be lowered in many areas. Mr. Brong said he does not see any other alternatives than to obtain easements and start in the referenced location.
President Schweder inquired what has been done to date in terms of negotiations.
John F. Spirk, Jr., City Solicitor, responded “we didn’t negotiate. We’re not going to start negotiating until we have all the appraisals of all the properties.” In response to President Schweder’s question as to when would that occur, Attorney Spirk advised he is told by Monday.
President Schweder recounted that two weeks ago it was indicated they would be available by tonight.
Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, explained that the description of the right of way is what was discussed at the last City Council Meeting, and added “we never talked about when all the appraisals will be completed by Laudone and Associates…” Mr. Alkhal advised that he spoke with Joseph Kelly, Assistant City Solicitor, today and he was promised by Laudone and Associates that all the appraisals will be in the City’s hands by Monday. Then, Mr. Alkhal affirmed, letters will be sent to the property owners.
President Schweder inquired if the negotiation process would begin at that point on Monday when the appraisals have been received.
Attorney Spirk, replying yes, noted “we didn’t want to do them piecemeal. We wanted to have all the appraisals, [and] compare them to each other before we started negotiating on any of them.” Attorney Spirk noted the Ordinance is on Council’s Agenda tonight at the request of Councilman Leeson.
President Schweder expressed that, while Council does not want to see the project delayed, he does understand the plight of the people who are named in this Ordinance who received the letter yesterday. President Schweder, stating if Council can be assured there will be appraisals before the next City Council Meeting, and that good faith negotiations will begin, asked Mr. Brong if it would be possible to wait for another week.
Mr. Brong, responding it is a question of “how much of a window do we want to provide ourselves” said “I don’t think we want to leave it unbounded on the back end but I don’t think we want to be unreasonable either.” Mr. Brong expressed he could live with it.
President Schweder noted what is being said is that the Ordinance could be passed over this evening and, at the very least, look at the matter in two weeks after the City has received the information; or, Council could vote on the Ordinance on First Reading this evening that would not have final standing, and in two weeks, it could be decided whether or not to take final action.
Ms. Dolan, acknowledging there is a two week period before final action would take place, pointed out that City Council has often expressed frustration about the speed of the project. She stated this is an attempt to make sure that the project can move along in a timely fashion. Ms. Dolan stressed she is very sympathetic with the word condemnation, and expressed she would not want the word used with reference to her property. Ms. Dolan continued on to say, at the same time, as long as there is the good faith negotiation that everyone wants, she would like to see the Ordinance passed on First Reading, and in two weeks review the issue in light of new information from the Administration.
Ms. Szabo queried can the Ordinance be rejected on the second or Final Reading.
President Schweder confirmed that Council’s vote on Final Reading is not contingent on the First Reading vote. In further response to Ms. Szabo, President Schweder denoted if Members of Council made a determination that they were not pleased with the progress in the next two weeks then they would have the option of tabling the Ordinance, rejecting it, or approving it.
Ms. Szabo asked that Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, take her to the site to show her the land in question. Ms. Szabo remarked that, although she and Mrs. Belinski sponsored the Ordinance, it does not mean “we’re scrooge”.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 5. Bill No. 26 – 2006 was declared passed on First Reading.
A. Adopting Sewage Facilities Plan Revision – Cottages at Monocacy Creek – Township Line Road
Mrs. Belinski and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,888 to amend the City's Official Sewage Facilities Plan for the proposal of Nic Zawarski & Sons to develop a parcel of land identified as Cottages at Monocacy Creek, proposing that the subdivision be served by sewer tap-ins, sewer extension, pump station and force main; and submitting the revision to the Department of Environmental Protection for approval.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 5. The Resolution passed.
B. Adopting Sewage Facilities Plan Revision – LVIP VII – Bethlehem Commerce Center – Easton Road
Mrs. Belinski and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,889 to amend the City's Official Sewage Facilities Plan for a proposed development of a parcel land identified as LVIP VII BCC Easton Road II, proposing that the subdivision be served by sewer tap-ins, sewer extension, pump station and force main; and submitting the revision to the Department of Environmental Protection for approval.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 5. The Resolution passed.
C. Approving Use Permit Agreement – 2006 Celtic Classic
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 14,890 that authorized the execution of a Use Permit Agreement between Celtic Fest, Inc. d/b/a Celtic Cultural Alliance and the City for use of public properties and streets for Celtic Classic 2006 for the time periods from September 9, 2006 to October 1, 2006, according to the terms and conditions of the agreement.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 5. The Resolution passed.
D. Approving Use Permit Agreement – Senior Centers of Bethlehem – Parking Cars During 2006 Celtic Classic
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,891 which authorized the execution of the Use Permit Agreement between the City and Senior Centers of Bethlehem for use of Johnston Park for parking cars during 2006 Celtic Classic for the time period September 22, 2006 to September 24, 2006, according to the terms and conditions of the Agreement.
E. Approving Use Permit Agreement – Senior Centers of Bethlehem – Parking Cars During Musikfest
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,892 which authorized the execution of the Use Permit Agreement between the City and Senior Centers of Bethlehem for use of Johnston Park for parking cars during Musikfest 2006 for the time period August 4, 2006 to August 13, 2006, according to the terms and conditions of the Agreement.
F. Authorizing Highway Safety Project Grant – Health Bureau
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,893 that authorized the execution of grant documents for Highway Safety Grant Project No. CP 07-21-1 which will provide funds from October 1, 2006 through September 30, 2007 for education and prevention relative to aggressive driving, alcohol-related crashes, unbelted crashes, pedestrian safety and youth driving.
G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 210-212 East Third Street
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 11 G to grant a Certificate of Appropriateness to alter the facades of 210-212 East Third Street.
President Schweder, observing this is another incident of retroactive approval, highlighted the fact that people did things on the property without ever getting approval by the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation Commission and after the fact the work was rubber stamped by the Commission. President Schweder inquired, if the Resolution were to be voted down, what enforcement mechanism would there be at that point.
Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, explained that attempts have been made to try to counsel the property owner, it was discovered that the work was going on, and a citation was issued. Affirming it has been a problem property for years as everyone is aware, Mr. Hanna advised the property owner has been cited for years, and the property owner transferred ownership to his daughter. Informing President Schweder that the property owner was forced to come before the Board, Mr. Hanna noted the owner responded rather quickly but work had already commenced. Further advising that the Historic Officer worked with the owner in terms of what was being done, and the owner came as a “walk-on” to the last meeting of the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation Commission, Mr. Hanna commented that the owner did respond in good faith. Mr. Hanna observed if the Members of Council do not vote in favor of the Resolution, then the City would probably be in a position where it would cite the owners but queried “what’s our remedy.” He commented that ultimately the owner would have to be provided with an opportunity to remedy the citation which would be going before the Commission.
President Schweder, recalling there have been a number of such situations recently and there was a case where Council turned down what had been done, thought at some point there should be a discussion about what should be done with respect to such situations.
Mr. Hanna informed the Members of a situation on the North Side where a property owner is refusing to go before the Historic and Architectural Review Board, and the owner was cited today.
Mary Pongracz, member of the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation
Commission, said, to the best of her knowledge this matter
was tabled at the last meeting, and the Commission did not
vote to accept the project.
President Schweder stated that the Resolution will be passed over this evening.
Motion – Considering Resolutions as a Group
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski moved to consider Resolutions 11 H, 11 I, and 11 J as a group. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 5. The motion passed.
H. Certificate of Appropriateness – 302 East Third Street
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 14,894 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to renovate the facades at 302 East Third Street.
I. Certificate of Appropriateness – 400 Block of Wyandotte Street
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 14,895 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to restore the upper floor facades of the east side of the 400 block of Wyandotte Street.
J. Certificate of Appropriateness – 13-15 East Third Street
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 14,896 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to renovate the storefront cornice at 13-15 East Third Street.
Mrs. Belinski, observing that Resolution 11 I addresses the area where the old Ale House is located on the corner property, said she is so glad to see that the property will finally be restored, although the work will be done only on the second and third floors.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 H through 11 J: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 5. The Resolutions passed.
K. Approving Federal Aid Reimbursement Agreement – Paint Mill Bridge Replacement – Schoenersville Road
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,897 that authorized the execution of Supplemental Federal Aid Bridge Project Agreement No. 050218-F between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, acting through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and the City, for the Paint Mill (Schoenersville Road) Bridge over the Monocacy Creek Project, in accordance with the Agreement.
12. NEW BUSINESS
Committee Meeting Announcement
Mr. Donchez, in the absence of Mr. Leeson, Chairman of the Finance Committee, announced a meeting on August 9, 2006 at 4:00 p.m. in the Mayor’s Conference Room.
710 Dellwood Street
Ms. Dolan, informing the Members that she received correspondence and a petition concerning a property at 710 Dellwood Street, said she will be forwarding this matter to the enforcement staff of the Administration and asking that there be focus on this particular property. Explaining that the petition was not copied for all Members of Council because it was a petition to the owner, Ms. Dolan noted that Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, had indicated the information should be referred to the Administration for action.
Multiple Offenses at Properties
Ms. Dolan, referring to her memorandum sent to Mr. Hanna, queried whether there are Ordinances that would address the problem of multiple offenses at a single property or of a single owner, including those offenses that cross Departmental boundaries.
Mr. Hanna, noting that the City’s Ordinances call for increasing fines for multiple violations, affirmed that the Ordinances are utilized, but added that it requires the cooperation of the Magistrate and the property owner. Mr. Hanna, advising there will be a more detailed response provided in a memorandum, affirmed there are provisions for steep and increasing fines, and even incarceration, if there is a repeat offender. Mr. Hanna pointed out that, due to the way citations are issued, there are multiple violations for health issues such as repeat offenses for weeds, garbage, etc. Mr. Hanna added there are increasing fines issued for housing violations. Mr. Hanna further noted that the City will correct a violation and place a lien on the property. Mr. Hanna felt there are adequate mechanisms at present in the Ordinances. Mr. Hanna, focusing on the licensing procedure, affirmed there is an Ordinance with the licensing procedure for regulated rental units but there is not a licensing procedure for non-regulated rental units.
Ms. Dolan explained that the neighbors in the area of 710 Dellwood Street were concerned because each of the items dealt with either a different Ordinance or a different Department, and when they communicated with the different Departments they were not sure there was a data base that connected the violations so they could be tracked across Departments.
Mr. Hanna confirmed the Department does have a data base that can track violations between the Health and Housing Bureaus, while there is a separate data base for building code issues. Mr. Hanna affirmed that City Council receives a weekly report from the Health Bureau, and added that a similar process will be set up for Housing related issues.
Saucon Creek – Exposed Pipe
Ms. Dolan, turning to a memorandum of July 28, 2006 pertaining to photographs of a pipe at Saucon Creek, said she wanted to make sure Council will be kept abreast of the situation.
Mrs. Belinski noted she is aware of matters related to Conectiv Energy and impact on some of the surrounding areas, and added she has received complaints.
Bethlehem Housing Authority
Ms. Dolan, noting that the Bethlehem Housing Authority’s City Council Liaison Committee met, affirmed she is City Council’s liaison to the Bethlehem Housing Authority (BHA). Ms. Dolan advised the BHA asked her to pass along the suggestion that, since the BHA currently contracts out for grass cutting, the BHA was wondering whether the City would be interested in taking on the job that could provide a source of revenue to the City.
Mrs. Belinski, Chairwoman of the Parks and Public Property Committee, explained that, as a result of two entry level positions being eliminated in the Parks and Public Property Department, the employees are hard pressed to keep up with the work they have. Consequently, Mrs. Belinski thought the Department would not be in a position to take on additional work, and expressed that she wished the City could afford to hire more employees to do all the work in the Department.
Ms. Dolan, turning to another suggestion about whether it would be possible and/or feasible for the BHA and the City to work together for purchasing certain bulk items, perhaps bringing down the cost for both entities, affirmed that a response was received from Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator. Ms. Dolan added she is happy to see that the BHA will be contacted regarding possibilities for cooperative purchases.
Mayor’s Absence at Council Meeting
President Schweder, in response to Ms. Szabo, advised that
the Mayor is on official business tonight.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Karl Fluck, 312 Summit Street, informed the assembly he is at the meeting to address 614 Spring Street where the Police responded 106 times within a year for apparent violations that were intimidating residents. Mr. Fluck, stressing he cannot imagine why something was not done after the 30th, 40th, 50th, or 60th call, asserted there has to be some protocol for public safety. Advising he called the Police 8 times having to do with houses in his neighborhood, Mr. Fluck said he called the Police on July 4, 2006 when firecrackers were thrown at him. After the Police Officer left, a charge was set off inside a recycling bin, and firecrackers were thrown on his sidewalk. Affirming that he testified in court against the perpetrators, Mr. Fluck remarked they are going to retaliate against him, and said he is “not going to be a target of opportunity.” Mr. Fluck continued on to state he is not going to abandon the principles that he knows and understands or the rule of law, but he is hard pressed not to take some action against these individuals on his own. Noting that the Police Department is locking up people as fast as they can, Mr. Fluck remarked that giving these people the equivalent of a parking ticket “isn’t just going to make it. We need to take some serious steps…”. Mr. Fluck, noting that in his particular circumstance where he lives he decided he is going to take some action, advised that he met with Stuart Bedics, Deputy Police Commissioner. Mr. Fluck found out that, under Section 8 programs, the Bethlehem Housing Authority can withhold payments and evict tenants with respect to the drug and nuisance act, and the act also enumerates what citizens and block watches can do. Mr. Fluck stated he is not going to move simply because the City cannot figure out a way to stop these people who do not care about the law, or what happens to them, and are not intimidated. Mr. Fluck stated the City is going to have to figure out a way to deal with the issue because otherwise people are going to be killed. Stressing that drug dealers have to be attacked, Mr. Fluck commented the way to attack them is through the existing statutes under primarily the housing rental code through the Bethlehem Housing Authority that controls the Section 8 certificates. Mr. Fluck continued on to say there is still the ability under the statute to attack the landlords personally. He further communicated there needs to be a coordination of City Departments to address the problems and there needs to be an all-out effort. Informing the assembly he is going to draft a plan of action, Mr. Fluck said if he has to put together his own militia he is going to do it.
Bethlehem Crime Statistics; Adding Police Officers
William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, said a week ago Town Hall was overflowing with people wishing to learn more about gangs in Bethlehem, and it was an indication to him of the increasing concern in the City about the rising tide of violence. Mr. Scheirer related that, in response to his question at that meeting, Officer William McCauley said his best guess was that there are about 200 gang members in Bethlehem, some have dropped out since his compilation, but that others have joined and the overall number may have increased. Recalling that the Bethlehem Citizens Association has requested that the Police force be increased from 146 to 166 officers over a five year period, Mr. Scheirer stated this would still be less than one officer per gang member. Mr. Scheirer noted that at the last City Council Meeting it was said the City now has the largest police force in the history of Bethlehem. Mr. Scheirer expressed that is relevant, but not a compelling argument. He continued on to note it was also said at the last Council Meeting that increasing the size of the Police force would necessitate reductions elsewhere in the budget. Mr. Scheirer stated if it can be accomplished in this way, so much the better. He felt everyone should try harder this year to find $240,000 that is the cost of the first increment of four Officers. He commented that City officials should look for items that are less important than more officers, and not important enough to raise taxes. Mr. Scheirer remarked that, in the event such items cannot be found, then a tax increase will be necessary to fund more Officers. Mr. Scheirer observed that the attendance at the meeting on gangs tells him that the voters would endorse such an increase.
Commerce Center Boulevard Project – Funding from Northampton County
Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, related that at the Northampton County’s finance committee meeting last week, the Commerce Center Boulevard project was on the agenda, as was the County’s current fiscal problems. Mr. Pfenning noted some members of County Council are reviewing various sources to get money, one of which was the $2,000,000 remaining from the Commerce Center Boulevard project since they felt whatever may be remaining after the original project completion should come back to the County. Mr. Pfenning continued on to relate that Kerry Wrobel, Executive Vice President of Lehigh Valley Industrial Park, presented his case to County Council, and the members asked what is the impact in the absence of the $2,000,000. Mr. Wrobel’s reply was that the money would have to be borrowed. Advising that the County Council finance committee voted 2 to 2 regarding forwarding a recommendation to Northampton County Council that, in essence, “killed the recommendation”, Mr. Pfenning stated the $2,000,000 went into limbo and a member of County Council has to bring forward a Resolution to expend the $2,000,000. Mr. Pfenning thought the $2,000,000 request will pass along party lines. However, Mr. Pfenning communicated it is pitting the City of Bethlehem in expanding its industrial park versus the residents of Gracedale who are experiencing leaks in their rooms.
Various Issues; Community Meeting
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, thanked Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, for his help regarding trees, answering questions, and assistance in the area of Itaska and Ontario Streets. Mr. Rodriquez also expressed his appreciation for the work of Charles Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, and to Stuart Bedics, Deputy Police Commissioner. Mr. Rodriquez pointed out that people are coming into the City and are littering the streets at a faster rate than they can be cleaned. Mr. Rodriquez felt that the Police Department must be encouraged to continually go after the drug dealers. Mr. Rodriquez said the problem arises in a shortage of Police Officers in Bethlehem. He added the person receiving the call must maintain control and be as respectful as possible, or the caller will not call again and will lose faith in the Administration. Mr. Rodriquez said elected officials can volunteer a time to work in the community. Mr. Rodriquez informed the assembly that he is organizing a community meeting on September 27, 2006 at 7:00 PM at the Ice House to give an opportunity to Bethlehem residents to express their concerns and the problems facing their neighborhoods. Mr. Rodriquez recounted that he has contacted the City numerous times about the various problems in the 500 block of Broadway. Mr. Rodriquez restated that officials must carefully respond in a respectful manner in order to gain the community’s trust. Mr. Rodriquez invited everyone in the audience, City of Bethlehem residents, and Members of Council to his meeting. Mr. Rodriquez added that he has invited pastors in the City, Hogar Crea, detoxification centers, and many other people and organizations in the City to the meeting.
Proposed Ordinance to Acquire Easements – Replacement
of Sanitary Sewers – Homestead Avenue Area
Attorney Tamer Ahmed asked for some confirmation from the Administration that in the next two week period there will be an actual negotiation, follow-up, or actual offer for his clients because if there is not anything happening in that two week period he would be back again in two weeks saying the exact same thing that is being said tonight.
President Schweder, expressing the hope that is the affirmation he received from Attorney Spirk in discussing the matter of conducting negotiations in good faith, said if that has not taken place over the next two weeks he does not see any reason for Council to vote finally on the Ordinance.
Attorney Ahmed, clarifying that his clients are not against the easement, said they know they have to be done, and they want to work with the City.
President Schweder noted the Members of Council over the last year have been very supportive of trying to get done what needs to be done, and to look at ways to accomplish the work faster than was being contemplated, and added Council will continue to do that.
Commerce Center Boulevard Project – Funding from Northampton County
Ms. Szabo asked Attorney Spirk, in lieu of the Mayor, what action is being taken regarding the Commerce Center Boulevard project. Highlighting the fact that she attended all meetings for three years relative to the matter, Ms. Szabo said the money was set up fully for the Commerce Center. She continued on to say the Commerce Center is not going to be finished for years because the project is waiting for the owner to take over the 600 acres.
Attorney Spirk noted he would defer to Mr. Alkhal and Mr. Hanna who were at the County Council meeting.
Mr. Alkhal affirmed that the Northampton County Bond Issue contained a little over $13,000,000 for Commerce Center Boulevard and was primarily identified as being for Commerce Center Boulevard and associated infrastructure. Mr. Alkhal advised as of this past week it is 100% complete except for some punch list items on the Commerce Center Boulevard and the extension that connects the community to Commerce Center Boulevard. Mr. Alkhal continued on to explain that when the City received the $13 million it wanted to make sure there was sufficient funding to do a minimum that was envisioned in close cooperation with Lehigh Valley Industrial Park (LVIP) to facilitate and promote development, and in building the Commerce Center itself. Since the initial design, the cost was estimated and the project was scaled back to make sure it could be done with a maximum of $13 million. Confirming the City was successful in doing so, Mr. Alkhal said, as a result, there is some money left over that was earmarked for the Commerce Center. Mr. Alkhal, advising that LVIP has identified an additional access road that leads to slag areas three and four as an infrastructure that would be key to continuing the momentum and to promote and develop the site, informed the Members that is what the City wants to use the remaining funds for.
Ms. Szabo queried whether the County is opposing the described plan.
Mr. Alkhal noted, as was indicated, the County has overruns on another project and some County Council members feel there is money left with which the City is doing additional work, and they would rather have the money go back and cover that overrun as opposed to having the money used at the Commerce Center. Mr. Alkhal explained that, obviously, the City feels it should be used at the Commerce Center, the City has done a good job in using the money it received from the County, and to promote the site it should continue doing so.
Ms. Szabo recounted that, when she attended the County Council meetings, some of which lasted until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m., people from Bethlehem were identified as Bethlehem Steel lackeys, and remarked with enduring that type of environment she feels the money was earned. Ms. Szabo stressed that she hopes the City will continue to make an effort to use the money where it was meant to be used.
National Night Out
Carol Ann Krasley, Center Street, noting that today has been designated National Night Out, expressed something that everyone can do with minimal effort and cost would be to light the front and rear entryways to homes. She added that, as a safety issue, it is very advantageous.
Second Public Gang Awareness Presentation
Mrs. Krasley requested a second public gang awareness presentation. She advised that the meeting recently held was quite well attended, community interest is high, and the public is willing to be educated.
Environmental Advisory Council
Peter Crownfield, 559 Brighton Street, referring to the Human Resources and Environment Committee meeting of July 28, 2006, noted about 40-50 people attended. Mr. Crownfield pointed out that everyone who spoke very strongly urged the prompt formation of an Environmental Advisory Council. Mr. Crownfield observed that Mr. Mowrer and Ms. Szabo were determined not to take any action at the meeting. Exclaiming he has been at other committee meetings where items that were not on the agenda were acted upon, Mr. Crownfield expressed his concern about the triumph of procedure over substance. Mr. Crownfield commented if someone on Council could explain the reason why no action could be taken it would be helpful.
President Schweder responded there was nothing before the Committee to vote on, and added there was neither a Resolution nor an Ordinance. Advising that he and Chairwoman Dolan have had discussions about the matter, President Schweder pointed out what was required was a piece of legislation. Explaining the meeting probably should not have gone forward at that point, President Schweder noted he did say that it would in deference to the people invited by Ms. Dolan who were coming from out of town. President Schweder added that Committee meetings are not normally held at 1:00 p.m. but rather in the evening so the greatest number of people can come forward. President Schweder commented that when an Ordinance is drafted it will be referred to the Committee for action.
Ms. Szabo affirmed that both she and Mr. Mowrer had stated they would like more information. Ms. Szabo, highlighting the fact that tonight an Ordinance was tabled, expressed she sees no harm by something being tabled for another time so that hopefully more information can be gathered. Emphasizing that an excellent job was done in selling the plan and she thought it was very worthwhile, Ms. Szabo denoted, however, there were questions including those related to legalities, and so on, and Mr. Mowrer brought up points that she thought were worth following up on. Ms. Szabo stressed it was not to try to destroy the idea but it was for the lack of information that the members of the Committee thought was necessary.
Chairwoman Dolan assured Mr. Crownfield that the matter is still moving forward. Ms. Dolan explained her wish was for the Committee to co-sponsor a memorandum to Attorney Spadoni. Ms. Dolan affirmed there was no Resolution to be acted upon. Advising the Committee did not feel ready to move forward for various reasons, Ms. Dolan noted that a Resolution will be drafted by Attorney Spadoni, who had already offered to do so. Ms. Dolan, expressing her appreciation for Mr. Crownfield’s concerns, said she agrees with everything he said. However, Ms. Dolan expressed that working within a Council one must compromise, and move forward.
Shooting Incident – Police Officer
Mayor Callahan, commenting he understands that Ms. Szabo had some concern about the absence of his earlier attendance at the Council Meeting this evening, said he is very disappointed since a Police Officer was shot in the line of duty this evening, and he was in the hospital with the Officer’s family. Ms. Szabo expressed she was sorry and she had no way of knowing that. Mayor Callahan advised that the Officer is fine, he was shot twice in the lower extremities, he is resting, his family is there with him, and he will be okay. Mayor Callahan advised there was an Officer involved in the shooting and it was turned over to the State Police to investigate. Mayor Callahan stated he wanted to get the word out because there was misinformation earlier about the status of the Officer. Mayor Callahan, noting Department Heads were aware of the matter, and certain Council Members were aware of it, said the Press is here, and he wanted to let everybody know that the Officer is fine and he will recover. Mayor Callahan pointed out that the incident highlights the very dangerous nature of being a Police Officer even in a City as safe as Bethlehem. He added that the Police put their lives on the line on a daily basis for the citizens, and everyone should sleep tonight thankful they are there.
Cost of Living; Community Policing Advisory Committee
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, noted there has been a great deal of concern expressed on public safety issues in Bethlehem the past few months. Mr. Grubb, referring to a recent Money magazine rating that Bethlehem is included in the list of one of the top 100 places to live, remarked most already knew the City was a great place to live, play, and work if one could find a job that will pay what it takes to support a family or a home that is out of one’s price range. Mr. Grubb stated that few seem to be listening to citizens concerns about the direction that Bethlehem is taking. Recounting that Mayor Callahan appointed a community policing advisory committee several months ago, Mr. Grubb noted only an initial meeting has been held that appeared to be disorganized. Mr. Grubb queried when the committee will begin to play a role, provide input, and become more involved because it is important to the quality of life in Bethlehem neighborhoods.
Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance - Updating
Mr. Grubb, turning to the updating of the City’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance, said it seems there is a “Cindarella” process underway in that there are $160,000 slippers into which the feet of zoning changes and the comprehensive plan are being jammed. He thought the City is being sold a bill of goods. Taking issue with comments made by the Mayor a number of months ago, Mr. Grubb stated if the updates were done five years ago perhaps the unfettered growth being witnessed today would not be happening in such a helter-skelter way, and residents would not be expressing their concerns at such a high level of participation that he has not seen in close to 40 years of attending Council Meetings. Mr. Grubb, focusing on Eighth Avenue, asserted the desecration of the corridor is mind-boggling. He continued on to say the City is looking at having a 17 plus story building in the downtown immediately adjacent to two and a half story residences. Mr. Grubb said what needs to be accomplished with the Comprehensive Plan is to get it completed in a way that is not watered down, and there needs to be zoning updates because the City is at risk in dealing with 30 year old Zoning regulations. Mr. Grubb observed he has noticed over the past three years that Council seems more concerned with the development of a Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance update than anybody else in the City outside of the residents. Mr. Grubb thanked the Members for their continuing resolve and their pressure placed on the Administration to get the project moving. He added the City should get as much bang for its dollar as possible and the community should not be sold short with the end product.
Timer for Speakers
Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street, stressed if she is allowed five minutes to speak, and she is interrupted by someone who gives an opinion, the clock should be stopped so that she is allowed the full five minutes to speak that has been mandated by Council. Ms. Pongracz, noting the clock continues when Members of Council speak, asserted that detracts from her right to speak for five minutes. Ms. Pongracz said she would like to have an opinion on whether or not the clock should be stopped when a person is addressing the speaker.
City Historic Preservation Boards – Meeting on Various Issues
Ms. Pongracz, observing that President Schweder has stated very clearly the problem with historic preservation groups, said unfortunately many times it is not the applicant who is the problem or the owner of the property but it is the vendor with whom they are dealing. Ms. Pongracz advised that the historic board is increasingly dealing with people who are buying property in the historic area and want to bring it up to date, and their vendor is from New York City. Ms. Pongracz thought what needs to be done is to sit down with Council and review several issues that have come up. Ms. Pongracz further advised there may be someone who really wants to improve a property and is not aware they need a permit and they are in a historic zone. Ms. Pongracz recommended that both the Historic and Architectural Review Board and the South Bethlehem Historic Preservation Commission, as well as the Mt. Airy group, sit down with Members of Council and go over some of the problems that are being faced. Stressing that many of the City’s worthwhile buildings have been lost, Ms. Pongracz asserted “we don’t need to lose any more.”
President Schweder noted he has had discussions with Chris Ussler, the City’s Historic Officer, about the matter, and it should be talked about with more specifics.
Bethlehem Authority – Independent Authority
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, noted an issue that has been on his mind for several years has been the Authorities of the City that have seemed to cost the taxpayers many dollars, specifically the Bethlehem Authority. Mr. Antalics asked if the Mayor feels the Bethlehem Authority should be an independent authority and if no why, and if yes why is it not happening.
Mayor Callahan, replying no, said that does not mean his opinion will not change but as of right now he believes it should not be. Mayor Callahan felt the long term strategic plan that was undertaken that reviewed sewer and water operations went a long way to identify the problem of the blurred line of responsibilities between the Bethlehem Authority that is the financing authority, and the City Administration that is charged with operating both sewer and water operations. Under the leadership of Mr. Brong and of Richard Master, Chairman of the Bethlehem Authority, the relationship has improved dramatically and is operating much better than in the past. Mayor Callahan continued on to say he is willing to allow that to continue at this point since it is working. In further response to Mr. Antalics, Mayor Callahan pointed out there are positives and negatives to having an operating authority, and the City would lose a certain amount of control over rates if the Bethlehem Authority were an operating authority.
Mr. Antalics remarked if the Bethlehem Authority operated like the Parking Authority or the Housing Authority it would be an efficient system.
James Follweiler, 2222 Main Street, noting his business is located just off Broadway across the border into Fountain Hill and he has owned the building for five years, said during that time he has continued to see issues of graffiti, vandalism, broken windows, and gang symbols within the past six months. Noting in the past month there was a shooting across the street, Mr. Follweiler advised over the weekend he found a wallet on the roof of his building when he was fixing a water leak. When he turned in the wallet, the Fountain Hill Police Officer recognized the name, and the driver’s license was stolen from the owner of a pizza shop near his building during a robbery. Mr. Follweiler expressed the hope that the anti-gang push is beneficial not only for the City but for all the communities in the Lehigh Valley.
Police Officer – Shooting
Mr. Follweiler felt that a simple professional update from the Mayor regarding his being at the hospital with the wounded Police Officer would have sufficed as opposed to comments directed towards a Council Member.
Ms. Dolan, communicating it is stressful to be in a hospital situation, expressed appreciation that Mayor Callahan was at the hospital with the Police Officer who had been shot.
Mayors Climate Change Agreement
Ms. Dolan commended Mayor Callahan for his recent signing of the Mayors Climate Change Agreement that she said was a very forward thinking thing to do. Continuing on to note that Mayor Callahan took the lead, Ms. Dolan informed the assembly that Mayor Callahan arranged the co-signing of the agreement by Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and Easton Mayor Phil Mitman. Ms. Dolan commented that it sets the City further along on a course that has been already pursued, and thanked Mayor Callahan for his leadership.
Mayor Callahan, thanking Ms. Dolan for her kind words, advised that both Peter Crownfield and Ms. Dolan were very instrumental in persuading him to sign the agreement. Mayor Callahan noted it was Ms. Dolan’s idea to conduct the signing in the 19th Street Theater in Allentown where Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, was shown. Mayor Callahan stated that, obviously, if local government is to have an impact on the climate or environment in the Lehigh Valley, then the three cities should take the lead. Mayor Callahan thanked Ms. Dolan for her leadership on the issue. Focusing on the Climate Protection Agreement, Mayor Callahan advised there are twelve points and the City of Bethlehem is already doing ten of them. Mayor Callahan exemplified that the City’s capturing methane at the sewer plant and running it for an extra 90 minutes is not only great economically, and the plant runs more efficiently saving taxpayer dollars, but it is also good for the environment. Mayor Callahan further exemplified that replacing the City’s traffic signal lights with LED lights uses 10% of the energy used by a typical light, is cost effective, and protects the environment. Mayor Callahan informed the assembly that Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton became the third, fourth, and fifth cities in Pennsylvania to sign on to the Climate Protection Agreement.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:10 p.m.