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January 2, 2007 Meeting Minutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, January 2, 2007 – 7:30 PM
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President J. Michael Schweder called the meeting to order. Reverend Sandra Birchmeier, of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Karen Dolan, Robert J. Donchez, Gordon B. Mowrer, Magdalena F. Szabo, and J. Michael Schweder, 5. Jean Belinski and Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., were absent, 2.
Citation – Honoring Thomas Falvey
President Schweder noted that a Citation for Thomas Falvey, who retired from the Fire Department after 40 years of service, would be delivered to him since he was unable to be present at the Meeting.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of December 19, 2006 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
6. OLD BUSINESS
A. Intermunicipal Liquor License Transfer – 1427 Marvine
The Clerk read a letter dated December 22, 2007 from Attorney Theodore J. Zeller, III to which was attached a proposed resolution for approval of an intermunicipal transfer of liquor license No. R-5834 owned by Groff Real Estate Investments, formerly owned by Soul Imperial, Inc., formerly licensed to conduct business at 2447 Freemansburg Avenue, Wilson Borough, Easton, Pennsylvania, to 1427 Marvine Street, Bethlehem, Northampton County, Pennsylvania.
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan moved to schedule a Public Hearing on Tuesday, January 16, 2007 at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall. Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 5. The motion passed.
B. City Solicitor – Amending Article 1733 – Carbon Monoxide Detectors
The Clerk read a memorandum dated December 20, 2006 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed Ordinance to amend Article 1733, International Property Maintenance Code, for the addition of a section relating to carbon monoxide detectors.
President Schweder referred the matter to the Community Development Committee.
8 . REPORTS
A. President of Council
President Schweder presented the President of Council’s 2006 Annual Report, as follows:
During 2006, City Council adopted 54 Ordinances, passed 201 Resolutions, and the Members attended 31 Committee meetings in addition to the regular City Council Meetings.
City Council adopted several Zoning Ordinance Amendments in 2006. A Landmark Conservation and Traditional Neighborhood Development Overlay District was established for Martin Tower, the site of the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation headquarters on Eighth Avenue; and, a Commercial Mixed Use Zoning District at Eighth Avenue and Eaton Avenue was created.
Provisions for assisted living facilities and personal care centers were adopted, permitting the location of the facilities in I Institutional and RRC Residential Retirement Complex Districts, and by special exception in other Residential Districts, and requiring the design to be compatible with the surrounding area. Also approved was a zoning text amendment regulating expansion of non-conforming uses.
City Council adopted various regulations for Licensed Gaming Facilities and Retail Developments in the CS – Shopping Center and IR – Industrial Redevelopment Zoning Districts in connection with a proposal submitted by Sands BethWorks for a casino development project to be located in South Bethlehem on a 124 acre site at the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation plant property between the Fahy Bridge and the Minsi Trail Bridge.
Several Street Vacations were approved by Council last year for Service Road #2, portions of Raspberry Street and Greenleaf Street.
Early in 2006, City Council approved a bond issue for new
LED traffic signals, and for a $1 million sanitary sewer project
to improve the sewer system in the Homestead Avenue and Rosemont
Drive area. Other Council approvals related to Public Works
and the water and sewer system were the City’s submission
of the Draft Act 537 Plan to the Department of Environmental
Protection containing action dates associated with the sanitary
sewer system; and, approval of a reorganization of personnel
at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. A sewer charge increase
was approved by City Council last year, and the Public Works
Committee received an explanation about the condition of the
Water Filtration Plant and engineering alternatives to upgrade
To facilitate the process for responding to noise complaints in the City, the Chairman of the Public Safety Committee requested amendments to the Codified Ordinances and City Council later approved revisions to Articles 509 and 717. The Public Safety Chairman also requested that an Ordinance be drafted to require notification when private security services are used in the City of Bethlehem.
A Resolution was passed by City Council to rescind the Police Manual that was incorporated into General Orders and Standard Operating procedures for the Police Department in accordance with the CALEA process.
Updates to Codified Ordinance Article 1159 containing regulations applicable to animals in the City were approved by Council in 2006.
The Finance Committee Chairman initiated regulations governing Intermunicipal Fund Transfers, and an Ordinance was adopted requiring the prior approval of City Council for transfers of funds exceeding $50,000 between the City and various Authorities. The Finance Committee last year conducted reviews of employee overtime, use of City vehicles, and investments of pension funds; and discussed financing issues for debt service, water operations, and water facility repairs faced by the Bethlehem Authority along with the Department of Water and Sewer Resources.
City Council also approved the Bethlehem Authority’s sale of land in Salisbury Township to Lehigh County.
The first Harvest Wine and Beer Festival was held in downtown Bethlehem last fall after Council authorized a Use Permit Agreement for the use of public property for the festival in conjunction with a request from the Downtown Bethlehem Association.
Council authorized the filing of grants to: fund a contracted
management position under the State’s Elm Street Program
in the amount of $150,000; acquire and develop the South Bethlehem
Greenway in the amount of $ 800,000; and, for a skate park
at the Greenway in the amount of $200,000.
In issues related to Community and Economic Development, City Council approved the renewal of the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) Program in the Enterprise Zone area of the City for another two year period, and allowed the LERTA Program for the North Side Central Business District to expire. In adopting the 2007 Community Development Block Grant Budget (CDBG), Council approved the expenditure of CDBG funds to purchase a new ambulance; and, approved funding under the 2007 HOME program for the construction of two affordable townhomes on the South Side proposed by a non-profit organization.
The Members of Council also approved the establishment of a Local Redevelopment Authority to study the reuse of the former Army Reserve Center on Airport Road.
As requested by Lehigh University, approval was given by City Council to vacate a portion of and relocate Seidersville Road, dedicate College Drive, and to realign and rename a portion of Apple Street between William Street and Fire Lane to College Drive.
Following initiation by the Chairwoman of the Human Resources and Environment Committee for an Ordinance to create the City of Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council, City Council re-referred the legislation back to Committee for further refinement.
Among the numerous Resolutions passed by Council last year were for the adoption of the Lehigh Valley Hazard Mitigation Plan, and for the installation of a traffic signal at the intersection of East Fourth Street and Lynn Avenue.
The Members of Council interviewed candidates and passed a Resolution naming Alan Blair, former Deputy Controller, as the City Controller, following the death of long-time City Controller Wallace J. DeCrosta.
Several Council Members requested the Administration to develop a new City Budget Book format that was presented for the 2007 Budget.
In adopting the 2007 Budget at the end of last year, City Council made amendments to hire one additional Police Officer, approved the hiring of three additional Police Officers requested by the Administration along with two additional Paramedics, and one additional Fire Inspector.
Awarding of Casino License – Sands BethWorks – South Bethlehem
Mayor Callahan congratulated the Members of Council and all those who worked hard preceding the awarding of a casino license on December 20, 2006 to Sands BethWorks for a casino to be built at the area of the Fahy Bridge in South Bethlehem, along with retail, hotel, and other developments. Acknowledging it has been a long process, Mayor Callahan noted it has taken a lot of time and effort on the part of City Council, the Administration, and all the individuals involved. Adding it was a team effort, Mayor Callahan applauded all those involved. Highlighting the fact that the City has been given a tremendous responsibility, Mayor Callahan observed that Bethlehem has been given probably one of the single biggest economic development tools that is available with a tremendous investment in the City and thousands of jobs. Mayor Callahan communicated that he looks forward to the coming months and years making good on the responsibility. Pointing out that, after the December 20, 2006 meeting of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board when the announcement was made on the awarding of a casino license to Sands BethWorks, one of the Gaming Control Board members extended his congratulations to the Mayor and said make us proud, Mayor Callahan remarked there is a lot of work ahead to do so. Mayor Callahan commented he looks forward to working with Council and everyone involved in what he thinks will be one of the most spectacular economic development projects in the country.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 56 – 2006 – Rezoning 625-633 Montclair Avenue – I to RM
The Clerk read Bill No. 56 – 2006 – Rezoning 625-633 Montclair Avenue – I to RM, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE on Bill No. 56 - 2006: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez,
Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and
Mr. Schweder, 5. Bill No. 56 – 2006, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4418, was declared adopted.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
Motion – Considering Resolutions as a Group
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski moved to consider Resolutions 11 A through 11 C as a group. Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 5. The motion passed.
A. Certificate of Appropriateness – 314 East Third Street
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 14,985 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install signage at 314 East Third Street.
B. Certificate of Appropriateness – 9 East Fourth Street
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 14,986 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to renovate the façade at 9 East Fourth Street.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 121 West Morton Street
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 14,987 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the slate roof at 121 West Morton Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 A through 11 C: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 5. The Resolutions passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Carol Ann Krasley, Center Street, reported that on December 5, 2006 she observed 10 Police vehicles in the 600 block of Center Street which is of concern to her. Continuing on to say crime continues to impact her neighborhood, Mrs. Krasley observed that everyone would like a safer, healthier City including those who live in the pocket neighborhoods. She denoted that the December 20, 2006 edition of the Express-Times reported on an armed robbery at the 7-11 store at East Broad and Center Streets next to her home. Mrs. Krasley highlighted the fact that there were three homicides in the unit block of West Union Boulevard located about three blocks from the Center Street area. Mrs. Krasley, communicating her area is not safe, stressed it is of great concern to those who are mentoring children and who are law-abiding citizens, and all should be encouraged to want the City and its neighborhoods to shine. Mrs. Krasley, stressing those who persevere want to set the example, asked City officials to work with the residents.
International Music Awards
Artie Curatola, 813 Laufer Street, recounted that he spoke at the last City Council Meeting about an international music awards and had suggested that Bethlehem could be the first one to hold such a ceremony at Stabler Arena during Musikfest. Mr. Curatola thought the international music awards should be linked with the City, and suggested there could be a musical arts committee. Mr. Curatola communicated that perhaps contributions could be sought from the Endowment of the Arts, and other organizations to promote the international music awards. Noting that in order to make the idea work it needs strong people behind it, Mr. Curatola expressed the hope that someone will contact him. He noted the idea could be profitable to the City, bring more business, and bring international musicians. Mr. Curatola advised he has contacts with agencies, has talked to Joe Timmer who is behind the idea, and pointed out he needs people to help who have contacts as well.
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, observed that Mrs. Krasley has discussed the same matters he has been talking about. Mr. Rodriquez said last week there were 4-5 incidents in South Bethlehem, including a mugging that yielded merely one dollar. Pointing out that people from out of town coming into the area as well as those residing in the City are doing the same thing, Mr. Rodriquez stressed that the crime and violence are getting out of hand. Mr. Rodriquez remarked that the addition of 3 or 4 Police Officers is not enough. Mr. Rodriquez asserted that laws regulating litter and garbage need to be enforced, and quoted from Codified Ordinance Article 721.01. Mr. Rodriquez explained the attitude of the Police Officer and the response he received from the House Sergeant’s desk about Article 721 when he called the Police Department about garbage left at 438 Pawnee Street after the resident moved.
Broughal Middle School
Peter Crownfield, 569 Brighton Street, asked the Members of Council individually and as a Council in a demonstration to preserve Broughal Middle School to communicate to the members of the School Board a request that they do everything possible to preserve the school building even if it cannot be used as a school, and to make it a priority instead of going ahead with the plan to build a new school and tear down Broughal Middle School in order to locate athletic fields there. Mr. Crownfield repeated his request that Council please communicate with the school board about the importance of the issue and that they should make every effort to preserve it.
Awarding of Casino License – Sands BethWorks – South Bethlehem
Dave Sanders, 69 East Goepp Street, thanked City Council,
the Mayor and the Administration for the efforts towards the
awarding of a casino license on December 20, 2006 to Sands
BethWorks for a casino to be built at the area of the Fahy
Bridge in South Bethlehem. He recalled there were many public
hearings and public input, and added it will change the City.
Mr. Sanders observed the City has always moved forward in
a dignified way, and thought the project will be great for
the community, as well as the jobs and economic development
that will be created and that he appreciates as a business
owner and homeowner.
Bethlehem Housing Authority Board – Reimbursement for Expenses
In response to Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Sanders confirmed that the Bethlehem Housing Authority reimburses the Board members for travel and expenses as long as it is Bethlehem Housing Authority business.
Broughal Middle School
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, handed to the Members pictures of the Broughal Middle School building being disassembled, and stressed that a demolition process has started. Mr. Antalics, advising he checked with the City and normally a permit would be required to start the process, said he was told the Bethlehem Area School District did not apply for a permit to begin to disassemble. Mr. Antalics remarked the group comprised of solicitors and knowledgeable engineers should know better. Mr. Antalics asserted they violated State codes in terms of Act 34. Mr. Antalics, suggesting that the City should cite the Bethlehem Area School District formally for ignoring the requirements for demolition of a building designed to be demolished, stressed no one is above the law. Mr. Antalics remarked this is not tolerable in a democratic situation. Mr. Antalics repeated his demand that the Administration or City Council take action to cite the Bethlehem Area School District for illegal activity.
William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, related that at the Act 34 hearing attendees were told that demolition would begin in August 2009. Mr. Scheirer, communicating there are people who are reluctant to say save the old Broughal Middle School building because they are afraid the new building will be on top of South Mountain, commented once the new school is being built then those people will feel free to say save the old building. Mr. Scheirer thought the Bethlehem Area School District is trying to deface the Broughal Middle School building as much as possible so that there will be little support left for saving it.
Hiring of Police Officers and Crime
Mr. Scheirer thanked the Mayor and Council for approving the hiring of four additional Police Officers. Mr. Scheirer said this is a down payment on the 20 officers over the next four years called for by the Bethlehem Citizens Association. Mr. Scheirer communicated there should be 10 more officers hired this coming year for another five years to bring the Police force to 200 officers because of the casino in order to be proactive, and to head off the increase in violence. Mr. Scheirer stressed the 54 West Union Boulevard homicide was even more disturbing because it involved a 15 year old boy at home with his family who answered the door and was murdered on the spot. Mr. Scheirer thought the recent murder of a youth counselor in Allentown was the murder of a potential witness.
Broughal Middle School
Ms. Szabo, focusing on the Act 34 hearing referenced by Mr. Antalics, noted it was reported after the meeting that there were a lot of remarks about the usefulness of the Broughal Middle School building. Ms. Szabo pointed out that with all of the development in the City, and particularly in South Bethlehem, the schools will be even more overcrowded. She continued on to say it was admitted that Broughal School is going to have a hard time finding room for students. Ms. Szabo related that David Freeman, who spoke about the proposed athletic field based on his professional sports experiences, pointed out that the proposal is excessively expensive and not needed because it would be a professional sports type of field. Ms. Szabo stated there could be a large savings of taxpayer money with a better analysis of whether or not the school building should be torn down. Ms. Szabo observed that remarks at the meeting were never reported to the public. She expressed her agreement with Mr. Antalics that the action taken was to stop the arguments about preserving the school. Ms. Szabo wondered what would be said to the next person who is going to break the law if they see that the Bethlehem Area School District got away with not having a permit.
President Schweder observed there are people who ignore Ordinances of the City. President Schweder asked if the Bethlehem Area School District violated the City Ordinances by what they did.
Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, explained that Craig Hynes, Code Enforcement Bureau Chief, had a discussion with the School District’s engineer from D’Huy Engineering company. Mr. Hanna continued on to say what had been represented to the City was that they were doing exploratory work on the historic elements in an effort to preserve them. They were given permission to do so, and in Mr. Hynes’ opinion it was not necessary to obtain a permit for that. When it was seen they were exceeding what Mr. Hynes and another building official felt was going beyond what would be labeled as exploratory, Mr. Hanna had a discussion with the Superintendent and it had been determined that work was going to stop. Mr. Hanna explained it was felt it was a gray area to cite them. Mr. Hanna added he is not sure that if the City would cite them it would hold up, and the building official did not believe they violated the law based upon the fact that they stopped the activity.
Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street, asserted there are no gray areas and either someone is right or wrong. Ms. Pongracz stressed that the destruction of Broughal Middle School will be a blot on the history of the City of Bethlehem. Ms. Pongracz, highlighting the fact that the school has a long history beginning as Bethlehem High School, questioned what is to stop any unscrupulous group from tearing down anything they want in the City. Ms. Pongracz thought it is time for the City to have an Ordinance dealing with historic buildings so that if a building is eligible to be on the National Register of historic buildings then it definitely should not be considered for demolition. Ms. Pongracz highlighted the fact that she taught at Broughal School for 18 years and knows what is in the building that she stressed cannot be replaced. Ms. Pongracz remarked one does not replace history but rather honors, treasures, and keeps it. Ms. Pongracz added the school is the heart of the South Side community and deserves to be kept. Stating the School District broke the law, Ms. Pongracz pointed out she would have to obtain a permit to start demolition on her home.
Ms. Szabo, commenting this is not only a problem concerning the history of the building, restated that a new elementary school will be needed on the South Side. Ms. Szabo reiterated it is a savings of taxpayer money to not destroy a very sound building that has many uses.
Louise Valeriano, 3114 East Boulevard, stating that Broughal Middle School should be preserved, said not only could it be used as an elementary school that will be needed even more in the future, but it has a wonderful auditorium and gym that could be used for the community. Ms. Valeriano communicated that exploratory work to her meant taking a boring, sounding, analysis, and so on but does not include removing pieces to see whether or not they will come off in one piece. She wondered how the pieces were removed and damaged. Ms. Valeriano stressed the work was done in violation and should be dealt with.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:20 p.m.