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February 6, 2007 Meeting Minutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, February 6, 2007 – 7:30 PM
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President Schweder called the meeting to order. Pastor Jason Stewart, of Christ Community 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 Leonard G. Blanar
President Schweder presented a Citation to Lenny Blanar who retired from the Water and Sewer Resources Department after 37 years of service to the City.
The Members of Council congratulated Mr. Blanar and wished him well in his retirement.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of January 16, 2007 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
Liquor License Transfer Request – 1427 Marvine Street
Steve Dolak, 1430 Fritz Drive, stated that he does not think it is a proper use of the building at 1427 Marvine Street to transfer a liquor license there and to open the building to the public in a highly densely populated area, especially with a lot of children. In addition, Mr. Dolak enumerated there are schools, churches, and the Boys and Girls Club in the area.
Steve Godbolt, 1161 Fritz Drive, expressing his agreement with Mr. Dolak, said he does not think it is a proper use of the facility at 1427 Marvine Street to transfer a liquor license there. Mr. Godbolt handed to the Members of Council a picture of the area that he pointed out is a highly dense residential area where there are over 700 low income housing units and a lot of private homes. Highlighting the fact there are a lot of children in the area, Mr. Godbolt thought having a liquor license at the building would be very detrimental to the children. Mr. Godbolt recalled there was a coffee house on Pembroke Road that caused a lot of trouble in the area. Mr. Godbolt communicated there could be a better use for the building.
Amy Carr stated she is from Lincoln Elementary School at 1260 Gresham Street where she is the community school coordinator, and explained the multiple supports that the students need including physical, emotional, social, and academic. Ms. Carr pointed out that a great number of students reside in the neighborhood area of 1427 Marvine Street, and many families have already expressed concern for ways to keep their children safe. Ms. Carr, highlighting the fact that the school wants to improve the lives of the children who are the future for the area, felt that opening a bar at 1427 Marvine Street in an already struggling social, economic area would not enhance the community or the future, and would cause unnecessary increased issues, as well as a negative influence. Pointing out there are two elementary schools in the area that are Lincoln Elementary School and Marvine School, Ms. Carr advised that children walk to school and would be walking past the proposed 1427 Marvine Street bar two times a day. Ms. Carr said she does not feel, nor does the school, that this would be a positive influence to enhance the children’s lives. Ms. Carr asked that Council consider these issues for the sake of the children and families who have expressed great concern.
Cindy Glick, of Just Born Candy company, 1300 Stefko Boulevard, requested that the transfer of the liquor license not be given to 1427 Marvine Street that is located directly behind the company’s facility. Ms. Glick highlighted the fact that Just Born has been a long-time operation in the area, and a supporter of the neighborhood. Ms. Glick communicated that for all the reasons that the people representing the neighborhood have already stated, and for the safety and well-being of the company’s associates, many of whom walk to work, and work three shifts, the transfer is not supported. She added there is concern for any spillover activity that may be detrimental to the neighborhood, to the employees, and to the safety of the facility.
Edwin Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, addressing the transfer of the liquor license to 1427 Marvine Street, stressed that the area is very negative, and during the warmer months a lot of drug and gang activity will be seen. Mr. Rodriquez asserted he would not like to see a liquor license given to 1427 Marvine Street because it would enhance the negativity in that particular area. Mr. Rodriquez highlighted the fact that there is a church within walking distance of the former democratic club at 1427 Marvine Street, and advised he spoke with the pastor who would not like to see the transfer. Mr. Rodriquez urged Council to think about how wise it would be not to allow a liquor license transfer because there will be drug addicts, drug dealers, gang activity, and people using liquor surrounding a good neighborhood that took a while to get established.
Jeannie Kipp, Rosemont Drive, advised she is an independent contractor to the Bethlehem Area School District and to Valley Youth House. Ms. Kipp stated that what Mr. Dolak, Mr. Godbolt, Ms. Carr, Mr. Rodriquez, and the representative from Just Born said is absolutely true. Communicating there are children who want to be gang members, Ms. Kipp informed the Members that experts have been brought in to address the issue including Communities in Schools, Marvine Family Center, Northeast Family Center, a counselor-interventionist, a New York Police Officer with gang expertise, Valley Youth House, and Family Answers. Stressing that the children are the most important factor, Ms. Kipp remarked there cannot be a liquor license on Marvine Street, with the gambling that is coming into Bethlehem, that will exacerbate the situation for the children.
William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, noted at the last City Council Meeting the Acting President requested that the Attorney for the applicant at 1427 Marvine Street put up a notice on the premises advising the public of the vote that is to take place tonight on the intermunicipal liquor license transfer request. Noting there is a sign that has the necessary information, Mr. Scheirer advised it is on an 8-1/2 by 11 inch piece of paper and thought that next time something much larger should be required. Mr. Scheirer said it is good that City Council heard the testimony tonight. He expressed the hope that Council will not turn the matter over to the Liquor Control Board because he did not think the Board knows or cares very much about the City, and added that their investigations are biased towards the applicant, and they are incompetent. Mr. Scheirer remarked there is a State Senator who says she controls liquor licenses in the City of Bethlehem. Mr. Scheirer thought a subject for another time is what to do about transfers within the City, and whether or not Council should take a position to advise the Liquor Control Board. Mr. Scheirer stated tonight Council has a chance to act in the best interests of the City of Bethlehem and preclude the Liquor Control Board from controlling things in the City.
Carol Ann Krasley, Center Street, pointed out that in today’s
Morning Call under the police report a stabbing was listed
on Howard Street in the vicinity of Marvine Street. Noting
initiatives have been made, and the Bethlehem Housing Authority
has made inroads to improve the quality of life for those
who live in the area, Ms. Krasley stressed they deserve a
chance to keep the quality of life and improve the quality
of life they already have. Ms. Krasley urged Council to use
prudent decision making in the matter.
Attorney Theodore Zeller, representing the applicant for the intermunicipal transfer of a liquor license to 1427 Marvine Street, stated that pursuant to the Liquor Code there is a requirement for a public hearing and there was notice given consistent with what is required. While acknowledging he has heard the comments of the good citizens, Attorney Zeller pointed out there is a process and the public hearing was adjourned at the last City Council Meeting. Attorney Zeller thought, unfortunately, Council is not permitted to consider the comments this evening. Attorney Zeller, stating he has some concerns, advised not one of the comments was directed at what type of operation his client would have, and only two of the commentators were present at the public hearing so they had the opportunity to see what his client’s intent was with regards to the premises, and the fact that his client has been an owner in the City of Bethlehem for many years and wants to develop the site as a business proposition. Attorney Zeller continued on to say his client has no interest whatsoever in any untoward souls showing up at his premises for any reason other than the lawful service of alcoholic beverages and consumption of food. Attorney Zeller, commenting it is unfortunate he does not get the opportunity to cross-examine any of these witnesses, stated that is what the public hearing is supposed to be about. Attorney Zeller advised that by considering any comments this evening about an establishment that has been a liquor license establishment for over 60 years it would be prejudicing his clients rights as they are conceived under the Liquor Code. Attorney Zeller, restating the public hearing was adjourned at the last City Council Meeting, stressed there was just a vote that was supposed to be held this evening. Stating it was requested that a notice be posted, Attorney Zeller confirmed the notice was posted, and he received a call from the City Clerk about the notice and handed to the Clerk an amended notice that was hung on the door. Attorney Zeller stated that consideration of the public comments tonight are out of order, and are not legal under the requirements of the Liquor Code that is the enabling statute on which Council is sought to vote this evening.
Dave Sanders, 6 East Washington Avenue, thought the businessman who wants to start a new business at 1427 Marvine Street has good intentions and if he is heard from he would be an excellent candidate. Noting the Hawthorne House is located on Broad Street with a church in front of it, Mr. Sanders did not think there has been anything adversarial in that neighborhood, and added he does not think there will be anything adversarial in the Marvine Street neighborhood. Mr. Sanders thought the applicant is a fine businessman in the community and deserves consideration.
Certificate of Appropriateness – 417 Wyandotte Street
Martha Popichak, 1032 Main Street, noted that the issue of adequate parking in the 400 block of Wyandotte Street recently became critical. Many of the property owners want to know that the City is committed to the 400 block now and in the future. Ms. Popichak stressed the owners have endured numerous setbacks and frustration over the years, and yet many have stayed. Ms. Popichak asked that City officials renew the citizens trust by giving them the commitment to revive the area that means solving the parking problem, and to suggest a permanent resolution.
Amending Article 941 – Parks - Prohibiting Motorized Vehicles
Steve Schmitt, Director of the Coalition for Appropriate Transportation, 60 West Broad Street, addressed the proposal to Amend Article 941 and noted the prohibition of motorized vehicles would be on the paths. President Schweder informed Mr. Schmitt that the matter will be referred to the Parks and Public Property Committee.
6. OLD BUSINESS
Compliance with Developer's Agreement and Related Issues – Lowe's Project
Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, affirmed that a memorandum dated February 2, 2007 in response to questions raised about compliance with the Developer's Agreement and related issues for the Lowe's Project on Eighth Avenue was forwarded to the Members of Council. Ms. Heller noted the items in the developer’s agreement still outstanding were listed, several site inspections were done, and some of the items have to do with completion or repair of sidewalks, trenches, minor traffic marking issues, inlet markers, and sewer discharge. Ms. Heller explained it is recognized there are some dead or missing landscaping items and the matter will be reviewed again in the Spring. Ms. Heller informed the Members that, with regard to other questions about the developer’s agreement, the subdivision was with Tiger Den in the amount of almost $770,000 for a letter of credit, and the other is with Lowe’s for the land development in the sum of $2 million. Ms. Heller advised that no escrow has been released on either of those, and they expire in 2008. All of the roadway work was done through PennDot in the Highway Occupancy Permit, and that part of the project has entered into the two year maintenance period. Ms. Heller affirmed that the items in the letter from Mr. Williams were not specifically addressed in the developer’s agreement and were not land development items. Continuing on to say the items were discussed with Lowe’s, Ms. Heller confirmed that the letter from Lowe’s outlines some of what has been done but some of the items are ongoing such as the lighting, and the Department will continue discussions.
Mrs. Belinski inquired about the cleaning equipment that Mr. Williams explained makes a lot of noise. Advising it is a street sweeper used every night for the parking lot, Ms. Heller explained the equipment will start to be used earlier than the Lowe’s store 10:00 p.m. closing time, but the parking lot needs to be mostly cleared out before it can be used. In addition, the cleaner will be used first on the residential side of the lot earlier so that later in the evening it will not be on that side of the Lowe’s property. Mrs. Belinski further pointed out that the store lights are on until midnight although the store closes at 10:00 p.m. and people think the store is still open. Ms. Heller, affirming the Department talked to Lowe’s about the issue, pointed out that employees are at the store until about 11:00 p.m. or 11:30 p.m. and for safety reasons it is felt there needs to be some lighting on. Ms. Heller commented the Department will work with Lowe’s on the matter.
Ms. Dolan asked whether the height and width of the buffer screen is adequate according to the specifications. Ms. Heller, advising the required height was six feet, affirmed they are six feet, and no width is addressed. Ms. Heller observed that obviously the buffer will have to grow in to become solid, most of the plantings are in place, but some have to be replaced. Ms. Dolan noted at this point the plantings are not as tall as the hillside and it will be some time until they grow in and provide buffering. Ms. Heller denoting it is a unique situation because of the elevation changes with the Lowe’s store at a very low grade, the buffer, an additional incline, and homes above the incline. Ms. Heller acknowledged it is very difficult to create a buffer that would block homes that are higher than the trees.
Easton Suburban Water Authority Letter
Mrs. Belinski remarked the Members of Council received a copy of a letter dated January 29, 2007 from Roy White, General Manager of Easton Suburban Water Authority (ESWA) along with the attached letter dated December 14, 2006 from David Brong, Director of Water and Sewer Resources, that she said was very disturbing. Mrs. Belinski recalled that, at a recent Public Works Committee meeting, David Brong, Director of Water and Sewer Resources, led attendees to believe that everything was coming along fine with the Easton Suburban Water Authority. Mrs. Belinski read from the letter that a meeting was arranged by Bethlehem Township to resolve the sewage allocation dispute with the City of Bethlehem. The City of Bethlehem had initially proposed that Bethlehem Township buy water in bulk from the City of Bethlehem and resell it to the developing areas. This competitive alternative would have precluded ESWA from being the water supplier to the Route 33 and Freemansburg Avenue corridor, which it presently serves. The proposal was rejected because the Township did not want to be in the water supply business. Continuing on to note that Mr. Brong met with Bethlehem Township officials, Mrs. Belinski read from the letter that Bethlehem Township and St. Luke's agreed to support a future City of Bethlehem PUC petition to provide water services to Phase I of the St. Luke's development. The City of Bethlehem was already aware that ESWA was not only well into the planning stages of providing water services to St. Luke's, but had already constructed infrastructure to serve the project. The City of Bethlehem's action was blatantly competitive. Although the City of Bethlehem is espousing collaborative ventures, the City of Bethlehem's actions have empirically demonstrated that the City's approach to serving the Route 33 and Freemansburg Avenue area has been strictly competitive. She continued to read from the letter that the actions by the City of Bethlehem certainly do not indicate a genuine interest in regionalization. Mrs. Belinski further referencing the letter noted that ten years ago ESWA began proactively designing and constructing the necessary infrastructure that would support the anticipated economic development in Bethlehem Township and water customers served by ESWA, and she recited examples stated in the letter along with the project costs. Expressing she is very distressed with how the City has proceeded, Mrs. Belinski observed it does not appear that the City is collaborative or friendly. Mrs. Belinski, continuing to read from the letter, noted it states the City of Bethlehem should come to that meeting prepared to provide detailed information about the physical attributes of its water supply at the proposed point of interconnection such as pipe size, location, pressure, available supply, etc. and to detail the specific financial terms under which the City is offering to supply water and contribute to the capital costs. Mrs. Belinski restated she is very distressed to read the letter. Mrs. Belinski, reiterating that in the Public Works Committee meeting the members were led to believe that everything is going along fine, commented evidently it is not.
Rosemont and Homestead Avenue – Sewer Project
Ms. Szabo stated there is some misunderstanding about the progress of the Rosemont and Homestead Avenue Sewer Project and that it is not being completed. Ms. Szabo, asking that problems with insurance be explained, commented that one resident was told the only alternative was to sue the City which the citizen would rather not do. Ms. Szabo requested the status of the matter.
David Brong, Director of Water and Sewer Resources, noted that phase one, the area from Eaton Avenue through some back yards up Homestead Avenue to Brentlawn Avenue is completed and is operating. Mr. Brong continued on to say phase two is the area from Brentlawn Avenue up West Rosemont Avenue, across Eastman Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue, and phase three is the area from Eastman Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue all the way north towards Catasauqua Road. Mr. Brong explained when the project was started it was communicated that there was a strong desire to aggregate as much of the work as possible into an overall sewer upgrade program that was identified through extensive hydraulic studies. After completing phase one, Mr. Brong explained the interest was to evaluate the phase two system first by putting television cameras down the lines and evaluating the system by looking at it. If no abnormalities were seen in the system, then the system would be monitored during wet weather events and to see if the system had any isolated surcharges from the Homestead Avenue area. In the event anything was seen that would lead the City to believe there were some risk then action would be taken immediately and it would continue with the construction. The interest from the beginning was to balance the need for cost effectiveness, aggregating the construction to whatever extent possible, and serving the residents to make sure their issues were resolved. Since completing phase one, television cameras were run down the line of phase two and one area was seen that had a dip. Although the dip was not as severe as that seen on Homestead Avenue it was something the City would like to repair quickly. In view of the fact that the system is going to be upgraded anyway, a spot repair is not going to be made and it has been decided that phase two is going to proceed. The bid package is in process of being put out for construction bids probably within the next two weeks, it would be out for consideration for about 15 days, and the bid would be awarded. Construction would be prepared to start at the time of Spring, would take approximately 6 to 8 weeks based on phase one experience, and all the work would be done in the street.
President Schweder, pointing out the process has been ongoing for a year and a half, inquired whether the money set aside still exists for the entire project to be done.
Mr. Brong replied yes.
President Schweder observed then the money has not been moved to any other project, and it will not be.
Mr. Brong, affirming the money will not be moved to any other project, explained about $1.2 million was earmarked as part of a Bond Issue for the upgrade and that money has not been touched. In fact, Mr. Brong said in 2007 he budgeted $700,000 exclusively for phase one, and the remainder is waiting for the next action on the project.
President Schweder, referring to correspondence from Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, and a newspaper article, observed that raised alarm with the residents, and asked if the newspaper article was inaccurate.
Mr. Brong explained the plan has always been that after phases of construction it was the desire to do a thorough evaluation to ensure a balance was being maintained between cost effectiveness and responsiveness.
President Schweder recalled the matter started in November of 2005. President Schweder observed if the people who live in the neighborhood do not think the City and the Departments have addressed their problems then as far as he is concerned it has not been. President Schweder continued on to say the people in the neighborhood are not happy with where the project is, another delay, and another revision. President Schweder suggested that the City do what was promised to be done which the people who live there do not believe has been done.
Mr. Brong affirmed there is no deviation from the plan that was laid out to what is being done now. Mr. Brong communicated if he saw no conditions in the sewer that led him to believe there was any risk he would be lobbying very strongly that the work be aggregated with a larger scale project.
President Schweder stated his position is the way it has been presented to Council is not the way it is played out.
Mrs. Belinski, highlighting the fact that there was a letter and a phone call from neighbors and they are upset, noted now Mr. Brong is saying the City is going ahead with phase two. Mrs. Belinski observed it is being said that phase three does not have to be done but if something happens action can be taken. Recalling the Mayor had said the money that is not used will be used for other projects, Mrs. Belinski asked where will the money come from to go ahead with phase three. Mrs. Belinski, pointing out that three phases were supposed to be done, stressed the problem has been going on since the end of the 1990’s.
Mr. Brong, advising that $1.3 million was set aside for work on the project, stated phase one and phase two will consume nearly all of it when the street repaving and so forth is considered. Mr. Brong said phase three will most definitely be aggregated with the overall City package and it will not split out. Mr. Brong added there have been no surcharges along Pennsylvania Avenue.
Mr. Leeson denoted he thought the plan was to bid phase two as an alternate, so there would not be downtime and delays.
Mr. Brong responded no it was not bid as an alternate.
Mr. Leeson, communicating he is not happy with the progress either, expressed he shares the frustration that has been articulated. Mr. Leeson said further he wants to send a message to Mr. Brong and all the other Department Heads about something he will be looking at the next few months. Mr. Leeson, confirming money was appropriated for the project by Ordinance for this purpose, stressed the executive and legislative branches of government both made a commitment to these citizens that is going to be honored, and Council will be looking to see it is honored. Mr. Leeson continued on to say in the months ahead Council will be looking to make sure that each of the Department Heads are very scrupulous when it comes to spending City monies allocated by Ordinance.
In response to Ms. Szabo’s question, Mr. Brong explained that surcharging means backup.
Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, explained the approach for the project. Mr. Alkhal advised that, as part of the City’s Act 537 planning, the entire section discussed tonight had been identified as a sanitary main that has problems and that surcharges primarily because of inflow and infiltration into that system. It was targeted as an area that will likely need improvement. The scope of the project does not get into the details of every main in the City. When the phases of the project were identified, the City fully intended if necessary to proceed expeditiously with phases one, two, and three if the money could be secured to do so. As phase one was done, further hydraulic analysis was done on the sanitary sewer main. What was concluded and determined is that by enlarging the main on Homestead Avenue down to Eaton Avenue the hydraulic capacity of the line was increased to prevent any surcharge from occurring in that segment of the main. It is believed that surcharging was influencing and causing, at least in part if not in whole, the surcharging that was being experienced on West Rosemont Avenue. If the West Rosemont line was intact and was not structurally compromised it was felt there is a high probability, if not a certainty, that for the time being the problems have been resolved throughout that area. However, as Mr. Brong indicated, when the line was televisioned again recently there was evidence that the line had settled in some areas and of compromise structurally, so it still needs to be replaced. Mr. Alkhal continued on to explain because there are signs of the West Rosemont line being degraded the City is going to move ahead with phase two. Mr. Alkhal informed the assembly there has not been downtime as a result of this whole process. The plans and specifications have been completed already, the procurement process has been started, and the project will be ready in time for the start of the construction season. Apologizing for any miscommunications, Mr. Alkhal noted that the newspaper reporter was not incorrect in the article, although the article read more optimistically. Mr. Alkhal affirmed in the article it was stated that the City was going to evaluate the matter and see what the benefits might be in phase two as a result of phase one before a decision is made whether or not to proceed with phase two. Mr. Alkhal expressed that, as far as spending the money on anything else, that was assuming it was determined everything was fine and there were not surcharges. Mr. Alkhal reiterated the City is not going to take any chances and is going to move on with phase two.
President Schweder, recalling the issue started as a crisis, recounted the Mayor made pronouncements to the neighborhood that the problem was going to be corrected right away. President Schweder continued on to recall that in December of 2005 City Council was told that the matter was of such dire necessity that the City would take out a line of credit if necessary to fix the sewer problems. President Schweder communicated what Members of Council are saying tonight is to finish the project and spend the money that City Council allocated to do it, and then there will not be any misinterpretations in the newspaper or anything else. In response to Mr. Alkhal, President Schweder affirmed he would like him to make assurances that everything will be spent that City Council was told was needed and needed to be done.
Mr. Alkhal advised at the time the matter was conveyed to Council all the evaluations necessary had not yet been done in order be that detailed. It was known there was a possibility that phases one, two and three had to be done, that was conveyed, and that is for what funding was tried to be secured. President Schweder affirmed Council was told what was needed and appropriated the funding.
Ms. Szabo commented she does not know what the problems are with the insurance company.
John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, observed Ms. Szabo is referencing that several of the neighbors who had backups in the basement talked to the City. Joseph Kelly, Assistant City Solicitor, was assigned to that issue and talked to the City’s insurance company. A lot of information was exchanged in seeing if the insurance company was willing to work something out. Attorney Spirk advised the insurance company concluded that they did not think there was validity to the claim in terms of liability to the City. Attorney Spirk continued on to say that Attorney Kelly spent a lot of time conveying information back and forth from the neighbors to the City’s insurance company in the hope that perhaps the insurance adjuster would conclude there was validity in terms of City liability. However, the insurance company did not feel there was.
Ms. Szabo, pointing out that the people involved did not create the problem, asked why is the City having this problem with the insurance company.
Attorney Spirk responded because it is their money and they do not think there was liability in terms of the City, and they do not believe that everything that is not the neighbors fault is automatically the City’s fault.
Ms. Szabo highlighted the fact that the taxpayers pay for the City’s insurance coverage.
Attorney Spirk noted it is the insurance company’s money that would ultimately pay the claim and the insurance carrier that looked at it very thoroughly did not think that under Pennsylvania law the City bore any liability.
Ms. Szabo suggested the City begin to look at what actions it is getting from the insurance company.
Mrs. Belinski recalled that the people who were first involved with the sewer matter were told by the then Director of Water and Sewer Resources that they had to contact their homeowners insurance company and the City was not responsible. Mrs. Belinski queried if the problem is because the sewage pipeline is too small. Mr. Alkhal explained it was only too small because it was taking on too much inflow and infiltration. There is water getting into it that normally should not get into it. However, it is an old pipe and experiences a lot of inflow and infiltration and is why it is incapable of conveying through very severe weather. In further response to Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Alkhal advised that downstream the manholes are 14 feet deep. What has been observed is that the downstream segment in the Homestead Avenue area fills up with water almost to the street level and backs up all the way upstream. That is why what happens downstream impacts what happens upstream.
Ms. Szabo was informed by Attorney Spirk that the insurance company is saying it is not the City’s fault.
President Schweder asked whose fault is it according to the insurance company. Attorney Spirk responded one would have to ask them. President Schweder requested that Attorney Spirk have the insurance company representatives at the next City Council Meeting for an explanation.
A. Mayor Callahan – Lehigh County Congress of Governments (COG)
President Schweder stated that Communication 7 A would be passed over because there is a question for the City Council Solicitor.
B. President Schweder – Amending Article 941 – Prohibiting Motorized Vehicles in Parks
The Clerk read a memorandum dated February 1, 2007 from President Schweder to which was attached a proposed Ordinance to amend Article 941, Parks, prohibiting the use of motorized vehicles on the various recreational trails in the City.
President Schweder referred the matter to the Parks and Public Property Committee.
C. Director of Planning and Zoning – Transportation Enhancement Grants – West Broad Street Streetscape Improvements and South Bethlehem Greenway
The Clerk read a memorandum dated January 19, 2007 from Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, attached to which were two resolutions to allow the City to accept Transportation Enhancement funds in the amount of $249,895 for West Broad Street Streetscape Improvements, and in the amount of $800,000 for the South Bethlehem Greenway.
President Schweder referred the matter to the Community Development Committee.
D. Housing and Community Development Planner – Authorizing
Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development
Grant – YMCA
The Clerk read a memorandum dated January 19, 2007 from Irene Woodward, Housing and Community Development Planner, requesting approval of a resolution to file a proposal for funds in the amount of $300,000 with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development for the YMCA project at 430 East Broad Street to rehabilitate and expand the dormitories.
President Schweder referred the matter to the Community Development Committee
E. City Solicitor – Amending Article 1701 – Pennsylvania
Uniform Construction Code
The Clerk read a memorandum dated February 2, 2007 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed ordinance to amend Article 1701 of the Codified Ordinances entitled Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code.
President Schweder referred the matter to the Community Development Committee.
F. City Solicitor – Amending Article 1702 – Fees
for the Enforcement of Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code
The Clerk read a memorandum dated February 2, 2007 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed ordinance to amend Article 1702 of the Codified Ordinances entitled Fees for the Enforcement of the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code.
President Schweder referred the matter to the Community Development Committee.
8 . REPORTS
A. President of Council
1. Councilmanic Appointment – Elayne Malacsics – Library Board
President Schweder appointed Elayne Malacsics, 1629 Kaywin Avenue, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 18018 to membership on the Library Board effective until January 2010. Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,991 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.
1. Administrative Order – Patrick Ytsma – South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District Commission
Mayor Callahan appointed Patrick Ytsma, 140 Biery’s Bridge Road, Bethlehem, PA 18017 to the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District Commission effective until April 2009. Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,992 to confirm the appointment.
President Schweder was informed by Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, that the term of Sal Verrastro who resigned is being filled by an architect.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.
C. Community Development Committee
Ms. Szabo, Chairwoman of the Community Development Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee’s meeting held this evening, February 6, 2007 at 6:45 p.m. on the following: Amending Article 1733 – Carbon Monoxide Detectors.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Authorizing Intermunicipal Liquor License Transfer – 1427 Marvine Street
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Leeson sponsored Resolution 11 A to approve an inter-municipal transfer of Restaurant Liquor License No. R-5834 owned by Groff Real Estate Investments, equitable owner of Liquor License R-5834 formerly owned by Soul Imperial, Inc., formerly licensed to conduct business at 2447 Freemansburg Avenue, Wilson Borough, Easton, PA to 1427 Marvine Street, Bethlehem, Northampton County, Pennsylvania to operate a restaurant.
Mr. Mowrer, with reference to Attorney Zeller’s earlier comments, pointed out that Council specifically asked to have the property posted so people could see what was going on, and the applicant agreed to post it, so people would be able to come to the Meeting this evening and express their views.
Mrs. Belinski queried is it possible for the City to add any restrictions.
President Schweder observed this is probably the first request that has come before Council with amendments in the process. In response to Mrs. Belinski, President Schweder confirmed the procedure necessitates City Council to vote.
Ms. Dolan questioned whether or not Council’s vote is advisory to the State Liquor Control Board.
In light of the absence of Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, at the Meeting, President Schweder asked if Attorneys Spirk or Kelly could respond.
Attorney Spirk advised he does not feel adequately researched on this issue, and would prefer not to speak on the topic.
Mr. Leeson noted it appears that when such a request is presented to City Council it must act within 45 days of the application being made to either approve or to deny the requested transfer of the liquor license. Mr. Leeson communicated it appears under State law that Council could deny the request, and the denial would be based on a finding that if granted it would adversely affect the welfare, health, peace, and morals of the municipality and its residents. If Council were not to act within the time deadline, then it would be automatically approved. If Council acts to deny it the matter is at an end. Mr. Leeson commented it appears the applicant would not be successful in front of the liquor control board unless City Council supported the transfer. Mr. Leeson suggested that Attorney Zeller be given an opportunity to respond since he is giving an off-the-cuff opinion on a quick reading of the law.
Mr. Leeson moved to suspend the Rules of Council to allow Attorney Zeller to speak. Ms. Dolan asked if Attorney Spadoni reviewed the matter would it be beyond the 45 days. President Schweder responded yes. Ms. Dolan seconded the motion with which the Members of Council concurred.
Attorney Zeller said the 45 days is over since the request
was made December 22, 2006.
President Schweder stated that Council did not receive the request on that date.
Mr. Leeson asked if Attorney Zeller felt that Mr. Leeson misstated the law in any way in trying to brief the Members of Council on the matter.
Attorney Zeller replied no, it is right out of the code. Attorney Zeller stated one cannot apply to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board without an approval. Attorney Zeller continued on to state if approval is not given within 45 days, he still cannot apply, and would have to bring a mandamus action against Council. Attorney Zeller noted if the application is denied for whatever reason, there are appeal rights to the Commonwealth Court that was a recent amendment to the statute.
Mr. Leeson, noting Attorney Zeller answered his question, said he thinks there is agreement among the lawyers that he has stated the law correctly, and that Council has to act tonight. Mr. Leeson added if Council does not act there will be deemed approval. Attorney Zeller stated that is not correct. Mr. Leeson recommended that Council act tonight one way or the other.
President Schweder expressed he would believe the answer to Ms. Szabo’s question as to whether there are other liquor license facilities in the same locale is yes.
Ms. Dolan, while remarking citizens were heard unofficially, and at the last meeting she asked the distance between schools and the proposed facility to which she received an answer, noted there is a church next door. Ms. Dolan asked if a liquor license facility can be put next to a church and whether it is one way to evaluate the concept of health, welfare, and so on.
Mr. Leeson said his answer is that the Liquor Control Board addresses issues concerning proximity to churches and schools, and it will be addressed if it gets advanced to that point. Mr. Leeson stated that, speaking as a Councilman and also as a lawyer, he thinks the Members of Council have discretion if they believe this will have an adverse effect on the welfare, health, peace, and morals of the community because of proximity of a school or a church, and it is within their discretion to make that judgment, although strictly speaking it does not use the words church or school.
Ms. Dolan pointed out there are a lot of neighborhoods in areas that have places that sell food and liquor that are located near churches and schools, and that are located near neighborhoods where there are problems. Ms. Dolan observed a precedent cannot be set where one can only put a bar, pub, or restaurant in a neighborhood where there is no crime, no school, or no church. Ms. Dolan, pointing out it is good to have business and activity, stressed a bad thing to do to a neighborhood area is to deny it business, places to go, activities, and things to do. Ms. Dolan communicated there is an automatically tainted view that because a facility is going to sell beer it will drag down the morals of the community. Ms. Dolan noted one of the more convenient liquor stores is located in the general neighborhood in question. Ms. Dolan did not think people should be denied the right to do what is legally their right that is to have a beer with their hamburger. Ms. Dolan did not see how a bar necessarily drags down a neighborhood. As the liaison to the Bethlehem Housing Authority, Ms. Dolan said she would also like to point out that the neighborhood closest to the proposed business has become a very safe neighborhood, and people who live there should not have to drive so far to get a beer with their hamburger.
Mrs. Belinski said she is coming down on the side of the people who will be affected, the increased crime, and the students from Lincoln School passing by. Mrs. Belinski added she does not think the proposal will help the situation.
Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 3. Voting NAY: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, and Mr. Mowrer, 4. The Resolution failed.
Mr. Leeson said in view of the threat of litigation he would like to suggest to Council that a motion be made to include the comments made by the citizens tonight on the subject in the official record of Council, and to be made part of the hearing record. Mr. Leeson so moved, and Mr. Donchez seconded the motion. Noting Council has been told they were not supposed to consider them, Ms. Dolan asked why Council would vote on the motion. Mr. Leeson responded if Council is sued, the Clerk will need to certify the record to the court, and it will become a part of the official record. Mr. Leeson thought the comments of the citizens are very worthwhile and the court needs to see them and to know that Council heard them.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The motion passed.
B. Authorizing Water Service Agreement – Utilities, Inc.–Westgate
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Leeson sponsored Resolution 14,993 authorizing the Mayor and the Controller to execute a Water Service Agreement, according to the terms and conditions, with Utilities, Inc.–Westgate for the purpose of permitting the City’s municipal water system to be connected to Westgate’s private water system for the purpose of providing water in bulk to Westgate for all regular customer uses.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 417 Wyandotte Street
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,994 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a projecting sign at 417 Wyandotte Street.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 110 East Third Street
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,995 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install signage at 110 East Third Street.
12. NEW BUSINESS
Committee Meeting Announcements
Mr. Leeson announced a Finance Committee meeting on February 13, 2007 at 4:15 p.m. in the Mayor’s Conference Room on the subject of Treasurer’s Escrow Account – Borrowing.
Ms. Szabo announced a Community Development Committee meeting on February 13, 2007 following the Finance Committee that will begin at 4:15 p.m. in the Mayor’s Conference Room, on the subjects of Transportation Enhancement Grants – West Broad Street Streetscape Improvements and South Bethlehem Greenway, Authorizing Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Grant – YMCA, Amending Article 1701 – Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code, and Amending Article 1702 – Fees for the Enforcement of Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code; and a Community Development Committee meeting on February 27, 2007 at 6:00 p.m. in Town Hall on the following subjects: Mt. Airy Historic District and Stefko Boulevard Corridor Study.
Ms. Szabo requested that the coffee café referred to as a comparison be looked into. President Schweder, while observing he is not sure that would be appropriate since the matter was already disposed of, noted he would refer the matter to Attorney Spadoni.
Ms. Dolan announced a Human Resources and Environment Committee meeting on February 15, 2007 at 6:00 p.m. in Room A-205 on the following subject: Environmental Advisory Council Ordinance.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Monocacy Complex – Lehigh Little League Field
Chris Sule, 1028 West Market Street, said he is at the Meeting to discuss the baseball field at the Monocacy Complex known as Gene’s field of dreams. Mr. Sule said five years ago he brought a baseball team back to Bethlehem known as the Bethlehem Cardinals and wanted to use the field which is a City field. Mr. Sule explained after bargaining with the president of the league a cost was agreed on to use the field. This past summer the lease agreement between the City and Lehigh Little League was made known to him. Mr. Sule advised that over five seasons he has paid Lehigh Little League the sum of close to $21,000 to use the baseball field, and it is a violation of the lease agreement as well as items on three or four other pages. Mr. Sule stated he is asking for help to get some sort of fair deal. Stressing the Bethlehem Cardinals is a respectable and well known league that has been around for about 75 years, and some of the top ranked school and college players in the area have played on the team, Mr. Sule thought the field is being run with an iron fist by Lehigh Little League. Mr. Sule felt certain the City has not seen any of the $21,000 that was given to Lehigh Little League to play close to 80 games there in five seasons. Mr. Sule, noting he asked for 16 to 18 dates a year, said every year it gets tougher. This year he has already been notified by the president of Lehigh Little League that the team is not welcome back. Mr. Sule continued on to say it clearly states in the lease agreement that the City could be a big part of the scheduling when there is not a Lehigh Little League function. Noting the Little League ends June 15, Mr. Sule said his season runs into August. Mr. Sule added there are two or three other organizations that are being denied the use of the City field. Acknowledging the City and Lehigh Little League did a beautiful job with the field, Mr. Sule expressed the situation is unfortunate. Pointing out it is great exposure in that two local television stations cover games, Mr. Sule informed the Members questions were asked why the team did not end their season there last year, and advised it was because they ran out of money. Repeating his request for help in the upcoming season, Mr. Sule informed the Members he is an assistant head coach at Liberty High School for their baseball team and had a similar problem with the League.
President Schweder advised the matter came to Council’s attention and Mr. Leeson pursued the matter with Charles Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property. Mr. Leeson noted, unless the legal documents that he wrote have changed, no one is allowed to sublease other property. Mr. Leeson stated when the City gives a use permit to a private organization to use public property it is very limited in scope, and they have no right to charge third parties any rental or lease fee. Mr. Leeson stated that money belongs to the City, and needs to be collected by the City.
Mr. Leeson asked when it was first brought to the attention of the City. Mr. Sule responded about two years ago. Mr. Sule explained he was reviewing the lease agreement and was surprised at some of the issues occurring including denial of the public to use the field. Mr. Leeson affirmed the agreements have been in place a long time, the rights of the City are very clear, the rights of the users of the fields are extremely limited, and added he has no idea how this could ever happen. Mr. Leeson asked if anyone from the Administration has an explanation. Charles Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, indicated that other individuals would like to speak to the matter.
Andrew Pitsilos, representing Liberty High School, advised he is a teacher and head baseball coach at Liberty High School, and recounted that about five years ago he thought it would be a good idea to try to bring baseball back to Bethlehem on a larger scale. To bring more exposure to baseball in Bethlehem, night games were originated between Liberty High School, Bethlehem Catholic High School, and Freedom High School at Lehigh Little League and Freemansburg Little League, and about 1,000-1,200 people attended. Mr. Pitsilos, explaining that the cost for the games is increasing, informed the assembly that recently $300 was charged for the lights. Continuing on to state at each game the president of Lehigh Little League has passed the hat, Mr. Pitsilos said nothing has ever been offered back. Last year, the president asked the person working the television camera for $500. Mr. Pitsilos, asking for leniency with the money, advised they are running out of money for the games, and pointed out the games bring a lot of good attention to Bethlehem. Mr. Pitsilos further informed the Members he started the Bethlehem Astros for fall baseball, and to play in front of college scouts. Noting they raise money for the team, Mr. Pitsilos stated they are in need of a home field, in view of the fact that their field is used by the soccer team and there is construction at Liberty High School. He said the only fields available in Bethlehem are private or cost $300 to use. He later pointed out that only about half of the games need to be played under the lights. Advising the City told him the team could play on the Lehigh Little League field that is available to the public, Mr. Pitsilos highlighted the fact that it costs money to do so. Mr. Pitsilos suggested there could be some resolution of the issue so the games can be played and the field can be shared.
Riverport Condominiums – Courtyard Noise from Starters Restaurant
Ana Urrutia, 11 West Second Street at Riverport Condominiums, informed the Members that she and her husband bought the condominium in June 2006, and in the past eight months they have been unable to get regular sleep due to the noise in the courtyard from Starters Riverport restaurant. Ms. Urrutia explained their bedroom windows and walls are parallel to the courtyard where seating outside of the restaurant is located and is also the smoking area, and the air goes into the condominiums. Advising they were told by the Ashley Construction representatives that the walls would be well insulated and soundproof, Ms. Urrutia said they are not, and continued on to say that a shoddy job was done in building the condominiums. She explained that conversations in the hallway outside the condominium can be heard inside, and air comes in through the windows when they are closed. Ms. Urrutia informed the assembly that in the courtyard she has witnessed public urination, relationships, fights, and cursing, and loud echos every night. Ms. Urrutia stressed she is at the Meeting because she wants something to be done about the situation now. Ms. Urrutia advised on October 24, 2006 she anonymously wrote a letter to the owner of Starters Riverport restaurant to inform him what has been occurring but nothing happened. Afterwards, she and her husband approached the owner and told him their concerns and the fact that they cannot sleep at night, but again nothing was done. They then brought their concerns to the property managers and to the condominium board, and have called the Police on several occasions. On Friday, January 19, 2007, Ms. Urrutia called the Police about the noise sometime between midnight and 1:00 a.m. but nothing was done. When Ms. Urrutia called again, Police Officers did come, and she saw them speaking to the restaurant managers, but by the time they reached her condominium everyone had left the courtyard, and the Officers said there is no noise, there is nothing they can do, and that she and her husband bought into this lifestyle. Stressing that she and her husband deserve to sleep, Ms. Urrutia said they have been wearing earplugs to sleep, and have missed hearing a fire alarm.
Aziz Attieh, 11 West Second Street at Riverport Condominiums, expressed his agreement with Ms. Urrutia’s comments, and stated her comments were very accurate. Mr. Attieh advised that he spoke with John Lezoche, the City’s Zoning Officer, and was told there needs to be ½ inch of drywall between the neighbors. Mr. Attieh informed the Members that he and his fiancée were told by Ashley representatives that the restaurant would be fine dining, and they had no idea it would be the largest restaurant in Bethlehem. Noting that when Starters Riverport restaurant opened it was a nice atmosphere and he enjoyed it, Mr. Attieh stated that recently the atmosphere in the restaurant has changed on the weekends. Mr. Attieh advised the past weekend he called the Police because of the loud noise in the courtyard. Affirming he spoke with Ashley Development representatives and was told that Starters has a lot invested there, Mr. Attieh stressed he and others also do. Mr. Attieh informed the assembly he started his own committee outside of the board of directors, and distributed flyers throughout the building, including at Starters, about holding a meeting. Advising the meeting was very successful and attended by over 30 people, Mr. Attieh said he found out he was not the only one who had concerns. Mr. Attieh related that one evening they called the Police at about 12:45 a.m. and 12:50 a.m., and the Police Officers came and closed the patio at about 1:50 a.m. Mr. Attieh explained he spoke to the owner’s son about the music played by the disc jockey, advised it is played so loud that the walls and pictures in the condominiums vibrate and shake, and added that before he enters his condominium the floors on the walkway shake. Relating he asked that the music be turned down, Mr. Attieh said the following weekend the music was not turned down. Mr. Attieh asked that the matter be rectified in some way. Mr. Attieh explained he was not told he would be exposed to this type of atmosphere when he bought the condominium or he would not have moved there.
Mr. Leeson requested that the Community and Economic Development Department and the Police Department look into the situation. Mr. Leeson noted he is not sure what can be done from an Ordinance perspective due to private property issues and private property rights. Mr. Leeson advised he has heard a lot of comments from a lot of residents at the condominiums with similar complaints, and observed it seems to be a growing problem. Mr. Leeson wondered whether the matter could be listed under Old Business for next month’s Council Meeting for the Community and Economic Development Department and the Police Department to report back on the problem to see if there is anything the City can do to help.
President Schweder asked if the facility is in fact outdoors.
Randall Miller, Police Commissioner, noted it is the second open courtyard area where people smoke.
President Schweder recalled that an Ordinance had been adopted regulating outdoor dining and the time it had to close, and highlighted the fact that there is a Noise Ordinance. President Schweder stated the matter could be listed under Old Business for a response from the Departments.
Monocacy Complex – Lehigh Little League Field
Shawn Bogert, 1608 West Broad Street, pointed out there are numerous individuals who continue to be denied free access to the baseball field at Monocacy Complex that is a public facility built by volunteers and taxpayer dollars. Mr. Bogert informed the Members he is involved in publishing the Lehigh Valley Sports Extra, and announces the games for the Cardinals. Mr. Bogert continued on to say he has observed attendance of 40 to 67 people at the games. Explaining he asked the president of Lehigh Little League why the stands are not open and was told that it does not pay because there are not enough people in attendance, Mr. Bogert pointed out that his and other families would like to have access to the stands so they can eat while they watch the games. Mr. Bogert advised he offered to pay for someone to tend the stands, and parents have offered to tend the stands. Mr. Bogert pointed out when Lehigh Little League has some other activities there such as legion games there may be 10 or 20 people in attendance but the stands are open. Mr. Bogert said, in addition, a television announcer who asked why the stands are not open highlighted the fact that the crew of 10-15 people would like to eat there. Mr. Bogert informed the Members when teams have played at other local venues the stands are open. Mr. Bogert related this past fall, Lehigh Little League announced a fall tournament but it was cancelled when the president found out that one of the other local baseball organizations had entered. This resulted in the team not having a field to play on, until Fountain Hill Little League assisted. Mr. Bogert explained that a pitcher for the Cardinals was working out with a young person on the field who was given permission to be on the field, but was then approached by the president of Lehigh Little League and was told to get off the field, the president called the Police, and the Police threatened to arrest the pitcher in the presence of the young person who he was trying to help.
Charles Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, expressed everything that was said is pretty near correct. Mr. Brown noted that Lehigh Little League services Hanover Township for probably more than 50% of the players. Explaining that a lot of work went into completing the field, Mr. Brown affirmed it is a City field. Mr. Brown, advising that last year there were the same problems, stated the City met with Lehigh Little League and sort of resolved it. Mr. Brown agreed that high schools should not be charged, and acknowledged that sometimes the league does collect from the television stations. Mr. Brown said it is not on the league’s financial records that they received money. Mr. Brown communicated he would like the opportunity to meet with Lehigh Little League and share information with Council. Mr. Brown, pointing out the league does have expenses, indicated it was noted that the Blue Mountain League does not leave the area clean and does not fix the field so that must be done by Lehigh Little League but they are being paid for that service. Mr. Brown stated he does not want to deny Lehigh Little League because it is an excellent Little League that does a lot for kids. Confirming the City met with Lehigh Little League last year, Mr. Brown commented that the City has not had the right to schedule as specified in the lease agreement. Mr. Brown felt that Lehigh Little League should be given the opportunity to rectify the matter.
President Schweder communicated that Blue Mountain League or others leaving the facilities in bad condition is not true. President Schweder observed it is a City field for which upkeep is paid with taxpayers money, and asked why the City would not take responsibility for the lease with teams that wish to play on the fields.
Mr. Brown, affirming the City tried to and told Lehigh Little League not to charge, informed President Schweder the lease states that the City has the first right and he has tried to enforce it the last five years. Mr. Brown asked that Council give him the opportunity to meet with Mr. Ashner, the president of Lehigh Little League.
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, highlighting the fact that he brought the issue to Council’s attention last fall, said Blue Mountain League had to pay $275 if they could get access to the field. The team had to go to Limeport stadium where they paid $100, they received a share of the admission charge, and if they used the lights they paid about $50. Mr. Grubb asserted the City needs to take back control of its own facility. Mr. Grubb thought the minutes should be researched from the time when the lease was discussed with Lehigh Little League at which time a former Member of Council raised the issue of exclusive use of a public facility and was assured by Mr. Ashner that would not be the case. Pointing out that fields are hard to come by, Mr. Grubb insisted they have to be scheduled judiciously so everyone can have access. He added that any money charged should go to the City and not to Lehigh Little League. Mr. Grubb communicated that Lehigh Little League does not have the right to sublet the property and yet they are getting fees.
Homestead Avenue – Sewer Problem
Mr. Grubb stressed that a dollar figure cannot be placed on what the neighbors have been facing with the Homestead Avenue sewer problem and the stress, uncertainty, confusion, and frustration. Adding the residents have faced delays and insurance losses, Mr. Grubb pointed out the irony that as taxpayers the residents pay the insurance premiums but the City’s insurance company will not pay them for their losses, and they in turn have to consider suing City government. Mr. Grubb thought the City needs to continue to follow through and ensure the residents do not suffer the stress, uncertainty, and sleeplessness many of them have faced, and hopefully no more insurance losses.
Vote by Council, Noise, Homestead Avenue – Sewer Problem, and Liquor License Transfer
Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street, questioning the legality of a vote tonight, said if Mr. Leeson gave a legal opinion he is serving as an attorney and should not have a right to vote on that particular item. Ms. Pongracz asked why there is not legal representation available when Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, is not present at the Council Meeting, and felt Council puts themselves in a very difficult position without a legal representative.
Ms. Pongracz, referring to the earlier comments about noise, remarked one should come to the 200 and 300 blocks of East Fifth Street every weekend when Lehigh University students are having fun.
Ms. Pongracz, with reference to construction of the sewer line in the Homestead Avenue vicinity, expressed she would rather wait and have work done properly than have it done on time and done improperly.
Ms. Pongracz asserted that Council is not in the business of legislating morality. Observing that 20 people are needed to form a church, Ms. Pongracz stressed that 20 people living within a block of the proposed facility for which a liquor license transfer has been requested have the ability to stop a businessman with a long, prosperous, and honest record.
Suburban Greenway Awards - Blumenplatz and Garden of Serenity
Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, informed the assembly that in the latest issue of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society newsletter there were two Bethlehem winners of the 2006 suburban greenway awards that were the Blumenplatz garden at Musikfest and the Garden of Serenity.
Northampton County Funding - Commerce Center Boulevard
Mr. Pfenning related that at the Northampton County Council meeting last week an ordinance was proposed to retrieve funding for shrubs, landscaping, and signage for the Commerce Center Boulevard project. However, the City Administration said they wanted $700,000, and the ordinance was defeated. Noting that one of the people in opposition said it was unfair of the City to ask for one thing and then come back and ask for trees and signage, Mr. Pfenning pointed out that Mr. Alkhal’s letter of June 2006 clearly indicated that part of what was being requested was for trees and signage. Mr. Pfenning related the opponents claimed that the Mayor in his testimony or in a letter said the project was complete. Referring to Mr. Alkhal’s letter dated August 23, 2006, Mr. Pfenning stressed it did not say the project was complete but rather that the road was built. Mr. Pfenning thought the City may not get the money for the remainder of the Commerce Center Boulevard project.
Blast Furnaces - Preservation
Mr. Pfenning, with reference to a proposal where the Las Vegas Sands said the former Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces would be stabilized and preserved, noted Mayor Callahan was quoted in the newspaper as saying the General Fund would need to be considered. Adding this was the same week in which Mr. Krauss of Las Vegas Sands testified that imposition of a fee would hurt the bottom line, Mr. Pfenning thought if the revenues go down then the investment has to go down and he is not happy about it.
Lehigh Little League
Peter Crownfield, 569 Brighton Street, querying if he would decide to invite people to play games on the City Center Plaza and charge a fee for it what would the City do, suggested the City should try doing that to the Lehigh Little League.
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, affirming he was a negative but turned his life around, noted City Council does not have experience with negativity so how could they possibility know what is happening in the community, and many others do not either except for the Police. Mr. Rodriquez stressed his intent in coming to the Meetings is to alert and advise City officials and the public as to what is happening and what would occur in the not too distant future. Mr. Rodriquez highlighted the fact that is exactly what is happening regardless of whether or not the casinos are here, and many are experiencing in their own neighborhoods what he has been talking about for the past two years. Mr. Rodriquez stressed there is a noise problem in the City, and that something should be done about what is happening at the Riverport Condominiums. Mr. Rodriquez said there is a lot of land being bought in Bethlehem, and questioned where are people going to live. Mr. Rodriquez pointed out that people need to be able to park on the South Side and stated he thinks the issue needs to be discussed at the Council Meeting. Mr. Rodriquez remarked that because of two individuals who have a municipal lease for 20 years on the South Side people are not allowed to park there.
Rosemont and Homestead Avenue – Sewer Project
Beverly Phelan, 1857 Homestead Avenue, thanked City Council for being an advocate to the neighborhood, and extended to the Mayor her gratitude and thanks for accepting the challenge when the needs of the neighborhood had been dismissed for many years concerning the sewer problems. Ms. Phelan communicated it is her understanding that it was in the best interests of the neighborhood that the Homestead Avenue sewer project be done correctly. Ms. Phelan, recalling she has heard Mrs. Belinski challenging Mr. Brong about the City’s maintaining the sewer lines, said her understanding from what she has heard at the Council Meetings is that maintaining the lines means roto-routering the lines to make sure that everything is clear so there would not be a backup or a surcharge. Noting she was instructed to submit a claim for reimbursement of damage through the City’s insurance carrier, Ms. Phelan said her denial was based on the fact that the City was not at fault because it had maintained the lines. Ms. Phelan noted that at the July 5, 2006 City Council Meeting Mrs. Belinski challenged Mr. Brong about maintaining the lines and Mr. Brong stated that the line has been maintained, and it is a matter of capacity and deterioration. Ms. Phelan stated, if it is a matter of capacity and deterioration, then she does not think the City has maintained the line and she thought the line is being maintained now by doing the upgrade. Ms. Phelan commented if she is not correct in that she wished someone could clarify it. Ms. Phelan said the minutes of the July 5, 2006 City Council Meeting were sent to the City’s insurance company with that statement highlighted, and there was a second denial. Ms. Phelan recounted she had told the Mayor when the matter initially started that the neighbors would like to deal with the City in an amicable fashion. Ms. Phelan stressed she resents being told that if she wants compensation she has to sue her City, and finds that appalling. Ms. Phelan restated she would like to resolve the issue in an amicable fashion.
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, wondered why there are not Muslim or Jewish clergy giving the invocation. President Schweder explained they have been invited but have been unable to attend.
Broughal Middle School – Preservation
Michael Kramer, representing Friends of Broughal School, that seeks to find a way to avoid demolition of Broughal Middle School, noted there are a growing number of citizens who feel there must be another way out of the situation. Mr. Kramer read a letter dated February 6, 2007 from the Lehigh Valley branch of the Sierra Club stating that the Executive Committee of the Lehigh Valley Group of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club voted unanimously to support the adaptive reuse of the Broughal School building and to oppose plans for its demolition. The Sierra Club believes that in addition to providing the obvious environmental benefits of resource conservation and pollution reduction, preservation and reuse of the structure will serve historical and cultural values important to the quality of life in Bethlehem. Mr. Kramer pointed out there are many letters of that type being submitted. Mr. Kramer communicated that some comments have been made that if the group could find a viable alternative the School Board would listen to the group. Mr. Kramer, highlighting the fact that the group is not in a situation to negotiate with anyone and does not have any money, expressed the hope that the City could become more involved. Mr. Kramer observed the reuse of Broughal Middle School would have economic benefits to the City, and wondered whether a City Department would be willing to make some investigations and contact the School Board about reusing the building.
Amey Senape, representing Friends of Broughal School, confirmed that she submitted a statement dated February 6, 2007 to the Members of Council. Ms. Senape informed the assembly that last night the group submitted to the School Board a proposed Request for Proposal (RFP). Ms. Senape asked City Council to take a more active role and think about submitting a formal letter to the School Board supporting the RFP process and adaptive reuse of the National Register eligible building. Ms. Senape confirmed she submitted to the Members of Council a letter in support of the RFP and adaptive reuse of Broughal Middle School from Senator Boscola, and Representatives Freeman, Brennan, and Samuelson. Pointing out that letters of support have been received from the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission, and Preservation Pennsylvania, Ms. Senape said the group would like to have a similar letter from City Council, and added she knows Council sent a letter in the past.
William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, expressed the hope that the RFP will be issued by the School District, and there would be nothing in it that would preclude the City from saying in response to the RFP it would like to propose turning the building into a community center.
Rosemont and Homestead Avenue – Sewer Project
Mr. Scheirer, referring to the Homestead Avenue sewer problem, said clearly the City is liable. Stating the City may have maintained the line according to some technical definition, Mr. Scheirer stressed the City is obligated to provide adequate sewage capacity. Mr. Scheirer insisted the City failed and that is why it has liability insurance, and added the insurance companies always try to play hardball. Mr. Scheirer suggested that the City cancel its insurance policy as soon as possible and get another one, and say it is at fault and the people should not have to pay what they have had to pay. Mr. Scheirer did not think it was right for the City to have to compensate the neighbors for their losses. Mr. Scheirer suggested alternatively that, if the neighbors sue the insurance company, the City intervene on the citizens’ behalf as a friend of the court.
Easton Suburban Water Authority
David Brong, Water and Sewer Resources Director, stating the one reality of the water system is that there is not enough revenue, said the largest opportunity is in Bethlehem Township. Mr. Brong explained that last December he decided to reach out to Easton Suburban Water Authority to see if there were any potential for some discussion in an effort to serve them bulk water, and to have Easton Suburban resell Bethlehem water into that area. Mr. Brong, pointing out that his letter got attention, remarked that the rhetoric surrounding his reaching out was a little disturbing. Mr. Brong observed the Department was criticized for its most recent interest in expanding the City’s water system into the Bethlehem Township area. Mr. Brong reminded the Members that the issue of $6.8 million of infrastructure that was spent and the proposed $16-$20 million of plant upgrades for which the organization is soliciting the State for a loan was never discussed with the City with respect to how its regional water system may play into that scenario, and to keep the ratepayers from having to foot the bill for a significant amount of money. Mr. Brong advised that the City’s water utility has been positioned so that it can be expanded if needed and so that the City can compete if needed. Mr. Brong, continuing on to query what happens if they say they are not interested in working with the City, advised that he knows two of the four major developments in that corridor have requested City of Bethlehem water. Mr. Brong, saying he is not going to tell them no, communicated he is going to do whatever he has to do in order to serve them because the City’s water system and income statements need the revenue. Mr. Brong added he wants that option open in case they say no. Mr. Brong suggested that a Public Works Committee meeting be scheduled to discuss the details, and to receive input.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:15 p.m.