The City of Bethlehem uses an independent third party tool to provide automated language translation. As with any machine translation, the conversion is not context-sensitive and may not fully translate text into its intended meaning. Therefore, the City of Bethlehem does not guarantee the accuracy of the translated text and it should not be relied upon for anything other than informational purposes. We recommend that if you experience difficulty, or doubt the accuracy of the translation, you contact the proper City of Bethlehem department for the information you seek. Please note that some applications and or services may not work as expected when translated.
July 3, 2007 Meeting Minutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, July 3, 2007 – 7:30 PM
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President Schweder called the meeting to order. Nihat Yesil, Resident Imam and Muslim Cleric of the Lehigh Dialogue Center offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Jean Belinski, Robert J. Donchez, Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., Gordon B. Mowrer, Magdalena F. Szabo, and J. Michael Schweder, 6. Karen Dolan was absent, 1.
President Schweder noted that Citations for William Newhart, who retired from the Community and Economic Development Department after 35 years of service, and Vincent Perez, who retired from the Water and Sewer Resources Department after 34 years of service, would be delivered to them since they were unable to be present at the Meeting.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of June 19, 2007 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances
and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
Bill No. 20 – 2007 - – Amending Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (SALDO) – Section 1347.10 – Recreation Land and Fees
Chuck Nyul, 1966 Pinehurst Road, commenting on the Recreation Land and Fees and the fees for developers in the City, said he disagrees with some of the developments and others he thinks are good for the future. Mr. Nyul referred to the budget passed back in December and asked if the City is broke in the recreation area.
Mrs. Belinski answered yes the City is broke. Mr. Nyul asked why this wasn't included when the budget was passed. Mr. Nyul said he thinks Council should not vote for this. Mr. Nyul then referred to a vote by the Planning Commission that approved cutting down trees to build 26 Habitat Homes on South Mountain. He asked if they will be paying this fee.
President Schweder replied that Council can only vote on these when they are presented by the Administration and that this plan was presented after December. President Schweder added that any plan that went in prior to enactment of this would not be covered by the fee. Mr. Nyul asked if Martin Tower would then be covered. President Schweder said it is his belief that this is the first project that will be covered. Mr. Nyul asked if everything, including non-profits, will then come under this ordinance. President Schweder said it will, subject to negotiation. Mr. Nyul said he has a hard time with negotiating. He said if Council is going to vote on something they should stand up and do it. President Schweder stated that if Mr. Nyul had been at the meeting two weeks ago, he would have seen that the Members of Council have struggled with this issue and President Schweder said he thinks it is a flawed ordinance as it is written but if it is not enacted now, and then changed at some point, then the largest residential development the City has ever seen will be removed from the process. He said that is the alternative.
6. OLD BUSINESS – None.
A. Police Commissioner – Special Event Parking Fines – Musikfest 2007
The Acting Clerk read a memorandum dated June 25, 2007 from Randall Miller, Police Commissioner, requesting consideration of a resolution covering Special Event Parking during Musikfest 2007 from 12:00 Noon on Friday, August 3, 2007 through 12:00 Midnight at the end of Sunday, August 12, 2007.
President Schweder stated that the appropriate resolution will be on the July 17 Agenda.
B. City Solicitor – Intergovernmental Financial Participation Agreement – Easton Avenue Storm Sewer Project
The Acting Clerk read a memorandum dated June 29, 2007 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a revised Intergovernmental Financial Participation Agreement for Council's consideration.
President Schweder stated that Resolution 11 B is listed on the agenda.
C. City Solicitor – Records Destruction Resolution – Human Resources Bureau
The Acting Clerk read a memorandum dated June 29, 2007 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, requesting a resolution for the destruction of records from the Human Resources Bureau. The Law Bureau has reviewed the Municipal Records Retention Act and the records fall within categories where destruction is permitted.
President Schweder stated the Resolution will be on the July 17 Agenda.
D. Director of Parks and Public Property – PPL Right of Way – Saucon Park
The Acting Clerk read a memorandum dated June 29, 2007 from Ralph Carp, Director of Parks and Public Property, requesting consideration of a resolution granting a Right of Way for PPL to construct electric and communication lines on property of the City of Bethlehem along Fire Lane. Due to the urgency of having the electric line installed in time for the beginning of the Saints Youth Football League season, it was requested that this resolution be placed on the agenda.
President Schweder stated that Resolution 11 E is listed on the Agenda.
8 . REPORTS
A. President of Council – None.
1. Administrative Order – William Fitzpatrick – Zoning Hearing Board
Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, read Mayor Callahan's Administrative Order reappointing William Fitzpatrick to membership on the Zoning Hearing Board effective until June 2010. Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 15,090 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Resolution passed.
2. Administrative Order - C. Frank Shipman- Fine Arts Commission
Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, read Mayor Callahan's Administrative Order reappointing C. Frank Shipman to membership on the Fine Arts Commission effective until June 2010. Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 15,091 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Resolution passed.
3. Administrative Order – Gene Hoffman – Plumber's Examining Board
Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, read Mayor Callahan's Administrative Order reappointing Gene Hoffman to membership on the Plumber's Examining Board effective until June 2011. Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 15,092 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Resolution passed.
C. Parks and Public Property Committee
Mrs. Belinski, Chairwoman of the Parks and Public Property Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee's meeting held prior to this evening's City Council Meeting on the following subject: Tower Lease Agreement – Omnipoint Communications – Monocacy Park on Illick's Mill Road.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 15 – 2007 – Street Vacation – Portion of Deschler Street
The Acting Clerk read Bill No. 15 – 2007 – Street Vacation – Portion of Deschler Street, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 15 – 2007, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4434, was declared adopted.
B. Bill No. 16 – 2007 – Amending General Fund
Budget – Parks Department – Equipment Repair;
and Economic Development – Loan Costs
The Acting Clerk read Bill No. 16 – 2007 – Amending General Fund Budget – Parks Department – Equipment Repair; and Economic Development – Loan Costs, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 16 – 2007, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4435, was declared adopted.
C. Bill No. 17 – 2007 – Amending Article 129 – Municipal Bond Funds - Restrictions
The Acting Clerk read Bill No. 17 – 2007 – Amending Article 129 – Municipal Bond Funds – Restrictions, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 17 – 2007, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4436, was declared adopted.
D. Bill No. 18 – 2007 – Amending 2007 Liquid Fuels Fund Budget – Easton Avenue ADA SS Improvements
The Acting Clerk read Bill No. 18 – 2007 – Amending 2007 Liquid Fuels Fund Budget – Easton Avenue ADA SS Improvements, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 18 – 2007, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4437, was declared adopted.
E. Bill No. 19 – 2007 – Amending 2007 Community Development Budget – CDBG and HOME Programs
The Acting Clerk read Bill No. 19 – 2007 – Amending
2007 Community Development Budget – CDBG and HOME Programs,
on Final Reading.
Ms. Szabo asked if City Council had any input into this ordinance or was it an administrative ordinance. President Schweder replied it came from the Administration and went to the Finance Committee.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 19 – 2007, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4438, was declared adopted.
F. Bill No. 20 – 2007 – Amending Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (SALDO) – Section 1347.10 – Recreation Land and Fees
The Acting Clerk read Bill No. 20 – 2007 – Amending Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (SALDO) – Section 1347.10 – Recreation Land and Fees, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 20 – 2007, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4439, was declared adopted.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Authorizing Use Permit Agreement for Public Property – Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce – Annual Clambake and Company Picnic
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 15,093 that authorized the execution of a Use Permit Agreement between the City and the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce for the area beneath the Hill to Hill Bridge for the Annual Clambake and Company Picnic for the time period July 12, 2007 through July 14, 2007, according to the terms and conditions of the Lease.
B. Authorizing Intergovernmental Financial Participation Agreement – Pennsylvania Department of Transportation – Easton Avenue Storm Sewer Project
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 15,094 that authorized the execution of an Intergovernmental Financial Participation Agreement between the City and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, acting through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, for the installation of drainage improvements along Easton Avenue in the vicinity of West Boulevard and Covington Avenue.
C. Authorizing Application – DCNR Grant – Greenway Design
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 15,095 that authorized the execution of the Grant Application and Grant Agreement with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources concerning the Bethlehem Greenway Trail – Phase I Implementation Plan for the purpose of carrying out the project.
Mr. Donchez asked who is responsible for cutting the grass and the upkeep of that property. Mayor Callahan replied that at this point it continues to be Norfolk Southern, the City of Bethlehem does not own the property and periodically Norfolk Southern has been called to clean it up.
D. Approving Parks and Recreation Plan
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 15,096 that adopted the Parks and Recreation Plan – 2007 and is incorporated into the Comprehensive Plan for the City of Bethlehem, known as the Bethlehem Vision Plan that was approved by City Council on July 16, 1991 (Resolution 11,490).
E. Authorizing Right of Way Agreement – PPL Electric Utilities Corporation – Fire Lane
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 15,097 that authorized the execution of a Right of Way Agreement with PPL Electric Utilities Corporation for the purpose of granting permission to construct, reconstruct, operate and maintain its electric and communication lines along Fire Lane, according to the terms of the Agreement.
Considering Resolutions As A Group
Mr. Mowrer and Ms. Szabo moved that Resolutions 11 F through 11 H be considered as a group. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The motion passed.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 337 South New Street
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 15,098 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to alter the façade and replace windows at 337 South New Street.
G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 318 East Third Street
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 15,099 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install signage at 318 East Third Street.
H. Certificate of Appropriateness – 23 West Fourth Street
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 15,100 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install signage at 23 West Fourth Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 F through 11 H: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Resolutions passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS
Rescheduling First City Council Meeting in August
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski moved to reschedule City Council’s first Meeting in August from Tuesday, August 7 to Tuesday, July 31, 2007 at 7:30 PM in Town Hall since Musikfest occurs during the first week of August to be able to accommodate the public during that time. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The motion passed.
New Police Vehicles
Mrs. Belinski stated that a few weeks ago she had a conversation with one of the Police officers and she asked him if the six new cars came in and if they were on the road. She said the officer said no they were sitting in the garage for the last three and one-half weeks because there wasn't enough money in the budget for the equipment. Mrs. Belinski commented that a large sum of money was borrowed and thought the money included the equipment. Mrs. Belinski said she then went to the supervisor of the garage who told her they were told that the money was used for something else. Mrs. Belinski questioned why the equipment wasn't ordered at the same time the cars were ordered. She explained that it takes approximately 40 man hours to install all the equipment on one car to put it out on the road. She asked then when the equipment was going to be in and was told that it would be 8 to 12 weeks. Mrs. Belinski explained that Ralph Carp, Director of Parks and Public Property, informed her earlier in the evening that it would not take that long to get the equipment. Mrs. Belinski questioned once the equipment is here, how all the equipment can be put in with only the one person in the garage who does that work. Mrs. Belinski said the money was borrowed and there is interest being paid on it, and it is taking all this time and the cars are still not on the road. She said she is not happy and asked if the Administration had an explanation.
Mayor Callahan stated that it was a mistake, an oversight and that Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, could respond to the status of the cars.
Mr. Reichard stated that the money was not used for anything else. He explained that when the cars were ordered, it was assumed that everything was in them. He said then the line item was reduced, the excess money was taken out of the vehicles, and that was a balance to reduce the Bond Issue. He said the cars were ordered, it was encumbered, so the excess monies were reduced. Mr. Reichard said there was not enough money for the bars and striping and those types of things, and it was a mistake. He reiterated that there was no money moved from that line item to purchase anything else.
Randall Miller, Police Commissioner, noted that the equipment is not usually ordered right away until the cars come in. He said in this case there was one car that was a wreck that had equipment on it and that equipment is salvaged from old cars. He said it is not known right away everything that will be needed and it is not unusual that the supplies aren't ordered right away. He said most of the items are in stock and that should not hold it up.
Mr. Leeson stated that, with regard to new automobiles, he wanted to remind everyone as an institution and as a community that City Council was not told about the $2.3 million transfer from Federal and State grant monies to meet payroll in the Fourth Quarter, so as a result the budget started off the year with what he believes was a planned deficit. He said he thinks that is a first in the history of the City. Council did not know about that so they were not able to address that. He said then not only was a shortfall carried over from 2006, but the 2007 budget is not a real budget because of the unrealistic projections concerning revenues and expenditures. Mr. Leeson recalled the vigorous, strong and healthy debates about buying new cars even not knowing about the deficit. He said additional expense should not be incurred by borrowing money to pay for what he believes are items that should be in the General Fund Budget. Mr. Leeson stated that amidst the growing red ink, and the City is running out of money due to medical insurance obligations, workers' compensation insurance obligations, payroll will not be met in the Fourth Quarter, and the City is at risk for not meeting a $2 million municipal bond payment in the Fourth Quarter, and yet, Mr. Leeson said, he noticed the Mayor's new car. Mr. Leeson remarked that maybe the Mayor needs a new car and doesn't dispute that fact, but in his view he thinks it sets a very poor example to rest of the Administrative staff throughout City Hall to do that at a time like this. He said to make matters even more complicated, Mr. Leeson said City Council did not authorize the new car. Mr. Leeson said Council asked for a complete listing of all the vehicles that needed to be replaced for 2007 and said there was a lot of debate over that. Mr. Leeson said it is a poor example and that they should lead by example. This is a time when everybody else in City Hall has been asked to cut back so the situation can be salvaged and somehow get through the end of the year. Mr. Leeson said to the Mayor that he did not think this is good leadership or a good example. Mr. Leeson then asked where the money came from to pay for it and also asked if there were any other new cars being purchased for anyone not identified in the budget.
Mayor Callahan responded that the City will make payroll and the bond payment as the City always has, and said he has not made it a secret to anyone over the last three or four years about the financial status of the City and the tightening of the budget. He commented that in the State of the City or at the Business Leaders' Breakfast or any of the various speeches he gives on an annual basis, or speaking with S&P and the reason the City's bond rating is in the condition it is in, it is not a mystery to anyone of the tightening the City is under right now. Mayor Callahan remarked that the financial outlook for the City of Bethlehem and the taxpayers has probably never been brighter than it is right now given the economic development that is on the horizon with the $600 million of the Bethworks project which will on an annual basis bring to the City an $8.7 million hosting tax fee. Mayor Callahan said the future of the City, despite the short term tightening, has never been brighter than it is right now.
Mayor Callahan, responding with regard to the car, said he thinks he has led by example. He said he has been Mayor for three and one-half years and it wasn't as if the first thing he did when coming into office was to buy himself a new car. He said he used the same car that Mayor Cunningham and Mayor Delgrosso used. He said the cars are getting up there in mileage and the decision was made that since he typically uses the car for longer distances, like to go to Harrisburg or to Philadelphia, or to other duties he has as Mayor, that no extra cars were bought, but instead his old car was given to another employee and it was recommended the Mayor take the new car.
Mr. Mowrer commented that he would have been happier to see a hybrid in the Mayor's spot since that was talked about at budget time and thinks that would have been a great opportunity to lead by example in getting a new hybrid. Mr. Mowrer asked that status if any hybrids are planned and if so where. He said he would also like to know who gets the cars that are purchased. He said by getting a hybrid a statement could be made by City Hall.
Mayor Callahan stated that he agrees and thinks that the City needs to continue to look at the opportunities that exist to purchase hybrids. He said he believes they are coming down in cost but right now they are rather expensive. Mayor Callahan said he understands that the ongoing cost of maintaining the car with better gas mileage, but the upfront cost does not always justify the ongoing savings. He said the decision was made at this point, given the situation the City is in, not to purchase a hybrid.
Mr. Mowrer said he would be interested in seeing the list of vehicles that are programmed for the rest of the year, and he said he would like to see a hybrid.
President Schweder asked the Mayor what was the line item that was listed in the budget for the car that was purchased. Mayor Callahan replied he did not know. President Schweder asked then if it was not listed as the Mayor's car. Mayor Callahan said it was not. President Schweder asked if it would have been listed as a car for some department. Mayor Callahan said that was correct. President Schweder asked if there was some ruling or ordinance he does not know about that says when Council passes a budget that a member of the Administration or the Mayor can unilaterally turn and move things around after they have been passed by Council. He asked, for example, if the Mayor would have liked one of the Police cars or a fire truck better, would that have allowed the Mayor to make the decision to do that. He said he would like to know the ramifications and the justifications to do that. Mayor Callahan remarked he did not think he would be driving a fire truck any time soon. He said he swapped out a Chevy Impala for a Chevy Impala. Mayor Callahan said the same amount of cars that Council authorized for purchase were purchased. He said if Council wants to approve when one car for another is moved and how the City's fleet is managed, he will turn it over to City Council. He said no extra cars were purchased and instead of him driving the Chevy Impala with 52,000 miles, someone else from the City is driving that and he is driving the new Impala. President Schweder stated that it doesn't matter to him what kind of car the Mayor has or what it was traded off for, and said what he wants to know is what is the justification by law that gives the Mayor the right when Council approved something specifically, how that can be altered because then it would seem that the rationale is that can be done for anything.
Mr. Reichard stated that since he has been with the City it has always been the practice that if the Mayor's car had a lot of mileage that when new cars were ordered the Mayor would then pick one of the newer cars and then their old car would go into the fleet. President Schweder said he would like the precedent sent to Council and the legal justification for doing that, and said his point is that if you can do it for this you can do it for anything. Mayor Callahan asked if President Schweder was opposed to him driving that car. President Schweder said his point is that what the Mayor drives is immaterial and Council goes through deliberations of the budget and Council specifically knew what kind of automobiles were going to the Police Department, Health Department and Fire Department. He said that is what Council voted on. He said what concerns him is that unilaterally without ever coming back to Finance or talking to anybody, that things were changed in the budget. Mayor Callahan said no additional dollars were spent. President Schweder stated he did not think the Mayor had the legal justification to alter things within the budget because the Mayor thinks he can. President Schweder would like to see the legal basis for doing that because if the Mayor has that, Council does not have to go through this process, there could just be a lump sum. Mayor Callahan said that when deciding the City's fleet budget, the Administration puts a request forward for those cars that are believed are needed for the following year. Mayor Callahan again asked President Schweder if he had a problem with him driving that car as opposed to someone else driving that car and said he is having trouble understanding the difference. President Schweder repeated again what he would like is the legal justification Mayor Callahan or any previous Mayor has that allows the Mayor to alter an ordinance passed by City Council as part of the budget.
Mr. Leeson made a motion, seconded by Mrs. Belinski, that the City Council of the City of Bethlehem refer to the City of Bethlehem Recreation Commission the Parks and Recreation Plan adopted this evening and also the newly adopted Section 1347.10 of the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance concerning Recreation Land and Fees with the request that the Recreation Commission study and evaluate both and make appropriate recommendations for any amendments they deem worthy of Council's consideration.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Motion passed.
Expression of Thanks
Ms. Szabo expressed her thanks to everybody for their prayers and who sent cards, flowers, calls, and notes of concern while she was out ill.
Committee Meeting Announcement
President Schweder announced a Human Resources and Environment Committee meeting on Tuesday, July 10, 2007 at 6:00 PM in Town Hall regarding the Environmental Advisory Council – Preliminary Selections.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
John Ladics, 1527 Kaywin Avenue, remarked that he never thought he would have to listen to Mrs. Belinski say the City is broke. Mr. Ladics commented that he has no problem with taxes being raised and he believes people are not as poor as they seem to be. He said he does not want to see the City that broke where they can't afford to pay the Police, Fire, EMS, and Parks. Mr. Ladics repeated that the City should raise taxes to make the City better. Mr. Ladics then commented that here it is in July and the Police and Fire still do not have a contract and maybe a raise in taxes in the future would help that. He said the City needs the Police, Fire, and EMS to be here for the City, so let them have a contract that is worthy of what they are doing. He said the same for the Parks Department.
John Yerk, 2415 Linden Street, said he retired 11 years ago after 38 years with the Police force. He said he has a complaint concerning a number of posters put on the wall in the Police Department that indicated part of the history of when Police officers were killed and he said it was a sad time. Mr. Yerk said he was a part of that history. He went on to say that the posters are gone because someone came in and complained about it, and he wishes someone would have explained to them what those statements and newsprint from old incidents meant as part of the history of the Police Department. Mr. Yerk reported that now someone from the Administration wants to downsize them and put them up again. He said the Lodge and the Administration are now fighting over this instead of working as a team to keep morale up and motivate policemen. Mr. Yerk requested from the Mayor or Police Commissioner Miller what harm there would be to putting these posters back up the way they were originally. He said he would personally explain to any citizen questioning the posters what they mean.
Meryl Getz, retired Police officer, thanked City Council for listening and asked for help in this problem. Mr. Getz explained how in 2003 Officer Russell Lande installed this memorial wall with these posters that included the actual newpaper articles. He said one of the articles was about Mr. Getz's partner, Philip Fahy, who was murdered on August 29, 1969. Mr. Getz said he was very glad to see this memorial wall installed. No one has ever told him that they thought this wall was depressing. He said in 2006 Deputy Commissioner Randy Miller removed the memorials from the wall claiming it was depressing and called it "a wall of death". Mr. Getz mentioned the one article that used the word "negro" from 1907 and said Commissioner Miller wasn't even born then so did not know anything about it, only what could be read in the newspaper article on the wall. He said this memorial was a tribute, not a "wall of death". Mr. Getz repeated that Commissioner Miller had it removed because of a complaint and said he thought that was not true. He said that when there is a complaint to the Police from a citizen they must make out a report with the person's name on it and asked Commissioner Miller if he is exempt from this procedure. Mr. Getz said Commissioner Miller stated they do not teach about police memorials at the academy. Mr. Getz said he became a police officer in 1961 and was sent to the Pennsylvania State Police Academy where they were taught to take care of themselves and the citizens of the City, how to do the job and how to be compassionate. He said they never told him that a scared cop was a good cop. He said we have many fine police officers and Commissioner Miller should be
concerned about helping to make these officers even better than they are and not be worrying about a wall. He said hopefully we will never have to have an article there concerning any of our other officers again. Mr. Getz asked for the help of Council and the Mayor to have the wall restored with the actual stories from the newspapers at the time they happened. Mr. Getz showed the original posters, then the posters that were reduced in size.
Randall Miller, Police Commissioner, commenting he has great respect for the Police officers attending the meeting on this, said there are a few things omitted. He said what Mr. Getz quoted was from a newspaper article that was misquoted from the beginning. Commissioner Miller reported on the number of police officers who died and said he has extreme reverence, as did Commissioner Donchez, when it was decided to take the articles down. He stated there were 22 articles that were taken down that day, and they consisted of all shapes and sizes some as large as 4' x 4'. They consumed 82' of wall space on both sides of the hallway, and many were duplications. He said the one Mr. Getz referred to was there five different ways. Commissioner Miller reported that employees in the Record Room referred comments to him and he, himself, heard two very disturbing comments. The Commissioner told of comments he heard, one of parents after a new police officer was hired. Commissioner Miller stated that the articles were taken down in 2005, not 2006. He said immediately six of the plaques were put back on the wall. Commissioner Miller agreed that the story of how these officers died deserves to be told. He said if they could be put into a manageable size in an organized method he thought they should be put back up. The size that was agreed upon was 18" x 23" and to put it right beneath the plaques. In December 2006 he said it came to his attention that they were not being put back up, and he addressed it with the FOP, and said it was agreed that they be put back. The Commissioner said the City has a fitting memorial for the officers who fell in the line of duty, and every year at a service they are memorialized, along with officers who passed away during the year. He said he thinks there is more being done than ever to memorialize the officers. Commissioner Miller said again he thinks they should be put back up, but asked if a newspaper article is the best way to tell the story. He said the memorial in Washington, D.C., says "it is not how these men died, but how they lived". The Commissioner welcomed further discussion on this in his office.
Chuck Nyul, 1966 Pinehurst Road, stated that he moved to Bethlehem because of Bethlehem Steel and the Christmas City. He said Bethlehem Steel is gone and he is not happy with the Christmas City anymore. He said a number of things are bad with the City. He remarked that through his travels to other cities he compares them to Bethlehem. Concerning Bill No. 20 passed this evening and looking for recreation money, he said he thinks Musikfest should pay fees. Mr. Nyul gave his ideas for a shopping area on the South Side.
Ms. Szabo emotionally relayed the story of the day when Officer Fahy was murdered. Ms. Szabo urged the Police to come up with something fitting for the wall. She said she thinks these people who lost their lives should not be denied, and it should be known what was lost. Ms. Szabo said she thinks it is a big mistake to listen to somebody who thinks this is unpleasant.
President Schweder added that Officer Phil Fahy was his cousin and said he is well aware and has the memories of what happened that evening, and said he thinks that the whole story does need to be known by people here. President Schweder expressed that he hopes the current leadership in the department will work with the retirees to see that this is done.
William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, added that when he saw the display he was surprised at the number of officers who died in the line of duty in Bethlehem. He said he thinks the memorial is fine, but he said he feels that memorials of necessity are abstract. Mr. Scheirer said the articles take you back and make it more real. He said he was appreciative to have the opportunity to read all the articles. Two feelings he said he went away with are is that this is a fine group of men who cherish their comrades to that extent that they honor them in that way; and the second is an increased respect for the officers who help protect us who are at some risk to themselves.
Edwin Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, agreed that something should be done to preserve the memory of the fallen police officers. He thanked Captain Fred Mill for dealing with the issues reported with reference to the incidents that were happening in our community. Mr. Rodriquez said he has been following up also. He commented that the City has issues of gangs and drugs. He said he thinks money and funding should be given to help with the manpower needed. Mr. Rodriquez said the area where a lot of kids are picked up at West Fourth Street, Cherokee Street, and Wyandotte Street is an area where there is an excess amount of litter. He said there will also be a lot of drugs in the area. Mr. Rodriquez said he thinks the drug dealers dominate that whole entire section and he asked the Police Department for more enforcement with regard to loud mufflers, loitering, speeding. Pedestrian safety is also of concern he said. He said the wrong kind of people are moving in and the City should be ready for them.
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, referencing Mr. Leeson's comments on the switch of the vehicle, said he is reminded what he learned as a kid that leader's lead by example, words are cheap, and actions speak louder than words. Mr. Grubb remarked that the newly improved area in front of the Public Safety Building looks fantastic, and complimented the City Administrators and workers involved in their efforts for that work. He said, however, he thinks that the Plaza looks like a war torn street in the Middle East. Mr. Grubb commented that at Council meetings residents complain about noise at Riverport and the lack of enforcement of the ordinances, and residents speak about the thugs in the Hayes Street neighborhood. Mr. Grubb said when attending a Block Watch meeting there are complaints about garbage, rats and junk repeated from month to month at the same addresses, cars double parked where there is curbside parking spaces available, and no one is ever ticketed. Center City residents, he said, have appeared to express their fears and concerns regarding crime in their neighborhood. He said there was a newspaper article about bikes being stolen from a West Bethlehem neighborhood and there were six homicides in 2006. Mr. Grubb asked what is happening in this City. He expressed his feelings that the quality of life in Bethlehem has changed dramatically. He said he has observed over the past three years that he has never witnessed such a steady stream of disgruntled and concerned residents appearing in Town Hall. He thinks this does not demonstrate a City getting better, but a City where the quality of life is increasingly being eroded. He said he does not think the City is prepared for the development pressures. Whether it's the commitment of leadership from within the City government or the enforcement of laws that will set the tone, he said we need a change in strategy to reverse this or the community will continue to crumble slowly. Mr. Grubb said we need enforcement of laws to set the tone that to live in Bethlehem you must be a law abiding citizen and City officials and employees who place service to the residents of Bethlehem above their personal interests, and people who work hard and who are committed to understanding the residents and issues of our City and addressing them in a cohesive and responsible fashion. Mr. Grubb said the City belongs to each of us and the bar of expectations needs to be raised.
Walt Diefenderfer, retired Police Officer, stated he was a rookie officer in 1969 and knows the story of Officer Fahy. He commented that when those pictures were put up he finally got to read and learn about what happened to these other officers he did not know whose lives had been taken while serving the City. Mr. Diefenderfer compared the size of one of the posters to what Commissioner Miller had displayed. Commissioner Miller agreed that was okay. Mr. Diefenderfer said he thinks maybe something has been resolved this evening.
Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street, suggested that President Schweder consult with City Council's attorney for legal advice rather than asking the Mayor. Ms. Pongracz, referring to a comment earlier concerning Musikfest not contributing to the City, said she thinks that is a falsehood. She said Musikfest, who she has been involved with for 24 years, contributes a great deal in many ways to the City.
Police Posters and City Spending
Wade Haubert, President of FOP Star Lodge, 2077 West Broad Street, commended the retired officers for support of the issue concerning the police posters because they took the ball and ran with it since, he said, there are other things going on in this City and the Lodge had other things they were focusing on including contract negotiations, grievances, unfair labor practices, etc. Officer Haubert stated he believed there is an agreement at this point and this is an easy fix, and the appropriate posters can be put up. He said, though, he thinks there is a much larger problem and he did not think it needed to get to this point. Officer Haubert said he thought more strategic planning needs to be looked at in the City across the board. He said the FOP is constantly evaluating how things can be done more efficiently and tries to work with the City on a regular basis. He asked if the City is broke why do Department Heads need vehicles, why are they taking home cars. Officer Haubert commented that the Police officers did not get a pay raise this year yet. He commented on vehicles mileage and the standard for trading in a vehicle. He said there is only so much money in the budget. He said he thinks there needs to be strategic planning and leading by example. Officer Haubert suggested stop wasting money on stupid things.
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, complimented the choice of invocation speaker this evening.
Ms. Szabo suggested that the hallway in the Police Department be designated as a historical learning section with a proper name so that people would want to stop and learn about the history.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:15 p.m.