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September 4, 2007 Meeting Minutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, September 4, 2007 – 7:30 PM
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President Schweder called the meeting to order. Pastor Ron Rice of Advent Moravian 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.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of August 21, 2007 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
6. OLD BUSINESS
A. Parking Authority Executive Director – Increasing Parking Violations and Other Fees
The Clerk read a memorandum dated August 17, 2007 from Stephen C. Nemes, Bethlehem Parking Authority Executive Director, to which was attached a recommendation from the Parking Authority Board for changes in ticket fees for Meter Parking Violations from $5 to $10 and No Parking Signs from $10 to $15, as well as a new violation concerning Current Registration and Inspection for a fee of $15 to be enforced.
President Schweder referred the matter to the Finance Committee.
B. City Solicitor – Use Permit Agreement – Harvest Festival 2007 – Revision
The Clerk read a memorandum dated August 24, 2007 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a revision to the Use Permit Agreement previously forwarded August 16, 2007 between the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and the City for the Harvest Festival to be held October 6, 2007 to change the beginning time to 11:00 AM instead of 12:00 Noon.
President Schweder stated that authorizing Resolution 11 I is on the Agenda
C. Purchasing Director – List for City Auction
The Clerk read a memorandum dated August 28, 2007 from Mary Jo Reed, Director of Purchasing, to which was attached a list of the items to be sold at the City Auction that will be an on-line auction for the first time, contracted with Asset Auctions, to dispose of City property. Also requested was a blanket resolution for the disposal of City property to allow the City to continuously auction items on the on-line auction site without requiring a resolution each time.
President Schweder stated that the normal Resolution will be placed on the September 18 Agenda, and additional information will follow.
D. Economic Development Coordinator – Proposed New LERTA Boundaries – Reduction in Deteriorated Area
The Clerk read a memorandum dated August 30, 2007 from Howard Lieberman, Economic Development Coordinator, to which was attached a map and property descriptions to redefine the deteriorated area proposed to be covered under the LERTA (Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance) Ordinance to reflect a reduction in the previously approved deteriorated area, and to secure the support of the Saucon Valley School District, the Bethlehem Area School District and the County of Northampton.
Scheduling Public Hearing – LERTA Boundary Revisions
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski moved to schedule a required Public Hearing on Tuesday, September 18, 2007 at 7:30 PM in Town Hall. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The motion passed.
8 . REPORTS
A. President of Council
Committee of the Whole Meeting
President Schweder advised that City Council met as a Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, August 28, 2007 at 7:00 P.M. in Town Hall to review matters relating to the proposed disposition of a tract of land on West Lehigh Street, identified as Parcel P6NE4A-13-4, from the City of Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority to Moravian College, upon which a bandshell is located, for a proposed student housing dormitory project with related facilities. City Council approval of the transfer of the property is not required because the property is located outside of the Urban Redevelopment Area. The decision on the property disposition was left to be determined by the Redevelopment Authority by a vote of 5 in favor, 1 not in favor, and 1 abstention.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 22 – 2007 - Amending Article 1343 – SALDO – Geodetic Control
The Clerk read Bill No. 22 – 2007 – Amending Article 1343 – SALDO – Geodetic Control, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 22 – 2007, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4441, was declared adopted.
B. Bill No. 23 – 2007 – Amending Article 1345 – SALDO – Plan Compatibility with GIS/Autocad
The Clerk read Bill No. 23 – 2007 – Amending Article 1345 – SALDO – Plan Compatibility with GIS/Autocad, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 23 – 2007, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4442, was declared adopted.
C. Bill No. 24 – 2007 – Amending General Fund Budget – Health Bureau and Parks and Public Property Department
The Clerk read Bill No. 24 – 2007 – Amending General Fund Budget – Health Bureau and Parks and Public Property Department, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 24 – 2007, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4443, was declared adopted.
D. Bill No. 25 – 2007 – Amending Golf Course Enterprise Fund Budget – Plant Maintenance – Grease Trap
The Clerk read Bill No. 25 – 2007 – Amending Golf Course Enterprise Fund Budget – Plant Maintenance – Grease Trap, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 25 – 2007, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4444, was declared adopted.
E. Bill No. 26 – 2007 – Amending Non-Utility
Capital Budget – Various Projects
The Clerk read Bill No. 26 – 2007 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Various Projects, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 26 – 2007, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4445, was declared adopted.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
Considering Resolutions as a Group
Mr. Mowrer and Mr. Leeson moved to consider Resolutions 11 A and through 11 E as a group. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The motion passed.
A. Certificate of Appropriateness – 12-14 West Fourth Street
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 15,146 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install new front door hardware and light fixtures at 12-14 West Fourth Street.
B. Certificate of Appropriateness – 12 West Fourth Street
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 15,147 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to add signage to the storefront glass at 12 West Fourth Street.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 320 East Third Street
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 15,148 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install two flat wall signs on the front and side of 320 East Third Street.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 119 West Fourth Street
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 15,149 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the double-sided projecting sign on the front façade of 119 West Fourth Street.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 302 East Third Street
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 15,150 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to renovate the façade at 302 East Third Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 A through 11 E: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolutions passed.
F. Approving Right of Way – UGI – Stefko Boulevard
and Washington Avenue
G. Approving Right of Way – Verizon – 209-213 Broadway
Mr. Leeson, noting that when the City sells easements and rights-of-way it tries to get compensation since these matters encroach on City-owned property, asked is there any compensation being paid to the City in exchange for the requested grant of the easements contained in Resolutions 11 F and 11 G.
Ralph Carp, Parks and Public Property Director, advised that for the UGI request at Stefko Boulevard and Washington Avenue, as contained in Resolution 11 F, there is no compensation to the City.
Mr. Leeson inquired if there is any possibility the City could obtain compensation since it encroaches on the City’s real estate.
Mr. Carp noted he did raise the question, it was researched, and the decision was made not to pursue it. Mr. Carp further explained when UGI services the location that is currently in the middle of Stefko Boulevard the road must be closed. Consequently, UGI wants to move the service location off the middle of the road.
Mr. Leeson, reiterating his belief that the City should be compensated, noted if the utility declines, then it can be suggested they can go elsewhere or provide the City with non-monetary compensation in exchange for the grant of the right.
Mr. Leeson advised he would ask the same question about Resolution 11 G to grant a right of way to Verizon.
Mr. Carp advised it would be to provide a connection to a business.
Mr. Leeson stated he would encourage in the future that when the City conveys and sells these rights in its real estate a more aggressive position be taken in trying to negotiate for compensation. He added that usually private property owners do the same thing.
Ms. Szabo queried who decided not to pursue it.
Mr. Carp, noting he posed the question to the Law Bureau at the Mayor’s staff meeting, advised it was researched and the answer was that in the past the City did not charge utilities for easements. Mr. Carp affirmed to Ms. Szabo that the City decided not to pursue it.
Ms. Szabo expressed her agreement with Mr. Leeson.
Mr. Leeson, recalling there were occasions in the past when the City traded something with a utility company in order to get consideration, exemplified if the City needed some type of concession there was a trade in the absence of money.
Mr. Mowrer commented that if the Resolutions do not have to be considered tonight then they could be tabled.
Ms. Dolan observed perhaps there is a precedent because the City is accepting payment in the form of rent for cell phone towers.
President Schweder communicated that a right of way may be different than an ordinary easement because the utility has the right to be there, or it was paid at that time. President Schweder suggested that both Resolutions 11 F and 11 G could be tabled to obtain further information.
Tabling Resolutions 11 F and 11 G
Mr. Mowrer and Mrs. Belinski moved to tabled Resolutions 11 F and 11 G. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The motion passed.
H. Authorizing Use Permit Agreement – Celtic Classic 2007
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 15,151 that authorized a Use Permit Agreement between the City and Celtic Fest, Inc. d/b/a Celtic Cultural Alliance for use of public property and streets for the Celtic Classic 2007 for the time periods September 8, 2007 to October 7, 2007, according to the terms of the Agreement.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.
I. Authorizing Use Permit Agreement – Harvest Festival 2007
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 15,152 that authorized a Use Permit Agreement between the City and the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce for use of Main Street from the Main Street Ramp to Broad Street for the Harvest Festival 2007 on October 6, 2007, according to the terms of the Agreement.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS
South Side Greenway – Maintenance
Ms. Szabo asked who is responsible for cleaning up the South Side Greenway.
Mr. Carp explained the City is maintaining it.
Ms. Szabo advised that east of Hayes Street on the Greenway there is a large amount of debris that is apparently thrown down from the top of the slope at the fenced in area on Third Street. Ms. Szabo, noting that the owner of the property may be responsible or may be a victim, stressed that the City has to look into the matter.
Mr. Carp responded that he will look into it the problem, and added the Greenway is on a monthly mowing schedule.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Fire Hydrants; Martin Tower Development Project
Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, referred to the Bethlehem News edition of August 23, 2007 concerning non-working fire hydrants. Pointing out that Freemansburg rents fire hyrdrants from the City and must pay to test them, Mr. Pfenning felt the City should maintain them and there could be liability issues.
Mr. Pfenning, noting that preliminary plans for the development of the Martin Tower site on Eighth Avenue were approved by the Planning Commission, pointed out although there were assurances that development phases would be done in parallel as stated in the Zoning Ordinance Section 1314 A .02 it seems the developer will instead build the townhouses first, then retail, and then address the Martin Tower development. Referring to Section 1314 A .01, Mr. Pfenning observed the developer will put all the retail on Eighth Avenue as opposed to the original concept of centrally locating the retail component within the Martin Tower area development site. Mr. Pfenning further pointed out a large parcel of land on Eighth Avenue towards the Route 378 ramp could also be used for retail development and could result in a shopping destination on Eighth Avenue that was not the intent. Stating that the roadways and utilities within the project will be under the homeowners association, Mr. Pfenning expressed the hope that the City treats that association as all of the others are treated and does not plow the streets, for example. Mr. Pfenning remarked that the sewage for the project will be transported to a 15 inch main at the bottom of the complex although no one knows its condition. Mr. Pfenning advised he did not get an answer from the City administration present at the meeting to his question of whether there is enough sewer capacity for the total build-out of Martin Tower, BethWorks, in addition to the Summit, St. Luke’s campus, and Ashley condominiums in Bethlehem Township. He asked if not, when will it occur.
President Schweder, recounting that he had asked Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, if the construction of Martin Tower and the townhouses will be done simultaneously, noted that Mr. Hanna is on the record as saying the City would force them to do so. President Schweder, communicating that any deviation would be in direct contradiction to what City Council wanted and what was advised would be done, expressed that will have to be enforced.
David Brong, Director of Water and Sewer Resources, responding to Mr. Pfenning’s questions regarding sewage capacity, explained that is the purpose of the Act 537 planning, and based on input the City’s hydraulic and organic loading is known for a 20 year horizon. The hydraulic model of the collection system indicated certain areas of constraint and are part of the City’s Act 537 construction. In addition, since the sewage treatment plant is currently permitted to treat 39,000 pounds of BOD per day, and ultimately the City will be asked to treat about 57,000 pounds, steps need to be taken to accommodate the amount.
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, distributed photographs to the Members of Council addressing unkept properties at Madison Park, BethWorks, and Stamford Road. He pointed out there are piles of shrubs and branches, and a tree hanging downward on East Fourth Street. He added there is a vine that overgrows the fence line in the Stamford Road area onto private properties overwhelming gardens in some instances. Mr. Rodriquez, referring to correspondence from Ms. Dolan, noted that quality of life issues are addressed. Mr. Rodriquez communicated the issues occurring in the area of Madison Park, Itaska, and Ontario Streets including gangs, violence, murders, and so forth, and added it is occurring throughout the City. Mr. Rodriquez said he would like something to be done at Madison Park regarding speed humps and signs.
Parking Fines – Hiring Police Officers; Green Building
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, communicating that while the Mayor’s announcement that increased parking fines would support two new Police Officers and a downtown maintenance worker is welcome news, expressed concern about where funds will come from to meet the additional costs if the projected amount from increased fines does not materialize. Mr. Grubb further asserted that continuing to take funds from the Parking Authority is reminiscent of similar actions when funds were obtained from the former Landfill operations, water system, and Golf Course, and use of money in this way could have long term consequences. Questioning the needs of the Parking Authority, Mr. Grubb stressed the importance of cash reserves and pointed out that capital needs are inevitable. Mr. Grubb expressed the hope that Council will support increasing the fines while continuing to monitor the drain on resources.
Mr. Grubb advised that no one from City government was in attendance at a presentation last week on building, renovating, and maintaining green and sustainable buildings. Observing that development of the former Bethlehem Steel property is moving ahead, Mr. Grubb stated that no one is being required to develop with attention to the future environment in the City and communicated that policies should be put in place. While noting that some developers are taking steps voluntarily, Mr. Grubb advised that is not enough particularly in view of fact that the former Bethlehem Steel property represents 20% of the City’s land area and is a golden opportunity to develop with sensitivity for the environment. Mr. Grubb suggested linking LERTA or City-provided funding to green building requirements, and further advised there is a cost-benefit to green building standards.
Mr. Grubb informed the assembly that the railroad cribs at Monocacy Park on which he did work in the past are 30 years old, rather than 20 years old as reported in the press.
Carol Ann Krasley, Center Street, asked for more information about Operation Tomahawk.
Randall Miller, Police Commissioner, advising he cannot go into full details, explained it was an initiative to address certain areas of the City and was very successful, and there will be an announcement soon.
Hillside Avenue – Student Problems
Joseph Kalmar, 555 Hillside Avenue, advising he has lived there for 54 years, informed the Members he has never seen the conditions this bad, and the problems have been ongoing for the last 10 years. Mr. Kalmar explained there is garbage in the streets for 5-6 days, 30-50 garbage bags in the alleys for a week, fire hazards, and there is indoor furniture on about 50% of the porches in the block. Mr. Kalmar, noting he has called the Police numerous times in the last week and a half, added that the Police also have not seen it this bad. Mr. Kalmar, stating it is a Lehigh University problem but they will not take any responsibility for it, stressed when Lehigh University police are called nothing is done. Consequently, Mr. Kalmar explained the City of Bethlehem Police have to be called which he felt is not their job. Mr. Kalmar, stressing he does not want to call the Police every night, pointed out he must get up for work in the morning and his children have to get up for school. Mr. Kalmar later added that last year when he lived across the street at 556-1/2 Hillside Avenue he caught 4 rats because of the garbage, and he never had a rat in over 50 years. In addition, Mr. Kalmar informed the Members that the Police have been addressing noise the last week, there is loitering, urinating in front of the houses and in the yards, and the smell of urine in the street.
President Schweder, while highlighting the fact that Michael Palos, Chief Housing Inspector, does a very good job, noted Mr. Kalmar is right and stated he has never seen a block in the City that looks that bad. President Schweder stressed there is garbage on the porches of all the houses on the street and into the street. President Schweder asked Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, to talk to Mr. Palos the next morning.
Mrs. Belinski suggested that the Health Bureau should be called, and added she called the Health Bureau concerning a lot at Third and Pierce Streets that was overgrown with weeds and where rats were seen.
Ron Hake, 551 Hillside Avenue, said his family has lived there a total of 150 years. Mr. Hake highlighted the fact that students were caught flipping bottles across the street. Mr. Hake questioned why is nothing done when residents call the Police, and further questioned why residents must call the Police every half hour. Mr. Hake thought the people who have lived in the City for so many years should be taken care of, rather than students who are here for a few months a year. Mr. Hake, wondering why his mother and his aunt who live on the street should have to put up with the litter, loitering, urination, and garbage, questioned would City officials accept these conditions at their homes in their neighborhood. Mr. Hake asked why cannot something be done about it. Mr. Hake further queried why he should have to be up with his 10 month old son during the night because nothing is done about rowdy students.
Mrs. Belinski advised that, at the first meeting of the Comprehensive Plan Task Force of which she and Ms. Szabo are members, one of the things stated that needs to be improved is the South Side. She stressed there are problems and vandalism in neighborhoods as a result of Lehigh University students living there. Mrs. Belinski asserted they should be held responsible and something has to be done. She added that absentee landlords must be notified to have the garbage picked up.
President Schweder, acknowledging that the points being made are well taken, affirmed there is legislation pertaining to absentee landlords. President Schweder, acknowledging all the work done by the Inspections Bureau, stressed that problems could be alleviated through enforcement of the current Ordinances against landlords. President Schweder indicated that Mr. Reichard would refer the matters to the Department tomorrow, and perhaps resolution of the matter can be addressed in two weeks.
Randall Miller, Police Commissioner, communicated that he shares the concerns that have been expressed, particularly the weekend after the students returned. Police Commissioner Miller informed the assembly this is the first year the Department did not receive a grant for drinking enforcement on campus and Lehigh University received a grant instead. Police Commissioner Miller advised there were eight Police Officers on overtime who made 27 arrests in 3 days including 6 disorderly house arrests. Police Commissioner Miller explained that furniture on porches reappeared the day after students were informed by Community Police Officers that indoor furniture on porches is not allowed. Police Commissioner Miller, confirming that the Department is doing what it can about enforcing Ordinances, stated the Department will continue to keep up enforcement efforts. Police Commissioner Miller recalled that last year there were problems on Fifth Street while this year it was Hillside Avenue. Police Commissioner Miller, agreeing the citizens are most important, reiterated the Department is doing everything it can.
President Schweder observed the situation is not necessarily with the Police Department but with what needs to be done as far as the landlords.
William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, advised that drinking
in public was a law he utilized in the City in which he formerly
resided and all that was necessary was for the Police to arrive
soon enough so that the activities were interrupted. In addition,
the contents of bottles were required to be poured out. Mr.
Scheirer thought that an Ordinance might be useful to cover
the situation of drinking on porches.
Wade Haubert, President of the FOP Star Lodge 20, communicated that some of the issues being raised pertain to staffing. He explained that, although eight Police Officers responded to the Hillside Avenue situations, if there are less than a dozen Officers on night shift then calls must be prioritized. Police Officer Haubert stressed that a honest look must be taken at hiring more Police Officers. While expressing he is pleased there would be two more Police Officers through the work of the Parking Authority, Police Officer Haubert observed that is minimal for problems that would come after a casino arrives. Police Officer Haubert, referring to a newspaper article about an incident on Wyandotte Street, noted a reporter had indicated it was shocking that members of the Bethlehem Police Department or the DEA did not pocket the $175,000. Police Officer Haubert explained he tried to convey to the public that he was offended by that, and tried to get the editorial staff to suggest to the writer that he owed the Police Department an apology and there was no basis for the comments, but they decided to edit out about 50% of the article. The FOP considered whether or not to take out a full page ad to print the message that the Police Officers are honest, decent, respectable men and women, and the citizens should be proud to be served by them.
Student and Related Issues
Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street, expressed that most of the problems regarding the Lehigh students as well as other students is the greed of the landlords. Ms. Pongracz continued on to say ten students may be crammed into housing, garbage removal is not provided, the landlords do not clean up the houses or repair broken facilities. Ms. Pongracz advised that when she drove on Fifth Street last Sunday morning she did not see one piece of paper from the 200 block to the 500 block because the lacrosse team from Lehigh University cleaned up the street before 8:00 a.m. Ms. Pongracz asserted a root problem is the past issue of the definition of family and how many non-family members are allowed to live in a house. Ms. Pongracz, stressing the blame should be put on irresponsible landlords, and observing another matter is the students’ lack of manners, said it is a problem that cannot be solved by increasing the number of Police Officers.
Dave Sanders, 6 East Washington Avenue, thought that almost everyone realizes the City has a good Police Department. He added that people can stop buying the newspaper and the editors will get the message.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.