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JULY 1, 2008
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President Donchez called the meeting to order. The Reverend Gordon Sommers of West Side Moravian Church offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Jean Belinski, Karen Dolan, Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., Gordon B. Mowrer, J. William Reynolds, J. Michael Schweder, and Robert J. Donchez, 7.
Citation – Honoring Stephen J. Wasil
President Donchez presented a Citation to Stephen J. Wasil who retired from the Water and Sewer Resources Department after 42 years of service. The Members of Council applauded Mr. Wasil and wished him well in his retirement.
PUBLIC HEARING - 2008 Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) - $11,153
Prior to the consideration of the regular Agenda items, City Council conducted a Public Hearing to consider an application for a 2008 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) in the amount of $11,153 for the Police Department.
7 A. Police Staff Lieutenant – Application for 2008 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG)
The Clerk read a letter dated June 26, 2008 from Lt. Ashley Heiberger, Staff Lieutenant, regarding the Police Department’s application for a 2008 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) in the amount of $11,153 to be used to update computer and electronic devices, and to purchase bicycle parts and equipment needed to maintain the police mountain bikes. The grant application requires that the governing body provide public notice of the grant application and provide an opportunity for public comment.
Randall Miller, Police Commissioner, informed the assembly that the Police Department is apply for the 2008 Justice Assistance Grant in the amount of $11,153. Police Commissioner Miller explained that the amount itself is calculated based on Part I crime statistics. He advised that the Police Department would like to utilize $5,576 of the funds to update electronic devices and the remaining half of $5,577 for bicycle parts, uniforms and equipment. Police Commissioner Miller requested approval of the intent of the grant.
No one from the Public spoke to the matter of the Public Hearing.
President Donchez announced that the Resolution will be placed on the July 15 Council Agenda.
The Public Hearing was adjourned at 7:10 p.m.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of June 17, 2008 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
Cell Tower – Clearview Park
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, asked the height of the communication tower proposed at Clearview Park.
Ralph Carp, Director of Parks and Public Property, advised it will be 120 feet high.
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, reading from the minutes of the June 17, 2008 City Council Meeting regarding his comments about destruction of City records, held up a flash drive and noted it could hold at least ten years of City Council Minutes, the information could be backed up, and the public could review the information. Questioning why the City does not have flash drives and save public records, Mr. Antalics thought the Resolutions to approve the destruction of records should be tabled indefinitely until a system is put into operation to save records.
Mr. Schweder, noting that he did address the matter at the June 17 City Council Meeting, explained there is a system in place to preserve records, the City can work with the Library, and there is an intern who will work on the matter. Mr. Schweder advised that the City Clerk’s Office has been utilizing a software program about which the Assistant City Clerk has held an informational meeting for other Departments to implement.
In further response to Mr. Antalics, Mr. Schweder expressed he did not believe there would be a need for destruction of records.
6. OLD BUSINESS
A. Tabled Items
1. Authorizing Records Destruction – Controller's Office
2. Authorizing Records Destruction – Bureau of Purchasing
3. Authorizing Records Destruction – Department of Water and Sewer Resources
4. Authorizing Records Destruction – Tax Bureau
B. Unfinished Business
1. Establishing Article 314 – Security Cameras
2. Political Contributions and Expenditures – Proposed Ordinance
City Vehicles – Use by Employees
Mrs. Belinski read from a letter sent to City Council concerning use of City vehicles in light of the high cost of fuel. Citing examples of misuse of City vehicles such as for personal errands, to drive to lunch, driving vehicles back and forth from employee homes to City Hall, the writer pointed out the amount of money the City could save by ending the practice, and also highlighted the fact that the employees do not have to pay for gas and maintenance when they use City vehicles for such purposes. The writer stated that a City-wide policy should be developed so that a City vehicle is used only during work hours.
Pumping Station – Lehigh River
Mrs. Belinski, referring to the recent devastating flooding in the Midwest, denoted that the levees did not hold. Reiterating her previous concerns, Mrs. Belinski exclaimed she does not know why the City is worried about making streets in the vicinity of Wyandotte Street one way considering that there would be a very serious flooding problem if the levee breaks in view of the billion dollar casino development on the South Side. Mrs. Belinski asked again that the issue of reactivating the pumping station be revisited.
A. President of Council
C. Community Development Committee and Parks and Public Property Committee
Chairman Schweder presented an oral report of the joint Community Development Committee and Parks and Public Property Committee meeting held July 1, 2008 at 6:00 p.m. prior to this evening’s City Council Meeting on the following subject: Gift of Real Estate from LVIP. The Committee unanimously recommended that City Council approve a Resolution to accept a Gift of Real Estate from LVIP of a long, narrow strip of property located on Applebutter Road, Northampton County Tax Parcel No. P7-8-1, zoned Heavy Industrial.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 17 – 2008 – Amending General Fund
Budget – Health Bureau – Grants, Public Works
Department – Equipment Repairs, and Civic Expenses –
Music in the Park
The Clerk read Bill No. 17 – 2008 – Amending General Fund Budget – Health Bureau - Grants, Public Works Department - Equipment Repairs, and Civic Expenses – Music in the Parks, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. Bill No. 17 – 2008, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2008-17, was declared adopted.
B. Bill No. 18 – 2008 – Amending Golf Course Enterprise Fund Budget – Clubhouse Repairs
The Clerk read Bill No. 18 – 2008 – Amending Golf Course Enterprise Fund Budget – Clubhouse Repairs, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. Bill No. 18 – 2008, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2008-18, was declared adopted.
C. Bill No. 19 – 2008 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Saucon Park Dam Removal, Parks and Playground Improvements, and Flatiron Garage
The Clerk read Bill No. 19 – 2008, Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Saucon Park Dam Removal, Parks and Playground Improvements, and Flatiron Garage, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. Bill No. 19 – 2008, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2008-19, was declared adopted.
D. Bill No. 20 – 2008 – Amending Article 913 – Water Rate Increase (3.5%)
The Clerk read Bill No. 20 – 2008, Amending Article 913 – Water Rate Increase (3.5%), on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. Bill No. 20 – 2008, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2008-20, was declared adopted.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Declaring Special Condition for Parking – Musikfest 2008
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2008-110 that declared a Special Condition under Article 531 of the Codified Ordinances during Musikfest 2008 for the period from 12:00 Noon, Friday, August 1, 2008 through 12:00 Midnight at the end of Sunday, August 10, 2008.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer,
Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolution
B. Authorizing Tower Lease Agreement with T-Mobile – Clearview Park
Mr. Leeson and Mr. Schweder sponsored Resolution 11 B to authorize the Mayor and Controller to execute a Tower Lease Agreement between the City and Omnipoint Communications, Inc. to erect a communications tower in Clearview Park at Pinehurst and Abington Roads.
Mrs. Belinski, commenting that she cannot in good conscience vote for the Resolution, acknowledged that cell towers and cell phones are necessary. However, Mrs. Belinski communicated there is a problem placing cell towers near a school, or a fire station. Mrs. Belinski, denoting she distributed copies this evening to the Members of Council of information about the issues, read from the documents in which it was explained there is a debate in the scientific community about whether enough is known to proclaim cell towers safe. A California physician’s examination of six firefighters who worked at stations with cell towers found they had some brain impairments, trouble sleeping, headaches, and trouble with their balance. A bioengineering professor from the University of Washington who studies the effects of radiation acknowledged the level of radiation around a cellular tower is typically very low and generally considered to be harmless, but said not enough research had been done on prolonged exposure, particularly on children, who can be more sensitive to environmental factors. Some research indicates that people who live near towers suffer from headaches and learning problems. Professor Lai said it is common sense to keep the poles away from schools or day-care centers until more is known, and noted he was not saying there is definitely harm but there is a possibility. The county of Palm Beach, Florida, the State of California, and the country of New Zealand have all prohibited cellular antennas near schools due to safety concerns.
Mrs. Belinski, expressing that because of all this information she has serious doubts, reiterated she knows cell towers are needed. Mrs. Belinski, recounting that at the Committee meeting she asked the representative if there is an alternative site, questioned whether a better location can be found rather than at the school. Mrs. Belinski noted she had contacted Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, about the issue, and queried whether the company can provide certification that the proposed site at the school is safe. Attorney Spadoni affirmed that the company can be asked. Mrs. Belinski wondered whether the Resolution can be tabled until that is determined. Mrs. Belinski further inquired whether the 120 ft. pole is collapsible so that it will not fall down on the school. Mrs. Belinski asked if the matter can be postponed until the next Council Meeting.
Attorney Spadoni, noting he spoke with Mrs. Belinski about the matter, explained one of the issues might be iceload or windload, and whether the pole is a self-collapsing pole so that in the event it would fail for some reason it would fall into itself as opposed to falling over. Attorney Spadoni continued on to point out that a tower could have other uses attached to it and the question becomes whether the company can sublet its tower and have other uses under the lease.
Tabling Resolution 11 B
Mrs. Belinski moved to table Resolution 11 B at least until the next Council Meeting so that there are assurances from T-Mobile. Mr. Leeson seconded the motion.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, and Mr. Mowrer, 4. Voting NAY: Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 3. The motion passed.
President Donchez suggested that Mrs. Belinski forward any additional questions to the City Council Solicitor before the next Council Meeting.
In response to Ms. Dolan, President Donchez confirmed that the matter would be placed back on the July 15 Council Agenda.
Mr. Leeson, commenting the questions and issues raised by Mrs. Belinski and Attorney Spadoni are good ones, stated he would like to have the benefit of the answers prior to the next City Council Meeting.
Considering Resolutions as a Group
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Mowrer moved to consider Resolutions 11 C through 11 G as a group. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The motion passed.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 104-124 East Third Street
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2008-111 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install new aluminum coping caps at 104-124 East Third Street.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 302-304 East Third Street
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2008-112 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the existing soffit and fascia at 302-304 East Third Street.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 318 Brodhead Avenue
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2008-113 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to alter the façade at 318 Brodhead Avenue.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 705 East Fourth Street
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2008-114 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install signage at 705 East Fourth Street.
G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 201 East Third Street
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2008-115 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to construct a new egress door at 201 East Third Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 C to 11 G: Mrs. Belinski, Ms.
Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder,
and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolutions passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS
Committee Meeting Announcement
President Donchez announced a Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 6:00 PM in Town Hall for an update on ArtsQuest and Musikfest.
President Donchez welcomed back Councilwoman Dolan from
her educational trip to Japan.
Removal of Parking and New Sidewalk – 546 Main Street
Mr. Schweder asked under what Ordinance or power was the removal of a parking space and building of a new sidewalk on Main Street granted, located in front of the restaurant at 546 Main Street.
Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, advised the person came to obtain a permit to modify the sidewalk area in front of the property. It is within the right of way and the City has the permitting power over that area and can issue permits to effect modifications in the cartway or sidewalk area.
Mr. Schweder asked what criteria were used to establish that was a proper use for that space.
Mr. Alkhal, commenting the matter went back and forth for about two months, explained the business was lobbying to find more outdoor area for outdoor seating for dining in view of the minimal space in front of the establishment. The City encouraged the owner to work out arrangements with the neighboring businesses to extend the seating area but the owner was unable to secure arrangements. The City felt the activity conducted by the restaurant was a positive activity in the City, and the pros of the request to make the modifications in the lay-by to extend the bump-out that would eliminate one parking space outweighed the cons. The City is very cognizant that parking on Main Street is at a premium but there is a significant shortage on Main Street and it was felt that one, two, or three fewer spaces would not make or break the situation. The long term answer is another parking deck besides the present two decks, and other parking facilities are being worked on to remedy the problem. Mr. Alkhal affirmed it was decided to permit the request after much deliberation.
Mr. Schweder questioned whether it can be assumed that everyone else who petitions for that will be entitled to the same consideration.
Mr. Alkhal responded anyone else who meets the same criteria and it is feasible to do a similar situation in front of their properties would be considered on a case by case basis.
Mr. Schweder, focusing on the criteria used, asked if it could be further explained what was looked at before making the decision.
Mr. Alkhal, acknowledging there was one parking space lost, explained it was felt the impact of the request was minimal enough and the benefits were significant enough that the permit was issued. He added that in a similar situation the City would do likewise.
Mr. Schweder asked if a written response could be provided on what criteria were used.
Mr. Schweder, reading from Codified Ordinance Article 1713, noted that Section 1713.08 states no erection, reconstruction, alteration, restoration, demolition or razing of a building or public improvement in the historic district shall be permitted until Council has issued a certificate of appropriateness.
Mr. Alkhal advised in this case for the modifications that were being made it was required that exactly the same type of material be used as what existed currently. Mr. Alkhal explained it was felt that would satisfy the situation and there would be no need to apply for and obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness.
Mr. Schweder asked if the Mayor agreed with that. Mayor Callahan indicated yes.
Mr. Schweder inquired why, over at least the 11 years he has been a Member of Council and particularly for the last five years, every individual who lives in the Historic District is required if they are going to repair their sidewalk exactly the same as it was before to go to the Historic and Architectural Review Board (HARB) and the recommendation has to come to City Council for approval, but this one did not.
Mr. Alkhal, noting the point was debated for quite a long time, expressed that the matter was discussed with others in the Administration. Mr. Alkhal recalled it was also debated when the brick crosswalks were installed on Main Street, and it was decided that it was a courtesy to go to HARB since items in the public right of way strictly by law are not under the purview of HARB.
Mr. Schweder inquired whose opinion was it that the matter in question did not have to go to the HARB. Mayor Callahan indicated the Administration would have to obtain a response regarding the question.
Mr. Schweder, referring to copies of Resolutions, pointed out that Resolution 15,186 adopted in 2007 required Nisky Hill Cemetery to go before the HARB and Council to replace the bricks exactly as they were on the entire sidewalk along the cemetery and along Church Street. Mr. Schweder continued on to advise that for Unitarian Universalist Church on Center Street a Resolution was passed in 2004 that required approval of a Certificate of Appropriateness for their sidewalks; in the same block at 501 Main Street a Certificate of Appropriateness Resolution was adopted in 2005 to approve sidewalk work; a Resolution was adopted in 2007 that required the Main Hall at Moravian College at 79 and 85 West Church Street to go before the HARB for sidewalks; and in 2001 the owners of 415 North New Street had to obtain approval of the HARB Board and City Council to repair their sidewalks.
Mr. Schweder, commenting he is not going to debate whether what occurred was right for the City or not, advised the reason he wants the criteria sent to him is because he wants to codify it and make it the law of the City so that anybody can apply for something like this and get it. Mr. Schweder stressed the procedure should have never gone this way, and it has never happened before in this manner.
Mayor Callahan stated what Mr. Alkhal said is that a similar situation would be dealt with on a case by case basis. Turning to codifying a law that will apply to every circumstance, Mayor Callahan pointed out that Mr. Alkhal explained in some detail the thought process in this particular instance. Mayor Callahan continued on to observe the Administration would look at such a request again on a case by case basis.
Mr. Schweder communicated the reason why this has to be codified and to be fair to everyone is that these matters are done as special favors. Mr. Schweder highlighted the fact that the process has been in place probably since 1961 and this is probably the first time it was never followed.
Golf Course Restaurant – Liquor License
Mrs. Belinski, pointing to the volume of correspondence from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, denoted it explained and justified why Starter’s Pub was approved to run the restaurant at the Golf Course. Noting that in the correspondence it states the City never had the liquor license, Mrs. Belinski repeated the fact that according to the Eastern Regional Information Center, the City owns the liquor license at the Golf Course and the license is good until the end of 2009. Referring to past information in the files, Mrs. Belinski advised that in a 1984 lease paragraph 4 states that the liquor license shall be the sole and exclusive property of the City and at the expiration of the term of the lease the lessee shall transfer the liquor license to the City or its designee. This exact language does not appear afterwards in the succeeding leases. Mrs. Belinski stressed the City controls the liquor license. Mrs. Belinski also noted that the liquor license was transferred to the current owner for $650 and not $100,000.
President Donchez affirmed that Attorney Spadoni provided his response to the Members of Council prior to the Council Meeting. Attorney Spadoni noted that he met with an Administration representative, City Solicitor Spirk and Assistant City Solicitor Kelly on June 17, and he was delivered documents yesterday morning. Attorney Spadoni affirmed that he answered the questions posed to him in a memorandum from President Donchez from the documents that were provided. Attorney Spadoni communicated there is some work yet to be done with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
Golf Course and Restaurant
Mr. Reynolds highlighted the fact that there were some personnel changes at the Golf Course in addition to the announcement at that time that it was hoped the Golf Course Restaurant would be taken over by Starter’s. Turning to the Golf Course report for June 2008 received today, Mr. Reynolds highlighted the fact that the two biggest months in the last four years were May 2008 and June 2008. While acknowledging a lot of that has to do with the weather, Mr. Reynolds observed the Golf Course is crowded, and in his conversations with Ralph Carp, Director of Parks and Public Property, it was noted that a lot of the play is one-time rounds as opposed to season pass rounds. Communicating that is a testament to Tom Wilchak, Golf Course Superintendent, and the Parks Department Director and staff, along with the changes made, Mr. Reynolds stated what was done is working. In a struggling economy and in view of the challenges facing local courses, Mr. Reynolds stressed the fact that the City’s Golf Course improving is a testament as he said. Restating that the changes made at the Golf Course including the decision to allow Starter’s to operate the Golf Course Restaurant has yielded financial fruit for the Golf Course, Mr. Reynolds said hopefully that will continue to be seen.
President Donchez stated that in speaking with Mr. Carp and Mr. Wilchak over the last few weeks there is no question the Golf Course is in excellent condition and the rounds are up. President Donchez observed that with the economy, competition is increasing, and the City has a very good product in its Golf Course. While commenting it is difficult to find openings for additional tournaments this year because they usually have to be booked in advance, President Donchez noted it is his understanding that good progress is being made for tournament play in 2009. Recalling that over the years there have been discussions about making the Golf Course Restaurant a success and profitable, President Donchez remarked he thinks that has happened. President Donchez continued on to say that Mr. Carp and his staff have done an excellent job, and Mr. Rank, owner of Starter’s, has done a very good job in marketing and in renovating completely the restaurant into a success. President Donchez added that he thinks the numbers at the end of the year probably will bear that out. President Donchez commented that, whoever is running the restaurant, everyone should be very happy in that it seems like the operation has been turned around, it is a well run course, the restaurant is being managed in an effective way and it is making money. President Donchez noted he has been there several times and he was impressed with the number of people in the restaurant that was in deplorable condition previously.
Mr. Mowrer, affirming his involvement with City government goes back to the 1970’s, noted the Golf Course has experienced some very tough times over the years. Mr. Mowrer said he is very impressed and thinks the City is on the right road. Mr. Mowrer commended the Administration for what they have done. Advising he has been at the restaurant for lunch, Mr. Mowrer observed he sees a new spirit at the Golf Course, both employees and customers, with which he is very impressed. Mr. Mowrer stated he is encouraged by the good news.
Ms. Dolan, focusing on the report from Attorney Spirk referenced by Mrs. Belinski, expressed that it was very comprehensive and much work was done to answer the questions. Ms. Dolan, confirming she read the entire report, said she found no red flags. She continued on to say she read Attorney Spadoni’s report and found no red flags either. Ms. Dolan further communicated that the favorable golf report referenced by Mr. Reynolds is good news. Ms. Dolan expressed the hope that time is not spent trying to dig something up, and that afterwards success in the City can be celebrated.
Mrs. Belinski stated her contention is that financing opportunities were never brought up with the other bidders for operation of the Golf Course Restaurant. Reading from the correspondence forwarded by Attorney Spirk, Mrs. Belinski noted that Mr. Rank, at his request, met with the City regarding funding, and no other applicant requested such a meeting. However, Mrs. Belinski stated the other applicants did not need the money. Mrs. Belinski communicated the City was convinced that Mr. Rank was the best person to run the restaurant and he was going to put a lot of money into the restaurant. Mrs. Belinski continued on to say now it is found out there are State grants involved, and loans to Mr. Rank through City programs. Mrs. Belinski, expressing she is not getting the same feedback, observed when something is new people go there. Mrs. Belinski related she had heard that some golfers who had eaten at the restaurant felt the prices were high and they would not return. She continued on to point out that tournaments this year were locked in from a year ago and some said they will not go back next year. Mrs. Belinski remarked it will be seen next year how well the Golf Course Restaurant is doing.
Mr. Reynolds mentioned that, in view of the $4 price for a gallon of gas, some golfers will decide whether or not they want to drive to outlying golf courses. Mr. Reynolds further observed that more and more City residents are seen at the Golf Course and the restaurant. Mr. Reynolds added that the lower prices at the Golf Course and on-line tee times are a big advantage. Recalling Mr. Rank had advised he would be spending $250,000 of his own money at the Golf Course Restaurant, Mr. Reynolds noted a lot of the reason he had to go above and beyond that was because there were numerous problems at the building including various code issues that were not known previously. Turning to tournament play, Mr. Reynolds explained he had heard the opposite regarding tournaments not wanting to come back next year. He continued on to point out that the improved atmosphere of the restaurant as well as the overall quality experience at the golf course is leading to more people wanting to schedule tournaments there.
President Donchez noted it will be interesting to look at the financial reports of the restaurant for the year because of the state of the economy, and since average restaurant profits are down from 10%-30%.
Mr. Schweder stated that, aside from the discussions, the question is how did the procedure work in selecting an operator for the Golf Course restaurant, what was discussed with other bidders during the process, and relationships of people. While wishing the operator well and agreeing it benefits the City to have such improvements, Mr. Schweder commented that is not what led to the present point and is not relevant to the investigation Attorney Spadoni was asked to do.
Ms. Dolan said her comments were precisely about the questions that were asked, and the thoroughness of the answers. Ms. Dolan communicated that her reading of the responses from Attorney Spirk and Attorney Spadoni made her feel much more comfortable about the process. Ms. Dolan did not think the process was being ignored by Council, and there was the opportunity to study it in great detail.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, said the City has lost part of Stratford Park, located between Sixteenth Avenue and Stratford Street between Union Boulevard and Route 378, but is defending the rest of it. The park is comprised of four parcels of land, the smallest of which is a 40 ft. wide strip that runs along Genoa Street and is apparently not in question. The largest parcel that is 3.3 acres is bounded by Stratford Street on the west and was deeded to the City by two couples in 1921 for park and playground purposes with a reverter clause. The City has kept the trees trimmed along the boundaries, has mowed the grass, removed yard waste, and provided for bicycle trails. Continuing on to say children have played there, Mr. Scheirer stated graves of Delaware Indians may be located there, and mounds the size of graves existed in 1954 but were flattened by the City around 1968. Advising that a lawyer for a daughter of one of the couples who donated the parcel has inquired as to the City’s intentions, Mr. Scheirer said to his knowledge the City has not yet responded but is actively defending the middle parcel with 1.3 acres that has a similar reverter clause. The parcel was deeded to the City by the Blue Ridge Real Estate Company in 1929 for park and playground purposes. Mr. Scheirer informed the assembly that this past January, Blue Ridge sold whatever rights it had in this property for $1 to Jama Barker who resides at 1007 Prospect Avenue with her husband, Thomas. Mr. Scheirer said someone has filed an action to claim the parcel pursuant to the reverter clause, but the City has filed a rejoinder using the definition of playground from a dictionary published in the 1920’s. At the same time, Blue Ridge also sold for $50,000 the almost one-half acre parcel along Sixteenth Avenue to Ms. Barker who combined the two parcels in a submission to the Zoning Hearing Board to build 8 twin houses along Sixteenth Avenue. Mr. Scheirer stated the City thought it owned this parcel but has lost it at least temporarily. The plans have been revised to delete the middle parcel and reduce the number of twins to six. Mr. Scheirer thought another question to be investigated is whether any taxes have been paid in the last century by Blue Ridge Real Estate Company. He was told if no taxes were paid then the City will send out one large bill for back taxes. Mr. Scheirer expressed his opinion that perhaps the City could use the taxes to buy the Sixteenth Avenue parcel back from Ms. Barker using eminent domain if necessary to make Stratford Park whole.
City Vehicles – Use by Employees
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, said he received a letter from the Administration concerning a benefit he took away as a retiree with the City, and he expressed his agreement with the City’s decision not to mail out life insurance booklets. However, Mr. Grubb observed if someone who does not live in the City has to drive to City Hall to pick up a copy of the insurance booklet they have to pay for the higher cost of gasoline. Mr. Grubb continued on to say a lot of money is being wasted by the City by allowing City employees to commute back and forth from home to work using City vehicles. Mr. Grubb added he has become aware that part-time employees also use City vehicles to drive back and forth to City Hall. Remarking that everyone who lives in the City of Bethlehem is paying for these costs, Mr. Grubb asserted it is wrong, unethical, and has to stop.
Removal of Parking and New Sidewalk – 546 Main Street
Mr. Grubb related a telephone conversation he heard by a
member of the Mayor’s family when he walked in front
of the restaurant referenced by Mr. Schweder on Sunday, June
8, 2008 regarding getting moving on the matter. Mr. Grubb,
noting the Parking Authority is conducting a study to address
parking problems in downtown Bethlehem, remarked parking spaces
are being given away and said it is unconscionable. Pointing
out it is difficult to walk through sections of the sidewalk
on some nights, Mr. Grubb stressed it is a public right of
way in front of the restaurant and not the domain of any private
business. Mr. Grubb noted that, from what Mr. Schweder said
earlier, the law states it should have gone before the Historic
and Architectural Review Board. Questioning what is Council
going to do about this, Mr. Grubb asserted if Council does
nothing they are as guilty as anybody else, and it is the
responsibility of elected officials to uphold the law. Stating
that the plans were brought before the Historic and Architectural
Review Board earlier in the year for endorsement and approval,
Mr. Grubb said it was intentionally avoided so there would
be no public discourse on the issue. Mr. Grubb informed the
assembly that at the meeting of the Bethlehem Citizens Association
it was unanimously recommended that City Council consider
a Code of Ethics Commission as the City of Easton has. Mr.
Grubb distributed copies of the City of Easton’s Code
of Ethics Commission to the Members of Council for consideration
Bill Kovatch, 1736 West Union Boulevard, advised he has lived there for 38 years and he used Stratford Park on a regular basis along with his children. Mr. Kovatch informed the assembly that for 38 years or longer the City has cut the grass because it was always understood it was City property. Mr. Kovatch remarked how it could turn from the City’s property to a non-City property is very strange, no taxes were paid on it, the City has used the park to place excess snow, and the City cleaned the area after a tornado went through. Mr. Kovatch related he was told by Charles Brown, former Parks and Public Property Director, that it is a passive park and playground equipment is not necessary to be installed. Mr. Kovatch said it is difficult for him to understand how the people got the property without City Council knowing about it and approving it. Mr. Kovatch advised the County map shows the property as part of the City parks, and another map states it is not. Observing there is a lot of confusion, Mr. Kovatch said he would like City Council to direct someone in the legal department to do a thorough job of checking into the matter. Mr. Kovatch stated there is no documentation that he has seen, and he cannot find any records of what has been going on. Stressing the property would cost over $200,000 if someone had to buy it, Mr. Kovatch wanted to know how much money came to the City, and indicated the developer will be selling the houses for a profitable sum. Mr. Kovatch thought it is incumbent on Council to do an investigation because he said it is very suspicious that a City property that was used as a park winds up in the ownership of somebody.
Mr. Leeson asked if Attorney Spadoni could be requested to contact the Law Bureau to find out the background of the situation, obtain the history, and if anything else needs to be done.
President Donchez, noting this is an issue about which Members of Council have received correspondence or telephone calls from residents, requested that Attorney Spadoni give a report if possible by the July 15 Council Meeting.
Mrs. Belinski recalled from a class she took that if someone is allowed to take care of a piece of property for 21 years then it is that person’s property.
Traffic Lights; Main Street Restaurant; and Greenway
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, commended Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, for responding to his question concerning the timing of traffic lights.
Mr. Antalics, commending the Administration for their handling of the property in front of the restaurant on Main Street, expressed his opinion that one parking spot and a minor change in the curb is not as significant as some of the other requests. Mr. Antalics continued on to say the restaurant has added to the ambience of Main Street and as a result more people come to the City.
Mr. Antalics stated the Greenway was a wise choice prior to the casino project in view of the $2 price per gallon of gas. However, Mr. Antalics stressed the situation has changed dramatically and the Greenway is an irresponsible use of space. Focusing on integrated railways, Mr. Antalics advised there is a direct line from Center City Philadelphia to Lansdale but the Norfolk Western rail line from Bethlehem three miles out has been destroyed beyond which is SEPTA property. With the expectation of 5 million visitors to the casino in Bethlehem, Mr. Antalics queried why not investigate the use of the Greenway for traffic, but acknowledged the Greenway project is too far along to bring it up. Mr. Antalics communicated that several governors have discussed the use of railways as the future. Mr. Antalics suggested that Council look at alternatives.
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, commented that parking spaces are needed and yet they are being sold to the casino. Mr. Rodriquez noted that if it were to start from scratch the Flatiron parking garage would be torn down. Mr. Rodriquez asked if there were updates on the left turn lane on Wyandotte Street. Mr. Rodriquez expressed his viewpoint that a change in leadership is needed, and asserted that laws are not being enforced. Mr. Rodriquez stated he is concerned about 5 million people coming to Bethlehem and yet the Greenway is being built. He thought there should be some sort of a skyway. Asserting there is going to be a hard time in the City, Mr. Rodriquez stressed everything that he has been saying is coming true, and he hates to see the negative environment happen and the negative element taking over.
Dean Bruch, 555 Spring Street, expressed the hope that the City still has property records from years ago. Mr. Bruch observed that pedestrians do not always obey the laws and walk across streets when they should not, and questioned where people should cross at Market and Main Streets. Mr. Bruch noted that foursomes who play golf could travel in the same car and split the cost of gas. Mr. Bruch thought that if the City owns the liquor license at the Golf Course Restaurant then there should be a large amount of insurance to cover that responsibility.
Chuck Nyul, 1966 Pinehurst Road, questioned whether the City will be ready when the casino is scheduled to open next year. Mr. Nyul asserted that if the first impression people get when they travel into Bethlehem from Wyandotte Street and Route 378 is not positive they will not return even if the City has the best casino. Mr. Nyul stressed that the South Side needs a lot of work. Advising that he lives near the site of the proposed cell tower at Clearview Park, Mr. Nyul recalled that the Fairfield Hotel could not build a ten story building since it was located in a flight path nearby the Lehigh Valley International Airport in the vicinity and runway 6. Mr. Nyul suggested that FAA clearance for the 120 ft. cell tower proposed to be located at Clearview Park that is also near the Airport should be investigated. Mr. Nyul noted that he will be playing with 32 other players at the Golf Course tomorrow but they will not go to the Golf Course Restaurant operated by Starter’s for refreshments and will go to other places instead. Mr. Nyul, pointing out that the Golf Course is at the location of a former cornfield, explained that he suggested years ago to roll the fairways because of the unevenness, and added it will also help with the cutting of the grass. He further stressed that golf balls bounce on the greens.
Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street, stressed that the copies of all of the papers in the Council Agenda packets that are made for the public should be double-sided in view of the cost of paper. Ms. Pongracz commented she agrees with statements made when the Greenway was proposed that it will be a haven for drug dealers, and said it will not be an asset to the City. Remarking that rail service is needed, Ms. Pongracz stated that the railway would be a marvelous addition to the City. Ms. Pongracz recalled that she traveled back and forth by rail to Philadelphia when she studied music there, and remarked the pollution was minimal, and the rail travel was pleasant. Ms. Pongracz pointed out that the Golf Course Restaurant needed to be upgraded, and she recounted how damp and dark it was previously. In recognition of the upcoming Fourth of July holiday, Ms. Pongracz observed how fortunate it is to live in this country.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.