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JULY 29, 2008
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, July 29, 2008 – 7:00 PM
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
Acting President Mowrer called the meeting to order. Reverend Doctor Gary Langensiepen of St. John’s Windish Lutheran Church offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Jean Belinski, Karen Dolan, Gordon B. Mowrer, J. William Reynolds, and J. Michael Schweder, 5. Joseph F. Leeson, Jr. and Robert J. Donchez were absent, 2.
Visiting Students from Tondabayashi, Japan
Ms. Dolan, informing the assembly that visiting students from Tondabayashi, Japan, one of Bethlehem’s Sister Cities, are in attendance at the Meeting, recognized the students and presented them with lapel pins. The students introduced themselves to the assembly, and expressed their fondness of the City of Bethlehem.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of July 15, 2008 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
Historic Preservation; Planning Commission Reappointment
Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, commented that, given the recent actions by the Archdiocese of Allentown, it is important that the issues related to preservation of churches and other landmarks be addressed appropriately.
Mr. Pfenning commended the Mayor on his recommended reappointment of Lawrence Krauter to the Planning Commission, and expressed the hope that Council will unanimously approve the reappointment.
Planning Commission Reappointment
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, urged the reappointment of Lawrence Krauter to the Planning Commission, and pointed out that Mr. Krauter is sensitive to the neighborhoods in the City.
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, focusing on the recent decision of the Archdiocese of Allentown to close several Catholic churches on the South Side, observed that St. Joseph’s Church is located one block outside of the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District. Mr. Antalics stressed that St. Joseph’s Church is also a Slovenian shrine, and is very important to the ethnic history of the South Side. Mr. Antalics informed the assembly that his father helped to build the church as a teenager. Further advising that parents gave money to install church windows, one of which depicts the parish of Sobota, Mr. Antalics highlighted the fact that the City of Bethlehem has a Sister City relationship with Murska Sobota. He continued on to advise that various other parishes from the towns where the immigrants had lived in Hungary are also reflected in the church windows. Mr. Antalics pointed out that ambassadors from Slovenia have come to St. Joseph’s Church for dinners. Mr. Antalics expressed his opinion that what the Allentown Diocese has done in the choices of churches to close is almost devious. Mr. Antalics thought that the recently announced project to convert a church on the South Side into a restaurant is a desecration. Mr. Antalics asserted there is an obligation to preserve the memory of the people who made the South Side what it is. Mr. Antalics restated it is very important to the history of the South Side to take action to preserve the site.
Historic Preservation; Planning Commission Reappointment
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, commended Mrs. Belinski for advancing a proposal for a Landmarks and Historical Properties Ordinance. Mr. Grubb stated that, in light of recent developments concerning church closings in the City and ongoing development pressures in various neighborhoods, potentially historic structures must be given an additional layer of protection from destruction, and against profiteering from the City’s history. Mr. Grubb thought the proposed Ordinance would provide an excellent tool for City government and interested parties when there are potential changes and help protect valuable community assets. Mr. Grubb stressed that care must be taken so that the features which have made the City so special are not compromised or plowed under in the name of progress.
Mr. Grubb urging Council to approve the reappointment of Larry Krauter to the Planning Commission, stated that Mr. Krauter is interested in the City, is fair-minded, and has the qualities to serve the City very well.
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
C. Old Business – Members of Council
A. Public Works Director – Traffic Signals – 1435 Eighth Avenue
The Clerk read a memorandum dated July 14, 2008 from Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, to which was attached a proposed Resolution for a traffic signal at 1435 Eighth Avenue as part of the Plaza on Eighth development. It will also provide a crosswalk at the location to assist any pedestrians to cross Eighth Avenue, that will become more important with the future development of the Martin Tower property. The design is currently being reviewed by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), whose approval is contingent on the City agreeing to erect, operate, and maintain the traffic signal.
Acting President Mowrer stated that the Resolution can be listed on the August 19 Agenda.
B. Public Works Director – Establishing Streets – General Plan of Streets
The Clerk read a memorandum dated July 8, 2008 from Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, to which was attached a proposed Ordinance to update the City’s street map and related adjustment to the City’s Liquid Fuels funding.
Acting President Mowrer stated that the appropriate Ordinance can be listed on the August 19 Agenda.
C. Councilwoman Jean Belinski – Landmarks and Property of Historical Interest
The Clerk read a memorandum dated July 23, 2008 from Jean Belinski, Member of Council, requesting that a meeting of the Community Development Committee be scheduled to discuss establishing an Ordinance to preserve historic buildings, structures, churches, homes, landmarks, property of historical or antiquarian interest, etc., located throughout the City of Bethlehem.
Acting President Mowrer referred the matter to the Community
A. President of Council
Acting President Mowrer stated that the next City Council Meeting is scheduled on Tuesday, August 19 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall, and there will not be a Council Meeting on Tuesday, August 5 due to Musikfest.
1. Administrative Order – Lawrence J. Krauter – City Planning Commission
Mayor Callahan reappointed Lawrence J. Krauter to the City Planning Commission effective until March 2013. Ms. Dolan and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2008-126 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Mowrer, 5. The Resolution passed.
C. Finance Committee
In Chairman Leeson’s absence, the Clerk read an oral report of the Finance Committee meeting held July 23, 2008 on the following subjects: Transfer of Funds – Code Enforcement – Equipment; Transfer of Funds – Planning and Zoning – Office Equipment; Transfer of Funds – Fire Department – Overtime; Transfer of Funds - Professional Services – Fire Union Negotiations; Transfer of Funds – Non-Utility Capital Budget – City Center; Amending General Fund Budget - A. Health Bureau – Grants, B. Police Department – PCCD Grant – Hiring One Police Officer, C. Mechanical Maintenance Bureau – Small Tools; Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget - A. Treasurer’s Escrow – Ice Rink Renovations, B. Easton Avenue Improvements; and Amending Article 121 – Gaming Local Share Account. The Committee unanimously recommended that Council approve the various Ordinances and Resolutions. The Ordinance Amending Article 121 – Gaming Local Share Account will be placed on the August 19, 2008 Council Agenda.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 21 – 2008 - Amending General Fund Budget - Health Bureau – Grants, Police Department – PCCD Grant – Hiring One Police Officer, and Mechanical Maintenance Bureau – Small Tools
The Clerk read Bill No. 21 – 2008 – Amending General Fund Budget - Health Bureau – Grants, Police Department – PCCD Grant – Hiring One Police Officer, and Mechanical Maintenance Bureau – Small Tools, sponsored by Ms. Dolan and Mr. Reynolds and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
THE GENERAL FUND BUDGET FOR 2008.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Mowrer, 5. Bill No. 21 – 2008 was declared passed on First Reading.
B. Bill No. 22 – 2008 - Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget - Treasurer’s Escrow – Ice Rink Renovations, and Easton Avenue Improvements
The Clerk read Bill No. 22 – 2008 - Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget - Treasurer’s Escrow – Ice Rink Renovations, and Easton Avenue Improvements, sponsored by Ms. Dolan and Mr. Reynolds and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
THE 2008 CAPITAL BUDGET FOR NON-UTILITIES
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Mowrer, 5. Bill No. 22 – 2008 was declared passed on First Reading.
Considering Resolutions as a Group
Mrs. Belinski and Ms. Dolan moved to consider Resolutions 11 A through 11 E as a group. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Mowrer, 5. The motion passed.
A. Transfer of Funds – Code Enforcement - Equipment
Ms. Dolan and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 2008-127 that transferred $6,000 in the General Fund Budget from the Code Enforcement – Other Expenses Account to the Code Enforcement – Equipment Account to purchase laptop racks for three cars and furniture for new inspectors.
B. Transfer of Funds – Planning and Zoning – Office Equipment
Ms. Dolan and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 2008-128 that transferred $3,000 in the General Fund Budget from the Planning and Zoning – Salaries Account to the Planning and Zoning – Equipment Account to purchase office equipment for the Community Planner position.
C. Transfer of Funds – Fire Department – Overtime
Ms. Dolan and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 2008-129 that transferred $12,400 in the General Fund Budget from the Fire – Temporary Help Account to the Fire – Overtime Account to provide additional funding needed for overtime.
D. Transfer of Funds – Professional Services – Fire Negotiations
Ms. Dolan and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 2008-130 that transferred $1,106 in the General Fund Budget from the Unforeseen Contingency Account to the Professional Services Account for additional legal expenses paid in June and July 2008 related to EMS arbitration in the Fire Union negotiations.
E. Transfer of Funds – Non-Utility Capital Budget – City Center
Ms. Dolan and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 2008-131 that transferred $22,941 in the Non-Utility Capital Fund Budget from the Other Revenue – Johnston Park Account to Other Revenue – City Center Account to implement emergency repairs on a City Hall chiller and replace the egress doors between Buildings A and B.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 A through 11 E: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Mowrer, 5. The Resolutions passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS
Committee Meeting Announcement
Ms. Dolan re-announced a Public Works Committee meeting on August 20, 2008 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall for updates on the Water Filtration Plant and Freemansburg Trunk Line.
Yosko Park – Splash Park; Security Cameras
Ms. Dolan congratulated the City, the Parks and Public Property Department and staff for the splash park at Yosko Park. Ms. Dolan highlighted the fact that it is a lot of fun for children and their families.
Mrs. Belinski, while expressing her agreement that the splash park is wonderful, advised she has been contacted by neighbors who questioned the expenditure since they would like to have security cameras installed for the drug activities that occur during the nighttime hours. Mrs. Belinski added that she did speak with Randall Miller, Police Commissioner, who noted the Department is working on the matter.
Ms. Dolan observed that the money for the splash park came from certain grants that could not be used for security cameras.
Acting President Mowrer inquired about plans for cameras.
Randall Miller, Police Commissioner, responded that he and Mr. Carp have received estimates from several companies for cameras to cover not only the park area but also the neighborhood. Police Commissioner Miller affirmed that, as he explained to Council Member Belinski, the Police Department is aware of the problems and is looking at them currently.
Police Commissioner Miller informed Acting President Mowrer that the blue light seen in the City Hall Garage is part of a network recently installed to help prevent signals to the wireless computers from being dropped when Police cars enter the Garage.
Atlantic and Laufer Streets – Street Lighting
Mrs. Belinski advised that residents thought another street light was being installed at the lot at Atlantic and Laufer Streets where there is drug activity.
Michael Alkhal, Public Works Director, affirmed the area was checked and there is good coverage in terms of lighting. If more lighting were to be added, then another pole would have to be installed on Atlantic Street and directed towards the lot. Mr. Alkhal advised that, as explained in his response that is being sent to Mrs. Belinski, the suggestion is to upgrade the existing lighting from 9,500 lumens to 16,000 lumens that would make the area brighter, rather than adding another pole and light. Mrs. Belinski agreed that suggestion could be tried.
City Hall Garage – Parking Spaces
Mr. Schweder asked that Ralph Carp, Parks and Public Property Director, report back on the number of parking spaces in the City Hall Garage that are rented to City employees for parking during the week. Mr. Schweder noted it is his understanding from the Police Department that parking spaces reserved for Members of Council are rented to employees. Mr. Schweder also asked where does the revenue go, and how it is determined what is and what is not rented in the Garage.
Municipal Golf Course – Free Passes
Mr. Schweder recalled that a number of years ago there was a discussion about free passes being distributed for the Municipal Golf Course to elected officials and other individuals. Mr. Schweder asked Mr. Carp to poll the employees at the Golf Course and find out if there are any individuals who are playing rounds of golf for free, or there is any waiver of fees, and report back on the matter.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, expressed that he hopes to provide a detailed analysis at the next City Council Meeting of what he thought might be the most unfortunate decision ever by the Zoning Hearing Board in the case of Stratford Park.
Sands Casino and SteelStax - Comparisons
Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, thought it was interesting that the presentation prior to the July 15, 2008 City Council Meeting on the SteelStax project planned to be built in South Bethlehem in the area of the Sands Casino seemed to indicate that the basis for the project was that the City needs more 25 year old residents with college degrees. Mr. Pfenning enumerated his comparisons of the SteelStax project and the Sands Casino project. The Sands bought the land on which their casino is to be built, and the land on which the SteelStax project is to be built was donated. The funds to construct the Sands Casino project was either the Sands internal funds or borrowed funds with the obligation to repay. The SteelStax project will be funded with government grants and contributions from individuals and groups with no repayment. The Sands is building its own parking garage, while SteelStax will depend upon the City and the Parking Authority to construct a garage. The Sands will be paying property taxes but the SteelStax project will not. The Sands will be paying for public safety services through taxes and host fees, while Steel Stax will not. Mr. Pfenning expressed his opinion that as an economic project the Sands is trying to be successful while SteelStax is relying on the public trough to exist. Mr. Pfenning wondered whether or not the public is paying a fairly high price to have more 25 year old residents with college degrees living in the Lehigh Valley.
Wade Haubert, FOP President, Star Lodge 20, 77 West Broad Street, commended Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, for his work with the FOP in resolving the canine lawsuit. He added it was a mutually acceptable decision for all parties. Officer Haubert expressed his opinion that the public is entitled to know the results of the gambling impact study, particularly if it was paid for with public funds. Observing that the opening of the casino project in South Bethlehem is less than a year away, Officer Haubert communicated the City is not prepared. Officer Haubert, remarking that the City is grossly understaffed, said this is becoming a safety issue. Officer Haubert stated there has been no plan made as to how manpower will be allocated. Crediting the Administration for doing its part in proposing staffing increases while being cognizant of the cost to the taxpayers, Officer Haubert said, however, a plan is needed to know how to deal with the casino project; otherwise, it will catch the City off-guard. Relating the observation that increased gang and drug activity is occurring, Officer Haubert stressed something needs to be done. Officer Haubert communicated that in the event there would be a fatal incident involving a Police Officer he will hold everyone in the room accountable. Officer Haubert suggested that next year Musikfest should be encouraged to meet with City officials to negotiate a plan for improved staffing, equipment and/or salary contributions. In addition, Officer Haubert suggested that Musikfest should be required to have an on-going discussion with the Police Department and the FOP for the entire year to develop a more comprehensive plan. Highlighting the fact that when the Dali Lama came to Lehigh University last month the County had an emergency operations center set up for the event, Officer Haubert pointed out the same plan is being used for Musikfest that has been used for approximately the last 20 years. He added there has not been an increase in manpower for quite some time and Musikfest indicated they cannot afford it.
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, requested an update on cars that seem to be parked illegally on Adams Street, and better signage in the area. Mr. Rodriquez said he would like to find out the status of the traffic light at the Eighth Avenue ramp designated with no turn on red until 6:00 p.m. since he observed there is no traffic there and motorists must wait for the green light. Mr. Rodriquez stressed the drug activity at Yosko Park is continual, and has been there for years. Adding that the problems with auto theft come from Atlantic Street, and there are certain types of cars that are the favorites of drug dealers, Mr. Rodriquez asserted something must be done because it is affecting the City. Mr. Rodriquez stated that either the street lights are not bright enough or the trees are blocking them. He felt the branches should be cut, and rules should be enforced so that youth do not become involved with drugs. Mr. Rodriquez emphasized if enough is not done, the drug problem will overtake the City as he has been stressing for three years. Mr. Rodriquez asserted that cameras are needed. Mr. Rodriquez communicated that people are being affected by what is happening around them, and their lives are being impacted while nothing is being done about it.
Chuck Nyul, 1966 Pinehurst Road, with reference to a July 16 newspaper article in which it was reported that Musikfest generates about $39 million, highlighted the fact that the City receives only $110,000 from the organization. Mr. Nyul felt that the City should receive more money from the Musikfest organization, and pointed out that Musikfest charges $25,000-$30,000 upfront for a food stand. Mr. Nyul pointed out that when Bethlehem Steel Corporation was in operation on the South Side there were 26,000 employees and the company had its own fire and police employees, and physicians. Mr. Nyul said the City will be understaffed terribly when the casino opens. Mr. Nyul, noting he drove through traffic circles in other cities, observed they facilitate traffic flow rather than the situations of stop and go and turning traffic. Mr. Nyul felt that Third Street and Fourth Street must be made into one way streets, especially in light of public safety responders.
Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street, communicated that having traffic circles does not solve the problem. Ms. Pongracz, commenting that preservation is not confined to churches or buildings, said many other things need to be preserved. She exemplified that there was a water fountain on Main Street in the past. Ms. Pongracz further stated there are older people in the City who have done wonderful things, and the memories of the older generation need to be preserved. Focusing on the recent Diocesan decision to close four churches on the South Side, Ms. Pongracz advised her grandfather was one of the individuals who founded St. John Capistrano Church on the South Side, and her mother’s side of the family were among the earlier parishioners of St. Joseph’s Church on the South Side. Ms. Pongracz, while stating that those church buildings should be preserved, stressed the history of the people who occupied the buildings should be preserved since preservation goes beyond buildings. Ms. Pongracz stressed that preservation of the City’s historic areas needs to continue.
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, noted that according to a newspaper article $50,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds was spent on the Splash Park at Yosko Park. Mr. Grubb related his comments made at the CDBG hearing last week that the City should use CDBG funding to secure Yosko Park and other eligible areas with traditional lighting or security cameras. He added that it will protect the City’s investment in the park areas. Mr. Grubb thought there needs to be a public vetting of the City’s plans to deal with the casino so that the residents understand issues such as traffic, and law enforcement. Mr. Grubb communicated that the matter involving the Police canine was one of the low points of the City. Mr. Grubb wondered what is the status of PennDot’s review of the request to eliminate the left turn lane at Five Points.
Acting President Mowrer, while commenting that the matter of PennDot’s review is not appropriate to discuss now, thought Mr. Grubb should get an answer.
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, noted it was mentioned at a School Board meeting that the Mayor and the Governor enlisted the Bethlehem Area School District to put on a rally for a presidential candidate at Liberty High School for which the District incurred a cost of $15,000-$20,000. Mr. Antalics questioned who is responsible for the bill incurred by the School District to host the Clinton campaign. Mr. Antalics advised that an edict from the Vatican has stated that, since the churches were built by parishioners, in order not to incur extra costs the churches do not have to be handicapped accessible. Mr. Antalics, questioning if the City has any Ordinances that demands that all buildings be handicapped accessible, asked whether that is in conflict with what the Vatican has stated, and whether the Vatican can override the local Ordinances.
Acting President Mowrer noted that Mr. Antalics could probably find out the answer from the Administration office.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:05 p.m.