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December 2, 2008
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President Donchez called the meeting to order. President Donchez asked the assembly to remain standing for a moment of silence in memory of one of Bethlehem’s greatest servants, Charles Brown, former Parks and Public Property Director, who passed away this afternoon.
Pastor Gerry Hartman, El Shaddai Bethlehem Ministries, 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, and Robert J.
Donchez, 6. J. Michael Schweder was absent, 1.
Amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to revise Article 1324
– Fees for Appeal and Article 1325 – Notice of
Prior to the consideration of the regular Agenda items, City Council conducted a Public Hearing to consider an Amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to revise Article 1324 – Fees for Appeal and Article 1325 – Notice of Hearings.
7A. Lehigh Valley Planning Commission – Zoning Ordinance Amendments – Zoning Hearing Board Procedures and Fees
The Clerk read a letter dated October 31, 2008 from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission advising that the matter was reviewed at the October 30, 2008 meeting, and the Commission found the proposed amendments to be matters of local concern only and offered no comments.
Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, recounted that the proposal was before the Members of Council previously at a Public Hearing on October 21, 2008 as an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to expand the area of notice for zoning meetings to 300 feet for zoning appeals as requested by City Council. The proposal was amended by the Planning Commission to exclude any variance requests for existing single family owner occupied structures from the proposed requirement to send notice of zoning appeals to people beyond those whose property abut the property in question. Those would be very minor appeals or setbacks for such requests as pools, and so on. Ms. Heller affirmed it seems that expanded notice would not be necessary in those cases. It was also recommended at that time that the fee schedule be revised because of the administrative work that would be increased for those notices. It was further recommended that the fee schedule be taken out of the Zoning Ordinance and that a Resolution be considered to increase the fees in a minor way to $125 for single family owner occupied units and $400 for all other appeals. Because the original proposal was amended, the amended proposal was sent back to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, confirmed that the language at the end was what was negotiated at the Planning Commission by some citizens.
President Donchez stated that the Ordinance will be placed
on the December 16, 2008 Agenda.
The Public Hearing was adjourned at 7:10 p.m.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of November 18, 2008 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
Certificate of Appropriateness – 302 E. Third Street
President Donchez announced that a Resolution to consider a Certificate of Appropriateness for 302 E. 3rd Street will be added to the Agenda later, and he would recognize anyone who may wish to comment under the First Courtesy of the Floor.
Darryl Peck, with Concord Public Finance, financial advisors, reviewed the provisions of the General Obligation Note under Bill No. 42 – 2008, Authorizing the Issuance of the 2008 General Obligation Note for Non-Utility Capital Projects. Mr. Peck affirmed that the financing information was provided for the Members of Council this evening. Mr. Peck, confirming that the Note is for the financing of the City’s various Non-Utility Capital Projects, advised that as in the past proposals were solicited for the financing of the projects in order to get the best rate and financing terms available. Mr. Peck communicated that, as everyone is aware, there are currently difficulties in the financial markets, but the City received the best proposal as summarized on page 1. Proposals were sent to 24 different banks, 4 banks responded, and 5 proposals were submitted as summarized on page 1. The terms of the financing is for 8 years, and a fixed rate for the entire term. One proposal submitted was for a fixed rate for 5 years and variable thereafter. The best proposal was from PNC Bank at a very favorable interest rate of 3.96% with a make-whole provision that means the note would not be able to be refinanced. Mr. Peck added that provision was part of almost every proposal received. The $840,000 Equipment portion will be amortized over 5 years, the Long Term General portion is amortized over 8 years, and the Golf portion will also be amortized over 8 years. The total issue will be $7,463,000. Page 2 contains the amortization repayment over 5 years with a level debt service. Page 3 showing the Long Term General fund portion takes into consideration that existing debt falls off in 2013. Column 20 on page 3 shows the incremental additional debt service for the General Fund of about $437,000. Page 4 is the Golf Course portion amortized over 8 years. Page 5 shows the combined schedules for the aggregate issue.
Mayor Callahan affirmed that the Miniature Golf Course was deleted from the proposal and as a result $300,000 in principal along with the corresponding interest was subtracted from the Note.
Recycling Ordinance Proposal
Peter Crownfield, 569 Brighton Street, commented that the reporting requirements were changed to be annual but the proposal reflects two reporting dates.
General Obligation Note
Mr. Crownfield expressed concern about the surveillance cameras that are included in the General Obligation Note, and said they are a waste of taxpayers money and it is irresponsible to finance them. Mr. Crownfield stressed there has been no public process and no consideration of the privacy issues that are very serious. Pointing out that approximately $800,00 is included in this General Obligation Note for the Wireless Mesh Data and Video Network and approximately $2.9 million over the next few years, Mr. Crownfield remarked it is an absurd way to spend taxpayer money. Mr. Crownfield thought that instead of funding surveillance cameras more Police Officers should be put on the streets, and stated that the cameras do not reduce crime. Mr. Crownfield noted that the cameras can zoom in from 100 yards away and something in someone’s hand can be viewed. Mr. Crownfield, referring to Police vehicles included in the General Obligation Note, highlighted the fact that the same type of vehicles are being purchased instead of more efficient vehicles. Mr. Crownfield also pointed out that about 34 years ago California determined that millions of dollars would be saved by requiring all official documents to be put on letter size paper, and saving money on paper, filing cabinets, folders, and so on.
Chuck Nyul, 1966 Pinehurst Road, stressed that all 70,000 residents of the City are going to pay for the General Obligation Note debt. Mr. Nyul thought that, considering the financial situation of the City government, the General Obligation Note should not even be up for a vote. Mr. Nyul stressed the City should be trying to do what it can with what it has somehow, particularly in light of the current financial difficulties in the country.
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, expressed his support in favor of Mr. Crownfield’s comments on surveillance cameras. Mr. Scheirer observed that if interest rates continue declining then the City could save money by waiting to finance the Non-Utility Capital Projects. Mr. Scheirer expressed the hope that the City can stop financing cars in a bond issue every two years. Mr. Scheirer suggested that if there is any money left over from the casino host fee perhaps some of the funds can be used to purchase police cars instead of continuing the syndrome of paying for them in a bond issue. Mr. Scheirer recalled past discussions about City funding provided to non-profit organizations and commented that although Historic Bethlehem, Inc. is certainly a worthwhile organization, the funding in the General Obligation Note is still a subsidy of a non-profit, and further questioned whether taxpayers should be funding it.
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, implored Council to consider
further cuts to the Non-Utility Capital Projects, and said
it is too much to borrow when not all of the items could be
considered essential. Pointing out that no one across the
country and the world is immune from the present economic
difficulties, Mr. Grubb stressed that additional non-essential
items should be cut from the capital projects list. Remarking
it is no secret that the City has cash flow issues, Mr. Grubb
remarked that the Administration often with Council’s
accommodation has maneuvered itself into this corner. Commenting
that he heard prior capital bond borrowing is being used to
meet payroll and other expenditures, Mr. Grubb said if it
is true its impact affects the City’s ability to meet
its obligations. Mr. Grubb noted he further heard that an
invoice of over $800,000 from Motorola for the City’s
radio system has gone unpaid for months, and the bond money
for this project is being siphoned away for other purposes
that hampers the City’s ability to meet its capital
obligations. Mr. Grubb further said he heard the City cannot
take delivery of a new fire truck because they cannot afford
to pay for it. Noting the 2009 proposed budget shows $7.5
million and $3.3 million in 2007 bond money, Mr. Grubb questioned
where is the cash. Mr. Grubb expressed that passing an inflated
Non-Utility Capital spending plan will encourage the continuation
of shell games, the consequences are mounting, and no one
seems to want to take responsibility for reining it in. Mr.
Grubb communicated that savings from reducing the borrowing
should be used to build up cash reserves, or return some or
all of it to the property owners in the City. In view of the
dire economic circumstances, Mr. Grubb stressed he cannot
fathom how the City can borrow this amount of money. Mr. Grubb
asserted that the people of the City are not well served by
supporting this Non-Utility Capital spending plan.
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, commented that he is in favor of security cameras and feels it is a tool for the Police. Mr. Rodriquez emphasized that something needs to be done. Mr. Rodriquez did not think that the Police will zoom in on unwarranted material for the sake of privacy, but rather other material that would be in the area of crime. Mr. Rodriquez, stressing that calls to the Police are needed from citizens, communicated it is not just security cameras, but everyone working together. Pointing out that everyone sees the violence and drugs, Mr. Rodriquez noted that everyone is a tool to help make things happen because the Police cannot do it alone and citizens have to help. He added that block watches, the South Side Task Force, and neighborhoods need to be more informed. Urging that the security cameras not be taken away, Mr. Rodriquez remarked it is something that has to be done for the sake of citizens, their families, and the community.
Robert Pfenning, 1845 Linden Street, commented there were three different totals in the documents he received on the bond issue proposal. President Donchez confirmed to Mr. Pfenning that copies for the public were placed on the table outside Town Hall of the proposal to be considered by City Council this evening. Mr. Pfenning stated he did not think that ice skates and painting belong in a capital budget.
6. OLD BUSINESS.
A. Tabled Items
B. Unfinished Business
1. Establishing Article 314 – Security Cameras
2. Political Contributions and Expenditures – Proposed Ordinance
3. Gift of Real Estate – LVIP
4. Recreation Fees – Proposed Increases
5. Amending Zoning Ordinance – Article 1324 – Fees for Appeal and Article 1325 – Notice of Hearings
6. Bill No. 28 - 2008 – Amending Zoning Ordinance – Various Sections
C. Old Business – Members of Council
Mr. Leeson asked that the use of bond funds for invoices from Motorola for the radio system, and the fire trucks be addressed.
Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, advised that he checked today on expenditures and the $800,000 check for the Motorola invoices will be issued Friday. Explaining the City did not want to cash in the certificate of deposit before the interest was to be paid, Mr. Reichard noted that the company knows they will receive the money on Friday. Since the new fire truck came earlier than anticipated, Mr. Reichard had asked that the delivery be delayed in view again of the interest on the certificate of deposit. Mr. Reichard stated that the invoice for the fire truck will be paid at the end of December or in January.
In response to Mr. Leeson’s question on the use of bond funds to meet payroll, Mr. Reichard explained the City received State aid that allows the City to reimburse the bond payment made on the Pension Bond. Mr. Reichard added that all Members of Council received a copy of the memorandum reflecting the bond payment. Mr. Reichard affirmed that the bond funds were not used for payroll.
B. Street Vacation – Portions of North Street, Marshall Street, and Alley
The Clerk read a letter dated November 14, 2008 from Attorney William W. Matz, Jr., representing Nitschmann, LLC, requesting vacation of portions of North Street between Stefko Boulevard and Marshall Street, Marshall Street between North and Broad Streets, and a 15 foot wide alley between North and Broad Streets.
Mr. Leeson, observing that included in the request was correspondence from two objectors who are neighboring property owners, observed that would be a matter of concern to City Council and noted the matter needs to be addressed.
President Donchez referred the request to the Planning Commission.
C. City Solicitor – Records Destruction Resolution – EMS Bureau
The Clerk read a memorandum dated November 21, 2008 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, requesting a Resolution for the destruction of records from the Emergency Medical Services Bureau. The Law Bureau reviewed the Municipal Records Retention Act and the records fall within categories where destruction is permitted.
President Donchez stated that the Resolution will be placed on the December 16 Agenda.
D. City Solicitor – Records Destruction Resolution – Human Resources, Compliance Office
The Clerk read a memorandum dated November 21, 2008 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, requesting a Resolution for the destruction of records from the Human Resources Department Compliance Office. The Law Bureau reviewed the Municipal Records Retention Act and the records fall within categories where destruction is permitted.
President Donchez stated that the Resolution will be placed
on the December 16 Agenda.
E. Business Administrator – 2008 General Obligation Note
The Clerk read additional Communication 7 E into the record that was a memorandum dated December 2, 2008 from Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, advising that the Administration is reducing the proposed General Obligation Note of 2008 by $300,000 due to elimination of the Miniature Golf Course.
Ms. Dolan noted that a revised list of the Non-Utility Capital Projects reflecting the $300,000 deletion of the Miniature Golf Course from the General Obligation Note had not been received.
President Donchez stated that Bill No. 42 is on the Agenda for Final Reading this evening.
A. President of Council
President Donchez announced the remaining Budget Hearings, as follows:
The Third Budget Hearing will be held on Wednesday, December
3, 2008 at 7:00 PM in
Town Hall on the following:
Council, Mayor, Treasurer, Controller
Department of Administration
Department of Fire
Department of Police
General Fund Revenue
General Fund Expenditures
The Final Budget Meeting will be held Tuesday, December 9, 2008 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall.
C. Community Development Committee
In Chairman Schweder’s absence, the Clerk presented an oral report of the meeting held at 8:00 AM on Tuesday, November 25, 2008 in Town Hall on the following subjects: Establishing New Article 1716 – Landmarks and Property of Historical Interest that was a draft for discussion purposes; Amending Article 342 – LERTA – Renewing through December 31, 2010 that was approved; and Amending Article 933 – Recycling Ordinance – Revisions that was also approved.
D. Human Resources and Environment Committee
Chairman Reynolds presented an oral report of the meeting
held at 8:00 AM on Monday,
December 1, 2008 in Town Hall on the following subject: Revised 2009 Personnel Requests. The Committee unanimously recommended approval of the revision to add three Police Officers and one Automotive Mechanic.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 42 – 2008 – Authorizing Issuance of 2008 General Obligation Note - $7,463,000 – Non-Utility Capital Projects
Suspending Rules of Council – Adding Administration’s Proposal to Reduce the 2008 General Obligation Note - $300,000
President Donchez accepted a motion to amend the Rules of City Council to consider the Administration’s proposal, as read under Communication 7 E, to reduce the 2008 General Obligation Note by the amount of $300,000 by deleting the Miniature Golf Course project from the Non-Utility Capital Projects.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 6. The motion passed.
The Clerk read Bill No. 42 – 2008 – Authorizing Issuance of 2008 General Obligation Note - $7,463,000 – Non-Utility Capital Projects, on Final Reading.
Amending Bill No. 42 – 2008 – Reducing 2008 General Obligation Note by $300,000 – Removing Miniature Golf Course
Mr. Leeson and Ms. Dolan moved to amend Bill No. 42 to reduce the 2008 General Obligation Note by the amount of $300,000 by deleting the Miniature Golf Course project from the Non-Utility Capital Projects.
Mrs. Belinski said she will continue to vote nay on the Bill. Mrs. Belinski stated that the Police cars should be taken out of the General Obligation Note and instead should be in the General Fund. Acknowledging that Police cars are needed, Mrs. Belinski questioned why should the City borrow money to pay for them. Mrs. Belinski added there are several other things she objects to in the proposal, so she will be voting nay.
Mr. Reynolds inquired whether regulations or oversight for the use of the surveillance cameras has been developed, as had been discussed previously.
Randall Miller, Police Commissioner, replied that video camera rules are already in place. The decision by the U. S. Supreme Court states that only private areas can be looked at if a Police Officer is standing there. Police Commissioner Miller affirmed no areas are being looked at that would be an intrusion. He added the City is also bound by State statute regarding looking into private areas. The system also has the ability to mask windows.
Mr. Reynolds asked that a copy of the regulations be provided to Council. Mr. Reynolds communicated that if the Members of Council had the opportunity to review the regulations then perhaps they could provide their input and comments on the possibility of more stringent rules. Adding that a Committee meeting could be held on the matter, Mr. Reynolds thought Mr. Crownfield and others made legitimate points.
President Donchez suggested that the information be forwarded to the Members of Council for review, and noted it would be appropriate for Mr. Mowrer, Chairman of the Public Safety Committee, to consider placing the matter on the Committee’s agenda for further discussion.
Police Commissioner Miller pointed out that many cities have cameras and do not have any restrictions other than State laws.
Mayor Callahan confirmed that any applicable court cases will be forwarded to Council involving the use of surveillance cameras as well as any State regulations or statutes. Mayor Callahan stated there is no intention of doing anything that would inhibit or limit one’s civil liberties. Mayor Callahan, observing that Mr. Crownfield and others have raised some important concerns that he shares, said the City certainly does not want the cameras to be misused in any way by the Police Department or anyone else who has access to the cameras. Mayor Callahan communicated that, in the spirit of public information and openness, regulations should be put in place so that the public has a measure of comfort in knowing their civil liberties will not be impacted and there are checks and balances. Mayor Callahan agreed there should be a public meeting on the issue. Affirming there is a pilot program for the cameras, Mayor Callahan noted that $800,000 will enhance the current system. However, Mayor Callahan stated before the City moves forward into general implementation the public should be allowed to have input.
Mrs. Belinski informed the assembly she was told that someone on the South Side was circulating a flyer in opposition to the security cameras. Mrs. Belinski added that the photograph of former Council Member Magdalena Szabo was put on the flyer instead of Mrs. Belinski’s photograph. President Donchez confirmed the issue of security cameras in stores is different from the purchase of surveillance cameras that is in the General Obligation Note.
Ms. Dolan noted one of the issues that was raised was security
of the film itself and the possibility of unauthorized film
being distributed. Ms. Dolan stressed there must be some safeguards
against that. Ms. Dolan, expressing she is also concerned
about civil liberties, explained a recent study showed it
is difficult for people to accurately recall the details of
people of different races, and to remember all the details
of an occurrence during stressful circumstances. Ms. Dolan
noted that one could look back at the recording of the camera
regarding the facts.
Mr. Reynolds stated the projects remaining in the General Obligation Note are all necessary, and reflect the wishes of various Members of Council and the public about things that need to be done. Mr. Reynolds pointed out that fire house repairs are included, about which he and President Donchez heard last year. In addition, Mr. Reynolds thought it makes sense to enter into a General Obligation Note at this time in view of the favorable interest rates. Mr. Reynolds further stated the City has been paying down debt, and the General Obligation Note is for a period of eight years instead of the usual 15 years.
Mr. Leeson said the comments offered to Council about the timing of borrowing for a General Obligation Note have merit. Mr. Leeson, acknowledging this is not an easy decision, observed there is never really a good time to borrow money at taxpayer expense. However, Mr. Leeson pointed out that one of the hallmarks of Bethlehem government has been to try to look to the future whenever possible. Mr. Leeson highlighted the fact that many of the projects in the General Obligation Note address issues that have been of concern for some time and will only get worse and more expensive over time such as roofs, parks, playgrounds, pools, repairs, deferred maintenance, erosion control, mechanical system, ice rink, fire houses, City Center, and so on. Mr. Leeson observed the question is whether the City is going to address these concerns now when the interest rates are low, or in the future when interest rates go up. Mr. Leeson, stating that the business of government must go forward, observed that the interest rates are historically low, and in view of the current economy the City will get more competitive and better prices on the work. While the timing may not be popular, Mr. Leeson thought the timing is right in looking to the future and meeting the City’s responsibilities. Mr. Leeson commented it is the right decision to move forward and he will support it.
Ms. Dolan observed the balance between timing and political advantageousness is not as important as having to move forward. Ms. Dolan reiterated the other points made by Mr. Leeson that interest rates as well as costs are low. Ms. Dolan noted that Ralph Carp, Director of Parks and Public Property, explained to her some projects that were considered a few years ago and now the prices are down presently. Ms. Dolan communicated that government must keep going forward as best it can. Ms. Dolan said she will support the Bill.
Mrs. Belinski communicated she has received a lot of calls questioning how can the City borrow almost $8 million for the General Obligation Note when the City is in financial distress. Noting that a $1 million payment from the Stakeholders Agreement will be received, Mrs. Belinski pointed out there is still a possible $3.6 million deficit projected at the end of 2008, in the absence of casino host fees, and added that another approximate $1.6 million from the Treasurer’s Escrow Account is earmarked for other projects. Mrs. Belinski stressed the City is borrowing ahead again, and recounted last year it was stated there was a balanced budget. Mrs. Belinski asserted the City is in the worst financial condition ever and yet is going ahead with the General Obligation Note borrowing. Mrs. Belinski highlighted the fact that $50,000 has been spent to correct Code violations at the Golf Course restaurant that was for a new sprinkler system, and now it has been advised that a new heating and air conditioning system will be installed. Mrs. Belinski stressed that the fire houses need repairs. Mrs. Belinski stated she will not vote for the Bill.
President Donchez affirmed he will support the General Obligation Note. Expressing he does have concerns about the surveillance cameras, President Donchez stated he is glad the City will be proactive, and that the matter will be discussed in Committee. President Donchez noted that, as Mr. Leeson said, the City will be getting low interest rates, and added that eliminating the Miniature Golf Course is the right thing to do. President Donchez expressed the hope that in the future the Police cruiser cars can be funded from the General Fund Budget when the City receives the casino host fees. Stressing that the City should not play catch up as was done in the past pertaining to fire equipment that needed to be purchased and when only about 3 or 4 Police cars were purchased in past years, President Donchez expressed his support for the purchase of 12 Police vehicles included in the General Obligation Note in terms of public safety. Advising there are projects that are needed, President Donchez recounted that he and Mr. Reynolds toured parks facilities, and fire stations and improvements are necessary. President Donchez highlighted the fact that the General Obligation Note is to be paid back in 8 years versus the traditional 15 years for past bond issues, and he added that over the last two years the debt has been reduced by $54 million. Acknowledging that government cannot stop operating and needs to move forward, President Donchez expressed his belief that it is the right way to move ahead.
Mr. Mowrer recalled he has been through more budgets and capital budgets than anyone in the assembly. Recounting he has seen Council vote on things and bypass other items, Mr. Mowrer said when things are not budgeted properly and are bypassed it catches up with the City. Mr. Mowrer noted the same thing was done with the fire equipment in the 1970’s and 1980’s. He observed that if things are cut out of the budget the City will pay dearly in the future and it will cost more in the long run, and added that keeping up and maintaining facilities must be done on an annual basis. While expressing he does not agree with everything in the proposal, Mr. Mowrer stated he will vote for it because he thought the Administration has reviewed the items in detail and is ready to make improvements for the City.
Voting AYE on the Amendment to Bill No. 42 - 2008: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 5. Voting NAY: Mrs. Belinski, 1. The Amendment passed.
Voting AYE on Bill No. 42 – 2008, as Amended: Ms.
Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez,
5. Voting NAY: Mrs. Belinski, 1. Bill No. 42 – 2008,
hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2008-30, was declared adopted.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 43 – 2008 – Amending Article 342 – Continuing LERTA through December 2010
The Clerk read Bill No. 43 – 2008 – Amending Article 342 – Continuing LERTA through December 2010, sponsored by Mr. Leeson and Mrs. Belinski, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
ARTICLE 342 OF THE CODIFIED ORDINANCES
ENTITLED LOCAL ECONOMIC REVITALIZATION TAX
ASSISTANCE - ENTERPRISE DEVELOPMENT AREA.
Mr. Leeson, noting that the Saucon Valley School District has already approved the LERTA proposal, asked what is the timetable for approval by the Bethlehem Area School District and Northampton County.
Mayor Callahan responded the City is in discussion with
the Superintendent and communicating with him and the School
Board to bring the matter up for a vote. Recounting that when
LERTA was approved previously it was done retroactively, Mayor
Callahan noted it may stretch into January and then would
be passed retroactively. Mayor Callahan advised that the City
has had discussions with Northampton County and the early
indication is they are in favor of it.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 6. Bill No. 43 - 2008 was declared passed on First Reading.
B. Bill No. 44 – 2008 – Amending Article 933 – Recycling
The Clerk read Bill No. 44 – 2008 – Amending Article 933 – Recycling, sponsored by Mr. Leeson and Ms. Dolan and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
ARTICLE 933 OF THE CODIFIED ORDINANCES
In response to Ms. Dolan, Tom Marshall, Recycling Coordinator, affirmed that only one annual recycling report will be required. Mr. Leeson noted that the original proposed language on pages 6 and 8 pertaining to recycling reporting requirements due January 15 and July 15 has been changed to once a year as a result of the correspondence received from the Law Bureau in response to the request at the Community Development Committee meeting.
Ms. Dolan, commenting that the Recycling revisions are a step in the right direction, observed that over time the commercial side can be addressed to a greater degree.
Mrs. Belinski recounted that at the Community Development Committee meeting on November 25 it was explained that the two new recycling trucks to be purchased under the State grant for the purpose of picking up yard waste will be housed in the garage when not in use since the State grant provisions do not allow the trucks to be used for other purposes. Mrs. Belinski exclaimed this is wasteful spending of State money. Mrs. Belinski stated it was requested at the Committee meeting that the Law Bureau look into the matter. John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, affirmed the Law Bureau was asked to review the Recycling Ordinance proposal for any inconsistencies.
Tom Marshall, Recycling Coordinator, confirmed that the picking up of yard waste is mandated by the DEP and a memorandum regarding that requirement was forwarded to the Members of Council. Mr. Marshall further informed the Members that the caveat to the State grant is that the trucks can only be used for recycling purposes. Mr. Marshall, expressing he does not necessarily agree with the logic of paying $360,000 for trucks that will be underutilized, advised the DEP gave the City the grant money for the stated purpose of picking up yard waste.
Mrs. Belinski thought the discussion at the Committee meeting was that it was really up to the Administration to look into the matter of how the trucks could be used.
President Donchez expressed his agreement with Mr. Marshall regarding the fact that when a grant comes from the State it is to be used for a certain purpose as a condition of the grant, and if not the grant would be retracted.
Mr. Reynolds asked for clarification that the DEP stated the City had to pick up yard waste and gave the City a grant to pay in full for the truck to pick up yard waste.
Mr. Marshall, responding the trucks can only be used for recycling purposes, explained they could be used to pick up Christmas trees or for other recycling events, for example, but could not be used to pick up trash.
Mr. Reynolds expressed the hope that the trucks can be used as much as possible for allowable purposes.
Mr. Marshall advised that he could forward a copy of the monthly report on recycling that he gives to the Administration.
Mr. Reynolds queried whether in 2009 the City will receive the amount of money it has in the past for the recycling program. Further pointing out that anytime there is a new program there are usually some issues to address, Mr. Reynolds suggested that a Committee meeting be held to discuss how the implementation is progressing.
Mr. Mowrer commented he is sure the Administration can be
creative and conduct more recycling programs.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 6. Bill No. 43 - 2008 was declared passed on First Reading.
Adding Resolution 11 A
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Leeson moved to add Resolution 11 A
to the Agenda. Voting AYE:
Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 6. The motion passed.
A. Certificate of Appropriateness – 302 East Third Street
Mr. Leeson and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 2008-210 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to construct an historically detailed storefront at 302 East Third Street.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 6. The Resolution passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS
Chairwoman Belinski re-announced a Parks and Public Property Committee meeting on Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 5:45 PM in Town Hall on various subjects.
Chairwoman Dolan announced a Public Works Committee meeting on Tuesday, December 9, 2008 at 5:45 PM in Town Hall on Article 923 Amendments.
Starters Golf Course Restaurant
Mrs. Belinski, referring to the provisions of the Lease Agreement between the City and Starters Golf Course Restaurant, pointed out it states the Lessee is responsible for and must pay for the cost of trash receptacles and trash removal. Mrs. Belinski noted it has come to her attention that the City is picking up the trash at the restaurant and inquired why.
Ralph Carp, Director of Parks and Public Property, explained the facilities did not lend themselves to collection with a commercial garbage truck at the time, and the lessee was supposed to take over collection.
Mrs. Belinski questioned will the City be reimbursed. Mr. Carp replied he will look into the matter.
Proposed Ordinance - Landmarks and Properties of Historic Interest
Mrs. Belinski recalling that the Planning Director had a rough draft of an ordinance to address historic properties, recounted she had asked Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, to draft an ordinance in order to save the churches on the South Side, and other historic structures and landmarks. After repeatedly asking that a draft ordinance be submitted and waiting all summer, Mrs. Belinski affirmed that a Community Development Committee meeting was held November 25, 2008 at which a proposed Ordinance for Landmarks and Properties of Historic Interest was reviewed. Mrs. Belinski inquired how the matter of a proposed Ordinance for Landmarks and Properties of Historic Interest will proceed.
President Donchez asked that Attorney Spadoni meet with Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, and Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, and provide a report for the next City Council Meeting.
Parks and Public Property Committee Agenda
In response to Mr. Reynolds, Chairwoman Belinski affirmed that she reviewed and approved the agenda for the Parks and Public Property Committee meeting on December 16 and a copy will be distributed to the Members of Council.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, commended the Administration and Council for moving the LERTA Ordinance forward. Mr. Grubb expressed he is sure the Administration will find uses for the recycling trucks, but added that the manpower will have to be found in order to do it. Mr. Grubb related he was disappointed in the conditions he saw in downtown Bethlehem last Friday. He stressed that property owners and shop owners need to take responsibility for the condition of the sidewalks. Mr. Grubb advised that the sidewalks on the west side of Main Street from Market to Broad Streets were strewn with leaves, and he picked up litter. Mr. Grubb remarked that Bethlehem should shine heading into the holiday season. Noting the streets were crowded with people, Mr. Grubb observed the City did not put its best foot forward, and said someone really dropped the ball. Expressing the hope that conditions like these do not occur again, Mr. Grubb stated the sidewalks should be clear of leaves and there should not be litter on the sidewalks or in the gutters. Mr. Grubb highlighted the fact that the conditions in the downtown did not represent Bethlehem well.
Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, expressed the hope that the $80,000 in the Parks and Public Property Department budget will be deleted as a result of the removal of the miniature golf course project from the 2008 General Obligation Note. Mr. Pfenning communicated that copies of the 2009 Budget amendment proposals should be available to the public for the December 9 Final Budget Meeting. Mr. Pfenning commented that the presentations by the Department Heads at the Budget Hearings were well done and expressed his appreciation. Mr. Pfenning commended Mr. Reynolds for his number-oriented questions. Pointing out that the City will face a major change with the opening of the casino on the South Side, Mr. Pfenning did not think anyone really knows the impacts of that change. Mr. Pfenning noted he did not see any provision in the Budget for a contingency line item for impacts from the casino such as if more Police Officers are needed to manage traffic, etc. Continuing on to say the casino facilities will be opened without any infrastructure in place, and there will be problems, Mr. Pfenning questioned where will the City get the money to address problems. He stressed there should be a contingency for unexpected expenses. Mr. Pfenning affirmed that every two months he pays the City for five private fire hydrants where he lives and to his knowledge the hydrants have not been flow tested or painted since they were installed. Mr. Pfenning informed City officials he is concerned that he is paying for two fire hydrants that people think are public fire hydrants because of their accessible location on City streets.
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, distributed to the Members of Council a petition signed by various people in opposition to the Five Points Traffic Plan with one way pairing. Mr. Rodriquez affirmed it is another petition that he circulated in the immediate Five Points area. Mr. Rodriquez informed the assembly that a total of 89 people signed the petition of which 21 were businesses and 68 were residents. He recounted the last petition he circulated was signed by 133 people. Mr. Rodriquez notified City officials that the people in the vicinity of Five Points do not want the one way pairs, they want the left turn eliminated, two lanes opened up, and parking restored. Mr. Rodriquez thought the ability of the surveillance cameras to mask windows was a good idea, and further stated that setting up a meeting is a good idea. Mr. Rodriquez did not agree with everything in the Recycling Ordinance, and pointed out that lids do not stay on the containers because of wind and irresponsible property owners. Mr. Rodriquez did not agree with having the trucks pick up yard waste in view of the compost center. He advised that every day on West Fourth Street there are bags of garbage that are not picked up.
President Donchez informed Mr. Rodriquez that anyone who receives contributions is a matter of public record in the courthouse.
Chuck Nyul, 1966 Pinehurst Road, turning to the project for the western portion of Sand Island that is included in the General Obligation Note, questioned why Lehigh County is not contributing since Sand Island is located in Lehigh County. Asserting the City does not have the money to pay back on the General Obligation Note, Mr. Nyul pointed out that the City is counting on the taxpayers but some do not have jobs. Mr. Nyul remarked that common sense is needed in the City right now.
Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street, observed that a budget is a working document. Ms. Pongracz commented that the City Controller should be looking for found money. Ms. Pongracz stressed that the one way pairs traffic plan is not needed and $2 million could be saved. Ms. Pongracz expressed she finds it difficult to understand why the Administration does not pay attention to the fact that the will of the people is that they do not want the one way pairs. Focusing on the less fortunate citizens, Ms. Pongracz suggested that the City could ask people to bring food and clothing to a Council Meting. Ms. Pongracz thought that Council has a duty to care for the welfare of all the citizens, many of whom are hurting in these difficult economic times.
Dean Bruch, 555 Spring Street, communicated that the City should look at what it owes and how to pay it back. Mr. Bruch observed the City will get less tax money when houses are being forfeited. Mr. Bruch pointed out the City still owes $800,000 for the sale of the landfill, and has a civil suit to pay off. Mr. Bruch thought that the use of the recycling trucks should be discussed.
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, held up the original master plan for the City from 1956 showing two major projects of a new City Hall and relief for the Five Points area. Mr. Antalics advised that the map shows the bypass of Wyandotte Street Hill at Black River Road to the Reading Railroad right of way, and to the ramp at Second Street. Because of the Reading Railroad’s objection to the cost, the plan was put in abeyance and was reevaluated in 1976 under the South Side ’76 Plan. At that point, South Boulevard was to be the backbone of South Side redevelopment. The plan was approved by Council and Redevelopment Authority funds were approved of $13.9 million for the plan. However, Mr. Antalics continued on to relate that the plan died because Bethlehem Steel Corporation and Lehigh University killed it so South Boulevard never followed through. Mr. Antalics highlighted the fact that the problem still exists today because the Reading Railroad right of way was not accessible. Now the right of way is accessible which means the plan today could be implemented to relieve the problem of Five Points traffic congestion, and the Five Points area could become a community as it was in the past. Continuing on to state that common sense would say to fulfill the master plan of the City from the past, Mr. Antalics remarked that will not happen because of the implementation of the Greenway on the South Side. Mr. Antalics asserted the Administration lacks vision and courage to follow the plans of the past. Mr. Antalics asked City officials to do what is right for the City to relive the traffic at the Five Points area.
Mr. Mowrer, focusing on attendance by Mayors at City Council Meetings, highlighted the fact that this is a meeting of City Council and public comments are welcome but the Mayor is not required to come to City Council Meetings and neither are Department Heads. Mr. Mowrer recounted that when he was Mayor, his Department Heads were not required to attend City Council Meetings and he usually did not attend. However, Mr. Mowrer advised that his door was open every Wednesday for anyone who wanted to talk to the Mayor. Mr. Mowrer continued on to affirm that the Controller has been at several City Council meetings and has worked very well with the Administration. Mr. Mowrer pointed out that Council is here to hear what the public has to say, and he listens to what the public has to say. Mr. Mowrer thanked the citizens for coming and their commitment to the City. Stating there is no question that this Council is as committed as any Council, Mr. Mowrer expressed this is the best Council he has experienced.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:00 p.m.