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March 17, 2009
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, March 17, 2009 – 7:00 PM
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President Donchez called the meeting to order. Pastor Robert Hachtmann, of Fritz Memorial United Methodist 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 Michael Wagner
President Donchez noted that a Citation for Michael Wagner, who retired from the Public Works Department after 41 years of service, would be delivered to him since he was unable to be present at the meeting.
Intermunicipal Transfer of Restaurant Liquor License Number R-9268 to Steel Hospitality Associates I, L.P. – Cobalt Café Restaurant in Sands Casino
Prior to the consideration of the regular Agenda items, President
Donchez called to order
a Public Hearing to receive public comment on the Application for the Intermunicipal Transfer of Restaurant Liquor License Number R-9268 from Lisa M. Colver, 1607 Northampton Street, Wilson Borough, Northampton County, Easton PA 18042 to Steel Hospitality Associates I, L.P., 77 Sands Boulevard, City of Bethlehem, Northampton County, Bethlehem PA 18015, as required under Pennsylvania Liquor Code 47 P.S. Section 4-461 (b.3).
7 A. Intermunicipal Transfer of Liquor License – Sands Casino
The Clerk read a letter dated March 3, 2009 from Attorney Joel H. Ziev representing Steel Hospitality Associates I, L.P., requesting an Intermunicipal Transfer of Liquor License Number R-9268 from Lisa M. Colver, 1607 Northampton Street, Wilson Borough, Northampton County, Easton PA 18042 to Steel Hospitality Associates I, L.P., 77 Sands Boulevard, City of Bethlehem, Northampton County, Bethlehem PA 18015. The proposed site is part of the Sands Casino presently under construction. The liquor license will be used by Cobalt Café.
Attorney Joel Ziev, 700 Washington Street, Easton, representing Steel Hospitality Associates, I, L.P., said he is at the Meeting this evening to make application to transfer the liquor license from Wilson Borough to the City of Bethlehem. Attorney Ziev informed the assembly that Kostas Kalogeropoulos is the manager and general partner. The intention is to allow his client to operate a restaurant in the Sands Casino. Attorney Ziev, noting the area is almost done, advised it is anticipated that the opening will be May 22, 2009. Attorney Ziev affirmed that City Council’s approval of the transfer of the liquor license into the City of Bethlehem is needed in order to make application to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. Attorney Ziev notified the assembly the restaurant will be open 24 hours and will be open to those coming to the casino and also to the public. Attorney Ziev stated he looks forward to Council’s approval of the application for the transfer of the liquor license from Wilson Borough to Bethlehem.
President Donchez asked if the restaurant’s opening date will be May 22, 2009.
Attorney Ziev replied in the affirmative, and further confirmed to President Donchez that it will be a 24 hour operation.
Ms. Dolan inquired about the relationship between Cobalt Café and Lisa Colver.
Attorney Ziev advised that Ms. Colver is the current owner of the license and an agreement was entered into between Attorney Ziev and Ms. Colver, and Attorney Ziev then assigned it to the Limited Partnership. Attorney Ziev continued on to say that cannot take place until and unless the receiving municipality, Bethlehem, approves the transfer because that must be part of the application to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (LCB).
Mr. Schweder asked if the restaurant will be located within the casino itself.
Attorney Ziev, replying yes, advised directly off the casino floor is where the restaurant will be located, and one can walk into the restaurant from the casino. Attorney Ziev added it is designated by a wall as a restaurant. In further response to Mr. Schweder, Attorney Ziev confirmed the restaurant will be open 24 hours, 7 days a week, the same as the casino.
Mr. Mowrer asked if the restaurant will be open to the public.
Attorney Ziev responded yes.
Mr. Mowrer further asked if it is open to the public with the same requirements as to get into the casino.
Attorney Ziev, noting one can simply go to the casino, explained if someone just wants to come to the restaurant they can do so, and anyone can go to the restaurant.
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, asked was there a notice posted on the property about the transfer pursuant to Council Resolution.
Attorney Ziev advised the State law requires it to be posted at the time of the application.
President Donchez noted it will be checked.
Mr. Scheirer asked if alcohol will be served 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Attorney Ziev responded alcohol is only available in accordance with the LCB rules, meaning it cannot be served before 11:00 a.m. on Sundays, for example.
Mr. Scheirer said he does not oppose the transfer.
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, inquired if it was not posted what does that do to this process.
Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, stated he will check and respond to Council.
Attorney Ziev stated if there a posting requirement he would ask that it be done nunc pro tunc because time is of the essence.
President Donchez asked that Attorney Ziev consult with the Law Bureau and Attorney Spadoni.
The Public Hearing was adjourned at 7:15 p.m.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of March 3, 2009 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
Bill No. 10 – 2009 - Establishing Article 314 – Security Cameras
Dwight Taylor, 3306 Green Meadow Drive, stated he is in opposition to Bill No. 10 – 2009, Establishing Article 314 – Security Cameras, and said there are many areas of the proposal with which he disagrees. Mr. Taylor notified the Members that he operates three gas stations in the City all of which have video surveillance cameras. Mr. Taylor commented the proposal has loose-ended regulations that are up to the Police Commissioner as to what he wants a business to have. Mr. Taylor advised he just installed a 15 camera system at a store that may not be sufficient. Mr. Taylor stressed the systems that would need to be installed under the proposal are very expensive, and could range between $5,000 and $50,000. Expressing that the need for the convenience store industry to have video cameras does not mean that other businesses do not need to meet the same requirements, Mr. Taylor communicated that singling out his business to require cameras to the exclusion of other businesses that handle cash after dark is discriminatory. Mr. Taylor advised he has ample security, in his opinion. Mr. Taylor, pointing out that many crimes happen in the daytime, exemplified that an Exxon gas station was robbed during the day, and if the station is closed at night then no cameras are necessary which he said is discriminatory. Mr. Taylor continued on to point out that bars and restaurants should be required to have cameras. Mr. Taylor advised the insurance industry polices the matter very well. Affirming he is concerned about his customers and his employees, Mr. Taylor advised that although he does have video surveillance it will not stop crime. Mr. Taylor informed the Members that crime does not happen every day, and it is not a prevalent issue in his business because he does take precautions. Mr. Taylor pointed out the proposed legislation states that it is not up to him to decide what is good for his property, but rather it will be up to the Police Commissioner to determine. Mr. Taylor further notified the Members that means anything he has already spent may not be good enough, or maybe he will be required to install the latest in technology the next year, and he will be forced to spend money that is not in his better interests financially. Mr. Taylor stressed that the proposed legislation is at the discretion of the Police Commissioner. Mr. Taylor, advising he has some black and white cameras and some color cameras, highlighted the fact that the proposed Ordinance requires color cameras. Mr. Taylor told the Members the expense per store would be $20,000 and more to change the black and white cameras to color. Mr. Taylor asked Council not to vote in favor of the Bill, and stated it will cost a lot of people a lot of money and is unfair.
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, said if the Bill is passed it gives too much power to a Police Commissioner to establish whatever standards the person in that position might require. Mr. Scheirer thought the proposed Ordinance is too vague, could be subject to challenge, and should specify the requirements. Mr. Scheirer, referring to the previous speaker’s comments, stressed the requirements should be justifiable for a business owner to have to spend more money on cameras.
6. OLD BUSINESS.
A. Tabled Items
B. Unfinished Business
1. Establishing Article 314 – Security Cameras
2. Gift of Real Estate – LVIP
3. Bill No. 28 - 2008 – Amending Zoning Ordinance – Various Sections
4. Establishing Article 1716 – Landmarks and Properties of Historical Interest
C. Old Business – Members of Council
B. City Solicitor – Agreement of Sale and Easement Agreement – Pennsylvania Department of Transportation – West Third Street at Wyandotte Street
The Clerk read a memorandum dated March 12, 2009 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed resolution authorizing the execution of (1) an Agreement of Sale with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to grant and convey a portion of City owned property, approximately 2,634 square feet, to the Commonwealth for a right-of-way required by the Commonwealth along Wyandotte Street at West Third Street; and, (2) an Easement Agreement with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to grant a temporary easement for construction purposes on land owned by the City at the intersection of West Third Street and Wyandotte Street.
President Donchez stated that the Resolution will be placed on the April 7 Agenda.
C. City Solicitor – Records Destruction Resolution – Public Works
The Clerk read a memorandum dated March 12, 2009 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, requesting a Resolution for the destruction of records from the Department of Public Works. 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 April 7 Council Agenda.
A. President of Council
1. Councilmanic Appointment – Diana P. Morganelli – Library Board
President Donchez appointed Diana P. Morganelli to membership on the Library Board effective until January 2011. Mr. Mowrer and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution No. 2009-55 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolution passed.
2. Councilmanic Appointment – Linda C. Robertson – Library Board
President Donchez appointed Linda C. Robertson to membership on the Library Board effective until January 2010. Mr. Mowrer and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution No. 2009-56 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolution passed.
C. Public Safety Committee
Mr. Mowrer, Chairman of the Public Safety Committee, presented an oral report of the meeting that was held on Tuesday, March 10, 2009 on the following subjects: Amending Article 1120 - Emergency Medical Services; Establishing New Article 314 - Security Cameras; and Wireless Mesh Cameras Project.
President Donchez asked if the power point presentation made at the Committee meeting could be forwarded to the Members of Council.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 9 – 2009 – Amending Article 1120 – Emergency Medical Services
The Clerk read Bill No. 9 – 2009 – Amending Article 1120 – Emergency Medical Services, sponsored by Mr. Mowrer and Mr. Reynolds, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
ARTICLE 1120 OF THE CODIFIED ORDINANCES
ENTITLED EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. Bill No. 9 - 2009 was declared passed on First Reading.
B. Bill No. 10 – 2009 – Establishing Article 314 – Security Cameras
The Clerk read Bill No. 10 – 2009 – Establishing Article 314 – Security Cameras, sponsored by Mr. Mowrer and Ms. Dolan, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA,
ESTABLISHING A NEW ARTICLE 314
ENTITLED “SECURITY CAMERAS”.
Ms. Dolan, acknowledging that issues related to security and civil liberties have been discussed before, addressed the comments made earlier by Mr. Scheirer that sections of the Ordinance are vague. Ms. Dolan communicated that, because the various businesses covered by the Ordinance are different, flexibility is required. Referring to comments made by Mr. Taylor, Ms. Dolan affirmed the Ordinance does rely on the opinion and findings of the Police Commissioner. Ms. Dolan, while confirming the present Police Commissioner looks out for the citizens of Bethlehem, observed things could change under different Police Commissioners. Ms. Dolan emphasized that, if anyone felt there was abuse of the intent of the Ordinance, Council would be open to listening to those matters. Turning to protection of employees and customers, Ms. Dolan exemplified that, as she had stated at the Public Safety Committee meeting, government can require citizens and businesses to abide by rules that they might not choose on their own such as sweatshops, child labor, seat belts, inspections of vehicles and buildings, security and safety. Ms. Dolan said she would suspect that Mr. Taylor’s business is above and beyond what would be required. Ms. Dolan commented sometimes it takes the arm of government to protect in a way that individual business owners, homeowners, or automobile owners, and so on probably would not in the absence of regulations. Ms. Dolan stated she is in support of the Bill after a great deal of thought because she thinks it is good for business owners, customers, and employees. Ms. Dolan observed that the anecdotal evidence does not indicate how much crime there would have been without security cameras.
Mrs. Belinski read a letter sent to City Council from Chester Taylor who advised he has been operating 24 hour convenience stores in the City since 1972. In his letter, Mr. Taylor explained that in reality his experience has been nowhere near the public perception of robberies in convenience stores. Mr. Taylor has had security cameras at all of the Lukoil and Shell gas station sites since they became available. He was robbed 13 times in four different stores since 1972, and 4 of 13 robbers were caught. In not one case was a video of the robbery a factor in catching them. Mr. Taylor advised the robbers do not park at the store and they wear masks. In looking at only one convenience store, Mr. Taylor’s average is a robbery once every 6 years. He continued on to say in his letter that the Police are going to catch one robber every 18 years or so and the cameras will not help. Mr. Taylor added no one has ever been hurt. Mr. Taylor stressed the huge costs of the system that the proposed ordinance, as written, places on businesses. He noted he had to replace a recording device at Stefko Shell gas station this past January, and the cost was $4,274 that did not include the necessary quad unit, cameras, wiring or installation. Mr. Taylor stated that the system being mandated could not be obtained for less than $10,000. He noted that check cashing is available at the Shell gas station on Stefko Boulevard, and added that large amounts of money are not available to either the customers or employees. The money is dispensed from an ATM, customers are identified by fingerprint, and there is no additional risk of robbery. Mr. Taylor concluded his letter by stating cameras are great at detecting employee and customer theft, but they do not catch robbers.
Mrs. Belinski communicated she hates to see people, especially in these economic times, having to come up with $10,000 if the Police Commissioner can mandate what they have to do. Expressing this is her quandary, Mrs. Belinski commented it seems unfair.
Mr. Leeson advised he is inclined to vote against the Ordinance for several reasons, one of which was articulated by Mrs. Belinski. Observing right now is the worst recession since the 1920’s, Mr. Leeson said this is not the appropriate time to impose major expenditures on private property owners. Mr. Leeson commented that, unless a compelling case is made for government regulation of private property ownership and forcing people to spend money, additional government regulation is not to be encouraged. Mr. Leeson stated in this particular circumstance he is not convinced there is a major problem in Bethlehem with respect to the type of crime that is of concern. While acknowledging there have certainly been documented instances of crimes that affect these types of businesses, Mr. Leeson was not convinced the proposal will ratchet up the level of apprehension considering the costs involved. Mr. Leeson, pointing out he remains open to considering this in the future if circumstances change, did not think a compelling case has been made at this time for this type of regulation and imposition of significant expenditure on private property owners.
Mr. Reynolds inquired how new 24 hour businesses would be notified.
Stuart Bedics, Deputy Police Commissioner, advised he is not aware of how Police Commissioner Miller is proposing to do that.
Mr. Reynolds asked how the proposed Ordinance would affect any of the developments at the casino.
Deputy Police Commissioner Bedics explained that the casino has probably the best surveillance system. Deputy Police Commissioner Bedics confirmed to Mr. Reynolds that the casino will have cameras on the outside. He continued on to say the Department is meeting with the casino security representatives and will find out if the City can tap into their system to view the parking lots and premises.
Mr. Reynolds said, if the proposal does pass, he would suggest that the Department develop a plan for new businesses.
Deputy Police Commissioner Bedics advised that bank robbers
have been spotted through cameras at ATM machines, and glimpses
of the car were seen from the film. A new bank that opened
on Eaton Avenue was robbed that had exterior surveillance
cameras so that the car, the license plate, and the individuals
were seen on film and within an hour and a half the robbers
were in custody.
Mr. Reynolds, observing there is a balance of freedom and security, pointed out one of the basic City services is to protect people. Mr. Reynolds thought a lack of governmental regulation can sometimes lead to more problems as can be seen with the national economy. Mr. Reynolds communicated that government intervention comes down to the cost to private individuals and business versus the benefit to the public interests. In this case, Mr. Reynolds said, after having lived near 24 hour businesses and after reading about robberies at such businesses, unfortunately it seems to be a more common occurrence. Mr. Reynolds, while noting there is a good argument to be made about the cost to business, said at the same time he thinks one of the City’s jobs is to provide public safety. Mr. Reynolds did not believe the cost to private business is outweighed by the public interest to live in a safe community.
Mr. Schweder pointed out that changes have been made to the proposal over a period of time but advised as it is drafted he cannot support the Ordinance. Mr. Schweder said he would have hoped that some Members of Council would have an appreciation of the miniscule margins that small business people operate under and how the slightest intervention impacts their ability to survive as a business. Mr. Schweder, noting he will explain what he thinks is the fault of the Ordinance, remarked that Councilwoman Dolan’s comments demonstrated a reason to vote against the proposal. Mr. Schweder, highlighting the fact that Council will be asked to vote on a new Zoning Ordinance in several months, questioned whether any Member of Council would be prepared to abdicate their responsibility and say that an appointed official would have the right to overrule anything in the Zoning Ordinance. Mr. Schweder stressed that is what this proposed Security Camera Ordinance does. Querying whether the Zoning Ordinance would be written in such a way that the Department Director would have the right to determine later on whether or not someone had to abide by the Zoning Ordinance, Mr. Schweder highlighted the fact that Council would not pass such a piece of legislation. Mr. Schweder expressed the few examples where latitude was given have all come back to haunt City officials. Mr. Schweder pointed out if there is a recourse where the business owner thinks they have a more effective way, then this body should be responsible for that in conjunction with the Police Commissioner. Mr. Schweder observed this open-ended proposed Ordinance exists nowhere else with anything that Council has enacted. He advised that the responsibility to determine whether a law is enacted should rest with the people who are charged under the Third Class City Code to enact it. Mr. Schweder said, as drafted, the proposed Ordinance is something that Council should not be enacting. Mr. Schweder asserted these are serious ramifications that will have a long term effect with future Councils. Mr. Schweder stressed Council is the body that has the responsibility to make legislative decisions that should not be given to appointed officials. Mr. Schweder stated he will oppose the Ordinance.
Mr. Mowrer asked if the cost for cameras that would be required is $10,000 a piece.
Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, advised various numbers were given at the Public Safety Committee meeting and it was noted that it could be as much as $10,000.
Mr. Mowrer asked Mr. Taylor how many cameras he would have to buy.
Mr. Taylor, noting it would be up to the Police Commissioner, said it could be 15 or 16. He added that if the cameras were of an advanced technology the purchase could equate to an entire year’s profits.
Mr. Mowrer communicated he, too, is not very pleased with the amount of authority that is given to a Police Commissioner. In response to President Donchez, Mr. Mowrer said he would move to table the Bill, study the issues that have been brought up, and obtain responses from the Police Commissioner.
Mr. Schweder suggested that, rather than tabling the Bill, the Ordinance be referred back to Committee for further work so there is a mechanism to work on the language as opposed to letting the Bill sit on the table.
Re-referring Bill No. 10 – 2009 to Committee
Mr. Mowrer moved to re-refer the Ordinance to Committee for further review. Ms. Dolan seconded the motion. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The motion passed.
President Donchez suggested that, through Mr. Mowrer, Chairman of the Public Safety Committee, questions and possible changes be sent to Police Commissioner Miller. Chairman Mowrer affirmed that all Members of Council who have questions should forward them to be brought up at the Committee meeting.
A. Authorizing DCNR Grant Application – Sand Island West
Mr. Mowrer and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution No. 2009-57 that authorized the application for a grant from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for the Sand Island West project.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolution passed.
Motion – Considering Resolutions as a Group
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Mowrer moved to consider Resolutions 11 B through 11 F as a group. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The motion passed.
B. Certificate of Appropriateness – 33 Wall Street
Mr. Schweder and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution No. 2009-58 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness for the new front door color at 33 Wall Street.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 81 West Broad Street
Mr. Schweder and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution No. 2009-59 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install signage at 81 West Broad Street.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 437 High Street
Mr. Schweder and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution No. 2009-60 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace two skylights and asphalt shingles on the second floor sunroom and rear roof at 437 High Street.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 437 High Street
Mr. Schweder and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution No. 2009-61 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace cracked slate block steps and rotted fence boards at 437 High Street.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 36 Wall Street
Mr. Schweder and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2009-62 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the kitchen roof at 36 Wall Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 B through 11 F: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolutions passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS
Tour and Committee Announcements
President Donchez announced that City Council will tour the Sands Casino project on Wednesday, April 15 at 4:15 PM. He stated that the Press is invited to attend the tour.
Chairman Reynolds announced a Human Resources and Environment Committee meeting on Thursday, March 19 at 4:30 PM in Room B504 on Fire Department personnel changes.
Curbing and Sidewalk – Ninth Street and Linden Street
Mrs. Belinski, noting the City will be paving Mountain Drive, related that residents who live nearby on Ninth Street were given notice they have to replace deteriorated curbing. Advising one estimate was $10,000, Mrs. Belinski said the resident is ready to sell the house. Mrs. Belinski, noting the City obtained grant money to install sidewalks on Linden Street, asked if residents of Ninth Street, some of which are older people, could get help to pay for the work. Mrs. Belinski added that one of the residents has hired a lawyer because he cannot afford to replace the curbing.
Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, stated the grant money for the Linden Street sidewalk project was obtained under a specific program that involved school safety. Mr. Alkhal communicated he could investigate if there is any funding available for the required curbing on Ninth Street. Mr. Alkhal noted if the property owners do not replace the curb the City will do the work and bill the owners, according to a procedure.
Mr. Schweder asked if Mr. Alkhal could send the details of the Linden Street sidewalk construction under the school safety program. Mr. Schweder recalled it was a State grant and part of the funding was used to remove the overhead pedestrian walkway on Eighth Avenue. Mr. Schweder thought what the Administration did in paying for sidewalk, curb, and gutter for people who were required under City Ordinances to do so was no longer enforceable. Mr. Schweder recounted at that time he had said it would set a terrible precedent.
Bill No. 10 – 2009 – Establishing Article 314 – Security Cameras
Ms. Dolan thought, before another meeting is held on the subject of the Security Cameras proposal, it should be explained to Police Commissioner Miller what Council is looking for: empirical evidence versus anecdotal evidence; long term ramifications of different Councils and different Police Commissioners; is there money available for installations and might some qualify for CDBG funds. Ms. Dolan communicated her opinion that if the focus of the Committee Meeting could be on Section 314.04 – Security Cameras Required, 314.05 Standards and Areas of Coverage, and 314.07 Exceptions, it would make for a more effective meeting. She also commented that the opportunity should be provided for the issues of other Members of Council who are not Committee members to be stated. She added that time should be given for Police Commissioner Miller to gather the information prior to the Committee meeting.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Crosswalks – E. Third Street; Potholes – Barnsdale Road; Security Cameras
Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, informed the Members that in the middle of East Third Street there are two yellow signs directing that motorists yield to people in the crosswalk. However, Mr. Pfenning highlighted the fact that there is no crosswalk at that section, and queried whether a crosswalk could be placed there. Mr. Pfenning notified City officials about the potholes in the area of Barnsdale Road.
Mr. Pfenning questioned, if government feels so strongly that he needs to be protected by external surveillance cameras, why government does not put them in since now it is an unfunded mandate. Mr. Pfenning queried why the business owners should be saddled with this level of expense, and asserted that government should spend the money. He said if the convenience store in his neighborhood were required to put in a surveillance system on the exterior he would have to find another convenience store.
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, said the trouble is not solely at the 24 hour convenience stores but is throughout the community as he has stated for years. Mr. Rodriquez asserted the focus of security cameras should be in the community, and stressed if cameras are not installed everyone will be in a bind because the crime is so bad. Mr. Rodriquez continued on to stress this criminal element is conquering neighborhoods and the children. Mr. Rodriquez thanked City staff and officials for the cleanup and the taking care of trees in Illick’s Mill park. Mr. Rodriquez asked why some poles on the South Side are still without lights, and thought the public should be educated on the process to have lights replaced. He notified City officials that the crossing guard at the blinking yellow light on the hill on Route 378 has been hit and children have been hit and something has to be done in order to replace the crossing guard who has been there for years. Mr. Rodriquez further informed City officials that the school buses are not leaving the children in a safe area. Mr. Rodriquez advised that trash haulers are leaving trash behind.
CDBG Funding – E. Ninth Street; Proposed Security Cameras Ordinance; One Way Pairs -Funding
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, said East Ninth Street is probably in a low-moderate income area and he thought Community Development Block Grant money could be used to make public improvements.
Mr. Grubb thought the proposed Security Camera Ordinance gives too much discretion to any one individual to provide the guidance for the kind of system to install and also to be the point at which the appeal is taken.
Mr. Grubb, referring to the list of City projects submitted for the economic stimulus plan, pointed out it included $2.5 million for the Five Points One Way Pairs Traffic Plan and he thought all of the money had been obtained for the project. Mr. Grubb asked if any of the money for the project is in jeopardy and thought the public needs to know. If the money is not in jeopardy, Mr. Grubb wondered if the project will now cost $4.5 million and said the public needs to know that too. He remarked that inclusion of the Five Points One Way Pairs Traffic Plan raises questions about representations made during the debate and on the scope of the project.
Security Cameras; Road Conditions
Dean Bruch, 555 Spring Street, said he does not agree with mandating security cameras, and talked about the poor quality of the pictures. Mr. Bruch noted although the casino will have its own security, the Police Department will be asked to respond in certain instances. Expressing his agreement that security cameras are needed, Mr. Bruch did not think government should mandate it. Mr. Bruch stressed that Hanover Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue need to be overlayed in view of the potholes on the roadways.
Police and Citizen Communications
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, communicated there is the need for greater, systematic, and formalized communication and coordination between the Police and citizens. Mr. Scheirer, informing the assembly it is not to be critical of the Police Department, thought that dealing with crime could be made even more effective. Mr. Scheirer commented that whatever is reasonable should be done to prevent crime from getting any worse. Mr. Scheirer, expressing his opinion that there could be a formal committee composed of Police and citizens, advised he has seen such a committee work in Washington, D.C. Continuing on to explain it was a citizens advisory committee comprised of community leaders in a ward and a level of trust was eventually attained, Mr. Scheirer highlighted the fact that a murder suspect was caught by passing out copies of a composite sketch to community leaders rather than posting it in public. Mr. Scheirer thought one committee for the City would be too much because of the land area, and he suggested four committees to correspond to the four sections of the City: South and West Bethlehem, and two for North Bethlehem. Mr. Scheirer noted citizens would have a better idea what is going on, and people on the committee could relay information to others in the community so that there would be greater awareness on the part of citizens as to what is happening.
Craig Ragni, 2955 Oakland Road, informed the Members he is renovating a building on the South Side and he has researched video monitoring systems. Mr. Ragni thought the issue should be researched thoroughly and empirically. Mr. Ragni, observing there is a sense that government action will make things better, said the video monitoring systems might create the illusion of greater safety but may not give the payoff that people think they will. Expressing his agreement that some video monitoring is necessary, Mr. Ragni advised through his research he has discovered that the black and white images are often of a greater clarity than color systems that are far more expensive. He added the City may be saddling business owners with far greater costs and not really achieve more security. Mr. Ragni highlighted the fact that the owner of a business recently renovated on the South Side spent a small fortune for an advanced video monitoring system and the building was fire bombed twice. Unfortunately, the images were useless and the perpetrators are still at large.
Mr. Ragni, further advising he lived in New York City for 15 years, expressed his agreement with Mr. Scheirer’s comments that community policing helps to keep a City safe. Mr. Ragni stressed that the relationship between the Police force and the community is very important in creating true safety.
Security Cameras; Supermarkets
Chuck Nyul, 1966 Pinehurst Road, expressed his opinion that one of the previous speakers was trying to bring attention to not how much security cameras cost but rather who advises a business and who states how many cameras are required.
Mr. Nyul wondered why another supermarket was allowed to be built at the Lowe’s project on Eighth Avenue in view of the fact that there are four other supermarkets in the area, and versus only one food market in South Bethlehem.
Five Minute Time Limit
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, thought that a Member of Council who will be finishing his term might reconsider the five minute time limit by amending the Resolution so that the time limit could go back to the way it was. He added that the responsibility should be on the President of Council to gavel a speaker in good judgment.
Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street, querying whether security cameras will prevent death, severe injury, and damage to property, said that remains to be seen. Ms. Pongracz asserted the discussion is about security cameras when it should be about what can be done for the youth of the community. Observing that crimes are often committed by young men and there is nothing in the City for that age group, Ms. Pongracz stressed the City should be concentrating on opportunities for job training, stable family lives, respect, food, and housing. While affirming she is in favor of security cameras, Ms. Pongracz stated the emphasis should be on what can be done to improve the community.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:40 p.m.