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September 15, 2009
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President Donchez called the meeting to order. The Reverend Ron Hari, of Hungarian Evangelical Reformed Church, offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Jean Belinski, Karen Dolan, Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., J. William Reynolds, J. Michael Schweder, and Robert J. Donchez, 6. Gordon B. Mowrer was absent, 1.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of August 18, 2009 and September 1, 2009 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on Ordinances and Resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening – 5 Minute Time Limit)
6. OLD BUSINESS.
A. Tabled Items
B. Unfinished Business
1. Bill No. 28 - 2008 – Amending Zoning Ordinance – Various Sections
2. Establishing Article 1716 – Landmarks and Properties of Historical Interest
C. Old Business – Members of Council
A. Business Administrator – 2010 Preliminary Budget Estimate - Pensions
The Clerk read a memorandum dated September 10, 2009 from Dennis W. Reichard, Business Administrator, listing estimates of the financial requirements of the Police, Fire, Officers and Employees, and PMRS pension plans, and minimum municipal contribution to the plans for 2010 budget purposes, as required under Act 205.
President Donchez advised this is for information only at this time, and no action needs to be taken.
A. President of Council
1. Administrative Order – Charles Shoemaker – Codes Board of Appeals
Dennis W. Reichard, Business Administrator, read Mayor Callahan’s reappointment of Charles Shoemaker to membership on the Codes Board of Appeals effective until October 2012. Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Schweder sponsored Resolution No. 2009-165 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 6. The Resolution passed.
2. Administrative Order – Lee Snyder – Codes Board of Appeals
Dennis W. Reichard, Business Administrator, read Mayor Callahan’s reappointment of Lee Snyder to membership on the Codes Board of Appeals effective until October 2012. Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Schweder sponsored Resolution No. 2009-166 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 6. The Resolution passed.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
10. NEW ORDINANCES
Considering Resolutions as a Group
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Schweder moved to consider Resolutions 11 A through 11 D as a group. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 6. The motion passed.
A. Certificate of Appropriateness – 91 West Church Street
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Schweder sponsored Resolution No. 2009-167 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the way-finding sign at 91 West Church Street.
B. Certificate of Appropriateness – 519 Main Street
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Schweder sponsored Resolution No. 2009-168 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to restore the façade at 519 Main Street.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 801 East Fourth Street
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Schweder sponsored Resolution No. 2009-169 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install vinyl window signs in the front windows at 801 East Fourth Street.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 832 East Fourth Street
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Schweder sponsored Resolution No. 2009-170 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install neon signs and add the restaurant name to the awnings at 832 East Fourth Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 A to 11 D: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 6. The Resolutions passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS.
Committee Meeting Announcements
Chairman Leeson re-announced a Finance Committee meeting on Tuesday, September 29 at 4:30 PM in the Mayor’s Conference Room on the 2008 Audit.
Chairman Schweder re-announced a Community Development Committee meeting on Thursday, October 15 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall on the Proposed 2010 CDBG and HOME Programs.
East Broad Street - Repairs
Mr. Leeson, remarking that a poor job is being done by UGI on East Broad Street, advised that the street is in disarray and utilities are being installed in the public right-of-way. Continuing on to state that today he saw someone trip over a pipe, Mr. Leeson related that the pipes that stick out of the buildings and into the sidewalk appear to be permanent structures. Mr. Leeson inquired about the utility installations.
Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, explained that the street is planned for paving this season and the utility work to renew the gas company’s facilities is being done in advance of the paving project. Mr. Alkhal, confirming that the proper permits were obtained, said he would check to make sure the utility work is being done in an appropriate manner. Mr. Alkhal, noting that the City was informed that the utility work could take about 3-4 weeks, stated that the City insisted that the street remain partially open to traffic while the work is being done.
Mr. Leeson highlighted the fact that large pipes are coming out of the buildings and going directly down into the sidewalks with large meters. Mr. Leeson stressed that the pipes are not only very unattractive but could be safety hazards.
Mr. Alkhal, while noting that the preference is for the facilities to be below grade if there are basements to hide them, pointed out that on Fourth Street the utilities as described by Mr. Leeson ended up to be located outside permanently. Mr. Alkhal stated he will check to determine if the pipes can be hidden so that they are not so unattractive.
Dunkin Donuts - Elizabeth Avenue and Linden Street
Ms. Dolan noted that at the new Dunkin Donuts at the corner of Elizabeth Avenue and Linden Street there are still structures from the former gas station on the site including signs and bays. Ms. Dolan wondered what are the future plans for the site. Further commenting on the disparate color scheme, Ms. Dolan pointed out that the business is located in a very visible location.
Mr. Reichard indicated that a response would be obtained.
Budget Review Process
Ms. Dolan recalled that during last year’s Budget Hearing hearings various Departments gave lengthy power point presentations to the Members of Council that focused mainly on the previous year’s accomplishments. While recognizing the time spent on preparing the presentations and acknowledging the importance of highlighting previous accomplishments, Ms. Dolan observed that the purpose of the Budget Hearings is to look ahead predominately at the next year’s financial projections. Ms. Dolan wondered how Council could encourage that more emphasis be placed on having Budget Hearings for the 2010 Budget that are numerically oriented and substantive, rather than utilizing long power point presentations on 2009 projects.
President Donchez recounted that in past years the Members of Council reviewed the next year’s budgets on a line by line basis that was an informative but very protracted process. President Donchez pointed out that when Mr. Schweder was President of Council he changed the Budget Hearing process from a line by line approach to a more comprehensive review, using comparisons, goals, and accomplishments. However, President Donchez highlighted the fact that in the last few years very lengthy power point presentations have been made that he agreed are informative but a little too long and that took time away from the question period. Noting that he plans to inquire about the budget hearing format used by other Third Class Cities, President Donchez continued on to inform the Members of Council that he will be forwarding a memorandum to them asking for their suggestions and ideas on the Budget Hearing process.
Ms. Dolan, clarifying that she does not object to the power point presentations detailing accomplishments, expressed perhaps they belong in a different type of meeting as opposed to the intensive time when the proposed City Budget is reviewed and the focus should be on the numbers.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Emergency Legislation – Preservation of Property
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, said he was looking forward to emergency legislation to preserve any property 50 years old or more, and that City Council would have to approve any demolition of such property until the permanent legislation is passed.
Budget; Casino Revenues
Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, thought that power point presentations are great because the audience can see them and are useful to the public versus sheets that are passed out only to Council Members. Mr. Pfenning complimented the Mayor and Business Administrator in estimating this year’s gaming revenues. Mr. Pfenning commented that in the past week the point has been passed at which the City has earned $1.295 million in host fees, and the Ordinance initiated by Mr. Leeson will be addressed in October in view of an estimated $170,000-$200,000 that the City will receive over the budgeted amount in host fees. Mr. Pfenning said a $9.1 million amount in host fees is fiction as experience has shown, there will not be 5,000 slot machines next year, and there will not be a $255 per slot per day minimum generated. He guessed that the win per slot per day for 4,000 slot machines would be $195. Mr. Pfenning stated there will be no municipal benefit from table games because S.B. 1033 has the revenues going directly into the State’s general fund and H.B. 21 would direct for at least three years the revenues into the State’s general fund.
Dunkin Donuts – Left Turn Lane; Preservation of Buildings
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, referring to the new Dunkin Donuts at the corner of Elizabeth Avenue and Linden Street, said there is a no left turn sign as one travels north through the intersection so that motorists cannot make a left turn into the driveway. Continuing on to state that some motorists are still making a left turn into the driveway since they are not familiar with the sign, Mr. Grubb stressed that the sign is not working and is creating a problem with traffic heading north on Linden Street. Mr. Grubb commented this is something that could be looked into. Mr. Grubb, seconding the comments of Mr. Scheirer about Council approval of demolition, stated the City cannot afford to wait. Mr. Grubb stated there is a document that is passable at this point if the criteria would be set for any structure 50 years or older, and would require anyone seeking a demolition permit to justify issuance of the permit. Mr. Grubb said it would provide a second layer of defense for Council to have that authority, particularly in view of what has happened on the South Side with the demolition of Broughal Middle School, and the impetus to demolish the No. 8 Hammer Shop at the former Bethlehem Steel site. Mr. Grubb, stressing that Bethlehem has always prided itself on its history, asserted there seems to be a piece by piece erosion of the City’s history with demolition projects. Mr. Grubb stated that having Council as a failsafe and the ability of the public to weigh in on such projects is very important. Mr. Grubb urged Council to enact the legislation in the interim, and make amendments later, to prevent the unnecessary demolition of historic resources.
W. Lehigh Street - Repairs; Left Turn Lane – Wyandotte Street; Second Street Ramp - Meeting
Terry Meixell, 56 E. Goepp Street, thanked the City for grinding down West Lehigh Street and noted it is safer. Mr. Meixell, questioning whether the left turn lane on Wyandotte Street is being eliminated, stated that he contacted PennDot and was told they have nothing to do with the matter and it is a City project. Mr. Meixell pointed out that a meeting will be held September 22 at 6:00 PM at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity regarding the Second Street ramp.
Stray Animals - Rabies
Louise Valeriano, 1122 E. Fourth Street, informed the Members she had gone to St. Luke’s Hospital for her sixth rabies shot because she was scratched and bitten by a stray cat. Ms. Valeriano, recounting that the problem of stray cats has been raised in the past, stressed there are a lot of stray cats in the area and South Mountain. Ms. Valeriano related that the hospital emergency room contacted the City’s Animal Control Officer but nothing is done about such situations. Ms. Valeriano expressed what should be done is to trap the cats and keep them for ten days for observation, and if they do not show any signs of disease they could be released, hopefully to the SPCA. Ms. Valeriano, notifying the Members that she received a letter from the Health Board, advised they will check on a citizen’s well-being but they do not do anything about the cats and determining whether or not the cats are infected. She further pointed out there are also other small animals in the area which could be infected with rabies, could infect other animals, or could scratch a child if they try to pick up an animal. Ms. Valeriano highlighted the fact that there is no program to handle this matter. Ms. Valeriano, suggesting that something should be done to find a solution to the problem, requested that people work on the issue and set up a program to address such incidents that could become tragic.
President Donchez, affirming there has been an issue with stray cats on the South Side and on the North Side about which he received several telephone calls, stated that he will ask what is the City’s policy.
President Donchez, observing that a representative from the Community and Economic Development Department is not in attendance, asked Mr. Reichard if it could be requested that a representative attend Council Meetings in view of questions that are raised about health related matters and community and economic development related issues.
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, asked the Police Department to follow-up on incidents involving running red lights and not stopping at stop signs. He added he has observed several near accidents, especially in the Five Points area. Mr. Rodriquez informed the assembly that he has not seen an unclean area where vendors are located, and added the vendors are courteous and polite. Mr. Rodriquez said that drug addicts are stealing in the City. He continued on to advise that the prostitution problem in the City is getting out of hand, and asked that the Health Bureau address the problem. Mr. Rodriquez stated that when the City advertises that it is one of the safest cities it invites people to come here and challenge the claim. Mr. Rodriquez enumerated that there is garbage on sidewalks, furniture on porches and walkways, and no garbage containers, and added that the City should notify citizens regarding when to put out recycling containers, particularly during holidays. Mr. Rodriquez stressed there is a roach and rat problem because of leftover garbage. Mr. Rodriquez felt that inspection of buildings should be done on a more periodic basis, and there should be more Police Officers on the Vice Unit.
Illick’s Mill Project and Broughal Middle School
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, communicated that comments by the citizens let Council know what is going on in the City. Mr. Antalics, advising he attended the Bethlehem Area School Board meeting last night, explained that the award winning program for Illick’s Mill that is taught by Councilwoman Dolan at Liberty High School was discussed. Mr. Antalics, stating that he supports Ms. Dolan, commented that she should be recognized for the 10 year old nationally recognized program that restored Illick’s Mill in Monocacy Park. Mr. Antalics continued on to say his opinion is that the Illick’s Mill program has become an issue because Ms. Dolan, along with Mrs. Belinski, supported the preservation of Broughal Middle School as part of the historical value of buildings on the South Side.
Mary Pongracz, 321 W. Fourth Street, complimented the Members of Council on the respectful discourse they show. Ms. Pongracz stated it is very important that those in authority present to the younger generation a model they can respect. Ms. Pongracz, noting that she has gone to the Casino, said she talked to several employees who told her they are grateful for their jobs, the benefits, the opportunity to get an education, to be treated with respect, and to support their families. Ms. Pongracz, commenting that the Casino has basically been a welcome addition to the City, expressed that the Casino is a class act and has done a lot of good for the community, and thanked the Sands for a job well done.
The meeting was adjourned at 7:45 p.m.