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August 17, 2010
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 – 7:00 PM
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President Robert J. Donchez called the meeting to order. Reverend Hillary Raining, of Trinity Episcopal Church, offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Jean Belinski, David T. DiGiacinto, Karen Dolan, Eric R. Evans, Gordon B. Mowrer, J. William Reynolds, and Robert J. Donchez, 7.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of August 3, 2010 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)
Mike Lichtenberger, USA Hockey Coach and Chief representing the Coaching Education Program in the Atlantic, encouraged Council to respect the presence of the Ice Rink and what it has done for the community and growth of ice sports, both ice skating and ice hockey. He commented it has become a very viable enterprise driven recreational venue with 500 people coming on a given night for public skating. Mr. Lichtenberger pointed out that it is a safe place were parents can take their children and grandchildren. As adults, lifelong sports enthusiasts will come back to the Ice Rink. Mr. Lichtenberger suggested that Council consider thoughtfully and thoroughly upgrades of the Ice Rink facility that he noted is a reasonably priced venue for people to come, not only as recreational skaters but as a place for scholastic and youth hockey programs and skating programs to go. He highlighted the number of children who come on Saturday mornings, and for the learn to play and the learn to skate programs. Mr. Lichtenberger said he would like to think that the City of Bethlehem would continue to say there will be an ice rink in the City.
Robert Hamill, 1500 Willow Lehigh Drive, Emmaus, advised that his daughter has been through the learn to skate program for the last eight or nine years, and said it is a wonderful program. Mr. Hamill related that he learned how to skate at the Ice Rink and has fond memories and it has hardly changed. He added it is a wonderful venue, it is comfortable, and pleasant. Mr. Hamill noted many children have learned to skate and skate well and it is because of this Ice Rink. Acknowledging the tough economic times, Mr. Hamill expressed it would be very much appreciated by a lot of people in the community if the renovations can be funded, and to look at alternate ways of funding if necessary.
Janet Tremer, 1656 Beverly Hills Road, Coopersburg, advised she is a lifelong skater and is the Director of Programming for the Ice Rink. She explained that her job is to coordinate group lesson programs and to allow people of all ages, abilities, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds an opportunity to learn to skate, and also to have an opportunity to participate in hockey, figure skating, general skating, or skating with their family. Ms. Tremer recounted that when she came to the facility in 1994 there was no roof, no programming, and only 25 people in the group lesson program. Currently, there are close to 600 registrants, not counting the Saturday morning hockey registrations. Acknowledging that $800,000 of expenditures is a lot of money in this economy, Ms. Tremer pointed out that the Ice Rink generates $150,000 in profit a year. With the advent of changes and upgrades in the facility, Ms. Tremer explained it will be a more efficient and cost effective operation, the season can be extended and hockey boxes can be put in, making it a more attractive facility to user groups that spend a lot of money over a longer period of time. She exemplified that instead of the season beginning in October to the third week of March, it can be extended from mid or the beginning of September to mid or the end of April. Considering revenue generation of $150,000 it would be a five year payoff. In addition, Ms. Tremer stressed it is an investment in all the other programs that the City of Bethlehem can offer its residents. Ms. Tremer informed the Members that at least two-thirds of the registrants come from the City of Bethlehem and the outlying areas so it is a destination not just for residents but those outsiders who also spend dollars in the City. She exemplified that people go to Starter’s Restaurant after their session at the Ice Rink. Besides the idea of health and wellness, Ms. Tremer observed that money can be spent proactively to change and upgrade this facility and make it viable, or it would be spent cleaning graffiti or adding police. She stressed that hundreds of children on a Friday night alone are not on the City streets because they are at the Ice Rink, creating great memories and getting some exercise. Ms. Tremer urged that the Ice Rink be kept an Olympic size, so that more people can be on the ice, and there can be more classes per half-hour generating more revenue. She emphasized it is a family oriented venue where 3 year olds can learn to play hockey and an Olympic team can be produced as occurred in 2002, and everything in between. Ms. Tremer asserted it is in essence the community center in the winter.
Bernard F. Kita, 709 Prospect Avenue, recalled he has spoken to Council many times in the past, primarily on environmental issues, especially regarding the Monocacy Nature Center. Mr. Kita noted he is also a volunteer with the Parks and Public Property Department, working with Jane Persa and Ralph Carp, coordinating and supervising Boy Scout Eagle projects. Mr. Kita added he is a figure skater, and considers himself a partner and stakeholder in this important vote tonight. Mr. Kita communicated that he wanted to make sure that Council understands the extent of interest in the Ice Rink that exists in the community and that it is extremely important to a lot of people. Advising that he skates every day, Mr. Kita stated he knows a lot of adult skaters who patronize it regularly, many of which also bring their families to skate and take lessons. Mr. Kita informed the assembly that when the Allentown rink closed recently, most of those serious skaters immediately moved to the Ice Rink. If the Ice Rink does not reopen, these skaters, and including the Bethlehem Skating Club, will have to go elsewhere, and ice time is getting increasingly scarce, due to cutbacks and rink closures. These skating clubs have extensive memberships, with multiple coaches, involving all aspects of skating, from learn-to-skate, to freestyle, synchro, pairs, dance, exhibitions, competitions, etc. Mr. Kita highlighted the fact that the Ice Rink has always been significantly less expensive than private rinks which is a major consideration for local clubs, high school, college and mens' league teams, all of which generate real income for the rink. Noting that the Ice Rink actually makes a profit, Mr. Kita pointed out that in the skating world today that is a rarity, and rinks are either closing, cutting back or changing ownership frequently. Mr. Kita noted that, assuming the $750,000 estimated cost of repairs, that is a 5 year payback, and for a 50 year life span it is an excellent payback. He emphasized that the Ice Rink has existed for almost 50 years on the original investment. Mr. Kita said if repairs are not done and it is decided to demolish the facility, or to convert it to other uses, that could cost more than the proposed cost of repairs. He also noted there are other types of events that take place at the Ice Rink in the off-season so that it is actually a valuable multi-purpose facility. Mr. Kita said he has personally seen the Ice Rink patrons elbow-to-elbow on the ice, and with an equal number in the lobby, and sometimes this occurs on a Sunday afternoon, too. Mr. Kita enumerated that the City already provides for multi and major golf sites, and tennis, baseball, football, rugby, soccer, biking, hiking, nature trails, passive recreation, parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, and many other quality of life opportunities for citizens, and it is a big part of what makes Bethlehem such a good place to live. Mr. Kita stressed it would be extremely short-sighted and even foolhardy to lose an existing, well-used and financially successful asset such as the Ice Rink and added it is a unique cultural asset.
Rich Wiktor, 2920 Avon Road, said all the instructors at the Ice Rink do a fantastic job, and his daughter will be at the Ice Rink this year for the fifth season. He added that the instructors have a lot of patience with the young skaters. Relating that his daughter told him when she first started there and kept falling the instructors picked her up, she also made a comment that she made a lot of friends and mutual friends through attending the sessions, gained a lot of confidence, and participated in exhibitions at the end of each season. Mr. Wiktor pointed out there are a lot of participants in the classes, a lot of school students on numerous days, school groups, hockey teams from high schools and junior high schools. Stating that on Saturdays during the day and evenings the ice is packed, Mr. Wiktor noted that birthday parties are held there as well. He communicated that the Ice Rink offers something different for kids to do these days and added that people from the surrounding area help patronize the Ice Rink.
Joi Deibler, 394 Kevin Drive, an elementary physical education teacher in the Bethlehem Area School District, informed the Members how much the students and the physical education staff appreciate and value the Ice Skating Rink. Advising that the fifth grade curriculum includes a course in ice skating, Ms. Deibler notified the Members that Jane Persa, Recreation Director, helped her come up with a schedule so that all of the fifth grade students in the district can come to the Ice Rink one, two, or three times. Ms. Deibler noted that after one or two lessons 98% of the students are confident and capable skaters and they have an affinity for a lifetime sport which is skating. She pointed out that on a Friday or Saturday night there are tons of kids there. Ms. Deibler said it is a successful relationship between the School District and the ice skating rink, with a successful program that she would hate to lose.
Mary Tajiri, 971 Little Cedar Court, Allentown, noted she has been a skater for the past 10 years, and skating has been a large part of her life, not only in skating, but in everything else she does. Advising she has been to various rinks across the east coast, Ms. Tajiri said none have been as welcoming and as stimulating as the Bethlehem Municipal Ice Rink. It is a place where she and her peers are able to feel safe as well as inspired by the coaches and by each other. She pointed out that after a skating session, skaters are patronize local businesses even though they do live in Bethlehem. During public sessions, there is about an inch of ice shavings on the ice and skaters can barely move because there are so many people. She observed that parents would be more than happy to financially support their children so they can skate just seeing the smiles and the joy when they are able to achieve accomplishments. Ms. Tajiri said above all the Ice Rink and the programs offered at the Rink are very useful, valuable lessons not only in ice skating but life lessons in general as they teach people how to work hard, how to set goals, and how to put those goals into action and make them reality.
Alita Deangelis, 1433 Easton Avenue, said she grew up at the Ice Rink in her teen years and has two children who she has been bringing to the Rink. She has brought her son, who is 13, to the Ice Rink since he was 2. She communicated that she wants her children to grow up skating and enjoying the rink as much as she did. Pointing out she has seen many crowds on Friday evenings, and Sunday afternoons, Ms. Deangelis stressed it would be a sad day in Bethlehem if the Ice Rink closed. Adding that she promised her son that his birthday party will be held at the Ice Rink this year, Ms. Deangelis urged Council to keep the Ice Rink open.
Main Street Parking; Ice Rink
Bruce Haines, 65 West Market Street, observed there is a Resolution on the Agenda to leave $60,000 of the $300,000 that had been available for the Main Street parking spaces. Communicating he is thankful for the funding, Mr. Haines noted he assumes that represents the 23 spots on the Bridge plus 4 spots on Main Street or a total of 27 parking spaces. Mr. Haines expressed his concern is that only leaving $60,000 does not address additional funding to be allocated to enhancing the Window on Main Street project, and to fix the drainage issue that is not allowing grass to grow between the sidewalk and Main Street, lighting in front of the Smithy and enhancements to that area. Mr. Haines recalled he had requested an additional $50,000-$60,000 to be allocated which hopefully would allow the job to be done, and added that funding would be matched by the RCAP grant from the Bethlehem Parking Authority. Commenting that he confirmed with the Parking Authority Director today that funding is available for the South Main Street parking project, Mr. Haines said while the initial funding would not be there right away, as soon as the RCAP refund is available, that money could be applied to the Ice Rink, presumably at some later date when the match comes back. Mr. Haines, observing it does not seem that the City is completing the project with the funds that are left in the proposal that needs to be done in order to make the project right, stressed the City is foregoing an opportunity to do the project for half the costs because the City is not going to be using funds that would be available for South Main Street parking. Mr. Haines expressed the belief that both could be done without transferring out as much money as is planned to be transferred out.
Main Street Parking; Ice Rink; 2010 General Obligation Note – Non-Utility Capital Projects
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, expressed the hope that Council will endorse both candidates to the Recreation Commission, adding that he thinks they are very valued additions. Turning to the Main Street Parking issue, Mr. Grubb seconded Mr. Haines comments. Mr. Grubb communicated there is an opportunity to leverage a minimal amount of City funding with some outside State grant money to get the project done, as well as get the Ice Rink repairs underway. Mr. Grubb thought that the Main Street ramp can carry the weight load since during Musikfest he witnessed quite a few public safety and county emergency management vehicles parked there and did not think adding 23 automobile parking spaces on the Bridge would jeopardize the weight load. Focusing on the Non-Utility Capital borrowing, Mr. Grubb urged Council to ensure that there is a guarantee that the Administration will not spend the loan proceeds on anything other than the approved projects. Questioning the level of borrowing, Mr. Grubb wondered whether it is really necessary to borrow all of the money now. He continued on to say if they are scheduled to begin next year or thereafter maybe it makes sense to not borrow so much money right now, given the current financial status of the City. Regarding the Ice Rink, Mr. Grubb noted, as he has said before, it is important to provide recreational facilities. As a member of the Recreation Commission, Mr. Grubb advised he will bring up at the next meeting the topic of resident and non-resident fees at the various recreational programs. Stating that Bethlehem has a responsibility primarily to its residents to provide these types of services, Mr. Grubb said people from outside the area who use the facilities need to realize they may need to pay a little bit more for the privilege of using the facility funded in most part by City residents.
Sandy Steidel, 528 Stonybrook Road, Nazareth, President of the Bethlehem Blast Youth Hockey Organization that is not for profit, noted that Mark Gutekunst, Vice President for External Affairs, is also in attendance. She presented handouts to the Members of Council. Ms. Steidel stated that the group started a Youth Hockey program that has evolved over time that is now at the Steel Ice Center. The group’s name was changed to the Bethlehem Blast to honor the steelworkers. In five years it grew from 5 teams to 15 teams, 251 children, numerous volunteers, with coaching staff, and families involved. Advising they have saturated the ice time at the Steel Ice Center, Ms. Steidel explained she is at the Meeting to not only talk about the Municipal Rink and what they can offer but also community involvement. She informed the assembly that they have food drives, and provide assistance to Camelot, the pediatric hospital, and Angel 34 Foundation. The group would like to have two more teams, but does not have enough ice right now to do that, and they already budgeted 96 hours of paid ice to Bethlehem Municipal Rink for more clinics and skating time. If they were to get two more teams, Ms. Steidel stressed there is no telling how many hours they could commit to the Ice Rink. She added that the organization would very much like to have a Bethlehem Christmas City Tournament, and would need the Steel Ice Center, the Lehigh Valley Rink and the Bethlehem Municipal Ice Rink to accommodate all of teams and all of the people they would bring in. Last year alone they brought over 10,000 people to the Steel Ice Center, had 160 games and over 400 hours of practice time. Affirming the organization is limited in the summer and spring, Ms. Steidel stated that not only would they like to see the Ice Rink funded and the conditions of the rink improved, but would also like to see it enclosed so that the group can generate even more business for the Ice Rink.
Lisa Perri, 765 Heather Lane, Easton, addressing the two fee system at the Municipal Ice Rink, confirmed there is a two fee system in Easton for residents and non-residents. Noting she is a board member of a Figure Skating Club, Ms. Perri said she is at the Meeting representing approximately 100 skaters. The club provides skaters with weekly skating sessions, fundraisers, and many social activities related to skating and utilizes the Bethlehem facilities. She remarked that every day of the season skaters from every corner of the Bethlehem community and beyond can be seen at the Ice Rink enjoying healthy activity, beautiful surroundings, building friendships and experiencing the excitement with their fellow community members. Ms. Perri said the facilities at Bethlehem Municipal Rink provide a place where people of all ages come to experience a healthy climate centered around the sport of skating, it attracts young people, and develops appreciation of positive values in their becoming mature adults. It is a family place to spend time together and enjoy those warm memories. She continued on to say it is a recreational facility that is available every day, seven days a week, so there is always a place to go and enjoy a wholesome activity. It is a place that reflects the positive values of the community as a whole. Ms. Perri expressed that, as a landmark reflecting 50 years in the Bethlehem community, the Ice Rink is a present and historic base reflecting the high quality of the community. With its Olympic size ice service and its quaint log structure it makes Bethlehem unique, and is a sparkling jewel in the fabric of life in Bethlehem. She stressed that to allow it to close from lack of present support will deprive thousands of community members of all ages a place to go to enjoy and benefit from one of the truly exciting healthful and positive activities in life. Ms. Perri informed the Members that when the Ice Rink is repaired and opened for a longer season, her organization is prepared to purchase more ice than currently.
Main Street Parking
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, referring to an erroneous statement he made at the last City Council Meeting and was corrected afterwards, said he wanted to repeat it correctly. He stated that the parking spaces were coming from Market Street and he should have said Church Street. He continued on to say from Church Street to Main Street motorists would make a right turn and the right of way is to those coming from Main Street under the Bridge, and the right turn onto Main and Church Streets is a single lane. There are a number of diagonal lines from the curb to the one lane that are quite wide. Mr. Antalics said from the edge of the Moravian Book Store where there is a no parking sign to the Church sign it almost doubles the space and if one car length diagonally is used down to 10 or 5 feet off Church Street traffic would not be obstructed. Mr. Antalics suggested that, for a lot less money and controversy, the opposite side of Main Street should be investigated to accommodate almost double the parking spaces and preclude parking on the Bridge.
Jodi Evans, 1955 Butztown Road, a member of the Recreation Commission, commented that the Ice Rink is a special place for thousands of people and for her personally because she spent her childhood skating at the Ice Rink, and her family has a season pass. Pointing out how heavily the Ice Rink is used, Ms. Evans expressed it is a great thing, and skating at the rink is something that can be done as a family. Explaining that as a member of the Recreation Commission she feels the need to be an advocate for things such as the Ice Rink, Ms. Evans advised it is a safe and economical place for youth to go. Ms. Evans expressed the hope that Council considers making the needed repairs to the Ice Rink so that the memories and recreation will continue forever.
Torry Everet, 1551 Millard Street, said she is 11 years old and has been skating at the Ice Rink since she was 3-4 years old. Ms. Everet exclaimed that every year she cannot wait until the Ice Rink opens and would be crushed if she could not skate there any more.
Sophia Dayan said she hopes the Ice Rink does not close because she loves to skate there.
2010 General Obligation Note – Non-Utility Capital Projects
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, suggested that as many as possible of the Non-Utility Capital projects to be funded through the bank loan should be postponed since they do not all have to be done right now. Observing the argument to be made for the borrowing is that interest rates are very low and indications are they will not increase between September 14 and January 1, Mr. Scheirer said if borrowing is postponed until January 1, 2011 the interest would be saved.
Main Street Parking
Dean Bruch, 555 Spring Street, questioned why additional parking spaces will be needed on South Main Street if various events are not held there, and felt it would be foolish to spend the money. Mr. Bruch thought that bus service should be provided if something special is held.
6. OLD BUSINESS.
A. Tabled Items
B. Unfinished Business
1. Establishing Article 1716 – Landmarks and Properties of Historical Interest
(Assigned to Preservation Plan Task Force)
C. Old Business – Members of Council
A. City Solicitor – Records Destruction – Office of Economic Development
The Clerk read a memorandum dated August 10, 2010 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, requesting a Resolution for the destruction of records from the Department of Community and Economic Development, Office of Economic Development. 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 listed
on the September 7, 2010 Council Agenda.
B. City Solicitor – Records Destruction – Health Bureau
The Clerk read a memorandum dated August 10, 2010 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, requesting a Resolution for the destruction of records from the Department of Community and Economic Development, Health 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 listed
on the September 7, 2010 Council Agenda.
C. City Solicitor – Records Destruction – EMS Bureau
The Clerk read a memorandum dated August 10, 2010 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, requesting a Resolution for the destruction of records from the Fire Department, Bureau of Emergency Medical Services. The Law Bureau reviewed the Municipal Records Retention Act and the records fall within categories where destruction is permitted.
President Donchez stated the Resolution will be listed on
the September 7, 2010 Council Agenda.
President Donchez noted that Communication 7 D, Highway Safety Project Grant – Contract No. CTSP-2011, has been withdrawn by the Administration.
E. City Solicitor – Highway Safety Project Grant – Contract No. IDP-2011
The Clerk read a memorandum from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, dated August 10, 2010 to which was attached a proposed Resolution and the Highway Safety Project Grant Contract with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to provide funds through September 30, 2011 for DUI program sobriety checkpoints and expanded DUI enforcement operations.
President Donchez stated the Resolution will be listed on the September 7, 2010 Council Agenda.
F. Director of Planning and Zoning – Combined Planning Challenge Grant/TIGER II Planning Grant – Bethlehem Greenway Master Plan – Resolution
The Clerk read a memorandum dated August 12, 2010 from Darlene L. Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, to which was attached a proposed Resolution in support of the City’s grant application to HUD in the amount of $400,000 for a City-wide Greenway Master Plan that will also include further design and implementation of the South Bethlehem Greenway project. The grant will be matched with other Greenway grant funding.
President Donchez stated the Resolution will be listed on the September 7, 2010 Council Agenda.
G. Director of Public Works – Utility Relocation Reimbursement Agreement – Route 412
The Clerk read a memorandum dated August 12, 2010 from Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, to which was attached a proposed Resolution and Utility Relocation Reimbursement Request for reimbursement of the costs to relocate the City’s water and sewer facilities in connection with the Route 412 Section 001 project. If the request is approved, the City will be required to reimburse PennDOT 50% of the total estimated cost of $665,500 for water and $349,976 for sewer.
President Donchez stated that Resolution 11 B is listed on the Agenda.
A. President of Council
1. Councilmanic Appointment – Jodi M. Evans – Recreation Commission
President Donchez reappointed Jodi M. Evans to the Recreation Commission effective until August 2015. Mr. DiGiacinto and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution No. 2010-124 to confirm the appointment.
Voting Aye: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 6. Abstaining: Mr. Evans. The Resolution passed.
2. Councilmanic Appointment – Keith Young – Recreation Commission
President Donchez appointed Keith Young to the Recreation Commission effective until August 2015. Mr. Evans and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution No. 2010-125 to confirm the appointment.
Voting Aye: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolution passed.
C. Finance Committee
Mr. Reynolds, Chairman of the Finance Committee, gave an oral report of the Committee’s meeting held on Wednesday, August 11, 2010 at 4:30 PM in Mayor’s Conference Room on the following subjects: 2009 Audit, and Five Year Capital Plan – 2011-2015 in the revised amount of $5,833,000 from the amount of $6,626,000 that was submitted at the July 26, 2010 Finance Committee meeting and was requested to be reduced. The revised Non-Utility Capital Plan for 2011-2012 in the amount of $5,833,000 was approved by the Committee by a vote of 2 to 1.
D. Public Safety Committee
Mr. DiGiacinto, Chairman of the Public Safety Committee, gave an oral report of the Committee’s meeting held this evening at 6:15 PM in Town Hall prior to the Council Meeting on the following subject: Lease Agreement – Police Substation – 745 Linden Street. The Committee tabled the proposal and requested that language be drafted to add provisions in the event of sale of the property.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 20 – 2010 – Amending General Fund Budget – Justice Assistance Grant
The Clerk read Bill No. 20 - 2010 – Amending General Fund Budget – Justice Assistance Grant, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 7. Bill No. 20 – 2010, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2010-20 was declared adopted.
B. Bill No. 22 – 2010 – Amending Sewer Capital Budget – Capital Appropriations
The Clerk read Bill No. 22 – 2010 – Amending Sewer Capital Budget – Capital Appropriations, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 7. Bill No. 22 – 2010, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2010-21 was declared adopted.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 21 – 2010 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Ice Rink Repairs, Park/Playground Improvements
The Clerk read Bill No. 21 - 2010 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Ice Rink Repairs, Park/Playground Improvements, sponsored by Mr. Evans and Mr. DiGiacinto, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
THE 2010 CAPITAL BUDGET FOR NON-UTILITIES.
Mr. DiGiacinto, while expressing his belief that there is ample support on Council to provide for repair of the Ice Rink, said he is still not convinced that the cost to repair the Rink is $750,000. Mr. DiGiacinto thought it would be prudent for Council to look at the repairs for the Ice Rink and phase in improvements over time as cash becomes available. Mr. DiGiacinto pointed out that the Ice Rink repairs were not a priority in the 2010 Budget and came about after the year started. As the $380,000 became available that was supposed to be spent on the South Main Street parking project, the Ice Rink became a priority. Noting the amount of $540,000 is proposed to be transferred this evening, Mr. DiGiacinto thought consideration should be given to holding back approximately $60,000 for the Main Street parking alternatives. Observing that families and children in the City and surrounding communities are being considered, Mr. DiGiacinto thought that downtown Bethlehem and its residents, store owners, and visitors should still be considered that had been a priority. Mr. DiGiacinto strongly recommended that the Ice Rink rates be considered going forward, and be competitive with Steel Ice, particularly on the ice hockey rink time. Expressing the belief that City residents and children should pay reasonable and affordable rates, Mr. DiGiacinto noted that the reconstruction of the Ice Rink needs to be paid. He denoted that older assets such as the Ice Rink cost money to repair and maintain over time. Mr. DiGiacinto stated that, when he heard today that the bids for repair of the Ice Rink were coming in September, he thought perhaps the matter should wait until the bids are received. However, Mr. DiGiacinto said he would move the matter forward to Final Reading and hopefully the bids will be received sooner rather than later.
Ms. Dolan noted there seems to be a number of questions about the cost of Ice Rink repairs and also moving forward with the Main Street parking. Ms. Dolan, stressing that she cannot imagine voting against the Ice Rink under any circumstances, said at the same time she would like more information before Final Reading particularly on the subject brought up by Mr. Haines and whether the RACP funds can be used for parking. In addition, Ms. Dolan thought the matter of using CDBG funds should also be addressed.
President Donchez affirmed that the first vote this evening is without prejudice pending receipt of information for the next Council Meeting.
Mr. Reynolds, pointing out it would be wise to repair the Ice Rink, expressed his agreement with comments made this evening in support of the Ice Rink. Mr. Reynolds, noting he went to the Ice Rink last winter after about 7-8 years, highlighted the fact that the Rink was filled with people. While noting the Ice Rink made money last year, Mr. Reynolds acknowledged it is not an easy fix. Mr. Reynolds continued on to say that when comments are heard from adults and children it hits home that the Ice Rink is something that residents treasure. Mr. Reynolds pointed out that Members of Council received emails and phone calls about the Ice Rink and people want it to open on time. Mr. Reynolds, stating the Ice Rink is something that should be funded, said obviously it is wished it would not cost so much to repair, but highlighted the fact that it is an old facility. Adding there are a lot of other things in the City that are treasured because they are old, Mr. Reynolds observed that sometimes it leads to increased costs to fix them. Mr. Reynolds stated he will be voting yes tonight on the Bill and yes on the Bill at the next Council Meeting.
Mr. Evans thanked those who came to the Meeting to speak on behalf of the Ice Rink and commented it was nice to hear the stories. Mr. Evans, stating that the Ice Rink is a special place, pointed out that the staff who works there also makes it special. Mr. Evans observed that the social and recreational opportunities at the Ice Rink are boundless, and it is a multi-generational facility that the City must keep going. Mr. Evans noted that, not only does the Ice Rink make money, if it closes the money will not be available to address other recreational matters.
Mr. Mowrer, stating that the Ice Rink was not taken care of properly and it started to deteriorate, said that is true with everything at City Hall and if things are left to deteriorate it will take more money to fix them later on. Mr. Mowrer stated he will vote for the Ordinance and will continue to vote for it because it is the right thing for the City in the long run.
Mr. Reynolds, thanking those who came to the Meeting tonight in support of the Ice Rink, said it was a pleasure to hear people talk about something the City is doing that is good.
Ms. Dolan, acknowledging that the Ice Rink was not a budget priority, said however it is true that some rooms such as the warming room have already been done. Ms. Dolan stated that Mr. Carp knew at the beginning of this year that things were not going to be able to continue at the Ice Rink as they were, and would have prioritized if he knew how bad things were getting. Ms. Dolan said it makes sense to use limited dollars where they make money. Ms. Dolan, observing it is an investment, communicated she feels the same way about the Main Street parking. Ms. Dolan advised she will present her questions in a memo to Mr. Alkhal, and added there is a possibility that a meeting of the Public Works Committee might be needed. Ms. Dolan read from the last paragraph of Mr. Kita’s earlier comments that the Ice Rink is a unique cultural asset that is a well patronized facility with an open-sided building, where one can see the snow falling and the pine trees that surround it, and there is no Ice Rink like it anywhere.
Mrs. Belinski stated she fully supports whatever repairs need to be done at the Ice Rink, and stressed the people want the Ice Rink.
President Donchez stated that Bethlehem has an outstanding Recreation Department and recreational programs. President Donchez pointed out that the Ice Rink is a great asset but an aging asset that needs to be fixed right to enhance its longevity. President Donchez expressed his support of the matter.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, and Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 7. Bill No. 21 – 2010 was declared passed on First Reading.
B. Bill No. 23 – 2010 – 2010 General Obligation Note – Non-Utility Capital Borrowing – 2011-2012
The Clerk read Bill No. 23 – 2010 – 2010 General Obligation Note – Non-Utility Capital Borrowing – 2011-2012, sponsored by Mr. Evans and Mr. Mowrer, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM, LEHIGH
AND NORTHAMPTON COUNTIES, PENNSYLVANIA, AUTHORIZING THE ISSUANCE
OF ITS GENERAL OBLIGATION NOTE, SERIES C OF 2010 (THE “
SERIES C NOTE”) IN THE AGGREGATE PRINCIPAL AMOUNT OF
$6,040,000 (THE “NOTE”); SETTING FORTH THE PURPOSE
OF THE ISSUANCE OF THE NOTE, TO FUND CERTAIN CAPITAL PROJECTS
OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM PURSUANT TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT
UNIT DEBT ACT; DETERMINING THAT THE NOTE SHALL BE SOLD AT
PRIVATE SALE; DETERMINING THE PROJECTS AND ESTABLISHING THEIR
USEFUL LIFE; DETERMINING THAT THE DEBT EVIDENCED BY THE NOTE
SHALL BE NONELECTORAL DEBT; SETTING FORTH THE INTEREST RATES,
INTEREST AND PRINCIPAL PAYMENT DATES AND FINAL MATURITY OF
AND THE PREPAYMENT PRIVILEGES; ACCEPTING A PROPOSAL FOR THE PURCHASE OF THE NOTE; DESIGNATING A PAYING AGENT FOR THE NOTE; SETTING FORTH THE METHOD AND PLACE OF PAYMENT OF THE NOTE; APPROVING THE FORM OF THE NOTE; AUTHORIZING THE EXECUTION OF THE NOTE; ENTERING INTO A COVENANT WITH RESPECT TO THE NOTE
AND PLEDGING THE CITY'S FULL FAITH, CREDIT AND TAXING POWER THEREFORE, AND ESTABLISHING A SINKING FUNDS FOR THE NOTE; DESIGNATING A SINKING FUND DEPOSITORY; SETTING FORTH CERTAIN ADDITIONAL TERMS WITH RESPECT TO THE NOTE; AUTHORIZING APPROPRIATE OFFICERS TO FILE UNDER SECTION 8110 OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNIT DEBT ACT WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, INCLUDING PROCEEDINGS UNDER SECTION 8024 OR 8026 OF THE ACT MAKING CERTAIN FEDERAL TAX COVENANTS; DECLARING THE DEBT EVIDENCED BY THE NOTE TO BE WITHIN THE LIMITATIONS OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNIT DEBT ACT MAKING CERTAIN FEDERAL TAX COVENANTS; AUTHORIZING DELIVERY OF THE NOTE; AUTHORIZING INVESTMENT OF THE PROCEEDS OF THE NOTE; PROVIDING FOR INVALID PROVISIONS; PROVIDING FOR INCONSISTENT ORDINANCES; PROVIDING WHEN THE ORDINANCES SHALL BECOME EFFECTIVE.
Mr. DiGiacinto affirmed that the General Obligation Note was discussed at two Finance Committee meetings on July 26 and also on August 11, 2010 at which was included a review of the City’s draft 2009 Audit that did not portray the City’s financial performance in 2009 as being very good. Noting some of the reasons were the economy and history, Mr. DiGiacinto expressed his belief that the City will be cash challenged in the second half of this year and probably into 2011 which needs to be stabilized. The Administration represented that they were attempting to view the remainder of 2010 in a thrifty way, and were making some suggestions for handling of the cash problems that typically occur in the second half of the year. Mr. DiGiacinto pointed out that Mr. Reynolds, Chairman of the Finance Committee, did suggest reducing the General Obligation Note from $6.6 million to $5 million, and President Donchez suggested a reduction to $4 million. Mr. DiGiacinto acknowledged the Note was settled at $5.8 million. Mr. DiGiacinto commented he is not convinced the money will go to its intended uses because of the cash flow issues, and bills to be paid, including payroll. Mr. DiGiacinto, noting he did not vote in favor of the General Obligation Note in the Finance Committee, said he will not vote for it tonight.
Mr. Reynolds asked how much debt was paid off in 2009.
Mr. Reichard replied $18.5 million that includes both principal and interest, and the principal only amount was $10.5 million. Mr. Reichard further confirmed to Mr. Reynolds that the shortfall reported in the draft 2009 Audit was $8.5 million.
Mr. Reynolds, affirming the City paid off $10.5 million in 2009 in principal, said the City paid off $3 million more in debt than it took on in 2009. Mr. Reynolds pointed out that the City could push debt off until 2015 or 2025 for example, or could make citizens’ children pay for the debt. Mr. Reynolds stressed that, instead, the City aggressively pays off its debt which is a credit to City Council and the Administration. Mr. Reynolds continued on to say he talked to Department Heads and questioned whether the projects were needed. Mr. Reynolds stated, in his opinion, the projects are needed, and highlighted the fact that a new EMS facility is in the proposal that is needed. Mr. Reynolds, restating the City is paying off more debt now, pointed out the City is doing what it thinks needs to be done in 2010. Mr. Reynolds said he feels comfortable with the $5.8 million borrowing and plans to support it.
Mr. Evans, recalling he supported the proposal at the Finance Committee meeting and will support it tonight, commended the Administration and Department Heads for making the cuts in the Non-Utility Capital Projects. Mr. Evans stated that the items of the cardiac monitors, new EMS facility, and keeping up with the roads were retained, and it is understood that the City is on a strained budget and in some difficult financial situations so that it was cut as thin as possible. Mr. Evans pointed out that this borrowing is lower than the previous two borrowings which is a good trend. While expressing he wishes the Note could be lower, Mr. Evans observed that there is nothing that can really be cut out. Mr. Evans stated he will be voting yes on the Bill.
Ms. Dolan noted that, as Mr. Reynolds had said, aggressive debt reduction has not always been the habit in the City but has been the mission of this Administration and Council will support aggressive debt reduction. Ms. Dolan stated the worst thing a government can do during recession is to shut down and not take care of what needs to be taken care of. Ms. Dolan explained that debt can be a very effective way to pay for long term projects that will outlive the life of the debt. Ms. Dolan stated that she will support the Bill.
Mr. DiGiacinto pointed out there is an overburdened amount of debt in the City, making debt payments contributes to cash constraints and paying bills, the City refinanced twice this year which extended out debt payments, and there is an $8.2 million line of credit this year.
Mr. Evans thought that the refinancing did not extend the term. Mr. Reichard responded that is correct. Mayor Callahan affirmed that the City took advantage of lower interest rates but did not extend the term. Mayor Callahan added the City has $60 million less debt today than in 2004. Mayor Callahan pointed out that this borrowing was structured with an 11 year payoff as contrasted with past debt issues that had 15 or 20 year payoffs which is a savings in the long run for taxpayers. Mayor Callahan highlighted the fact that the useful life of the EMS Facility, that is being funded through the General Obligation Note, will be far beyond the 11 year payoff date and could have longevity of 20-40 years. Mayor Callahan confirmed that Mr. DiGiacinto is correct in saying that the debt payments are obligated but the debt terms have not been spread out over a longer period of time, and less is paid in interest over the course of the loan. Mayor Callahan continued on to explain that in aggressively paying down debt the City is not extending borrowings over a longer period of time, even though it could given the useful life of the assets that the debt issue is supporting, and is why the City is paying down more debt in a two year period of time than it takes on, and is why over the last six years the City has been able to lower the overall debt.
Mr. DiGiacinto recounted that, as he stated at the Finance Committee meeting, he would be amenable to looking at debt later this year during the Budget Hearings or other times. Highlighting the fact that the debt payments the City needs to make constrains the cash and puts the City in a difficult position, Mr. DiGiacinto elucidated that debt is being added with this General Obligation Note and at an earlier than normal time.
Ms. Dolan queried whether the Administration can comment on the September 14, 2010 issue date and not issuing the debt next year.
Mr. Reichard, turning to the interest rate, explained one can talk about whether the interest rate will get even better or perhaps get worse. However, Mr. Reichard highlighted the fact that 3.55% is a very good interest rate that the City should take advantage of. Mr. Reichard continued on to advise that the City wants to get started as quickly as possible on the new EMS Building at $800,000 and to complete the upgrade on the 911 Center Console Replacement at $1,800,000 both of which constitute 45% of the General Obligation Note. Noting there could be a default on a payment by the City of Harrisburg on a bond payment due of $69 million, Mr. Reichard advised that could affect the bond and lending markets in Pennsylvania. Mr. Reichard communicated that the Administration has looked closely at these matters and strongly felt the funding for the 2011 Non-Utility Capital Projects should be advanced this year. Mr. Reichard, affirming that the debt service payments will be only $214,000 for the next four years on the General Obligation Note, said afterwards between $2.2 and $3.4 million will be freed up because the City has aggressively paid down debt and has shorted the term of the debt. Mr. Reichard, pointing out that the City could extend its debt out to 25 or 30 years, stated the Administration has not chosen to do so.
Ms. Dolan, observing that rates are very inexpensive right
now, asserted it is a great time to undertake capital projects,
and the prices are lower. In addition, building projects translate
into work for people that in turn stimulates the local economy.
President Donchez confirmed that every two years the City issues a bond for major Non-Utility Capital Projects. President Donchez affirmed that, as requested, the Administration did decrease the total amount of the General Obligation Note. Pointing out that a major project is the upgrade on the 911 Center Console Replacement at $1,800,000, President Donchez highlighted the fact that, as he has been advocating for over 10 years, the Non-Utility Capital Projects includes a new EMS Facility that he strongly supports and he credited the Administration for finally advancing the new building project. President Donchez stated that the current EMS Facility on Stefko Boulevard is antiquated, and an inferior facility for the City’s outstanding EMS crew that has doubled over the past ten years. President Donchez stressed that the new EMS building is long overdue. President Donchez noted that this General Obligation Note is less than the previous two bonds, and the City has been trying to aggressively pay as much debt as possible. President Donchez acknowledged that the City in the past has taken out bonds with 20-25 year payback schedules, and is now taking bonds out for a much shorter period of time and trying to deal with the financings presently rather than pushing them out to the future. President Donchez, stating that the City has to move forward and has to make capital improvements, emphasized that this General Obligation Note does not even deal with the facility at Rogers Street that is also long past the point when it should have been fixed.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 6. Voting NAY: Mr. DiGiacinto, 1. Bill No. 23 – 2010 was declared passed on First Reading.
B. Authorizing Utility Relocation Reimbursement Agreement – PennDOT – Route 412
Mr. DiGiacinto and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 2010-126 that authorized the execution of a Utility Relocation Reimbursement Request for reimbursement of 50% of the costs to relocate the City’s water and sewer facilities in connection with the State Route 412 Section 001 project, according to the terms of the agreement.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolution passed.
Motion – Considering Resolutions as a Group
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Evans moved to consider Resolutions 11 C through 11 H as a group. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The motion passed.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 47 East Market Street
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 2010-127 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a masonry wall between two existing garages at 47 East Market Street and a wooden gate between the garage and a fence.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 501 Main Street
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 2010-128 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to remove a non-historic chimney extension on the north chimney and to cap it to match the southern chimney at 501 Main Street.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 402 North New Street
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 2010-129 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install two 3” PVC vents for a high efficiency gas furnace at 402 North New Street.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 44 East Market Street
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 2010-130 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a shed roof and metal guardrail at the rear entry to the Sunday school at 44 East Market Street.
G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 524 North New Street
Mr. Dolan and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 2010-131 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace windows on the side and rear and sash only on the two story front section, to install new lighting, signage and ADA ramp with rails, and to extend the fire escape at 524 North New Street.
H. Certificate of Appropriateness – 564 Main Street
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 2010-132 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install masonry pavers and landscape with native plants in the North Courtyard at the Sun Inn at 564 Main Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 C through 11 H: Mrs. Belinski,
Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds,
and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolutions passed.
I. Transfer of Funds – Non-Utility Capital Budget – Ice Rink Repairs and Renovations
Mr. Evans and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution 2010-133 that transferred $540,000 in the Non-Utility Capital Budget as follows: $300,000 from the Main Street Angled Parking Account to the Ice Rink Renovations Account; and $75,000 from Sand Island Improvements Account and $165,000 from Facility Capital Improvements Account to the Ice Rink Renovations Account for repair work and renovations to the Ice Rink.
Amendment to Resolution 11 I
Mr. Mowrer and Mr. Evans sponsored the following Amendment:
That the following in Resolution 11 I that reads as follows:
BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the City of Bethlehem that [$540,000] in the Non-Utility Capital Budget be transferred as follows for repair work and renovations to the Ice Rink:
[$300,000] 62007-66059 – Main Street Angled Parking
to Account 62007-66028 – Ice Rink Repairs; and
Be amended to read as follows:
BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the City of Bethlehem that $480,000 in the Non-Utility Capital Budget be transferred as follows for repair work and renovations to the Ice Rink:
$240,000 62007-66059 – Main Street Angled Parking
to Account 62007-66028 – Ice Rink Repairs; and
Mr. Reynolds said he was under the impression that, when $75,000 in the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Budget was moved into the Unprogrammed Funds Account, and there were discussions about the cost of the potential parking project at the south end of Main Street, the money would be left in Unprogrammed Funds for possible expenditure on the potential south Main Street parking spaces.
Mr. DiGiacinto, explaining his intent was not to just hold it in Unprogrammed Funds, affirmed he had discussed at the Finance Committee meeting and had sent a memorandum requesting that $60,000 be held back to be used towards the Main Street Parking project. Mr. DiGiacinto communicated that, since the money was already in the Main Street Angled Parking Account, he thought it would be correct and more simple to keep money in the Account and not transfer it all out to the Ice Rink Repairs Account since it is still not known what the Ice Rink project will cost and what the Main Street Parking project will cost. Mr. DiGiacinto highlighted the fact that funding for parking spaces in the area of South Main Street was a very prominent topic just a few weeks ago but then was taken off the table by the Administration for various reasons. However, Mr. DiGiacinto commented he does not think the Main Street Parking issue has gone away, and indicated there are other Members of Council who support the South Main Street Parking project. Mr. DiGiacinto further advised that the $75,000 currently in the Community Development Block Grant Budget in the Unprogrammed Funds Account could be considered for other aspects of the parking project.
Mr. Reynolds asked if the thought is that there is potential to spend both the $75,000 in the CDBG Budget and $60,000 from the Non-Utility Capital Budget. Mr. DiGiacinto replied yes. Mr. Reynolds commented he understands the amount to put parking at the Hill to Hill Bridge was lower and there was a possibility of utilizing money for some of the other improvements. Stating that hard thought would have to be given to spending the money, Mr. Reynolds communicated the idea for parking on the Bridge ramp should definitely be considered but at the same time he would have trepidation to go beyond that and withhold money from going to the Ice Rink. Mr. Reynolds stated the Ice Rink project is something that needs to be done now and he feels fairly confident about the amount of money that has been discussed to do the Ice Rink repairs. Mr. Reynolds continued on to say if the decision is made to do the parking project the money would still be there.
Mr. Evans pointed out that, combined with the $200,000 for the Ice Rink from the Recreation Facilities Fund, the $480,000 in the amendment would total almost $700,000 for the Ice Rink project. Mr. Evans observed that, upon confirmation, half of the $60,000 for the Main Street Parking project as contained in the amendment to the Resolution could be reimbursed through RACP funds. This would provide $30,000 towards the Ice Rink project, estimated to cost $750,000, for a total of $730,000. Noting that the budget estimates from Mr. Carp for the Ice Rink project totaled $740,000, Mr. Evans observed the final amount could be lower. Mr. Evans pointed out that $730,000 funds approximately 98% of the Ice Rink project. While acknowledging the will of Council is to do what is needed to get the Ice Rink open, Mr. Evans commented that perhaps other fund transfers could occur at a later time. Mr. Evans continued on to recount that the Main Street Parking project is also something that the City wanted to get done. Mr. Evans said that a plan for north bound parking on Main Street is an efficient plan that can be dealt with under the $60,000 amount based on the estimates that were given. Mr. Evans concluded that both could be done.
Mr. Evans asked if the project costs for the Ice Rink would be received by September 20. Mr. Carp replied that to properly bid and advertise the project that would be the time sequence, and the earliest the bids would be received would be the third week in September. Mr. Carp affirmed to Mr. Evans that the previously issued estimate of $745,000 is fairly accurate based on discussions with two different companies that do such work.
Mr. Evans inquired what are the estimates for the two possible alternates to add parking at South Main Street at the Hill to Hill Bridge ramp and diagonal parking from the parallel north of the existing diagonal parking. Mr. Alkhal responded to add parking on the ramp and additional parking on the other side of Main Street would be about $50,000.
Mr. Evans queried whether matching funds from RACP could be used. Mayor Callahan responded that, with all due respect to the Parking Authority Director, he would want to look at that matter since the nature of the improvements contemplated have changed, and the State grant provisions would need to be reviewed in order to determine whether the project is eligible. In addition, Mayor Callahan affirmed that an engineering study must be done for parking on the Bridge ramp, and there are Jersey barrier issues and other considerations. Mayor Callahan explained there is a dollar for dollar match under the RACP program, the City expends the dollars first and then would have to wait to be reimbursed by the State which may not occur until next year.
Ms. Dolan questioned the cost of the drainage and sidewalk repairs on Main Street that had been part of the parking project. Mr. Alkhal replied that to address the drainage issue, curb, and sidewalk is another $50,000. Mr. Alkhal further advised that to address the parkway area at South Main Street and possibly add some lights and trees could be between $50,000 and $100,000. In total, those project costs could be about $200,000. Ms. Dolan asked if this is something the City has considered for a State grant application such as to PHMC, rather than linking this type of improvement and beautification project as separate from the parking spaces. Mr. Alkhal noted that some of the issues involve the responsibility of abutting property owners and some are the City’s responsibility. When the issue of parking was addressed, it was the opportunity to address some of those other issues as well. Ms. Dolan thought it was important to note that these other important improvements had been included in the overall price of the project to provide additional parking spaces about which there had been remarks about the high price. Ms. Dolan noted that when the point is reached where there are firm numbers for the multiple aspects of the project then the $75,000 in the CDBG Budget could be used to begin the work. Mayor Callahan expressed he believes so since the work contemplated to be done nearby was eligible. Ms. Dolan observed that the condition of the sidewalk could be an ADA issue. Ms. Dolan, commenting that things should be kept as they are, said the Ice Rink project that is ready to begin should be funded fully and expressed her concern about being even $10,000 or $20,000 short since it is unknown what could be found when the Rink is dismantled. Ms. Dolan, stating she will not support the amendment, reiterated there is $75,000 available for the parking and beautification project.
Mr. DiGiacinto observed that the full $745,000 would not be spent at the outset of the Ice Rink project, and the exact project cost is not known yet. Mr. DiGiacinto pointed out that funds are requested to be moved throughout the year at the Finance Committee meetings. Mr. DiGiacinto, restating that several weeks ago $300,000 was to be spent on the Main Street parking project, remarked that thoughts have soured but the need has not gone away. Mr. DiGiacinto stressed that the $60,000 is safe where it is and the matter could be discussed again if needed.
Mr. Reynolds noted that the $75,000 in CDBG funds will remain there and cannot be spent on another project until a request is made to City Council. Enumerating there are various matters that have to be answered and addressed concerning the parking project and inclement weather that may soon have to be faced, Mr. Reynolds thought it could be reviewed for the 2011 Budget. Mr. Reynolds stated the Ice Rink needs to be fixed now.
President Donchez asked if the $75,000 in the Unprogrammed Funds Account can be used to expand the parking up to Market Street opposite the Hotel Bethlehem. Mayor Callahan responded he does not see why not if the Main Street parking project was eligible before. President Donchez communicated he is not personally convinced that parking should be placed on the Hill to Hill Bridge ramp. President Donchez expressed his concern since the Ice Rink is an old facility, and stated it is important to move forward with the repairs. President Donchez also recalled how the final estimate for renovations to the Ice House were much higher than originally anticipated. President Donchez stated he will not be supporting the amendment.
Voting AYE on the Amendment to 11 I: Mr. DiGiacinto, Mr. Evans, and Mr. Mowrer, 3. Voting NAY: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 4. The Amendment failed.
Voting AYE on Resolution 11 I: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan,
Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 6. Voting
NAY: Mr. DiGiacinto, 1. The Resolution passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS.
Mr. Mowrer recalled that 30 years ago the EMS Facility was ideal and people were thrilled with it since it was modern and efficient compared with the former building off Linden Street. Mr. Mowrer observed that times have changed and the facility did not change and the City did not keep up with it and now there is a big bill. Mr. Mowrer stressed that facilities need to be maintained or they will cost a lot more later on. Mr. Mowrer observed that downtown Main Street has not been maintained as it was when it was originally installed and someday there will be a big bill.
Expressions of Gratitude
Mr. DiGiacinto expressed his gratitude to Police Commissioner Bedics and Fire Commissioner Barkanic for providing their people, resources, and time for the fund raiser on August 12 at the Boys and Girls Club held on behalf of the fallen Police Officer Mark Renninger, a former Boys Club member.
Mr. Evans thanked the City employees who put in extra time during the ten days of Musikfest that involves a lot of work.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
City Finances; TIF Proposal
Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, referring to the draft 2009 Audit that showed a negative General Fund balance of $8.5 million on an accrual basis, thought it was a serious issue. Mr. Pfenning stated there needs to be a very reasoned and dispassionate discussion of the City’s finances that is not helped when the accrual balance is pushed into a cash balance. Mr. Pfenning, noting that incremental tax revenue is coming in as a result of assessment of the Casino, stated that the Administration has proposed a list of projects to improve the TIF area at BethWorks. Mr. Pfenning stressed what has not been done is to have a discussion on whether the projects should be done. Mr. Pfenning commended the Administration for working with the Northampton County Council President on the sharing of TIF revenues in advance. Mr. Pfenning enumerated proposed TIF projects that he did not favor. Mr. Pfenning asserted that there is $1.6 million that cannot be put towards new school buses, textbooks, etc. Mr. Pfenning noted that First Street originally included in the TIF is to be dug up and replaced with curb at a cost of $1.7 million so that the Levitt Pavilion looks nicer and can seat more people. Mr. Pfenning reminded the assembly that some of the areas north and south of First Street are in the 100 year flood plain. Mr. Pfenning asked what City Council has done to increase the revenue flow to the City for its portion of the TIF project, and to hold back portions of the project that may not be essential.
President Donchez informed Mr. Pfenning that a memorandum has been sent to the Mayor to have City Council briefed on the project and the specifics.
Main Street Parking
Bruce Haines, 65 W. Market Street, referring to discussions this evening and at the last City Council Meeting concerning the Main Street Parking issue, pointed out it was heard clearly from Mr. Alkhal that 27 parking spaces could be made available for $50,000. Mr. Haines, recalling that three weeks ago there was willingness to spend $300,000 for 9 parking spaces, communicated he is confused with the current discussions. Mr. Haines continued on to note that another $50,000 would be the estimated cost to fix the drainage problem along the curb near the Moravian Church, and an additional $50,000-$100,000 to fix the drainage problem on the other side of Main Street, for a total of about $150,000-$200,000, of which RACP funds could pay half. Mr. Haines wondered why there were votes against the parking project when the $50,000 cost for the spaces has been stated. Mr. Haines remarked that the ability to put 27 more parking spaces is being turned down before the biggest retail season in Bethlehem when businesses need it the most. Mr. Haines commented that at least the parking portion could be done with the $60,000 and come back later to fix the issues of drainage and sidewalk on the other side of the streets with funds from somewhere else later. Mr. Haines highlighted the fact that the City gets real estate taxes from these businesses, mercantile taxes on the products sold, and earned income tax from the employees who work there. Mr. Haines expressed his surprise with the outcome of the matter, in view of a $50,000 expenditure that could yield needed parking spaces.
21st Century Town Square – Legal Notice
Carol Ann Krasley, Center Street, reading from a legal notice in the July 16, 2010 edition of the Express-Times, asked what structures are targeted for demolition as noted in the ad for bids in conjunction with the 21st Century Town Square demolition package.
President Donchez asked if the Mayor would be able to provide information on the matter.
Main Street Parking; TIF
Mary Pongracz, 321 W. Fourth Street, expressing her agreement with Mr. Haines’ comments, continued on to exemplify that if a project costs $100,000 then there should be $100,000 to cover the expenditures and stressed that if the money is not in hand then a project should not be done. Ms. Pongracz related that her parents did not expect anyone to build an ice rink for their children. Turning to the issue of the TIF at BethWorks, Ms. Pongracz wondered why the School District would turn down $3 million and communicated that the amount of $3 million proposed to be offered to the School District could be used by the District to help pay down their debt and reduce interest payments. She later remarked it is not up to the School District to define what infrastructure is under the TIF agreement, and their duty is to educate children. Ms. Pongracz, commenting that a Cardiac Monitor is more important than an Ice Rink, further pointed out the greater need is for adequate parking for the business community. She added that the City cannot survive without a vibrant business community.
Main Street Parking; City Finances
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, also expressed his surprise at the discussions this evening. Mr. Grubb cautioned Council to make sure there is low/moderate income benefit if the Main Street Parking project is advanced with the use of CDBG funds. Mr. Grubb noted that, as mentioned at the Finance Committee meeting, there are some large receivables due the City but no one has advised what is being done to collect the money. In addition, Mr. Grubb commented that no one has said anything about repayment of Fund balances. Mr. Grubb wondered how other municipalities feel about having their earned income tax money being used as a float for the City’s finances.
Parking of Vehicles
Frank Donchez, Fifth Avenue, said his neighbors asked him to come to the Meeting concerning the 72 hour rule for parking in front of property. Mr. Donchez related that an old truck has been parked for over a month on Fifth Avenue and is an eyesore. Mr. Donchez asked if the law could be reviewed.
In response to President Donchez, Jason Schiffer, Deputy Police Commissioner, indicated as long as it is not a large commercial vehicle and it is inspected and registered and in running condition it can be parked on the street provided there are no other parking regulations in place. President Donchez asked if Deputy Commissioner Schiffer could meet with Mr. Donchez after the Meeting and look into the matter.
Mr. Donchez advised there is a property in the 1600-1700 block of Broad Street that has been boarded up for over a year, and stated something should be done about the property.
President Donchez informed him that the matter will be referred to the Inspections Bureau.
Elias Market; Parking of Vehicles; Zoning Hearing Board Meetings
Al Bernotas, 1004 Johnston Drive, presented an update on the Elias Market matter. Recalling that on August 26, 2009 the Zoning Hearing Board granted a variance to expand Elias Market, Mr. Bernotas remarked that a year later the matter is going to the Planning Commission next week for a site plan review. Mr. Bernotas advised that, after 90 days, the neighbors have not heard back from the court on their appeal. Affirming that at Zoning Hearing Board meetings the Board and the appellant each have solicitors, Mr. Bernotas noted that objectors do not have a solicitor and stated there should be an advocate for the public at the meetings. Mr. Bernotas, referring to the City laws, said if a vehicle is over 20 feet long it cannot be parked on the street for more than 72 hours or it must be moved to another block for 2 hours. Mr. Bernotas thought that parking of commercial vehicles should not be allowed in some Zoning districts, and the Ordinance should be changed to maintain the quality of Bethlehem.
Main Street Parking; City Finances
Dean Bruch, 555 Spring Street, commenting that the Moravian community derives financial benefits from the downtown business area, queried why they cannot provide some public parking. He observed there are about 250 parking spots within walking distance of downtown for the Moravian Church that are not used. Mr. Bruch wondered why a parking facility cannot be built underneath the Bridge. Mr. Bruch remarked that people need to keep in mind that they cannot spend more than they take in, and communicated that although City officials are doing a good job they need to do a little better.
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, related a suggestion made by a radio commentator that it would be wise for taxpayers to know what municipal employees are being paid, and the information should be published on a municipality’s website. Mr. Antalics urged this to be done on the City’s website.
President Donchez affirmed that municipal employees and officials salaries are public information, and are listed in the Budget Book. It was further confirmed that the Budget is online.
Leslie Holmes, Weaversville, noted she spoke a few weeks ago and advised she was picked up by a Police Officer on Monday night and she was detained for an hour and a half. She explained that mistakes and procedural errors were made, and she was accused of being drunk. Ms. Holmes pointed out that other cities have review boards.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:45 p.m.