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January 18, 2011
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, January 18, 2011 – 7:00 PM
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President Robert J. Donchez called the meeting to order. Pastor Boddan Jurczyszn, of Our Lord’s Ascension Polish National Catholic 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.
President Donchez called to order a Public Hearing to receive public comment to consider an Amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to amend Section 1325.02 by adding a sentence to require the concurring vote of a majority of the Zoning Hearing Board.
7A Director of Planning and Zoning – Amending Article 1325.02 – Zoning Heard Board
The Acting Clerk read a memorandum dated January 13, 2011 from Darlene L. Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, stating that at its January 13, 2011 meeting the Planning Commission unanimously voted to oppose the proposed change to Article 1325 that states “the concurring vote of a majority of the Zoning Hearing Board shall be required for any action by the Zoning Hearing Board”.
7B Lehigh Valley Planning Commission – Amending Article 1325.02 – Zoning Hearing Board
The Acting Clerk read a letter dated December 16, 2010 from Olev Taremae, Chief Planner, Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, stating that at its December 16, 2010 meeting the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission voted and advised that the proposed amendment deals with Zoning Hearing Board procedures and finds such provisions to be matters of local concern only.
Ms. Heller advised the matter was reviewed at the January 13, 2011 Planning Commission Meeting and the members voted unanimously not to support the amendment. She said one issue of concern was that they did not see a reason to single out the Zoning Hearing Board for something like this, the Planning Commission is also a five-member body and right now they need a quorum to vote and if three members appear, two members can approve or deny a proposal. Ms. Heller noted another issue was that if three members would appear at a meeting and three votes were necessary to approve or deny a proposal, that would generally decide for those that are not attending what their vote would be and it essentially would be a no-vote for those members who were not able to attend. She said it is assumed that all the members of all the commissions and boards attend and that it would be rare that there would only be three members in attendance. Ms. Heller pointed out that in those situations it was felt that the vote for those who could not attend should be presumed to be a no vote.
Councilwoman Dolan said she believes City Council currently follows the guidelines that were suggested for the Zoning Hearing Board and would suggest that the Planning Commission would also follow the majority. She said she also thinks it is rare but on that rare occasion a vote is not taken, and it is the right of the presiding official to say it would be tabled or pulled from the agenda, that there are ways to deal with that.
President Donchez said he agreed.
Ms. Heller noted that the Zoning Hearing Board does not
have the option to table something unless the applicant is
in concurrence. Typically the Planning Commission members
would not either because there is a timeline for review of
those proposals and the timelines need to be met. It is true
that something can be tabled at the applicant’s request
if there isn’t full membership of the board present.
Ms. Dolan remarked that she thinks that is a good compromise,
that the applicant can decide. She said she spoke with a member
who has been on the three-member board, and if one member
is not there, two people make the decision, which is
different from just three members being there from a five-member board where two people can approve a project. She said she believes Robert’s Rules as well as City Council’s Rules speak to that and it is good policy to encourage attendance and let the majority speak whenever possible. She said she stands by the amendment. Ms. Dolan then asked if in the amendment the words “any action” should read “official action”. Christopher T. Spadoni, Council Solicitor, said no.
Councilman DiGiacinto asked Ms. Heller if four members show up if a 2-2 vote does not approve. Ms. Heller said that is correct.
Al Bernotas, 1004 Johnston Drive, pointed out that the draft ordinance reads two alternates and asked if that is intentional. He said it also states three-year terms for a five-member panel and asked if that is intentional. He also pointed out that the Municipal Planning Code (MPC) says a five-member panel needs a five-year term. Mr. Bernotas then said according to the MPC a quorum cannot be less than a majority which means with a five-member panel, the majority is three, four in attendance, three votes needed to pass something because a 2-2 kills it. He said he thinks if there are three in attendance there is no reason why that standpoint can’t be followed, that three votes are needed to get passed, whether there are three or five members. Mr. Bernotas said he understands the Planning Commission is required to review changes to the Zoning Ordinance and wanted to point out that Zoning Hearing Board positions are not elected, they are appointed and very important. He said members should attend 100%, just like City Council. He said it is rare that a member of Council is absent and when they are it is for an extremely good reason. Mr. Bernotas stated that if they do not plan on attending and giving 100%, they should not volunteer for the job. He said there are many other residents willing and qualified to serve on the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Bernotas said he heard a comment at the Planning Commission meeting that there are family and professional obligations that take precedence and that, he said, implies that a casual attitude is given to taking these assignments. He said he thinks that only emergencies should be considered an acceptable reason for missing in action. Mr. Bernotas said City Council is the legislative branch of City government, not the Zoning Hearing Board, and they have been changing the law at their whim. He said they cannot be fired and rules need to be made that they must follow. He said he thinks the amendment will send a message to take the appointment seriously and to show up. He said City Council needs a quorum or a majority. Mr. Bernotas asked that City Council vote in the affirmative for this amendment. Mr. Bernotas then asked if there will be two alternates. Christopher Spadoni, Council Solicitor, stated that the amendment he drafted was for the affirmative vote of three members and that is what is before City Council this evening.
Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, remarked that Darlene Heller gave an accurate description of the Planning Commission Meeting, however, Mr. Pfenning said what is being discussed includes five members with two alternates, seven potential people, to attend the Zoning Hearing Board meeting, according to the draft ordinance. Attorney Spadoni said the Zoning Board is comprised of five members, two alternates to serve if one of the members cannot be there. Mr. Pfenning said there is a potential pool of seven to draw from and that the Planning Commission was struggling with the concept of a super majority or something like that, and they were concerned that in our society, majority rules and if there are three members present, a majority is two. They were uncomfortable because of their own situation of deviating from that rule. If in fact the final Zoning Ordinance section is approved as written on the draft, that changed to strike the two alternates, then the likelihood that only 3 out of the 7 potential people that could serve are there, and then the situation versus the three versus two occurs, is very slim. Mr. Pfenning said the Planning Commission was told point blank five members, alternates were not in the new Zoning Ordinance amendment, and what they discussed and what they gave an opinion on is not based on this particular draft Ordinance. Mr. Pfenning stated that they were truly concerned about the loss of the majority rules concept. He said with seven members you should be able to get at least five or four, so the three makes no difference. He said the case becoming a loss of majority rules is very slim given the way this is written.
President Donchez stated the Ordinance will be listed for First Reading on February 1, 2011.
The Public Hearing was adjourned at 7:20 PM.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of December 21, 2010 and January 4, 2011 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
6. OLD BUSINESS.
A. Old Business – Members of Council
B. Tabled Items
C. Unfinished Business
1. Establishing Article 1716 – Landmarks and Properties of Historical Interest
(Assigned to Preservation Plan Task Force)
C. Public Safety Committee Chairman – Replacing Article 735 – Emergency Alarm Systems and Fees
The Acting Clerk read a memorandum dated January 12, 2011 from David T. DiGiacinto, Chairman of the Public Safety Committee, to which was attached amendments for First Reading of the Ordinance Replacing Article 735 – Emergency Alarm System drafted by Attorney Spadoni. This was a follow-up to his November 10, 2010 memorandum read into the record at the November 16, 2010 City Council Meeting.
President Donchez stated that the Bill will be listed on the February 1, 2011 Agenda for First Reading.
D. President of Council – Amending Article 121 –
Bond Issues, General Obligation Notes, and Lines of
The Acting Clerk read a memorandum dated January 13, 2011 from President Donchez, to which was attached a draft Ordinance amending Article 121 that would require that the proceeds of a Bond Issue, General Obligation Note, Line of Credit or any other type of loan or advance must be placed in an account to be used only for the purposes for which the funds are borrowed or advanced and that each expenditure must be approved by City Council. The purpose is to prevent a recurrence of the situation when the $6 million General Obligation Note that was issued for Non-Utility Capital Projects as approved September 7, 2010 was instead used by the Administration to pay General Fund costs including employee salaries.
President Donchez referred this matter to the Finance Committee.
Councilman Evans asked that this matter be placed on the Monday, January 31, 2011 Finance Committee Meeting agenda that is scheduled.
E. Business Administrator – PMRS Ordinance – Early Retirement
The Acting Clerk read a memorandum dated January 14, 2011 from Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, to which was attached a proposed ordinance concerning the PMRS early retirement option.
President Donchez stated that Bill No. 1-2011 is listed on the agenda.
F. City Solicitor – Records Destruction – Controller’s Office
The Acting Clerk read a memorandum dated January 13, 2011 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, requesting a Resolution for the destruction of records from the Controller’s Office. The Law Bureau reviewed the Municipal Records Retention Act and the records fall within categories where destruction is permitted.
President Donchez stated that the Resolution will be placed on the February 1, 2011 Council Agenda.
G. City Solicitor – Records Destruction – Financial Services Bureau
The Acting Clerk read a memorandum dated January 13, 2011 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, requesting a Resolution for the destruction of records from the Financial Services Bureau. The Law Bureau reviewed the Municipal Records Retention Act and the records fall within categories where destruction is permitted.
President Donchez stated that the Resolution will be placed on the February 1, 2011 Council Agenda.
The following Communication was added to the Agenda:
H. Council Solicitor – Compensation of Community and Economic Development Director
The Acting Clerk read a letter dated January 17, 2011 from Christopher T. Spadoni, Council Solicitor, requesting that the compensation for the new Community and Economic Development Director, appointed on January 4, 2011, be referred to the Human Resources and Environment Committee.
President Donchez referred the matter to the Human Resources and Environment Committee.
A. President of Council
President Donchez announced that the Continued Public Hearing for Police Officer Michael Lenner is scheduled for Monday, January 24, 2011 at 6:00 PM in Town Hall.
Annual Report for 2010
President Donchez summarized his Annual Report for 2010. The 2010 Annual Report of the President of Council follows:
City Council conducted more than 20 Committee meetings, adopted 48 Ordinances, and passed 201 Resolutions in 2010.
In early 2010, City Council adopted the 2009 Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code, and revised Fees for the Enforcement of the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code. At the end of 2010, City Council adopted the 2009 ICC International Property Maintenance Code.
Following Council’s enactment of the Ordinance to start an Environmental Advisory Council three years ago in 2007, the Human Resources and Environment Committee reviewed the work of the EAC as was required under the authorizing legislation. City Council commended the EAC for their work during the initial three-year period, and adopted an Ordinance to have the EAC continue indefinitely.
A recommendation from Council Member Dolan, Chairwoman of the Community and Economic Development Committee, was approved by Resolution amending Council Rules to revise the duties of the Community and Economic Development Committee to include matters relating to landmarks and property of historical interest.
In addressing the City’s Parks and Recreation system last year, Council approved several State Grants for funding towards the Skateplaza, and the City formally opened this new and exciting world-class recreational venue in July 2010. Council authorized the application for a grant from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for the renovation of Higbee Park at Spring Street to add more green space, a new play system, landscaping and improved ADA access. Through the $75,000 grant received from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), a $15,000 grant received from Highmark Blue Shield, $15,000 from PNC Bank, funding from Lehigh County’s Green Futures Fund, $35,380 from KaBoom, in-kind donations of labor from the City, and in-kind help from the neighbors and from the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities the newly renovated Higbee Park became a reality. Council Member Mowrer recommended and Council approved the renaming of the Ice Rink to Earl E. Schaffer Municipal Ice Rink in honor of the former Mayor of the City of Bethlehem to honor and recognize his support for the construction of recreational facilities in the Monocacy Complex. Council adopted Resolutions increasing fees for the Skating Rink, Swimming Pool, League/Field, Pavilion Rental, Summer Day Camp, and Facility Rental for Special Events, and Golf Fees. Appropriation of funds to fix the Ice Rink was approved by City Council.
In matters related to public safety and the Police Department, an Ordinance was initiated by City Council to prohibit the use of handheld mobile telephones and texting while operating vehicles in the City of Bethlehem. A Resolution was adopted that authorized a Lease Agreement at 745 Linden Street for a Police Substation for three years. Following hearings conducted by Bethlehem City Council on October 27, 2010, November 1, 2010, and November 11, 2010 City Council adopted a Resolution for the termination of Officer John Nye effective June 8, 2010. City Council adopted a Resolution to approve the new three-year 9-1-1 Plan to deal with future needs and operations of the 9-1-1 Center.
City Council granted approval for an Intermunicipal Transfer of a Restaurant Liquor License to Big Woody’s Pizza and Sports Bar on Easton Avenue; and, Council granted a Certificate of Approval to place a hotdog cart on the sidewalk in front of 15 West Fourth Street.
The benefits of the Working Woodlands Program that the Bethlehem Authority negotiated with The Nature Conservancy was reviewed, and City Council approved the Program that provided for approximately 21,000 acres of watershed property to be placed into The Nature Conservancy’s Working Woodlands Program. The Authority was encouraged to move forward with negotiations toward consummation of the Operative Agreements, conditioned upon City Council approving the Operative Agreements prior to execution by the Bethlehem Authority.
An Amendment to the Zoning Ordinance was adopted to increase the total membership of the Zoning Hearing Board to five members instead of three members, with no alternates, and terms of office of five years instead of three years.
City Council adopted an Ordinance continuing the LERTA Program through December 2012.
Various financial related matters were considered by City Council in 2010 that was a difficult economic time. Finance Committee Member Evans drafted a proposal to provide for Financial Reporting to City Council. An Ordinance was adopted to require timely Reports on the General, Water and Sewer Operating Budgets, revenues and expenditures related to the Gaming Local Share Account, and Accounts Payable and Receivable Reports. City Council approved the Refinancing of 2002, 2003A, 2004, and 2004A Bond Issues and the 2006 Note. A Resolution was adopted authorizing the transfer of $900,000 from the Treasurer’s Escrow Fund to the General Fund to be used for payroll for the 26th pay of 2010. In adopting the Ordinances in December 2010 approving the Budget for the next year 2011, City Council froze the Step increases for all Non-Union employees, and held the 1.5% annual increase to begin in July 1. Council also approved the elimination of positions through early retirements, vacancies, and other position eliminations. An increase in the Recycling Fee was adopted in conjunction with the 2011 Budget. Recognizing the importance of key Non-Utility Capital Projects that were not funded under the Note approved by City Council last September, Council approved a .75 mill increase dedicated to the building of a new EMS Facility and the purchase of a Fire Pumper, with the requirement that all disbursements from the EMS Facility and Fire Pumper account shall be subject to City Council approval prior to disbursement to assure that these funds are utilized for the construction of an EMS facility and acquisition of a fire pumper only.
A Resolution authorizing the submission of an application and preparation of a Cooperation Agreement between ArtsQuest and the City of Bethlehem for the pass through of funds and the assignment of administrative requirements under the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program to ArtsQuest in the amount of $2 million toward the redevelopment of the Festival Center at Steel Stacks was adopted by City Council. The RACP through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will assist ArtsQuest in the construction of the Festival Center at SteelStacks, and the City entered into a Cooperation Agreement with ArtsQuest for project administration.
Council authorized the TIF Rebate Agreement for the Bethlehem Works TIF with Northampton County, Bethlehem Area School District, and Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority, for the purpose of rebating certain excess TIF revenues from to the three taxing bodies. The City retained $677,000 in 2010 and will receive $505,000 annually for the next 10 years. The potential of seeing this project come to fruition next year with ArtsQuest and PBS 39 will bring more vitality, people, jobs, and education to the area, and can be the catalyst for and lead to more development.
Review of Draft Ordinance for Public Hearing
President Donchez requested that Attorney Spadoni review the draft ordinance with regard to the Public Hearing. President Donchez said he recalled the Zoning Hearing Board was comprised of five members with no alternates.
1. Administrative Order – Mark P. Jobes – Bethlehem Authority
Dennis Reichard, Acting Mayor, read Mayor Callahan’s reappointment of Mark P. Jobes to membership on the Bethlehem Authority effective until January 2016. Mr. Evans and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 2011-12 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.
2. Administrative Order – Joseph F. Bacak, III, M.D. – Board of Health
Dennis Reichard, Acting Mayor, read Mayor Callahan’s reappointment of Joseph F. Bacak, III, M.D. to membership on the Board of Health effective until January 2016. Ms. Dolan and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2011-13 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.
[Administrative Order No. 3 was not considered.]
4. Administrative Order – Constantine Loupos – Zoning Hearing Board
Dennis Reichard, Acting Mayor, read Mayor Callahan’s reappointment of Constantine Loupos to membership on the Zoning Hearing Board effective until January 2014. Mr. Evans and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2011-14 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.
5. Administrative Order – James K. Heitmann –
Historic Conservation Commission – South
Bethlehem and Mount Airy
Dennis Reichard, Acting Mayor, read Mayor Callahan’s
reappointment of James K. Heitmann to membership on the Historic
Conservation Commission effective until May 2011. Ms. Dolan
and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2011-15 to confirm the
Councilman DiGiacinto remarked that he had a chance to read Mr. Heitmann’s resume and, even though he is just serving as a substitute, said he thought that Mr. Heitmann, if he is interested and based on his background, should be considered for the Bethlehem Authority, Redevelopment Authority, or Parking Authority. He said he thought he would be a good fit for any of those areas.
6. Administrative Order – Patricia Stahr – Board of Health
Dennis Reichard, Acting Mayor, read Mayor Callahan’s appointment of Patricia J. Stahr to membership on the Board of Health effective until January 2015. Ms. Dolan and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2011-16 to confirm the appointment.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 1 – 2011 – PMRS Ordinance – Early Retirement
The Acting Clerk read Bill No. 1 – 2011 – PMRS Ordinance – Early Retirement, sponsored by Mr. DiGiacinto and Mrs. Belinski, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF BETHLEHEM CITY, NORTHAMPTON COUNTY, COMMONWEALTH
OF PENNSYLVANIA, ELECTING TO AMEND ITS
MUNICIPAL PENSION PLAN ADMINISTERED BY THE
PENNSYLVANIA MUNICIPAL RETIREMENT SYSTEM PURSUANT
TO ARTICLE IV OF THE PENNSYLVANIA MUNICIPAL
RETIREMENT LAW; AGREEING TO BE BOUND BY ALL
PROVISIONS OF THE PENNSYLVANIA MUNICIPAL RETIREMENT
LAW AS AMENDED AND AS APPLICABLE TO MEMBER
Councilwoman Dolan asked Mr. Reichard if this is required as part of the contract to keep the pension going. Mr. Reichard responded that PMRS requires this for the early retirement option that was offered.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 7. Bill No. 1 – 2011 was declared passed on First Reading.
A. Police Pension Fund Resolution – Five-Year Method
Mr. Mowrer and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution No. 2011-17 that adopted the five-year smoothing method to determine the actuarial value of assets for the Police Pension Fund, effective with the January 1, 2009, actuarial valuation report.
B. Firemen’s Pension Fund Resolution – Five-Year Method
Mr. Mowrer and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution No. 2011-18 that adopted the five-year smoothing method to determine the actuarial value of assets for the Firemen’s Pension Fund, effective with the January 1, 2009, actuarial valuation report.
C. Officers’ and Employees’ Pension Fund – Five-Year Method
Mr. Mowrer and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution No. 2011-19 that adopted the five-year smoothing method to determine the actuarial value of assets for the Officers’ and Employees’ Pension Fund, effective with the January 1, 2009, actuarial valuation report.
Mr. DiGiacinto asked if the term “officers” was carried over from other pension funds. Mr. Reichard said yes, since around 1963, and that he thinks there is only one remaining active employee in it.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 77 West Broad Street,
Mr. Evans and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 2011-20 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install vinyl letters on the storefront glass and a hanging wooden sign on a metal bracket at Unit 11-C, 77 West Broad Street.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 57 Wall Street
Mr. Evans and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 2011-21 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the roof on the garage at 57 Wall Street.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 534 Main Street
Mr. Evans and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 2011-22 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the flat roof, metal parapet coping and downspouts at 534 Main Street.
12. NEW BUSINESS.
Finance Committee Meeting
Councilman Reynolds announced a Finance Committee Meeting scheduled for Monday, January 31, 2011 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Civil Political Discourse
Gloria McVeigh, 2443 Black River Road, expressed her alarm in the escalating physical, verbal, and virtual violence aimed at elected officials. She said she thinks last weekend’s arrest of a School District worker for making threats against district employees means we can no longer allow ourselves the luxury of thinking that violence can’t happen here. She said she believes that a direct line can be drawn from the hate messages that flood the airways to the vicious barbs that residents aim at public officials, to the violent fantasies of an unbalanced public employee, to the shots fired in the Tucson, Arizona shopping center. She said this is a community of decent people and community standards demand that elected officials be able to work without fear of humiliation or fear for their personal safety. Ms. McVeigh urged Council President Donchez to consider her suggestions to restore an environment that encourages civil discourse but discourages stress and intimidation. She suggested that any speaker who has been arrested or removed from a Council Meeting for disruptive behavior should be barred from using the Courtesy of the Floor. She said she thinks any speaker who addresses Council Members in a derogatory way or who attacks the legitimacy of the government be gaveled down. Ms. McVeigh suggested that the use of scorecards and attacks on younger or female members of Council be discouraged. She said a Bethlehem City Council Meeting is a working session of the public officials elected to conduct the business of the City, not a platform for one-sided hate speech.
Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, commented that under the strong mayor government, Council exists to serve as a check and balance and Council passes ordinances. He questioned what happens when they are not enforced. Mr. Pfenning brought up issues and addressed President Donchez asking that he consider how Council will deal with these issues. Mr. Pfenning pointed out that PNC Plaza was named recently, the fact that there will be many vendors, and brought up the issue of business privilege licenses. With regard to this, he requested a review of Article 341 to see if there is any tweaking that needs to be done to bring it into compliance with the current things going on in the City. He said, for example, the summer farmers’ market on the South Side is not a temporary event, it occurs every week. He said there are weekly farmers’ markets, antique and craft fairs proposed for the PNC Plaza. He said he would like a review of the definition of a temporary event. Mr. Pfenning added that he would also like a review of how well the Administration is enforcing Article 341. He pointed out there are no clearly displayed business privilege licenses at Musikfest, the Blueberry Festival or Celtic Classic. Mr. Pfenning referred to a letter Council received from the Controller this past November with a number of suggestions for revenue enhancements and the mention of collection of payments in lieu of taxes from non-profits. He said he would like to see Council consider this revenue enhancement. He then turned to the issue of Council liaisons and the fact that when the TIF plan was passed a new task was created for the Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority and that they are the landlord to property in front of the blast furnaces and the landlord for the use of the PBS and ArtsQuest. He remarked that in order to get a fair contract between a landlord and a tenant there has to be some distance between the two, yet he thought that some of the people connected with the Redevelopment Authority also have connections with the board of ArtsQuest. Mr. Pfenning said he thought there should be a Council liaison. The last issue Mr. Pfenning brought up was BEDCO and his understanding that the President of Council is an ex-officio member of that Board. Mr. Pfenning noted that he would like to attend those meetings and would like to know when and where they are held and a contact name. Mr. Pfenning said he would also like to get copies of the most recent financial statements from BEDCO since they are now playing a major roll in the City with their $300,000 gift and a contract.
President Donchez stated he would review these matters with Council’s Solicitor and respond as soon as possible.
Elias Market Decision
Al Bernotas, 1004 Johnston Drive, stated that at the Zoning Hearing Board on November 29 the Elias remand was heard, a Decision was made, and 45 days later the Decision was supposed to be issued. Mr. Bernotas advised that he has written an Analysis of Elias Farmers Market Remand Decision Dated January 13, 2011 and has submitted it for the record. He said one part of the Analysis he would like to discuss has to do with the Certification of Service signed by Attorney Mickey K. Thompson, Solicitor for the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Bernotas said he received a copy of that Decision from Joseph Kelly, Director of Community and Economic Development and noted there are no signatures on the Decision except for Attorney Thompson’s. Mr. Bernotas questioned whether this Decision dated January 13, 2011 is lawful and said he has not been able to get an answer from Attorney Spadoni or Attorney Backenstoe. In addition, Mr. Bernotas said he has not received, by U.S. Mail sent First Class on or before January 13, 2011, a true and correct copy of the Decision as stated in Attorney Thompson’s Certification of Service. He also said he has not received notice as to the location of the original decision for the purposes of obtaining said Decision. Mr. Bernotas noted that on January 13, 2011 he spoke on the telephone with Ron Lutes, voting member of the Zoning Hearing Board, and Gus Loupos, Chairman of the Zoning Hearing Board, and was advised they had read the Decision but neither had signed the Decision. He said according to both, if they concur with the Decision, signatures would be obtained by Attorney Thompson at the next regularly scheduled Board meeting on January 28 at 7:00 PM. He said January 14th was the 45th day after the Decision was read into the record. Mr. Bernotas said that Zoning Ordinance Section 1325.03, Records of Decisions, states that the Board shall keep a record of all proceedings which shall contain evidence and data relevant to every case considered with the votes of the members of the final decisions in each case. He noted the sentence “each decision of the board shall bear the signature of the Zoning Officer on the original thereof, these proceedings shall become public records and the board shall submit a report of its activities to City Council once a year.” Mr. Bernotas stated that as of January 14, no Decision signed by the Zoning Officer or the Zoning Hearing Board members listed in the Decision existed.
Attorney Spadoni indicated that he received the Decision via fax and mail and was concerned that the document was not executed because the Municipalities Planning Code requires that the written Decision be filed within 45 days. He said he spoke with Mr. Bernotas on two occasions and indicated his concerns of that and said this creates a myriad of problems in the Appeal and believes it will be an issue for Judge Smith to look at and determine as to where the City of Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board is amiss. Attorney Spadoni expressed that he thinks this is very irregular to have it done in this fashion. He said he is not a judge and cannot determine if this is legal, but it is an issue of advocacy in his representation of City Council to the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas. Attorney Spadoni said it is an issue and said he spoke briefly to Attorney Backenstoe about the matter and he did not know either.
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, stated he has been seeing a lot of things in the City and wanted to review what is happening with all the burglaries and what is the cause. He said it comes back to the same thing and what he has been saying with regard to the cameras and that they are not in the right place. Mr. Rodriquez said he thinks that foot patrols are continually needed on the streets because drug activity has been increasing in the City. He asked if these people are going to be allowed to take over our neighborhoods. He said he will repeat what he thinks needs to be done and what he has been saying to the Administration for three or four years, to alert and educate to prevent things from happening. Mr. Rodriquez emphasized that the cameras need to be put up and more officers put out there and that the general public should communicate with the police officers. He said the City needs more foot patrol, not substations. He stressed the fact that Pawnee and Dakota is a major drug activity area and then named other areas. He said he has also reported numerous licenses numbers.
St. Joseph’s Slovenian Church
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, commented on the building on East Fifth Street that originally housed St. Joseph’s Slovenian Parish that is now suppressed. He said it is now before the clergy in Rome for an appeal. Mr. Antalics pointed out that it is an unusual building and is a Slovenian shrine that has been recognized by the Prime Minister of Slovenia and Mayor of Murska Sobota through the Sister City, among others under the Pope. He said there is a possibility that the building could be destroyed as was done with St. George in Shenandoah, a church with very similar architecture. He said he thinks St. Joseph’s Church has made a major contribution to the City and named many well-known people in the City of Bethlehem who are products of the Church. Mr. Antalics said he feels some teeth should be put into the topic of Landmarks and Properties of Historic Interest. He noted that a resolution was prepared for St. George’s parish and asked Council to prepare something that could be submitted to the proper authorities so that St. Joseph’s is recognized as a Slovenian shrine. He said this building should not go, it is the only Slovenian church in the Diocese of Allentown, and believes it to be an historic monument. Mr. Antalics asked City Council and the Mayor to write a formal document that he could take to the various officials. He said he feels that the country of Slovenia is doing more for this church in Bethlehem than the City is doing. He asked the President of Council if a resolution or communication could be proposed.
President Donchez stated that a resolution can be drafted if it is the consensus of Council, otherwise he will consider writing a memorandum.
Proposed Legislation for Fiscal Responsibility
Thomas Carrell, 248 East Union Boulevard, asked what the status is of the proposed legislation from Council regarding oversight in terms of spending money. President Donchez responded the matter will be on the Finance Committee Meeting agenda on January 31, 2011. Mr. Carrell said he applauds that because of what happened last fall when the Administration came forward and requested the borrowing of $6 million for an emergency for a specific reason and then used it for general fund expenses. Mr. Carrell asked how that isn’t illegal and said he hopes someone in the U.S. Attorney’s office or Attorney General’s office is investigating this. He said it was a struggle during the budget to try to make cuts and come up with the money and taxes had to be raised. Mr. Carrell said he hopes the legislation will go forward. He said you cannot have the Administration borrowing millions of dollars at a time and not spending it for the specified purpose and then raising taxes.
Elias Farm Market Decision
Sue Fang, 3218 Marchant Drive, stated she received the Elias Farm Market Decision through a forwarded email from Attorney Thompson from the Zoning Hearing Board. She said she is frustrated how the Board conducts their business and refuses to enforce the Bethlehem Zoning Ordinance to protect Bethlehem residents’ welfare. She noted meetings of the Zoning Hearing Board she attended along with more than 80 neighbors where overwhelming evidence was provided to prove that false information had been given. Ms. Fang said she feels that the Zoning Hearing Board refused to follow the law and allowed Elias Market to continue to build so close to the neighbors and it is causing a detrimental effect on their lives. She said she believes the Zoning Hearing Board should have made the right decision to protect the welfare of the residents and asked Council to help appeal this. She said it looks like Elias owns the Zoning Hearing Board instead of the Zoning Hearing Board being paid by the taxpayers. She said there are laws to protect the public welfare and they are not being enforced. Ms. Fang remarked that she is disappointed but trusts Council, the government, and the legal system to do a better job.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:10 p.m.