City Council

Council MInutes

March 15, 2011


President Robert J. Donchez called the meeting to order. Father Kevin Bobbin, of Holy Infancy Church, offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Jean Belinski, David T. DiGiacinto, Eric R. Evans, J. William Reynolds, and Robert J. Donchez, 5. Karen Dolan and Gordon B. Mowrer were absent, 2.


Honoring Robert L. Mitchell

President Donchez presented a Citation to Robert L. Mitchell on the occasion of his retirement after 22 years of service to the Police Department.

The Members of Council applauded Mr. Mitchell and wished him well in his retirement.


The Minutes of March 1, 2011 were approved.




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)



8. Reports.

A. President of Council


B. Mayor

1. Administrative Order – Nik Nikolov – Fine Arts Commission

Mayor Callahan appointed Nik Nikolov to membership on the Fine Arts Commission effective until February 2012. Mr. Evans and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution No. 2011-41 to confirm the appointment.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Mr. Evans, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 5. The Resolution passed.

C. Parks and Public Property Committee

Chairman Evans presented an oral report of the Parks and Public Property Committee meeting on March 14, 2011 at 6:00 PM in Town Hall. The Committee considered the following: Monocacy #4 Hardball Field – Request for Dugouts. The dugout design will be further reviewed and defined by the Parks and Public Property Department. Since there is no Use Permit Agreement, no Committee action was required.

D. Finance Committee

Chairman Reynolds presented an oral report of the Finance Committee meeting jointly with the Public Works Committee on Monday, March 14, 2011 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall. The Finance Committee, jointly with the Public Works Committee, considered the following: Providing Water Service – East Allen Township. The Committees unanimously recommended that City Council adopt the Resolution authorizing the non-binding Term Sheet. The Finance Committee considered the following: Transfer of Funds – General Fund – Prior Year Encumbrances – Overpayment of State Pension Aid to City; Transfer of Funds – General Fund – Temporary Help – Tax Bureau Contract Employee; Amending the General Fund Budget – JAG Accounts; Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – DCED Main Streetscape Improvements. The Finance Committee unanimously recommended that City Council adopt the appropriate Ordinances and Resolutions. The Finance Committee received a presentation on the Enterprise Zone Program at 521 East Fourth Street.






A. Authorizing Application for RACP and Cooperation Agreement – ArtsQuest – Festival Center at

Mr. Evans and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution No. 2011-42 that authorized the application and Cooperation Agreement for ArtsQuest to obtain funds from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Grant Program (RACP) of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that will be passed through the City in the amount of $2,000,000 for the purpose of assisting ArtsQuest in the construction of the Festival Center at SteelStacks.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Mr. Evans, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 5. The Resolution passed.

B. Authorizing Approval of Term Sheet – East Allen Township – Water Service

Mr. DiGiacinto and Mr. Evans sponsored Resolution 2011-43 that approved the non-binding Term Sheet between the Bethlehem Authority and the East Allen Township Municipal Authority (EATMA) for the expansion of the City’s Public Utility Commission Service Territory and the acquisition of the assets of the EATMA, and encouraged the City and the Bethlehem Authority to move forward with negotiations toward consummation of the Intergovernmental Cooperation and Purchase and Sale Agreement conditioned upon Council adopting an Ordinance approving the execution of the Intergovernmental Cooperation and Purchase and Sale Agreement.

Mr. DiGiacinto asked when is the expected closing on the matter.

David Brong, Director of Water and Sewer Resources, explained the plan is to submit the application for acquisition to the PUC towards the end of April, and it could be a three to six months process without contest. If it is contested, then the schedule could change.

Attorney Spadoni advised that he reviewed the Resolution and pointed out that the matter has to come back to City Council for an Ordinance to be considered for final approval.

Mr. Reynolds, commenting this is a good deal for the City, reiterated his praise for Mr. Brong and Mr. Repasch as he had stated at last evening’s Finance Committee meeting. Mr. Reynolds observed it is a win-win situation for those involved. Mr. Reynolds recounted there have been discussions in the past about finding new potential revenue streams. Mr. Reynolds pointed out the City has a great product in its water but it is not easy to find new customers.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Mr. Evans, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 5. The Resolution passed.

Motion – Considering Resolutions 11 C through 11 F as a Group

Mr. DiGiacinto and Mr. Evans moved to consider Resolutions 11 C through 11 F as a group. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Mr. Evans, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 5. The motion passed.

C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 530 Main Street

Mr. Evans and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution 2011-44 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install new signage in same location with lettering on storefront window adding website and phone number, and also a 27” x 27” hanging sign to be installed on existing blade above storefront at 530 Main Street.

D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 241 East Market Street

Mr. Evans and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution 2011-45 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to add a second floor and gable roof to the rear single story addition at 241 East Market Street.

E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 253 East Market Street

Mr. Evans and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution 2011-46 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to construct a new entrance with roof to access the basement laundry room at 253 East Market Street.

F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 524 North New Street

Mr. Evans and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution 2011-47 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to change the signage colors and materials at the Glemser Building at 524 North New Street.

Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 C through 11 F: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Mr. Evans, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 5. The Resolutions passed.

G. Discharging – Police Officer Michael Lenner

Mr. DiGiacinto and Mr. Evans sponsored Resolution 2011-48 that authorized the termination of Police Officer Michael Lenner effective June 8, 2010.

Voting AYE: Mr. DiGiacinto, Mr. Evans, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 4. Not Voting: Mrs. Belinski, 1. The Resolution passed.


Committee Announcements

Chairman Reynolds announced a Finance Committee meeting, jointly with the Public Works Committee, on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall on the following: Proposed Wind Energy Project at the Watershed.


Nature Trail at Monocacy Park and Towpath - Dogs

R. Terry Galle, 702 Prospect Avenue, advised that he has dogs, he fishes, and he and his wife walk along the Nature Trail at Monocacy Park and the Towpath. Mr. Galle affirmed there is a sign as one enters the Nature Trail section including the rule that no dogs are allowed. Increasingly over the last few years, Mr. Galle informed the assembly that he and others have noticed an increase in dogs, particularly unleashed dogs. Mr. Galle advised, in spite of the fact that dogs are not allowed, there have been several situations where unleashed dogs have almost knocked him into the creek, and added such a fall would paralyze him because of serious issues with his spine. Mr. Galle affirmed that, following one occasion when the dog owner told him that if he had a problem with her unleashed dog then he should not come to the park, he appeared before the District Magistrate. Mr. Galle added that he has been going to the park since 1953 with his father. Mr. Galle pointed out that the sign with the rules is on one side of the nature path as one enters the park, and on the other side is a larger sign clearly visible that states no motor vehicles. Mr. Galle asked whether another bigger sign could be placed there to inform people that dogs are not allowed, possibly underneath the blue sign prohibiting motorized vehicles. Mr. Galle suggested that another sign could be placed at the towpath where the main stage Musikfest site used to be where dogs are allowed if they are leashed. Mr. Galle noted the sign there is faded. Mr. Galle affirmed he is asking for two signs if possible.

President Donchez asked that Mr. Carp and the Deputy Police Commissioner look into the matter and the signage issue.

TIF - SteelStacks

Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, thanked President Donchez for sending a memorandum regarding his concerns about the current status of mercantile tax collections, and issuance of licenses to determine if the proper revenues are being generated. Referring to a February 28, 2011 ArtsQuest press release about free programming at the Air Products Town Square at SteelStacks located at the BethWorks site on the South Side, Mr. Pfenning said they failed to thank the taxpayers for putting $6.65 million into the construction of the Town Square. Mr. Pfenning recalled that a memo was submitted by the Planning and Zoning Director in 2008 regarding a Preserve America grant request for planning and design of the Stock House as a Visitors Center at the BethWorks site. He noted that City Council passed Resolution 2008-109 to apply for the grant funds for the project, and at the October 21, 2008 City Council Meeting he had commented that he needs to be convinced it is a good expenditure of taxpayer funds as people visiting the site would also be encouraged to leave the City to visit other area attractions. Stressing that the TIF project put $2.5 million taxpayer dollars into the building renovations, Mr. Pfenning pointed out the plans show that half of the building will be used by ArtsQuest for offices, 25% will be restrooms, and 25% will be used for a visitors center. Mr. Pfenning said he is waiting for the final negotiations between the Redevelopment Authority and ArtsQuest to see who is going to be responsible for cleaning and maintaining the facility, and thought the City may end up being responsible. Highlighting the fact that the Bethlehem Area School District diverted taxes of $15 million for the next ten years in connection with the TIF for the project, Mr. Pfenning remarked that otherwise they would have another $1.5 million to plug this year’s deficit. Observing that the purpose of the TIF is to encourage taxable development, Mr. Pfenning noted that Mr. Parks hinted at some taxable development and he is waiting to see if the TIF actually accomplishes what it was supposed to do.

Various Issues

Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, said there is a growing perception that crime is getting out of control in Bethlehem, with home invasions, robberies, stabbing, gang and drug related activities. He added that owning a firearm is no longer unthinkable to him. Referring to the proposed location for the new EMS facility, Mr. Grubb, wondered why ambulances will be forced to squeeze past one another on a substandard width driveway between tennis courts and a City-owned house, in addition to the Ice Skating Rink, and the nine hole Municipal Golf Course. Mr. Grubb thought the location is more the result of expediency than common sense. Mr. Grubb stated that the house should be demolished, the EMS facility should be built closer to the road rather than being hidden, and the tennis courts moved closer to the Ice Skating Rink if necessary. Mr. Grubb recalled that in a May 22, 2008 Express-Times article it was noted that the Mayor had commented that the plan for the Casino Host Fees suggested by former Council Member Michael Schweder would incur a $22 million deficit by the end of 2013. Mr. Grubb stressed that, with the recently approved $17.8 million Bond Issue that included $14 million to cover money owed from 2008 and 2009, the Mayor’s plan is now two-thirds of the way to the then-suggested deficit of $22 million. Mr. Grubb advised he has heard that staff and utility relocations, and furniture purchases are taking place rather than having the newly appointed Community and Economic Development Director move into the office of the former Director, and rather than the newly named Redevelopment Authority Director moving into the office of that former Director. Mr. Grubb wondered how much time is being diverted from real City maintenance needs, what is the amount of funding for these projects and purchases, and what is the source of revenue. Enumerating City staff reductions, fee increases and other budgetary constraints, Mr. Grubb said
a similar waste of limited taxpayer funded resources looms in the Public Works Department. Mr. Grubb recalled the Controller had estimated that $100,000 could be saved by eliminating the use of City vehicles to travel to and from work, and stressed that as gas prices continue to increase City Council should maintain extra vigilance and prioritize all gasoline accounts.

Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, wondered why Monocacy Park was roadblocked by City employees, and stressed that the railroad ties in the area are damaged and if the water level is high someone could fall into the creek. In addition, he emphasized there are deep potholes from soil erosion. Mr. Rodriquez pointed out that at Monocacy Creek near the bend by the Silk Mill there are enormous trees that are affecting the Creek. Mr. Rodriquez questioned whether the City is prepared in the event of a critical emergency situation. Mr. Rodriquez asked that there be follow-up on an employee who rides around in a City vehicle and only picks up one or two branches despite the many tree branches laying all over the City. Mr. Rodriquez stressed that areas of the Hill to Hill Bridge and Route 378 are very littered and dirty, and PennDot should be called to clean them. Mr. Rodriquez asserted that double-parking in the City is out of hand, as well as parking at fire hydrants, and added this contributes to traffic congestion.

Merchants on Third and Fourth Streets

Chuck Nyul, 1966 Pinehurst Road, observed that when ArtsQuest, the non-profit organization, opens their facility on the South Side at the former Bethlehem Steel property, there will be events all year round in addition to Musikfest. He stressed that a way must be found to have visitors who are going to the ArtsQuest site also go to the merchants on Third and Fourth Streets. Mr. Nyul thought that the walkway between Third and Fourth Streets should be turned into parking, and make it easier for visitors to go to the merchants. He also suggested jitneys to bring visitors to the South Side businesses. Mr. Nyul asked that the City come up with a plan.

Enterprise Zone; Water Bill Payments

Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, noting that the owner of the building at 521 East Fourth Street where an Enterprise Zone program will be instituted is a cousin of the Mayor’s brother in law, said it would behoove the Administration to make the lease public when it is finalized. He added this would serve to quiet the suspicious people. Mr. Scheirer, informing the assembly that he drove to City Hall to pay his water bill that was due the day he returned from a trip, offered the solutions of more than two weeks notice or allow direct debits from a bank account.

South Side

Mary Pongracz, 321 W. Fourth Street, expressed that she resents some of the remarks made about the South Side and stressed the City is very fortunate there has been development on the former Bethlehem Steel property. Ms. Pongracz pointed out it is not the job of City Council to be marketing experts. Ms. Pongracz, acknowledging that traffic on Third and Fourth Streets is currently a problem, communicated that continued traffic would mean that people have found out that many intelligent people live on the South Side, there are clean homes, a world-class University, a Casino that employs 1,000 people, and there are cultural and recreational facilities and activities for everyone, some of which are at no charge. Ms. Pongracz wondered why some people are condemning the former Bethlehem Steel property, traffic on Third and Fourth Streets, and ArtsQuest especially when they benefit the City, its citizens, and the surrounding areas. She highlighted the fact that the developments at the former Bethlehem Steel property have provided many construction jobs, and the ability for people to provide houses and education for their families.

Preservation of South Side Historic Sites

Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, noted that a few weeks ago he brought to the attention of Council the matter of preservation of South Side historic sites. Mr. Antalics announced that this Saturday at 1:00 PM there will be a show of strength to foster preservation of historic sites and of St. Joseph’s Church, and encouraged people to attend.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:55 p.m.