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Bethlehem Council MInutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Wednesday, November 7, 2012 – 7:00 PM
PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
Reverend Wayne E. Killian, University Parish of Holy Ghost
Church, offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge
to the flag.
1. ROLL CALL
President Evans called the meeting to order. Present were Jean Belinski, David T. DiGiacinto, Karen Dolan, Robert J. Donchez, Michael D. Recchiuti, J. William Reynolds, and Eric R. Evans, 7.
2. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of October 16, 2012 were approved.
3. PUBLIC COMMENT
2013 CDBG Program; CDBG Funding for Library
Janet Fricker, 3709 Wilhelm Road, Lower Saucon, Executive Director of the Bethlehem Area Public Library, related she is at this meeting to thank Council for considering the Public Library for a portion of the CDBG money. Acknowledging that she knows it is a difficult thing to divide up such a shrinking pot of money, Ms. Fricker expressed appreciation for the support of the Administration for the Library. Ms. Fricker said she especially appreciates that it is considered a worthwhile enough project to propose that the Library receive $10,000. Ms. Fricker notified the assembly that she has good news in regards to project for the South Side Library. The Sands Casino has told the Library that once again they will help out, and have another fundraiser next year.
Liza Holzinger, 301 Carver Drive, advised that she has worked for the Bethlehem Public Library for 25 years. She thanked Council for considering the CDBG grant for renovation of the South Side branch. She is pleased that the City is considering investing in the branch that has faithfully provided services, programs and a collection that is relevant and necessary to the residents of South Bethlehem. This branch of the Library has been a valuable part of the community for 82 years and the renovation project will prepare it for the next 82 years at least. Continuing on to say the branch is well used, Ms. Holzinger said she knows that the City will be proud of the result of the renovations and the support given to this project. Ms. Holzinger noted for the future she looks forward to the partnership with the City and the completion of the children’s center at the Main Library.
Olga Negron, 1306 E. Fifth Street, said as a resident of the South Side and a community leader she wanted to thank City Council for supporting the South Side branch of the Library. Ms. Negron related that she raised three daughters and they used the South Side Library for many hours, and it was like a second home to them. She pointed out that many people do not have a car and the South Side Library is within walking distance for them. She was also thrilled to hear that the Sands Casino will have a fundraiser for the Library.
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, noted that he had a discussion with Ms. Holzinger about the project at the South Side branch of the Library. Mr. Grubb thought it was a worthwhile project to take back to the Board of the South Bethlehem Historical Society of which he is President. Mr. Grubb affirmed that the Board unanimously agreed to provide $2,000 towards the renovations, a large amount of money from an organization of its size. Mr. Grubb pointed out it was important to note the sacrifice that they made with limited resources to help make this project happen. With the declining entitlement amount of CDBG money, Mr. Grubb thought that public officials would want to get the most for their money. Mr. Grubb stressed that the $25,000 that remains for the first time homebuyer program for City employees is not a way to get the most for the money, particularly when looking at the clientele, the service area, and the number of people that the South Side Library handles. Mr. Grubb stated that Mary Pongracz who spoke at the last City Council Meeting is the president of an affordable housing related organization on the South Side called Housing Opportunity Movement Incorporated. Mr. Grubb asserted that the opportunity to assist three or four City employees versus assisting thousands of Bethlehem residents and addressing part of the education process with the Library services holds no comparison. Mr. Grubb strongly urged Council to take the remaining $25,000 and put it into the Library where it will give the residents of Bethlehem more for their money. He highlighted the fact that public libraries have experienced a tremendous drop in the past several years because of the decline in State funding. He emphasized that for the community in which a Library resides to turn its back on a Library does not make sense.
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, commented that he supports the idea of moving the $25,000 to the South Side Library. Pointing out it has been heard how important the operations are to the residents of the South Side, he said the existence of the South Side Library shows that the City has some regard for the South Side. Mr. Scheirer did not think that the Library would close the South Side branch and that the $10,000 or $30,000 would be wasted money. Mr. Scheirer, turning to the various costs of the Library, asserted that all residents of the Library service area should pay the same rate and these costs should be also be paid by Lower Saucon Township, Fountain Hill, Bethlehem Township, and Hanover Township, as well as the residents of the City of Bethlehem. Mr. Scheirer thought the Library is more accessible to the residents of the City of Bethlehem and it is fair that the City of Bethlehem should pay more.
Jim Fiorentino, 3464 Mountainview Circle, affirmed that he is a member of the City Planning Commission. He advised that a recent meeting, the Commission was presented with a report about qualifying for the CDBG funds being discussed. Pictures were shown of certain conditions in the City in certain neighborhoods where blight existed that helped the City qualify for this money. Mr. Fiorentino thought there should be a general spending of the Federal CDBG money, not for specific individuals to buy homes, and the money should be spent for greater community purpose. Recognizing that all decisions about spending money are difficult ones, Mr. Fiorentino asked City Council to consider the reason it has this money and how it ought to be spent for the general purpose of the community, not specific individuals.
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, commented that common sense should be based upon responsibility and priorities. Mr. Antalics noted when he visits the North Side Library he primarily sees adults and senior citizens, but when he goes to the South Side branch he sees mostly children in a high percent majority. He has come to the conclusion that at the North Side, it is convenient for videos and other things, but children go to the South Side Library for education because they might be underprivileged. Mr. Antalics noted that the City’s Employer Assisted Housing Program does not stipulate that the employees must live in the City if they want to buy a house, and it does not say to give assistance to any citizen of the City, only City employees. He remarked that the City is prioritizing a certain group of people who work for the City and work for the Administration. Mr. Antalics stressed that the alternate needs are the education of the children and is a higher priority than a financial burden of City employees. Mr. Antalics saw this as patronage. Mr. Antalics suggested that the Resolution be removed from the agenda, reviewed, and the money put where it belongs to educate the children of this City who are underprivileged.
Mary Pongracz, 321 W. 4th Street, expressing her disagreement with Mr. Antalics, said stated that the Library is for all children, and questioned who is to say who is privileged and who is underprivileged. Ms. Pongracz pointed out that the Library is more than just a building of books. It is a place where there is time for creativity and where a world of other cities can be opened. Ms. Pongracz wondered how City Council could not spend money for the betterment of the community and its children. She stressed that the City needs to save every child in the City of Bethlehem, and one of the ways to save children is by opening up their eyes to what is available in this great community and the great world we live in.
Peter Crownfield, 407 Delaware Avenue, pointed out that the project at the South Side Library is a one time project and that $25,000 would be a one time expense. Mr. Crownfield noted the Library is not asking for an annual contribution. Mr. Crownfield wondered if Council does not realize how valuable the Library is to this community, and added there is a constant turnover of people at the Library day in and day out. Mr. Crownfield hoped that Council could figure out a way to get this money into the Library project where it is needed.
4. OLD BUSINESS.
A. Old Business – Members of Council
B. Tabled Items
C. Unfinished Business
A. President of Council
Committee of the Whole – 5 Year Capital Plan
President Evans announced that following the City Council Meeting, the Members of Council will meet as a Committee of the Whole in Town Hall to review the Proposed 5 Year Capital Plan.
Proposed 2013 Budget Ordinances
President Evans advised that First Reading of the Proposed 2013 Budget Ordinances will occur at the November 20, 2012 City Council Meeting, as stipulated by Third Class City Code.
Public Hearing - Proposed Zoning Ordinance Amendments
President Evans stated that a Public Hearing on the Proposed Zoning Ordinance Amendments for Sections 1302 and 1319 - Commercial and Recreational Vehicles – Parking in Residential Districts; Section 1304.04 - Reuse of Corner Commercial Uses Allowed in the RT and RG Districts/Corner Lots; and Section 1317 - Flood Plain Ordinance, will also take place at the November 20, 2012 City Council Meeting.
Hurricane Sandy – October 29, 2012
Mayor Callahan recognized the individuals who went above
and beyond the call of duty for their work during and after
Hurricane Sandy, and stated that the City’s thoughts
go out to New Jersey and New York and the challenges that
they face now. He noted the City did not get nearly the amount
of rain anticipated, and did not get the flooding that traditionally
occurs in some of the low lying areas around Saucon Creek
and Monocacy Creek. Mayor Callahan recognized the Deputy Fire
Chief, Bob Novatnack, who acted as Emergency Management Coordinator.
Mayor Callahan affirmed that the City did activate early the
Emergency Operations Center (EOC) out of the second floor
of City Hall. He noted that Craig Baer was there from the
Fire Department, Michele Cichocki from Sewer and Water, Acting
Health Director Kristen Wenrich, Fire Chief George Barkanic,
Police Chief Jason Schiffer, Deputy Police Commissioner Craig
Finnerty, Joseph Kelly, Director of Community and Economic
Development, and the Legal Department. Mayor Callahan said
he saw amazing cooperation out of the City’s 911 Center,
and he had the opportunity to look into the Communications
Center who were the epitome of cool under pressure. There
was live time monitoring of the calls coming into the 911
Center that was mostly in the evening during the worst of
the storm, with the lines lit up with emergencies. Mayor Callahan
added that Public Works Director, Michael Alkhal, was there
as well. Mayor Callahan said he wants to recognize every member
of the Fire Department and Police Department, and added there
has been a tremendous amount of positive feedback from the
community about the job they did. The cleanup of the trees
and the reenergizing of the intersections was a great deal
of work on the part of the Public Works crew, and the Parks
and Public Property crew. He recognized them as well and also
the Electrical Bureau. Mayor Callahan advised there was good
coordination with Northampton County and their emergency management
group. Mayor Callahan pointed out that he was very proud of
the City’s team and efforts, and he is happy that Bethlehem
did not have as much of an impact as other communities had.
Mayor Callahan stated the City is still operating under a
State of Emergency in the event of any impacts of the nor’easter
that may be coming tonight into tomorrow, in addition to funding
purposes as City crews continue with the cleanup to make sure
that the City is reimbursed by FEMA. Representatives of FEMA
were in the City of Bethlehem today viewing some of the damage
and taking photographs. Mayor Callahan commented that he wants
to make sure the City does the proper follow-up after the
storm to get reimbursed on behalf of the taxpayers and to
get the City back to normal as soon as possible.
Mayor Callahan reported on the statistics associated with Hurricane Sandy. As of Monday November 5, 2012 at 11:30 AM, the City had over 4,065 calls to the 911 Center, over 1,000 storm related dispatch calls to the Communications Center with the need to dispatch Police or Fire, 190 Fire calls, 212 trees down, and 4 structural fires. There were 11 homes with structural damage that needed City building inspectors to go out and survey, and 131 street closings requiring barricades and stop devices. The Electrical Bureau responded to the 5 Points and Route 378 corridors with generators to keep the traffic lights operating even in the height of the storm. Mayor Callahan noted the City had recommended the evacuation of 150 homes along the Saucon and Monocacy Creeks, and fortunately the City did not have anything near the accumulation of rainfall that was predicted. One high rise was temporarily evacuated with 6 tenants, and there were 0 water rescues. Four buildings needed heat as of Noon on November 1. Mayor Callahan remarked that he has some estimates for costs of some of the damages but it is preliminary and probably will change. Remarking it was a busy 72 hours in the City, Mayor Callahan stated the City is back up to speed with power back at City Hall on Thursday morning, November 1, 2012. City Hall was operating on generators before that so no time was lost as far as the 911 Center. Mayor Callahan said, fortunately, everyone now has their power restored. Mayor Callahan finished by pointing out that not one City of Bethlehem personnel was injured in the course of this storm, and to his knowledge he does not know of a storm related injury outside of the City of Bethlehem employees.
President Evans, on behalf of City Council, thanked Mayor Callahan, his staff, and all of the City employees who made this happen to keep the City of Bethlehem running the best it could. Pointing out it was difficult to address all the situations, from the intersections to the roads and the safety of the citizens, President Evans communicated that City employees handled the many critical situations, and expressed appreciation for all the efforts over the past week.
7. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL READING
A. Bill No. 29 – 2012 - General Obligation Bond - $6,810,000 – Sewer Capital Projects
The Clerk read Bill No. 29 – 2012 – General Obligation Bond - $6,810,000 – Sewer Capital Projects, on Final Reading.
President Evans confirmed that Members of Council received copies of Bill No. 29 on Final Reading with the stated amount of $6,810,000, along with the separate sheet of Amendments.
Amendments to Bill No. 29 – 2012
The Clerk read the Amendments to Bill No. 29 – 2012, sponsored by Mr. Recchiuti and Mr. DiGiacinto, as follows:
1. Inserted in the caption and in the body of the Ordinance
and the form of the Bonds the aggregate principal amount of
the Bonds as $6,810,000.
2. Inserted in the body of the Ordinance the purchase price for the Bonds, as $6,675,685.30, and the purchaser as RBC Capital Markets LLC.
3. Inserted the debt service for the Bonds, interest rate and interest rate payment dates and insurance commitment provisions.
Mr. DiGiacinto inquired about the sale of the Bonds and the price. Darryl Peck, of Concord Public Finance, Financial Advisors, affirmed it was completed today and the final results were distributed to the Members of Council.
Mr. DiGiacinto asked if the Bonds were sold before City Council passed the Ordinance. Mr. Peck highlighted the fact that the Bonds were pre-marketed and sold for the purpose of bringing the final results to the Members of Council for consideration on Final Reading of the Ordinance this evening, with the understanding that upon the pricing the bonds, the buyer would hold those rates until tomorrow morning in order for City Council to give its approval of the Ordinance.
Mr. DiGiacinto asked about the Original Issue Discount of
$40,860 shown on page 1 of the Results of Bond Sale dated
November 7, 2012.
Mr. Peck explained that the Original Issue Discount (OID) is the difference between the principal amount of the bonds and the principal amount the City actually receives. Turning to page 2, Mr. Peck noted that bondholders will receive an interest payment based on a coupon and will purchase the bond based on an effective yield for an ultimate return they will receive. He exemplified that for the 2016 maturity date the Principal is $295,000 and the bondholder will receive an Interest Rate of 1.25% and an effective Yield return of 1.35%. Because the bondholder will be receiving a Rate lower than the effective Yield, the bondholder will pay 99.63 cents on a dollar meaning that the bondholder pays less and gets an effective interest Rate of 1.35%. The difference in the Coupon and the ultimate Yield that the purchaser gets is a mechanism used by the Underwriter to better market the bonds and ultimately get the City a lower overall interest rate. Mr. Peck further confirmed to Mr. DiGiacinto that the Original Issue Discount of $40,860 is the actual fee that the City pays to the Underwriter for marketing the bonds.
Mr. DiGiacinto inquired about the $10,000 cost for Rating on page 1. Mr. Peck responded that is the fee paid to Standard and Poors to obtain the Rating in order to sell the Bonds with a Bond Rating, and is a fixed industry fee.
Mr. DiGiacinto commented he would assume that Lafayette Ambassador Bank would be redeemed the $2,600,000 amount of the Line of Credit previously taken out by the City for Sewer Projects as soon as the Bonds are approved. Mr. Peck affirmed Ambassador Bank would be redeemed the $2,600,000 on Settlement Date that is expected to be December 12, 2012.
Noting that Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, did review the matter, Mr. DiGiacinto pointed out that the proceeds from the Bond Issue should follow Codified Ordinance Section 121.02 and the procedure followed with the Dedicated Tax Account with release of the amounts as needed to pay invoices for the work after review and approval by City Council.
Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, added that a few weeks ago the interest rate that the City would have to pay on the Bonds was about 4% and now it is down to 3.5% that is favorable.
Vote on Amendments to Bill No. 29 – 2012
Voting AYE on the Amendments: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 7. The Amendments passed.
Voting AYE on Bill No. 29 – 2012, as Amended: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 7. Bill No. 29 - 2012, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2012-29 was declared adopted.
8. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 30 – 2012 – Amending Article 911 – Water Regulations – Increasing Fire Service Fees
The Clerk read Bill No. 30 – 2012 – Amending Article 911 – Water Regulations – Increasing Fire Service Fees, sponsored by Mr. Recchiuti and Mrs. Belinski, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
ARTICLE 911 OF THE CODIFIED ORDINANCES
ENTITLED WATER REGULATIONS.
Voting AYE: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 7. Bill No. 30 – 2012, was declared passed on First Reading.
A. Approving 2013 CDBG and HOME Program
Mr. Donchez and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution 2012-176 that approved the Annual Action Plan for the 2013 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Programs for submittal to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Following the recent Hurricane Sandy, Ms. Dolan asked whether
any needs changed for South Side Parks and Playgrounds, Street
Overlays, or other requirements. Ralph Carp, Director of Parks
and Public Property, and Michael Alkhal, Director of Public
Works, responded no. Ms. Dolan asked if trees came down in
the neighborhoods that qualify for CDBG funding. Mr. Alkhal
replied that most of the trees that fell were in the North
Side of the City that is not CDBG eligible. Ms. Dolan inquired
about replacing the trees. Mr. Alkhal explained that CDBG
funding for tree replacement has not occurred for several
Focusing on the City’s Employer Assisted Housing program, Mr. Reynolds explained that the conversation he had with Mr. Kelly and Ms. Woodward about the original inclusion of the program in the 2013 CDBG Program was not just about helping City of Bethlehem employees. Rather, it was the fact that in conversations the City has had with larger employers in the City about starting their own programs to help their employees with housing costs, one of the questions was what is the City of Bethlehem doing. Mr. Reynolds communicated that sometimes decisions must be made that make sense for the longer term, and what the City is trying to do in its neighborhoods. He added the program is about showing that while the City has been trying to work with businesses to get employer assisted housing programs on the private side, the City is also willing to do something to start its own employee assisted housing program. Mr. Reynolds expressed that was his thinking in originally supporting the program. Mr. Reynolds commended Janet Fricker, Executive Director of the Library, for the fund raising event planned for next year with the assistance of the Sands Casino. Further commending Ms. Fricker and the Library staff for their efforts in raising money, Mr. Reynolds noted Ms. Fricker had said that the Library’s South Side project will get done with or without the CDBG funding. Mr. Reynolds continued on to state there are other things for which CDBG funds could be spent while still providing $10,000 in CDBG funds for the Library that is very worthwhile. Mr. Reynolds, noting that the originally requested amount for Tree Planting was $20,000, thought consideration could be given to putting CDBG funds towards Tree Planting. Mr. Reynolds pointed out that the original application for Drug Surveillance Overtime was $30,000 as it had been in the past, but the CDBG proposal included $10,000. Mr. Reynolds informed the Members that he would plan to decrease the City’s Employer Assisted Housing from $25,000 to $5,000 as a start, and place $15,000 into Drug Surveillance Overtime taking the amount from $10,000 to $25,000, and increasing the Tree Planting program by the amount of $5,000 in view of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Ms. Dolan commented that the representatives from the Library in attendance this evening did not seem to express any disappointment in the $10,000 CDBG allocation, and added there is potential for additional dollars from the upcoming fund raising event next year at the Sands Casino. Ms. Dolan, turning to the City’s Employer Assisted Housing program, thought there is a lack of understanding of how effective these programs are because if there is a neighborhood that is failing the question is how does it get fixed. Ms. Dolan highlighted the success of the program at the neighborhood in the vicinity of the University of Pennsylvania that partnered with the government in providing incentives for mortgages for University employees. Ms. Dolan, stressing that this approach improves the lives of children and families in neighborhoods, denoted that Federal funds are provided to steer young, employed people to neighborhoods. Pointing out she has heard comments made that City of Bethlehem employees should live in the City, Ms. Dolan expressed the Employer Assisted Housing program would be a carrot, but $5,000 will not get the program started.
Mayor Callahan, affirming that the CDBG budget totals $1,000,000, acknowledged that the CDBG amounts are shrinking while the needs continue to grow. Mayor Callahan highlighted the fact that the Administration made difficult choices, Council has to make difficult choices, and budgets are always about priorities. Mayor Callahan said he does not think anyone would criticize City Council for taking money from Employer Assisted Housing and giving it to the Library. He expressed his agreement with Ms. Dolan that the Employer Assisted Housing program could have been marketed and explained better. Mayor Callahan informed the assembly that as Chair of South Side Vision 2012, employer assisted housing programs is one of the issues the committee grapples with. Confirming the fact that the City of Bethlehem employs about 620 people, the Mayor said he had made the commitment to discuss the matter with businesses in South Side Bethlehem. Noting that 11 businesses in LVIP 7 employ about 2,400 people at present, Mayor Callahan explained that when an employer relocates to Bethlehem it is the opportunity to approach them about an employer assisted housing program. Mayor Callahan stated it was important that the City should try to lead by example. Mayor Callahan added it is important to do it because home ownership is important to the stability of a neighborhood, and that was the motivation for proposing the City’s Employer Assisted Housing program in the CDBG budget.
Ms. Dolan, referring to reports about the number of people who will be moving to the Lehigh Valley in the next five years, expressed that anything that can be done to lead people to the South Side and other neighborhoods is a good thing.
Mr. Recchiuti said the City’s Employer Assisted Housing program has some merit, it should be given a chance, and he would like to see a trial program. While noting Ms. Fricker had commented that the Library’s project will move forward without the CDBG money, Mr. Recchiuti expressed support for $10,000 for the Library. Mr. Recchiuti explained that home ownership in neighborhoods increases home values, and helps the whole block and the community rather than just one person. Adding that homeowners take care of their homes and have pride in its appearance, versus the conditions of some rental properties, Mr. Recchiuti pointed out that home ownership can solve some of the problems that exist on the South Side.
Mr. Donchez communicated that, based on Ms. Fricker’s comments about the planned fundraiser with the assistance of the Sands Casino, and in view of the diminishing CDBG funds this year and most likely next year, difficult decisions have to be made. Mr. Donchez, agreeing that the City’s Employer Assisted Housing program has merit, affirmed that home ownership is the key to stability of neighborhoods. Mr. Donchez, observing that more information is needed on the City’s program, wondered how far does $5,000 or $25,000 go. Mr. Donchez recalled that Lehigh University had initiated an employee assistance housing program. Mr. Donchez said he would not object to moving an additional $10,000 to the Library but also thought it was important to get the Police’s Drug Surveillance Overtime back up to $30,000.
Mr. DiGiacinto inquired about funding amounts for Street Overlays listed in the 2013 CDBG budget at $106,000 but $100,000 from the same funding source as listed in the Non-Utility Capital Budget. Mr. Alkhal responded that the amount should be corrected to $106,000 in the Non-Utility Capital Budget from the revenue source CDBG. Mr. Alkhal noted the funding source from Liquid Fuels is listed at $280,000 but should be $112,000 for 2013.
Mr. DiGiacinto stated that he had previously spoken with Mr. Kelly about the CDBG proposals and he had indicated he was not entirely supportive of the original $30,000 for the City’s Employer Assisted Housing program. In addition to possible CDBG expenditures listed in Mr. Kelly’s response to Mr. Reynolds, Mr. DiGiacinto wondered if are there other items for which CDBG funding could be used in lieu of Bond Issue money. Mr. DiGiacinto, while commenting that he had a better understanding of the Employer Assisted Housing program after discussions with Mr. Kelly and Ms. Woodward, observed that $5,000 may not be able to accomplish much for the program. Mr. Kelly advised that the program would target low to moderate income neighborhoods. Mr. DiGiacinto pointed out there are first time homebuyer programs in the community. Mr. DiGiacinto highlighted the fact that the City’s Employer Assisted Housing program utilizes public money while the program used by businesses utilizes a company’s private money. Mr. DiGiacinto said he would listen to priorities suggested by Members of Council for uses of CDBG money.
President Evans noted there seems to be support for the City’s Employer Assisted Housing program at some funding level, but that $5,000 may be insufficient to make the program work. President Evans further noted that funding for the Library, that was added at the Community Development Committee meeting, continues to hold support. President Evans enumerated that funding for Parks related programs was reduced $45,000 from last year to this year, and Street Overlays have been decreased from $120,000 last year to $106,000 in 2013. President Evans suggested that Employer Assisted Housing could be decreased by $15,000 and revised from the current $25,000 to $10,000 to provide a year’s experience with the program and feedback, since there is merit to putting the program in place. President Evans suggested that Drug Surveillance Overtime could be increased from $10,000 to $20,000. Based on information from Mr. Alkhal that damage from Hurricane Sandy did not occur to trees in CDBG eligible areas, President Evans suggested that the present $10,000 allocation to the Library could be increased by $5,000 for a total of $15,000.
Mr. Reynolds affirmed that City Council and the Administration have a record for many years of supporting the Library’s projects on both the North Side and the South Side. Stressing that the City’s Employer Assisted Housing program it is not just about the exact return as much as it is about trying to develop these neighborhoods, Mr. Reynolds expressed that during his recent run in the half marathon through various neighborhoods he thought about winning back some of those neighborhoods. Mr. Reynolds remarked the question is how can people who can afford to live outside of the City of Bethlehem be encouraged to live here. Affirming that Alan Jennings, who is on the committee about which the Mayor spoke, is in attendance, Mr. Reynolds asked President Evans if Mr. Jennings could be offered the opportunity to address the matter.
Alan Jennings, Executive Director of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, highlighted the fact that the foreclosure crisis has eliminated many of the gains that have been made. Affirming that home ownership is a stabilizing influence in neighborhoods, Mr. Jennings pointed out that many people have been forced to rent as a result of the foreclosure crisis. This resulted in many houses no longer being owner-occupied but being rented, and the situation of the former homeowners now being renters has driven up rental prices to the point where rental properties and former homes are being bought by investors. Mr. Jennings explained those renters will have a harder time saving money to get back into the home ownership market because of higher rental prices. Mr. Jennings communicated that home ownership programs are an important offset to those market forces that impact neighborhoods. He continued on to say that stabilizing neighborhoods is as important as hiring Police Officers. Mr. Jennings further stated that home ownership needs to be made affordable for low to moderate income people. Mr. Jennings expressed his support for the City’s proposal, and added it is an important statement to other employers.
Mr. Reynolds asked what funding level is needed in order to support the City’s Employer Assisted Housing program. Mr. Kelly responded that $5,000 would not be a worthwhile funding amount. Mr. Kelly stressed that businesses do not have the same incentive as the City of Bethlehem does to redevelop a neighborhood, but they do it because they recognize they are part of the community that is the City of Bethlehem. Mr. Kelly said by building up neighborhoods and keeping them strong the City remains a preeminent place to live in the Lehigh Valley, and home ownership is a critical key. Mr. Kelly, while commenting he cannot say exactly what the number is for the program, remarked that if three City of Bethlehem employees participated to become three new homeowners in the City of Bethlehem that is an enormous win for the neighborhoods and the City.
Mr. Reynolds, observing there seems to be more support, explained he would consider reducing the City’s Employer Assisted Housing program from $25,000 to $15,000 and utilize the remaining $10,000 for the Drug Surveillance Overtime item.
Mr. Donchez, observing that all Members of Council support the Library and the City is the biggest supporter, questioned if there is any support to move $5,000 or $10,000 from the City’s Employer Assisted Housing program to the Library.
Ms. Dolan, pointing out that the Library representatives
came to the Meeting to thank the Members for the $10,000 in
CDBG funds and expressed great hope for their future, said
Council is not being asked tonight to give the Library more
money. She added that the fund raising for the Library in
the past several years has been very strong.
Mr. DiGiacinto, commenting that funding from the City’s Employer Assisted Housing program could be used elsewhere, reiterated there are other housing assistance programs available. Mr. DiGiacinto observed there are probably employees who would have appreciated the opportunity to participate in such a program when they were buying houses, or to participate retroactively. Mr. DiGiacinto noted that the City’s Employer Assisted Housing program has not been defined.
Ms. Dolan inquired about the program that is planned and wondered when a decision has to be made. She stressed that home ownership is difficult and is a crucial issue now.
Mr. Recchiuti added that with a program such as FHA an individual could put about 3% for a down payment on a home price of approximately $100,000 plus closing costs in the $5,000 to $7,000 range. Mr. Recchiuti asked how many employees would be targeted with the originally proposed amount of $30,000.
Mr. Kelly, responding that the program would provide an
opportunity for younger employees of the City of Bethlehem
who will replace those who retire, thought about ten employees
would probably qualify. Mr. Kelly further replied to Mr. Recchiuti
that about four or five employees could be assisted with the
$30,000 on a first-come, first-served basis. Mr. Kelly advised
that the City would work with Neighborhood Housing Services
that would administer the program, and added that home ownership
education would also be done. Mr. Kelly indicated to Mr. Recchiuti
that $5,000-$7,000 would seem to be a reasonable closing cost,
and might be a selling point.
Mr. Donchez asked if the program would assist employees who do not have enough money for closing costs or for the down payment, for example. Mr. Kelly, stating the amount would be capped, said the idea is to maximize the program and he would not want to give $10,000 to a single employee. Mr. Kelly affirmed to Mr. Donchez that the program would assist City employees with purchasing a house and with closing costs.
Mr. DiGiacinto inquired if Mr. Kelly has looked at the IRS implications of the program. Mr. Kelly replied he has not looked at it from the IRS perspective, but added he did not think it means the program is not worth doing. Mr. Kelly added it is set up as a deferred payment loan, and would be paid back in five years, for example.
President Evans, denoting there are questions about the program and the amount of money to be directed to the program, asked what is the timing on the Resolution.
Irene Woodward, Housing and Community Development Planner, replied that the Resolution has to be submitted to HUD on November 15.
President Evans communicated he would prefer to finalize the matter this evening. President Evans, while commenting it does not seem to make sense to fund the City’s Employer Assisted Housing program at $5,000, expressed he would consider funding it at $10,000 to give the program a chance. President Evans asked if there is a motion from the Members of Council.
Motion – Amending CDBG Program
Mr. Reynolds made a motion to utilize $10,000 from the City’s Employer Assisted Housing program, decreasing the account from $25,000 to $15,000, and place the $10,000 into the Drug Surveillance Overtime program, increasing the account from $10,000 to $20,000. Mr. Recchiuti seconded the motion.
Ms. Dolan, while stating she is happy to see the funding for the City’s Employer Assisted Housing program, queried why funding is being placed in the Drug Surveillance Overtime program versus reinstating funding for the Tree Replacement program to finish work to be done in CDBG eligible areas resulting from Storm Irene that occurred in the preceding year.
Mr. Reynolds, turning to the memo received from Mr. Kelly listing requests that were unable to be funded including a request from Police Chief Schiffer for $30,000 for the Drug Surveillance Overtime program, said he thought that was a worthy use. Mr. Reynolds, communicating he was looking at the will of Council, said if this is something that the majority did not support, he would consider moving some of that funding.
Ms. Dolan suggested that $5,000 from the $10,000 to be moved to Drug Surveillance Overtime be allocated instead to South Side Parks and Playgrounds since those activities have been impacted by cuts in the past and there is much work to be done.
Ms. Dolan moved to amend the previous amendment, as follows: take $10,000 from the City’s Employer Assisted Housing program, decreasing the item from $25,000 to $15,000, and place $5,000 into the Drug Surveillance Overtime program, increasing the item from $10,000 to $15,000, and place $5,000 into South Side Parks and Playgrounds, increasing the item from $75,000 to $80,000. Mr. Reynolds seconded the motion.
Voting AYE on the Amendment: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 7. The motion passed.
Voting AYE on the Resolution, as Amended: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 7. The Resolution passed.
Motion – Considering Resolutions 9 B, 9 C, 9 D, 9 E and 9 G as a Group
Mr. DiGiacinto and Mr. Reynolds moved to consider Resolutions 9 B, 9 C, 9 D, 9 E and 9 G as a Group. Voting AYE: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 7. The motion passed.
B. Transfer of Funds – Engineering – Temporary Help
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution 2012-177 that transferred $80 in the General Fund Budget from the Engineering – Overtime Account to the Engineering – Temporary Help Account for temporary help in the Engineering Bureau.
C. Transfer of Funds – Fire Department – Overtime
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution 2012-178 that transferred $25,000 in the General Fund Budget from the Fire Department – Holiday Pay Account to the Fire Department – Overtime Account for overtime in the Fire Department for the balance of the year.
D. Transfer of Funds – Parks Maintenance – Temporary Help
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution 2012-179 that transferred $13,000 in the General Fund Budget from the Parks Maintenance – Salaries Account to the Parks Maintenance – Temporary Help Account for temporary help for the balance of the year.
E. Transfer of Funds – Buildings Maintenance – Overtime
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution 2012-180 that transferred $5,000 in the General Fund Budget from the Building Maintenance – Salaries Account to the Building Maintenance – Overtime Account for unanticipated overtime.
G. Transfer of Funds – Tax Bureau – Temporary Help
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution 2012-182 that transferred $11,250 in the General Fund Budget from the following: $7,250 – Postage Account, and $4,000 – Professional Service Account, to the Tax Bureau – Temporary Help Account for the continued work of the contract employee in the Tax Bureau for the balance of the year.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 9 B, 9 C, 9 D, 9 E and 9 G: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 7. The Resolutions passed.
F. Event Permit Fee – Increase
Mr. DiGiacinto and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 2012-181 that increased the Event Permit Fee from $25 to $50 to be effective beginning January 1, 2013.
Voting AYE: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 7. The Resolution passed.
Motion – Considering Resolutions 9 H through 9 J as a Group
Ms. Dolan and Mr. DiGiacinto moved to consider Resolutions 9 H through 9 J as a Group. Voting AYE: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 7. The motion passed.
H. Certificate of Appropriateness – 305 West Fourth Street
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution 2012-183 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install vinyl window signs and graphics at 305 West Fourth Street.
I. Certificate of Appropriateness – 7 East Third Street
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution 2012-184 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install two signs at 7 East Third Street.
J. Certificate of Appropriateness – 817 East Fourth Street
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution 2012-185 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a sign at 817 East Fourth Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 9 H through J: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 7. The Resolutions passed.
10. NEW BUSINESS.
11. PUBLIC COMMENT
2013 CDBG Program – City’s Employer Assisted Housing Program
Mary Pongracz, 321 W. 4th Street, affirmed that she is the head of a non-profit housing organization and had her hand up three times to be recognized, but Mr. Jennings was recognized instead. Ms. Pongracz asserted that much of what was said was incorrect. She stressed that a terrible precedent was set with a municipal government giving money for first time home buyers to people who are employed by the City and who have benefits when there are people who would love to buy a home and are not given the opportunity.
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, referring to the discussions about single family homes providing a better neighborhood, highlighted the fact that he has come to City Council Meetings and suggested a revision to the Zoning Ordinance which would do precisely that. Focusing on the comments that rental properties become rundown and undesirables move in, Mr. Antalics noted he has been saying that at many Meetings. Mr. Antalics stressed what is needed is to revise the definition of Family, if unrelated only 2 people should be included, and then provide definitions for a student and a student property. Mr. Antalics communicated this would open up rental properties to be sold at a reasonable price to single families that can afford it, preventing a homeowner’s gift. Mr. Antalics did not understand why Council does not take this simple solution to a major problem and revise the Zoning Ordinance. Mr. Antalics, focusing on the South Side Library, explained that when he has gone to the South Side branch he has asked children why they were there and they said to him that they do not have computers at home. He considered a family with no computer to be underprivileged.
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, exclaimed there was not a single person on Council who thought enough to inquire how successful any of these company first time homebuyer programs are. He continued on to say nobody thought to ask whether the City’s Employer Assisted Housing program is a sound investment of public dollars. Not a single person on Council asked whether these are loans or grants, the condition of the loans, or the terms of the loans. Turning to the Community Development Director’s comment that business and industry in the City do not have a vested interest in the neighborhoods, Mr. Grubb highlighted the fact that the Sands Casino invested a billion dollars in the City, and Just Born has invested multi-hundred millions of dollars in the City. He stressed this shows that they have concern for this community. Mr. Grubb stated there is something wrong with public funding for public employees. Mr. Grubb said if it had been a program that had been opened up City-wide he could understand that, as has been done many times in the past. Mr. Grubb questioned why should a public employee get special privileges with public dollars when other residents cannot. Mr. Grubb continued on to remark that nobody bothered to inquire why the City has not gone to local banks as partners for affordable housing that could have structured a program that would have met the needs of not only City employees but residents throughout the City. Mr. Grubb related that Council has approved a program but they do not know how many people it will benefit, or whether there be a cap on a per case basis. While pointing out he has been a proponent of affordable housing for many years, Mr. Grubb stressed that Council gave a blank check tonight and he sees this as irresponsible. Denoting that no additional funding was given to the Library, Mr. Grubb communicated that if the City invested in the Library then money may not needed to fund public safety in the future.
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, remarked that he would
have liked to have perused the summary sheet on the bond issue.
He thanked the Mayor for his report on Hurricane Sandy.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:25 p.m.