City Council

Bethlehem Council MInutes

10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Tuesday, January 15, 2013 – 7:00 PM



The Reverend Gordon B. Mowrer offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag.


President Evans called the meeting to order. Present were Jean Belinski, David T. DiGiacinto, Robert J. Donchez, Michael D. Recchiuti, J. William Reynolds, and Eric R. Evans, 6. Karen Dolan was absent, 1.

Citations – Honoring Isabel Geier and David Mory

President Evans stated that the Citations for Isabel Geier and for David Mory on their retirement from the Parks and Public Property Department will be mailed to them since they were unable to attend this evening.


The Minutes of January 2, 2013, February 16, 21 and 27, 2012 were approved.




A. Old Business – Members of Council


B. Tabled Items


C. Unfinished Business



A. Executive Director of Bethlehem Authority – Proposed Wind Energy Project – Atlantic Wind

The Clerk read a memorandum dated January 4, 2013 from Stephen Repasch, Executive Director of the Bethlehem Authority, to which was attached a License/Lease Agreement with Atlantic Wind approved by the Authority at its December 13, 2012 meeting. A committee meeting was requested for discussion of the issue and for consideration by City Council.

President Evans referred the matter to the Public Works Committee.

B. Director of Parks and Public Property - Northampton County Open Space Initiative Resolution

The Clerk read a memorandum dated January 4, 2013 from Ralph Carp, Director of Parks and Public Property, to which was attached a proposed Resolution to apply for Northampton County Open Space Initiative funding. The total allocation for the City of Bethlehem is $934,371.17 and the City has secured the appropriate funding match either through the Non-Utility Capital Budget or State grants. Six projects have been identified that meet the eligibility criteria for funding: Reassessment/Rehabilitation of City Owned Parks; Greenway/Skateplaza Plaza and Pavilion; Johnston Park Dam Removal and Restoration of Natural Resources; Rehabilitation and Flood Control at Monocacy Creek Illick’s Mill area; Rehabilitation of Nevin Place/Sun Inn Courtyard; and Rehabilitation of Earl E. Schaffer Ice Rink.

President Evans stated the Resolution will be listed on the February 5, 2013 Agenda.

C. Assistant City Solicitor – Designation of Agent Resolution – PEMA – Hurricane Sandy

The Clerk read a memorandum dated January 10, 2013, from Jennifer S. Doran, Esq., Assistant City Solicitor, attached to which was a proposed Resolution authorizing Robert Novatnack, Emergency Management Coordinator, to execute all required forms and documents required from PEMA for the relief request documentation related to Hurricane Sandy.

President Evans stated that Resolution 9 B is listed on the Agenda.


A. President of Council


B. Mayor

1. Administrative Order – Terry L. Marcincin, D.M.D. – Board of Health

Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, in Mayor Callahan’s absence, read the Mayor’s reappointment of Terry L Marcincin, D.M.D., to membership on the Board of Health effective through January 2018. Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 2013 – 6 to confirm the appointment.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Evans, 6. The Resolution passed.

2. Administrative Order – William Kounoupis – Parking Authority

Mr. Reichard read Mayor Callahan’s reappointment of William Kounoupis to membership on the Parking Authority effective through January 2018. Mr. Donchez and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution 2013 – 7 to confirm the appointment.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Evans, 6. The Resolution passed.

3. Administrative Order – Richard L. Master – Bethlehem Authority

Mr. Reichard read Mayor Callahan’s reappointment of Richard L. Master to membership on the Bethlehem Authority effective through January 2018. Mr. Donchez and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution 2013 – 8 to confirm the appointment.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Evans, 6. The Resolution passed.

C. Controller’s Report

Robert Pfenning, Controller, presented the Controller’s Report. Communicating that he thinks his constituents may not appreciate how the Controller’s office functions and what its constraints are, Mr. Pfenning pointed out their duties on contracts are primarily ministerial, affirming that all signatures are present, and money is available. The office does not deal with the content of contracts that is a value judgment exercised by the Administration when drawing up the contracts. Mr. Pfenning makes sure that the contracts are correct. Similarly, when checks come from the Treasurer’s Office Mr. Pfenning’s staff reviews them, makes sure they have supporting documents, confirms that everything adds up, and that the purchase orders and invoices make sense. Mr. Pfenning noted one of the problems faced is when there is a question about accounting distribution because even though the purchase orders are reviewed, the invoices may tell a slightly different story. There are times when he attempts to hold up checks although he does not like doing that because vendors have performed their services for the citizens of Bethlehem and if done properly they should be paid. Occasionally, an invoice is held because of an internal issue to resolve. Mr. Pfenning, confirming that the Controller’s Office reviews purchase orders, advised the process is mainly to make sure that the purchase order fits within the budgeted account. Mr. Pfenning affirmed that he reports to City Council as required by the Third Class City Code and also to the constituents.

Mr. Pfenning, focusing on confirming purchase orders and contracts, advised that Codified Ordinance Article 111.01 (a) based on Section 420 of the Third Class City Code indicates that the Controller shall provide for expenditures only upon written requisition. Explaining that he reviewed those two words with the Law Bureau, Mr. Pfenning noted they do not see it the same way. Mr. Pfenning remarked that unless there would be a mandamus lawsuit he will interpret a written requisition as three things that will include contracts that are newly executed and enforced, purchase orders, and the use of P-Cards. Mr. Pfenning highlighted the fact that the problem is that in theory what should be done when an employee is ready to make a purchase is to call the vendor, give the vendor a contract number and purchase order number, or a P-card. Unfortunately, Mr. Pfenning pointed out there seems to be a problem with following that strictly. In the case of purchase orders, the phone call is placed and the item is ordered, shipped and delivered. An invoice arrives and later when the item is to be paid, the employee realizes a purchase order is needed that will be after the fact. Mr. Pfenning related that every month Gene Auman, Deputy Controller, prepares a report for the CI purchasing group showing the confirming purchase orders by Department and Bureau. Mr. Pfenning noted he provided City Council with a copy of the end of year report so it can be clearly seen where there are some problem areas. Communicating he does not know what is the resistance to doing it the right way, Mr. Pfenning pointed out he has tried to be flexible. He exemplified that if an employee calls a vendor at 4:00 PM but does not have a purchase order number at that time then the next business day is fine. Mr. Pfenning informed the Members that one of the most glaring examples occurred with a confirming contract during the last quarter by a manager in the Administration who engaged a vendor to perform $34,000 in services. After the services were performed, a contract amendment was forwarded to the Controller’s Office, clearly a confirming contract for the services there were performed. Mr. Pfenning advised that at the time the services were performed there was no approval and in fact there was no budget, but it was transferred later on. Mr. Pfenning stressed what is being doing by having confirming purchase orders and/or contracts is defeating the encumbrance system that provides for encumbering expenditures of funds until such time that payment is made. If there is no contract, there is no purchase order and no encumbrance and the Controller is charged in Codified Ordinance Article 111.01 and the Third Class Charter law to maintain and enforce an encumbrance system.

Mr. Pfenning continued his report with the matter of budget appropriations being exceeded. In reviewing the end of the year numbers and looking at budgets whose appropriations have been exceeded, Mr. Pfenning said he begins to question whether or not Council has a firm grip on the purse strings of the City. Mr. Pfenning explained the Administration has the authority to lift the flags in the accounting system that allows budgets to be exceeded. As soon as they lift that flag, Mr. Pfenning expressed that problem number one is Article 111.01 (a), and also Article 121.01 from Section 1804 of the Third Class City Code stating that payments cannot be made that exceed appropriations. Mr. Pfenning contended that, in looking at what he shows for the end of 2012, 66.7% of the large numbers given should never have occurred. He remarked that Salaries are not a mystery in that everyone knows what they will be, as is Temporary Help to some extent, while Overtime is a different issue. Mr. Pfenning pointed out that at the beginning of December the Department Heads would have brought transfer requests before Council. Mr. Pfenning remarked that in the case of Holiday Pay in November the Administration brought before Council several transfers. There was no problem at that time with holiday pay except if one looked at the Police calendar it was known there were two more holidays coming up that had to be paid and was about $46,000-$48,000 a holiday over budget. Mr. Pfenning noted that at the November Finance Committee meeting a request was made for a small transfer for the Recycling Bureau’s Temporary Help to put it back in the black. The question from the Committee was whether that was enough until the end of the year. While pointing out the answer was yes, Mr. Pfenning highlighted the fact that in looking at the accounting records almost every payroll had $11,000-$12,000 in Temporary Help so clearly there was not enough money, yet Council was told there was enough.

Mr. Pfenning related another problem is a number of bills from 2012 that were not paid at the end of the calendar year. Observing that the budget is a cash document and not an accrual document, Mr. Pfenning commented if these had been paid the situation would have been much worse. One bill brought to his attention had six figures, but the expense was paid in 2013 and the appropriation was not exceeded. Remarking that is a problem, Mr. Pfenning noted that some of those matters do not come out until the Audit is completed.
Mr. Pfenning, advising there is some good news, noted that Mark Sivak, Director of Budget and Finance, went through the items and covered all of the budget overages so the expenses were back in line. Mr. Pfenning stressed, however, that only the expense side of the budget is back to where it should be. Mr. Pfenning said he has no idea whether or not the Audit will show that the revenues covered those expenses. Mr. Pfenning communicated that the office of the Controller will continue to work with the Administration to attempt on this matter.

Mr. Pfenning, turning to festivals and events, affirmed that he gave Council a memo on this matter. He noted that Article 111.01 (b) gives him the obligation to look at the Administration’s reported revenues and expenses. Mr. Pfenning concluded that Musikfest did actually cost the City less than in prior years. He advised that the report he gave Council on Musikfest was not taken directly from the accounting system. It had to be compiled through the efforts of a staff in the Administration and the Controller’s Office. Mr. Pfenning confirmed that City Council approves a number of Use Agreements throughout the year and there are many terms, but unfortunately some of those terms are not being complied with by the Administration. For Musikfest, Mr. Pfenning had raised the point that the deadline is September 1 and questioned whether that is reasonable. The City Solicitor’s office advised to leave it alone. The bulk of that money was due September 1 and the 2011 agreement was still in force and not amended. ArtsQuest paid in full on December 28 in terms of the bills with no interest. Mr. Pfenning said another example is Celtic Fest where there were some back fees on which the Administration made a compromise and with which he concurred, but again it was an example of a Use Agreement not being met. Noting it is not only events in the City that are subject to Use Agreements, Mr. Pfenning informed the Members he had an invoice for a charitable run in September with the cost of approximately $4,200 that was written off for about $3,200, as the amount billed and collected was $1,000. Mr. Pfenning, referring to the Runners World event, pointed out the Use Agreement said that everyone will pay for the Public Works, Police, Fire, and Ambulances. However, the only bill issued by the City was for EMS standby and that was not issued to Runners World but issued to St. Luke’s who graciously agreed to pay for it. Mr. Pfenning added that, to his knowledge, the balance of the costs was never billed. Mr. Pfenning highlighted the fact that whether they were or were not billed is a value judgment for Council and the Administration. Mr. Pfenning noted that if he were asked how much was written off he would not know since the accounting system will not break that out. Mr. Pfenning commented that some of the budget overages and overtime may have been from that event but he does not know. Mr. Pfenning advised he does not know if it was billed by the Police or if it is Roster Duty that includes pension and other costs. Mr. Pfenning stressed that he is not getting into a debate as to whether it is good or bad, but he would just like to see the costs displayed openly. Mr. Pfenning informed the Members that he will be proposing to the City Solicitor’s Office an Ordinance amendment, probably to Article 121, requiring that the full costs for all of these events are clearly broken out.

Mr. Pfenning, focusing on the use of restricted funds most likely found in the Non-Utility Capital Improvement (NUCI) accounts and budget, stated there are bond funds being used to cover current operating expenses. Because of that fact, Mr. Pfenning advised the Administration is working with Bond Counsel to have a ruling as to whether that is okay or not. Mr. Pfenning, explaining that processing a bill against a bond for repairs to a facility does not seem right to him, noted it is up to Bond Counsel to say if it is legal or not. Mr. Pfenning noted that the SALDO Ordinance clearly and specifically defines what developers and recreation fees can be used for and how the City should go about processing them. He cited an example in the last quarter when $10,000 of an insurance deductible amount was used for repairs that had to be made to the Ice Rink. Because the SALDO does not allow for recreation fees to be spent on repairs, Mr. Pfenning informed the Members he has discussed this with the Administration. The Administration will now be reinstituting a procedure so that all requests for SALDO developer fees funds will be reviewed by the Law Bureau to see if in fact the Ordinance is being complied with. Mr. Pfenning noted another problem in the NUCI Budget area is with some of the items that come through as expenditures. All of the money in the NUCI account comes from specific sources that include grants, donations and bonds. Mr. Pfenning communicated that his job as Controller is to make sure the money is being spent in conformity with the restrictions placed on expenditures of that money. Mr. Pfenning remarked that tracing it back is an interesting task, in working with the Administration and how to do that most efficiently.

Mr. Pfenning asked for any questions from Members of Council.

Mr. Recchiuti, referring to the memo from Mr. Pfenning, inquired about the statement that there were 59 expenditure accounts over budget. Mr. Pfenning responded there were 59 accounts over budget by about $2,500 dollars, and added that he will not worry about the smaller ones that were around $100. Mr. Recchiuti asked what is the total number of budget expenditure accounts. Mr. Pfenning noted that it does not matter; it is the encumbrance system that is being violated. Mr. Pfenning continued on to say it is a violation of Third Class City Code Section 1804 in his opinion, and Codified Ordinance Section 121.05 so whether there are 1 or 100 accounts over budget it does not matter to him. Mr. Recchiuti asked if Mr. Pfenning could answer how many there are, and Mr. Pfenning replied that he would not.

Mr. Recchiuti asked President Evans if he could ask a member of the Administration that question. Mr. Recchiuti asked Mr. Reichard and Mark Sivak, Director of Budget and Finance, how many expenditure accounts there are. Mr. Sivak replied there are 915 expenditure accounts. Mr. Recchiuti pointed out that 59 were over of 915 expenditure accounts. Mr. Pfenning reiterated that none should be over according to the encumbrance system.

Mayor Callahan noted there were 59 accounts that were over budget at the end of 2012. Mayor Callahan advised that, as the memo from the Controller pointed out, the over budget accounts were taken care of through the budget transfer process in period 13 as part of the normal year end process. Mayor Callahan stated there are 854 accounts, of the 854 accounts 94% of the accounts were at or below budget, and 748 of the 854 accounts were actually under budget. Mayor Callahan said, perhaps most importantly, in looking at this by a department basis, each of the departments had sufficient overall budget balances available to meet payroll demands, and on a budget basis for each department they were fine. Mayor Callahan expressed he wanted to put this in perspective.

Mr. Pfenning repeated that the encumbrance system is his to manage and the fact that the flags are lifted defeats his Ordinance responsibility. Mr. Pfenning explained he does not care how many accounts there were and he does not care how many were under or over. Mr. Pfenning said the good news was that this was not an overall problem. Mr. Pfenning emphasized that he does not care about the numbers of it; he cares that it is happening at all. Mr. Pfenning stated, in his opinion, it is a violation of State law.

Mr. Recchiuti observed that in preparing a budget, and adding that other Council Members have said this, it is a guess and it is an estimate. Mr. Recchiuti stated that he thinks the Administration is doing good if they are at 94%.

Mr. Pfenning, confirming he is not saying anything against the Administration, advised they are doing a good job but there should not be any overdrafts with the exception of overtime.


A. Bill No. 1 – 2013 – Establishing Article 304 – First Responder’s Fee/Amusement Tax

The Clerk read Bill No. 1 – 2013 – Establishing Article 304 – First Responder’s Fee/Amusement Tax, on Final Reading.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Evans, 6. Bill No. 1 – 2013, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2013-1, was declared adopted.




A. Approving Auditors – Maher Duessel – 2012, 2013 and 2014 Audits

Mr. Donchez and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution No. 2013-9 that approved Maher Duessel to provide the following audits at the listed rates for 2012, 2013 and 2014: General Purpose Financial Statements, Single Audit Reports, Water Fund, Sewer Fund, Bethlehem Area Public Library, Bethlehem Parking Authority, Bethlehem Authority, and 911 Fund.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Evans, 6. The Resolution passed.

B. Designating Emergency Management Coordinator – Robert Novatnack

Mr. Donchez and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution No. 2013-10 that authorized Robert Novatnack, Emergency Management Coordinator, to execute all required forms and documents for the purpose of obtaining financial assistance with regard to Hurricane Sandy.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Evans, 6. The Resolution passed.

C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 452 North New Street

Mrs. Belinski and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution No. 2013-11 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to retain, replace or repair storm windows and replace existing original single glazed sash at 452 North New Street.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Evans, 6. The Resolution passed.

D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 525 North New Street

Mrs. Belinski and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution No. 2013-12 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install new copper coping caps and new copper gutter linings at 525 North New Street.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Evans, 6. The Resolution passed.


Committee Meeting Announcement

Mr. DiGiacinto announced a Public Works Committee meeting on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 6:00 PM in Town Hall on the subject of a proposed Wind Energy Agreement.


911 Communications Center – City and Northampton County

Roger Hudak, 1256 E. Fifth Street, addressed the transfer of the City dispatch services for Fire, Police and EMS to the Northampton County Dispatch Center. Mr. Hudak said, upon evaluating the transfer, it seems unwise at this time to abandon the City’s dispatch center that is working so well. Mr. Hudak stressed that citizens must be and should be aware of the fact that they will not be saving that many funds in taxes that are now collected in municipal taxes. Rather, it will be merely transferring those taxes to Northampton County taxes. Mr. Hudak observed it will not be as much money to the County but what the City would be losing in doing so is the vast array of cameras and instant communications between residents, the dispatch center, and responding officers, and Police, Fire and EMS services will be gone. Mr. Hudak highlighted the fact that all those cameras are keeping watch over the City streets, and will not be able to be monitored by the County staff. Mr. Hudak, pointing out that losing that communication is vital in keeping Bethlehem as safe a City as it is today, said Bethlehem is the safest City in the Lehigh Valley and one of the safest in Pennsylvania. Mr. Hudak continued to say that it is not a tax savings but a tax transfer of services that will make it all but impossible to take back should it be decided that it does not work as well as the 911 system the City has now. Mr. Hudak noted it is like the trash hauler issue, in that once the City contracts with a single hauler it is done, and the City and its residents will not be able to go back to the small trash haulers and say they liked it the old way better since they will be gone and their equipment will be gone. Mr. Hudak commented that if the City does not need to hire people to cover its security cameras, and it will if the City wants to keep them operative, then the City would be better keeping the system now in place. Mr. Hudak stressed that the City has the best Police, EMS and Fire Departments in the Lehigh Valley so why should it jeopardize those skills with a County dispatch center that only dispatches. Mr. Hudak, highlighting the fact that the City’s 911 Communications Center does much more than dispatch, and stressing that feeling safe in Bethlehem means more to him than saving tax dollars. Asserting it is ridiculous at this time to move this quickly, Mr. Hudak strongly suggested that City Council take their time and evaluate everything.

St. Michael’s Cemetery

Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, stated he was dismayed to read recently about the vandalism that had taken place at St. Michael’s Cemetery. Mr. Grubb advised that he understands from the Police Department that discussions are ongoing to beef up patrols and to possibly install a camera. Mr. Grubb said he does not think people realize the historic value in Bethlehem that this cemetery offers. Advising he heard that the City might power wash some of the graffiti to remove it, Mr. Grubb said he has been assured this will not happen without the proper permissions and releases because of the potential for destruction of gravestones and mausoleums that will not hold up under the force of power washing. Pointing out there are alternatives, Mr. Grubb stressed it should be ensured that the appropriate means are used to clean any gravestones and mausoleums so that there is no additional damage. Mr. Grubb observed there are a number of organizations, including the owners and the Allentown Diocese, that need to be engaged. He added that the views of the City are spectacular from the cemetery site. He complimented the Police Commissioner for his response, his concerns, and the efforts being undertaken at this point. Mr. Grubb remarked that texting, tweeting, or e-mailing during Council Meetings is rude and should stop.

911 Communications Center – City and Northampton County; St. Michael’s Cemetery

Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, noted he has spoken with Mr. Hudak and agrees with him about the City’s 911 Center, and added that the cameras need to stay because they have prevented crimes. Mr. Antalics noted that St. Michael’s Cemetery has been memorialized in this Country and it should be a National Landmark. It is memorialized and recognized in the Library of Congress because of a very famous photographer who had a commission to do a study of America from coast to coast. The gentleman spent quite a bit of time in Bethlehem and he took photographs of the South Side up and down the steep hill, and also took photographs of St. Michael’s Cemetery. The photographer’s picture is from the cemetery overlooking a gravestone overlooking a house, and in the background are the blast furnaces from the Bethlehem Steel that captured the life of the early immigrants who came to Bethlehem. Mr. Antalics thought the City of Bethlehem has a greater responsibility to do exactly what Mr. Grubb stated and preserve the cemetery as a landmark and determine whether it can be placed as a National and Historic Landmark because its history deserves it.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:50 p.m.