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Bethlehem Council MInutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, February 19, 2013 – 7:00 PM
PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
Pastor Gracher Selby, of St. John AME Zion 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 David T. DiGiacinto, Karen Dolan, Robert J. Donchez, Michael D. Recchiuti, J. William Reynolds, and Eric R. Evans, 6. Jean Belinski was absent, 1.
Citations – Honoring Robert Boandl, Robert J. Haffner, Kenneth Jones, and Kevin J. Spano
President Evans stated that the Citations for Robert Boandl, Robert J. Haffner, Kenneth Jones, and Kevin J. Spano on their retirement from the Police Department will be mailed to them since they were unable to attend this evening.
2. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of February 5, 2013 were approved.
3. PUBLIC COMMENT
Certificate of Appropriateness – 1304 Spring Street – Denial of Request for Demolition
Elizabeth Bell, 1318 Prospect Avenue, affirming that she is a resident in the historic Mount Airy District, addressed the Certificate of Appropriateness for 1304 Spring Street. Ms. Bell stated that the issue of demolition by neglect is well defined by the phrase “If you won’t let me tear it down, then I’ll let it fall down.” She explained that this expression voiced by the National Trust for Historic Preservation describes a situation in which a property owner intentionally allows a historic property to suffer severe deterioration often to circumvent historic preservation regulations. Consequently, several States and Cities have moved to pass legislation to protect historic properties from demolition by neglect. Ms. Bell highlighted the fact that, although there are three historic districts and many landmark buildings in Bethlehem, none of them are actually protected. Ms. Bell advised that at the January 28, 2013 meeting of the Historic Conservation Commission the residents of the Mount Airy Neighborhood learned from the City building inspector that a building owner does not have to maintain a vacant building thereby providing a loophole for negligent landowners like Holy Family Manor (The Manor). Ms. Bell stressed that the ensuing chronology of events demonstrates the ongoing neglect of not only 1304 Spring Street, the property under immediate danger of demolition, but also the blighted and neglected property at 1220 Prospect Avenue known as the Trexler Pavilion. Ms. Bell communicated that this is under threat if City Council sets the precedent of allowing demolition of Holy Family Manor properties that have been willfully neglected. Additionally, Ms. Bell remarked that the intentions and plans of the Manor have been less than transparent and raise the question of trust between the neighbors and the Manor regarding the ongoing plans for their properties. Ms. Bell related that on September 2, 1997 the City of Bethlehem issued 20 violations of the City code for 1304 Spring Street. The Manor had 30 days to comply, but it is unclear if they in fact did so. Ms. Bell continued on to say that in October 2010, 16 years later, at a meeting of the Historic Conservation Commission (HCC) this inspection resurfaced as a submission by the Manor to support the proposed demolition of 1304 Spring Street. Ms. Bell informed the assembly that the minutes of the HCC meeting note the remarks of a committee member as saying “The house is in historically intact condition and should be preserved. Many of the supposed deficiencies may not be as serious as assumed by the consultant. The building repairs should be inspected by a consultant who is an expert in historic renovations, and prices by a contractor who specializes in historic rehabilitation. It is my professional opinion that this historically significant house could be renovated for far less money than proposed and should not be demolished.” At the next HCC meeting in November 2010, the Manor submitted an inspection regarding code compliance and structural evaluation to the HCC to support demolition of 1304 Spring Street. It is not clear if the Manor provided documentation required by Codified Ordinance Section 1713.12 (a) which delineates a mandated process to follow regarding a request for demolition, or if an expert and contractor familiar with historic renovation were involved as requested by the HCC. It is worth noting that there was discussion of converting the site of 1304 Spring Street to green space. Ms. Bell further noted that in December 2010, the Manor returned with two important changes. The first noted in the minutes of the HCC meeting states that, because Trexler Pavilion has suffered neglect and is in deteriorated condition, Holy Family Manor was proposing to renovate Trexler Pavilion, a very important historic resource, in a sort of trade for the demolition of the frame house at 1304 Spring Street that was discussed at the last meeting. Ms. Bell noted that no renovation let alone basic maintenance of the exterior of Trexler Pavilion has occurred in more than two years since this meeting. Trexler Pavilion remains a blighted and neglected building. Second, Ms. Bell observed the minutes note that there was also a brief discussion about the proposed new assisted living facility to be built on the southern edge of the campus where 1304 Spring Street is located. Green space in the November 2010 meeting had morphed into an assisted living facility just one month later. Two months later on February 14, 2011 the Manor formalized this discussion by submitting an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness for the creation of a new assisted living facility to include 60 bedrooms, a dining hall, and assisted living related services. It had been explained that, as part of the project, the Trexler House will be converted to offices, and the existing house will be demolished. Ms. Bell continued on to emphasize that eighteen months later at the October 2012 meeting of the HCC the Manor once again changed the proposed use of the 1304 Spring Street site back to green space, and then repeated it at the HCC meeting on January 28, 2013 but the Manor would not guarantee this strategy. Ms. Bell pointed out that Holy Family Manor argues it is an economic hardship to bring this building to code compliance. Since time did not permit the continued reading of the remainder of her remarks, Ms. Bell handed a copy of her entire statement to the Members of Council.
Judy Swartley, 1324 Prospect Avenue, related that the neighbors are trying to present two topics tonight. The first is demolition by neglect and also a time line of the inconsistencies. Ms. Swartley affirmed that the group has everything documented and has minutes for everything. Ms. Swartley advised an additional point to the presentation by Ms. Bell was that the neighbors actually have a 1995 letter from the Allentown Diocese saying that everything was up to code, and then suddenly in 1997 there were many violations. Ms. Bell affirmed it is designated as a historically significant building and a contributing structure. Ms. Bell continued on to inform the Members that the neighbors have minutes indicating there was going to be green space and then later there was the proposal of a 60 room facility, and knocking down three buildings plus the one historic building. Ms. Swartley noted the neighbors are concerned that the Trexler Pavilion is already noted as a neglected building, and what could happen is that 1304 Spring Street would be demolition by neglect, yet in 2010 at the historic board meetings it was noted as demolition by neglect. Wondering what has happened in the three years since then, Ms. Swartley asked are the neighbors supposed to go around and monitor the situation and find out if changes were made. While remarking she does not think so, Ms. Swartley highlighted the fact that nothing has happened. Ms. Swartley stressed it is probable that this building will come down and then Holy Family Manor will build their 60 room building totally destroying the look of the neighborhood. Ms. Swartley observed that Holy Family Manor will then move the residents from the Trexler Pavilion down to the new building on Spring Street. Ms. Swartley advised that, according to minutes of one of the meetings, Holy Family Manor was supposed to then change Trexler Pavilion into offices. Ms. Swartley remarked that, after Holy Family Manor moves people moved out of Trexler Pavilion and into Spring Street they will say they do not have enough money because they are already saying they do not have enough money to renovate Spring Street. Ms. Swartley pointed out that there is a building that is already in the state of neglect, it will be vacant, and it will not have anything done to it for another couple of years. It could also become like 1304 Spring Street and eventually deteriorate to the point where City Council will say it has to be destroyed because it is not safe. Ms. Swartley commented that in 2007 the neighbors were fighting for Trexler Pavilion because Holy Family Manor wanted to expand that curb to curb, put in a parking lot and 20 foot lights, and take the historic 100 year old trees down. Ms. Swartley added that the neighbors are really concerned that there will be this same cycle and eventually Holy Family Manor will get their way and have a block to block building. Ms. Swartley asked why Holy Family Manor cannot consider taking the current facility, making it a unique facility with a higher profit margin, and buy land elsewhere and not destroy the character of the neighborhood. Ms. Swartley communicated that Council will vote tonight on a demolition certificate but in reality what the Members are voting on is demolition by neglect. Ms. Swartley stressed that if City Council condones demolition by neglect, none of the buildings in any of the historic districts, or in a proposed landmark district are protected because as was said earlier, “If you won’t let me tear it down, then I’ll let it fall down.” Ms. Swartley expressed that the neighbors are asking that the Members not let their legacy on City Council be that of condoning demolition by neglect, and that Council Members please do not fail the neighbors.
Mary Toulouse, 1528 W. Market Street, advised she is President of the Mount Airy Neighborhood Association (MANA) and would like to read a statement that reflects the position of the group with regards to the demolition of the property at 1304 Spring Street. She stated that, first the group would like to sincerely thank Council and the Administration for all of the past support they have given over the last few years in establishing the current historic preservation districts. She noted that MANA was involved early on in the development of the Mount Airy Ordinance. The group urged the continuation of the support of the Historic Conservation Commission for its decision to reject the request of Holy Family Manor to raze the Spring Street property. The Mount Airy Historic District with all of its 27 properties was a carefully thought out, professionally done, planned campus. Ms. Toulouse noted she personally remembers the process because her home on West Market was excluded from the district, consistent with the criteria of the National Historic Register that only properties associated importantly with life of a nationally significant person in the history of the United States were included. Ms. Toulouse noted her home was too old, was built by a railroad executive, and had nothing to do with the steel industry. Ms. Toulouse highlighted the fact that the house on Spring Street, however, was importantly associated with the life of Eugene Grace, a chairman of Bethlehem Steel Corporation. Four or five years ago MANA neighbors began studying documents and collecting an oral history of the Mount Airy and neighboring historic district. Ms. Toulouse advised that she is personally involved in gathering oral history, a recognized tool for the study of history, as part of her graduate degree at New York University, and is currently working professionally at Lafayette College doing an oral history with student colleagues there. They interviewed neighbors and former residents of the Mount Airy neighborhood, and shared the narrative with the community through a series of public trolley tours and talks. During the trolley tours, two of the former residents of the neighborhood came forward and stated that the 1304 Spring Street house was in fact the house of the gardener of Eugene Grace. One of the women stated that she was the gardener’s daughter, her father had lived there until the end of his life, and the house was in good condition. Ms. Toulouse added that during the tours of the neighborhood, the Bethlehem community was interested not only in the mansions of the former Bethlehem Steel executives, but also in homes including the blacksmith’s house and the homes of the support staff. She added that visitors to the working communities of Williamsburg or Monticello in Virginia interested in Thomas Jefferson’s mansion may also want to see the slave headquarters. Ms. Toulouse pointed out Bethlehem has this kind of special district that was created in Mount Airy, and it is appropriate to preserve the homes of such people as the gardener as well as of those of the CEO’s. Ms. Toulouse continued to say that having reviewed the City code violation report from 1997 members of her organization feel that Holy Family Manor has neglected the Spring Street building, and are currently neglecting other historic buildings like the Trexler Pavilion. She stressed that repairs could have been made and the current quote for repairs that was submitted is perhaps way too high and Holy Family Manor could get other quotes. Ms. Toulouse added that like any other members of the community, Holy Family Manor should be responsible and properly maintain their properties. Advising that Holy Family Manor has at least four of the West Side’s historic buildings and are the caretakers of a large part of the community’s heritage, Ms. Toulouse exclaimed that to tear down one building would be a terrible precedent. Ms. Toulouse asked the Members to please enforce the previous provisions of the Mount Airy Historic Ordinance, and follow the advice of the HARB board to reject the demolition of 1304 Spring Street.
Ken Loush, 1324 Prospect Avenue, affirmed that he is a member of the South Bethlehem and Mount Airy Historic Conservation Commission and is a licensed engineer in the State of Pennsylvania. At the Historic Conservation Commission meeting last month, he voted to deny the request for the demolition of 1304 Spring Street. Mr. Loush explained that he would like to review a few reasons for demolition that were in the application, and with good spirit a possible alternative for the property besides demolition. Affirming that the reasons listed for demolition in the application include the cost of repairs, Mr. Loush acknowledged that Holy Family Manor did go to a good contractor for an estimate. However, it appears that the contractor based the cost estimate on a walk-through inspection, and as was stated on page one of the report certain information was derived from conversations with the tenant who was there at the time. Pointing out that in 2010 the result was a cost estimate of over $180,000, Mr. Loush expressed the belief that there has to be a better check for accuracy with that quotation, and there has to be a math error in the estimate on page 15 of 15. Without a written scope of drawings and specifications, Mr. Loush advised it is hard for a contractor to come up with a good number to do this kind of work. Mr. Loush thought it may have been a good idea to get a few more estimates to do this type of work. Mr. Loush stated that the Lehigh Engineering report listed repairs to get the building up to code, according to the 2009 IBC, of about $10,000 that included structural, electrical, plumbing and masonry. Mr. Loush, confirming that report is in the current application and was also in the application in 2010, highlighted the fact that there is one important page missing in this current application and that was the actual numbers that Lehigh Engineering came up with. Mr. Loush communicated that even if Lehigh Engineering was 100% off with the estimate of $10,000 it is a big stretch to $220,000 which is now the 2012 quote by Quandel that added some contingencies. Mr. Loush noted there are some organizations in the community that have goals in common with the Catholic Family Housing Corporation that is to provide low income housing for people in need. Noting that one in particular is Habitat for Humanity, Mr. Loush advised he has spoken with a few people from that group over the past few weeks and they have expressed interest in working with the Catholic Family Housing Corporation to fix up the 1304 Spring Street property and get families in need of housing into that property. Mr. Loush denoted this might be a viable way to utilize the money that Holy Family Manor would be putting into demolition perhaps and redirect it to buying materials, and having volunteer workers from Habitat for Humanity restore the building and put a family in need at the property. Mr. Loush thought this is a great opportunity for those two groups and for the community in general. Mr. Loush commented that if, however, City Council feels that demolition should be allowed he would request that the materials from this building be salvaged as much as possible and donated to a community group that could reuse them. Mr. Loush expressed the hope also that Council would look for a plan from Holy Family Manor to maintain the other buildings that they own in the historic area. Mr. Loush informed the assembly that he also has a statement from Beth Starbuck who could not be at the Meeting tonight.
President Evans stated that Mr. Loush could give the copies of the statement from Beth Starbuck to the Members of Council.
Carolyn Facchiano, 917 Prospect Avenue, notified the Members that she has been involved in the history of Bethlehem from an early time although she is not a native of the Lehigh Valley. Ms. Facchiano related that she came to Muhlenberg College and was involved with the early restoration of the downtown of Historic Bethlehem. In 1967, she was looking at the foundations of the buildings that became a centerpoint of Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley. Exclaiming that Bethlehem is a gem in the Lehigh Valley and always has been, Ms. Facchiano explained part of the reason for this is the amazing history in the City. She highlighted the fact that there are historic plaques, historic homes and historic sections that are identified and protected. Ms. Facchiano said she does not know why, when looking at how important that is to the City’s standing in the Lehigh Valley, in the State, and in the Country, chances are taken with the City’s historic background. Ms. Facchiano stressed that serious consideration needs to be given to every act that makes the history of Bethlehem less noticeable, less important, and more easily dismissed. She communicated that 1304 Spring Street is being dismissed as being something that can be destroyed and taken down, and replaced with a parking lot or a new facility. Ms. Facchiano felt it is incredibly important that City Council feel the emotion of keeping the history of Bethlehem and how important that is. Observing that the tenure for Council Members is not long, Ms. Facchiano stressed that the impact of taking down buildings and taking away the importance of the historic sections is going to have a lasting effect and it will go on. Mr. Facchiano asked if that is the legacy that this Council wants. She continued on to say that there are alternatives, and Mr. Loush identified some excellent alternatives. Ms. Facchiano asked that Council seriously consider their point in the history of Bethlehem and how it will be considered in the next decade.
Attorney Joseph F. Leeson, 70 E. Broad Street, stated that he represents the applicant, Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown, concerning the 1304 Spring Street property that the Diocese owns, with respect to their request for a Certificate of Appropriateness. Attorney Leeson informed the Members that he wants to give a brief summary of the recent history of the property because he thinks there is a misunderstanding as to what that history is, and the four reasons why they request approval to get an issuance of the Certificate of Appropriateness. Attorney Leeson advised that until about two years ago, the 1304 Spring Street property had been occupied by the same tenant for 22 years. Prior to the time when the tenant moved out about two years ago, there were no major complaints from the tenant other than cosmetic issues. When the tenant moved out, the client went through the property and discovered all of the different code violations, structural issues, leaks, and so forth. As a result, they got the evaluations that were submitted to the City Clerk’s Office for review and had been submitted to the Conservation Commission with the application. Attorney Leeson continued on to advise that last fall the process was started to apply for the Certificate of Appropriateness so it is not a situation where they have not been doing anything with the property for an extended period of time. Focusing on the four reasons, Attorney Leeson said first of all the purpose of an historic district is to preserve the historic aspects and nature of that district. The Historic Officer for the commission stated “There will be no negative impact on the Historic Conservation District” if demolition is approved. Attorney Leeson pointed out the Historic Officer did not say some impact or a little impact he said no impact. Attorney Leeson stated that, second, the City Building Inspector who also sits on the Commission voted in favor of granting a certificate of demolition. The Inspector commented that, due to the deteriorated condition of the building, the substantial structural issues, the cost, and the clear opinion of the Historic Officer, it justified a vote in favor of granting the certificate. The third reason Attorney Leeson noted was that the two engineering firm reports presented to both the Commission as well as copies to the City Clerk’s Office indicate that the structure should be demolished. Attorney Leeson communicated that, hypothetically, even if substantial amounts of money could be invested to rebuild it, very little of the original structure would remain. Attorney Leeson informed the Members the fourth reason is that this is a cost prohibitive issue. Attorney Leeson advised that his client is in the health care business and not in the business of leasing single family homes. In this particular instance, they have seen cost estimates for the house at around $180,000 and for the barn another $50,000 so it is over $220,000. Attorney Leeson stated it is not practical, it is cost prohibitive, and this is not the field at which his client wants to find itself, that is to be involved in restoring a single family home and leasing it to a family. Attorney Leeson asked the Members of Council for a favorable consideration, and expressed the belief that there are good and valid reasons to justify the issuance of a Certificate of Appropriateness to allow the demolition of the structures at 1304 Spring Street.
Mary Pongracz, 321 W. 4th Street, affirmed that she is a member of the South Bethlehem Historical Conservation Commission. Ms. Pongracz, informing the Members that she was unable to be at the meeting, advised that she would have voted for the demolition of this building at 1304 Spring Street. She highlighted the fact that the vote then would then have been 4 to 4, the matter would have been dropped, and the building would have been demolished. Exclaiming that now the force has come to allow City Council to say this building should not be torn down, Ms. Pongracz questioned where were they when three quarters of the South Side was being torn down, and where were they Broughal Junior High School was being torn down. Ms. Pongracz wondered where they were all these years letting that building deteriorate and not doing something about it. Ms. Pongracz, stressing that the topic of the Trexler mansion is absolutely not part of this Resolution, said people need to speak to the topic of Spring Street. Ms. Pongracz stated that Holy Family Manor cannot do anything without the consent of the City. Ms. Pongracz, remarking that the building is a wreck and it did not become that way over the last year or the last 5 or 10 years, why the neighborhood group did not do something about the property in question. She further asked why is the Diocese of Allentown being accused of being a negligent landlord. Observing there comes a time when one has to look at what is the best thing to do, Ms. Pongracz communicated it does not make sense to her for the Diocese to take a ramshackle building and put $200,000 into it, then hope to sell it and make a profit. Ms. Pongracz questioned whether these people are saying that they know more than the architects or the consultants or the Dioceses of Allentown. Ms. Pongracz highlighted the fact that an historic building on Vine Street on the South Side of Bethlehem where she lived that was built before the Civil War was torn down and no one cared about that building. She pointed out that since 1997, 15 years ago, they have done nothing about the building on Spring Street but now this building is supposed to be saved.
Arnold Traupman, 1019 Prospect Avenue, advised that he lives in the Mount Airy Historic District. He noted that Attorney Leeson stated a few moments ago that tearing down 1304 Spring Street would have no impact. Mr. Traupman commented that maybe it would have no impact with some people but it would have a big impact on the future of the Mt. Airy Historic District. Mr. Traupman said he has to wonder if Holy Family Manor continues to allow the Trexler Pavilion to deteriorate, and if a few years from now Attorney Leeson or whoever will be standing in front of Council will be saying that the tearing down of Trexler Pavilion will have no impact. Mr. Traupman, adding it was mentioned before that approving the request to demolish the building would set a precedent, asked is this the precedent City Council wants to set. Mr. Traupman questioned why have an Historic District if there is no teeth to the District.
William Stanford, 1330 W. Market Street, informed the Members that he will read a statement from Gary Lader, AIA, 1511 W. Market Street, who could not be at the Meeting tonight, as follows. I am a member of the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation Board and a resident of West Bethlehem and a licensed Architect. I am against the demolition of the Spring Street property for several reasons. From the perspective of the Secretary of the Interior Standards for Rehabilitation, which we use as a guideline, I feel that the structure contributes to the streetscape and character of the neighborhood and historic district. I am not convinced by engineering reports that the structure is ready to be demolished. I believe property owners have a responsibility to maintain their property. To allow demolition of the Spring Street property would be setting a bad example for our neighborhood and would be contrary to the mission of our Historic Conservation Board. Mr. Stanford then stated that as a property owner he feels he has a responsibility to maintain his property to the point where his family is benefited and his neighbors are benefited and to the benefit of the City. Mr. Stanford remarked it could be assumed that the Diocese was an absentee landlord at 1304 Spring Street, made no inspections of their property all those years, had no idea the place was falling down, and just found this out recently. If so, Mr. Stanford said shame on them because it was their responsibility to keep a finger on the pulse of their property. Mr. Stanford thought to turn a blind eye and say that the building has to come down because it is in disrepair in effect encourages other property owners in the City to be cavalier with their responsibilities to their City.
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, stated that he has been aware of this situation and has talked to some of the neighbors through email about the property on Spring Street. Mr. Grubb commented that in listening to the discussion tonight it raises the question about City enforcement on properties. Mr. Grubb pointed out the City has a Vacant Property Review Committee that has been convened for several decades to address situations such as this one appears to be. Communicating this is a deteriorated property that has been vacant for probably three years, Mr. Grubb thought Council could be asking the Administration why, if code enforcement is not being applied and a property is vacant, the property was not referred to the Vacant Property Review Committee. Mr. Grubb pointed out that as a result of that review process the owners can receive guidance, can be forced to make the improvements, or in the alternative through the City’s Redevelopment Authority the property could be acquired and a property owner found who is willing to do that. Mr. Grubb thought that as well as the historic issues the neighbors are facing in that historic district there are some code enforcement issues.
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, mentioned if it is assumed that the Historic Commission follows Roberts Rules of Order then if the vote had been 4 to 4 the application for the certificate to demolish would have failed. He added that apparently it was not demolition by neglect per se; it was demolition by neglect by tenant. Commenting that is still demolition by neglect, Mr. Scheirer said the question is whether or not Holy Family Manor has any responsibility for the actions of the tenant. Mr. Scheirer referred to the expression that when it is gone, it is gone.
4. OLD BUSINESS.
A. Old Business – Members of Council
B. Tabled Items
C. Unfinished Business
A. President of Council
C. Finance Committee
Chairman Reynolds presented an oral report of the Finance Committee meeting held at 6:00 PM in Town Hall prior to this evening’s City Council Meeting on the following subjects: Amending Community Development Budget – CDBG and HOME Programs – 2012 Year End Adjustments; Sand Island Tennis Fees – 2013 Revisions; Amending Sewer Capital Budget – 2012 Year End Adjustments; Transfer of Funds - Water Capital Budget – East Allen Township Water System; Amending Liquid Fuels Fund Budget – 2012 Year End Adjustments; Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – 2012 Year End Adjustments; and Bond Issue – 2013 Non-Utility Capital Projects and Refinancing 2001 Landfill Bond.
7. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL READING
8. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 2 – 2013 – Adopting Salaries – Members of Council and President of Council
The Clerk read Bill No. 2 – 2013 – Adopting Salaries – Members of Council and President of Council, sponsored by Mr. DiGiacinto and Mr. Recchiuti, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA,
ESTABLISHING THE SALARIES OF THE MEMBERS
OF COUNCIL AND THE PRESIDENT OF COUNCIL.
Ms. Dolan, explaining that issues related to health benefits for Members of Council and coordination of benefits is being reviewed by the Human Resources Bureau, thought it would be better to consider the matter of Bill 2 after the responses are received.
Motion - Postponing First Reading of Bill No. 2 –
Ms. Dolan moved to postpone First Reading of Bill No. 2 – 2013 until the next City Council Meeting on March 5, 2013. Mr. DiGiacinto seconded the motion. Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. DiGiacinto, and Mr. Evans, 6.
B. Bill No. 3 – 2013 – Adopting Salary – Mayor
The Clerk read Bill No. 3 – 2013 – Adopting Salary – Mayor, sponsored by Mr. DiGiacinto and Mr. Recchiuti, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA,
ESTABLISHING THE SALARY OF THE MAYOR.
Mr. Recchiuti confirmed that the salary is not an increase and is the same as the Mayor’s salary for 2013. He added that, under the Ordinance adopted in 2009, there was an increase in the salary of the Mayor in each of the years 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.
Ms. Dolan noted the salary of the Mayor stated in Bill 3 is in line with the salary of the Mayors in other Third Class Cities and in relation to the size of the city.
Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. DiGiacinto, and Mr. Evans, 6. Bill No. 3 – 2013 was passed on First Reading.
C. Bill No. 4 – 2013 – Adopting Salary – Controller
The Clerk read Bill No. 4 – 2013 – Adopting Salary – Controller, sponsored by Mr. DiGiacinto and Mr. Recchiuti, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA,
ESTABLISHING THE SALARY OF THE CONTROLLER.
Ms. Dolan, affirming the salary is the same as the Controller’s
salary for 2013, commented it is in keeping with the salaries
of other similar Third Class Cities and populations.
Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. DiGiacinto, and Mr. Evans, 6. Bill No. 4 – 2013 was passed on First Reading.
D. Bill No. 5 – 2013 – Adopting Salary – Treasurer
The Clerk read Bill No. 5 – 2013 – Adopting Salary – Treasurer, sponsored by Mr. DiGiacinto and Mr. Recchiuti, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA,
ESTABLISHING THE SALARY OF THE TREASURER.
Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. DiGiacinto, and Mr. Evans, 6. Bill No. 5 – 2013 was passed on First Reading.
E. Bill No. 6 – 2013 – Authorizing 2013 GO Bond – Non-Utility Capital Projects; 2001 Landfill Bond - Refinancing
The Clerk read Bill No. 6 – 2013 – Authorizing 2013 GO Bond – Non-Utility Capital Projects; 2001 Landfill bond – Refinancing, sponsored by Mr. DiGiacinto and Mr. Reynolds, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM, LEHIGH
AND NORTHAMPTON COUNTIES, PENNSYLVANIA, AUTHORIZING THE ISSUANCE
OF ITS GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS, SERIES A OF 2013 (THE “SERIES
A BONDS”) IN THE AGGREGATE PRINCIPAL AMOUNT OF $[______________]
AND FEDERALLY TAXABLE GENERAL OBLIGATION REFUNDING BONDS,
SERIES B OF 2013 (THE “SERIES B BONDS”) IN THE
AGGREGATE PRINCIPAL AMOUNT OF $[___________] (TOGETHER THE
“BONDS”) PURSUANT TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNIT
DEBT ACT (THE “ACT”); PROVIDING THE PROCEEDS OF
THE SERIES A BONDS SHALL BE APPLIED TO FUNDING OF CERTAIN
CITY IMPROVEMENTS PROCEEDS OF THE SERIES B BONDS SHALL BE
APPLIED TO CARRY OUT THE REFUNDING OF THE REMAINING OUTSTANDING
BETHLEHEM AUTHORITY GUARANTEED FEDERALLY TAXABLE LEASE REVENUE
BONDS, SERIES OF 2001 (THE “2001 BONDS”), SETTING
FORTH THE ESTIMATED USEFUL LIFE OF CITY IMPROVEMENTS, AND
THE IMPROVEMENTS FINANCED BY THE PRIOR LEASE REVENUE BONDS;
COMBINING THE BONDS FOR SALE AND DETERMINING THAT SUCH SALE
SHALL BE A PRIVATE SALE UNDER THE ACT, AND DETERMINING THAT
DEBT EVIDENCED BY THE BONDS SHALL BE NONELECTORAL DEBT OF
THE CITY; FIXING THE INTEREST PAYMENT DATES, DENOMINATIONS
AND REGISTRATION, TRANSFER AND EXCHANGE PRIVILEGES OF THE
BONDS AND PROVIDING FOR BOOK ENTRY BONDS THROUGH DEPOSITORY
TRUST COMPANY; SETTING FORTH THE MATURITY DATES, PRINCIPAL
MATURITIES AND CURRENT INTEREST RATES OF EACH SERIES OF BONDS
AND ESTABLISHING A REQUIRED SCHEDULE OF PAYMENTS WITH RESPECT
TO THE SINKING FUNDS, AS HEREINAFTER ESTABLISHED, IN ORDER
TO AMORTIZE THE BONDS; ESTABLISHING THE REDEMPTION PROVISIONS
OF THE BONDS, BOTH OPTIONAL AND MANDATORY; ESTABLISHING THE
NOTICE REQUIREMENTS WITH RESPECT TO THE REDEMPTION OF THE
BONDS; ACCEPTING A BID FOR PURCHASE OF THE BONDS AND AUTHORIZING
EXECUTION OF THE BOND PURCHASE AGREEMENT; DESIGNATING A PAYING
AGENT AND REGISTRAR; DESIGNATING A PLACE AND METHOD OF PAYMENT
OF THE BONDS AND INTEREST THEREON AND MAKING CERTAIN COVENANTS
WITH RESPECT TO THE TAX FREE STATUS OF THE SERIES A BONDS;
ESTABLISHING THE SUBSTANTIAL FORMS OF THE BONDS AND THE PAYING
AGENT’S CERTIFICATE RELATING THERETO; AUTHORIZING EXECUTION
AND AUTHENTICATION OF THE BONDS; PROVIDING FOR THE REGISTRATION
OF THE BONDS, THE MAINTENANCE OF RECORDS OF REGISTERED OWNERS
AND TRANSFER OF THE BONDS; DESIGNATING A SINKING FUND DEPOSITORY;
COVENANTING TO PAY THE PRINCIPAL OF AND INTEREST ON THE BONDS
AND PLEDGING THE FULL FAITH, CREDIT AND TAXING POWER OF THE
CITY TO SUCH PURPOSE; ESTABLISHING SINKING FUNDS FOR THE RESPECTIVE
SERIES OF BONDS AND AUTHORIZING AND DIRECTING PAYMENT THEREFROM;
SETTING FORTH CERTAIN PROVISIONS WITH RESPECT TO THE INVESTMENT
OF MONIES THEREIN; SETTING FORTH CERTAIN RIGHTS OF THE PAYING
AGENT AND BONDHOLDERS IN THE EVENT OF DEFAULT AND OTHER RIGHTS
OF THE PARTIES WITH RESPECT TO THE BONDS; PROVIDING FOR THE
CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH THE ORDINANCE MAY BE AMENDED OR
MODIFIED; [PROVIDING FOR THE TERMS, CONDITIONS AND COVENANTS
WITH RESPECT TO THE BOND INSURER, IF ANY, FOR THE BONDS;]
AUTHORIZING AND DIRECTING SPECIFIED OFFICERS OF THE CITY TO
DO AND PERFORM CERTAIN SPECIFIED, REQUIRED OR APPROPRIATE
ACTS; AUTHORIZING THE EXECUTION OF DOCUMENTS FOR SETTLEMENT
AND THE PAYMENT OF ISSUANCE EXPENSES; DECLARING THAT THE DEBT
TO BE INCURRED IS WITHIN THE LIMITATION IMPOSED BY THE ACT
UPON INCURRING OF SUCH DEBT BY THE CITY; AUTHORIZING AND DIRECTING
PROPER OFFICERS OF THE CITY TO DELIVER THE BONDS UPON EXECUTION
AND AUTHENTICATION THEREOF, UPON RECEIPT OF PROPER PAYMENT
OF THE BALANCE DUE THEREFOR, AND ONLY AFTER SPECIFIED APPROVAL,
AS REQUIRED, OF THE DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA; SETTING FORTH CERTAIN
COVENANTS RELATING TO THE FEDERAL TAX STATUS OF THE SERIES
A BONDS; PROVIDING FOR COMPLIANCE WITH SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE
COMMISSION RULE 15c2-12; COVENANTING TO PAY OVER AT SETTLEMENT
SUFFICIENT MONIES TO PROVIDE FOR THE PAYMENT OF THE 2001 BONDS
OF EACH SERIES TO BE REFUNDED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE REFUNDING
PROGRAM AND AUTHORIZING AND DIRECTING CERTAIN OTHER ACTIONS
AND APPROVING DOCUMENTATION WITH REGARD TO THE REFUNDING,
AND ESTABLISHING SINKING FUNDS FOR THE BONDS BEING REFUNDED;
PROVIDING FOR THE ISSUANCE OF IRREVOCABLE INSTRUCTIONS TO
THE PAYING AGENT FOR THE 2001 BONDS SUBJECT TO EARLY OPTIONAL
REDEMPTION TO CALL SAID BONDS FOR REDEMPTION ON CERTAIN SPECIFIED
DATES, ALL 2001 BONDS OF THE SERIES TO BE REFUNDED MATURING
THEREAFTER, AND ESTABLISHING THE FORM OF SUCH IRREVOCABLE
INSTRUCTIONS AND THE NOTICE OF REDEMPTION AND NOTICE OF REFUNDING;
[PROVIDING FOR NOTICE TO ANY BOND INSURER;] PROVIDING FOR
SEVERABILITY OF PROVISIONS OF THE ORDINANCE; PROVIDING FOR
REPEAL OF ALL ORDINANCES OR PARTS OF ORDINANCES SO FAR AS
THE SAME SHALL BE INCONSISTENT; PROVIDING WHEN THIS ORDINANCE
SHALL BECOME EFFECTIVE.
Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. DiGiacinto, and Mr. Evans, 6. Bill No. 6 – 2013 was passed on First Reading.
A. Approving Wind License and Wind Energy Lease Agreement – Atlantic Wind
Mr. Donchez and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution No. 2013 – 23 that approved the Bethlehem Authority moving forward with the execution of the Wind License and Wind Energy Lease with Atlantic Wind, LLC for the potential development of a wind energy project on lands of the Bethlehem Authority, according to the License and the Agreement.
Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds,
Mr. DiGiacinto, and Mr. Evans, 6. The Resolution passed.
B. Certificate of Appropriateness – 1304 Spring Street (Denial)
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution No. 2013 – 24 that denied a Certificate of Appropriate to demolish the house and barn at 1304 Spring Street.
Ms. Dolan, referring to the report from the City’s Code Officer, noted it lists what needs to be done to the building to bring it up to Code. She enumerated that among the items considered to be types of structural changes would be to make repairs at the chimney, repair floor in oil tank room, repair walls and ceilings for loose paint cracks and factions, and rebuild all short stairways. Ms. Dolan said, other than that, there is nothing in the report that requires substantial structural changes. In looking through the report, and having supervised the restoration of two historic structures and conducting restoration on two homes, Ms. Dolan commented she does not understand how the Historic Review Board can say this is inevitable, that it is dilapidated, or beyond repair. Ms. Dolan pointed out that the report states what needs to be done to repair the structure. She added that the items on the list could be done for much less than the estimates and could be done in-house. Ms. Dolan, affirming she visited the house but could not go inside, stressed it is not an insignificant house in the way it looks or in its history. Ms. Dolan continued on to say the house has a precious gable, has a front porch, elegant filigrees, it is a beautiful structure, and it fits in perfectly with the neighborhood. Ms. Dolan, remarking there is much potential for the building, stated she would not agree with knocking it down even if it was not a historic structure. Ms. Dolan said the building could be brought up to code or sold to someone who would be willing to keep it up, and would be a great home for a family in the neighborhood. Ms. Dolan, turning to the pictures, noted they show the present appearance of the house and surroundings and the appearance after removal of the house. Ms. Dolan communicated that the pictures convinced her further of the importance of the structure, and remarked that the exterior is in good shape but needs paint. She added that the carriage house is painted and designed in almost the same manner as the house, and is contiguous. Ms. Dolan stressed it is Council’s job to save historic structures. Ms. Dolan, highlighting the fact that the house is not condemned, informed the assembly that Illick’s Mill was a condemned structure and people were convinced that it could not be restored, but it was restored and is in use. Ms. Dolan advised she might vote to postpone this matter so that an understanding can be reached. Ms. Dolan stated she will not vote against the recommendation to protect the building.
Mr. DiGiacinto pointed out that Members of Council have spent time looking at the situation, studying it, trying to understand it, and talking to people about it. Mr. DiGiacinto expressed he is fairly confident that if a vote is taken tonight he is pretty sure how the vote will come out. Mr. DiGiacinto said his question and concern is, if the vote is in favor of denying the application to demolish the structures as presented, what happens next. He wondered whether the building would still stay there and not be fixed. Mr. DiGiacinto highlighted the fact that the proposed Landmarks and Historic District Ordinance does not cover the historic districts since it is applicable to buildings outside the historic districts. While noting the proposed Ordinance addresses demolition by neglect, Mr. DiGiacinto highlighted the fact that it does not fix this particular Certificate of Appropriateness issue. Mr. DiGiacinto commented he would make a motion to postpone the vote on the Resolution until the March 19 City Council Meeting in order for the parties to discuss what can be done. Mr. DiGiacinto stated he will ask the President of Council, and with the help of the Department of Community and Economic Development, to possibly intervene in the situation over the next 30 days.
Mr. Reynolds, confirming he attended the Historic Conservation Commission meeting regarding this matter, said he listened to the arguments and the process. Mr. Reynolds said it is clear that the strategy has been to let the building continue to deteriorate until there is no choice but to come down. Mr. Reynolds communicated that the process followed has not been one that the City, the Historic Conservation Commission, and the neighbors are comfortable with, except the people who want to take the building down. Expressing that, as Ms. Dolan said, Council’s job is to protect neighborhoods, Mr. Reynolds commented that approving the request to demolish the structures would be taking the City in the opposite direction. Denoting that the vote of the Historic Conservation Commission was not unanimous, Mr. Reynolds observed that the vote of the Commission still involves Council weighing in on tearing something down. While expressing his understanding of Mr. DiGiacinto’s thought to postpone the vote on the Resolution, Mr. Reynolds thought it sends the wrong message to the neighbors and people who do business in the City in the way institutions interact with the citizens. Mr. Reynolds expressed the hope that at some point an agreement can be reached as far as the best way to move forward in the neighborhood. Mr. Reynolds said he will be voting no if there is motion to postpone the vote, but he will also be voting to deny the demolition that was requested by the applicant and instead agree with the Historic Conservation Commission’s recommendation to deny the demolition.
Mr. Donchez stated he would vote tonight to oppose the demolition of the building. Confirming there are historical boards that have been created that come to City Council with recommendations, Mr. Donchez highlighted the fact that the Historic Conservation Commission’s recommendation came to City Council which was to deny the request to demolish the structures. Mr. Donchez, commenting it is a neighborhood issue, expressed the belief that demolition will have a negative impact on the neighborhood both presently and in the future. Mr. Donchez communicated it is an issue of preservation of neighborhoods, and quality of life in neighborhoods. Mr. Donchez concurred with Mr. DiGiacinto’s comments that City Council needs to look at a demolition by neglect ordinance as it would apply City-wide since the issue may come up more in the future. Mr. Donchez restated he will vote to reaffirm the decision of the Historic Conservation Commission that is to deny the applicant’s request to demolish the structures.
Mr. Recchiuti, pointing out that the City has historic boards that review these matters and who are trained, commented that the historic boards do the heavy lifting and Council has to recognize their decisions. Mr. Recchiuti confirmed that the Historic Conservation Commission’s decision by a 4 to 3 vote was to deny the request to demolish the structures. Mr. Recchiuti noted that voting tonight to affirm that decision would be in the best interest of the neighborhood. He continued on to say even if there are further discussions about the building it shows support to the neighbors that City Council is on their side. Mr. Recchiuti stated he will be voting to affirm the decision of the Historic Conservation Commission to deny the request to demolish the structures, and that he does not support postponing the vote.
Ms. Dolan, denoting that the building is not condemned, said it is not inevitable that it will have to come down, and if it were it would have been in the report from the Code Inspector. Instead, the Code Inspector provided a list for how to return the building to occupancy. Ms. Dolan, while expressing her thought that Council will uphold the opinion of the Historic Conservation Commission, pointed out that perhaps in the next several weeks there could be movement towards putting some teeth in the amendments for certain neighborhoods. Ms. Dolan continued on to say the City could be in the process of adding fines against owners who are participating in demolition by neglect. Ms. Dolan commented it might not be a bad idea to have those teeth in place when the opinion is issued that it should not be demolished. While noting that would be her reasoning for postponing the vote, Ms. Dolan stated it does not make any difference because in the long run a demolition permit will not be allowed to be issued for the building.
Mr. DiGiacinto, acknowledging that he was going to make a motion to postpone, explained it does not sound like there are enough votes to carry it. Mr. DiGiacinto commented that if the vote is taken tonight he is fairly certain how it will turn out. Mr. DiGiacinto explained he was trying to extend an olive branch one more time for 30 days to see if someone can come to an agreement on how to handle the property going forward. However, Mr. DiGiacinto observed it does not seem that Council is in favor of that.
President Evans clarified that a vote of Aye will deny the Certificate of Appropriateness as recommended by the Historic Conservation Commission and the house and barn will not be demolished. The applicant’s request is to demolish the house and the barn. If the Members of Council find that the house and the barn should be demolished as requested by the applicant, then they would vote Nay.
Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. DiGiacinto, and Mr. Evans, 6.
Motion – Considering Resolutions as a Group
Mr. Recchiuti and Ms. Dolan moved to consider Resolutions 9 C through 9 O as a group. Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. DiGiacinto, and Mr. Evans, 6. The motion passed.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 535 Main Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution No. 2013 – 25 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a 2’ x 3’ sandwich board on the sidewalk in front of the store at 535 Main Street.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 425 Center Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution No. 2013 – 26 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install new shutters on the large windows on the north and south sides of the house at 425 Center Street.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 123 East Church Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution No. 2013 – 27 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a handrail at the exterior steps at 123 East Church Street.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 65 West Market Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution No. 2013 – 28 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to construct an in-ground pool at 65 West Market Street.
G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 257 E. Church Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution No. 2013 – 29 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace existing fence and gate at 257 East Church Street.
H. Certificate of Appropriateness – 567 Main Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution No. 2013 – 30 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a sandwich board sign at 567 Main Street.
I. Certificate of Appropriateness – 452 North. New Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution No. 2013 – 31 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a downspout to conceal A/C piping on the gable end of the house at 452 North New Street.
J. Certificate of Appropriateness – 546 Main Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution No. 2013 – 32 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to place table and chairs at 546 Main Street for outdoor seating.
K. Certificate of Appropriateness – 56 West Market Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution No. 2013 – 33 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install radon mitigation piping and fan at 56 West Market Street, Condo #6.
L. Certificate of Appropriateness – 258 East Market Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution No. 2013 – 34 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to change the storm windows and cedar shingles at 258 East Market Street.
M. Certificate of Appropriateness – 247 East Market Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution No. 2013 – 35 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to include faux windows covered by shutters on the west elevation and slight adjustment to window size and placement at 247 East Market Street.
N. Certificate of Appropriateness – 79 West Church Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution No. 2013 – 36 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace two existing gable single window dormers with two new triple window shed dormers at 79 West Church Street
O. Certificate of Appropriateness – 61 West Lehigh Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution No. 2013 – 37 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the exterior decorative string lighting at 61 West Lehigh Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 9 C through 9 O: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. DiGiacinto, and Mr. Evans, 6. The Resolutions passed.
10. NEW BUSINESS.
11. PUBLIC COMMENT
Todd Dietrich, 2337 Woodcrest Avenue, recalling the Budget Hearing meeting when trash hauling was discussed, said if he recalls correctly there was some sentiment that Council did not feel it was appropriate to include it in the Budget and rejected it. He also remembered hearing an opinion that more information was needed. Mr. Dietrich noted he has seen things published in the Express-Times newspaper and other news sources that the Administration has received bids for the single trash hauler. Mr. Dietrich said it is also his understanding that Council does not feel it should be discussed despite the fact that bids have been received and there is quite of bit of information that should be considered to reopen this. Mr. Dietrich, stating that he knows there are people on Council running for various offices and it may not be politically expedient to make a hard decision like this, expressed his belief that it is in the best interest of the City for Council to add this to a future agenda so it does not get forgotten. Mr. Dietrich requested that Council consider adding the single trash hauler issue to a future agenda.
St. Joseph’s Church
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, reminded the Members of Council that on the South Side of Bethlehem on Fifth Street there is an old historic building which is known as St. Joseph’s Church. Mr. Antalics affirmed that parishioners were told by the Vatican that the Church would remain open only on celebratory days like St. Joseph’s Day. Mr. Antalics informed the assembly that on Saturday, March 16th everyone is cordially invited to celebrate this historic church for celebratory mass at 12:00 Noon, and added it would be nice to see support.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:20 p.m.