2013-11-21 Council Minutes

MINUTES
HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL
REGULAR MEETING
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2013

Call to Order:  Council met in regular session on Thursday, November 21, 2013 in Council Chambers. The meeting was called to order at 5:30 p.m.

Silent Meditation and Pledge of Allegiance:  A silent moment was taken followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

Roll Call:  Bast-present; Mope-present; Mundie-present; Schadder-present; Perry-present

Minutes of Previous Meetings:  The minutes of the September 19, 2013 and November 7, 2013 regular meetings were approved unanimously.

Proclamations/Communications:  None.

At this point, the new Junior Council members for the 2013-2014 school year were given the Oath of Office, and took their seats next to Council. The Junior Council is Sabrina Ettinger, Melissa Ruth Irizarry, Pamela Rodriguez, Joseph Habel, and Joel Aaron Soto.

Courtesy of the Floor: Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton commented on Resolution 2013-103. She said that Ordinances are supposed to be amended by Ordinances and not Resolutions. She said this needs more work before passing, because it still has not been established what areas have storm sewers and which ones do not.

Grace Cuozzo, 948 James Street, Hazleton commented on Ordinance 2013-24, and asked if the stated rates are correct. She said these rates were changed mid-year, and these do not seem right.

David Sosar, 338 West 7th Street, Hazleton congratulated the Junior Council members on their appointments. Sosar commented on the budget. He said there needs to be a lot more work done on the budget. Some numbers seem “inflated.” He added that it is hard to keep track of what is going in and out of the general fund. Sosar said the format of the budget is hard to understand and there is no narrative included. He stated some of the numbers are hard to understand, and it is very complicated. He hoped Council would be receiving some type of explanation from the Administration. Sosar said that longevity needs to be clarified, and said he is not sure what is meant by “incentives.” He commented that Council needs to have clear and precise information on the budget before proceeding further. He said he is interested in the City of Hazleton, and everyone needs to make an effort to deal with the budget. Council needs to ask a lot of questions and get clarifications. Sosar added that a cost analysis should have been completed with regard to the Stormwater Management Ordinance in order for everyone to make a clear decision on this.

             

Old Business:

ORDINANCES

None.

             

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution 2013-103 A Resolution Establishing a Stormwater Collection and Management Plan Fee regarding Ordinance 2013-13 Entitled an Ordinance of the City of Hazleton, Pennsylvania Establishing a Stormwater Collection and Management Plan

Motion to Remove from Table:

Presented by Bast. Seconded by Mundie.

Roll Call (on Motion to Remove from Table):  Bast-yes; Mope-yes; Mundie-yes; Schadder-yes; Perry-yes

RESOLUTION REMOVED FROM TABLE

Presented by Bast. Seconded by Schadder.

On the Question:

Schadder said at the last meeting Council asked for a list of specific examples but never received them. Hahn said that Yannuzzi sent some over but did not provide visuals. Schadder said from what he has determined someone with a half an acre would pay $102, and Hahn agreed. Hahn said commercial would pay $56.80 and downtown commercial would pay $75.75. Schadder asked if anyone is looking for grants to care for the storm sewers, and Hahn replied no. Hahn said there are some Pennvest loans, but he is not aware of any grants. Schadder said Council needs to see specific examples, and to look into grants. He said the City owns a portion of the storm sewers, but not all of them. He added that the Department of Environmental Protection says that we need to take care of these. Hahn said it has not yet been determined who is responsible for what. Perry commented that some of the storm sewers are very bad compared to others. Hahn stated he came to this fee in order to meet the $500,000 placed in the budget. Perry said Council’s intent was to spread this out over everyone, and not just the homeowners. This will include nonprofits, renters, etc. He said this will help with the paving of the roads. Perry said that he spoke to several people who live on 15th Street, and they do not have storm sewers, therefore, they do not want to pay for them. Mundie commented that Perry is the one that put this in the budget, and now he is leaving this up to the incoming Council. Mope said that the Administration has had months to get information and ask questions. She said that the inlets belong to the Hazleton City Authority and are not taken care of by the City. She added that some were supposed to have been separated, but were never done. Schadder said the Sewer Authority is still trying to come up with who owns what. He has talked to a lot of the residents about this, and he feels we need to look at alternative solutions. Mundie commented that this “mess” is being left to us, and we need to fix it. Mundie asked Hahn if we need the $500,000 to balance the budget, and Hahn replied yes. Schadder said that everyone had the opportunity to come up with ideas and bring them to the table. Mundie said he had discussed selling the Water Authority land, but no one was interested in doing that. Schadder said he understood the need to sell it, but no one wanted to buy it at the time. Mundie commented that the land needs to be marketed differently in order to sell it.

Roll Call:  Bast-yes; Mope-no; Mundie-no; Schadder-no; Perry-no

RESOLUTION FAILS 4-1

             

New Business:

ORDINANCES

Ordinance 2013-22 An Ordinance Providing for the Appropriation of Specific Amounts Estimated as Required for the Various Departments of the Government of the City of Hazleton, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania for and during the Fiscal Year, Dating from January 1, 2014 and Ending December 31, 2014 (1st Reading)

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Bast.

Roll Call:  Bast-no; Mope-no; Mundie-no; Schadder-no; Perry-no

ORDINANCE FAILS

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Ordinance 2013-23 Re-Enacting Ordinances 1931, 1932, and 1933, which Continue in Force and Effect for the Period January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014, Imposing the Real Estate Tax, Earned Income Tax, Per Capita Tax, and Resident Tax, Respectively (1st Reading)

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Bast.

Roll Call:  Bast-no; Mope-yes; Mundie-yes; Schadder-no; Perry-no

ORDINANCE FAILS 3-2

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Ordinance 2013-24 An Ordinance Amending Ordinances 1878, 1932, 88-52, and 2004-38, Providing for Assessment Levy, and Collection of a Tax for General Municipal Purposes and Imposing Additional Tax for the Sole Purpose of Funding Required Benefits to be Paid to or on Behalf of Pension Recipients Pursuant to Act 205, known as the Municipal Pension Plan Funding Standard and Recovery Act, which is Directly Related to the Pension Plan of the City of Hazleton (1st Reading)

Presented by Schadder. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Mundie asked if there were any changes to this Ordinance. Hahn said no, everything stayed the same as last year.

Roll Call:  Bast-no; Mope-yes; Mundie-yes; Schadder-yes; Perry-no

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Ordinance 2013-25 Re-Enacting Realty Transfer Tax Provisions Pursuant to Article XI-D of the Tax Reform Code of 1971, and Authorizing the Department of Revenue of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to Determine, Collect, and Enforce the Tax, Interest, and Penalties (1st Reading)

Presented by Bast. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Mundie asked if there were any changes to this Ordinance. Hahn said no, everything stayed the same as last year.

Roll Call:  Bast-yes; Mope-yes; Mundie-yes; Schadder-yes; Perry-yes

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Ordinance 2013-26 An Ordinance Amending Ordinance 88-14, Re-Enacting the Mercantile and Business Privilege Tax for the Period of January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014 (1st Reading)

Presented by Bast. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Mundie asked if there were any changes to this Ordinance. Hahn said no, everything stayed the same as last year. Schadder said he would like to see this tax being removed permanently because it is not “business friendly.” Mundie said that if we did that, it would put us further in the hole, probably about $1 million. Perry asked how much of this tax was collected so far this year. Hahn said we usually collect about $450,000, but it is a difficult tax to track. So far this year, we have received about $420,000, but some are exempt from paying. Mundie asked Hahn to check with Berkheimer and see if the property across from Jimmy’s Quick Lunch is on the tax rolls. Hahn said he would do that.

Roll Call:  Bast-yes; Mope-yes; Mundie-yes; Schadder-no; Perry-yes

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Ordinance 2013-27 An Ordinance of the City of Hazleton Fixing the Tax Rate of Real Estate Located in the City of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, for All City Purposes for the Fiscal Year 2014, Beginning January 1, 2014 and Ending December 31, 2014 (1st Reading)

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Mundie asked if there were any changes to this Ordinance. Hahn said no, everything stayed the same as last year. The millage will stay at 4.51 mills.

Roll Call:  Bast-no; Mope-yes; Mundie-yes; Schadder-no; Perry-no

ORDINANCE FAILS 3-2

             

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution 2013-105 Award of Contract for 2013-2014 Winter Emergency Snow Removal Equipment

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Bast.

On the Question:

Bast asked if this was the only bidder, and Hahn responded yes. Bast asked how this compares to last year, and Hahn said he did not know. Mundie said he does not like approving a bid when there was only one bid received. He asked if any other municipalities have used this company. Hahn said having only one bidder for this is “surprising,” and unusual. Hahn said this is the same company we used last year. He stated that this company will only be used in an emergency. The last time we needed to use them was about four years ago.

Roll Call:  Bast-yes; Mope-yes; Mundie-yes; Schadder-yes; Perry-yes

RESOLUTION PASSES

             

Comments from the Audience:  Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton said St. Joseph’s Hospital was only to be tax exempt until it was sold. She researched the matter and the deed said it could only be sold to a nonprofit organization. Hahn said it has been placed back on the tax rolls since it is no longer being used as a hospital. Mope asked why they were not being taxed, and Hahn said because they were a nonprofit hospital. Mope said someone should check into this clause in the deed.

Grace Cuozzo, 948 James Street, Hazleton said Broad Street looks “gorgeous” with all the Christmas lights. She asked what happened to the former streetlights from Broad Street. Hahn said they may be at the Highway Garage, and he will check on that. She said those streetlights would look nice around City Hall. Perry asked if PennDOT may have purchased them from us. Hahn said they were not sold to them. Mope said we could have sold those lights and used the money to buy LED lights.

Comments from Mayor or City Administrator:  Hahn said Council had discussed having a work session to go over the budget, but nothing was ever scheduled. He said he will provide a detailed description on some of the items in the budget, but some are hard to determine. Hahn said he was reviewing the contract for the collection of delinquent taxes, and it expires in June of 2014. He suggested putting out a Request for Proposals next year for the collection of taxes. Hahn said the mercantile tax and the per capita tax are a problem to collect.

Comments from Council:  Mope thanked Junior Council for their attendance and wished them luck. She said a difference of opinion is a good thing, and we need to discuss these things. She thanked the parents of the Junior Council members for allowing their children to get involved. Mope also thanked all of the departments for their hard work. She wished everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

Mundie said he expected some of the Council members not to vote for the stormwater fee. He commented that the $500,000 in the budget is Perry’s mess, but the new incoming Council will fix it. Mundie commented that it is a “slap in the face” for those who voted for him. He added that he had some ideas, but no one listened to him.

Bast congratulated Junior Council on their appointments. He also thanked their parents and everyone who came here tonight to support them. Bast said you should all be very proud of these students. He thanked John Paletski and Ray Bast for their years of service on the Zoning Hearing Board. He said they are both resigning tonight during their meeting. He thanked them for their time and the work they have done over the years. He wished everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Bast asked the media to speak with John Paletski and Ray Bast after their meeting. He said he would like to have a meeting just to discuss the budget.

Schadder said at the polls on election night that Mundie said he will vote to lower taxes, but he is not doing that. Mundie said he cannot do that now without these items. Schadder thanked Junior Council and congratulated them on their appointments. Schadder said that “contrary to popular belief,” he does not talk to the Mayor. He said there is a lack of communication in City Hall, and hopefully that will change in the near future. He said he hears a lot of complaints about Code Enforcement. Schadder said we need to “educate” people about the process of enforcing the City Codes. He said he voted yes for the Act 205 Ordinance because we are obligated to fund our pensions.

Perry told the Junior Council that if they have anything they want to contribute to please speak up. He commented that we are interested in hearing a student’s opinion on the matters currently going on in the City. He added that maybe they can be part of the solution. Perry thanked Junior Council for their service. He said he received a petition with over 160 signatures to add more police officer. He read the petition aloud. Perry said the citizens want lower taxes and increased safety. He said he appreciates all of the discussions we have had here tonight. He wished everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

Adjournment:  Perry motioned to adjourn the meeting with Bast seconding the motion. Meeting adjourned.

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