2013-11-7 Council Minutes

MINUTES
HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL
REGULAR MEETING
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2013

Call to Order:  Council met in regular session on Thursday, November 7, 2013 in Council Chambers. The meeting was called to order at 5:40 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 3, 2013, October 1, 2013, and October 17, 2013 regular meetings were approved unanimously.

Proclamations/Communications:  None.

Courtesy of the Floor: Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton commented on Resolution 2013-100. She said that parking is a big problem in downtown Hazleton. She stated that a majority of the meters are missing, and people are parking on the old Greco lot and the old post office lot without permission. Deakos commented how can the City enforce the parking laws when some people are paying to park and other are not.

Judy Yurcho, 21st and Locust Streets, Hazleton commented on Resolution 2013-103. She commented that the City is “dipping into the same well.” She said we need to find another source of revenue. Yurcho asked if the City is on track to be “in the black.” She stated that the City cannot continue to keep “hitting the taxpayers.” She suggested taxing the renters by charging them a $25.00 per month service fee for emergency services. Yurcho commented that the taxpayers cannot afford to pay any more taxes.              

Old Business:

ORDINANCES

Ordinance 2013-21 Amending Ordinance 2013-10 entitled An Ordinance Regulating the Issuance of Customer Parking Only, Patient Parking Only, Patient Loading and Uploading Only, Loading Zone Signs, and Any Other Related Signs; Providing for Application Review and procedures for Issuance of Customer Parking Only, Patient Parking Only, Patient Loading and Unloading Only, Loading Zone Signs, and Any Other Related Signs; and Renewal of Customer Parking Only, Patient Parking Only, Patient Loading and Unloading Only, Loading Zone, and Any other Related Signs in the City of Hazleton (2nd Reading)

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Bast.

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

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Ordinance 2013-21 Amending Ordinance 2013-10 entitled An Ordinance Regulating the Issuance of Customer Parking Only, Patient Parking Only, Patient Loading and Uploading Only, Loading Zone Signs, and Any Other Related Signs; Providing for Application Review and procedures for Issuance of Customer Parking Only, Patient Parking Only, Patient Loading and Unloading Only, Loading Zone Signs, and Any Other Related Signs; and Renewal of Customer Parking Only, Patient Parking Only, Patient Loading and Unloading Only, Loading Zone, and Any other Related Signs in the City of Hazleton (3rd Reading)

Presented by Schadder. Seconded by Perry.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES

             

RESOLUTIONS

None.

             

New Business:

ORDINANCES

None.

             

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution 2013-100 Appointing a Designated Parking Enforcement Officer for the City of Hazleton

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Schadder.

On the Question:

Mope stated that we need to address the meter situation mentioned earlier by Deakos, before proceeding with appointing more parking enforcement officers. Perry asked when the City will be taking over the Parking Authority. Hahn replied December 31, 2013.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES

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Resolution 2013-101 Authorizing the Director of Administration to Adjust Records – Refund of 2013 City Property Taxes

Presented by Schadder. Seconded by Bast.

On the Question:

Schadder asked if this is a residence, and Bast responded yes. Schadder told the audience that homeowners can appeal an assessment with the county if you think you are paying too much. There is a committee set up to review the appeals. Schadder said the information is on the City’s website.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES

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Resolution 2013-102 Resolution Authorizing the Mayor to Execute the Addendum to Master Services and Economic Development Agreement between the Hazleton City Authority and the City of Hazleton

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Mundie.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES

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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

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Bast.

On the Question:

Bast asked who worked on the development of the fee. Hahn stated he and Dominic Yannuzzi used a specific formula, which was already presented to Council a while ago. He stated there are about 10,000 tax parcels in the City, and about 20,000 ERUs. If all of them are collected, it would come to about $511,000. Mundie asked about the cost to an average household. Hahn replied that was based on a typical 32' by 200' lot, when applying the formula comes out to $26.27. Hahn said a 0% pervious lot will be equivalent to 2 ERUs. Perry commented that the biggest cost will be to the hospital. Hahn said that should also include the shopping centers. Mope felt that this is anti-taxpayer friendly and anti-business friendly. Hahn said that this is in compliance with the Ordinance. Perry said this was introduced so as not to have a large tax increase or the cutting of services. This way it is spread out over everyone, including non-profits. Hahn explained that on the revenue side, the $8.46 million should be close to being collected without the stormwater fee. The expenses side will go over budget, so it will not balance. He the Highway Department will be over budget by $100,000 and the Fire Department will be over $120,000. Mundie asked if this was all overtime. Hahn said it is mostly overtime, but things such as vehicle repairs are in there as well. Mope asked about the Streets Department. Hahn said there is a good bit of overtime for them in the winter season. Mope asked if we are being reimbursed by the Airport for the work performed there by the Streets Department. Hahn replied yes. Schadder asked when the bills for this will be going out. Hahn said within the next few weeks. He discussed this with the Tax Office and the County’s Data Processing Office. Schadder asked how long residents would have to pay this. Hahn replied it is typically 45-60 days. Perry asked about a collection agency. Hahn said maybe it could be done in house, or maybe have Northeast Revenue do it. This will need to be addressed as soon as possible. Perry asked if this is a yearly fee, and Hahn responded yes. Schadder felt this fee will not be collected by the end of the year. Perry asked if this was placed in next year’s budget, and Hahn replied yes. Both Perry and Bast asked for examples of how the fee will be determined from Hahn. Hahn said he could have it by Tuesday or Wednesday. Perry made a motion to table the Resolution, and Bast seconded the motion.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Bast.

Roll Call (on Motion to Table):  Bast-yes; Mope-no; Mundie-no; Schadder-yes; Perry-yes

RESOLUTION TABLED 3-2

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Resolution 2013-104 Appointments to Junior Council

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Mope.

On the Question:

Mundie said that Cory Student was one of the applicants for Junior Council, but he could not be placed on the Junior Council because he lives in Hazle Township. He asked Shema to contact Student and tell him he is free to attend the Council meetings any time he wants to.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES

             

Comments from the Audience:  Sylvia Thomas, 409 West 6th Street, Hazleton asked when any Council member has driven down Alter Street lately. She said the criminal element in that area is very bad, and something needs to be done right away. Thomas said we need to work together to bring the City back to what it was. She stated she has a petition for surveillance cameras, and asked everyone to sign it. Thomas commented that Mundie stands up for the people and that is why he is sitting on Council. Mope said that Council placed money in CD’s budget for cameras. Perry commented that the federal government process is very slow. Mundie suggested everyone contact their congressman about this.

Judy Darrow, no address given, said the parking garage on Wyoming Street is falling apart. An overhead light fell down right in front of her vehicle. The junction boxes are rusted, there are holes in the floor, and you can see to the next level. When it rains, the water just pours in. Schadder said it is not fair that people have to pay to park there under those conditions. Darrow said she spoke to someone at the Parking Garage and they told her the City is taking it over. She called the Mayor’s office but received no response. She said that metal brackets are rusted through, and chunks of caulking and cement are falling onto the cars. Darrow said she is afraid someone is going to get hurt. Mundie asked Wech to look at the parking garage. Wech said Yannuzzi would have to do that as the City Engineer. Mope questioned the money that was moved to improve the Wyoming Street Garage. Hahn said the work on the garage is going out to bid. Yannuzzi said that the bids are due in December. Hahn said there is a company coming in to work on the lighting. Darrow said kids have been throwing chunks of cement on the cars. She also found used hypodermic needles under her car. Hahn said the City does not own the parking garage at this time, and we will not own it under January 1, 2014. He told her to speak to their maintenance person. Mope asked Hahn to contact the Parking Authority about this matter, and Hahn said he would do that. He said he will also look into the issues of the meter heads and retrofitted lighting.

Grace Cuozzo, 948 James Street, Hazleton asked if the new Parking Enforcement Officer is part-time or full-time, and what his rate is. Perry said he is part-time, but he does not know what his rate is. Hahn said all the Resolution does is give him the authority to write tickets. He is an employee of the Parking Authority. Cuozzo said before the City takes over the Parking Authority, it will need to be voted on by Council. She said Council should receive a list of their assets prior to voting on it. Cuozzo commented that with the current condition of the parking garage, the City she reconsider taking this on. Perry said they will have the Solicitor look into the matter. Hahn said the Parking Authority voted to dissolve, as per Attorney Klemow. Mope said Attorney Klemow told Council that the deeds were just being researched, and now we here that the City is taking the Parking Garage over. She said we need to see their assets and liabilities before taking it over.

Judy Yurcho, Locust Street, Hazleton said Council approved a grant to put a walkway in from the Broad Street Business Exchange to the Wyoming Street Parking Garage. She said if the garage is in such bad condition, this is going to be a “bridge to nowhere.” She asked if this is going to cost the taxpayers anything. Bast responded that the funds are coming from an LSA grant. Money was shifted from the robotic garage to fix the parking garage. Hahn said there is $1.6 million available for repairs. Yurcho was concerned that the money for the stormwater fee and timbering is not going to be collected this year. Hahn said that we should get close to collecting $8.6 million in revenue without those items. He said the expenses may exceed the revenue by several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yurcho commented that the City needs to work with what it has, and stop overspending. Hahn stated that the stormwater fee was put in place by Council, and he is required to implement it as per the Ordinance. Yurcho was concerned about the current outstanding loan. Hahn said we still have two loans, one for $7.7 million and one for $5.5 million, and we also have some outstanding bonds. Yurcho said the City should be going after the renters and try to bring in more business. She said we need to hire more police officers. Yurcho commented that Council needs to tell the Mayor no. Perry asked Yurcho if she in favor of laying people off in order to make the budget work. Yurcho replied that she just wants everything to work out, and she is not saying that people need to be laid off. She added that the City needs to find other sources of revenue.

Jeff Cusat, 741 Alter Street, Hazleton said the residents would like the police force increased, but no tax increase. He said he has some ideas to share. He was concerned about the stormwater fee and timbering not being collected yet. He said the budget should be turned back over to Mayor to redo. Cusat said the stormwater fee should be used for storm sewer repairs, street repairs, and snowplowing. He said by putting money aside for snowplowing, we can eliminate the need for overtime in the winter months. He said he is looking into having the HCA house the Streets Department, so the Highway Garage could then be sold. Cusat suggested eliminating the position of Assistant Foreman in the Streets Department to save money. He said he is agreeable to hiring more police officers, if the Police Chief and the Mayor are agreeable to giving something up in return. Cusat said we need to hire part-time Code Enforcement Officer to work nights and weekends. He also suggested setting up a hotline for the Police Department for nonemergency issues. He commented that “we cannot keep pushing people out of town.” He said the City needs to look out for its residents.

Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton stated she lives across the street from the Parking Garage. She has called the police over the years when she sees suspicious activity, and the police do not come. She said this is a big part of the problem with the garage. Deakos commented that she does not feel safe in there, and she will not park in there.

Chris Hassicks(?), no address given, suggested purchasing vest cameras for the police officers. He asked if anyone looked into this yet. Hassicks said he has seen police officers sitting in their marked police cars not doing anything. He said he recently saw one officer sitting in Auto Zone’s parking lot reading the newspaper. If they are “on the clock,” they need to be patrolling. Hassicks commented that we are all part of the problem. He asked why it took someone to die before the community got together. He said he has seen racist remarks being left on the support pages for the Hazleton Police Department on Facebook. He commented that we are all immigrants to this country, and we are “just as bad as everyone else.”

Comments from Mayor or City Administrator:  None.

Comments from Council:  Mope thanked everyone for coming. She said these diverse opinions are healthy, and a lot of things discussed tonight will be looked into. She said we need to look into how to spend the seizure money. Mope commented that we need to find other ways instead of taxing people. She felt the stormwater fee may hurt us with regard to the hospital. She also thanked all of the City departments for their hard work.

Mundie said the previous administrations let the new councilmembers sit in on the budget talks. He asked Hahn if that is possible. Mundie thanked everyone for coming.

Bast thanked everyone for coming and stating their opinions. He said he looked into charging renters a service about a year and a half ago, and he discovered that the State of Pennsylvania does not allow us to charge them. He congratulated the winners of the recent election, and said he looks forward to working with them.

Schadder said he arranged for a presentation this past summer on the topic of the elimination of property taxes. He said we need a better and fairer way of taxing residents. Schadder said everyone cannot just sit back and complain, you need to get out and have your voice be heard. He said the health of our residents is a priority, and the condition of the parking garage is “inexcusable.” He thanked everyone for coming and encouraged more people to attend the Council meetings.

Perry thanked everyone for coming and congratulated the winners of the recent election. He said he would like to see a lot of these problems be solved. He said we all come here because we care about the City and its residents. Perry said there are a lot of good, hard-working people in the City. He also asked everyone to thank a veteran on Monday for Veteran’s Day.

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

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