2013-12-5 Council Minutes

MINUTES
HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL
REGULAR MEETING
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2013

Call to Order:  Council met in regular session on Thursday, December 5, 2013 in Council Chambers. The meeting was called to order at 7:00 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 November 21, 2013 regular meeting were approved unanimously.

Proclamations/Communications:  None.

Courtesy of the Floor:  Sylvia Thomas stated the people of Hazleton are “stressed out.” The Mayor has threatened to no pay the police and fire departments, who keep the City safe. He threatened to layoff the Streets Department workers that keep our streets safe. Thomas said that treating employees like this is “inexcusable.” She said the elderly are worried about losing their homes, and property values have dropped. There are kids on drugs. Thomas said that the Administration spent $500,000 on stormwater expenses before receiving it. She asked Council to investigate to see where the money is going. Thomas asked the Mayor to change his ways. She commented that the people of Hazleton do not want this stormwater fee. She stated that the Mayor should be coming to the Council meetings to discuss these important issues. Thomas commented that the people of Hazleton cannot take two more years of this leadership.

Helen Jumpeter said she had a suggestion for acquiring money without layoffs. She said the Mayor and Council can impose a one-time indigent financial circumstances fee for 2014 only in the amount of $10 to $25. But, in order to determine the fee, Council needs to know exactly what is going on with the finances. She said the fee could be due and payable by April 1, 2014. Jumpeter said this may alleviate some of the City’s financial problems.

Judy Yurcho said Hahn said we were in the black a few weeks ago, and now the City is saying there will be layoffs. She stated that Hahn also said that stormwater and timbering were not in the budget. She said that the Mayor not being here is a “slap in the face.” Yurcho suggested laying off department heads and keep the workers. She said the people of Hazleton do not want the stormwater fee. She said the taxpayers do not have the money to pay it. Yurcho commented that every administration before this one has screwed this up. She said the Mayor spend the money before it was collected. She asked Council to say no to the Stormwater Ordinance. She stated that the Mayor did not feel this matter was important enough to attend tonight’s meeting.

Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton commented on the LSA grants. She asked why the City did not apply for the grant. Deakos said she reviewed the state’s website and the grant money can be used for paving streets, renovating municipal buildings, and the purchase of municipal vehicles. She said Butler Township was able to secure $150,000 to repair their roads. She asked why the City did not apply for grants for the sewers or police cars. Deakos commented that the Little League is a good thing, but there is a greater need elsewhere, such as fixing potholes, etc.

Lou Rossi, representing All American Girls Softball, said he has been with them for over 10 years. He said the LSA grant money they are applying for will be used to make improvements to the Northgate Recreation Complex.

Scott Burkhardt, representing the Hazleton Little League, said the LSA grant money they are applying for will be used for exterior renovations at the baseball complex. He said if it there was no Little League, 135 children would not have anything to do in the summer. He said they also have a league for disabled children. Burkhardt said some of the money would be used for to repair the lower fields that got washed away. He said they are working with Can-Do on this. Burkhardt stated that they are not taking any money away from the City. They are doing this without using any tax dollars.

Craig Budde commented on the stormwater fee. He said this issue needs to be resolved as soon as possible. Budde said that we need to find other ways to collect this money. He said Council had a whole year to prepare for this, but no one gets along. People drag their feet and that is why nothing gets done. Budde said the resolution regarding the LSA grant for the Little League should be passed. He added that the potholes need to be filled and the whole town needs to be cleaned up.

George Hayden of DHD Realty thanked the City for its support. He said they are going to renovate the former HNB Building. He added that they were very successful in filling the Markle Building with tenants. Hayden said that Hazleton Healthcare will be marketed to the new doctors coming in now that the merger with Lehigh Valley Health System is going through. Mundie asked about placing a stipulation in the resolution that provides for bringing in more jobs. Hayden said they will be bringing in more jobs.

Maryann McNeal of Pathways to Recovery, formerly Serento Gardens, said they are applying for an LSA grant to add new group rooms and a new elevator to the old M & T Bank building. They will also be adding mental health counseling at the new facility.

A gentleman who did not give his name said he has been a long-time resident of the City. He said the town is great, but there is too much negativity. The Little League and All American Girls Softball is very important to the community. He said people need to stop talking negatively about Hazleton. He was very disappointed that the Mayor was not at the meeting. He said the City needs to start running itself as a business. He commented that government is too wasteful. He is against the stormwater fee. One of the government’s jobs is to provide a safe and livable area for residents. He said there is a drug problem here, but that is all over the country, not just here. He commented that residents need to start getting involved in their community. He said everyone needs to learn to communicate with one another.

At this point, a presentation a presentation was given by Joe Pilla of ETA Benefits and Robin Richardson of Benecon regarding the City’s medical insurance. They manage Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans and provide a consortium to help pay for the claims. Richardson said this is called the Pennsylvania Municipal Health Insurance Cooperative. They provide affordable health insurance to employers. This is a collaborative plan with less administrative costs, and any money not spent goes back to the City. They will match the City’s existing plan design. There is more transparency as to where the money is being spent, etc. Pilla spoke about the various reports that will be made available. Mundie asked if there will be problems with the unions. Richardson said no. None of the plans change, and they just roll over. Perry asked who administers the plan, and Richardson said Benecon and Pilla from ETA Benefits. Bast asked what happens if there is a deficit in the plan, and Richardson responded that if there was a deficit, the City would receive help from its other members in the cooperative, if there is a surplus. The maximum amount that can be used from the surplus is 15%. She said that generally 1/3 of the cost is shared. Perry asked about the cost for this service. Richardson said there is nothing up front. At the end of the year, any surplus comes back to the City. Mundie asked how many members have left the cooperative since its inception. Richardson said there have been nine since 1991, but two of them came back. She added that there is also a county and school district cooperative. Schadder asked why this program is better than what we have. Richardson said with this program, a small amount is given to Blue Cross, but the City keeps the claim monies. She said they have a partnership agreement with Blue Cross and they negotiate the contracts with them. Mundie asked if the Water Authority or Sewer Authority was approached with regard to this option. Pilla said now that this is an option, they will approach them with this. Hahn said he had a number of phone calls with Benecon and ETA Benefits, and he feels it may be well worth it to become involved in this program. He said we had $2.1 million in health care costs this year. They would manage it for us so that we can pay the lowest possible dollar amount. The City may be able to recoup more money this way. Mundie asked about the renewal rates, and Richardson said the average yearly renewal rate is 5% to 8%. Mundie asked about the Affordable Health Care Act and its effect on the plan. Richardson said they need to make sure everything is in compliance. She said because the plan is self-funded, there is not as much of a health care tax. The City would be controlling expenses with self-funding. Hahn said the renewal date for the health insurance is not until July 1, 2014, but he wanted Council to have time to consider this. If the City enrolls in this program, it may take a few months to proceed and get things rolling. The City can enter into this plan at any time. Perry asked if a vote will be needed to proceed. Hahn said different things will come up that need to be voted on separately. Richardson said that the City would need to join this program with a vote from Council and enter into an agreement with Benecon and ETA Benefits. Mundie asked how long they have worked for Sugarloaf Township. Richardson replied eight years. Hahn said that there will not be instantaneous savings with this program, but the savings will be realized down the road.

             

Old Business:

ORDINANCES

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 (2nd Reading)

Presented by Schadder. Seconded by Perry.

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

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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 (3rd Reading)

Presented by Schadder. Seconded by Perry.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

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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 (2nd Reading)

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Mundie.

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

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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 (3rd Reading)

Presented by Bast. Seconded by Mundie.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

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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 (2nd Reading)

Presented by Bast. Seconded by Mundie.

Roll Call:  Bast-yes; Mope-yes; Mundie-yes; Schadder-no; 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 (3rd Reading)

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Mundie.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES 4-1

             

RESOLUTIONS

None.

             

**At this point, Perry made a motion to change the order of business in order to vote on Resolution 2013-109 regarding the fees for Stormwater Collection and Management Plan first. Bast seconded the motion.

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Bast.

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

MOTION TO CHANGE THE ORDER OF BUSINESS PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

             

  New Business:

ORDINANCES

Ordinance 2013-28 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 (BUDGET) (1st Reading)

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Bast.

On the Question:

Hahn said the debt fund was erroneously omitted from the budget. He gave all the Council members a new copy of the budget. Perry said he would like to make a motion to amend the budget by transferring the fund balance for commercial sewer transmission fees to sewer bonds. This will drop the tax rate. Perry commented that next year’s Council can amend it if they choose to. He said he and Schadder met with the Solicitor, the Auditor, and Hahn with regard to this matter. Perry asked for Slusser’s opinion, and Slusser said in this is legal, but it is up to Council whether or not to do it. Mundie was concerned that the audit was still not completed. Robert Moore of Dennis Moore & Associates, the Auditing Firm, said he has not received all of the information he requested from the Administration. He said he also needs information from Community Development. Moore said Albert Kishel, CPA, passed away recently, and that also set them behind because they were unable to get access to the information he had. Someone is currently transitioning into his position, but it is a slow process. Mope said they are always behind and that is unacceptable. She stated the 2011 audit was not received until 2013. Mope said she just found out that Perry and Schadder met with the auditors and the Administration, and stated that the other Council members should have been afforded the same opportunity. Schadder said he called everyone about this, but everyone’s jobs got in the way. He went to Administration to see the status of the City’s finances. He said he received many complaints about the handling of the City’s finances, and he thought it was the appropriate thing to do. Schadder also stated that he was hoping that residents would see lower taxes. Mope said that $1,145,741 was brought in, and transfers were not approved by Council. As of November 1, 2013, $647,632 is left and corrected with $425,000. Mope said that the City was put in a situation whereby it may have to lay off workers. Council was forced to pass a stormwater management fee so that the City can get a $500,000 loan. She said it should not have come to this. Perry commented that the stormwater and sewer fees cannot be combined. Moore said the figures are not the actual amount collected. They are rolling forward from the previous year, and the other amounts are current year revenues. Mope said the Don Wilkinson agency did not collect commercial sewer transmission fees for two years, which amounts to $428,250. Moore said that was deferred revenue at the time, and they are currently making those corrections. Mope asked about the transfers that were never approved, and Moore said that will be in the manager’s letter from his firm. The Administration should then come forward with an answer for Council. Mope said the City’s funds are not being tracked correctly. Moore said they are working on changes to the general ledger because it is very hard to follow. Things were netted and that should not have happened. Moore said it needs improvement and it is a work in progress. He said his firm made suggestions last year, but those changes were never instituted. Mope asked for an explanation of the amendment to the budget. Perry stated Slusser said his amendment is valid because the money was collected for the sewers. Mope asked what is the difference if the stormwater revenue or sewer revenue is used as collateral for a loan. Moore said any funds used for collateral have to sit there and cannot be used. Mundie asked about the sewer bonds and the amount owed. He asked what the rate is for the 2005 borrowing, and Hahn said about 4.3%. Moore said that funds were transferred out of the sewer fund because of past practice. Hahn said this needs a lot of research first. The 2003 bond was floated for sewer work. The 2005 bond matures in 2015. $2.6 million is owed to pay that off. Moore said that needs to be researched before paying off to see if the sewer transmission fee was used for other things. Moore did not recommend using the commercial sewer transmission fees sitting in the account. Mundie commented that Perry still wants to do this even after the auditor’s recommendations against it. Mundie asked Hahn if he recommended doing this. Hahn said that is a legal question and he cannot say what can and cannot be done with it. He talked this over with both Slusser and Moore. Slusser said it can be done, but the Mayor may object to it. Moore said $835,000 owed to J.P. Mascaro was absorbed by the HCA when the garbage collection accounts were turned over to them. Mope asked why we are rushing into this now. The new Council can redo it next year. Perry suggested just using a portion of the money in the fund instead of the whole thing. Moore said that decision would rest with Council. Hahn said the stormwater fee cannot be collected this year because it is too late. He suggested using the sewer transmission funds until the stormwater fees come in next year, and use that to repay the loan. Perry said when instituting the stormwater fee, he was looking to reduce taxes for the residents. He said this will save each taxpayer about $111.00 in taxes with this in the budget. Perry made a motion to amend the budget by transferring the fund balance for commercial sewer transmission fees to sewer bonds. Schadder seconded the motion.

Motion to Amend the Budget:

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Schadder.

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

MOTION TO AMEND BUDGET PASSES 3-2

Roll Call (as amended):  Bast-yes; Mope-no; Mundie-no; Schadder-yes; Perry-yes

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Ordinance 2013-29 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 Mundie.

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

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Ordinance 2013-30 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:

Bast asked if the budget is reduced, shouldn’t the debt service be reduces, which would then reduce taxes. Perry made a motion to reduce the debt service from 1.3 mills to 0.85 mills. Schadder seconded the motion.

Motion to Amend:

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Schadder.

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

MOTION TO AMEND PASSES

Roll Call (as amended):  Bast-yes; Mope-no; Mundie-no; Schadder-yes; Perry-yes

             

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution 2013-106 A Resolution Requesting a Local Share Account Grant for DHD Realty Holding, LLC

Presented by Bast. Seconded by Perry.

On the Question:

Mundie asked if we have to contribute any money for this. Hahn said no, we have no authority to do so. He added that some more people will be coming to Council at the next meeting with regard to the LSA grant. Perry asked if the City ever applied for this grant over the years. Hahn said yes. We can submit an application for road vehicles, police cars, etc., but it depends on the program. Mope commented that the spirit of this program was to help the taxpayers and lift some of the burden off of the municipalities. She said we have not been competing for this money like we should have been all along. She has nothing against anyone applying for the grant, but we need to look out for ourselves first due to our financial condition. Perry commented that everyone is trying to get some money out of the same pool.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES 4-1

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Resolution 2013-107 Resolution Permitting the City of Hazleton to Apply for a Luzerne County Local Share Account Grant on Behalf of the Hazleton Little League Association

Presented by Bast. Seconded by Perry.

On the Question:

Perry said the Little League does a great job and they need a lot of help up there. He said this should be supported because it gives the children something to do in the summer months. Hahn said the grant would be awarded to the City on behalf of the Little League, and we would collect it and give it to the grantee. He said we would collect an administrative fee, which would be paid out of the grant monies. This would consist of a moderate amount of administrative tasks, and needs to be included in the grant application. Hahn said there is $12 million available to Luzerne County. Last year there were 96 applicants. Only about 30% of those applicants receive any money. Hahn said it is not always funded to the full extent of the project.  They look for cooperatives and for companies that will be creating jobs. Hahn said all of these things are good projects. Mope said there have not been a lot of jobs created. Instead, they were just moved around. She said the same people are dipping into the pool over and over again. Mope commented that we need to get the word out about this. Hahn said the state scores the applications and places a lot of emphasis on job development and economic development.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES 4-1

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Resolution 2013-108 A Resolution for the Appointment of Sewage Enforcement Officers for the City of Hazleton in Accordance with the Regulations of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Schadder asked if these two individuals work in our municipality. Perry said yes, we had then before. Hahn said that this is strictly for septic systems only, and is required by law. He added that there are not many septic systems in the City.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

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Resolution 2013-109 A Resolution Establishing a Stormwater Collection and Management Plan Fee for the Year 2013 Only in Accordance with 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:

Hahn said Dominic Yannuzzi prepared a packet of information for Council with examples for both residential and commercial. This would apply to all properties, even tax exempt and undeveloped properties. Several examples were given by Bast, and Yannuzzi responded to each example. Mundie asked if this is in next year’s budget. Hahn said yes because the ordinance is already in place. Perry said the original fee was $40.00, but it is now down to $25.00. Yannuzzi agreed. Bast asked if this fee is for 2013 or 2014. Slusser said there is an ordinance in place that provides for a fee, and Council can change that in 2014 if they so choose. Perry said this is just for 2013. Slusser said Council can change the fee at any time.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES 3-2

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Resolution 2013-110 Resolution Permitting the City of Hazleton to Apply for a Luzerne County Local Share Account Grant on Behalf of Alcoholism and Drug Services of Lower Luzerne County d/b/a Pathway to Recovery Counseling and Educational Services

Presented by Bast. Seconded by Perry.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES 4-1

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Resolution 2013-111 Authorizing the Mayor to Execute an Agreement with The Slusser Law Firm related to The Slusser Law Firm’s Confirmation as City Solicitor

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Schadder.

On the Question:

Mundie asked why this was not done before. Slusser said he did not know why, but this reflects changes to the original agreement because Slusser agreed to reduce his rate. This addresses a concern made by the IRS, because Slusser is considered an independent contractor and not an employee. Mundie asked about the term of the agreement. Slusser said the solicitor serves for the full term of the Mayor in accordance with the Third Class City Code. Mundie said in the past, a solicitor was appointed every year. Slusser said that has not happened since he has been the Solicitor for Hazleton. He said the Code provides for his services for the Mayor’s four-year term. Mope asked why the Mayor took so long to do this. Slusser said he cannot speak for the Mayor. Mundie said the appointment of the Solicitor should be up to the new Council. Perry said that cannot be done as per the Code.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES 3-2

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Resolution 2013-112 Authorizing the Mayor to Execute an Agreement with Convergence Communications, LLC related to the Product and Services Contract

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Bast.

On the Question:

Mundie asked what this is all about. Chief DeAndrea said these cameras are for Alter Street. They are being purchased with Community Development monies. The bid for them went out in 2012, but we received no bids. It was put out again in 2013, and Convergence was the lowest bidder. DeAndrea said the Agreement needed to be presented to Council for approval. He stated that once the Agreement is signed by the Mayor, he can go ahead and order the equipment. DeAndrea stated that he will be able to purchase 50% before December 31, 2013. With the 2014 funds, the installation will take place. Mope was concerned with the current transmission troubles and asked if this new system will be compatible. She also asked why the current system cannot be repaired. DeAndrea said it is 100% compatible. He added there is no federal government allowance for maintenance and repairs. He said that it is illegal to spend these funds on repairs. DeAndrea said that it is possible that we may be able to use the same signal. There will be a new transmitter set up with wireless capabilities and a mesh network. The signal will then be transferred to City Hall. He added that we may be able to get a new part for the current system. It is the exact software that we had before, and the cameras are compatible with everything we currently have. DeAndrea said that with this Agreement, the City will own this 100%, not like what we had before. Mundie asked about Convergence Communications. DeAndrea said it is owned by Bob Bartholomew of Hazleton. He does communication services for a lot of police departments and the Luzerne County 911 Center. He has worked for many other cities. He said part of the criteria was that they had to provide their financial records and a list of references before entering into an agreement with them. Mundie asked when this will be installed, and DeAndrea said either in February or March of 2014. Bast asked if this system will be more reliable, and DeAndrea responded yes. Mope asked if this will interfere with homeowners’ surveillance systems, and DeAndrea said no.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

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Resolution 2013-113 A Resolution Requesting Local Share Account Funds for the City of Hazleton’s Municipal Garage

Presented by Bast. Seconded by Mope.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

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Resolution 2013-114 A Resolution Requesting Local Share Account Funds for City Hall

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Bast.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

             

Comments from the Audience:  Judy Yurcho commented on the stormwater fee. She said this will save us money but will end up costing us more in the long run. Yurcho was under the impression this was a quarterly fee. Perry said this is not a quarterly fee, and it is only paid one time a year. Yurcho said this is going to hurt businesses in the area. She said the City is spending money it does not have. She said these things should not have to come from the homeowners and taxpayers. Yurcho said Council passed it even though the people do not want it. She commented that on previous occasions Hahn said we were in the black. Hahn said we were in the black at that time. Yurcho suggested Bast be careful of the way he votes if he wants to get re-elected.

Chief DeAndrea said he recognizes these are hard times. He said when it was discussed about layoffs, the department heads offered to work without a salary. He said some of the higher paid employees offered to accept one week’s pay each pay period, so that employees at the lower end of the pay scale can receive their two weeks’ pay. DeAndrea stated that he is very proud of the Police Department because not one officer said that would call in sick or anything like that if they did not get paid.

Helen Jumpeter asked how often the stormwater fee will be paid. Perry replied one a year, but they new Council may change that. He added that this is just for stormwater maintenance and repair and nothing else.

Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton said that the sewer transmission funds should have already been earmarked for the storm sewers, and there should not be a need for stormwater fee. She also commented that if the sewer transmission funds were handled correctly over the years, there would not be a need for a tax and revenue anticipation note right now. Deakos said the Mayor was trying to scare people by saying his was going to layoff people and shutting down City services. Deakos said that stormwater fee should have been done by Ordinance and not by Resolution. She was surprised that the Solicitor did not bring that up to Council. Deakos said scare tactics are being used. She said the Administration stated there is money owed on the sewer bond, but when the Sewer Authority took over the sewer lines, they should have also taken over the bonds. Deakos commented that if that is not the case, then the Administration did not do its job. Hahn said turning over the sewer lines to the Sewer Authority was voted on and passed by Council in 2009. Slusser said there is an Ordinance in place, and the fee concept was provided for in the Ordinance that was approved and passed by Council.

Grace Cuozzo, 948 James Street, Hazleton asked how people will be penalized if they do not pay the stormwater fee. Slusser said that will be determined by the Administration. Cuozzo asked what happened to the $750,000 that was in the sewer transmission fund. She stated that the City has a big problem on its hands if no one can say where this money went.

Mark Grabo, First Street, Hazleton said the Administration and Council need to hire an individual, non-partisan controller to watch over these accounts and do the reports. Grabo said the City had this same problem last year. He commented that the Administration goes by the City Code only when it is convenient, and the Administration always finds a way to circumvent it. He said Council should appoint a controller right now.

A gentleman, who did not give his name, said 15 residents came up to the podium and said they did not want the stormwater fee, but it was passed by Council anyway. He said Council needs to start having work sessions to eliminate some of these problems. He commented that everyone needs to start acting like grownups and start running the City correctly.

Comments from Mayor or City Administrator:  None.

Comments from Council:  Mope thanked everyone for coming, and she also thanked everyone for volunteering for staying onboard and working without pay. She stated that although she voted no on the LSA grants, it was nothing personal. Mope commented that we need to start working on getting things done for the City, and we need to start healing ourselves first.

Mundie said he received a Notice of Violation from a resident for painting here house. He gave it to DeAndrea. DeAndrea said he cannot comment on this until he has time to review it. Mundie asked if the violation given was “normal procedure.” DeAndrea said yes. It is not a quality of life violation, but it is a International Property Maintenance Code violation. Mundie asked how many of these are written every month. He said he did not have time to research it, because he just heard about it this morning. Mundie said this violation states it needs to be rectified in 21 days, but then it says in another section that it needs to be completed by May 2014. DeAndrea said it is normally 21 days. He said it was probably extended because you cannot paint a house in the winter. He said the code officer probably forgot to cross out the 21 days. Mundie said he spoke to people with 30 years of code enforcement experience, and they said that house does not need to be painted. DeAndrea said he asked his code enforcement officers if this is in the IPMC, and they said yes. DeAndrea said “it is in violation by letter of the law.” Mundie asked how someone would appeal this type of violation. DeAndrea said this is a non-traffic citation, so it would go to the Magistrate. He said he is not saying Code is always right, but, according to the IPMC, this is a violation. Mope said the woman who owns this property maintains her property, and there are other eyesores around her, but they did not receive any citations. DeAndrea said he will send Code Enforcement out to the other houses tomorrow. He said when residents know of these violations, they need to tell the people in charge. Mundie said he has always been against the stormwater fee, and did not vote yes for it. He said this should have been done earlier in the year. He said the current fee is only good for one year, and this will leave a hole in next year’s budget. Mundie said the Stormwater Ordinance will need to be redone. Mundie commented that this is a “ploy” to make a mess of the City’s finances.

Bast thanked everyone for coming. He said it is nice to see people come out to the meetings. Bast said he was considering a few things and decided to come in to talk to people. He said he voted for the stormwater fee because, in the long run, it will save the residents money. If it was not passed, there would have been layoffs and City services would have suffered. Bast said things would have become more expensive because of lawsuits, back pay, etc., if there were layoffs. Bast asked Council to consider having a budget meeting in the near future. He commented that we cannot keep getting threatened with layoffs. He said that some of the other Council members should have had a meeting with the Administration about their concerns. He added that all Council members had an opportunity to present their ideas with regard to the budget.

Perry thanked the Junior Council for sticking around and getting involved with the City. He said they can comment whenever they want. Joel Soto of the Junior Council thanked everyone for attending the meeting. He said the budget concerns are Council’s and the Administration’s job. He said that charging the citizens will solve the problem, but it will not make any of us happy. He said this matter needs to be dealt with immediately. Perry said the stormwater fee is going towards something for a service. He felt that applying $450,000 towards something like this would be a good idea. Perry added that he was just trying to save the people some money. He thanked everyone for coming.

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