2013-2-6 Council Minutes

MINUTES
HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL
REGULAR MEETING
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2013

Call to Order: Council met in regular session on Wednesday, February 6, 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-absent; Mope-present; Mundie-present; Schadder-present; Perry-present

Minutes of Previous Meetings: The minutes of the December 19, 2012 regular meeting and the December 27, 2012 special meeting were approved unanimously.

Proclamations/Communications: None.

At this point, Perry stated an executive session was held prior to the meeting to discuss litigation.

Courtesy of the Floor: Mike Wilfing, Hazleton asked Council to table Ordinance 2013-2 until a checklist can be provided to all interested parties first.

Sylvia Thomas, 409 West 6th Street, Hazleton commented on Ordinance 2013-2. She questioned why a 4-month-old Ordinance is being changed already. She commented that she believes it is because of threatened litigation. She encouraged H.A.L.O. to continue with its lawsuit against the City regarding this matter. Thomas commented that she does not know if this is even legal, and the City Solicitor should be here to answer legal questions.

Justine Crego, President of H.A.L.O., does not believe amending the original ordinance is necessary. She reiterated that all money generated from Ordinance 2013-2 must be used for those rental properties only. The money collected has to be revenue neutral. Crego said the negligent landlords will not register, so she does not believe this will help. She said the Mayor and the Administration said this will be a revenue generating ordinance. Crego said H.A.L.O. filed suit this week against the City regarding this matter. She added that nothing is being done to properly address the issue of negligent landlords.

Grace Cuozzo, 948 James Street, Hazleton asked why a whole new ordinance is being prepared and it is not just being amended. She asked if the City Engineer will benefit from this at all. Wech said that this Ordinance is based on the Property Maintenance Code and not the UCC, and there is no certification required for property maintenance. The original Ordinance was also based on the Property Maintenance Code. Cuozzo asked if the engineering firms will be conducting these inspections. Hahn said there is no plan for any engineering firms to perform these inspections. They only do the UCC inspections. Cuozzo questioned the real estate tax appeal of Hazbro Associates. She asked if this was done because of a decrease in the original property assessment, and Perry replied yes. Cuozzo said she was under the impression that you can only go back three years, and not four.

Old Business:

ORDINANCES

Ordinance 2013-1 An Ordinance Prohibiting Public Drunkenness in the City of Hazleton and Prescribing Penalties for Violations (2nd Reading)

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Schadder.

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

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Ordinance 2013-1 An Ordinance Prohibiting Public Drunkeness in the City of Hazleton and Prescribing Penalties for Violations (3rd Reading)

Presented by Schadder. Seconded by Perry.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES

RESOLUTIONS

None.

New Business:

ORDINANCES

Ordinance 2013-2 Establishment of a Registration and Certification Program for All Residential Rental Properties, All Institutional Occupancies, and Day Care Facilities (1st Reading)

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Schadder.

On the Question:

Mundie asked if anyone was here from engineering to discuss this Ordinance. No one was in attendance. Mundie stated that this should have been sent to Mike Wilfing to look over first because he is the hearing officer. Hahn said he does not know why the Mayor or anyone else is not here to discuss this Ordinance. Hahn said several meetings were held about this. Kyle Kehoe of Alfred Benesch requested the word license be changed to certificate throughout the Ordinance. Mope commented that Slusser should have looked at this before having this come before Council. She asked if he checked it. Hahn said Slusser does not believe any legal items were changed. Mope stated that Bast said inspections could not be done in one year, so it was changed to two years. She was concerned about how these inspections will be done, and who will be doing them. Hahn said that City employees will inspect the properties over the course of four years as stated in the Ordinance. Mope asked how this will be done. Hahn explained that Council passes it, then it goes to Code Enforcement and Administration to go over the specifics. Everything has not been defined yet. Hahn said that it was felt that there were some inconsistencies in the Ordinance after reviewing it. Perry asked if there were too many changes to amend the original Ordinance. Hahn said he did not know who made this decision to do a whole new Ordinance. Schadder asked Wech how these changes to the original Ordinance will affect his work. Wech said that it would depend on the number of people registered, the workload for the day, who will be helping write the tickets that day, etc. Schadder asked Wech if he would still be able to continue following up on complaints. Wech said yes. He added that winter and summer complaints are different and need to be handled differently, but these things would be given priority. Mope asked what happens if we get behind in inspections, but Wech did not know. Hahn said it will be difficult to schedule inspections because of unknown circumstances will pop up for Wech, which would take priority over the inspections. Schadder made a motion to table the Ordinance until more information is provided, and Perry seconded the motion.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Schadder. Seconded by Perry.

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

MOTION TO TABLE FAILS 2-2-1

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

ORDINANCE FAILS

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution 2013-29 Appointment to the Zoning Hearing Board – Niurka DeLaRosa

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Schadder.

On the Question:

Mope asked Shema if we received a resume from DeLaRosa. Shema said no. An audience member said that she is well known in the community, and that she is involved in many things, including Concerned Parents and the Luzerne County Youth Aid Panel.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES

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Resolution 2013-30 Settlement of Real Estate Tax Appeal – Hazbro Associates, LP

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Perry said Hazbro's tax appeal of the Hazleton Shopping Center was assessed at $7 million. Hazbro's appraisal came in at about $4.5 million. They settled at $5.1 million. Mundie said it is unfair to the citizens of Hazleton that their homes were appraised at the high end of the market before the housing market plummeted. He said the home values have dropped dramatically (30%-50%). Mundie said Hazleton is paying an unfair share to the county. He suggested sending a letter to Luzerne County asking for a reappraisal of Hazleton. Perry said homeowners can always appeal their assessments. Mundie said that some people cannot afford to do that.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES

Comments from the Audience: Sylvia Thomas, 409 West 6th Street, Hazleton asked if there was a copy of the budget available, and Perry said it is on the City's website.

Grace Cuozzo, 948 James Street, Hazleton asked why Hazbro Associates was allowed to go back four years with their taxes. She believed three years was the maximum. Perry said he does not know why. He said the Court of Common Pleas decided on the particulars in that matter.

Comments from Council: Schadder commented that it is getting increasingly more difficult to ask legal questions and receive answers. He commented that he understands that funding is an issue, but Council needs some type of legal representation at its meetings. Mope suggested that money be moved into the line item for Council's solicitor. Perry said a budget transfer might be necessary. Mundie commented that money was never an issue before, and he agrees that there should be a solicitor at Council meetings. He added that the decision not to have the Solicitor here was the Mayor's decision. Schadder commented that this ended in a hostile manner the last time it was brought up. Mope said money can moved, so that Slusser will be Council's solicitor too. Mundie commented that the City Engineer should have also been at tonight's meeting. Perry agreed with everyone that the Solicitor should be here. He added that whoever places a resolution or ordinance on the agenda should be in attendance as well. Perry thanked everyone for coming. Mope thanked Wech for answering Council's questions regarding Ordinance 2013-2. She also thanked everyone for coming.

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

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