2013-3-20 Council Minutes

MINUTES
HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL
REGULAR MEETING
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20, 2013

Call to Order: Council met in regular session on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 in Council Chambers. The meeting was called to order at 5:45 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 March 7, 2013 were approved unanimously.

At this point, Perry stated that an executive session was held regarding some of the matters to be discussed later in this meeting.

Proclamations/Communications: None.

Courtesy of the Floor: Grace Cuozzo, 948 James Street, Hazleton commented on Ordinances 2013-3 and 2013-4. She questioned whether the tax rates can be changed at this point. Cuozzo said that if the rates can be changed, the budget will have to be adjusted as well. She also questioned the renting of the hangar at the Airport.

Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton commented on Resolution 2013-35. She said there are more than enough liquor licenses in the City. Deakos said she lives near a problem bar that has become a nuisance. She said there have been shootings, stabbings, robberies, etc., in the vicinity of this bar. Deakos suggested opening the restaurant first, and see how business is before obtaining a liquor license. She commented that the Heights area is a nice neighborhood, and the City does not need another nuisance bar.

Antonio Rodriguez, 718 Muir Avenue, Hazleton commented on Resolution 2013-35. He does not see any problems with approving this liquor license transfer. This is going to be a restaurant and not a nightclub or bar. Rodriguez said if there is any trouble, the police will be called. He does not believe there is any reason not to approve the transfer.

Geri Kominsky, Hazleton said she lives behind Heritage Food Market in the Heights. She heard that the owners of this restaurant want to stay open until 11:00 p.m. and have music. She does not want another bar in the area because of the risk of shootings and stabbings, and is not in favor of having loud music. Kominsky said a restaurant in that area would be great, but not a bar or nightclub.

Old Business:

ORDINANCES

None.

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution 2013-35 Resolution Authorizing the Transfer of Liquor License No. R-5450 to Hazleton Heights Entertainment, LLC for Premises Located at 601 South Poplar Street, Hazleton, Pennsylvania (TABLED 3/7/13)

Motion to Remove from Table:

Presented by Bast. Seconded by Perry.

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

ORDINANCE REMOVED FROM TABLE

On the Question:

Bast made a motion to amend the Resolution to state that the approval of the liquor license transfer is contingent upon receipt of a signed agreement between the City and the client stating the client will abide by the five stipulations set forth by Council. The stipulations are: (1) operating hours will be 7:00 am to 11:00 pm; (2) surveillance cameras must be installed; (3) live music and DJs are strictly prohibited; (4) no service outside of the premises; and (5) all required permits and licenses must be secured prior to opening. Perry seconded the motion.

Motion to Amend:

Presented by Bast. Seconded by Perry.

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

AMENDMENT PASSES

Back on the Question:

Mope asked DeAndrea what could be a possible problem with this establishment if a liquor license transfer is granted. DeAndrea said that there are two restaurants/bars operating in the City that are actually nightclubs. Both of the establishments are listed as having more than 50% in food sales. Police cars have to be stationed there at 2:00 a.m. every night they are open, because of the number of fights occurring there. The State Police and the West Hazleton Police Department have also been known to respond as well. DeAndrea stated that the largest chunk of his department's overtime and budget is devoted to things such as this. He said if this place turns into one of these types of establishments, more overtime will need to be added, and a police car will need to be stationed there. Perry asked about other establishments in the area, and DeAndrea responded that there are many restaurants in town that serve alcohol that are not a problem at all. Bast asked if a restaurant served alcohol, but had no music, would it be considered a nightclub, and DeAndrea responded no. Bast said that Slusser sent a list of conditions to Lucadamo and his client, and his client was agreeable with those conditions. Bast stated that this can always be amended later on. Lucadamo agreed with Bast. Mundie asked how this would be handled if he was receiving a liquor license from within the municipality. Lucadamo said that his client would be able to do whatever he wanted. He said there are currently no licenses available within the City. Lucadamo commented that the property is worth more with a liquor license than without one. Perry asked about the condition that there be no service outside the premises. Lucadamo said there would be no sales outside, but there could be in the building itself. Mundie asked if any agreement regarding this matter was signed by Lucadamo's client. Lucadamo said there is no written agreement. The conditions were sent to Slusser, who reviewed them, and they were then sent to Lucadamo's client. His client was agreeable to Council's terms. Schadder asked if they will still open the restaurant without the liquor license. Lucadamo said yes. Lucadamo said he could draw up some type of agreement, and have Slusser review it. Mope said she was worried about overtime costs for the Police Department if this were to be approved. Bast stated that some things were said by Mope while Council was in executive session, and he asked that she not vote on this matter for that reason.

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

RESOLUTION FAILS AS AMENDED 3-2

New Business:

ORDINANCES

Ordinance 2013-3 Amending Ordinance 2012-36 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 Bast. Seconded by Schadder.

On the Question:

Hahn said Act 32 requires uniform withholding of earned income taxes (EIT) and remittance to a single local collector or Tax Officer. Unfortunately, the City is not able to realize the whole amount. He said the City's financial auditor was concerned about the pension revenues coming in, and it was recommended that the City look into ways to increase that revenue. Hahn stated that in speaking with the DCED (Department of Community and Economic Development), they recommended this 0.5% increase to the nonresident rate. He stated that although it is a 0.5% increase, we still may only realize 0.35%. Bast mentioned the fact that the wrong withholding rate was being used by employers. Hahn said that Hazleton is the only municipality in the state in this taxing situation, and it is a unique situation. Hahn said only a few municipalities have a separate tax for pensions. Mundie suggested it was because of the Homestead Act. Mope commented that she receives a lot of complaints from taxpayers that they are making more money, but bringing home less in their paychecks. Bast said they should have been this all along. Hahn said a 0.35% increase will be realized. He commented that everyone is receiving less because of the Social Security tax increase, as well as some federal tax increases. Schadder asked about the possibility of legal ramifications. Hahn said this came from Slusser, and the City is where it needs to be from a legal standpoint. Mundie asked if this increase was budgeted, and Hahn said we need to see how the revenues are flowing. He budgeted this on the previous year's numbers. Bast asked if this is strictly going to the pension fund only, and Hahn replied yes. Hahn said it is the obligation of taxpayers to pay the correct rate. He added that we are trying to make sure the employers are withholding the correct amount.

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

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Ordinance 2013-4 Amending Ordinance 2012-35 Imposing the Real Estate Tax, Earned Income Tax, Per Capita Tax, and Resident Tax, Respectively for the Period January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2013 (1st Reading)

Presented by Bast. Seconded by Perry.

On the Question:

Schadder said this is similar to what went on in Scranton. Scranton received opposition, it went to appeals court, and the decision was overturned. Schadder said a part of the problem was that they received no commitment from the non-profit organizations. This is a common tax in Pennsylvania. Schadder asked if this will bring in enough extra revenue to fund the pension. Bast said DCED does the calculations for this tax, and they made a mistake on their website regarding the withholding rate for non-residents. Because of their computer system, it is unable to be corrected. Bast said this is a correction for DCED's problems. Hahn agreed. He stated the wording in the Ordinance is the same as it has been for the past 10 years. It has been done this way every year. Hahn stated this was recommended by the DCED.

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

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution 2013-36 Approving Agreement between the City of Hazleton and Koro Aviation, Inc. for Lease of Hangar Including Option to Purchase said Hangar at the Municipal Airport

Presented by Schadder. Seconded by Bast.

On the Question:

Perry asked Dominic Yannuzzi to explain this. Yannuzzi said Koro Aviation has a land lease with the City at the Airport. The City would like to give up that lease, and use the hangar to store supplies, etc. Schadder asked if anyone else had an interest in the hangar. Yannuzzi said there was some interest in overnight hangar rental. He recommended this lease agreement because it will "open more doors" to increase revenue for the Airport. Perry commented that there would be the possibility of selling more gasoline as well. Perry asked if this is a one-year lease, and Yannuzzi replied yes. He added that the City has the option to purchase the hangar in the future. Perry asked if Yannuzzi applied for any grants for the Airport. Yannuzzi said yes. He applied for LSA grants and grants with the Bureau of Aviation. No grants were received yet. He said he can apply for the grants over the next two years. Schadder commented that the City does not own the hangars, and asked if there is any risk involved by entering into this agreement. Yannuzzi said there is always a risk, but the City can opt not to renew the lease after one year if it is not working out. Schadder asked about additional charges. Yannuzzi said there will be maintenance and repair costs, as well as other associated costs. Schadder asked about paragraph 13 in the Lease Agreement. Yannuzzi said that sometimes planes have to be pulled out of or pushed into the hangar. Also, planes can keep running off of a generator. Yannuzzi said that he had a lot of individuals interested in renting the space. Perry asked how much repairs would be to the hangar, and Yannuzzi said about $1,000. He does not feel this would be a major expense for the City. Bast commented that the risk for the first year would be about $6,000 and Yannuzzi agreed. Schadder asked about revenue, and Yannuzzi said that this is projected to bring in some revenue that is currently not being collected. Mope asked if a title search was done, and Yannuzzi said he will have Slusser look into it. Mundie asked if the Mayor okayed this agreement, and Yannuzzi said yes because it came from the Mayor. Mundie asked who the officers of Koro Aviation are, and Yannuzzi said Russell Graham is an officer. Mundie said he believes they had a 20-year lease. Yannuzzi replied that it was four, five-year options. Mundie said Council just received this and he would like time to look it over before voting on it and signing it. Schadder said there is no risk in signing this agreement. Yannuzzi said he has an individual waiting for this. Schadder said that the City is trying to bring in more revenue and increase its tax base. Mundie made a motion to table the Resolution, and Mope seconded the motion.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Mundie. Seconded by Mope.

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

MOTION TO TABLE FAILS 3-2

Back on the Question:

Perry made a motion to amend the Resolution to add "pending completion of a title search and resulting in a clear title." Schadder seconded the motion.

Motion to Amend:

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Schadder.

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

AMENDMENT PASSES

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

RESOLUTION PASSES 3-2

----------------------------------------------

Mundie made a motion to suspend the Rules and add Resolution 2013-37 to the agenda. Mope seconded the motion.

Motion to Suspend the Rules and Add Resolution 2013-37:

Presented by Mundie. Seconded by Mope

Roll Call (on Motion to Suspend Rules and Add Resolution 2013-37): Bast-no; Mope-yes; Mundie-yes; Schadder-yes; Perry-no

MOTION TO SUSPEND THE RULES AND ADD RESOLUTION 2013-37
TO THE AGENDA PASSES 3-2

*At this point, Mundie prepared Resolution 2013-37 on the floor.

Resolution 2013-37 Extending the Rebate Period for the Collection of City Real Estate Taxes for the Year 2013

Presented by Mundie. Seconded by Mope.

On the Question:

A short discussion ensued between Perry and Mope regarding the number of days prior to a meeting to ask questions of Slusser or the Administration. Hahn asked if the face period would now be the rebate period, and Mundie responded yes. Schadder asked if new bills would need to be sent out, and Mundie replied no because it would be in the newspaper. Schadder said some people do not receive the newspaper, or have time to read the newspaper, and would not know about this. Bast said that if we do this, we would probably need to request a tax and revenue anticipation note (TRAN) to have enough money to pay our obligations until the tax money comes in. This would entail paying back money with interest. Hahn agreed that this is a possibility. Bast said this is just a "political stunt" by Mundie. Perry questioned if we may be legally obligated to send out new bills should this happen. Perry made a motion to table the Ordinance in order to gather more information regarding this matter. Schadder seconded the motion.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Schadder.

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

RESOLUTION TABLED 3-2

Comments from the Audience: Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton commented on the failed liquor license transfer. Deakos asked if the City is collecting landing fees at the Airport, and Hahn replied that he would have to look into it. Deakos asked what the cost was for Yannuzzi to prepare the Lease Agreement and for Slusser to review it. Hahn said that he would need to look into their invoices. Schadder said Yannuzzi did a lot of work on the Lease Agreement, and if he would have done nothing, then no extra money would be coming in. Deakos asked how much it would cost to build a brand new hangar, and Mundie said he researched it and it would cost about $40,000. Deakos questioned why the City is not looking into building its own hangar instead. Perry commented that Deakos would then have a problem with the City spending $40,000 to build the hangar. Deakos said there is also insurance costs, utilities, etc., to take into consideration, and the $1,000 figure is not realistic. Perry said the City would have to pay for those things as well if it built its own hangar.

Antonio Rodriguez, 718 Muir Avenue, Hazleton commented that the homeowners are maintaining the City, and they are tired of having their taxes and utilities increase. He is in favor of bringing in legal businesses to the City, which would help alleviate some of the burden on the taxpayers. Rodriguez said bringing in new business will establish clientele and the money generated will come into the City as well.

Grace Cuozzo, 948 James Street, Hazleton commented that an Ordinance must be drafted in order to amend the charges at the Airport. She asked if this being done yet. Bast said they would need to come before Council to do that. Cuozzo responded that should have already been done. She also commented that the work on the hangar at the Airport cannot be done for $1,000.

Mark Grabo, no address given, commented that he was under the impression that the current crime situation and additional police projects would be given more consideration, and none of that was discussed at this meeting. He said that the City should consider public safety before doing its "pet projects," such as the hangar at the Airport. Schadder replied that the hangar lease is not a pet project, because we are trying to bring in more money into the City. Grabo said Council and the people need to work together on the crime problems in the City.

Comments from City Administrator: Hahn said he received the draft of the financial audit today, and he expects it to be in final form very shortly. Hahn stated that he received court documents regarding the Centax distributions, and the City will be receiving its earned income tax in the amount of $157,000, as well as some smaller amount for other taxes. He said it has been collected, and it will be distributed shortly. Hahn stated that the county-wide collection of the taxes was supposed to be more efficient, but the delegates from each municipality did not get all the reports that they should have. He said he was not sure if this was an accurate amount of what the City is owed. Perry asked Mundie if he had any information regarding this matter because he is a delegate for the City. Mundie asked Hahn if he talked to Pam Heard, or if he received the minutes of the tax collection committee meetings, and Hahn replied no. Mundie said that he was under the impression that tax refunds would not be given on anything prior to 2011. Hahn stated that the county level commission is not diligently following what each municipality should have coming in. He added that he does not receive any information from the Tax Collection Committee. Mundie commented that Lieb stated before she resigned that the City was down hundreds of thousands of dollars on its tax collection. Hahn said he was not aware that information. He said there was over $700,000 being distributed to the municipalities, but the Tax Collection Committee is not sure who gets what, so they are just going to distribute the money as fairly as they can. Mundie asked about what is owed from the Don Wilkinson Agency prior to 2011. Hahn said he did not know anything about that.

Comments from Council: Mope thanked the Fire Department for their efforts in fighting the recent fire in the Heights. There was a three-minute response time to this fire. One firefighter was hurt, and Mope wished him well. She thanked the taxpayers that came here tonight for their input, and said "we are here to listen to you." Mope thanked Council for their hard work this week. She commented that she does not like last minute decisions as was discussed in executive session, because she needs more time to digest the information in order to make an informed decision and be more accurate.

Schadder thanked the Fire Department for putting their lives on the line each time they respond to a fire. He said he hopes the injured firefighter heals quickly. Schadder said he spoke to John Rodgers who said that a new law passed regarding licenses and permits. The law states that licenses and permits can be withheld if someone is not current on taxes, water, sewer, etc. He said a laptop computer and a database could be used to track this. Schadder commented that we are all here with our best intentions, and it is okay to disagree with one another and get it out there. He asked everyone to feel free to speak his or her opinion.

Mundie asked DeAndrea if he has acquired more duties recently. DeAndrea said yes, he is now supervising the Code Enforcement Department. Mundie asked if this will take away from his police duties, and DeAndrea said no. Mundie said he disagrees because the City needs him for other police-related things, and he is concerned with the 17% conviction rate previously mentioned by DeAndrea. DeAndrea said that 17% figure was for case not assigned to him, and they were assigned to individual officers. He said he is administrative, Code Enforcement is a "sister department," and it only adds to his administrative duties. DeAndrea commented that both departments do many of the similar things. Mundie commented that he believes the Mayor made a mistake in when he appointed DeAndrea to oversee the Code Enforcement Department. Mope stated that Code Enforcement comes under Engineering, and not the Police Department. DeAndrea said there is no department head in Engineering, therefore, he is supervising until it is no longer necessary to do so. Mope felt DeAndrea should change his job description. DeAndrea said he is up to the challenge and welcomes it. He said he will discuss it with the Mayor, but he does not feel it will take away from his police duties. He believes it enhances his current position. Mundie said we should have been given more time to review the hangar lease agreement and ask questions. Mundie asked when the deadline for the payment of taxes it, and Hahn said the rebate period ends April 1st, and the face value period ends on June 1st for this year. Mundie suggested extending the rebate period to June 1st for this year, because the taxes went out a lot earlier. This will give people more time to pay their taxes. Hahn said he does not know how the tax collector would do that because the taxes are combined. Perry said that would require sending out new tax bills, which would cost more money. Mundie said that would not be necessary. Mope said that people did not expect to receive this so early, and they will have a hard time coming up with the money. Bast asked how much this would affect the City, and if we would need a tax and revenue anticipation note (TRAN) to make up the difference. Hahn said yes we would need a TRAN because we would be about $30,000 short. At this point, Mundie made a motion to suspend the rules to add a new resolution to the agenda, and Mope seconded the motion. The motion passed 3-2 and Mundie prepared Resolution 2013-37 on the floor extending the rebate period for payment of property taxes from April 1, 2013 to June 1, 2013. There was a short discussion among the Council members, and public comments were heard. Perry made a motion to table the Resolution in order to gather more information, and Schadder seconded the motion. The motion passed 3-2 and Resolution 2013-37 was tabled until the next meeting. More information is available under the New Business Section under Resolutions of these Minutes.

Bast asked if Wilfing is the on the Appeal Board, and Wilfing said he is the hearing officer for the Quality of Life appeals and the Property Maintenance appeals. Bast questioned what Wilfing takes into consideration when making an appeal decision. He said items were left out in front of a home for pickup that included electronics. The electronics were not picked up, and the owner of the home received a citation from Code Enforcement. Wilfing said there is a state law that recently passed that all electronics have to be recycled at a designated spot, and that curbside pickup of electronics is no longer allowed. He said this was in the newspaper. Wilfing said he know what property Bast is referring to, and the inspector could have walked up to the home and knocked on the door and told them about the law. He instead chose to give them a citation. Wilfing felt the City should notify the resident of Hazleton about this law. Bast said the website needs to be updated with this information. Mope asked if the Water Authority is involved in electronics pickup. Bast said he was under the impression that the Water Authority and Brenners were setting up something to pick up electronics. Deakos commented that they will not take televisions. Bast thanked the Police and Fire Departments, and wished the injured firefighter a quick recovery.

Perry commented that crime is a big issue in the City, and we are looking at different ways to address this matter. He thanked the Department of Public Works for their hard work during the recent storms. Perry said we have hard workers working in the Streets Department. Perry thanked DeAndrea, as well as the entire Police Department, for their hard work in solving the Goryl beating case. Perry commented that the City needs to be visible, and the City and citizens need to work together. He asked the citizens to keep up the fight to bring our community back to what it once was.

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

 

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