2013-3-7 Council Minutes


Call to Order: Council met in regular session on Thursday, March 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 January 23, 2013, February 6, 2013, and February 20, 2013 regular meeting were approved unanimously.

Proclamations/Communications: None.

Courtesy of the Floor: None.

Old Business:





New Business:




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

Presented by Bast. Seconded by Perry.

On the Question:

Slusser stated that an executive session was held regarding restrictions being placed on the liquor license transfer for potential approval. It will be represented for vote at the next meeting with certain contingencies spelled out. Perry made a motion to table the Resolution until the next meeting, and Mundie seconded the motion.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Perry. Seconded by Mundie.

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


Comments from the Audience: Mark Grabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton commented on the crime in the City. He proposed creating an armed crime watch group. He said they would meet with the police from time to time. It would be observe and report only, and firearms would be used for defense only. Mundie suggested having the constables help the City out. They could assist the police, and some have Act 120 training. Grabo said he is a former Marine. He said a lot of people in the group would be veterans, and they could take a gun safety course. He commented that there are vandal-proof and weather-proof cameras, and two-man foot patrols in the problems areas of London. He said they also have a volunteer police force. He suggested Hazleton look into these things. Mundie said he was in favor of pursuing this idea. He commended Grabo for bringing this up and wanting to do something about the problem. Grabo said that one of the problems that Hazleton has is that it is in the middle of two major drug trafficking areas. Perry said he does not see the necessity to carry a weapon, but he cannot approve or disapprove a weapon if it was legally obtained. Bast stated that a permit is only needed to carry a concealed weapon, and not to open carry. Perry said getting involved is okay with him, but he does not feel the use of a weapon is necessary. Grabo said the reason for carrying a gun is so that no one would be "a sitting duck." Perry commented that the Guardian Angels do not carry weapons, and Grabo said that is true but that is their preference. Perry asked if he tried to contact Chief DeAndrea about this. Grabo said he tried to but did not receive a reply. Mundie said it is not up to DeAndrea. Schadder commended Grabo for what he is doing. He said we all need to come together to prevent crime.

Dominic Tolerico, no address given, Hazleton said he was the one who sent the email to Council. He said the 2nd Amendment gives us the right to bear arms, and open carrying is legal in the state of Pennsylvania. He said the 1st Amendment gives us the right to assemble. He said they do not need approval of Council or the City, and they are not asking for it. Slusser agreed with him and he is not required to seek approval. He said volunteerism is important, and Council cannot prevent anyone from doing this. Schadder said that we need to do a better job communicating, and we need to sit down and discuss matters without being bullied or chastised. Schadder said that there are active crime watch groups in the area, and he should sit down with them and discuss what can be done about his neighborhood. He said that although you do not need DeAndrea's input, he is a trained professional and can give you some suggestions. Grabo said he is just proposing an organized effort. Schadder asked Hahn if the money from the grant was strictly for a parking garage, and Hahn said right now, yes. Schadder stated that 15% of Community Development funds are to be used for public safety. Mope said that there will be a town hall meeting on Monday, March 11, 2013 at the Wiltsie Center. She said the District Attorney, District Magistrates, and Police Chiefs will be there to answer questions, and she suggested they attend this meeting. Mope commented that the City cannot sanctify you or your group. She stated that there is an Ordinance regarding the discharging of firearms in City limits. Craig Budde from the audience interjected that a firearm can be discharged in the City in self-defense. Budde said these people are not a vigilante group, and they are willing to go on patrol. He suggested they attend a crime watch meeting. Perry said that everyone needs to get together with the Police Department and the crime watch groups regarding this matter. Budde said he spoke to DeAndrea about this matter, and he is not in agreement. Bast said if anyone wants to join the crime watch and open carry a gun, they should talk to DeAndrea first, so the Police Department knows what is going on. He said that if the police see people walking around with guns in high crime areas, they may stop and question you. Tolerico said he needs to clarify that he is not here for Council's approval. He was just trying to organize it with the City. He commented that no one needs to approval to report a crime. Perry said it would help the City out if you coordinated this with the Police Department. Tolerico asked if the tax office is made aware new people moving into the City, and Mope said that he would need to contact the tax office about that. Mundie suggested looking into a moving permit. Tolerico said that there are too many people here to police properly. He suggested cross training firemen for the police department. Perry said the police contract may not allow that. Tolerico commented that the City needs to remove the illegal immigrants from the City. Perry said one of the problems is that there are a lot of rental properties in Hazleton, and we get almost nothing from renters. Perry said we have an Illegal Immigration Ordinance, but it is currently in the Court system, and we cannot enforce it.

Carlos Mejia, 724 West 20th Street, Hazleton commented that we need to support the Police Department and let them do their job. He is not in favor of armed crime watch groups. He also commented that the Police Department needs more Spanish-speaking police officers.

A gentleman by the name of Larry (his last name was inaudible) from Hazleton said he is in opposition to an armed crime watch group. He said patrolling neighborhoods like that is "asking for trouble," and that is the job of the Police Department. He commented that the City needs more police officers on the foot patrol. He added that crime watch groups are welcome but only without weapons.

Jessica Utsy(?), no address given, Hazleton said she is not in agreement with having armed crime watch groups in her neighborhood. She said "we are terrorized with crime," and all she wants is police officers out on the street.

Sylvia Thomas, 409 West 6th Street, Hazleton, said it would be hard to differentiate between the "good guys" and the "bad guys" if everyone is walking around with a gun. She asked that everyone keep an eye out for criminal activity, and report it to the Police Department immediately. She is not in favor of an armed crime watch group.

John Romanelli, no address given, Hazleton said that crime has gotten very bad. We need to use the Police Department's resources to put more police officers on the street in the high crime areas. He said that if the criminal element sees them "walking the beat," they will think twice about committing a crime. He commented that Alter Street is a "war zone," and it is preventing people from patronizing businesses in that area. Romanelli said most of the criminals are coming from out of town. He said the City needs to generate more revenue to fix the streets, and to add more employees to Streets Department. He suggested that the Streets Department start salting the roads before the snow falls.

Bill Biplob, no address given, Hazleton said criminals target less secure areas. He does not believe carrying a gun in the street is the answer. Biplob said the education system in this area is failing, and education is the key to turning things around. He added that the City needs more police officers.

Comments from Council: Mope thanked everyone for coming. She said that everyone has good ideas and good intentions, but all need to work together. She agrees that education is needed. She also agrees that crime watch groups are a necessity. Mope commented that Tolerico and Grabo should attend the town hall meeting on Monday. She said we need to make sure everyone is safe and following the laws.

Schadder said the Police Chief is using grant money for the overtime in the high crime areas, and you will begin to see more patrols in those areas. Schadder said he has been speaking to a lot of residents, and they feel a lot of people are not paying their fair share. He asked about hiring a collection agency to collect on delinquent taxes and parking fines. Hahn said tax collectors have their own collection agencies in place. He added that the collection agency the City has is only working on quality of life and sewer transmission fee delinquencies. Schadder said that we need to go after them more aggressively to bring much needed money to the City. He suggested putting liens on their property. Hahn said he would like them to start collection proceedings earlier in the process. Additional penalties would have to be added to the current Ordinance. He said there are 1,200 business license that have not been paid yet. The plan is to visit these businesses directly and cite for violation. Schadder said that he appreciates all of Hahn's and Slusser's efforts. Council worked together and spoke in a rational tone for this meeting, and everything went smoothly. He said we need to treat each other with respect.

Mundie asked about the $200,000 for timbering in the budget. Hahn said the Water Department needs to get in touch with the forester who originally did it. Mundie asked about the Storm Water Fee Ordinance. Slusser said he is working on it, and will have a version of it for the next meeting. Mundie asked Hahn if the money for the parking garage can be used to repair or upgrade the surveillance cameras. Hahn said it is a two-part system. The Police Department received grant money for the system, but the business owners bought their own cameras. The camera equipment is not owned by the City, so repairs are up to the business owners. Hahn said Luzerne County asked that the taxes be billed in January, so the Administration wanted to wait before instituting the storm water fee. Mundie asked that they be allowed to pay up to June 1st without a penalty. Hahn said that Berkheimer feels the collection rates are the same as has been for prior years. Mundie asked about the confusion with the 2.35% earned income tax rate. Hahn said he had a conference call with DCED, and they will not change the rate. He said that he checked with the City Clerk, and the 1% and 0.5% rates have been the same since 2000. Mundie said the DCED is saying that if you work in the City but do not live here, you pay the lower rate. Hahn said people are following the DCED website, but it is wrong. Hahn said that Slusser is working on an Ordinance regarding this matter. Act 32 changed the reporting requirements, and laws would have to be changed. Mope asked that the money for the robotic garage be used for something else. We should look into changing the scope of the project. Mope asked if anyone has looked into that, and Hahn replied no. Hahn said Dominic Yannuzzi made some contacts regarding the matter, but they would probably not allow for cameras. Mope asked Slusser how the City would go about changing the scope of the project. Slusser said he would need the application, so that he could research the matter. Schadder asked if there was a tax and revenue anticipation note this year, and Hahn said no. He said we saw a savings of tens of thousands of dollars. Schadder asked about the removal of the fence around the Greco property. Wech said the Grecos removed the fence, and Dominic Yannuzzi gave them an alternative to the fence, which they complied with. Mundie asked who owns the property, and Hahn said the Grecos. They have also filed preliminary objections to the City's eminent domain procedures.

Bast said it was nice to see everyone here expressing their views.

Perry commended the Police Department and thanked the Department of Public Works employees for all their hard work this year. Mundie asked for a report from the Public Works Department regarding where the potholes are and when they will be filled. Mike Vislocky of the Public Works Department said Mundie would have to talk to Vito about that. Perry said we need to work together, and to address these problems in a non-confrontational manner.

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