2014-02-25 Council Minutes

MINUTES
HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL
REGULAR MEETING
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2014

Call to Order:  Council met in regular session on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 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-absent; Cusat-present; Mope-present; Sosar-present; Mundie-present

Minutes of Previous Meetings:  The minutes of the January 28, 2014 regular meeting remained on the table, and the minutes of the February 11, 2014 regular meeting were tabled.

Motion to Table the 2/11/14 Minutes:

Mundy said there were some questions regarding the minutes, and that some things need to be reviewed in the minutes. Mundie made a motion to table the February 11, 2014 minutes, and Mope seconded the motion.

Presented by Mundie. Seconded by Mope.

Roll Call (on Motion to Table the 2/11/14 Minutes):  Bast-absent; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

MINUTES OF THE 2/11/14 MEETING TABLED

Proclamations/Communications:  None.

At this point, Mundie congratulated the Police Department, the Police Chief, and the Attorney General’s office. He said he was at the meeting on February 19, 2014 regarding the recent drug bust. He stated the Chief DeAndrea and Attorney General Kane spoke well, and it was an excellent meeting. Mundie said DeAndrea, the entire Police Department, the Attorney General, and her office did a great a great job. He wished they could come back again to this area. DeAndrea thanked Mundie for his comments.

Courtesy of the Floor:  Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton commented on Resolution 2014-35. She said fees should be set by ordinance and not by resolution.

Sylvia Thomas, 409 West 6th Street, Hazleton commented on the February 19, 2014 meeting with Attorney General Kane and Chief DeAndrea. They spoke about the success the impact unit on the selling of drugs in Hazleton. In a three-day period, 30 arrests were made and 9,060 packets of heroin were seized. Thomas said this is amazing but also very frightening. She said that investigators determined that heroin is the drug of choice in this area. Thomas commented “that drug makes a slave out of people.” She said she read an article on the internet written by a 17-year-old heroin addict, which read “From the first day I started heroin, I never stopped. If anything, death was better than a life as a junkie.” She wanted to remind Council about the terrible state of the City. Thomas said “drugs are the most dangerous part of living in Hazleton, but there other big problems…” The City is “milking” property owners dry. Taxes went up over 40% last year, the sewer bill went from $80.00 to $120.00 every quarter, rental registration fees, inspection fees, stormwater runoff fees, etc. She said the City does nothing about the “nonpayers.” Thomas asked Council to think about the welfare of the City, and the welfare of the people of Hazleton. She asked Council to make sure we get what we pay for. She asked that the good property owners not be “run out of Hazleton.” Thomas asked that Council keep an eye on the money that is collected and to make sure that everyone pays their fair share. She said the City needs “better leadership now before it’s too late.” She asked the Mayor and City Council to work together to get the City back the way it used to be. Thomas said that with all the recent drug activity, DeAndrea’s salary should not be cut. She added that he is doing a great job.

Judy Yurcho, 984 North Locust Street, Hazleton commented on Resolution 2014-33. She said Council has an important job tonight. She said at the last election, the people have spoken and decided that they want change. She believes the budget that Council prepared is a good budget. Yurcho said a controller will curb wasteful spending. She added that reason that cuts were made to nonunion employees’ salaries was “because that’s the only place you could.” She said these cuts needed to be made, and everyone in all parts of the country are taking pay cuts or freezes, losing their benefits, etc. Yurcho said homeowners and taxpayers are already doing that. She said the taxpayers paid a 40% increase last year, and now the Administration wants to increase that again. Council came up with an idea to keep that from happening. Yurcho said the citizens of Hazleton do not want to see the taxes go up. She said if cutting salaries is what has to be done to see that, then that is what needs to be done. She commented that her disability pay was cut because of the federal government’s current financial state. She said she makes less than $15,000 a year, and if someone wants to “gripe” about a 2% pay cut, she would be happy to receive their pay. She said she has to run a household, feed herself, pay taxes, pay the oil bill, and pay medical bills. Yurcho said overriding the Mayor’s veto to make our City stronger and to go forward is a good thing. She stated “if we can bring more revenue in, then the people will get their pay back.” Yurcho said that at the last meeting she stated that having a controller would be a good thing, and Bast said to her that 87% of the money that is taken in is put towards wages and pensions for City employees. She said that is the problem. Yurcho stated that there is no money to even fill the potholes, and the Streets Department is filling the potholes with dirt. She encouraged Council pass the budget because something needs to be put in place already. She commented on the stormwater fee. She said the Mayor stated that he was not pushing that fee and he did not have anything to do with it, but today it was submitted by the Mayor.

Evelyn Graham, 61 Coxe Street, Hazleton said she read a disturbing report in the newspaper that the Police Chief is having his salary reduced by $10,000. Mundie said it is 10% and not $10,000. DeAndrea’s salary is currently about $65,000. Graham asked if anyone else’s salary was cut, and Mundie said yes, all of the department heads. Graham asked if Council cut their own salaries, and Mundie said they are working on that. Mope commented “We’ve already taken a reduction. Remember, I think you cancelled our health insurance, if I’m not mistaken.”

Craig Budde, 605 Arthur Street, Hazleton agreed that people do not want to pay more taxes. He said Council praises the Chief of Police and Police Department, and then cuts the Chief’s salary. Mope said it is not just from him, but from all department heads. Mundie said “we’re not singling out anyone.” Budde said the Chief’s job is very important, and without the Police Department, “this place is going to turn to hell.” He said it seems like you are telling the Chief that he is not doing a good job because you are taking money away from him. He said there are other places to cut.

Grace Cuozzo, 948 James Street, Hazleton commented on Resolution 2014-38. She asked if there was ever a special accounting service for Community Development before. If so, who were they, what is the hourly rate, and why are we doing this now. Fermin said there have been accounting services at least since 2004 with Albert Kishel, LLC. She said Albert Kishel passed way in December, so that is why they are looking for new accounting services. Fermin said Kishel’s hourly rate was $145.00, and the new contract will be for $100 per hour. Cuozzo said she hopes each Council member takes the time to consider the fact that the taxpayers cannot afford any more fees or taxes. She said the City has not complied with certain requirements, and you need to look at who is and who is not doing it. Cuozzo said she hopes Council votes to override the Mayor’s veto of the budget.

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton commented on Resolution 2014-37. He questioned if Dominic Yannuzzi, Executive Director of the Redevelopment Authority, would have a conflict of interest because the firm he works for, Alfred Benesch, will be receiving money from Community Development (CD). Mundie said it could be a potential conflict of interest. Slusser said he would need to look into it further before giving his opinion. Rabo said it states under the contracts provision in the Third Class City Code that this cannot be done by the City Engineer. Mayor Yannuzzi said Dominic Yannuzzi is a consulting engineer, and not the City engineer. He has two contracts with the City and there is no conflict of interest there. If he was a City employee and he had a contract, there might be a problem, but that is not the case. Mayor Yannuzzi added that if Alfred Benesch is approved for Community Development, there will be a different engineer, other than Dominic Yannuzzi, working in that department. Mundie said Yannuzzi’s decisions could affect the CD budget. Mayor Yannuzzi said Dominic Yannuzzi does not make those decisions; it is done by vote. They receive the information, “digest it,” and then decide how they will vote. Mayor Yannuzzi said everything done by the Redevelopment Authority has to be decided by a vote. Rabo said Yannuzzi can make suggestions on how something can be done. Mayor Yannuzzi said he could do that without being the engineer, just as Rabo is doing now. Mundie said Council will look into it.

             

Old Business:

ORDINANCES

Ordinance 2014-2 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 (2nd Reading)

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mope.

On the Question:

Cusat asked if this tax rate relates to the budget passed on February 11, 2014 or the budget passed on December 19, 2013. Mundie said he did not know. Slusser said it is supposed to fund whatever budget is in place. Cusat asked if there is a tax increase, and Hahn said there is no tax increase.

Roll Call:  Bast-absent; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

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Ordinance 2014-2 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 (3rd Reading)

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mope.

Roll Call:  Bast-absent; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

ORDINANCE PASSES

             

RESOLUTIONS

None.

             

New Business:

ORDINANCES

None.

             

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution 2014-33 A Resolution Reconsidering and Overriding the Mayor’s Veto of Budget Ordinance 2014-1

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Sosar.

On the Question:

Cusat stated he would like to read a statement into the minutes. His statement is as follows:

“I have personally sought out two additional legal opinions on the City's budget situation. After considering these opinions, I have come to the conclusion that both Budgets that are being mentioned are invalid and were improperly passed. I will not cast any blame to any member of the Administration or of the City Council department. The Council and the Administration have held meetings and attempted to work out an agreement, however, talks have not concluded with a mutually agreeable outcome. Although the parties can still negotiate, we are forced to make a decision between two Budgets that I feel were passed incorrectly. The original version was never advertised or made available for public viewing for the required twenty days after the first reading. Debt Service was not accurate after a failed amendment. Revenue was not fully funded at the time of passage. The corresponding tax ordinance (2013-30) was also vetoed by the Mayor for a variety of reasons. I would assume that the Mayor may have seen some concern with this version because he presented an amended version to Council. The amended version was properly made available to the public, however, it contained line items for two amendments that failed. This would require an additional ten-day period after being corrected. Depending on interpretation, it may not have been properly balanced. Council simply ran out of time to correct these issues, and could not properly reach the deadline as required. For these reasons, I will not cast a vote in which the two outcomes are both invalid. I will abstain from voting to override the Mayor's veto. I am hopeful that the Administration will follow the letter of the law in remedying this situation. Hopefully, this will end the past practices of Hazleton not being transparent with the citizens, and the City will move forward and carry out business according to the laws set forth by the Commonwealth and the City.” Roll Call:  Bast-absent; Cusat-abstain; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

At this point, Mundie asked DeCosmo if three votes is the majority for this Resolution. DeCosmo said “There is a quorum present, Jeff abstained, so even without his vote, if he was treated as absent, there’d be a quorum, so you could do business. And you could act as the legislative body; there’s a quorum. A majority of that quorum would be two, plus one would be three.” Mayor Yannuzzi said no, he is present but he abstained, so he is still part of the majority. DeCosmo stated “You cannot require there to be a vote of four…” Mayor Yannuzzi interjected and stated “abstaining is a vote. It’s vote yes or no and it ends up to be a no.” DeCosmo said “no, it is not…the case law says otherwise” according to the Supreme Court. He added that he would read that as there is a majority present, the quorum is three, majority is two of those, plus one more would be three, and it would pass. Mundie said this would be the super majority and DeCosmo agreed. Mayor Yannuzzi said Cusat is part of the quorum. Slusser said “The Code is specific about the overriding of a veto in that it says that it’s a super majority of the members of Council not present.” DeCosmo stated it says it requires a majority plus one of the members. Mayor Yannuzzi said a majority of Council would be three. DeCosmo said it does not say all members of Council. Mundie asked Slusser to review this matter, and suggested moving on with the order of business. Mayor Yannuzzi said “Why are we moving on? There’s a decision to be made here.” Mope said “Not now.” She added he can comment at the end of the meeting, and asked for point of order. Mayor Yannuzzi said he is part of this meeting just like Council, and Mundie said he is invited here. Mope reiterated that the Mayor can comment at the end of the meeting. Mayor Yannuzzi said “I may participate, not I can participate if you let me. So, I’m here and you don’t like it. I’m here and you’re telling me I can’t talk.” Mundie and Mope said he is always welcome to attend the Council meetings. Mundie said this will be decided later. Mayor Yannuzzi stated that this cannot be decided later because of the upcoming resolution regarding the stormwater fee. Slusser said “For the record, my opinion is what I stated earlier. We can agree to disagree on that for the time being.” Mundie asked if it is okay that Cusat abstained. Slusser replied “You have to have an articulable reason and conflict to abstain from a vote.” Mundie said “So, you’re saying he had a valid reason to abstain?” Slusser stated “I didn’t say that either. The Code requires you to vote unless you have an ethical basis for the abstention or conflict, and I didn’t hear that in the discussion that there was an ethical basis for the abstention.” Mundie asked what that means. Slusser said Cusat should vote yes or no. Mope said she thought Cusat felt it was illegal, therefore, that would unethical. Mundie asked Slusser if he is saying that Cusat should not have abstained. Slusser responded “A member should not be abstaining unless they have an articulable, ethical reason for the abstention. He’s abstaining on the grounds that he indicated, but I don’t know if that qualifies as a basis for abstaining. I’m pretty sure he should have voted yes or no.” Mundie asked why Slusser did not stop Council or say you cannot do that after Cusat abstained. Mayor Yannuzzi replied “He’s not part of the meeting. You have to ask him.” Slusser suggesting asking Cusat if he wants to repeal his vote. Mundie said “No, we’re not repealing his vote. He abstained, we’re going to go on, and it’s going to end up in court, and you’re going to get paid for it too.” Slusser said “That’s not my choice. The reality is that my opinion remains that you need a super majority of the members of Council, not just those present.” Mundie said DeCosmo has case law from the Supreme Court that state otherwise. Slusser stated he did not have enough time to read it yet, but it is not dealing with the City Code. Mundie said that one Slusser reads the case law, he might change his mind.

RESOLUTION PASSES 3-1

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Resolution 2014-34 Honoring Corinne Chabot, Director of Hazleton United Rehabilitation Services

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Mundie asked Corinne Chabot to come to the podium. He then read the Resolution aloud. Mundie thanked Chabot. Chabot said it has been a privilege and honor for 25 years to be a part of the URS family. She said it is because of the City of Hazleton, the community businesses, and friend that URS has been able to continue to provide quality services and programs for individuals who live with disabilities. Chabot thanked everyone for their support on behalf of URS.

Roll Call:  Bast-absent; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

RESOLUTION PASSES

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Resolution 2014-35 A Resolution Establishing a Stormwater Collection and Management Plan Fee in Accordance with Ordinance 2013-13

NO PRESENTATION MADE – RESOLUTION FAILS

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Resolution 2014-36 Fair Housing in the City of Hazleton

Presented by Mundie. Seconded by Mope.

  On the Question:

Mundie asked Fermin if this is routine. Fermin said that because the City received a HOME grant from DCED, the state requires a Fair Housing Notice to be posted. She added that should someone be looking for a home and have an issue with any type of prejudice against race, religion, sex, etc., there needs to be a Fair Housing Officer in the City to receive complaints. The complaints would then be forwarded to the state. Fermin said this is just a general notice.

Roll Call:  Bast-absent; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

RESOLUTION PASSES

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Resolution 2014-37 Authorizing the Mayor to Execute a Contract with Alfred Benesch & Company for Engineering Services for the Office of Community Development

Presented by Mundie. Seconded by Cusat.

On the Question:

Mundie said he looked over the scoring system, and asked if there is a tally sheet. Fermin said there is a separate sheet for each individual firm. Mundie asked if Council can have a copy of those sheets, and Fermin said she would get that to Council. Mundie asked if this could wait until the next meeting. Fermin said it could wait until the next meeting, but it is holding up all of Community Development’s projects because right now they do not have an engineer. She said the contract with the previous engineer expired on December 31, 2013. Mope suggested tabling it until the next meeting. Mundie said he still has a few more questions. Mundie made a motion to table the Resolution, and Cusat seconded the motion.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Mundie. Seconded by Cusat.

Roll Call (on Motion to Table):  Bast-absent; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

RESOLUTION TABLED

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Resolution 2014-38 Authorizing the Mayor to Execute a Contract with Snyder and Clemente for Accounting Services for the Office of Community Development

Presented by Mundie. Seconded by Cusat.

On the Question:

Mundie asked what the average is that is spent per year on these services. Fermin said it depends on what is needed, but no more than 20 to 25 hours per year. She said is it mostly for the end of the year if there are issues with the trial balances, or if there is something that needs to be prepared for the general audit. Sosar asked if this for the single audit that has to go to the federal government rather than the regular audit that is done for the City each year. Fermin said it is for a little bit of both. She said this service is needed in case there is an issue, such as drawing down on a grant, but something is not working right, for accounting advice, and for the audits. Cusat asked if this is the same company that finished out the year. Fermin said yes, they took over when Albert Kishel passed away. She said they have experience with it, and when the bids were received, Snyder and Clemente was the lowest bidder. Roll Call:  Bast-absent; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

RESOLUTION PASSES

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Resolution 2014-39 Sale of 2013 Tax Claims

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Sosar.

On the Question:

Mundie asked Hahn to explain this to the public. Hahn stated that there were property taxes that were delinquent at the end of the 2013 that are sent to collection at the county level. Northeast Revenue collects that money and forwards it to the municipality. He said this particular arrangement would provide the City with funds in a lump sum up front. Hahn stated it is estimated to be about $480,000, and $332,000 of that would go to the general fund, $138,000 to the debt fund, and about $10,000 to the recreation fund. He stated that if the monies were to come in as they are collected from Northeast Revenue, the City would get about 54% of that in the first year, which is about $312,000, of which $215,000 would go to the general fund, $90,000 would go to the debt fund, and $6,000 to the recreation fund. Hahn said there is a cost to have someone work on this deal. He said it is basically a loan, and we are paying the loan back with the proceeds from these delinquent taxes. Mundie asked if other communities do this. Hahn said when he worked in Butler Township, they did not do this, but most other communities do this. He stated Luzerne County has been involved in a program such as this for a long time, but they got out of it this year. He said more money would eventually come to the City if you did not do a deal such as this, but it would take a much longer time to collect it, and there would be a cash flow issue. Hahn said the “bottom line” for this year would be that the City would bring into the general fund about $332,000 if approved, and if not approved, we would get about $250,000. Mundie asked if this is a one-time, one-year deal, and Hahn replied yes. Mundie asked if it is automatically renewable, and Hahn said no, it would have to be renewed each year. Mundie asked if Slusser reviewed this contract, and Slusser said he has not reviewed it in quite some time. Hahn stated this is the eighth year the City would be doing this, and there is a closing process that is done. Sosar asked if there is a time frame to notify them that we are not going to do this and we are going to seek other arrangements. Mundie said a lot of our contracts have automatic renewals, and, if you do not notify them well in advance, it is automatically renewed. Hahn said this is not like that. You would have to specifically approve this each year. Mundie asked Hahn to check the contract again just to be certain. He stated we are just going to do this for this year only, and next year we may be looking at doing something different that would bring in more revenue. Hahn said that there would still be money owed back to them from previous years, but that money would be collected from Northeast Revenue and given to the company instead of the City. Mundie said Cusat came up with some good ideas to increase the revenue without doing this, but we need the money desperately, so we have to do this right now. He added that if we bring in some revenue and different ideas for this year, maybe we could be more flexible and have the ability to do something else next year. Cusat said in the long run it works out better for the City, but we really need this money.

Roll Call:  Bast-absent; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

RESOLUTION PASSES

             

Comments from the Audience:  Dan Basala, West Hazleton, commented on behalf of the residents of Hazleton. Basala said there is an agreement to send the City’s firefighters to West Hazleton to fight fires when needed. He said sending the City’s paid firemen to West Hazleton is not fair to the taxpayers. He further stated that they are getting paid overtime for this. Mundie asked Hahn to have the Fire Chief get him a list of how many times our firemen went out on calls in West Hazleton last year, and how many times that cost us overtime, and email it to Council. Hahn said the only thing he knows right now is that Leshko said they have not had any overtime in the last four weeks. Hahn said he would do that. Basala suggested charging the towing companies to be in the City because it is a benefit to them, and they are “raking in the money.” He said the same thing should be done with the ambulance companies. He said something needs to be done to get in more revenue. Mundie said Council is looking into other ways to raise revenue, and if anyone has any ideas, please come here and speak up. Basala said “I always come here and listen to the budgets and people crying about money, but we’re giving, like Mope says, charity starts here at home. We’re giving West Hazleton free fire service?”

Judy Yurcho, 984 North Locust Street, Hazleton commented on work ethics. She said her parents instilled in her that whatever job you do, you do it well. She said that it did not matter how much she made, but she always took pride in what she did because she was doing an honest day’s work. Yurcho said people are coming up here and talking about pay cuts and who it is going to hurt. She said she does not believe they are going to do any less in their jobs because their pay got cut, because they know the City is struggling. Yurcho asked DeAndrea if he is going to be any less of a police chief because you got a pay cut. DeAndrea replied that he may not be able to afford remaining the Police Chief because of the pay cut. He said he depends on a certain salary to pay his bills, and he took the job anticipating that he would be making the salary that he was promised. Yurcho said she understands, but it would be for the good of the City. She also commented on the DeAndrea’s state police pension. She said she has bills to pay too, and we have to work together. Yurcho said she has worked for minimum wage and still managed to do what she had to do. She commented on Cusat abstaining on voting on Resolution 2014-33. She said Cusat represents the citizens of Hazleton, and by abstaining, he said the citizens have no opinion on this matter. Yurcho said it was a “cowardly move” for Cusat to abstain, and it says that he does not want to get involved or get in the middle of it. She said the reason that there was an election and two people got voted out was because the citizens of Hazleton wanted a change. Maybe some people do not like the budget that Council came up with, or that some people got their pay cut, but she was taught that if you leave a job, there is always someone else there to take your place. She asked Council to consider what the citizens want. Yurcho said she was disappointed in Cusat because he abstained from voting. She added that he is saying that the people he represents do not have a vote.

Victor Perez, President of Dominican House of Hazleton, 16 North Laurel Street, Hazleton stated this is a non-profit organization working with the Hispanic community. He stated they have English and Spanish classes, computer classes, citizenship classes, music classes, karate classes for children, helping people involved in domestic violence, helping people with the police department, and helping people with drug problems and gangs. Perez said we are working in Hazleton and we are volunteers. They do not receive any money from the City of Hazleton, or any member of government. He stated that 37% of the community is Hispanic, but believes it is more like 42%. The majority of the Hispanic community are Dominicans coming from the Dominican Republic. Perez said “we are not Latinos, we are Hispanic, because we speak Spanish.” He stated that there is not another organization in Hazleton that represents the Hispanic community. He requested that the Dominican people living and working in Hazleton and paying taxes receive the honor of having their flag be raised in the front of City Hall on February 27, 2014, which is Independence Day for the Dominican Republic. Perez stated that in 1844, the Dominican Republic received their independence, and we celebrate that every year. He said that for some reason the Mayor did not think the Dominican flag should be displayed in the front of City Hall. He stated this was done before for another country. He said there are two flags displayed in Council Chambers. Mundie said Perez could bring one of his flags to Council Chambers and hang it next to the others. Perez said thank you. Mundie said that is all he can do as a member of Council, because the Mayor handles the day-to-day operations of the City and he decides such matters. Perez said he would bring the Dominican flag here for display. He said the Hispanic community does not understand why the City continues fighting for something that is not important. He said immigration into the City is not an important problem. He said crime in this country is not because of the immigration of undocumented people. Perez said we need to respect the people in this community, and the Hispanic community is not here to create any problems. He said we have different views, but we still respect the Mayor and the City Council. He added that we voted for you, so we have to respect your decisions. Perez stated the Mayor told him there is a state law from 1895 that another country’s flag cannot be raised at City Hall. He said Allentown, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Reading, and Lancaster have allowed the flag to flown. Mundie asked Perez to submit his request in writing, and Council will give it to the Mayor. Perez said he sent a letter about this matter to the Mayor and City Council, but never received an answer. He stated he wants to decorate with flags around the Dominican House, and give out coffee, hot chocolate, cookies, etc., to everyone that passes by. He stated they do not want to cause any trouble or problems, and they will respect the law. He said they want to work together with the City of Hazleton to help find solutions to the City’s problems.

Norman Tarantino, 154 North Lee Court, Hazleton commended the Mayor for acknowledging the mistakes that were made regarding the U.S. Flag in the past, and correcting those mistakes for the future. He said there is a U.S. Flag Code in the federal government that regulates and states how flags must be displayed. The first rule is that if another country’s flag is being displayed, it must be on a pole the same height as the pole that the U.S. Flag is on, and if it is hung on the same pole with the U.S. Flag, it must be below the U.S. Flag so that the U.S. Flag is raised first and lowered last. Tarantino said “these regulations cannot be persecuted because they are also in violation of the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution as was stated by the U.S. Supreme Court.” He said as long as they are flown in the proper manner as indicated by federal law, they should be allowed to be flown. He added that the Mayor has to abide by the state law.

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton commented on the McKinley Street property. He said there is a section in the Criminal Code, 7510 Municipal Housing Code Avoidance, that he spoke to DeAndrea about, regarding extradition. Rabo said there needs to be a reason for the extradition. He stated “Neighborhood Blight Reclamation Revitalization, Subchapter B, Actions Against Owners of Property with Serious Code Violations, that would be under 6113, Duty of Out-of-State Owners of Property in this Commonwealth. A person who lives or has a principal place of residence outside this Commonwealth who owns property in this Commonwealth, for which code violations have been cited, and the person is charged under the Criminal Codes Statute, and who has been properly notified of the violations may be extradited to this Commonwealth to face criminal prosecution to the full extent allowed in the manner authorized by the Extradition Statute.” Rabo said if this used and the McKinley Street property owner does not comply, the City can have the owner extradited. Rabo said DeAndrea stated the District Attorney would have to do that, but he thought it would be the responsibility of the state. Mundie asked Slusser where we are at with the McKinley Street property. Slusser said he is familiar with the section Rabo is talking about, and the City is moving forward with that. Mundie asked if there is anything getting done with that property, and Slusser replied that he cannot answer questions about the physical cleanup itself. Slusser stated “We’re pursuing extradition and the criminal charges.” Mundie asked if there are any more bills from Slusser with regard to this matter. Slusser stated there has not been much action from his office since he and Mundie last spoke, other than the pursuit of this particular section. He said Attorney John Solt of his office recently met with Rich Wech, and they are working on that together. Rabo said the City Code states “under Chapter 183, Property Maintenance, Article II, Blighted and Vacant Properties, it would be under 1839, Anti-Blight, Administrative Procedures, the Mayor shall convene a Blighted Building Committee consisting of the Code Enforcement Officers, the City Engineer, the Director of Community Development, the Fire Marshall, and other City staff as deemed appropriate to include one or more members at large from the neighborhood committees. The Blighted Property Building Committee shall convene in a regularly scheduled meeting every 30 days or sooner. The various commissioners or their designees shall attend each session. The City Engineer shall produce an annual list of vacant properties or buildings. The Blighted Building Committee shall add any blighted buildings they are aware of to this list. The Blighted Building Committee shall review the list of vacant and blighted buildings and select those buildings for which specific strategies may be developed.” Rabo asked if and when the Mayor was going to appoint people to the Blighted Properties Committee, so the Redevelopment Authority can do its work. Mayor Yannuzzi said the committees are in place but they are dormant at this time. Mundie asked if the Mayor if they will be activated soon, and Mayor Yannuzzi replied yes. Mundie said Council put in money for the McKinley Street cleanup in the CD budget, and the new money comes in in March or April. Fermin state the money that Council put in was placed into the 13-17 Green Street property, and it should have been placed in general clearance. She said she tried to explain that to Council. Mundie said that there will be extra money in Green Street that can be used for the cleanup of McKinley Street in March or April. Fermin replied yes, but it depends on a few other factors. Rabo stated that the City needs a new Comprehensive Plan and not just a downtown plan. The City has not had one since June of 1992. He said “If the taxpayers are going to foot the bill for a plan, it should be a comprehensive plan and not a downtown plan only.” Rabo said “the flag represents the symbol of our laws and how we govern. Since this is the seat of the City government, no ethic flag shall supersede the Constitution of the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” He said government officials take oaths to uphold these laws. He added that the two flags on display in Council Chambers should not be here either.

Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton discussed lowering the salaries. She asked what kind of raises did the nonunion employees get this past year, and she asked if those raises, in essences, are just being undone. Deakos said it is hard to tell who is getting what salary in the budget. Mundie said he wants salaries and budgets for 2013 and 2104 set up like the former City Administrator did it. He said he wants to know the job titles for each employee in order to post on the website. He said no names will be posted on the website; just the job titles. Hahn said Council has all the employees’ names already. He apologized for not posting this to the website, because there was no vote as to what those salaries were going to be for some of the people. Hahn added that the union workers received a 3% raise. Deakos said DeAndrea stated he is going to lose $9,000 in his salary, meaning his salary was $90,000. Hahn said DeAndrea’s salary is not $90,000; it is $65,000. Mundie said he believes DeAndrea gets some overtime for working the Ticket and Click It program. Mope said that salaried employees should not be receiving overtime. Hahn said the cut would be 10% of his base salary.

Sylvia Thomas, 409 West 6th Street, Hazleton said she believes the two flags in Council Chambers should be removed. The U.S. Flag should be the only flag flying in front of City Hall, because if you allow one, then you have to allow all the other ones as well. She said we have the most beautiful flag in the world, and the U.S. is the most beautiful country in the world. Thomas said she hopes Victor Perez loves this country as much as she does, and as his first country and not his second.

Comments from Mayor or City Administrator:  Mayor Yannuzzi said the two flags in Council Chambers are from the Sister Cities Organization, and Council can do whatever they want with them. Mundie said he is okay with these flags being displayed in Chambers, and he does not mind if there is another one there as well. Mayor Yannuzzi said one is the flag of Poland, and the other is the flag of Italy. Mayor Yannuzzi asked Cusat to reconsider his vote on overriding the veto, and suggested he bring it up again to change his vote to yes or no. Cusat said no. Mundie said Council is not doing that. Slusser said he could rescind it if he wants to, and Cusat stated he is not rescinding his vote. He added that he will not be forced to vote on something that he believes is illegal. Cusat said if someone wants to challenge him, they could, but he is not taking either side because he believes both are illegal. Mayor Yannuzzi said “It doesn’t matter either way…you play the middle the way you want to.” Mayor Yannuzzi said the budget passed in December is the one the Administration is going to follow because they believe the budget passed in February is in invalid. He said it was changed several times and was not advertised correctly. Mayor Yannuzzi said that Yurcho stated that nonunion employees were cut because they are the only ones that could be cut. He stated that is not true because Council could have cut all the line items, highway, police, etc., but Council targeted the nonunion employees because they are on the Mayor’s staff. Mayor Yannuzzi believes this is the only reason that Council did this. He said Council had plenty of time to cut out some of the other line items. Mundie stated that Union salaries cannot be cut. Mayor Yannuzzi said it can be done by cutting the correlating line items and laying off people. He said laying people off is not breaking the law. Mundie said that would violate the union contracts. Mayor Yannuzzi disagreed with Mundie. Mundie and Mope both asked if Mayor Yannuzzi is recommending layoffs and cutting line items in other areas. Mayor Yannuzzi responded no. He commented that Council would have cut other salaries if they were not afraid of the unions. Mayor Yannuzzi said there is 108 people on the payroll and Council only cut the salaries of eight people. Mundie asked if Mayor Yannuzzi is suggesting that more salaries be cut. Mayor Yannuzzi said no, that is not what he is saying. The statement made by Yurcho was false because other things could have been done. He said that Council “targeted the nonunion people.” Mayor Yannuzzi stated that no wages will be cut. Mundie said to Mayor Yannuzzi “The government works this way. You administer the government. Council sets the budget and decides how much money is spent.” Mayor Yannuzzi said he follows the ordinances of the City and the budget is an ordinance. He added that the most recent budget passed by Council is “invalid.” Mayor Yannuzzi said “You take me to court. I’m not going to follow that budget.” Mope said she asked Slusser for a legal opinion on the Mayor’s memo on whether or not it held any legal weight, but she never received a response from him. Mayor Yannuzzi said “Why does it have to be legal?” He said it was strictly his opinion, and his opinion is not the law. Mope said that Mayor Yannuzzi made a decision and that decision was not based on a legal opinion. Mayor Yannuzzi said he based nothing on a legal opinion. He looked at the budget, he came up with his “disagreements,” and that is what he put in his memo. Mundie said at the last work session for the budget, Mayor Yannuzzi stated the first budget was illegal, it was unfunded, etc., but now he is saying the opposite. Mayor Yannuzzi stated “No, I said it was funded improperly and you just changed it right now when you did your tax. I vetoed the tax.” Mope said that Mayor Yannuzzi stated on several local television programs that he was not behind the stormwater management fee, you did not think we had enough money to initiate it, and you made all kind of comments against it, yet it was placed on the agenda. Mayor Yannuzzi said he did not put it there, but it is in the budget. He added that the resolution on tonight’s agenda was just setting the amount of the fee, and it is not the ordinance. Mope said “If you didn’t believe in it, it shouldn’t be in.”

Comment from Junior Council:  Pamela Rodriguez commended the Police Chief and everyone who worked with the recent drug bust. She said one of her friends was recently robbed at gunpoint. She was pushed to the ground, and that made her feel unsafe as a citizen of Hazleton. Rodriguez said one of the reasons this drug bust is so successful is because it make everyone feel safer.

Comments from Council:  Cusat asked about the open seats on the boards and authorities. He asked if there is a deadline to have them filled. He said he received the letter from the Slusser Law Firm regarding the Vercusky case, and asked if we are supposed to be acting on these witnesses. Slusser said he does not want to discuss the litigation. He said there has been a request for direction from Council on that matter, but it is a matter that should be discussed in executive session. Mundie said he asked Slusser to send him additional information on this matter. Mundie stated Slusser wanted to hire some experts, but he has some experts that would probably look at it for nothing. He said he never received anything from Slusser. Slusser replied that he sent that information to Mundie immediately after he requested it, probably within a week after discussing it in executive session, which was a few months ago. Mundie asked Slusser to resend the information, and Slusser said he would do that. Cusat said he is not going to be forced to vote on something that he believes is illegal. He stands by his previous statements that he believes the December 19, 2013 is flawed because of many missing figures. He stated he does not totally agree with the February 11, 2014 budget, because he feels it is irresponsible to use all of the cash on hand as revenue. Cusat said he questions the legality of pay cuts in mid-terms. He does not agree that the leaders of each department should be making less money than the employees that work under them. Cusat said we will probably end up in court, and we will have to see where we go from there. He thanked DeAndrea and the Police Department. He also thanked the Streets Department workers for the job they did after the last snowstorm.

Sosar said he is not going to get into any budget commentary at this time. He said there are a few things that need to be mentioned. Sosar said Corinne Chabot got “overseen a little bit.” The work that is done at URS, what the clients accomplish, and the confidence and satisfaction that the URS employees and clients have every day, should be applauded. He said there should have been a bigger round of applause for that, and he wished there was more time to make comments on that instead of some of the other commentary that was made that he felt was not needed. Sosar thanked Chabot. He said everyone in town feels safer today than they did a few days ago. He said all one has to do is look at the list of names involved in the recent drug bust to see that “drugs don’t know anything about race, ethnicity, religion, age, or anything else.” Sosar said that drugs are a “business, and there is a market here. And, unfortunately, as long as there is a market for these drugs, as long as there are people who are willing to buy these drugs, there’s going to be people that fill that water, just like water, push it aside, push it with your hand and I guarantee you there will be water that’ll come in behind it when you have a puddle.” He said there is a good handle on it right now. The Police and the Attorney General have a good connection as to knowing where those drugs are flowing. Sosar said the people in this town have to stop buying it as well. He said “If you want to get rid of the bad guys, stop buying their stuff. When you dry up the market, you’ll dry up the dealers.” He thanked everyone for their time and contributions. Sosar said his mother will turn 96 on Thursday, and he wanted to wish her a happy birthday.

Mope thanked Corinne Chabot for her service to URS. She has gone to a few affairs with URS and she has enjoyed it immensely. She said this is a wonderful group. The young adults that participate in that group are wonderful, friendly, courtesy, hard-working, and fun. Mope said the URS is remarkable, and they know how to stretch dollars, and we should take a lesson from them. She stated that we tried to avoid layoffs in the City, but we needed to start tightening our belts. She said they did not like to do it, but this was something that needed to be done. Mope said our expenses are out of hand, and we have to cut back on our spending. She said this is what we had to do to avoid layoffs. Mope said this is their livelihood and they depend on it. She said they felt making those cuts was the lesser of two evils. She said this is a beginning because we are living beyond our means. Mope thanked everyone for coming. She thanked the Police Department and DeAndrea for the excellent job they did with the drug bust. She offered her sincere gratitude to Attorney General Kathleen Kane. She said by them coming in with their staff and assisting our Police Department, we were able to accomplish a lot by taking the drug dealers off the street. Mope said this is City Hall and this is Council Chambers and it belongs to everybody. She said everyone is welcome here, everyone is welcome for input and ideas, and if we all work together, we can get things done. She thanked everyone for coming.

Mundie said he believes the budget that Council recently passed was a workable budget. He stated Mayor Yannuzzi proposed an amended budget that included a 0.55 mill tax increase or about $613,000. Mundie said the budget they proposed was a budget they felt they could work with. He said “The Mayor’s going to find out later in court who controls the budget, was it the Mayor or Council. And, as long I’ve been here, this is my fourth term, Council has always controlled the budget. When he had his majority of his friends, they gave him whatever he wanted, whether it was increases in salary or anything. Now, we hit the wall, we can’t afford any, you people can’t afford any new tax increases, and we’re not voting for them. And, we’re not voting for the Mayor’s first budget or his second budget. Our budget is going to be in place and the Mayor’s going to find out in court which one it is.” Mundie thanked everyone for coming. He also thanked DeAndrea and Attorney General Kathleen Kane, as well as her whole staff. He said Chabot and URS are doing a great job.

Adjournment:  Mundie motioned to adjourn the meeting with Mope seconding the motion. Meeting adjourned.