2014-03-11 Work Session and Council Minutes

MINUTES
HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL
WORK SESSION
THURSDAY, MARCH 11, 2014

Council met for a work session on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 in Council Chambers. The meeting began at 7:00 p.m.

In attendance were Council President Jack Mundie, Council Vice President Jean Mope, and Council Members Keith Bast, Jeff Cusat, and David Sosar.

Joe Pilla, representing Benecon and ETA Benefits of Nesquehoning, spoke regarding the health plan, and converting the existing health plan financial arrangement over to the Benecon consortium with other municipalities. Pilla said he was here back in December to discuss this matter. There is no change to Blue Cross and no change to the employees concerning their benefits, but they will get new identification cards. He said they are proposing to move the program over to the consortium on May 1, 2014. Pilla said he wanted to get Council’s approval prior to March 15, 2014 to allow them to get the program started by May 1, 2014. Pilla said the “high points of the program are strictly financial.” Instead of sending the premium to Blue Cross every month, it would be put into the consortium, which is more of a self-funded cooperative, and there is protection with stop-loss insurance. He said by December 31, 2014, there would be a minimum savings to the City of $62,000, but their actuaries are predicting $248,000 in savings. That is primarily derived from forcing and pushing some of the claims to the stop-loss insurance to take the pressure off of the premium and claims funds. Pilla said “it is all actuarially equivalent.” He said there are many other cities and townships throughout Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania in this program. Pilla said this was presented to the Administration and there was some savings in the administrative/clerical-type of activities in the business/personnel office with regard to consolidating bills, benefits to the employees in that he and Denise Wolfe are local, if there are any problems or questions. Pilla said there is no change to the employees’ benefits. Mope asked if he contacted any of the department heads to go over this matter. Pilla said no, he discussed it with the Administration and the Solicitor. Mope said she would like the matter discussed with them. Mundie said “we don’t have to do that cause we’re not changing any benefits, so they don’t have a say or a vote or anything.” Mope said it would just be informational. Pilla said he would send out that information within the next 45 days. He said there would be “some extra level of service that they never tapped into before, so it would probably be a good idea to actually meet with them.” He said this needs to be signed by Saturday, March 15, 2014, in order to get this started by May 1, 2014. Mundie said he believes everyone is in agreement that this is going to save money. Pilla said there will be “immediate cash flow savings because we are going to take the money and shift it around.” Mundie said that Council should direct the Administration to have this signed before March 15, 2014. He asked Lisa Shema, City Clerk, to send a memo to Administration regarding this matter. Pilla said Blue Cross is the one with the timeline. Mundie said that the longer we wait, the less the savings will be, and Pilla agreed. Pilla added that these savings are based on the time frame of May 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014. Mundie asked if this is a one-year contract, and Pilla said yes, a calendar year contract. Mundie said that if we do not like this, we can discontinue the contract, and Pilla agreed with that statement. Pilla said they have a 98% retention rate. He said the refund at the beginning of the year can either be put back into the claims fund or put back into the city’s fund. Pilla said he would be happy to meet with the unions to discuss this matter. Mundie said that Steve Hahn looked this over and he did not see any problems with it. Pilla said Hahn did not seem to have any problems with this. Mundie asked if the Mayor had any problems with this, and Denise Wolfe of ETA Benefits said “he seems on board.” Mundie said either the Mayor or the new City Administrator should sign the documents. Mope agreed. Mundie commented that Council is “on board” with this.

Joe Clifford, C Group Energy Services of Conyngham, Pennsylvania, spoke regarding an agreement with Direct Energy for electricity procurement. He said the Broad Street Corridor Project is nearing completion, and, as a result of that project, there are now 14 new meters, and the new streetlights and traffic lights are now metered. Clifford said there are now 14 new accounts established, which are on the PPL Electric Utilities default rate. This is the rate you get if you do not choose an electric supplier. He said today’s price per kilowatt hour is 10.391¢. Clifford stated he worked with the administration and it was decided to go out for some pricing. He got prices from seven different companies, and four of those were competitive. The lowest price was with Direct Energy, which is 7.629¢ per kilowatt hour. This is a 22% reduction in price per kilowatt hour as compared to the PPL default rate. Clifford said prior to coming to the meeting, he contacted Direct Energy and got a “refresh price” of 7.585¢. He also recommended a shorter term contract which will go to the end of the budget year. Clifford stated that energy companies base their prices on historical usage, but the new meters do not have a history yet. He recommended going into a nine-month contract with Direct Energy, which will save the City about $4,600. After the history is established, he will get some additional pricing. He said he is confident that the pricing for 2015 will be lower than what Direct Energy is giving the City now. Mundie asked if there are any advantages to waiting a little longer to see if we can get a lower rate. Clifford said no, because energy prices have gone “through the roof” with the cold weather. He said the sooner the City gets off the default rate, the better it will be, because it is costing the City an additional $500 a month above this price. He said there is a possibility that it may go lower if we wait, but he feels waiting will wipe out the potential savings. Clifford said in his opinion he does not see energy prices going down that much in the short term. Mundie asked if this is a fixed rate, and Clifford said yes. He stated it is “all inclusive, not variable… a locked-in price.” Clifford said the contract his company put in place in August was when the market was very low. This will come into effect in May 2014, which will put the street lighting cost below 4¢ per kilowatt hour. He said all the prices are locked in and fixed for the full term. The August street lighting contract is a 19-month contract, which will end on December 31, 2015, is at 3.95 ¢ per kilowatt hour. Mundie asked why that is so much lower than this contract. Clifford said the market was lower back in August, and it is strictly for street lighting, which is during the evening or during the off-peak hours. The metered accounts that the City has are a combination of metered loads. They have street lighting, but also traffic lighting, which is on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Clifford said there is currently no history with these new accounts. PPL Electric Utilities has assigned a default kilowatt for the City’s capacity at about 3 kilowatts. He said once we are through the summer, it will probably go down to 1 kilowatt. Because they do not have an “experienced summer load” on some of the meters, PPL estimates it to be 3 kilowatts, which is the average of the rate class. He said the ability to lower this rate in 2015 is much better than it is today. Bast said that is because we do not have a load base for the summer. He stated “no matter if we do it now or do it in May” it is going to be at a comparable rate, but if we wait, we may end up losing about $1,000. Clifford agreed with that statement. Mundie said every month we wait costs us $500, and Clifford agreed. Mundie said the Attorney General is investing some pricing issues with some companies, and asked if Direct Energy is involved. Clifford said he does not believe so. He said all the companies he received prices from are all companies that provide whatever option you want, but he likes to deal with the ones that have fixed rates and everything is up front. He said the companies on his list will most likely not be involved in the Attorney General’s investigation. Mundie asked if Steve Hahn looked over these documents, and Clifford said he met with Hahn on Friday and he was okay with it. Mundie asked if the new administrator should look at this first. Clifford said that is up to Council, but these prices change every day. He said he would be happy to sit with the new administrator and discuss it with him. Mundie said if we could save $500 immediately, he would prefer not to delay it. Clifford said that if the City does not do anything right now and stays at the default rate, the energy costs for the streetlights for the remainder of this budget year would be around $20,000. With this proposal, it will be about $15,400. Clifford said this would be for a delivery date in April. If you wait until the next meeting, it will be pushed into May. Clifford said when a company is selected, they have to put in an enrollment transaction that needs to be submitted to PPL 15 days ahead of the next meter reading, so timing is very important. Clifford said the probability of the price going up is probably higher than it going down. Mundie said he is all for saving any amount of money as soon as we can. Mundie asked Sosar’s opinion on signing this contract. Sosar replied that he was concerned with buying energy for a longer period of time, but Clifford is saying we cannot buy like that yet because we do not have a history established yet with these lights. He asked if this can be compared with local communities that have a similar situation to get a history out of that. Clifford said in order to get the price he got, he constructed load profiles for Direct Energy and submitted those load profiles based on the hourly metered data of some of the meters showing what the typical profile would be. He said he is not recommending entering into a longer term contract at this time because he believes once there is a history established, the price will be much lower in 2015. Sosar said that when he was with the Water Authority, he saw some of this, and they use a lot more energy with all of their pumps and systems, than the City would. He said he was under the impression that Direct Energy buys electricity on a month-by-month basis, but Clifford said no. Clifford said the Water Authority’s rate is how that particular deal was constructed. Direct Energy is an international company and they buy forward prices and wholesale. Clifford said the only fees that were fixed with regard to the Water Authority’s deal were the ones associated with the brokerage. He said that was a variable rate from day one, and it fluctuated because of the way the deal was structured. He said the company chosen by the Authority was Mid-American, which is Warren Buffet’s company, and it is a great company. He said that is one of the companies he got pricing from. Clifford said the Water Authority has a very good load factor because it is flat 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He said the also entered into a contract with Demand Response, which lowered that capacity element of their bill, where PPL assigns a default value. He said that was a great deal and a great negotiation. Clifford stated that right now this one account is not in a position to do that, but will be in the future. Mope was concerned that at this time we may not be able to enter into any contracts until other matters are “straightened out.” She suggested tabling this until the next meeting. Mope said she is all for saving money and does not want lose out on $500, but she does not know where the City stands at this time. Mope said she would be willing to call a special meeting with regard to this matter. Clifford suggesting approving it pending approval by the Solicitor for legal purposes. Bast said the Solicitor is supposed to look at these types of things before it comes to Council for a vote. Mope said it is supposed to, but sometimes it does not. Sosar said he does not believe we have an opinion from the Solicitor on this matter. Clifford said his working on the City’s behalf. Mundie suggested amending it so that it states that it is dependent on the approval of the Solicitor. Clifford said that is a good compromise. Mundie said they will amend it so it is dependent on the approval of the Solicitor. Clifford said he can run the contract up to the Solicitor tomorrow.

Bast asked if there are any questions concerning the contract with Alfred Benesch for Community Development.

Mope said there is an Ordinance regarding the responsibilities and requirements of landlords and rental registration. She would like Slusser to separate that ordinance into two separate ordinances, if possible, because he was the one who created it. She said she does not want it to affect the City’s contract with Northeast Revenue for rental registration. She said she would like to repeal the landlord part of that ordinance, so we can sit down and negotiate a compromise between the City and landlords, so that we do not end up in a lawsuit. Mope suggesting having a memo and/or email sent to Slusser with regard to that matter. Cusat said he spoke with Slusser about that and he is working on splitting that up. Mope asked Lisa Shema, City Clerk to send a memo to Slusser about splitting the ordinance as indicated. Shema said she would do that. Sosar said he heard Slusser say on several occasions that he was continuing on with depositions and other things regarding the lawsuit with the Hazleton Area Landlords Organization (H.A.L.O.). He asked if a message may be sent to Slusser asking him to “cease and desist” everything because we are in the middle of negotiating and changing this ordinance. Sosar said this has to come to an end. Mundie said Slusser was told to hold off on a lot of litigation at an executive session. He said he had an expert look at the Vercusky litigation, and the H.A.L.O. litigation. Mundie said he is not sure whether Slusser listens to Council or listens to the Mayor. Sosar asked that this be placed in the memo to Slusser as well. Mundie said he wants the rental registration to continue without the inspections for the time being, and Council is going to come up with a new ordinance “that everyone could live with.” He hopes to accomplish that in the near future. He said that would preclude anyone from pursuing any legal actions, or costing the taxpayers any money.

Mundie motioned to adjourn the work session, and Mope seconded the motion. The work session ended at 7:50 p.m.

 

MINUTES
HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL
REGULAR MEETING
TUESDAY, MARCH 11, 2014

Call to Order:  Council met in regular session on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 in Council Chambers. The meeting was called to order at 7:40 p.m.

Silent Meditation and Pledge of Allegiance:  A silent moment was taken followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

Roll Call:  Bast-present; Cusat-present; Mope-present; Sosar-present; Mundie-present

             

At this point, Mundie made a motion to remove the January 28, 2014 and February 11, 2014 meeting minutes from the table, and Cusat seconded the motion.

Motion to Remove Minutes from the Table:

Presented by Mundie. Seconded by Cusat.

Roll Call (on Motion to Remove Minutes from the Table):  Bast-yes; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

MOTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY – MINUTES REMOVED FROM THE TABLE

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Mundie made a motion to approve the minutes of the January 28, 2014, February 11, 2014, and February 25, 2014 regular meetings, and Cusat seconded the motion.

Motion to Approve Minutes:

Presented by Mundie. Seconded by Cusat.

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

MOTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY – MINUTES APPROVED

Minutes of Previous Meetings:  The minutes of the January 28, 2014, February 11, 2014, and February 25, 2014 regular meetings were unanimously approved, as indicated above.

             

Proclamations/Communications:  None.

Courtesy of the Floor:  Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton commented on the discussion Council had at the work session regarding sending a memo to the Mayor about the health insurance. She said she believes it should be done by resolution rather than just a memo. Mundie responded all ETA Benefits/Benecon needs to get it going is to have something signed, so we can realize the savings. He said they will be getting something to us in the near future. Deakos said the Mayor does not have to do anything unless it is done by resolution. Mundie said this will come before Council at a later date.

Grace Cuozzo, 948 James Street, Hazleton commented on Resolution 2014-41. She asked what happened to the $40,000 in energy savings we were supposed to see, which was mentioned back in August. She asked if there is another contract that she is not aware of. Clifford said there are two contracts, one for the City Hall buildings and general services, and there is one for the street lighting. They both expired in May, and there will be two contracts to replace them. Clifford said that both contracts have significantly lower prices than what was previously in effect. He said this contract is for all the new meters on Broad Street. Deakos asked why we are not going directly through Direct Energy like the last time. Clifford said he was the broker for all the other contracts with Direct Energy. He said the cost for street lighting at that time was about 8.5¢ per kilowatt hour. The new contract will be less than 4¢ per kilowatt hour.

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton commented on the Alfred Benesch contract with Community Development. He feels it is a conflict of interest because Dominic Yannuzzi works for Alfred Benesch, but he is also the City Engineer and the Executive Director of the Redevelopment Authority. He said his firm would be paid with Community Development monies. Rabo felt this Resolution should be voted down by Council. He said there were five other companies that bid on this job, and one of them should be chosen instead. Rabo said the only other alternative would be to have Yannuzzi step down as the City Engineer or the Executive Director.

Ted Sherrock, 67 Franklin Street, Hazleton said Mope commented about the lack of Solicitor at the Council meetings. He asked where Council’s legal advisor is tonight, and if he was here, would he be able to answer her questions. Mope said DeCosmo is on vacation this week, which was planned before he became Council’s legal advisor. She said if he was here, he could have answered her questions. Sherrock said that there are two attorneys in the legal advisor’s firm, and Council should make sure that when one is on vacation that the other can cover for him. Mope said they are both on vacation, which was planned prior to becoming Council’s legal advisor. She added that Slusser is not here because of a medical issue.

             

Old Business:

ORDINANCES

None.

             

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution 2014-37 Authorizing the Mayor to Execute a Contract with Alfred Benesch & Company for Engineering Services for the Office of Community Development (TABLED 2/25/14)

Motion to Remove from Table:

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Cusat.

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

MOTION TO REMOVE FROM TABLE PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

*At this point, Sosar said he will move to present this Resolution for purposes of discussion.

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Cusat.

On the Question:

Cusat made a motion to amend the Resolution to replace Alfred Benesch & Company with Barry Isett and Associates. Mope seconded the motion.

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mope.

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

MOTION TO AMEND PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

Back on the Question:

Mope said the reason she wanted to amend the Resolution was because we already have a contract in place with Barry Isett and they are in the middle of a project. She said we have the option to renew their contract for another year, and she did not feel “it would be beneficial for us to switch in the middle of the stream.” Cusat said he just want to have Barry Isett finish the projects that they have already started. Mundie said he looked at the scoring and he felt the Mayor gave some scores that “were not in line with what they should be.” He said Barry Isett’s been doing a good job, and he does not believe there is a reason to replace them. Sosar said there are some projects right now that Barry Isett is in the middle of, and he agrees with Cusat that whoever started the project should be the one to finish it. Mope said there is a grant involved and she does not want to see the City lose the grant. She felt it was a waste of time to bring in someone new and try to get them up to speed. Fermin said three months have lapsed since her department has had an engineer, and she needs to get her project going as soon as possible. She said Benesch came out with the highest score, and she does not know if there are any legal issues to consider with regard to that matter. Cusat said he already asked Slusser about that. Cusat asked Fermin if she believes Barry Isett could step in today and pick up where they left off in December. Fermin said yes, but there were some discrepancies she encountered when working with them. The elevator project has not been done yet. She said she believes they do a good job, but there is a timeliness issue that they need to work on. Fermin said the elevator project is three months behind, and the East End Playground work needs to get done. Sosar said this may be a communication issue. He suggest Fermin speak to Barry Isett and make sure everyone is “on the same page,” so that the projects can get moving again. He said grants are involved with some of the projects that need to be fulfilled right now. Fermin agreed. Sosar said he is not sure if maybe some of the grants will need to be redone in a couple of months. He said it is important for Fermin to communicate with them. Fermin agreed. Bast asked Greg Pavlick of Barry Isett questions regarding the timeliness issues with Community Development. Pavlick said the reason for the delay with the elevator project was that when they were handed the project, they were give a budget that was very low for the work to be done. The elevator manufacturer, Tyson Krupp, gave the City the cost to complete and upgrade elevator, and that number was very low based on their experience with elevators. Pavlick said elevator operators are very difficult to get in touch with. He tried to contact them with regard to the cost, and they did not receive a return call for quite some time. When they did return the call, they were not aware of the price they gave or who they gave it to. Pavlick said he asked the City to look back in its files and see if they have any other information, but no information was found. Pavlick said Fermin tried to call Tyson Krupp, but they did not get back her. He stated that they decided as a team to go through a feasibility study and get other elevator manufacturers on board, so they step up and act on it. During the feasibility study, there was a fire in the elevator, and Tyson Krupp realized there would be work associated with it, so they ended up contacting us, and the feasibility study was completed. Pavlick said the feasibility study was over $100,000, which was well over their initial estimate because there are some Code issues, such as the elevator being moved. He said he understands the urgency of it, but they had to get their budget in line before the project could be moved forward. The feasibility study was submitted to the City as of January 1, 2014, and Barry Isett is ready to move on it at any time. Bast asked if Fermin had any other issues, and she responded no. Fermin said she works well with Pavlick, but there was a miscommunication because he did not have all of his information.

Roll Call (as amended):  Bast-yes; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY AS AMENDED

             

New Business:

ORDINANCES

Ordinance 2014-3 An Ordinance Authorizing the Vacation of a Portion of 11th Street between Arthur Street and Taylor Court (1st Reading)

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Sosar.

On the Question:

Sosar said so much of this resides in Hazle Township, and he really does not have a problem with it. He said he is concerned with the fact that Ordinance states that everything is going to be paid for by the family, such as engineering costs, searches, etc. Sosar said he would like it stipulated for the record that they will incur all costs. He does not want the City to incur any expenses with regard to this matter. Mope agreed. Bast pointed out that it is already stated in the Ordinance. Sosar said he just wants it clarified for the record. He said what ends up happening is that people say they will incur the costs, then additional costs develop along the way, and then the say they did not know about this and they are not going to pay for it. Bast said if they decide not to incur the costs, then they will simply not get the vacation. He said if they do not incur the costs, this will be “null and void.” Mundie said the Ordinance states “any other costs incident hereto,” so that tells us it means everything.

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

             

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution 2014-40 Appointment to the Zoning Hearing Board – Michael Lee

Presented by Bast. Seconded by Cusat.

On the Question:

Mundie asked if anyone talked to Michael Lee. Bast said he has not spoken to him recently, but he has known him since they were children. He said he felt he was competent and capable to fill the position. Mundie said he wished he was here to answer some questions. He said he would like the individuals who are being appointed to come to the meeting to answer a few questions. Mundie said he does not have an objection to him. He asked if Bast could contact him and ask him to come to the next meeting. Bast said he would do that, but he believes Lee works different hours, so it may be difficult. Mundie said he read his resume and it looked good. Cusat agreed with Mundie.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Mundie.

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

MOTION TO TABLE PASSES 4-1 – RESOLUTION TABLED

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Resolution 2014-41 Authorizing the Mayor to Execute an Agreement with Direct Energy for Electricity Procurement

Presented by Bast. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Mundie made a motion to amend the Resolution to read “pending approval by the Solicitor” that we can enter into a contract with this company. Sosar said he believes Council has the right to deal with contracts as per the Third Class City Code. He said he wants to make sure the Solicitor and/or Legal Advisor approves the contract, and has looked over the language and everything is how it should be. Sosar seconded the motion.

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

MOTION TO AMEND PASSES UNANIMOUSLY – RESOLUTION AMENDED

Roll Call (as amended):  Bast-yes; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY AS AMENDED

             

At this point, Mundie made a motion to suspend the rules to accept the resignation of Bob Zientek from the Water Authority. Sosar seconded the motion.

Roll Call (on Motion to Suspend the Rules):  Bast-no; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

MOTION TO SUSPEND THE RULES PASSES 4-1

Mundie said that Bob Zientek has decided to resign from the Water Authority for personal reasons, and he felt there was no other choice than to accept his resignation. He said Zientek is having some health issues, but he is doing much better. Mundie said we are not doing anything at this time with regard to filling the position; we are just accepting his resignation. Mundie made a motion to accept the resignation of Bob Zientek, and Sosar seconded the motion. Sosar said he had the opportunity of serving for one year with Zientek on the Water Authority. He found him to be a gentleman and very much concerned with the workings of the Water Authority. He was also concerned with the employees, the rate payers, and what would be best for the Water Authority. Sosar said Zientek worked as the manager of the Authority, then later come on and offered his services again. He stated that Zientek is a classy man, and he wishes him all the best. He said you do not work that hard and get the administration named after you if you have not put in a lot of long hours and hard work to get the Water Authority where it is today. He thanked Zientek and wished him well. Sosar said he will not forget him. Mope said she had the pleasure of meeting Zientek at the meetings, and she concurs with everything that Sosar has said. She said he is a gentleman and he has done a lot for the Water Authority. She said he has done an excellent job, and she wished him well, good health, and the best of luck in all his future endeavors. Mope also thanked him for his service. Mundie said he had the pleasure of working with Zientek for nine years when he was on the Water Authority. He said he is a true gentleman and cares about the City of Hazleton and the Water Authority. He was instrumental in making it what it is today, which is a showpiece to the entire state. Mundie said Senator Musto would bring Senators from all over the state to show them the working of the Authority. When Mundie was there, the Authority built a 12-mile pipeline from the Lehigh River to the City, and they received two Pennvest loans totaling $40 million. He commented that he believes that happened because of how it was run under Zientek. Mundie said Zientek is feeling much better, and he wished him well. He said maybe when he is feeling better, he could come back on the board, and he is always welcome. Mundie said Zientek did a great job on the board and as director of the board. He said he is accepting his resignation with regret. He said no one know the Water Authority better than him, and he will be missed.

Roll Call (on Motion to Accept Bob Zientek’s Resignation):  Bast-yes; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

MOTION TO ACCEPT RESIGNATION OF BOB ZIENTEK PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

           

Comments from the Audience:  Sylvia Thomas, 409 West 6th Street, Hazleton asked if we have a budget. Mope said we are waiting to find that out. Mope said she believes there is a budget. Sosar said Council believes there is a “legal budget in place.” Thomas said the City is in bad shape, and we are all worried about crime, drugs and gangs, but looking at the empty table where the Mayor, Solicitor, Legal Advisor, and City Administrator sit scares her more. She said everyone needs to start working together because the City needs help. Thomas said if the Mayor will not cooperate with Council, then there must be something that can be done about. She said there are 25,000 people relying on you to make a safe and affordable town to live in. Mope agreed with Thomas.

Ted Sherrock, 67 Franklin Street, Hazleton said he read an article in the newspaper that there was a lady that was stopped from circulating a nominating petition because she did not have a permit. He said he circulated a petition but he did not have a permit. Mundie said he is under the impression that the Constitution states that you are allowed to do that because it is political and you are not soliciting money. He said he sees there being a major problem with this. He said he does not know who the officer was. Sherrock asked if U.N. Agenda 21 has hit Hazleton. He said it will scare you. This is still America despite what everyone else says. Mundie said he know for a fact that you do not need a permit to solicit political signatures. Sosar said every Council member, and the Mayor had to pass a petition around to get here. He said he walked many streets in this town trying to get petitions signed, and he believes the other Council members did as well. Bast said he is sure he walked every single street in this City getting signatures. Mope said she did as well. Sherrock said he is a veteran, and he did not put his time in to have “some second rate policeman tear up a nominating petition.” He said that is a crime. Mundie said he is “appalled” over this matter. He would like to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible. He said there is a lawsuit filed. Mundie said Council should be told exactly what happened. He said this Administration does not tell Council about anything. Mope said we have to read it in the newspaper or watch it on television to see what is going on in the City.

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton said he wanted to ask about the Blighted Properties Committee but he does not believe anything is going to happen with that right now. He commented on getting revenue into the City. He said he was at the County Council meeting, and they were discussion KOZs. Rabo said Council should discuss how the KOZ distinction is given out, because he believes the process is being taken advantage of and abused. He said there was a property sold for $18 million that was under KOZ status, and the county missed out on $7 million. He said the City needs to take into consideration when it gives KOZ status to developers. Rabo said the City needs to take precautions with regard to this matter. He said he does not fault any developer for making money, but we need to get the revenue that pays for the police, the streets, and the fire department. Rabo said something needs to be done about the blighted properties, so that the neighborhoods can be developed as well as the downtown area. He thanked Council for amending Resolution 2014-42, and said ethics should always be taken into consideration.

Richard Ammon said Council paid Bob Zientek the respect he deserves, and he hoped he will be back soon.

Comments from Mayor or City Administrator:  None.

Comments from Junior Council:  None.

Comments from Council:  Bast thanked everyone for coming. He said Slusser is not here tonight because of an illness. He apologized for not being here at the last meeting. He said something came up with his class, and that is why he was not here.

Cusat said he noticed that the ambulance contract is expiring tomorrow, and asked if it should go on the agenda for the next meeting. He asked if we can have interested parties come in and see if they can provide any additional services. Mundie said he believed it automatically renewed. Cusat said that the automatically renewed year was this past year, which expires tomorrow. Mope stated that we would need to find out if the Mayor renewed it. Mundie stated the Mayor would be required to notify the ambulance company first. Cusat said he would like to have a resolution placed on the agenda for the next meeting with regard to this matter. Mope suggested having the interested parties come in for a work session and speak with everyone regarding this matter. Cusat agreed. Mundie asked Joe Clifford if his contract has an automatic renewal in it, and Clifford responded yes. He said we will just continue until Council decides they want to get out of it. He said they need to keep it on track with Blue Cross Blue Shield. Mope asked if they will notify the City about the renewal. Clifford replied yes. He said they try to come to Council twice a year to give updates on how the plan is performing, so there are no surprises when the renewal comes around. Mope said the Administration does not communicate with Council, so it is important that he does this. Cusat said he was reviewing some of the bills, and he asked why we are paying mileage for someone to come here if it is a Hazleton company. Mope said that is a good question. Cusat said they should not be using the Hazleton address if that person is not coming from Hazleton. Cusat said he did not know Bob Zientek, but he heard a lot about him. He thanked him for his service over the years. He thanked Steve Hahn for his service over the last year and half. He said he was a true gentleman that was willing to put in extra time in an effort to work with Council and anyone else who ask him to. He thanked everyone for coming.

Mope thanked Steve Hahn for the service he gave to the City during the time he was here. She said he was always a gentleman, and he was always available when Council needed information. Mope said he went out of his way to help everyone equally. She said that when Council’s Legal Advisor was hired, they already had their vacations set. She said she was not about to tell either of them that they could not take their vacations that were already paid for. Mope said we dealt with not having a solicitor for the last two and one-half year, so she felt they could do it again for a short period of time. She said they did not count on Slusser not being here, but he is very ill right now. Mope said that someone will be here at the next meeting. She thanked everyone for coming. She thanked Direct Energy, Benecon, ETA Benefits, C Energy Services, and everyone that spoke tonight. She said she appreciates the input from the public, whether good or bad.

Sosar said thanked everyone for coming and thanked everyone that spoke tonight. He said it makes the information flow better. Sosar said seeing the table where the Mayor, Solicitor, Legal Advisor, and City Administrator sit empty right is a “shame.” He said that has been pointed out many times, and he believes it is wrong. Sosar said the Mayor gets an invite to the Council meeting. We look forward to the information than may be given out, as well as answers to any questions we may have, but we cannot get them. Sosar said he understands the frustration that everyone feels. He stated that Council is going to continue doing its work, whether there is attendance here or not, and we will continue to get our work done. Sosar said no one would have run for this office unless they actually had the City’s best interests at heart. He commented that Council is going to get this City in decent shape with or without the Administration. He said that Council is going to do the best that it can.  He thanked everyone for coming.

Mundie said Council is working for what it believes is right for the taxpayers of Hazleton. He said if working with the Mayor means having to agree to a tax increase, he will not go along with that. Mundie stated “if that means that I’m not working with the Mayor, [then] I’m not working with him, and I don’t care if he comes to a meeting. I don’t care if he ever comes to a meeting, but I’m not going to agree to tax increase just to get along with the Mayor, and let him come to the meetings.” Mundie stated that the Mayor is not here at the meeting because he decided not to come here. He said Slusser has not been attending the meetings for the past year at the Mayor’s direction. He said he wants to do what is right for the City and not do what is right for the Mayor. Mundie said Council does not have to get along with the Mayor. He said two years ago the Mayor wanted to raise taxes 83%, and he told him he was crazy because he will chase everyone out of Hazleton. Mundie said the Mayor can come to the meeting any time he wants, and he will treat him with respect, and he can speak his mind whenever he wants to. He added that if the Mayor is doing something he believes is wrong or right, he will tell him. Mundie thanked Steve Hahn for the 18 months he was here. He said he spent a lot of time with Cusat straightening out the budget to get it where it is now. He said the new City Administrator’s resume was received by Council, and they will have to decide on his appointment in the near future. He said they did know about the firing of Steve Hahn until they read about in the newspaper. Mope said a memo was sent by the Mayor regarding this matter to Council and the media at the same time. She said the Administration does not let Council know what is going on, and that is one of her biggest complaints. She said she does not want to find out that we lost our City Administrator through a memo. Mope also said that she does not like having an email sent to her stating that the only way she can contact the Mayor is by a hand-delivered or mailed written letter, because he will not accept her emails. She said Council tries to communicate with him, but they do not get any cooperation from the Mayor. He said Steve Hahn was a gentleman and always cooperated with Council. He said Council had no problems with Hahn, and this was the Mayor’s decision. Mundie said with regard to what budget we are using, that should be straightened out within the next few weeks. He said whether the Mayor attends the meetings or not, Council runs the City government. The Mayor presents a budget to us, Council passes the budget, and it also decides the amount of money to be spent for the taxpayers. The Mayor suggests that and administers that, but he does not understand this form of government. Mundie thanked Bob Zientek again, and said he will be missed at the Water Authority.

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