2014-08-19 Work Session Minutes


Council met for a work session on Tuesday, August 19, 2014 in Council Chambers. The work session began at 6:00 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 Clifford of C Energy Group Services gave an update on the negotiations for an energy savings performance contract with SmartWatt Energy. He stated he sent Council an email on July 28, 2014 regarding this matter. He met with the Mayor and received positive feedback from him. The Mayor views this as an opportunity to upgrade the street lighting, while reducing the cost of energy and future maintenance costs. Clifford said the first step is to conduct an Investment Grade Audit (IGA) at no charge to the City. The initial projections indicate energy savings of $800,000 over 10 years, and a net positive cash flow of $425,000. The projections must be verified in the IGA, and they are guaranteed by SmartWatt. He stated the IGA Agreement needs to be signed in order to proceed. The Mayor has the agreement in his possession, and he has reviewed it with the City Solicitor, Atty. Chris Slusser. He will also be reviewing it with his staff. Clifford stated he expressed to the Mayor that the key for making this project a success is the involvement and support of the City’s management. Mope asked how long the Mayor has had the agreement, and Clifford responded that he has had it for about a month. Clifford said that Slusser indicated the Agreement looks fine. Cusat asked if Clifford met with Tom Pribula about this. Clifford said yes, and he also met with Alan Wufsus and Frank Vito. He felt they were all doing a good job. Cusat asked if the Council President could sign the Agreement instead of the Mayor. Clifford said that would be something to discuss with SmartWatt. Clifford said the market for energy is always changing, and he feels the costs will be increasing. Right now, it is at 4¢ per kilowatt hour for the street lighting system. Clifford said the price for 2015 is now at 6¢ per kilowatt hour, which will increase the electricity bill by $20,000, if nothing is done.

Greg Royer, Project Development Engineer of SmartWatt Energy, said the first step in the process is the Investment Grade Audit (IGA) Agreement, with a scope of work attached to it. Royer said the scope of work is for SmartWatt to verify fixtures, wattages, counts, run photometric measurements on the existing fixtures to meet the same levels, and obtain the up-to-date billing information. He said the numbers given in the RFP are now six to eight months old, so this would need to be brought current. They are guaranteeing this project for 10 years. This includes the energy and the maintenance of the system, so it needs to be as accurate as possible. Royer said he believes that the way the law is written, he does not see a reason why Council cannot enter into this Agreement tonight. He stated that they have full authority to sign this, and there is no cost associated with it. He stated the IGA will take about four to six weeks to complete, and then they will prepare a report for the City to keep. The next step is to enter into a Guaranteed Savings Agreement (GSA). He gave Council copies of this document for their review. Once the audit is submitted, they can move right into construction. Mope said she would like to have the City Solicitor look into if Council can legally sign the Agreement. She hoped that the City Solicitor will respond to that request by the next meeting. Sosar agreed with Mope. Bast asked where the Council Legal Advisor has been for the past few meetings. Mope said he has not been paid because the Mayor did not sign his contract. Mope commented that the City Solicitor is getting paid, but he is not working for the entire City. Sosar asked if the Audit is done onsite, light by light, in conjunction with what the City has, or is it a combination of things. Royer said it is a combination of things, so they would need to work with the City’s maintenance team. He said they would need to take a sampling of various sections throughout the City in order to verify the information they already have. There will be language in the agreement that will spell out the cost per item if there was a change order. He said the engineers wait until nighttime to collect the light readings from the fixtures and decorative lighting. Sosar asked about adding more lights to certain areas to make it brighter. Royer said that is basically the purpose of this project, and that would be included. Cusat said if this could be done in the winter, or would we have to wait until the winter is over and lose all of the savings. Royer said it would be tough to do in the winter, because the weather would be an issue. Cusat asked if it will be four to six weeks after this agreement is signed before we can proceed with the next step, and Royer responded yes. Cusat stated that it is possible that we can lose the savings that were negotiated, and Royer again responded yes. Mope said if that occurs, it is not Council’s fault for dragging our feet. Cusat said there are three pages of street lights that are out at this time, one of which is in front of his house and not on the list. He stated that this is a safety issue. Royer said a lot of cities and towns are moving in this direction. It does not increase taxes or affect your debt limit, and it is a self-funding project. Cusat asked if SmartWatt could just walk away from this project if the contract is not signed right away. Royer said they do want to work with the City on this project, and he is concerned that if this minor agreement is taking so long to be signed, then the main contract may be an issue. Cusat said Slusser is okay with the Agreement, and the Mayor is okay with it as well, but he just did not sign it yet. Clifford said the Mayor wanted a little more time to go over the contract. Royer said he cannot do the audit without the IGA Agreement. Mope asked Clifford to get in touch with the Mayor again about the IGA Agreement. Clifford said he believes the Mayor was just looking at the long-range plans, and he did not receive any negative feedback from him. Clifford added that he does not believe that SmartWatt Energy will walk away from the project, but he would walk away if he had to. He believes this is a great project, and he has been involved in many successful projects, but everyone needs to be working towards the same goals. Sosar encouraged Clifford to talk to the Mayor about this matter. He suggested a memo from Council regarding the urgency of signing the IGA Agreement might be a good idea, and Mundie agreed. Mundie asked the City Clerk to send a memo to the Mayor regarding this matter, and also give a copy to Slusser. Royer gave another copy of both Agreements to Council.

Cusat said the rental registration invoices are going to be going out soon. He would like to amend the current Rental Ordinance to reflect a zero charge for inspections. He said in the last three years, a total of $214,000 in revenue for the inspections was not collect. Cusat felt this is a good time to change the fee to zero because the Administration is currently working on its budget. Mope thought it might still be in litigation with Hazleton Area Landlords Organization (H.A.L.O.), and that could be the reason why it was not collected. Cusat said it is something that should be considered. He said he spoke to Slusser about this, and he said it would be fine to do that. Mundie said Mike Wilfing in Code Enforcement is going to work on the Ordinance, and make some recommendations on how it could be changed. He added that if H.A.L.O. drops their lawsuit and Wilfing’s recommendations are in place, we may be able to go ahead with the rental registration and inspections. Cusat stated that he has been working on his land bank idea. In order to move forward with that, he needs to have the Redevelopment Authority, the Blighted Building Committee, the Vacant Property Review Committee, and the Planning Commission all in order. He stated that there is supposed to be one Council Member appointed to the Vacant Property Review Committee, and asked if anyone has an objection to asking the Mayor to appoint him to this Committee. Mundie said he does not have a problem with that. He added that the Mayor has not yet filled any of those positions. Sosar stated there are not enough people being appointed to have “sound working committees.” He said “Until all of those committees are created in put into a viable working order to do what they were intended to do, I feel like sometimes we you know what I don’t want to end up going too too far and putting the cart before the horse. There are a lot of good things that these committees themselves can and should be doing in regards to the City of Hazleton, and it would seem like these are the first steps that we need to take. And, I agree with you to that extent that they need to be put in order. I’d like to see them working and see what goes on too.” Sosar said the Planning Commission has not met in quite some time now, and some of these other committees are not addressing the problems of the City and are not meeting. He said he would like to see these committees do what they are supposed to do. Bast stated he tried three years ago to have the Mayor make these appointments, and get these committees up and running again, but he had no luck. Cusat said he contacted the errors and omissions insurance company a few weeks ago, and he asked them a question concerning employees who are not being hired in accordance with the Third Class City Code. The person he spoke to said it depends on the circumstances. Cusat felt this was very concerning to him. He said the insurance covers an employee of the City, and he asked if that would include someone hired by executive order or without the consent of Council. Again he stated it depends on the situation. Cusat asked the insurance representative if it covers a person in a position that does not formally exist. He stated that the insurance representative “hinted around” that if they are not an official employee of the City, the insurance will not cover them. Cusat felt obligated to let Council know about this. Mope asked if Cusat contacted Slusser about that, and Cusat said he left messages for Slusser, but he never heard back from him. Cusat said he has the contact information for the insurance carrier if anyone wants to see it, and Sosar said he would like that information. Mundie said Slusser wants to have an executive session to go over litigation, and they could meet anytime in the morning at his office. Mope said she believes he should come here to meet with Council. Cusat said he suggested Slusser’s office because it will save money on travel time. Sosar said Slusser now wants to meet with us, but he and Bast are going back to teaching school now. Bast said he cannot meet in the morning, but he could meet after 3:00 p.m. Sosar said most of the classes he teaches are in the morning. Sosar added that he would like to see the Solicitor accommodate Council a little bit. He would like to meet at Slusser’s office, but it needs to be at a more convenient time. Cusat said he does not leave for work until 9:30 a.m., and he is usually off on Tuesdays. Mope said it would be better for everyone to have the executive session in the evening. Bast said to have it before a Council meeting, and have Slusser come here. Mundie said Slusser has a lot of “solicitorships,” and he is at one of the other meetings tonight. Cusat said he went through the personnel policy and created an organizational chart with all of the legal positions for the City. Sosar asked Cusat to share this information with the other Council Members.

Mundie adjourned the work session at 6:30 p.m.

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