2014-08-19 Council Minutes

MINUTES
HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL
REGULAR MEETING
TUESDAY, AUGUST 19, 2014

Call to Order:  Council met in regular session on Tuesday, August 19, 2014 in Council Chambers. The meeting was called to order at 6:30 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

Minutes of Previous Meetings:  The minutes of the July 15, 2014 Work Session and Regular Meeting were approved unanimously.

Proclamations/Communications:  None.

Courtesy of the Floor:  Grace Cuozzo, 948 James Street, Hazleton asked why Attorney Chris Slusser, City Solicitor, is not coming to the Council meetings. Mundie responded that he believes the Mayor does not want him to attend the meetings, and he has several other solicitorships. Cuozzo said she does not believe that is a good enough reason, and Sosar agreed. Sosar said this is a blatant disregard to this governing body. Bast asked if Slusser was asked to come to tonight’s meeting, and Cusat responded yes. Mope said she emails him things that she wants to place on the agenda, but she never receives a response. Cuozzo asked if there is something legally that can be done about this matter. Mundie said bringing down Slusser’s line item in the budget down to nothing may be the answer, and Council should discuss it. He added that they should bring his line item down to whatever he has been paid so far this year, and if the Administration pays him, they would be violating the law. Sosar said he has not seen a bill from Slusser since April. He felt that the City Solicitor is really the Mayor’s Solicitor, and that is wrong. Mope was concerned that Slusser has already gone over the amount listed in his line item. Cuozzo said this leaves Council without legal representation and that is entirely wrong. Mope said the Director of Administration should be at the Council meetings as well. Cuozzo stated that Pribula was not approved by Council as the Director of Administration, and he lives outside the City, so he does not meet the guidelines for the position. She suggested bringing his line item down to zero as well.  

Norman Tarantino, 154 North Lee Court, Hazleton questioned the advertisement for cell phone parking payment services. He asked if it is just for informational purposes, or is the City planning on moving forward with this matter. Mundie said it does not concern going into a contract with anyone.

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton commented on Ordinance 2014-12. He said there was an increase in the tax lien purchases for the Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority for last year. The Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority amended the agreement with the City of Hazleton at a special meeting earlier this year. Rabo stated the City of Hazleton has an outstanding tax claim estimated at $700,000. The Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority had it estimated at $310,000 for fiscal year ending December 31, 2014. Rabo asked if this Council was made aware of this increase, and Mope responded no. He asked if the City Solicitor or Director of Administration gave Council a copy of the amended purchase agreement. Mope responded no. Rabo commented on Resolution 2014-92. He said Community Development Block Grants gave out administrative fees in the amount of $165,000. He asked why administrative fees cannot be given out to the average citizen. Rabo said the state and federal government grants allow local governments to award administrative fees. He gave some examples.

                                                    


Old Business:

ORDINANCES

Ordinance 2014-10    An Ordinance Allowing On-Street Parking on the South Side of Chestnut Street (2nd Reading)

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mope.

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

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Ordinance 2014-10    An Ordinance Allowing On-Street Parking on the South Side of Chestnut Street (3rd Reading)

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mope.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES

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Ordinance 2014-11    Adding New Line Items to the City of Hazleton’s Budget (2nd Reading)

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Sosar.

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

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Ordinance 2014-11    Adding New Line Items to the City of Hazleton’s Budget (3rd Reading)

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Sosar.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES

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Ordinance 2014-12    Repealing Ordinance 96-28 and Ordinance 99-7, and Amending Ordinance 88-1, Ordinance 96-5, and Ordinance 2012-11 and Chapter 4, Article VI, §4-26 and Chapter 116, Article I, §116-1 of the Code of the City of Hazleton Regarding the Procedures for the Reception, Opening, and Awarding of Bid Contracts (2nd Reading)

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Sosar.

Roll Call:  Bast-no; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

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Ordinance 2014-12    Repealing Ordinance 96-28 and Ordinance 99-7, and Amending Ordinance 88-1, Ordinance 96-5, and Ordinance 2012-11 and Chapter 4, Article VI, §4-26 and Chapter 116, Article I, §116-1 of the Code of the City of Hazleton Regarding the Procedures for the Reception, Opening, and Awarding of Bid Contracts (3rd Reading)

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Sosar.

Roll Call:  Bast-no; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

ORDINANCE PASSES 4-1

                                                    

RESOLUTIONS

None.

                                                    

New Business:

ORDINANCES

Ordinance 2014-13    An Ordinance Allowing On-Street Parking on Laurel Street (1st Reading)

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:    

Sosar stated that he felt this Ordinance and the next three ordinances required more research and investigation before moving forward. He made a motion to table the Ordinance, and Mope seconded the Motion.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mope.

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

ORDINANCE TABLED

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Ordinance 2014-14    An Ordinance Allowing On-Street Parking on the West Side of Pine Street (1st Reading)

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Mope made a motion to table the Ordinance, and Mundie seconded the Motion.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Mundie.

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

ORDINANCE TABLED
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Ordinance 2014-15    An Ordinance Allowing On-Street Parking on Wyoming Street (1st Reading)

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Sosar made a motion to table the Ordinance, and Mundie seconded the motion.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mundie.

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

ORDINANCE TABLED

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Ordinance 2014-16    An Ordinance Allowing On-Street Parking on the North Side of Walnut Street (1st Reading)

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Mundie suggested looking at some of the diagrams first with regard to these parking areas. He asked that these diagrams be requested from the City Engineer, as well as the last parking study that was done. Sosar said he believes that the last parking study that was done was in 1994. Mundie asked the City Clerk to locate a copy of the most recent parking study, and email it to Council. Sosar made a motion to table the Ordinance, and Mundie seconded the motion.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mundie.

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

ORDINANCE TABLED

                                                    

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution 2014-88    A Resolution Endorsing the Request of the Joint Governing Board of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Commission a Study as the Feasibility of a Regional Transportation Authority for Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Bast.

On the Question:

Sosar said Luzerne County is going to go through with this whether or not Hazleton is involved it, but he would rather have Hazleton involved than not. He felt it would be foolish not to be involved in this study. Bast said it is strictly a study for transportation services throughout the County. He agreed with Sosar that it would be foolish not to be involved in this. We do not have to agree with everything, but at least we would be part of the study. Mope said it would help Council make proper decisions in the future.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES

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Resolution 2014-89    Approving and Hiring Police Officer in Accordance with Police Civil Service Rules – Jessica Levine

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Sosar.

On the Question:

Mundie asked if any changes need to be made to the Police locker rooms or the bathrooms. DeAndrea said we need to build a female locker room, and the planning for that is currently in process. Mundie asked about the cost, but DeAndrea did not have an estimate yet for that project. DeAndrea said until the female locker room is built, Levine will change in either the interview room or a private office. He added that most officers come to work in uniform, but there is still a requirement to have a female locker room. Cusat asked if Levine is agreeable to this right now until the locker room is built. DeAndrea said yes. She is currently a police officer in Tucson, Arizona for the past four or five years. She is originally from Dorrance Township, her family still lives here, and she wants to relocate back to this area. Mundie asked if she is a veteran, and DeAndrea said no. DeAndrea stated that Levine finished first in every test, and her overall score was ranked at number one. Mope said she will be helpful in doing such things as patdowns on females. DeAndrea said it also adds to the Police Department’s diversity, we will not have to bring a woman from another department in, it will help with certain undercover operations, community relations, and crowd control. He stated a lot of times a female police officer will be brought into an environment and everything seems to calm down, and sometimes male officers will just rile things up. He believes this is the first step in the right direction. Sosar said he believes this is a very positive move. DeAndrea said he is proud to be able to hire and put out on the road the first female patrol officer. Her badge number will be 180. Mope commented on opening up this process to more women, and DeAndrea said it has never not been open to women. He said it has been several years that a female has applied for this, and done so well on the tests. She has already taken the State Municipal Police Officer Education Training Commission Test and passed it without ever going to an academy. DeAndrea stated that “she is ready to hit the road when she steps through the door.” Mope stated the locker room will not be for just one female officer, but perhaps for future female officers as well, and DeAndrea agreed. DeAndrea said it will have four or five lockers in it. City Hall already has a handicapped bathroom, so DeAndrea believe that there is an exemption the City could receive so that the female police officer’s bathroom facilities do not have to be handicap accessible. He said that a wheelchair will never be used in the female locker room, so they do not need a handicapped bathroom. Mope asked if any of the seizure money could be used for this purpose. DeAndrea said he believes improvements to a police department are one of the allowable expenses that can be paid with seizure money. Mundie asked if Levine took her physical, and DeAndrea responded yes. She has also passed her psychological test and background check. If Council passes this resolution tonight, he will immediately call her, and she will give her two-week notice to Tucson, and she will start in September. She is going to live with her mother and father, which puts her within 10 air miles of the City. Cusat said Levine will be replacing a police officer who retired at $65,000, and also required a buyout of $31,000, which counts against his salary. Therefore, the line item is already filled for him. Cusat said her base starting salary will be 70% or $40,300. Cusat said DeAndrea’s part of the budget is the only part that did not go over a line item last year. He asked if DeAndrea can build in any potential costs anticipated for those who may be retiring for next year’s budget. DeAndrea said it was his understanding that the buyout was not part of the salary. He said he is willing to do whatever Council wants him to do with regard to his line items. Cusat said he confirmed with Pribula that there will be some money left over from reimbursement from Officers Leonard and Orozco, and it should be a “wash.” Cusat said he would like DeAndrea to “build into” the budget all the equipment that the City is required to supply to new hires in the Police Department. DeAndrea said the retirements of Leonard and Orozco were unanticipated, therefore, it would only be an estimate, and he would not know what the buyout would be for future retirees. Cusat was okay with that. DeAndrea said it is going to cost $4,700 to bring Levine “on board.” This figure includes a bullet-proof vest, uniform, and all of the other standard issue equipment. Mope stated some of these things may be paid for by seizure money, so this figure may not be set in stone. DeAndrea said if he budgets for something, it cannot be paid out of seizure money. Sosar said there may be more things that the seizure money could be used to defray some of these costs. Then it would not be coming out of the general fund. Cusat said right now 36 line items are over budget, and the Police Department is the only one that is not over budget. DeAndrea said it is the second year in a row. He added that as of August 1, 2014, which is 211 days into the year and which means 58.2% of the year is over, he still has 49% of his budget left. At this point, he should only have 41.8% of his budget left. Sosar asked that if there are any anticipated costs for next year, they be placed in the budget, so Council knows where it is at. DeAndrea said he does not anticipate any more retirements for three more years. Those would be Badge Nos. 121 (Lt. Ken Zipovsky), 122 (Sgt. Gerald Tray), and 128 (Sgt. Chris Tessitore). He stated there were hired under an old contract at 25 years, and that will be three more years. Mundie said he knows that Orozco spoke Spanish, and ask if there is anyone else on the police force that speaks Spanish. DeAndrea said there are one or two officers who speak a small amount of Spanish, and Levine can speak Spanish. DeAndrea said he would be proud to have Levine on his police force, and she would be a great asset.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES
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Resolution 2014-90    A Resolution Exempting a Veteran from Real Estate Taxes for the Year 2014

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mope.

On the Question:

Mundie stated he believes if you are a veteran and 100% disabled, you could get your taxes abated. He said you need to apply for it yourself. He asked the media to get the message out to the public.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES

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Resolution 2014-91    Agreement to Supplement the City of Hazleton’s Code of Ordinances

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Mundie said this is a good idea, but he does not feel we are in a position to buy this right now. He would rather put that money towards the purchase of a pothole filling machine/asphalt recycler. He said if we tell them to use this money towards the cost of this machine, it might give them some incentive to purchase it. Mundie stated that this machine would enable the City to fill potholes all winter, and the City desperately needs this. Mope said she saw a demonstration of this machine, which was set up by the Streets Department, and a hole was patched by the Animal Shelter. It recycles previously used asphalt, and the City has tons of it. She felt the Streets Department employees were happy with it, and the Mayor and Vito were satisfied with it. Mope stated it will save us money because we will not have to purchase raw materials. She felt it was a good idea to purchase the pothole filling machine/asphalt recycler. Mope stated she feels the money that would go towards the updating of the Code Book would be better spent on this machine. Potholes are a large problem throughout the City. Cusat stated he is in favor of the pothole filling machine/asphalt recycler, but there should be enough money coming in from the commercial sewer transmission fees to be able to pay for that. Mope said that Pribula has not given Council the information on the commercial sewer transmission fees yet. She added that she does not know where that money is or if there is anything left. Sosar said he felt reprinting the City Code right now, while still in the process of changing some of the Ordinances, might be premature. Bast commented that the City Code changes at every meeting. He added that he wanted to do this a few years ago, but it was voted down. Sosar said he would rather use the money towards something more pressing. Bast said it is very cumbersome when you are trying to look for something because it is so out of date. Sosar agreed. Bast said there are 12 years of Ordinances that have changed other Ordinances right now, and some go back 40 to 50 years. Cusat said it would only cost us $25.00 to change an Ordinance. Mope agreed that it would be beneficial, but the City is “in the red.” Sosar said this is needed, but “it becomes a question of what is needed more.” Cusat commented that this is not the pothole machine versus the City Code. It has been in the budget for the past three years, and it keeps getting put off. He added it is half the price that would have been spent last year, $4,000. Sosar said Council has been led to believe that the City is in the black, and will continue that way, but he believes the City still has a “tenable debt” to face. He felt the City was going deeper into a hole instead of fixing its problems. Sosar said he does not believe the City will be in the black at the end of the year. Bast agreed with Sosar that the City is in a tenable financial situation. He said there were supposed to be a lot of ideas coming out back in January, but he has not heard anything about them yet. Mundie said the Mayor does not follow the City Code. Cusat said the Mayor is not the only one that this concerns.

Roll Call:  Bast-yes; Cusat-yes; Mope-no; Sosar-no; Mundie-no

RESOLUTION FAILS 3-2

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Resolution 2014-92    A Resolution Authorizing the Preparation and Solicitation of Requests for Proposals for Independent Grant Writing Services to Assist the City of Hazleton

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Bast asked where the money will come from to pay for this, because there is no money in the budget for a grant writer. Cusat said it is just asking for members of the public to come forward with any grant information they receive, and volunteer to apply for the grant. They will not be paid anything. Cusat stated the he sent this Resolution to Slusser twice to get his legal opinion, but he never received a response. Mundie said he is not against it, but he would like to amend it to include that the grant writer pays all of the expenses, and, if we do not receive the grant, he does not get reimbursed for those expenses. He wants assurances that this will not cost the City any money. Mundie said the grants cannot pay for grant writing services, but Cusat said he does not believe that is correct. Sosar said anyone can write a grant, but you’re not necessarily going to get anything unless you know the “buzz words” for that particular grant. He stated sometimes these people work off of commission, based on how much is brought in. Mundie suggested amending the Resolution to state that “the grant writer will be responsible of all costs associated with the grants and the City will not be liable with any costs associated with the grant.” Cusat said they will only be paid if we receive the grant. Bast said he did not like that idea. Mundie asked if everyone received a copy of the letter from the grant writer for Luzerne. Cusat said she was going off of what the Mayor said in the newspaper, and the newspaper did not publish that correctly. Mundie said the letter from the grant writer for Luzerne said they cannot get paid from the grant. Cusat and Sosar both said they get a commission, but they do not receive administrative fees. The commission comes out of the grant. Sosar suggested tabling the resolution in order to have Slusser review it and reword it. Mundie agreed. Mundie said he is not against someone volunteering to write a grant for the City, but there is no guarantee they would be paid. Cusat made a motion to table, and Mundie seconded the motion.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mundie.

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

RESOLUTION TABLED

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Resolution 2014-93    A Resolution Authorizing the Preparation and Solicitation of Requests for Proposals for Services to Assist the City of Hazleton in Identifying and Introducing Back onto the Tax Rolls Properties that are not Currently Listed on the Tax Rolls

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Mundie said he talked to some companies that do this, and it is possible it could be done at no cost to the City. He suggested tabling this Resolution, so he can have further discussions about this. Cusat said this would just be for requests for proposals. Mundie said he would only need until the next meeting to find out if it could be done at no cost. Sosar said he is fine with it. Mundie made a motion to table the Resolution, and Mope seconded the motion.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Mundie. Seconded by Mope.

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

RESOLUTION TABLED

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Resolution 2014-94    Granting Approval to Advertise a Request for Proposals for a Cell Phone Payment System for Parking

Presented by Mundie. Seconded by Bast.

On the Question:

Mundie said he saw the presentation made by the company, and he does not believe it is a bad idea. He stated he was concerned about the number of people that do not have smartphones, but he felt the younger people would take advantage of it. It would be available as a convenience. Sosar said he is looking at the people who live in Hazleton, and he knows a lot of people who do not have smartphones. Instead, they have flip phones. Mundie stated that would be no problem, because they would just need to call an 800 number. Bast asked what happens if you do not have a cell phone. Mundie said the meters would still be there. Sosar said he has seen in Baltimore the types of parking where you put the paper stub in your car window. Bast said that might be a better option. Sosar said that is labor intensive, because someone has to check the time on the stub. He commented that he is not ready to start using his phone to pay parking bills in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. He said he is concerned with hackers. Sosar said he felt that there is still a lot more to learn about this before moving forward with it. Mope said she does not believe Hazleton is ready for this yet. She stated there are a lot of senior citizens in this City, and some of them are not good on their phones. She felt this was discriminatory because you would not be able to park in certain places unless you have a smartphone. She felt that it needed to be looked into further. Cusat said he is interested in finding out what the proposal would say. Bast said he is willing to see what responses are received to the requests for proposals. Mundie said it would be good for people who do not have any change on them. Cusat said he liked some of it, but you have to check yourself in and check yourself out, and that is the part he did not like. Mundie said this would go out to a lot of different companies, not just the one who gave the demonstration.

Roll Call:  Bast-yes; Cusat-yes; Mope-no; Sosar-no; Mundie-yes

RESOLUTION PASSES 3-2

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Resolution 2014-95    Resolution Certifying the Local Match for State Operating Financial Assistance for Fiscal Year 2014-2015

Presented by Mundie. Seconded by Cusat.

On the Question:

Sharp said in the past, Luzerne County gave us a percentage of our state grant that we get every year. This year we should have received $134,346 from Luzerne County, but they refused to give it to us this year. He said last year they did not give it to the LCTA, but they gave them a partial payment this year. Sharp said there is a reserve local match account, and in that account there is $552,031. This was a “buildup” throughout the years of local match that we did not use. He stated that in years past, Luzerne County used to give Hazleton Public Transit a flat fee of $150,000 each year. About two years ago, they stopped, and they just gave us the required amount. Sharp said that is why there is such an abundance of money in the local match funding. He said that normally this would be used for capital purchases, such as buses, etc., because if we use state money for buses, we have to match 10%, and if we use federal funds, we have to match 18% to 20%. Sharp said we have to put up $134,346 of our own money for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. There are three buses coming and two bus shelters will be built. He added that the local match for that will be $30,000, so that will leave $387,471 in the local match reserve. Mundie asked what happens when that money runs out. Sharp said he plans on going to municipalities for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, and see if they can give us something towards our local match. He anticipates needing $141,063 because it goes up every year until it reaches 15%, then it is capped off. This year we are at 8%. He stated you take 5% of $134,346 and that brings your percentage up. Mundie asked why Luzerne County did not give us the money this year. Sharp responded he felt this all started with the “ghost ridership,” but his is not certain. He said Luzerne County had some money in their local reserve, but not enough to cover their local match for the state. Mundie asked if we have any ghost riders, and Sharp said absolutely not. Sharp added that they do checks, and he personally rides the bus from time to time to keep track of this. He said that there are also cameras on the buses. The state could come in and audit their records at any time. Mundie asked when we were last audited, and Ralph said they hired a company to audit everyone, which was done several months ago. The report stated there were no findings against Hazleton, and it was a good report. Sosar said he read that at Luzerne County’s last meeting, there was some discussion that Hazleton was getting more than its fair share for a few years. He asked if anyone was there to fight for Hazleton’s money or if we could persuade them to give us what they have always given us. Sharp said he was contacted by Bob Lawton, the County Manager, and told they were going to discuss this at one of their meetings. He gave them an explanation about the monies received. Sharp said he was never contacted again about when it would be on their agenda for a vote. Mundie said it was not known that they would vote no. Sosar asked if they would be willing to reinstate some of this money at a later time. Sharp said it is his understanding that they will start giving us something again. Mundie asked that Sharp start lobbying for this, or send them a letter. Mope hoped that this was not being done because we would not merge with them. Mundie suggested giving them a copy of the state’s audit to show them how well Hazleton Public Transit is doing. Sharp said he does not believe it has anything to do with us not merging with them in the past. He said a lot the study we are involved in has to do with the airport and rail in the Wilkes-Barre area. Transit buses are not the “big picture of the study.” He stated that we are not obligated to do anything regarding the study. Sosar believes there needs to be a better working relationship between Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre, and possibly Pittston. There are people who shop, work, and go to school from the Wilkes-Barre area to Hazleton, and back again. Sosar stated that most of the buses that go to Wilkes-Barre, go to the Mohegan Sun Casino. He asked if something could be worked out that the people who go to the colleges and universities in Wilkes-Barre can use bus service from Hazleton. He encouraged Sharp to pursue that with his colleagues. Sharp said this Monday, they started going into the Square in Wilkes-Barre, and there was quite a turnout. They are also accepting transfers from the LCTA at the same rate of 50¢. LCTA is also accepting our transfers. Sosar said making public transportation available to everyone, with regard to schooling and jobs, is better for everyone. Cusat asked about a cap on the local match, and Sharp said the cap is 15%. Sharp anticipates next year’s match to be $41,063.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES

                                            

Comments from the Audience:  Sylvia Thomas, 409 West 6th Street, Hazleton feels she is getting nowhere with the cameras on Alter Street. She said Alter Street is getting worse. It was very dirty in front of Coal Crackers at Third and Alter Streets. Thomas said she contacted a local politician about, and, two days later, it was cleaned up. Two weeks later, it was just as bad as the first time she called. Thomas called the same person again, and it was cleaned up two days later. She felt this was not the way we need to live. She asked why the cameras are not up yet. DeAndrea said all of the fiber optics need to be installed first. Thomas commented that it took less time to rebuild Broad Street, then to put up 14 cameras on Alter Street. She said went to work at the Children’s Closet and spoke with someone who works there. She lives on 11th and Alter Street, and she had to call the police at 3:00 a.m. because she heard three gunshots. Thomas said someone is going to get hurt. She is having a meeting with the Crime Watch on August 27, 2014. She wrote a letter asking the Mayor to come to that meeting, or arrange a meeting in City Hall at some other time. She invited everyone to come to that Crime Watch meeting. Thomas said if those cameras are not in by that time, she is going to go to the ACLU. Thomas said their rights are being denied, and their lives are being put in danger. She said the cameras need to be put up immediately. She asked all of the Council members to come to the Crime Watch meeting.

Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton said that rather than turning to the City Engineer for a parking study, there is a much cheaper method to see what downtown Hazleton looks like from an aerial point of view. She said to go to Google Maps to see this. Deakos said the parking lot by the railroad is now gone, and there is now a parking lot by CanDo. Some buildings have been knocked down and removed and are now being used for parking. She added that a lot of the businesses have left. She does not believe the parking study will give much benefit. Sosar said the parking study would be a starting point only, and to see what was formerly suggested. Deakos asked what happens to the equipment the retiring policemen were using. She cannot see replacing a gun or a bulletproof vest, when someone else can use it. Someone from the audience stated that bulletproof vests have an expiration date. Deakos said the City Engineer seems to be writing grants all the time and charging the City for this without Council’s approval. She feels it is a good idea to get a grant writer to work on commission, rather than paying the City engineer. Deakos stated the when using a smartphone app to pay for parking, you would still need to meter heads. She asked who would be paying for that.

Larry Collum, 1410 Terrace Boulevard, Hazleton thanked Rick Wech and Mike Wilfing for helping him. He said without them, the success of the project would not have been accomplished. Collum stated that about a year ago, he decided to purchase the Panorama magazine. He moved the business into its previous location, 32 East Buttonwood Street. There was a building located in the back, which is a 3,900 square foot warehouse. Collum said they wanted to make use of the warehouse, and to create new business within the City. He tried to get the zoning changed to use it for auto sales, auto repair, and auto detailing. He went to see Wech, who informed him that the building was not zoned for what he wanted. Collum went to the Zoning Board, and they unanimously voted to allow this. He went to get a license and pay the fees, and was advised that he cannot do this without first hiring a design engineer and having the building designed to do what you want to do. He said they have no intention of changing anything in the building, therefore, they do not need a design engineer. He was told that he still needs a design engineer. Collum said he attempted to show them a drawing of the building that was used four years previous for a storage facility. He was told this drawing was not acceptable. He hired a design engineer from Wilkes-Barre to create the drawing the Benesch Company wanted. Collum said this building would have no more than one employee in it, and no customers in it at all. He was told that he was required to build two handicapped accessible bathrooms, one for men and one for women. He was also told that he needs all kinds of fire equipment, lighted exit signs, emergency lights, slap handles on the doors, etc. Collum had the designs done at great expense. After they were completed, he brought the plans in to City Hall and was told that he had to pay $250 for each of four departments to review these plans. This would cost $1,000 just to review the plans. Collum said the City is looking for entrepreneurs, we want businesses to come to our community, and we do everything we can to send it somewhere else. He said in the past 27 years that he has lived here, he has built and moved businesses to this community. He built the former Prestolube on Route 309, which is now Valvoline Instant Oil Change. He said when he did this, he did not have one problem with Hazle Township on getting that done. Collum said he moved his family trucking company from the state of South Dakota to this area in 1993. It was moved into a building on Route 924. He said he had no problems then either. He said he has been running into a stone wall with this current project. It would have remained that way had he not seen a document that was lying on the desk in the Licenses and Permits Office, that was a permit given in 2010 by Barry Isett & Associates that the building could be used for storage. He said under the UCC regulations, a storage facility can be used to repair automobiles. He learned this after he had already expended $2,500. Collum said he did not receive any help from Alfred Benesch & Company. He added that he received great help from Wilfing and Wech, and he now has the license and the occupancy permit, and they are now operating. Mundie said Collum’s problem is not unique, and he has heard it from many people. They have received many complaints about the engineer. Mundie said he would like to put UCC services out to bid, which is bid out all over the state. The Mayor believes it is a professional service, and Council does not agree with that. Hopefully we could get someone in here with lower fees, and someone that would help people bring business into the City instead of chasing them out. Mundie suggested Collum talk to the Mayor about this, and also send a letter to the editor. Collum asked who approves the fees in the City. Sosar said it should be Council that sets the fees. Mundie said Council sets the fees, but the City Engineer has also set his own fees, which are inappropriate. Collum said these fees are “onerous.” Mope agreed. Collum said even the design engineer that he hired disagreed with the method being used by Hazleton. They should not be required to have to ADA approved bathrooms in a building that has no employees. Sosar said there are people in charge right now with very limited scope and knowledge of what it is that they want to do. He said these are some of the problems that this City incurring. We are turning people away from opening businesses. Sosar said we need to be a “business friendly town, but we are not.” He thanked Collum for persevering and staying in Hazleton. He said they are trying to remedy this situation. Collum said by putting this service out for bid, the City should be able to get the best services and prices that are available. Bast said that he agrees that $1,000 is way too much to spend to review a one-page report. He said the people that are performing these services are no favorites of his. Bast said that he has talked to many people who have gone through the same thing as Collum, or worse. Collum said the gentleman who told him what they needed, decided that they were open for business, when all they were doing was moving things into the building. He then wrote Collum a citation for $100 for this violation. He said this person is not a City employee; he is a contractor of the City. Collum asked him where he got the authority from to write the citation, he said he got it from the Chief of Police. DeAndrea said that is true. He gave that person the authority to write that citation. DeAndrea said he is referring to the Building Code Official. Collum disagreed with having a contracted employee write citations on behalf of the City.

Norman Tarantino, 154 North Lee Court, Hazleton said he has been working on a report of the conditions of the sidewalks in the City. He has taken over 200 pictures to document the problems that we have on the City sidewalks. He ran into several other people who use scooters to get around the City. Tarantino said he has a three-wheeled scooter, and he has been getting stuck in certain places. He asked why there is a pad in the middle of the street at the corner of Broad Street and Club 40 Road, where there are no sidewalks. He asked why the studies that were used were not updated. Tarantino said the state is saying the mistakes are the fault of the City because these reports were not updated. He asked why the City does not get any recycling grants from the state, like Hazle Township usually receives. Mundie said we usually get a recycling grant every year. Sosar agreed and said he believes it was for $10,000. He said that the City usually purchases more recycling bins with this grant. Mundie said he will look into the matter. Tarantino asked how long does it take for an ordinance to become law, and how long the Mayor has to veto any Ordinances. Sosar said 10 days. Tarantino said a lot of Council’s ordinances are being ignored. Tarantino asked if there is an ordinance on the books regarding nuisance bars. He added that complaints can be filed with the LCB regarding these bars.

Diana Jessel, 2nd & James Streets, Hazleton commented on Alter Street. She at 7:30 a.m. last Thursday, she was walking down Alter Street. She said she was walking past the empty vacant parking lot by Lenny’s Café, and saw two people in the back of the parking lot having oral sex. She said she did not have her cell phone with her or she would have called the police. Mundie said once the cameras are installed, that will alleviate some of the problems. Mundie said they are going to work on getting the cameras installed ASAP. Sosar said this type of activity is occurring a lot on Alter Street. He said these are usually the same people perpetrating these acts over and over again day after day. Sosar said the police have limited resources, but he encouraged DeAndrea to do whatever he can to monitor those individuals who frequent certain problematic areas of the City. Sosar stated that he seems them sitting on the steps of the Coal Cracker, on Second Street, etc. You can watch the drug deals being made for sexual favors. Mundie said hopefully the cameras will be up and running very soon.

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton commented on what Collum was saying about the City’s Building Code Official. He stated this is a clear example of why you need a Planning Commission and Redevelopment Authority in place. He commented that “an engineering firm does not the place of a Planning Commission or a Redevelopment Authority in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” Rabo asked if Alfred Benesch is still under contract as the City’s engineering firm. Mope said she does not believe Council approved that, but the Mayor may have done an automatic renewal. Rabo asked about the Stormwater appeals. He asked if the Mayor is now a district magistrate or Commonwealth-appointed judge or elected judge. Rabo said the Mayor is now determining what ordinances are legal and illegal. Sosar said the letters sent out regarding the Stormwater appeals do not have a name or signature on them. He said in his appeal, he said he wanted a formal hearing, but he did not receive one. He dropped a note off at the Mayor’s office asking when he will be getting his formal hearing. Sosar said he is not arguing the Stormwater Management Plan, but he is arguing the Stormwater Management fee. He said he is arguing the amount of the fee, the makeup of the fee, the publishing of the fee, the dedicated fund versus the general fund, etc. Rabo asked if that money has been spent. Sosar said he does not know who has the right to hold the hearing and rule over the appeal. He said no one on Council has been asked to vote on anything to create a board to handle these appeals. Sosar said this shows that right now there is no appeals process. Sosar said he believes that Bast stated that he was misled about the Stormwater fee. Sosar asked if an appeals process was ever created, if there was a fine created, or some type of methodology. Bast said he cannot answer because it was about a year ago, and he does not have the information in front of him. Bast said there was supposed to be a dedicated fund. Rabo said the City government is not giving due process to its residents, which is a constitutional right. Sosar commented that he asked for a formal hearing, and his civil rights are being violated. Rabo said he goes to the County meetings as well and the match for Hazleton was voted down. He stated that the Lawton said the reason for it is because there is a sufficient reserve available, and they were overpaying Public Transit for many years. Rabo said the County Councilman Steve Urban said they should not give a match to an entity that is not part of the County.

John Homa, Hazleton said he supports Council all the way. He said Bast stated that it is illegal for Council to hire a controller. Homa stated that he wants to see where it says that in writing, and show it to him. Bast said that was an opinion from the Solicitor. Homa commented that the Mayor, the City Solicitor, and the City Administrator need to be fired and replaced.

Comments from Mayor or Director of Administration:  None.

Comments from Council:  Bast thanked everyone for coming. He said he was not here last time because he had a conflict with school. Bast said he asked this meeting to be changed about a month prior because he had final exams, but he never heard anything back from anyone except for Cusat. Cusat said he was agreeable to move the meeting back one week. Then two weeks after that he sent another email, and heard from Mope, but she said she was unable to change her schedule. Bast said it was switched when Sosar had an issue with the date of the meeting, and he was glad to see Mope was able to make it. Mope said the date was changed to accommodate both Bast and Sosar. Bast said this is a good example of Council not communicating with each other.

Mope said she had a scheduling conflict, but she was able to rearrange her schedule to accommodate everyone. She stated she does not know what the problem is with Bast, but he has a “major chip” on his shoulder, when it comes to her. She stated she has tried to be nice to him, but he always comes back with some type of attack or snide remark. She thanked everyone for coming, and for the audience’s participation. She said she appreciates hearing everyone’s thoughts and ideas on how to help the City. Mope said she appreciates Rabo informing Council on what is going on at the County Council meetings. She said she was glad Larry Collum came forward tonight, so that this issue could be addressed. There were a lot of promising things tonight. She was glad that the Police Department was able to hire a female officer, and felt she will complement the existing Police Force. Mope is hopeful that the cameras will be here soon, and there are reasons for the delay. She said any questions on this matter should be addressed to DeAndrea. She said she feels DeAndrea is going as fast as he can. Mope stated Alter Street is a major problem, and so is James Street. She said an elderly woman in the Heights was punched in the face, cars have been vandalized, etc. It is not primarily one area of the City, and some of these problems are ongoing. Mope said she knows that there are problems with prostitution in front of the Historical Society. She asked if DeAndrea could look at the situation with the pay phone in that area. It seems that they are using it for drug dealing. Mope thanked everyone for coming.

Cusat thanked everyone for coming. He said Community Day is scheduled for this Saturday at Most Precious Blood Church.

Sosar thanked everyone for coming. He also thanked everyone for their well wishes and their prayers for his parents. Sosar congratulated Bast on completing school, and said it is a major task to undertake. He said sometimes we agree and sometimes we do not, but he appreciates everyone’s input.

Mundie asked the City Clerk to research the City’s 2% UCC fees, which are 1% higher than West Hazleton’s and Hazle Township’s fees. He asked the City Clerk to prepare an ordinance lowering those fees to 1%. Mundie said when he first became a Councilman, he advocated for surveillance cameras. He said that Council has done everything it could, and now it is in the Administration’s hands. The quicker these cameras are installed on Alter Street, the better. Council allocated the money, and it is now in someone else’s hands to proceed. Mundie said the Mayor has to move forward with this, and he needs to do his job. He asked some people to write letters to the Mayor asking where are the cameras for Alter Street.

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

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