2014-09-23 Council Minutes

MINUTES
|HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL
REGULAR MEETING
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2014

Call to Order:  Council met in regular session on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 in Council Chambers. The meeting was called to order at 6:00 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:  Cusat made a motion to amend the minutes because of two typographical errors. Bast seconded the motion. The minutes of the September 9, 2014 Regular Meeting were approved unanimously, as amended.

Proclamations/Communications:  Mundie read aloud the 2015 Minimum Municipal Obligation (MMO) for each of the four pension plans, as follows:

• Police Pension Plan - $2,745,739 • Firemen Pension Plan - $1,673,514 • Non-Uniformed Pension Plan - $256,261 • Public Transit - $0

Courtesy of the Floor:  Grace Cuozzo, 948 James Street, Hazleton commented on Resolution 2014-101. She asked if the pension obligations can still be reduced. Cusat said according to the 2014 distressed score, which was based on the 2013 actuals on August 15, 2014, Hazleton scored a two, which lowered us to moderately distressed. He stated that according to Act 44, the City may pay 75% of the obligation for four years, and the City already did that in 2010 (Resolution 2010-79), 2011 (Resolution 2011-74), 2012 (Resolution 2012-72), and 2013 (Resolution 2013-96). Cusat does not believe that this can be used again. Cuozzo stated she was under the impression that it could only be used for a certain number of years. She suggested that the City Solicitor look into this before Council votes on it. Mundie said that Council will look into it. Cuozzo commented on Resolution 2014-105. She asked if there is anywhere in the law where property tax could be dedicated to just one agency. Mope said that Council will need to ask a lawyer about this as well. Mundie said he tried to get in touch with Slusser, but he had no luck, and Mope said she emailed Slusser yesterday, and did not yet receive an answer. Sosar said it is hard for Council to do its work when its members cannot receive information to make the appropriate decisions. Cuozzo suggested tabling these resolutions until Council receives legal opinions on them. Mundie said Resolution 2014-105 is just for a referendum. Council has not passed any resolutions yet regarding funding, etc. Cuozzo said Resolution 2014-105 is not properly worded, and Sosar agreed. She suggested an attorney review it and reword the Resolution before passing it.

Det. Lt. Kenneth Zipovsky, 3 El Camino Road, Hazleton, a member of the Police Department commented on Resolution 2014-105. Zipovsky stated he is the Administrative Lieutenant who oversees police functions under the Chief of Police. He commented on the need for more police officers, and the dangers of not having enough officers to go from call to call in a timely fashion. He said the current police officers face high stress levels and an increase in their own safety. Zipovsky said sometimes the emergency calls have to wait, and the public cannot be properly served. He said the “criminal element” in this area recognize that the police are a “diminished commodity” and they are willing to take a chance and commit a crime because in most cases they will get away with it. Zipovsky stated that the Hazleton Police Department has done all it can with the amount of officers it currently has. He requested that Council vote yes to allow a public safety referendum be placed on the ballot. Mope asked Zipovsky if he knew who wrote Resolution 2014-105, and Zipovsky said he did not know.

  Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton commented on Resolution 2014-105. She said property taxes pay for police protection, and there is also a Local Services Tax (LST) that pays for police protection. She said the Mayor should call this what it is, and that is a tax increase. Deakos said that normally referendums are not binding. She agreed that the police department is “stretched to the limit.” She would like to see the police contract opened to allow for part-time police officers. They would not be working by themselves; they would be working with full-time officers. Deakos said she believes this will cut down on overtime, which is stressful on all of the officers. All the other local communities are doing well with part-time police officers. She said this way, when a full-time position becomes vacant, the part-officers are already working for the City, and can apply for the vacant position. She added that the City gets to “try out” these police officers before they get hired full time.

Judy Yurcho, 984 North Locust Street, Hazleton commented on Resolution2014-105. She asked why whenever the Mayor wants something done, he immediately goes to the property owners. She said she is tired of the property owners “getting hit.” Yurcho said a lot of the residents are elderly and/or do not make a lot of money. She said there are other options, but the Mayor is focusing too much on the downtown area. Yurcho said there is a lot of crime in Hazleton, and mentioned that she saw a drug deal go down in the middle of the day. She agreed that the City needs more police officers, but there needs to be another source of revenue other than the property owners. She suggested looking for grants and bringing in more businesses. She said she would not open a business in Hazleton, because too many businesses are being robbed. She commented that these criminals have no fear of the police, and some businesses are closing earlier because they cannot find anyone to work late. Yurcho stated that the City should talk to Hazle Township about creating a police force that would cover both areas. She said she cannot afford to pay for more police officers.

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton commented on Resolutions 2014-100, 2014-101, and 2014-105. He said if more taxes are put upon the property owners, more and more people are going to lose their homes because they cannot afford to pay the taxes. These properties are then going to become “decayed” and “blighted.” He felt Hazleton will then become a city of abandonment. Rabo stated that people cannot afford to pay for exorbitant salaries, overtime, and pensions. He commented that there are no working professionals and entrepreneurs in this area that can subsidize such services. Rabo said “We have refugees from New York and New Jersey coming here, and most of them are renters.” He commented that these people are “bringing in the New Jersey/New York hood life, the ghetto life.” He added that his father’s family lives in New Jersey, and “this crap is normal over there.” Rabo said he would like to see foot patrols throughout the City, as well as auxiliary police. He commented “The Chief wants to bring [in] fly-by-nighters from New York.” He asked that the City work on a plan that is “feasible.” Rabo said in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, they have 60 police officers, and 40 are full time, 15 are part-time, and five are volunteers. They have not had a murder in two years, and they are one hour north of Chicago, Illinois, which is the “murder capital of this country.” He commented that “If they can do it in two years, then why can’t we?” Rabo stated that some of Hazleton’s senior police officers are making, with overtime, six figure salaries. He asked for them to make some sacrifices. Rabo said there are lot of property owners in Hazleton who work two or three jobs just to make ends meet. He asked if the firefighters’ contract and the increase in police will create another budget crisis this year and next year. He stated that the firefighters’ contract looks a lot like the one that was passed for the police department. Rabo asked if any of this was “factored into” the budget for last year, or if it will be factored in for this year. He said Bast and Mundie were on the Council that passed the last police contract. Bast said he was not on that Council when the police contract was passed. He started his term on City Council in January of 2012, and the contract was passed in December of 2011. Rabo apologized and said that only Mundie and Perry voted no on the police contract. This “plunged” the City into two separate budget crises, and he was worried that this would happen again.

Bill Boran, 319 West Green Street, Hazleton said the people of this City are “losing their power.” He added that the people are also “losing our voice, we are losing control.” He said there are murders, stabbings, armed robberies, and assaults on the street. Boran said he rides up Alter Street a lot and he is tired of what he sees. He said he attended an event with Rep. Tarah Toohil at the Laurel Mall, and she hears the same thing. Boran said “Enough is enough. We want our streets back, and we’ll do anything to get it back.” He stated that he appreciates the work the police and fire departments do, and they are stretched as far as they can. He said that something needs to be done between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City to obtain funds to get more police officers, and more police vehicles. He felt that Hazleton is becoming a “third world country.” He stated that he sees trash such as cans, bottles, dirty diapers, etc., and “that is not littering, that’s pollution.” Boran said people just throw stuff out on the streets instead of taking it home and putting it in their garbage. He said he used to live on Alter Street when it was a thriving business community, but now “it’s a dump.” He sees drug deals going down on Alter Street, and, on his street, at least 15 people are armed. Boran said his message to the “animals that are running around this City” is “if you come into my house, you’ll leave in a body bag.” He said these people should be called foreign nationals, because if he moved to another country and became a citizen, he would be a foreign national. Boran said there are a lot of people here who are working here, opening businesses, and trying hard to raise their families, and they cause no problems at all. He commented that there is an “element” that “crept in from Patterson and South Philadelphia and the Bronx…is giving them a bad name.” Boran is concerned with the elevation of violence in the community. He asked the community to pay attention, and take some time out of your day to walk around your neighborhood and check on your neighbors.

Norman Tarantino, 154 North Lee Court, Hazleton asked why the Mayor is not here when he has something on the agenda. He said it is a shame that the people in Hazleton have to find out what is going on in the City by reading the newspaper. Tarantino said he is a property owner with limited income, and he feels there are other ways to fund the police. He suggested charging user fees, such as charging someone who is arrested a fee of $100 or $120 for fingerprinting. They already do this in Schuylkill County. Tarantino said he has been carrying a Taser when he is out and about in his “cart.” He commented that whatever is done, it needs to be fair and equitable to all of the residents of the City, and not just the property owners.

Sylvia Thomas, 409 West 6th Street, Hazleton said she hates to see the Mayor’s table empty during the Council meetings, and this is the reason why the City is falling apart. She also blamed the Mayor for the reason that there are still no surveillance cameras on Alter Street, as was promised. Thomas said the Mayor should be here when the community and Council are discussing such important issues. She invited everyone to an Alter Street Area Crime Watch Meeting on Wednesday, October 1, 2014. She stated she is going to write a letter to the ACLU, and she is going to have people sign it, if the cameras are not installed by that time. She added that she invited DeAndrea to the meeting, and he said he would be coming. Thomas said we all have to stick together and fight together or nothing is going to get done.

Officer Keith McAlarney, Hazleton Police Department, commented on Resolution 2014-105. He said they come to work every day and they do their jobs “in face of great adversity.” He said the City of Hazleton is in dire need of more police officers to properly police the community. McAlarney said he will continue to come to work and do his best, but he is asking for help. He asked Council to have a public safety referendum be placed on the ballot, and allow the citizens of this City to decide if they want more police.

Officer Mario Howey, Hazleton Police Department, commented on Resolution 2014-105. He said Hazleton is no longer the community it used to be. He said with the increase in violent crimes, the police force is “now critically understaffed and cannot properly police the community.” Howey said he will continue to come to work and do his best, but he is asking for help. He asked Council to have a public safety referendum be placed on the ballot, and allow the citizens of this City to decide if they want more police.

Det. Dave Roddick, Hazleton Police Department, commented on Resolution 2014-105. He said it hurts them as police officers that they are lacking in resources to help the City be the best it can be. Roddick said he will continue to come to work and do his best, but the general opinion is that the City will not get better unless we hire more police officers. He asked Council to have a public safety referendum be placed on the ballot, and allow the citizens of this City to decide if they want more police.

Officer Jessica Levine, Hazleton Police Department, commented on Resolution 2014-105. She said she is asking for help for the citizens of this community. She stated she sees on a daily basis that the limited number of police is causing a direct reflection on the amount of crime in Hazleton, and the criminals are realizing they can get away with it. Levine said she will continue to come to work and do her best, but she is asking for help. She asked Council to have a public safety referendum be placed on the ballot, and allow the citizens of this City to decide if they want more police. She feels this is the only thing that could fix this current problem.

Officer Kevin Wagner, Hazleton Police Department, commented on Resolution 2014-105. He said we are faced with a serious problem regarding the policing of the City. The police are “grossly understaffed and cannot properly combat the crime.” Wagner said he will continue to come to work and do his best, but he is asking for help. He asked Council to have a public safety referendum be placed on the ballot, and allow the citizens of this City to decide if they want more police.

Det. Lt. David Bunchalk, Hazleton Police Department, commented on Resolution 2014-105. He said in the past two weeks, the City had one murder, four armed robberies, and three aggravated assaults. He stated crime has increased, but the number of police officers has decreased. Bunchalk felt they cannot effectively perform their jobs and combat crime without help. Bunchalk said he will continue to come to work and do his best. He asked Council to have a public safety referendum be placed on the ballot, and allow the citizens of this City to decide if they want more police.

Officer George Schaffer, Hazleton Police Department, commented on Resolution 2014-105. He said the Hazleton Police Department is not afraid of criminals, but they are afraid they cannot keep the people of Hazleton safe because they are so “critically short-staffed.” Schaffer said he will continue to come to work and do his best, but he is asking for help. He said he does not believe Hazleton will get better or safer without more police officers. He asked Council to have a public safety referendum be placed on the ballot, and allow the citizens of this City to decide if they want more police.

Officer Richard Hutnik, Hazleton Police Department, commented on Resolution 2014-105. He said back in February, everyone thanked Chief DeAndrea and the Attorney General for doing such great work combatting crime. He stated that if they have more police, they can do more work, and then crime will decrease. Hutnik said he will continue to come to work and do his best, but he does not believe that Hazleton will never get better or be safer without more police. He asked Council to have a public safety referendum be placed on the ballot, and allow the citizens of this City to decide if they want more police.

Corporal Joseph Babula, Hazleton Police Department, commented on Resolution 2014-105. He stated the crime rate in Hazleton and Pennsylvania is skyrocketing. Crime has increased and the number of police has decreased. He felt the police cannot effectively perform their jobs and combat crime without help. Babula said he will continue to come to work and do his best. He asked Council to have a public safety referendum be placed on the ballot, and allow the citizens of this City to decide if they want more police.

Officer Anthony White, Hazleton Police Department, commented on Resolution 2014-105. He stated the level and severity of crime has increased and the number of officers has decreased. White said he will continue to come to work and do his best, but he is asking for help. He felt that Hazleton will not become better or safer without more police. He asked Council to have a public safety referendum be placed on the ballot, and allow the citizens of this City to decide if they want more police.

Corporal William Gallagher, Hazleton Police Department, commented on Resolution 2014-105. He said the Police Department is “grossly understaffed and cannot effectively combat crime.” Gallagher said he will continue to come to work and do his best, but he feels Hazleton will never get better or safer without more police. He asked Council to have a public safety referendum be placed on the ballot, and allow the citizens of this City to decide if they want more police.

Sgt. Mark Zola, Hazleton Police Department, commented on Resolution 2014-105. He stated the City of Hazleton is no longer the city it was 20 years ago. The police come to work every day and do their jobs in the face of great adversity. Zola said he will continue to come to work and do his best, but he is asking for help. He asked Council to have a public safety referendum be placed on the ballot, and allow the citizens of this City to decide if they want more police.

  Officer James Senape, Hazleton Police Department, commented on Resolution 2014-105. He said he is not afraid of work, but he is afraid that he cannot keep the people of the City as safe as they deserve. It should at least be safe enough to enjoy the quality of life the residents of the City deserve. He stated the reason he does not feel he can keep the people as safe as they deserve is because they do not have enough police officers to carry the ever increasing workload. Senape said he will continue to come to work and do his best, but he does not believe the City will be any safer without more police. He asked Council to have a public safety referendum be placed on the ballot, and allow the citizens of this City to decide if they want more police.

Officer Angelo Gadola, Badge No. 173, Hazleton Police Department, commented on Resolution 2014-105. He stated as a department, they can only do so much with the resources that are at their disposal. He commented that they are “past their breaking point.” Gadola said people see this everyday on the street. Gadola said he will continue to come to work, patrol this City, and do his best every day. He asked Council to have a public safety referendum be placed on the ballot, and allow the citizens of this City to decide if they want more police. He feels this is the only way to fix the problems that currently exist.

Det. Brian Schoonmaker, Hazleton Police Department, commented on Resolution 2014-105. He said the City of Hazleton is in dire need of more police officers to properly police our community. Schoonmaker said he will continue to come to work and do his best, but he is asking for help. He asked Council to have a public safety referendum be placed on the ballot, and allow the citizens of this City to decide if they want more police.

Det. Joseph Labert, Hazleton Police Department, commented on Resolution 2014-105. He stated he comes to work every day knowing that he is “going to drown in a sea of paperwork and arrests.” He said he does this willingly because he is sworn to protect the citizens of this community. Labert said he will continue to come to work and do his best, but he feels Hazleton will never get better or become safer without more police. He asked Council to have a public safety referendum be placed on the ballot, and allow the citizens of this City to decide if they want more police.

Officer William Mazur, Badge No. 143, Hazleton Police Department, commented on Resolution 2014-105. He said it hurts every officer in the Police Department to come to work every day knowing “we do not have enough resources to fix the problem of rampant crime” in the City. Mazur said he will continue to come to work and do his best, but he is asking for help. He asked Council to have a public safety referendum be placed on the ballot, and allow the citizens of this City to decide if they want more police.

Lt. Robert DeMelfi, Commander of the Patrol Division of the Hazleton Police Department, commented on Resolution 2014-105. He said he oversees the daily operations of the Patrol Division, which is approximately 65% of the Police Department. He prepares the patrol schedule and attempts to adequately staff the shifts, as well as provide “critical” time off for the members of the Police Department. DeMelfi said the current staffing levels in the Police Department demand mandatory overtime on many occasions. He has to make sure minimum staffing levels are always maintained. He stated they cannot transport a prisoner to Wilkes-Barre without first making sure there are enough police left on the streets to handle crime. This means that often a prisoner has to sit in a holding cell until after a shift change, and then an officer will be held on overtime to do the transport. DeMelfi stated with this expense, and the dangers that come from the mental and physical fatigue the officers are facing, is dangerous for the health of the officers, as well as the community. He said there is no way to alter the schedule to allow for more officers on the road at this time. The only way to increase the number of officers on the street, increase public safety, increase officer safety, and decrease overtime is to add more officers to the Police Force. He personally and professional requested that Council vote yes to allow a public safety referendum be placed on the ballot.

David Fatula, 105 Mark Road, Hazleton, President of Local 507, commented on Resolution 2014-103. He said over the past few months, the negotiating committee, along with the Mayor and the City Administrator, have worked hard to come to a fair agreement. There was a lot of give and take on both sides, including a voluntary pay freeze for 2015 and a voluntary co-pay for the health insurance. Fatula said they all feel that this is a fair agreement for both sides, and he asked that Council pass this Resolution.              

Old Business:

ORDINANCES

None.

             

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution 2014-100 Appointment to the Vacant Property Review Committee-Jeff Cusat (TABLED 9/9/14)

Motion to Remove from Table:

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Sosar.

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

MOTION TO REMOVE FROM TABLE PASSES RESOLUTION REMOVED FROM TABLE

Presented by Mundie. Seconded by Sosar.

On the Question:

Sosar said he would like to substitute his name for Cusat’s name because of his interest in the vacant property review and the other committees that deal with this matter. Sosar made a motion to amend the Resolution replacing Cusat’s name with his name instead. Mundie seconded the motion.

Motion to Amend:

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mundie.

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

MOTION TO AMEND PASSES 3-2

Roll Call (as amended):  Bast-yes; Cusat-no; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

RESOLUTION PASSES AS AMENDED 4-1

             

New Business:

ORDINANCES

None.

             

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution 2014-101 Adopting the Reduced Amortization Option According to Chapter 6 of the Municipal Pension Plan Funding Standard and Recovery Act, Act 205 of 1984 (P.L. 1005, No. 205), as amended by Act 44 of 2009 (P.L. 396, No. 44)

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Cusat said according to the synopsis of Act 44 of 2009, our distressed score was updated to a Level II, and that only gives us four years to put off the payment. He said we already used our four years. Mope commented that this would require us to make full payment instead of 75%. Mundie asked if Cusat discussed this with Slusser, and Cusat responded that he called Slusser but he never received a call back. Sosar suggested that because of the legalities involved, the lack of information received, and the fact that no one is present to answer any questions, the Resolution should be tabled. Cusat said in accordance with the MMO amounts totaling $4.8 million, if we have to pay the full 100% payment, it is going to cost an additional $1.6 million. Mundie said he would like to get some clarifications on this. Sosar made a motion to table the Resolution, 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

RESOLUTION TABLED

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Resolution 2014-102 Authorizing the Director of Administration to Adjust Records-Refund of 2014 City Real Estate Taxes

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Cusat.

On the Question:

Sosar asked if this is a “bookkeeping issue” that has already been settled in which we need to make the appropriate adjustments in accordance with the findings of Luzerne County. Mundie and Mope both said yes.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES

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Resolution 2014-103 Approving Contract between the City of Hazleton and the International Association of Firefighters Union, Local No. 507

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Cusat.

On the Question:

Sosar said he “applauds” everything that the firefighters do, but he is asking for more time to review the contract. He stated that Council was handed a contract on Thursday with no explanations, no figures, etc. He said the figures are appropriate for a middle class income, but there are questions that have been raised that need to be answered before we can go through with this. Sosar felt there was enough time left because it does not go into effect until next year. He suggested sitting down with everyone involved and discussing this. He was concerned about the legalities involved with this contract. Sosar said he would also like to talk to some of the firefighters who worked on this contract. He commented that he is not voting no. Cusat said he asked Slusser about this, and he is still waiting for an answer from him. He reviewed some of the case law on this himself, and from what he found, there cannot be a contract that will bind your successor within a governmental function. He does not believe a contract over four years is legal. Cusat said he also questions the pension section of the contract where it states “no matter of age.” According to Third Class City Code, it states a minimum age of 50 years, so he needs some interpretation before he can make an informed decision. Mope said she would like to wait until they receive answers to their questions. Mundie asked Dave Fatula to supply him with his contact information for further discussion, and Fatula gave him that information. Mundie said he agrees with Sosar. Council should have received some explanations along with the contract.  He commented that this is the Mayor’s fault for not providing Council with more information, such as what has changed from the previous contract, etc. Sosar said he does not want the firefighters to think they are involved in the middle of a conflict with Council and the Mayor, because that is not what is happening here. He said there is a lack of information in order to be able to make a conscious, well-informed decision. He added that he wants to make sure this is legal. Mundie said Council would like to discuss this with Slusser first. Mope said she sends Slusser emails, and she never receives a response. Mundie said the Mayor should be here to answer questions regarding his negotiations and his reasoning for some of the things in this contract. He said the reason the City is in such a mess is because the Mayor, the Solicitor, and the City Administrator do not attend the meetings. He believes Hazleton is the only city in the state that does not have its Mayor, Solicitor, or Administrator at its meetings. Sosar made a motion to table the Resolution, and Cusat seconded the motion.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Cusat.

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 2014-104 Entering into Negotiations with Glenmede Trust Company, N.A., for Investment Management Services of the City of Hazleton’s Pension Assets

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Mundie said he forwarded an email to the other Council members, the Mayor, and Slusser from a woman who was the former administrator of the pension assets, and she had some concerns. He said he did not hear anything back from the Mayor or Slusser. Cusat said he asked the Mayor about this process. He said he asked him when the meeting took place, who was there, how many responses did he receive, and if there were scoring sheets. He received the following reply from the Mayor: “Today. All the members that were supposed to be there. 19. Yes.” Cusat asked if Mundie was at this meeting. He responded that he was not at the meeting where they scored the responses, but he came to the meeting of the Pension Super Board, which he is a part of. Mundie said the Mayor received 19 proposals and that he could not understand them. He told the Mayor he should have called him because he has a securities license, and that is the type of work he does. Mundie said the company that was selected is a “top notch company.” They manage hundreds of billions of dollars. One of the accounts they manage is the DePue Family Trust from Sun Oil from over 50 to 60 years ago. Mundie said he wanted Slusser to look at it regarding some of the legalities, so it could be voted on as quickly as possible. Greg Steber came to the podium. He stated this was the first time he was able to go through the whole RFP process. He said he was in contact with Slusser regarding the process, and there were some problems with Asco AFG, and Slusser said it needed to be done all over again, and put out another RFP. Steber said there are time restrictions that are listed in the RFP. He commented that they have not done an RFP in 16 years. Steber said he believes October 8, 2014 is the deadline to have Glenmede get the process started. He said he reviewed the 19 RFPs and they were very confusing. He said he researched the RFP process, and he discovered that a lot of municipal pension plans are put out to a three or five year bid process. He said the state gave them an example to follow when writing up the RFP. Steber said that while reviewing them, they had some other questions. They wrote up 13 questions, sent them to the people that responded, and reviewed those answers instead of going through all of the packets. He said the review board consists of one person from the fire plan, one person from the police plan, one person from the City Hall (non-uniformed) plan, one person from the Highway Department plan, and the Mayor. Steber said Slusser told them they had to then go to the Pension Super Board. According to the Ordinance that was found, the Super Board should consist of one member of the fire plan, the Fire Chief, the Police Chief, the police plan, a representative from City Hall, a representative from the non-uniformed plan, and one member of City Council. He stated they scored all of the answers, picked out a company, sat down with Mundie, and told him this is what they picked. Steber said this is not “set in stone,” and there is no contract in place right now, but we need to go into negotiations to discuss the matter further. Steber said according to the RFP, the closing date is 10 days from the award, which is October 8, 2014. He added that once negotiations are completed, a contract will be brought back to Council for approval. Mundie said that there is a Council meeting on October 7, 2014, so this can be done at that meeting. DeAndrea said Chapter 45 of the City Code spells out the pensions and how the review committee is selected. He said the unions elect a person to sit on that committee for three year terms. He added that there was a “scoring matrix” already stated in the Ordinance. DeAndrea said that before opening any of the 19 responses to the RFP, they came up with scoring criteria. They came up with a list of 13 questions they felt met each category, and, based on their answers, they were scored according to the matrix. Out of the 19, four of them scored in the top 80%. DeAndrea said those four then advanced to the interview phase, and they were scored again according to their interview. He said that all of the answers received were forwarded to Slusser for his review and/or input. Slusser was in total agreement with the whole process, and he felt it was not flawed. DeAndrea said they now need Council’s approval before they can enter into negotiations with the high scorer as per Chapter 45 of the City Code. He said the Review Board came before the Super Board for their approval, and now it is here before Council. DeAndrea said without this Resolution, they cannot even contact the other 18 respondents to let them know who was selected. Mope said there was a problem the first time around, and they want to make sure there is not another problem the second time around, so they do not end up in litigation. She said she asked Slusser about this, but he never responded. She commented that Council needs to hear from him as soon as possible.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Cusat. 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 2014-105 A Resolution Authorizing a Police Protection Tax Referendum

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Sosar commented that there is not a person in this town who does not think the City needs more police. He lives at 2nd and Alter Streets, and he sees and speaks with a lot of the people in the audience on a regular basis. He appreciates that the police are asking for help. Sosar said he went to the Bureau of Elections today, and spoke with an employee of that department, who told him it is too late to be put on the November ballot. He said he is agreeable to put this on the ballot, but he wanted everyone to understand that it will probably be placed on the May 2015 ballot instead. He commented that the residents of Hazleton are “taxed to the limit.” He said all the Council members have questions, and some were answered, but some were not. He asked that Council get together with the community and its leaders and discuss this matter. He stated that we need to discuss the issue of funding and how many police officers we need. Sosar said he would like to see a police officer on every corner, but he wants to be “realistic” and find something that works. The people of this City have to be capable of handling the financial aspects of this matter. DeAndrea said that it is his understanding that “we are right on time to get this on the ballot.” He said the Election Committee has to us that we are late, but it cannot be placed in front of them until City Council says yes. He stated that this just allows a referendum to be placed on the ballot to allow the public to say whether they want this or not. Mope asked if this should be an ordinance instead of a resolution, and DeAndrea responded no. DeAndrea said the referendum will need to be rewritten to place in front of the Election Committee. Sosar said the wording in this Resolution is “terrible,” and if goes to the Election Board like this, it will not get approved. DeAndrea stated that he did not write it. Cusat said he called the Election Bureau on September 16, 2014, and he talked to the head of the department. She said she was in the process of certifying the ballot. He called back today, and was told the ballot was already certified. He asked if there was any way to get it on the ballot, and he was told no. Cusat said one of the problems is that there is nothing in the referendum handbook that deals with police. Sosar said there are only two ways to have a referendum put on the ballot. The easiest way is to have the governing body vote to put it on the ballot. Sosar said they found out about this referendum by reading it in the newspaper, when the Mayor should have come to them and discussed it with them. DeAndrea said the recent “assassination” of State Police Corporal Brian Dixon raised the question of how we can keep our police officers safer and the public safer. DeAndrea said the last time 10 additional police officers were hired was after November 29, 2006, when two Hazleton City Police Officers were shot. Sosar said this has been an ongoing argument for quite a long time. He stated some people are willing to pay for the extra police protection, but others are not. Sosar said he believes they need to sit down with DeAndrea and the Police Force and go over everything. Sosar said sometimes when there are people earning low sums of money, one of the things that they will end up saying is that these salaries are too high. Sosar said he does not believe they are high, and that they are “middle class salaries.” Cusat said if the Mayor is serious about this, he should have some public meetings and get a consensus from the people of the community. The budget comes out on November 1, 2014 and the election is November 4, 2014. If the public says the want this, then he could add it to the budget before presenting it to Council. Mope said the City needs more police officers, and the ones we have are doing a great job. She added that she sympathizes with the taxpayers, and believes there should be a public meeting regarding this matter. Mundie said no matter what anybody says, “it’s not etched in stone, because it has to go to the committee.” He added that there are some things that should have been done with this upcoming election that still have not been done, like some fines should be issued to people who filed their petitions late, etc. He said “this is not a binding referendum,” and if it turns out to be close, such as 49 to 51, then a decision is going to have to be made by Council. Mundie said even after the election, we are still going to have to decide what the millage is going to be, what it is going to be used for, etc. DeAndrea said if this passes, it still has to come before Council to approve that this tax only goes for the police. He said every police officer in his department is asking that the public “weigh in,” because there is nothing else they can do except come to work and do their jobs as best they can with or without more help. DeAndrea said they just want to make everyone safer, but they need the additional help. Bast said he knows that we need more police officers, and he believes this is a good thing to put on the ballot because the people get to decide. He stated that there is not enough room or enough time for everyone who is going to vote to voice their opinions at some type of town hall meeting, but on Election Day they can have their wishes be known. He said right now this has nothing to do with any money or how it is going to be written; that comes afterwards. Bast stated that if the people vote yes by an overwhelming margin, then we need to move forward with it. DeAndrea said no one on Council has ever come to him and said they are against having more police officers. He said he appreciates Council’s input on this matter. Mope said she would like the public to provide input on this to the Police Department, and how the payments will be made. Cusat asked if this Referendum only refers to the November election, and Mundie said no. Sosar said it will carry over to the May election.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES

           

Comments from the Audience:  Norman Tarantino, 154 North Lee Court, Hazleton asked who in the City decided there should be no right turns on red lights on any of the intersections on Broad Street. Tarantino said L. A. Tarone spoke with people at PennDOT and was told that came from the City. He asked if any of them will be returned. Mundie said he sat at one of them for several minutes today. There was no traffic coming and he could not make a right-hand turn. DeAndrea said he does not understand why there is no intersection where you cannot turn right on red. He stated that PennDOT did the engineering study, and they are the ones who have deemed that those intersections are not allowed to have it. He requested three times through the City Engineer, Dominic Yannuzzi, that he get back in touch with PennDOT and find out why some of the intersections cannot go back to allowing a right on red. Mundie said the one on Poplar Street makes sense. DeAndrea said some of them are necessary, but some of them are not. He stated that he would like PennDOT to sit down with the City and go over this matter. He added that this matter is currently under review. DeAndrea said some of the intersections are too backed, and it is unnecessary. Tarantino said the Mayor should be here at the meetings. He stated the referendum was his idea, and he negotiated the contract, so he should have been here to answer questions. Mundie agreed with Tarantino. Tarantino said he cannot understand how Council can run the City without the Mayor, Solicitor, or City Administrator here.

Sylvia Thomas, 409 West 6th Street, Hazleton asked Sosar how the City could get rid of the Mayor. Sosar said unless he does something criminal, there is not a lot that can be done. He said Council is very frustrated over this. She commented that what the Mayor said was “discrimination against us.” She said it is like the Mayor wants us to put up with the criminals, but everyone else does not. Sosar said people should start filing reports with the District Attorney and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Scranton. Thomas said she is going to write to the ACLU about this matter.

Greg Belletiere, Hazleton said he owns property in the City since 1979. He has 103 feet of property that is fenced in, and a small ranch home. He received two separate storm water bills for $25.00 each. He asked how to appeal these charges. Mundie asked if he has two separate deeds on the property. Belletiere said in 1986, he bought some of his sister’s property adjacent to his. He said it is on two separate deeds. Mundie said he received two storm water bills because of the two separate deeds. He stated that he voted no on the Stormwater Ordinance, and only one person currently on Council voted yes for it. Mundie stated that there is nothing in that Ordinance regarding an appeal process. He said some protection rights should have been placed in the Ordinance. Mundie said that the Mayor and Dominic Yannuzzi are “ignoring the process” and “not being fair to people.” Mundie asked Bast if there is anything that can be done about this because he voted yes to pass the Ordinance. Bast responded that there is nothing that can be done. He added that the new Council could have repealed it before it went into effect. Mundie said the bills had already gone out by that time. Bast said the bills went out seven months after the new Council began its term, and the Ordinance could have been repealed. Bast stated that Belletiere could write to the City Administrator about this. Belletiere said he is willing to pay $25.00 for his property, because it is one property even though it is on two separate deeds, but he will not pay $50.00. Bast said his neighbor is having the same problem. Sosar said he is not seeing any kind of fees or fines that are part of that Ordinance, except for a $25.00 minimum charge. He added that he cannot tell Belletiere not to pay it or to violate the law, and he will not vote on anything that will bring about punishment on anyone regarding this matter. Mope said she believes Belletiere should contact the City Solicitor, Chris Slusser, explain his situation, and tell him he wants to have an appeal hearing. Sosar suggested maybe sending this to higher government authorities as well.

Bill Boran, 319 West Green Street, Hazleton went to the Mayor’s table and sat down. He said the Mayor should work with Council to solve the City’s problems, and he should abandon all other projects that are consuming the money from state grants and taxes. Boran said the Mayor should also repeal all of the taxes that have been put upon the people of this City. He said “I believe they’re tired of it. I for one will not stand for it anymore, and neither will they.” He said “This is the City of Hazleton. This is not Chicago, this is not Philadelphia, this is not New York.” He said the Mayor should be at all of the Council meetings. Mundie said Boran should suggest that to the Mayor. Boran said “The needs of the many do outweigh the needs of the few…” Boran said he is here for everyone, and that is why he was standing outside wearing a mask and holding a sign. He commented that there needs to be someone here to represent the Administration. He said he is not going to run for Mayor, but he hopes there is someone who is. Boran said the last time he was here, the Mayor got up and left before the comments section of the meeting. He commented that Council is doing the best it can without the Mayor.

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton commented on the Police Protection Referendum. He said the state law regarding referendums states “…petitions must be signed in the City Clerk’s office within 10 days by registered voters equal to the 20% of the last total vote for Mayor. It would require a great deal of organization and a sense of high urgency to get that many people to the Clerk’s office with the brief time period allotted. The second limitation is a long list of exceptions from the initiative and referendum power. These exclude such areas as tax levies, appropriations, eminent domain, ordinances related to the exercise of police powers of the city to preserve public peace, health, morals, and safety, construction of sewers and keeping the streets in passable condition, or any ordinance required by state law or a state agency.” He continued on “Because of these limitations, very few referenda have occurred in Third Class Cities under these provisions over the years. These sections of the Third Class City Code appear to have been more productive of lawsuits than votes. Courts have leaned towards including issues with the list of restrictions. Judicial attitudes toward initiative and referendum have been generally chilly.” Rabo said “Only three questions have been placed on ballots in third class cities in recent years using the initiative and referendum procedures of the Code. In 1971, Erie voters overturned an ordinance providing for the sale of the city water system to an authority. In 1976, Altoona voters overturned an ordinance granting a cable TV franchise. And, in 1990, Harrisburg voters used the initiative process to reverse a previously adopted ordinance by Council renaming a street.” Rabo said this comes from a DCED publication regarding referenda called the “Referendum Handbook.” He said that before proceeding with this, Council should look into state law and discuss it with the Solicitor.

Judy Yurcho, 984 North Locust Street, Hazleton said everyone wants to come to the taxpayers and property owners for funds. She asked why we are not looking into other avenues now instead of trying to raise taxes again. She said there are almost 500 homes for sale, and most are worth less than property owner paid for them or thought they were worth. Yurcho said that when these homes are sold, the taxes paid will be less. She said people do not want to stay here anymore, and there answer is to just pick up and leave and let the bank deal with it. This means the bank is going to sell it for less, which means less taxes, or the property is going to become abandoned. Yurcho said she wants more police, but the City needs to look at other ways of doing this. She said people are being taxed out of their homes, and most of the people in this town are not even making middle class salaries. She said the average salary is $24,000 to $25,000, and the average wage is $11.00 an hour or less in these factories. Yurcho said there is no industry in Hazleton, and it is “landlocked.” She said she is ready to leave. There are heroin addicts and garbage in the streets. Yurcho said if we get rid of the source, we will get rid of the problem. She said the prison is like “a revolving door.” She gave an example of this. Yurcho said the laws need to be changed, and the property owners cannot continue to be taxed like this. She felt the salaries, pension, and the overtaxing of property owners will make the City go broke. She commended the police officers and said they are overworked, but there has to be another way.

Grace Cuozzo, 948 James Street, Hazleton asked Officer Babula why the number of police officers are decreasing because there is the same amount of money in the budget for what we had before. DeAndrea said some retired and have not been replaced. He said there are 38 police officers including him. Cuozzo asked how many there were last year, and DeAndrea said in January of 2007, they were at 40. She said that means it only has been reduced by two police officers. She asked how many officers live in Hazleton. Cuozzo said it should be placed in their contract that they have to live in the City. She added that more and more municipalities are making that a requirement, and if you want the tax dollars, you should live  here. She said if the officers lived here, and they saw a police car sitting out in front of a house, they would probably think twice about what they are going to do in that area. Cuozzo asked if the Police Department would consider opening up its contract to allow for part-time police officers. Mundie said that DeAndrea cannot answer, and the Union would need to be involved. Cuozzo said the overtime would be cut back if there were part-time police officers in Hazleton. Mundie said that would need to be negotiated with the union. DeAndrea said most police departments that he knows of have no limitation on the distance that you can live, including the state police. He said it is nice to say that they all need to live in the City, but the problem is the people who say this do not have to arrest the people that they live next to. In 2013, there was a $25,000 contract on his head, and death threats and $10,000 contracts on two of his officers. He said it is not nice to live exactly where you are arresting the people, and this risks the safety of the officers. He stated that it is nice to get a little distance from the people that you are arresting. Mundie asked DeAndrea where he is with the surveillance cameras. DeAndrea said on Monday they heard back from PPL regarding its pole authorization to hang the cameras. They have authorized 13 of them so far. Last week, he asked the contractor to contact PPL and begin installing the cameras. Mundie asked who the contractor is, and DeAndrea responded Bob Bartholomew from Convergys. He just sent Bartholomew a reminder about this. DeAndrea said at this point, they are ready to start hanging the cameras. Mundie asked DeAndrea to get in contact with him for a timetable of the work that will take place. DeAndrea said as soon as he hears back from Bartholomew, he email Council a schedule.

Comments from Mayor or Director of Administration:  None.

Comments from Council:  Bast thanked everyone for coming and voicing their concerns, and also thanked the police officers for letting Council know they need help. He said hopefully they will get the answers they are looking for with regard to the Firemen’s contract.

Cusat said there were four items on the agenda worth millions of dollars and dealt with the lives and jobs of everyone, and the Administration still did not come to the meeting. He said it is “disgusting” that with all this money at stake, the Mayor, Administrator and Solicitor were not here. He said he drove past Chestnut Street today and noticed the no parking signs are gone, but the lines are painted. Cusat said it is still illegal to park on Chestnut Street. He thanked the Fire, Police and Streets Department for coming to the meeting.

Mope thanked everyone for coming and for saying their peace. She said Council listens to every single word that is said. They have tough decisions to make, but, unfortunately, they do not have cooperation from the Administration. Mope said the Solicitor should have been here to get a legal opinion. She said she was concerned that Resolution regarding the referendum was not done properly, or if it was reviewed by the Solicitor. She stated her emails are going unanswered by Slusser since April. She thanked DeAndrea for coming to answer questions. Mope said Council “is working in the blind, and we’re basically being crippled by that.” She said they are strong and they will persevere, regardless of the Administration’s tactics. She said Council listens to the public, and knows that everyone is financially stretched to the limit. She agreed that there should be some type of discussion with the police department and the public to try and work something out. Mope stated they need to “come together and brainstorm.” She said we need to come together and try to help each other out.

Sosar thanked everyone for coming, especially the police, fire and streets department workers. He said they listen and they want to make intelligent decisions. Sosar stated that the people of this town have given them their confidence, and he wants to do what is best for the people who live here. They are asking for information to make the most intelligent decision they can. He thanked everyone for their hard work.

Mundie said on Saturday, he sat with the Mayor at a dinner honoring the Diamond No. 2 Fire Company for their 125th anniversary. Someone came up to him and said he could come to this dinner, but he cannot come to Council meetings. He said Mike Plesh with the Veterans Outreach wants to talk to the police officers about helping get veterans, who are homeless, off the street. Mundie said he wants to discuss talking to these veterans and getting them into a program. He stated he will have Plesh contact DeAndrea regarding this matter. He said he spoke with Mike Gronski and he has a neighbor who is doing a business as a notary, and asked DeAndrea to look into the matter. He stated that notaries need to keep certain ledgers and other rules. He said prior to DeAndrea being Chief of Police, someone called the police about people being noisy and they did not help him. He ended up moving out of town into either Delano or Haddock. He said these little things are what cause people to leave the City. Mundie thanked everyone for coming, especially the police and fire departments. He said they both do a great job, and they are going to look over the contract and come to a decision. He stated this is not personal and is not a reflection on the job you are doing. Mundie said maybe the Mayor will get this on the referendum. Once they come to a decision, then Council needs to make a decision. This is not binding. He said although it is only asking for a 1% tax increase, that is a lot of money to some people. One person told him that the 1% increase amounts to $300.00 to $400.00. He is passing this on to the Mayor and his fellow Council members.

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

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