2014-11-18 Council Minutes


Call to Order:  Council met in regular session on Tuesday, November 18, 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:  The minutes of the November 5, 2014 regular meeting were approved unanimously.

Proclamations/Communications:  None.

Courtesy of the Floor:  Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton commented on Resolution 2014-112 regarding the sale of the tax claims. Rabo said it would be better for the City if we handled these ourselves instead of selling them to an outside tax service. He also commented on the 2015 budget. He said that to double the Airport Manager’s salary is a waste of money. The Airport keeps losing money every year. Rabo said that wasteful spending needs to stop to help offset the cost of more police officers. He also stated the overtime for police officers should be cut. He commented on Resolution 2014-116 regarding the settlement of the Vercusky lawsuit. Rabo said the code laws need to be strictly enforced, and the City needs to stay up-to-date with any new code laws that are passed. This will help curb lawsuits such as these. He commented on Resolution 2014-118 and said this is a “good cause.”

Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton asked why there is only $13,000 listed in FICA for the Police Department, when it should be 6% of the salaries. Pribula responded the police are not obligated to pay toward Social Security, but they do pay for Medicare. This is the reason for the lower amount.

Judy Yurcho, 984 North Locust Street, Hazleton commented on the budget. She said a 26% tax hike will put her out of her home. She commented “the state tightened its belt, but Hazleton hasn’t.” Yurcho said she is struggling to make ends meet, because the cost of everything has gone up. She does not agree with the 3% salary increase for management employees, because some salaries are too high already. Yurcho said the Fire Department has been on a pay freeze, and that is something that should be considered by the rest of the City departments. The City is putting too much of a burden on its taxpayers. She asked Council not to pass the budget as it currently stands. She suggested having the police detectives put out on the streets when they do not have any work to do. She commented that our soldiers earn a lot less than the police, and they knew the job was dangerous when they took it. She sees a lot of opportunities within the City to write tickets and bring in more revenue. One of the things she sees is people switching tags on license plates. She called the Police Department about this, but nothing was ever done. Yurcho asked Council not to add more taxes.

Norman Tarantino, 154 North Lee Court, Hazleton said he is on disability and an increase in taxes will hurt him. He suggested adding user fees in order to receive revenue from the people taking advantage of the City’s services.

Grace Cuozzo, 948 James Street, Hazleton commented on the budget. She said there was a $50,000 increase in the salaries for Code Enforcement, and asked if this was because of new hirings in that department. Pribula responded that this figure includes a part-time supervisor, part-time code officers, and a full-time employee from the Parking Authority coming over to Code Enforcement. Mundie asked what the person from the Parking Authority is earning. Pribula said she earns $33,000, and she will probably be put into the Union. Mundie asked if the Licenses and Permits Clerk position is still open, and Pribula said yes. Mundie asked what the employee from the Parking Authority will be doing, and the Mayor said she will be working on parking, rental registration, and handicapped parking. Pribula said they are trying to get everything on the first floor for the convenience of the public. Sosar asked how many non-union employees will be receiving the 3% increase, and Pribula said it is for all of the management employees. This includes the Mayor, Mayor’s secretary, City Clerk, Department Heads, part-time employees, etc. Cuozzo said she was under the impression these Parking Authority employees were part-time, and asked when they became full-time. The Mayor said they have been full-time for several years now. He added that the Parking Authority did not have a director for the last few years, and Deb Metz-Stringent was performing those duties as the only employee. When Ralph Sharp left the Parking Authority, Metz-Stringent became the Acting Director.

Gene Babula, Hazleton said he does not want a tax increase. He is on disability and will only be receiving a 1.7% increase. With regard to the Airport Manager’s salary, Babula said he would like know how $20,000 is an appropriate pay raise for someone in this position. He commented that the City is “in the hole,” and “no one is using their heads.” He stated that if this tax increase goes through, some people will end up losing their homes. He also commented on the number of potholes throughout the City. Mundie said that the City just purchases a new machine that recycles asphalt, and the Streets Department will be able to fix potholes throughout the winter.

Janet Tucker, Hazleton said Mundie commented that he would rather stick needles in his eyes than pass a 26% tax increase. She asked where we are going to get the money from to run the City. No one is coming up with any ways to create revenue. Tucker said a city tax cannot be assessed because the state will not allow it. She said she personally does not want to pay a storm water fee, and asked how Council intends to make up the $300,000 difference. She said everyone needs to work together. Tucker added that a lot of people work hard for the City and do not get paid anywhere near what they would be paid if they worked in the private sector. She said she chooses to work here for $11.00 per hour because she can afford to do that, but that is not the case for everyone. The 3% raise is only for a handful of non-union employees, and they have not had a raise in a few years. Tucker urged Council to find new way to create revenue.


Old Business:





Resolution 2014-112 Sale of 2014 Tax Claims (TABLED 11/5/14)

Motion to Remove from Table:

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mope.

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


Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:   Mundie asked Pribula if waiting for the money for the taxes will end up hurting the City. Pribula said “in the interim, yes.” He added that some of Mark Rabo’s points were valid, but he did not go to the Redevelopment Authority and ask for any kind of meeting to do anything related to this. He said some of the numbers do not make sense, but they are not his numbers, and he does not know where they came from. Pribula said “Traditionally, poor performing municipalities…if you do not maintain a healthy balance sheet, and have approximately 10% to 15% of your ongoing revenue as a fund balance, so that means the City of Hazleton should have at least $900,000 to $1.2 million in…a reserve…for cash flow purposes…When you don’t have that, you need to find alternative ways to fund that. Now, if we commit the same sins of the past and we don’t get our audits done on time, which we’ve just completed our second one within the last couple of months, you need to get them done by at least the end of September. If that’s done on time, this cash flow, we should be able to get by February. So it alleviates going out and trying to find a tax anticipation note, which you’ll pay interest on. So, either pay this up front or you pay it later. If we have a healthy balance, like good financially-sound cities, we will not have to do it, and in the long run, you will reap the benefits of it as we go down the road. Unfortunately, I can forsee that for 2016, but again December 2nd…the auditors should be presenting the audit for your approval. If that gets passed and is issued, and again we’re able to draw down on that money say February, it’s an important cash flow benefit to the City, because we are not a healthy, financially-sound municipality.” Pribula said if a sound budget is not passed for 2015, we may have to do it going forward. Mundie said “we have a whole other year to worry about that.” Pribula responded that is something that should be considered now and not at the last minute. Pribula recommended selling the tax claims because it would be beneficial to the City at this time. Pribula stated in finances, there are four major financial statements: an income/revenue statement, expenses, balance sheet, and cash flow. He added that if you cannot meet your cash flow requirements, it does not matter when the revenue comes in. Pribula stated “If you can’t deliver predictable occurring revenue, you’re going to have consistent financial problems.” Cusat said he believes it is a bad idea to sell the tax claims, but he understands that the money is needed right away.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES 4-1              

New Business:


Ordinance 2014-19 Modifying Consolidated Plans for CDBG Program Years 2010-2012-2013 (1st Reading)

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Mundie.

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


Ordinance 2014-20 An Ordinance Providing for the Appropriation of Specific Amounts Estimated as Required for the Various Departments of the Government of the City of Hazleton, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania for and during the Fiscal Year, Dating from January 1, 2015 and Ending December 31, 2015 (BUDGET) (1st Reading)

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Cusat made a motion to amend to take out the one mill public safety tax from the budget. Mundie seconded the motion.

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mundie.

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


Back on the Question:

Sosar said under Line Item #363-3212 (Highways and Streets-Parking Garage Fees) it is reading $249,000. The Parking Garage is getting rented out, but it does not amount to $249,000. He believes it should be between $80,000 and $90,000. Pribula said that is in a separate line item above. He stated the Parking Authority brought in $250,000 in gross revenues for 2013 from all of the parking facilities, plus the $80,000 to $90,000 from the leasing, brings it up to about $330,000. This might be a bit aggressive because there was some talk about increasing fees, meter fees, and increased usage after all of the construction work is completed. Pribula stated that most of this is cast in history, but there are some assumptions being made. There may also be delays in the construction of the parking facilities, which would mean delays in income. Pribula stated there is an assumption that they will be taking over all of the maintenance and expenses. Sosar felt a narrative would come in handy to explain all of this, because some of these items are unclear. Sosar asked if an increase in parking fees would have been part of Pango, and Pribula said no. It was just a service to allow people to pay for parking with their smartphones as a convenience. It was not meant to be a replacement, just a supplement. The Mayor said it was just an option, but places like Scranton, who have implemented this program, have seen an increase in parking income. Cusat asked if the profit and loss statement from the Parking Authority would have everything “jumbled in.” The $250,000 was comprised of their parking meters, garage spaces, and monthly and daily parking. He believes the other numbers are being “double counted.” The parking garage can only generate $80,000 to $90,000 according to the new lease agreement. Pribula said Debbie from the Parking Authority was supposed to verify some numbers for me. Cusat said according to the last five audits, the average of the daily parking and meters came out to about $75,000. The monthly passes for spaces not in the garage came out to $82,000, and the garage spaces would come to $90,000. He felt it would be double counting because the City never collected monthly parking prior to this. Pribula said he would go back and check the numbers because he is not familiar with some of this. If something needs to be adjusted, he will do that. Cusat said he feels Line Item #363-3212 should be $90,000, which means a decrease of $133,000. Pribula said he does not like to overestimate revenue because if it does not come in, it is a big problem. Sosar asked if we may be looking into a tax anticipation note for this coming year. Pribula said we would need to advertise for it soon, but he is hoping for the sale of the tax claims as a means to “bridge the gap.” He does not anticipate the need for a tax anticipation note at this time. Mope asked if the sewer transmission fund monies will be used in place of a tax anticipation note. Pribula said it was already used this year for “cash flow challenges.” It does not necessarily have to be replaced, because we are no longer in that business and it no longer needs to be dedicated for sewer work. He confirmed this with the auditors. Therefore, it is being used as a cash flow mechanism. Mope said it was collected from the people for sewer work, and she believes it should still be utilized for that even though we are no longer in that business. Pribula said if we are no longer maintaining the sewers, then it returns to the general fund. Sosar asked how do we give a $15,000 raise to a new Airport Manager. Cusat asked if it is true the new Airport Manager is getting a 5% raise now, and then a 3% raise for 2015. Pribula responded yes. Sosar said there are people on disability receiving a 1.7% increase next year, and Social Security recipients are getting a 1.2% increase. Sosar said $33,000 is a lot higher than what the average person in Hazleton is making. The average person per capita in Hazleton is earning $22,017, and we want to give 3% increases. The Mayor said the Airport Manager is highly experienced in aviation and he comes with a lot of qualifications. Sosar felt it was still too much. Mundie said the last person that was hired as Airport Manager had no experience, and he told the Mayor it was mistake to hire him. The City paid to train him. The Mayor said “He carried us to his extent and we moved on. We are a better airport now and we brought in a guy who has airport experience who has turned that place around.” Mundie said the Airport Manager is being hired at a 33% higher salary then the person he replaced six months ago. The Mayor said yes. Mope said that then he will be receiving a 3% raise at the beginning of the year, which brings that up to 40%. She asked if the Mayor is content with that, and the Mayor said yes. He is a highly qualified person with great credentials. The Mayor said he should be able to earn a decent salary if he is qualified for the job. Mundie asked if he advertised this position. The Mayor said no. The opportunity came up and they interviewed him. Mundie said he agrees with the Mayor that he is highly qualified, and he believes he is doing a good job there. The Mayor agreed and said we are collecting more money from rentals than we ever did before. He believes he is well worth his salary. He said it is a big responsibility to manage the Airport. Mope asked about the hangar that was purchased. The Mayor said we bought it about a year ago. Mundie said we voted no on that one last year. The Mayor said they have a customer who flies his jet in, who did not want to leave it out in the open, and was willing to pay for shelter. With that and some other rentals we got, we were able to pay for the hangar. Mope said she thought we were only doing a lease-purchase. Cusat said the second one is the lease-purchase. Mope asked if the $15,000 payment is just for the one hangar, but the Mayor said he was not sure. He said we own two hangars and one is leased by Lehigh Valley Hospital Medivac. Cusat asked about the contracted services at the Airport. He asked if that is for a specific project. He said he received a phone call that people who were volunteering there for 15 years doing plowing and maintaining the property were told not to come around anymore. The Mayor said they were too hard on the equipment, and that is probably what that is for. Mope asked if there is an engineer for the Airport. Pribula said there are some fees from Alfred Benesch that get charged there. The Mayor said there are also some contracted services with Delta, the consulting engineers. Sosar asked if most of the repairs were to the terminal. He said he remembers that work being done by students from the Career Center. He asked if the costs are for engineering costs or materials, and are the students still doing it. The Mayor said no. The students were in there for demolition and some revamping of the heat. Sosar said he believes we should use them more. He suggested contacting the Hazleton Area School District and asking them to draw up some designs for the terminal and use it as a project. The Mayor said the repairs to the pilot’s lounge were donated. He said the DeAngelos sent their designer in and gave us a design. He said we utilize the students as much as we can, and we have a contractor working on it right now. Mope asked about the sewer fund transmission expenses on page 20. She said we do not own any pump stations, but there is $15,000 in the line item for the repair and maintenance of pump stations. Pribula agreed and said it was probably an error. These expenses were for Direct Energy costs, because a contract was not cancelled appropriately when the sewer project was turned over to the Sewer Authority. Mope asked if $300,000 from storm water is being transferred to wages. Pribula said this is projected reimbursement for 2015 if we continue the storm water maintenance program, but it will be for the 2014 fees. Cusat said Council would need to pass the storm water fee before the budget is passed. Sosar said the fees were passed by resolution, and resolutions are allowed to pass a one-time tax, but it does not allow you to pass one on a yearly basis, year after year. He said a new storm water ordinance would have to be prepared and passed by Council. He said the current storm water ordinance is “questionable.” The fee would have to be done by ordinance instead of resolution. The Mayor said the resolution was for the fee for 2013, so it is obsolete anyway. Cusat asked what assess value the figures are based on regarding the real estate taxes. Pribula said he is going off of collections, but the certified assessed value of taxable properties from Luzerne County as of November 5, 2014 was $998,179,000. Cusat said that means $8 million was lost in assessed value. He used the certified assessed value from last year of $1.6 billion. Pribula said some things are in that figure that are either minelands or exempt properties that do not get figured in. Pribula said he has $1,131,309,600. Pribula said he is going by historical collections from 2013, and 2014 had the same tax base and millage. He said that we will collect close to $2.9 million if it is increased to 4% (1.6 mills) for general fund purposes, which generates about $116,000 of additional collections, and not billables. This comes to $3,016,000 for 2015. Pribula said about 70% pay with the 2% discount, 12%-15% pay the base amount, and 10%-12% pay the 10% penalty, and all of this needs to be factored in. Sosar asked if this stays fairly regular year to year, and Pribula said yes. He added that the City collects about 88% of the gross bills. Mundie asked about the police overtime amount on page 10, which is at $165,000. The 2015 budget has $205,000. Pribula said he based this on history, and it does estimate to around this amount. Mundie asked if this is more patrolman overtime or detective overtime. The Mayor responded that it is probably more detectives. Mundie said a large chunk of time is used by patrolmen as prisoner transport to Wilkes-Barre, which amounts to about two hours, roundtrip. Mundie asked if DeAndrea made any suggestions on how overtime could be decreased. He also asked if part-time policemen would lower that figure. The Mayor said any help would lower that figure. The Mayor said the policemen are getting a lot of overtime, but they are also “physically and mentally abused.” Mundie said 10 part-time police officers at $15.00 per hour and 30 hours a week would be $234,000 per year. He said that would eliminate the overtime amount, or at least cut it down. The Mayor stated that the overtime cannot be cut drastically at this time because of minimum staffing requirements and because we are currently understaffed. Mundie suggested using constables to transport prisoners. This would save the City money and keep another police officer in Hazleton. Mope said they would be covered under the insurance umbrella of the City. The Mayor said the only problem would be sometimes they have to be taken to prison immediately, and will a constable be available at all hours. Mundie said Magistrate Zola uses constables on a regular basis. Some have Act 120 training and some have as much training as a police officer. Mundie asked what the new person’s salary coming into the Maintenance Department will be, and the Mayor said he will begin at whatever he was last making at the Parking Authority. Two Parking Authority employees are going into the City Hall Union under the direction of DeAndrea and Frank Vito. They will be maintaining the parking lots, the meters, the permitted parking spaces, etc. Pribula said one will be going into the buildings and grounds department and he will perform maintenance duties along with the other two people already in that department. That person’s salary will be $33,280, which was the salary he was making at the Parking Authority. Pribula said Department 409 is basically a “dumping ground” for a lot of things, including cell phones. He said these things need to be “separated out” in the near future. Things need to be classified properly so the finances could be managed correctly. Mundie said he has been asking for that for about five years. Pribula said a uniform chart of accounts needs to be in place and managed properly. Cusat asked about professional services under Department 404, Contracted Services. He felt that if the Solicitor is going to be placed under this department, then the name should be changed to Legal Department. He said he will be an employee of the City, so it should not go under contracted services. Pribula said he is okay with setting up a “separate cost center” for the Solicitor. Mundie said the bills from the City Solicitor are enormous and some of the things are “a waste of money.” He should be attending meetings because that is where he would be best served and help out the most. Pribula said the City Solicitor bills are slightly over $40,000 as of October 8, 2014. The Mayor said he does not feel this is an “outrageous” amount of money for these types of services. Pribula said the Labor Relations Attorney is at about $20,000 so far this year. Jeannie said there were a lot of special litigation attorneys being paid out of this account. Pribula said it is for the Law Firm of Hourigan Kluger for labor relations. The Mayor said over the years, this amount has decreased. Pribula said the Mayor felt we should keep $20,000 in that account, but if the right full-time solicitor is hired, he or she should know labor law and we should not have to seek outside counsel. Cusat asked if we are currently using the labor attorney for anything. The Mayor said we just used them for contract negotiations with the firemen. The Mayor said the labor attorney is used for such things as union issues, grievances, etc. Cusat asked if we will be advertising for a new Solicitor, and the Mayor said it is already being advertised. Cusat asked about the hiring process. The Mayor said he will be the head of the Department of Law and will be appointed by him and then approved by Council. Sosar stated $65,000 was budgeted for a Solicitor this past year. Cusat said it was $70,000 according to the December 19, 2013 budget, and $32,000 according to the February 11, 2014 budget. Pribula said as of this morning, the amount spent on the solicitor’s services is $66,364.86, $22,215 on labor relations, and $93,000 to date in the law division. Cusat said there needs to be 20 days between first and second reading, so the next meeting should be held on or after December 8, 2014. Council set the next meeting for December 9, 2014 at 6:00 pm. Bast asked if the storm water fee is going to be removed from the budget, and Cusat said if it is removed, it has to be filled and be in balance. Bast said if it is not going to be removed, an ordinance has to be passed regarding the storm water fee in order to fund that line item. The budget will have to be funded $300,000 to replace the storm water fee.

Roll Call (as amended):  Bast-no; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes** (ALL VOTES RESCINDED-SEE BELOW)



Motion to Go Off Agenda:

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mundie.

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



Motion to Rescind 1st Reading Vote on Budget Ordinance 2014-20:

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mundie.

Roll Call (on Motion to Rescind 1st Reading Vote on Budge Ordinance 2014-20):  Bast-no; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes



Motion to Remove Expenses related to the Public Safety Tax:

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mundie.

Roll Call (on Motion to Remove Expenses related to the Public Safety Tax):  Bast-yes; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes



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



Resolution 2014-116 Approval of Settlement Agreement and Global General Release of Claims Regarding Litigation Involving Thomas Vercusky and Richard Wech and the City of Hazleton, Docket No. 3:CV-13-1459

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mope.

On the Question:

Mundie said he attended the mediation conference along with Attorney Slusser. After discussing the matter with Slusser, it was determined that it would be best to settle the case. Mundie said he believes the City would win the case because of inconsistencies in Vercusky’s deposition, but it would cost a lot more than the amount of the settlement to continue pursuing it. Cusat agreed. Mundie commented that the Code Officers need to be more careful in how things are done. He said Mike Wilfing is doing a great job getting everything running smoothly in the Code Enforcement Office. Mundie said Vercusky’s building was closed because it was determined that it was too dangerous for people to be in it.

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



Resolution 2014-117 Authorizing the Mayor to Execute an Agreement with MidAmerican Energy Company for Electricity Procurement

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Sosar.

On the Question:

Joe Clifford of C Group Energy Services said the price of electricity has now changed and it is at 6.927¢ per kWh, which is 30% lower than March’s price. He is recommending a 12-month contract so all contracts start and stop at the same time. This will bring the City down to one bill instead of 28 bills, and will reduce administrative costs. Mundie asked what PPL’s current rate is and Clifford said 8.5¢ per kWh. Clifford said he highly recommends going with a fixed rate instead of an adjustable rate. Cusat asked about the progress on the street lighting project. The Mayor said the agreement with SmartWatt was signed and delivered to them. Clifford said we have to wait to receive the guarantees and savings, which will take about six to eight weeks.

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



Resolution 2014-118 A Resolution Requesting Local Share Account Funds for the Helping Hands Society

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Sosar said his oldest son is married to the daughter of one of the Helping Hands Society board members, and he is receiving nothing for passing this Resolution. He said he looked into it and it is okay for him to vote on this.

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



Comments from the Audience:  Judy Yurcho, 984 North Locust Street, Hazleton said her brother works from Merck and has not received a raise in nine years. She received notice that she will be receiving a 1.5% raise in her Social Security disability benefits. Yurcho commented when Social Security gives something, they take something else away. Luzerne County is also increasing taxes by 4%. She asked where the money is supposed to come from to pay for all of this. She said there is no new businesses coming into the City. The most she ever made when she was working was $22,000, and she has been on disability for the last three years. Factory workers are only making about $9.00 per hour. Yurcho said “you can’t keep doing this to the taxpayers.” She said she likes it here and does not want to leave. She also commented that the Mayor is in the office between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm, and most people work during those hours. Mundie said Council is taking out the 26% tax increase in the budget, and that there will be no 3% raise either. Yurcho said we need to encourage businesses to come here. Mayor Yannuzzi stated we have the same problems as any other city. Yurcho said she is on the Crime Watch. She said she told City Hall about the tires and garbage on Perry Court, and filled out the proper paperwork, but still nothing has been done. She asked why Code Enforcement is not writing out any tickets. She said she also contacted City Hall about a particular person in her neighborhood switching license plates around on different cars, but nothing has been done yet. Mundie said Mike Wilfing is working on straightening things out in that department. Yurcho said she wants to present the Police Department with a bulletproof vest for the K9 officer. It has been two months since she contacted Chief DeAndrea about this, and he has still not called her back. The Mayor said he would look into the matter.

Grace Cuozzo, 948 James Street, Hazleton said she saw a sign on a building owned by George Hayden that their KOZ status has been extended, and asked if this came before Council. Mundie responded no, but it would have to come before Council first. He added that Hayden said this building would be back on the tax rolls.

Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton asked why the Mayor is receiving longevity pay, when that is an elected position. Mundie responded that the Mayor should answer that question. The Mayor said even though he is an elected official, he is still a full-time employee of the City. Sosar said he does not believe elected officials get longevity pay. He added that they have to win an election to get an increase in salary. Bast said that is something that Council would need to vote on. The Mayor stated it would need to be voted on prior to anyone getting elected to office. Sosar said Council needs to look into this matter, because every single dollar counts. Deakos asked about the money needed for the illegal immigration lawsuit. Mundie said that is still in negotiations, and Attorney Kris Kobach is handling the negotiations. The Mayor said a decision has not been made on the penalties portion of the lawsuit. Mundie said the legal fees were not decided yet, and it may have to go before Judge Munley. Another court ruled on a different case that some of our points were okay. Judge Munley will decide on what is and is not payable. Pribula said that we should have reserves set aside in case such unexpected expenses occur.

Norman Tarantino, 154 North Lee Court, Hazleton asked if the Parking Authority has been dissolved, and Mundie responded yes. Tarantino asked who is handling the ticketing now, and the Mayor said it is still being handled by John Synoski. Tarantino asked about the after-hours clubs in the City, and Mundie said he is working on getting ordinances from other cities.

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton asked about the storm water fee and said that the City should follow the law regarding this matter. Mayor Yannuzzi said the management of the storm water is different than the collection of the storm water fee. The City used to maintain the storm inlets, but that is now the responsibility of the Sewer Authority. Rabo said if the storm water fee is not re-enacted, the money needs to be made up somewhere in order to balance the budget. Rabo asked about the rental inspection fees, and Cusat said they are not in the budget at this time. Mundie said we are going to revisit that matter and look into the UCC code. Rabo stated that people who write citations for Code Enforcement need to be certified. Mike Wilfing said if it falls under the UCC, you need to be certified, but if it falls under property manager, you do not. Rabo asked if there are any other revenue sources that can be used. Mundie said he talked to Kevin O’Donnell about maybe selling some of the HCA property. Rabo asked when the Vacant Property Committee was re-enacted. The Mayor said there are people sitting on that board, and some may not still want to serve. We need a plan first before we can proceed. Rabo stated that there cannot be a land bank without a committee. Mayor Yannuzzi said it is very difficult to do a land bank because there is a lot involved and we do not have the money to fund it. Mundie agreed with the Mayor. Rabo said the Vacant Property Review Committee needs to be in place before the Redevelopment Authority meets. Mayor Yannuzzi said that Committee is already in place.

A gentleman who did not give his name commented on the snow ban. He said he lives on Carson Street and no one is getting ticketed. He said this is also a problem on Diamond Avenue. Mundie said Chief DeAndrea is working on this issue. The Mayor said we have been receiving thousands of dollars on snow ban tickets. The gentleman said that loud music is a big problem, as well as parking too close to the intersections. Fire trucks are not able to make the turn. The Mayor said the City is working on those problems.

John Homa, Hazleton said raising taxes to hire more police is “outrageous.” He said if the Mayor cannot do his job, then he needs to resign.

Ted Sherrock, Hazleton thanked the Mayor and the Administration for being here at tonight’s meeting. He said it seems like the cooperation is better and Council is getting its answers. Sherrock said we need to find alternative sources of revenue. He added that people have the tendency to be negative and make negative comments. Badgering the Mayor and Council is not helpful. He commented that we can only move forward when the meeting is calm and organized. Sherrock asked the people to “temper their zeal.” He also commended Council and the people who attend the meetings on a regular basis.

Comments from Mayor or Director of Administration:  Mayor Yannuzzi said Pribula worked hard on the 2015 budget. It is not a perfect budget, but it is “realistic.” He added that the Administration is working with the Directors of the departments of the City to hold the budget in place, but sometimes there are unexpected expenses.

Comments from Junior Council:  Josh Narrow asked about the exemptions to payment of certain taxes. Bast said that firefighters and the police do not have to pay the FICA tax.

Comments from Council:  Bast said everyone gets frustrated during the budget process. He added that over the past 10 to 20 years there were times where there were no tax increases. The increases in services and salaries plus the limited tax increases put us in our current position. He said a small tax increase is needed every year because costs increase every year. Bast stated that according to the PEL report, the City’s financial situation is bad. He asked Pribula to come back after the budget is passed to discuss PEL’s report. He said we cannot decrease taxes or keep them the same if costs keep going up. That is how we got into this situation, and then we end up with a huge tax increase. Bast said Pribula is doing a great job, and everything was a mess before he came along. He commented that Code Enforcement needs to be held accountable for its actions and inactions. He thanked everyone for coming to the meeting. He said he looks forward to seeing the amendments that will be made to the budget.

Cusat asked that the business portion of the meeting be re-opened in order to amend the expenses with regard to the public safety tax so the budget balances. Sosar made a motion to go off the agenda, and Mundie seconded the motion.**


Cusat asked if any of the Department Heads applied for any LSA grants. Mope said she sent a memo to the Department Heads regarding this matter. Cusat said the Budget was passed on first reading to meet the required timelines. He is not happy with some of the things in the Budget, and a lot of these things need to be addressed next year. He said it was nice having the Mayor here, and he thanked everyone for coming.

Mope stated that the City should bring back the pothole hotline. The City now has a machine to use in the winter to fill potholes, and the hotline would help out a lot. Mundie asked Vito if the Streets Department will be fixing potholes all winter, and Vito said he hoped so. Mope thanked everyone for coming. She said Council is trying its best and we are listening to the public. She stated there will be changes to the Budget, and a 26% tax increase is too much to ask from the taxpayers. She thanked Pribula and the Mayor for coming to the meeting. She said she would like to have them here on a regular basis.

Sosar thanked everyone for coming to the meeting, and also thanked Pribula and the Mayor for attending. He said some things need to be addressed in the Budget. He said we need to have an effective balance, we need to “tighten our belts,” and we need to have a reserve fund. He thanked Vito and the Highway Department for all the pothole patching they have been doing. Sosar said Council wants to help the City and we will fight for the City and its residents.

Mundie asked about the 2013 audit. Pribula said he met with the auditors yesterday and the audit will be presented to Council for the next meeting. Mundie asked if Pribula received the “legal disclosure letter” he emailed to him, and Pribula said yes. Mundie asked Pribula and the Mayor for a list of all outstanding lawsuits and legal matters. Mundie said that Pribula worked hard on the budget and he appreciates his efforts. He thanked everyone for coming. Mundie said people cannot afford any more tax increases. He stated that the reassessments changed the value of the homes for some people, taxes are too high, and homes are selling for less than they used to. Pribula said that another county-wide reassessment needs to be done. Mundie said homeowners cannot sell their homes because the taxes are too high, and the homes are being assessed at 20% to 50% less. Sosar said the last reassessment done by Luzerne County was done when homes were worth more. Mundie said he hopes Council could come up with some new ideas to address this matter.

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