2014-02-11 Council Minutes


Call to Order:  Council met in regular session on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 in Council Chambers. The meeting was called to order at 7:15 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 (via telephone); Sosar-present; Mundie-present

Minutes of Previous Meetings:  The minutes of the January 28, 2014 regular meeting were tabled in order to make corrections.

Motion to Table the 1/28/14 Minutes:

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Cusat

Roll Call (on Motion to Table the 1/28/14 Minutes):  Bast-yes; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes


Proclamations/Communications:  None.

Courtesy of the Floor:  Janet Tucker, Hunter Road, Hazleton she is an employee of the City of Hazleton, but is also a Hazleton taxpayer and concerned about the budget. She asked to know what the expenditures are that require salaries to be cut. She said employee salaries are personal, and cuts are personal. Tucker asked if these cuts were made to fulfill Council’s “wish list items,” such as a controller, a legal advisor, and membership in the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities. She asked that Council wait another year or two in order to get the finances in order before proceeding with salary cuts to pay for these wish list items. She said the expenses of the City, its employees, and its residents have gone up. She commented that the City must prepare for long-term expenses and not for short-term expenses. Tucker said that the Pennsylvania Economy League’s report stated that the City should raise its taxes. She added that cutting the salaries of only management employees and no other employees is discriminatory.

Judy Yurcho, 984 North Locust Street, Hazleton commented that she believes the City needs a controller to check spending. She commented that we still do not have the 2012 audit yet. She said it is necessary to see where all the money is going. Yurcho commented that if the City had a controller, there would not be a need for any cuts. She said she is against the acquisition of the Learjet from the U.S. government. She commented that the City is having financial problems and potholes are being filled with dirt, yet we are trying to acquire a Learjet. Yurcho said that businesses are leaving, people are leaving, houses are falling apart, the streets are a mess, and the economy is bad. She said we need to start fixing these problems first.

Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton commented on Resolution 2014-30. She said the attached agreement says the Learjet needs to be ready for flight purposes within 30 days. She asked who paid the application fee to apply for this. Deakos commented that if the City had a controller, this would not have happened. She said the public finds out about these types of things after the money has already been spent. She commented that the Mayor feels it is easier to apologize than to ask for permission. Deakos commented that this behavior in the Administration needs to stop.

John Keegan, 105 Ferrara Avenue, Hazleton said he would like to address the position of the controller in the budget. He asked if the following provisions could be agreed upon with regard to the current form of government: (1) In 1988, Hazleton voters approved the government study commission question on the ballot designating Optional Plan B, under the Home Rule and Optional Plan Law, as our present form of government; (2) Subchapter F of Chapter 29, Subchapter A of Chapter 30, and Subchapter A of Chapter 31 are the guiding law; (3) Section 3122, although found in Subchapter C of Chapter 31, applies since it is referenced in Section 3013, Subpart E; and (4) Sections 2942, 2943 and 2944, although found in Subchapter C of Chapter 29, are applicable since they are referenced in Section 3004 of Chapter 30. He said Chapter 29 contains the provisions that establish the government study commission. In Section 2924, Specificity of Recommendations, Part A, states “if the government study commission report recommends the adoption or the amendment of any of the optional plans of government set forth in this subpart, except the optional county plan, the report of the commission may specify the following: (2) that the office of treasurer shall be omitted or that it shall be filled by election by the electors rather than by appointment.” Section 3, “that the office of controller shall be omitted or that it shall be filled by election by the electors rather than by appointment.” Keegan said the voters on the question eliminated the treasurer and the controller positions. He said Section 2971 of Subchapter F states “Law Applicable to Optional Plan. Upon the adoption of the electors of any of the optional plans of government as set forth in this subpart, the municipality shall therein after be governed by the plan adopted and by the provisions of general law applicable to that class or classes of municipality except otherwise provided in this subpart. Until a municipality adopts another form of government, the plan adopted and the provisions of general law applicable to that class or classes of municipality shall be law.” He said Section 2944 states the following for changing the form of government: “Petition for Referendum or Ordinance Proposing Amendment. Filing. A petition containing a proposal for referendum on the question of amending a Home Rule Charter or an Optional Plan of government signed by electors comprising 10% of the number of electors voting for the office of governor in the last gubernatorial general election in a municipality, or ordinance of the municipal governing body proposing amendment of a Home Rule Charter, or an Optional Plan, shall be filed with the election officials not later than the 13th Tuesday prior to the primary municipal or general election.” Keegan asked how any City Council evade the provisions to amend the Administrative Code to include the position of controller without voter authorization to include the controller. He asked if the attorney reviewed the government study commission report, the question placed on the ballot, and the charter of the City. He stated “with respect to the Third Class City Code, Article 16, the City Solicitor, Section 1602 states: Direction of Law Matters. The city solicitor shall have the superintendent’s direction and control of the law matters of the City.” He said Section 1609 provides for the position of Assistant Solicitor and Section 1610 provides for special counsel. Keegan stated “Since municipalities do not have sovereign powers,” he is confused how Council can assume those powers and unilaterally violate the Code and instate an ordinance from 1996 that changed the Administrative Code with respect to the legal advisor. He said Section 3122, specifically Subpart B and Item 2, states “Appointments of Subordinate Officers’ Employees, Item B, Personnel Rules. The personnel system shall be governed by personnel rules which shall be prepared by the executive Mayor or Manager and submitted to the municipal council, which shall adopt them with or without amendments unless otherwise provided for or arrived at by collective bargaining.” Keegan stated “the Personnel Rules may provide for and Item 2 is a pay plan for municipal authorities.” He asked under what legal authority could a council unilaterally change the pay plan when it specifically says that the Mayor has to submit that plan and Council can amend it or adopt it. He does not see under what legal standing the position of controller exists in the City’s Administrative Code. He said he does not understand how the position of legal advisor could withstand a court challenge. Mundie asked if Keegan is representing the Mayor in his absence and if these are the Mayor’s views or his own views. Keegan replied no, he is not representing the Mayor. He said he is a business owner and homeowner in the City of Hazleton. Keegan said he was here representing himself as a citizen of Hazleton. Janet Tucker came to the podium and asked that everyone be more mature. She said that everyone here tonight is only concerned about the citizens of Hazleton.

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton commented on Resolution 2014-32 regarding the Keystone Communities Planning Grant. He asked if this is for the Main Street designation, and Hahn replied yes. Rabo said there is another alternative that could have been used. He said the City could have applied for the Elm Street designation which includes the downtown and the adjacent neighborhoods around it, and that would take care of the blighted properties around it. Rabo said this designation is the same match and the same requirements. He stated he never received the income statement and expenditures from the Airport which he requested. He said he was told the Airport turned a profit last year. Rabo said he was told it was $46,000 in the red, and then because of fuels, which he believes is an asset and not income, it was in the black. He said to him it is still in the red. Rabo opposes the Learjet acquisition. He commented on the City’s health care expenses. He said some of the City’s department heads are getting a family plan paid for in the amount of $20,000, when it should only be the employee being covered by the plan. He said he could not understand why City taxpayers are paying for family health care plans for department heads. The department heads should be contributing to their own health care. Rabo said he believes the City needs a controller because the City will continue to have budget crises for the next two years if we do not have a one. Sosar asked if the neighborhood development program he mentioned has a time frame for application. Rabo said he contacted DCED about it, but no one ever got back to him. He said he will look into it. Sosar said he thinks it is a good idea. He said we are talking about downtown, Alter Street, South Poplar Street, and a number of commercial areas that really can be improved upon to make Hazleton a much more productive place, and maybe even cut some of the taxes. Sosar said this comes from the Board and the Executive Director of the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress in helping to work on this particular grant, but maybe working with them we might pursue the other one as well. Sosar said we need a lot of work done in a lot of other areas of the City, and not just the downtown area. He asked Hahn to look into it further. Hahn said he would comment further when we get to that item on the agenda.

Chris Puza, 143 St. Charles Drive, Hazleton commented on Ordinance 2014-1 pertaining to the budget. He said the budget is cutting some salaries significantly, adding close to $70,000 on two new positions, legal advisor and controller, that are already filled. He said Attorney Chris Slusser is the City Solicitor, who is here tonight, and we are paying for two legal opinions. Puza said it is a waste of taxpayer money and an insult to employees who will be affected by the salary cuts. He said people are commenting that the controller will look at the finances of the City, but we already have a City Administrator, Steve Hahn, and that is his role and we are paying him to do that. Puza said that it seems that positions are being added just to get different opinions. He said we not always hear what we want to hear, but we have to go by factual information and what is the right thing to do. He suggested instead of spending that $70,000 on positions that are already filled, the City should pass on those resources to the Police Department, or Fire Department, or by not cutting salaries and keeping them the same for those who are here working hard, and going above and beyond the call of duty. He asked Council to consider these things before passing the budget.


Old Business:


Budget Ordinance 2014-1 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, 2014 and Ending December 31, 2014 (2nd Reading)

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mope.

On the Question:

Sosar said it was mentioned that there was a surplus. He said the surplus amount of $12,189.00 has been taken care of. He said instead of taking $252,000 from the unencumbered fund balance, we will only be taking $239,811.00, putting that back in and making the budget balanced. Sosar made a motion to amend the budget as mentioned above, and Mundie seconded the motion.

Motion to Amend:

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mundie.

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


Back on the Question:   Bast said this is an amendment to a budget that was not balanced in the first place. He said an amendment to the budget requires 10 days between readings, which we do not have. Bast said he does not believe this is a valid budget. He added that the position of legal advisor and Ordinance 96-1 creating that position is not legal in accordance with the legal opinion of the City Solicitor. Bast said these amendments should have been made at the last meeting, and that bringing the Solicitor’s salary down to $32,500 is a “fairy tale.” He added that we are going to pay the legal advisor the same amount of money as the Solicitor, and his opinion really does not count. Bast said the Solicitor will definitely go over that amount. He said “if there was such a…changing things by $300.000 last meeting, which was never given to me when we were sitting up here, and we are going to do that, I just don’t understand the reasons why other than the fact that you want to try to block the Solicitor from doing his job.” Bast said he asked Slusser to look into the position of controller. Slusser said he did not have a written opinion ready this evening, but he researched it and he has concerns about the legality of that position. Bast said it is his believe that this was based upon the government study commission that was brought forward and the electorate decided to abolish that position. Slusser said that is definitely part of his analysis. Bast asked if that would have to brought to the electorate to have a controller and said that it could not be an appointed position. Slusser said “arguably so.” Bast said he said he does not agree with cutting 5% “across the board,” and he does not agree with what is being done to those employees. Sosar said he was in touch with DCED and spoke specifically on the number of days and spoke specifically about what we were doing with the budget. He said in regards to the budget, even Attorney Slusser said at the meeting on January 28, 2014, mentioned that the budget need not be balanced on the first reading, but on the second and third readings it needed to be balanced. Sosar said there was a surplus upon making the reviews. He said a number of amendments were made to it. Sosar said that according to the professionals at DCED, as long as they made those and we had 10 days in between readings and it was posted accordingly, it was okay. Sosar said it was posted on February 1, 2014. He said the Mayor specifically stated that this is an amended budget that we are dealing with. He added that at this point we are within our rights to make this one last change, which was just to make the budget balance. Sosar said we should move on from here and worry about other things at a later time. Slusser stated he respects and appreciates Sosar’s opinion and the DCED’s opinion, but he respectfully disagreed with the analysis. He said we can save that discussion for a later time.

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


Budget Ordinance 2014-1 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, 2014 and Ending December 31, 2014 (3rd Reading)

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mundie.

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



Resolution 2014-30 Approving Non-Combat-Type Aircraft Conditional Transfer Document from the United States of America to the City of Hazleton for Transfer of Bombardier Learjet, Model C-21A, Serial No. 84-0100 (TABLED 1/28/14)

Motion to Remove from Table:

Presented by Mundie. Seconded by Cusat.

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


Presented by Bast. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Bast asked Dominic Yannuzzi if the City takes possession of this and at any point in time it would end up costing us money, and we said we do not want it anymore, can we just call the government up and have them take it back. Yannuzzi said “yes, it is a very high demand aircraft and someone will definitely take it off the City’s hands.” He added that it is a very valuable piece of equipment. Mundie said we would have to get it back to the condition it was before and then fly it back to them. Yannuzzi said no, that is incorrect. He said he spoke with Lisa Shradd from GSA in Las Vegas, Nevada, and she said someone would just come and take it. He said it is a very valuable piece of equipment that is very desirable to a lot of different agencies. Bast asked if this will increase our insurance umbrella if we take possession of this Learjet. Yannuzzi said no, and it would be covered under the existing insurance. Cusat asked if the main reason for this is for a static display, and Yannuzzi said yes. He said the secondary purpose could be removed by placing that in the Resolution and take that off the table. He said if it would ever go back into service, it would be brought back to City Council for consideration. Yannuzzi said the main purpose is to honor the military and supply a static display for the youth of the community to become involved in the technical aspects of aviation. He said these are the main two reasons. He added that it is being funded by other parties. Cusat said he called and asked them about the static display, and they did not seem happy about it being used for this purpose. He asked them if there was any other aircraft they would be able to ship to us that would be able to be used as just a static display, and they said yes. Cusat said he was told that there are people on a waiting list waiting for a jet that is in operational condition. He felt taking a $1 million operable plane and using it for display only was not a good idea. Cusat said that if we are not ever going to operate this plane, we should leave for someone else who could use it. Yannuzzi said “basically you’re turning down a million dollar grant to the City that’s not costing the City any money.” Cusat said that we could still get what we want if we just want a static display. Yannuzzi said that an inoperable plane will not be looked at by students. Cusat said there are other municipalities out there who want to use it for City business. Yannuzzi said “this aircraft was allocated to the City of Hazleton, and it was supported by the U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress, State House of Representatives, and the State Senate. If it is turned down at this point in time, I’m going to say chances are the City of Hazleton will not get another aircraft.” Cusat asked if he meant an operable or inoperable aircraft, and Yannuzzi responded “any aircraft.” Cusat stated that there are plenty of inoperable planes that we can have. Yannuzzi said you would probably have to spend about $30,000 to have it shipped here. He said he looked at that, at helicopters, and other equipment, and you would have to get it shipped, dismantle it, pay a trucker to bring it here, and you would need to special crating. Yannuzzi said the minimum to ship an aircraft from Missouri would be over $30,000. Cusat said he was told it would cost under $10,000 to have it trucked here. Yannuzzi said this aircraft fits in with the direction of the Airport, and it fits in with what the youth of the area would be interested in. He said it was flown by the Air Force, and is also an aircraft that is used for private industry. It is also the type of aircraft that students train on to become a commercial pilot, and for mechanics and aircraft maintenance, and it does not have to fly. Mope said that she talked to all three entities. She said she was told the aircraft needs a GPS system placed in it. She added that there is a $5,500 cost, which Yannuzzi said will be absorbed through donations. Before that plane can leave that field, it has to be repaired and in full service. When it gets to our Airport it will be a fully operational aircraft. Mope added that the entities she spoke to said it would be a shame to have it just sit there and be sedate as a static display, when it is fully operational and able to be flown. She said there are hidden costs that we do not know about, donations that we should have been told about ahead of time, and when we sign these papers and take over possession of this aircraft, the taxpayers will be footing this bill. She stated that before this costs the taxpayers any money, she wants to “see all the T’s crossed and the I’s dotted,” and know exactly what all of the costs are. Mope said she understands what Yannuzzi is trying to do, but it would be wasteful of a good airplane that someone else could use and fly. She added that after what happened with the last veteran’s display with the tree in front of it, she felt it would be better to just put up a monument, and it would also be less expensive. Sosar asked about the schools and students Yannuzzi mentioned, and asked if there are any “ties to schools that would be utilizing the aircraft as far as the engines, electronics, etc., that would make it useful to them” as a learning tool. He said Marywood College has an avionics and aviation program, and asked if there is anything in the works with them. He asked if there is a school that would be willing to come here as far as maintaining, investigating, utilizing, etc. Yannuzzi replied yes to all of the above. He said there are a lot of schools interested, but first it has to get here, and then the details would be worked out. Yannuzzi said he has been in discussions with the Hazleton Area School District and they are very interested in looking at this for the S.T.E.M. school. Mundie asked if they would absorb any of the costs involved. Yannuzzi said he talked to them and they did not want to bring it up at any of their meetings until it was something viable for them to consider. He said he was told that they would consider this at one of their committees and discuss it. Sosar asked if Yannuzzi talked to Marywood College, and Yannuzzi said no. He said he talked to the Pittsburgh Institute of Avionics about this, and talked to them about having a satellite here in Hazleton because they are getting an aircraft similar to this. He reiterated that all the costs will be covered by donations. Mundie said he is concerned that he does not know who any of the donors are. He said he wanted a list of donors and the amount of money that is available. He said he feels Yannuzzi is saying that he cannot guarantee this will not cost the City any money, so how can Council vote on this. Mundie suggested that Yannuzzi’s employer, Alfred Benesch, should offer to pay for whatever the donors do not cover for at least two years. Yannuzzi said he cannot commit Alfred Benesch to doing that. He asked if Mundie would like him to commit to this personally. Mundie said we are just looking after the taxpayers’ money, and this may ending up costing us a lot. He said he talked to the Lisa Shradd in Las Vegas and she said it could be a static display, but there is another person from the Pennsylvania GSA saying no, that you cannot do it, and it is has to be flown and maintained. We are getting two different stories. Yannuzzi said he believes in the City, its citizens, its veterans, and its youth. Bast asked if Yannuzzi would commit to paying any of the costs, and Yannuzzi said “yes I would, personally.” Bast asked if he would commit for the next two years, and Yannuzzi said he will commit for the next five years. Mundie asked if Yannuzzi is going to pay for any costs not covered by the donors, and Yannuzzi said yes. He stated that he would memorialize that in an agreement with Slusser, but it would have to be in the agreement that he would oversee the next five years of this project. Yannuzzi said he made numerous phone calls on his own for the benefit of the citizens, the youth, and the veterans of this area. Cusat asked what year the Learjet is and Yannuzzi said it is a 1984. Bast said Yannuzzi is willing to cover the costs for the next five years, and then after five years we could sell the aircraft if we wanted to. Yannuzzi said that if that would happen, he would like to be reimbursed for his costs. He stated he would memorialize the terms of this with Slusser tomorrow, if this passes. Mundie said if he knew this was not going to cost the City any money, he would be for it, and his vote would be yes. Cusat asked what insurance company covers it, and Yannuzzi said it is covered under their 2014 policy. Mundie asked if the insurance is the same for it if it sits or if it gets flown across the country. Yannuzzi said static displays are covered under our insurance policy. He added that the plane will be flown in, and then it will be decommissioned. He said you do not want to take that off the table completely, because there are opportunities there. John Keegan stated from the audience that before any plane can take off, it would need to be determined if it was air worthy by a mechanic. Bast suggested making an amendment to the Resolution that if the City ever wants to fly the aircraft, it has to be brought before Council first. Mope said she disagrees with that because a lot of things do not come before Council, even though they should. She said this needs to be maintained. Mundie said Yannuzzi is personally guaranteeing that he will cover the costs that are not covered by donations, and would like that in the Agreement. Yannuzzi said he felt that should not go in the Agreement, because this Agreement is going to the federal government. Mundie said it would be a separate agreement. Mope said the government will come up and check this plane periodically, and if what is supposed to be done is not being done, then they will take the plane off of us, and it will cost us money to fly it back to where it came from. She said there are too many hidden costs involved and that is why she is against it, and she does not want to see us get stuck with this. Bast said we will not be getting stuck with it if Yannuzzi is giving us his guarantee. Mundie asked Slusser and DeCosmo if some type of agreement could be drawn up regarding this matter. Slusser said he could do that, but DeCosmo said he would be concerned that a guarantee like that may not be enforceable. Mope said it is not about what we put in our agreement, it is about what they already have in their contract. DeCosmo said the City may get stuck with any costs associated with it. Mope said there is a 30-day period to get the plane up and running from the time we sign the contract, and that could cost about $250,000 yearly on maintenance fees. Mundie said we got conflicting reports from two different places, one at the GSA in Las Vegas, and one in Pennsylvania. Cusat said he talked to Stringent Stringent in Pennsylvania, and she was under the impression that we were going to fly this plane, and that we have two full-time pilots that work for the City, and that we have four mechanics on staff. Cusat said if it is only going to be used for a static display, then we should get a different plane and let some other City benefit from having an air worthy plane. Bast asked who is in charge of this whole thing at the GSA, and Yannuzzi said Lisa Shradd from Las Vegas, Nevada. Yannuzzi said he got this information from Shradd, and Mundie was on the conference call with him at the time. Cusat said he spoke to a Stringent and a Jason. Yannuzzi stated that Stringent is from the GSA in Pennsylvania. He added that Shradd is the one who allocates the aircraft, and GSA in Pennsylvania just processes the paperwork to get it from the federal government. Mope said Shradd was not comfortable with the City getting this plane, because she knows we are not in a good financial position at this time. Mope said Shradd felt that it was waste of a good airplane to have it static. She added that she was told by Shradd that there are other planes that are disabled that can be brought up instead and used as a static display. She said this would not be as expensive as getting the Learjet flight ready and getting it to Pennsylvania. Mope said she talked to three different people about this. Mundie asked if Slusser or DeCosmo reviewed the Agreement, and if they saw anything that could be a problem. DeCosmo asked where is the November 17, 2013 letter of intent, because there is supposedly a plan set forth in that letter that we are going to be bound to. Yannuzzi said that was emailed to City Council and they have the whole thing. Mundie asked if that is the letter from the Mayor stating that he wants to fly the plane and bring business people here. Yannuzzi said yes, if they would agree to take on the cost of the expense of the jet. Mundie asked if that is part of the letter of intent. Yannuzzi said the letter of intent talked about the primary goals of the military and static display. DeCosmo said he has a copy of the letter of intent, and he and Slusser are reading it now. DeCosmo said he just read Senator Casey’s letter and he is referring to bringing businessmen back and forth out of Hazleton, and that means it would have to be operational. He said these are the representations that were made to Senator Casey. DeCosmo said he did not talk to anyone at the GSA, and he just is reading from the letters that were provided to him. Mundie said the original intent was to fly it. Yannuzzi suggested placing the two primary goals in the Resolution to clear it up. Mope said the three people she spoke to about this were Lisa Shradd, Michael Starr, and Mary Beth Stringent. Mope said it is a wonderful idea to have it as a static display but it will be very expensive. She added that she was told it has to be operational before it comes here and it has to be done within 30 days. Mundie said he did not hear Shradd say anything about putting in a GPS system. Bast said this is all hearsay. He said the people in Pennsylvania are the “paper pushers.” Mope said they wanted to know why Yannuzzi was prepared this, and not the Mayor. She said Yannuzzi did not have the ability to make this contract. Slusser said the form of the agreement is fine, and it is a standard government form. He said there were questions with regard to whether or not there will be any expenditure of City funds. Slusser stated if the terms of the agreement are violated, the government has the ability to either recoup the costs or pull the property. He added that the letter of intent speaks for itself. Mundie said he believes Slusser is saying that if the City does not live up to the contract, the government could come and take it and we have to pay the cost to get it back the way it was, or to fly it where it has to be flown. Slusser said “it doesn’t speak to that specifically. I would have to talk to GSA. I’m not sure what their allocation of additional costs would be. Is there an exposure? I suppose hypothetically that there is, but I think that was the reason you asked Dominic if he was personally willing to guarantee that exposure.” Bast made the motion to include language in the Resolution stating that if the City would ever want to fly the aircraft and make it operational, it would have to be brought before Council and Council would have to approve it. Mundie seconded the motion.

Motion to Amend:

Presented by Bast. Seconded by Mundie.

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


Back on the Question:

Mundie said his concern is for the citizens of Hazleton and them paying anything for this. He said he wants guarantees that this will not cost the City any money. He added that he asked Yannuzzi for the list of donors and for any cities that have gotten an aircraft like this. Yannuzzi said he sent all of the information he received to Council. He added that the Pilot’s Association is covering the cost of $5,500 and he also indicated that there are other donors that want to be involved, but they will not be involved until after it is voted on. Yannuzzi said he spoke to Mundie about the aviation company that wants to partner with the City, and possibly bring business and jobs into the City. Mundie is concerned that this will end up costing the City money, and Yannuzzi said he understood that. Mundie said he would be willing to table this until Yannuzzi comes up with some kind of agreement guaranteeing this fact. Yannuzzi responded that if it is tabled, it is going away. He added that Shradd said if we do not vote on it tonight, they are giving it to someone else. Mope said the minute we say we are taking possession of this, we are legally and financially responsible for this, and that is how the agreement reads. Mundie said that Shradd stated there is a section in the agreement where additional information can be provided in the agreement. He said the Resolution, if passed tonight, will be attached to the agreement, as amended, and that is all part of the legal and binding agreement. He added that Shradd said that the agreement can be amended. Mope said she knows Yannuzzi wants this “in the worst way,” but she will not let him “be deceitful to the taxpayers.” Bast said that we can amend the agreement and they could reject it. Yannuzzi said it is in the first paragraph of the agreement that it can be amended, and he showed it to Slusser. Slusser said that “whether it says that in the agreement or not, if Council wishes to pass it contingent upon the approval of an amendment, either the GSA is going to approve that and you get the plane, or they are not going to approve it and you do not get the plane.” He clarified that “if Council agrees to pass this contingent upon some amendment to the agreement, then this will only be effective if GSA agrees to the amendment.” DeCosmo stated that once the agreement is signed, even if the agreement is amended, the letter of intent stays the same. He said the letter of intent says that we intend to fly this jet. Slusser said the primary concern is the cost, and if you strike that language, then if GSA is willing to accept that, then there is not an issue. DeCosmo suggested changing the letter of intent, and remove the language about intending to fly the aircraft. Mundie felt that the letter of intent cannot be changed. Yannuzzi said it could be changed. He said the sentence could be rephrased to state that it would be flown if only economically feasible, and there is an alternate funding source other than the City taxpayers, or something to that effect. He would not suggest taking it off the table completely. Yannuzzi said he has a midnight deadline to email something down to the GSA. Mundie said Shradd was more laid back than Yannuzzi’s thinks. She just wanted to know what was going on because other people were interest in it, but she did not tell Mundie that this deadline was set in stone. Cusat said that even if it is not flown, if we have to move it for some reason, it is going to cost us money. Yannuzzi said any vehicle could tow it, if it had to be moved. Cusat said he would rather use a decommissioned aircraft to sit up there and be static. He feels it is a waste to take an operable plane from someone else who could use it and benefit from it. Cusat said he received a list of cities that were interested in using this plane to fly people in. Mundie said he would like to amend the agreement that there has to be an alternate funding source other than the City of Hazleton taxpayers. Slusser said that the GSA is not going to care about that. He said that is more of a directive and a restriction that Council is creating for the record. Slusser stat that if there are terms in the agreement with GSA that Council wants to change, then you should do that now. Mope said that it does not matter how we amend it, it is GSA’s agreement, and there bottom line is that the City is responsible. Bast said that if we amend the agreement, they have to agree to our amendments, and if not, it goes away. He suggested it to be worded that the plane will only be flown by the City if it finds an alternate funding source and there will be no cost to the City. Slusser said that what Council wants him to do is reflect changes in the agreement and/or the supportive documentation that indicates that is the only circumstance for which it will be flown, and make GSA aware of it, and Council agreed. Yannuzzi said he believes it should be amended in the Resolution. Mope said the GSA may agree to this, but it is up to us to find the alternate funding source. She commented that GSA does not care where we get the money from, but we are still responsible. Mundie agreed. Slusser said DeCosmo would be more comfortable with revising the letter of intent to reflect that the primary intention is a static display, that it will not be flown for purposes of attracting business or flying business people around, unless there is a previous approval by Council and funding to do so, and he is in agreement with that. He added that there will be no question about GSA being misled or that we are trying to play some kind of game. Cusat said that he thought it said somewhere that it could only be flown by a City employee and it could not be contracted out. DeCosmo said the letter of intent states “The City intends to repair the aircraft into sound operable condition.” He added that it also states that the City has “pilots and maintenance personnel at the Airport to repair, operate, and maintain the aircraft.” Bast said we cannot not lease the aircraft to any other company and make a profit from it. Mope said Yannuzzi is considered a professional service and not an engineer, and he should not have had anything to do with this. Slusser said the amendment would reflect that we do not have an obligation to make it flight worthy. Cusat said he would love to see an airplane sitting on display up there, but he cannot see taking something that we do not need. Mope suggested tabling it until we found out exactly what they are willing to go along with. Mundie said the federal government gives away millions of dollars of stuff away to people, and if you do not get in line to take it, it goes somewhere else. Cusat said he is okay with that. He added that if Council tables it, he will call Shradd at the GSA tomorrow. Yannuzzi said it cannot be tabled. Bast said we should just vote on it because no one is going to change their mind. Mope made a motion to table the Resolution until Council receives proper answers to their questions, and Mundie seconded the motion.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Mundie.

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


Back on the Question:

Bast made a motion to amend the agreement to what Slusser stated earlier, and Cusat seconded the motion.

Motion to Amend Agreement:

Presented by Bast. Seconded by Cusat.

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


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



New Business:


Ordinance 2014-2 An Ordinance of the City of Hazleton Fixing the Tax Rate of Real Estate Located in the City of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, for All City Purposes for the Fiscal Year 2014, Beginning January 1, 2014 and Ending December 31, 2014 (1st Reading)

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mope.

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



Resolution 2014-32 Resolution Authorizing the City of Hazleton to Apply for a Keystone Communities Planning Grant with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED)

Presented by Bast. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Mundie said there are grants that are matching grants and there are grants that are not matching grants. Hahn said with regard to some of these programs, the City would need to be designated as Keystone Community, and then that allows us to participate in the Main Street Program, the Elm Street Program, or some other similar program. Mundie asked how that is done. Bast said these are some of the steps to take to get that designation. Hahn said he spoke with Champ Holden, an official with DCED, regarding these grant programs. He said Donna Palermo and some members of Can-Do met with them, and we spent most of the morning with him discussing various grants and other such things. Hahn said the City’s Comprehensive Plan is very old; it is from 1992. Prior to being able to get some of these designations, we would need to get that updated. Hahn stated this Resolution asks for a grant to do a Strategic Downtown Planning Study and Revitalization Plan. There is a letter about this from the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress, who is having the Strategic Downtown Plan completed. They are looking to apply for a grant to help with that. Hahn added that there is also a letter of commitment from the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress stating that they would commit $25,000 in cash to match this grant. They will also provide a $15,000 in kind match with the executive director’s salary. He said this is specifically for the downtown area. The City would have to move along with the updating of the Comprehensive Plan and do some other things in order to get this designation to participate in Main Street and some of the other programs. Hahn said this process will take some time to do. Sosar said he knows that a lot needs to be done with the downtown area, but there are other areas of the City that also need help. He added that Hazleton is eligible for the Neighborhood Investment Programs, and there are multiple programs coming out of Allentown, Reading, Lancaster, etc. Sosar stated “we do a disservice if we do not at least try to get these grants, and put some pressure on this Planning Board.” He said need to fix some of the other areas of the City, which are primary commercial areas. The Neighborhood Improvement programs are readily available, and we need to put some pressure on the Downtown Hazleton Alliance to look into these as well.

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



Comments from the Audience:  Chris Puza, 143 St. Charles Drive, Hazleton commented on the budget. He said that Council discussed the budget for five minutes, yet it spent 40 minutes discussing the acquisition of Learjet. He asked who is responsible if there is a lawsuit with regard to this budget. Slusser said that the costs for a lawsuit would come out of City funds. Puza said that means it is going to come out of taxpayer money. He commented that he cannot understand why Council asks for the Solicitor’s legal opinion, and then they ignore it. Mundie said “we have opinions too that are not the same as his.” He added that Council needs its own legal counsel that is going to be in attendance at each meeting.

Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton said that there was no 20-day period last year between first reading and second reading with regard to the budget, and the Solicitor did not say anything about that being wrong. She said she would like to know why the Solicitor did not point that out.

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton commented on the investment programs brought up by Sosar. He said there is one called the Keystone Communities Enterprise Zone Designation, which “addresses the deteriorated distress and blighted industrial and manufacturing areas within a specific designated area.” He stated “the purpose of the program is to improve standards of living by revitalizing these areas attracting new businesses to the area and creating job opportunities. Keystone Enterprise Zone communities must establish a five-year strategic plan consistent with the guidelines and demonstrate financial sustainability by identifying and documenting the funding stream that will employ the full-time Enterprise Zone Coordinator.” Rabo said this is an alternative and is “under the same umbrella.” He said he discussed with Hahn about making the Redevelopment Authority more active, and asked if anything is going to be done about that by him or the Mayor. He also asked about the appointments to the Blighted Properties Committee that are required for the Redevelopment Authority to operate under state law. Bast replied that Hahn has nothing to do with that, and that would be the Mayor’s responsibility or the Authority itself. Rabo said if the Redevelopment Authority cannot do its work, then Planning cannot do its work. If Planning cannot do its work, then Zoning cannot do its work. He commented on the McKinley Street property. He said it is going on for 11 months. Rabo commented that the Mayor said it would set a precedence if Community Development monies were used to clean up the debris. He said it is stated under Code that it has to be removed because it is hazardous, and affects the adjacent properties, as well as the neighborhood. He asked when that would be dealt with. Mundie said in March or April, the money becomes available. He said it was placed in the budget, and we are waiting for it to be freed up in March or April. Once that becomes freed up, it will be done.

Norman Tarantino, 154 North Lee Court, Hazleton said he wanted to bring up that on Holly Street between Laurel and Wyoming Streets, where it is a two-way area, there is no parking on the north side of Holly Street in that area. He said one of the signs between Laurel Street and Manhattan Court is faded and you cannot read that there is no parking in that block. He said people have been parking there, especially since all of the snowstorms we have had lately. Tarantino said no cars are being cited and the street cannot be plowed properly. He asked someone to look into this. Mundie asked Hahn to tell DeAndrea about that.

Judy Yurcho, 984 North Locust Street, Hazleton said she cannot believe that people in this City are against have a controller. She commented that this would be the checks and balances we need to keep spending in check. She said she does not see a problem with spending $35,000 to make sure we do not overspend millions. Mundie said the Mayor said we were in “dire financial straits” and there would be layoffs, and “a week later, we were fine.” Yurcho said she noticed the Mayor was not here tonight. She stated that the City needs someone to watch its books.

Janet Tucker, Hunter Road, Hazleton said “there are people in the City’s administrative office who are dedicated and intelligent.” Tucker said the “accounts payable clerk watches pennies, tighter, tougher, longer, stronger, more microscopically than you ever did, or anyone else in here.” She said the reason she does not believe that we need to spend money on a controller is because you have a person like this working in the office. Tucker said the accounts payable clerk’s name is Carol Tarapchak. Also working in the administrative office is Nancy Doyle, Angela Spanial, and Steve Hahn. She said these are people who do not just go put in time and go home. They have spent a lot of time on this budget and previous budgets. Tucker said “nothing is being spent secretly, privately, quietly behind anybody’s back, nor is it being spent foolishly.” She said there are checks and balances already in place. We have Council and Administration. Tucker said “it does balance out.”

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton said he agrees that there are a lot of dedicated people working in the City, but it is better to be safe than sorry. He said he attends the Luzerne County Council meetings and they have a controller and a deputy controller. Rabo commented that most people in Luzerne County want a controller, and he does not see a problem with this. He stated that no authorities are being superseded, and if the numbers match up, there is nothing to worry about. Rabo said he is in total agreement that the City needs a controller.

Comments from Mayor or City Administrator:  None.

Comment from Junior Council:  Joel Soto asked what the negative numbers on page four of the budget mean. Cusat replied that it is the change between the two budgets that were amended. Soto thanked everyone for coming, and he said he was glad to see so many concerned citizens at tonight’s meeting.

Comments from Council:  Bast commented on the controller issue. He said about 87% to 88% of the budget goes to salary and pension obligations, etc. He said not much is left over to do other things within the City. Bast said when the form of government was changed, it was brought to a vote, and the vote by the people was to eliminate the controller and put in an administrator. Bast said the administrator functions in that role. He stated “the only way to bring a controller back is to put it out for the electorate to put that back in as an elected position, not an appointed position. If the electorate wants that, then the electorate can to do that. That can’t be dictated by Council. If the electorate wanted to do that, that’s fine, I’d be all for it. But we can’t just go and say this is what we want and put it in when it’s against the City Charter.” Bast commented on the Learjet. He said he thought Council made good amendments to it, but it is not going to happen. He felt it would be good for the City. He added that things were in place to be able to pay for it, and it would not have cost the City anything, but there are a lot of people who do not believe that is the case. Bast said he respectfully disagrees with that. He said a budget was put in that he believes has several illegal amendments to it and talked about it for a minimal time, and then we spent a lot of time on the jet, which does not seem right to him. He thanked everyone for coming.

Mope said at the last budget meeting, the Mayor said he was not in agreement with the stormwater fee, which was put in by Perry, Bast and Schadder. She said everyone seems to have their own opinion about what is legal and what is not. She said we should all be working together. Mope stated she hoped the Legal Advisor and Solicitor would “complement each other, help each other, work together, and get things straightened out together.” Mope said with regard to the controller, she wanted to make sure we had checks in balances. She said “the question is not why do we want a controller; the question is why don’t you?” Mope said “if you’re so afraid that something is wrong, then there has to be something wrong.” She said if everything was done properly, there would not be any questions.

Cusat said he is sorry about the airplane, but that is just the way he feels about it. He said with regard to the budget that something had to be passed prior to February 15th, and he hopes the Mayor stands by his plan of getting together and working out our differences without litigation this week. He said he hopes that the citizens understand that was his intention tonight. He thanked everyone for coming.

Sosar reiterated that while a great deal of time was spent on the budget over the past few weeks, we needed to go through it and pass a budget. He added that “there were windows of opportunity that we need to take, and we need to do what we need to do in terms of the budget.” He said that it is not easy to make cuts. Sosar apologized for allowing so much time on a Learjet to take the time away from everyone else. He agreed with Cusat that if we want a jet for a static display, then we should look into getting an inoperable aircraft. Sosar said he hopes that the person willing to donate the $10,000 to bring it to the Airport would also be willing to have an inoperable aircraft instead. He said the budget is very important and this is not going to go away after tonight. He said the Pennsylvania Economy League did a study three years ago and they said this City is in financial difficulty. He said we need to get everything in order and get things moving in the City. Sosar said if we do not get a steady stream of revenue coming in soon, these cuts are going to be the first of many more to come. He said no one likes it, and he has had to deal with low incomes most of his life too. He said he has been the recipient of pay freezes on many occasions. Sosar said he was a teacher when teachers were not paid the salaries they are paid today. He said we need to get this City in order and do what we have to do to get this City moving. He hoped the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress gets something moving, but he also wants this on Alter Street, Poplar Street, and other parts of the City. Sosar said “if we do not do something, the tax base is going to erode even further, and then we will be back here again next year doing the exact same thing that we are doing this year, or tax people out of their homes.” He said he is fortunate that he can afford to pay his heating bill, and there are people in the City who cannot. He said the average per capita income in Hazleton is $18,017, and the average family in Hazleton earns $36,000. Sosar said he has talked about the pride this City once had and he expects it to come back. He said he hopes this City grows because it has a lot of potential. Sosar said we need to work together or we are all going to fail.

Mundie said “the Mayor’s budget wanted to appoint 55 mills, 613 tax increase.” He said Council balanced the budget and did not have a tax increase. Some cuts were made that were unfortunate, but hopefully by getting in more income and coming up with new ideas that maybe we could restore some income and restore some of those cuts. Mundie stated that Slusser said employee wages can be placed on the website by position, not by name. Slusser said he does not know of anything that would prevent that. Mundie said “we are going to do that.” Hahn said he would expect Mundie wants something that shows all of the compensation, not just the wage portion, and Mundie said yes. Mundie said he wants to receive a spreadsheet from Hahn regarding 2013 and 2014 wages to be placed on the website. Mundie said that Magistrate Zola told him he threw out 50 citations, and he may do it every day. He felt this is very wasteful. Mundie asked if writing out a citation costs us money, and Hahn said he would believe so. He said the people writing these violations that are being thrown out are wasting City money. He said he has one for 130 East Maple Street that says the owner has to paint their porch. He said no one can paint their porch in this bitterly cold weather. He said Zola is going to look at this and laugh. Mundie commented that the people writing these out are wasting our money and energy on these things. He said Zola had a meeting with DeAndrea, and he is willing to do an executive session with Council about changing some of our ordinances and making them so that people are being cited correctly. He stated that this is going to be done within the next couple of weeks. Mundie said the differences with the budget can be worked out with the Mayor. Although there may be some things in the budget the Mayor does not like, we will be able to work with that budget. He said we are going to look into ways to increase revenue by “thinking outside the box.” There are some ideas that Council is going to go forward with.

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

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