2015-02-03 Council Minutes

MINUTES
HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL
REGULAR MEETING
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2015

Call to Order:  Council met in regular session on Tuesday, February 3, 2015 in Council Chambers. The meeting was called to order at 7:00 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 18, 2014 regular meeting and the December 2, 2014 Work Session were approved unanimously.

Proclamations/Communications:  None.

Courtesy of the Floor:  Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton suggested that the City collect its own delinquent taxes instead of having Northeast Revenue do it. Mundie responded that right now the County is collecting the delinquent taxes. They collect 5% and we get 95%. This change will enable us to collect 100% of the delinquent taxes, because Northeast Revenue charges their fee directly to the delinquent taxpayer. Rabo said the Mayor is the Chief Executive Officer of the City and operates separately from Council. The Municipal Code says the Water and Sewer Authority appointments are done by Council, not the Mayor. He asked if any resumes were received by Council for the appointments to these boards. Rabo said that the Redevelopment Authority and Planning Commission should review any transfers of real estate first to be sure it would be beneficial to the City. He asked if there was an assessment completed of how much the downtown park will cost.

Norman Tarantino, 154 North Lee Court, Hazleton asked if Council ever received an opinion as to whether or not the seven-year contract with the Firefighters was legal. Mundie said Council received two different opinions from two different attorneys, Chris Slusser and Lars Anderson. They are still trying to determine the correct opinion.

Dave Fatula, President of the Firefighters Union Local No. 507, commented on the firefighters’ contract. He said he sent an email on January 22, 2015 regarding the opinion of their attorney that the seven-year contract was legal. He commented that Slusser is not a labor attorney. Fatula said that the labor attorney and the Firefighters Union’s attorney spoke and agreed that the term of the contract is legal. This determination was email to the City Solicitor, Attorney Bob Cohen. Fatula said he feels that all questions have now been answered and asked that the Resolution approving the contract now be passed. Mundie asked Fatula who negotiated the contract. Fatula responded the Mayor on Tom Pribula.

             

Old Business:

ORDINANCES

None.

             

RESOLUTIONS

None.

             

New Business:

ORDINANCES

Ordinance 2015-1 An Ordinance Approving a Penalty, Interest and Fee Schedule for the Collection of Delinquent Real Estate Taxes (1st Reading)

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Sosar.

On the Question:

Cusat said Luzerne County will collect the delinquencies, but their fee will not come out of our share. The City will get 100% of what it is owed, and Northeast Revenue will get 5% on top of that from the person who is delinquent. Cusat made a motion to amend Section Three of the Ordinance so that it states the Ordinance becomes effective 90 days after approval. He said people would have more time to pay their back taxes, etc., before it goes to Northeast Revenue. Sosar seconded the motion.

Motion to Amend:

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Sosar.

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

Roll Call (as amended):  Bast-yes; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

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Ordinance 2015-2 Modifying Consolidate Plan for CDBG Program Year 2014 (1st Reading)

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Sosar.

On the Question:

Fallon Fermin, Director of Community Development said this money was in the 2014 budget as economic development acquisition of the former Golden City Chinese Restaurant. Cusat said there should be a plan in place and that plan should be adopted before any money is dedicated for this project. Fermin said she needs to see if any of the money could be transferred to something else. She added that this is the $90,000 match approved by Council for the Center City Park. Bast asked if this money could be better spent elsewhere. Fermin said this money can only be used for CDBG related activities. Krista Schneider of the Downtown Hazleton Alliance said a plan for the park is being drafted right now, and in 30 days it will be finalized. She stated that once that is complete, she will ask the City to adopt this as its plan. Schneider added that the plan was not ready prior to when the grant paperwork was due. Cusat asked if this needs to be passed tonight, and Fermin responded no. But, there still needs to be an environmental review conducted on the property, which could take up to seven months to complete. Cusat said he would like to see a plan in place first before voting on this.

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

             

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution 2015-19 Approving Contract between the City of Hazleton and the International Association of Firefighters Union Local No. 507

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Sosar.

On the Question:

Sosar said he is not happy with having a seven-year contract, because this “ties the City’s hands.” He stated this provides guarantees and we do not know what is going to happen to the City in the long term. Sosar said that even though he is not comfortable with this contract, he will be voting on it tonight. Cusat said he does not like a seven-year contract. He commented on the pay freeze for the first year. He added that the medical insurance surcharge it not addressed in the contract. Sosar commented on this as well. Bast said that the insurance is considered a “Cadillac Plan” under Obamacare, and should be addressed in the contract. He is comfortable with the pay increases, but he does not like having a seven-year contract. Mundie said the Mayor should be here to discuss his negotiations with the Firefighters’ Union. He was not comfortable with a seven-year contract. He is concerned with how the illegal immigration lawsuit decision will affect the City’s finances in the future. Bast said he has thought about this a lot, and he does not know what effect a seven-year contract will have on the City. He said is representing the citizens of Hazleton and trying to do the right thing for them. Sosar said the labor attorney cited a school district case in rendering his opinion on this matter. He stated the firefighter and police unions can go to arbitration and this could drag out for years. Sosar stated this is no reflection on the firefighters’ hard work, and he wishes he could give them more. Dave Fatula, President of the Firefighters Union Local 507, said they kept in mind the City’s financial situation when negotiating this contract. They took a voluntary pay freeze and a voluntary co-pay towards the medical insurance. He said this is “comparable” to the Police Department’s contract. Fatula stated that if this does not pass tonight, it will be going to arbitration and will be out of our hands. This will cost the City money. Mundie asked if the Mayor mentioned anything to them about the Cadillac Plans during the negotiations. Mope asked if they would be agreeable to four-year contract instead of the seven-year contract. Fatula said they weighed the time frame involved and the pay increases in making their decisions regarding the contract. Cusat said that if this goes to arbitration, will our issues be discussed and will they take this into consideration before rendering a decision. Fatula responded yes. Bast said one of his concerns is that there are now laws in place that were not there when this contract was originally negotiated. Sosar said the tax on the Cadillac Plans is 40%, which will be imposed by the IRS, and the members of the union will be hit with that cost. Fatula said he may be back here in 2018 regarding that issue. Mundie said the City has a great Fire Department and they work very hard. He commented that he wishes we could give them more.

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

RESOLUTION FAILS

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Resolution 2015-20 Appointment to the Planning Commission – Jeff Yurick

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Mope said she will be abstaining from voting on this Resolution due to a conflict of interest. She said she may be initiating litigation with City, and the Planning Commission and Zoning Hearing Board of Appeals would be involved in that matter.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES 4-1 (4-YESSES; 1-ABSTAIN)

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Resolution 2015-21 Reappointment to the Zoning Hearing Board – Niurka DeLaRosa

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Mope said she is abstaining from voting on this Resolution for the reasons mentioned above.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES 4-1 (4-YESSES; 1-ABSTAIN)

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Resolution 2015-22 Reappointment to the Zoning Hearing Board – John Tunnessen

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Cohen said that he researched this appointment, and current employees cannot serve on the Zoning Hearing Board. He will put his opinion in writing for Council. Sosar motioned to table this Resolution in order to consider Cohen’s opinion on the matter. Mundie seconded the motion, and stated that this is not a reflection of Tunnessen’s performance.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mundie.

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

MOTION TO TABLE PASSES 4-1 (4-YESSES; 1-ABSTAIN) RESOLUTION TABLED

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Resolution 2015-23 Reappointment to the UCC Appeals Board – George F. Hayden

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Cusat.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES 4-1 (4-YESSES; 1-ABSTAIN)

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Resolution 2015-24 Reappointment to the Downtown Overlay District Review Committee – William Spear

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mundie.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

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Resolution 2015-25 Acceptance of Property Transfer Offer by Sullivan Trail Partnership

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Mundie said Council recently received a letter regarding this matter, and some of the paperwork needs to be put in order before proceeding with this matter. Mope made a motion to table the Resolution and Mundie seconded the motion.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Mundie.

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

MOTION TO TABLE PASSES UNANIMOUSLY RESOLUTION TABLED

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Resolution 2015-26 Resolution Requesting Approval to Advertise a Request for Proposals for the Purchase of Patrol Rifles for the Police Department

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Sosar.

On the Question:

DeAndrea said there is an end-of-the-year sale going on for this particular weapon. The price has been reduced from $3,200 to $999, which is good until February 15, 2015. He said there will be one issued to each police officer. DeAndrea said a grant was filed for the purchase of these weapons at the price of $2,800, but they will receive a lesser amount for the grant because of the lower price. He said the City cannot afford to purchase these rifles. Patrol rifles are standard issue, and every officer needs to carry one in the car. DeAndrea said the current weapons are antiquated and many parts have been replaced over the years. It is now more cost effective to buy new ones. He said he placed this out to bid and the bid documents are on the City’s website. The next Council meeting is on February 17, 2015, but the sale price is only good until February 15, 2015. He stated the bid deadline is February 13, 2015 and he will open the bids with the City Clerk on that date. He will only accept bids at or below $999. Mundie asked what the police officers are using now. DeAndrea said they are using different kinds because they could only afford to buy one or two at a time. Right now, they have rifles from six different manufacturers. Bast asked about the ammunition and DeAndrea responded that they use .223 ammunition. Bast asked if the grant that was filed indicates this particular rifle, and DeAndrea said yes. Mundie asked if this is an LSA grant, and DeAndrea responded yes. Cusat asked if there is any resale value for the old weapons. DeAndrea said yes, but they can only be sold to law enforcement or the military. The money will then be put back into the general fund. He added that the new rifles are select fire, which means they can be either semi-automatic or fully automatic. Sosar asked if this would bring us up-to-date with what the criminals are using. DeAndrea said yes, this will “level the playing field.” He added that they are trying to stay ahead of the criminals. The rifles will be given to the Special Operations Group, the detectives and the patrolmen. Mundie asked DeAndrea how many rifles will be purchased with the grant. DeAndrea responded 24, but he would like one for every officer at some point in time. Mundie suggested keeping a gun with each patrol car instead of each officer. DeAndrea said there would be no guarantee that they would be taken care of and work properly. If an officer has his own, he will practice with it, clean it, etc. DeAndrea said the Special Operations Group already has this type of weapon, but some of them purchased them on their own. He prefers that his officers sign the weapons in and out, and that they do not leave them in the cars. Mundie asked if this is the same for shotguns, and DeAndrea responded yes. He added that urban patrol rifles are more functional in this type of environment.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES 4-1 (4-YESSES; 1-ABSTAIN)

           

Comments from the Audience:  Norman Tarantino, 154 North Lee Court, Hazleton asked about the state of the City. Sosar said the state of the city should be given in a public forum, and no one should have to pay to hear it. He added that the average taxpayer should have the opportunity to hear what the Mayor has to say. Tarantino said a report on the state of the city is a part of the Third Class City Code. He asked if the Mayor could be sanctioned for not provided this information to the public. Sosar said the Mayor ignores Council, and the state of the city should have been discussed at a Council meeting or in another open public forum. Tarantino complained about trash not being picked up by the trash hauler. Sosar said there is a problem with the new trash hauler. He asked that anyone who is not getting their trash picked up to please call the Hazleton City Authority. The Hazleton City Authority will be contacting Kreitzer Sanitation about this in the near future. Sosar said he will mention these complaints and comments at the next meeting of the Hazleton City Water Authority Board. Sosar said he would like to see new pamphlets put in with the water bills regarding the new trash hauler, Kreitzer Sanitation, and their trash collection program. He stated that the Authority will be receiving new recycling bins in the spring. Tarantino stated Kreitzer Sanitation has new trucks and they are not leaking. He said they are doing a good job so far. He asked that some of the courts and alley be plowed better in the winter so that the garbage trucks can get through easier. He added that some streets are very icy and should receive more attention in the winter.

Grace Cuozzo, 948 James Street, Hazleton asked if the property (Sullivan Trail) that is being annexed is around the old Beryllium plant or by the stripping holes. Sosar said he does not think that is the case. He said this is commercial land that is going to be rezoned as residential. This was land that was supposed to be “its own community” at one time, but it never got that far. He said the aerial maps are hard to read with regard to this area, and there are some other issues too. Cuozzo asked if Hazle Township was contacted about this yet. Cusat said no. Sosar said the Third Class City Code, as well as the Pennsylvania Constitution, says we can annex this land, but there is a lot more to investigate first. Mope said Council was given very little information on this matter. Mundie stated there are no initial plans for this land. Cusat said we would need to contact the Township first. Mundie said he was told that there are sewer lines there already. Cusat said there are no water or sewer lines there at this time. There is also no City road. He said that it is a conservation district and there are a lot of endangered plants on the piece of land.

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton said there needs to be a public meeting before the City adopts any type of plan for this area. He asked Council to check into creating an Airport Authority, as was done in the Poconos. He stated this would free up more money for the Police Department. Mundie said Council is still looking into this matter. He added that the Airport is a “drain on the City.” Rabo asked that the owners of this land (Sullivan Trail) consider donating the land to the Redevelopment Authority.

Dave Fatula, Hazleton, President of Firefighters Union Local No. 507, stated that Council has issues with the seven-year contract and the Cadillac plan for health care. He said he would be willing to come up with language to address this matter. He stated that perhaps in 2018, the government will exempt police and fire from this stipulation. Fatula said everyone worked hard on this contract and he does not want to see all this hard work go to waste. Bast said he has an issue with the $10.00 per pay, pre-tax, for seven years for health care. He believes this amount is too low, and it should be increased every year because the cost of health care increases every year. Cusat said he would like to see a percentage instead of a set amount for health care contributions. Fatula said he needs to discuss these issues with the Mayor, and is open to exploring different language. Sosar stated he would like to see a sliding scale, so that as the co-pay increases, the City’s cost is reduced. He said Fatula should check with the union. Sosar commented that he is uncomfortable with the Mayor and Pribula negotiating contracts, and a professional should be doing this. Bast said he has been involved in contracts negotiations before, and he is willing to volunteer his negotiation skills. Mundie said there are professional negotiators that perform these duties. He commented that the Mayor did not communicate with Council on the last three negotiated contracts. Bast said that the Mayor should have given Council a survey in order to receive our input on the matter. He stated that the issues with the contract have nothing to do with the hard work of the firefighters. He is trying to do what is best for the citizens of Hazleton. Fatula said these questions should have been brought to his attention a few months ago. Mope said the Mayor will not listen to Council’s input on anything. Fatula stated that Council should have addressed his email with their comments prior to the meeting.

Comments from Mayor or Director of Administration:  None.

Comments from Junior Council:  None.

Comments from Council:  Bast said he talked to the Mayor about his concerns with the Firefighters contract, but he did not take this into account during negotiations. He thanked everyone for coming to the meeting.

Cusat thanked everyone for coming to the meeting.

Sosar thanked the Fire Department for coming to the meeting. He commented that the firefighters do good work, and his opinions on the contract are no reflection on them. He stated that the negotiations were not handled properly by the Administration, and Council should have been given the opportunity to give its input to the Mayor. Sosar thanked everyone for coming to the meeting.

Mope apologized to the Fire Department about not passing the Resolution adopting their contract. She said their input “falls on deaf ears.” She commented that the Mayor is “uncooperative,” and he does not take Council’s input into consideration. Mope said she tries to do what is best for the City, but it is not an easy job. She thanked the Fire Department for their hard work, and she thanked everyone for coming to the meeting.

Mundie asked Cohen who has the authority to appoint people to the authority boards. Cohen responded that he had concerns with the Mayor’s opinion on this matter, so he discussed it with the former Solicitor, Chris Slusser. Cohen read the entire Harrisburg decision, the critique of the Hazleton decision, and the footnotes. Mundie stated that the Mayor is uncooperative, and this contract should have been brought to Council much sooner. He said the firefighters do a great job, but it is not an easy job. Mundie thanked everyone for coming to the meeting.

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