2015-04-07 Council Minutes

MINUTES
HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL
REGULAR MEETING
TUESDAY, APRIL 7, 2015

Call to Order:  Council met in regular session on Tuesday, April 7, 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 January 6, 2015 Regular Meeting, January 2015 Special Meeting, and January 20, 2015 Regular Meeting were approved unanimously.

Proclamations/Communications:  None.

Courtesy of the Floor:  Norman Tarantino, 154 North Lee Court, Hazleton felt there should be food truck exemptions for certain festivals, Funfest, church picnics, etc. He said traffic signs need to be posted on Magnolia Street regarding the traffic flow. He stated that better signage needs to be posted on Holly Street because cars are parking there illegally.

Sylvia Thomas, 409 West 6th Street, Hazleton commented on the nuisance properties in the City. She said the hookah lounge should still be held responsible even if they do not serve liquor. She added that there are too many trees in front on the drawing for the proposed downtown park.

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton commented on Ordinance 2015-10. He asked if it went through planning and zoning first. Bast said no. Rabo said it must go through planning and zoning first or it will be considered null and voice. Cohen agreed. Rabo said that the Ordinance regarding traffic flow on Magnolia Street needs to go to planning first. Cohen said it does not need to go to planning. Rabo asked if more costs will be incurred with the Center City Park if they go through DCNR.

Maria Rodriguez, 236 West 16th Street, Hazleton said her mother owns a hot dog cart. She agrees with the sections of the Mobile Food Establishment Ordinance regarding trash and obtaining the consent of the owner of private property. She said she does not believe telling people how long they can stay at one place and the hours of operation is not a good idea. These changes could put them out of business. Cusat said if it is a fixed base unit and not mobile, the Mobile Food Establishment Ordinance does not apply.

A gentleman who did not give his name and address was concerned with the Mobile Food Establishment Ordinance because he leases a spot to park his food truck. He said his truck is permanently parked and has no engine, so he will not be able to move it. Mope said if a food truck has to be towed from its location, then it is not mobile and the Mobile Food Establishment Ordinance would not apply to them. Cusat said he would need to go to zoning and planning if it is a restaurant and is not mobile. Mundie said Council is trying to come up with a different ordinance so that everyone is happy. Cusat said if a business is zoned and not mobile, that business would not fall under this ordinance. He added that those businesses would need to follow the regulations for a fixed base restaurant.

Brian Mandak, Hazleton commented on the issue with mobile food vendors. He said the Fire Department has been dealing with haphazard electrical equipment, no waste receptacles, extension cords running through parking lots, etc., and this is creating a lot of problems. He said these businesses are in a commercial district and they would need to follow those parameters. He said he received a complaint of chicken grease being dumped onto Diamond Avenue. These issues need to be addressed. Mandak said all of these types of establishments should have electric boxes. This is not meant to hurt anyone. He said we need to do inspections, so that things are done correctly and safely. Mandak said this is just a first draft of the Ordinance, and things will need to be amended at a later date. Mope said this needs to go to Planning first. Bast agreed and said something needs to be done about this. He said it is not perfect, but it is a good starting point. Mandak said Council needs to submit this to Planning for approval. He added a parking lot should be registered as a rental property if the owner is collecting rent from a food establishment. Sosar said Hazleton has changed dramatically over the years, and the Comprehensive Plan needs to be updated. It has not been updated since 1992. Mandak said there is no way to inspect these places right now, that is why he drafted the Ordinance.

A gentleman who did not give his name, but listed his address at 578 North Laurel Street, said he owns a food truck. He does not agree that they should have to move every two hours and only be open from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm. He said his truck is mobile, but he only moves it from his home to the owner’s property. He has the owner’s permission to be there. Mundie still Council has not passed anything regarding this matter yet, and certain things need to be taken into consideration. Cusat discussed the differences between a truck that would be considered a fixed-base restaurant and one that is mobile. He said if the truck has no engine or has to be towed in order to move, it would be considered a fixed-base restaurant.

Amilicar Arroyo, no address given, commented that Hazleton has a bright future. He said the City needs to find ways to provide services and create jobs. He invited everyone to taste the food being sold on the food trucks throughout the City. Arroyo said these people work hard, and they support and raise families. He suggested trying to attract tourists to the area. Arroyo commented “these are the new Hazletonians, and they speak Spanish.”

A woman who did not give her name and address asked if a push cart that sells shaved ice would be considered a mobile food establishment, and Mundie responded yes.

Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton said there was a food truck near her building until 3:00 am almost every night. It had a noisy generator and the patrons would blast the music in their cars. She commented they are making it miserable for people who live in this area. She asked where the people who own these trucks use the bathroom, because there are no bathrooms in these vehicles. Deakos felt the mobile food trucks are “not good neighbors.” She feels a food truck ordinance is a necessity. She added that sometimes the clientele of these trucks are a nuisance.

             

Old Business:

ORDINANCES

Ordinance 2015-9 Rescinding Ordinance 2009-12 Entitled “Chronic Nuisance Properties,” and an Ordinance in Conjunction with Superseding Third Class City Code, 53 P.S. §37701-A, et seq., Nuisance Abatement, Enacted March 19, 2014 (2nd Reading)

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Sosar.

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

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Ordinance 2015-9 Rescinding Ordinance 2009-12 Entitled “Chronic Nuisance Properties,” and an Ordinance in Conjunction with Superseding Third Class City Code, 53 P.S. §37701-A, et seq., Nuisance Abatement, Enacted March 19, 2014 (3rd Reading)

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Sosar.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

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Ordinance 2015-10 Regulating Mobile Food Service Establishments (1st Reading) (TABLED 3/17/15)

NO PRESENTATION MADE – ORDINANCE FAILS

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Ordinance 2015-11 An Ordinance Amending Ordinance 2007-15 regarding Property Inspections to Provide for the Use of the 2015 IPMC Edition and to Incorporate the Sample Ordinance Therein to the City of Hazleton (2nd Reading)

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mope.

On the Question:

Sosar asked if this just to update the Code in order to meet state requirements. Mike Wilfing, Code Enforcement Supervisor, said this is for the 2015 International Property Maintenance Code. The last one that was adopted was from 2003. Wilfing stated that this Ordinance is simply for the purpose of “filling in the blanks.” Sosar asked if this will be more beneficial, and Wilfing responded yes. It is consistent with the Quality of Life Ordinance.

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

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Ordinance 2015-11 An Ordinance Amending Ordinance 2007-15 regarding Property Inspections to Provide for the Use of the 2015 IPMC Edition and to Incorporate the Sample Ordinance Therein to the City of Hazleton (3rd Reading)

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mope.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

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Ordinance 2015-12 An Ordinance Making Transfers of the General Appropriation Ordinance for the Year 2015 Beginning January 1, 2015 and Ending December 31, 2015 (1st Reading) (TABLED 3/17/15)

NO PRESENTATION MADE – ORDINANCE FAILS

             

RESOLUTIONS

None.

             

  New Business:

ORDINANCES

Ordinance 2015-13 An Ordinance Regulating the Traffic Flow on Magnolia Street within the City of Hazleton (1st Reading)

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Cusat.

On the Question:

Cusat asked Cohen if this needs to go to Planning first, and Cohen responded no. Sosar asked if this was for one specific block of Magnolia Street. DeAndrea responded yes. Cusat asked if this is being done in response to the home on Magnolia Street that keeps getting hit. DeAndrea did not know. Sosar asked if the Fire Department, Police Department, and Highway Department have signed off on this. DeAndrea replied yes. He said it is the only block on that street that is two ways. This is being done for safety reasons. Parking will be left on both sides of the street, but it will become a one way.

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

             

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution 2015-42 A Resolution Amending an Agreement with Catholic Social Services as the Developer for Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Disposition of Real Property in Conjunction with the HOME Investment Partnerships Program Grant

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Mundie.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

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Resolution 2015-43 A Resolution Requesting Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Funds for the City of Hazleton’s Center City Park

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Cusat asked Cohen if this needs to go to Planning first, and Cohen responded no. Bast asked if there will be any additional funds required from the City. Fermin responded no, the $90,000 match was already approved. Krista Schneider of the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress said this is a backup grant in case the others do not go through. She stated the Alliance is not obligated to accept this grant, and no additional fund will be needed.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

           

Comments from the Audience:  Judy Yurcho, 984 North Locust Street, Hazleton commented on some of the issue she has with Code Enforcement. They are giving tickets to people who do not deserve them. She said she has complained many times regarding the home across the street from her where there are cars parked with no license plates, no valid registration, and no insurance, but nothing is being done. She asked Code Enforcement to go after the bigger problems in Hazleton. She said there is a house on 5th and James Streets that burned down, and the home has been like that for years. Yurcho said that there are apartment buildings falling down and they have too many people living in them. Banks are not taking care of their foreclosed homes. She commented on the former St. Joseph’s Hospital sitting vacant for so long. Yurcho said the Police Department is not consistent with giving tickets to people for parking on the sidewalks and parking in the wrong direction of traffic. She asked everyone to please pick up the trash in front of their homes, even if it is not yours. Yurcho said crime is a big problem in the City. She asked how much the state gave the City for the Parking Garage improvements. Sosar said $2.4 million. Yurcho felt it would cost less to just tear it down instead of remodeling it. She said the DeAngelos should give the City what it will be worth once all of the repairs are done. Cusat said the DeAngelos are leasing it for five years first, with the option to purchase it for $3 million. Mope said the garage will need to be maintained in order for it to be of any value. She asked Yurcho to speak with DeAndrea after the meeting regarding the unlicensed and unregistered cars in her neighborhood. Yurcho commented “Bleeding people with citations” is not the way to make money. She said no one will want to live here if the residences are constantly being taxed.

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton commented on the Center City Park project. He read a portion of the Land Development and Subdivision Ordinance where it states that they would need to go to Planning first because of the change of use for the property. It was supposed to be a robotic garage and now it is going to be a park. Cohen asked if Rabo raised this issue with Zoning or Planning. Rabo said he brought it to Council and contacted Zoning, but he never received a reply. Cohen instructed Rabo to contact Planning and they will act on it if it is appropriate. Rabo was concerned with the status of the vacant St. Joseph’s Hospital building. He stated the owners said they do not have the money to make the renovations. Mundie said he will check into the matter. Mope said it was going to be a nursing school, and then a senior living facility. Rabo said the owners have 18 months from the date of purchase to do something with it, as per state law. Mope asked Cohen to look into this matter. She it is sitting vacant and is becoming a problem. Cohen said she would need to speak to Code Enforcement, because that is not his domain. Sosar said there was a covenant issued with the sale of that property that only allowed it to be used for certain things. Mope said the covenant allowed it to be used as a medical facility. Cohen said he would need a copy of the covenant to make a legal opinion on the matter. Rabo said in accordance with Act 90, municipalities can go after the land trust or corporation, and the City may be able to go after the owners of this property. Rabo said the Planning Commission can seek grants for the completion of a new Comprehensive Plan in accordance with the state’s rules and regulations.

Norman Tarantino, 154 North Lee Court, Hazleton asked when Planning meets and if there are any vacancies. Mope said the Mayor already filled the vacancies. Tarantino asked why Planning needs to get involved. Sosar said Council will give them the notes from the people who spoke at the meeting. It then becomes Planning’s job to check with Zoning, and determine how to proceed with this matter. After that, Council will then take action. Tarantino said these should be advertised on social media sites. Mope said Tarantino can give his input at the Zoning and Planning meetings. Sosar said these groups need to work together in order to make everything run smooth. Tarantino said the land being used for the park should be sold in order to bring in more revenue for the City. He said this is going to attract more of the “criminal element.” He suggested revitalizing Memorial Park instead.

Dave Basala, Drums, said there are meters installed on the south side of Broad Street but not on the north side. He said it is not fair to those businesses on the south side of the street. Mope said Council was told that we were going to receive the meters soon. Basala said some of the trees on Broad Street with lights on them have exposed wiring. This is between Vine Street and the Hazleton Shopping Center. Sosar said Council will tell Frank Vito about it. Basala said he sees cars with no insurance and no registration getting ticketed but not being towed. The police are just letting them leave. These cars should be towed. Mope said this needs to be addressed to DeAndrea.

Dan Basala, no address given, suggested hiring more Code Enforcement Officer to help with all of these problems. He also suggested creating a hotline for people to call in with their complaints.

A gentleman who did not give his name and address said his car was towed on Easter Sunday. He feels the towing companies are targeting minorities. He stated he had permission from the owner of the garage to park his car in the lot. It was towed by DeLuca’s Towing and he was charged $250.00. Mope asked if he spoke with the Police Chief. Cusat said if it is a private business, the owner of that business would need to call and have the car towed. Sosar suggested he fight it at the Magistrate’s office. The gentleman said he feels like he is being targeted, and someone needs to look into the matter. Mundie said if you were parked on private property, the owner of the property would have called to have it towed. He asked if there were other people that this happened to, and the gentleman said yes. Mundie asked him to get information from the other people who were towed by DeLuca’s Towing and give it to him. Sosar reiterated that he should get the evidence and take it to the Magistrate’s office.

Ted Sherrock, 67 Franklin Street, Hazleton said there is a building on Poplar Street where the roof caved and it was declared a safety hazard by the Fire Chief about a year ago. He said it is still there and in the same condition. Mope said half of it was torn down using money from Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Code Enforcement needs to go there and inspect it again. Fermin said it is going up for Sheriff’s Sale soon. Mope said the former Phoenix Bar and the Poplar Street School needs to be torn down as well. Sherrock said he is on the Health Board and the CFO of the Hospital attended their last meeting. He asked about the former St. Joseph’s Hospital and the covenant involved in the purchase. He said he did not want any competition.

Comments from Mayor or Director of Administration:  None.

Comments from Junior Council:  Josh Narrow said he believes the hours that mobile food establishments can operate should be longer. He felt the current allowable hours will eat into the owners’ profits.

Joel Soto said he would like to see more people come to Hazleton and he would like to see more positive things being done.

Comments from Council:  Bast said Council and the public need to be more respectful and courteous to each other when speaking at the podium. He thanked everyone for coming.

Cusat said he is getting a lot of feedback from the public that restaurant owners paid their inspection fee to us, even though the state is now going to do these inspections. Wilfing stated everyone who requested a refund received it. Cusat said these people should not have to request the refund, and the City should be “going out of its way” to give them the refund. Mundie agreed. Cusat commented that the checks should never have been cashed in the first place if the City knew the inspections were being turned over to the state. Mundie said he agrees and it is the Administration’s responsibility to send back the money that was paid. Cusat said there were a lot of questions about the Mobile Food Establishment Ordinance, but no one here tonight would be affected by it. These establishments would be considered stationary. Cusat said he has been accused of promoting his family’s restaurant business and that is not the truth. He did not draft this Ordinance. It came from the Fire Department and Code Enforcement. He said he just provided some input on the matter. Mundie said something needs to be done about this, but he does not want anyone to be put out of business.

Mope thanked everyone for coming. She said she likes to see the public giving their input on City matters. She said Council is doing its best. The former Council was very restrictive, and she welcomes open conversations. Mope stated they are trying to get things accomplished but it takes some time. She told the public that their opinions are not “falling on deaf ears.”

Sosar thanked everyone for their input. He said the City’s Comprehensive Plan has not been done since 1992 and it should be updated. Sosar said the government needs to protect its citizens and provide the necessary services. Some of the things that are being discussed now were not an issue back in 1992 when the last Plan was done. Sosar said we need to bring in more people and more businesses to Hazleton. He thanked the Streets Department for the work that was done filling the potholes. He hoped they continue to do the patching throughout the spring and summer. He asked everyone to work on things that will make Hazleton a better place.

Mundie asked Mike Vislocky from the Streets Department if they are using the asphalt recycler for the potholes. Vislocky said it was used today. Mundie asked that Vito keep Council updated on what streets were done and what ones will be done in the future. He suggested taking some pictures of the work being done as well. Vislocky said he will let Vito know. Mundie asked if they are using fresh materials and Vislocky said they used them today. Mundie commented that the Streets Department is doing a great job on patching the potholes. He suggested that someone keep a log or database on the potholes. Vislocky said they address the ones which received the most complaints first. Mundie felt it was a great idea that the Streets Department is working with PennDOT to fill the potholes. He thanked everyone for coming and said he is trying to do the right thing for the City.

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