2015-04-21 Council Minutes

MINUTES
HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL
REGULAR MEETING
TUESDAY, APRIL 21, 2015

Call to Order:  Council met in regular session on Tuesday, April 21, 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:  Cusat made a motion to amend the February 3, 2015 minutes on page two, Ordinance 2015-1, On the Question, to remove Northeast Revenue and insert Luzerne County. Sosar seconded the motion.

Motion to Amend February 3, 2015:

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Sosar.

Roll Call (on Motion to Amend February 3, 2015 minutes):  Bast-yes; Cusat-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

MOTION TO AMEND FEBRUARY 3, 2015 MINUTES PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

Proclamations/Communications:  None.

Courtesy of the Floor:  Norman Tarantino, 154 North Lee Court, Hazleton said signs have gone up on Magnolia Street and cars are being ticketed. He said Ordinance 2015-13 regarding this matter has not pass second and third reading yet, and cars are already being ticketed. Sosar said the Streets Department should have waiting until it passed third reading. Tarantino stated that he is glad that the Firefighters’ new contract is on the agenda because they do good work and deserve as much as the City can give them.

Dave Fatula, President of the Firefighters Union Local No. 507, said the contract has been reviewed by legal counsel as well as all the parties involved. He said changes were made to Section 9 of contract regarding the medical insurance tax for Cadillac plans. Fatula read aloud from that portion of the contract. He said everything else stayed the same. He felt this contract was a “common sense contract.” He asked Council to vote yes on the contract, and said it will be cheaper to approve the contract than to have to go to court or arbitration.

             

Old Business:

ORDINANCES

Ordinance 2015-13 An Ordinance Regulating Traffic Flow on Magnolia Street within the City of Hazleton (2nd Reading)

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mope.

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

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Ordinance 2015-13 An Ordinance Regulating Traffic Flow on Magnolia Street within 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

             

RESOLUTIONS

None.

             

New Business:

ORDINANCES

None.

             

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution 2015-44 A Resolution Authorizing the Transfer of Liquor License No. R-5777 and LID No. 64103 to Smoke Rings Cigar Bar, Inc. for Premises Located at 1008 North Vine Street, Hazleton, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mope.

On the Question:

Cusat made a motion to table the Resolution and Sosar seconded the motion.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Sosar.

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 2015-45 Approving Contract between the City of Hazleton and the International Association of Firefighters Union Local No. 507

Presented by Bast. Seconded by Cusat.

  On the Question:

Sosar felt the wording in Section 9 on Page 12 of the contract regarding the medical insurance tax, just means that we are “kicking it down the road for a few years.” He commented that some parts of the contract still “scare” him. In 2018, there will be a 40% tax on these Cadillac plans and he does not feel the increase is being addressed properly. Mundie agreed with Sosar. Fatula said the contract states that the City and the Union will come back to the table at that point to discuss the matter. If nothing is resolved, it would then go to arbitration. Sosar said employers are already preparing for this change, and employers are usually asking for 25% of the overall cost of the health insurance coverage. He said this used to be a perk at one time, but now it is expected. Sosar said this is comparable to the Police contract, but the City is locked into a $260.00 copay from the employee for the year. These costs will continue to increase every year. Copays need to be discussed. Sosar said the cost for healthcare for City employees is between $9,500 for a single person and $17,000 for families. He asked how we can make this fair for the employees and the taxpayers. He added that property taxes are probably going to go up as well. Fatula said when that happens, the contract would have to be re-opened and renegotiated. This is a city-wide issue with all of the unions. Sosar said things need to change and the copay for the medical insurance is too low. He asked if any studies were done on what other municipalities of our size are paying towards healthcare. Fatula said other municipalities are putting the same language in as he read aloud earlier. He said if the copay is going to be renegotiated, the union will be re-opening salary negotiations too. The Union already comprised by decreasing salary increases. Mundie said the Fire Department works very hard and deserves the best. But, the people of Hazleton may not be able to afford it. Mundie commented that the City should not bear the burden if the firefighters are the only ones benefiting from it. Mundie asked if the Cadillac tax was discussed with the Mayor during negotiations. Fatula responded no. Mundie asked who was involved in the negotiations of this contract, and Fatula replied the Mayor, Tom Pribula, the Board and the Union.

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

RESOLUTION FAILS 4-1

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Resolution 2015-46 A Resolution Honoring Friedman Electric on its 80th Year in Business

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Sosar.

On the Question:

Mundie read the Resolution aloud.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

           

Comments from the Audience:  Norman Tarantino, 154 North Lee Court, Hazleton thanked the Firemen for everything they did for him when his home burned down recently. He also thanked everyone for their donations. He is very proud of the City’s firefighters. Tarantino said the President created a lot of big problems for small municipalities when he introduced the Cadillac tax for healthcare plans. He said when the fire occurred at his home, the police took his dogs down to the Animal Shelter temporarily. He was charged $10.00 for each dog to house them there, and he does not feel that was the right thing to do in this case.

Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton asked when the elevator at City Hall will be repaired. Sosar said it is done, but it still needs to be inspected.

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton commented on the Strategic Plan for Downtown Hazleton. He said the Mayor is on the Board of Directors of the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress, and he believes this is a conflict of interest. He said there are also two or three members from the Redevelopment Authority on the Board, and Section 8 of the Redevelopment Law states that cannot be done. Rabo said he would like to see a breakdown of all the costs for the project in the plan. He is afraid they will keep coming back to Community Development for more money. He said the City should also look into what grants the Alliance is applying for. The plan does not show how they will be paying for the Director’s salary for the next five years. Rabo felt this project needs to go to Planning first. He commented that a seven-year contract is too long because it will bind any lobbying being conducted.

John Homa, Hazleton said he watched the mayoral debate and it was very interesting. He stated the Mayor said Council needs to come to his office to talk to him, and he feels that is not right. He said the Mayor should be here attending the Council meetings. Homa said it is time for a new Mayor.

Dave Fatula, President of the Firefighters Union Local No. 507, said he was disappointed that Council failed to pass the Resolution approving their contract. He said Council had several months to review the contract and ask questions. He sent several emails to Council regarding this matter, and never received any questions about it until he came to the meeting. Fatula said this could have been handled outside of the meeting. He commented that if Council does not like the Mayor, they should not take it out on the Firefighters. Cohen said he wanted to point out to Council that communications between the parties are not prohibitive but the negotiations are. Cusat said he spoke with Fatula about his questions. Fatula apologized, but it was after the negotiations were completed. Mundie said he researched this matter, and a seven-year contract is unheard of. Mope said she was not on Council when the original contract was negotiated and approved. She said the reason why she does not like the seven-year contract is the fact that if she does not get re-elected, she will never have been involved in any way in these negotiations. Mope felt this would bind the Administration for the next seven years. Fatula said contracts are always binding no matter what the time frame is. The contract will still bind the successor. Mope said she has a problem with the time frame and with “kicking the health care tax issue down the road. She said that was done with our pensions, and now it is a big problem. Fatula said this contract will “secure” the budget for the next seven years.

Chris Puza, 143 St. Charles Drive, Hazleton said he voted on the Firefighters’ Contract when he was on Council. Unfortunately, there is no perfect answer. He said there are new laws coming into effect that need to be researched and discussed. Puza said we are fortunate to have a Congressman Lou Barletta in office who is from Hazleton. He knows a lot about Obamacare and Council and the Mayor should reach out to him about this. He said they should also contact Senator John Yudichak and Representative Tarah Toohil. Puza said this may help the City avoid arbitration and more costs.

Comments from Mayor or Director of Administration:  None.

Comments from Junior Council:  None.

Comments from Council:  Bast thanked everyone for coming. He said he read over the Firefighters’ contract again and decided to vote yes on it. He stated some of the things in it he did not luck, but there were also things in there that the Union did not like.

Cusat said it is not the Firefighters’ fault that the resolution approving the contract did not get passed. The Union thought it was a fair contract, and not everything in it is unfair. He said “it needs to stop somewhere.” Cusat said he is concerned about the conflicts in the cost base. He thanked everyone for coming.

Mope said a lot went into the drawing up the Firefighters’ contract. She said the outcome is no reflection on their performance. It is a matter of what the City can afford. She hoped to come to a conclusion soon. She thanked everyone for coming. Sosar thanked everyone for coming. He appreciates the Fire Department and he has no animosity towards them. He has been on both sides of union negotiations. Sosar said they are just trying to create a “better balance.” He said they need to think of the average taxpayer. He added that certain things need to be addressed in the contract, and he hopes for a fair and equitable settlement.

Mundie said he received other food truck ordinances from other municipalities, and maybe some of that language should be put into our version of the ordinance. He said the Firemen work very hard and they do a great job, but a seven-year contract is a long time. He said we do not know what will happen in those seven years. Mundie said there is a $2.8 million judgment from the ACLU coming up shortly, and wondered how the City will be paying for that. He said the reason he voted no on the Firemen’s contract was because of the Cadillac tax for healthcare. Firemen are a high risk and should be paying more. He hoped someone would step up and say they will pay their fair share of the insurance. He said private companies are getting rid of pensions and healthcare insurance because it is becoming too costly. He thanked everyone for coming.

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

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