2015-08-18 Council Minutes

MINUTES
HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL
REGULAR MEETING
TUESDAY, AUGUST 18, 2015

Call to Order: Council met in regular session on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 in Council Chambers. The meeting was called to order at 6:00 p.m.

 

Silent Meditation and Pledge of Allegiance: A silent moment was taken followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

 

Roll Call: Bast-absent; Cusat-present; Mope-present; Sosar-present; Mundie-present

Minutes of Previous Meetings: The minutes of the July 21, 2015 Work Session and Regular Meeting were approved unanimously.

 

Proclamations/Communications: None.

Courtesy of the Floor: Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton commented on Ordinance 2015-16. She said this does not address the lots on Mine Street and Chestnut Street, or the area where the Sheriff’s Department parks. She asked what the Land Bank will do that the Redevelopment Authority cannot.

Ted Sherrock, Hazleton commented on the Land Bank and asked how this will affect Habitat for Humanity. He believes Ordinance 2015-20 gives the Mayor too much power.

 

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton commented on Ordinance 2015-20 regarding the Land Bank. He felt the Land Bank should only be for vacant properties and not owner-occupied properties. Rabo said Community Development monies cannot be used to run Land Banks. He commented that the Blighted Properties Committee and Redevelopment Authority need to do their jobs before even considering a Land Bank.

Grace Cuozzo, 948 James Street, Hazleton commented on Ordinance 2015-18 and the other borrowing should be refinanced first. She said the City cannot afford a Land Bank, because they are very expensive to run and the properties need to be maintained while in the Land Bank. Cuozzo felt there should have been a public hearing before putting the Land Bank Ordinance on the agenda. Atty. Bob Cohen said the Land Bank would be created under the Municipal Authorities Act, so there would be no need for a public hearing to just create it. A public hearing would be needed once the Land Bank was organized to go over policies, procedures, etc. Cuozzo commented that the Redevelopment Authority needs to be organized better.

Ray Gustav, West Wyoming, said Land Banks should not compete with real estate companies. Land Banks should be the last resort. He said they are very expensive to maintain and most properties in the Land Bank will need to be demolished. Some properties will be too small to develop. Gustav said Luzerne County Council is interested in creating a county-wide Land Bank. He asked Council to table the Ordinance. Mope said that we should watch what the Pittston Land Bank is doing and use it as a learning tool and a test case.

Norman Tarantino, 154 North Lee Court, Hazleton said Sunbury is using eminent domain for its blighted properties and it seems to be successful.

                                                                                                                                                           

 


 

Old Business:

ORDINANCES

Ordinance 2015-16       An Ordinance Regulating Parking within the City of Hazleton and Establishing a
Schedule of Fines for Violations Defined in the Various Classifications of Said Regulations (2nd Reading)

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Sosar.

On the Question:

Cusat said it is a state law that cars must be parked at least 50 feet from a railroad crossing. The City cannot supersede state law. Sosar said if the City takes away parking from businesses, then it should be responsible to find those businesses alternative parking. DeAndrea said the City did not recognize that it was violating the law and now we are correcting that problem in order to be in compliance with the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code. Dominic Yannuzzi, City Engineer, said he would look into parking alternatives. DeAndrea said we need to identify parking spots and develop a plan, which he will have for the next meeting. Cusat said the DeAngelos will be taking over some of those parking spots, so it should become their problem. DeAndrea said he would work with DeAngelo Brothers regarding the parking.

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

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Ordinance 2015-16       An Ordinance Regulating Parking within the City of Hazleton and Establishing a
Schedule of Fines for Violations Defined in the Various Classifications of Said Regulations (3rd Reading)

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mope.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES

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Ordinance 2015-17       An Ordinance Amending Ordinance 2014-07 Regarding the Leasing Metered Parking Spaces and Regulating the Issuance of Customer Parking Only, Patient Parking Only, Patient Loading and Unloading Only, Loading Zone Signs, and Any Other Related Signs; Providing for Application Review and Procedures for Issuance of Customer Parking Only, Patient Parking Only, Patient Loading and Unloading Only, Loading Zone Signs, and Any Other Related Signs; and Renewal of Customer Parking Only, Patient Parking Only, Patient Loading and Unloading Only, Loading Zone, and Any Other Related Signs in the City of Hazleton (2nd Reading)

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Sosar.

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

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Ordinance 2015-17       An Ordinance Amending Ordinance 2014-07 Regarding the Leasing Metered Parking Spaces and Regulating the Issuance of Customer Parking Only, Patient Parking Only, Patient Loading and Unloading Only, Loading Zone Signs, and Any Other Related Signs; Providing for Application Review and Procedures for Issuance of Customer Parking Only, Patient Parking Only, Patient Loading and Unloading Only, Loading Zone Signs, and Any Other Related Signs; and Renewal of Customer Parking Only, Patient Parking Only, Patient Loading and Unloading Only, Loading Zone, and Any Other Related Signs in the City of Hazleton (3rd Reading)

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Sosar.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES

                                                                                                                                                           

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution 2015-57      Hazleton Regional Airport Easement Agreement with Woelfel Children’s Real Estate Trust (TABLED 7/21/15)

Motion to Remove from Table:

Presented Mope. Seconded by Mundie.

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

MOTION TO REMOVE FROM TABLE PASSES

RESOLUTION REMOVED FROM TABLE

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Cusat.

On the Question:

Mundie said Council held an executive session prior to the meeting to discuss this agreement. Mundie asked if Cohen reviewed this agreement, and Cohen responded yes. Mundie made a motion to table the Resolution, and Mope seconded the motion.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Mundie. Seconded by Mope.

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

MOTION TO TABLE PASSES

RESOLUTION TABLED

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Resolution 2015-70      Approving a Cost-of-Living Increase for the Hazleton Police Department for the Years 2016, 2017, and 2018 (TABLED 7/21/15)

Motion to Remove from Table:

Presented Sosar. Seconded by Mope.

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

MOTION TO REMOVE FROM TABLE PASSES

RESOLUTION REMOVED FROM TABLE

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Sosar made a motion to table the Resolution, and Mundie seconded the motion.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mundie.

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

MOTION TO TABLE PASSES 3-1-1 (3-YESSES; 1-NO; 1-ABSENT)

RESOLUTION TABLED

                                                                                                                                                           

 

New Business:

ORDINANCES

Ordinance 2015-18    An OrdinanceIncreasing the Indebtedness of the City of Hazleton, Luzerne County,Pennsylvania, by the Issuance of a GeneralObligation Notein the Amount of $300,000 for Sundry Purposes;Fixing the Form, Number, Date, Interest, and MaturityThereof; Makinga Covenant for the Payment of the Debt Service on the Note; Providing for the Filing of the RequiredDocument; Providing for the Appointment of aSinking FundDepository for the Note; and AuthorizingExecution,Saleand Delivery Thereof

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Dominic Yannuzzi, City Engineer explained that this has already been approved by PennDOT, and needs to be approved by City Council and the Pennsylvania Bureau of Aviation. There are currently two projects in process at the Airport and will cost $250,000, with half being a grant and half being the PIB loan. Yannuzzi stated the Airport will finance the projects and the money will come out of the Airport fund. The City will not be paying for anything regarding these projects. He stated this Ordinance is required by the state. Yannuzzi added that there is currently a surplus in the Airport fund. Mundie said that Tom Pribula assured him that this loan will not affect the City’s finances. Mundie went off topic and asked Yannuzzi about the status of the renovations to the Parking Garage. Yannuzzi said it is being opened section by section and everything is running on schedule. It should be completed by late September or early October. Mundie also asked about the study done by PennDOT regarding right turns on red lights on Broad Street. He and Sosar said they have received a lot of complaints about this. Yannuzzi said there are 68 approaches on Broad Street, but only 12 of them would be able to legally accommodate right turns on red lights. PennDOT is doing a finally review of these 12 approaches. If they approve, the City can take down the “No Turn on Red” signs down at the locations. Mope said she also received some complaints about some traffic lights being too short. Yannuzzi stated there were issues with some of the lights and it is being corrected.

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

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Ordinance 2015-19       Amending Ordinance 1913 (Paid Fireman’s Pension Fund) as Amended by Ordinances 1927; 1953; 2098; 74-23; and 2140, 81-7 (1st Reading)

 

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Sosar.

On the Question:

Cohen said this was caught by one of the auditors. This was taken verbatim from the statute, and only applies to base salary, not overtime. Sosar asked if the police are also covered by this, and Cohen replied no, it would probably be a separate statute. Mundie asked Cohen to review all of the City’s current contracts for legalities.

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

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Ordinance 2015-20       An Ordinance Creating the City of Hazleton Land Bank

Presented by Cusat. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Sosar felt it was premature, as well as too expensive, for the City to create a Land Bank. He was concerned with how this would affect private developers. Some of the definitions and goals need to be more detailed. Sosar said we already have some of the tools to combat blight at our disposal, and we should be using them first. He said we should observe Pittston’s Land Bank and use it as a learning tool. He felt a county-wide Land Bank would be better because they have more resources available to them. Mundie agreed with Sosar. He felt it was a good idea but was coming at a bad time. He said we need to carry through with the laws we already have. The bank-owned property are not be maintained, and this is something that needs to be addressed. Mundie felt that the Land Bank would be competing with private developers. He would rather defer this to the county level. Cusat said this Ordinance was originally written by the Pennsylvania Housing Alliance. There is no funding in the 2016 state budget for land banks. He said he does not want to cut out private developers. Cusat said this Ordinance corresponds with other land banks currently in existence. He wanted to bring this up now so that there is more time to get funded if needed. He felt there are too many people from out of town and out of state buying properties, and then they just sit there. Sometime they get demolished and then the empty lot just sits there. Mope felt the City does not have the finances to go through with this. She said she does not know if the Pennsylvania Housing Alliance will be around in a few years. She does not want this to fall on the backs of the taxpayers in the future if the Land Bank goes bankrupt. Mundie said the Mayor is totally against this. Cusat said some people have contacted him about donating some empty lots to the Land Bank.

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

ORDINANCE FAILS 3-1-1 (3-NOS; 1-YES; 1-ABSENT)He

                                                                                                                                                           

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution 2015-77      Approving the Hazleton Police Department’s Program Funded State and Local Task Force Agreement with the United States Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Scranton Resident Office Task Force, Philadelphia Field Division

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Sosar.

On the Question:

DeAndrea said this needs to be approved before the Mayor signs the Agreement. This will keep a police officer on the task force.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES

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Resolution 2015-78      Accepting the 2014 Annual Audit

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Cusat.

On the Question:

Chris Lehman of SB & Company said he made the correction that was requested by Council at the last meeting. Mundie asked if they have any further recommendations. Bill Seymour responded no more than what was discussed at the last meeting. Mundie asked about the City’s accounting software and Seymour said it gave them the proper reports and information that they needed to perform the audit, so it served its purpose. A new program would be better, but it will be expensive to replace. He stated the recording process will be corrected. Mundie asked Seymour for a software recommendation. Seymour said the software needs to fit your needs, and it is most important that it works for you and not for us.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES

                                                                                                                                                           

Comments from the Audience: Norman Tarantino, 154 North Lee Court, Hazleton said he wants to demolish his side of the double home that was destroyed in a fire, and he is trying to work with his neighbor on this. He suggested painting lines throughout the City indicating where it is legal to park. He felt this would make the City less congested. Tarantino said Northampton County has been using Constables to transfer its prisoners. He felt the City could benefit from doing the same.

Grace Cuozzo, 948 James Street, Hazleton said nothing was budgeted for special litigation, and asked where the money is coming from to pay for lawyers and insurance deductibles with regard to the current lawsuits against the City. Sosar said $40,000 has already been spent on this, and Council has still not seen any transfers. Mundie asked Cohen to give Council a list of the current lawsuits against the City.

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton said Philadelphia uses the Windows and Doors Program, and this is something the City should look into. He said we need to enforce the laws we already have on the books, and use the tools that are already available to us before creating a Land Bank.

A real estate developer who did not give his name said his company bought back 35 blighted properties. He said the City needs to go after the ones that are bank owned and sitting there for a long time. He stated his company only goes to the judicial sales and not the upset sales. He commented that a Land Bank should not be able to come in to a sale and trump him with his own tax dollars. He also commented that a Land Bank should not be created on a local level because it would be divided too small. He said everyone involved needs to get together and come up with ideas on how to address blight.

A gentleman who did not give his name said he commends Council for their decision concerning the Land Bank, because it shows they are looking out for the taxpayers.

Judy Yurcho, 984 North Locust Street, Hazleton said $100,000 was put into this year’s budget to hire part-time police officers. She asked why that is not be utilized. Mope said she would need to ask that Mayor about that. Yurcho stated West Hazleton has three full-time and eight part-time police officers, and it is working out very well. Most local municipalities have part-time officers. She commented that hiring more full-time officers will bankrupt the City. She added that people who want to develop properties want to do it in a safe place. Yurcho said that the City needs to go after the people who are not taking care of their properties.

Comments from Mayor: None.

Comments from Council: Cusat thanked everyone for coming.

Mope thanked everyone for coming and she appreciated everyone’s input. She said the City needs to look into refinancing its current loan to get a better rate.

Sosar thanked everyone for coming. He said we need to learn more from each other and share information with other.

Mundie asked Cohen about the status of the DeLuca lawsuit against the City. Cohen said legal arguments and further briefing were admitted, but no decision was made yet. He thanked everyone for coming and thanked the auditors as well. He wished all the candidates for the upcoming election good luck.

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