2016-01-19 Council Minutes

MINUTES
HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL
REGULAR MEETING
TUESDAY, JANUARY 19, 2016
 
Call to Order:  Council met in regular session on Tuesday, January 19, 2016 in Council Chambers. The meeting was called to order at 7:00 pm.
 
Silent Meditation and Pledge of Allegiance:  A silent moment was taken followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
 
Roll Call:  Cuozzo-present; Gavio-present; Mope-present; Sosar-present; Mundie-present
 
Minutes of Previous Meetings:  The minutes of the November 12, 2015 Regular Meeting were approved unanimously.
 
Proclamations/Communications:  None.
 
Courtesy of the Floor:  Judy Yurcho, 984 North Locust Street, Hazleton felt dissolving the Blighted Buildings Committee was not in the City’s best interests. Mayor Cusat said this Committee has not met in seven years and Vacant Property Review Committee does the same thing. It is just a “housekeeping” measure. Yurcho said people need to be appointed to these committees who will actively participate.
 
Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton read a section of the Redevelopment Authority Act aloud regarding the Blighted Building Committee and Vacant Property Review Committee. He said everyone in the community needs to be proactive. There are 1,900 vacant properties in Hazleton and the former St. Joseph’s Hospital is the largest blighted property in the City. They owe $270,000 in back taxes. Mayor Cusat said the owner of the property cannot be located, but arrangements have been made to pay the back taxes. Rabo gave suggestions on how to locate the owner.
 
Norman Tarantino, 154 North Lee Court, Hazleton commented on Dr. Greco’s appointment to the Airport Advisory Board. He knows him a long time and he encouraged Council to approve his appointment.
 
             
 
Old Business:
 
ORDINANCES
 
None.
 
             
 

RESOLUTIONS
 
None.
 
           
 

New Business:
 
ORDINANCES
 
Ordinance 2016-1 An Ordinance Dissolving the City of Hazleton’s Beautification Committee (1st Reading)
 
Presented by Cuozzo. Seconded by Mope.
 
On the Question:
 
Mayor Cusat said the Beautification Committee was replaced by the Downtown Overly Review Committee in 2013, and is now defunct. He wants to take it off the books.
 
Roll Call:  Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes
 
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Ordinance 2016-2 An Ordinance Dissolving the City of Hazleton’s Blighted Building Committee (1st Reading)
 
Presented by Mope. Seconded by Gavio.
 
On the Question:
 
Cuozzo said this Committee was in place when the Redevelopment Authority was enacted. She questioned whether or not this Committee should be dissolved. Atty. Logsdon said he researched this matter and both Committees are not needed. The Vacant Property Review Committee does the same thing. He referred to 37 P.S. §172.1. Logsdon said the name could be changed to the Blighted Property Review Committee to avoid confusion. Mundie asked if the Vacant Property Review Committee has the same responsibilities as the Blighted Building Committee, and Logsdon replied yes. Sosar stated he attended some of Reading’s Blighted Property Committee meetings. These meetings are very professional. This Committee holds the owners responsible for these vacant properties. Sosar stated 80% of Reading’s blighted properties have been cleaned up. Mundie asked how many vacancies are on the Vacant Property Review Committee and Mayor Cusat said there are currently five vacancies. He added that some of them will be reappointments and some will come over from the Blighted Property Committee.
 
Roll Call:  Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes
 
             
 
RESOLUTIONS
 
Resolution 2016-10 Granting Approval to Award a Contract for a Cell Phone Payment System for Parking – Pango Mobile Parking
 
Presented by Mundie. Seconded by Mope.
 
On the Question:
 
Mundie said he went to a presentation given by Pango at the Chamber of Commerce. He stated you do not need to have a smartphone to use this service. Mayor Cusat agreed and said you would just have to call an 800 number instead. He stated the monthly and metered parking will still be there, and this is just another option. Mundie asked if the Parking Garage will be utilizing Pango, and if it will still take cash. The Mayor said you will be able to pay with either Pango or take a ticket and pay cash. There are currently 90 meters out of commission within the City. New meters cost $1,000 each. Mope said she did some research and found that refurbished meter heads can be purchased for $100.00 each. Mayor Cusat said we currently have three different types of meters, and we need a different machine to repair them. These would need to be the same brand. Mope said the Parking Garage and the meters should be made available to everyone, even those without cell phones. The Mayor said this is just another option and will make things easier for some people. You can still use change and everything will continue to work the same way. He added that meters in the low traffic areas are going to be moved to higher traffic areas. The spaces where the meters were removed will have free parking for the time being. He believes we will make more income this way. Mope voiced her concerns about the fact that the CanDo Building has no public parking; it is all reserved parking. The Mayor said CanDo paid for four parking spaces through 2015, but he does not know about 2016. He stated that he spoke with George Leitner of the Hazleton Development Corporation recently and gave him several different proposals regarding multi-use parking spaces. Sosar asked to receive copies of those proposals. Ralph Sharp, Director of Public Transit, said all the meters on Broad and North Wyoming Streets are working, and they will be working on South Wyoming Street next. Mundie asked if the Parking Garage has yearly parking or just monthly. Sharp said they currently on have monthly, but he suggested an option to pay for the year and receive one month free. Mope said there is a sign up on Chestnut Street that certain parking spots are only for permit parking. Mayor Cusat said there is no parking right now on Chestnut Street. Mope said if that is the case, then you need to remove the signs and painted lines from that area. Mundie asked if Attorney Logsdon when over the contract with Pango. Logsdon responded that Attorney Don Karpowich went over the contract. Mope asked what percentage does Pango receive, and the Mayor said it depends on the amount of money generated. Right now we are generating revenue of about $70,000 per year.
 
Roll Call:  Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes
 
RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY
 
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Resolution 2016-11 Authorizing the Director of Administration to Adjust Records – Refund of 2015 City Real Estate Taxes
 
Presented by Cuozzo. Seconded by Mope.
 
Roll Call:  Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes
 
RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY
 
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Resolution 2016-12 A Resolution Appointing Elliott Greenleaf & Dean as the City of Hazleton’s Labor Counsel
 
Presented by Gavio. Seconded by Mundie.
 
On the Question:
 
Sosar asked if this law firm will be used for negotiations with the unions. Mayor Cusat responded yes. Sosar asked if there are any union negotiations going on right now, and Mayor Cusat responded there are no negotiations going on at this time. He added that there may be two grievances right now. They will be on retainer and this Resolution will set their rate. Mundie asked about the firm’s location and if this is one of their specialties. The Mayor replied their office is on the square in Wilkes-Barre, and this is their specialty. We are not using them at this time. Mundie asked for a short “synopsis” of the money being spent on litigation right now.
 
Roll Call:  Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes
 
RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY
 
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Resolution 2016-13 Authorization for the Mayor to Sign PennDOT Agreements
 
Presented by Mope. Seconded by Gavio.
 
On the Question:
 
Mope asked why this is being done, and Mayor Cusat said this is just a formality that needs to be done because there is now a new mayor.
 
Roll Call:  Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes
 
RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY
 
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Resolution 2016-14 Resolution Supporting Permanent Pedestrian Access Easement
 
Presented by Mope. Seconded by Sosar.
 
On the Question:
 
Krista Schneider from the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress this needs to be done so there can be a handicapped accessible and a regular entrance at the City Arts Building. The entrances would need to be on City property; therefore, they need the City’s okay to do this. This will allow them to move forward with the written Easement Agreement. Sosar asked if there is a side entrance there now, and Schneider responded no. Cuozzo asked if there would be any extra cost to the City, and Schneider said no. She added that the City Solicitor would have to review the Agreement before it is signed.
 
Roll Call:  Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes
 
RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY
 
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Resolution 2016-15 Concurrence of Hazleton City Council regarding the Adoption of Revised By-Laws for the Governance of the Hazleton City Authority
 
Presented by Mope. Seconded by Cuozzo.
 
On the Question:
 
Gavio said he read the changes but wondered what had changed. Sosar said the most important change has to do with calling for executive sessions. They had previously called for a motion and second and then a vote. This would eliminate an extra step that is not needed. He added that some grammar and typographical errors were corrected. Sosar asked the City Solicitor, Attorney Sean Logsdon, if he would have a conflict of interest if voting on this Resolution because he is on the Water Authority Board. Logsdon responded there is no conflict of interest because there is no remuneration involved.
 
Roll Call:  Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes
 
RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY
 
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Resolution 2016-16 Authorizing Mayor Jeff Cusat and Tom Pribula, Acting Director of Administration, as Signers on the City of Hazleton’s Accounts with BB&T Bank
 
Presented by Gavio. Seconded by Mundie.
 
On the Question:
 
Cuozzo questioned how Pribula could sign documents on behalf of the City if he was never officially approved as Director of Administration. Council originally voted him down. Logsdon said under Home Rule, the Mayor has the power to appoint, even if it is an acting role. Cuozzo said she called DCED and was told there is no such thing as an executive order for an appointment. Logsdon said Mayor Cusat is just making an appointment, so no order is needed. Cuozzo said Council sets the Administrator’s salary. Sosar said the only issue he has with Pribula is his residency. He does not live in Hazleton. He asked Logsdon to please find a legal opinion that allows this. Mayor Cusat said there was case law last year that stated one employee cannot be required to live in the city without having all employees living there as well. Mope stated that Pribula lives outside the 10 mile radius of the City. Sosar asked for the Solicitor’s legal opinion regarding the length of time of an “acting” position, as well as what Council can and cannot do about it. Mope said acting means temporary. Cuozzo said that in 1996, the Mayor put a candidate up for this position but Council voted them down, so the Mayor picked someone else. Mope suggested tabling the resolution. Mayor Cusat said the bills cannot be paid without using both names. This is only being done because Susquehanna Bank changed its name to BB&T Bank. He said Pribula is in an acting position until he appoints someone else. Sosar felt having an acting Administrator after 90 days could pose problems with the City and BB&T Bank. Cuozzo asked about Pribula’s salary and the Mayor said it is the same as it was last year. Sosar suggesting changing the Resolution so that it is only good for 90 days. Logsdon said Council cannot amend this as it stands today. Mayor Cusat said he originally voted no to Pribula’s appointment because he did satisfy the residency requirements, but he changed his mind since the new case law came out regarding this matter. Gavio said we need two signatures on the checks right now or salaries and bills will not be paid.
 
Roll Call:  Cuozzo-no; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes
 
RESOLUTION PASSES 4-1
 
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Resolution 2016-17 Reappointment to the Airport Advisory Board – Mark Osadchy
 
Presented by Gavio. Seconded by Mundie.
 
On the Question:
 
Sosar said Council needs to know the appointees for the new Administration before dealing with the appointments to the authorities, boards and commission. Mayor Cusat still has not put his appointees before Council for approval. He felt as though the Mayor was rushing things, and he should be focusing on the most important things first. Mundie said he was okay with this as long as the administrative appointments come before Council. Mayor Cusat said he is waiting on the outcome of the budget first. He added that his appointments were made public in December of 2015. Sosar said he needs to know who is being appointed to each position, their salaries, responsibilities, etc. Cusat said a few of his appointments would be very beneficial if appointed tonight. He added that he used the original code when he assigned additional duties to his staff.
 
Roll Call:  Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes
 
RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY
 
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Resolution 2016-18 Reappointment to the Airport Advisory Board – Dr. Thomas Kislan
 
Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mope.
 
Roll Call:  Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes
 
RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY
 
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Resolution 2016-19 Appointment to the Airport Advisory Board – Dr. Julian Greco
 
Presented by Mope. Seconded by Gavio.
 
Roll Call:  Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes
 
RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY
 
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Resolution 2016-20 Reappointment to the Civil Service Commission – Gary Danish
 
Presented by Mope. Seconded by Gavio.
 
Roll Call:  Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes
 
RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY
 
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Resolution 2016-21 Reappointment to the Downtown Overlay District Review Committee – Sue Farley
 
Presented by Gavio. Seconded by Cuozzo.
 
Roll Call:  Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes
 
RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY
 
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Resolution 2016-22 Appointment to the Downtown Overlay District Review Committee – Jose Esteves
 
Presented by Gavio. Seconded by Cuozzo.
 
On the Question:
 
Cuozzo asked if Jose Esteves lives in Hazleton. Mayor Cusat responded he lives on the outskirts but owns a business in Hazleton.
 
Roll Call:  Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes
 
RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY
 
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Resolution 2016-23 Reappointment to the Planning Commission – Stephanie Pcolinsky
 
Presented by Mope. Seconded by Gavio.
 
Roll Call:  Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes
 
RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY
 
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Resolution 2016-24 Appointment to the Planning Commission – Charles McElwee, III
 
Presented by Mope. Seconded by Gavio.
 
On the Question:
 
Cuozzo said according to the Pennsylvania Planning Code appointees must be a resident of the City. Mayor Cusat said he was under the impression that he could appoint someone who was involved in a civic organization. Logsdon said he would look into the 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):  Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-no; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes
 
MOTION TO TABLE PASSES 4-1
RESOLUTION TABLED
 
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Resolution 2016-25 Appointment to Zoning Hearing Board – Kevin Schadder
 
Presented by Gavio. Seconded by Mundie.
 
Roll Call:  Cuozzo-no; Gavio-yes; Mope-no; Sosar-no; Mundie-yes
 
RESOLUTION FAILS 3-2
 
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Resolution 2016-26 Appointment to the Zoning Hearing Board – John Paletski
 
Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Cuozzo.
 
Roll Call:  Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes
 
RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY
 
           
Comments from the Audience:  Judy Yurcho welcomed Mayor Cusat, Attorney Sean Logsdon (new City Solicitor), and the new Council members. She asked Council to keep a budget that everyone can afford. She said most people in Hazleton are making less than $30,000 a year, and there is a need for more, better and higher paying job opportunities in the City. She was okay with a 2% tax increase in order to hire more police officers. Yurcho asked Council and the Mayor to look at the “bigger picture.”
 
Ted Sherrock, 67 Franklin Street, Hazleton asked the Administration and Council to look into making the former St. Joseph’s Hospital a veterans’ hospital. This is badly needed in this area. He was happy that the Fire Chief is now the head of the Code Enforcement Department, and said he is a good man and will do a good job.
 
Sylvia Thomas, 823 North Church Street, Hazleton said something needs to be done about the vacant and blighted properties in Hazleton. These draw crime and are “havens” for the homeless. She said the Administration’s first priority should be keeping the people safe. She is concerned about the drug problem in the City. Thomas said asking for an extra 75¢ per month from taxpayers for more police protection is not unreasonable. She asked that more police officers be hired as soon as possible. She shared a letter she received from District Attorney Salavantis regarding the petition sent to her about the crime in Hazleton. She assured Thomas that the Mayor and the Police Department are aware of this, and it will take time and money in order to see results.
 
Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton said the City needs to find new sources of revenue. He suggested charging a vacant property registration fee and enacting a doors and windows ordinance. He also suggested applying for other grants besides those for the downtown area, such as the Neighborhood Assistance Program. Rabo said the Airport Advisory Board should be turned into an Authority so it will pay back the money it owes the City. He said a new Comprehensive Plan should be done in order to get more grants and develop a blight plan.
 
Norman Tarantino, 154 North Lee Court, Hazleton said it is nice to see the Mayor at the meetings. He suggested looking into user fees in order to raise revenue or writing citations for those not recycling. Sosar said he is receiving complaints about when recycling bins and garbage are being put out for collection. He said discussions need to be done regarding the recycling contract. Sosar added that people need to be held responsible for not following the laws of the City. Tarantino asked if there are any records indicating who has put in a driveway. He said he was told those records were lost and the City needs to look into a better system. Tarantino said his old property has been backfilled and taken care of.
 
Comments from Mayor:  Mayor Cusat congratulated the Police Department on the great job they are doing, especially with regard to the recent drug bust and the 19,200 packets of heroin taken off the streets. He thanked everyone for coming.
 
Comments from Junior Council:  Josh Narrow felt the Pango app was a good idea.
 
Eric Degenhart felt turning the former St. Joseph’s hospital into a veterans’ hospital was a good idea, because we need to do all we can for our veterans.
 
Comments from Council:  Cuozzo congratulated the Police Department with their recent drug bust. She said she felt everyone on a board, committee and authority should be from the City because they have a “vested interest” in Hazleton. She said McElwee does not live in Hazleton and she does not want any problems in the future.
 
Gavio had no comments.
 
Mope thanked everyone for coming. She congratulated Mayor Cusat and the Police Department on the recent drug bust. She felt bringing in a veterans’ hospital was a good idea.
 

Sosar congratulated the police on the recent drug bust. He said Interim Police Chief Jerry Speziale provided a lot of ideas at last night’s crime watch meeting. He stated we need to put a windows and doors ordinance in place and we need to start using Act 90. These blighted and vacant properties need to be properly secured so there is no criminal activity in them. He agreed that bringing a veterans’ hospital to the City would be a great idea. He encouraged the residents of Hazleton to abide by the Snow Ban.
 
Mundie commended the Police Department on the recent drug bust. He said Al Roman passed away last week. He took care of the Airport as the fixed base operator and he did a lot for the City. Mundie said he will be missed. He thanked everyone for coming.
 
Adjournment:  Mundie motioned to adjourn the meeting with Mope seconding the motion. Meeting adjourned.