2016-04-19 Council Minutes

MINUTES

HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL

REGULAR MEETING

TUESDAY, APRIL 19, 2016

**NOTE: It was indicated on the agenda cover sheet for this meeting that an executive session would be held on April 20, 2016 at 5:30 pm to discuss personnel matters and litigation.**

Call to Order: Council met in regular session on Tuesday, April 19, 2016 in Council Chambers. The meeting was called to order at 6:00 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 March 15, 2016 Regular Meeting were approved unanimously.

Proclamations/Communications: None.

Courtesy of the Floor: Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton said if taxes continue to rise, people will start leaving the area. This will create more vacant and blighted properties in the City. The state needs to give municipalities the tools to raise taxes other than property taxes. He said Hazleton ranks last in third class cities for business. Mayor Cusat said he will be meeting with Representative Tarah Toohil soon regarding this matter. Mundie stated we need to give property tax payers a break and start taxing earned income. Sosar said the county wants to add a 1% sales tax. This would get to parts of the economy that are not currently being taxed. He added that we need to get our state representatives and senators to lobby for us.

Sherry Longo, representing the employees’ Local Union 668, commented on employee raises. She stated the raises would amount to $17,000 between 14 people, and this was already built into this year’s budget. The increase to property taxes would be minimal. Longo stated the employees in this union are the lowest paid employees in the City. Some of these employees are working alone and without assistance from anyone else.

                                                                                                                                                           

Old Business:

ORDINANCES

None.

                                                                                                                                                           

RESOLUTIONS

None.

                                                                                                                                                           


New Business:

ORDINANCES

None.

                                                                                                                                                           

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution 2016-58      Approving the Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Hazleton and the Fraternal Order of Police Power City Lodge #18

Presented by Gavio. Seconded by Cuozzo.

On the Question:

Cuozzo said she was told Richard Hutnik has 34 sick days. She questioned how he can have so many if he was hired in 2014. First Lieutenant Ken Zipovsky of the Police Department said Hutnik was hired in 2013 and sick time is received immediately upon hire. His sick time was pro-rated in 2013. He then received 20 days each for 2014, 2015 and 2016. Nancy Doyle of the Administration Department stated new hires get 16 sick days not 20. Therefore, Richard Hutnik would have received 16 days for each of those years. Cuozzo said she was also told that Jessica Hutnik still has 16 sick days left. She suggested tabling this Resolution until the next meeting. She asked if Jessica Hutnik was on FMLA now. Mayor Cusat responded yes; she had her baby before Easter. He added this will save the City money by letter her use her husband’s accumulated sick time while on maternity leave. Sosar stated FMLA does indicate pay specifics. He asked if this would set precedence, and Mayor Cusat said no. He indicated they have a signed document regarding this matter.

Roll Call: Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

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Resolution 2016-59      Approving the Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Hazleton and the Service Employees International Union Local 668 (City Hall Employees)

Presented by Gavio. Seconded by Mope.

On the Question:

Cuozzo stated if workers will be laid off from the Streets Department, then how can we raise any salaries. Mayor Cusat said he spent hours of negotiations with the Union, and it will cost more than $15,000 if it goes into arbitration. There was a wage opener for the last year of the contract, so that is why this is being done. Sherry Longo, Union Representative, said Mayor Yannuzzi thought if the City was in a better financial situation in the future, then increases would be made. Mayor Cusat these are the same raises as last year. Mundie asked when the raise became effective. Longo replied January 1, 2016 and they would be retroactive. She added the raises were already built into this year’s budget. Sosar asked if Mayor Yannuzzi negotiated this contract on his own. Longo responded no. The labor attorney, Lars Anderson, was there, and also the Director of Administration. Longo said some people in this union only make $20,000 and 3% would amount to $600. She said as a taxpayer, she does not like what is going on in the City and she does not believe the people of Hazleton are getting their money’s worth. Mope said Council tried to give everyone something. Cuozzo reiterated that she does not see how City employees can receive raises if others are being laid off. Mayor Cusat said we will be $850,000 short at the end of this year, so the $15,000 they are asking for is nothing. He said if there are layoffs in the Streets Department, they have to be in place by June 1, 2016. The layoffs would be from June 1, 2016 to October 1, 2016. Mundie said he asked Pribula for a list of salaries and the proposed raises but he has not received anything yet. Gavio stated he does not believe these are excessive raises. He said he has negotiated contracts many times before. These people deserve a raise in order to support their families. The cost of everything has gone up but their salaries have not. Sosar said it is not that they do not deserve a raise, but we have to stop this “never-ending process.” Mayor Cusat said this union should never have had an open-ended contract. He said these women are underpaid and if he loses them, he does not know what he is going to do. Mundie said he wants to see the status of our finances and loans before doing anything on this. Cuozzo made a motion to table this Resolution and Mope seconded the motion.

Motion to Table:

Presented by Cuozzo. Seconded by Mope.

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 2016-60      Approving the Mayor’s Request to Obtain a Visa Credit Card for Purchasing Operational Supplies

Presented by Gavio. Seconded by Mope.

On the Question:

Sosar questioned if the Mayor could use a debit card instead. Mayor Cusat responded a debit card requires more paperwork and does not have restrictions on it. He set the limit for the credit card at $1,000. Sosar asked about the interest rate, and Mayor Cusat said it would be paid off every month in order to save money. Sosar asked if the Mayor would come back to Council if he decides to increase the credit limit and he responded yes. Mope asked whose name the card is in. The Mayor stated it is in the City’s name and he is the only one authorized to use it. Mope asked if he would be using the card at any City businesses. Mayor Cusat responded yes. Mundie asked if there is an inventory of the supplies and the Mayor said yes. Sosar stated the auditors want a more thorough accounting of the City’s assets. Mayor Cusat indicated most of the City’s assets have been fully depreciated. Mundie suggested looking into the state’s surplus sale for supplies. He also suggested asking for donations from the community. Mundie asked about the number of computers owned by the City. The Mayor said there are 23. Inotek currently services the computers.

Roll Call: Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

                                                                                                                                                           

Comments from the Audience: Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton asked about the status of the Doors and Windows Ordinance and the Vacant Property Ordinance. Attorney Sean Logsdon said they are working on it. It was recently given to Code Enforcement and Council for review, and some suggestions were received. Rabo asked if something could be placed in the Nuisance Properties Ordinance regarding dangerous properties that are ready to collapse. The Mayor said a demolition permit was recently given to the owner of the former Phoenix. Rabo stated the Redevelopment Authority needs to be active in order to determine the disposition of properties. Mayor Cusat said they will be meeting on Thursday. Rabo said delinquent accounts should be funneled to the Water and Sewer Authorities for collection. He said the Airport Board should be an authority, so they can apply for grants themselves and would not need to go through the City. Rabo added that the Redevelopment Authority can help restore playgrounds and recreation facilities.

Judy Yurcho, 984 North Locust Street, Hazleton said the City is in a financial bind. Currently, 80% of the budget goes to providing benefits and paying salaries of employees. She suggested the City consider a regional police force to cut costs. Most of the local revenue is located in Hazle Township and there is more industry in Hazle Township. The City needs to tap into it and there would be more funds for bills and for employees. Yurcho stated she does not want to see the City go bankrupt. She indicated that Tarah Toohil and John Yudichak are on board with this. Yurcho said does not have its own police force and they are using the State Police. This saves them a lot of money. Sosar said there are special conditions in order to regionalize the police force because Hazleton is a Third Class City. These laws need to be changed. It was indicated that an authority would need to be created with two people from each municipality with regard to regionalization. Mope said other areas end up paying for those municipalities that do not have police forces. Gavio said Hazle Township would fight this because they are getting free police protection. He added that taxes would need to be increased in order to pay for regionalization. Yurcho said the people in Hazle Township want a regional police force. The Mayor said that according to the Third Class City Code, we cannot regionalize; we can only sell our police coverage to other cities. He added that $6 million goes towards the police force and regionalization would not decrease those costs. The City has too much pension debt. No one would want to take that on. Sosar said until the state legislature and the senate get on board and change the laws, there is not much we can do.

Comments from Mayor: None.

Comments from Junior Council: None.

Comments from Council: Mundie asked how the street sweeping is progressing, and Mike Vislocky of the Highway Department said they will be done with everything next week.

Cuozzo asked if there were any conversations with the hospital about leaving the City. Mayor Cusat said yes. Cuozzo asked if an appraisal was done on the HCA land being offered for sale. Mundie said he would start working on that. Cuozzo asked about receiving an early payment from the HCA. Mayor Cusat said we can do that, but we would still be in the hole. Cuozzo stated that the Home Rule Charter and Option Plan B require a City engineer to be appointed, but that has not been done yet. Mayor Cusat said we still have one in place because of their contract. Cuozzo said that contract expired. She indicated that a Request for Proposals needs to be put out for a City Engineer because this is not a mayoral appointment.

Sosar thanked everyone for their suggestions and for coming to the meeting. He asked everyone to exercise their right to vote in Tuesday’s primary election.

Mope thanked everyone for coming. She said the City Hall workers are wonderful employees, but Council needs to have some financial questions answered first before voting on a raise. She does not want to see any layoffs. The Streets Department always gets hit with layoffs and it is unfair. Mope said we need to work with the Mayor to solve some of these problems.

Mundie said the City Hall employees work very hard and deserve more, but it would look bad if we give out raises and then layoff people. He asked about the street lighting project. Mayor Cusat said we applied for a grant for 1,000 new streetlights and there is a good chance we will receive it. Dee Deakos wrote the grant proposal for the City and the Mayor paid the fee out of his own pocket. Mundie thanked everyone for coming.

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