2017-03-07 Council Minutes





Call to Order: Council met in regular session on Tuesday, March 7, 2017 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 January 17, 2017 were approved unanimously. The minutes of the February 21, 2017 minutes – Cuozzo amended Ordinance 2017-7 on pages 5 & 6- Ordinance should read- Ordinance passed on 1st reading. The minutes of February 21, 2017 were approved unanimously.

Proclamations/Communications: None.

Bid Opening: None.

Courtesy of the Floor (ON AGENDA ITEMS ONLY): Dee Deakos, 43 W. Mine St., Hazleton, spoke of Ordinance 2017-6 Exemptions. She said the exception for the double homes only should be if resident has a family member living on other side of house, a landlord, or renting a house. She said these homes also need to be inspected. She said council is changing the ordinance. Deakos said the residents who already received and paid their bill should not get a refund because this is when the law was in effect. Deakos stated the ordinance should take effect in 2018, not in 2017.

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st St., Hazleton, spoke of Ordinance 2017-6. Rabo said when the original ordinance was passed in 2012, the ordinance contradicts itself. He said the ordinance should be withdrawn or repealed due to his research. Mundie stated the ordinance needs to be re-worked. Mope said she did not agree with the ordinance when passed. Rabo stated he wants Mr. Gavio to be aware of the conversions of the properties. He said this ordinance legitimizes this. Rabo reminded council that Luzerne county council recently tabled their ordinance on the transportation study, pending Penn Dot approval.

Jim Ferry, Planning Director, Luzerne County, Member of NPO Planning Staff for Transportation, spoke of the transportation resolution on the agenda. He is asking council to cooperate with Penn Dot conducting a study to consolidate the transit authorities and departments of Luzerne and Lackawanna counties. He said Penn Dot conducted a study recently, but it was halted due to Lackawanna counties rail study. Ferry said it is focusing on two county transit authorities and Hazleton City transportation department. He said the study is focusing on if there are benefits to taxpayers and riders with consolidation to the format. He said the county needs to determine pricing, labor, and gasoline costs before approval. Sosar stated council recently passed an ordinance, in 2016, for the city of Hazleton, and is an on-going issue. Ferry said this ordinance has passed, in the same format, by Lackawanna commissioners, Luzerne county transportation authority, and COLTS from Lackawanna county. Ferry stated there were concerns raised regarding an ordinance reviewed by council with different language from other counties. Mope said the difference between counties is Lackawanna county has authorities and Luzerne county has departments. He said it is council’s choice to make an appointment of a representative to conduct the study. Sosar said when the ordinance was passed recently, Penn Dot would pay for the study. Sosar asked Ferry if there is a cost to the city of Hazleton. Ferry said there will be no cost to the city.

Old Business:                                                                                                                                    


Ordinance 2017-6   An Ordinance Amending 2012-25 Establishing a Registration and Lincesure Program for All Residential Rental Properties, All Institutional Occupancies, and Daycare Facilities, Section 13, Exemptions (2nd READING)

On the Question:

Gavio stated with all the problems with the ordinance, he would motion to table. Mundie said to let the ordinance die.


Ordinance 2017-7  An Ordinance Modifying Plan for CDBG Program Year 2012 (2nd READING)

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Cuozzo

On the Question:

Mope said amendment should state moving funds from the Arthur Street Playground to housing rehabilitation (Owner Occupied Housing Rehabilitation Forgiveness Loan Program). Sosar asked Mundie if the vote is to keep money in housing for roofing, insulation, and windows. Mope stated the vote is for heating.

2nd Reading:   

Roll Call: Cuozzo- yes; Gavio- no; Mope- yes; Sosar- yes; Mundie- yes

3rd Reading:

Presented by Mundie. Seconded by Cuozzo

Roll Call: Cuozzo- yes; Gavio- no; Mope- yes; Sosar- yes; Mundie- yes


New Business:


Resolution 2017-17     Resolution Endorsing and Approving Cooperation in the Update to the Pennsylvania Transit Consolidation Study to be Undertaken by Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties

On the Question:

Cuozzo asked Mr. James Ferry if two representatives are needed for the transportation study. Mr.Ferry stated from the initial group there was a Hazleton Transit Authority, Luzerne County Transportation, and COLTS. Cuozzo stated it was a department of the city with Mr. Sharp as  director. Mr. Ferry said the study included the LCTA and COLTS transportation systems from Lackawanna county and felt there should be one representative from administration and one from the governing body. Mr. Ferry said the Hazleton Transit Department would get an administrative and governing body (city council representative). He said each entity had two   representatives. Mundie asked who are the representatives for Lackawanna county. Ferry said he does not know the names of the representatives. Mundie said Mr. Ralph Sharp of the Hazleton Transit Authority would be one representative. Cuozzo suggested Renee Craig of the Hazleton Transit Authority as the other representative. Sosar agreed as Renee knows the business end of the transportation department. Mundie suggested Mayor Cusat attend the meeting to vote on the two representatives. Ferry asked if council could pass the resolution and appoint members at a later date. Mundie agreed.     

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mope

Roll Call: Cuozzo- no; Gavio- yes; Mope- yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes


Resolution 2017-18   Resolution Recognizing Service by Carol Tarapchak of the Accounts Payable/Accounts Receivable Administration Office            

On the Question:               

Jean Mope read the resolution out loud.

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mope

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


Comments from the Audience: Patrick Flynn, Arthur St., Hazleton, stated in 2015, Arthur Street Playground skate park had a lot of problems. He said there are youths in their twenties playing at the playground while the younger children cannot play because of bicycle and skateboard riding. Flynn said there is a lot of vandalizing at the playground. He said in 2015, kids in cars would come to the playground. He also is requesting supervision with cameras at the playground. Mope asked Police Chief Speziale to have police patrol Arthur Street playground. Chief Speziale agreed. Sosar asked Flynn when there is more activity. Flynn said in the summertime.

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st St., Hazleton, stated there will be a Blighted Review Committee Organizational Meeting on March 13, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. He said he is excited the Blighted Review Committee is re-enacted. Rabo asked Police Chief Speziale regarding the towing ordinance if this includes a code violation for abandon vehicles in front of an abandon building. Chief Speziale said when the ordinance was put into effect it is only for sworn Hazleton police officers that can enforce the tow ordinance. He said this includes any vehicle held or impounded. Chief Speziale said he met with the code and parking violations departments to specify procedures to call police. He said the code department has to initiate an abandon vehicle, write out a written notice, and follow other code procedures. He said if a vehicle needs to be removed or towed, either Lieutenant DeMelfi or Lieutenant Zipovsky would be notified. Cuozzo asked what to do if there is vehicle blocking a garage. Chief Speziale said to call 911, a police officer will come and the vehicle will be towed. Rabo asked if the conversion rentals could coordinate with the zoning ordinance. Sosar said the planning and zoning departments will review and should be completed by mid-September/October of 2017. He said the administration needs enough time to review for the budget. Mundie said the ordinance states the city inspects daycare centers which the state inspects and is incorrect. Mundie asked city clerk, Eileen Matenkoski, to obtain rental registration ordinances from the cities of Wilkes-Barre, Pottsville, Bloomsburg, Berwick and Allentown, PA. Mope said her and Mundie voted no for the recent rental registration ordinance. Cuozzo asked Atty. Logsdon how the city can charge 100% fee over initial cost if 90 days delinquent. Cuozzo said that falls under the usery code. Atty. Logsdon agreed. Cuozzo said that could be a big problem. Mundie said council will review to make changes to the ordinance. Rabo said the cities of Allentown and New York City allows the police to handle illegal conversions for safety reasons.

Comments from Mayor: Mayor Cusat thanked Carol Tarapchak for her 26 years of service as Accounts Payable/Accounts Receivable clerk. He said David Fatula, employee of the Hazleton city fire department, recently retired after 22 years of service. He asked council for a work session at the March 21st, 2017 meeting and invite the Griffin Co. to explain a borrowing plan. Mayor Cusat said last year it was discussed obtaining a line-of-credit with multiple draw downs that was approved by council. He said the Griffin Co. approves the city if a revenue source isn’t coming in. He said the city can draw down at the end of year off the loan. Mundie asked Mayor Cusat if the Griffin Co. is a consulting company. Mayor Cusat they are a financial company. The Griffin Co. is the same firm that handled the redevelopment agreement. Mundie asked Mayor Cusat what their address is. Mayor Cusat they are located in Forty Fort, PA. Mundie agreed the Griffin Co. can come to the work session on March 21st. Mayor Cusat said there is one type of loan the city of Hazleton can utilize. He said the city would be available for a loan the next two years, 2017-2018. Mundie asked if Mayor Cusat could obtain information on the Griffin Co. and forward to the city clerk. Mayor Cusat agreed. Mundie asked Mayor Cusat if the Griffin Co. has worked with other municipalities and also asked for their references. Mayor Cusat said Mundie should be familiar with them as the city has worked with the Griffin Co., in the past.

Comments from Junior Council: None

Comments from Council: Mr. Gavio wished Carol Tarapchak a well-deserved retirement. He said he never came into city hall without Carol having a smile on her face. Gavio said Carol was a great employee. Cuozzo wished Carol a nice retirement. Cuozzo asked Mayor Cusat the status of the boiler repairs. Cuozzo said she recently asked for a copy of a letter from PA Labor & Industry, but did not receive it. Mayor Cusat said Barry Isett from the PA Department of Labor & Industry was at city hall today to review the spects on the boiler repair items needed. Mayor Cusat is putting together a RFP. Cuozzo asked Mayor Cusat if there are funds available in the CD in UDAG. Mayor Cusat said if there are enough funds available, the city will borrow the money from the UDAG account at a low-interest rate. Cuozzo said it should be a no-interest rate. Mundie said council wants to use the no-interest rate not to incur any problems. Mayor Cusat said the estimated cost for the installation and new boiler is $50,000. Cuozzo asked Mayor Cusat what repairs need to be done to the boiler. Mayor Cusat said the PA Department of Labor & Industry gave Mayor Cusat a list of corrections with most problems corrected but he said a couple major problems still need to be addressed. Cuozzo asked Mayor Cusat to forward the letter from the PA Department of Labor & Industry to the city clerk. Mayor Cusat agreed. Cuozzo asked Mayor Cusat regarding Northeast Revenue’s paperwork. Mayor Cusat said it is money collected, in January, 2017, for delinquent taxes. Mayor Cusat said it applies to 2016 delinquent taxes and the money would come directly to the city instead of Northeast Revenue. Cuozzo said council awarded, through a resolution, the money was to go to the MRS Co. with Atty. Chris Slusser’s legal merit and opinion. Mayor Cusat said council gave him permission to sign the agreement with the recent resolution. Sosar said if Mayor Cusat would not recognize the council’s decision then it is a problem. Mayor Cusat said he would not recognize this. Mayor Cusat this agreement is through the county. He said Northeast Revenue collects all delinquent taxes for the county. He said Northeast Revenue will transfer the money directly to the city. Cuozzo stated the city will never come close to the $400,000- $500,000 in delinquent taxes. Mayor Cusat said the total for unpaid taxes for 2016 was $420,917.21. He said if sold to MRS, the total amount collected would have been $387,000. Mayor Cusat said the city will get less money this year. Mope stated Mr. Hahn and Mr. Pribula said if the city is solvent and in the position to do this, the city would be able to save money. Mope said Mr. Pribula and Mr. Hahn did state the city is not financially in the position to do this. Mayor Cusat said it cost the city $325,000 and not worth the investment. Cuozzo and Mope agreed they did not like this agreement. Sosar asked Mayor Cusat if this is an agreement with Northeast Revenue that becomes a contract. Mayor Cusat said Northeast Revenue collects all delinquent taxes for the county. Mope said MRS has an exclusive agreement with the county. Rabo stated he was on the County Redevelopment Authority which handles all the tax claims for the all municipalities and school districts. He said the city enters into a contract with the County Redevelopment Authority. Rabo said Northeast Revenue is contracted with the county to collect tax claims. He said there is another contract between the city, the Redevelopment Authority and the Redevelopment Authority and tax claims bureau. He said whoever is awarded the bid then they do the tax claims for the city. He said then the contract is signed. Mayor Cusat said in 2014 the city paid $46,500, in 2015- $44,300, in 2016- $52,000. Sosar said Mr. Geronimo suggested that every community has a fund balance between 10 – 15%. He said 10% of the budget means the city should have a $900,000 cushion. Sosar stated the city of Hazleton is not in that financial situation with city administration agreeing. Mope asked Mayor Cusat if there will be layoffs. Mayor Cusat said yes, starting on April 3rd. He said there were $371,000 in wage cuts. Mundie asked Mayor Cusat if Mr. Pribula agrees with him. Mayor Cusat said Mr. Pribula would like to see cash up front. Rabo asked Mayor Cusat if the resolution is wrong from the Redevelopment Authority. Mayor Cusat said the resolution from the Redevelopment Authority was authorized to borrow up to $800,000. Cuozzo asked Mayor Cusat where he got the authority to borrow from the ACT 205 account. Mayor Cusat said he did not borrow it. Cuozzo said it is a short-term loan- a TRAN note. She asked Atty. Logsdon for a legal, written opinion sent to council. Sosar stated contracts have been signed without council approval. Sosar stated to allow other companies bid and make council aware. Mayor Cusat said council’s job is to make the budget. Sosar asked Mayor Cusat if department heads got a wage increase for 2017. Mayor Cusat said there was a 1% increase. Mope said council has the right to make the budget as they warrant. Sosar said council tries to get facts from the mayor at the meetings.

Sosar also congratulated Carol Tarapchak for her service and wishes her the best in her future. Sosar commended the Hazleton Police Department on a recent event he witnessed. Sosar said Police Chief Richard Hutnik helped an out-of-town woman at Hazleton City Hall with directions. Sosar said they are professionals with the extensive training they receive. Sosar asked Mayor Cusat with the recent mild weather if the potholes can be filled with tar. Mope said the pothole patcher was obtained with LSA grant money. She said the Hazleton Transit Authority has tons of milling with doing street repairs. She said it should be done now. Mope also congratulated Carol Tarapchak for her service to the city. She also thanked Junior Council, the audience, the mayor, city administrators and department heads that attended the meeting.

Mundie also thanked Carol Tarapchak and Dave Fatula for their service. He said if the pension policy is not fixed it will bankrupt cities across the state. Mundie asked Police Chief Speziale how long it will take to hire police officers with recent grant money. Chief Speziale said he has between four to five background checks completed. He said in two weeks the hiring process for the new police officers will be completed. Chief Speziale said hopefully by the next council meeting. He said they need to be hired before the next quarter.

Sosar asked Mayor Cusat if the city can purchase scales. Mundie said he wants the scales purchased to generate revenue. Mayor Cusat agreed. Sosar said the city is collecting money and is put into a fund. Chief Speziale said there is only one vendor that makes the scales. Mundie motioned to change city council meeting from April 18th, 2017 to April 19th, 2017. This was agreed by council. Mundie said council does not want layoffs of city employees. He said we need the money now from delinquent taxes. Mope and Cuozzo stated the mayor created jobs that do not exist.

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

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