2017-04-04 Council Minutes





Call to Order: Council met in regular session on Tuesday, April 4, 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 March 28, 2017 Special Meeting were unanimously approved.

Proclamations/Communications: None.

Bid Opening: None.

Courtesy of the Floor (ON AGENDA ITEMS ONLY): None

New Business:


Ordinance 2017-8                   Ordinance Approving the Sale of 2016 Tax Claims (1st READING)

On the Question:

Gavio stated he would like to speak with Atty. Sean Logsdon regarding legal advice on this ordinance. Sosar said there is a time-limit to vote on this issue. He said if council does not act in a reasonable amount of time, this issue will not be solved and will be delayed. Mope stated this was passed, as a resolution in the past, but now is presented as an ordinance. Cuozzo said it was incorporated into the budget. Sosar told Gavio this is only the 1st reading. Sosar said there will be $200,000 plus that will be coming back to the city. He said council is being blamed for the shortfall in the budget. Mope said this will prevent any layoffs for the city. Sosar said Atty. Logsdon said there is no law opposing this ordinance. Sosar said the cost of the lawyers and issuance of this financing will be about $50,000. Sosar said for the city not to take back  $200,000 plus would be foolish. Mope asked why it is ok for the bank to do the refinancing of the loan but not ok for MRS to get their payment. She said it is $200,000 to the good for the city. Gavio said he wants to speak with Atty. Logsdon to find out his reasoning advising council not to   put this  ordinance on the agenda. Cuozzo said the borrowings have been going on since 2008.  Cuozzo said the city is not flush with money. She said to benefit the city, council needs to look into different avenues. Mundie said Mayor Cusat will probably ignore this and not care council presented this as an ordinance. He said this was put into the budget. He said he does not want to see layoffs for the city. He said a representative from MRS said the city would get $429,000 up front and needs this to run the city. Mundie said they are approving this to prevent layoffs. He said the mayor is not approving this. He said the city needs money now to avoid any layoffs.          

Presented by Cuozzo. Seconded by Sosar.

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



Resolution 2017-38     Resolution Requesting Department of Conservation and Natural                                                                      Resources (DCNR) Funds for the City of Hazleton’s Center City Park- Phase II

On the Question:

Krista Schneider, Executive Director for Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress, said she applied for this last year and was not approved. The grant is for $250,000 with matching funds  granted to the city between the Greenways Trails, Recreation fund and the RACP fund. She said the match is in place. She said Phase I was cleaning up the site and putting grass down. She said there is unconsolidated fill in the middle of the park which needs to be taken out. She stated the funding would provide for pavements, sidewalks, vegetation, park- like amenities- i.e.-  trees, benches, utilities, and ornamental lighting. Sosar asked Schneider what type of lighting would be installed. She said there would be smaller, acorn-type pedestrian lights installed. Schneider stated it depends on how much funding she would receive to see how much lighting could be installed.

Presented by Gavio. Seconded by Sosar.

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


Resolution 2017-40   Resolution Authorizing the City of Hazleton, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, to Enter into an Agreement with Financial S&Lutions, LLC and Stevens &Lee, P.C.

 On the Question:

Cuozzo said they are incorporating only for the 2005 bond for borrowing. She stated there was no one from Financial S&Lutions and Stevens & Lee present to discuss the agreement. Cuozzo stated it is the redevelopment borrowing and if it is an error in the content of the resolution. Mope stated it is the redevelopment borrowing at 5.9% and being used as an example. Mundie stated council needs to vote on this resolution. He said they need to get bids and needs to be voted on. Mundie said Financial S&Lutions will decide how much of a saving the city would receive. Sosar said the management of savings needs to be voted on by council. He said there are two choices that will be presented to council. Mundie said if the savings is not worth it, it will not be approved  by council.

Presented by Cuozzo. Presented by Gavio.

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


Comments from the Audience: Mark Rabo, First St., Hazleton, said regarding the tax claims, he does not agree with the tax claims to be sold. He said payroll will not be met. He said there will be no choice but to layoff employees. He spoke with the Andy Reilly, Executive Director of the Redevelopment Authority, asking him when tax claims will go out to the banks. He said the County Redevelopment Authority will vote on this at their next meeting on April 18TH whether to put out all tax claims to MRS. The city has until then to vote on this issue. Mope asked Rabo if the county went through MRS. Rabo stated Luzerne county could keep their tax claims and has other sources to draw from. He said Wilkes-Barre does sell their tax claims. Mope said this is done to get the money up front. Rabo told state legislatures in Luzerne county they need to modernize the tax code and get the funding their required to give the cities. He said the state house has decided to cut $800,000.00 from the proposed budget, including the court system. He said the court system is necessary for our judicial system to operate correctly. Sosar stated it is under the constitution that the court system needs to be funded. Rabo said the un-funded mandates that the state puts on the counties is foolish. He said every other state has modernized their tax system. Rabo said the gas tax received has a $223,000.00 surplus. He said it costs $232.00 to cover local areas. Sosar stated the un-funded mandates are the way to go. He said the problem is when the state passes laws and the cities do not receive the funds. Rabo said the cities and towns need to do their own funding.    He said municipal debt is not covered by the commonwealth.

Richard Ammon, 236 E. Beech St., Hazleton, said he would like to speak on topics on a more positive note instead of employee layoffs. He said the police donation program, currently underway, is a worthwhile program. He said there is over $44,000 in the account. He asked if the administration and council could plea for groups to donate to this program. Ammon said there is always negativity at the city council meetings. He asked Mope when the last tax increase was in the city. Mope said it was under Jim Perry’s council seat. Sosar said it was about 4-5 years ago. He said the people who held the line for no tax increases should be commended. Mope said residents are asking for their taxes not to be increased. She said council did everything possible to hear the resident’s plight. She said council works hard for the city. Mope said she cares about the residents. Sosar said there were no layoffs last year. He stated the mayor blamed council for layoffs. He said the city needs a more detailed style of budgeting. Gavio said he doesn’t know any official who wants to raise taxes. He said the last tax increase was 46%. He stated he wants a more comprehensive plan. Sosar said it is easy to raise taxes. He said this past year there was a 3/10 of 1% increase to the Social Security recipient. He said the year before, it was increased by 1.2%. Sosar stated the city has an increased elderly population. He said how can resident’s afford to live in the city with a tax increase. Sosar said pensions do not mean wealth. He said people need to pay their bills. Gavio said the inner city schools are over populated. Sosar said the League of Cities suggested the cities use the Home Rule Law. He said he agrees with the casino tax and the cities would know how much money they would receive. Ammon said the battles between administration and council is because they do not receive help elsewhere. Cuozzo said legislatures are not worried about the cities needs. Ammon stated the state or federal government needs to look more closely at the cities struggles. He said more pressure needs to be put on the federal representatives.

Mundie stated the last tax increase was when Jim Perry was on council. He said he wants the mayor to buy scales and a vehicle to transport them. He said the scales would bring the city revenue. He said he wants to find other ways to raise revenue. Mope said it is a safety hazard for the big trucks to be on the city roads.

Comments from Mayor: None- absent.

Comments from Junior Council: None.

Comments from Council: Gavio wished everyone a Happy Easter. Cuozzo asked when the two new police officers are going to be hired. Mundie asked Sam Galski from the Standard Speaker if he know with the absence of City Officials at the meeting tonight. He said he did not know.

Cuozzo stated when Mr. Perry and Mr. Bast were on council, the tax increases were horrendous. She said the storm water fee was implemented under their direction. Mope said most of the money went towards street paving. Cuozzo said if the CD block grants are depleted, there will be a tax increase. She said she called FEMA with the recent blizzard.

Sosar stated the $44,000 in contributions are being forwarded to the police fund. He said any contribution would help. He stated the state and federal governments are not doing their job. He said the only time residents think about local government is when they do not fulfill their job. Sosar stated there is always conflict at the city council meetings. He said the council votes their conscience on every item. He wished everyone a Happy Easter and Happy Passover.

Mope thanked everyone for attending the meeting. She said everyone does not agree but they have the right to their decisions. She said council does what is best for the city. She said the city needs more employees in all departments. She said the reward is when the council can help the cities residents. Mope stated the mayor is in charge of the daily activities in the city. The council’s job is to make the laws. She said voting on an ordinance when a resolution is ignored is the best way for council to do their job.    

Mundie said there will be a Special Meeting on Friday, April 7th, 2017 at 3:00 p.m. to vote on Ordinance 2017-8 Approving the Sale of 2016 Tax Claims for a vote-only on the 2nd and 3rd reading of the ordinance. He said the council passed the ordinance to avoid layoffs and raise money. He said by passing this ordinance, the mayor can purchase scales and a vehicle to transport them. Mundie stated the re-financing passed today could save the city $100,000.  

Adjournment: Mundie motioned to adjourn the meeting. Meeting adjourned.

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