2017-05-02 Council Minutes

MINUTES

HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL

REGULAR MEETING

TUESDAY, MAY 2, 2017

Call to Order: Council met in regular session on Tuesday, May 2, 2017 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-absent; Sosar-present; Mundie-present

Minutes of Previous Meetings: The minutes of the April 4, 2017 Regular Meeting and Special Meeting of April 7, 2017 were approved unanimously.

Proclamations/Communications: None.

Bid Opening: None.

BUSINESS AT HAND: A PUBLIC HEARING WAS HELD PRIOR TO THE CITY COUNCIL MEETING TO CONSIDER AMENDING THE ZONING ORDINANCE IN REGARDS TO REGULATING MEDICAL MARIJUANA FACILITIES-

Cuozzo said she requested, in the ordinance, a plastic liner underneath the cement flooring, for leachate, that are found in landfills, to be included. She said the state requires a concrete foundation. She said the ordinance does not include a water return system in the greenhouses. She would like these items to be included in the ordinance. She said the city has plenty of reservoirs and deposits. She does not want to jeopardize the water system before approving the ordinance. She said the water is reused and not affecting the state law. It is just making it safer for the citizens of Hazleton if they approve a grower.

Sosar asked Atty. Logsdon is this ordinance should be sent back to the Zoning Committee and amend to council needs. Atty. Logsdon said technically it has to be sent to the Planning Committee. He said nothing could be done tonight. Sosar and Cuozzo agreed it should be sent back to the Planning and Zoning Committees with the liner request. Cuozzo also said the water return system needs to be included in this ordinance.

Mark Rabo asked if the County Planning Commission was notified of this ordinance. He said the ordinance needs to be in compliance with their regulations. Cuozzo said the city needs to protect the land and water before approving the ordinance. She wants these issues added and sent back to the Planning and Zoning Committee with the minutes attached to the ordinance.

Sosar said this is only a hearing. Atty. Logsdon said the Planning Commission did meet recently on April 3rd, 2017. They reviewed and approved this ordinance. He said the county has not approved the ordinance. Cuozzo stated to send the ordinance to the county with councils comments.

Rabo asked if the growers have a license to grow, can they purchase marijuana under the state law. Rabo asked if the growers, under state law, could extend on the parcel of land. Sosar said these all fall under state laws. Atty. Logsdon said what the grower is only to do what is permitted in their license and zoned for a specific amount of acres. He said if the grower goes beyond the zoning regulations, the zoning officer would shut the facility down. Cuozzo said the state is setting strict criteria for these facilities. She said the comments along with the minutes should be sent back to the Planning Committee with the corrections included.

Cuozzo asked Atty. Logsdon in the state law if there are specific requirements in the dispensaries for the alarm and television systems. Atty. Logsdon said this is only a zoning issue. He said if someone is doing land development to create a greenhouse or dispensary, they need to fulfill all the requirements through the land development plan following state regulations.

Sosar said this is a contract area where the $30,000 non-refundable money needs to be put up with $5,000 for the dispensary and $50,000 for the growers and $10,000 minimum for the dispensaries. He said what he read of the dispensary that was planning to grow in the city was described as “Fort Knox” with cameras, meeting rooms, dispensary and coverage rooms. He said these all need to meet state standards with a multi-level process. He said it all falls under the state law, not zoning. Sosar said the building itself falls under the zoning laws, but everything else is under state law.

Cuozzo said she is making sure that the minerals are safeguarded. Atty. Logsdon said the state takes over to regulate the facilities.

Sosar stated to send the ordinance back to the Planning Committee. Cuozzo said she wants to make the ordinance efficient. Cuozzo asked if Police Chief Jerry Speziale has anything to add. Police Chief Jerry Speziale said there will be state regulations the city needs to abide by. He said the ordinance is something that would be followed with citations if the city has anything outside the state law.

Cuozzo recommended sending the ordinance back to the Planning Committee with council’s recommendations. Atty. Logsdon agreed.  

Mundie motioned to adjourn the public hearing. Hearing adjourned.


Courtesy of the Floor (ON AGENDA ITEMS ONLY): 

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st St., Hazleton, said Ordinance 2017-9 Amending Ordinance 2012-25 Establishing a Registration and Licensure Program for All Residential Rental Properties, All Institutional Occupancies, and Daycare Facilities is flawed. He said it should be repealed and replaced. Rabo said regarding the form given to the property owners, the rental and vacant registration forms needs to be amended to negate the bond issue. Rabo said the state passed a law stating no municipality cannot require posting a bond for condition of rental or occupancy. He said these need to be omitted. He also said in the rental registration ordinance, Section 6 & 7, legalizes the conversions and are still not in compliance with the zoning ordinance. Rabo said this needs to be reviewed before enforcing the ordinance. Rabo said regarding the Resolution 2017-41 Requesting a Greenways, Trails and Recreation Program Grant for the City’s Parks and Recreation that there is a grant, through the National Park Service, that allows for cities to apply for park projects. He said the deadline is June 30th, 2017. He said it would be in the best interest of the city to apply for all federal and state grants. Rabo said this is a county grant. Rabo said regarding Resolution 2107-43 Supporting a Citizen’s Commission for Legislative and Congressional Redistricting is a state issue. Rabo said regarding the tax claims that Mayor Cusat is way off on his numbers. He said the city should verify the information. He said MRS has accurate records.

Cuozzo told Rabo to contact the county office to obtain 2016 delinquent tax information. Atty. Logsdon said he never received the 2016 delinquent tax numbers. He said he is not sure if the city received this.

New Business:

ORDINANCES

Ordinance 2017-9: Amending Ordinance 2012-25 Establishing a Registration and Licensure Program for All Residential Rental Properties, All Institutional Occupancies, and Daycare Facilities, Section 7, Subsection b (Fees) (1st READING)

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Cuozzo said this ordinance was put on the agenda for discussion. She asked Atty. Logsdon if after 90 days the 100% additional charge is legal. Atty. Logsdon said he doesn’t like the language used and would suggest reconsidering the wording. Cuozzo requested repealing the ordinance. Gavio asked if the ordinance should be tabled.

Mundie said this needs to be presented before repealing. Sosar suggested sending Ordinance 2017-9 & 2017 -10 to the solicitor for review, rewording, and accuracy. Cuozzo and Mundie agreed.

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

ORDINANCE TABLED


Ordinance 2017-10: Amending Ordinance 2016-11 to Increase the Registration Fee for Vacant/Abandoned Property Registry for the City of Hazleton and  Providing for Fines for Violations (1st READING)

SEE ABOVE

ORDINANCE TABLED


RESOLUTIONS

Resolution 2017-41: Resolution Requesting a Greenways, Trails and Recreation Program (GTRP) Grant for the Comprehensive Park and Recreation Plan for the City’s Parks and Recreation                             

Presented by Gavio. Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:          

Mundie said he spoke with Joe Zeller. Mundie said Joe said it is a matching grant from a previous request. Cuozzo asked what the total cost is to the city. Sosar said the previous grant was in excess of $100,000. He said the mayor mentioned there was a business man that would provide the funds if this resolution failed. He stated the total would be around $231,000 for the parks and playgrounds. Cuozzo said the city no longer owns the parks and playgrounds. Mundie said this is to get a grant. Sosar said this should not be turned down. He said there should be a comprehensive plan for the parks and playgrounds. He said the city needs more fields and recreation facilities and a future plan for the city.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES 3-2


Resolution 2017-42: Resolution Authorizing the Director of Administration to Issue a Refund of 2013, 2014, 2015, & 2016 Municipal Taxes as per Court Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Gavio.

On the Question:

Sosar said this is just paperwork since the council was mandated to vote on the court order. Cuozzo asked when the case was done. Atty. Logsdon said this is not a litigation matter but a tax appeal. Sosar said it is an abatement. Cuozzo asked how many years are they allowed to request. Mundie said it is from the date the requestor filed the order. Mundie said the requestor felt his taxes were higher than they should be. He said if the city had their own Real Estate Department, the city would not have to abide by the court order. Mundie said council needs to abide by the courts decision.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES 4-1


Resolution 2017-43: Resolution in Support of a Citizen’s Commission for Legislative and Congressional Redistricting (BOC)

Presented by Mundie. Seconded by Gavio.

On the Question:

Sosar said he requested this resolution to be put on agenda. He said he attended a recent meeting regarding redistricting. He said redistricting, in most states, has become a “headache” and a “political football”. Sosar said the city of Hazleton does not make up a congressional or legislative district. He said there are more municipalities asking Pennsylvania for a more fairly drawn redistricting process. Sosar said he recently presented, along with Dr. Thomas Baldino from Wilkes-University and a gentleman from Franklin and Marshall College that works under Dr. G.Terry Madonna, to the PA Bar Association, the redistricting issue. He said there are many states that have passed reforms and Pennsylvania is on its way of redistricting. He said the gerrymandering going on in the legislative districts leaves a lot to be desired. Sosar said this will not draw the districts. He said it will ask the state to consider to draw the districts more fairly.

Mundie said it is setting up committees by people who will be fair in redistricting. Mundie said this is done every 10 years. Sosar said the party who holds the majority redraws the congressional and legislative districts. Sosar said about 1 million people are lost every ten years. He said many times the redistricting is sent to the courts. Sosar said the city is asking for a fair process to be  delivered.

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

RESOLUTON PASSES 4-1

Resolution 2017-44: Resolution Requesting Approval for Mayor to Purchase Two Truck Scales and a Vehicle for their Transportation for the City of Hazleton

Presented by Cuozzo. Seconded by Sosar.                                        

On the Question:                                            

Cuozzo asked Police Chief Jerry Speziale what the cost would be for the scales. He said the new scales cost $19,000. Police Chief Speziale said the officers started school on April 21st, 2017 and will do 37 side-by-side weighs with the State Police or Department of Transportation. Mundie asked Jerry how long this would take. Police Chief Speziale said it depends on how many trucks. He said he needs to get the officers acclimated with the scales. He said the training is on-going. He said the issue now is the scale itself. He said there is one company that provides the scale. It is an analog scale and needs four scales for the training. He said the scales are built in Switzerland. Chief Speziale has called two companies for quotes and is awaiting the information. Sosar said it is $19,500 or higher to get actual bids by state law. Atty. Logsdon agreed. He said the process changes slightly if put out for bid. Sosar would abide by a lawyers decision on the scales. Chief Speziale said the city could go by the bid or PA can honor a sole-source provider. He said some states honor sole-source providers. Sosar said if they are a sole-source provider, they are part of costars. Chief Speziale said they are not part of costars. He said he reached out to the state on how this is being done.

Chief Speziale said regarding the police officers grant and officers that have recently resigned and retired that need to be replaced that the psychological and medical evaluations are now underway. He said the oral and written evaluation is completed. He said he will present, in executive session at the next  meeting, the names that are being replaced and the new hires.

Atty. Logsdon said council can approve this resolution as long as the scales are purchased correctly.                                           

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

RESOLUTION PASSES 4-1

SOSAR MOTIONED TO GO OFF THE AGENDA AND SUSPEND THE RULES.

Presented by Sosar. Seconded by Cuozzo.

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

Mundie said council wants to pass a resolution to authorize Mayor Cusat to borrow up to $420,000 with $80-$90,000 in savings from the refinancing ($500,000) with restructuring to prevent any city employee layoffs. Sosar said council should offer both opportunities to the mayor. Cuozzo explained that $420,000 additional income is in this restructuring and when the land is sold from the HCA and the money is turned over to the city, the money will be put on the principal immediately. She said that $200,000 will be the only borrowing the city will need to do. Cuozzo said she is not happy with the expenditures and the budget. She said she is not a proponent for borrowing. She said the state’s new budget starts in July. She said the sale could go through in the early part of 2017. She does not understand how the entire Streets Department could have layoffs. She said there is a line item of $80,000 in the street budget for salaries. Cuozzo said this would cover the $200,000 lost to the delinquent taxes to Luzerne County Redevelopment and MRS. She said the total would be $500,000.

Mundie said council does not want to see layoffs. He said he has another avenue to generate revenue.  He said the mayor is trying to make council look bad due to the upcoming election. Sosar said every city employee in the city government is very important. He said he is dismayed how the mayor is going about spending the cities money. He said if this problem is not solved, he said the mayor is to blame. Sosar said the current situation the city is in and the mayor being absent at the meeting is a big problem.

Gavio said he is pro-labor. He said he will do whatever he has to do to keep the employees working.

Sosar said he requested every year a line-item budget presented to council but never received this. He said he does not know the salaries of each department manager. He said the residents need to know this information also.

PUBLIC COMMENTS: Mike Vislocky, Grant St., Hazleton and city DPW employee, and Maria Bailey, Field Representative from Service Employees International Union, Local 32 BJ, spoke of the 20 employees scheduled to be laid off starting May 5, 2017. Cuozzo said she called Mayor Cusat but he did not return her call. Gavio said the mayor was open to the borrowing plan. Sosar said the mayors comments will be revealed in the Standard-Speaker in their May 3rd, 2017 edition. Mundie said the mayor will still have the layoffs because the Streets Department is not on top of his list.

Vislocky said the union already has legal action taken with the union lawyers involved. Mundie said the mayor is doing this due to the election a week away. Vislocky said the streets will not be swept or the potholes will not be filled. He said the customer is the tax payer. He is disappointed and shocked with the mayor’s absence. Gavio said with the layoffs, no work will be done in the city. Vislocky said the playgrounds will not have the grass cut, streets will not be swept, etc. Mundie said council does not want to see any layoffs. Mundie said he spoke with Jim Geronimo, COO of Municipal Revenue Service, who recommends the city of Hazleton in opting to sell their delinquent liens this year. Mr. Geronimo said a sale at this point would generate a net amount of approximately $370,000. Mr. Geronimo said the city would be able to close a transaction within 2 weeks. Mundie said the mayor did not agree with his recommendations. Vislocky said he is appalled the mayor is absent from the meeting. He said it is important to keep the city employees working. Sosar said this includes 17 families that will be losing their income with the layoffs.   Visolocky said the residents are complaining about the cities potholes. He said the work could not be subcontracted. Sosar said since January, the residents are stating that the council and mayor are always disagreeing. He said the mayor has failed to abide by the budget. Sosar asked where the money is coming from with the new city employee hires. Mundie said the mayor gave 3% raises to employees without council approval. Sosar said council have included reductions in employee wages in the last budget. He said the mayor went against the council’s decision and gave employees increases. Sosar said the mayor wants to spend money where there is none. Vislocky said the city residents are very upset with the upcoming layoffs. Mundie said he spoke with the mayor about his $1,000,000 borrowing plan. He said the mayor never sent him any paperwork.      

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st St., Hazleton, said he finds this very discerning. He said the mayor shows up to implement the city budget but is absent today. Rabo said the mayor is positioning himself for political gain in the upcoming election. He said he has another option. He said the 232 bank-owned properties in the city that the Code Enforcement Department regulates could enforce their own violations. Rabo said $2,088,000 revenue could be generated if the Code Enforcement Department would implement their rules.

Cuozzo wants to know where the remainder of the 2016 tax delinquent money received has gone. Cuozzo asked Atty. Logsdon to find out where the remainder of the 2016 tax delinquent money was spent.

RESOLUTION FOR MAYOR CUSAT TO BORROW UP TO $420,000 FOR A BOND RESTRUCTURING PLAN

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

RESOLUTION PASSES 4-1


Comments from the Audience: Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st. St., Hazleton, asked how much is remaining in the airport budget. Mundie asked city clerk, Eileen Matenkoski, to request from city administrator, Tom Pribula, the current report on the income and expenses for the Hazleton Airport. Rabo also requested the balance at the end of year 2016 and how much the income the airport generated. Rabo said the mayor stated the airport operator would have the airport be profitable. Mundie said the airport manager has left. Rabo said he doesn’t know why the Streets Department employees are being used as “sacrificial lambs” in the upcoming layoffs. Cuozzo said she will be having a hearing for the Airport Authority.

Richard Smith, resident of Beaver Meadows, asked who owns the Vine St. Cemetery. He said the gate has been locked the past 5-6 months. Gavio said that a private association owns the cemetery. Fire Chief Donald Leshko said Mr. Probert is the owner. Mr. Smith said he has offered several suggestions to Mr. Probert but got no answer. Sosar said it is on private land. He said it used to be open more frequently. Gavio said there was a care taker for the cemetery but with his death, it has not been opened. Mundie told Mr. Smith that the cemetery is regulated by the state. Mundie said he will try to contact the owner Mr. Probert. He said he will check some of the agencies the cemetery comes under.

Comments from Mayor: None- absent.

Comments from Junior Council: Josh Narrow said he supports Resolution 2107-43 in Support of Legislative and Congressional Redistricting. He said Pennsylvania received a political corruption and gerrymandering rating of F. Mundie asked if they are setting up a panel of ordinary citizens to set the districts. Narrow said it is going to be a non-partisan panel that will be set up.

Comments from Council: Cuozzo said she hopes Mayor Cusat agrees with the borrowing plan. She said she hopes the layoffs do not happen. She said it is the start of the destruction of the Streets Department. Cuozzo asked Fire Chief Donald Leshko how an employee made $7,702 in overtime for a year and $7,882 in four months. She said there is a lot of overtime. Leshko said he had a fire fighter off on an injury. He said overtime is based on seniority. Mundie asked if the overtime would increase the employees pension. Leshko said it is based on yearly salaries. Leshko said the cities Third-Class City Code also states this. He said it is done on a rotation basis. Leshko said the pension ordinance states it goes by the monthly income. Cuozzo said one employee made $13,000 overtime in 2016. Leshko said it is based on yearly salaries. Leshko said he gets overtime on holidays. Cuozzo requested from Leshko the pensions of the three retired fire fighters. She asked when the pension board meetings are and requested a copy of the minutes. Leshko said he will send her the minutes. Cuozzo asked Leshko if he ordered new vehicles for the Fire Department. Cuozzo asked Leshko when the LSA grant was received for the Fire Chief and assistant Fire Chief vehicles. He said an LSA grant was received in the amount of $114,000. He said it is part of two grants. Mundie asked Leshko if the overtime amount of $40,995           for 2017 is on track. Leshko said he had a fire fighter off on surgery. He said that amount is a little higher than normal. Leshko said vehicle repairs to the trucks are completed. Leshko said he is looking at another line item to cover the cost of the certification.

Police Chief Speziale said he has a police officer out of work with a finger injury. He said there are currently three police officers out of work. Mundie asked Chief Speziale when the two new officers will be hired. Chief Speziale said they are currently undergoing a psychological evaluation. He said he will present the names of the new officers soon.

Mundie asked Frank Vito if the Streets Department was going to street sweep Chestnut St. Vito said it was done today. Mundie commended the Streets Department for doing a great job. He said he will do everything in his power to avoid the city layoffs. Mundie said it is in the mayors hands now. He said council gave the mayor two options. Mundie said the mayor needs to sign the resolution presented tonight to avoid the employee layoffs.

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

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