2017-08-15 Council Minutes

MINUTES

HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL

REGULAR MEETING

TUESDAY, AUGUST 15, 2017

 

 

Call to Order:  Council met in regular session on Tuesday, August 15, 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-present; Sosar-present; Mundie-present

Minutes of Previous Meetings: The minutes of the July 18, 2017 Regular Meeting & August 2, 2017 Special Meeting were approved unanimously.

Proclamations/Communications:  None

Bid Opening:   None

Courtesy of the Floor (ON AGENDA ITEMS ONLY):   Mark Rabo, 1st St., Hazleton, spoke of Resolution 2017-63 – Authorizing the Administration to Solicit Bids for the Sale of 1992 KME Pumper Fire Truck.  He asked what the proceeds will be used for.  He said, under the City Administrative Code, Chapter 26, Article 2, states, “The Hazleton City Council and the City of Hazleton by and through its authority in relationship with the aforementioned Hazleton Fire Department hereby recognizes the authority and authorizes the fire department to recover the cost of firefighting materials, equipment, personnel hours, and hazardous abatement materials involving any hazardous material or fire safety incident.”  He asked if the proceeds will be re-used in the line item for the fire department.  He spoke of Resolution 2017-65 – Awarding Contract for Remember When Project by Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress on behalf of CAN DO.  He said he is strongly opposed to this resolution.  He said all this is a “political patronage”.  He said when there is a vacant building sitting for a few years and CAN DO can get grants directly from the state, he said he does not understand using the city as a “go between” for the grant.  He spoke of Resolution 2017-66- Approve Purchase of Two 29-foot Gillig Buses for Hazleton Public Transit.  He asked the transit director, Ralph Sharp, if the CNG purchase is to construct, at the LCTA, a CNG station for their buses. He spoke of Resolution 2017-69- Authorizing Transfer of Funds from Act 205 Account.  He said this is not needed.  He said there is a shortfall with payroll not being met.  He said it is due to the tax claims not being sold. He said the water authority, on two separate occasions, gave the city the option to meet its budgetary requirements.  He said it is to cover the overspending. 

Mundie said he received an email from Mr. Jim Geronimo of MRS.  He said Mr. Geronimo said if the city would have sold the receivables in January, the city would have received $536,000 with $220,000 from the water department.  He said the total would have been $756,000.  Mope also said what was left in the general fund. Rabo said the administration wants to tax native residents out of the city. He urged council to vote no on this resolution.

Antonio Rodriguez, 718 Muir Ave., Hazleton, spoke of Resolution 2017-69- Authorizing Transfer of Funds from Act 205 Account.  He said the city should borrow money from the Hazleton City Authority.  He said the mayor and city council are always blaming each other for the city’s lack of revenue.  He said the city has too many criminals.  He said they are coming in from Patterson, New Jersey and Reading.  He said too many people are doing drugs.  He said there is a lot of “trash” on Alter and Wyoming streets.  He said there are prostitutes on Wyoming Street.  He said the good residents are moving to Butler Township. He said these people will bankrupt the city and school district.  He said they complain about discrimination with Catholic Social Services and at the Salvation Army.  He said they do not honor the American flag.  He said he prays to God it does not happen.  He fears the KKK moving into Hazleton.  He said the city is lost.  He said the police department needs more funds.  He said the mayor, in 2016, proposed a $10 moving fee.  He said this needs to be approved.  He said we need to know who is moving into the city.


Mundie stated council had a brief Executive Session, prior to the Regular meeting, regarding litigation that is coming to a close.    

Old Business:

ORDINANCES:                                               

Ordinance 2017-18     Amending Chapter 203 ( Solid Waste ) of the Hazleton City Code, and Ordinance 95-18, as previously amended by Ordinance 2011-1 (Garbage Collection and Disposal),Ordinance 2013-12 (Quality of Life), and Ordinance 2015-15 (Appropriate Time for Placement of Garbage and Imposing Penalties for Violation) Regarding the Appropriate Placement of Garbage Containers for Collection of Non-Collection Days and Proper Storage or Placement of Garbage in Containers (2nd  READING)

Presented by Mope.  Seconded by Sosar.

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

Ordinance 2017-18     Amending Chapter 203 ( Solid Waste ) of the Hazleton City Code, and Ordinance 95-18, as previously amended by Ordinance 2011-1 (Garbage Collection and Disposal),Ordinance 2013-12 (Quality of Life), and Ordinance 2015-15 (Appropriate Time for Placement of Garbage and Imposing Penalties for Violation) Regarding the Appropriate Placement of Garbage Containers for Collection of Non-Collection Days and Proper Storage or Placement of Garbage in Containers ( 3rd READING)

Presented by Mope.  Seconded by Gavio.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

New Business:                                                                            

RESOLUTIONS:

Resolution 2017-62     Authorizing a Cooperation Agreement with Hazleton Little League and the City of Hazleton

Presented by Mope. Seconded by Sosar.

On the Question:          

Atty. Logsdon said council needs to amend the Cooperation Agreement.  He said there will be DCED and council oversight rather than the HLL oversight.  Mope stated “along with them”.  Atty.   Logsdon agreed.  Atty. Logsdon stated any engineering or attorney fees would be the responsibility of HLL.  Atty. Logsdon said he will make these amendments to the Cooperation Agreement for council to pass. 

Cuozzo asked about a $10,000 grant given to HLL and if it was used yet. Atty. Logsdon said he needs to check with Gregg Pavlick of Barry Isett & Associates regarding the grant. Mope suggested tabling this until the amendments are done.  Mundie asked if this a Cooperation Agreement for a specific LSA grant.  Mope said it is a Greenways Rails and Trails grant.  Mundie asked Atty. Logsdon if this is for a contractor to get paid.  Mope said council will pass with amendments.

Motion to Amend-

Presented by Cuozzo.  Seconded by Mope.

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

As Amended-

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

RESOLUTION PASSES AS AMENDED 


Resolution 2017-63     Authorizing the Administration to Solicit Bids for the Sale of 1992 KME Pumper (Fire Truck)

Presented by Gavio.  Seconded by Sosar.          

On the Question:

Mundie said this needs to be taken off the table.  Mayor Cusat and Fire Chief Leshko said it is not on the table.  Mayor Cusat said council tabled the original resolution for the offer of $13,000.  He said this was on the last regular council meeting but never addressed.  Fire Chief Donald Leshko said the item Mr. Rabo spoke of is cost recovery.  He said the money is utilized for the fire department when called out to an accident for cleanup.  He said it is a Hazmat recovery.  He said there is a line item in the budget for this.  He said the offer of July 14th from San Jose was for $13,000. He said this includes the cost of purchasing the fire truck. He said it is their   responsibility for the shipping of the fire truck. He said the city is not paying the cost of shipping. Mope asked if the fire department has this in writing.  He said he will obtain this.  Leshko said this is to sell the vehicle to them. Cuozzo asked if this is from the city to the port.  Leshko said yes.      Sosar asked again if this is from the city to the port.  Leshko said yes. He said this money would go to line item 4115750 which is the capital purchase item in the fire department budget listed as $8,048.  This will cover the interest payment, approved by council, for the lease agreement.  He said Community Development covers the principal portion of the lease agreement, about   $65,000.  The $8,048 interest cost is covered by the city. He said the $13,000 would cover the          cost.

Mope asked Leshko when the new pumper truck will arrive.  Leshko said it should be shipped in the first two weeks of September, 2017. He suggested council accept this offer. Cuozzo said Leshko is not naming, in the resolution, who the fire truck is going to. 

Mayor Cusat said this is a different resolution.  Mundie said council will obtain the correct  resolution.                           

Sosar said he spoke with Molly Blasko of the Sister Cities Committee.  She had checked with our sister cities in Poland and in Italy.  Sosar said Poland was not interested.  He said Italy has a lot more “hoops” and “red tape” to deal with. Mope said council does not have the correct resolution. Leshko said this offer is good to accept.  He will forward the correct letter and translated letter to the city clerk.  Cuozzo asked Atty. Logsdon if council should vote this down.  Atty. Logsdon said to let it die.  Mayor Cusat said council should vote on this resolution.  Cuozzo said council should have voted it down.  Sosar said one entity wants the fire truck.  He said it is easy to make a    phone call and then follow the proper course of action.  He said council can then vote on this. Gavio asked Leshko if he spoke with San Jose.  Leshko said he spoke with the San Jose Fire   Department who accepted the offer.  Leshko said Mayor Cusat will speak to them again. He said it will take 1-2 months to get everything “in line” to ship the truck. Mope asked if council will get in trouble if it is not put out for bid.  Atty. Logsdon said as long as it is being sold directly to a municipality, which falls under the exception, it is fine.  Gavio asked Atty. Logsdon if council accepts the resolution and San Jose declines the truck, does it still need to be advertised. Mope said let it die.  Mundie agreed.

RESOLUTION DIES


 

Resolution 2017-64    A Resolution of the City of Hazleton Authorizing the Abatement of Municipal Property Taxes for 71-T8SW21-019-005-000 for 2016

Presented by Mundie.  Seconded by Gavio.          

On the Question:

Atty. Logsdon said back in 2015 when council approved the donation of the vacant lot, it was noted there were no outstanding taxes or liens on the lot.  The donation was continued on a free and clear title and purchase of title insurance.  He said these are back taxes accumulated since the city took possession of the property. He said this resolution authorizes the municipal taxes wiped out and requesting the county to do this. He said these are the taxes that accumulated        since the city took possession. Sosar also said the school taxes need to be abated.

Cuozzo asked if the proper paperwork has been filed for the property as a tax exempt entity.  Atty. Logsdon said it needs to be approved by county council. Atty. Logsdon needs to present this to county council.  Cuozzo asked if he filed this as “tax exempt”.  Atty. Logsdon said he needs to find out. Mope said the proper paperwork originally was not filed.  Mope suggested council table this resolution. Mayor Cusat said all the city is doing is abating the taxes.  Mundie agreed.  Cuozzo asked if Atty. Logsdon filed with the school and county.  Atty. Logsdon said this still needs to be done.  Mayor Cusat said this property was accepted before their office came on.  He said it was lost in the transition.  Mundie agreed with Mayor Cusat.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY


Resolution 2017-65    Awarding Contract for Remember When Project by Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress on behalf of CAN DO

Presented by Gavio.  Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Mope said Atty. Logsdon was going to make an amendment regarding attorney costs.  Cuozzo said the resolution needs to state any legal or engineering costs borne on the city.  Atty. Logsdon said yes.  Cuozzo moved to amend any legal, engineering or any other administrative costs to be reimbursed to the city. Atty. Logsdon agreed.

Motion to Amend-

Presented by Cuozzo.  Seconded by Mundie.

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

As Amended-

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

RESOLUTION PASSES AS AMENDED


Resolution 2017-66    Approve Purchase of Two 29-foot Gillig Buses for Hazleton Public Transit

Presented by Gavio.  Presented by Mope.

On the Question:

Ralph Sharp, Hazleton Transit Director, said with the city purchasing these buses, PENN DOT has encouraged the transit authorities/agencies to go green.  He said the grants offered will pay for part of the fuel for getting CNG buses. Sharp said they will set up a CNG portable fueling station to fuel the city buses. He said it does not make sense to drive two buses to Wilkes-Barre on a daily basis.  The city will have its own portable fueling station at the contractor’s office.  He said there is yearly grant money to pay for the fuel. Sharp said most agencies are going CNG. Couzzo asked Sharp if he has enough money.  He said the transit authority received an $834,000 federal grant to be used for either capital projects or operating expenses.  He said they will use   80%, required by the federal government, $783,101.  He said they will also use state funds, ACT 3 money, old money sitting in account, of $87,000.  He said PENN DOT made some changes and the transit authority needs to use the old money.  He said $163,178 of state funds and local match, from the county, $32,597, which makes up the $978,876.  He said this is the total for the two buses.

Mundie asked what kind of mileage the buses get.  Sharp said, through his APTA training, the buses could run, on 1 ½ days, 250 miles on the tanks.  He said they are 20-year tanks.  He said PENN DOT requirements have changed.  He said there is a 500,000 mile requirement to replace a bus.  He said they are quieter and cleaner.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

Resolution 2017-68  Authorizing Settlement and Execution of Settlement Related Documents

Presented by Cuozzo.  Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Cuozzo moved to table.  Mundie said it has to be presented first.  He said council talked about this resolution in executive session.  He said Atty. Logsdon will be getting council more information on this settlement.

Motion To Table-

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

RESOLUTION TABLED


Resolution 2017-69   Authorizing Transfer of Funds from Act 205 Account

Presented by Gavio.  Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

Mundie asked Mayor Cusat why council should come to a vote when it was presented twice in the past. Mayor Cusat said council asked the mayor to attend council meetings.  Cuozzo asked Mayor Cusat how the city will repay this.  Mayor Cusat said from the ACT 47 emergency loan. Cuozzo asked the mayor how he knows what he will get.  Mayor Cusat said whatever the city does not get it will go back to the state.  He said he met this week with representatives from the      state.  He said the $1,000,000 will not be utilized before 2017 is over.  Mundie asked if the city  could just get the emergency loan and not use this.  Mayor Cusat said the emergency loan will not come until October, 2017. Mope said she does not want to use pension fund money.  Mayor Cusat said it is not pension fund money.  Mope said the checks say ACT 205 bank account. Mayor Cusat disagreed.  Mope said the mayor took out $1,000,000 in the beginning of the year         without council’s knowledge. Mayor Cusat said he told council he would do this. Mope said the mayor was leaving this up to Mr. Pribula for the TANS note. She said the mayor has filed for ACT 47. She said no assets should be touched at all. She said council never got an actuary report, one by the city and one by the police department.  Mope said council does not know how much money is in the ACT 205 account. Mayor Cusat said there is over $1,000,000.  Cuozzo said     there should be more than that.  Mayor Cusat said by making the 12/31/2017 MMO payment there will still be $1,000,000 left in the account.  Mope said how can there be $1,000,000 in the account when there should be only a few dollars left after the payment in November.  Mayor Cusat said there was a “balance carried forward” the past few years.  He said that is allowing the city to collect 75% of the MMO and funding 100%.  He said there was a balance that did not “balance out” when Don Wilkinson closed.  He said it will be “eaten” up slowly.  Cuozzo asked if there is a police department pension report. Mayor Cusat said that has nothing to do with this resolution. She said the resolution states, paragraph 4, “The funds transferred from the ACT 205 account must be returned to the general fund account by December 31”.  Mayor Cusat said the council asked for this last time. Cuozzo said it should be put back in the ACT 205 account.  Mope said this is a dedicated account.  Mundie asked who wrote the resolution.  Atty. Logsdon said he wrote the resolution. The money needs to go back into the ACT 205 account. Sosar   said when there is money in a dedicated account, the money cannot be put into a general fund. He said the money is there for a specific use.  Mayor Cusat said council was given the opinion from the last solicitor and e-mails from the state saying it was okay to utilize as long as the payment was made to the MMO by the due date.  Mundie asked Mayor Cusat if there is enough money besides for the MMO.  Mayor Cusat said correct. Mundie said this will not affect the            MMO.  Mayor Cusat said correct. Mope asked if this money should be invested.  She said when there is money sitting in a bank account it is not making money for the departments.  Mayor Cusat said this money cannot be invested. Mope said the departments are losing money. Mope asked Mayor Cusat why he tried to raise the EIT tax if there was additional money accumulated.  Mayor Cusat said the money was going to the general fund.  Mope said the money cannot go to the general fund; it needs to go to the pension fund.  Mayor Cusat said .85 goes to the pension fund and .5 goes to the city. He wanted to raise the .5 to .1 which could not be done because it is at the maximum.

Mundie asked Mayor Cusat if he has assurances from DCED to get a $1,000,000 emergency loan. He said the state is going to “attempt” $1,000,000.  Mundie asked if the state decides if the city does not qualify for ACT 47.  Mayor Cusat said if the city automatically misses a payroll then the city will go into ACT 47. He said we can use this and slowly go into ACT 47.  Mundie agreed with the mayor with his first request to go into ACT 47.  Mayor Cusat said the city paid $258.00 interest on $1,000,000 loan.  Mayor Cusat said if this resolution is not passed, the city will miss a payroll.  Mayor Cusat said he guarantees the second payroll will be missed.  Mope said $536,000 would have been received from Mr. Geronimo of MRS if this was approved.  Mayor Cusat said that would be refinancing the total debt owed.  He said that is not everything.  He said it is refinancing the past four years.  He said it is renewed every year.  Cuozzo said the net is $532,000. Mope said if the city sold its liens, as of January 1st, the net would be $536,226.01.  If you remove the fees from the financing, the city would have netted $538,026.01. A net difference of less than $2,000 and only because the amount set aside for the reserve account would have changed slightly as the loan amount changed.  She said this was the e-mail received from Mr. Geronimo on 8/15/2017. Mayor Cusat said this number needs to pay off the 2014 and 2015 debts. Mundie said it “scares” him if the city does not go into ACT 47 to get an emergency loan. He said then the city will be in trouble with the pension people.  Mope said she received a lot of   calls from employees.  They said the money from the pension fund should not be used.  Cuozzo moved to amend paragraph 4.  Mayor Cusat said yes.  Cuozzo said it states, “Whereas securing a long-term loan, the funds transferred from the ACT 205 account must be returned to the ACT 205 account fund, by December 31st, 2017”.  She said to take out general fund account in the resolution.  Mundie seconded the motion.

Presented by Cuozzo.  Seconded by Mundie.

MOTION TO AMEND:  

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

MOTION TO AMEND RESOLUTION PASSES 4-1


Back on the Question:

Gavio said he hopes the city does not miss a payroll. He said the city needs direction. He said the city is capable of getting out of their financial situation. Gavio said he is okay with this.  Mundie said in the last PEL study, it was recommended to sell the receivables. Mundie asked Mayor   Cusat if this study recommends selling the receivables next year, what can the city do. Mayor Cusat said in 2012 there was $900,000 in delinquents.  He said to spend $50,000 to get             $536,000 does not make sense. Cuozzo asked Mayor Cusat what the long-term will cost.  Mayor Cusat said it is interest only, $1,000,000 at $100,000/year.  He said it is ten year interest-free, through the ACT 47 state program.  Mope said this applies only if the city goes through ACT 47. She said if the city does not go in ACT 47, the city does not qualify, and borrow money, then the city needs to take a long-term loan with interest.  Mayor Cusat said the city qualifies for ACT 47 now through criteria 1 & 2.  He said if the city ends in a negative account balance the past three   years, then this qualifies the city for ACT 47.  Sosar asked Mayor Cusat if he has filed the forms/paperwork for ACT 47.  Mayor Cusat said yes. He said the date for the public hearing with the state is September 5th, 2017 @ 4:30.  Mope said everything should be “static” until the council gets a decision.  Mundie asked Mayor Cusat if he has any correspondence or e-mails with the state.  Mayor Cusat said the meetings have been “face-to-face”.  Mundie asked Mayor Cusat who sat in on the meetings with DCED.  Mayor Cusat said Atty. Donald Karpowich was the only person who met with DCED.  Mundie asked who attended the meeting from DCED.  Mayor Cusat said Mr. Jim Rose and Marita Kelley were present from DCED.  Mayor Cusat said the loan details were discussed.  Mayor Cusat said the city will not make a payroll.  Mundie asked Mayor Cusat if   there are loans to avoid missing a payroll.  Mayor Cusat said the state cannot get the money to the city fast enough. The whole process takes about 90 days. The earliest would be late September or early October, 2017.

Sosar asked Mayor Cusat how much money the city is receiving, each month, through the tax payers.  Mayor Cusat said July, September, and October are the three worst months for revenue.  Mayor Cusat said the collection of real estate taxes have been $4,500,000 of 2.9 that was budgeted.  This month there was $7,000 collected.  He said if the property taxes are not paid, on time, there is no incentive to make the deadline.  He said the EIT collected, for the month of August, is $125,000. Mayor Cusat said .5 goes to the general fund.  Sosar said legally, the dedicated fund cannot be moved. 

Cuozzo asked Atty. Logsdon why he did not write his legal opinion for utilizing ACT 47.  Atty. Logsdon said he did not finish because of the opinion of the previous solicitor. Cuozzo said she does not have a copy of his opinion.  Mayor Cusat said there is, in the pension account, $350,000 EIT collected.  He said the pension EIT and general fund EIT are separated.

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

RESOLUTION FAILS 3-2


Comments from the Audience:  Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine St., Hazleton, said there is a service called Municibid.  She said it is like an E-bay for municipalities.  She said it covers several states, including Pennsylvania.  She said items could be advertised for free and when the item is sold, the buyer pays all fees.

Antonio Rodriguez, 718 Muir Ave., Hazleton, said he has three points to cover. He asked if the city misses a payroll, can the employees file for unemployment compensation.  Police Chief Speziale said the police department cannot strike.  He said, under the law, the employees cannot file for unemployment. The payroll for the police and fire department cannot be separated in the unemployment process.  He said the Hazleton Police Department is helping the Hazle Township Police Department in police coverage.  He said the Hazleton Police Department should send the Hazleton Township a bill.  Rodriquez is requesting a resolution/ordinance stating the city will never be a sanctuary city.  He said the criminals are breaking the law.

Police Chief Jerry Speziale said there is a misnomer about Hazle Township.  He looked at the recent service calls and was contacted by Hazle Township.  He said the Hazleton Police Department responded to five calls in 2017.  Cuozzo said she recently saw the Hazleton Police Department at a hit-and-run incident.  She said the state police were not present.  Speziale said there is mutual assistance the police departments provide. He said there is a balance.  Mope said the state troopers get paid by all the PA residents.  She said she gets phone calls complaining the police department is outside of their jurisdiction.  Speziale disagreed. Fire Chief Leshko said if there is a call received from an outside municipality, the department is responsible for responding. Speziale said there are a lot “cross jurisdictional crimes”.  Sosar said he made many 911 phone calls for crimes.  He said many police cruisers from Hazleton and outside towns respond.  He said he commends the police department.

Joe Scarcella, Franklin St, Hazleton, said the Broad Street corridor project ended in 2014.  He said the traffic lights are not synchronized. Mundie agreed.  He said he made a recent phone call to PENN DOT.  He said their rule is when there is an active work zone, they place a NO TURN ON RED sign.  Mundie said council will send a letter to the state.  Mope said the traffic light at Green Street is very long. Scarcella said the officials are trying to revitalize downtown.  Council agrees.  Scarcella made a phone call, on 8/15/2017, to PENN DOT to advise them of this situation. Mundie asked Mayor Cusat if the synchronization falls under the city.  Mayor Cusat said an engineering study needs to be done. Police Chief Speziale said there is an “eye” bent on top of the Church & Green Streets traffic light.

Richard Ammon, 236 East Beech St., Hazleton, commented on the Police Chief’s comments.  He said the water authority is helping the city raise money.   He said a voucher included with their water bill is to help raise money for the Hazleton Police Department.  He said the water authority is close to hitting $60,000 in donations. He said everyone benefits from the Hazleton Police Department existence. He said the outlying municipalities live in the shadows of the Hazleton Police Department and deserve to be recognized.

Mark Rabo, 1st St., Hazleton, said regarding Resolution 2017-69.  He said the city applying for the emergency loan needs to go to the court system.  He said in 2015, the county loan was in court and took about 4-5 months for completion.  He said the city needs to make sure the paperwork is in place.  He said regarding the police department, the state police are also paid through the gas tax, ACT 83 transportation fund money.  He said he believes it is unfair for the state police to get the money and municipalities left out.  He said there is money in their reserves for their own funding. He said in regards to the CNG buses, he wants to thank Mr. Sharp for clarification. He said he was there when the county went into early distress.  He said everyone “wrote off” Luzerne County.  He said now Luzerne County has a surplus in 2017.  Rabo noted that Luzerne County’s current debt is $310,000,000.  He said county council made some tough decisions and are on the right track. He said this city needs to work together now.

Atty. Logsdon clarified the court does not approve any loan process.  He said it is the Secretary of Community Affairs of the commonwealth who approves this.

Police Chief Speziale said he wants to thank the Water Authority director, Mr, Ammon.  He said the employees of the Hazleton Police Department are a talented group of individuals.  He asked how does he keep his employees motivated.  He said what would happen if the employees miss a paycheck.  He said he went through this in 1983, in New York City.  He said if this happens, he will be out there alone. He said council and administration need to come up with a solution and put politics aside.

John Keegan, 105 Ferrara Ave., Hazleton, said he agrees with Mark Rabo about sniping.  He said he apologizes to the mayor for being called a “spendaholic”. He said he read the editorials regarding excessive spending.  He said there was $145,000 in unanticipated spending on snow removal for the Blizzard of 2017.  He said the budget is a “guestimate”.  He said it is not etched in stone.  He said the previous city budgets have been changed.  He said ACT 73 prohibits a municipal authority from giving funds to its incorporating municipality.  He said if the city accepts the money, the money needs to be returned to the authority.  He said regarding ACT 47, he said the ACT 205 pension fund does not go “dry” if the funds are transferred. He said there is a guarantee that the city payroll will not be met.  He read the provisions of ACT 47. “The purpose and legislative intent policy. It is hereby declared to be a public policy of the commonwealth to foster fiscal integrity of municipalities so that they provide for the health, safety and welfare of their citizens, pay principal interest on their debt obligations when due, meet financial obligations to their employees, vendors, and suppliers, and provide for proper financial accounting procedures, budgeting and taxing practices. The failure of a municipality to do so is hereby determined to affect adversely the health, safety and welfare not only the citizens of the municipality but also other citizens of the commonwealth.  Legislative intent- The general assembly finds and declares as follows:  Going into ACT 47 signifies a breakdown in the fluxion in the municipal government and a dereliction of its elected official’s paramount public duty to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of a citizen and a threat to the fiscal stability of neighboring communities”.  He said council needs to go back and revisit this subject.  He said what council did tonight will cause havoc. 

Mope asked Mr. Keegan how much money is currently in the pension fund.  Mr. Keegan said the council gets a pension report every two years.  Cuozzo said there is a problem right now.  She said the council did not get the new actuarial report for the police department.  Keegan asked Cuozzo if she attended a pension board meeting.  She said she has attended the meeting but there is an issue regarding payments.  Keegan asked if Mundie is on the pension board.  Couzzo said yes.  Keegan asked Cuozzo why Mundie cannot get her the information.  Cuozzo said the pension board cannot discuss this matter.

Comments from Mayor: Mayor Cusat said he and council will never agree on selling delinquent taxes.

He said next year, when the budget is approved, the extra $180,000 will want to be utilized.  He said the city received $118,000 in 2017 and another large check should be received soon.  He said this one keeps residents names out of the newspaper.  He said he met with the state several times this week.  He said the meeting is scheduled for September 5th @ 4:30.  He said the meeting will try to be rescheduled for a sooner date if the state completes the city report.  He said then the loan can be moved forward.  He said the state will present their preliminary findings at this meeting. 

Mope said the assets should remain in place until this process is completed. Mayor Cusat said the state said the city should receive around $800,000. Mope said council did not receive this information.  Mayor Cusat said he only found two calls that the Hazleton City Police Department responded to in 2027.  He said the police department “backs up”, in an emergency situation, the state police.  He also said the Hazleton Fire Department has not responded, in 2017, to any Hazle Township call. 

Leshko said the Hazleton Fire Department is on ‘standby” for any outside call.

Sosar said there are two treads used in the fire hoses for fire hydrants.  He said there are updated adapters used today.  He said, in the past, there were not adapters utilized.  He said there was a time when no one worked together. Mayor Cusat said there are a few times the police department is called to a street right on the border of Hazle Township.  Mope said the residents ask why the state police are not at these calls.  Speziale said Hazleton does not have the legal authority to enter another township.  He said the ORI, an electronic identifier for the police department, does not accept the street in Hazle Township.  

Mope said Speziale has made comments in the newspaper that are untrue about council.  Speziale said Hazle Township and the PA State Police Department have their own identifier.  Cuozzo said in 1976, the Hazle Township Fire Department responded to her car accident and saved her life.  Mope said Hazle Township is “quite rich” and do not have their own police department.  She said they rely on the state police department.   

Mayor Cusat said he will be presenting the 2018 budget proposals next week.  He said people are saying he has a spending addiction problem. Mundie asked the mayor if he made any spending cuts.  Mayor Cusat said the only line item he didn’t follow was a DPW line item from a few years ago that was never handled. Mundie asked the mayor about the health department.  Mayor Cusat said currently the health department has an employee “on leave”.  Mope said there is only one employee in the health department.  Cuozzo said he was under vector control.  Mayor Cusat said he has 19 years, 2 months of service to the city. 

Comments from Junior Council:   None

William Gallagher, Hazle Township resident and Vice-Chairman, spoke of Mope’s recent newspaper article.  He said the article stated Hazle Township is falling apart.  He said it also stated that Hazleton is applying essential services to them. Mope said they generate revenue from the industrial parks in their township. Mope said she was explaining the “dynamics” of the city.  Gallagher said there were a lot of falsehoods in the article.  He said he spoke to the state police.  The state police told Mr. Gallagher the Hazleton Police Department responded to only two calls in Haze Township. He said calling Hazle Township is “rich” is their business.  He said the state police are self-sufficient and don’t need assistance.  He said the city is becoming a “drain” on the entire area.  He said people only hear bad things about Hazleton.  He said he still has to pay the LST and EIT taxes to the city.  Mope asked Mr. Gallagher how much money is received by the industrial parks.  He said Hazle Township was here first.  Mope said the city cannot grow and is an “island onto itself”.  She said the only way to expand is through annexation. She said Hazle Township benefits from having a better tax base.  She said Hazleton has a paid police and fire department. 

Mope asked what the Economic Development manager, Joe Zeller, has brought into the city for economic development.  Mope said council puts a lot of time in to pass laws.  Mr. Jim Montone said Mope’s editorial stated Hazle Township uses all of the city’s services.

Sosar said council and Hazle Township need to sit down and work together.  Montone said the city received millions of dollars from the water authority.  He said the rate payers are not only the citizens of Hazleton but also citizens of Hazle Township.  Mope said a recent PEL report suggests raising taxes.  She said Hazle Township residents can sell their homes at their assessment value.  Mope said Hazleton residents cannot get their assessment value.  Montone said he spoke to Chief Speziale.  Speziale told him there is a “code of honor” to assist the outlying townships.  Gallagher said he wants to work together with the city. 

Mark Rabo said he appreciates what Hazle Township management has done.  He said there is one problem in the city that controls all the economic development.  He said that is CAN DO.  Mundie said he has had meetings with Kevin O’Donnell of CAN DO. He said there is a “double line” in the industrial park area on the Arthur Gardner Highway.  Rabo said he appreciates Gallagher and Montone attending the council meeting.  Mope said council has spoken about developing the Arthur Gardner beltway.  She said that is the only area for development.  She said the city’s economic development officer needs to work on the old St. Joseph Hospital building.  She said it had to be reverted back to the state.  She said council works as hard as Hazle Township. Mope said she felt her editorial was to explain to the residents why the city cannot expand.

Comments from Council:  Cuozzo asked where the city is for the LSA grants for the street lights.  She asked if the city will move forward with the LSA grant.  Mundie asked Mayor Cusat to check on this.  Mayor Cusat said this was awarded last year. Mayor Cusat said the city needs workers.  He said the project should have been done but the city only has one electrician. She asked the mayor if he can purchase some of the lights and start to repair them.  Cuozzo asked if the mayor is using the grant money. Mayor Cusat said the grant money only includes half of what the city needs. Mayor Cusat said he has eleven total employees in the street department.  He said the electrician is also part of the road crew.  Cuozzo said the mayor needs to make the city safe.  Mayor Cusat said the total grant money is $200,000.  She said she could not vote taking the funds from the pension fund.  She said to look at the bank account because it is a dedicated fund. Mayor Cusat said in the accounting system it is an ACT 205 account.  She said the city cannot borrow from the pension fund.  She said putting the city in this position, at the end of the year, is a dangerous move.  She said the accountant/auditor from the state had no idea what was going on. She said the transfer made should have been reported out. 

Sosar said he doesn’t want the city to go through the financial conditions that happened many years ago.  He watched people get laid off in October, November and December.  He said he is concerned.  He said the city is in financial difficulty.  He said the city employees may miss a paycheck but still need to show up for work. He said he is all for moving the meeting with the state to a sooner date. 

Speziale said the scales will be on the road the first week of September.  He said he will be the only guy “on the street” when employees take sick and vacation days. Mope said she has heard layoffs being conducted earlier each year. Speziale is only concerned with public safety.  Mope said the police department will do their job because they are professionals. 

Sosar said he took all into consideration in making his decision.   He said the city needs to get a handle on the financial situation.  Speziale said he does not know where the $640,000 is in the police grant. He said if a payroll is not met, then the city misses a draw down.  He said the city may lose this grant.  He said the first draw down goes by quarters.  Mope said the money from the employee retirees should still be in the budget.  Mayor Cusat said retired employees that get buyouts are not included in the budget. 

Sosar suggested Mayor Cusat telling DCED all the city problems. He said the city needs help. 

Mope said she was upset when Montone and Gallagher from Hazle Township were frustrated with her editorial.  She said they should be flattered because she stated their township is successful.  She said there was a problem with the sewer transmission fund.  She said council found out money was being utilized to pay loans that belonged to the general fund.  She said it is placed there to specifically pay for pensions.  She said, by law, money that is being transferred needs to be presented to council.  She said $1,000,000 was taken out of the pension fund in 2016. She was told it was paid back but was not given any official paperwork. She said the police department and the city did their separate actuary reports.     

She said council did not receive any actuary report.  She does not know if the city could pay the money back if funds were transferred from the pension fund.  She said council does not know if any other borrowing has been done.  She said she does not want employee layoffs.  She said council was not told how much the long-term-loan would be.

Speziale asked what the solution is.  He said he is worried about the employees receiving their paychecks.  He said there is a problem if the police officers are not on the city streets.

Mundie asked Atty. Logsdon when the garbage ordinance goes into effect.  Atty. Logsdon said it goes into effect 10 days after it is signed by Mayor Cusat.  Mundie asked Atty. Logsdon to use common sense when enforcing the ordinance.  He said some language may cause some problems. 

Mayor Cusat said the garbage ordinance will not be enforced soon because of recent resignations in the Code Enforcement Department.

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

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