2017-09-06 Council Minutes

HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL

REGULAR MEETING

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2017

Call to Order:  Council met in regular session on Wednesday, September 6, 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 August 15, 2017 Regular Meeting were approved unanimously.

Presentations/Proclamations/Communications:

Neil Oberto of the Tri-Area Recreation Authority said he wanted to update the council as to where the authority currently stands.  Mr. Oberto said it has been 30 years since a commission was formed to look at a unified approach, between the three municipalities of Hazleton City, West Hazleton borough, and Hazle Township, to respond jointly to recreational needs of the community.  Oberto said the authority only exists on paper.  He said it consists of the city, Mr. Oberto, and William Midlick. He said the authority is responsible for City View Park. He said a lot has happened. He said the parcel was a total wasteland. The land was deeded to the city in 1973 by Butler Enterprise to be used for recreation.  He said another parcel of land, down the road, was owned by the water authority, and has been developed.  He said there is water and electricity on the City View Park site.  He said there are also trails, pavilions, buildings, and an active dog park association. He said there is a BMX association. He said their membership has dropped and were unable to come back in 2017.  Oberto said the city has come to do some maintenance and to cut the grass.  He said there is no authority and no support to continue to develop the site.  He said he continues to pay the electric bill.  He said council needs to re-examine the authority.  He suggested a commission be formed to review the Tri-Area Recreation Authority.  He said the land is still owned by the city. 

  Mundie asked Oberto for any suggestions on how council can assist.  Oberto said he needs money and people interested in this authority.  Cuozzo asked Oberto if West Hazleton and Hazle Township “pulled out”.  Oberto said yes.  Mundie asked how many members there were.  Oberto said three. He suggested contacting the municipalities to see if there is any interest in the authority.

Mope asked if anyone from the Rails to Trails Authority has been in contact with him.  He said no.  Mope said it would complement them. Cuozzo asked if there are people coming to the site.  Oberto said yes.   He said the dog park managers are taking care of their site.  Cuozzo asked about a fee.  Oberto said the fee was never enforced.  He said there is plenty of land for other developments. Mundie asked how many acres are included.  Oberto said there are 22 acres including the dog park.  He said there are many fields available to be developed for football or soccer. Mundie thanked Mr. Oberto for all the time he put into the authority. Mundie said council will send out a letter to Hazle Township and West Hazleton authorities to revitalize and get members back on the authority. 

Sosar said he sees two problems.  He said for funding, the state will not offer a grant because of their debt.  Mundie suggested the authority seek an LSA grant.  Sosar said there is a parcel of land deeded to   the city at 14th & Alter Streets. He said the Tri-Area Recreation Authority should look into this land for the military veterans.  He said getting volunteers is always an issue.  He suggested getting local scouts involved in volunteering.  He said Oberto has always been there even without a Tri-Area Recreation board.  He said there are groups such as Senior Leadership Hazleton and Leadership Hazleton that would be able to “tap into” this authority.  Mope suggested contacting the school district for graduating seniors or the Keystone Job Corps to seek volunteers. Mope and Sosar said council can send out letters to seek assistance.  Oberto said scouts have helped in the past. Oberto stated DCNR said they would not help because the municipalities are not supporting the authority.  Mundie said an LSA grant would help if Hazle Township & West Hazleton authorities would join the authority.

Gavio wanted to complement Oberto’s tireless support for the authority. He said a commission should be formed to help revitalize the authority.  He said school students are “chased off” the fields because of liability.  Sosar said council needs to look at the Tri-Area Recreation Authority goals.  Mope said local newspapers and TV stations could help get people involved.  Cuozzo suggested contacting Hazle Township and West Hazleton borough first.  Mundie asked Oberto who owns the mile to the Rails to Trails.  Oberto said there are several (about four) land owners.   

Bid Opening:   None

Courtesy of the Floor (ON AGENDA ITEMS ONLY):  Mark Rabo, 1st St., Hazleton, spoke of Resolution 2017-74- Authorizing the Administration to Sell the City of Hazleton Fire Department’s 1992 KME Pumper (Fire Truck).  He asked if this is finalized.  He said at the last council meeting, the same resolution that was presented was not the correct resolution.  He wanted to know if this is the correct resolution. He asked if Resolution 2017-75- Approving Memorandum of Understanding Regarding Terms Between the City of Hazleton and Luzerne County Conservation District, will be voted on.  Sosar said this resolution is already pulled.  He said regarding the Tri-Area Recreation Authority there are state and federal funds for recreational needs.  He said a grant can be obtained if Hazle Township and West Hazleton return to the authority.  


New Business:                

RESOLUTIONS:

Resolution 2017-71    Reappointment to the Health Services Authority- Joseph Baran

Presented by Mope.  Seconded by Gavio.

On the Question:

Cuozzo asked if Mr. Baran was contacted and if the authority is still meeting. Mr. Ted Sherrrock said he notified council regarding the reappointment.  Cuozzo said this is the mayor’s appointment.  The city clerk said this is the council’s re-appointment.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY


Resolution 2017-72   Authorizing the Director of Administration to Issue a Refund of 2015 & 2016 Municipal Taxes as per Court Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania

Presented by Gavio.  Seconded by Sosar.

On the Question:

Cuozzo said it is taking a while for the court orders to come down.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY


Resolution 2017-74    Authorizing the Administration to Sell the City of Hazleton Fire Department’s 1992 KME Pumper (Fire Truck)

Presented by Gavio.  Seconded by Mundie.

On the Question:

 Sosar asked how this resolution was changed from the previous one.  He said it looks similar to the first resolution.  Cuozzo asked if this move should be done with the city currently requesting the ACT 47 program. Mundie said the Hazleton Fire Department has looked at other municipalities purchasing the fire truck.  J.T. Klein, Local 507 President, said the fire department has looked at other avenues in purchasing the fire truck.  He said the Municipal City of San Jose   de Ocoa, Dominican Republic, is still interested in purchasing the truck. He said they will cover all the costs associated with the truck.  He said the fire department will “strip” the engine of all equipment.  Sosar said the council should put a qualifier in the resolution with DCED approval. Klein said the new fire truck will be delivered in one week.  He said the 1992 fire truck will now be sitting outside the garage.  Klein said contacting DCED would “hold up” this transaction.  Sosar said the city needs to meet DCED’s approval.  He said the solicitor needs to contact DCED before shipping the truck.  Sosar made a motion for the city solicitor to get approval from DCED.

Motion to Amend:

Roll Call (on Motion to Amend): Cuozzo- yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

Roll Call (as amended):  Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

RESOLUTION AS AMENDED PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

Resolution 2017-75    Approving the Memorandum of Understanding Regarding Terms Between the City of Hazleton and the Luzerne County Conservation District and Authorizing the Mayor to Sign and Seal the Memorandum of Understanding

Presented by Cuozzo.  Presented by Mope.

On the Question:

Mundie said he spoke with Alan Wufsus, city engineer, and asked him to send a letter to council explaining the resolution.  He said Alan said it is a routine matter. Mundie asked the city clerk if she received any information.  Eileen Matenkoski, city clerk, said she only received a Memorandum of Understanding Between the Luzerne Conservation District and the Municipality of Hazleton City.  Mope said Atty. Logsdon wanted to explain the resolution.  Cuozzo stated she   asked Alan Wufsus for additional information but did not receive anything.  Cuozzo motioned to  table the resolution. This was seconded by Mope.

MOTION TO TABLE:

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

RESOLUTION TABLED


Comments from the Audience: John Keegan, 105 Ferrara Ave., Hazleton, said he listened to a “rift” between the mayor and city council.  He said he pulled out a Hazleton government study commission report.  He said it states, “the mayor will be held responsible for administering the city government.  The role of city council will be legislative.  The city councilman will no longer be administrators of the city.  The departments will performing law-making functions only.  The scope of duties for city council are more limited under the new form of government”.  He said council is trying to use the legislative function to perform administrative functions, i.e. salaries.  He said regarding ACT 47, the report provided a 5-year financial forecast and a comprehensive list of financial and program changes, in January, 2012.  He said Mundie stated to the committee, under oath, that the mayor started the ACT 47 process in January. He said, in the report, in October 2016, a department representative attended a city council meeting and said a second early intervention plan would be beneficial.  He offered an early intervention plan at the next meeting.  He thinks it was started earlier than that. 

He spoke of the $220,000 from the HCA.  He asked council or Mark Rabo to provide signed documents, from PENN DOT, proving the sale of the land will take place.  Sosar said it is on PENN DOT’s 12-year plan.  He said the water authority is on the fast-track to putting everything through. Sosar said they have notified the city.  He said Mayor Yannuzzi fought hard for the road to be put over the well field.  Sosar said he knows it will be sold.  Keegan asked where the proof is.  Sosar said it is a forwarding of the money.  Keegan said council is willing to take the money from the HCA on uncertainty.  Mundie said Keegan gave money to the city for timbering that was not done.  Keegan said they did not do the final design.  Sosar said timbering has been done within the last year.  Keegan said $336,000 is not available.  Mundie said $336,000 is available now from MRS.  Mundie said he received an e-mail from Mr. Jim Geronimo of MRS stating the availability.  Keegan said the Pennsylvania Municipal Authority Association, protection of authority funds, Senate Bill 375, amends the Municipal Authorities Act, amending Section 56-10.  He said it amends Section 56-12- to prohibit any loans, grants, or expenditures of an authority outside the mission of the authority. Sosar said this is a municipal authority that branches out.  Keegan said the city code, under finance, states, “the director of administration shall supervise the administration of each annual budget.  If there is a cash deficit, the administrator shall reconsider the work programs and allotments of departments and agencies”.   He said it does not state it needs city council’s approval. Sosar said Mayor Cusat stated he would not follow the budget.  Keegan asked why there was money spent on advertising for the Hazleton Blighted Review Committee meetings and for legal services.  Sosar asked Keegan why Mayor Cusat removed $1,000,000 from the pension fund without council’s approval.  Keegan asked why the Redevelopment Authority did not use their money for the advertisements and legal fees. Mope said the Redevelopment Authority owes their solicitor money. Keegan asked Mundie regarding flyers that were distributed during the city council election.  He said this is illegal and violates the city code. 

Maria Jacketti, 549 North Kiefer Ave., Hazleton, said she is speaking for the masses.  She is trying to understand the consequences of ACT 47.  She said there are “strings attached”.  She said the city is grossly uninformed on the process.  She said, in her research, anything ACT 47 suggests, the city can do on its own.  She said the city has its capacity to raise taxes. Mundie said council has the capacity to come up with their own recovery plan.  She said with ACT 47, the signed agreement is to follow the states program.  Mundie said the mayor stated he wants to raise taxes in 2018.  He said the mayor has requested from Atty. Donald Karpowich information to sell the Hazleton Water or Sewer Authority. Jacketti said she is a tax payer.  She said the city cannot put the tax burden on the homeowners.  She said the city needs to encourage businesses.  She said we need a non-partisan study in place to show how the city has become distressed.  Mope said we need a forensic audit.  Jacketti said the city needs to attract more sustainable jobs.    

Mope said she is always in favor of informing the public.  Mundie said some cities stated they were not happy how ACT 47 turned out for them.  Mope said Scranton was not happy with the sale of their sewer authority.  Mope said the money garnered by selling authorities is being spent by the mayor.  Mope said the council is transparent for the public to be informed of the issues.  Gavio said he has been against ACT 47 from the beginning.  He said we need a comprehensive plan without going into ACT 47. 

Mark Rabo, 1st St., Hazleton, apologized to the audience and council for his outburst.  He said the Blighted Property Review Committee is a start-up group.  He said Mr. Keegan only cares about his own agenda.  He stated Keegan is currently running for city council.  Mundie said Rabo is doing a great job with the Blighted Property Review Committee.  He said the Planning Commission needs to review the comprehensive plan for the erosion and sediment resolution.

Gene Babula, 191 North Lee Court, asked council about the 40% tax increase. Mope said this is not council’s idea. Mundie said Mayor Cusat wants to raise taxes in 2018.  He said council has been holding the line.  Babula asked instead for spending cuts. Mundie said the mayor gave raises to city employees.  Cuozzo said the mayor has been dealing with DCED since January, 2017. Mope said the water authority asked to use street workers to do work on their cuts.  She said the mayor has put up SNOW BAN signs that are not legal. Mundie said they do not interact with the council’s ordinances. Cuozzo said the CD hearing has not been scheduled. She said there is money for the roads and the contract needs to be awarded. Mope said the city received $118,816.14, as of July 1, 2017.  She said the water authority offered $220,000 if the agreement was signed with MRS.  Cuozzo said council sets the city employees’ salaries. Mope said any city employee’s position that does not come in front of council for a vote is illegal. Babula said the mayor should be in attendance. Mundie said the mayor makes excuses not to attend.  He said with the rescheduling of council’s meeting tonight, he will, in the future, call the mayor to notify him when a meeting is cancelled.   

Comments from Mayor:  None- Absent.

Comments from Junior Council:   None

Comments from Council:  Cuozzo said the mayor needs to make arrangements to cover line items in the budget.  She said the health department has over spent $26,000.  She asked what the director of administration was doing with the compliance of city code. She said the DCED presentation states the bills were reimbursed from a community block grant and highway aid fund.  She said some of the bills were paid.  She said Mr. Keegan is rude and arrogant.  She said she has not seen a transfer come before council.  She said what Mayor Cusat has been doing to the city the past few years is a set-up for ACT 47.  She said she is coming up with her own plan.  She said she spoke with representatives from Scranton. She said they told her not to let DCED give them a plan.  They said look at a plan that best suits the city.  She said the mayor is an unreliable person.  She said all city employee’s contracts can be opened.  She said Hazleton City Hall’s contract is due. She said with recent hiring’s there can be layoffs.   She asked what Tom Pribula, city administrator, is doing.

Mope congratulated everyone for doing a good job speaking. She said with ACT 47, many municipalities have changed their contracts. She said everything has been covered.  She said some outbursts are necessary to get things accomplished.

Sosar apologized to everyone for his outburst with Mr. Keegan.  He said council works very hard in trying to formulate different ideas. He said currently there is no chief executive but a dictator. He said the mayor does not inform council of many issues.  He said currently the state government cannot pass a budget.  He said the city of Hazleton is not unique in its current financial distress.  He said there are several municipalities on the edge of falling into ACT 47.  He said everything done in the city seems to go into the general fund.  He said the youth deserve recreation. 

Mope said council agreed to purchase a pumper truck.  She said the money came out of CD’s instead from the general fund.  She said this is the best council in a long time.  She is proud of all her votes because it is done for the tax payers.  Sosar said no one from administration has attended this meeting, except for Assistant Fire Chief Brian Mandak.  He said the mayor has decided, in the past, not to attend council meetings.  He said he will continue to fight. 

Mundie said he was informed that Atty. Donald Karpowich contacted the water authority for several records, i.e., audits, budgets and bi-laws.  He said the mayor is looking to sell the water authority. He said he is totally against this.  He said his intention is to sell the water or sewer authority.  He said every time the authorities are sold, the rates increase.  Sosar said the water authority does not need to make a profit.  He said the sewer authority is in it for the money.  Mundie said he was opposed when Mayor Yannuzzi and Mayor Barletta tried selling the water and sewer authorities.  

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

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