2017-10-03 Council Minutes

MINUTES

HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL

REGULAR MEETING

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2017

Call to Order:  Council met in regular session on Tuesday, October 3, 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 September 19, 2017 Regular Meeting were approved unanimously.

Presentations/Proclamations/Communications:  None

Bid Opening:  None

Courtesy of the Floor (ON AGENDA ITEMS ONLY):  Antonio Rodriguez, 718 Muir Ave., Hazleton, said he suggests council change the wording of Resolution 2017-80 –Appointments to Junior Council, from the youth of the City to the Greater Hazleton Area.  Mope agreed and said this resolution will be amended.  He also spoke of Resolution 2017-79- Confirmation of Appointment of Police Chief Jerry Speziale.  He said council needs to confirm him.  Mope said council already appointed him.  She said it is just a “formality.”

Sylvia Thomas, 823 N. Church St., Hazleton, said she attended a city council meeting in September.  She spoke of how the young people are dying from drug overdoses.  She read a recent obituary, from the newspaper, of a youth that died of a drug overdose.  She said this is happening all over the Hazleton area.  She said it took 1 ½ years to appoint Police Chief Jerry Speziale.  She said he was not appointed the correct way.  Cuozzo said it was a mistake and it is “up” to the mayor.  Mundie said the Police Chief’s appointment was on the agenda 1 year ago.  Mundie said Mayor Cusat removed his approval from the council agenda.  Cuozzo said all city employees positions need to come before council to be approved.  Thomas asked where the mayor is tonight.  Cuozzo said she cannot answer for the mayor.  Thomas spoke of a recent Standard-Speaker article regarding the Blighted Property Review Committee.  Mayor Cusat stated, “he is still trying to figure out why council abolished the committee and then re-organized the committee with Mark Rabo as director.  The only reason council did this was to put Mark Rabo on a committee and keep him in their circle.”  Thomas said without people like Mark Rabo or Dee Deakos, the city would be in worse shape than it is.      

Cuozzo said Thomas can contact Marita Kelley of DCED.  Cuozzo said she needs to contact her to notify them how this city is being run.  Thomas said she will get a petition going regarding our city government.

Jerry Speziale spoke of the recent bank robbery in the city.  He said the men and women of the Hazleton Police Department are truly a talented group of individuals.  He said they “banded” together and did not stop until it ended.  He said they are extremely hard -working and want to thank them.  Mope said his appointment was removed from the agenda, 1 year ago, by Mayor Cusat.

Sosar said he is proud of what Police Chief Speziale does for the city. He said Speziale is a hard-working individual.  He said the Hazleton Police Department’s work is nothing short of a miracle.  He spoke of a youth who had a drug addiction.  He said he was clean for 4 years, but relapsed.  He said he walks the city streets.  He said there are drugs all over the city.  Mope said one problem is keeping the youth off drugs and not falling back into the addiction.  Police Chief Speziale said there is always a beginning phase of the addiction.  He spoke of a talented youth, excelled in football with a scholarship to college and a bright future, who fell into drug addiction.


BUSINESS AT HAND:         

Old Business:                                                           

ORDINANCES:

None

RESOLUTIONS:

None

New Business:

Ordinance 2017-21 Amending Ordinance 2016-11, Increasing the Vacant/Abandoned Property Registration Fee for the City of Hazleton (1st READING)

Presented by Cuozzo.  Seconded by Gavio.

On the Question:

Cuozzo asked how much money was collected on this ordinance in 2017.  Mundie believes there was no money collected this year because Mayor Cusat said there are not enough employees to collect the fee.  Mundie said he is going to call Community Champions to see if they are willing to collect the fee for the city. Cuozzo asked if the mayor would initiate the contract with this company. Mundie said it will not cost the city anything.  Cuozzo asked Mundie why council is going to vote on this ordinance that the city is not receiving fees and increase the fee on money the city is not pursuing.  Mundie said council needs to approve to make it “worthwhile” for        someone to collect the fee. Mope asked what the percentage rate is in collecting the charge. Mundie said Community Champions, in their first year, collected 30% of the fee. Mundie said they collect nearly 100% of the rate.  Cuozzo asked if the residents will be fined for fees that were not paid in 2017.  Cuozzo said Mayor Cusat is going back 10 years for outstanding bills that were not paid for fines and penalties. Atty. Logsdon said he was unaware of this situation. Mundie said the mayor would be foolish to refuse this because it is revenue for the city.  He said he will speak with Mayor Cusat regarding the 10-year billing. Mope said residents cannot be penalized if they never received a bill.  Cuozzo asked why council keeps passing this ordinance when the fee is never collected. Mundie said most of the fees will be paid by the banks who own the properties.  Sosar said council needs to make their decisions on “what they do.”  Mope said council needs to pass ordinances but it is up to Mayor Cusat to carry out the ordinance.   Mundie said Mayor   Cusat stated he does not have the resources to collect the fee.  Cuozzo asked if council can amend this ordinance to direct the mayor to bring in a private contractor.  Mundie and Atty. Sean Logsdon said legally this cannot be done.  Mundie said the Code Department has a hard time keeping employees.  Cuozzo said it cannot be due to the starting salary. Cuozzo said Luzerne County’s starting salary is $20,000. Gavio said it is due to the employee’s salary. He said the employees leave to get a better paying job. Mope said there is money in the budget.  She said the employees positions could have been made full-time.

Mope said this is only the 1st vote.  She said Mayor Cusat could explain this at the next meeting. She said council will then decide whether council will keep their vote or change it. Mundie said it falls on the banks for the abandon properties and there are also fees included for mortgages.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES ON 1st READING


RESOLUTIONS:

Resolution 2017-79  Confirmation of Appointment of Police Chief Gerald Speziale

Presented by Sosar.  Seconded by Mope.

On the Question:

Cuozzo said she wants to see all directors, who were not properly appointed, on the council meeting agenda for approval.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY


Resolution 2017-80    Appointments to Junior Council

Presented by Sosar.  Seconded by Cuozzo.

On the Question:

Sosar made an amendment to read Greater Hazleton Area.  Mundie seconded this.

Motion to Amend:

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

Roll Call (As Amended):

Presented by Sosar.  Seconded by Mundie.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY AS AMENDED


Resolution 2017-81   A Resolution Permitting the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (Penn DOT) to Conduct a Traffic Study for the Purpose of Adjusting the Timing Patterns for the Traffic Signals Located at 22nd and Church Street in Hazleton

Presented by Mope.  Seconded by Gavio

On the Question:

Atty. Sean Logsdon said he received this information from Alan Wufsus from Engineering and from Highway Department director Frank Vito.  He said he drafted this resolution from what they told him PENN Dot wanted to do.  Cuozzo asked if it is what PENN Dot or the Hazleton Area School district wants to do.  Atty. Logsdon said he was told PENN Dot.  He said it could include the Hazleton Area school district. Cuozzo said she lives in that vicinity where the congestion is when school is dismissed.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY


Comments from the Audience:  Cindy Delucca, Delucca’s Towing, presented council a list of invoices that are unpaid, by the city, of 11 vehicles she rendered service for. She said she submitted this bill twice.  She said someone refused to do the proper paperwork.  She said there are fees that reoccurred in the process. Cuozzo asked Delucca who refused to do the paperwork.  Delucca said Sergeant Wetzel.  Delucca stated Sergeant Wetzel said she was not on rotation at that time. Delucca said she is currently on rotation. Mope stated the current outstanding balance is $280,715.  Delucca said that is the correct amount.  Mope said this is a bill that the city owes.  Atty. Logsdon said he will speak with Mayor Cusat, Chief Speziale, and Sergeant Wetzel to address this.  Cuozzo asked if the city is doing this process properly.  Atty. Logsdon said he “assumes they are.” Gavio asked Delucca if she was called by the city. Delucca said she was called by the Code Department.  She said an officer needs to fill out the forms in order to send to Harrisburg. She said the officer would not fill the forms out.  Cuozzo told Atty. Logsdon to make sure the officers are doing the proper paperwork. Mope asked Atty. Logsdon to keep council informed. Delucca said the officers are currently filling out the paperwork.  She said this is done only after making several phone calls or e-mails.  Mundie asked the time period the invoices include.  Delucca said it is from April 2, 2016 to July 13, 2017.  Mundie said he will encourage the mayor to pay the bills.

Joseph Stanavage, 216 West Birch St., Hazleton, said he is proud of all of the council members. He said he hears the rumors of the city’s present financial situation.  He said Hazleton is a great town because of the city council.  He said the public has the right to see the city’s budget and current problems. He said the residents need to come to the meetings instead of complaining.  He said council needs to develop pride in the city.  He said there is hope in this town.  He spoke of recent reputable mayors and attorneys that were raised in the city.  

Comments from Mayor:  None- absent.

Comments from Junior Council:   None

Comments from Council:  Gavio said he spoke with Police Chief Speziale.  He said he has an approach for the youth’s drug problem and rehabilitation.  He said he is going the “extra mile” to try and save them.  He said it affects all our families.  He said all lives are worth trying to save.

Cuozzo thanked everyone for attending.  She extended her condolences to the victims of the recent mass shootings in Las Vegas. She also mentioned the recent hurricane victims. She said there have been a lot of tragedies.  She said we need to sit down and realize all the good we have.  She said money is spent and council does not know where it goes.  She said extra money is placed in the Code Department and the billing for the registration fees are not being sent.  She asked why the registration fee notices were not sent out for 10 years.  She said if council cannot file action against administration then the state needs to.

Sosar said he will not be attending the next city council meeting on October 17th.  He said he is a member of the National Social Science Association. He is the national secretary.  He is delivering a paper in San Antonio, Texas.  He said this is part of his responsibilities with King’s College.  Mundie said council will discuss if the meeting will be rescheduled.

Mope said she tries to get the council meetings to start on time. She said there have been a lot of disasters in this country.  She said the opioid addiction in our residents is terrible. She said she feels for the loss of homes from the hurricanes and the loss of loved ones from these events.  She said we have a wonderful city.  She said she always reads the local newspaper.  She said it is not just Hazleton.  She said the whole northeastern area is suffering from this epidemic. She said this can be eradicated if we all work together. She thanked everyone for coming to the meeting. She congratulated the new Hazleton Junior Council members.

Mundie asked Sam Galski, reporter from the Standard Speaker, if he saw the recent surveys that were sent out from the water and sewer authorities regarding how residents feel if the authorities were sold.  Mundie said this is the fourth mayor trying to sell the authorities. Mundie said he has always been against this.   

He said the mayor’s candidates, Tony Columbo, John Keegan, and Jim Perry are for this. He said the residents rates will increase.  He wants to know how the other candidates feel regarding this issue.  He suggested Sam run a story in the Standard Speaker regarding the selling of the city’s water and sewer authorities.  Mope said the survey’s questions are one-sided.  Cuozzo said she guarantees that the resident’s water and sewer bills will be increased.  Mundie said the city of Atlanta had to reverse their decision because it was a disaster.  Mope said the city of Scranton wants to buy back their authorities because it was a “nightmare.” Mope said the only people making money were the attorneys.

Mundie mentioned the passing of Atty. Charlie DeCosmo’s parents in a recent out-of-state car accident.

Adjournment:  Mundie motioned to adjourn the meeting. Mope seconded this.  Meeting adjourned.

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