2017-12-19 Council Minutes

MINUTES

HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL

REGULAR MEETING

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2017 

Call to Order:  Council met in regular session on Tuesday, December 19, 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 December 5, 2017 Regular Meeting- Sosar made a motion to table the December 5, 2017 minutes.  Motion approved unanimously by city council.  Minutes-tabled.

Presentations/Proclamations/Communications: None

Bid Opening:  None

Courtesy of the Floor (ON AGENDA ITEMS ONLY):  Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton, spoke of Ordinance 2017-32- An Addition to the Hazleton Administrative Code Regarding Decisions on Delinquent Taxes as related to the City Budget.  He said Mayor Cusat stated “imposing this would take away his administrative functions.”  Rabo said Mayor Cusat needs to deal with contracts and city assets.  He stated it should be done as a “body”.  He said the total from the sale of the tax claims, for 2017, is $700,000.  Rabo said the amount of fees is $30,000.  He stated Mr. Geronimo from MRS informed him of this figure.  He said the net amount is $720,000.  He said $690,000 would be the amount the city would receive in a lump sum.  Rabo asked how Mayor Cusat is unable to make the city payroll on $1,2000.000.  He said he doubts Mayor Cusat’s abilities, not the administrator, Tom Pribula.  He stated the city does not have $900,000 in reserve.  He said the city government is not a “game”.  Rabo said it is the taxpayer’s money.  He said he will hold city officials accountable. 

Cuozzo stated the city is currently at 1%.  Sosar said he knows the city is currently at 2%, but could go to 1%. 

Gavio said he wants to table his vote.  He stated he does not want to pay a lawyer fee.  He said council paid $15,000 to a lawyer firm without their opinion.  Gavio stated this denied the city hall workers a $0.15 raise. He said council voted down a pay raise for 14 union workers.  He said he would like an opinion from the city solicitor, Atty. Donald Karpowich.  He said he wants to see city employees get paid.  He said the employees are suffering. Gavio said Mayor Cusat will say that council is “overstepping” their boundaries.

Sosar said he agrees with Gavio.  He stated he would like a letter written by Atty. Donald Karpowich with contracts signed regarding the tax claims.  Sosar stated he talked with a lawyer when Mayor Cusat wanted to raise the EIT.  He said the lawyer’s recommendation stated Mayor Cusat was wrong. 

Rabo read a pamphlet from DCED.  He said it reads, “The legislative powers of council are to function in the best interest of the city”. 

Cuozzo said it is Mayor Cusat’s job to enforce.  Gavio said Mayor Cusat has to sign-off on what council decides.  Cuozzo stated being on the Hazleton City Sewer Authority that she doesn’t always agree with the board members decisions.

Sosar stated the state legislature has complete power, but since 1992, has been altered.  He said that is why ACT 62 is so important in government. 

Mope said there are no objections in state laws.  She said Mayor Cusat stated, “Council controls the purse strings.” 

Old Business:

ORDINANCES:

Ordinance 2017-25 Re-Enacting Ordinances 1931, 1932, and 1933, which Continue in Force and Effect for the Period January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018, Imposing the Real Estate Tax, Earned Income Tax, Per Capita Tax, and Resident Tax, Respectively (2nd READING)

Presented by Mope.  Seconded by Sosar.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES 4-1 ON 2nd READING


Ordinance 2017-25 Re-Enacting Ordinances 1931, 1932, and 1933, which Continue in Force and Effect for the Period January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018, Imposing the Real Estate Tax, Earned Income Tax, Per Capita Tax, and Resident Tax, Respectively (3rd  READING)

Presented by Sosar.  Seconded by Gavio.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES 4-1


Ordinance 2017-26 An Ordinance Amending Ordinances 1878, 1932, 88-52, and 2004-38, Providing for Assessment Levy, and Collection of a Tax for General Municipal Purposes and Imposing Additional Tax for the Sole Purpose of Funding Required Benefits to be Paid to or on Behalf of Pension Recipients Pursuant to Act 205, known as the Municipal Pension Plan Funding Standard and Recovery Act, which is Directly Related to the Pension Plan of the City of Hazleton (2nd READING)

Presented by Mope.  Seconded by Sosar.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES UNANIMOUSLY ON 2nd READING


Ordinance 2017-26 An Ordinance Amending Ordinances 1878, 1932, 88-52, and 2004-38, Providing for Assessment Levy, and Collection of a Tax for General Municipal Purposes and Imposing Additional Tax for the Sole Purpose of Funding Required Benefits to be Paid to or on Behalf of Pension Recipients Pursuant to Act 205, known as the Municipal Pension Plan Funding Standard and Recovery Act, which is Directly Related to the Pension Plan of the City of Hazleton (3rd READING)

Presented by Mope.   Seconded by Sosar.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES UNANIMOUSLY


Ordinance 2017-27 An Ordinance Amending Ordinance 88-14, Re-Enacting the Mercantile and Business Privilege Tax for the Period of January 1, 2015 through    December 31, 2015 (2nd READING)

Presented by Gavio.  Seconded by Mope.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES UNANIMOUSLY ON 2nd READING


Ordinance 2017-27 An Ordinance Amending Ordinance 88-14, Re-Enacting the Mercantile and Business Privilege Tax for the Period of January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015 (3rd READING)

Presented by Gavio.  Seconded by Sosar.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES UNANIMOUSLY


Ordinance 2017-28 An Ordinance of the City of Hazleton Fixing the Tax Rate of Real Estate Located in the City of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, for All City Purposes for the Fiscal Year 2015, Beginning January 1, 2015 and Ending December 31, 2015 (2nd READING)

Presented by Mope.  Seconded by Sosar.

On the Question:

Gavio said the Pennsylvania Municipalities Financial Recovery Act Consultative Report, (DCED), for the City of Hazleton, states the 2016 Luzerne County Real Estate Millage comparison with neighboring municipalities, has remained below neighboring municipalities.  He said the city is currently a “distressed city”.  He said there will be no choice but to raise taxes. 

Cuozzo said council did not raise taxes is their 2018 budget.  She stated the city residents cannot afford a tax increase.  She said there is a $850,000 loan currently taken out by the city.  She said taxes cannot be raised.  Gavio said there is a major increase in the city’s population.  He said the average household pays $297.00/year in taxes.  Cuozzo said the administrative salaries have been increased over the past several years.  Gavio said the city administrator’s salary is less than $25,000 when compared to his predecessor.  Sosar stated the previous administrator was performing two jobs.  Sosar stated Mayor Cusat is a “puppet”.  Sosar said he does not want to describe the political function of Mayor Cusat.

Cuozzo stated a current Community Development employee’s salary is $70.00/hr.  Sosar asked all council members if they voted on this position.  Each council member said no.  Mope said the city cannot be run with contractual obligations.  Sosar asked where the Pennsylvania Economy League was when this was going on.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES 4-1 ON 2nd READING


Ordinance 2017-28 An Ordinance of the City of Hazleton Fixing the Tax Rate of Real Estate Located in the City of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, for All City Purposes for the Fiscal Year 2015, Beginning January 1, 2015 and Ending December 31, 2015 (3rd READING)

Presented by Mope.  Seconded by Sosar.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES 4-1


Ordinance 2017-29 Re-Enacting Realty Transfer Tax Provisions Pursuant to Article XI-D of the Tax Reform Code of 1971, and Authorizing the Department of Revenue of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to Determine, Collect, and Enforce the Tax, Interest, and Penalties (2nd READING)

Presented by Mope.  Seconded by Gavio.

On the Question:

Cuozzo asked if this tax is legal.  Sosar said between 1.5% & 2% is legal.  Mundie said Atty. Chris     Slusser had stated this is legal.  Sosar said council should table this ordinance until the next city   council meeting on December 27. 

Sosar motioned to table.  Mope seconded.

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

ORDINANCE TABLED


Ordinance 2017-29 Re-Enacting Realty Transfer Tax Provisions Pursuant to Article XI-D of the Tax Reform Code of 1971, and Authorizing the Department of Revenue of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to Determine, Collect, and Enforce the Tax, Interest, and Penalties (3rd READING)

ORDINANCE TABLED


NEW BUSINESS:

ORDINANCES:

Ordinance 2017-31 An Ordinance Approving the Sale of 2017 Tax Claims (1st READING)

Presented by Cuozzo.  Seconded by Mope.

On the Question:

 Gavio motioned to table pending receiving a legal letter from the city solicitor.  Mundie seconded.

Roll Call (on Motion to Table):  Cuozzo-no; Gavio-yes; Mope-no; Sosar-no; Mundie-yes

MOTION TO TABLE RESCINDED- ORDINANCE BACK ON TABLE

On the Question:

Cuozzo said state law does not allow to put on a penalty. Cuozzo states it should be a penalty.  Sosar said Mayor Cusat vetoed this in 2016.  He said legislation should be of a “general nature”.  He said regarding the administrative code that council and Mayor Cusat should work in conjunction with each  other.  Mope said there is only one company to work with and the new city council members can change this.  Sosar said Mayor Cusat needs to follow the law, and if he does not, a fine will be imposed.  Mundie agreed with Sosar.  Mundie said the city would not be in ACT 47 if Mayor Cusat would have      accepted this.  Mundie said the delinquent taxes are included in the budget.  Mope said the with Mayor Cusat’s decision, the money came in “dribbles”. She said if the mayor would have followed the budget and the PEL report recommendations to sell the delinquent taxes, the city would not be in financial distress.  Mope said the city cannot afford not to do this.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES 4-1 ON 1st READING


Ordinance 2017-32  An Addition to the Hazleton Administrative Code Regarding Decisions on Delinquent Taxes as related to the City Budget (1st READING)

Presented by Cuozzo.  Seconded by Sosar.

On the Question:

Gavio motioned to table.  Mundie seconded.

Roll Call:  (on Motion to Table): Cuozzo-no; Gavio-yes; Mope-no; Sosar-no; Mundie-yes

MOTION TO TABLE RESCINDED- ORDINANCE BACK ON TABLE.

On the Question:                                                           

Sosar said council has no control over contracts. He stated Mayor Cusat has approved contracts with the Hazleton Police & Fire departments. He said the mayor cannot “cherry pick”.  He said city council needs to be involved with how the money is being spent.  He said he is referring to the     EIT & delinquent taxes. Sosar stated Mayor Cusat has signed contracts for the Hazleton Municipal Airport.  He said Mayor Cusat signed a contract, with COSTARS, for the city of Hazleton snow parking ban signs.

Mope said Mayor Cusat “made it up” as he went along.  Sosar said council has the right to hire employees. Mope said council did approve the Chief of Police’s hiring. Mundie said it clarifies what council can do.  Gavio said council should get a legal, written opinion.

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

ORDINANCE PASSES 4-1 ON 1st READING

RESOLUTIONS:

Resolution 2017-93 A Resolution Requesting Local Share Account Funds for City Hall

Presented by Sosar.  Seconded by Mope.

On the Question:

Mope said there are changes in city projects that council is not made aware of.  She said the changes are made “behind closed doors”. She said she doesn’t know where Mayor Cusat “stuck the money”.  Sosar questioned installing an energy efficient gas furnace. Mope said the SPECTS were performed on the original boiler.  She said the radiators needs a new measurement.  She said using steam heat would be the most economical.  Mope said she doesn’t know if the SPECTS were followed.

Cuozzo motioned to table.  Sosar seconded.

Roll Call (On Motion to Table):  Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

Sosar stated this resolution will be put on the December 27th  city council meeting agenda.

RESOLUTION TABLED


Resolution 2017-95 A Resolution Awarding Contract for Downtown Hazleton Revitalization Project- HNB Renovations- Phase 1, with Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, RAC-P funds

Presented by Gavio.  Seconded by Mundie.

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

RESOLUTION PASSES 4-1

Resolution 2017-96 Sale of 2017 Tax Claims to Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority          

Presented by Mope.  Seconded by Cuozzo.

Gavio motioned to table.  Mundie seconded. 

MOTION TO TABLE RESCINDED

Roll Call (On Resolution):  Cuozzo-yes; Gavio-yes; Mope-yes; Sosar-yes; Mundie-yes

RESOLUTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY


Comments from the Audience:  Ken Zipovsky, 3 El Camino Road, Hazleton, Union Member FOP, Lodge 18, stated a Pension Board meeting scheduled for December 20th has been cancelled.  He said he received this notification via e-mail.  He said the meeting was cancelled due to council member Cuozzo’s e-mail.  He said the problem is the pension disagreement is not reaching outside city hall.  He said the media was not made aware of this situation.  He said since May 11, 2017, the pension calculations have been the same.  He said, to date, the police officers are not paid what they are entitled to. Zipovsky stated the ordinance has not changed in the past 17 years. 

Mope said the longer this continues the city will have to pay out.  Mundie said the dispute is over the calculations.  Zipovsky said it should be decided what the proper amount is to be paid.  Zipovsky stated the police officers are more concerned about their pensions instead of what “is going on in the streets”.  Mundie said this cannot be put on council.  Mope said the new council members will have the same struggles.  She said they can make their own decisions.  Cuozzo asked if anyone changed the pension accounts, i.e.- last bank statements for the EIT. 

Sosar stated the headline, in the Standard Speaker, will read city council meeting was “organized chaos”. Mope said council is trying to get an answer.  Mundie said the city policemen should get paid what is left. Mope said what Mayor Cusat stated, at the last council meeting, about the pensions was not in the resolution. 

Bob Condrick, 770 Lincoln Street, Hazleton, said he has lived in the city for the past 61 years.  He said the Hispanics have “taken over”.  He said a kid punched him.  Condrick said he took pictures.  He wants the kids arrested.  He said he also pulled a gun on them.  He said he has heard nothing from the Hazleton Police Department.  Mope asked him if he is still having trouble.  Condrick said the kids “race up the street” in their cars.  Mundie said he will talk with Police Chief Speziale.

Donna Novatnack, 70 West Juniper Street, Hazleton, said she lives across from the Convenient Mart.  She said there has been a “high-pitched” noise from their compressor.  She said she called the Hazleton Police Department and was told it is a zoning issue.  She said she filed a complaint with Code Enforcement Officer Charles Pedri.  Novatnack said she has not heard anything.  Pedri told her it is a “state problem”.  Novatnack said she spoke with Mayor Cusat.  She said Mayor Cusat told her he would take care of it.  She said nothing was done.  She said she has over 30 recordings on her cell phone.

Cuozzo stated she has sent an e-mail to Charles Pedri in Code Enforcement with no response.  Novatnack said the noise goes on all night.  Mundie asked Atty. Sean Logsdon to look into this matter.

Mope said Pedri needs to contact the owner.  Gavio asked Novatnack if the Code Department spoke with the owner. Novatnack said a code enforcement employee went to the Convenient Mart but did not hear a noise. 

Mark Rabo, 8 West 1st Street, Hazleton, spoke of the Pension Board hearing.  He asked council regarding money that was taken out of a pension account without council’s approval.  Rabo said this will happen again with the new council.  Rabo said the city needs to make payroll.  He said under the current government, the mayor and the CEO are separate.  He said council is the board of directors.  Mope agreed, but stated “separate but equal”.  Rabo stated council is elected by the people.  He said he can identify with Police Lieutenant Zipovsky and all the police officers.  He said money needs to be sought before a tax increase could be implemented.  Rabo asked where is the money received from the St. Joseph’s Hospital building and from the airshow at the Hazleton Municipal Airport.  He said there is money owed to the city for them to seek out. 

Dee Deakos, 43 West Mine Street, Hazleton, said a city employee, 10 years ago, was receiving a pension at the age of 50.  She asked why the Pension Board “broke code” to pay this employee at this age. She said people are collecting a pension who are not entitled to.

Comments from Mayor:  None-absent.

Comments from Junior Council:  None.

Comments from Council:  Gavio wished everyone Happy Holidays. 

Cuozzo wished everyone Merry Christmas.  She said a legal board made a decision.  Cuozzo said Mayor Cusat asked council for something else with the pensions.  She said the Pension Board meetings were never advertised.  Cuozzo said she has the Freedom of Information Act behind her. 

Sosar wished everyone a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.  He said there is a “garbage can” opinion taught in our schools.  He said with the current city administration, there is a game being played with no boundaries.  Sosar said the garbage can model goes on in this government. 

Mope stated that no one knows the rules better than David Sosar.  Mope said all the city employees’ paychecks were discontinued and direct deposit was instituted.  She said it was to save money. She said Jack Mundie’s check has not been signed all year. 

Mope thanked Junior Council for coming.  She also thanked the Hazleton Police Department for  

attending.  She wished everyone a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.

Mundie wished everyone a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.

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