State of the City of Hazleton - January 2012
Hazleton City Mayor Joe Yanuzzi delivered his State of the City speech this morning, January, 25, 2012, during a Greater Hazlteon Chamber of Commerce Red Carpet Breakfast.
Here is a transcript of his remarks.
Good Morning everyone.
I like to thank the chamber for having me.
Also, KNBT for hosting this breakfast.
First let me say this, read my lips. I am not selling the water authority. TODAY
I did not bring that up. Jackie Mundie keeps talking about it. Since he brought it up, it is worth discussing. But not today. I have decided not to sell it today. If it were only that simple to do.
In 2009, the city audit showed a loss of one million four hundred thousand dollars.
In 2010, Lou was still Mayor. We worked together to make some very important adjustments. We unfortunately had to raise the taxes. We made some changes to hold the expenses down.
What we did proved to be tremendous for the City of Hazleton. Our 2010 audit showed a loss of thirty thousand dollars. Not perfect, but exceptional.
2011 is close to showing the city in the black.
2012 is budgeted to balance out. So, in my opinion,
the State of the City is fine, financially.
That is for this year.
2013 will be a challenge. The city stands to lose
five hundred and eighty thousand dollars in revenue.
The payment for the purchase of the property by Hazleton Creek Properties goes from 600 hundred thousand dollars to 20 thousand dollars annually.
We have several alternatives for increasing revenues.
First, almost every municipality in Luzerne County is in the red or struggling to stay out of it.
The gaming money
Luzerne county’s share amounts to 12 million dollars annually. Right now it is given to DCED and the agency asks for grant applications from everyone.
They want you to explain why you want funds and what you want to do with this money, such as for parks, playgrounds, or monuments – projects we can build, but projects we can’t maintain.
They pick the ones they think are the best ideas and award grants for those.
I believe they should divide the 12 million dollars by Luzerne County’s population: 308 thousand people.
That would provide approximately $38.96 per person.
Multiply that amount by the population of each municipality, and that is how much would be provided to those municipalities.
Hazleton’s population is 25,340. Multiply our population by the $38.96 per person and Hazleton’s share would be $987,246.64 annually… Enough to solve our problems and more. Hazle Township would receive more than $350,000… same with Butler Township.
Even Jeddo Borough would receive around $3,500.
Every municipality would receive its fair share. Every municipality would be in the black.
DCED could place restrictions on how a municipality can spend the grant money. It could be used only on approved past debt obligations, confirmed by an audit. Or, only on infrastructure or safety and services that benefit the residents of your municipality.
Another alternative is to go Home Rule completely.
We are now on plan B. This would allow us the right to
Earned income tax (EIT) revenue. Only people employed
would pay a small amount. Our seniors and property owners would not pay anything!
Either one of these alternatives would be difficult to accomplish. It would take the support of the community. Citizens would need to get involved, putting pressure our representatives to change the gaming money distribution and return it to the taxpayers of Luzerne County.
Voters would have to vote in favor of a change to Home Rule. But, it can be done.
What have we accomplished in 2011
I won an election.
Think about this, because I am probably the oldest person at 74 to be elected to a first term as Mayor.
Thank you to those of you that voted for me. To those that did not vote for me, let’s get back to our 2011 accomplishments.
Through the cooperation of the Chamber and its Downtown Committee, we put into effect the Overlay Ordinance for Downtown Hazleton. This will help keep the Downtown beautiful.
We created a vacant and blighted property committee. Together, they can identify these properties for action. We took the street light repairs back in house. We now have a quicker response and are saving money.
We brought the airport operation back in house as well.
This is now operated by the City and an advisory board. I am very pleased with the improvements they have made. I am also excited about the interest a developer has taken in some of the land by the airport.
We hired two part-time code enforcement officers and a part-time health officer. We are aggressively going after code violators as you have seen in the recent newspaper articles.
We hired 5 new police officers bringing the force up to 41. We restructured the chain of command by promoting four officers to lieutenants and filling the positions of sergeants and corporals.
We converted over to 9 1 1, freeing up one officer and one civilian dispatcher and placing the officer back on patrol. The dispatcher is now doing administrative duties.
The police force is a more lean and efficient force.
We started our surveillance camera program and now have 33 cameras purchased by local merchants displayed on two large screens.
With the cooperation of the Hazleton Water Authority, we are installing antennas on the water tanks on Ninth Street, McKinley Street, and the McArthur beltway tanks. This will open up the entire city to cameras.
We will be installing cameras in all of our playgrounds as well. The cameras have been a valuable tool in solving crimes making this program a very successful one.
Couple that with a new police station. If we can get the grant to remodel it, our police department would be second to none in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
We signed a lease agreement with V3 Power, a wind generator manufacturer. They are committed to constructing a pilot project in the spring that would locate an electrical generator building on the Tri-Area Recreation Authority’s property.
If the pilot project meets the company’s expectations, they will be manufacturing these generators right here in Hazleton.
The Broad Street Corridor Project is starting to shape up. People are visualizing what it will be like when completed.
In December, the DeAngelo Brothers started moving 22 people, mostly their IT department, into Hayden Tower in downtown Hazleton. I can’t thank them enough for their investment in our ideas for downtown.
I know what the DeAngelo brothers are doing will make it more appealing for other businesses to invest in downtown Hazleton.
We are now in the process of finalizing a robotic garage for downtown Hazleton. This will feature a combination of storefronts, offices, and the modern robotic parking garage.
All of these improvements will enhance and stimulate a progressive movement in downtown, causing the desire to invest and create jobs in our largest business section –Downtown Hazleton.
There are future projects planned for downtown that I hopefully will be able to announce this coming year.
My promise to the people of Hazleton is that I will make your city safer and cleaner. Safer with a well-trained, pro-active police force… safer with a well-trained and well-equipped fire department, and cleaner with an aggressive, undeterred code and health department, maintaining a safer and cleaner city with a public works department comprised of skilled, hard-working employees.
Finally, an administration that is helpful, compassionate, forward thinking, and creative.
A safer, cleaner Hazleton can only be accomplished with the cooperation of the residents of Hazleton. Citizens must do their fair share. They must assist in the cleaning up of our city. They must assist in policing our city. They must report code violations as soon as they see them. They must report suspicious activities as soon as they see them. We can’t give the criminals a chance to settle in. We must make it uncomfortable for them.
We outnumber the bad guys.
We have a great police force.
Use them. Together, we can stop the decline of our community and rebuild a great city, a Hazleton we can be proud of.
God bless you
God bless Hazleton