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CITY COUNCIL

Administration and Council Summit 09/22/21

 

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SUMMARY
September 22, 2021
5pm

IN ATTENDANCE: J. Waltman, M. Goodman-Hinnershitz, C. Crespo, E. Moran, S. Marmarou, J. Cepeda-Freytiz, L. Sihelnik, F. Denbowski, F. Lachat, M. Ventura, D. Reed, S. Smith, L. Kelleher, T. Rader 69 news

The meeting was called to order at approximately 5:01 pm by Mr. Waltman. Due to COVID-19, the public is prohibited from physically attending this meeting; however, the meeting is available through the virtual app sent out by the City’s communication via internet access or dial-in capability.

INTRODUCTION
Mr. Waltman stated that the items on this evening’s agenda should be discussed jointly on a quarterly basis. He stated that there are many discussion topics listed on the agenda. He suggested covering the first two topics tonight and the others at meetings in the future.

Mayor Moran thanked all for attending. He stated that the agenda shows the Administration’s top priorities. He noted the need for open dialog and collaboration. He stated that COVID did not interrupt City services but that an increase in job vacancies and employees who were out sick have caused some service delays. He expressed the belief that the City does not exist alone and noted the need to engage the community. He stated that the agenda is tied to his campaign pillars.

County Commissioner Rivera arrived at this time.

Mayor Moran stated that the six areas on this agenda will be his focus. He stated that Reading is the fourth largest city in PA and that he plans to use the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to repair streets, sidewalks, and parks. He noted the need for continued collaboration and he looks forward to continued discussions. He requested that he be able to review all six topics before opening up for questions and discussion.

1. Crime

  1. Identifying community groups
  2. Identifying community leaders
  3. Non-profit organizations
  4. Churches – faith-based leaders
  5. Creation of Neighborhood Initiative Coordinator
    1. Can be paid for by ARP funds up to three years
    2. Neighborhood resources will be compiled
  6. Creation of Community Engagement Plan
    1. Looking for Council input and support
    2. To be completed by end of October

 

Mr. Moran stated that the recent youth violence has been a challenge. He stated that violence has always been a priority. He stated that he would like hire a Neighborhood Initiative Coordinator with ARPA funds and to continue to fund the liaison after the ARPA funds are no longer available. He stated that this position would engage community groups and block captains. He stated that he is looking forward to this engagement and expressed the belief that the City cannot combat crime through the Police only. He requested that Council members provide him with community leaders’ names and contact information. He requested this information by the end of October.

Mr. Waltman expressed the belief that crime is the number one concern. He stated that he knows that the Police Chief and the Department are doing the best they can. He agreed that the police cannot address crime alone and that the community does play a role. He stated that he likes the community outreach element of this plan. He stated that Council will address legislation as needed.

Mr. Moran stated that he held his first meeting with a community group today. He stated that this position will work with the police and will introduce officers to the community.

Mr. Rugis arrived at this time.

Mr. Moran stated that he is very enthusiastic and he is seeking every opportunity with Reading’s federal and state delegations for grant opportunities to increase the number of police.

Ms. Sihelnik stated that she is very concerned about the recent gun violence. She stated that she is hopeful that the Mayor will move possible solutions forward. She agreed that all Districts have groups that have been successful and she noted the 18th Wonder’s business and community groups, the South of Penn organization, and Barrio Alegria in District 1. She stated that there are many successful models. She questioned what City department the Neighborhood Initiative Coordinator would report to.

Mr. Moran stated that he is unsure what department the position will report to at this time.

Ms. Talbot arrived at this time.

Ms. Sihelnik questioned how this new position is different from Officer Lillis’s position. Mr. Moran stated that the new position would engage the government and encourage volunteerism and would not address crime.

Ms. Sihelnik suggested that rather than one full time position the Mayor consider multiple part time or per diem employees which would operate in specific neighborhoods or Council Districts. She expressed the belief that City-wide outreach would overwhelm one person. She suggested that this would build momentum.

Mr. Moran stated that he will consider this suggestion. He noted the need to follow the ARPA funding rules but stated that this suggestion is not off the table.

Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz thanked the Mayor for setting a direction. She expressed the belief that some residents don’t recognize their Council representatives. She suggested modeling the “Cease Fire End the Violence” campaign in Philadelphia. She stated that she is working with an organization to submit a grant for a similar program, including visiting Philadelphia to learn more about the program. She suggested modeling this program to fit Reading’s needs and use the best practices. She expressed the belief that offenders do not recognize municipal boundaries and noted the need for regional collaboration. She also noted the need for Reading to control the conversation.

Mr. Lachat left the meeting at this time.

Mr. Moran questioned if the Administration can be in the conversation. Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz stated that she must submit her grant information first and she will then bring the City into the conversation.

Mr. Marmarou noted the need for a better relationship between officers and the community. He suggested that district officers spend some time walking and talking to people as they did in the 1950s. He noted that residents must feel heard.

Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz agreed that a community police officer per Council District would be ideal.

 

Mr. Rivera left the meeting at this time. Mr. Lachat returned to the meeting at this time.

 

Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz agreed that officers should engage with residents while on patrol. She noted the need to better utilize the Junior Police Academy and to believe in the power of youth. She expressed the belief that more positive peer-to-peer interactions are needed. She suggested that church and other non-profits also be engaged and offered a service in lieu of taxes proposal for their assistance. She noted the need for new positions to have performance goals and suggested that goals be met before a salary is paid. She stated that continued crime focuses on the bad events in Reading and there is a need to celebrate all the good.

 

Mr. Moran stated that he does not currently have metrics for this position but that he will provide them to Council. He stated that he agrees with Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz’s comments about accountability.

2. Quality of Life Issues

  1. Performance metrics
  2. IT software is being updated for greater integration
  3. Look to hire a consultant to allow us to get caught up

 

Mr. Moran noted the need for a consultant to help Zoning catch up on permit applications. He stated that a new employee has been hired but is still receiving training. He stated that he will provide an update to Council next week. He noted the need for performance metrics for the consultant and stated that the Clean City Coordinator engages with the community but also needs performance metrics.

 

Ms. Sihelnik noted the need for the City to understand where the pinch points are in the application process before bringing in a consultant.

Mr. Moran stated that Mr. Amoros has been in the room with him. He asked Mr. Amoros to respond.

 

Mr. Amoros stated that there have been personnel challenges. He stated that employees have been out sick. He stated that the Citizen Service Center is overwhelmed but noted that all complaints have been logged. He stated that the consultant will help get the City caught up. He stated that Quality of Life (QoL) complaints are constant and he noted the need for the public to be patient. He stated that all complaints are being taken seriously. He noted the need for a measurable complaint system to track progress. He stated that this will take time and that the City must deal with all these issues before residents can see improvement.

 

Mr. Moran expressed the belief that Zoning needs additional assistance. He stated that he will work closely with the consultant.

 

Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz stated that it appears that Reading is majorly understaffed. She noted her understanding that Act 47 set personnel limits. She stated that she is glad that a consultant is being explored. She noted the need to provide the consultant with goals and timelines. She suggested that some ARPA funds be used for a façade improvement program or incentive. She expressed the belief that many residents want to make home improvements but cannot afford to.

 

Mr. Moran stated that the RFP for the consultant will be awarded in October. He suggested that a façade program with a matching grant may be considered. He stated that the Administration will research to see if this type of program is allowable for ARPA funds. He stated that Mr. Amoros has indicated that this is possible with ARPA funds. He noted the need for a funding formula.

 

Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz noted the need for clear roles and outcomes for the Clean City Coordinator. She questioned how this position fits into QoL issues. Mr. Moran stated that the person in this position has only been there for three months. He stated that when complaints are received this person responds immediately.

 

Ms. Sihelnik expressed the belief that the CD Department requires many consultants. She requested a current organizational chart for the Department along with position descriptions. She also requested the number of vacant positions within CD. She noted the need to understand the impact of the consultant and expressed the belief that working with consultants is similar to working with volunteers in that staff must spend a lot of time with them to give them direction. She noted her concern with the Redevelopment Authority also coming under the supervision of CD. She expressed the belief that CD is carrying a heavy load.

 

Mr. Moran stated that the consultant will evaluate the CD Department for appropriate staffing. He stated that businesses should not need to wait more than 45 days for permits and expressed the belief that this is unacceptable. He stated that additional positions will be addressed in the budget as needed. He stated that the consultant is already trained but it is not a new position. He noted his hope that permits would be caught up within 2 – 3 months.

 

Ms. Sihelnik questioned if temporary staff may be hired. Mr. Moran agreed.

 

Ms. Sihelnik suggested auditing the CD Department for its capacity and effectiveness. Mr. Moran stated that this has already been done and will be addressed in the 2022 budget.

 

Mr. Marmarou noted the need for the consultant to already be trained. He also noted the need to carefully investigate every complaint to be sure they are all addressed. He stated that there are residents of District 4 who are upset that their complaints have gone unaddressed.

 

Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz stated that quality of life includes property maintenance, zoning and trades. She suggested preparing a list of items for the consultant to complete to get the City up to date on permit applications. Mr. Moran agreed.

 

Ms. Reed stated that past reports provided to Councilors describing QoL complaints by District was very helpful. She stated that she requested this report several months ago and it has not yet been provided. She stated that residents come to Councilors with complaints and then again when nothing is done to address them. She noted a lack of communication with residents as there is no follow up with them by City staff. She noted the need for stronger communication and expressed the belief that people are losing faith and are unhappy with the current situation.

 

Mr. Moran stated that he has a QoL summery report by District that he will share with Council.

 

Ms. Reed stated that these reports were provided to Council on a monthly basis in the past. Mr. Moran stated that this will be done.

 

Ms. Reed also noted the need for increased communication with residents.

 

Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz expressed the belief that good comments have been shared. She stated that the administrative transition and COVID, along with staff shortages, have been problematic. She expressed the belief that not all staff evaluate QoL issues to the same standards. She expressed the belief that Cotton St is in abominable condition. She suggested that the consultant also assess City operations before addressing staffing issues in the 2022 budget.

 

Mr. Waltman reminded all of the relationship between property maintenance and crime. He noted the need to fill the gaps. He stated that Council will assist as needed.

 

Ms. Kelleher left the meeting at this time.

 

Mr. Moran agreed with Mr. Waltman. He stated that internal assessments have been done and the budget was drafted accordingly.

 

Ms. Sihelnik also noted the need to address the City’s fine structure and to identify ways to address and help staff do their jobs. Mr. Moran stated that he will have this discussion with CD and legal.

 

3. Homeownership

  1. Exiting Act 47 means losing the Commuter Tax
  2. Replacing it with Real Estate Tax Revenue will be key
  3. Creating homeownership opportunities through Community Development
    1. Partnering with Habitat for Humanity and NHS
    2. Promoting homeownership for residents in Spanish and English

 

Mr. Moran stated that the City is committed to exiting Act 47. He reminded all that when that occurs the City will lose $4.9 million in non-resident EIT funding. He stated that the City cannot tax itself out of that loss and noted the need for increases in the Real Estate Transfer Tax. He noted the need to increase home ownership and to work with NHS and Habitat for Humanity. He noted the need for homeownership information and training to be available in the language that the residents understand. He stated that the Administration is researching grant opportunities and stated that he will add to this topic later during the Blight Removal discussion.

 

Mr. Waltman noted his hope that the State legislature would address the non-resident EIT issue in the near future.

 

Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz noted her support of collaborating with NHS and Habitat and noted the need to continue celebrating new homeowners. She stated that home ownership helps beautify neighborhoods. She suggested an incentive program for employees to become City residents, especially police officers. Mr. Moran noted his agreement and stated that if able, he would do this tomorrow.

 

Ms. Smith suggested, via the chat feature, to consider an incentive program for City employees who are City residents.

 

Ms. Reed stated that the City tried a similar program several years ago and it was not very successful. She noted the need for an incentive to deconvert multi-unit properties. She stated that Reading has seen its property values increase by 18% and expressed the belief that deconverting multi-units back to single family would increase the value even more. She stated that she recently spoke with Mr. Denbowski and Mr. Shuman about this. She stated that the City could be de-densified with owners living in one of the rental units instead of having too many people packed into a property. She requested moving this forward as quickly as possible and noted her hope that the program could begin in January 2022. She stated that this would also relieve some of the parking stress.

 

Mr. Moran noted his agreement. He reminded all about the release of the Parking Study.

 

Mr. Moran requested information about the past employee resident program. Ms. Reed stated that it was managed by Our City Reading. Mr. Moran stated that he will follow up with them.

 

Mr. Waltman stated that the $1 million set aside by Council was to address homeownership and blight. He noted the need to work to move these programs forward.

 

Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz expressed the belief that many owner occupied properties saw an increase in improvements during COVID. She stated that many people are moving to Reading from larger metro areas and noted the need for Reading to take advantage of that and welcome them. She stated that she agrees with Ms. Reed. She noted the need to stop referring to the City’s housing as rowhomes and begin referring to them as townhouses. She noted the need to regenerate the City’s beautiful housing stock.

 

Ms. Sihelnik stated that she agrees with these comments. She noted the need to look at the big picture and create opportunities for market rate housing. She noted the need for different levels of housing and a process for incentive programs. She stated that there are currently no tax incentives for third class cities. She noted the need for an overall strategy with all the pieces coming together.

 

Mr. Moran stated that $2.5 million in tax revenue increases equals 1,000 new homes. He agreed with the need to look at all opportunities.

Ms. Sihelnik stated that, while working with PUMA, it was noted that Reading has a high level of tax exempt properties. She noted the need to consider this as well and noted the need for economic development to counter these non-profits.

 

Mr. Moran stated that economic development is part of the downtown vision.

4. Workforce Development

  1. Began monthly dialogue with GRCA re: programs available to residents
  2. Develop a strategy that engages our colleges and universities

 

Mr. Moran stated that he has started meeting monthly with GRCA. He noted the need to develop a plan to keep Reading’s youth in Reading. He expressed the belief that they need better employment opportunities. He stated that the City cannot create jobs but that it can collaborate with others to create jobs.

 

Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz questioned if Mr. Moran is referring to job training or to an increase in local jobs. Mr. Moran stated that he would like to see both.

 

Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz stated that COVID has created interesting times and expressed the belief that it has reduced people’s desire to work.

 

Mr. Moran stated that his son is a senior in college and that he knew that if he left the Reading area he would not return due to fewer employment opportunities. He noted the need to continue building relationships with Reading colleges and universities.

 

Ms. Sihelnik stated that she regularly speaks with some major Reading employers. She stated that they tell her that there are walk to work jobs with a good salary but that they cannot find or retain qualified and dedicated employees. She stated that this is very concerning and noted the need to develop resident skillsets. She expressed the belief that living wage jobs already exist in Reading.

 

Mr. Moran agreed and stated that this is a national problem. He noted the need to continue to engage with colleges and universities and also speak with business owners to see what skillsets they need. He stated that collaboration should also begin with the Reading School District for programing at the Reading Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center that prepares Reading students for work. He reminded all that Reading was named one of the top 100 cities to live in and to work virtually.

 

Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz stated that many good comments have been made. She expressed the belief that COVID has caused many to lose momentum and some have moved backwards. She expressed the belief that many people have been caught in a downward spiral. She noted the need for youth input and expressed the belief that many social norms do not work.

 

Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz stated that Reading has many emerging entrepreneurs. She suggested that Reading compile a list of vacant office space and retail space for these entrepreneurs. She stated that entrepreneurs are already receiving training but there is nowhere to refer them to for assistance. She stated that many entrepreneurs become employers.

5. Downtown Reading

  1. Providing more resources via DCED and ARP funding
  2. Strengthening relationship between business owners and Morán Administration
  3. Continue focusing on safety and cleanliness
  4. Utilizing Main Street Program from DCED

 

Mr. Moran stated that he refers to downtown as downtown plus. He stated that the strategic plan is being finalized and stated that the plan will be put into action and not put on a shelf.

 

Mr. Waltman noted the need for an update on the Downtown + Plan soon. He expressed the belief that there is much work to do and the City must be deliberate and commit funding to move this Plan forward. He expressed the belief that the Plan will get Reading 80% of what it needs and the City must then build on that. He stated that this has been an exciting process and there is good momentum. He noted that the addition of passenger rail makes things more promising.

 

Ms. Sihelnik requested elaboration on the Main Street initiative. Mr. Amoros stated that he is very familiar with the DCED Main Street program and stated that the program’s creator shared success stories at the PA Downtown Center (PDC) Conference. He stated that approximately 5,300 people live in downtown Reading in addition to the commercial core. He stated that Main Street will be an additional tool for Reading and that Reading will qualify for funding. He noted the need for downtown to be safe, clean and welcoming and to increase tourism. He stated that Reading has applied for Main Street funding and that many attendees at the PDC conference told him they had positive experiences downtown.

 

Mr. Moran noted the need to build positive relationships.

 

Ms. Sihelnik stated that DCED was alarmed when it learned that Reading did not reauthorize DID. She expressed the belief that Main Street will bring benefits to Reading. She noted the need for opportunity zones and taxes to work together.

 

Mr. Moran suggested a presentation on Main Street at an upcoming COW meeting. Mr. Amoros agreed and stated that he will request DCED representatives to attend and answer questions.

 

Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz expressed the belief that all strategic planning has potential. She stated that many buildings downtown have not been maintained or addressed for many years and they are stressed. She stated that this lead to the demolition of much of the south side of the 400 block of Penn St. She expressed the belief that the City also needs an emergency plan to address properties that are in jeopardy. She expressed the belief that Reading cannot afford to lose its core properties. She requested a report from the Administration. She stated that the heart of Penn St cannot be lost and noted that the roof on the American House property is failing.

 

Mr. Moran stated that the properties will be addressed in the Downtown + Plan.

 

Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz stated that if roofs are not repaired, buildings will collapse.

 

Mr. Waltman stated that he agreed with Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz but that the Plan will identify infrastructure needs. He expressed the belief that City funding can be leveraged for additional private funding.

 

Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz stated that if the buildings are not addressed they will fall and the core will not be salvageable.

 

Mr. Moran requested that Councilors bring specific buildings to his attention so they can be addressed.

 

Ms. Reed stated that she toured the inside of the Whitner’s and Farr’s buildings before they were demolished and that there were ax holes in the roofs and ceilings. She stated that this was willful neglect in an historic district. She stated that during the Collegetowne ribbon cutting event people were pointing out defects in other buildings to her and holding her accountable for the buildings’ conditions.

 

Mr. Moran noted the need for the City to follow proper rules of enforcement.

 

Ms. Reed expressed the belief that many of the downtown properties have the same owners for many years. She expressed the belief that they were purchased by speculators who have not invested or maintained their properties. She stated that the situation at the ribbon cutting was embarrassing and humiliating. She noted the need for Reading to address its problems.

 

Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz noted her agreement with comments made by others. She noted the need for the Mayor to hold his staff accountable and to hold property owners accountable. She again suggested a façade grant program. She stated that Reading had participated in Main Street in the past and suggested that the wheel did not need to be reinvented but that there should be an evaluation about why the program was not successful. She stated that West Reading’s Main St and Elm St Programs are very successful. She requested an update on the development at the Madison and Reading Eagle buildings including plans and timelines.

 

Ms. Sihelnik agreed with Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz. She also noted the need for the City to be responsible property owners downtown. She stated that Reading cannot control private owners but that there are zero excuses for the gross neglect of the 5th & Penn properties. She stated that Reading must be proper stewards of these buildings and do the work that’s needed. She stated that their current condition is unacceptable and noted her hope that this is a top priority.

 

Mr. Moran agreed.

 

Mr. Waltman stated that downtown has been distressed for many years. He noted his hope that work on the Downtown + Plan will make Reading more marketable. He noted the need to protect Reading’s infrastructure and invest in downtown. He stated that some properties may need to be demolished and that will be a difficult decision.

 

Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz questioned current downtown resources and how relationships with business owners can be strengthened. She noted the need to address the homeless population and drug users. She stated that these issues are getting worse. She questioned the status of community policing.

 

Mr. Moran stated that these are real problems. He noted the need to collaborate with others and get these people placements.

 

Mr. Lachat left the meeting at this time.

 

Mr. Waltman noted the need for all these items to fit together. He expressed the belief that Council has great ideas and understands the issues. He noted the need to focus on solutions and stated that Reading is a growing City.

6. Blight Removal – Redevelopment Authority

  1. Land Bank discussions with Greater Reading Berks Alliance and Berks County
  2. Using CDBG funding through RDA to remediate and demolition
  3. Meeting with RDA tomorrow re: ARP request for additional funding

 

Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz noted the need for incentives to improve properties and suggested that neighborhoods address properties within them in the way they see most appropriate. She expressed the belief that Reading contains many treasures. She expressed the belief that Reading needs to get better at marketing and telling its story. She noted the need to change the narrative.

 

Mr. Moran agreed.

 

Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz stated that the City has tried to address blight several times and noted the great work of the Blighted Property Review Committee. She stated that barriers remain and described the current situation in the 1500 block of Fairview St. She stated that this blighted property sits in an otherwise beautiful neighborhood. She noted the need to engage the banks that own foreclosed properties. She expressed the belief that this building will collapse and bring down the entire neighborhood. She stated that this condition has existed for too long and it has taken the City too much time to respond.

 

Mr. Moran requested that Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz provide specific details to Mr. Amoros about this property.

 

Ms. Talbot left the meeting at this time.

 

Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz stated that she has worked with multiple Administrations, including this one, on this property. Mr. Moran requested that Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz call him directly.

 

Ms. Sihelnik stated that she is glad to see that land banking is being considered. She noted her concern with the Reading Redevelopment Authority (RRA) becoming part of the CD Department. She expressed the belief that the City must allow the RRA to be effective and to learn what their capacity is to get work done. She expressed the belief that the City should not be in the real estate business. She stated that Council has not been shown how the integration has changed the organizational chart and how CD and RRA operate. She stated that many of this evening’s topics involve CD and noted the need to have an overall focus.

 

Mr. Moran sated that they are focused. He noted the need for appropriate ethical and legal follow up.

 

Ms. Sihelnik stated that she is concerned with the structure of the CD Department.

 

Mr. Moran stated that CD has many aspects. He stated that he does not have all the answers and that he is not always the smartest man in the room. He noted the need to obtain Council input and for all City Departments to work collaboratively.

 

Ms. Reed stated that many of this evening’s items relate to quality of life. She expressed the belief that work should have been proactive for many years and noted the need to address issues quickly as soon as they are seen. She noted the need for strong enforcement of all the City’s zoning and property maintenance regulations. She noted the need to involve community groups and to get to work. She noted the need to inform property owners that they are responsible for maintaining their property and are also responsible to their neighbors.

 

Mr. Moran agreed.

 

Mr. Waltman again noted the $1 million set aside by Council to address blight. He stated that many properties have been certified as blighted but there has been no follow through. He expressed the belief that blight won’t go away on its own. He stated that Council’s frustration is because they hear directly from residents who are frustrated themselves because they see their issues every day. He expressed the belief that everyone is working on the same page.

 

Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz stated that Councilors are part time elected officials. She expressed the belief that paid staff should be experienced and they should allow Council to help them get their improve their work on various issues. She stated that this work can be overwhelming. She noted the need to always be thinking about next steps, follow ups, timelines and achievement goals.

 

Mr. Moran suggested reconvening again with metrics and an engagement plan. He thanked Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz for providing community leaders in her District. He expressed the belief that this was a very fruitful meeting and noted the need to continue to collaborate. He agreed that the wheel does not need to be reinvented.

 

Mr. Waltman suggested using this agenda as a guide through the 2022 budget review. He suggested that the next summit be held at the end of 2021 after the budget has been finalized.

 

Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz suggested intersecting this agenda with the budget presentations. She stated that she views the City budget as the plan to invest the City taxpayer dollars to address City issues. She agreed with the need for measures and outcomes. She expressed the belief that taxpayers are providing a grant to Reading and the same philosophy should be applied to the budget as is with other grants.

 

Ms. Sihelnik thanked Mr. Moran for this meeting and expressed the belief that there was great dialog. She encouraged all to communicate with one another and asked the Mayor to attend future Council meetings to continue the dialog.

 

Mr. Moran requested that Councilors meet with him one-on-one on at least a monthly basis and stated that this can start right away. He stated that the meetings can occur inside or outside City Hall. He noted the need to continue communicating and to create synergy. He expressed the belief that all want a better Reading but it will only happen when everyone works together. He requested that all send him their meeting availability and agreed that quarterly summits should be held to review metrics.

 

Mr. Waltman expressed the belief that meeting quarterly is the perfect approach.

 

Mr. Moran thanked all for attending and expressed the belief that this was the best two hours he’s had with Council. He expressed the belief that COVID may have put a damper on work but that he will work hard to recover and make Reading better.

 

Mr. Waltman agreed that all Councilors work hard and put in much more time than their part time status would indicate. He thanked all for participating.

ACTION STEPS

  • Councilors submit community leaders’ names and contact information to the Mayor
  • Mayor provide metrics for the Neighborhood Initiative Coordinator position
  • Mayor provide Zoning application backlog update to Council
  • Research if ARPA funding is available for a façade improvement matching grant program
  • Updated organizational chart and job descriptions of CD along with current vacancies
  • Monthly QoL reports by Council District to City Council members
  • Mayor provide QoL report to City Council
  • Analyze the City’s fine structure
  • Façade improvement program
  • Encourage City employees to become City residents
  • Consider incentive program for City employees who are already City residents
  • Incentive program to deconvert multi-unit properties back to single family
  • Create opportunities for market rate housing
  • Compile list of vacant office and retail spaces and entrepreneur referral
  • Main Street Program presentation at upcoming COW meeting
  • Report to Council on core Penn St properties’ structural safety and needs
  • Councilors submit downtown properties with structural needs to the Mayor
  • Update on projects and timelines at Madison and Reading Eagle buildings
  • Address maintenance issues at 5th & Penn properties
  • Improve relationships with downtown business owners
  • Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz to provide information about 1500 block Fairview St property to Mr. Amoros to be addressed
  • Schedule quarterly summits for continued collaboration and achievement updates
  • Mayor attend future Council meetings
  • Councilors begin meeting one-on-one with the Mayor on a monthly basis

 

The meeting concluded at 6:59pm.

Respectfully submitted by
Shelly Smith, CMC
City Clerk