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CITY COUNCIL

Committee of the Whole Summary 04/26/21

 

April 26, 2021
5:00 P.M.
Virtual Meeting

 

COUNCIL MEMBERS PRESENT:
M. Goodman-Hinnershitz, D. Reed, J. Cepeda-Freytiz, L. Sihelnik (all electronically), M. Ventura, S. Marmarou (via dial in)

OTHERS PRESENT:
L. Kelleher, M. Rodriguez, C. Jones, S. Rugis, J. Long, R. Tornielli, F. Lachat, W. Stoudt, J. Kelly, F. Denbowski, J. Abodalo (all electronically)

The meeting was called to order at 5:12 pm by Ms. Sihelnik. Due to the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration, the public is prohibited from physically attending the meeting. The meeting is convened via virtual app.

  1. 2021 Paving & Pothole Repair

    Mr. Rugis displayed a PowerPoint presentation through the screen share feature on the administrations paving plan and pothole blitz for 2021. He noted that COVID caused a one year delay in this work. In combination with PennDOT and UGI the following paving projects are planned for the 2021 paving season funded by Liquid Fuels funding:

    • Morgantown Road – Lancaster Ave. to RR Bridge at Brentwood
    • St. Bernadine St – Completion
    • Colston, High, Denton Sts.
    • 6th St. - Canal to Penn St.
    • Court St – Bridge to 9th St.
    • Church St. - Court St. to Woodward St.
    • McKnight St. – Spring to W. Windsor St.
    • Cedar St. – 200 block to include the 600 block
    • 18th Wonder projects

    In addition the administration plans to:

    • Continue work on the ADA RAMPS
    • Traffic Signalization
    • PennDOT – Joint reconstruction project of RR Crossings – Design Phase
    • Add lined parking spaces on repaved streets in residential areas

    The tentative 2022 schedule is:

    City

    • S. 8th St.
    • River Front Drive – Front to 4th St.
    • Hancock & E. Wyomissing Blvds.
    • N. 12th ST. – 1300
    • W. Windsor – Lincoln to Front St.

    PennDOT

    • 5th St
    • N. 13th St and Hampden Blvd.\Spring St. [Including Signals]

    Mr. Rugis stated that the administration plans to conduct neighborhood meetings to get input about the tentative schedule and use that input to finalize the plans. The Downtown Plus plan recommendations will also be considered.

    Mr. Rugis explained that the pothole blitz will begin the 2nd week in May and combine crews from the City, PennDOT, RAWA and UGI. Potholes should be reported through the CSC via phone call and the iRequest app. He noted that the Warren Street Bypass will be included.

    Mr. Waltman connected with the meeting.

    Mr. Marmarou noted his agreement with the return of the parking stall lines. Ms. Kelleher noted the need for an amendment to the Vehicle and Traffic Code sections 576-403 and 416 as parking stall line violations were eliminated a number of years ago.

    In response to a question from Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz, Mr. Jones stated that advance communication with all utilities about the repaving plan will provide them with ample opportnity to perform any underground work prior to the repaving. He explained that City crews film underground sewer lines so repairs can be made prior to the repaving.

    Mr. Rugis stated that the plan will be uploaded to the website. Mr. Sihelnik suggested providing smaller breakout maps showing improved detail and updating those maps as work begins and is completed.

    Ms. Reed inquired about the River Road Extension project. Mr. Jones stated that the UGI work has been completed and MetEd has started their work. He noted that the RAWA work will occur when the contractor begins due to the need for major excavation.

    Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz suggested educating the public in advance about the street paving process and how that process will impact their daily lives so people can prepare.

  2. Agenda Review

    Mr. Waltman led Council through the regular meeting agenda.

    • Public Comment

    Ms. Kelleher stated that two people will be providing comment on agenda matters by connecting with the meeting virtually and one provided written comment.

    • Consent Agenda Legislation

    A. Award of Contract – for Bituminous Materials and Asphalt Cement for the Public Works Department to New Enterprise Stone & Lime Company, Winfield, PA for the price of $45,000.00. The actual expenditure may be greater or less than the estimate based upon the need of the materials

    B. Award of Contract – LFT Engineering Consultant to McCormick Taylor, Exton, PA, as follows: 2021 - $210,000, 2022 - $210,000, 2023 – $210,000 - Total price of the contract will be $630,000 for paving, road construction, road maintenance, etc.

    • Report from Dept. Directors, Boards, Authorities & Commissions

    Report from the Police and Fire Civil Service Boards by Steve Price, Board Solicitor

    • 9. Ordinances for Final Passage

    A. Bill 30-2021 - Amending the 2021 Position ordinance by reassigning two (2) police

    Officers from the Patrol Division to the Criminal Investigation Division who will be assigned to the State Police Auto Task Force, fully funded by the Pennsylvania State Police Auto Theft Taskforce Introduced at the April 12 regular meeting

    Chief Tornielli explained that the State Police Auto Task Force has had two (2) patrol officers assigned since 2004 and this amendment will denote the permanence of the arrangement. He noted that the salaries of the officers assigned are paid through the State Police.

    B. Bill 31-2021 – Amending the City Code Chapter 77, Part 1 Police Department by amending the experience requirements for the position of Captain and striking Section 110 College Credits for Sergeant, Lieutenant and Captain and reserving that section Introduced at the April 12 regular meeting

    Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz stated that some additional information was recently requested and she suggested tabling the ordinance until that information is reviewed and discussed. Five council members concurred.

    Mr. Waltman stated that he will allow the matter to be tabled until the May 10th and he asked Ms. Kelleher to schedule another discussion on this topic at the May 3rd COW.

    Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz suggested separating the two matters into individual ordinances.

    Chief Tornielli agreed with the separation of the two issues and he stated that he will have the information compiled by the week’s end.

    C. Bill 32-2021 – authorizing the Agreement of Sale for 313 A South 8th Street for $600, after the City followed its purchasing policy by notifying the surrounding neighbors of the property that the property was available for bid Introduced at the April 12 regular meeting

    D. Bill 33-2021 – authorizing the Agreement of Sale for 423 Schuylkill Avenue, Reading PA to the Reading Parking Authority for $25,000 Introduced at the April 12 regular meeting

    Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz questioned how the community was informed about the availability of this lot. Mr. Lachat stated that the City’s policies require the City to inform the surrounding properties that the lot is available. That notification was made. He noted that citizens have the ability to comment and provide input at each regular meeting.

    • Introduction of New Ordinances

    A. Ordinance – amending the zoning map by moving 226 North 5th Street into the same zoning district as 230 North 5th Street, also known as the Medical Arts Building property, into the same Commercial (C-C) Zoning District. As part of the project, both properties will be combined into a single parcel for commercial uses and residential apartments. Public Hearing scheduled during the May 3rd COW

    Ms. Reed inquired if HARB approval was obtained prior to the construction of the building that is proposed for this site. Ms. Kelleher stated that HARB consideration would occur after the zoning amendment is approved.

    B. Ordinance – amending the zoning map by moving 654, 656, 658 & 660 Schuylkill Avenue into the same Commercial Neighborhood (C-N) Zoning District for a mixed use development. As part of the project the properties will be combined into a single parcel for a convenience store/restaurant, a barbershop, dwelling units, and a shared parking area. Public Hearing scheduled during the May 3rd COW

    Ms. Reed expressed the belief that this amendment will provide much needed cohesion in this neighborhood.

    C. Ordinance – amending City Code Chapter 353 Loitering; Obstructing Public Places, by renaming the Chapter Loitering and Panhandling, creating replacing a diversionary program to be used to address aggressive panhandling or loitering when it is reported to the Reading Police Department or when police officers encounter it and eliminating the possibility of a prison sentence

    Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz inquired if community input was used to draft this ordinance. Ms. Reed replied that Council has had a considerable amount of public comment on this issue at regular meetings, on Facebook and offline. She noted that this is the 3rd time Council is considering this amendment over an 18 month period of time.

    Ms. Sihelnik agreed noting that during the pandemic period Council has expanded the public’s ability to provide comment. She noted her agreement with the diversionary approach that the ordinance takes. She suggested considering the same approach in other areas.

    Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz stated that some inappropriately believe that this ordinance is focused only on Penn Street when it will apply to the entire City. She noted that the ordinance is not addressing those who panhandle in a peaceful manner but only those who in some way become aggressive.

    Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz requested an update on the CARES funding the City will receive. Mr. Kelly stated that guidance has not yet been released by the Federal Treasury about how the funding can be used. The funding will issued in two rounds – the 1st in May 2021 and the 2nd in May 2022.

    Ms. Kelleher clarified that the funding is from the American Recovery Plan, not CARES.

    D. Ordinance - authorizing an appropriations transfer of $40,634.03 from Project #31-01-03, GL#01-00-00-2990 – Fund Balance to project #31-01-03 under GL #31-01-00-4510 General Plant Supplies in order to make the Samuel Pottieger Trust donations available for use during the current fiscal year

    Mr. Kelly explained that the mayor’s office receives an annual allocation from the Samuel Pottieger Trust, beginning in 2003. This transfer will free the funding to be used toward the Gun Buy-back program.

    E. Ordinance – authorizing an amendment to the 2021 Budget revenues reflecting the increase of $1,427,667 in General Fund revenue pursuant to the recently negotiated Cooperation Agreement with the Reading Parking Authority

    Mr. Kelly stated that this is the first transaction based on the recently negotiated Cooperation Agreement. The subsequent transactions will cover the expenditures required by the agreement.

    • Resolutions

    A. Resolution – authorizing the execution of the Agreement between the City and Hope Rescue Mission to utilize Hope’s Clean Team to clean and maintain the downtown area formerly serviced by the Downtown Improvements District Authority.

    Mr. Lachat stated that this issue was covered by Ms. Castner at last week’s COW and the agreement will provide payment for services that are currently provided by Hope Rescue Mission volunteers.

    Mr. Denbowski stated that the agreement is for one year and either party can terminate the agreement early with 60 days’ notice. He stated that this short term agreement provides both parties with the opportunity to test and refine this new arrangement.

    Ms. Sihelnik expressed concern that the agreement uses the term Downtown Improvement District (DID) which no longer exists. She stated that last week Council was told that the focus is only on Penn Street and nothing elsewhere. Mr. Denbowski agreed, noting that the same level of service was never provided to each area and block and that the main focus was always on Penn Street. He stated that other areas will be covered with the level of services required.

    Mr. Lachat agreed, noting that the language in the agreement was used to provide flexibility.

    Ms. Sihelnik inquired about the City’s liability for injuries to Hope Rescue Mission workers, how many employees will be used and what hours they will work.

    Mr. Lachat stated that the liability issue is complicated and is based on each individual situation. He added that the agreement contains a clause providing indemnification from liability for both parties.

    Mr. Denbowski stated that the City is looking at a seven day work week shared in partnership with the Clean City crew.

    Ms. Sihelnik inquired about the training to the Mission staff. Mr. Denbowski described the vetting and training provided.

    Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz suggested amending the agreement by striking the term DID. Mr. Lachat was asked to draft language to describe the boundaries prior to the start of the regular meeting.

    B. Resolution – reappointing Ann Sellers to the Environmental Advisory Council

    C. Resolution – appointing Ryan Yanchocik to the Recreation Commission

    D. Resolution - approving the settlement of the federal lawsuit with the caption Gary Mogel v. City of Reading, Case 2:18-CV-01512 and the payment of the negotiated settlement

  3. Executive Session

    The seven members of Council, Ms. Kelleher, Mr. Lachat, and Chief Stoudt remained in the meeting. All others were removed.

    Council entered executive session regarding litigation at 6:25 pm. Council exited executive session and the meeting adjourned at 6:28 pm.

Respectfully Submitted by
Linda A. Kelleher, CMC, City Clerk