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Committee of the Whole Summary 09/27/21


September 27, 2021
5:00 P.M.
Hybrid Meeting



S. Marmarou, (in person), J. Waltman, D. Reed, L. Sihelnik, J. Cepeda-Freytiz, M. Ventura, M. Goodman-Hinnershitz (electronically)

L. Kelleher (in person), A. Amoros, S. Rugis, C. Crespo, M. Rodriguez, R. Tornielli, J. Kelly, J. Long, W. Stoudt, J. Abodalo, M. Oppenheimer, F. Denbowski, E. Moran and D. Schalk, K. Hestor, S. Matarella, J. Masano, D. Talarico all representing the 18th Wonder (all electronically)

The meeting was called to order at 5:30 pm by Ms. Sihelnik, who apologized for the late start due to the executive to interviews with Council Solicitor applicants that took longer than originally expected.

  1. 18thWonder Street Sweeping Proposal

    Ms. Sihelink introduced the 18th Wonder representatives.

    Ms. Hestor and Ms. Matarella gave a PowerPoint presentation on the 18th Wonder’s desire to begin a street sweeping pilot program covering the entire 18th Ward area, over 32.2 miles, in an attempt to rid the area of litter and enhance the recent beautification efforts. They noted that the City currently spends $1.8M a year for litter abatement and suggested that the street sweeping program can reduce the cost of litter abatement. They stated that the proposed program would run five (5) days per week with no night-time or weekend service over the entire year. They noted that residents would not be inconvenienced by having to move their vehicles.

    Ms. Hestor and Ms. Matarella stated that they are looking to offset the cost of the City-supported program through having 20 sponsors contribute a minimum of $5,000 toward the program creating a local investment of $100,000, noting that the Masano dealerships contributed $10,000 already.

    Mr. Masano stated that the group proposes either a Diesel Sweeper at the cost of $259,000 or $12,500 per month or an Hybrid Electric sweeper at the cost of $379,000 or $22,500 a month and hiring a driver (contract union driver or prevailing wage temporary employee) at $105,000 annually. This rate includes coverage for evening and weekend hours. Weekly meetings with the City will occur for coordination.

    Ms. Ventura inquired if this is a new street sweeping program of if the program will be a supplement to an existing program. Mr. Masano stated that a few years ago, the City responded to the 18th Wonder’s request for street sweeping by performing the service on Wednesdays. This new program would supplement that already provided by the City, creating a program running seven (7) days a week; evenings and weekends included.

    Mr. Marmarou noted that at one time the 18th Ward was the cleanest area of the City. He inquired if this new program would only cover Lancaster Avenue. Mr. Masano stated that the program would cover the entire 18th Ward area, approximately 32.2 miles.

    Mr. Waltman noted his longstanding belief that street sweeping by the City makes people believe that they are nor responsible for the cleanliness of their properties and encourages them to sweep debris into the street for the sweeper rather than disposing the debris with their household trash, which makes neighborhoods look trashier. He noted the need for the administration to weigh-in.

    Mr. Amoros stated that the administration will deliberate and advise.

    Ms. Sihelnik noted that this initiative mirrors the mayor’s priorities, especially as a public-private partnership.

    Mr. Kelly inquired if the funding would come from ARPA or Capital. Mr. Waltman stated that the administration will make that recommendation.

    Mr. Schalk inquired about the decision timeline, noting their willingness to make this a collaboration. He stated that the group is open to additional meetings to discuss the proposed pilot progam.

  2. Public Meetings during the Pandemic

    Ms. Sihelnik stated that over the past year and a half the City and other governments were forced to modify their meeting styles and types and rethink operations around the meet to hold public meeting that allow public observation and participation.

    Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz agreed noting the shifts made to improve the public’s ability to observe meetings and participate in meetings as the pandemic continued.

    Ms. Sihelnik stated that various public notices went out in advertisements, social media outlets, on agendas, on meeting minutes and on the City’s website over the past year advising the public about shifts or changes to improve the public’s ability to observe and participate. She noted the great increase in the number of people viewing Council COWs and regular meetings compared to the pre-pandemic in-person meetings.

    Ms. Kelleher stated that when people contact the office about providing public comment at regular meetings they are pleased with how much more convenient it is to provide comment via the meeting link, dial-in or in writing.

    Mr. Waltman expressed the belief that a small number of individuals are complaining about the alleged lack of public access to meetings compared to those observe and participate through the numerous outlets and who continue to reach out to individual elected officials through regular channels.

    Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz inquired about the ability of people to view the meetings from the Penn Room if they do not have the ability to connect through the internet or dial-in. Ms. Kelleher that option started weeks ago; however, due to the size of the room attendance is limited. She noted that the Fire Marshal provided disposable masks and a thermometer. The Desk Sergeant can assist if people refuse to cooperate.

    Ms. Reed agreed that the City has done a good job adjusting and keeping the public informed.

    Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz stated that the City cannot control the pandemic, but the City can help to protect the safety of the public and public officials.

  3. Agenda Review

    Consent Agenda
    A. Resolution 89-2021
    – amending the CDBG Action Plan in the amount of $1.3M in CDBG funding to replace Engine 3 housed at the 3rd and Court Sts. fire station and to purchase a new apparatus to replace Engine 9 housed at the 9th and Marion Sts. fire station. The CDBG funding will be provided by closing out the previous year CDBG activities and reducing the funding for the delayed Department of Public Works projects and assist meeting the annual CDBG Timeliness Test requirement.

    Mr. Waltman inquired if an ordinance was required to authorize the expenditure of funds. After some discussion, Ms. Kelleher pointed out that the annual CDBG Action Plan is adopted by resolution as per HUD regulations; therefore the approval of additional legislation to expend funds is unnecessary.

    B. Resolution 90-2021 – authorizing the execution and resubmission of the application for Phase 2 of the Egleman’s Park Improvement Project; total project cost of $325,000, $250,000 through a DCED Greenways, Trails and Recreation Program grant and $75,000 through the CIP

    Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz requested that this resolution be considered under the Resolution heading to allow discussion.

    C. Award of Contract – for Engineering and Planning Review Services to Hawk Valley Associates, Mohnton, PA in the amount of $80,000.00

    D. Award of Contract – 9th and Marion Fire Station for plumbing Vision Mechanical, Reading PA at the cost of $646,940

    E. Award of Contract – 9th and Marion Fire Station for electrical to Hirneisen Electric, Reading PA at the cost of $1,048,000

    F. Award of Contract – 9th and Marion Fire Station for general contracting to Perrotto Builders, Reading PA at the cost of $5,948,000

    G. Award of Contract – 9th and Marion Fire Station for fire protection to Triangle, Carlisle PA at the cost of $127,900

    Chief Stoudt explained that HVAC is still required for the 9th and Marion Fire Station.

    A. Bill No 65-2021
    – Authorizing the transfer of $45,000 within the 2021 Department of

    Public Works, Utilities Division budget from 55-07-48-4216 Contracted Services to 55-07-48-4101 Power & Light to cover storm related Electrical costs for the rest of the year Introduced at the September 13 regular meeting

    B. Bill No. 67-2021– authorizing a budget transfer for legal services rendered to the Charter Board in the amount of $30,000 from the Law, Special Counsel, Legal Services Introduced at the September 13 regular meeting

    C. Bill No. 68-2021 – authorizing the amendment of the CIP Budget by providing $248,578 in funding for the cost of the fire system upgrades at the Main Library building. To be paid by Public Works Public Property budget line item Introduced at the September 13 regular meeting

    D. Bill No. 69-2021 – authorizing the transfer of $1,033,992.26 within the Agency Fund from Contracted Services to Grants and Gifts for the purchase of EMS equipment using $983,672.73 in FEMA grant funding Introduced at the September 13 regular meeting

    Chief Stoudt explained that this is a multi-municipal grant to allow the purchase of EMS related equipment to EMS service providers.

    E. Bill No. 70-2021– authorizing the appropriation of $3M in American Rescue Plan Act funding to the Berks County Convention Center Authority (BCCCF) for the Santander Arena and the Performing Arts Center to assist with them to recover from the financial losses due to the closure of the facilities due to the pandemic Introduced at the September 13 regular meeting

    F. Bill No. 71-2021 – authorizing the amendment of the CIP budget to transfer funds in the amount of $46,425 to cover the cost of 3rd & Spruce Gym HVAC Introduced at the September 13 regular meeting

    G. Bill No. 72-2021 – increasing the base salary of the Deputy Chief of Police to $101,757.04 per annum Introduced at the September 13 regular meeting

    Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz stated that the increase is contractual, not performance based.

    Ms. Reed inquired if this is a permanent change of if similar increases will be needed moving forward.

    Mr. Lachat stated that the name of the Deputy Chief was removed from the ordinance and future changes will occur as mandated by the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations. He stated that approving this ordinance is consistent with the requirements in the PA Chief’s Act, requiring those who have moved up from the ranks to retain their benefits when rising to these top spots within the department.

    Mr. Kelly noted that there are salary ranges defining the minimum and maximum for various positions which gives the administration the ability to consider where to set the salary based on the skill and qualification of the applicant. He stated that when he was hired, he was offered a salary in the mid-point of the salary range.

    Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz inquired if the salary for the position will increase again in 2022. Mr. Lachat stated that the existing CBA does not expire until the beginning of 2023.

    Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz requested a copy of the salary range ordinance.

    A. Ordinance
    – authorizing an increase in the base salary of the Wastewater Treatment Plant Laboratory Supervisor by $5,000 per annum, payable in equal bi-monthly installments, retroactive to January 1, 2021 due to an increase in responsibilities

    B. Ordinance – amending the City Code Chapter 576 Vehicles and Traffic, Part 13 Motorized Devices Section 1306 d by adding the requirement for the ATV/dirt bike owner to provide proof of title and proof of insurance prior to the release of the vehicle

    Mr. Waltman inquired if this amendment will tie down an unforeseen loose end. Ms. Kelleher stated that the amendment will cure a loophole that was identified by the Sergeant who is working with the dirt bikes and ATVs.

    Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz noted the need to give the police every tool they need to keep the City safe.

    C. Ordinance – amending the Code of Ordinances Chapter 62 New Officers And Employees Pension Fund, Section 102 to prohibit the participation of new members where the employee is hired or rehired on or after November 1, 2021

    Mr. Kelly explained that Ordinance C and G will amend the New Officers and Employees Pension ordinance to move away from the standard pension to a defined contribution plan similar to a 401K. This is required by the Act 47 Exit Plan.

    D. Ordinance – amending City Code Chapter 23, Part 7 by repealing the Minority Business Procurement Advisory Board and replacing it with the Equal Business Opportunity Advisory Board

    E. Ordinance – amending the Position Ordinance by increasing the base salary of the Auditing Coordinator by $3,600 which is available from salary savings in the salary line item of the City Auditor 2021 budget; bringing the salary to $55,000.

    Ms. Rodriguez explained that this salary bump will bring the Auditing Coordinator’s salary in line with the salaries of Accounting Division employees.

    F. Ordinance – amending the Fund 43 City Facilities Construction Fund Budget Ordinance reallocating $1M in funding for the construction of the New 9th & Marion Fire Station

    Mr. Kelly explained that this reallocation will simply free funding reserved for the fire station project to cover current expenses.

    Ms. Waltman inquired about the total amount reserved for this project. Mr. Kelly said that $4M is reserved for the fire station and $400K for the sidewalk repair/replacement program.

    G. Ordinance – amending City Code Chapter 62 New Officers and Employees Pension Fund by adding a Defined Contribution Plan

    The meeting adjourned at approximately 6:55 pm.

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