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Committee of the Whole Summary 10/25/21

 October 26, 2021Hybrid Meeting


D. Reed, M. Goodman-Hinnershitz, J. Cepeda-Freytiz, M. Ventura, J. Waltman (all electronically)

L. Kelleher (in person), S. Smith, J. Kelly, F. Lachat, A. Acevedo, C. Crespo, W. Stoudt, J. Stoudt, M. Kline, M. Sninsky, F. Denbowski, A. Amoros, M. Rodriguez, J. Long, M. Oppenheimer (all electronically)

The meeting was called to order at approximately 5:03 pm by Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz. Due to COVID-19, the public is prohibited from physically attending the meeting. People can observe the hybrid meeting through the virtual link or phone number on the posted agenda, or watch Facebook Live. Citizens without internet access or dial-in capability can view the meeting in the Penn Room.

Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz stated that Ms. Sihelnik and Mr. Marmarou are excused from the meeting. She noted that due to a work commitment she needs to leave at 5:30 pm.

  1. Human Resources (HR)

    Mr. Kelly screen shared the HR budget. He reviewed the staffing plan, noting the addition of a PT records technician.

    Mr. Kelly explained how the fringe benefit for employees is calculated and projected in the budget. He noted that up until a few years ago, the City would budget as though each employee selected the most expensive health plan which caused overestimating this expense by $2M annually. Mr. Kelly noted that the new health plan rates have been reviewed and the increase will require an additional draw of approximately $500K from the reserve.

    Mr. Kelly explained that the expense consultant services covers the fees charged by the insurance brokers. He stated that contracted services is the fee charged for payroll services by ADP. He noted that this fee will be reduced when the City migration to Tyler Technologies software occurs.

    Ms. Acevedo explained that Records Technician will update and improve the HR records, noting that the maintenance of these records stopped around 2014.

    Mr. Lachat agreed that the HR records have spotty information, noting that items standardly located in HR files are missing.

    Mr. Kelly explained that the vacancy allowance is a budget entry that covers the assumption that there will be 6-8 unfilled positions during the year, mainly for the management group.

  2. Fire & Rescue Services Department

    Mr. Kelly screen shared the Fire budget. He stated that the 1st Deputies are management employees and that the administration approved salary increases for the 1st Deputies to correct the salary compression from the 2nd Deputies. The 2nd Deputies are bargaining unit positions that are eligible for overtime causing their pay to bypass the amount earned by the 1st Deputies. He explained that the retiree payment covers the payout of accruals such as vacation time for those that are scheduled to retire in 2022.

    Mr. Kelly stated that in the Fire Prevention division, a decrease in the disaster recovery line item is possible because the City has sufficient COVID-19 related PPP and cleaning supplies on hand. Chief Stoudt explained that the Fire Marshal handles all City-wide emergency management issues including the purchase of supplies for emergencies. The Chief stated that the community service line item in Fire Prevention covers expenses associated with the smoke and CO detectors for owner occupied properties.

    Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz disconnected from the meeting at this time.

    Mr. Kelly stated that Fire Suppression contains the bulk of the fire positions.

    Chief Stoudt explained that the maintenance repair equipment covers special maintenance to apparatus that cannot be handled by Public Works staff. Inspections and regular maintenance is handled in house. He noted that maintenance and inspections covers service to specialized fire related equipment such as air packs, hydro testing, etc.

    Mr. Kelly and Chief Stoudt explained the medical surgical supplies covers the supplies required for EMS services and EMS reimbursement applies to those that are either double billed or over charged. Mr. Kelly stated that the collection expense applies to the fee charged by the company who performs EMS billing services; a charge of 4.6% of the amount billed.

    Chief Stoudt stated that the Fire Training covers the salary of the one (1) Lieutenant who provides all departmental training for staff, new fire fighters and medics and all recruitment activities.

  3. CDBG

    Mr. Abodalo screen shared the CDBG Action Plan. He stated that this plan is adopted annually and the plan contains three components – CDBG $2.5M, ESG $193K and HOME $984K. HUD requires a public hearing, which was held in early October, prior to the approval of the plan. Funding must be expended within five (5) years of receipt, if not it is taken back which affects the allocation in the following year. The spreadsheets show allocations for 2020-22.

    Mr. Abodalo explained that the CDBG component is split between Non-Public and Public Services. The Non-Public area covers Public Works related projects such as ADA ramps, playground projects, and façade grants for commercial and residential properties, fire building repair/maintenance and a portion of Property Maintenance and Trades salaries. Also included is non-emergency demolition in the amount of $300K. The Redevelopment Authority (RRA) will also receive $150K in funding to acquire blighted properties. The Public Service segment covers HRC, the Berks Coalition to End Homelessness, community policing and Olivet.

    Mr. Abodalo stated that during the application period organizations can submit projects for Action Plan funding. There is coordination with the County to prevent organizations from double dipping. HUD establishes caps for each of the three (3) program areas.

    The HOME component covers acquisition/rehab funds for Habitat and funding for NHS for CHDO activities and administrative costs.

    Mr. Abodalo stated that he is unsure if HOME funds can be used as an incentive to de-convert multi-unit properties. He noted that the RRA intends to de-convert all properties they acquire and rehab. He stated that he is unsure if the requirement to keep the property from being reconverted to a multi-unit property will be recorded on the deed. Mr. Abodalo admitted that he is unexperienced with CDBG programs and requirements.

    The ESG component covers low income housing, rapid rehousing and homeless activities.

    The meeting adjourned at approximately 6:30 pm.

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