Committee of the Whole Summary 11/08/21
November 9, 2021
COUNCIL MEMBERS PRESENT:
S. Marmarou (in-person), M. Ventura, D. Reed, L. Sihelnik, M. Goodman-Hinnershitz, J. Cepeda-Freytiz, J. Waltman (all electronically)
L. Kelleher (in person), S. Smith, J. Kelly, F. Lachat, C. Crespo, W. Stoudt, F. Denbowski, A. Amoros, M. Rodriguez, J. Long, M. Oppenheimer, S. Rugis (all electronically)
The meeting was called to order at approximately 5:03 pm by Ms. Goodman-Hinnershitz. She announced that she needs to leave the meeting to address a public safety issue in the neighborhood.
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.
I. Law Budget
Mr. Kelly highlighted the Law budget, noting that the salaries cover the Solicitor, two (2) assistant Solicitors, an office manager and a paralegal – a reduction of one staff attorney. He explained that the funding also covers outside legal counsel fees when required.
II. Board Allocations
- Charter Board - $50K
- Ethics Board - $20K
- Animal Control Board - $5K
- EAC - $10K
Ms. Kelleher inquired if the Charter Board allocation should be increased considering past history regarding complaints, hearings, etc.
Mr. Kelly stated that he too considered this issue but decided instead to retain the amount the Board requested without an increase.
Ms. Smith posted in Chat that the Charter Board spending to date is $63K and Council recently approved a transfer of $30K to cover their expected expenses through the end of 2021.
Mr. Waltman noted the need for a separate COW discussion on the Charter Board in early 2022, noting that in the past Mr. Lachat has had some ideas on how to curtail the costs this Board incurs.
III. Parking Lot
→ Fringe Benefit cost increase modification required – Completed; line item adjustments across departments
→ Add funding for a PT consultant to the Council budget for the 275th Anniversary
Mr. Kelly stated that he added $10K to the Council Consulting Services line item and he inquired if that amount is satisfactory.
Ms. Reed explained that a job description was prepared and there was a discussion on using an hourly rate or a flat fee. The committee decided on the use of a flat fee.
Mr. Denbowski stated that the Steering Committee will need to define the final fee for this consultant position. He explained why the Committee decided on a consultant vs. a part-time position.
Ms. Sihelnik inquired about the amount paid for this consultant in the past, noting that the celebration will require additional allocations to cover various expenses going forward.
Mr. Denbowski stated that the Committee hopes to cover additional expenses through sponsorships, donations, etc. He noted that part of the consultant’s work will be to seek out funding to cover expenses. (Note: in the past the consultant was not funded or managed by the City and the City allocated only $15K to the 250th celebration)
Mr. Denbowski explained the need to partner with an existing 501c3 to make donations and sponsorships tax deductible.
Ms. Reed inquired if the consultant position was been advertised. Mr. Denbowski stated that the advertisement is in the works. The plan is to have someone hired by the Steering Committee by the end of December.
→ Increase the Audit Coordinator’s salary by $3,600
→ Increase the Audit Legal Services by $5,000 to $10,000
→ List of City owned properties, land and buildings, identifying those used by other organizations with the agreements and the operational costs for each
Mr. Rugis stated that this project affects 60 properties and is a complicated report to complete with the limited staffing available. He stated that the report can probably be presented by early February at a COW meeting.
→ IMA Update
Mr. Lachat suggested a COW update in early 2022.
- Verify type of motorcycles to be purchased by Police Department – Covered during Police Budget review
- Forest study re Mt Penn & Neversink
Mr. Rugis reported that Berks Nature is handling the needs on Neversink and the MP3 submitted a DCNR grant for a trail study and forest management plan for Mt. Penn through the County Planning Department. A response is expected in the 3rd quarter of 2022. (Note: Berks Nature, the City and County have made contributions for the matching costs required by the DCNR)
- Provide breakdown of $875,000 of Rdg Iron park and playground project funding
Mr. Kelly and Mr. Rugis explained that $650K is allocated for the full rehabilitation of the Reading Iron playground and that there is an additional $875K allocated for improvements to other parks/playgrounds.
Mr. Marmarou left the meeting at this time.
- Review City Park Master Plan regarding greenhouse – sent 10-20-21
- Capital project progress report
- Contact State legislators to make the non-resident EIT permanent
- Salary increase for the Purchasing Coordinator to $55,000 annually
- Additional part time employee in the Auditor’s Office at approximately $20,000
Ms. Rodriguez stated that she proposed this part-time position several weeks ago to City Council via email to see if there was support for the position. She stated that having this additional position would expand her ability to do more audits.
Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz stated that there appeared to be overall Council support and no opposition. Several Council members verbally agreed.
Mr. Waltman asked Mr. Kelly to include this allocation in the Auditor’s budget.
→ Demolition Funding amounts in CDBG and General Fund Budgets and time frames for using demo funds
Mr. Kelly stated that also covered on the 25th was the need to add $6200 to the Library Projects line item, add $25K to the Finance budget for a temp agency to assist in filling open Finance positions (project manager and project accountant) and adding $150K to Police Capital for the 2nd phase of the CAD/RMS project.
Mr. Kelly noted his difficulty in finding a project manager. He requested adding $20K for a part-time clerical person to assist the Accounting Manager, which will provide additional internal controls.
Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz inquired about what the Part-time salaries in the Council Budget covers. Mr. Kelly and Ms. Kelleher stated that this lint item covers City Council salaries.
Ms. Reed inquired if the Council Solicitor salary is included in the Law budget.
Ms. Kelleher stated that as this is technically a Council employee, the cost is covered in the Council budget in the Legal Services lint item.
→ Seek increase in Library contribution from County Commissioners
→ Add funding for two exterior benches at NE and NW Library Branches
→ Add $6K to Library budget to expand WiFi capability
Mr. Denbowski expressed the belief that the benches are not a capital expenditure and can be covered by the General Fund. Mr. Rugis was asked to follow-up with Ms. Gamble about a quote.
Mr. Kelly stated that the ARPA plan has a $300K allocation for Library projects described by Ms. Gamble during the Library budget review meeting.
→ Executive session on salaries of various management employees – to be covered in Exec Session on 11-15
Mr. Rugis noted the need for a discussion on the trash/recycling fees for 2022. – scheduled for Nov 22
Ms. Cepeda-Freytiz inquired about the monitoring of credit card usage and where funding is provided in the budget.
Mr. Kelly stated that he has a listing of all current card holders. He explained that there is no separate line item for credit card purchases. Costs are covered by various existing line items in the budget such as Office Supplies, General Plant supplies, Training, etc. He noted that he personally reviews and approves all expenditures and brings charges that appear inappropriate to the attention of the managing director. He expressed the belief that the Auditor should occasionally perform an audit of credit card usage.
Council members discussed the need for additional controls and monitoring of credit card usage.
Mr. Waltman agreed; however, he cautioned the need to avoid overstepping in this area which could cause fiduciary gridlock.
Ms. Sihelnik requested an executive session to discuss legal issues surrounding the 5th and Penn Properties bid process.
Mr. Lachat agreed.
At 5:57 pm, the remaining six (6) Council members, Mr. Amoros, Ms. Kelleher, Ms. Smith, Mr. Lachat, Mr. Denbowski, Mr. Kelly and Mr. Rugis went into executive session. The session concluded at approximately 6:25 pm and the meeting adjourned.
Respectfully Submitted by
Linda A. Kelleher, CMC, City Clerk