Regular Council Meeting Minutes 05/13/19

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City of Reading City Council
Regular Meeting
May 13, 2019

 

Council President Waltman called the meeting to order.

 

The invocation was given by Pastor Chris Crowe, Harvest Bible Chapel.

All present pledged to the flag.

The executive sessions held during the Committee of the Whole on April 22, April 29, May 6 and May 13 COW were related to contracts and personnel.

 

ATTENDANCE

Council President Waltman

Councilor Sihelnik, District 1

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz, District 2

Councilor Twyman, District 3

Councilor Marmarou, District 4

Councilor Reed, District 5

Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz, District 6

Acting City Auditor P. Sleppy

Assist. Solicitor F. Lachat

City Clerk L. Kelleher

Acting Managing Director O. Deming

 

PROCLAMATIONS AND PRESENTATIONS

The City Clerk administered the Oath of office to EMS Lieutenant Craig Sweigart.

 

PUBLIC COMMENT

Council President Waltman stated that there are eleven (11) citizens registered to address Council – nine (9) on non-agenda matters and two (2) on agenda matters. No one objected to suspending the rule requiring non-agenda comment at the end of the meeting. Councilor Reed read the public speaking rules that were adopted by Council.

 

John Simmons, of Fairview Street, was not present.

 

Karen Reedy, of Perkiomen Ave., spoke about the need for the City to allow citizen parking on the small parcel located on South 19th Street for those who live in the 1900 block of Perkiomen Avenue where parking is extremely limited. She noted that the lot has been maintained by those who use the lot, not the City. She stated that the City has been allowing parking on this lot for the past 30+ years and she questioned the sudden change without any advance notice to those who rely on this lot for parking.

 

Anthony Sedoti, of Perkiomen Ave., provided Council with maps showing the parking area located on South 19th Street. The maps were obtained through County records. He stated that former Mayor Haggerty began allowing neighbors to park on this lot over 30 years ago and he questioned why that policy changed so suddenly and without warning. He stated that he has been cutting the grass and performing other duties to maintain the lot. He asked the City to reconsider their position and allow parking on this lot for this parking stressed neighborhood.

 

Bruce Walk, of Moss St., described the recent problem caused by people parking in bus stops which causes the buses to double park and creates safety issues for handicapped individuals who are depending on public transportation. He stated that in addition people are also parking in fire hydrant zones, jay walking and running red lights. He noted the need for the City to enforce traffic and parking regulations.

 

Ann Marie Wolfe, of Franklin St., expressed the belief that cleaning up the City would reduce crime.

 

Carol Riley, of S. 4th St., described the safety issues created by people driving who do not use turn signals and park illegally. She also noted the difficulties for customers who utilize Uber versus Metro taxi service and questioned the status of this issue.

 

Shelia Perez, of Weiser St., expressed the belief that the City should hold GPU and UGI accountable for the damage they do to the street surfaces in historic districts when making underground utility repairs. She noted the damage that these improperly filled street cuts can do to cars. She expressed concern that the Mt. Penn Preserve was approved without public notice and public participation was not invited. She also noted that the mayor’s concerns were not considered. She expressed the belief that those who participated are the same as those who are involved at the Goggleworks – non City residents. She questioned why the Pagoda Foundation financial reports are not public records when the Pagoda is owned by the City. She expressed the belief that these two entities should not be privatized, as they are assets that can help get the City out of Act 47. She also suggested that the City dissolve RAWA, the Parking Authority and the Redevelopment Authority. She expressed the belief that the people should be managing these assets.

 

Roxanne Curran, of S. 11th St., noted the need for the cleanup of alleyways and suggested developing a program to make this happen. Alleyways were once social venues but now they are places no one wants to be due to the widespread debris and safety issues. She stated that various approaches could make this happen such as gating the alleyways off or restricting access only to block residents and public safety providers. She expressed the belief that public education can educate residents about the new plan that is enacted.

 

Evelyn Morrison, of Church St., expressed the belief that one of the elected officials serving on the Mt. Penn Preserve has a conflict of interest, personal interest and personal benefit with the owners of the Mt. Penn Preserve and the land. She stated that she does not support the Mt.

Penn Preserve, as the citizens will be held responsible. She questioned the remediation of 65- 75 acres noted in a 1967 a lawsuit. She stated this land was earmarked for recreation and required remediation. She questioned where the acreage for this exchange is being held. She also suggested that there are also those with personal benefits within the Conservancy. She stated that her group is preparing a petition to place an item on an agenda to address dissolving RAWA, the Parking Authority and Redevelopment Authority and they are also considering a citizen initiative to see if citizens support dissolving these authorities. She expressed the belief that the City should receive a larger share of the new RAWA revenue from the Birdsboro power plant. She expressed hope that Council members have received a copy of the lawsuit filed last week addressing the violation of her group’s civil rights.

 

Nate Rivera, of N. 13th St., deferred his time to Juan Zabala.

 

Juan Zabala, of Weiser St., noted the difficulty the mayor has created by refusing to appoint people to various Board, Authority and Commission seats. He stated that after a recent resignation from the Redevelopment Authority, the board is left with only three of five members, creating quorum issues. He stated that this lapse can harm the board’s ability to address issues critical to the Authority and its business. He requested that the administration meet with the Authority board quickly. He expressed the belief that the District Attorney’s comments about Reading in a recent media interview were inappropriate and make one wonder if he has a bias against Reading residents.

 

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz thanked the speakers and she expressed concern about the administration’s quick decision to restrict parking on the South 19th Street lot without prior notification to those who have been parking on the lot for 30+ years. She stated that she was also not informed about this change in policy by the administration. She stated that the affected residents have had a meeting with the mayor about this issue and that she and the City Clerk met with the Traffic Sergeant who explained why the policy changed. While the rationale for the change in policy is very minor, the need for parking is great and she suggested identifying a fair solution to resolve this issue.

 

The acting managing director stated that he will meet with the Traffic Sergeant to discuss this issue and work to identify a reasonable resolution.

 

Councilor Reed expressed the belief that Council could also address this through the enactment of an ordinance. She agreed with the need to provide these affected citizens with a reasonable alternative.

 

Councilor Sihelnik thanked those who commented and provided suggestions to improve conditions in Reading.

 

Council President Waltman expressed the belief that citizens sometimes forget that City Council members are not only elected officials; they are also citizens with a lengthy investment in the City.

 

APPROVAL OF THE AGENDA & MINUTES

Council President Waltman called Council's attention to the agenda for this meeting and the minutes from the April 22nd Regular Meeting of Council, along with the summations of discussion from the April 22nd and 29th COW and the Strategic Planning COW and the consent agenda legislation. He noted the need to move Consent Agenda items B through E to the Resolution section for separate consideration.

 

Councilor Marmarou moved, seconded by Councilor Twyman, to approve the minutes from the April 22nd Regular Meeting of Council, along with the summations of discussion listed and the agenda, as amended. The motion was approved unanimously.

 

Consent Agenda

  1. Resolution 48-2019 – authorizing the disposal of contract documents from the City Clerk’s office in accordance with the PA Record Retention Policy as specified:

     

    American Abatement

    1992

    American City Corp

    1970

    American Cyanamid Co

    1964, 1967, 1975, 1976, 1980

    American District Telegraph Co

    1983

    American Equipment Corp

    1971

    American Highway Sign Co

    1980, 1981

    American Body Armor &

    1989

    Equipment Inc American Bank & Trust Co

     

    1972

    American Red Cross

    1988, 1991, 1994, 1995

    American Meter Control Div of Singer Co

    American Safety Table Co

    1971

     

    1955

    American Television & Communications Corp

    Anchor Fire Protection Co

    1971

     

    1980

    Antietam Valley Municipal

    1959, 1973, 1982, 1986

    Authority

    Applegate’s Harley-Davidson Sales

     

    1967, 1968

    Arianna Inc

    1952

    Arnold Business Forms Co

    1993

     

    Arnold & Porter

    1985, 1992

    Arpro Inc

    1986

    Art Research & Technology

    1991

    Ashes & Embers Div of

    1979

    T P Bock Co Inc

     

    Asplundh Chipper Co Div of

    1967, 1969, 1980

    Asplundh Tree Expert Co

     

    ATCO Construction

    1982, 1982, 1989

     

    ADMINISTRATIVE REPORT

    The acting managing director stated that he and other City staff attended a meeting in Philadelphia regarding the Consent Decree for the WWTP and they are working with PFM on the update to the Recovery Plan. He stated that he has been working with the Property Maintenance Manager to address the issues raised by Mr. Hefferon. He stated that the City is entering into negotiations with three collective bargaining units. He explained that the City is currently enforcing its street cut ordinance, although the ordinance is being challenged in the Commonwealth Court by UGI. He noted that the mayor sends his regrets for not being at tonight’s meeting.

     

    Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz noted that the City’s street cut regulations apply citywide, not only in historic districts. The acting managing director agreed. She noted that Ms. Perez’s comments implied that the street cut regulations apply only in historic districts and that is inaccurate.

     

    Council President Waltman added that depending on the amount of street pavement disturbed, the utility may need to repave an entire lane or an entire block. The acting managing director agreed.

     

    Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz questioned if the acting managing director will address the comments made regarding dissolving the Authorities. The acting managing director stated that he will have a follow up conversation with the mayor.

     

    Councilor Sihelnik questioned the delay in facilitating the execution of the $700K grant awarded to the 18th Wonder through the City. She questioned when the grant documents will be signed so implementation of the project can begin, noting that delays can negatively impact the State’s consideration of future grant applications. She stated that the 18th Wonder requests cooperation and she asked for an update.

     

    Councilor Sihelnik stated that while she recognizes the stress that goes with the political cycle, the City’s business does not stop and requests for meetings to facilitate projects need to be scheduled regardless of the political cycle. She asked the acting managing director to assist by working with the mayor to schedule meetings critical to facilitating projects.

    The acting managing director stated that he does not subscribe to the practice of delaying meetings and he stated that he is more than willing to schedule meetings with Council and others. He stated that he will coordinate with the Public Works director about the finalization of the 18th Wonder grant.

     

    AUDITOR’S REPORT

    None.

     

    REPORT FROM DEPT. DIRECTORS, BOARDS, AUTHORITIES, & COMMISSIONS

    None.

     

    ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE

     

    Pending Further Discussion

     

    Bill No. 4-2019 amending the Ethics Code regarding attorneys retained to work with the Ethics Board Introduced at the January 14 regular meeting; Tabled at the January 28 and February 19 regular meetings

     

    Bill No. 5-2019 amending the Charter Ordinance regarding attorneys retained to work with the Charter Board Introduced at the January 14th regular meeting; Tabled at the January 28 and February 19 regular meetings

     

     

    1. Bill 13-2019 – Amending the Capital Project Budget to reflect the funding of the Hillside Pool property purchase for $200,000 and revising the timeline for the Schlegel Pool rehabilitation project Introduced at the April 22 regular meeting

       

      Council President Waltman opened the floor for a motion four (4) times.

       

      Councilor Reed moved, seconded by Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz, to table Bill No. 13- 2019.

       

      The motion to table Bill No. 13-2019 was adopted by the following vote:

       

      Yeas: Cepeda-Freytiz, Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Sihelnik, Twyman – 6

      Nays: Waltman, President – 1

       

    2. Bill 14-2019 – Amending the Park Code to clarify that the Mt. Penn Preserve area includes boundaries located outside the municipal boundaries of the City making it agree with the executed Mutual Aide Agreement with Central Berks Police Introduced at the April 22 regular meeting

Councilor Marmarou moved, seconded by Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz, to enact Bill No. 14-2019.

 

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz explained that the Mt. Penn Preserve plan was developed through a series of publicized public meetings where a wide variety of citizens, both Reading residents and others, attended. After the plan was presented, numerous meetings that were open to the public were held to discuss the implementation of the plan and the suggestion to form a Council of Government was broached. She explained that the Mt. Penn Preserve area flows through Reading, Lower Alsace and Alsace Townships. This amendment to the definition of “Park” notes that the preserve, owned by the City, is located both inside and outside Reading’s boundaries and matches the area defined in the Mutual Aid Agreement executed by the Reading and Central Berks Police.

 

Bill No. 14-2019 was enacted by the following vote:

 

Yeas: Cepeda-Freytiz, Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Sihelnik, Twyman, Waltman, President – 7

Nays: None – 0

 

INTRODUCTION OF NEW ORDINANCES

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz read the following ordinances into the record:

 

  1. Ordinance – amending the Administrative Code adding requirements for Repository Sale bids by adding Section 5-810

     

  2. Ordinance – River Road Extension Project : To dedicate City of Reading Parcels for temporary easements and permanent right of way.

     

  3. Ordinance – amend the Capital Projects Budget to reflect the transfer of budgeted funds required to complete the acquisition of the Hillside Pool and the former Letisse properties

     

  4. Ordinance – amending the City Code Article 576 by adding a new part 14 for Handicapped Parking

     

  5. Ordinance – amending the budget by increasing the hourly rate of the part-time Telecommunicater positions in the Police Department to $16 per hour, reducing the overtime expense in this area

 

RESOLUTIONS

 

Pending legislation – additional information required

 

 

 

  1. Resolution 37-2019 – authorizing the administration to remit payment in the amount of

    $219,589 to Empire for the demolition of 932 and 932A Penn Street Tabled at the March 25 and April 8 regular meetings

     

  2. Resolution 38-2019 – authorizing the payment of outstanding invoices in the amount of $7,222.23 to Leffler Energy for HVAC preventative repair and maintenance for the months of October to November 2018 Tabled at the March 25 and April 8 regular meetings

 

 

  1. Resolution 51-2019 – reappointing Heminton Urena to the Blighted Property Review Committee (BPRC)

     

    Councilor Reed moved, seconded by Councilor Sihelnik, to adopt Resolution No. 51-2019.

     

    Councilors Marmarou, Reed and Twyman noted the experience and commitment Mr. Urena brings to the BPRC.

     

    Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz explained that although the mayor has delayed making nominations and appointments until after the Primary Election, City Council is moving forward with applications that do not require the mayor’s nomination.

     

    Resolution No. 51-2019 was adopted by the following vote:

     

    Yeas: Cepeda-Freytiz, Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Sihelnik, Twyman. Waltman – 7

    Nays: None – 0

     

  2. Resolution 52-2019 - authorizing the Mayor to sign a natural gas purchase agreement with the lowest responsible bidder immediately after the bid opening and receiving the recommendation from Public Works and all other purchasing policies shall not apply.

 

Councilor Reed moved, seconded by Councilor Marmarou, to adopt Resolution No. 52-2019.

 

The acting managing director explained that Council was asked to approve a similar agreement for the electric utility and that allowing this type of approval allows the City to obtain the lowest utility costs and save money.

 

Resolution No. 52-2019 was adopted by the following vote:

 

Yeas: Cepeda-Freytiz, Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Sihelnik, Twyman. Waltman – 7

Nays: None – 0

Moved From the Consent Agenda

  1. Resolution 49-2019 – authorizing the Police Chief to sign the Letter of Agreement with Let’s Think Wireless (LTW) for support services for 1 (one) year (3/1/19 – 2/28/20) and remit payment to LTW in the total amount of $ $99,069.36 for the provision of those services

     

    Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz moved, seconded by Councilor Sihelnik, to adopt Resolution 49-2019

     

    Resolution 49-2019 was adopted by the following vote:

     

    Yeas: Cepeda-Freytiz, Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Sihelnik, Twyman. Waltman – 7

    Nays: None – 0

     

  2. Resolution 50-2019 – authorizing the replacement of the Riverside Fire Station Roof by Bachman Roofing, Building & Remodeling, Inc. at a cost of $159,895.00. Bachman Roofing, Building

    & Remodeling, is a State of Pennsylvania Cooperative Purchasing Program vendor

     

    Councilor Reed moved, seconded by Councilor Twyman, to adopt Resolution No. 50-2019. Resolution No. 50-2019 was adopted by the following vote:

    Yeas: Cepeda-Freytiz, Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Sihelnik, Twyman. Waltman – 7

    Nays: None – 0

     

  3. Award of Contract – for the Aggregated Pension Investment Advisor to UBS, Princeton, with associated fees paid by the Pension Funds

     

    Councilor Marmarou moved, seconded by Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz to table this award of contract.

     

    The award of contract listed was tabled by the following vote:

     

    Yeas: Cepeda-Freytiz, Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Sihelnik, Twyman, Waltman, President – 7

    Nays: None – 0

     

  4. Award of Contract to upgrade the Closed Caption Television (CCTV) truck used to evaluate and inspect sewer lines with computer equipment in the City to Golden Equipment Co., Mars, PA for the total submitted price of $170,633.00. This is a Costars purchase previously approved by the MERC.

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz moved, seconded by Councilor Twyman, to award the contract to Golden Equipment Co.

 

The award of contract listed was approved by the following vote:

 

Yeas: Cepeda-Freytiz, Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Sihelnik, Twyman, Waltman, President – 7

Nays: None – 0

 

COUNCIL COMMENT

Councilor Marmarou stated that it is unfortunate that the mayor was not at tonight’s meeting to hear Mr. Zabala speak about the problems caused by the mayor’s refusal to make certain appointments to the Boards, Authorities and Commissions. He noted that Council initially brought this issue to the mayor’s attention over two (2) months ago.

 

Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz thanked the citizens for attending tonight’s meeting and making suggestions that will resolve various issues. She noted the importance of having the public’s input toward making Reading better.

 

Councilor Sihelnik invited citizens to attend the cleanup scheduled for this Saturday. Participants are asked to meet at 4th and Pine Streets at 10 am. These cleanups are held on a monthly basis at various areas in southwest Reading. She expressed hope that everyone will consider showing this area some love. She also noted the monthly dialogue that occurs about neighborhood issues and programs in this area.

 

Councilor Reed announced the joint meeting of the Planning Commission, Housing Authority, Blighted Property Review Committee and Redevelopment Authority to roll out the draft Housing Plan. The meeting will be in Council Chambers at 6 pm on May 14th. The meeting will be televised on the BCTV MAC Channel and streamed on the City’s webpage. She stated that this plan contains a strategy that can be implemented to address blighted housing.

 

Councilor Reed noted the importance of the municipal Primary Election scheduled for next Tuesday, May 21st and the importance of voting in this election no matter what your political persuasion.

 

Councilor Twyman thanked those who attended this meeting and provided public comment. He stated that public participation helps Council and the administration make sound decisions and address area issues. He also encouraged citizens to participate by applying to serve on the City’s boards.

 

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz thanked those who attended tonight’s meeting and stayed the

entire time. She noted the new District 2 community group – Southern Neighbors – who meet at Grace Lutheran Church. She described the curb appeal contest that is being organized by this community group. Information will be distributed. She agreed with the need for residents to take back their alleys as alleys are an extension of neighborhoods.

 

Council President Waltman announced the upcoming meeting schedule.

 

Councilor Marmarou moved, seconded by Councilor Twyman, to adjourn the regular meeting of Council.

 

Respectfully submitted by Linda A. Kelleher CMC, City Clerk