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CITY COUNCIL

Regular Council Meeting Minutes 01/25/21

 

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City of Reading City Council
Virtual Regular Meeting
Council Chambers
January 25, 2021
At the conclusion of the COW Meeting

Council President Waltman called the meeting to order at approximately 6:35 pm.

Due to COVID-19 Emergency Declaration, the City was forced to change their meeting format to prohibit the public's ability to physically attend the meeting and for public comment to be provided through alternative methods. The public comment can occur in writing (email message and letter clearly marked for public comment) or via telephone or internet connection with the virtual app. While the City Clerk is present in Council Chambers, all other attendees are participating remotely by phone or electronically through a computer application. The meetings can be viewed live on the BCTV MAC Channel 99 or on the City's website at https://www.readingpa.gov/content/city-council-video.

Nancy Lennert, Transformative Solutions Network, gave the invocation.

All present pledged to the flag.

There were no executive sessions held at the January 11th or the January 19th COW. There was an executive session after the January 25th COW on collective bargaining re PA Sunshine Act Title 65 § 708. Executive sessions (a) 2.

ATTENDANCE

Council President Waltman - electronically
Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz, District 2 - electronically
Councilor Ventura, District 3 - via telephone
Councilor Marmarou, District 4 - via telephone
Councilor Reed, District 5 - electronically
Solicitor E. Kraft - electronically
City Clerk L. Kelleher
City Auditor M. Rodriguez - electronically
Mayor's Assistants F. Denbowski and N. Rivera - electronically

PROCLAMATIONS AND PRESENTATIONS
None.

PUBLIC COMMENT
Council President Waltman announced that there was one (1) written submission for public comment.

Councilor Reed read the submission from Ernest Schlegel, of Pear Street, in support of Bill. 9-2021 (attached).

APPROVAL OF THE AGENDA & MINUTES
Council President Waltman called Council's attention to the agenda for this meeting, including the legislation listed under the Consent Agenda heading, and the minutes from the January 11th Regular Meeting, the Special Meeting held on January 4th and the summaries from the January 11th and January 19th.

The minutes from the January 11th Regular Meeting, January 4th Special Meeting and the summations of discussion as listed and the agenda were approved by acclimation.

Consent Agenda
The Consent Agenda is designed to provide efficient approval of non-controversial legislation that does not require discussion/debate by giving approval via acclimation when the meeting agenda is approved. The President of Council will call Council's attention to the list of Consent Agenda legislation at the meeting before action is taken, which allows Council to remove a piece of legislation for separate consideration.

A. Award of Contract - to Hirneisen Electric, Reading PA the low bidder for the replacement of the McKnight & Spring firehouse's original electric gear and the electric back-up generator at a total cost of $85,445

B. Resolution 6-2021 - authorizing the sewage planning module for the 810 Windsor St apartments

C. Resolution 7-2021 - authorize the hiring of 12 Firefighters/Paramedics for the 2021 Fire Academy Class:
Justin Benner
Brett Buskirk
Michael Grilli
Corgan Herbert
Charles LaGrossa
Alexander Marschka
Sean McCormick
Brett Noll-Emmick
Timothy Perrault
Lucas Richardson
Anthony Trento
Adam Webster

D. Award of Contract - for the purchase of 38 sets of Firefighter Personal Protective Equipment for the Academy Class and the replacement of the equipment at the end of its useful life from Reading Fire Equipment, Inc., Reading, a COSTARS Vendor at the price of $122,030.54

E. Resolution 8-2021 - extending the contract of Interim Public Works Director Charles Jones for an additional six months retroactive to January 1, 2021

F. Award of Contract - award the Downtown Plus Strategic Master Plan project to Stantect, Philadelphia, at $272,725.00, to facilitate the direction, type, location, and scale of new development and associated Downtown improvements for the next ten years with a focus on achievable outcomes over the next five years

ADMINISTRATIVE REPORT

The Mr. Denbowski highlighted the report attached to the agenda and distributed electronically; in summary:

  • Meeting with stakeholders to provide DID-type services to the downtown area
  • IT working to update and upgrade various programs and software systems
  • HRC processed 755 applications for rental assistance and 6 applications for utility assistance
  • Reading Public Library received a $10K grant from Baker Tilly
  • Public Works began the winter shift implementation which uses 1st and 3rd shifts and yard waste collection is limited to Wednesdays during January, February and March

AUDITOR'S REPORT

The Auditor highlighted the report attached to the agenda and distributed electronically. In summary:

  • In 2020 the City collected $854,442.56 for Local Services Tax (LST) which is 70% of the amount budgeted, compared to 99% in 2019
  • The State Auditor General completed auditing the three Reading Pensions funds for 2018 and 2019. Due to some corrections completed by Mr. Oppenheimer, the findings were reduced to one finding for the Police and Fire pension funds, and there were two findings under the O & E pension fund audit

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

Charter Board - Shane McFarlane Chair - Postponed.

ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE

A. Bill 102-2020 - amending the City Code Section 576-416 increasing and reducing parking fines and penalties and retaining the current parking meter rate as attached Introduced at the December 14 regular meeting; Tabled at the December 28 regular meeting; Amended and tabled at the January 4 special meeting; Reintroduced at the January 11 regular meeting

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz moved, seconded by Councilor Marmarou, to enact Bill No. 102-2020.

Bill No. 102-2020 was enacted by the following vote:
Yeas: Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President - 5
Nays: None - 0

B. Bill 3-2021 - amending the City of Reading Code Section 212-144, Vehicles and Traffic to reduce the booting fee and to modify the daily parking permit fees and parking meter fee Introduced at the January 11 regular meeting

Bill No. 3-2021 was enacted by the following vote:
Yeas: Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President - 5
Nays: None - 0

C. Bill 4-2021 - amending the City of Reading Code Section 576-502, Parking Zones Established; Traffic Control Maps as attached Introduced at the January 11 regular meeting

Councilor Reed moved, seconded by Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz, to enact Bill No. 4-2021.

Councilor Reed moved, seconded by Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz, to amend Bill No. 4-2021 to eliminate parking meters on the north side of the 800 block of Washington Street between Cedar and North 8th Streets and on the east side of North 8th Street between Court and Washington Streets to retain the visitor parking areas for City Hall and the Reading School District Administration Building.

The amendment to Bill 4-2021 was adopted by the following vote:
Yeas: Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President - 5
Nays: None - 0

Bill No. 4-2021, as amended, was enacted by the following vote:
Yeas: Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President - 5
Nays: None - 0

D. Bill 5-2021 - amending City Code Chapter 576 St-opping & Parking Section 413 and regarding the authority of the Police Chief to void parking tickets and Section 514 requiring the Police Department and Parking Authority to provide notification regarding temporary changes to parking rules/regulations Introduced at the January 11 regular meeting

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz moved, seconded by Councilor Reed, to table Bill No. 5-2021.

Bill No. 5-2021 was tabled by the following vote:
Yeas: Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President - 5
Nays: None - 0

E. Bill 6-2021 - amending City Code Chapter 62 Pensions by replacing Administrative Services references to Finance Department and by allowing the mayor to appoint a designee on the Fire and O&E Pensions boards Introduced at the January 11 regular meeting

Councilor Marmarou moved, seconded by Councilor Ventura, to enact Bill No. 6-2021.

Bill No. 6-2021 was enacted by the following vote:
Yeas: Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President - 5
Nays: None - 0

F. Bill 7-2021 - amending the Property Maintenance Rules and Regulations in the City's Code of Ordinances, Chapter 180, Part 12, as attached in Exhibit A regarding solid waste Introduced at the January 11 regular meeting

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz moved, seconded by Councilor Ventura, to enact Bill No. 7-2021.

Bill No. 7-2021 was enacted by the following vote:
Yeas: Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President - 5
Nays: None - 0

G. Bill 8-2021 - amending the Solid Waste Ordinance, Chapter 496, Part II, regarding collection from mixed use properties Introduced at the January 11 regular meeting

Councilor Reed moved, seconded by Councilor Marmarou, to enact Bill No. 8-2021.

Bill No. 8-2021 was enacted by the following vote:
Yeas: Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President - 5
Nays: None - 0

H. Bill 9-2021 - increasing the salary of the Community Development Director to $110,000 contingent on the $20,000 contribution from the Reading Redevelopment Authority, retroactive to January 1, 2021 Introduced at the January 11 regular meeting

Councilor Reed moved, seconded by Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz, to enact Bill No. 9-2021.

Councilor Reed asked the administration to provide an explanation about the terms of this ordinance. Mr. Denbowski stated that the intergovernmental agreement between the Reading Redevelopment Authority (RRA) and the City names the CD Director as RRA Chair and authorizes compensation in the amount of $20K annually to be paid from the RRA accounts, not from the City's accounts.

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz inquired about the inclusion of RRA duties in the job description for the CD Director. Mr. Denbowski promised to provide the job description within a day or two.

Councilor Reed inquired if the RRA payment will impact the CD Director's pension. The Solicitor noted the need to follow up with the pension board, but opined that the RRA payment is separated from the CD Director's base pay of $92,500 so there should be no impact to the pension account.

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz stressed that the payment of $20K to the CD Director is contingent upon receipt of that amount from the RRA bank accounts. The funding is not being provided by the City.

Bill No. 9-2021 was enacted by the following vote:
Yeas: Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President - 5
Nays: None - 0

INTRODUCTION OF NEW ORDINANCES

A. Ordinance - amending the City Code Section 576-603, Daytime Parking Restrictions Notice of Violation; Violations and Penalties; Waivers to modify the manner in which notice of a violation is provided and to change the threshold for the immobilization or removal of a vehicle

B. Ordinance - amending the City Code Section 576-517, Parking Meters or Kiosks Notice of Violation; Violations and Penalties; Waiver to modify the manner in which notice of a violation is provided

WITHDRAWN

C. Ordinance - Increasing the HR Director's salary by $1000 to $83,000 retroactive to November 16, 2020

D. Ordinance - amending the 2021 Position Ordinance by reclassifying one position in the Human Resources Department from Human Resources Assistant to Training & Employment Coordinator.

RESOLUTIONS

A. Resolution 9-2021 - appointing Ricky Denunzio to the Stadium Commission

B. Resolution 10-2021 - appointing Gary Yeager Jr to the Stadium Commission

Councilor Marmarou moved, seconded by Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz, to adopt Resolutions No. 9 and 10-2021.

Councilor Marmarou spoke about the merits of these two appointees.

Resolutions No. 9 and 10-2021 were adopted by the following vote:
Yeas: Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President - 5
Nays: None - 0

C. Resolution 11-2021 - relinquishing the public rights to the public walk shown on the Topographical Survey of the City of Reading between 1305 East Wyomissing Boulevard and 1307 East Wyomissing Boulevard which connects Museum Road, and Wyomissing Boulevard are hereby relinquished as of the date hereof to the owners of the properties located at 1305 East Wyomissing Boulevard and 1307 East Wyomissing Boulevard, City of Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania.

Councilor Reed moved, seconded by Councilor Ventura, to adopt Resolution No. 11-2021.

Resolution No. 11-2021 was adopted by the following vote:
Yeas: Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President - 5
Nays: None - 0

D. Resolution 12-2021 - Ratifying the Memorandum Agreement between the City and the AFSCME Local 3799 regarding salary changes as set forth in the Agreement with an effective date November 23, 2020, as attached as Exhibit "A."

E. Resolution 13-2021 - Ratifying the Memorandum Agreement between the City of Reading and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and AFSCME Local 2763 regarding salary changes as set forth in the Agreement with an effective date November 23, 2020 and January 1, 2021, as attached as Exhibit "A."

Councilor Reed moved, seconded by Councilor Marmarou, to adopt Resolutions No. 12 and 13-2021.

Resolutions No. 12 and 13-2021 were adopted by the following vote:
Yeas: Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President - 5
Nays: None - 0

COUNCIL COMMENT

Councilor Marmarou stated that this morning on a local radio call-in program a person who called in to talk about his Property Maintenance fines called a City elected official a moron. He suggested reprimanding this individual.

Councilor Marmarou questioned when and where he can get the COVID-19 vaccine. Councilor Reed reminded Councilor Marmarou that the managing director updated Council and the public on this topic at the January 19th COW, noting that vaccines for public employees and elected officials will most likely begin in mid-February.

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz stated that her next "In Your District" program will feature a local health official to update the community about COVID-19 and to dispel the misinformation being disseminated on the vaccines.

The City Clerk reviewed the upcoming meeting schedule.

Councilor Marmarou moved, seconded by Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz, to adjourn the regular meeting of Council.

Respectfully submitted by Linda A. Kelleher CMC, City Clerk

Good evening Council,

I am writing to encourage Council to support Bill 9-2021

As you are aware Council passed Resolution 163-2020 which included payment for professional services which included Executive Director and staffing services.

We the Board are pleased with the exceptional services we are getting from our staff and more importantly those services are more targeted to the needs of the Redevelopment Authority allowing it to eliminate wasteful spending.

With the power of eminent domain, robust holdings of property and a staff with deep technical expertise, the authority is likely to remain a vital tool in the city's fight to redevelop blighted neighborhoods and fuel economic growth.

We have worked tirelessely to make the authority relevant again. We are well on our way to stabilizing ourselves financially. We need to stabilize our morale and pay them for the work they have done. And we need to stabilize our employee structure, which with the operating agreement we have achieved.

We've come a long way in a relatively short period of time. We're moving in the right direction, recognizing some of the administrative problems the authority had and are correcting them.

We put new financial policies in place in 2020 and will be working on property tracking systems in 2021, an overhauled property disposition policy, and the opening of the Front Door, a unified entry point for developers, non-profits and average residents interested in buying city-owned land.

The Authority had an operating deficit for a number of years. They made that up by working through what we've called working capital, ,and that's masked how bad the problem is. The Board recognizes that, our Administration recognizes that and the Authority Auditor affirmed that. I don't think the authority can or should continue to spend down those funds to maintain our administrative costs.

In 2021 we aim to correct that by creating a sustainable revenue stream though public private partnerships and also the administration of the city's home funds, by development of properties.

Again, thank for you continued efforts tin economic development and encourage you to support Bill 9-2021

Ernest Herbein Schlegel

Chairman RRA