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CITY COUNCIL

Regular Council Meeting Minutes 06/28/21

 

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City of Reading City Council

Virtual Regular Meeting

June 28, 2021

At the conclusion of the COW Meeting
 

Council President Waltman called the meeting to order at approximately 7:03 pm.  
 

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

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz gave the invocation.
 

All present pledged to the flag.
 

There were no executive sessions held at tonight’s COW or at the June 21st COW.
 

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

Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz, District 6 - electronically

Solicitor F. Lachat – electronically

City Clerk L. Kelleher - electronically

Auditor M. Rodriguez – electronically

Managing Director A. Amoros – electronically

 

Council President Waltman announced that Councilor Sihelnik was excused due to a schedule conflict.

 

PROCLAMATIONS AND PRESENTATIONS

None.

 

PUBLIC COMMENT

Council President Waltman announced that there was one (1) citizen who provided written public comment on general matters and two (2) speaking about general matters by connecting with the meeting virtually.
 

Madellin Felix, North 9th St, described the many hardships she and others are experiencing due to the newly installed parking meters on North 9th Street, especially for those who work during the evening hours.   She suggested removing the parking meters as the residential properties outnumber the businesses on these blocks. She also described the difficult interactions she and neighbors have with Parking Authority enforcement officers.  She stated that the parking ticket fines charged are excessive.
 

Frank Salamone, of North Front St., stated that he has had a handicapped parking space for decades and he recently has had problems with others parking in the space reserved for him. He stated that he is a handicapped vet and the issue occurs when he needs to leave the house for VA appointments.   He stated that in prior years, the handicapped space was reserved for the person who requested it, which is no longer the case.  He expressed the belief that the State Act allows the handicapped space to be reserved for the person who requests it.  He noted that there are many properties with lead contamination that remain unremeditated and he complained about the illegal use of fireworks in Reading. 

Councilor Reed read the written comment provided from Mr. MacLean (attached in full).
 

Kevin MacLean, of Douglass St, described the landlord/tenant difficulties he is experiencing at his rental property and his dissatisfaction with the Property Maintenance Department’s response to the many existing violations.
 

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 June 14th Regular Meeting,  the meeting summaries from the COWs held on June 14th and June 21st and the meeting summary from the June 21st Nominations meeting.  
 

The minutes from the June 14th Regular Meeting, the summations of discussion 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 – for the purchase of a 2021 Sewer Equipment of America (SEA) combination sewer cleaner with hydro-vac soft digging capability for the WWTP from Golden Equipment Company, Mars, PA  for the total submitted price of $481,692.40.  Golden Equipment Co. is sole distributor for Sewer Equipment of America (SEA) and is a member of CoStars

 

B. Award of Contract – authorizing the purchase of two (2) 2023 freightliner 108SD plow/dump trucks from Berman Freightliner, Leesport PA in the amount of $353,949.28

 

C. Resolution 61-2021 – authorizing the Solicitor to execute the forms accepting the Repository Bids submitted by the Parking Authority to the Berks County Tax Claim Office for the following properties: 818 Culvert St, 428-438 Spring Garden St and 442 Rosenthal St

 

D. Resolution 62-2021– authorizing the Solicitor to execute the forms accepting the Repository Bids submitted to the Berks County Tax Claim Office for the following properties: 1400 Chester St, 737 Neversink Alley, 735 Neversink Allley, 238 R Plum, 234 Hudson, 240A Wood St, 641 Orange Alley, 709 Neversink Alley; 735A Neversink Alley

 

E. Resolution 63-2021 – authorizing the mayor and managing director to execute documents relating to the North Front St PennDOT Green-Light-Go grant agreement to receive the awarded funding for this project

 

F. Resolution 64-2021 – authorizing the sewage planning module for 1711 Hampden Blvd as the proposed connection complies with the allocations and other aspects of the provision of Chapter 94 of State Statutes.

 

G. Resolution 65-2021 – authorizing the mayor and Council to each appoint a representative to the AMERICA250PA Commission to plan, encourage, develop and coordinate the commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the United States and Pennsylvania’s integral role in that event and the role of its people on the nation’s past, present and future

ADMINISTRATIVE REPORT

The managing director highlighted the mayor’s activities since the last meeting and the report provided in writing, in summary:

 

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT:  

  • The Community Development Department has received confirmation from the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PaDOH) that the City of Reading is an approved sub-recipient for the Lead Hazard Reduction program. The program requires staff training, developing a list of qualified vendors, lead inspectors, and a temporary family relocation program prior to being certified as a Lead Risk Assessor. In addition, the program budget will allow for the remediation of ten (10) housing units per unit. 
  • The CD Department presented on the topic of economic development in the City to the Alvernia University Board of Trustees and executive staff on behalf of Mayor Moran and the Administration. The presentation focused on the economic development impact of the CollegeTowne campus on local businesses when Alvernia opens its downtown campus in August 2021.
  • The CD Department’s Property Maintenance Division completed the following through May:
  • 568 residential inspections
  • 33 health inspections
  • 71 SWEEP inspections
  • 799 quality of life inspections
  • 2,873 notices of violation were issued for Code infractions

HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION:

  • As of June 4th, HRC has:
    • 962 total rent and utility assistance applications were received (an addition of 11 applications since last reported).
      • 948 applications for rental assistance
        • 626 applicants were facing eviction
        • 236 applicants were not actively facing eviction
        • 86 applicants resided outside of the City but within the County.
      • 14 applications for utility assistance

LIBRARY:

  • The Reading Public Library launched Summer@RPL on June 14th. The program will continue until August 14th. Those interested can track their reading, earn points with ReadSquared, and discover live stream performances and virtual programs.  For kids and teens, there are weekly live programs like Storytime, Science Lab, and more.  The flyer is included at the end of this report contains more information for all ages. 

POLICE:

  • The Reading Police Department’s Operation Cease Fire and other crime reduction initiatives continue to successfully assist in crime reduction in the City. By the end of May, the following reductions were seen:
    • 2% reduction in UCR Part 1 crimes compared to 2020
    • 21% reduction in UCR Part 1 crimes compared to 2019
    • 4% reduction in UCR Part 1 crimes compared to 2018

The current crime reduction trend is driven by the following:

  • 36% reduction in non-fatal shootings
  • 30% reduction in robberies
  • 25% reduction in burglaries
  • 20% reduction in thefts
  • RPD Chief Richard Tornielli met with RPD Diversity Task Force members to review diversity training provided to department members and plan future training programs and engagement. A special thank you to Kimberly Talbot, Human Relations Commission’s Director, for facilitating the HRC’s participation in the task force.
  • The RPD will participate in a Homeless Task Force. Officers will work with the Hope Rescue Mission, COCA, and other organizations to identify and divert homeless individuals to appropriate assistance programs.

PUBLIC WORKS:

The Public Works Department’s River Road project was issued a construction contract Notice to Proceed in April, with projected completion planned for November 2023.  Utility relocations are in progress.  UGI and Met-Ed relocations are complete.  Currently, Met-Ed is working on other utilities that are attached to their poles.  The Reading Area Water Authority will complete their work along with the highway contractor.  A groundbreaking ceremony is currently scheduled for the end of June.

  • PW has completed street paving on St. Bernardine Street, McClellan Street, and Museum Road. After a subsurface investigation to detect any additional sinkholes, we are happy to announce no additional sinkhole activity was detected, and the paving on Penn Street can proceed.
  • PW reports that the 11th and Pike spray pad is up and running. The Pendora Park spray pad is currently operating but requires further repair due to vandalism. The Front and Schiller spray pad is not currently working due to repair parts needed.

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz thanked the City for their work related to the Pagoda Hill Climb and the homeless detail organized by the Police Department with various organizations to address the homeless population that has taken residence in the City’s parks.   She questioned when Schlegel Park Pool will open.  The managing director stated that a replacement part is on order and delivery is expected July 8th.  He predicted that the pool will be able to open at the beginning of August of this year.

 

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz noted the availability of the spray park features at various playgrounds, noting that they are no replacement for the swimming pool.  She noted the dangers associated with swimming in the river and she suggested using the spray parks and Whacky Water Wednesdays in place of the pool.

 

AUDITOR’S REPORT

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

 

Real Estate Transfer Tax Revenue - Update as of May 31, 2021

For the month of May of the current year, the City collected $447,710.27 in Real Estate Transfer Tax revenue, bringing the revenue total to date $3,403,054.54 - 72% of total amount budgeted. During the first five months of the current year, a total of 1037 transactions for Real Estate Transfer Tax were transacted - 879 transactions were taxable and 158 were not taxable.

   

Earned Income Tax and Earned Income Tax Prior – Update as of May 31, 2021

For the current fiscal year, the City budgeted $20,242,120.00 for Earned Income Tax and Earned Income Tax Prior, and as of May 31, 2021, the City has collected $8,907,034.91 of total amount budgeted, a reduction of $528,122.62 when compared to the revenue collected for the same period of time in 2020.

User Fees Revenue – Update as of  5/31/2021

User Fees is the revenue collected for the EMS services that the City provides to the community. For the current fiscal year the City budgeted $3,009,500.00, and as of 5/31/2021, the City has collected    $1,409,768.92. At the Council meeting on 3/31/2021, I stated that if the revenue for the User Fees    continue this trend for the remaining of this year, there is a probability that this line item could exceed    its budget target in 2021.

   

The Auditor noted that the City recently received the River Road Extension funding from PennDOT.

 

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

Council President Waltman introduces Ms. Talbot, Human Relations Executive Director.  He noted that Ms. Talbot’s brother, former Deputy Police Chief Mark Talbot was recently hired by Hampton, VA as the new Police Chief.  He asked Ms. Talbot to congratulate Chief Talbot from the City Hall family.

Ms. Talbot stated that the eviction moratorium was extended until July 31st.  She provided an update on the rent and utility assistance program, noting that $1M in COVID funding has been expended to date.  She stated that her office also manages the RAWA hardship program and performs various education/outreach initiatives. She stated that the Eviction Prevention Program was expanded to two (2) MDJ courtrooms.

Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz noted her appreciation of Ms. Talbot’s effort and dedication and she inquired about the personnel needs for the department.  Ms. Talbot stated that she is currently utilizing interns as they are available and that for optimal performance a fulltime investigator and part time clerk are needed.

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz noted the pivotal work the department performs to prevent homelessness.  She suggested using ARP funding to add staffing to the department.

ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE

Revisions requested at the May 17th COW

Bill 40-2021 – Amending City Code Section 576-403, Parking Prohibited in Specific Areas by adding the requirement to park inside parking stall lines Introduced at the May 10 regular meeting

Bill 41-2021 – Amending City Code Section 576-416 by adding a fine of $45 and additional 10 and 30 day penalties each in the amount of $22.50 for parking outside the parking stall lines Introduced at the May 10 regular meeting

 

A. Bill 47-2021 – authorizing an appropriations transfer of $241,000 from General Fund Rental – Parking Authority to Capital Fund Public Works – Parks, to enable the construction of the Canal Street Skate Park Introduced at the May 24 regular meeting; Tabled at the June 14 regular meeting

Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz moved, seconded by Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz, to enact Bill No. 47-2021.

 

Council President Waltman explained the course this project has taken since its inception about three (3) years ago, noting the City’s financial support.  He noted the importance of providing recreational activities for youth and young adults.

 

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz thanked Councilor Sihelnik for sheparding this project through.   She stated that skate boarding has been added as an Olympic sport with a team member from Reading competing.

Councilor Reed noted the receipt of constituent concerns about the increased need for financial support from the City, questions about why an additional skateboard park is needed when there are already two (2) existing in the County park system and how the City will supervise and maintain the park.

Bill No. 47-2021 was enacted by the following vote:

 

Yeas:  Cepeda-Freytiz, Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President – 6

Nays:  None - 0

B. Bill 48-2021 – restricting parking, to maintain the requisite number of No Parking signs along both sides of North Ninth Street in the 1100 and 1200 blocks as depicted on the parking drawing titled Exhibit “A“.  The purpose is to comply with the conditions of PennDOT Highway Occupancy Permit Application No. 238205 associated with the Marion Street Fire Station Project Introduced at the May 24 regular meeting; Tabled at the June 14th regular meeting

 

Councilor Marmarou moved, seconded by Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz, to enact Bill No. 48-2021.

 

Bill No. 48-2021 was enacted by the following vote:

 

Yeas:  Cepeda-Freytiz, Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President – 6

Nays:  None - 0

C. Bill 49-2021 – authorizing the total appropriations transfer of $294,336.75 from General Fund Rental – Parking Authority to General Fund Part Time Wages in order to increase base pay to $15 for most part time staff Introduced at the May 24 regular meeting; Tabled at the June 14th regular meeting

 

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz moved, seconded by Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz, to enact Bill No. 49-2021.

 

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz moved, seconded by Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz, to amend Bill No. 49-2021 by reducing the amount of the amendment to $195,055 and adding the need to make budgetary adjustments to some part-time positions.

 

Bill No. 49-2021 was amended by the following vote:

 

Yeas:  Cepeda-Freytiz, Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President – 6

Nays:  None - 0

 

Bill No. 49-2021, as amended, was enacted by the following vote:

 

Yeas:  Cepeda-Freytiz, Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President – 6

Nays:  None - 0

 

D. Bill 50-2021 – authorizing the Administration to enter into a one-year intergovernmental cooperation agreement with the Reading School District, with the option for subsequent one-year renewals at both parties written agreement, regarding the collection, transportation, and processing of various recyclable items generated from the Reading School District, effective July 1, 2021 Introduced at the June 14 regular meeting

 

Councilor Marmarou moved, seconded by Councilor Ventura, to enact Bill No. 50-2021.

 

Bill No. 50-2021 was enacted by the following vote:

 

Yeas:  Cepeda-Freytiz, Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President – 6

Nays:  None - 0

 

E. Bill 51-2021 – authorizing a budget transfer within the Waste Water Treatment Plant in the amount of $332,700 for employee training and develop operational support tools and manual for optimization of new treatment plant processes and funds to provide operational support and guidance related to current process control and upsets Introduced at the June 14 regular meeting

 

Councilor Reed moved, seconded by Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz, to enact Bill No. 51-2021.

 

Bill No. 51-2021 was enacted by the following vote:

 

Yeas:  Cepeda-Freytiz, Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President – 6

Nays:  None - 0

F. Bill 52-2021 – setting the salary of the solicitor at $97,375.00 per annum, payable in equal bi-monthly installments, or as otherwise provided for by ordinance Introduced at the June 14 regular meeting

Councilor moved Marmarou, seconded by Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz, to enact Bill No. 52-2021.

 

Bill No. 52-2021 was enacted by the following vote:

 

Yeas:  Cepeda-Freytiz, Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President – 6

Nays:  None - 0

G. Bill 53-2021   – authorizing a budget transfer of $260,000 from 2021 Capital PW Pagoda Wall Repair to Capital PW Garage for a Garage Class 8 and Fire Truck lifts and Permanent Hot Water Steam Cleaning Machine Hotsy – allowing the replacement of a Class 8 Lift and Permanent Steam Cleaning Machine Hotsy for the Garage Fleet Division Public Works Introduced at the June 14 regular meeting

 

Councilor Marmarou moved, seconded by Councilor Ventura, to enact Bill No. 53-2021.

 

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz noted that the amendment will not affect the work to restore the wall at the Pagoda.

 

Bill No. 53-2021 was enacted by the following vote:

 

Yeas:  Cepeda-Freytiz, Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President – 6

Nays:  None - 0

INTRODUCTION OF NEW ORDINANCES

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz read the following ordinance into the record. 

 

A. Ordinance – amending the City Code by adding a new Chapter 433 Public Art and to establish a process for the City to consider public art projects that will effectively enliven neighborhoods and create outcomes such as safety, livability, walkability, health, and economic development in  City neighborhoods

 

RESOLUTIONS

 

A. Resolution 60-2021 – authorizing the submission a PennDOT permit application for driveways, warning sign devices, parking restrictions and similar features and related PennDOT forms to secure a permit for the 9th and Marion Fire Station Tabled at the June 14 regular meeting

 

Councilor Marmarou moved, seconded by Councilor Reed, to adopt Resolution 60-2021.

 

The motion to adopt Resolution 60-2021 was approved by the following vote:

 

Yeas:  Cepeda-Freytiz, Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President – 6

Nays:  None - 0

 

B. Resolution 66- 2021 – appointing Lynanne Bohn to the Board of Health

C. Resolution 67-2021– appointing Donald Snyder to the Plumbing Board

Councilor Marmarou moved, seconded by Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz, to adopt Resolutions 66-67-2021.

 

The motion to adopt Resolutions 66-67-2021 was approved by the following vote:

 

Yeas:  Cepeda-Freytiz, Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Ventura, Waltman, President – 6

Nays:  None - 0

COUNCIL COMMENT

Councilor Reed noted the opening of the new Humane Society facility on North 11th Street and the ceremony held to mark the start of the River Road Extension construction.  She noted the need for some deviations to the detour markings near the NW Branch Library.  She congratulated the winners of the Miss Teen Reading pageant. 

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz noted the restart of the Pagoda Hill Climb over the past weekend and the work that is starting at the Pagoda.  She noted the need for Pagoda area visitors to respect the changes and those who work to manage the crowds that gather at this park property.

Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz questioned how the City can respond to complaints about land contamination.

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz reviewed the Council 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