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CITY COUNCIL

City of Reading City Council

Hybrid Regular Meeting

August 9, 2021

At the conclusion of the COW Meeting

 

Download PDF Here

 

Council President Waltman called the meeting to order at approximately 7:24 pm.  

Due to COVID-19, the City was forced to change the meeting format to a hybrid 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. Comments posted in Zoom Chat and on Facebook are not considered public comment and a response may not occur. City officials are participating remotely and in-person.  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. The meeting link is included on the meeting agenda.

The invocation was given by Crystal Tapia, Feet On The Street Ministry

All present pledged to the flag.

There were no executive sessions held during or after the COWs on August 2nd or August 9th.

ATTENDANCE

Council President Waltman – in person

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz, District 2 – in person

Councilor Ventura, District 3 – in person

Councilor Marmarou, District 4 – in person

Councilor Reed, District 5 – in person

Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz, District 6 – in person

Solicitor F. Lachat – electronically

City Clerk L. Kelleher – in person

Auditor M. Rodriguez – electronically

Managing Director A. Amoros - electronically

PROCLAMATIONS AND PRESENTATIONS

None.

PUBLIC COMMENT

Council President Waltman announced that there are no citizens registered to address Council this evening.

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 July 26th Regular Meeting, the meeting summaries from the COWs held on July 26th and August 2nd and the meeting summary from the August 2nd Nominations meeting.  

The minutes from the July 26th 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. Resolution 77-2021 - authorizing the purchase of twenty-five  (25) laptop computers for the Information Technology Division from COSTARS Vendor SCW – Southern Computer Warehouse, in the amount of $42,253.75.

ADMINISTRATIVE REPORT

The managing director read the report provided in writing and attached to the agenda, in summary:

  • On July 23rd, Mayor Moran attended the 2021 Fire Academy Graduation ceremony held at the Doubletree Hotel.  The Mayor congratulated the graduates and provided certificates of recognition to recognize their accomplishments. 

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT:  

  • The Community Development Department is preparing to receive Stantec’s complete report summarizing their findings, recommendations along with the proposed implementation process in mid-August. The Administration will review Stantec’s report and prepare a presentation for City Council in September. 
  • The CD Department worked with Desman Design on the next phase of the Comprehensive Parking Study, which included public engagements.  Four virtual public meetings were scheduled. The first two were scheduled last week on August 3rd, at 6 pm for those in the City's northwest area and August 4th for those in the City’s northeast areas. The last two virtual meetings are scheduled for tomorrow, August 10th, at 6 pm for neighborhoods located in the southern area of the City and August 11th at 6 pm for the downtown area. 
  • The CD Department participated in a kick-off meeting with the federal office of Health and Human Services who awarded the City a grant to promote health awareness in minority communities.  The City will collaborate with Penn State Health to develop a health awareness campaign promoting healthier lifestyles within minority communities. 

FINANCE:

  • The Finance Department IT Division expects the new website should be ready to stand up on a cloud service within the next week or two. 
  • The Finance Department IT is installing new help desk software to help manage projects and tickets for users.  The software will allow for improved network monitoring with sites that are down and allow for better performance monitoring.   
  • The Finance Department’s Citizen Service Center continues to operate the dropbox in the 8th Street Lobby.  A substantial number of envelopes are collected from the dropbox daily, which shows that the service is convenient for customers. 
  • The Finance Department continues to cross-train all new hires to allow for coverage in four different customer service areas within the department.
  • The Finance Department staff continues to receive training in the new finance system, Tyler (Munis).  

FIRE:

  • The Fire Department 9th & Marion Street Station project held an on-site pre-bid meeting on August 2nd, with proposals due on August 24th.  RFD is hopeful to have a contract ready to go before City Council by September 13th and groundbreaking on October 4th
  • The RFD is currently testing seven applicants for the non-fire paramedic positions. 

HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION:

  • As of  August 2nd, HRC has:
    • 992 total rent and utility assistance applications were received (an addition of 13 applications since last reported). 
      • 970 applications for rental assistance
        • 632 applicants were facing eviction
        • 249 applicants were not actively facing eviction
        • 89 applicants resided outside of the City but within the County.
      • 22 applications for utility assistance

LIBRARY:

  • The Reading Public Library Executive Director and strategic plan facilitator were guests on the Circulating Ideas podcast. They were also asked to submit an article to Library Journal on strategic planning post-Covid-19.
  • The RPL Executive Director completed a seven-hour training on creating inclusive policies for equity, diversity, and inclusion. 
  • The RPL thanks the Wyomissing Foundation for their $5,000 offer to reconcile patrons lost and damaged fees in recognition of their Fine Free Pilot Program. 
  • The RPL’s new glass-walled meeting room at the Southeast branch is close to completion.  Technology is currently being installed, and the project is set to be completed in the next few weeks.  This project was funded by the Dr. Jerome Marcus donation of 2017. 

POLICE:

  • The Reading Police Department’s multi-agency Operation Cease Fire has conducted 28 details as of August 2nd.  These details have involved 565 law enforcement officers from numerous local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
    • The following are the results of Operation Cease Fire details:
      • 48 warrants served
      • 34 misdemeanor arrests
      • 32 felony arrests
      • 188 firearms seized
      • 201 home visits
    • Operation Cease Fire has decreased non-fatal shootings by 36 %, which has trended for the last six months. 
    • Vice investigations have initiated 223 cases and executed 47 search warrants which have resulted in the following:
      • 54 arrests
      • 17 firearm seized
      • 20+ pounds of various narcotics seized
    • The US Marshals Task Force efforts have resulted in the following:
      • 97 arrests of fugitives in the City or in other jurisdictions that were wanted for crimes committed in the City. 
      • The US Marshals Task Force continues to prioritize violent offenders
  • RPD successfully completed another homeless outreach operation in collaboration with the Homeless Coalition.  The outreach operation focused on reaching homeless persons in City parks and playgrounds.  The latest outreach resulted in several individuals receiving medical assistance, temporary housing assistance, and referral to treatment programs. 
  • The RPD hosted National Night Out on August 3rd.  The event took place on the 500 block of Penn Street from 5pm to 8pm, with various government and community agencies participating.
  • The RPD Police Academy has moved from Alvernia’s main campus to Alvernia University’s Upland Center.  The new location provides more office and classroom space for the Academy to utilize.

Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz inquired about the ability of citizens to submit event permits online.  The managing director stated that permits can be submitted online.  Clear instructions are included.  He noted the work to improve and streamline the process.

Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz suggested improving the media outreach regarding the Parking Study Town Meetings to improve citizen participation.

AUDITOR’S REPORT

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

2021 Cable Franchise Fees Revenue– Update as of 07/31/2021

For the current year, the City budgeted $825,000.00 in revenue for the Cable Franchise Fees.     Due to less revenue collected in previous years, $50,000.00 less was budgeted in 2021 compared to 2020 budget. For the first two quarters of the current year, the City collected $409,680.86 in revenue for this line item.

The chart below demonstrates that $4,579.34 less in revenue has been collected during the first  

two quarters of this year compared to the first two quarters of 2020.

  The chart below illustrates revenue collected from the Cable Franchise Fees

6/30/2021

2020

2019

 

2018

 

2017

1st Quarter

 205,330.02

     207,751.86

   209,042.39

   212,684.39

   229,932.97

2nd Quarter

    204,350.84

     206,508.34

   210,579.70

   214,578.59

   236,184.17

3er Quarter

     203,557.64

   199,517.55

   208,734.78

   224,527.59

4th Quarter

     200,679.36

   204,481.07

   214,925.66

   223,161.86

TOTAL REVENUE

    409,680.86

 

     818,497.20

   823,620.71

   850,923.42

 

   913,806.59

Total Budgeted

 

825,000.00

 

     875,000.00

   875,000.00

 

   930,000.00

 

   875,000.00

OVER/UNDER BUDGET

 

 (415,319.14)

 

     (56,502.80)

   (51,379.29)

   (79,076.58)

     38,806.59

User Fees Revenue – Update as of 6/30/2021

For the current year, City budgeted $3,009,500.00 for the User Fees Revenue line item and as of June 30, 2021, the City collected $1,687,865.76 or 56% of total amount budgeted. If this revenue continues this trend for the rest of this year, it could be expected that the City will exceed the budget target for this revenue line item in 2021.

   

Rental – Parking Authority (RPA) – 2021

Effective March 1, 2021, the City of Reading and the Reading Parking Authority entered into a      Cooperation Agreement where the Reading Parking Authority will make an annual payment to the City in the amount of $1,761,000.00.

 Although the City only budgeted $508,900.00 in revenue for this line item this year, as of July 31, 2021, the City has collected $587,000.00 from the RPA due to the agreement. This amount reflects the payments from March through June of this year.

Since this agreement was not negotiated until this year, the 2022 budget should reflect a more accurate budget for this line item.   

Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz inquired about the franchise tax.  The City Clerk stated that this revenue amount is negotiated with Comcast on cable services due to Comcast’s use of the City’s right-of-way for their cables, wiring, etc. The agreement also restricts the City from entering into another franchise with a competing cable company. The tax is not applied to internet charges.  She stated that the current agreement is for 15 years and it expires within the next two years.

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

Council President Waltman introduced Jay Montgomery, Plumbing Inspector and liaison to the Plumbing Board of Examiners. 

Mr. Montgomery stated that there is currently one opening on the Plumbing Board due to the retirement of a long-term member.  He thanked Council for recognizing this member’s 30 years of service with a commendation.  He stated that there is an applicant going through the appointment process to fill the vacant seat.

Mr. Mongtomery stated that the Board performs quarterly testing for Journeymen and Masters level plumbers.  He stated that the Board is currently reviewing the draft 2018 Plumbing Code that will be adopted by the State UCC board and considering the need to make local amendments. 

In response to a question, Mr. Montgomery stated that Building/Trades could use more inspectors as the work load is too heavy for the existing staff (Note:  there are currently 2 Building Inspectors and one inspector for each trade – Electric, HVAC and Plumbing). He agreed with the need to create online tools that help residents understand various issues pertaining to homeownership.

ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE

A. Bill 54-2021– amending the City Code by adding a new Chapter 433 Public Art and to establish a process for the City to consider short-term public art projects that will effectively enliven neighborhoods and create outcomes such as safety, livability, walkability, health, and economic development in City neighborhoods Introduced at the June 28 regular meeting; Advertised on July 5; Tabled at the July 12 and July 26 regular meetings

Councilor Reed moved, seconded by Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz, to enact Bill No. 54- 2021.

Councilor Reed stated that the discussion about the installation of a painted crosswalk started a broader discussion about the need to expand to include other short-term community inspired artworks such as sidewalk art, murals and banners, including the need for the applicant to have funding for the installation, maintenance and removal of the artwork.  She thanked the City Clerk for her work to research this issue and draft the ordinance, policy and application.

Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz stated that the application process also requires community input and engagement.

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz suggested adding the Berks Arts Council as an ex officio member of the committee to provide expertise.

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz moved, seconded by Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz, to amend Bill No. 54- 2021 to add the Berks Arts Council as an ex officio, non-voting member of the review committee.

The motion to amend Bill No 54-2021 was approved by the following vote:

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

Nays:  None – 0

The motion to enact Bill No 54-2021 as amended was approved by the following vote:

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

Nays:  None – 0

B. Bill 60-2021 – amending City Code Chapter 23 Boards and Commissions, Part 1201 Downtown Revitalization Public Private Partnership, Section 23-201 authorization by replacing the DID Chair with the City of Reading Designated Downtown Coordinator Introduced at the July 26 regular meeting

Councilor Marmarou moved, seconded by Councilor Reed, to adopt Bill No. 60- 2021.

The motion to enact Bill No 60-2021 was approved by the following vote:

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

Nays:  None – 0

C. Bill 61-2021 – directing the Berks County Board of Elections to place a referendum question before city voters on the 2021 General Election Ballot which would amend the City of Reading Home Rule Charter by eliminating the requirement for the City’s Public Works Director to be an engineer Introduced at the July 26 regular meeting

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz moved, seconded by Councilor Reed, to adopt Bill No. 61-2021.

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz stated that she conferred with the administration about the need for this referendum.  She stated that there are a mix of municipalities that no longer require the Public Works Director to be a city engineer (aka civil engineer), as the work can be contracted out.  She noted that the City employs several other physical engineers.

The motion to enact Bill No 61-2021 was approved 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 authorizing the transfer of $10,000 from Reading Beautification to the

PW Sustainability & Solid Waste General Plant Supplies to provide funds for cleanup/graffiti

supplies for city clean-ups.   

RESOLUTIONS

None.

COUNCIL COMMENT

Councilor Marmarou complimented the Solid Waste Manager’s handling of his personal need for a recycling accommodation. 

Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz congratulated the Googleworks Executive Director for obtaining a grant to improve the organization’s outreach.  She encouraged citizens to participate in the Art on the Block event at 20 South 4th Street.

Councilor Reed noted the success of National Night Out and the vibrancy of the downtown during the event.

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz announced the start of Jazz Fest this coming weekend.  She stated that Music on the Mountain will kick off the weekend with a free concert by Dave Kline and the Mountain Preservation Band at the Leiderkranz on Thursday.

Council President Waltman reviewed the upcoming meeting schedule.

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

Linda A. Kelleher CMC, City Clerk