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Regular Council Meeting Minutes 11/08/21




City of Reading City Council

Hybrid Regular Meeting

November 8, 2021

At the conclusion of the COW Meeting

Council Vice President Sihelnik called the meeting to order at approximately 7:20 pm.  

Due to COVID-19, the City changed the meeting format to a hybrid format with Council attending in-person at times and others attending virtually.  In addition to providing the public with the ability to observe the Council meetings virtually and via telephone and view live on the BCTV MAC Channel 99 and Facebook Live, the Committee of the Whole and Regular Meetings will be shown in the Penn Room, in the first floor of City Hall – access the Penn Room using the doors on North 8th Street only.  Public comment at regular meetings can occur virtually, in writing, via telephone or in-person in the Penn Room through Zoom.  The meeting agendas are posted on the City's website 3 days prior to the meeting. All agendas include the Zoom meeting information (LINK and Dial In) to easily 'click and join' the meeting. Access meeting agendas at:

The invocation was given by Mike Reinert, Grace United Methodist Church.  All present pledged to the flag.


Councilor Sihelnik, District 1 - electronically

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz, District 2 – electronically

Councilor Ventura, District 3 – electronically

Councilor Marmarou, District 4 – in person

Councilor Reed, District 5 – electronically

Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz, District 6 – electronically

Solicitor F. Lachat – electronically

City Clerk L. Kelleher – in person

Auditor M. Rodriguez – electronically

Managing Director A. Amoros – electronically


Council Vice President Sihelnik announced that an executive session was held at the close of the COW on litigation, at the request of the Solicitor. She also announced that Mr. Waltman is excused from this meeting.





Council Vice President Sihelnik announced that there are two (2) citizens registered to provide public comment on general matters. Councilor Reed read the public speaking rules approved by ordinance.

The City Clerk stated that neither citizen is present or connected. Council Vice President Sihelnik stated that she would check in to see if the citizens are present before the close of the meeting.


Council Vice President Sihelnik called Council's attention to the agenda, including the legislation on the Consent Agenda and the minutes from the October 25th Regular Meeting, the November 1st Special meeting and the meeting summaries from the COWs held on October 25th, 26th, and November 1st and the November 1st Nominations Meeting.

The minutes from the October 25th Regular Meeting, the November 1st Special Meeting, the agenda, including the legislation on the Consent Agenda and the summations of discussion listed 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 -

B. Resolution 102-2021 – authorizing the promotion of Sergeant Aaron Demko to the rank of Lieutenant.

C. Resolution 103-2021 – authorizing the promotion of Officer Daniel Egbert to the rank of Sergeant.



The managing director read the report provided in writing which is attached to the agenda:


  • The Community Development Department received authorization from the PA Department of Health (PaDOH) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to start the Lead Hazard Abatement Program as of November 1st. Currently, the CD Department is working with the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to certify ten local contractors and several paint inspectors and seek Lead Risk Assessors to ensure the workforce is adequately staffed and trained.
  • The program requires cleaning ten homes per PaDOH and 150 homes per HUD. The total of 160 homes will need to be completed in a three-year timeframe. To ensure families affected by lead contamination are aware of the program, the CD Department is reaching out to local healthcare providers to inform families with children who have elevated blood lead levels to contact the City for assistance.
  • The CD Department’s Property Maintenance Division conducted the following since the last report:
    • 406 two-year Property Inspections
    • 279 Quality of Life (QOL) citations
    • 115 Notice of Violation issued to chronic QOL violators
    • 163 Notice of Violation issued to properties that are not compliant with Property Maintenance ordinances
  • The CD Department discussed the Property Transfer ordinance with the Reading-Berks Association of Realtors (R-BAR). R-BAR provided feedback which the CD and the Law Department will review and agree to suggestions that will ensure transparency while assisting with delays in the settlement process. This ordinance addresses QOL and Code violations to ensure Buyer Beware.
  • The CD Department's Zoning Division improved the Zoning application process, and it has resulted in a significant reduction in applications caught in the pipeline. In October, the number of pending applications went from 81 to 26.
  • The CD Department via Finance’s Purchasing Division issued a Request for Qualification (RFQ) for the 5th and Penn properties. The RFQ requires a mandatory registration with the City’s Purchasing Division and scheduling a tour of the properties. The due date for RFQ responses is January 14, 2022.


  • The Finance Department’s Information Technology Division is working with Alvernia University to ensure the RPD SubStation on the Collegetowne Campus is ready to operate from a technology standpoint.
  • The Finance Department IT Division updated the SolarWinds software, fixed eDiscovery on the City’s email server, and resolved the Comcast outages occurring at the 3rd and Spruce Recreation Center building.


  • The Finance Department continues to work on the conversion to the Tyler Munis accounting system. All fee schedules and Hansen System information was supplied to Tyler Munis personnel to assist in preparing the new system.
  • The Finance Department’s Purchasing Division has the following updates on current projects:
    • Penn Street Courtyard Project: Three bids were received by the October 27th
    • Bernhart’s Dam Spillway Removal Project: Eight bids were received by the October 27th
    • Municipal Solid Waste Disposal Project: Two bids were received by the October 14th deadline
    • Buttonwood Gateway Project: Ten proposals were received. A selection committee was appointed to review the proposals and choose a firm. 
    • Penn Square Properties: The Request for Qualifications (RFQ) was announced on October 29th. Anyone interested can find the RFQ on the City’s website,  The deadline for submissions is January 14, 2022.   


  • On October 27th, Lt. John Naylor from the Fire Marshal’s Office participated in Amanda Stout Elementary School’s Trunk or Treat event. At the event, Lt. Naylor provided attendees with Fire Safety handouts.
  • Fire Chief Stoudt and 2nd Deputy Chief Glore read books to Amanda Stout Elementary School students via Zoom throughout the morning of October 28th. The RFD enjoyed reading and interacting with numerous classes virtually.
  • On October 28th, Lt. John Naylor from the Fire Marshal’s Office and RFD Engine 1 crew participated in the Trunk or Treat event hosted by the Claire of Assisi House on South 12th Fire safety material was distributed to those who attended.
  • The Fire Department’s 9th and Marion Fire Station project ceremonial groundbreaking will be held on November 5th at 11 am. The public is welcome to attend.
  • On November 19th, the Paramedic Class Graduation Ceremony and swearing-in will occur at the Goggleworks Center for the Arts.


  • As of November 3rd, HRC has:
    • 1105 total rent and utility assistance applications were received (an addition of 36 applications since last reported).
      • 1053 applications for rental assistance
        • 660 applicants were facing eviction
        • 291 applicants were not actively facing eviction
        • 102 applicants resided outside of the City but within the County.
      • 52 applications for utility assistance


  • The Human Resource Department would like to welcome newly hired City of Reading employees, which include:
    • As of November 1st, Richard Stoudt will serve as an Equipment Operator II for Solid Waste Division.
    • As of November 8th, Lori Kramer will serve as the new Auditing Coordinator.


  • The Reading Public Library began its routine policy review process. All 28 policies were shared with the Library staff for edits and suggestions. The policies range from author visitations to youth services. The Board of Trustees will then review and vote on submissions.
  • On October 30th, the RPL’s annual Halloween Bash returned after taking a year off. The event included spooky tunes and family favorites played by the Reading Philharmonic. This twelve-year-old tradition also had a costume parade, book giveaway, craft activities, and candy. Other special guests were Cosplayers Care. Thank you to everyone that made the return of this event a great success.
  • The RPL is currently seeking applicants for three positions: District Consultant, Outreach Coordinator to Older Adults, and Part-time Interlibrary Loan Coordinator. Please share this information with any person or organization that may help in filling these vacancies. 
  • The RPL’s Staff Development Day was held on November 2nd at the Doubletree Hotel. The event included training sessions, keynote speaker Travis Berger, an Assistant Professor of Business and Leadership at Alvernia University, and the traditional bake-off contest among library staff.


  • The Reading Police Department Pink Patch initiative has raised over $8,000. Their goal is to reach $10,000. The money raised will go to Breast Cancer Support Services of Berks County. The commemorative patches are still available to the public for $20.  Those interested can contact the Police Traffic Office at 610-655-6294.
  • Lance Lillis and Officer Rene Rios joined various community partners on the monthly homeless outreach detail on October 28th. The outreach next detail is scheduled for the week of November 15th.
  • On October 27th, the Salvation Army recognized Lt. Lance Lillis and the Reading Police Department for the work he and the police force as a whole did with food distribution during the pandemic. The recognition took place at their annual breakfast event.
  • The RPD donated 16 bicycles to the Reading School District to support an initiative led by RPD Chaplain Nick Camacho. Students will work to refurbish the bicycles, which will then be awarded to students who have achieved perfect attendance and good grades. The RPD is also working with AAA to provide bicycles helmets to the recipients if they need them.


  • Public Works staff has completed 332 out of the 780 streetlights from the LED Streetlight project. An increase of 82 streetlights since last reported on October 25th.
  • On November 5th, the paving of the 200 and 300 blocks of Penn Street, which began on October 4th, was completed.
  • Public Works announced the completion of the Pagoda traffic improvements on October 22nd. The Pagoda will be open to the public from dawn until dusk, with Public Works staff opening gates at dawn and the Reading Police Department closing the gates at dusk.

Councilor Sihelnik requested an update on the Holiday Parade.  The managing director stated that the parade will be held on November 20th at 10 am and will proceed on Penn St from North 11th St to South 2nd Street. He stated that there are already 13 groups registered to participate.  He noted that they are also having success obtaining sponsors but they are still seeking financial additional support.


The Auditor read the report attached to the agenda, as follows:

2021 Cable Franchise Fees Revenue – Update as of 09/30/2021

For 2021, 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 for this year compared to 2020 budget.  As of September 30, 2021, the City recorded $607,448.43 in revenue for this revenue line item. And about $10,000 less in revenue has been collected during the first three quarters of this year compared to the same period of 2020.

Real Estate Transfer Tax Revenue - Update as of September 30, 2021

For September of 2021, the City’s revenue is $678,323.20 for Real Estate Transfer Tax. And YTD revenue recorded as of September 30, 2021, is $6,631,495.39 for this line item. The revenue for Real Estate Transfer Tax has already exceeded it budget target by $1,931,495.39.

DCED Grant Update - Closeout Audit

At the September 23, 2021, Council meeting, I reported that in 2015, the DCED granted $520,000 to the City, and the expiration date of this grant was June 30, 2021. A closeout audit was needed in order for the City to be in compliance with the DCED guidelines.  The closeout audit has been completed by Herbein & Company, and on October 28, 2021, this audit was filed to DCED by Michael Oppenheimer, City Controller.


The closed audit identified the following two findings:

  • The contract financial statements include $25,196 of expenditures for design and engineering of the Penn Street Fire Station and $475.00 of expenditures associated with the Penn Street properties, neither of which were approved activities in the grant contract or any amendments. The 9th and Marion Fire Station was the allowable project in the amended grant. As outlined in the grant contract, the City could be asked to return the grant funds plus interest which were spend on unbudgeted activities.

In response to a question, the Auditor stated that this is the first time the City has not properly expended DCED grant funding during the correct period.  She stated that the administration has responded to the findings.

In response to a question, the Auditor explained that if the DCED finds that grant funds were misused, the funding must be reimbursed to the DCED from another City funding source.


The Finance Director explained that this issue originated due to the prior administration’s delay in moving grant funded projects forward.


REPORT FROM DEPT. DIRECTORS, BOARDS, AUTHORITIES, & COMMISSIONSReading Parking Authority (RPA) Executive Director Nathan Matz gave a PowerPoint presentation on the RPA’s finances, operation, policies, etc.  He highlighted the new grant program offered to help property owners install off street parking in the backyard areas, as a means to cure parking stress.  He also touched on the RPA’s work to acquire off street parking lots to alleviate parking stress. The first lot in the 400 block of Schuylkill Avenue is fully booked and they are currently working on a new lot on Rosenthal Street. 

Mr. Matz stated that the RPA has retained a traffic engineer to explore the reinstatement of parking stall lines.  He stated that approximately 20 different locations were tested and the engineer reports that installing lines increases parking spaces by 11%.  He noted that an 11% increase does not seem like much in a limited area; however, on a 10 square mile area it is a large improvement.

Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz noted the need to improve public education and outreach on various parking initiatives and regulations.  She suggested continuing the community meetings on a quarterly basis.

Councilor Reed thanked the RPA for the initiative to create off street parking lots.  She also agreed with the reinstatement of parking stall lines.

Council Vice President Sihelnik thanked the RPA for the report and their willingness to work with Council on various issues.  She agreed with the need for continued public engagement through community meetings.



Budget Ordinances

Ordinance – 2022 Real Estate Tax Rate Introduced at the Oct 4 Special Meeting

Ordinance – 2022 Non-Resident EIT Tax Rate Introduced at the Oct 4 Special Meeting

Ordinance – 2022 Position Ordinance Introduced at the Oct 4 Special Meeting

Ordinance – 2022 General Fund Budget Introduced at the Oct 4 Special Meeting

Ordinance – 2022 Capital Fund Budget Introduced at the Oct 4 Special Meeting

Ordinance – Adjustments to Trash/Recyling Fees Introduced at the Oct 4 Special Meeting

Ordinance – ARPA Plan Introduced at the Oct 4 Special Meeting


A. Bill 75-2021 – amending the Code of Ordinances Chapter 62 New Officers and Employees Pension Fund, Section 102 to prohibit the participation of new members where the employee is hired or rehired on or after January 1, 2022 Introduced at the September 27 regular meeting; Tabled at the October 11 and the October 25 regular meetings

     Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz moved, seconded by Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz, to table Bill No. 75- 2021.


     The managing director stated that the administration needs to analyze the effect this ordinance will have on those vested employees who resign and return to the City’s employ.


     The motion to enact Bill No 75-2021 was tabled by the following vote:


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

Nays:  None – 0

B. Bill 81-2021 – authorizing a budget transfer in the Law Dept in the amount of $70K from Special Counsel Labor Negotiations to General Legal Services Introduced at the October 25 regular meeting

Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz moved, seconded by Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz, to enact Bill No. 81- 2021.


The motion to enact Bill No. 81-2021 was approved by the following vote:


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

Nays:  None – 0



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


A. Ordinance – authorizing a budget transfer of $30,000 from Finance to the Mayor’s Office for the purchase of a car for the mayor.

B. Ordinance – authorizing a budget transfer of $12,000 from Finance to the Mayor’s Office to reimburse the Potteiger Trust fund to cover the cost of the gun buyback program, as this fund may only be used for charities

C. Ordinance – authorizing the addition of an Agency Fund line item in the amount of $25,000 for downtown holiday related costs



A. Resolution 99-2021– reappointing Michel Micozzi to the Reading Public Library Board, effective January 1, 2022

Councilor Marmarou moved, seconded by Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz, to adopt Resolution No. 99- 2021.


The motion to adopt Resolution No. 99-2021 was approved by the following vote:


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

Nays:  None – 0

B. Resolution 100-2021– authorizing the submission of the 2022 CDBG Action Plan

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz moved, seconded by Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz, to adopt Resolution No. 100-2021.


The motion to adopt Resolution No. 100-2021 was approved by the following vote:


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

Nays:  None – 0

C. Resolution 101-2021– approving the Conditional Use application for a group home at 730-32 McKnight St submitted by Andrea McHenry, for Freedom and Restoration for Everyone Enslaved (FREE), with the conditions listed and attached and the conditions approved by the Zoning Board


Councilor Reed moved, seconded by Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz, to adopt Resolution No. 101-2021.


Councilor Reed expressed concern that yet another property will become tax exempt.  While she agreed with the services provided by this and other social service organizations, she suggested that other municipalities in Berks could lift some of the burden from Reading by allowing these uses.

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz expressed the belief that there are similar services offered in non-city locations and she noted the need for this type of social service program in our community.

Council Vice President Sihelnik noted her familiarity with the services provided by this organization and she agreed with the need for these services.


The motion to adopt Resolution No 101-2021 was approved by the following vote:


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

Nays:  None – 0


Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz highlighted the various successful programs held in the community over the past week.  She announced the next anti-violence roundtable organized by RIZE on November 17th at 5 pm at Star City Boxing.  She encouraged the community to attend.

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz provided an update on the Pagoda improvements and events.

Councilor Reed noted the upcoming Veteran’s Day service held in City Park’s Memorial Grove.

Councilor Sihelnik stated that community events are posted regularly on the City’s website at and posts on social media.  She encouraged all to explore the City’s new website. She noted some of the District 1 events that are scheduled.  She thanked the managing director and finance director for agreeing to join her on the In Your District program on Tuesday the 9th at 7 pm.

Councilor Sihelnik reviewed the upcoming Council meeting schedule.

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


Linda A. Kelleher CMC, City Clerk