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Special Council Meeting Minutes 06/01/21




City of Reading City Council
Special Meeting
Tuesday, June 1, 2021
Virtual Meeting

Council President Waltman called the meeting to order at 6:07 pm. He announced that the purpose of this meeting is to consider the adoption of the FOP and AFSCME 3799 Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs).

Due to the COVID-19 Declaration of Emergency, 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 in writing, by telephone or by connecting with the virtual meeting app by registering with the City Clerk in advance of the meeting. The meeting link can be found on the agenda posted on the website.

There was an executive session held at 5 pm to discuss the labor contracts as per PA Sunshine Act 65 §708 Executive sessions (a) (1). The seven members of Council, managing director, Mr. Denbowski, the elected Auditor, City Clerk, Dep. City Clerk, Finance Director, Police Chief, Interim Public Works Director and Dep. Public Works Director attended. Councilor Reed was excused to attend a flag raising event at 5:30 pm.

Councilor Sihelnik, District 1 - electronically
Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz, District 2 - electronically
Councilor Ventura, District 3 – via dial in
Councilor Marmarou, District 4 – via dial in
Councilor Reed, District 5 - electronically
Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz, District 6 - electronically
Managing Director A. Amoros – electronically
Solicitor F. Lachat – electronically
City Clerk L. Kelleher
City Auditor M. Rodriguez – electronically
Chief of Staff Denbowski - electronically

The City Clerk stated that there no members of the public were registered to speak.

Council President Waltman called Council’s attention to the agenda for this meeting. He inquired if any Council members objected to the resolutions listed on the agenda. There was no objection. The agenda was approved by acclimation.


A. Resolution 52-2021 – ratifying the AFSCME 3799 Contract – tabled at the May 24th regular meeting

Councilor Reed moved, seconded by Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz, to adopt Resolution No 52-2021.

Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz inquired about the last pay raise for this collective bargaining unit. The Finance Director stated that this group received 2% in 2020 as per the MOU.

Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz expressed concern that the 2021 budget provides funding for a 2% increase and this agreement provides a 4% increase creating a financial gap. The Finance Director explained that the Act 47 Exit Plan creates a salary cap for each of the five (5) employee groups and the 4% increase does not exceed that cap for this group. Negotiations centered on the available funding. He explained that the salary cap includes funding from unfilled positions which eliminates a budget gap. He noted that PFM has reviewed and approved the contract.

Mr. Denbowski read a prepared statement from the Mayor in support of the contract for the 1st level supervisors, noting the leadership these employees provide for multiple departments and divisions.

Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz stated that she is uncomfortable approving a 4% increase due to the budget gap that will be created. She expressed the belief that while the employees deserve an increase, she is reluctant to place the additional burden on the taxpayers. She questioned the City’s financial ability to sustain the increase moving forward.

Councilor Reed stated that while she understands the concerns about the City’s fiscal constraints, she recognizes the need to increase these salaries due to the extraordinary effort of the City’s employees during the past 11 years in Act 47 and during the pandemic to keep City services operating.

Council President Waltman agreed with Councilor Reed, noting that the agreements were negotiated within the framework of the City’s Exit Plan and approved by PFM.

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz inquired about how the City will fund the salary increases. The Finance Director explained that each labor group has a defined cap and these increases fall within that cap and will be covered using funding from unfilled positions.

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz noted the employee sacrifices over the 11 year course of Act 47.

Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz requested confirmation that the City can afford these pay increases. The Finance Director confirmed that the City can afford these increases over the two (2) year period covered by this CBA. He added that due to the expiration of the CBAs and MOUs for the FOP, AFSCME 3799 and AFSCME 2763 none of the employees in these workgroups received an increase at the beginning of 2021.

Councilor Sihelnik agreed with the need to fairly compensate the City’s employees. She questioned if the mayor’s Public Works reorganization plan was implemented. The Interim Public Works Director stated that after reviewing the department’s organizational structure various shifts in positions occurred. He noted too that during his former tenure as Public Works Director, there were superintendent positions for various work groups such as Streets, Parks, Garage, etc. When attrition began the 1st Level Supervisors covered under this CBA suggested eliminating the superintendent positions and assigning the work to the 1st Level Supervisors, which saved money and increased productivity.

Resolution No. 52-2021 was adopted by the following vote:

Yeas: Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Sihelnik, Ventura, Waltman, President – 6
Nays: Cepeda-Freytiz - 1

B. Resolution 53-2021 – ratifying the FOP contract – tabled at the May 24th regular meeting

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz moved, seconded by Councilor Reed, to adopt Resolution 53-2021.

Mr. Denbowski read the prepared statement from the mayor asking Council to approve this CBA and recognizing the work of the department to keep the City safe.

Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz stated that she is uncomfortable approving this CBA as it exceeds the salaries budgeted for 2021. She noted her support of the work of the officers and expressed her belief in the need to instead have multiple community resource officers and auxiliary police. She questioned the City’s ability to sustain these salaries over time.

Council President Waltman noted the repression of the employee salaries during Act 47, which has hindered the City’s ability to retain employees. He noted that the City has become a training program for officers who leave for better paying positions elsewhere in the County. He noted the need to recognize that public safety and having a strong, competent Police Department is a priority in Reading.

Councilor Sihelnik agreed, noting her support for this CBA.

Councilor Goodman-Hinnershitz noted how the department has repeatedly shifted to meet the needs of the community and how the Police continue to step up to meet each new challenge.

Resolution No. 53-2021 was adopted by the following vote:

Yeas: Goodman-Hinnershitz, Marmarou, Reed, Sihelnik, Ventura, Waltman, President – 6
Nays: Cepeda-Freytiz - 1

Council Comment

Councilor Reed asked the administration to arrange a meeting with the Fightin Phils and City Council to discuss the new demands for stadium improvements.

Council President Waltman stated that he had a conversation with the managing director earlier today about this issue.

The managing director agreed to arrange the meeting and to keep Council in the loop on the next steps.

The meeting adjourned, on a motion by Councilor Marmarou and a second by Councilor Cepeda-Freytiz, at approximately 6:35 pm.

Respectfully submitted by Linda A. Kelleher CMC, City Clerk