City Council

Council Minutes

November 1, 2005 Meeting Minutes

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Tuesday, November 1, 2005 – 7:30 PM – Town Hall


President J. Michael Schweder called the meeting to order. Reverend Sandra Birchmeier, of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Ismael Arcelay, Jean Belinski, Robert J. Donchez, Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., Gordon B. Mowrer, and J. Michael Schweder, 6. Magdalena F. Szabo was absent, 1.


The Minutes of September 19 and 20, 2005 were approved.

5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)

Proposed 2006 CDBG Program – Funding for ArtsQuest

Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, while recognizing the many contributions that ArtsQuest provides in the City and commending Council's desire to assist in the funding of equipment for the glass blowing program, stated that under City Council Resolutions 11,791 and 12,545 the purchase of equipment for a glass blowing program would not be eligible for CDBG funding. He noted that under paragraph 1 the costs would not meet the definition of expansion, building and other capital ("bricks and mortar") costs. He added that the paragraph specifically indicates that operating and program costs will not be funded using CDBG monies. Noting he was
directly involved in the process of drafting and enacting the Resolutions, Mr. Grubb affirmed there
was a specific reason for the limitation. Mr. Grubb stated that City Council and the Administration did not want organizations to rely on CDBG funds for their program and operating costs. It was felt that the United Way and other sources should support these expenses, so that the non-profits would not become reliant on CDBG funds, given prior experience with declining CDBG allocations from HUD. It was decided that maintaining and expanding facilities should be the focus for the use of CDBG funds. Mr. Grubb remarked that if the proposed allocation to ArtsQuest for glass blowing equipment is approved, Council will open the floodgates for similar requests to fund office furniture, facsimile machines, computers, etc. from the many non-profits in the City of Bethlehem. Mr. Grubb expressed concern for establishing a precedent for the use of CDBG funds, and the future impact it will have on the demand for CDBG grant monies.


Committee Meeting Announcements

Chairman Mowrer re-announced a Public Works Committee meeting on Thursday, November 10 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall on the Act 537 Plan.

Committee Member Belinski, in Chairwoman Szabo’s absence, re-announced a Community Development Committee meeting on Tuesday, November 15 at 6:00 PM in Town Hall on the Elm Street Program.


A. Director of Planning and Zoning – Street Vacation – Service Road #2

The Clerk read a memorandum dated October 14, 2005 from Darlene L. Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, advising that the Planning Commission, at their meeting of October 13, 2005, voted to recommend approval of the Vacation of Service Road #2 with the condition that all comments of the Public Works Department be addressed.

President Schweder requested that the Law Bureau draft the Ordinance to be placed on Council’s Agenda at a future meeting.

B. Director of Planning and Zoning – Street Vacation – Deschler Street

The Clerk read a memorandum dated October 14, 2005 from Darlene L. Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, advising that the Planning Commission, at their meeting of October 13, 2005, voted to recommend approval of the Vacation of Deschler Street with the following conditions: (1) north and south portions of Lot 22 shall be consolidated at the time of their development so that they are developed as one parcel; and (2) all comments of the Public Works Department shall be addressed.

President Schweder requested that the Law Bureau draft the Ordinance to be placed on Council’s Agenda at a future meeting.

C. Director of Health – Proposed Article 1162 – Municipal Waste

The Clerk read a memorandum dated October 12, 2005 from Judith Maloney, Director of Health, to which was attached proposed new Article 1162 entitled Municipal Waste – Preparation, Collection, Handling, Disposal, and Nuisances, which would replace Articles 931, 935 and 1161.08 of the Codified Ordinances. The new Article addresses two separate issues, the combination of numerous garbage ordinances into one comprehensive ordinance, and the creation of zoned hauling.

President Schweder referred the proposal to the Human Resources and Environment Committee.


A. President of Council

President Schweder announced the dates associated with City Council’s review of the Proposed 2006 Budget as follows:

Tuesday, November 15, 2005 – 7:30 PM - Town Hall
First Reading of Budget Ordinances

Monday, November 21, 2005 – 7:00 PM – Town Hall
First Budget Hearing:
Council, Mayor, Treasurer, Controller
Law Bureau
Civic Expenses
Department of Administration

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 – 7:00 PM – Town Hall
Second Budget Hearing:
Parks and Public Property
Golf Course Enterprise Fund
Community and Economic Development Department
Community Development Block Grant Fund

Thursday, December 1, 2005 – 7:00 PM – Town Hall
Third Budget Hearing:
Department of Fire
EMS Bureau
911 Fund
Department of Police

Wednesday, December 7, 2005
7:00 PM - Town Hall – Fourth Budget Hearing
Non-Utility Capital Fund
Department of Public Works
Liquid Fuels Fund
Department of Water and Sewer Resources
Water Fund Revenue Estimates
Water Fund
Water General Expenses
Water Capital
Sewer Fund Revenue Estimates
Sewer Fund
Sewer General Expenses
Sewer Capital
General Fund Revenue
General Fund Expenditures
General Expenses
Debt Service

President Schweder announced that, in addition, on Wednesday, December 7 starting 6:00 PM in Town Hall, prior to that evening’s Budget Hearing, a Committee of the Whole Meeting will take place to review the 5 Year Capital Plan

Wednesday, December 14, 2005 – 7:00 PM – Town Hall
Final Budget Meeting

Tuesday, December 20, 2005 – 7:30 PM – Town Hall
Final Reading of Budget Ordinances

B. Mayor


C. Finance Committee

Mr. Donchez, Chairman of the Finance Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee’s meeting held on November 1, 2005 on the following subjects: Proposed 2006 Golf Fees; Proposed 2006 Recreation Fees; Proposed Food Establishment Inspection Fees; and Proposed 2006 Subdivision and Land Development Review Fees.


A. Bill No. 49 – 2005 – Amending General Fund Budget – Police Department – LCB Grant

The Clerk read Bill No. 49 – 2005, Amending General Fund Budget – Police Department – LCB Grant, on Final Reading.

Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 49 – 2005, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4346, was declared adopted.

B. Bill No. 50 – 2005 – Amending Community Development Budget – South Side Greenway

The Clerk read Bill No. 50 – 2005, Amending Community Development Budget – South Side Greenway, on Final Reading.

Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 50 – 2005, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4347, was declared adopted.

C. Bill No. 51 – 2005 – Amending Sewer Capital Budget – Collection System – New/Renewal

The Clerk read Bill No. 51 – 2005, Amending Sewer Capital Budget – Collection System – New/Renewal, on Final Reading.

Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 51– 2005, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4348, was declared adopted.

D. Bill No. 52 – 2005 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – KIZ Transportation Linkage Study

The Clerk read Bill No. 52 – 2005, Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – KIZ Transportation Linkage Study, on Final Reading.

Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 52 – 2005, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4349, was declared adopted.




A. Certificate of Appropriateness – 10 East Church Street

Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,721 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a bronze plaque at 10 East Church Street in commemoration of former Mayor Gordon Payrow under whose Administration the City Center Complex was built, and to have the City Center Plaza be known as Payrow Plaza.

Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Resolution passed.

B. Certificate of Appropriateness – 535 Main Street

Mr. Mowrer and Mr. Leeson sponsored Resolution 14,722 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a new front door and add signage at 535 Main Street.

Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Resolution passed.

C. Approving Annual Action Plan – 2006 CDBG and HOME Programs

Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,723 approving the Annual Action Plan for the Fiscal Year 2006 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Programs for submittal to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development for approval.

Mr. Leeson, noting Mr. Grubb had raised an issue that was research by Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, expressed it would be appropriate for him to move an amendment to the Proposed 2006 Action Plan to delete the $30,000 CDBG grant to ArtsQuest for glass blowing equipment because of City Council’s pre-existing Resolution No. 12,545. Mr. Leeson asked Attorney Spadoni to place his opinion on the record before he makes the motion.

Attorney Spadoni, noting that today he received a request for an opinion in regard to the matter, affirmed that he submitted a letter that was provided to the Members of Council prior to this evening’s Meeting. Attorney Spadoni advised that, in his letter, he explained that he reviewed the letter dated October 12, 2005 from Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, describing the referenced funding request of ArtsQuest, and he further reviewed Resolution No. 12,545 adopted by Council on October 1, 1996. The Resolution provides that CDBG funding shall be allocated for bricks and mortar projects only, specifically delineating projects for expansion or other capital efforts, and precludes CDBG funds being used for operating or program costs. Attorney Spadoni continued on to explain he has indicated that, pursuant to that paragraph of Resolution No. 12,545 the costs for glass blowing equipment for ArtsQuest are inappropriate to be included in the request for CDBG funds.

Motion – Amending Proposed 2006 CDBG Program – Removing $30,000 for ArtsQuest – Glass Blowing Equipment

Mr. Leeson stated, in light of Attorney Spadoni’s opinion, he would make a motion to amend the 2006 Action Plan to delete the proposed funding in the amount of $30,000 to ArtsQuest for glass blowing equipment. Mr. Mowrer seconded the motion.

President Schweder clarified that, originally, $10,000 was proposed for ArtsQuest for an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible door that does meet the criteria for funding under the Community Development Block Grant Program. President Schweder noted he would assume the intent is for that funding allocation to continue and to remove the additional $30,000 amount for glass blowing equipment.

Mr. Hanna observed that the 2006 CDBG Program would revert to the original proposal that the Administration presented to City Council and the $30,000 amount would be placed back into the Contingencies Account.

President Schweder advised the motion is to take the line item for ArtsQuest and return it to $10,000 and the $30,000 will be moved from ArtsQuest back into the Contingency Account.

Voting AYE on the Amendment to Resolution 11 A: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The motion passed.

Voting AYE on Resolution 11 A, as Amended: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Resolution passed.

D. Revising Engineers’ and Electricians’ Civil Service Regulations

Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,724 that approved the recommended revisions in the Engineers’ and Electricians’ Civil Service Rules and Regulations in Section III F. Examinations, to set the minimum passing score for written examinations at 70%. If no one achieves a score of 70% then the passing score shall be 65%.

Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Resolution passed.


Committee Meeting Announcement

Chairman Arcelay announced a Human Resources and Environment Committee meeting on Tuesday, November 29 at 6:00 PM in Town Hall on Proposed 2006 Personnel Changes.


Street Lights; Pallets; Garbage and Containers; and Trees

Eddie Rodriquez, 436 Pawnee Street, stated he would like to present a written list at the end of the Meeting. Mr. Rodriquez pointed out that some of the street lights installed by the City in South Bethlehem and in other parts of the City are too close to driveways and corners, and trucks are damaging some of the lights.

Mr. Rodriquez asked if pallets are a debris issue or a health issue. Charles Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, commented they are not garbage although there are areas of concern. Mr. Brown advised that some people will buy pallets, and the City is looking for a place that will take them. Advising the Administration has known for the past few weeks why he is asking the question, Mr. Rodriquez expressed he does not want to raise that point at the meeting so as not to jeopardize and investigation. Mr. Rodriquez, noting he brought up the matter with the Health Bureau, observed no one seems to want to take responsibility for it. He continued on to say he would like to make sure that pallets are not left on a particular property, and added that Michael Palos, Housing Inspector, will be taking care of it. Mr. Rodriquez suggested that there be an Ordinance regarding placement of pallets.

Mr. Rodriquez said he would like to see that garbage is put into proper containers as required by Ordinance. Mr. Rodriquez further stated he would like to see the City go after property owners in the area of Lehigh University concerning garbage issues. Mr. Rodriquez communicated he would also like to see something be done about garbage in the areas of Hayes Street, East Third Street, Minsi Trail Bridge, Williams Street, East Fourth Street, Steel Avenue, Evans Street, East Mechanic Street, and Fortuna Street, and asserted the problem is getting worse.

Mr. Rodriquez commented he has not seen the matter of the tree on Daly Avenue addressed.

Municipal Securities Dealers - Campaign Contributions

Karl Fluck, 312 Summit Street, referred to comments he had made previously about the time he spent in reviewing events and the law having to do with the Bethlehem Authority and bond issues. Turning to a district court of appeals ruling pertaining to the municipal securities rule-making board and rule 37, Mr. Fluck explained the rule states that people who deal in municipal securities cannot make campaign contributions to the people to whom they are relying on to get the business, and there is supposed to be a two year cooling off time period. Mr. Fluck observed, if in fact the law is correct in its assumption and in the judge’s opinion that was upheld in the supreme court, then municipal securities dealers who represent the City if they are making campaign contributions cannot act on behalf of the City under the law. Mr. Fluck continued on to note, if that is true, then they cannot represent any actions from this point forward, and said he thinks action has to be taken in that regard. Mr. Fluck noted on February 12, 2004 the Bethlehem Authority Board passed a resolution to refinance a $60 million bond issue, and the next day it was stopped by the Administration. Mr. Fluck asserted it is his contention the Administration had no authority to stop that. Mr. Fluck continued on to say, moreover, the individuals involved in the episode could not represent the City or the Bethlehem Authority because they had made over $7,500 in campaign contributions in the two previous years. As a result of that and other events he has uncovered, Mr. Fluck notified the assembly he filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the U.S. Attorney General, and other appropriate agencies including the municipal securities rule-making board, and the office of special counsel. Mr. Fluck advised he has not heard back from these people and when he does he will proceed with his own personal litigation and a civil action against the individuals involved. Mr. Fluck informed the Members he wanted to let everyone know that, after reviewing all the documents, there is a basis for a cause of action, and he has experts from Florida and Washington, D.C. testifying as such.

Fire Department Overtime and Training; Payroll Records

Daryl Kulp, 1101 Wood Street, stated he is at the Meeting as President of Bethlehem Fire Fighters Local 735. Mr. Kulp recounted he had provided for the Members of Council a packet of information along with a picture of a fire on the South Side. Mr. Kulp, referring to a recent newspaper article about Fire Department Overtime money, said he would like to straighten out any misconceptions. Mr. Kulp related there was never enough money budgeted in the Fire Department Overtime account in the first place, and the amount budgeted was about $100,000 below the two previous years’ budgeted amounts. Recalling there was approximately $246,000 budgeted several years prior, Mr. Kulp expressed the belief that last year’s Overtime budget was about $150,000 or $160,000. He continued on to say no one took into consideration the percentage increases for pay raises for the following year.

Mr. Kulp informed the Members that the Local has been working endlessly to get funding to train Fire Fighters to become EMT Fire Fighters. Mr. Kulp, observing the City has been faced for many years with problems of not having enough people available for medical calls, supported the City moving forward with hiring four more Paramedics. Mr. Kulp, stressing that the Fire Department is a resource that has been sitting idle for years, asked Council if there is some way to get extra money into the Fire Department’s training budget so it can move forward to get more Fire Fighters trained as Emergency Medical Technicians to assist the City’s Paramedics and the Police Department. Mr. Kulp suggested a budget amount of about $100,000, $150,000, or possibly $200,000 over the course of the next year or two to train Fire Fighters to become EMT’s, and to put proper staffing on Fire Department equipment. Affirming that Fire Fighters have all been trained in the use of AED’s, automatic external defibrillators, Mr. Kulp pointed out those have been known to save hundreds of lives. He stressed that 90% of what makes a good Department that deals with emergency services such as Police, Fire, and Paramedics is having adequate training funds. Mr. Kulp, advising the union has been asking for years for accommodation for staffing, and training funds, said he believes in trying to resolve problems with every possible avenue before taking arbitration into play which is costly.

Mr. Kulp stated that, under Act 111, being the sole bargaining unit for the Fire Department members, the union is entitled to all payroll records and documentation for setting up contracts, possible arbitrations, or grievances. Mr. Kulp advised he has been working for over a year trying to obtain payroll records of the union members to which he is entitled, according to the union’s counsel. Mr. Kulp said he is wondering why he cannot get them. Also, Mr. Kulp explained that daily work reports filed by the Assistant Chiefs contain information relative to whether or not the union has a grievance. Mr. Kulp questioned why he cannot obtain information he is entitled to under Act 111.

John Spirk, City Solicitor, advised he is not familiar with the issue.

Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, explained there is some concern about payroll records because of private matters such as deductions. Stating he does not think there is an issue about giving salary information, Mr. Reichard pointed out there are other things in payroll records that he is not sure the union is entitled to such as personal deductions. Continuing on to say the Administration is trying to work through that, Mr. Reichard advised the Administration is trying to work through Mr. Kulp’s other issues, too. Mr. Reichard said he wants everyone to be aware that the public safety in this community is top notch, and so is the ambulance crew. Mr. Reichard noted that, obviously, the City will not be able to get to every ambulance call and will need some backup at times. Mr. Kulp interjected he was not trying to give the wrong impression. Mr. Reichard, affirming there have been ongoing discussions between the Administration and the Fire union, advised the matters are being worked on. Mr. Reichard, noting they are issues between the Administration and the union, said he thinks that is where they need to stay.

President Schweder, querying whether there is a legal opinion, pointed out that Attorney Spirk said he is not aware of the mater.

Mr. Reichard replied that he has talked to the City’s labor attorney but has not spoken to Attorney Spirk. Restating that the salary information can be given to Mr. Kulp, Mr. Reichard affirmed he is not going to release any Fire Fighters personal deductions. Mr. Kulp noted that information could be blacked out. Mr. Reichard added the Administration is trying to get that done for him.

President Schweder, suggesting that the legal opinion should be obtained from the labor lawyer saying what can and cannot be done, pointed out in a similar situation there is a legal opinion.

Mr. Kulp, reiterating the Fire Department is a resource that can be utilized, expressed in the long term lives will be saved. Adding it will also help to address some of the Fire Department’s staffing problems, Mr. Kulp pointed out there will be another very large area when the brownfields site at the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation property is redeveloped. Mr. Kulp observed there is a corner of the southeast part of the City that is somewhat unprotected.

Vote on Proposal to Prohibit Gambling in the IR, IR-F, and HI Zoning Districts; Shopping Mall at Bethlehem Works Site; Crime and Adding Police

Charles Nyul, 1966 Pinehurst Road, expressed he is concerned about the way City Council voted on the proposal to prohibit gambling in the IR, IR-F, and HI Zoning Districts. Mr. Nyul expressed his opinion that a 4 to 3 vote on a $400 million situation “stinks”. Recalling that most of Council’s votes have been 7 to 0 or 6 to 1, Mr. Nyul remarked if it is good for the City then the vote is 6 to 1 or 7 to 0, and the Members of Council are agreed on a good thing for the City. Stressing that a $400 million project on one vote for the citizens irks him, Mr. Nyul said it should have been a better vote, whichever way it went.

Turning to the proposal for a shopping center at the Bethlehem Works site, Mr. Nyul noted that for many years, Bethlehem, Allentown, and Easton have been competing with two miles of shopping centers on Route 145. Mr. Nyul asserted the City cannot compete with that.

Mr. Nyul, remarking there is so much crime in the City it is “pathetic”, observed that $700,000 could put some extra Police on the streets.

Refurbishing Triangle at West Third Street and Wyandotte Streets

Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street, applauded the City for what has taken place at the corner of West Third Street and Wyandotte Streets where the triangle across from the Cathedral Church of the Nativity has been redone with plantings and flowers, and said it is absolutely beautiful. Thanking those responsible, Ms. Pongracz pointed out it has certainly improved the gateway to the City.

Ms. Pongracz, affirming she is one of the individuals whose picture is in the Bethlehem Works brochure, said she applauds City Council for standing up for the positions in which they believe. Confirming she is in favor of the Bethlehem Works project, Ms. Pongracz said she cannot believe anyone would be against the Smithsonian Museum, a new television station, a year-round performing arts center, and the preservation of Bethlehem Steel that is near and dear to the people of Bethlehem. Ms. Pongracz, pointing out the 4 to 3 vote was a majority vote on the matter, said it would be thoroughly un-American to try to say that they do not represent the majority, and the matter is over. Ms. Pongracz, remarking either Bethlehem continues to move ahead “or we die,” observed that industry has left town. Ms. Pongracz differed with Mr. Nyul on the issue of shopping.

Sewer Problems – Homestead Avenue Area

Meg Sharp-Walton, 1136 Beverly Avenue, had pictures of damage to her home distributed to the Members of Council, and noted there is an issue that many Members are aware of concerning sewage backup into the basements of houses in the neighborhood. Ms. Sharp-Walton confirmed that Mayor Callahan met last week with neighborhood residents about the issue, and noted the Mayor has said he would put into the Budget a line item to repair and replace the sewage line that runs along Homestead Avenue through Rosemont Avenue. Ms. Sharp-Walton, stating the sewage backup is an ongoing problem and has been known to the City for a number of years, informed the Members it keeps getting worse. Ms. Sharp-Walton related that, as the pictures show, last April when her home was being painted many items were placed in the basement. She and her family were away for the day when there was a lot of rain, and when they returned that evening her daughter went into the basement and said there was water there. Ms. Sharp-Walton went to the basement and saw her daughter standing not in water but in a foot of raw sewage. She and her husband spent many hours without sleep taking out of the basement the belongings they could salvage that had been sitting in sewage for about five hours. Among the items they lost that could not be replaced were photographs, her daughter’s things, art work, antiques, and furniture. Ms. Sharp-Walton pointed out that about 50 bags of garbage had to be thrown out. Ms. Sharp-Walton notified the Members that the problem occurred again in October when there was about ten inches of rain. Ms. Sharp-Walton, stressing it is unacceptable to have sewage in anyone’s home, communicated “we’re outraged that this situation has been allowed to fester, and we are asking that you approve the budget that allows for this line to be replaced.”

President Schweder, advising that earlier in the Meeting he listed the 2006 Budget Hearing dates, received affirmation from Mr. Reichard that the sewer repair project would be in the Sewer Capital Budget. President Schweder stated that the Sewer Capital Budget will be reviewed on Wednesday, December 7 at 7:00 PM. Ms. Sharp-Walton, confirming she plans to be at that meeting, explained that residents wanted to talk to Members of Council prior to that time.

Beverly Phelan, 1857 Homestead Avenue, noted she has lived there for 26 years and never had a problem before with water or sewage in the basement. Ms. Phelan said, unfortunately, because of areas around the community that are being developed, the system is trying to support that development but things are changing. Ms. Phelan informed the Members that a lot of neighbors have had sewage problems since 1999, and there are now 40 homes in the neighborhood that are affected by sewage every time there is a storm. Ms. Phelan stated she does not believe that the storm drains and the sewage drains are supposed to be connected. Ms. Phelan, noting the Mayor has made the effort and the City is working on a project, said the neighbors are at the Meeting to ask City Council to please support the project and approve it. Recounting that her house was affected by the storm in April but the damage was minimal, Ms. Phelan highlighted the fact that because there was never a problem previously her basement was refurbished. However, she informed the Members that after the last storm in October the basement sustained a lot of damage and her son’s bedroom, a bathroom, a wardrobe area, washer, and dryer were lost, two year old furnace and hot water heater had to be repaired, the floor was devastated, and paneling ripped off the walls. However, Ms. Phelan stressed it is the health hazard that presents the greatest problem. She advised there were four one-half horsepower pumps that pumped sewage out of the homes, some of which went into the street, and a neighbor who pumped it into his backyard is now very concerned about whether it is safe for his three year old son to go into his backyard. Ms. Phelan informed the Members that the emergency room at St. Luke’s Hospital referred her to the Bethlehem Health Bureau who told her to contact her family doctor, and she and her family received shots for hepatitis-A. Ms. Phelan related that her husband had a viral infection and she had bronchitis that her doctor felt it was from sewage fumes. Ms. Phelan pointed out that, besides the very real health issue, it is a disgusting issue of having to clean up and have sewage invade a home. Ms. Phelan submitted two pictures to the Members of Council. Ms. Phelan expressed she could never begin to make the Members understand what it is like to be standing in your basement and realize there is sewage all around you from wall to wall 10 inches deep.

Time Limits for Speakers

Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, remarking there has been federal legislation passed titled the Patriot Act which is repressive to democratic freedoms, denoted that at the local level the citizens being at the Meeting this evening is essentially the most fundamental form of democracy. Recalling that in the past the Courtesy of the Floor was unrestricted, Mr. Antalics noted by compromise it was changed to12 minutes following an initial request of 10 minutes. Mr. Antalics said the Resolution was prompted emotionally on one specific incident when a citizen continued on for 40 minutes. Mr. Antalics stated that the current proposal for limiting the Courtesy of the Floor to five minutes instead of twelve minutes was based upon the success of the five minute limitation at the September 19, 2005 Public Hearing relative to a proposal to prohibit gambling in Bethlehem. Mr. Antalics expressed his opinion that both decisions were based on the exception rather than the rule that makes them emotional and irrational. Mr. Antalics communicated that, if one wants to maintain freedom of speech in a patriot way, he would suggest that the sponsor of the Resolution to limit Courtesy of the Floor to 5 minutes “be very patriotic and rescind his Resolution.”

Sewer Problems – Homestead Avenue Area

Mrs. Jeannie Kipp, 1146 West Rosemont Drive, informed the Members she has been in the hospital twice since the past December. Mrs. Kipp recounted that in 1999 she called the Mayor’s Office, and the offices of Mr. Alkhal, Mr. Fritz, and Carey Ruhf, and letters went back and forth between Kathleen Reese, the then Water and Sewer Resources Director, and 13 residents of West Rosemont Drive and Homestead Avenue. Mrs. Kipp stressed that one cannot imagine living in the City of Bethlehem and thinking they are in a third world country when they are standing in sewerage. Mrs. Kipp said she is sure several of the rashes she has contracted have been a result of what she has been living in. Mrs. Kipp expressed it is difficult to listen to the City explain that the smoke testing and putting caps on manhole covers have solved the problems in the area. Mrs. Kipp explained that, since 1999 when the letters went back and forth with Ms. Reese, she was assured that the problem was taken care of and residents would no longer have sewerage in their homes. Mrs. Kipp, notifying the Members she has lived in her home for 31 years, stressed she is tired of cleaning up sewerage. Mrs. Kipp continued on to say she does not think as a taxpayer that her money cannot fix the problem that exists. Ms. Kipp advised she was told in April 2000 that there is no problem. Commenting she feels very sorry for the newcomers who did not know about the problem and lost their belongings, Mrs. Kipp stressed it is unconscionable. Mrs. Kipp asserted the health matters are just beginning. Mrs. Kipp remarked she dares to say that the water is a problem also. Mrs. Kipp said she would like City Council to please go back to the records at least from 1999 and read what the different offices said to the residents that is in writing, and what was proposed and done. Mrs. Kipp continued on to say in August 1999 the variance for the Park View development off Pennsylvania Avenue was passed by City Council. She observed all that sewerage went into the lines on Pennsylvania Avenue, and in Act 537 the sewer lines are to be redone. In the meantime, all the larger sewer lines leading into Pennsylvania Avenue coming from that development come into her neighborhood area. Mrs. Kipp stressed “the infrastructures that we were told were okay in 1999 and 2000 are now not okay, and we cannot wait any longer to have this situation corrected. I don’t think you would want to live with sewerage in your basement. Consequently, you have to clean it. You have to walk through your house…”. Mrs. Kipp informed the Members she is paying to have her house sprayed. Mrs. Kipp explained “we really need this taken care of as soon as possible.” Mrs. Kipp expressed the hope that the two lines proposed to the residents are big enough to contain what is coming into the area. Mrs. Kipp expressed “your immediate attention to this matter is of such urgency that we implore you to please, even December is too late to look at it, [to look at it] before that.”

Mr. Leeson stressed this is a situation that is clearly untolerable and needs to be remedied. Mr. Leeson asked David Brong, Director of Water and Sewer Resources, to write a report for City Council on the scope of the problem, the recommended remedy, and how it will be financed and paid for, so that Council can move forward on the matter as soon as possible, and so that when City Council goes into that budget meeting they will not be in a position of having to ask a lot of questions.

President Schweder asked if Mr. Brong could have the report to City Council within two weeks.

Mrs. Belinski advised she had asked for the records after Ms. Sharp-Walton’s husband called her. Mrs. Belinski explained she wanted to know if the City was roto-rootering the pipes every three months, and added that is what she was told about when the problem surfaced in 1999 when a resident called her who had 12 inches of human sewage floating in the basement causing $6,000 in damage. Mrs. Belinski noted she did everything she could at that time, and went to residents’ homes. Stating that former employees of the City told her there was a verbal agreement that the pipes should be clean out and roto-rooted every three months, Mrs. Belinski said she wanted to know was that done because from the information she received she could not tell.

David Brong, Director of Water and Sewer Resources, said the answer is yes, and added that probably more time was spent in the Homestead Avenue area as far as sewer maintenance, resolving blockages in the area, routing, flushing, and inspecting the lines than is done in any other area. Mr. Brong added it is certainly precipitated by these unfortunate circumstances. Mr. Brong, stating the City has not sent its cutters into private property on the sewer laterals, explained that is not something the City does. Rather, the City concentrates on the mains and the City’s section of the laterals that are in the public right of way.

Mrs. Belinski expressed she would like to go to Mr. Brong’s office and show him the information she was given so he could circle the information and tell her when every three months the lines were roto-rooted.

Mr. Brong, stating the problems are not a function of the lack of maintenance, explained the problem is the capacity of the lines inside the homes and some other exacerbating circumstances in that area for which the City feels it has the remedy, and has to move at unprecedented speed.

Mrs. Belinski, recalling she had asked at the time when the new Park View development at Pennsylvania Avenue was added onto the sewer line in view of the recent previous history how that could be added on the sewer line, recounted she was told it will handle it and it is not going to be a problem.

Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, noted he lived at 1843 Homestead Avenue from 1990 to 2001 and is very familiar with the problems. Mr. Grubb observed if there is a major rain in three weeks, for example, then next year’s Budget is not going to assist the homeowners with the problem. Commenting there is the potential for some temporary remediation with installation of a valve that would prevent introduction of sanitary sewer contents into the storm water contents, Mr. Grubb wondered why the City is not assisting the homeowners with that matter. Mr. Grubb remarked “I don’t think we can wait another day.” He later asserted that the City needs to be a lot more proactive on the situation.

Mrs. Belinski, recalling it would cost $1,000 to do so but residents said they wanted a permanent solution with a larger wastewater pipeline, highlighted the fact that in the meantime the problem could recur after a heavy snow, for example.

President Schweder, affirming that all the Members want to have this remediated and corrected as soon as possible, advised that City Council has not received anything from the Department or the Administration about the matter. President Schweder pointed out that the Members do not have any proposal before them, and will not receive the Proposed 2006 Budget until November 15, and added that Mr. Brong has agreed to forward a report in two weeks.

Mr. Mowrer confirmed that he did go to the neighborhood when the problem occurred, and went into the basement. Mr. Mowrer affirmed the Mayor and the head of the Department were there and he heard them say they will do something, and Council will have to give some money to do it. Advising he told the Administration to come up with its proposal, Mr. Mowrer expressed he believes the Administration will come forward with their proposal.

Dean Bruch, 625 Hawthorne Road, advising he is a master plumber, stated that backwater valves can be installed to correct the problem on a temporary basis, but digging is necessary. Mr. Bruch, commenting it is an engineering problem, noted the system was designed to handle a certain number of gallons per residence. Mr. Bruch stated when the pipes are cleaned out they can be televised to find out where the problems are located. However, Mr. Bruch stated the problem can never be corrected if there is continued building in the area and the pipe is a certain size. Mr. Bruch pointed out the City does have pumping stations.


Mary Tommer Ridlin, 630 Fifth Avenue, referring to the issue of gambling, explained that God’s response to her question as to what to say was that the vote has spiritual repercussions that will go on for generations. She stated that gambling brings in corruption, addictions, and drugs.

Sewer Problems – Homestead Avenue Area

Beverly Phelan, 1857 Homestead Avenue, clarified that the Mayor did offer the residents a $1,000 grant. Ms. Phelan advised she retained a plumber and put a check valve on her home until the sewer upgrade is put in. Ms. Phelan, observing the other option was to forego the grant and proceed immediately, said the upgrade will satisfy 37 of the 40 homes. For the other three homes, it was recommended that check valves be installed to protect the residents because there are bathroom facilities in the three homes that are only one and a half to two feet above the sewer line. Pointing out it is added personal expense, Ms. Phelan had asked if the three home owners could get the grant and the answer was no because they decided to go ahead with a total immediate upgrade if it is approved by Council. Ms. Phelan highlighted the fact that, in addition to paying $2,800-$3,000 to have a check valve installed, she had her home sanitized, had an ionizer running for three days to kill spores, and had the carpets shampooed that has cost about $7,000 to $8,000. Ms. Phelan remarked it is someone’s negligence that her neighborhood is in the condition that it is in. Ms. Phelan further informed the assembly that submitting additional insurance claims will mean a 30% surcharge in homeowner’s insurance for the next five years. In addition, her home will receive a bad insurance history, and the next buyer may not be able to get insurance. Ms. Phelan notified the Members “it’s very critical that if you approve this Budget that the line is lowered for 1857, 1851, and 1847 because it’s unacceptable to put your money into a project like this and have 37 of the 40 homes [rectified], unless if the City wants to buy these three homes on the end of this line.” Ms. Phelan said, as far as passing any more onto the homeowner, this is just unbearable and unacceptable.

President Schweder, noting the Mayor has talked about expediting the matter, recalled there was a situation a number of years ago farther out in northwest that had festered for a decade before that. President Schweder continued on to note the Mayor was a Member of City Council at that time, and Council unanimously worked with the homeowners to resolve the problem. President Schweder advised he thinks the same thing will happen here, and Mr. Brong will come back to Council with a report as quickly as he can. President Schweder noted the financial constraint is that it is part of the 2006 Budget.

Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, confirming the Proposed 2006 Budget will be presented in two weeks, affirmed the sewer project will be part of the Budget.

President Schweder suggested that, if there is anything short term that can be done, it be part of the report. President Schweder communicated that all are united in resolving the situation for the residents.


The meeting was adjourned at 9:00 p.m.