Follow us on Twitter Friend us on Facebook Receive City Updates
{ Live, work, play in York. }

City Council Meeting Minutes

November 1, 2011

 

CALL TO ORDER: City Council convened in a General Committee meeting on November 1, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. in Council Chambers, 1 Marketway West, 3rd Floor, York, PA, to receive general public comment, with the following Council members present: Renee S. Nelson, Henry Hay Nixon, Toni Smith, Carol Hill-Evans, Vice President, and Genevieve H. Ray, President, with President Ray presiding. 
 
GENERAL PUBLIC COMMENT
 
William Bolt, York, complained about blighted properties in his neighborhood and that neighbors have made numerous calls and filed complaints with city officials but no results to date.
 
Manuel Gomez, York, feels some residents are being stonewalled when it comes to obtaining permits. He said he's sounding a warning that a repeat of questionable behaviors of prior city officials is happening again.
 
Marie Rohleder, York, complimented the city on cleaning up the streets after the recent unexpected snow that resulted in downed tree limbs.
 
There being no further public comment, President Ray adjourned the General Committee meeting and reconvened in Legislative Session at 7:00 p.m., in Council Chambers, 1 Marketway West, 3rd Floor, York, PA, with the following members present: Renee S. Nelson, Henry Hay Nixon, Toni Smith, Carol Hill-Evans, Vice President, and Genevieve H. Ray, President, with President Ray presiding. 
 
Members of the Administration in attendance included: Jim Gross, Director of Public Works, Wesley Kahley, Police Chief, and Kevin Schreiber, Director of Economic and Community Development. Also present was Assistant Solicitor Mark Elion.
 
Members of York City Council staff in attendance included:  Dianna L. Thompson, City Clerk.
 
Pledge of Allegiance: The Pledge of Allegiance was recited. 
 
Approval of Minutes: Council dispensed with the reading of the Minutes of October 18, 2011 and unanimously approved them as written.
 
Correspondence and Announcements: President Ray read correspondence and announcements.
 
PRESENTATIONS: None
 
COMMITTEE MEETINGS SCHEDULED
 
Police Committee, Renee S. Nelson, Chair:Meeting scheduled for Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 6:00 p.m. in Council Chambers to discuss the potential purchase of a mobile license plate reading system. If released from committee, Bill No. 29 and Resolution No. 111 will be considered for final passage this evening.
 
Business Administration Committee, Henry Hay Nixon, Chair: Meeting scheduled for Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 4:30 p.m. and Monday, November 7, 2011 at 6:00 p.m. in Council Chambers to  to discuss proposed projects to be funded through a bond issue, put into place long term financing for the $14 million line of credit through Fulton Bank, and discuss the City's Early Intervention Program Multi-Year Financial Plan. Council will plan to introduce the bond issue at its November 15, 2011 regular meeting at 7:00 p.m.
 
Special Council Session: Council will convene in a Special Session on Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. in Council Chambers to consider final passage of proposed projects to be funded through a bond issue.
 
STATUS OF PRIOR COMMITTEE REFERRALS 
 
General Committee, Genevieve H. Ray, Chair:Bill No. 16, a bill establishing a comprehensive towing ordinance, remains in committee until further notice. (Update: Final revisions were made. The Bill was again advertised as it has been sitting more than 60 days. The Bill will be placed on Council's December 6th agenda for consideration of final passage.)
 
SUBDIVISION / LAND DEVELOPMENT / HARB
 
Resolution No. 136, Session 2011, (View) A Resolution accepting the recommendations of HARB in issuing a certificate of appropriateness to Kathy & Billy Dabney for work to be done at 58 E. Cottage Place, and Richard Jackson Spouting, Inc. for work to be done at 629 Cleveland Ave., was introduced by Ray, read at length, and on motion of Ray, seconded by Hill-Evans, Resolution No. 136 passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith, Ray – 5; Nays – 0.
 
Resolution No. 137, Session 2011, (View) A Resolution accepting the recommendations of HARB in denying a certificate of appropriateness for work to be covered in the application filed by Leslie T. Shrader, Trinity U.M. Church, to demolish Trinity U.M. Church located at 241 E. King St., was introduced by Ray, read at length, and on motion of Ray, seconded by Hill-Evans, Resolution No. 137 came up for discussion.
 
Gary Geiselman, member of HARB, outlined the case as summed up in the Preliminary Review Sheet submitted by HARB.
 
Note: View documentation related to this case: HARB 10-19-11 Minutes , HARB 10-26-11 Minutes , Preliminary Review Sheet , Photos.
 
In summation, after debating the issue and assessing the various costs and remedies presented, Mr. Geiselman said HARB denied the application because the building is historically and architecturally significant, the building is important to the neighborhood and the city, and the roof can be repaired and the danger to public safety alleviated for approximately $198,000 whereas it would cost $180,000 to demolish and clear the site.
 
Attorney Steve Hovis, representing Trinity Church, said this has been a difficult process and decision for the church leadership and its members and they come to Council today with heavy hearts. He said the issue and safety of the trusses came apparent in 2010. In 2011, the Fire Chief declared the structure unsafe and stated that the situation had to be resolved or the church would incur significant fines and penalties. Church officials came up with a plan to market the property for sale for as little as $1.00 but unfortunately there were no immediate, full-proof purchase prospects. As such, church officials opted to submit an application for demolition by winter because they didn't feel the roof could handle the weight of snow. After reports were submitted to the city and evaluated, an order to demolish was given by the Fire Chief. As such, church members secured a demolition contractor and filed an application for demolition with the city's permit department, which triggered the HARB process as the church qualifies for HARB review. Attorney Hovis stated that if the property were to change uses, it would have to be brought up to the Uniform Construction Code standards. He then recited a portion of the “Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000,” which in part regulates that government is restricted from placing unreasonable burdens unless its of government interest. Attorney Hovis wrapped up by saying church officials and members of the congregation want to move on albeit with heavy hearts. For public safety and to help the congregation move forward, Attorney Hovis pleaded with Council to authorize demolition.
 
President Ray went on record to say she is very disappointed no one from the Fire Department is present this evening to add to this extremely important discussion especially in light of an order of demolition being issued by Chief Buffington.
 
Cynthia Dodson, Charter School Properties Solutions, said representatives from her company toured the church and submitted a commitment letter as they are interested in purchasing and preserving the integrity of the building. She said they must obtain various zoning approvals prior to making an offer on the church. She said the structure would be used to house one of their charter schools. She explained the mission of their charter schools as being health and fitness oriented.
 
Mike Johnson, Historic York Board of Directors, stated that they have done all they can to help the church. They have contacted a roofer who is ready to work. He said if the church would secure the roof, it would allow more time to decide the best approach and open the door for potential buyers if church officials are still willing to sell the property. Identifiably, the charter school is a viable option at this point. He said their primary concern is safety and the church is posing an extremely hazardous situation in the condition the roof is in today. Mr. Johnson stated that HARB's recommendations seem to be a much better approach for the interest of public safety and historic preservation. He said once repaired, costs could be recuperated through the sale of the property. Additionally, he asked city officials to consider relieving the church of the $1,000 per day fines being threatened to be imposed as everyone is working diligently to remedy this situation. Mr. Johnson said he supports HARB's recommendations. 
 
Gary Geiselman, HARB, said it is his understanding that the Fire Chief wants to see a plan in place to fix this hazardous situation or move to demolish. He said they are concerned about collapse but they will back off if a plan is put into place to fix the roof.
 
Jim Boyer, Planning Commission, said the Planning Commission requires applicants to abide by the recommendations of HARB and that this is not a massively difficult process. If Council overturns HARB's recommendations, he said this could set a precedence to not follow HARB recommendations in the future.
 
Manuel Gomez, resident, asked if HARB will be there if the building collapses? Will they assume the responsibility? He said personal safety should take a first seat to HARB's recommendations. If the church cannot handle securing the structure then allow them to demolish for the safety of our residents. Additionally, if the church can't give the structure away for $1.00, then this is a sign that this building is a burden. Safety first, he said.
 
William Bolt, resident, asked what the benefit would to demolish the church. He said without the church being on the land, the land itself is worth less, so why bother.
 
Stacey Boyer, Trinity Church member, said the original order was to repair or demolish but now it seems the order to demolish has taken a front seat. After adding up gains and losses, she said it doesn't make sense to demolish. Ms. Boyer feels there is an ulterior motive. If a contractor is willing and able to secure the roof, then do it. She urged Council to support HARB's recommendations and preserve our historic structures.
 
Joan Burgasser, HARB, stated that she looked at the roof on Sunday and although she said she's not an engineer, she was extremely concerned about the recent snow fall. However, she said thank goodness the roof is sloped and the snow melted and slid off. She then gave a chronological timeline from the Trinity Church application submission through the HARB recommendation.
 
Councilman Nixon asked if the $208,000 quote noted in the October 26, 2011 HARB minutes was a permanent or temporary fix to the structure's roof. Mr. Geiselman, HARB, responded that that quote is for a permanent fix. Henry said of all costs presented in the documentation, he's just not willing to authorize demolition of this historic building when various remedies are being offered.
 
Councilwoman Smith agreed and said if we tear down this building, we destroy history and you can't just destroy history. She said look at our ancient structures still standing. Councilwoman Smith said she could not support the demolition.
 
President Ray congratulated everyone for handling this situation civilly. She said she is very concerned that our building code official and fire chief are not present this evening because their input is paramount as she needs to hear more about the recommendations and reasons for demolition. President Ray said her question is where and what is presenting the real public danger but unfortunately, she cannot get those answers tonight because the fire chief and building code official are absent.
 
Attorney Hovis said he appreciates all points of view presented this evening. He said the numbers tonight don't add up because it's not about the money...it's about the congregation.
 
There being no further discussion, Resolution No. 137 passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith, Ray – 5; Nays – 0. Therefore the request to demolish 241 E. King St. was denied as recommended by HARB.
 
President Ray called for a recess at 8:03 p.m. and reconvened at 8:08 p.m.
 
FINAL PASSAGE OF BILLS / RESOLUTIONS
 
Motion to waive Rule 215. A motion was made by Ray, seconded by Nelson, to waive the provisions of Resolution No. 215 of 1969 to permit consideration of a supplemental agenda. The motion passed unanimously.
 
Resolution No. 138, Session 2011 (Supplemental Agenda), (View) A Resolution stipulating conditions for the intended use of the mobile license plate reading system, was introduced by Ray, read at length, and on motion of Ray, seconded by Smith, Resolution No. 138 came up for discussion.
 
Motion to amend. President Ray made a motion to amend the Resolution, last sentence in the BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED clause as follows: “....that Council stipulates that the system's use is expressly prohibited for private non-law-enforcement governmental purposes including but not limited to collection of real estate taxes and fees or collection of information for resale.” The motion to amend was seconded by Smith and passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith, Ray – 5; Nays – 0.
 
Manuel Gomez, resident, said this is a very ambitious resolution expecting law enforcement to not serve as a collections arm. President Ray explained that the purpose of the amendment is to make it clear that they are not to serve as a collection service. Mr. Gomez asked if the ambiguity could be lessened by adding a definition for “traditional law enforcement” and “non-law-enforcement governmental purposes.” Mr. Gomez said he is concerned that police will start pulling over residents for such things as non-payment of sewer and refuse fees.
 
Assistant Solicitor Mark Elion responded that the police cannot serve as a collections entity as collections is a civil matter. He said the police have no power to enforce civil matters such as delinquent sewer and refuse fees. He said the police are bound by the laws of the state and unless the state changes the law to make delinquent sewer/refuse fees a criminal matter, then there's no enforcement powers granted to the police.  
 
Mr. Gomez asked what if a police officer loads a delinquent sewer and refuse account onto the hot list? What would stop the police from arresting that resident? Solicitor Elion said he cannot answer hypothetical analogies especially when delinquent sewer and refuse fees are not a police matter at this point.
 
Mr. Gomez then posed several possibilities and scenarios that could fall under “law enforcement purposes.” He said these devices have the capability of scanning thousands of plates at one time. He feels the language in the resolution seems fruitless if any information can be added to the hot list. He said he has done a ton of research supporting civil concerns and possible civil rights violations surrounding this system.
 
Police Chief Kahley assured the public that the police do not plan to use this device for the purposes Mr. Gomez is concerned about. He said the units will be used in accordance with the law. Additionally, he stated if the police violate constitutional or civil rights, they can be penalized.
 
Marie Rohleder, resident, feels technology is getting ahead of us. She spoke of an incident where her movement in a vehicle was tracked and how technology almost prevented her from boarding a plane because her eyeglass case had traces of lead paint that was flagged by the scanner.
 
Manuel Gomez, resident, said if Council votes in haste, you will be doing a great disservice to the community. He asked what are the safeguards and protections from erroneous information landing residents on the wrong hot list. He urged Council to send this legislation to committee.
 
Vice President Hill-Evans stated that she respects the opinions presented, however, she feels the resolution sponsored by President Ray covers a lot of the concerns brought up tonight. She said her questions are about training, uses, life expectancy of the system, and software updates.
 
Police Chief Kahley responded that the immediate goal is to purchase one mobile and one fixed unit with the end goal being a fixed unit in each district. He said the county has used this system successfully for several years. Although the life expectancy is hard to pinpoint, he did say they will purchase a warranty to cover the system for the first year.
 
Police Officer Ryan Anderson added that training will be provided by the company and it's a very simple, user-friendly system that is less intrusive than using manual input.
 
A lengthy discussion ensued on how the system works.
 
President Ray said she understands there are many civil liberties concerns, which is why she introduced this resolution to make it clear what Council's intent is with regard to authorizing the purchase of this system.
 
There being no further discussion, Resolution No. 138, as amended, passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith, Ray – 5; Nays – 0.
 
Final Passage of Bill No. 29, Ordinance No. 35, Session 2011, (View) A Bill amending the 2011 budget by appropriating revenue and expenditures for the Police Department in the amount of $25,820.00 for the purchase of a mobile license plate reading system, which was introduced by Nelson at the September 6th meeting of Council, read by short title, and referred to the Police Committee (meeting held 11/01/2011 at 6:00 p.m.), came up for final passage. On motion of Nelson, seconded by Smith, Bill No. 29, Ordinance No. 35, passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith, Ray – 5; Nays – 0.
 
Final Passage of Resolution No. 111, Session 2011, (View) A Resolution authorizing a budget transfer for the Police Department in the amount of $25,820.00 for the purchase of a mobile license plate reading system, which was introduced by Nelson at the September 6th meeting of Council, read by short title, and postponed pending discussion on Bill No. 29, came up for final passage. On motion of Nelson, seconded by Smith, Resolution No. 111 passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith, Ray – 5; Nays – 0.
 
Final Passage of Bill No. 36, Ordinance No. 36, Session 2011, (View) A Bill amending the 2011 budget for the Police Department in the amount of $111,134.17 for the purchase of in-car cameras, which was introduced by Nelson at the October 18th meeting of Council and read by short title, came up for final passage. On motion of Nelson, seconded by Hill-Evans, Bill No. 36, Ordinance No. 36, passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith, Ray – 5; Nays – 0.
 
Final Passage of Bill No. 37, Ordinance No. 37, Session 2011, (View) A Bill amending the 2011 budget for the Police Department in the amount of $37,470.00 for a Department of Justice grant award (JAG) to be used for law enforcement operations, which was introduced by Nelson at the October 18th meeting of Council, and read by short title, came up for final passage. On motion of Nelson, seconded by Hill-Evans, Bill No. 37, Ordinance No. 37, passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith, Ray – 5; Nays – 0.
 
NEW BUSINESS
 
Resolution No. 139, Session 2011, (View) A Resolution authorizing the filing of a PEMA-DAP-2 Form, designating Public Works Director James E. Gross as the city's designated agent for the purpose of filing forms for Federal aid related to Tropical Storm Lee, was introduced by Smith, read at length, and on motion of Smith, seconded by Hill-Evans, Resolution No. 139 passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith, Ray – 5; Nays – 0.
 
Resolution No. 140, Session 2011, (View) Authorizing an agreement with Buchart-Horn, Inc. in the amount of $235,000.00 for renovations at 50 W. King St. (new police station), was introduced by Smith, read at length, and on motion of Smith, seconded by Hill-Evans, Resolution No. 140 came up for discussion.
 
Motion to amend. President Ray asked if the $235,000.00 agreement with Buchart-Horn includes the construction phase. Director Gross responded that Buchart-Horn's services will be “to” the construction phase, not “through” the construction phase. President Ray asked that the resolution be amended to read “to” the construction phase instead of “through” the construction phase. A motion to amend was made by Hill-Evans, seconded by Nixon, and passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith, Ray – 5; Nays – 0.
 
President Ray then expressed her frustration about not being able to locate the approved budget online as she wanted to compare what is being expended on the new police station to what Council actually approved. (See Res. 162 of 2010) Director Gross responded that they are under the $4.9 million budget that Council approved for this project. (Note: The adopted budget is online. Click here to view.)
 
Phillip Fry, Buchart-Horn, stated that the proposal is on schedule and the $4.9 million expenditure was noted in their proposal.
 
There being no further discussion, Resolution No. 140, as amended, passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith, Ray – 5; Nays – 0.
 
Resolution No. 141, Session 2011, (View) A Resolution authorizing a budget transfer in the amount of $51,150.00 in the General Fund; $11,000.00 in the Recreation Fund; and $15,000.00 in the Sewer Fund, to cover the cost of fuel, was introduced by Smith, read at length, and on motion of Smith, seconded by Hill-Evans, Resolution No. 141 passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith, Ray – 5; Nays – 0.
 
Resolution No. 142, Session 2011, (View) A Resolution approving the 2012 Annual Action Plan, was introduced by Hill-Evans, read at length, and on motion of Hill-Evans, seconded by Nelson, Resolution No. 142 came up for discussion.
 
Economic & Community Development Director Kevin Schreiber explained that this process represents the city's yearly requests to HUD which they will use as the basis of their CDBG/HOME allocations. He said the city will find out from HUD around March or April of 2012 the actual allocations granted to the city. He said some programs are on the chopping block and he asked that officials advocate for those programs. Director Schreiber stated that they are projecting about $1.5 million in CDBG funds and $486,000 in HOME funds.
 
President Ray asked about several projects including the Penn Park playground renovation project, milling, paving, sidewalks and curbs and whether those projects would be funded through CDBG. Director Schreiber said he will be able to provide further details once funds are received but to be assured that public improvements were included in the proposed funding plan.
 
There being no further discussion, Resolution No. 142 passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith, Ray – 5; Nays -0 .
 
 
REQUESTS FOR FUTURE MEETINGS 
 
City Clerk Dianna Thompson said on the November 15th agenda she would provide available dates for Council to consider for their 2012 proposed budget hearings.
 
COUNCIL COMMENT: None
 
ADMINISTRATION COMMENT: None
 
NEXT MEETING: The next regular meeting of City Council is scheduled for Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. (Public Comment commences at 6:30 p.m.) in City Council Chambers, 1 Marketway West, 3rd Floor, York, PA.
 
ADJOURNMENT:There being no further business, the November 1, 2011 meeting of Council adjourned at 9:22 p.m.