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City Council Meeting Minutes

December 6, 2011

 

CALL TO ORDER:  City Council convened in a General Committee meeting on December 6, 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
 
Steve Young, city resident, stated that over a year ago he asked how we were going to move into the new City Hall with only $500,000 but that question caused an unfriendly backlash. He said if there is no scandal, then don't be afraid to talk about the issue. Mr. Young feels people get a bad name for speaking out about their concerns. He also feels that Council and the Administration are stagnating entrepreneurship in the city and the city is suffering because of it. He asked city administrators to look at the lack of business development in the city and be honest about their observations.
 
Michael Helfrich, city resident, questioned why taxpayer dollars are being used to challenge his ability to serve on Council because of his felony from 20 years ago. He referred to a letter drafted by Assistant Solicitor Don Hoyt to the Attorney General's Office that the conclusion has been made that he should not be allowed to serve on City Council. He brought up a 1999 Adams County case whereby a tax collector had a felony record but was able to serve.
 
Joanne Borders, city resident, announced the York Rescue Mission's blanket giveaway event happening on December 10th beginning at 8:00 a.m. at Lincoln Charter School. She said they will be giving away blankets until they are all gone.
 
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 and Steve Buffington, Fire Chief. 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 November 15, 2011, November 22, 2011 (5:30 p.m.), November 22, 2011 (7:00 p.m.), and November 30, 2011 and unanimously approved them as written.
 
Correspondence and Announcements: None
 
COUNCIL COMMENT
 
President Ray directed a question to Assistant Solicitor Mark Elion. She said that during the public comment period, an issue was raised that Assistant Solicitor Hoyt had written the Attorney General's Office regarding case law and council-candidate Michael Helfrich's inability to serve on Council. She asked under whose direction was the letter written and what costs were involved.
 
Assistant Solicitor Elion responded that he cannot speculate on certain issues but that to his knowledge, the city has not forwarded a formal complaint regarding Mr. Helfrich's ability or inability to serve on Council. He said only the Attorney General or District Attorney can challenge Mr. Helfrich's ability to serve. He did say that the city does have a legal obligation to protect itself, so it is incumbent upon us to do so, but he cannot speculate the reasons at this time.
 
President Ray said the issue of taxpayer dollars is at the forefront and she asked if taxpayer dollars were used in this effort.
 
Solicitor Elion stated that in any case involving the city, the bottom line is that we have a responsibility to do our due diligence and that it would be more costly to get sued.
 
Councilwoman Smith said she is worried that the city might get sued if Mr. Helfrich serves on Council because she interprets the City Charter as showing that he cannot serve because of his felony.
 
PRESENTATIONS
 
Sonia Huntzinger, Executive Director, Downtown Inc – Gave a report on Downtown Inc's 2011 accomplishments and its plans for 2012.
 
Ms. Huntzinger explained that the Downtown Inc is the trade name for a joint venture between the York Business Improvement District Authority and Main Street York, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. Together they work to enhance and foster reinvestment in downtown York.  The organization is comprised of a staff of three, a Board of eleven Directors, and more than 125 dedicated and committed volunteers. The mission of Downtown Inc is "to provide a distinctive experience for living, working and recreation in York’s downtown district.  We provide an environment that is unique in the region by blending the architectural foundation laid nearly 300 years ago with modern, urban living and entertainment in a business-friendly atmosphere."
 
She said that Downtown Inc raised over $80,000 in 2011 and they hope to raise $120,000 by 2013. She said they currently operate on a $250,000 budget wherein they offer events such as Walking Tours, First Fridays, Merchant of the Month, ribbon cutting ceremonies, summer concert series, and much, much more. Ms. Huntzinger also reported that they have hired a new Business Development Liaison, implemented the White Rose Trolley downtown transportation option, developed co-op advertising, managed downtown cleanup crews, planted more than $2,500 flowers in downtown York, and held quarterly workshops, as well as various other initiatives to help promote and strengthen our downtown and its business base.
 
Ms. Huntzinger stated that Downtown Inc will continue its efforts in 2012 and will continue to work on business retention and recruitment.
 
J.T. Hand, Chair, York City Sewer Authority Board – Thanked Council and the Administration for supporting the Sewer Authority's ribbon cutting ceremony to unveil the new Microturbine Co-Generation System at the Waste Water Treatment Plant. He reported that state officials were impressed with our system and recovery process. Also, he said they have completed the $5.8 million Poorhouse Run siphon collection system project which involved detailed coordination and cooperation over a 12 month period. Additionally, he reported that the project was completed without incident and without residents being affected. Proceeds for the project were paid jointly by municipalities sharing the system. Lastly, Mr. Hand announced that they have been able to secure the $1 million PAH2O grant. He said that York City is one of very few municipalities to secure grant funds in both the first and second rounds of funding. Mr. Hand stated that the city's share of those funds is $660,000. Mr. Hand assured Council that although there is a deficit in the budget, they can be assured that the York City Sewer Authority is doing its part to help keep project costs down.
 
Rev. Patrick J. Rooney, Chair, York City General Authority – Discussed the draft report of the Management Committee to the York City General Authority entitled “Review of Parking System Operations and Management.” In brief, Pastor Rooney explained the following, which is an excerpt from the report:
 
“The Authority was established in 1995 by the City to provide certain benefits to the municipality. Primary among its purposes is the ownership of the Parking System, which the Authority has owned since 1996. The City has managed and operated the Parking System under contract with the Authority since that time. The Parking System consists of 3 garages, 15 off-street surface lots, and approximately 1,231 on-street parking meters. The Authority established the Committee to examine the operations and management of the Authority's Parking System.”
 
“The Committee identified a number of observations that it believes merit discussion and considered a number of options including: 1. returning the Parking System to the City, 2. continuing with current City management, 3. engaging a third-party management company, 4. establishing separate Authority management and operations, and 5. selling or long-term-leasing the Parking System to a third-party. Other options, such as leasing the system to the City, contracting with a third-party for certain services, engaging certain staff and contracting with the City of other staff, engaging staff that is placed on City payroll in exchange for payment of their human resource costs, leasing staff from the City, or changing certain operating or management procedures, may address the observations.”
 
“The Committee recommends that the Authority consider option 4. establishing separate Authority management and operations. It believes that this option best addresses the identified observations and will clarify reporting relationships. Under this option, the Authority would terminate its management and operations agreements with the City, establish its own independent management and operations, and take direct responsibility for addressing issues and observations.”
 
Pastor Rooney reported that the Mayor has elected to go with option 1. returning the Parking System to the City. He said under this option, the Authority would return the Parking System to the City. The $2.8 million long-term debt and other obligations owed by the Authority to the City would be extinguished under this Option. The City's own outstanding debt would not be affected and the earnings of the Parking System would be available directly to the City to fund the Parking System or other City obligations.
 
He stated that the advantages of Option 1 for the Authority include that the Authority would no longer be obligated to oversee the operations and management of the Parking System. The advantages for the City would be that the City administration could manage and operate the Parking System as it wishes without the support of the General Authority Board. Some of the disadvantages of Option 1 include loss of assistance from the General Authority on parking policy and other issues, as well as losing them as a source for matching funds under certain state programs.
 
Pastor Rooney said the General Authority is unclear on how much money they have and that they have asked for financial statements several times but have only received one statement so far. He said they have been in limbo for several months and do not have a timeline to use as a guide. However, he did say that the Authority is doing whatever it can to fully assist the City with the buyback option (Option 1).
 
As Council denied bond funding for the purchase of the Parking System, discussion ensued on the other options outlined in the report.
 
There being no further discussion, the presentation session adjourned.
 
COMMITTEE MEETINGS SCHEDULED: None
 
STATUS OF PRIOR COMMITTEE REFERRALS: No reports
 
SUBDIVISION / LAND DEVELOPMENT / HARB
 
Resolution No. 147, Session 2011, (View) A Resolution accepting the recommendations of HARB in issuing a certificate of appropriateness for work to be covered in the following applications as recommended and approved by HARB: Don Hake, for work to be done at 43 S. Penn St., York Habitat for Humanity for work to be done at 355-357 E. Poplar St., and Crispus Attucks for work to be done at 354 S. George St., was introduced by Ray, read at length, and on motion of Ray, seconded by Nelson, Resolution No. 147 came up for discussion.
 
Debbie Krout-Althoff, Executive Director, York Habitat for Humanity, said she would first like to say how disappointed she was with the HARB minutes regarding discussion on 355-357 E. Poplar St. She said the minutes made it appear that Habitat representatives were threatening and refused to compromise. She said that is incorrect and she feels it completely misrepresented their presentation.
 
Ms. Krout-Althoff stated that Habitat supports historic preservation but this is new construction, which rarely happens in the historic district. She said they don't want to construct a poor rendering of a historic structure but they must keep within their budgetary limits. Ms. Althoff said this new construction is an unprecedented event that cannot be compared to any other project in the HARB district. Also, she said they have designed plans for the house and provided samples of construction materials. As this is new construction, she said there are no real defined procedures in place for HARB to refer to.
 
Ms. Althoff then went on to explained that on June 1, 2011, Habitat submitted an application to HARB to, in part, install vinyl siding and a gutter system for a newly built duplex located at 355-357 E. Poplar St. She stated that at that meeting, HARB suggested they further research and present alternative siding that would better mesh with the historic district. On June 15, 2011, Habitat presented revised plans to use Nichiha fiber cement board with a wood-grain-type finish and K style gutters. However, HARB then recommended smooth finish siding and half-round gutters. Then on November 16, 2011, Habitat presented Wolverine vinyl siding, which is a good quality, less expensive alternative to the Nichiha fiber cement board. Although HARB agreed that the Wolverine was quality siding, HARB was concerned about its appearance and sustainability.
 
Steve Munchel, Habitat for Humanity, Construction Manager, presented samples to Council of the Wolverine-style siding and felt it was a good compromise to the cement board siding.
 
Dave Redshaw, HARB Chair, defended the HARB minutes and said they were an accurate representation of the events that took place. He said HARB respects the work that Habitat does in the community and hopes they will continue to build. However, Mr. Redshaw explained that the siding Habitat is asking to use lacks durability. He presented photos to Council of structures with vinyl siding that showed the siding bowing out and pulling away from a structure after just one year. He then showed a structure with cement board siding that remained intact. Mr. Redshaw further stated that if you factor in that volunteers will be installing the Wolverine siding, you could be looking at even a bigger problem. On the other hand, he said cement board is fairly easy to install, it's reliable and easier to clean compared to vinyl.
 
Mr. Redshaw went on to say that HARB has to abide by ordinances and regulations and must determine what's suitable and in the best interest of historic preservation and the historic district. Unfortunately, he said vinyl is not sustainable without diligent maintenance. Although cement board is a fairly new product, he stated that it's easier to work with and maintain and that he stands behind HARB's recommendation and that the vinyl siding should be denied.
 
President Ray and Councilman Nixon had questions about the cost difference was between the Wolverine and cement board siding.
 
Ms. Althoff responded that Habitat was asked to do a cost comparison, which they did, and determined that the difference would be $7,150.20 just for this one house.
 
Mr. Munchel added that originally, Habitat wanted to do a brick front with vinyl siding but was discouraged by a HARB member who opined that that was an outdated look. Therefore, he said we opted to do all siding. He further stated that the Wolverine siding can be painted if it gets discolored so maintenance and upkeep is achievable.
 
After hearing discussion on cost and debating the issue of Habitat's submission versus HARB's recommendations, Council prepared to call for the vote. Council decided to separate the vote on 355-357 E. Poplar St. from the other applications appearing in Resolution No. 147.
 
Therefore, a motion was made by Ray, seconded by Hill-Evans, to approve the recommendations of HARB in issuing a certificate of appropriateness for work to be done at 43 S. Penn St. and 354 S. George St. The motion to approve passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith, Ray – 5; Nays – 0.
 
Next, a motion was made by Ray, seconded by Hill-Evans to approve the recommendations of HARB in issuing a certificate of appropriateness for work to be done at 355-357 E. Poplar with the following stipulations as recommended by HARB: (1) K style gutters and downspouts may be used, and (2) Vinyl siding may not be used. The motion to approve passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nixon, Smith, Ray – 3; Nays – Nelson, Hill-Evans – 2.
 
 
FINAL PASSAGE OF BILLS / RESOLUTIONS
 
Final Passage of Bill No. 16, Ordinance No. 40, Session 2011, (View) A Bill establishing a comprehensive towing ordinance, which was introduced by Nixon at the May 3 meeting of Council and referred to committee and released (Committee meetings held 5/24/2011 & 10/18/2011), came up for final passage. On motion of Nixon, seconded by Hill-Evans, Bill No. 16 came up for discussion.
 
Councilman Nixon reported that after several committee meetings, research and recommendations, he feels this ordinance satisfies many concerns brought forward by business owners, residents, and staff.
 
Michael Darrah, Darrah's Automotive, asked if a mercantile tax paying business entity must be located within the city or just its staff. Councilman Nixon read Section 6(a) “Minimum Requirements; Wreckers and General Equipment” in that the minimum requirement is that towing companies to be licensed under this ordinance to tow vehicles at the request of the City or private landowners shall maintain the following minimum requirements: (a) Business and equipment shall be located within the City of York, Pennsylvania. There is a exception that the Police chief may allow more tow companies to provide services whose business is located outside the city if Chief deems there to be a need to allow such.
 
Mr. Darrah then asked about personal property located in an abandoned vehicle. He said he understood that property found inside an unattended vehicle is also considered abandoned.
 
Assistant Solicitor Elion responded that if the vehicle is insured and licensed, although it may be unattended, it might not necessarily be abandoned. He said he believes this ordinance does not conflict with state law.
 
Louie Leese, Leese Auto, asked about state troopers requesting vehicles be towed from the highway.
 
Assistant Solicitor Elion answered that he believes Mr. Leese is confusing certain laws, which he clarified.
 
There being no further discussion, Bill No. 16, Ordinance No. 40, passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith, Ray – 5; Nays – 0.
 
SUPPLEMENTAL AGENDA
 
A motion was made by Hill-Evans, seconded by Nelson, to waive the provisions of Resolution No. 215 of 1969 to permit consideration of a supplemental agenda containing one item. The motion passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith, Ray – 5; Nays – 0.
 
Introduction of Bill No. 45, Session 2011, (View) A Bill establishing Article 355 “Realty Transfer Tax” of the Codified Ordinances, was introduced by Smith, read by short title, and deferred until a future meeting of Council. (Note: In accordance with Section 4 of the Local Tax Enabling Act (View Act), new tax legislation must be advertised for three consecutive weeks prior to consideration of final passage. Therefore, Bill No. 45 is slated to be considered for passage in January 2012.)
 
In an email received from Business Administrator Michael O'Rourke dated December 6, Administrator O'Rourke explained that local municipalities and school districts are eligible to levy up to 1% of a realty transfer tax. This is a tax that is levied on real estate transfers and is based upon the value of the real estate being transferred. Currently, the York City School District levies and receives 100% of the local portion of the tax. If both the municipality and school district levy the tax, then each receives half. The anticipated revenue to be received from this tax is estimated at $262,298.56.
 
NEW BUSINESS
 
Introduction of Bill No. 46, Session 2011, (View) A Bill repealing pension and health benefits for City Council members and the City Controller, was introduced by Ray, read by short title, and deferred until the December 20 meeting of Council.
 
Councilwoman Smith said if we are going to be repealing benefits for Council and the City Controller, it's only fair that the Treasurer's benefits be removed. Therefore, she said she would offer an amendment at the December 20 meeting to include language to remove the City Treasurer's pension and health benefits as well. 
 
Introduction of Bill No. 47, Session 2011, (View) A Bill amending Article 341 “Income Tax” to repeal current language and replace with a new Article 341 entitled “York City Earned Income and Net Profits Tax,” was introduced by Nixon, read by short title and deferred until the December 20 meeting of Council.
 
Introduction of Bill No. 48, Session 2011, (View) A Bill amending Article 185.10 “Human Relations Commission; Powers and Duties” to alter membership composition and amend attorney and employee provisions, was introduced by Ray, read by short title, and deferred until the December 20 meeting of Council.
 
President Ray said she has received feedback from members of the Human Relations Commission and, as such, will offer an amendment to the legislation at the December 20 meeting.
 
Resolution No. 148, Session 2011, (View) A Resolution reappointing Mark Shermeyer as a member of HARB, which term shall expire the first Monday of January 2017, was introduced by Hill-Evans, read at length, and on motion of Hill-Evans, seconded by Nixon, Resolution No. 148 passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith, Ray – 5; Nays – 0.
 
Resolution No. 149, Session 2011, (View) A Resolution awarding a contract to Indoor Air Technologies, Inc. in the amount of $67,120.00 for the Lincoln Fire Station Mold Remediation Project, was introduced by Smith, read at length, and on motion of Smith, seconded by Hill-Evans, Resolution No. 149 came up for discussion.
 
Public Works Director Jim Gross explained that this damage is a result of Tropical Storm Lee. He said the station took on a lot of water that resulted in mold infestation. Director Gross stated that he anticipates the city's ability to recuperate costs for this project through insurance claims and disaster relief assistance.
 
Fire Chief Steve Buffington reported that the station took on about 2-1/2 to 3 inches of water in the basement and the pump couldn't keep up with the flooding. He said once the water finally cleared out, they got mold.
 
There being no further discussion, Resolution No. 149 passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith, Ray – 5; Nays – 0.
 
Resolution No. 150, Session 2011, (View) A Resolution authorizing a budget transfer for the Department of Public Works in the amount of $22,250.00 for road salt and engineering services, was introduced by Smith, read at length, and on motion of Smith, seconded by Hill-Evans, Resolution No. 150 passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith, Ray – 5; Nays – 0.
 
REQUESTS FOR FUTURE MEETINGS 
 
President Ray requested Council meet in a work session to further discuss the budget. Therefore, Council scheduled a General Committee meeting for Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. in Council Chambers for the purpose of conducting a work session on the 2012 proposed budget.
 
COUNCIL COMMENT: None
 
ADMINISTRATION COMMENT: None
 
NEXT MEETING: The next regular meeting of City Council is scheduled for December 20, 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 December 6, 2011 meeting of Council adjourned at 9:27 p.m.