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City Council Meeting Minutes

November 7, 2007

City Council convened in Regular Session at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 7, 2007, in Council Chambers, 1 Marketway West, 3rd Floor, York, PA, with the following members present: Toni Smith, Vickie Washington, Joseph R. Musso, Vice President, and Cameron Texter, President, with President Texter presiding. Councilman Wm. Lee Smallwood was absent as he’s vacationing out-of-state. Mayor John Brenner was not present. (Note: Council met on Wednesday instead of Tuesday in observance of Tuesday’s General Election.)

Members of the Administration in attendance included: Matt Jackson, Director of Economic Development. Also present was Assistant Solicitor Don Hoyt. Jim Gross, Director of Public Works, Kim Bracey, Director of Community Development, Mark Whitman, Police Commissioner, John Senft, Fire Chief, and Michael O’Rourke, Business Administrator, were absent.

Members of York City Council staff in attendance included: Dianna L. Thompson, City Clerk.

A motion was made by Washington, seconded by Smith, to dispense with the reading of the Minutes of October 16, 2007, and approve them as written. The motion passed by the following vote: Yeas – Washington, Musso, Smith, Texter – 4; Nays - 0.


Public Comment:

Cleveland Pruitt, 1030 W. Market St., York, PA, said he wanted to introduce himself to the public and that he’s ready to help residents who need his assistance. Mr. Pruitt stated that he is a resident who has resolved to stand up for what’s right. He recalled his upbringing and how gangs tried to recruit him but when given an ultimatum, he said he chose to get out. Mr. Pruitt outlined tools that he felt people could use to fight what he called “evil”. He said given financial assistance, he feels he could help design a peacekeeper-type program to help combat crime.

President Texter said he would be willing to sit down and discuss Mr. Pruitt’s ideas and expectations. Councilwoman Smith explained how the city helped the Wellington Youth Program with start-up costs; however, she said Wellington came to the table with an outstanding plan that involved sports and academics for our youth. She said it’s important that we don’t have a duplication of services but said she too would be willing to sit down to hear Mr. Pruitt’s plan in more detail.

Committee Reports:

Economic Development Committee, Joseph R. Musso, Chair: Vice President Musso reported on Bill No. 25 – A Bill establishing Article 1729 “Vacant Property Registration” of the Codified Ordinances. (Click here to view Bill). Vice President explained that Bill No. 25 was introduced at the June 5, 2007 meeting of Council. At that meeting, the Bill was referred to the Economic Development Committee. A Committee meeting was held on Tuesday, July 17, 2007 at 6:00 p.m. in Council Chambers to discuss the Bill. Another Committee meeting was held on Tuesday, October 23, 2007 at 7:00 p.m. in Council Chambers at which time additional amendments were proposed. After discussion, the Bill was released from committee and will appear on tonight’s agenda for consideration of final passage.

Legislative Agenda:

Final Passage of Bill No. 25, Session 2007, A Bill establishing Article 1729 “Vacant Property Registration” of the Codified Ordinances (Click here to view Bill), which was introduced by Texter at the June 5, 2007 meeting of Council and referred to the Economic Development Committee (meetings held 7/17/07 & 10/23/07), came up for final passage. On motion of Texter, seconded by Smith, Bill No. 25 came up for discussion.

President Texter said he drafted Bill No. 25 for the purpose of assisting the City in protecting the public’s health, safety and welfare, to monitor the number of vacant buildings in the City, to assess the effects of the condition of those buildings on nearby businesses and the neighborhoods in which they are located, and to require of the owners of such vacant buildings to register these buildings and to establish payment of related fees. Additionally, it is hoped the ordinance would promote substantial efforts to rehabilitate such vacant buildings, he said. President Texter stated that he has discussed this Bill and amendments in depth with the Administration, particularly Director Jackson and the Solicitor’s Office, and has shared this information with Council during committee meetings. He asked Director Jackson to comment.

Economic Development Director Matt Jackson stated that the Administration asked Council to be aware that two waiver provisions already exist in addition to the opportunity to appeal a finding of vacancy. The larger goal of the ordinance is not to penalize but to create a carrot (i.e., technical assistance, grants, loans, and other incentives) and stick (i.e., vacant property registration, code inspections, reasonable fines for negligent owners, eminent domain as a last resort) approach. Therefore, he’s presenting additional amendments to Bill No. 25 this evening for consideration of passage. (Click here to view Bill No. 25, as amended)

Director Jackson answered several questions from Council and the highlights of discussion were explained by Director Jackson as follows:

Director Jackson explained that perhaps the main asset of the ordinance is in amassing an up-to-date, comprehensive database of vacant properties by which city staff can work with owners to develop achievable plans for the buildings, to realize code-compliance, and to otherwise stabilize and develop neighborhoods. Further, he said, we are following up on Councilwoman Smith's request to locate fee information from similar ordinances passed in Altoona, PA and Wilmington, DE, for example.

In addition, with regards to the graduated fee structure, he said, the administration, based on past experience, agrees with President Texter that costs mount with each year of subsequent vacancy and, therefore, the proposed graduated fee structure is eminently reasonable. For example, clean and seal administrative costs include: sealing doors ($10 each), sealing first floor windows ($50 each), sealing 2nd floor windows ($75 each), sealing 3rd floor windows ($100 each), interior clean out ($375 per room), exterior clean up/minor ($300), exterior clean up/moderate ($600), exterior clean up/major ($1,200), and tire removal ($175 per truck load). Emergency Demolition costs, depending upon a building's location and context, can range from $5,000 to $70,000 per structure. In addition, all of the foregoing costs are subject to inflation.

Director Jackson responded to a question raised by Vice President Musso regarding the possibility of perverse incentives and the postulation that someone may pay vacant property registration fees and fines knowing that his/her property will go to pot and require emergency intervention for lawn care, debris removal, and clean and seal efforts, thus resulting in the city actually losing money. He said he respects Councilman Musso’s question and intellect. However, let’s keep in mind, he said, that property owners still are subject to property taxes of the three taxing entities in addition to any code violation fines, as well as registration fees and/or fines under the proposed Vacant Property ordinance. Therefore, it's unlikely that someone will pay property taxes to avoid a tax sale but at the same time let his/her property go as a result of this program thinking that he/she is somehow getting a deal by paying fees and fines in exchange for city sealing and cleaning of his/her property. That would be illogical.

Under the current ordinances, he went on to explain, a property owner could let his/her property go downhill now, and the city, by virtue of its police powers, would still intervene in the event of an imminent public safety hazard. So, the options are (1) the status quo with no record-keeping and no registration fees and/or fines for chronic, continuous vacancy, or (2) imposing accountability by requiring registration and modest penalties for chronic, continuous vacancy, with appropriate waiver provisions. Director Jackson said option (2) is what the ordinance proposes and the option that we respectfully would ask you to support.

Motion to table. As Council only received Director Jackson’s amendments this evening, a motion was made by Musso, seconded by Washington, to table Bill No. 25 until the November 20 Council meeting to allow for further review. Vice President Musso also asked that Director Jackson present all amendments in proper format prior to Council’s November 20 meeting. Director Jackson said he would comply. There being no further discussion, the motion to table Bill No. 25, as amended, passed by the following vote: Yeas – Washington, Musso, Smith, Texter – 4; Nays – 0.

Final Passage of Bill No. 37, Ordinance No. 35, Session 2007, An Ordinance amending the 2007 Budget for the Health Bureau for a $40,349.00 Immunization Grant received from the state, which was introduced by Musso at the October 16, 2007 meeting of Council and read in brief, came up for final passage. On motion of Musso, seconded by Smith, Bill No. 37, Ordinance No. 35, passed by the following vote: Yeas – Washington, Musso, Smith, Texter – 4; Nays – 0.

Introduction of Bill No. 38, Session 2007, A Bill amending Title Four “Stormwater Management” of the Codified Ordinances to establish Article 942 “Detection and Elimination of Illicit Discharges” to make it consistent with current laws and regulations, was introduced by Washington, read by short title, and deferred until the November 20 meeting of Council.

Introduction of Bill No. 39, Session 2007, A Bill Renaming a portion of Washington Street in the City of York to Brooks Robinson Way, was introduced by Musso, read by short title, and deferred until the December 18 meeting of Council. (Note: Bill No. 39 will be advertised for 3 consecutive weeks prior to consideration of passage. Therefore, consideration of final passage will appear on the December 18 Council agenda.)

Introduction of Bill No. 40, Session 2007, A Bill amending Article 169 “Police Officer’s Pension Fund” of the Codified Ordinances to revise Article 169.01(a) Definitions to add “DROP” which means Deferred Retirement Option Plan, and “Individual DROP Account”; and by adding Section 169.15 “Deferred Retirement Option Pension”, was introduced by Texter, read by short title, and deferred until the November 20 meeting of Council.

Introduction of Bill No. 41, Session 2007, A Bill amending the 2007 Budget by appropriating revenue and expenditures for the Police Department in the amount of $6,662.00 for a South George Street Community Partnership grant received for the Youth Police Academy, was introduced by Texter, read by short title, and deferred until the November 20 meeting of Council.

Resolution No. 148, Session 2007, A Resolution approving the 2008 Annual Action Plan and authorizing its filing with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, was introduced by Musso, read at length, and on motion of Musso, seconded by Washington, Resolution No. 148 came up for discussion.

Vice President Musso said he met with Community Development Director Kim Bracey to discuss this Plan and that he has no concerns. He said the 2008 Annual Action Plan calls for $2,198.950.00 in CDBG funding and $701,500 in HOME funding.

President Texter highlighted several programs and funding such as historic preservation initiatives, HIV testing and referral services, street improvements, and code enforcement.

Councilwoman Washington briefly discussed the Park Ranger program, a citywide parks program, which will be receiving $20,000 in CDGB funding.

There being no further discussion, Resolution No. 148 passed by the following vote: Yeas – Washington, Musso, Smith, Texter – 4; Nays – 0.

Resolution No. 149, Session 2007, A Resolution re-approving the final subdivision and land development plan submitted by Fourth United Methodist Church for improvements to their facility located at 1067 E. Market St. (the plan is being recommended for re-approval due to a filing error that resulted in the plan not being filed in the Recorder of Deeds Office within 90-days of Council’s original approval {March 29, 2007 – Res. #43}. There were no changes made to the Plan.) Resolution No. 149 was introduced by Musso, read at length, and on motion of Musso, seconded by Washington, Resolution No. 149 passed by the following vote: Yeas – Washington, Musso, Smith, Texter – 4; Nays – 0. Vice President Musso said he would like to keep an eye on the number of requests Council receives for re-approvals, as the Administration may need to research a fee schedule to accommodate these requests.

Resolution No. 150, Session 2007, A Resolution authorizing an agreement with Susquehanna Stray (SSAS) Animal Shelter in the amount of $16,320.00, to provide rescue, temporary shelter, and veterinary care for stray dogs and cats, and disposal and adoption opportunities for suitable animals, for the period of January 1, 2008 through December 31, 2008, with the option to renew from year to year thereafter, was introduced by Texter, read at length, and on motion of Texter, seconded by Smith, Resolution No. 150 came up for discussion.

Councilwoman Washington asked if it is still SSAS’s policy to euthanize animals after 3 days if they are not claimed. She said if this is still their policy, there is no way she would vote to support this Resolution. She said she voted against this last year (Res. #140-06) for this very reason. (To read an excerpt from the September 5, 2006 Council meeting regarding this contract, click here.)

President Texter said other contracts were proposed, however, the Police Department opted to retain the services of SSAS.

Councilwoman Smith said she has heard concerns from residents about SSAS’s euthanasia policy and how the facility is maintained. She said she would like to invite a representative from SSAS to attend a Council meeting to answer some questions.

Motion to table. After discussion, Vice President Musso offered to table Resolution No. 150 to address concerns mentioned by Councilpersons Washington and Smith. Therefore, a motion was made by Musso, seconded by Washington, to table Resolution No. 150 until the November 20 meeting of Council. The motion passed unanimously.

Resolution No. 151, Session 2007, A Resolution accepting the recommendations of HARB in issuing a permit to Ramon Rivera Vargas & Austria Maldonado Santiago for work to be done at 253 Prospect St., Winston Pinnock & Shirnel Wallace for work to be done at 214 S. Pine St., and Brad Harmon, York City School District, for work to be done at 220 S. Duke St. (Duke St. Public Schools), was introduced by Smith, read at length, and on motion of Smith, seconded by Washington, Resolution No. 151 passed by the following vote: Yeas – Washington, Musso, Smith, Texter – 4; Nays – 0.

Requests for Future Meetings
York City Council will hold public meetings on the proposed 2008 York City Budget beginning at 6:00 p.m. each evening on November 27, November 28, and November 29, 2007 in City Council Chambers, 1 Marketway West, 3rd Floor, York, PA. (Click here for budget flyer) The schedule is as follows:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007
6:00-7:00 p.m……… Business Administration
7:00-8:00 p.m……… Elected & Appointed Officials, Human Relations Commission and Solicitor’s Office
8:00-9:00 p.m……… Community Development – All Divisions & Bureaus
9:00 pm……………… Public Comment

Wendesday, November 28, 2007
6:00-7:00 p.m……… Public Works – All Divisions and Bureaus
7:00-8:00 p.m……… Economic Development – All Divisions and Bureaus
9:00 p.m…………… Public Comment

Thursday, November 29, 2007
6:00-8:00 p.m……… Police Department – All Divisions and Bureaus
8:00-9:00 p.m……… Fire Department – All Divisions and Bureaus
9:00 p.m…………… Public Comment

Council Comment:

President Texter reported on a request received in October from the York Benevolent Association for exoneration of 2004 municipal taxes for their property located at 301 Kings Mill Rd. After research, he said he found that they are a non-profit 501C3 corporation as defined under Act 55, and therefore qualifies for exemption. President Texter said he would prepare a Resolution for the next Council agenda and would ask the Benevolent Association to have a representative present to answer questions.

Next, President Text announced that Mayor Brenner would be officially presenting the proposed 2008 York City Budget at Council’s November 20 meeting. Questions on the budget will be considered during Council’s scheduled budget meetings (see above schedule).

Vice President Musso reminded residents about the change to curbside collection. He explained that customers in the Wednesday / Saturday refuse district will be assigned new collection days. The Wednesday / Saturday areas will be divided in half along Market St. The half NORTH of Market St. (including both sides of Market St.) will be consolidated into the Monday / Thursday refuse district. The half SOUTH of Market St. will be consolidated into the Tuesday / Friday Refuse District.

Administration Comment:

Economic Development Director Matt Jackson outlined the progress of the Northwest Triangle Redevelopment Project (NWT). He said we are currently in the process of demolishing several structures in the project area and plan to have this done no later than January 2008. The next phase of the project will be environmental remediation.

Next Meeting:

The next regular meeting of City Council is scheduled for Tuesday, November 20, 2007 at 7:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers, 1 Marketway West, 3rd Floor, York, PA.

Adjournment:

There being no further discussion, the November 7, 2007 meeting of Council adjourned at 8:53 p.m.