Higher landlord fee appears imminent as Kulpmont council can't agree on alternatives
KULPMONT - Despite borough council members discussing three alternate proposals, it appears landlords will pay a new $120 fee for each rental unit starting March 1.
At Tuesday night's council meeting, a packed audience of landlords listened as each motion to change the fee was voted down. The group has been hoping since December that the seven-member board would change the fee, which was approved in May.
The new fee replaces a $100 yearly landlord registration fee, no matter how many properties they rented. The new fee was supposed to take effect Jan. 1, but its enactment was delayed two months due to public outcry.
At a special meeting Feb. 4, the board voted on two proposals, but neither passed on a 3-3 deadlock with councilmember Joseph Winhofer and mayor Bernard Novakoski absent. While the mayor doesn't typically vote, he can in the case of a deadlock.
On Tuesday, councilmember Phil Scicchitano made the motion to change the yearly fee to $25 per unit, but to double the fines for code violations. Several on council balked because it would change the fines for every resident, not just landlords.
Council President Bruno Varano said every ordinance that charges a fine for a code violation would have to be amended.
Scicchitano then rescinded it, and motioned for a $120 fee for the first property and $25 for each additional unit, seconded by Nicholas Bozza. Winhofer expressed some legal concerns, and the board went into executive session to discuss them further.
After 35 minutes, the board returned and Winhofer made a subsidiary motion to make the fee $120 for the first unit and $40 for each additional unit. Under parliamentary procedure, the subsidiary motion had to be voted on first.
The motion was defeated 3-4, with Winhofer, Scicchitano and Clarence Deitrick voting yes and Bozza, Varano, Stephen Motyka and Stephanie Niglio voting no.
Scicchitano's original motion was then voted on, but the result was the same, 3-4, this time with Scicchitano, Deitrick and Bozza voting yes, and Motyka, Niglio, Varano and Winhofer voting no.
Thinking the sticking point was the amount for each additional unit, Deitrick made a motion to make the fee $120 for the first unit and $50 for each additional unit, but that motion died for lack of a second.
Winhofer, absent from last Tuesday's special meeting, made another motion to vote on the first proposal made at the special meeting, $100 for the first unit and $60 for each additional unit. The motion was seconded by Deitrick, but defeated 3-4 with Deitrick, Scicchitano and Winhofer voting yes, and Bozza, Motyka, Niglio and Varano voting no.
Unless council calls for a special meeting before March 1, the $120-per-unit fee will stand. Steve Matzura, one of the landlords in attendance, said after the meeting he would not be paying the fee.
"I believe I have the law on my side that will enable me to win a court case on the local level," Matzura said.
Matzura said he has heard that several other Kulpmont landlords have spoken to their attorneys about the fee.
In other business:
- Council discussed several weather related items, including the announcement of a snow emergency, effective at 6 p.m. today . Under the emergency, no vehicles are allowed to park on Chestnut Street until the snowfall stops and PennDOT plows the snow to the curb. Bozza asked Kulpmont Police Chief Michael Pitcavage to be on the lookout for people throwing shoveling snow into the street.
- Recycling in the borough has been cancelled for the month of February, due to the winter weather and for safety reasons.
- The board approved motions for the purchase of 10 fire police badges, two brushes for the borough street sweeper and 25 gallons of yellow paint for the street department.
- Deitrick announced the borough has applied for a USDA grant for a new police vehicle, three new handheld radios and three in-car radios. The grant would cover 75 to 80 percent of the cost, and he said they would be looking for another grant to cover the rest.
- Novakoski said he will be looking into an education program for pedestrians and motorists to teach them the proper use of crosswalks,