At its regular monthly meeting, Lebanon City Council decided how to spend a large anticipated federal grant, heard a resident’s complaints about the dangerous operation of motorized bicycles and other small two-wheeled vehicles on city streets, filled two vacant city posts, and got rid of more old records.

As has been council’s practice for over a year, the meeting was held remotely via Zoom due to the COVID pandemic. It can be watched on the city’s YouTube channel.

Expected annual HUD grant divided up

Economic Development Coordinator Janelle Mendoff told council that the city expects to receive $685,124 in Community Development Block Grant (“CDBG”) money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The city has been receiving CDBG grants for several years, and has to decide how each year’s grant will be parceled out.

After hearing recommendations from Mendoff and City of Lebanon Mayor Sherry Capello, council passed a unanimous resolution dividing this year’s CDBG pie as follows:

Mayor Capello noted that “this is pretty much typical of what we allot each year, with the exception of the fire equipment. We are proposing for one year, instead of allotting our CDBG money . . . to street paving, that we put it towards fire equipment. There are several pieces . . . that need to be replaced.”

The mayor said that the likely, although not certain, purchase would be a rescue truck for the fire service.

Mendoff added that city administration is aware of the widespread concern over the condition of city streets, and that not using any 2021 CDBG money to fix streets doesn’t mean that streets won’t get repaved this summer. She noted that there are currently bids out for $323,780 of street repairs, “so street improvements will be done in 2021. We’re still doing street improvements.” This money, Mendoff said, was allocated from 2020 CDBG funds.

Capello added that “in addition, we still have our $25,000,000 street resurfacing project for [Routes] 72 and 422 [Cumberland Street, Walnut Street, and 9th & 10th Streets].”

City resident complains about motorized bikes and scooters

Canal Street resident Jay Green spoke to council about what he sees as the growing problem of motorized pedal-assist bikes, mini bikes, e-scooters, and other small, self-propelled two-wheeled vehicles being operated illegally, dangerously, and unlicensed on city streets.

“They seem to be coming in every form you could imagine on two wheels,” he said. “There seems to be, in my opinion, a blatant disregard for the traffic rules.”

“Some are loud, some are incredibly loud, but mostly they’re all loud,” he added.

Green, who also has an office in the 400 block of Chestnut Street, described a recent incident at 3rd & Chestnut, a three-way stop intersection, where he witnessed all the four-wheeled vehicles come to a careful stop while “one of these bikes simply went right through the center of the intersection, and I’d have to say that he did it with authority.”

Capello said that she and Lebanon Police Chief Todd Breiner were aware of the problem and had consulted with police in Reading, Lancaster, and Harrisburg, where the problem is bigger and older.

Breiner said that Pennsylvania vehicle law lays out a complex array of licensing and operation requirements for the various types of powered two-wheeled vehicles capable of operating on public streets. This, he said, often makes it hard for patrol officers to determine on sight if such a vehicle is being operated illegally, which is required to give an officer a legal reason to stop it.

Chief Breiner also pointed out that pursuing these vehicles through urban streets can be dangerous to police, riders, and other motorists. Instead, he suggested that anyone seeing a suspicious two-wheeled vehicle being parked should call the Lebanon Police Department and report its address, so an officer can be dispatched to investigate.

Other business before City Council

  • Council unanimously approved Mayor Sherry Capello’s appointment of Brian Martin as an alternate on the City’s Zoning Hearing Board, and of firefighter Anthony Ficco III to the City Firefighters’ Pension Fund Board. Both slots came open due to mid-term resignations. Martin will serve a three year term effective Apr. 13. Ficco will complete a two year term that expires in Jan., 2022.
  • For the third straight month, council approved a resolution allowing the city to destroy old paper records that are no longer needed. This month’s documents headed to the shredder date from the 1970s and 1980s, and include things such as bids for corrugated pipe and highway stone, and invoices for the sale of timber. The city has been discarding old documents in anticipation of moving its offices to new quarters in the old HACC building, downtown.
  • In her monthly budget report, the mayor noted that, with the year 25% over, revenues to date were 24% of the budget prediction, and expenses only 16% of projections, with real estate tax payments starting to come in.
  • Chief Breiner reported that last weekend’s drug take back event resulted 74.5 pounds of unwanted and expired drugs dropped off by city residents.

City Council’s next “pre-council” planning meeting will be on Thursday, May 20 at 4:45 p.m. The next regular monthly council meeting will be on Monday, May 24 at 6:30 p.m. Both meetings are open to the public.

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Chris Coyle writes primarily on government, the courts, and business. He retired as an attorney at the end of 2018, after concentrating for nearly four decades on civil and criminal litigation and trials. A career highlight was successfully defending a retired Pennsylvania state trooper who was accused,...