Lebanon City Council tackled a short agenda at its first in-person meeting in over a year last night.

Council quickly passed two bills to raise the filing fees for appeal hearings involving violations of the International Fire Code and the International Property Maintenance Code, both of which have been incorporated into the city’s ordinances. They had been $250 and $225, respectively, and will now be $600.

Mayor Sherry Capello explained that such hearings are uncommon, but expensive for the city to conduct. The fees had not been raised since 2010.

Council also passed, on first reading, a bill which would extend for an additional year certain tax breaks available to a purchaser of the old Northwest Elementary School property at 900 Maple Street. New construction and major improvements to the property are eligible under the Pennsylvania’s Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Act (“LERTA”).

The old Northwest Elementary property has been vacant since 2018, when the Lebanon School District opened a new Northwest about a mile away.

The school district has entered into a sales agreement with a developer who hopes to convert the property to office space and a parking garage. A sale to a private owner would put the property back on the city, county, and school district tax rolls for the first time in over 40 years.

The sale requires court approval, and the deal has been delayed by a lawsuit filed by the city raising the question of who is responsible for a pedestrian bridge over 10th Street that served the old school.

In May, the district and the city told Common Pleas Court Judge Bradford H. Charles that they were working to reach a solution. A hearing on the city’s lawsuit is scheduled in September if they haven’t settled the dispute by then.

Last night, the mayor and all council members stressed the importance of concluding the sale and getting the property back on the tax rolls.

Other business before City Council

  • Mayor Capello reported that, through May 31, with the fiscal year 42% over, receipts were at 64% of budget projections and expenses were at 31%.
  • Capello reported that an audit of the financial statement of the Lebanon County Tax Collection Committee for 2020 showed no deficiencies and that the city complied with its obligations in all material respects.
  • Councilman Wayne Carey commended Capello and her staff for recently attending the Real Estate Hackers’ Conference in Lancaster to promote investment in the city.
  • Capello said that repaving of Walnut Street was proceeding according to schedule and could be done by the end of the week. She added that repaving of Lehman Street could start soon after.
  • Resident Pam Tricamo spoke to council about “the traffic racing down East Lehman Street between 8th & 11th Avenues,” noting that “we’ve had three accidents in the last six weeks.” Police Chief Todd Breiner said he was aware of the problem and that a portable speed sign now located elsewhere on Lehman Street would be moved to the area. “Sometimes when people see that sign, it tends to slow them down a little bit.” Breiner added that if his department could get an idea of the time of day when the problem is worst, he could deploy officers accordingly.

Next meetings

City Council’s next “pre-council” planning meeting will be on Thursday, July 22 at 4:45 p.m. The next regular monthly council meeting will be on Monday, July 26 at 6:30 p.m.

Both meetings are open to the public and will be held in Council Chambers, Room 210, Municipal Building, 400 S. 8th Street, Lebanon.

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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,...