The appointment of a new Lebanon fire chief highlighted last night’s monthly Lebanon City Council Meeting, which began with a somber remembrance.
Council President Joe Morales opened the meeting by calling for a moment of silence to remember last month’s triple homicide victims: Joshua Lugo-Perez, 19, Jesus Perez-Salome, 8, and Sebastian Perez-Salome, 9.
Council then disposed of a short agenda containing two matters, and heard complaints about a number of quality-of-life issues.
Mayor Sherry Capello notified council that she had appointed A.J. Sweitzer as the city’s fire chief. He had been serving as interim chief since the March 30 retirement of Duane Trautman.
Sweitzer, whose annual salary will be $72,000, has been with the city’s fire service for four years as Trautman’s top deputy. He previously served with the Neversink, Quentin, and Cornwall fire companies.
Capello noted that the city received several applications to fill the chief’s position, but Sweitzer’s “solid administrative skills” gave him an edge on the other candidates.
Trautman spent 28 years in the city’s fire service. He became the city’s top firefighter shortly after Capello was elected to the first of her four terms in 2010.
He was placed on paid leave by Capello earlier in March. Neither the city nor Trautman has given any explanation for the sudden change in Trautman’s status or for his departure.
In the only other official agenda item, council approved on first reading a new fee schedule for the city’s trash and recycling center at 8th and Walton streets. The facility, two enclosed dumpsters on a city-owned parking lot, serves businesses and residences in the first block of South 8th Street that can’t have trash picked up to their rear.
Capello explained that Weidle Sanitation, which has recently been sold, serviced the facility for years and charged less than market rates, a policy the new owners chose not to continue.
Business owners will now pay $75 per month, a $25 increase. Residential properties using the facility will pay between $30 and $40 per month, based on their number of units.
Capello said that the price hikes were the first since 2009, and that the higher charges are still “within industry standards.”
The fee increases will become law if council approves them on second reading next month.
Former councilman complains about roads, garbage collection
City resident and former councilman Daryl Cox expressed his unhappiness with the pace of street repaving projects, the deteriorated condition of many city alleys, garbage containers being left in front of properties, and the number of garbage trucks on city streets.
Capello noted that the city, with help from the state and federal governments, has repaved 9th, 10th, Walnut, and Lehman streets since 2021. Repaving of Cumberland Street is scheduled for this summer.
“Over the last 15 years, we have invested $8,200,000 into the repaving of streets,” she said, adding that a year and a half ago, the city received American Rescue Plan money that is now available for street upgrades.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get some major streets repaved. We are putting an additional $9 million in the next two years into resurfacing,” Capello said.
As far as the pace of the projects being slower than most would like, the mayor pointed out that utilities such as UGI look at repaving projects as an opportunity to upgrade their underground infrastructure before the new asphalt is laid. “Of course, when you pave, you’ve got to do all that utility work.”
Capello admitted that alleys and less heavily-used streets are a lower priority than main arteries, due to budget limitations. But, she said the city regularly patches potholes in those roadways, and she encouraged residents to report problems so the city can address them.
Cox also expressed frustration over the number of garbage trucks traveling on city streets and at property owners who leave garbage containers in front of their buildings on non-collection days.
Capello responded that unless the city contracts with a single garbage collector, there won’t be fewer trash trucks on the streets. She reminded Cox that the city studied going to a single hauler during his time on council, and decided that a one-hauler system was unworkable.
As far as garbage cans and dumpsters remaining in front of buildings on non-collection days, Capello pointed to a city ordinance requiring containers to be kept at the side or rear of a building other than on collection days and the night before. She urged residents to report violators, who can be fined.
City finances looking good
Through May 31, with the year 42% complete, city revenues were at 63% of annual budget projections, and expenditures at 29%, according to the mayor.
Next council meetings
City Council’s next “pre-council” planning meeting will be on Thursday, July 20, at 4:45 p.m. The next regular monthly council meeting will be on Monday, July 24, at 6:30 p.m.
Both meetings are open to the public and will be held in the Dixon Council Chambers on the first floor of Lebanon City Hall, 735 Cumberland St., Lebanon.
Meetings are also streamed live on YouTube, here.
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