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Lebanon Mayor Sherry Capello got the go-ahead from City Council Monday night, Dec. 18, to apply for a $3.6 million grant to help build a five-story, 294-space parking garage at 7th & Willow streets. 

Council approved the measure by a unanimous 5-0 vote. The application will be submitted to Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP).

The project has a projected price tag of $7.2 million and would need a number of grants in addition to RACP, and possibly matching American Rescue Plan funds, to become a reality.

At last Thursday’s pre-council planning meeting, outgoing councilman Chris Miller questioned the need for the garage, saying that “I have never had a problem finding a parking space … so I’ve got to look at that and say, ‘Is this $7 million dollars of spending in vain?'”

Miller asked Capello at the earlier meeting, “Has there ever been anyone that’s come into the city to do a study, as far as an actual parking need, because … the City of Lebanon, in my opinion, does not have a parking problem.” 

Capello could not cite any study and agreed with Miller that the city presently does not have a shortage of parking spots. 

On Monday night, Capello added that the city has not estimated the ongoing costs of a garage – maintenance, utilities, insurance, personnel expenses – or minimum occupancy rates and parking fees needed to break even.

Although no study has been conducted to determine the city’s parking needs, Capello told council that investors, developers, and contractors have told her repeatedly that they are ready to invest in the city, but only if a garage is built to handle “long term” parking demands.

Capello declined to identify who those investors might be or what types of investments they might make, but said she was confident of the need. “I hate to say ‘build it and they will come,’ but . . .” she said.

Council officially sets 2024 property tax rate

Last month, council approved a 2024 budget which, for the ninth straight year, will not raise taxes.

On Dec. 18, as required by law, council gave final passage to an ordinance officially setting the city’s 2024 property tax rate at 4.581 mills, meaning city property owners will pay the city $4.581 for every $1,000 of their property’s assessed value.

City property owners pay additional real estate taxes to Lebanon County and the Lebanon School District, each of which sets its own millage rate.

New city attorney hired

Council also confirmed Capello’s appointment of attorney Tricia Springer as city solicitor. The county resident is a member of the Harrisburg office of Pittsburgh-based law firm Eckert Seamans.

Springer will be paid $36,000 annually. She succeeds Donna Long Brightbill, who has been elected judge of the Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas. Long Brightbill’s annual salary as the city’s legal adviser was $30,996.

Other business before City Council

  • Through Nov. 30, with the city’s financial year 92% complete, Capello reported that city revenue and expenses were at 114% and 79%, respectively, of 2023 budget projections.
  • The mayor informed council that she has reappointed Charles Wertz and Jane Yocum to the city’s Shade Tree Commission for five-year terms, effective Nov. 30.
  • The mayor told council that she has appointed Melissa Quinones, the city’s director of administration, as a delegate, and reappointed Helen Westphal as an alternate delegate, to the Lebanon County Tax Collection Committee for one-year terms. The committee oversees the collection and administration of the county’s earned income tax.
  • Council authorized the sale of the city’s 2002 Mack “roll off” truck, used for recycling containers, to the highest bidder. It had previously approved the replacement of the 21-year-old vehicle, which is past its useful life.
  • Council authorized city administrators to apply for a $25,000 grant from the county’s Marcellus Shale Grant Fund to pay for various improvements, including new benches and tables, to the Veteran’s Memorial Walkway, between 5th and 12th streets along the Quittapahilla Creek.
  • Council honored Lebanon High School graduate and Juniata College student Eve Fenstermaker for winning a statewide civics scholarship awarded by the Pennsylvania Municipal League. Her winning essay was titled “Civics & You.” Fenstermaker plans to study veterinary medicine.

Outgoing officials honored

Capello and council president Joseph Morales presented commendations to outgoing council members Richard Wertz and Chris Miller and to outgoing city solicitor Donna Long Brightbill for their service to the city.

Wertz served on council since 2000, and was chair in 2006 and 2007. Miller served since 2020.

Wertz and Miller will be replaced by George Potash and Sean Maguire, who were elected in November.

Long Brightbill was the city’s attorney from 2010. She will become a Lebanon County Common Pleas Court judge in January.

Next Lebanon City Council meetings

City Council’s next pre-council planning meeting will be on Thursday, Jan. 18, at 4:45 p.m. The next regular monthly council meeting will be on Monday, Jan. 22, at 6:30 p.m.

Both meetings are open to the public and will be held in the City Hall multi-purpose room, 735 Cumberland St., first floor, Lebanon.

Meetings are also streamed live on YouTube here.

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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,...


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