Non-unanimous votes are few and far between for Lebanon City Council, but the inclusion of references to climate change in a proposed Hazard Mitigation Plan for the city led to some dissent and its adoption by a 3-to-2 margin at Monday night’s monthly meeting.

A federal law known as the Stafford Act requires municipalities to have hazard mitigation plans in place for natural disasters such as blizzards and floods. Failure to have one could disqualify them, and their citizens, from receiving federal aid in the event of a disaster, leading to large financial losses.

Council considered a resolution Monday night to adopt the 2023 hazard mitigation plan drafted for Lebanon County by a third-party contractor at the county’s expense. Adopting the county’s plan would save the city the expense of drafting its own, said Mayor Sherry Capello and council president Joseph Morales.

But council members Karen Haitos, Brian Martin, and Sean Maguire voiced objections to what Maguire termed “irrelevant” language referring the pace and severity of climate change.

Martin said the plan refers to “rapid climate change unparalleled in the earth’s history.” Haitos said she objects to language referring to possible “mass extinction” due to climate change.

All council members generally agreed that the climate change language was superfluous, and that its inclusion or exclusion was irrelevant to the handling of an actual natural disaster.

Haitos, Morales, and councilman George Potash voted in favor of adopting the plan. Maguire and Martin voted against it.

In other business, council gave preliminary approval to two changes in the city’s traffic control map necessitated by the private development and re-purposing of the former Northwest Elementary school at 9th & Maple streets. If approved again next month, a no-parking zone will be created on the west side of North 9th Street at Water Street, and Water Street between 9th and 10th will change from one-way westbound to one-way eastbound.

Capello said that the developer plans to convert the existing building, vacant since 2018, into a storage facility, and erect a new building on the property to be used as a medical office.

Capello reported that through Jan. 31, with the budget year 8% complete, city revenue was at 6% of projections, and expenses at 4%. Capello explained that revenues traditionally lag early in the year, because property tax bills have yet to be issued.

Capello also noted that preliminary data show that the city operated in the black for 2023, but the exact amount of the surplus was still undetermined.

Capello reported that she has reappointed Frank Kocher and Jacqueline Parker to five-year terms to the city’s land bank. Land banks work to return vacant, blighted, and tax-delinquent properties to the mainstream real estate market.

Next Lebanon City Council meetings

City Council’s next pre-council planning meeting will be on Thursday, Mar. 21, at 4:45 p.m. The next regular monthly council meeting will be on Monday, Mar. 25, at 6:30 p.m.

City Council meetings are open to the public. They are 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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