ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Allentown City Council will hold a special meeting about blighted properties in the city at 6 p.m. Oct. 1.
And within a month, council will schedule a different special meeting to update West End residents about steps being taken to alleviate flooding in that part of town -- and what more must be done.
Council president Julio Guridy announced the Oct. 1 meeting during Wednesday night's council meeting.
He said it will be a committee-of-the-whole meeting to discuss issues relating to housing, blighted properties and city enforcement.
Earlier this month, the city administration agreed to hold that meeting to review for council and the public its ability to deal with blighted homes and slum landlords –as well as the limitations it faces.
Ken Heffentrager of the Allentown Tenant Association suggested such a meeting, saying the city should be shaming people into doing more to repair their blighted properties.
West Allentown resident Art Villafane stood before council to ask when the city will issue a report on the West End flooding project.
Allentown managing director Francis Dougherty said that report is nearly complete and committed to have it finished within the next month.
He said the city then will meet with West End residents to explain it to them.
Dougherty said the administration is willing to do that either at a City Council committee-of-the-whole meeting or at a meeting of council's public works committee.
Guridy suggested that meeting be held at the West End Youth Center, where council has met in the past. He believes more concerned residents will attend if it is held in the West End.
No date was set for that meeting.
Angry West End residents demanded action from the city after Aug. 29,
2013 flooding damaged homes and destroyed cars in neighborhoods north of the Allentown Fairgrounds.
The city hired an engineer to study the reasons for the flooding and propose solutions
Dougherty said the report contains multiple steps addressing what will be done, including long-term infrastructure needs that will be costly.
Villafane thanked the city for work already done in the last several months to alleviate flooding, saying: "The last several rains we've had have not caused the level of panic that we would ordinarily have."
A $740,000 project to make safety improvements along Basin Street now is scheduled to begin in late fall, said Dougherty.
Federal funds will pay for that entire project, which will cost
$165,000 more than the $575,000 originally anticipated.
"Once put out to bid, the actual numbers came in substantially higher," explained Dougherty.
The city originally hoped that six-month-long project would begin last spring.
The safety improvements will be made on Basin between Auburn and Union streets
Resident Ernie Atiyeh recommended council adopt legislation requiring safety barricades to prevent future accidents like "the recent tragedy out at the Ritz Barbecue."
A woman leaving that restaurant was killed by a car that backed into her on Sunday.
"We have a lot of properties in the City of Allentown where that is an accident waiting to happen," said Atiyeh. "It's all over the city."
East Allentown resident Adnery Delarosa asked for the city's help to end early-morning noise from patrons leaving a hookah lounge, which opened about a year ago at 1006-1026 Hanover Ave.
"My home is no longer my refuge," she said. "I'm entitled to a little peace and tranquility. I should be able to get a good night's sleep when I have to go to work the next day."
She said patrons leave as late as 3 or 4 a.m. and are loud when they leave. She said the only time the place is closed is Monday evenings.
"I don't think that's an appropriate location for that type of business."
Dougherty said that lounge has been a topic of discussion among various agencies of the city – including the zoning office – and at least one citation from the city is making its way through the judicial process. That apparently was a noise citation issued by the police department.
"We continue to monitor this," said Dougherty. "We probably need to be more aggressive in looking at it. We're certainly sympathetic."
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