ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Allentown City Council approved a nuisance abatement ordinance Wednesday night targeted at commercial and business enterprises.
The vote was 7-0.
The ordinance is highlighted by a progressive point system for recurring violations at properties used for business, commercial or industrial purposes. By accumulating points, a business is subject to penalties, sanctions and even closure.
"Our goal wasn't to close down all the businesses," said Councilwoman Cynthia Mota. "But [to] create a better quality of life."
"The law is for the safety of the people," Councilwoman Candida Affa said. "We are very proud of this law."
Business owners who accumulate 18 points in one year or 12 points in six months will be subject to having their city-issued business license revoked. Points can be issued for issues ranging from serious criminal offenses to quality of life infractions. Serious infractions are assigned 12 points, which is sufficient enough for the business to be shut down. These include, but are not limited to, human trafficking and terrorism. An eight point infraction could be assigned to a gun violation or felony drug crimes, among others. Several other crimes -- such as state liquor code violations and gambling -- could result in a six-point designation. Quality of life crimes would receive a three- or four- point tag.
"This gives a valuable tool to the police department," said Vice President Daryl Hendricks. "This is not to punish any responsible business owner."
Affa said the law will help the business owners of Allentown.
Points can be assessed against a property, an owner or a tenant if an infraction occurs on the surrounding sidewalk, street or other property, provided it could be traced back to the property, owner or tenant.
The law also established an appeals board for owners who contest the points or have lost their license.
In the beginning, Affa said the city would be "doing a lot of warnings" to allow business owners an opportunity to learn more about the system.
In other news Wednesday night, members of the fire department told council members they are facing a significant fire truck shortage that could eventually risk the lives of residents or firefighters.
Keith Pierce, the department's safety representative, said the front line equipment situation is in "crisis." He told council the situation is so dire that if one additional fire truck breaks down, the department would be relegated to responding to fire calls with pickup trucks.
Responding to Pierce's statement, President Ray O'Connell said the state of the fire department's equipment is "embarrassing." Councilman Juilo Guridy agreed, saying it was "unacceptable."
O'Connell assigned the blame to Mayor Ed Pawlowski, who he said creates the budget. O'Connell is running for mayor.
The city's five-year capital plan includes fire truck purchases in 2018 and 2019, according to comments made Wednesday night by Controller Jeff Glazier; one purchase next year and two in 2019.
Public Works Director Craig Messinger, under questioning by O'Connell, said the city does attempt to maintain the older fire truck fleet, but getting parts is often more and more difficult. He added that he is aware of the aging fleet situation and ultimately it comes down to funding their replacement.
In an email to WFMZ.com on Thursday, Mayor Pawlowski countered that only one pumper is out of service at present. He said the administration has located a replacement pumper that has less than 10,000 miles on it and no hours on the pump that can be purchased at a $250,000 savings compared to a new fire engine. The engine is available immediately and the city is working out financing with payments beginning in 2018, he wrote.
The mayor also defended his administration’s record of budgeting for fire department improvements, including two 100-foot aerial trucks, four new engines, thermal imaging cameras, mobile data terminals, numerous support vehicles, a new eastside fire station, and enhanced training.
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