He said the resolution also will encourage better communications be established when cold weather requires the opening of emergency shelters.

Schweyer said council members Cynthia Mota and Joe Davis already have signed on as co-sponsors of his proposed resolution and other council members also may do so. He expects it will be introduced to City Council later this month.

Safe Haven inspections?

Also during the short and poorly attended council meeting, resident Diane Teti pressed the city to send both fire and health inspectors to Safe Haven, a homeless shelter in the basement of St. Paul's Lutheran Church at 8th and Walnut streets.

"Two of you have seen the conditions at Safe Haven, yet nothing has been done," she told council. She argued homeless people seeking shelter at Safe Haven should have fire and health regulations enforced for their own benefit.

City managing director Francis Dougherty told council that Teti's initial suggestion had been conveyed to the city fire department, but he did not know if it has done an inspection of the shelter in the church's basement.

Guridy asked Dougherty to check on the status of both inspection requests.

Teti, an advocate for the homeless, figures if the city prohibits Safe Haven from operating next winter, better shelters for the homeless will be created.

She stressed that the Allentown YMCA is not a good option "for people who are trying not to freeze to death" because of low temperatures at 10:30 p.m. - the earliest homeless people are allowed into the Y - and at 5 a.m. - when they must leave the building.

Teti said the immediate problem is providing better emergency shelters for the homeless in Allentown. She told council some churches are looking at solutions but none have come to fruition yet.

She said Safe Haven will close at the end of March, but homeless people still will need shelter in April.

She hopes having a member of City Council and a county commissioner serve on the Commission to End Chronic Homelessness will give it more teeth "to move toward a more sustainable and humane way to shelter people, while connecting them to the services needed to get them back on their feet."

Teti and council member Jeanette Eichenwald recently met with Allentown School District officials about the possibility of using schools as emergency shelters for the homeless - a proposal first made to City Council in January by ASD board president Robert Smith.

Teti said schools are opened in emergencies under the management of the American Red Cross. But she learned the Red Cross only does that for major disasters. She said Red Cross officials have offered the use of cots, so homeless people don't have to sleep on floors inside shelters.

Snow removal costs

Schweyer, who chairs council's budget and finance committee, reported that overtime, private contractor and other city costs from winter's cold and snow went $250,000 to $500,000 over budget, "which isn't as bad as I expected it to be."

He said the city's administration has promised a full accounting of those costs by his committee's April meeting "at the very latest."

On Feb. 26, Dougherty gave Schweyer's committee a higher estimate, saying snow removal costs have put the city as much as $750,000 over budget.

Whatever the final figure, Schweyer predicted it will be a number that the city will be able to reasonably absorb in its annual budget.

He said the city financially plans to handle up to 35 inches of snow a year, adding it got nearly twice as much this winter.

"But ultimately, it is not a dollar figure that is insurmountable for us," said Schweyer. "I feel comfortable that it's not going to have any long-term implications on our operations for the rest of this year."

He said the city already has four crews working on pothole repairs.

Weighing in on a national issue

A proposed resolution on a national issue was introduced at council's meeting.

It recommends that Congress and the president work on a comprehensive immigration reform package "that includes a humane, practical path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and the reform of temporary worker programs that exploit immigrant workers."