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N. Catty council agrees on rental inspection fees

North Catasauqua Borough Council met Oct. 19, with some attendees joining in virtually over video conference and others in person at borough hall.

There were two people present at the meeting who addressed council’s vote on Resolution 349, which was on the agenda for later in the meeting. The resolution would officially adopt a number of fees to accompany the residential rental ordinance, which was adopted last month. Under the ordinance, all rental properties in the borough must be inspected by the borough’s building inspector, with initial inspections costing property managers $65 per unit and a subsequent $60 per unit for every necessary reinspection.

Chris Hauser, who owns a rooming house in North Catasauqua, and Gary Elbert, who manages the rooming house at 1122 Front St., told council members they believed these fees unfairly compound for rooming houses because their properties distinguish every bedroom as a separate unit. Hauser made the point that under the residential rental ordinance, an owner of a single-unit apartment made up of five rooms only has to pay $65 for an inspection of five rooms, but the owner of a rooming house with five bedrooms, and thus five separate units inside, has to pay $325.

Elbert pointed out the residential rental ordinance specifies inspections are required every time a new tenant moves into a unit. This also increases costs for rooming houses, which sometimes see tenants moving in and out within the span of a few weeks.

Borough Council President Peter Paone explained the fees were designed to be revenue neutral and are not intended to generate any kind of profit for the borough. The $65 and $60 inspection fees, Paone said, come from the building inspector with whom the borough works, so the charge to property managers is based on the price of a unit inspection.

Elbert acknowledged the need for inspections, particularly with his own property, the state of which was a central catalyst in the borough’s push for the residential rental and certificate of occupancy ordinances. However, he and Hauser maintained the fees are unfairly skewed against rooming houses.

Elbert said he hoped to negotiate with the borough to have the fees adjusted in the future.

Council voted unanimously in favor of adopting the inspection fees for residential rentals and certificates of occupancy, but Paone said he didn’t want to close the door on making changes to the fees at a later time.

Treasurer Annette Englert announced the borough has received roughly $27,000 in reimbursement for COVID-19-related costs from Northampton County. Since that funding must all be spent before the end of 2020, more than $10,000 of it will go toward a new online bill-paying system for the borough. The new system will allow residents to pay their borough bills over the Internet for the first time.

Paone shared some good news and bad news about the development of the D&L Trail in North Catasauqua. The good news is the borough has received a $500,000 Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant toward the completion of its section of the trail. The bad news is Lauren Golden, trail manager, is leaving her job with the D&L. Golden worked closely with Paone and the borough to fund the completion of the trail and was instrumental in raising the funds for the work. In his report to council, Paone thanked Golden for all of her hard work.

North Catasauqua Police Chief Chris Wolfer announced two new holiday events are coming up.

There will be a trunk or treat 5 p.m. Oct. 31 at North Catasauqua William J. Albert Memorial Park, 701 Grove St. The police department will be handing out bags of special treats, which will include glow sticks to help with visibility during trick-or-treat night, from the back of one of the department’s vehicles.

Then the police department will hold a Thanksgiving food drive Nov. 21, also at the park.

In other news, Colonial Landscape Inc., of Catasauqua, has donated a tree for the borough’s tree-lighting ceremony, tentatively set for 6 p.m. Nov. 29 at the North Catasauqua park. The tree will be lit for the holiday season.