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Rental ordinance changes in the works

North Catasauqua Borough Council held its second regular meeting of the month Jan. 17.

Borough Secretary Tasha Jandrisovitz briefed borough council on a number of proposed changes to North Catasauqua’s rental ordinance. Currently, the ordinance requires rental properties in the borough be reinspected either every four years or every time a tenant changes. Landlords have pointed out this creates a massive disparity in frequency of inspections between different types of rental properties.

Some rentals in North Catasauqua change tenants every few weeks, so the cost of reinspecting each time that happens would be too much for some landlords to bear. Meanwhile, other properties could be going the entire four-year period without any inspection, in which case the borough has no idea what condition they are in.

The borough office intends to change this so rental properties are inspected every other year, regardless of changes in tenants. When the ordinance was first adopted last year, every property in the borough had to be reinspected to be sure it met the new standards.

In order to spread out the process of future inspections, all properties that were inspected in the first half of 2021 will be reinspected in 2023, then all properties inspected in the second half of 2021 will be reinspected in 2024.

Borough council did not yet vote to adopt these changes, but the process of amending the ordinance is expected to commence soon.

Treasurer Annette Englert informed council of upcoming changes to the borough’s local tax collection. In Pennsylvania, local tax collection is done by the county in which a municipality’s school district resides, so although North Catasauqua is in Northampton County, Catasauqua Area School District is in Lehigh County, so Lehigh will handle the borough’s local taxes.

Lehigh County will be entering into a new tax collection contract with Berkheimer Tax Innovations after 2022. This new contract will run 2023-37 and will see the borough’s tax collection rate drop from 1.3 percent to 1.2 percent.

Englert explained other counties in the state whose contracts ended earlier have already had a full year of the lower collection rate, so Berkheimer has lowered Lehigh County’s 2022 collection rate to 1.1 percent to compensate for that difference. Borough council voted to accept that new rate for 2022.

During the meeting, council and borough officials discussed their options for dealing with the property at 408 Buttonwood St. The borough bought the mostly empty lot last year and has been maintaining it for even longer.

The home that once stood at that address was demolished by the borough in 2018 after a sinkhole opened underneath the property and significantly compromised the structure. Several dilapidated garages have remained on the property since then, and the borough is deciding whether to demolish those as well or simply sell the property as is. Alternatively, some borough officials are entertaining the idea of keeping the property and converting it into another public park space.

No final decisions are yet being made on the matter, and council President Peter Paone clarified he would like to have community input, particularly from neighboring residents around Buttonwood Street.

Fire Chief Roger Scheirer updated council on the repairs needed to one of the borough’s fire engines. The estimated cost to repair the truck’s pump is $28,955. Council members did not reach a final decision on whether to pay for the repairs, but they did acknowledge that if they were to decide to sell the truck - either now or in the future - they would get more for it with a functional pump.

Paone said construction of the D&L Trail in the borough is nearing completion, but work will be paused until the spring due to the winter weather.