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Council concerned with downtown safety once arena opens

By Mark Reccek, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: May 22 2014 06:14:27 AM CDT
Updated On: May 22 2014 09:26:08 AM CDT
Allentown city council 5-21-14
ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Members of the Allentown City Council are seeking reassurance the city will be safe once the Phantoms ice hockey arena opens downtown in the fall.

Council members Jeanette Eichenwald and Daryl Hendricks and council Vice President Ray O'Connell questioned Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald on security measures planned and in place at the public safety committee meeting Wednesday.

"We're concerned about public safety measures," Eichenwald said.

Fitzgerald said he has been working very closely with Mayor Ed Pawlowski to ensure the safety of the public remains a priority.

"Even though we're down manpower-wise, the men have done a great job policing the city," he said. "The existing resources I have now have done the job."

Fitzgerald added the department is committed to ensuring public events are closely looked at in advance.

"Every event will have some sort of analysis for deployment and some sort of fiscal analysis," he said.

Eichenwald also asked Fitzgerald who will be responsible monetarily in the event Allentown provides a police presence for arena-related incidents.

According to Fitzgerald, the police department is in the process of building a relationship with the arena owners.

He said, however, he could not comment on any arrangements.

Eichenwald asked Fitzgerald to keep council apprised of future plans and progress.

"I think this will work best if you keep us informed," she said.

In regular council business Wednesday, council unanimously voted 7-0 to eliminate one sergeant position in the academy budget, create a lieutenant position in the police operations budget and transfer a patrolman from police operations to the academy budget.

During the committee meeting, Fitzgerald told committee members the change was necessary to provide assistant Chief Keith Morris with more officers who can provide supervision.

"The most efficient use of our resources is to staff that position," he said.

Fitzgerald said $3,000 in the budget will fund the change.

During the meeting, council also voted to amend the zoning code and map by adding a commercial district called the Innovation and Workforce Development Zone.

The purpose of the change is to reuse buildings and rezone an area at 555 Union Boulevard.

Attorney Tim Siegfried of Norris McLaughlin & Marcus, P.C., recommended council approve the zoning change.

"It only makes sense to get the property to where it once was," he said. " All it needs is a little kick; that kick is zoning."

Although some on council such as Eichenwald expressed concern over parking, Councilman Peter Schweyer said the change in zoning is minimal.

"There's a very heavy use," he said. "It seems to be a traffic intensive use."

Siegried said the property currently is assessed at $1 million and may bring in a little less than $15,000 is tax revenue.

The family of deceased former Councilman and educator Watson Skinner also presented Allentown resident MIlagros Canales with the first annual Watson Skinner Memorial Award.

"This is a team effort," Canales said. "I love the city."

O'Connell also presented Skinner's family with a proclamation from state Representative Mike Schlossberg, D-132.