The city council voted to amend the Charter Board Ordinance in an effort to rein in legal fees.
The changes include the elimination of the expensive advisory opinion process; creating a more streamlined and less protracted process for resolving disputes; and setting guidelines for allowable spending.
The council’s enforcement powers and residents’ ability to report suspected offenses remain unchanged.
“We want people to be able to file (complaints),” Councilwoman Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz said Monday, “and we want to do it in a way that addressed their issues but is also cost-effective and efficient.”
Counsel with his and the city’s attorneys began drafting the changes nearly a year ago. The draft amendment went through several iterations before the finalized changes were introduced at a council meeting last month.
“With the work of our city attorneys and input from a charter board attorney, we came to a good balance,” Goodman-Hinnershitz said.
The Board authorized the execution of a one-year agreement with the Animal Rescue League of Berks County for animal control services at a rate of $3 per capita.
The rescue league has a shelter in Cumru Township and fosters domestic animals in homes throughout Berks.
Under the contract, the rescue league will respond to reports of stray dogs, stray and feral cats and cases of animal abuse.
“I just want to express my appreciation to the Animal Rescue League,” Goodman-Hinnershitz said.
The nonprofit helped in the case of a stray dog that recently wandered into the east Reading area, the councilman said.
“While we care for people in the community,” she added, “we must respect that our pets and our furry friends are also part of our community.”
The Council also offered condolences to the family of the 13-year-old girl who died in a house fire on January 21 and praised the city and fire services for their heroic efforts.
Firefighters rescued a critically injured 63-year-old man from the basement and a young woman who fled from the second floor to the porch roof of the home on Summit Avenue in Millmont.
Two other family members, including a teenager, escaped on their own.
“What an extraordinary effort the people in the fire department had to make,” said Council President Donna Reed. “Every day we are eternally grateful that you all come to work.”
Council members, city administrators and others also offered their condolences to the family of the Rev. Paul J. Hoh II, a former council president who died Jan. 19.
“First and foremost, he was a man of integrity,” city managing director William Heim said of Hoh.
Heim said he was serving as city police chief when Hoh was appointed council president.
Hoh was later elected to the position for a four-year term beginning in 1998.
Heim said Hoh’s knowledge, practicality, understanding and tolerance of others’ views made the former council president an ideal leader.