South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By David Assad
Contributing Writer 

Boro councilman asks county for development funding


January 16, 2007

Mount Oliver Borough Council President Don Cornelius (left) makes his plea to County Executive Dan Onorato (right) for assistance in the borough to acquire property to locate a supermarket in the borough. The councilman also relayed concerns about public safety and the perponderance of of Section 8 housing in the municipality. Allegheny County Police Superintendent Charles Moffat and County Council President Rich Fitzgerald (center) also attended the meeting.

Funding to further supermarket,

public safety asked of Onorato

Mount Oliver borough

officials are hoping to get an answer by next week from Allegheny

County Chief Executive Dan Onorato about a grant that would help bring

a much-needed supermarket to the municipality. The borough has been

without one since the Foodland on Arlington Avenue left in 1999.


Onorato met with the borough's elected officials to discuss the

municipalities' needs and concerns, including public safety and

economic development issues.

Attracting a supermarket to the borough is at the top of the priority list.


officials are requesting more than $600,000 in county funding to be

used toward a $2.9 million development project.


Onorato was accompanied by County Economic Development Director Dennis

Davin during a meeting in council chambers followed by a tour of the

borough Janurary 9.

This meeting marked the end of Mr. Onorato's

lengthy municipal tour program that began in the spring of 2004. The

tour of every Allegheny County municipality (townships, boroughs and

cities totaling 130) began 32 months ago. The program has brought Mr.

Onorato and county directors together with elected officials from every

municipality in Allegheny County.

“The municipal tours gave me an

opportunity to learn more about all of Allegheny County's communities,”

Mr. Onorato said. “Whether the issues were road maintenance, emergency

services, economic development or others, my administration has

collaborated with local leaders to address problems and identify


Issues over the continued development of the land around

the Greater Pittsburgh International airport, the location of the

much-anticipated slots parlor in the city and the building of a new

arena for the Penguins have dominated the headlines during Mr.

Onorato's term in office. However, he seemed sincerely interested in

relatively small Mount Oliver's economic problems.

Serving as

liaisons at the meeting between the borough officials and the county

executive were State Representative Harry Readshaw, State Senator Jay

Costa and County Council President Rich Fitzgerald. All three pubic

officials represent Mount Oliver in their respective elected districts.

“I've lived in this area for 65 years and I remember when this was

a very prosperous municipality, but I think we've reached the point of

desperation here,” Rep. Readshaw, a Carrick resident, told Mr. Onorato

in borough council chambers.

“If you said to me, ‘Harry, if you

could have one wish in the 36th legislative district for something to

happen, I would choose this [supermarket plan] because if this doesn't

happen, I believe this municipality is in trouble,” Mr. Readshaw said.


council president Don Cornelius told Mr. Onorato that the Brownsville

Road business corridor is dominated by “predatory businesses”.

“We need a [business] anchor to bring in other good businesses that bring in good shoppers and so forth,” Mr. Cornelius said.


cited several stable and prosperous businesses that bring in shoppers

from other neighboring communities from outside of the borough, such as

Miller Hardware and Keystone Plumbing. However, he said there are too

many other businesses in the area which attract a less desirable

clientele which becomes a detriment to a once vibrant district.


have two check-cashing places, and within 200 feet of the borough

building, we have four ‘convenience' stores that have people walking in

and out all day long and not carrying

bags out,” Mr. Cornelius said.

“We shut one of them down for [dealing] drugs and they're suing us now

to get back into the same place.”

Borough solicitor James Perich and

borough engineer Ruthann Omer attended the meeting to assist the local

elected officials in pleading the borough's case to Mr. Onorato and his

staff that Mount Oliver has everything in place to begin the process of

getting the proposed supermarket.

Mr. Cornelius would not identify

the supermarket chain that wants to locate in Mount Oliver, or the

developer who would demolish the existing buildings to allow for the

construction of a full-service supermarket.

Mr. Onorato said he

would have Mr. Davin meet with borough officials to get the written

plans and cost estimates on the proposed supermarket. If the proposal

seems viable, the county may consider giving the borough the necessary

grant to complete the funding for the project. Mr. Onorato told borough

officials he hopes to give them an answer by next week.

The borough

has already been approved for a $500,000 state grant for the

acquisition of commercial and residential properties, but at least

another half-million is needed for site preparation and demolition.

Other issues discussed at the meeting concerned public safety and Section 8 public housing.


borough is attempting to acquire grant-funding to install surveillance

cameras in the business district in an effort to deter crime.

As for

the borough's growing Section 8 housing problem, Mr. Cornelius told Mr.

Onorato that Federal rental vouchers increased from 80 households to

more than 200 between 2004 and 2006.

There is not much the county

can do to stop the Federal housing authority from flooding the borough

with Section 8 housing rentals. However, Mr. Cornelius said this issue

is a great concern because the earned-income tax collected by the

borough has decreased by 30 percent since the significant increase in

subsidized housing began for low-income renters. Consequently, if the

borough has a budget problem, this could have an impact on the county


In another housing matter, the borough has a list of 11

abandoned houses that are so dilapidated, they must be torn down. The

borough has averaged two to three property demolitions per year over

the past decade which is a good rate considering the age of the

municipality's housing stock and the relatively small size of the


Mr. Onorato said he recently toured a municipality

similar in population size with Mount Oliver and learned this borough

(which he did not want to identify) has more than 40 houses that must

be demolished.

“We have a full-time building inspector, so we're on

top of this issue,” Mr. Cornelius said. “We're making sure we have a

handle on this problem.”

Ms. Omer said she “aggressively” seeks grant money to tear down dilapidated properties.

“It takes a lot of effort to keep up with it,” Ms. Omer said.


Cornelius said there are several dozen other abandoned properties in

Mount Oliver that are salvageable, but may be on the demolition list in

the near future if something is not done to renovate them.


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