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.
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.
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.
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
“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.