South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

The difference between 311 and 911explained by call center manager


Everything you wanted to know about the 311 response line, but never had a chance to ask, was answered by 311 manager Wendy Urbanic at the April 1 meeting of the South Sides Slopes Neighborhood Association.

Ms. Urbanic said when she moved to Pittsburgh the friendliness of the residents led her to refer to the city as "a big small town."

She said there is some confusion among residents about the difference between 911 and 311.

If you need a policeman, call 911.

For ongoing problems like trash on a property, illegal dumping, graffiti, abandoned cars, or any other violation, residents should call 311, the city's phone number for government information and non-emergency services. Callers receive a reference number so they can call back to learn the resolution.

Ms. Urbanic said that after calling 311 and receiving a reference number District 3 residents should contact city Councilman Bruce A. Kraus' office with the complaint and reference number. The office will follow up on the call.

Callers may also take photographs of the problem sites and email them to Ms. Urbanic at wendy.urbanic@

"A picture's worth a thousand words," she said. She said she has made a lot of referrals to the county and magistrates.

The center has retrieved rings and keys from sewers in response to calls from the items' owners.

"For me, I can't think of anything better," she said of her job.

An attendee referred to the nuisance property legislation passed last year, but which has not yet been implemented. After three violations within 90 days, the property becomes a nuisance property, and the owner has to pay back the city on all costs incurred, such as police and building inspector calls to the site.

The attendee asked if both 311 and 911 calls about a nuisance property count in building a case against a landlord.

Ms. Urbanic said yes.

The 311 center was begun in Oct., 2006. Ms. Urbanic's staff consists of three full-time and four part-time workers. The center averages 250 calls a day. On Feb. 13, it logged 700 calls due to a heavy snowfall.

The phone answers daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Besides phoning and emailing, residents can stop in the 311 offices on the first floor of the City-County Building, 414 Grant St.

The evening began with SSSNA President Brad Palmisiano's update on last week's cleanup, which included 42 community service workers. For a listing of upcoming cleanups and plantings, see the SSSNA newsletter or website

In the StepTrek 2008 report, Bev Boggio said the event is planned for a Sunday in late September/early October, but a specific date won't be set until the Steelers' schedule is released.

If interested in volunteering, contact Ms. Boggio at 412-488-0486 or visit the SSSNA website.

In the Elm Street report, Rev. Don Ware said he and other committee members met with landscape architect Dina Klavon, of Klavon Design Associates, who was hired to provide streetscape ideas for improving the 18th St. corridor.

The goal is for that corridor to then serve as a template for other Slopes improvements so there will be a consistent plan in place. The key, said Rev. Ware, is to make the gateways noticeable, inviting, attractive, green, and more, he said.

Klavon's ideas must be affordable and able to be quickly implemented, he said.

Rev. Ware also reported that the South Side Local Development Company is awaiting approval from the city Law Department for access to the closed Neville Ice Arena property to conduct an analysis of the facility.

Regarding the Good Neighbor Booklet, he said it is being prepared for publication.

Finally, beautification and clean-up of South Side Park will take place on April 12 and April 19, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Rain dates are April 13 and 20. Volunteers should meet at the ice rink.

Duquesne University students are coordinating the effort as part of their Honors Program project.

Mr. Palmisiano said the SSSNA is hoping to have Dina Klavon at the May meeting to present her preliminary ideas.

He also updated attendees on the proposed condominium project on the former police station/jailhouse property.

He said the SSSNA board felt the scaled-back proposal of Landmark Property Development LLC

from 15 condos to nine condos was more appropriate for the site, and informed the South Side Planning Forum of their approval for the revised plans.

But the forum was unable to reach a consensus, which must be reached for the forum to take a public stand on an issue. The developer was seeking the forum's support prior to an appearance before the city Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Board member Misi Bielich, talking about the "welcome to neighborhood basket," said the committee has no good way of monitoring when new people move into the neighborhood. She is asking that residents report new neighbors to her committee so members can deliver a welcome basket of goodies to their homes.

In other news, April 19 will be a South Side wide spring clean-up day.

Former board member Claudia Hart, who is moving due to a career change, was presented with a painting by local artist Johno Prascak as a gift from the SSSNA.

The next SSSNA meeting will on May 13 at 7 p.m. at the St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center.


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