South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Sewage rates going up in Mount Oliver, immediately


March 23, 2010

Mount Oliver residents will be paying $11.89 more per month for sewage after council voted on March 15 to raise rates, effective immediately.

The increase reflects higher Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) fees and increased borough costs, with Mount Oliver's higher costs due to delinquencies and the mandated consent decree.

The vote was 4-1, with Councilman Dennis Obeldobel dissenting, and council members Billie Michener and President James Cassidy absent. In Mr. Cassidy's absence, Patrick Malloy conducted the meeting.

Mr. Obeldobel said he opposed the increase because money from the sewer fund financed the Public Works building, which cost more than $200,000, on the basis that the department does sewer work, and other such projects in the past.

Mr. Cassidy said in January that a rate increase was necessary to help fund sanitary sewer work mandated by a federal consent decree of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Mount Oliver is one of 83 communities within the ALCOSAN service area under an EPA mandate to repair broken sewer lines, eliminate sanitary sewer overflows, and more.

The cost of the major work in the borough is $1.5 million.

Financing is from a low-interest loan and a grant from PennVest, the Pa. Infrastructure Investment Authority.

Contributing to the borough rate increase was the 16 percent rate hike that ALCOSAN put into effect on Jan. 1, 2009. ALCOSAN attributed the hike to the cost of complying with the consent decree to address sewer overflows and rising commodity costs.

The borough is also owed $270,000 in delinquent sewer bills, which council pledged will be pursued aggressively.

The meeting began with a Locust St. resident congratulating street commissioner Ron Smith and the street crew for a great job on snow removal.

But his main reason for being there was the growth of Section 8 housing in Mount Oliver.

"It's getting to the point of ridiculous," he said.

Generations of families are moving out, he said. "They don't want to live here. They don't want to put their life in jeopardy," he said.

His wife won't walk a block at night. "There's gangs standing on the sidewalks," he said.

Property values are going down, and Section 8 renters have no respect for the law, he said.

"Some poor resident is going to end up shooting someone, or be shot," he said.

Mr. Obeldobel said the borough's hands are tied, to a large degree, such as when the police chief checks out complaints of multiple residents in a Section 8 house, but the residents say they are merely visiting.

Code enforcement officer Tom Plietz said the local business association is seeking grants, conducting studies, and more to help improve the area. All problem renters are not Section 8 tenants, he said.

Mr. Malloy suggested inviting Section 8 tenants to a public meeting to discuss issues and concerns.

Borough Solicitor James Perich said when the police chief receives information that Section 8 housing is being abused, the enforcement arm of the county will step in.

Councilwoman Sara Kudasick said according to the borough ordinance, three legitimate complaints on a structure in 90 days begins the process to evict. But the tenants and landlord get their day in court.

She would also help form a block watch as she did on Frederick St. after residents there complained about drug dealing, vandalism, break-ins, gunshots and more.

Mayor Jeff Repasky said he has received letters from landlords thanking him for alerting them to the problems their renters were creating, and of which they were unaware.

Mr. Malloy said council would "do our best" to set up a meeting with Section 8 renters.

In his report, Mr. Repasky thanked the street crew, and Mother Nature, for all the roads being open, including Carmen Way.

Carmen Way, which no one lives on, is where most of the snow was pushed.

In the engineer's report, Justin Wagner said the borough received two grants, through SHACOG, requiring matching funds for demolitions. One grant is to demolish 131 Kohler.

The other, a Neighborhood Stabilization grant, is for three sites: 128 Ormsby Ave., 195 Penn, and 178 Arlington Ave.

In other news, the contractor for the deck hockey in Transverse Park is doing preparatory work now.

Mr. Obeldobel said he is concerned about a 60-feet tall tree that is close to the deck hockey site. He said a decision needs to be made before the deck hockey is put in.

Mr. Wagner said he will get estimates on the cost of removal.

In the public safety report, Mr. Repasky said with all the snow, yellow line parking was likley not tagged. But it will be now.

In the public works report, Mr. Obeldobel said during an early five-day period during last month's snowstorm, Public Works used 271 gallons of fuel for snow clearing, for a cost of $732.43.

He said he will tell Public Works to remove a torn rug which could be hazardous in the municipal hallway.

He also said a deck he mentioned in December still has no railings, and a fence has not yet been repaired at the convenience store.

In the recreation report, it was announced registration for field permits will be held at 10:30 a.m. on March 27 in the municipal building.

Ms. Kudasick next reminded everyone on the importance of completing the 2010 Census questionnaire being sent to all homes. Census data is used in determining representation and in distributing federal funds, which impacts Mount Oliver.

In the report of the Hilltop Economic Development Corp., Mr. Plietz said the organization is working on a modified mainstreet program. It has secured funding for a consultant to work on public safety in the business corridor, and on enhancing its appearance.

The next meeting will be on March 25 in the Elder-ado senior center on Brownsville Rd.

Also, the Hilltop Alliance, he said, will be hiring an executive director to devise a strategic plan and more.

"Positive things are coming" he said of the long-neglected area.

To a question about graffiti, ordinance officer Steve Wilharm said the borough has an ordinance regarding it.

He also said if an area is tagged, and the owners remove it the next day, the vandals are less likely to return as they want to see their so-called artwork and names displayed.

The next council meeting will be on April 19.


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