Water was the focus of the Oct. 27 Upper Knoxville Block Watch meeting, with guest speakers Pennsylvania American Water Co. supervisors Matt Mazek and Jason Stanton, and city Deputy Fire Chief Colleen Walz.
City Councilman Bruce Kraus was also in attendance, and spoke at the meeting's conclusion.
The PAWC supervisors work out of the Bethel Park office, which is responsible for 43 South Hills municipalities, including nine city wards.
The men said their top two priorities are ensuring tap water, and sufficient water in hydrants for fires. The office manages 6,500 hydrants in the 43 municipalities, all of which are inspected and tested on an annual basis by three full-time inspectors.
PAWC is currently in the 30th Ward area doing inspections.
An attendee questioned why a water buffalo was brought in during a fire on Jucunda Street on May 12. She was told by a neighbor one hydrant was dry and another had no pressure.
Mr. Stanton said he cannot speak about the incident because it is under investigation. He did say, inspections before and after the incident revealed adequate flow.
The attendee also said she received a phone call from PAWC notifying her the company was flushing out hydrants in the area. It was the first time in 43 years for such a call, she said, and she will expect more from now on. Mr. Mazek said such informational calls began this year.
In other PAWC news, Becks Run Road has a target opening date of Nov. 15. The goal of the $100 million plant expansion, said Mr. Mazek, “is increased capacity for Pennsylvania American Water.”
In her brief remarks, Ms. Walz said for information on local fires, residents can call the city fire administrator for reports.
She also noted the city has four water companies serving its residents: Wilkinsburg, Penn Hills, PAWC, and West View.
To an attendee's comment about seeing people removing items from an abandoned house, she said to call 911. It is not uncommon for thieves to remove wire, piping, gas lines, and more from abandoned houses for scrap.
Questioned about vandals stuffing debris and junk in hydrants, she said tampering with a hydrant is a felony.
In his presentation, Mr. Kraus said drugs and guns are at the “heart and soul of everything taking place,” regarding crime.
He said more funding is needed for a firearms tracking unit to reduce gun violence. He would like to see the unit replicate the success of the graffiti task force, a dedicated unit with good policy.
“We must find out where guns are coming from, and keep them from hitting the street,” he said.
Mr. Kraus said he does not oppose the Second Amendment, but rather wants responsible ownership.
In the news, Mr. Kraus said he supports the community-based initiative, “Our Library, Our Future,” designed to raise awareness of the need to provide financial support for the library.
Supporters of the initiative are asking city residents to vote yes on a ballot referendum on Nov. 8. If approved by a majority of the voters, a separate tax of 0.25 mills will be levied on all real estate in the City of Pittsburgh. It is equivalent to $25 per year on $100,000 of assessed value.
The library currently falls about $3 million short a year, he said.
In other library news, Mr. Kraus said a $4 million renovation of the library on Carson St. is on-going.
The renovation includes new windows and roof, handicap-accessible entrance, installation of wireless internet, new heating system, air-conditioning, children's area, and more.
In neighborhood news, block watch president Mary Ann Bennett read a list of 175 reported crimes in Knoxville from Aug. 1 to Oct. 14.
They were: 10 aggravated assault, 8 accident, 1 business burglary, 9 burglary, 16 criminal mischief, 1 criminal trespassing, 2 disorderly conduct, 2 dead person, 2 driving under the influence, 1 domestic violence, 1 escape, 2 execution warrant crime, 1 forgery, 2 fraud, 13 harassment, 2 homicide, 4 hit-and-run, 1 indecent assault, 1 identity theft, 15 incident, 1 multi-corruption of minor, 1 prostitution, 1 reckless endangerment of person, 3 strong armed robbery, 11 simple assault, 1 stalking, 2 stolen vehicle, 2 stolen recreational vehicle, 4 theft from auto, 1 theft from business, 15 theft from person, 2 theft from residence, 1 theft of services, 2 terroristic threats, 1 unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, 1 VALS driving offense altered stickers, 28 VCSDDCA drug arrest, 1 violation of firearms, and 3 warrant.
The distribution of the 175 total reports in the areas covered by Knoxville's three block watches are: 61 reports, or 35 percent of reported crime, in Upper Knoxville; 87 reports, or 50 percent of reported crime, in the 30th Ward; and 27 reports, or 15 percent of reported crime, in McKinley.
The next block watch meeting will be in spring, 2012.