No tax increase for boro
The adoption of a 2013 budget with no tax increase headlined the Dec. 17 meeting of Mt. Oliver council.
Councilmen George Farneth, Pat Malloy and John Smith, Sr. were absent.
In the mayor’s report which began the meeting, Mayor James Cassidy said in November there were 793 police calls and no DUI arrests. He also reported the police department received a thank-you letter from the Westmoreland County Department of Public Safety for Mt. Oliver’s response to bomb threats in the county with use of its K-9 team.
Council President Billie Michener said she wanted to see the dog contracts, to which Sergeant Williams said he would supply them as soon as possible.
In the engineer’s report, Kurt Todd said the new, energy-efficient LED lighting scheduled to be installed in the 100 to 300 blocks of Brownsville Rd. months ago has been delayed.
Mrs. Michener apologized to business owners to whom it was promised the lighting would be up by Christmas. She will be meeting with the manufacturer and installer by the second week of January, at which time she will find out “whoever dropped the ball,” she said.
In engineering motions, council voted to approve an invoice of $50,400 for Scholz Electric for the lighting, and to submit the request to SHACOG for processing, with the contingency that Mrs. Michener meet with the manufacturer and installer.
Council next voted to approve L&M Accreditation Consultants for $3,000 to review and evaluate police functions, including making sure procedures follow state rules. The company was recommended by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association.
In the solicitor’s motions which followed, council voted to adopt a 2013 budget which retains the current tax rate of 13.5 mills.
Mrs. Michener said the borough had a surplus this year for the first time in more than 20 years, which she attributed to “accountability and responsibility.”
The surplus ranges from $20,000 to $30,000, with no cuts in services or personnel.
“Council is doing a fine job,” she said.
Council also authorized Northwest Savings Bank on Brownsville Rd. to handle the police and borough employees’ pension plans for 2013.
“The money is staying within the borough,” Mrs. Michener said.
In his report, ordinance officer Steve Wilharm said there were 53 violations, nine borough citations, five state citations, and 35 violation letters.
“Keep plugging away. That’s all we can do,” he said.
The code-enforcement vehicle is in need of repairs, to which Councilman Darnell Sains told him to make a list of the specific problems, and the borough will work on them.
To a question about garbage left behind on Jonas St. and not picked up by Waste Management, Mrs. Michener said to call the borough office staff who will call the company. The hauler must pick up all the trash even if the bill is not paid by a resident.
Residents may put out large items and, if Waste Management has the employees that day, the hauler will pick up the items. But the company will not pick up a roomful of large items, such as materials placed outside by a landlord from an evicted tenant.
In the fire report, Mr. Cassidy said a CPR class will tentatively be offered at the fire hall on the morning of Jan 20. There will be a small fee.
In the planning report, Deana Wuenschel said someone wants to buy the check cashing building in the middle of the business district on Brownsville Rd. The prospective buyer wants to make an apartment in the basement that exits out to Amanda Ave.
The building is in an area zoned commercial.
Mrs. Wuenschel will send him the zoning regulations, and tell him to contact the ordinance officer or the borough secretary.
In the public works report, council voted 3-0 to appoint John Michener street commissioner, replacing Ron Smith. Mr. Smith is retiring after 33 years on the job. His last official day will be Dec. 31.
Mrs. Michener abstained from voting as John Michener is her husband.
Regarding hiring a part-time employee for the winter to drive the salt spreader and other snow-related tasks, Councilwoman Christine Brendel suggested subcontracting the role on an as-needed basis.
Councilman Corey McGough said he would look into it.
He also reported much of the playground equipment in Transverse Park was vandalized with graffiti, and which has since been cleaned by borough employees. Residents who live nearby are urged to call 911, or the Mayor’s hotline at 412-431-7333 extension 110, when they witness vandalism. Callers may remain anonymous.
In the public safety report for November, Mr. Sains said the two K-9 units conducted 17 park-and-walks, 10 targeted patrols, one building search, no drug arrests, one crowd control, no warrants, and no apprehensions for the month. Of the 22 nuisance properties under investigation, eight are Section 8.
Police responded to three false commercial alarms, and five residential alarms.
In the recreation report, Mr. Sains said the borough website will include information at the end of January on taking applications for field times for the football, baseball, and soccer organizations.
Mrs. Michener said there will be a written policy this year on use of the field.
In the economic development report, she said the date for next summer’s car cruise will be decided upon earlier than in previous years.
There will be no meeting of the Hilltop Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) in December. The next meeting will be on Jan. 31.
She also reported the borough now owns a former pet store on Brownsville Rd of which the owner did not think he had to pay taxes. The state Supreme Court ordered the owner to give the borough the keys. The deed is in the borough’s name.
For now, it will be used for borough storage, and may be repaired and sold if grants can be acquired.
In the public hearing, Jean Miller gave a report on the Mt. Oliver Ambulance Service (MOAS), of which she is treasurer.
At last month’s meeting, a resident asked why an ambulance service report is never presented at council meetings as he would like additional information about it.
Mrs. Michener also said at the time that with the Pittsburgh paramedics threatening to strike, she wanted to know the MOAS’s plan should a strike occur.
At this evening’s meeting, Mrs. Miller said the service has had a contract with the city for 31 years.
A trip to the hospital via the Pittsburgh EMS costs about $700 or more, she said, while a MOAS subscription is $25 per year.
“We pay your co-payment for $25,” she said.
Today, there are 182 subscribers compared to 500 subscribers 31 years ago. There are 106 subscribers so far for 2013.
No board members receive pay for their work.
Mrs. Michener said while the MOAS provides a vital service, it works out of the municipal building and carries the borough’s name. As such, her responsibility to residents is regular receipt of a written report as she is about “accountability and responsibility.”
She also wants to see bank statements every month, and instructed the solicitor to set up an audit as non-profits are typically audited by the state.
The borough’s most recent agreement with the MOAS in 1992 states the MOAS will pay the borough $2,500 per year, which has not occurred due to the decline in subscribers over the years.
Council should have been asked to revisit the agreement, Mrs. Michener said. She also said the MOAS should devise a plan should the city paramedics go on strike.
Mrs. Miller said she would supply the requested items.
The MOAS’ annual public meeting will be held in January at the municipal building on a date yet to be determined.
In the question-and-answer session, a resident asked if she could view the daily routine schedule of the public works and police departments.
Mrs. Michener said there is no daily routine for public works except for garbage. There is no routine for the police.
Mr. Cassidy said with the police, the daily activities depend on how many calls are answered, followed by the filing of reports. That also means less time patrolling the streets.
In unfinished business, solicitor Deron Gabriel said the owner of a long-vacant Anthony St. property that is in poor condition wants to give the property to the borough. The owner has filed for bankruptcy, limiting the borough’s options.
The borough will not take the property over, Mrs. Michener said, adding it would not be an asset to the borough, as is the pet store.
It would also set a precedent, Mr. Sains said.
In new business, the borough’s new intern was introduced: Ricky Hopkinson, 22, a University of Pittsburgh senior majoring in urban studies, and who grew up in Brentwood.
As a past volunteer, Mr. Hopkinson conducted surveys; picked up leaves and garbage; worked with seniors; and helped out with borough Redd-Up days and the Crank it at the Clock Halloween event.
In his paid role with the borough, he will search for grants to which to apply, and assist the borough secretary.
Mrs. Michener said a few years ago an ordinance was adopted requiring that 30 days after a building becomes vacant, the owner must inform the borough and pay a fee. But no fee was set. In the meantime, the buildings receive fire and police protection for which they pay nothing.
With Mr. Hopkinson’s assistance, the ordinance -- with a fee -- will be enacted in January or February, she said, as another source of revenue.
The next council meeting will be on Jan. 21.