Council questioned on public works hiring
Garbage collection and payment, a new regional police task force, and a pending full-time borough hire were among the issues addressed at the March 17 meeting of Mount Oliver council.
Mayor James Cassidy was absent.
In his report to begin the meeting, project manager Ricky Hopkinson said there will be planting in the 100-200 block of Brownsville Rd. from 9 a.m. to noon on April 12.
Volunteers should first gather that morning at the fire hall, 120 Brownsville Rd. Volunteers should also contact him in advance at 412-719-2877, or firstname.lastname@example.org, to register.
The Mount Oliver Business Owners Association (BOA) will hold its next meeting at 4:30 p.m. on March 27 in the borough building.
The Keystone Collections Group collected $7,500 last month in delinquent real estate taxes owed the borough. The company has collected $25,000 since December.
The company's fees are passed on to the delinquent taxpayers with no cost to the borough for the service.
Keystone works in unison with tax collector Dottie Smith who puts delinquents on payment plans, Mr. Hopkinson said.
Next, Kate Dillon, editor of the borough's new monthly newsletter, "Mount Oliver Messenger," said the newest 4-page publication features a community calendar on the front. Inside are articles on the fire company's Lenten fish fry, ambulance service, monthly police news, tree vitalization, filling pot holes, and more.
Council President Billie Michener said residents should contact Ms. Dillon with ideas for articles.
In the engineering report, Mrs. Michener said Continental Construction is expected to demolish four of the five condemned houses on Frederick St. by March 31.
In July, numerous houses on Frederick St. slid from their foundations due to an abandoned underground coal mine. The borough received a county grant to demolish all or some of the five condemned properties.
Four owners accepted the county's offer, and will be demolished, while the other owner will be repairing his property.
In his report, ordinance officer Steve Wilharm said there were 98 violations, four state citations, and 38 borough citations.
In the planning commission report, Deana Wuenschel said she and Mr. Hopkinson are working on the borough's comprehensive plan. However, they would like volunteers to aid in the discussion of the future of Mount Oliver.
Mr. Hopkinson said a cross-section of people, like business owners and residents, would be ideal to share ideas.
In public safety, Councilman Darnell Sains reported that, in February, there were 527 police calls, 31 narcotics arrests, five DUI arrests, and six abandoned vehicles, among other statistics.
To view the complete police report, visit the borough website: www.mountoliver.us.
Mr. Sains also reported the borough police are part of the South Hills Task Force, which is through SHACOG, and in the initial stage.
Acting Chief Matthew Juzwick said all South Hills communities want to start an investigations team as a way to share manpower. Instead of calling in borough officers for a specific operation, which costs overtime, officers from other municipalities will come if available, and vice versa.
Council must approve Mount Oliver's participation in the task force.
In other police news, the borough is in the process of trying to hire part-time officers. Full- and part-time hires are put on one-year probation.
To a question from Mrs. Michener about what happens after a drug arrest, Acting Chief Juzwick said a person found with, say, eight bricks of heroin, should get a few years in jail.
He also said a lot of people do not feel smoking marijuana is a crime, and do so on Brownsville Rd. But it is against the law, and will be enforced.
Mrs. Michener said while the officer who handles nuisance property has not been at the block watch lately, he continues to work hard on 13 properties, of which two are Section 8. There have been some evictions due to the borough's nuisance property ordinance.
In the public works report, Councilman Corey McGough said they are working on fixing potholes and checking springtime equipment.
He read a letter from a Stamm Ave. resident thanking the public works department for a great job keeping his road plowed this past winter.
Next, in the events report, Councilwoman Barbara Keener said the Hilltop Hop will be held at Casne World on Hays Ave. on April 12.
She also said she, Mr. Hopkinson, and Ms. Dillon are working on a church directory in the "Mount Oliver Messenger."
In the parks and recreation report, Councilman Frank Bernardini said youngsters interested in basketball should contact him.
In the waste/sewage report, Councilman Dave Lowe reported there were 73 delinquent sewage accounts of more than $500 each. The good news is 52 of the 73 delinquents are paid or making payments.
The other 21 are scheduled for water shut-offs in April.
Residents with payment problems should contact Jordan Tax Services at 412-835-5243 to work out a payment plan.
There are 317 delinquent garbage accounts dating from January 10. The $33.87 three-month garbage fee becomes $43.87 after 30 days delinquency.
Mr. Lowe said the borough will pay the delinquents' total of $13,964 to ensure all garbage is collected, while the Keystone Collections Group will go after payment. The borough will not accept delinquent payments at the municipal building.
The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) raised its sewage rate 17 percent: the fee of $4.32 per 1,000 gallons of water is now $5.05.
But the borough lowered its rate from $7.85 per 1,000 gallons to $7.12, thereby absorbing the increase.
Residents pay the borough rate to help fund Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates, maintain sewer lines and more.
Councilman Nick Viglione said some residents, like himself, did not receive bills from Republic Services, which began as the borough trash hauler in January, replacing Waste Management.
As he never received a bill, he made no payment, and is now on the collection list. He said others are likely in the same predicament.
Mrs. Michener told him when he receives a letter about payment, he should send his payment to Keystone.
Mr. Sains said Republic missed picking up his neighbor's garbage two different times. He asked if there was any penalty to Republic considering the company charges residents a $10 fee for truancy.
Mrs. Keener also said her neighbor was missed. He called, the company said put it out again, but pick-up did not occur until four days later.
Mr. Lowe said that as the service is new, some streets were missed the first time around. But he called the same day and pick-up was immediate.
Borough secretary Kathy Connolly said residents should call the borough offices if there is a problem with pick-up.
Mr. Bernardini said there will be a margin of error when transitioning to a new company.
In the question-and-answer session, Karen Wilharm, wife of ordinance officer Steve Wilharm, said the couple's son, Stevie Wilharm, was hired last July for part-time summer work in the public works department.
She said he is a good worker with good work ethics, and she hopes a personal dislike by some council members for her husband does not bias their vote against her son for a full-time position.
Solicitor Deron Gabriel advised members not to comment as it is a personnel issue.
Mr. Bernardini said he does not know her son, and that hiring is based on qualifications.
Mr. McGough, who is also interested in the full-time position, said he does not want to be hired simply because he is on council.
Mrs. Michener said she looks at it as, "What is in the best interest of the borough?" According to borough code, there is a fine line on what council members can do, she said.
Mr. Sains said there are three applicants for the position, and he will look for the best candidate. There have been no interviews as of yet.
The next resident asked about volunteer gardening opportunities. She is retired from the federal government with time to devote to her avocation.
Council members thanked her for her willingness to lend a hand.
Another resident asked if trash cans can be placed by bus stops on side streets to control litter in nearby yards.
He also repeated last month's concern about Penn Ave., which is one-way off Hays Ave. He would like to see another one-way sign as motorists are going the wrong way.
In old business, a resident reported that a solicitor without a borough permit came to her door. She told the police, who made the solicitor leave the borough.
Mrs. Michener said a person must apply for, and be granted, a permit before they can go door-to-door.
The next council meeting will be on April 21.