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Arlington Civic Council meeting gets updated on schools, spray park and more

 


Members of the Arlington Civic Council (ACC) filled the front meeting room of the Henry Kaufmann Center to learn more about what was happening in their neighborhood.

Invited speakers included Nicole Ballard, supervisor of services for the Allegheny County Probation Office Day Reporting Center South; District Magisterial Judge Eugene Ricciardi; Pittsburgh School Board Representative Cynthia Falls; and, City Council President Bruce Kraus.

Prior to the presentations by the speakers, ACC president Debra Neumeyer-Morgan announced John Dixon would be the organization’s 311 coordinator and Linda Staab would be the Facebook administrator.

Ms. Ballard began her presentation by saying, “a lot of people say ‘what the heck is going on over there?’”

She said there are a lot of misconceptions about the center including people staying overnight there and that it is a methadone clinic. “It’s none of these,” she added.

Ms. Ballard passed out a flyer listing some of the innovative crime prevention services they offer are:

Batterer’s Intervention or domestic abuse classes which uses group sessions to make people aware of their actions and assist them in maintaining their composure and control.

Cognitive Hehavioral Therapy in individual or group sessions to assist people in their thought patterns and the actions they perform.

Community Service help is provided to community and non-profit organizations to maintain sustainability and/or beautification.

Drug and Alcohol Assessment/Testing as screening tools to establish drug and/or alcohol disorders.

Educational Services to help people in the program achieve a General Education Diploma and/or skill building services designed to heightened their functional capabilities.

Employment Assistance to provide individuals in the program the job search skills they need for employment.

Ms. Ballard said that although the county has two additional Day Reporting Centers and soon a fourth, it’s the center on Arlington Avenue receiving awards for their work in the community. The center has received The Bob Award for liter clean-ups; has been honored with a proclamation from Pittsburgh City Council; has received Community Service Awards from local neighborhood groups; and, has been recognized by the Federal Government for their work.

Ms. Ballard explained they provide people for community service project throughout the Zone 3 police district.

Saying he didn’t think anyone in the room would want to be a defendant in a district magistrate’s court or even a witness, Judge Ricciardi outlined some of his responsibilities as a district judge.

Those responsibilities include holding preliminary arraignments to set bond for defendants, release them on their own recognizance or set non-monetary bond.

He said the judges are required to set a reasonable bond, but it is “not a science and more of an art” to protect the community if the defendant could be a threat.

The district judges also hold preliminary hearings, which is not a trial, but determines whether a defendant’s charges should be dismissed or if they should be held for trial in the Court of Common Pleas. It’s up to the magistrate to determine if there was a crime committed and if in all likelihood the defendant committed the crime.

At the local level, district judges may also hear truancy cases; issue search warrants; hear traffic cases; and, non-traffic cases such as public intoxication, under-age drinking and disorderly conduct. Among Judge Ricciardi’s favorite duties is to perform weddings, doing up to 100 each year.

City district magisterial judges also preside over Housing Court cases brought by the City of Pittsburgh Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections (PL&I, former Bureau of Building Inspection, BBI). Those cases can include anything from excess weeds to problems with a building’s structure.

Judge Ricciardi said it was his understanding if there is a violation, the building inspector will first notify the property owner by letter. The property owner is then given 30 days to remedy the problem before the case is sent to a district judge.

He noted once the case goes to his or another district judge, it is actually a trial and the property owner could be fined.

Citations may also come from the city’s Department of Public Works. In that case, the hearing is held at Pittsburgh Municipal Court. Citations from PL&I are hear by the local district judge.

Asked about why some cases are continued, the judge replied, “my goal is to mitigate the problem,” although he has given out large fines at times.

Ms. Falls told the group the recent closure of the Arlington elementary schools and moving the students to Phillip Murray went smoothly. As far as the buildings left vacant in the move, there has been some interest and several people have toured the facilities.

She asked the group what they did not want going into the buildings, should they be sold. Overwhelmingly the group responded they would be against halfway houses or treatment centers. It was also suggested a better use might be to demolish the properties and build senior citizen housing.

Ms. Falls said if and when there is anyone interested in the buildings, there would be a public meeting.

The number one topic Councilman Kraus discussed with the council was the Arlington spray park and why it wasn’t open yet. At the ACC’s last meeting, Citiparks director Jim Griffin said, “Our expectation is that someone is going to get wet in that spray park, even if it’s in September.”

The spray park was still on track, the councilman said, but was delayed because of a change was needed because of an underperforming contractor.

Construction was now slated for the fall, continuing through winter with an opening in late June.

Ms. Morgan expressed concern the demolition site was “wide open” someone could get hurt.

The councilman said he would see that the safety net was re-installed at the site.

 

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