South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

South Side Slopes reviews StepTrek, city finances, ongoing projects


November 16, 2004

A look-back at last month's StepTrek 2004 led off the Nov. 9 meeting of the South Sides Slopes Neighborhood Association.

President Bev Bagosi Boggio said the Oct. 17 event, a non-competitive, self-guided walking tour of the Slopes, drew about 450 participants, 370 of which were pre-registrants, the highest ever. There were also about 70 volunteers, the most ever.

Local businesses donated about 20 gift certificates which were given away. The new Qdoba Mexican Restaurant gave StepTrekkers menus with coupons for a free entree and beverage.

Local video producer Rick Sebak and his crew shot scenes of StepTrek for his new documentary, “It's a Neighborhood,” to be shown on WQED TV on Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. Among those filmed were the Chartiers Valley High School basketball players who ran the course.

The fundraiser is held annually “to call attention to our public stairways,” said Boggio.

The evening's first guest speaker was city administrative assistant Bill Fry, filling in for Gene Ricciardi. The council president was in Harrisburg with the rest of council asking legislators for tax restructuring in light of the city's financial crisis.

Fry said 34 percent of city property is tax-exempt. There needs to be a “fairness” in restructuring, he said, as small companies can't be overburdened to compensate for larger companies and tax-exempts which pay little or nothing.

When asked when we will know if the state legislature plans to take action, Fry said he doesn't think it will occur until after January 1.

To a question of why small parcels owned by the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC aren't taxed, Fry said the state decried years ago that all property owned by the tax-exempt institutions is also tax-exempt. Officials going back to the Caliguiri administration have complained, but to no avail.

Fry said when Philadelphia was having similar problems, eastern Pa. legislators realized the city was a hub and worked together to resolve the situation. “We need sharing as a regional asset,” he said.

When asked if local state representatives are responding to Pittsburgh's crisis, Fry said Jake Wheatley, Jr., and Harry Readshaw are, and are even trying to influence the Allegheny County caucus.

To a question of whether the city could wait to see the gambling effect before restructuring the tax system, Fry said the city may be out of money by the end of the year. The city can't wait for gambling revenue, which is about two years away.

On another topic, Fry told attendees still in need of help following Hurricane Ivan to call the Dept. of Public Works. There's so much going on in the city, he said, that callers must be pushy and persistent. If the response isn't satisfactory they should then call Ricciardi's office.

Amy Schrempf briefly discussed the “Homestead Exemption,” which reduces county property taxes. She also distributed one-page applications to attendees interested in applying for the tax relief.

Schrempf said the exemption takes the first $15,000 in assessed value off owner occupied residential properties in the county. That amount was raised from $10,000 in 2002. The only time an application is denied, she said, is when officials believe you are using the property as a rental property. For more information, see:

In SSSNA business, Boggio said the group is steadily moving toward incorporation as a non-profit organization. After board members vote on approving the articles of incorporation and by-laws, the SSSNA may file for 501(c)3 status with the IRS.

Currently, the SSSNA is a non-profit under the umbrella of the South Side Local Development Co.

Due to the SSSNA incorporation application, board elections were moved from October until that evening. For continuity the next 12 months, the entire 11-member board was approved. Two-year members are: Boggio, Joe Balaban, Joan Burke, Kay Comini, Claudia Hart, and Betty Kripp.

One-year members are: Joe Ciccola, Melissa Golba, Janice Serra, Will Schaefer, and Brad Palmisiano. The latter was the only open board position, replacing Maureen Rottschaefer, who is returning to graduate school.

Palmisiano is circulating a petition to make Pius St. one-way. The petition will be submitted to the city, followed by a 90-day trial period and then a decision by city officials.

Dennis Berry told attendees that six additional volunteer “tree stewards” are needed to tend 54 shade trees on Josephine St. from 18th St. to 27th St. Stewards may select their tree-of-choice, and tend it in honor of a friend or child. Stewards receive a tee-shirt with “tree tender” written on it.

This time of year, winterizing, pruning, and removal of cocoons of web worms is required. Tools will be provided. A date will be set for a forester to conduct a training session.

The trees were planted last year through a grant from the City of Pittsburgh Shade Tree Commission.

The idea behind the plantings, wrote Berry in the March 2003 issue of “Slopes News,” “was to build upon the successes of the four flower gardens in this corridor. Recognizing the high potential of this sadly neglected thoroughfare with the wide street, the broad brick sidewalk and massive cut stone wall, the members of the SSSNA set out to accentuate and enhance its existing features.”

Anyone interested in serving as a tree steward on Josephine St., the “gateway to the Slopes,” should contact Dennis Berry at 412-481-4356.

On another topic, Berry informed attendees of a prospective nine-unit development on Holt St. by Caesser Way, a paper street. The property was once the old Brashear settlement, the shop of which was recently torn down.

A public hearing on the project will be held on Nov. 18 at 9:55 a.m. in the John P. Robin Civic Building, corner of Second Ave. and Ross St. While Berry will attend, the most weight is accorded to residents who live directly by the proposed housing.

The next SSSNA meeting will be a holiday party and dinner on Dec. 14 at 7 p.m.


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