South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Mt. Oliver council ousts Michener on eve of election


Cast out council woman then earns opportunity to run in November

A raucous May 16 Mount Oliver council meeting ended with a vote to vacate the seat held by Billie Michener for not attending a council meeting since January.

Following heated discussion involving council and audience members supportive of Mrs. Michener, the vote was four yes, and one abstention, the latter by Christine Brendel who said she had "very mixed emotions."

Council members Pres. James Cassidy, George Farneth, Dennis Obeldobel, and Pat Malloy voted to vacate. Before casting his vote, Mr. Cassidy acknowledged Mrs. Michener's work on behalf of the borough.

"But I need people sitting up here," he said.

Council has 30 days to appoint a new member to serve out the remainder of Mrs. Michener's term this year. She may appeal any decision to Common Pleas Court.

Councilman John Smith and Mayor Jeff Repasky were absent. Mrs. Michener was in the audience for the meeting. (The next day, she was the leading vote-getter in the primary election for the November general election.)

At last month's meeting, Mr. Obeldobel made a motion to vacate her seat for lack of attendance and participation, and failure to respond to an inquiry of when she would return.

A May 2 hearing was then held, during which Mrs. Michener said she provided a medical excuse in January for missing the meetings. She said she did not know when the doctor would allow her to return to council.

At Monday's meeting, some residents asked why the seats of Mr. Obeldobel and Mr. Smith, who missed numerous successive meetings, were never vacated. Mr. Obeldobel said when he missed meetings following surgeries he phoned in advance. But even when he was in the hospital, Mrs. Michener wanted an excuse from him, he said.

Mr. Malloy said when he missed meetings he participated via conference call, and sent in reports.

A resident said Mrs. Michener is more active than any other council member regardless of whether she attends meetings.

Mrs. Michener said despite her absences, she continues to work hard on behalf of residents, such as planning the upcoming "Cruisin' on the Hilltop" car cruise, and helping secure, with the Hilltop Economic Development Corporation, new playground equipment through KaBOOM!

In other council actions, the public hearing period which used to lead off meetings is being moved to the end after the solicitor's report.  The vote was 5-0.

Mr. Cassidy said the reason is many of the questions residents ask are answered during the course of a meeting.

Council also voted 5-0 to allow council members to participate in meetings by phone under "extraordinary circumstances." They can also vote by phone. Guidelines must be drawn up on what constitutes "extraordinary circumstances."

Mr. Cassidy also said council will discuss at an agenda meeting whether residents must submit questions in advance in order to address council at meetings.

The meeting began with a listing of boroughs and how much time they allow residents to speak during their public comment periods at meetings: Baldwin Borough, five minutes; Brentwood, three to five minutes; Dormont, three minutes; Etna, two to three minutes; and Homestead, three to five minutes.

Mount Oliver residents have a five-minute time limit, which some residents have complained about as being too short to fully express concerns.

During the public comment period which followed, a landlord who owns about 25 borough properties complained about receiving a citation for not having an occupancy permit.

Mr. Cassidy said it was because he allowed renters in a property before obtaining an occupancy permit. He can appeal to the zoning hearing board or consult an attorney.

A resident, in his public hearing, commented absent council members and the mayor should not be paid if they miss council meetings. He also complained about garbage put outside too early in front of a Stamm Ave. apartment building.

"The only positive thing in this borough is the police department," he said.

The final speaker said he is opposed to residents' having to submit questions in writing a week in advance.

"This community is built on people," he said.

Mr. Cassidy said the regulation might be changed, but it was done so council could research the questions in advance for an accurate answer.

In the engineer's report, council voted to award the contract for soil testing in Ormsby Park to American Geosciences for $3,935 with the HEDC paying for half the cost.

The park is closed until further notice due to a low percentage of arsenic found in soil samples at the playground.

The soil evaluation was requested by KaBOOM!, a national program for installing new playground equipment. Mrs. Michener said the park is high on KaBOOM!'s list once the soil situation is resolved.

Engineer Kurt Todd said the annual "Cruisin' on the Hilltop," featuring car cruise, sidewalks sales, live band, and more, will be held from noon to 6 p.m. on Aug. 6.

Council voted to proceed with a loan of $27,159 at one percent interest for LED street lighting on Brownsville Rd. Mr. Cassidy said the savings from using LED lights will pay for itself.

In the public safety report, Councilman Patrick Malloy said the fire department answered 18 calls the past two months.

In the police report for April, 794 calls were answered, and maintenance costs on the vehicles totaled $156.20. The vehicles logged 6,813 miles.

There were 12 drug arrests and two DUI arrests in the borough last month. Mr. Malloy note there are six suspended police investigations.

He said, of 31 nuisance properties in Mount Oliver, four are Section 8. The councilman said he includes the number of Section 8 problem properties in the report because some residents believe all the nuisance properties are part of the program, a misconception.

In the Public Works report, Mr. Obeldobel said the painting of white and yellow lines began about 10 days ago, but that the weather is holding back the process. But the number one priority is to get it done as soon as possible.

He said he gave the okay to street commissioner Ron Smith to buy a lawn mower for up to $400, and a weed whacker for up to $200.  Mr. Smith will tackle the high weeds in Ormsby Park with the new equipment.

A jack hammer and generator are also needed by Public Works, raising the total cost of all the new equipment to $2,700 to $3,000.

In other department news, Mr. Cassidy said he met with Waste Management and the borough trash hauler "felt very strongly" it will have an up-to-date delinquent list at the end of the month.

Last month, Waste Management began bypassing garbage set outside for pick-up at residences with delinquent garbage accounts. Only residences in which bills are paid have their garbage picked up each week.

Mr. Cassidy said delinquents must move their garbage from the street and onto their property or else the borough will cite them. If the non-payment persists and garbage accumulates, the Health Department will be contacted.

Those with delinquent accounts are urged to call Waste Management immediately about their settling their bills.

Mrs. Michener asked if the borough will pay Waste Management to compensate for the delinquencies.

Mr. Cassidy said the borough has not received a bill from Waste Management, although $20,000 is allotted in the borough budget for it in case it was needed. It is the responsibility of the property owner to pay Waste Management, he said.

Mr. Farneth said those who are living beside a house where the garbage is not being collected should call the borough and steps will be taken to cite the property owner.

In the computer/risk management report, Mr. Farneth said he hopes to have a cost estimate from a contractor next month on upgrading the municipal building and its code violations. Fire escapes are needed, and there is a potential carbon dioxide issue with the police vehicles in the basement.

He said the architect is "cautiously optimistic" the borough can obtain grant money for the project, which will be sent out for bids.

In the recreation report, the county sports clinic will be held in the borough on June 20-21 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Transverse Park.

The next council meeting will be on June 20.


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