South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Boro hires code enforcement officer, waits for vacant seat to be accepted


The swearing-in of the borough's new code enforcement officer led off the June 20 Mount Oliver council meeting.

Charles Knaus, who did similar work for the city, is the new hire.  The position opened after Tom Plietz left for a similar position in Collier in March.

Councilman John Smith and Mayor Jeff Repasky were absent.

Billie Michener, whose seat was vacated by council last month for missing meetings, and who was then appointed back into the seat in a June 13 special meeting, sat in the audience.

She has repeatedly said she submitted a doctor's excuse for missing the meetings. Supporters at meetings have claimed other council members missed more successive meetings than did Mrs. Michener, without consequence.

She was not present at the special meeting appointing her onto council as she was on vacation. She has to formally accept the appointment to be seated back on council.

In the borough, Mrs. Michener was the leading vote getter, garnering 162 votes in the May primary election for borough council.

Mrs. Michener said after the June 20 meeting she was not informed by council she was appointed to her former seat. Council also made no reference to her appointment during the meeting.

After the swearing-in of Mr. Knaus, certificates of appreciation were awarded to: Rosemary Geyer, Bernie Pawloski, and Edward Woes-sner.

For Ms. Geyer, it was for beautifying the borough; for Ms. Pawloski, it was for her "neverending" devotion and persistence to borough clean up; and for Mr. Woessner, it was for his 103rd birthday on June 9.

Mr. Woessner has lived in the borough since 1938.

The engineer's report followed.  While the public hearing periods previously lead off meetings, council voted last month to move it to the end after the solicitor's report.

Council President James Cassidy said at the time it was because many of the questions residents ask are answered during the course of a meeting.

Engineer Kurt Todd announced a workshop with council to discuss borough engineering projects will be held on June 28 at 6 p.m. in chambers.  The public is invited.

The third annual "Cruisin' on the Hilltop," featuring car cruise, sidewalks sales, live band, flea market, moon bounce, and more, will be held from noon to 6 p.m. on Aug. 6. The location is Brownsville Road from Arlington to the clock tower, or the 100 to 300 blocks.

It is sponsored by the Hilltop Economic Development Corporation (HEDC).

Entries for the car cruise and sidewalk sale businesses must register with Mrs. Michener at 412-381-0420, or

Mr. Todd also said the borough received a $9,395 grant from the Snee Reinhardt Foundation to upgrade its police computers.

In other news, soil testing in Ormsby Park revealed arsenic contamination is confined to the playground itself, and there is no surface contamination in the grass areas. The highest reading is 36.6, which is below contamination danger for workers.

The report attributes the arsenic to the playground equipment. Although the equipment has been removed, the park is closed until further notice.

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

Mrs. Michener asked if the playground site could be roped off, and the park opened for youngsters to play.

Mr. Cassidy said he first wants a report on whether it is safe to play there.

Councilman George Farneth said he wants to learn the effect of the contamination on adults versus children.

In the public safety report, Councilman Patrick Malloy said 868 calls were answered, and maintenance costs on the vehicles totaled $233.86.  The vehicles logged 7,111 miles. There were 17 drug arrests and six DUI arrests.

Mr. Malloy reported that of the 31 nuisance properties in the borough, only four are Section 8 properties.

In the public works report, Dennis Obeldobel said summer help will assist with the painting of white and yellow lines, and in cutting grass. Council then voted to hire three summer workers.

In the computer/risk management report, Mr. Farneth said the borough is looking into grants for acquiring a building to convert into a new municipal center.

A possibility is the First National Bank building on Brownsville Rd., which could be converted into a police department or administrative offices.

"No money will be spent until it's brought to the public's attention," said Mr. Farneth.

The current municipal building is more than 100 years old, and a former fire station. It has major structural deficiencies.  However, there is no money in the budget to bring it up to code.

Fire escapes are needed, and there is a potential carbon dioxide issue with the police vehicles in the basement.

In the solicitor's report, council voted to advertise its seeking of a $575,000 loan from PennVest, the Pa. Infrastructure Investment Authority.

Solicitor James Perich said the funds would complete sewer repairs mandated by a federal consent decree of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Council also authorized preparation of a resolution to take back, from the HEDC, two properties on Hays and Penn avenues – one condemned and the other a vacant lot. The borough will hold the properties until development opportunities arise for the HEDC.

The HEDC requested the borough take back the properties because the organization is charged real estate taxes for them, and the borough is not.

In the public comment period, a resident questioned the mayor's absence from monthly meetings.  He has not attended any this year. Another attendee asked if the borough is paying absentee council members and the mayor.

Mr. Cassidy said the borough code does not require the mayor to attend council meetings.  He said the mayor is working the evening shift and is unable to attend meetings.

Councilwoman Christine Brendel said the mayor continues to answer calls and deal with problems.

The next resident complained, as he has repeatedly, about garbage set outside in front of a Stamm Ave. apartment building.

Mr. Cassidy said if the building owner does not have a contract with Waste Management to pick up the garbage, the owner will be sent a letter, and then cited.

The resident also asked why the police department is being criticized when it is the best it's ever been.

In the next hearing, a resident said he received a bid from a contractor for $2,300 to put in a new retaining wall at his Williams St. home. He said the borough's insurance company approved $2,500 for the wall.

The street has been deteriorating such that it pushed the curb into the corner of his house, knocking down the wall. The problem has been on-going for three years.

But council said while a new curb was put in, and part of the street rebuilt, there was no agreement for a new retaining wall.

Mr. Todd will go to the site and try to work out a solution.

Next, Mr. Obeldobel complained about his neighbor piling broken branches from a storm on the neighbor's driveway, and covering them with blue tarps.

Mr. Cassidy said if the branches are not from borough trees, public works will not be sent to remove them.

Ordinance Officer Steve Wilharm will check if the pile of debris is a violation.

Mr. Obeldobel also said that in May he put up a two-foot high fence.  Shortly after, a borough employee cutting borough grass inadvertently ripped the fence, damaging about 20-feet.

Mr. Obeldobel said he would like the entire fence replaced.

At meeting's end, Mr. Cassidy said speed traps will be set up this summer around parks, playgrounds, and residential areas to nab speeders as children will be outdoors in those areas.

The next council meeting will be on July 18.


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