South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Boro hires assistant for code enforcement, bypasses proccess


The hiring of an assistant code enforcement officer was the lead story from the June 18 meeting of Mt. Oliver council, and it was not without controversy.

Councilwoman Christine Brendel was absent.

By a 4-2 vote, with council members Pat Malloy and George Farneth dissenting, Melvin Pollard was hired for the new post. Mr. Farneth said he voted no because all steps discussed by council as being preparatory to a vote were not taken.

The only other applicant was Frank Bernardini who, when asked to speak briefly before council and answer questions, said he was not told he would be asked to do so that evening, and was therefore not prepared.

Ordinance officer Steve Wilharm said the job requires someone to do the leg work of tracking down vacant property owners and others whose property is in violation, and to possess computer skills to aid in the search.

"This is very time-consuming and involved," he said, noting it will take more than a month or two to see progress.

Council President Billie Michener said she is working on a program to deal with code violators, including a tracking system to determine if citations are paid -- all in an effort to collect money that is due the borough.

The program will involve Mr. Wilharm, Mr. Pollard, building inspector/building code official Chuck Knaus, and tax collector Dottie Smith.

In his brief presentation, Mr. Pollard said it is not so much about a job as it is about who will put in the time, energy, and effort to do what needs to be done. He said while he does not live in Mt. Oliver, he wants to perform a service for the borough that brings in revenue.

He also said he once worked as a code enforcer in another borough.

Attendees complained the position was not advertised; there is no written job description; and of the hiring of a non-resident.

Mrs. Michener said advertising is costly, and she spoke about the need for help for Mr. Wilharm at numerous meetings this year. As for a job description, Councilman Corey McGough said responsibilities will be added as the job progresses.

Councilman Darnell Sains said a person is required who is diverse in many areas as many tasks need addressed. The two councilmen also said they had no problem hiring a non-resident as otherwise retaliation is a concern if, say, the resident being fined lives near next door to the officer.

They said the new borough secretary, Kathy Connolly, also resides elsewhere.

Mr. Bernardini, who once assisted Mr. Wilharm, expressed anger he was not told there would be a vote that evening, to which Mrs. Michener said council was not required to do so.

Mr. Farneth said Mr. Bernardini was supposed to have been informed in advance of the interview that evening.

The meeting began with the police report of Mayor James Cassidy: 901 calls responded to, 25 narcotics arrests, and five DUIs.

He also said he received a complaint about a boarded-up house on Rustic Ave. which is an eyesore. The property is owned by an LLC holding company. Code enforcement officials will investigate.

In the engineer's report, Mrs. Michener said the plan for the next six months is for engineer Kurt Todd to be at the agenda meetings only. The public may attend and ask questions of the engineer at that time.

As of October, the Pennsylvania American Water Company will only collect water bills, and not sewage bills.

SHACOG will gather sewage collector preferences from all its member municipalities, and then check for the best price before making its choice.

Mr. Farneth asked attendees to let him know if they prefer monthly or quarterly bills.

In the public safety report, Mr. Sains said there were 25 narcotics arrests, five arrests, 14 park-and-walks, 13 targeted patrols, and two crowd control actions by the police.

To a question from Mrs. Michener about parking ticket fines, he said he would bring proposed fee changes before council in July.

In the public works report, Mr. McGough said 80 percent of the repairs the water company planned to make this summer are completed. The gas company also started repair work.

The borough's street department began line painting. As the job costs the borough thousands of dollars, Mr. McGough asked if the side streets must be done every year.

Mrs. Michener said the borough needs a program and a list of yellow lines. A sign must accompany each yellow line.

Mr. McGough also questioned if the traffic light at Hays and Ormsby avenues could be replaced with four-way stop signs. It cost the borough $5,000 to repair the traffic light in February.

Police Chief Frank Mosesso said only PennDOT can make the decision to remove a traffic light.

"People respect a stop light a lot more than a stop sign," said Mr. Sains.

Mr. Cassidy said three walkers were hit at the traffic light intersection in the past year, while Mr. Malloy said school busses load and unload there. A resident said a lot of children play on Hays.

Mr. Farneth said the police patrols in the area for tracking speeders are effective.

Council next voted to buy a cell phone for street commissioner Ron Smith at a maximum of $100. Two other phones will be discontinued.

To conclude his report, Mr. McGough said there is a dog problem on his street. Noting he was recently bitten, he does not want to see a child bitten, and told attendees to contact the borough if they spot dogs running loose.

Chief Mosesso said if bitten by a dog, the person must file a formal complaint with the police, who then file a report. The matter then goes to the magistrate.

"You have to take back your neighborhood," said Mrs. Michener.

In the code enforcement report for the past month, there were 18 complaints, 16 rental licenses, 24 citations, one business license, 12 legal notices, and occupancy occupancy permits.

In the economic development report, Mr. Farneth said the annual "Cruisin' on the Hilltop," featuring car cruise, sidewalk sales, live band, and more, will be held from noon to 6 p.m. on Aug. 18 along Brownsville Rd. from Arlington Ave. to the clock tower.

Council agreed to spend about $200 on flyers and bats for the event, at the request of the Hilltop Economic Development Corporation (HEDC).

Next, regarding a borough website, Mr. Farneth said there was a presentation last week by SLG Web Design, which designed the Pitcairn borough website. The cost for a similar website for Mt. Oliver is $3,510.99, which is not budgeted.

Mr. Farneth said while he believes SLG's work is effective, and would be beneficial for Mt. Oliver; he cannot recommend the expenditure because the borough does not have the money to pay for the site.

"We've got to find this money," said Mrs. Michener. Council then voted 4-2 to move forward with the issue.

Mr. Farneth next suggested naming June 30 "Joanne Malloy Day" in Mt. Oliver as it will be the last working day for the 29-year borough secretary.

In the solicitor's report, council voted 6-0 to adopt Act 90. Under state Act 90, or the Neighborhood Blight Reclamation and Revitalization Act, municipalities can deny occupancy permits to property owners who are behind in taxes or other municipal service accounts.

Also, if taxes are owed by a landlord, the tax collector can file papers so the tenant pays the rent to the borough and not the landlord. The owner cannot, by law, evict a tenant who is paying their rent to the borough because of the landlord owing back taxes or fees.

In the public comment period, a resident complained about an abandoned Rustic Ave. house, the last inhabitant of which died seven years ago. There are high weeds and vines, and fire is a danger.

Mrs. Michener said this is the type of problem Mr. Pollard will address through the new program, such as by tracking down the owner.

Another resident, who is on Social Security disability with a fixed income, said his water is scheduled to be shut off at the end of the month as he received a $2,700 sewage bill. He said he wants to make payments but no one returns his calls.

Mrs. Michener said she wants to implement a program to address problems such as this one, and also seniors who cannot pay their bills.

The next council meeting will be on July 16.


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