South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Boro to demolish houses damages by mine subsidence

County grant will pay for demolition work all or some of five condemmed properties


A county grant will pay for the demolition of all or some of the five houses condemmed on Frederick Street in Mount Oliver after mine subsidence damage.

Like last month’s Mount Oliver council meeting, the Aug. 19 meeting began with news of Frederick St.

Council members Dave Lowe and Vanessa Talley were absent.

In July, several houses on Frederick St. slid from their foundations due to an abandoned underground coal mine. At last week’s meeting, council President Billie Michener said the borough received a $75,000 grant from the county to demolish all or some of five condemned properties.

If the owners of the five properties want to keep them, they will have to get their own structural engineer to examine their respective sites.

The borough can demolish the five properties as a hindrance to others on Frederick St.

While there are at least 20 affected homes on the street, the others aren’t as bad as the five that were condemned. The county will also provide low-interest loans for affected property owners.

There are also large holes on Frederick St. due to work by the state Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP), Pennsylvania American Water Co., and Columbia gas.

Mrs. Michener said the borough will be looking for money for these repairs because they didn’t budget for a road program this year.

She also said the borough wants to video the laterals of the 20 affected properties. She said she told Domenick Carroll, of the office of Congressman Mike Doyle, she wants assistance to help residents if any lateral damage is detected during the videoing. The residents are responsible if the laterals need replaced or repaired.

She also reiterated what she said last month, namely, that individuals should buy mine subsidence insurance. It is very cheap to purchase: she pays about $114 a year, she said.

Homeowners can go to for more information or to apply for the insurance.

In the evening’s special presentation, Brittany Huffman, of Young Lungs at Play, displayed a sample of the 10 free signs the borough will receive for its parks. The signs state, “This is a tobacco-free zone” as no smoking is permitted in the parks.

In the mayor’s report, James Cassidy said Miller Ace Hardware donated $300 to the police for training and ammunition. The store also donated money to the fire department.

In the police report for July, there were 663 calls, including 53 domestic calls, six accident reports, 11 criminal mischief, nine fights, 15 drug-related arrests, and four burglaries.

To view the complete police report, go to

In the engineer’s report, council voted to authorize Economic Development South (EDS) to apply for a grant for new trees for the borough.

Council also okayed a two-year agreement with the Keystone Collections group to handle the borough’s delinquent real estate tax accounts at no cost to the borough. The company’s fees will be passed on to the delinquent taxpayers.

More than $500,000 is owed to the borough in tax delinquencies.

Council also voted to purchase the First National Bank building on the corner of Brownsville Rd. and Arlington for $75,000. The borough administration will move there, allowing the police department to expand into the administration’s former space.

The closing date of the sale has not yet been determined.

In his report, ordinance officer Steve Wilharm said there were 133 violations, which is comprised largely of overgrown grass, graffiti, and unclean pools. There were 82 borough citations.

Mrs. Michener said the borough ordinance will soon be changed so those receiving citations will appear before council for a hearing if the problem is not corrected. Fees will also likely double at that point.

If the offender does not appear for a scheduled hearing, the matter will go before District Justice King, with an even higher fee. The borough solicitor can then file a lien against the property.

Mrs. Michener said the borough has about 80 constant violators.

She held up photographs of the Rite Aid and Family Dollar parking lot, calling it the filthiest place in the borough this month.

In the fire report, she thanked firefighters for entering the five condemned Frederick St. properties and conducting gas tests. The work was important, but dangerous, she said.

In the public safety report, Councilman Darnell Sains said there was more than $1,017 in parking tickets in May, and $927 in June. In July, there was only $530 because the parking officer was on vacation for two weeks.

Service calls for police ranged from 715 to 663 for each of the past three months.

Mr. Sains said less youngsters have been hanging out on street corners lately, although he is not sure why.

A man was shot in the leg in the borough in a recent altercation. While no charges had been filed against the shooter at that point, the county turned it over to the district attorney for investigation.

The force is currently down two part-time officers. While 10 full-time and two part-time officers would be ideal, the force currently has seven full-time and four part-time officers.

Mrs. Michener thanked the police for their response to youngsters loitering inside and outside of a Brownsville Rd. business. Due to the officers’ persistence in moving them, the youngsters did not return after the third time.

In the public works report, the new energy-efficient LED lighting on Brownsville Rd. is no longer going out on one side of the street. Wagner Electric corrected the problem.

Rats were reported seen on Church St. Residents are asked to call the borough office if they see rats in the borough.

Some homes on Frederick St., where the mine subsidence occurred, did not have their trash picked up. The borough will contact Waste Management to ensure it does not happen again.

In the code enforcement report read by Councilwoman Barbara Keener, there were 35 rental inspections, 82 violations sent out, 17 borough citations, and four occupancy inspections.

In the recreation report, Mr. Sains said he hopes to expand the basketball program next year.

He also said there is a problem with fighting in the playground and pavilion area of Transverse Park. The matter will be addressed by council, police, and coaches in the near future, after which Mr. Sains will give a report on the matter at a council meeting.

In public hearings, Matthew Kail, of Jefferson Hills, told council he was interested in changing a five-bedroom rental property he owns on Amanda Ave. into a so-called “three-quarters” house for substance abusers convicted of crimes, but who are being rehabilitated and holding jobs.

Mr. Kail called it “a steppingstone for these gentlemen to get their lives back on track.”

Currently, the rental property, which is Section 8, houses a woman and her six children. It has been raided by the police for drugs, and weapons have been found there. The woman tenant was arrested for drug sales.

The proposed three-quarters home would house 10-12 men and a live-in manager, and be run like a business.

For that reason, it would be a commercial property for which Mr. Kail would seek variances.

Reading from the borough code, Mrs. Michener said a “group home” requires a minimum lot area of 6,000-square-feet, which the proposed site does not have.

A parking space for each resident and staff member must also be provided, for which the site does not have enough space.

Mount Oliver Borough will be looking for money to repair Frederick Street. It became necessary to seek additional funding because the borough didn’t budget for a street program this year. The street was damaged when it became necessary to stabilize the area from from mine subsidence.

Mr. Sains said his concern is the crimes of the residents. He said considering the drugs and alcohol in the area, it would be tempting fate to place these men in this atmosphere.

Mrs. Keener called Amanda Ave. “a hot spot,” in light of its past drug issues.

When asked if he would want a three-quarters home beside his residence, he said he would not mind but his wife would not want it there.

Council member Corey McGough said the borough is not open to adding more drug issues.

“We have enough on our plate,” he said.

Mrs. Michener said while she believes in second chances, if Mr. Kail cannot handle the one tenant residing in the proposed site now, how is he going to handle eight to 10 men?

The house is also not big enough for such a group.

The next step, if any, is up to Mr. Kail.

The next council meeting will be on Sept. 16.


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