South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Keener sworn in, collections up in Mt. Oliver Boro


The Jan. 20 meeting of Mt. Oliver council began with Mayor James Cassidy swearing in Barbara Keener to a two-year term on council.

She fills a vacancy created because Vanessa Talley, who was on the November ballot and won, no longer lives in the borough.

The vote to appoint Mrs. Keener was 4-2, with councilmen Nick Viglione and Frank Bernardini dissenting.

Last May, Ms. Keener was appointed to council through 2013 to fill the seat formerly occupied by the late John Smith, Sr.

In his report, project manager Ricky Hopkinson said the Keystone Collections group collected $4,000 last month in delinquent real estate taxes owed the borough. There still remains more than 200 delinquent properties in the borough.

In other news, the kickoff meeting of the Mt. Oliver Business Association will be held in the municipal building at 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 31. Business association chair Mr. Viglione will report back to council on what transpires.

Other upcoming meetings include an organic gardening workshop from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 5 at the fire hall.

From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 25, a workshop on bed planning for gardening will be held at a site to be determined.

Mr. Hopkinson also reported the borough received a $10,000 grant from the Laurel Foundation, and a $5,000 grant from the Birmingham Foundation, for Ormsby Park.

That raises the total secured so far to $110,000. Green space, playground safety features, benches, and pavilions will be added.

A video featuring a few seconds of footage of Brownsville Road and its viability as a business district will be shown to Fortune 500 companies at the next Allegheny Conference. Council President Billie Michener said the hope is that it will spur investment in the borough.

Next, Kate Dillon, editor of the borough’s new monthly newsletter, “Mt. Oliver Times,” said the next issue will include articles on council’s reorganization meeting, the pending formation of a business association, the new community garden, Civil Service testing for police officers, and more.

Copies will available on-line and at various borough sites.

In the mayor’s report for December, Mr. Cassidy said there were, among other statistics, 529 calls and 42 drug-related incidents. The latter included the confiscation of 200 bags of heroin. Brownsville Rd. and Arlington Ave. were the sites of most of the drug arrests.

“We want the public to know we’re out there and working for you guys,” Acting Chief Matthew Juzwick said of the arrests.

Mr. Cassidy said drug dealers will read the crime statistics and stay out of the borough.

He reported there were also burglaries on: Transverse Ave., St. Joseph St., Giffin Ave., Hays Ave., Otillia St., and Quincy Ave.

The police performed 49 park-and-walks. All their equipment is up and running.

To view the complete police report, visit the borough website:

In his report, ordinance officer Steve Wilharm said there were 309 violations and 104 borough citations issued, with most being snow-related.

Residents and businesses have 12 hours to clear snow from the sidewalks in front of their property or risk being cited.

Mr. Wilharm said he and council will devise a program for those who are unable to shovel snow, whether due to health or age. In the meantime, residents should contact the borough office if they cannot clear their sidewalks of snow.

Mr. Wilharm also noted addresses are “a mess” on some streets, such as six to eight addresses being exactly the same on Amanda Ave. Other streets contain random numbers in succession, or even and odd numbers on the same side.

Such disparities cause problems for the police and emergency medical services in responding to 911 calls.

In the 2013 Mt. Oliver Hook and Ladder Co. fire report, assistant chief Ron Lowrey said there were 145 calls, four structural fires, 43 hazardous conditions calls, 29 false alarms, nine public service details, and more.

There are 24 active firefighters who respond to fire calls.

Last year, there were more than $3,000 in repairs needed for the ladder truck. A roof on the new fire company building was replaced, while the roof on the old building was repaired -- at a total cost of $30,000.

Fundraising has not been as successful as in years past. Bingo income is off since the casinos opened; $300 is a good night now of bingo, whereas $600 was the norm prior to the casinos.

Mrs. Michener said the report shows how well tax dollars are being spent on equipment. The borough does not “give” the fire department the money, but rather makes payments on behalf of the department.

In public safety, Councilman Darnell Sains reported four new police officers passed the Civil Service Commission requirements. Council then voted unanimously to hire the officers, contingent on one background check.

Mr. Sains said officials are working on a new surveillance system for the new municipal building.

He wants the criminal element to know that the borough is upgrading the police department and equipment.

In the public works report, Councilman Corey McGough said all the trucks held up well during the past month’s cold and snow.

Five new handicapped parking signs will be erected in the borough this month. Residents who apply for handicap placards will be denied if they have a garage or off-street parking.

Council voted unanimously to hire Wagner Electric to reset a light pole that was hit by a commercial-use truck. While the owner of the truck denied the incident, it was caught on a tavern’s camera.

The borough will be filing charges against the owner.

In other public works news, residents should contact the borough office if they spot potholes, and the holes will be filled.

In the parks and recreation report, Mr. Sains reported a youth summit has been scheduled at the Lighthouse ministry on Fisher St. It is aimed at forming an alliance of the youth programs so the local communities know what is available for youngsters on the Hilltop.

Mr. Bernardini added residents should let him know if they want to start a sports program.

Children need encouragement by parents to become involved. A sports sign-up a few years ago only garnered five youngsters, he said.

In the Rep. waste/sewage/code enforcer report, Councilman Dave Lowe said if there is a problem with garbage collection, the resident should call the borough offices or Republic Services.

The hauler is the borough’s new garbage service, replacing Waste Management.

While pick-up day remains Mondays in the borough, some residents’ garbage is collected hours earlier or later than it was with Waste Management. To counter that, trash should be placed outside the night before.

Regarding sewage, 118 water shut-offs are looming for sewage account delinquents. Residents with payment problems should contact the borough offices or Jordan Tax Services to work out a payment plan.

In the code enforcement report, there were 18 complaints, 10 citations, seven vacancies, 22 licenses, and one permit issued.

In unfinished business, Mrs. Michener said there are new bidding thresholds in 2014: purchases and contracts below $10,300 require no formal bidding or telephone bids. Those between $10,300 and $19,100 require telephone bids only. Over that amount requires formal bidding.

Next, council voted unanimously to pay Continental Construction and Demolition $28,300 for the demolition of four of five condemned houses on Frederick St. In July, numerous houses on Frederick St. slid from their foundations due to an abandoned underground coal mine.

The borough received a county grant to demolish all or some of the five condemned properties.

Four owners accepted the county’s offer, and will be demolished, while the other owner will be repairing his property.

The project will begin in February once the borough acquires the specifications from Gateway Engineering.

Mrs. Michener said she wants specifications on all future projects, and even on proposals.

In other news, council voted 5-2, with Mr. Viglione and Mr. Bernardini dissenting, to okay the sale of a Giffin Ave. residential property -- which is vacant and boarded-up -- through the county’s vacant property recovery program.

The buyer paid the county the appraised value of $35,000; the buyer will make $30,000 in improvements.

Mr. Viglione said he voted against it because it feels like a slumlord situation to him in light of the new ownership.

Mr. Sains said he also harbors concerns, but the property would sit forever and deteriorate if not for the county program.

“Let somebody upgrade this,” he said.

Mrs. Michener said the purchase fits both the county’s and borough’s guidelines, and puts the property back on the tax rolls.

The property is zoned R-1 single family.

In new business, the “green” real estate tax bills the county sent to residents for years will now be sent directly from the borough, and on standard white paper.

The next council meeting will be on Feb. 17.


Reader Comments(1)

MsE writes:

Barb Keener will be a valuable asset to the community, a long time resident, an educated woman, congratulations to her and to the community.


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