South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Boro councilman resigns, is then hired for public works dept.


Resignations submitted by a council member, the tax collector, and the meter enforcer highlighted the April 21 meeting of Mount Oliver council.

Councilman Corey McGough submitted his letter of resignation prior to his being hired for a full-time laborer’s position in the public works department.

The vote to hire him was 4-2, with council members President Billie Michener and Barbara Keener dissenting due to concerns about ethics violations. Mr. McGough served as chair of the public works committee on council for the past few years.

Councilman Darnell Sains, who chaired the hiring committee, and recommended Mr. McGough be hired, said he conferred with solicitor Deron Gabriel, who said council has the right to hire any borough applicant for the job. His employment is contingent upon a background check and a physical exam.

There were three applicants for the advertised position, all of whom were interviewed.

Mr. Gabriel said Mr. McGough did not participate in any executive sessions relative to the hiring process.

At last month’s meeting, Karen Wilharm, wife of ordinance officer Steve Wilharm, said the couple’s son, Stevie Wilharm, who did part-time summer work in the public works department, was interested in the full-time position.

She said he is a good worker with good work ethics, and she hoped a personal dislike by some council members for her husband did not bias their vote against her son for the job.

Councilman Frank Bernardini said he did not know her son, and that hiring is based on qualifications. Mr. Sains said he, too, would look for the best candidate.

Any resident interested in the council position should send a letter of interest to the borough offices. Council has 30 days to appoint a new member or a judge will do so.

The council meeting began with a presentation by James Price of the University of Pittsburgh about CONNECT, the Congress of Neighboring Communities, which promotes cooperation and collaboration between the city and 37 surrounding urban municipalities.

Mount Oliver is a member of CONNECT.

CONNECT has, in prior years, secured funds for the borough to replace lights with high-efficiency bulbs, to purchase new hot water tanks, and more.

Mr. Price said CONNECT represents 350,000 people outside the city of Pittsburgh.

Next, Mrs. Michener introduced attendees state Reps. Harry Readshaw and Erin Molchany, who are running for the Democratic nomination in the newly reorganized 36th legislative district.

In his report, project manager Ricky Hopkinson said the Keystone Collections Group has collected more than $30,000 in delinquent real estate taxes owed the borough. Of 214 delinquent properties, 31 are fully paid, 21 are on payment plans, and civil suits were filed to collect more than $50,000.

There is no cost to the borough as the company’s fees are passed on to the delinquent taxpayers.

In other news, planting will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 17 in the community garden. Volunteers should meet in the Giffin Ave. parking lot at Transverse Park.

In his grant update, Mr. Hopkinson said $4,800 was approved for storm damage from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Pending grant applications include: $270,000 for the 151-155 Brownsville Rd. acquisition, demolition, and resurfacing from the Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund (CITF); and $35,000 for Ormsby Park Phase II from a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), and the Grable and PNC foundations.

In his report, Mayor James Cassidy said there were 630 police calls in March. Of the 135 traffic stops, 33 included drug arrests. That is why there are often two to three police cars at stops.

In the engineering report, Continental Construction demolished four of the 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.

The street now needs paved. It will be part of an ongoing effort to improve the street over the next year.

In the fire report, Mr. Cassidy said the annual fund drive has brought in $4,870 from 200 returns. The fish fry, which ran Fridays in Lent, brought in more than $6,000.

Mrs. Michener said the donation rate should be much higher considering there are about 1,500 households in the borough. If each only gave $5 the amount would be substantial.

She said a catastrophe should not have to strike before residents realize the value of the fire department. To make a donation, stop by the fire hall or the borough offices.

In other news, as of April 14, the fire company started responding on all priority medical calls within the borough.

The fire company will respond with Pittsburgh EMS to either assist them, or start initial treatment in the event one of the EMS units is coming from a distance or is delayed in responding.

Since April 14, the fire company has averaged two medical responses a day.

In public safety, Councilman Darnell Sains reported of the 14 nuisance properties under investigation, two are Section 8. The federal Section 8 program provides rental housing assistance to low-income households.

Two county Housing Authority representatives spoke at council’s agenda meeting about Section 8 housing. They wanted the borough to help them, and vice versa.

There are Section 8 guidelines, and from now on the borough will work with Section 8 program officials, such as regarding bad landlords.

In relation to the latter, an audience member said the house she rents has mold, and water pours in one bedroom when it rains. Her grandchildren are getting sick when in the house.

Mrs. Michener told her to ask building inspector Chuck Knaus for a follow-up on the repairs he told the landlord to make.

Acting Chief Matthew Juzwick told her to stop at District Judge Richard King’s office and inquire about legal aid. She should also call the county Health Department about the mold.

Regarding the monthly police report, Mr. Sains said the two biggest issues are domestic calls and drug relations, with marijuana and heroin the most prevalent.

Next, the acting chief announced that meter enforcer Richard Parks submitted a letter of resignation after 16 years on the job. His last day will be April 30. Council and the audience applauded him and his dedication to the post.

In the public works report, council voted to pay Grow Pittsburgh $2,000 as the borough’s share of the community garden.

Mr. McGough, who had not yet resigned from council, asked if residents with a driveway can receive a handicapped parking placard if that driveway is unusable.

Mrs. Michener said there are exceptions, and council will decide on a case-by-case basis. But the applicant must first fill out an application.

In the report of Hilltop Hop 2014 held at Casne World on April 12, Mrs. Keener said it was a big success, attracting over 100 children and parents. Donations of candy, snacks, and pizza were provided by local merchants. Leftover non-perishables will be used for the annual car cruise.

In the parks and recreation report, council approved new field permit applications which list all of the rules for using the field.

Mr. Bernardini said he is trying to revive sports teams in the borough. A local deck hockey league is forming.

In the waste/sewage report, Councilman Dave Lowe reported water shutoffs began last week for those with more than $500 in delinquent sewage accounts.

He also said the $33.87 three-month garbage fee becomes $43.87 after 30 days delinquency. When residents do not pay, taxpayer money is used to ensure all garbage is collected.

The Keystone Collections Group will go after payment to recoup the taxpayers’ money.

In unfinished business, Mrs. Michener read a resignation letter, effective July 31, from tax collector Dottie Smith.

The position will be advertised. As it is an elected post, the new tax collector will have to run for election in 2016.

In the question-and-answer session, a resident complained, as he has for the past few years, about the crumbling curbs and sidewalks on Church Ave.

Mrs. Michener said he should ask his son, Corey McGough, as he was the public works chair.

At its Nov. 18, 2013, meeting, council voted to pay Sky Limit Enterprises $1,800 to repair curbs on Otillia St., and $4,750 for curbs on Church Ave.

While the work on Otillia was completed, the contractor said he was waiting for 50-degree temperatures to do the work on Church. Regardless, the majority of council agreed in December to pay the contractor $2,375.

Mrs. Michener, who opposed the payment, said the work has to be completed by the May agenda meeting or a legal letter will be sent.

Next, a resident said rocks were thrown at her grandchildren in Ormsby Park. She would like to see cameras installed, as well as a slide erected.

Mr. Bernardini said the park is in the process of being upgraded, and will not happen overnight. Playground equipment costing $75,000 that was donated to the borough is in the park now.

Mrs. Michener told Acting Chief Juzwick that youngsters in the park after its 9 p.m. closing need to be asked to leave.

In old business, council adopted a one-year contract for Mr. Hopkinson that runs from April 21, 2014 to April 21, 2015. His first contract was in 2013. Council also adopted a project manager job description.

The next council meeting will be on May 19.


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