South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

SSCC elects board, learns about 311

 


Annual board elections held during the June 25 open meeting of the South Side Community Council (SSCC) resulted in the reelection to two-year terms of incumbents: Mike McCullough, Barbara Rudiak, Mike Clark, Kathleen Petrillo, Jane Yanosick, and Dan Gigler.

The guest speakers were Wendy Urbanic, manager of 311, which is the city’s phone number for government information and non-emergency services; and Maura Kennedy, chief of the Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections, formerly the Bureau of Building Inspection (BBI).

City Councilman Bruce Kraus provided updates.

Ms. Urbanic called 311 “the city’s customer service center.” It is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

She said there is confusion among residents about the difference between 911 and 311. As a general rule, if you need to see or speak directly to a member of public safety, i.e., police, fire, or EMS, call 911.

For ongoing problems like illegal dumping, abandoned cars, potholes, overgrown weeds, broken street light or any non-emergency situation, residents should call 311 or 412-255-2621.

Callers receive a reference number so they can call back to learn the resolution.

Service requests can also be submitted at pittsburghpa.gov/311/form, or on the 311 Twitter account of @Pgh311.

When making a request, explain the problem as completely as you can, including giving the address of the problem.Use the tracking number to follow-up on the request.

Ms. Urbanic said when she started in 311 in 2006, the database being used was from the 1980s.

Mayor Peduto arranged for new software, she said.Until it is implemented, three different databases are being used.

The pending new database will allow for requests to be transmitted directly into service trucks.If something is not addressed on a timely basis, it will be escalated to the top of the list electronically, and then sent to the supervisor.

To a question of whether 311 prioritizes, she said yes.For instance, if a stop sign is down, it will get top priority.

Questioned on the average call numbers, Ms. Urbanic said a slow day will draw 200 to 300 calls, while a busy day will have close to 1,000 calls.

Asked whether residents should call 311 if snow is not removed from the sidewalk in front of someone’s home, she replied yes. A letter will then be sent to the property owner by the 311 center.

Ms. Urbanik said to never be afraid to contact 311.If the service is unsatisfactory, ask for her.

In her presentation, Ms. Kennedy said she was hopeful licenses, permits, and violations would soon be in one database and on-line.

“We want to be a much better partner,” she said.

To a question if building inspectors would be assigned by ward, she said yes. That way, inspectors will get to know the neighborhoods and their problems, and can address the issues before calls come in from concerned neighbors.

Ms. Kennedy said that building inspectors work weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., and are on call 24 hours a day.

If someone sees what they think is a building-related emergency, they should call 911, who would in turn contact the building inspectors.

In her brief remarks, Ms. Mitchell said the SSCC’s accomplishments over the past year would be in the SSCC newsletter.

The South Side Garden Tour will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 16.To reserve tickets, and for more information, visit: http://www.showclix.com/event/SouthSideGardenTour.

She also said University of Pittsburgh students will be helping clean up the tree pits from the neighborhood’s 2200-2900 blocks on Aug. 28.Other volunteers are needed; contact Jenn Holliman at jennifer.holliman@gmail.com .

In his updates, Mr. Kraus said parking and concerns regarding trash are the most common topics in calls to his office.

He said when a tenant and landlord sign a lease, they should also be signing a waste management agreement stating the tenant’s responsibilities in relation to trash. The agreement should then be attached to the lease.

In response to a question about the graffiti task force, Mr. Kraus said it is still in operation.

He said city council members have had considerable discussions about vacant properties.Members agree they need a better greening strategy so when a vacant property is torn down it does not continue to be a problem to the community with overgrown weeds.

Questioned about a new Zone 3 commander, he said Lt. Lori McCartney is the zone’s acting commander.She replaced former Commander Larry Scirotto, who was moved to the Major Crimes Division.

He replaced Major Crimes Commander RaShall Brackney, who left the bureau to become police chief at George Washington University.

Chief McLay has 90 days to appoint Mr. Scirotto’s replacement in Zone 3.

Regarding crime, he said there has been a significant decline in violent crime in the South Side Flats.A report indicated the decrease can be tied to actions that resulted in the closing of several nuisance bars.

Mr. Kraus said the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI), retained by the city, was instrumental in helping keep the neighborhood safe and clean through its five strategies of transportation, public safety, hospitality practices, district management, and personal accountability.

 

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