WESA generates input from residents about Mount tower
A generator for WESA’s communication tower on Shiloh Street, updates on Grandview Avenue renovations and a conceptual plan for the Olympia Park shelter house were presented at the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation’s August public forum.
Breen Masciotra, MWCDC board president, prefaced the presentation by WESA Interim General Manager Marco Cardamone and Chief Technical Officer Russ Loyd by explaining the radio company doesn’t own or maintain the tower and its adjoining building and they were just seeking permission to install an emergency generator.
Mr. Cardamone said the station broadcasts throughout nine counties and the generator was necessary for the public radio station to stay on the air in the event of a power outage. He added they were part of the Emergency Broadcast Network.
Acknowledging the graffiti on the building, Mr. Cardamone said they don’t own the building but only rent the tower.
Mr. Loyd explained the station had gone before the Pittsburgh Zoning Board for the generator and was referred to the community for public input before a variance would be granted. He said there was some “miscommunication” as to why they hadn’t reached out to the community previously.
Although WESA doesn’t own the tower or its adjoining building, “I’m kind of your liaison with the tower company,” he said.
The variance was needed because of noise levels produced by the natural gas powered generator, which Mr. Loyd described as about 67 decibels, about the same as a car driving by 20 feet away. It would only run when power was out and would need to be tested twice a month for five minute periods at a time.
He said they would do everything they could to dampen or aim the sound.
“Our intention is to keep it as quiet as possible,” he said.
A side benefit for neighbors, he explained, was that Duquesne Light “treats us like a hospital, when the power’s out, they’re on it.” In addition to WESA, the tower is used by Verizon, Sprint and CSX and others.
Moving on to the next agenda item, repairs to the Grandview Avenue sidewalks, Ms. Masciotra noted city, state and MWCDC officials recently met with US Congressman Mike Doyle to discuss options for long-term improvements to Grandview Avenue. She characterized the discussion as positive and ongoing.
Pat Hassett, deputy director of the Department of Public Works, came to the monthly forum for the third time to present options for repairs for the sidewalks.
He said there is some funding in place with a budget of about $180,000 to make repairs to the sidewalks, curbs and fences along the avenue. Over the last few months they have been accessing condition of the sidewalks from the Monongahela Incline to Ulysses Street to determine the best use for the money.
One option they considered was to make spot repairs to curbs, sidewalks and fencing here and there. Another was to do a complete reconstruction to the worst section of sidewalk, the outcropping area (not one of the pods) above the Mon Incline to just past the flagpole and just make needed repairs to make it safe elsewhere.
Part of the second option would be to use volunteers to prepare and paint the fencing along Grandview Avenue.
Mr. Hassett said they are advocating for the second option, with a secondary location near farther up Grandview.
In the primary area near the incline, they would remove the cantilevered sidewalk and replace it with one at grade. It would also require the relocation of three light poles currently in the structured sidewalk.
The proposal would require the removal of five parking spaces and the relocation of one handicapped parking space. Ms. Hassett didn’t know what the loss of parking revenue would be from losing the six spaces.
Traffic would be maintained at all times during the construction, but it may be necessary to temporarily use the parking lane across the street to keep traffic flowing.
He said they would rather rebuild the sidewalk at grade instead of over the cantilevered section for several reasons. To rebuild the cantilevered portion would be much more expensive and require putting men and equipment on the hillside, something Mr. Hassett said they didn’t want to do.
Benches could be reintroduced to the sidewalk, but would decrease the amount of space available for pedestrians.
“This is not a given, this is not what we’re doing, this is what we’re recommending,” he said. “I just spend the money. I don’t decide how it’s spent. You tell me how you want to spend it.”
Mr. Hassett said if a decision is made to proceed, they would like to get the contractor buttoned down and have the contract completed before Light Up Night. It was noted the Mon Incline would be closed and that could provide some synergy to complete both projects at the same time.
Councilwoman Theresa Kail Smith expressed some concerns about getting the project started before a follow up meeting with Congressman Doyle. She didn’t want to do work on a smaller project and have to redo it in a year or two if funding could be identified for a major reconstruction of Grandview Avenue.
Mr. Hassett said it was important not only to wait for the second meeting with the congressman, but to make sure the existing funding was used for its intended purpose without it being lost.
With time running out on the agenda, attendees were asked to write down their comments which were collected and would be compiled to learn how the majority of people at the meeting wanted to proceed.
Kathryn Hunninen, director of Park Development and Development for the MWCDC, began the third presentation on Olympia Park Shelter House renovations. The shelter house has been closed due to a fire since 2009.
Cali Baker, from the City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Works, said they’ve taken the input from two previous community meetings to devise a plan for the building. Among the things residents said they wanted to see for the building was a gathering or event space, handicapped accessibility and having the historic character restored.
Goals for the Olympia Park Shelter House would be to have flexible space with a potential for movable walls, storage space for sports teams, a concession area, and new restrooms. Another goal was to have multi-generational programing on site.
Work on the building would be divided up into three phases:
Phase one would include making the exterior water tight and structurally sound with repairs to the roof and masonry work. It would also include demolition work on the first floor and basement levels.
Phase two would include the demolition work on the second floor along with installation of plumbing, electrical and HCAC systems.
Phase three would include site work around the exterior of the building.
Each phase is expected to take anywhere from six months to a year, but there’s no set timeline when it would start.
Ms. Baker said the phasing could change depending on funding availability.
Attendees had an opportunity to post comments on displays posted throughout the meeting room.
Before closing the meeting, Ms. Masciotra noted the MWCDC Board elections will be coming up in October. To be eligible to vote in this year’s election, residents must become a member by September 15 and they can do that by calling the office at 412-481-3220 or online at http://www.mwcdc.org.
There is no charge to become a member.
When asked, Ms. Masciotra said the following board members terms’ end this year: Marilyn Caye, Bishop Victor Cianca, Justin Cipriani, Jon Lusin and Terry Moss. The nominating committee is working on a slate for the election.