South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Mt. Oliver to change procedures after $22K in unauthorized change orders on handicap ramp project

Inspectors may be required more often at work sites


Last updated 4/4/2016 at 5:32pm

Lessons learned from unauthorized work, and the need for site inspectors, was a focus of the March 21 Mt. Oliver council meeting, which had borough officials pledging to do better going forward.

At issue is the Brownsville Rd. handicap ramps with an original contract amount of $61,830.

The contractor was directed by the borough and Gateway Engineers, respectively, on two occasions to do additional work related to the slopes for a total change order of $22,147.38.

Of that amount, only $8,444.38 was authorized, and $13,703 was completed without following proper change order authorization procedures.

The contractor and Gateway agreed to pay 50 percent of the unauthorized amount. The borough agreed to pay the other 50 percent as it was the beneficiary of the extra work.

The issue was first raised publicly at last month’s council meeting by Councilman Nick Viglione, who asked for an explanation of the change order amount that was never approved by council.

During the public hearing session at the March 21 meeting, former councilman Frank Bernardini again raised the issue saying the engineer should be on the “hot seat” and present at council meetings to answer these questions.

Council President Amber McGough said council would consider changing the procedure of the engineer submitting a report rather than attending the council meeting. A procedure instituted by council a few years ago to save the expense of having the engineer attend.

Both she and borough manager Ricky Hopkinson said they learned from this experience, and there would be improvements in the future.

During the same public hearing session, an attendee said Gateway Engineers should have a person measure the temperature and depth of asphalt during street paving. He said there should be an inspector on site three to four times a day.

Mrs. McGough said the borough will do a better job going forward.

Mayor James Cassidy said if they want the engineers inspecting work sites, the borough will have to pay for it.

He said decisions were made years ago to eliminate some engineering fees to keep project costs down.

Mr. Hopkinson said the borough wants inspectors moving forward, but the cost is $80 per hour for an inspector.

Mr. Viglione said there should be inspectors on job sites numerous times.

Mrs. McGough said council has to decide how long to have an inspector on a site, and what the borough can afford.

In his February police report, Mr. Cassidy said there were 384 total calls, one accident report, five criminal mischief, 13 domestics, and 33 narcotics arrests. The narcotics arrests were for the seizure of marijuana, crack cocaine, heroin, and drug paraphernalia.

The police K-9 units were used 17 times. All equipment is up and running. All training is up-to-date.

The police responded to 12 burglar alarms, of which four were false alarms and eight were residential alarms.

A total of $815 was collected for payment of fines for parking tickets. Thirty-seven state citations were issued for unpaid tickets.

In the engineer’s report read by Mrs. McGough, Gateway Engineers is working with the borough manager to finalize the project scope for the 2016 pavement maintenance program.

Regarding sewers, the borough is required to camera 10 percent of its sanitary sewers each year as part of its operations and maintenance (O&M) plan, and is required by its consent order with the state Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the county health department.

Proposed segments for the closed circuit TV cameras in the sewer lines have been set up to ensure the requirements of the O&M plan are met. The project was bid, resulting in RedZone Robotics as the low bidder.

Council voted unanimously to recommend that SHACOG award the contract to RedZone with a bid of $199,650, of which the borough share is $12,798.

On the Brownsville Rd. update, the water company is moving quickly. The company were scheduled to begin service connections the week of March 28, with two crews expected to be working.

In the Mt. Oliver Hook & Ladder Co. report for 2015, there were 710 incidents, of which 545 were for EMS and 165 were fire-related. Fire company members performed 24 public education classes consisting of fire safety, CPR, and first aid.

In January, there were 55 calls and 53 calls in February, with most being medical-related.

Bingo will continue to be held on the first Saturdays at 7 p.m. at the fire hall.

In the code enforcement report from inspector Chuck Knaus for Feb. 5 to March 10, Councilman Dave Lowe reported there were 54 violation notices, 38 citations, 34 rental inspections (52 units), seven occupancy inspections, seven complaints, two building permits, and one zoning permit issued.

In the public safety report, council voted unanimously to hire Linda Matthews as a part-time police clerk for 24 to 32 hours a week. Her schedule has yet to be set.

She will do reports, answer the phone, and engage in other duties to free up officers to spend more time on the streets.

Police Chief Matthew Juzwick said the borough had clerks years ago. He said the position will save the borough money in the long run as the clerk will be paid less than police officers to do the same paperwork the police have been doing.

In the public works report, an attendee asked about repainting yellow lines, to which Mr. Hopkinson said they are scheduled for May. Council member Barbara Keener said crosswalks will be needed heading to the Phillip Murray School when it reopens in the fall.

In more from the public hearings session which followed, Mr. Bernardini asked about unpaid property taxes.

There are 284 delinquent accounts owing 2015 taxes, or about $150,000. Of that amount, 150 are delinquent three years or more. The borough is working with investors and its special blight legal counsel on the problem.

First-time offenders, or 134 accounts, are being taken to court prior to sending to a collection agency in August. The borough is also filing liens, denying occupancy permits and rental licenses, and initiating sheriff sales.

“We want to create a culture of compliance,” Mr. Hopkinson said.

Regarding nuisance properties, Mr. Bernardini said he recommends the mayor, manager, council, and police chief visit the county executive and district attorney to tell them the borough needs help, and cannot absorb any more “freeloaders.”

He also said to tell judges to quit letting these people go “with a slap on the wrist.”

In unfinished business, 151-155 Brownsville Rd. was demolished. It was discovered there was a “party wall” with 149 Brownsville Rd. and, following the demolition, an opening appeared where the two buildings were joined.

Council then voted unanimously to pay $1,100 to reform and insulate the wall at 149 Brownsville Rd. The payment is contingent on a waiver from the property owner that the borough is not responsible for other damages.

Mr. Hopkinson said he feels the contractor and property owner should work out the roof damage.

In other news, the borough has received a few calls from residents who have not received their tax bills, which were mailed out at the beginning of the month. Residents who did not receive their tax bills should contact tax collector Tina Carcia at 412-431-8107, extension 101, as the discount period ends on April 30.

The Mt. Oliver Community Group will next meet at 7 p.m. on April 13 at Don’s Bar at Margaret St. and Hays Ave. Everyone is welcome.

The next council meeting will be on April 18.


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