South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Mt. Oliver adds to property code for maintenance issues


Last updated 8/22/2016 at 5:33pm

The August 15 meeting of Mt. Oliver council featured updating the property maintenance code to prohibit unkempt grass and weeds; hazardous tree limbs, hedges, shrubs, and trees; and weeds or other vegetation growing in sidewalk cracks.

Councilman David Beltz said the intent is to give code enforcement officer Chuck Knaus more rules to cite as he tackles the borough’s most troublesome properties.

Regarding grass and weeds, the ordinance states that no property owner shall permit poison ivy, oak, or sumac, or any other harmful weed, to grow on his premises, or permit any grass, weeds, or vegetation that is not edible to exceed 8 inches in height.

Hedges, shrubs, and trees shall not impede on pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Dangerous limbs deemed hazardous must be removed by the property owner.

The borough reserves the right to trim, cut, or remove any trees, shrubs, or vegetation growing on adjacent property that over-hang or encroach on any borough street or public right-of-way, and deemed a nuisance or hazard.

Regarding streets, sidewalks must be kept free of weeds or vegetation growing in cracks. It is prohibited to sweep or blow grass clippings, trimmings, or other vegetative debris on any borough street or alley.

To a question from resident/former councilman Frank Bernardini about citing someone who lives overseas with no forwarding address, borough manager Rick Hopkinson said for someone living outside the state or country, a sheriff’s sale can be held. Property may also be liened.

Another attendee said he has been waiting for this resolution for six years as she has been arguing about overgrown hedges that long.

In the police report for July, Mayor James Cassidy said there were 728 total calls and 67 drug-related arrests, the latter for the seizure of marijuana, crack cocaine, heroin, and drug paraphernalia.

There were also 24 domestic calls, six for criminal mischief, and 12 burglaries.

The police department served 14 arrest warrants, and arrested two males with illegal firearms.

All the department’s computers are up and running. All surveillance cameras are working properly.

In the treasurer report, Diane Holzer said 74 percent of real estate taxes have been collected so far, or $654,666, which is ahead of last year’s pace. The goal this year is to collect $800,000.

In the fire report for July, assistant chief Ron Lowrey reported the department responded to 70 calls in July: 56 EMS calls and 14 fire calls. Explaining the number fire calls, he said six calls were to provide mutual aid or station coverage.

Fire department members continue to attend EMS continuing education training on the third Thursdays of each month at Mercy Hospital.

The department ordered five new sets of turnout gear – coats and pants only – that should be delivered anytime. The total cost was about $11,000.

In the code enforcement report from inspector Knaus for July 8 to July 29, Mr. Beltz reported there were 56 violation/notices, 36 rental licenses (54 units), 10 complaints, 25 citations, six legal, five occupancies, one zoning permit, and one building permit.

In public safety, Councilwoman Barbara Keener reminded everyone the Phillip Murray School will be reopening shortly for the start of the school year, which means busses will be operating in the borough.

She will look into the schedule for busses, and where crosswalks are needed.

An open house to tour the building will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Aug. 25. Everyone is invited.

In public works, Councilman Justin Viale reported the replacement of the sidewalks is underway in the 100-200 blocks of Brownsville Rd.

He also reported there was vandalism to the electric meter in Transverse Park. Youngsters hanging on the meter caused it to pull away from the building. There is currently no electricity in the fieldhouse building.

The borough is soliciting bids to move the meter inside the building.

In public hearings, resident Roy Blankenship spoke against violence in the community. “We have to do something,” he said. He also said, as a youth, he hung out on street corners.

He started UNIFIED a few months ago in order to form a united front with churches, local governments, and others as he said the borough is losing 16- and 17-year-olds to violence and disorder.

He said youngsters having something to do in the borough, such as sports, is more important than the blighted property issue dealt with earlier in the evening.

“Let’s work together,” he said.

Mr. Blankenship has a Facebook page regarding UNIFIED and its upcoming events.

Next, Mr. Bernardini said a Carrick block watch worked with police to get drug houses searched. He asked if Mt. Oliver can do the same.

Police Chief Matt Juzwick said a witness must be willing to have his name in a report for a search warrant, which could become a safety issue for the witness.

Mr. Bernardini also asked if the borough received the money from the utility companies to redo the sidewalks and curbs. The gas and water companies opened up the streets and sidewalks to complete their work.

Afterwards, instead of hiring contractors to do patchwork on the streets and sidewalks, the utility companies agreed to give the funds to the borough to complete the job.

Mr. Hopkinson said the funds are expected, but they have not yet been received.

Mr. Bernardini also asked about a right-to-know request he filed concerning how many times civil service attorney David Mitchell has been contacted by the borough regarding legal advice. Council President Amber McGough said such a request takes up to 30 days by law.

“I think the public should know how their tax dollars are being spent,” he said.

He also complained contractors come to the borough and do as they please without any borough officials speaking up and showing “some aggressiveness.”

“You should tell them how you want it done,” he told the mayor and council. Instead, residents are fed up with the mud and gravel from months of work on Brownsville Rd., and businesses are fed up with the loss of customers.

He then told the mayor he would be seeking his office in the next election.

In response to Mr. Bernardini’s comments about torn-up Brownsville Rd., Councilman Nick Viglione agreed the borough “dropped the ball” on the contractors. He said they should not have been allowed to come in and simply shut down the sidewalks and other inconveniences, like leaving cones in the middle of the street all weekend.

“We have to all step up and do it,” he said.

In upcoming events, Fall Fest will be held from noon to 7 p.m. on Oct. 1 at Transverse Park. All raised funds will benefit the fire department.

The Mt. Oliver block watch will, following a summer break, meet at 7 p.m. on Sept. 14 in the fire hall. Everyone is invited as it is hoped that more residents will become involved in the community.

The next council meeting will be on Sept. 19.


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