South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

No tax increase in Mt. Oliver for '17

Police will increase, get body cameras

 


There will be no tax increase for Mt. Oliver residents in 2017 following adoption of a $1,972,282 general fund budget at the Dec. 19 meeting of Mt. Oliver council.

The millage rate was last raised in 2006.

Budget highlights for 2017 include: increasing the number of part-time police officers from two to five; increasing the number of part-time, seasonal public works personnel from two to four; five demolitions; paving of Ormsby Ave. and maybe more; sealcoating all streets paved in 2016; and technology/software upgrades.

The meeting began with Mayor James Cassidy swearing in new part-time police officer Bruce Waldo.

In the police report for November, there were 482 total calls and 39 drug-related arrests, the latter for the seizure of marijuana, crack cocaine, heroin, and drug paraphernalia.

There were also 18 domestics calls, five criminal mischief calls and two for burglaries. The department served 12 arrest warrants; arrested three males with illegal firearms; and arrested a male who was wanted for attempted homicide in the city.

All computers are up and running. 

The mayor said one more police officer needs to be hired.

In the engineer’s report, council approved the final payment to Roto Rooter for $55,700 for completion of the Koehler-Fremont realignment project; and the final payment to Palombo Contracting for $18,052.59 for completion of the Brownsville Rd. sidewalk project.

In the code enforcement report from inspector Chuck Knaus for November, Councilman David Beltz reported there were 27 rental licenses (40 units), nine complaints, 21 violation notices, 18 borough citations, and 10 occupancy inspections.

In the public safety report, council voted unanimously to purchase body cameras for the police.

Police Chief Matthew Juzwick said each officer will be able to view the recordings, but cannot erase, copy, or change anything.

“The cameras are there for everybody’s safety,” he said. Cameras will resolve hearsay, and third-party testimony.

“It will give us the best we can do at this time to see what happened,” he said.

Eleven body cameras will be ordered, costing $8,276 the first year. The price includes the cost of the cameras plus one year of the annual software licensing and data storage fees. After the first year, the annual cost will be $3,027.

The cost for the first year will come from the $16,000 set aside from the sale of police vehicles in 2016. It will also cover the cost of the annual software licensing and data storage fees for 2017 and 2018.

The same source will also cover the $3,857.62 cost to replace the server for the cameras on the clock tower and elsewhere on Brownsville Rd. While the cameras are in good shape, the server has crashed.

The new server will hold up to 24 cameras. It will use the existing cameras already in place.

Also during the public safety report, attendee former councilman Frank Bernardini commented that many problems seem to stem from the nearby McDonald’s Restaurant, calling it “a hangout for hoodlums.” He said the problem is it stays open too late. He said 10 p.m. is a reasonable time to close.

Chief Juzwick said there have also been numerous fights outside the Knoxville branch of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh since it reopened following renovations. While it is located in the city, the borough police are close enough to assist, he said.

In the public works report, Councilman Justin Viale gave a brief update of public works activities in November: developing a punch list for utilities; installing a new window for the police clerk; setting up a ribbon cutting ceremony for the pet store; and more.

The department also helped coordinate the pick-up and disposal of old TVs discarded in the rear of the old laundromat.

Mr. Viale also reported the Dec. 3 “Up On the Hilltop,” event dedicated to highlighting the borough and its business district and all of the positive things occurring there, was a big success.

Mr. Bernardini suggested installing “yield to pedestrians” signs on the poles at the crosswalks, where there are none currently.

Borough manager Rick Hopkinson said he would add it to the to-do list.

Next, council adopted eight ordinances. They included the 2017 tax levy ordinance which fixes the real estate tax rate at 13.5 mills.

Another ordinance updated the schedule of fees associated with borough services, permits, and licenses: alarm permit, $15; ambulance service subscription, $35; occupancy inspection, $50; dye test, $50; no lien letter, $50; tax certification, $50; police report, $20; rental license, $75 per unit per year; and refuse rates, $37 per unit per quarter, with a five percent discount if paid for the full year.

The borough sewer rate remains unchanged at $7.12 per 1,000 gallons. The sewer budget is $1,086,583, which includes $542,081 in payments to ALCOSAN; $134,820 in debt service payments for prior capital projects; $359,682 in operations and maintenance/capital projects; and $50,000 for emergency repairs.

In public hearings, a landlord asked council for advice/assistance regarding a $1,687 bill he received from Jordan Tax Services stemming from unpaid sewage bills by a deadbeat tenant. The original debt amount more than doubled with late fees.

The tenant originally defaulted on three payment plans regarding the water bill, after which she put the bill in a friend’s name, thereby beginning the process all over again. After much prodding from the landlord, Pennsylvania American Water agreed to not allow the tenant to change the name on the account without his approval.

The root of the problem is that the water bill is in the tenant’s name, and the sewage is in the landlord’s name.

Council will look into resolving the matter.

Next, Mr. Bernardini asked about the opening of Margaret St. after it was paved. Council President Amber McGough called it an oversight. Mr. Bernardini suggested retaining a different engineering firm to replace Gateway, to which Mrs. McGough said that had not been discussed.

“They get complacent,” he said about Gateway after decades of representing the borough.

“I believe we’re being taken advantage of,” he said.

To Mr. Bernardini’s next question about cleaning residential streets, Mr. Hopkinson said the Public Works Dept. is responsible but, this time of year, dealing with snow gets precedence.

 On another topic, Mr. Bernardini said he would like the borough manager to accompany the borough trucks carrying metals to Keystone Salvage to verify the quality and amounts of scrapping to make sure the borough is getting the correct amount.

 Mr. Bernardini also said he would like steel posts installed on the sidewalk by his home. He said motorists almost daily drive onto his sidewalk and onto his property, after which he has to clean up the trenches from the tire tracks.

 The next council meeting will be on Jan. 16.

 

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