City seeks approval for new emergency management center
July 18, 2017
Mayor William Peduto's Chief of Staff Kevin Acklin testified before a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee last week on the city's proposal to turn a former Veterans Affairs site in Lincoln-Lemington into a law enforcement and emergency management center.
Mr. Acklin was invited to speak by U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta of Hazleton, Pa., who is the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management. The congressman recently came to Pittsburgh to tour the hillside site off Washington Boulevard with Mayor's Office staff.
The purpose of the hearing, according to the subcommittee, was to "address impediments in the normal property disposal process that impact the return to the taxpayer" and "streamline the sale or redevelopment of high value assets that are underutilized to obtain the best return for the taxpayer through consolidating the Federal footprint."
The city's proposal for reuse of the Veterans Affairs site follows an evaluation of city government-owned facilities, properties and infrastructure, and efforts to enhance or consolidate current facilities, or dispose of underutilized ones, in ways that provide the highest value and services to residents.
"A major opportunity to accelerate our facility optimization program would be for the city to gain control of the former Veterans Affairs Medical Center, a 164-acre site that has been vacant for approximately four years and has been declared excess property by the federal government," said Mr. Acklin's prepared remarks to the panel.
"All services were transferred to other facilities throughout the Pittsburgh region by 2013, and the site has sat vacant and unused ever since. The facility is very large and comprised of 19 buildings that, while secured, are depreciating rapidly. The buildings are not connected to typical utilities and they are not regularly inhabited. As Chairman Barletta pointed out on a recent tour, it is only a matter of time before a roof leaks or a pipe bursts, potentially going unnoticed for a long period and causing significant damage to the facility.
"Gaining control of the site and partnering with the Federal government for its reuse will revolutionize first responder and emergency service response and delivery in Pittsburgh. The campus is remote and surrounded by woodlands, but is in close proximity to major highways and our East Busway for convenient access to Downtown Pittsburgh. The site could hold facilities that are currently scattered around the city, including the headquarters and training academies of our police, fire, and emergency management services; our garage and machine shop; and our emergency operations center, thereby unlocking those sites for development that will grow our city and tax base."
The city's plans for reusing the site and budgeting for it are still preliminary. The Peduto administration has been working with both Veterans Affairs and the General Services Administration on the proposal.