South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Free wills, assistance for homeowners and free Thanksgiving dinners discussed

 

October 9, 2018



Free personal wills, free and reduced-cost assistance for homeowners, and free Thanksgiving dinners were among the topics discussed at the September 27 meeting of the Mt. Oliver City/St. Clair Community Group.

The meeting was conducted by Jamie Pierson and Nathan Ruggles.

Community relations Officer Christine Luffey began the meeting by reporting the local statistics from June 1 to Sept. 27 included four burglaries, four criminal mischief, a reckless endangerment of a person, two stolen vehicles, and a terroristic threat.

Compared to other Zone 3 communities, “this is really low,” she said.

In detailing a few of the incidents, she said officers located a vehicle at Mountain Ave. and Wagner St. with three occupants, two of whom had been shot. Both of the male victims, who are from Knoxville, were taken to the hospital, and survived. The case is under investigation.

Regarding the parklet at Mountain Ave. and Fisher St., Officer Luffey went door-to-door asking for any information on the recent vandalism. One neighbor reported seeing the male vandal entering a nearby house.

She went to the home, and questioned the male, who denied any involvement. She will next check the video surveillance.

“If it shows something, he will be charged with criminal mischief,” Officer Luffey said.

She next reminded attendees of the 11th annual “Get Stuffed With Love” program that ensures no city residents go without a traditional turkey dinner on Thanksgiving.

There are no income or age requirements. Everyone in need is eligible to receive a free, warm meal delivered to their residence.

“This costs you nothing,” she said.

It is her favorite day of the year to work.

“On this particular day, everybody is happy to see me,” she said.

Contact Officer Luffey at the Zone 3 station to volunteer.

“It’s completely rewarding and worthwhile,” she said of helping with the event.

Next, Tim Dolan, program manager for the Hilltop Alliance, discussed some of the programs available to Hilltop residents.

The Free Personal Wills Program is for qualifying Hilltop homeowners, age 50 or older.

The purpose is to ensure that their homes have a defined heir who will more easily be able to gain control of the properties and possibly receive financial assistance for home improvements after their loved one has died.

The Hilltop Alliance has found that such properties fell into a state of disrepair after the owners of record died without having the legal framework in place to transfer ownership to a defined heir.

One’s personal information will not be reviewed by the Hilltop Alliance, but is between the resident and the attorney provided by the Hilltop Alliance.

For an application, call Mr. Dolan at 412-586-5807, extension 3, or download from the Hilltop Alliance website.

Over the past one to two years, 50 free wills have been filed.

The Hilltop Alliance also has a Property Stabilization Program to identify problems in the neighborhoods and help homeowners find solutions to those problems.

Its stated purpose is: code violation remediation and/or property renovation coordination with the city, Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA), and other community partners; to convene the Hilltop Property Stabilization Committee members to meet monthly to establish top-priority list of nuisance and blighted properties; to establish communication with property owners and provide technical assistance and information referral services; maintenance of and updates to database of problematic properties with all relevant information and photos; and more.

There is also the Allegheny Lead Safe Homes Program to provide free home repairs to keep families safe from lead paint. For more information, call 412-227-5700.

The program is funded by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development Office of Lead Hazard Control & Healthy Homes, and in partnership with the Allegheny County Health Dept., the URA, and others.

The URA also offers consumer programs, such as the Home Accessibility Program for Independence (HAPI), and the Residential Façade Program (RFP).

HAPI is a grant program to assist eligible homeowners and landlords in providing accessibility modifications to homes with persons with permanent disabilities. There are income limits. Email staylor@ura.org for more information

RFP is a grant for exterior improvement to the front of a home. The URA will match the homeowner up to 50 percent of the total project costs. Roofs are not included, and there are no income limits. Email staylor@ura.org for more information.

Next, Ms. Pierson, a member of the community group’s steering committee, said the committee will vote to adopt bylaws at its next meeting. Bylaws are needed to become a Registered Community Organization (RCO), the benefits of which include notification of public hearings, guaranteed meetings with developers/applicants, placement on official brochures, and more.

The community group will also have a seat on the board of the Hilltop Urban Farm, the 107-acre site formerly St. Clair Village.

“So we would have a lot of say in what goes on in the community,” she said.

Ms. Pierson also reported that Pitt and Carnegie Mellon students did “a great job” during two clean-up days resulting in the clearing of three staircases and trash removal.

She also announced that the urban farm will hold two volunteer work days: from 9 a.m. to noon on Oct. 13, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 20.

For more information, visit: hilltopurbanfarm.org , or call 412-586-5807.

A youth farm will be completed this fall.

Anyone cleaning out a garage and wanting to get rid of tools or supplies should call her, or drop them off at the farm. Donations to the farm can also be done by shopping at AmazonSmile (smile.amazon.com) as Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to one’s favorite charitable organization.

In this remarks, city Councilman Bruce Kraus said he loves coming to the Oliver City/St. Clair Community Group meetings and hearing so much good news.

“It is really pleasant to come to this meeting,” he said.

He commented that the Free Wills program mentioned earlier offers a great service as everyone should direct what they want to happen to their property upon their death. Otherwise, it is left abandoned and the city must perform upkeep or raze, with both options costing taxpayers.

He also said he would review the community group’s bylaws and make suggestions. As an RCO, the group can petition the city for federal block grant money to assist communities, and distributed by the city.

Regarding the “Get Stuffed With Love” program, he said Officer Luffey started it 11 years ago in Zone 3, and that it has now expanded to include all six zones.

“She puts her heart and soul into this program,” he said.

He next announced that Public Works’ 4th Division facility on Bausman St. in Knoxville which became “uninhabitable” as the building was toxic and unhealthy, has been demolished.

The city is now in the planning stages for a new building, with the hope to rebuild on the same site. But it will not happen this year.

Again this winter, like last year, Div. 3 will take over one-half of the Div. 4 responsibilities, and Div. 5 will take over the other half. Duties include snow removal, plowing roads, and more.

There might also be salt boxes, he said.

Mr. Kraus also reported that the city’s demolition budget this year for emergency work is $500,000. With the cost to demolish a house $43,000, 10 properties can be taken down.

As the 2019 budget for demolitions is $3 million, he asked the community group to compile a list of the neighborhood’s 3-4 worst eyesores in need of demolition. The list will be discussed at the community group’s Nov. 15 meeting.

To a question about abandoned cars, Mr. Kraus said the issue would be addressed by the mayor’s chief of staff at the Nov. 12 Zone 3 Public Safety Council meeting at 6 p.m. at Knoxville Library.

The next Mt. Oliver City/St. Clair Community Group meeting with be on Nov. 15.

 

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