South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Austin Vaught
Contributing Writer 

Economic development, board members top wish list for reformed Carrick council


October 16, 2018

Both economic development and the demolition of the former St. Basil School top the “wish list” for Carrick residents, and the Carrick Community Council (CCC) is looking for new board members to help the organization achieve those goals.

Interim board president Sherry Brown opened last Wednesday’s CCC meeting with a list of projects community members want to see incorporated into the organization’s new strategic plan.

The list included multiple requests to tear down the former St. Basil school building which sits vacant on Brownsville Road and has been the subject of vandalism and public safety issues over the past two years.

New businesses such as a coffee shop, and projects like community gardens, street art, community events, and sidewalk repairs were also among the dozens of requests on the wish list.

Ms. Brown said the board plans to incorporate the community requests into the five goals outlined in the organization’s new strategic plan. The goals include: positive press, residential revitalization, commercial development, beautification, and capacity.

In order to execute the new strategic plan, the CCC is looking to add five to ten additional board seats. The current board consists of five members.

“I think everyone who is on the board has really bonded,” Ms. Brown said. “We would like nothing more than to open it up to more members.”

Anyone who wishes to run for a CCC board seat is required to complete a brief questionnaire. CCC board members serve a two-year term and may be re-appointed for one additional term. The CCC board meets monthly.

Following Ms. Brown, CCC board member Donna McManus also announced two CCC sponsored events:

The annual CCC will host a Halloween party on October 22 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the Phillips Park Recreation Center. The event is for children 12 and under and will include games, a costume contest, food, and prizes.

The CCC will also sponsor a Carrick “Light Up Night” on December 7 at the Dairy District Pavillion. The event will include performances by local schools, choirs, and church groups as well as a tree lighting ceremony.

“Mark your calendars folks because we’re bringing it back,” Ms. McManus said. “We need everybody coming back out into the community like we used to.”

Following the event announcements, there was a brief debate regarding Prevention Point’s proposed needle exchange, which continues to receive both support and contention from Carrick residents.

The program would provide clean needles, Naloxone prescriptions, and other resources to drug users, and will operate out of a mobile unit in the Spencer Methodist Church parking lot on Thursday afternoons between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.

The program needs to be approved by city council before it can begin.

Aaron Arnold, executive director of Prevention Point, and a few residents in favor of the program were first to speak. Mr. Arnold said in 2018, 420 individuals entered treatment through Prevention Point and 637 rescues were documented using Prevention Point prescribed Naloxone.

“I hope people view Prevention Point as the public health service that needs to come into Pittsburgh,” Mr. Arnold said.

He also said Prevention Point attended several community meetings and partnered with the South Pittsburgh Opioid Action Coalition (SPOAC) to choose a location in Carrick.

Gus DiRenna, a community member and recovering addict, urged the community to give Prevention Point a chance before making a final decision.

“There are kids out there in the dark,” Mr. DiRenna said. “Something like Prevention Point brings them into the light. Somebody treats them with a little bit of compassion and love, we can flip them into the light. We can send them into treatment.”

Mr. DiRenna also said the program has not historically led to an increase in crime or drug activity in other neighborhoods such as the Hill District, East Liberty, or Perry Hilltop.

Several residents who live near the United Methodist Church on Spencer Avenue said they were not informed of the program prior to the location selection. Many are concerned the program would increase neighborhood drug activity.

Opposing residents said they do not contest the needle exchange program itself but are opposed to the program operating in a residential area.

“We’re not fighting you or your program,” a resident said. “We’re fighting the location and the venue. This is our neighborhood. We are tax paying citizens. This is not the place. There will be no compromise.”

Ms. Brown suggested both sides participate in a formal community debate later this month.


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