South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Care facility main topic again at boro council meeting


Last updated 11/28/2018 at 8:29pm

The proposal to turn the former Mt. Oliver School building on Hays Avenue into a health and care giving facility operated by the human service agency Auberle was again the main topic at the Nov. 19 meeting of Mt. Oliver Borough Council.

The proposal will go before the borough Zoning Hearing Board in a public hearing on Tuesday, December 18, at 7 p.m., at the municipal building, 150 Brownsville Rd.

If there is a large turnout, the meeting may move to a bigger room, possibly the fire hall.

The application is for a special exception for use as a group care facility. Another application is seeking variance for: (1) setback and area requirements; and, (2) parking requirements.

During the hearing, Auberle officials will make a presentation, after which board members may ask questions. The public may comment, but it will be up to the board on the amount/length of commenting.

Mayor Frank Bernardini, who is staunchly opposed to the facility, expressed disagreement with a South Pittsburgh Reporter opinion piece entitled, “Family Healing Center will be good for borough (November 13, 2018,”

The commentoral states the program, called the Auberle Family Healing Center, will be highly regulated by the state, and that they expect a staff of about 25 and have a history of hiring locally. The faith-based organization has operated programs for 60 years dealing with substance abuse, job training, counseling, and more.

“I never said Auberle was not a reputable firm. It’s not suitable for us right now,” Mr. Bernardini said.

He previously presented county Executive Rich Fitzgerald with a 200-signature petition opposed to the facility.

“This borough isn’t a dumping ground for every social program they want to implement,” he once said.

Under Auberle’s substance use disorder program proposed for placement in the borough, families impacted by a caregiver’s addiction will move into one of the facility’s apartments for four to six months with treatment focused on everyone challenged by that addiction.

While the addicted caregiver will receive treatment by Auberle and UPMC addiction specialists, their young children will have access to tutoring, mental health services, recreation activities, enrichment programs, and other services.

Mr. Bernardini said bringing more drug users into the borough, in addition to the users and dealers already here, will mean additional targets for drug dealers. “That’s their lifeline,” he said of dealers. At prior meetings he stated the police department is overloaded with all of the drug activity in the borough.

He also accused the zoning hearing board of being “comprised,” referring to a telephone call to a member from the Auberle CEO, and which may be an ethics violation, he said.

Solicitor Emily Mueller said that depends on the content of the conversation, which she does not know.

“He was trying to sell his snake oil to her,” Mr. Bernardini said of the phone call.

Councilman Nick Viglione said a similar program in McKeesport resulted in the police there having to run around chasing school-aged children.

Council President Amber McGough said the proposed program will include children under age 5, so it is not the same program.

The mayor concluded by quoting the borough code of favoring the “public interest” over any “private interest.”

“I intend to push back and not rest until I succeed,” he said.

“We can stop this,” Mr. Viglione said.

In the public safety report for October, Mr. Bernardini reported there were 689 total calls for service, and 32 drug arrests, the latter for the seizure of marijuana, crack cocaine, heroin, and drug paraphernalia. He said the borough averages 47 drug arrests a month.

There was one burglary on Saint Joseph St. in which a phone was taken from a vehicle.

There was one DUI arrest.

The K-9 units were used 20 times, including for a drug search, an arrest, tracking, warrant service, park-and-walks, traffic stops, and targeted patrols. Eleven warrants were served by the police department.

The police responded to three commercial alarms and 11 residential alarms.

Parking Enforcement wrote 99 borough tags, while the Police Department wrote 36 borough tags. There were 49 state citations issued for parking violations.

The total collected for payment of fines for tickets issued this month was $1,630. In magistrate ordered fines, $395 was paid.

All police equipment is operating properly.

The total miles on all vehicles for October was 3,719 miles. Vehicle maintenance and repair totaled $1,482.78.

In the engineer report, council voted 6-0, with Councilman Aaron Graham absent, to award the Ormsby Park retaining wall contract to John Zottola Landscaping, Inc., for $88,800. The borough was awarded $20,000 for the project.

In the fire report for October, Chief Fran Kestner reported there were 52 incidents, of which 40 were for EMS and 12 were fire related. The average response time from dispatch to arrival is 7 minutes 7 seconds.

In upcoming fire company activities, a “Stop the Bleed” class will be held at the fire hall at 7 p.m. on Dec. 6. It is open to anyone. Attendees will learn how to act quickly to stop traumatic blood loss, such as during a shooting.

Mr. Kestner said in the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, “most victims bled out before help came.”

In other fire department news, 141 borough households out of 1200 total households have signed up for the ambulance subscription service. The price is $35 per year.

If a resident is taken by ambulance to the hospital, his/her insurance pays most of the cost. The resident must pay the rest, which could go into the hundreds of dollars. For $35, that extra portion will be paid in total from the subscriber fees.

In planning, council voted 6-0 to approve the Cadman-Schwartz subdivision. The applicant at 125 Ormsby Ave. is consolidating the garage portion of the Schwartz property with her lot.

In the code enforcement report for October, code enforcement officer and borough manager Rick Hopkinson reported there were 68 violations, and 63 of 666 open cases year to date.

There were 49 hearings in front of District Magistrate Richard King. Magisterial fines collected totaled $2,124.47.

Twenty-four rental licenses were issued for 40 units, and 25 rental applications/notices were mailed out for licenses expiring Nov. 30.

One building permit was issued.

There are continuing legal proceedings for demolition of 253 Ormsby and 118 Penn.

The code enforcement report is also available on the borough website.

In public safety, Councilman Justin Viale reported there will be free parking in the business district on Dec. 17-25.

Council then voted 6-0 to accept the resignation of police Sgt. Kevin Lockhart, and 6-0 to accept the resignation of Officer Ryan Lawrence.

Mr. Viglione said the City of Pittsburgh police praised the borough police force for its assistance covering the Zone 3 territory on the day of the tragic Tree of Life Synagogue attack.

Next, in the public works report for October, Councilman Dave Lowe reported routine facility maintenance was conducted, like emptying trash, cleaning/sweeping, and re-stocking supplies. Trash cans were emptied three times per week in the business district, and TVs, tires, and debris were picked up throughout the borough.

In Transverse and Ormsby parks, workers emptied trash cans/spot swept three times per week. They also cut grass and weed wacked in the parks.

Workers also cut grass and cut weeds on vacant properties on Amanda, Anthony, Church, Hays, Frederick, Fremont, Giffin, and others.

In sanitary/storm sewer maintenance, inlets were cleaned throughout the borough.

Mrs. McGough said she was contacted by a resident about a tree on Church Ave. leaning toward the park that could do damage if it falls. If the owner does not remove it, the borough will do so and add to the cost to the lien.

In economic development, as part of Small Business Saturday, a borough cookie tour will be held from 2 to 6 p.m. on Dec. 1. Each participating business will give visitors a free cookie.

There will also be Santa Claus, children’s activities, food, and more. The ceremonial tree lighting will occur at 5:30 p.m. All roads will remain open.

In resolutions and ordinances, council appointed three Zoning Hearing Board members: Sandy Seiler to fill a vacancy until Jan. 4, 2021; and alternates Paul Doyle and Nic Jaramillo.

The borough also agreed to accept the donation of 434 Hays Ave. and 199 Ormsby Ave. in lieu of payment of taxes and municipal claims, subject to various conditions. The donations will be complete upon the recording of deeds transferring title from the owners to the borough.

The next council meeting will be on December 17.


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