MWCDC accomplishments and planning highlighted
February 26, 2019
Last year’s highlights and upcoming plans for 2019 were presented as part of the second annual Mount Washington Community Development Corporation’s (MWCDC) “Year in Review” meeting at last week’s community forum.
Board president Alaina Davis opened the meeting with an overview of each MWCDC committee before each committee chair presented their respective 2018 achievements and strategies for 2019.
“The intent is to make you familiar with the committees we have and possibilities for involvement,” Ms. Davis said. “We will put some of our efforts from 2018 on the table in hopes that we do even better in 2019 and include you in any way possible.”
The Development Committee, which is the organization’s longest standing and most well-attended committee, was the first to present.
Among the 2018 residential development achievements presented by co-chair Greg Panza was the Curb Appeal Program, which provided 30 low income residents with home improvement services, such as front door painting, light installation, and new mailboxes in order to improve the facades of the neighborhood homes.
The Curb Appeal Program will continue in 2019. The committee is also planning an event to help connect first time homebuyers and sellers with resources including lending options, home inspectors, and realtors.
Additionally, Mr. Panza said Mount Washington is an approved community for the city’s property reserve program, which will allow the organization to acquire and restore more tax delinquent properties from the city via treasurer’s sale in 2019.
“These are not pretty houses at all,” Mr. Panza said. “They’re not for the faint of heart.”
Development Committee co-chair Tim Tighe spoke to the 2018 commercial development achievements, which included the formation of a MWCDC Business Advisory Council and the local business exposition that took place in Sullivan Hall last spring.
Mr. Tighe said in 2019, the new commercial development theme is “shop local and build a strong community” and the committee will be looking to drive more businesses into the neighborhood.
“Businesses have to serve the needs of community members,” Mr. Tighe said. “We like to get constant feedback about what isn’t up here on Mount Washington.”
The Development Committee meets the fourth Wednesday of odd numbered months in the Mount Washington Senior Center on Virginia Avenue. The meeting is open to the public.
Next to present was the Emerald View Park and Sustainability (EVPS) Committee, which focuses on improving shared environmental spaces throughout the community.
According to committee chair Therese Moss, the EVPS committee held five meetings which were attended by residents and MWCDC partner organizations such as the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy (PPC), Venture Outdoors, the City of Pittsburgh Department of Parks and Recreation, and members of city council.
The committee increased meeting attendance through its email distribution list and new Facebook group called the “Emerald View Park Dispatch,” while advocating for new signage and resources for Emerald View Park. The committee also partnered with the PPC to help provide funding for maintenance and improvements.
In 2019 the committee will focus on new initiatives including negative wet weather impact, climate change education, and will explore neighborhood discount programs for solar or geothermal residential and commercial energy. Additionally, they will seek funding to create new Emerald View Park maps.
The group is planning to create entrance gardens at each entry point leading into Mount Washington and Duquesne Heights; however, the committee will mostly shift its focus to sustainability-related projects and away from beautification.
“Beautification is not a hot topic,” Ms. Moss said. “We’re not going to get funds by saying ‘make this look pretty’.”
The EVSP committee typically meets the second Wednesday of every odd numbered month at 5:30 p.m. in the MWCDC office.
The next presentation was by the new Advocacy Committee, which was created as a result of the 2018 strategic plan. The committee’s goal is to connect with various community partners to achieve large scale strategic initiatives that the MWCD is unable to accomplish independently.
Engaging with the city during the budget planning process and strengthening partnerships with the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Visit Pittsburgh, and other community organizations are among the plans for the upcoming year.
The Advocacy Committee will hold its public meetings on the fourth Wednesday of even months at 6:30 p.m. in the Mount Washington Senior Center on Virginia Avenue. The first meeting will be February 27.
Next to speak was the Finance Committee which consists of Treasurer Perry Ninness and Executive Director Gordon Davidson. Mr. Ninness said passing last year’s annual budget and audit were big wins for the organization given the turbulence of board turnover and hiring a new executive director.
“Actual expenses and budgeted expenses were kept within a three percent range.” Mr. Ninness said. “The board was able to hit the numbers they projected for the year.”
Mr. Ninness also said the committee has reduced recurring monthly expenses by between $500 and $1,000 per month.
In 2019, the committee will form an official policy regarding the manner in which the MWCDC purchases and disposes of properties, and whether the organization can retain use of them. They will also look to further diversify revenue streams to ensure that the organization isn’t relying on one or two sources of income.
Copies of the 2018 and 2019 budgets were available at the meeting. In 2018, the MWCDC had $118,500 of income, the majority of which came from an annual Neighborhood Partnership Program (NPP) grant from Duquesne Light.
The organization had $159,240 in total expenses last year. $63,650 were personnel related and $22,940 were spent on various professional services, including the organization’s third-party accounting firm. The MWCDC also provided the PPC with $50,000 for Emerald View Park maintenance per an existing agreement.
The 2019 budget currently sits at a $54,540 deficit; however, Mr. Davidson said the organization will seek additional funding throughout the year to offset it. The MWCDC will not receive the $100,000 NPP grant again in 2019, but the year’s projected income does include a $47,500 Community Development Block Grant.
Ms. Davis said the Executive Committee’s major accomplishment of 2018 was hiring Mr. Davidson as executive director. She also said the organization was able to generate $15,000 in funding from the 2018 MWCDC Block Party event, which will take place again in 2019.