South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Mayor continues opposition to care facility in borough


Last updated 4/24/2019 at 8pm

While the Mt. Oliver Zoning Hearing Board gave conditional approval for Auberle to operate the Auberle Family Healing Center in the former Mt. Oliver School Building on Hays Avenue, Mayor Frank Bernardini made it clear at the April 15 council meeting his opinion has not changed.

"I opposed it from the beginning and until I die," he said.

For months, he has expressed his opposition to the plan, stating the police department is overloaded with all of the drug activity in the borough.

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 family members challenged by that addiction.

The 16 apartments currently in the former school building will be renovated into eight apartments along with staff, meeting and training rooms and support facilities.

In the application to the borough's Zoning Hearing Board, Auberle requested a Special Exception to operate a group care facility in a C-1 District. Under the borough code, a group care facility is permitted as a Special Exception in the district.

At the council meeting, Mr. Bernardini said comments were made that council received "kickbacks" to okay the project. He said the seller, Action Housing, and the state law "sold the borough out, and not council or anyone in this building."

"The only ones who made money on this was the seller," he said.

He said he wants to see in writing that taxes are paid on the building, as promised.

"When a community no longer has a say-so in the community it is no longer a democracy," he said.

"They think it's over. It ain't over," he said.

The next step is for borough officials to sit down with Auberle and Action Housing to review the borough process and the required submittals for obtaining the necessary building permits.

Once permits are approved there will be a number of required inspections under the Uniform Construction Code (UCC), as well as by the zoning hearing board to ensure compliance with their variance.

The meeting began with the mayor swearing in patrolman Officer Ryan Lawrence.

Four council members were in attendance; absent were members Nick Viglione, David Lowe, and Justin Viale.

Next, there was a zoning update by Debby Grass, a planning consultant charged with updating the borough's zoning ordinances.

In the draft document she gave council members, she noted the priority sections for their review included: general regulations, for fences and walls and more; sign regulations; parking regulations; and conditional uses and special exceptions.

New uses include the keeping of farm animals, beekeeping, and medical marijuana.

Ms. Grass said she would return for council's May 13 agenda meeting to answer questions. She expected comments back from Allegheny County Planning at that time.

A May 20 public hearing may feature adoption of the ordinance.

In the public safety report for March, Mr. Bernardini reported the police received 939 total calls for service, and made 34 drug arrests, the latter for the seizure of marijuana, crack cocaine, heroin, and drug paraphernalia.

There were two DUI arrests.

The K-9 units were used 55 times, including for a drug search, arrests, park-and-walks, demonstrations, and targeted patrols. Nine warrants were served by the police department.

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

Parking Enforcement wrote 82 borough tickets, while the Police Department wrote 11 borough tags. There were 30 state citations issued for parking violations.

The total collected for payment of fines for tickets issued in March was $1,035.

All police equipment is operating properly.

The total miles on all vehicles was 4,028 miles. Vehicle maintenance and repair totaled $2,672.73.

Traffic stops conducted in March totaled 170.

In the fire report for March, there were 50 incidents, of which 34 were for EMS and 16 were fire related. The average response time, lights and siren, from dispatch to arrival is 5 minutes 47 seconds.

The fire department received complimentary smoke detectors through the Red Cross for distribution to residents in need of such devices in their homes. Call the borough offices and leave a message if you need a smoke detector. The fire department must install them, at which time personnel will also give the resident information.

The fire department is looking to do more joint training with other local fire departments, chief Fran Kestner said.

In the code enforcement report for March, Councilman Aaron Graham reported there were 48 violations, and 60 of 881 open cases.

There were 11 hearings in front of District Magistrate Richard King.

Twenty-one rental licenses were issued for 44 units, and 23 rental applications/notices were mailed out for licenses expiring April 30.

One occupancy permit and one building permit were issued.

Mr. Graham also reported Councilwoman Tina Reft and resident/Zoning Hearing Board member Sandy Seiler completed fact checking the occupancy of all properties.

Their finding was there are a total of 933 occupied rental units, or about 33 percent more than was on file.

Mr. Graham said he is working on systematically sending out annual rental applications to the 233 occupied units that were uncovered. At $100 per rental license, it means an extra $23,000 in revenue.

Even if, say, someone's grandmother, comes to live in their house, a rental license is required.

He also reported the property stabilization committee is planning to clean up the vacant lot at Ottillia and Overhill at 5:30 p.m. on April 24 and 25.

The borough is looking for three residents to serve on the Nuisance Property Board. The board must be in place before any action is taken, according to the borough ordinance.

Nuisance Property Board members will be called for service only when an issue arises for their consideration.

"We need the people to put the teeth in that ordinance," Mr. Bernardini said.

Mr. Graham concluded his report reminding everyone about the positive things occurring in the community: receipt of a multi-modal grant for the 300-500 block of Brownsville Rd in 2020; the fire department's successful fish fry on Fridays during Lent; a well-attended pancake breakfast during the borough's Easter celebration; the return of Fresh Fridays on the Hilltop; and the new TC Candy and Commonwealth Sandwich Co. on Brownsville Rd.

"It's nice to see some really nice businesses in our business district," he said.

In the public works report for March, public works supervisor John Michener 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.

Stop signs were repaired on School Way and Luther; temporary no parking signs were posted at 221 Brownsville Rd.

In Transverse and Ormsby parks, workers emptied trash cans/spot swept three times per week.

In sanitary/storm sewer maintenance, inlets were cleaned throughout the borough. Three dye tests were performed.

In economic development, the borough will be holding a "Meet Mt. Oliver" luncheon for real estate agents and property managers to educate them on trends in the borough which are beneficial to their clients.

In resolutions, council voted 4-0 to sell 102 Brownsville Rd., which the borough owns, for one dollar to the Hilltop Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit organization engaged in community development in the borough.

In the question-and-answer segment which concludes meetings, a resident asked about a noise ordinance. Police Chief Matt Juzwick said he would look into the specifics, but that it depends on the noise level and time of day.

To a question about envelopes for fire department donations, they are going out but it takes time. Most likely delivery will be door-to-door to save postage.

To a question about upcoming paving, borough manager Rick Hopkinson said Columbia Gas will be completing the full restoration of Hays Ave. and parts of Ormsby Ave. related to the utility work that occurred last year.

It will begin the third week of May and be completed by June 15.

To a complaint about vandalism, such as a brick recently thrown through a neighbor's window, Councilwoman Barbara Keener said "When weather gets warm the kids go crazy."

To a comment about helping residents without cars or who are handicapped get to the voting polls, council members said it was a good idea that they would look into.

The next council meeting will be on May 20.


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