South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Preliminary plans in the works for a new Division 4 facility


Last updated 5/1/2019 at 8:20pm

A meeting about the Dept. of Public Works’ (DPW) 4th Division site redevelopment drew about 50 residents, and public officials, to the Knoxville Library on April 22.

“There are some initial plans we are going to share with you this evening,” city Councilman Bruce Kraus said at the start.

DPW director Mike Gable said the building is “only in concept now” as the project is in its beginning stages.

The only certainty is it will be rebuilt on the same site as the former 4th Division facility, which was recently demolished.

While the focus that evening was infrastructure and changes, an ongoing series of public meetings will take place before anything else is finalized, officials in attendance said.

DPW closed the facility on Bausman St. in Knoxville a few years ago when it became uninhabitable as the building was toxic and unhealthy, and no longer viable. Division 4 responsibilities have since been split between divisions 3 and 5.

At the April 22 meeting, Councilman Anthony Coghill said it had to be shut down because of its deplorable condition, but it was important to remain in the neighborhood.

The city’s capital budget has $2 million set aside for the new facility.

The new building will have what DPW needs, Mr. Gable said. The proposed elements are: existing fuel pumps and tanks; warehouse/garage/offices; car wash; parking; covered material storage; recycling drop-off; and yard waste drop off.

But those elements could change, Mr. Gable said.

A possibility that stirred much discussion was returning Mathews Ave. to two-way and adding a cul-de-sac at the bottom of the hill. Mr. Kraus said the primary reason is that it provides new options to build the campus.

It would also reduce Mathews Ave. traffic to local traffic only; allow DPW to secure the site; provide safety for DPW vehicles and employees maneuvering the site; and more.

The next steps are getting community feedback; completing property surveys; for DPW to meet with the law and zoning departments to verify if closing off part of the street is possible; and for the city to put out a request for proposal (RFP) to bring a design consultant on board.

Construction would likely not begin until 2020, although Mr. Gable said it may happen sooner.

He said he is looking at prefabricated buildings to get it up quicker.

In the questions/comments that followed, a resident complained about tires being dumped on the site. Mr. Gable said cameras could be erected on the building.

“We want a better managed site,” Mr. Kraus said.

An attendee said people come by the site at all hours to recycle. A sign says it is open 24 hours. Mr. Gable said he would look into it, but the new site may not have yard debris and recycling.

Mr. Kraus said the site will be kept nice until rebuilding occurs. But the 24-hour sign needs to go.

To a question if employees from Division 4 who were transferred would have the first option to come back, Mr. Gable said yes, but that many have left already. But the ones who want to come back will be able to do so.

A resident who has lived on Bausman St. for 50 years said Mathews Ave. was not a problem as two-way. Mr. Kraus said a traffic engineer will have to look at it “in its entirety.”

Another attendee commented pedestrian access will be needed through the site. Mr. Gable said the matter will be looked at.

When Mr. Kraus asked attendees if they liked capping Mathews Ave. and doing a turnaround, the raised hands were roughly 50-50. When he asked who preferred to keep it as a thru-way, the raised hands were again about 50-50.

A Bon Air resident said Mathews Ave. is one of two access sites for she and her neighbors to get to Route 51. The other access is Brownsville Rd.

Currently, motorists can go from Bon Air to Arabella St., and then left on Mathews Ave. past the Division 4 site to get to Bausman St., which leads to Route 51.

If Mathews Ave. is closed, she said, Bon Air residents must go to Brownsville Rd., through Mt. Oliver, and down Bausman St. to reach Route 51.

That means Bon Air’s roughly 1,000 cars, which is reflective of its large number of renters, will be using Brownsville Rd. for Route 51 access, thereby compounding the congestion on the road.

It alleviates that traffic congestion by going through Matthews Ave., she said.

Regardless of the inconvenience, however, she said she is willing to have the cul-de-sac on Mathews Ave. to get Division 4 back on the site for the services it provides to the area. Those services include snow removal, garbage, and service to the parklet if needed.

A resident raised concerns about public safety access should Mathews Ave. be closed.

“Please reconsider closing the bend,” he said.

Mr. Coghill said response time will not be compromised.

“We will take into consideration how to get public safety through, and come back to us,” Mr. Gable said.

A Bausman resident said she does not feel the area has been well served since the closure of Division 4. She said the streets were not cleared of snow as in the past. Also, she said she always felt comfortable walking to the park as the employees in Division 4 looked out for her.

A Mt. Washington resident agreed the streets in his neighborhood have not been cleared as well of ice and snow since Division 4 closed.

“It will look great,” Mr. Gable said of the new Division 4 facility.

An attendee complained about bottles being dumped daily in the blue dumpster from bars in South Side, leaving no room for residents to use the dumpster.

He said two trucks come every day and dump the bottles.

“There is dumping all over Knoxville. We report, and its back again,” a resident said.

A resident suggested closing the gate and having it open only certain hours.

Mr. Gable said to write down the license numbers. “We need some help,” he said.

The next meeting on the Division 4 site redevelopment will be held at 6 p.m. on June 10 at the Knoxville Library. Mr. Kraus said the public safety director will be present.


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