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Mt. O. City Community Group will become a RCO with the city


Last updated 6/5/2019 at 8:10pm

Officer elections, crime statistics, urban farm update, and free personal wills were among the focus of the May 23 meeting of the Mt. Oliver City/St. Clair Community Group.

The meeting began with the news the community group applied to be a Registered Community Organization (RCO), which gives formal status to community organizations that register with the City of Pittsburgh and provides benefits to those organizations.

The benefits include notification of public hearings, guaranteed meetings with developers/applicants, placement on official brochures, and more.

To be an RCO there must be an election of officers for the community group.

To that end, the co-presidents are Nathan Ruggles and Suzanne Rodat. Joe Costa will be the treasurer, and Jamie Pierson secretary.

Emeritus officers are long-time volunteers Robert Weid, Mike Carter, Patti Stewart, and Suzanne Photos.

In the communications report, it was announced the community group has a Facebook page. News should be sent to the officers for placement on the page.

The group's new phone number is 412-256-8844. An officer will check voicemail and respond.

Next, Mr. Ruggles said ideas for projects discussed at the steering committee meeting include a block party in August by the Fisher St. corner. A permit would be needed to close the street, and ideas on food are sought.

Pot luck, in which everyone contributes a dish, is an option.

Community relations Officer Christine Luffey suggested having the block party on National Night Out on Aug. 6. If it is registered with the city, police officers and other personnel will stop by.

Other project ideas discussed at the steering committee meeting included: recycling bins, vacant lots, sidewalks, steps, fences, abandoned home list, and more.

Group members may also send additional ideas.

In Updates on the Hilltop Urban Farm, free youth farm summer programs will be held in July, with Ned Brockmeyer running them.

He is the Hilltop Urban Farm's youth farm program manager.

The youth farm will engage children from the Hilltop communities in food production, farming, and teamwork while promoting the teaching of nutrition, cooking, growing food, farming principles, and more.

The programs this summer are: Sprouts Camp, July 1-3 (Pre-K to kindergarten); Seedlings Camp, July 8-10 (grades 1-3); Farm Kids Camp, July 22-24 (grades 4 & 5); and Young Farmers Camp, July 15-17 (grades 6-8).

Only 20 students will be accepted for each session.

Sign-up forms for the one-half day programs (8:30 a.m. to Noon) are online at:

Volunteers are also sought at the urban farm on these workdays: June 1, June 29, July 27, Aug. 31, Sept. 28, and Oct. 26. All times are 9:30 a.m. - 3 p.m., with public tours offered from 11 a.m. to noon those days.

Volunteers should wear closed-toe shoes, sunscreen, sunhat, and weather protection, and bring a water bottle.

The nonprofit urban farm is located on the former St. Clair Village site.

Next, a resident said the police were called after recent vandalism at the parklet at Mountain Ave. and Fisher St. He said he learned the procedure when vandalism occurs again: first, call 911 and complete a report; and second, need the approximate time of the vandalism so it can be readily located on the video surveillance at the site.

"Be vigilant and follow through," Ms. Photos said of anyone witnessing vandalism there.

Officer Luffey asked anyone witnessing such a crime to call 911 or 311.

"It is the only way your community will remain safe and improve," she said.

With the warmer weather, more people will be out and there will be more incidents, like neighbor disputes. Residents will also notice more things to call 311 about, such as high grass, excessive litter, and expired inspection stickers on vehicles.

"Your quality of life is really important," she said.

In the Zone 3 crime report, she said Mt. Oliver City is second to the last in incidents, with Bon Air last.

The local statistics from March 28 to May 22 included: two burglaries, three criminal mischief, one disorderly conduct, one fraud, one simple assault, and two criminal mischief.

Regarding the latter, one was reported on April 25 at the parklet as the mini library was damaged. It is under investigation. The vandalism has been repaired.

The other criminal mischief was on April 13 in the 400 block of Cathedral Ave .: youngsters broke windows at the church, which is an ongoing problem according to the clergy. The damage is estimated at $5,500. Information is being sought.

To a question about noise, city Councilman Bruce Kraus said the noise ordinance is a very complicated one, and which he will bring to the next meeting. But generally, the reasonable expectations of a reasonable person is standard.

Officer Luffey said if a resident is being very annoyed by noise, like a neighbor running a generator, call the police.

She also reported details of a violent domestic on April 25 in the 400 block of Cathedral Ave. A male victim said he and his girlfriend broke up. She showed up at his home and demanded a car be put in her name, and attacked him with a boot to where he was bleeding. She also smashed his car windows. She was arrested.

In other news, "Picnic with the Police" will be held from 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. on June 29 at the Arlington spray park's "The Fort."

The family-oriented event will feature food, music, tables with information, and more.

The purpose of the picnic is to bring police and public safety bureaus together with residents to develop and sustain mutual understanding and respect to maintain a safer Zone 3.

Mr. Kraus next reported on copper theft as 11 properties have been hit recently. A few days earlier air conditioning units with copper in them were stolen from the AME Church in Knoxville.

He said scrap yards have been warned, and will not accept this material. Abandoned houses are especially at risk for these thefts.

Commenting on his own recent primary victory, Mr. Kraus said the highest turnout by percentage was in this district.

"When you become united and engaged and vote that's how you keep strong communities," he said.

In an update about the Dept. of Public Works' (DPW) 4th Division site redevelopment, Mr. Kraus said the building was demolished, and a new building/campus will be constructed on the same site on Bausman St. in Knoxville.

The new building is only in concept now as the project is in its beginning stages. An ongoing series of public meetings will take place before anything is finalized.

The next public meeting on the issue will be at 6 p.m. on June 10 in the Knoxville Library.

Mr. Kraus said the proposed elements of the new campus include existing fuel pumps and tanks; warehouse/garage/offices; car wash for city vehicles; responsible recycling center; and more

The hope is to begin construction in the fall as Mr. Kraus said he would like to see snow trucks dispatched from there.

Next, Roy Blankenship, property stabilization program coordinator for the Hilltop Alliance, and Zone 3 Public Safety Council vice president, said the Hilltop Alliance's Property Stabilization Program aims to identify problems in the neighborhoods and help homeowners find solutions to those problems.

Eligible homeowners may receive a $5,000 grant for a new roof and other home improvements.

Homeowners may also apply for up to $30,000 in financial assistance in the form of a 30-year deferred loan.

If the borrower vacates the property prior to the 30-year loan term, the unpaid balance will be due in full.

If the low-income homeowner sells the home to another low-income household, the 30-year deferment will stay on the property.

"I believe in this program one hundred percent," he said.

There is also the Free Personal Wills Program for qualifying Hilltop homeowners, age 50 or older.

The purpose is to ensure that their homes have a defined heir who will more easily be able to gain control of the properties and possibly receive financial assistance for home improvements after their loved one has died.

The Hilltop Alliance has found that such properties fell into a state of disrepair after the owners of record died without having the legal framework in place to transfer ownership to a defined heir.

Mr. Kraus said the city inherits numerous abandoned properties when the deceased owners' children have no interest in it.

He said the Free Wills program offers a great service as everyone should direct what they want to happen to their property upon their death. Otherwise, it is left abandoned and the city must perform upkeep or raze, with both options costing taxpayers.

A demolition today costs $48,000 per property. It costs the city $450,000 a year to mow vacant lots.

To a question about buying adjacent abandoned property, he said the city's sideyard program allows homeowners to purchase contiguous property at a reasonable price. The process takes about two years.

He said he would provide further information at the next Mt. Oliver City/St. Clair Community Group meeting.


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