South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Mayor says there's no safe place to set off fireworks in the boro


Last updated 7/25/2019 at 9:10pm

Fireworks, leashed dogs, and killing chickens in the borough were among the topics discussed at the July 15 meeting of Mt. Oliver Borough Council.

Council members Barbara Keener and Dave Lowe were absent.

The meeting began with the public safety report for June delivered by Mayor Frank Bernardini.

There were 673 total calls for service, and 51 drug arrests, the latter for the seizure of marijuana, crack cocaine, heroin, and drug paraphernalia.

There were two burglaries: on Locust St. (money stolen), and on Ormsby Ave. (warrant issued for actor). There were four DUI arrests.

The K-9 unit was used 25 times, including for drug searches, arrests, park-and-walks, targeted patrols, traffic stop, and a warrant service. Fourteen warrants were served by the police department.

The police responded to two commercial alarms and 8 residential alarms.

Regarding abandoned vehicles: six were posted; 13 warnings were issued; and three vehicles were towed.

Parking Enforcement wrote 97 borough tickets, while the Police Department wrote 16 borough tags. There were 45 state citations issued for parking violations.

The total collected for payment of fines for tickets issued in June was $1,100. The total paid in magistrate ordered fines was $100.

All equipment is operating properly.

The total miles on all vehicles for June was 4,114 miles. Vehicle maintenance and repair totaled $572.17.

In light of the recent July 4 observance, Mr. Bernardini concluded with the reminder that while fireworks are legal, they cannot be set off within 150-feet of an occupied structure. The laws pertain to everyone “and not one class of people,” he said.

“These were initiated for public safety. It could cause a catastrophe if a fire starts,” he said.

A resident in attendance complained about neighbors setting off fireworks late Saturday night. She asked the procedure if she called 911.

Police chief Matt Juzwick said officers will be sent. If they see the people in the act they will cite or warn.

If the caller actually sees them setting off fireworks, and will be a legal witness, the police will cite. A video will also result in a citation.

The resident said the responding officers need to ride around and watch for them to set the fireworks off again.

The chief also said even if no one is home at the structure fireworks cannot be set off within 150-feet of it. As all structures are within 150-feet of each other in the borough, fireworks cannot be set off in the borough.

In the engineer’s report, council voted 5-0 to award the contract for site grading, retaining wall, and drainage work at the Walnut St. parking lot to Soli Construction for $106,760. The contract also includes installation of a second access point onto Walnut St.

Next, in the fire report for June read by council President Amber McGough, there were 56 total incidents, of which 43 were for EMS and 13 were fire related. The average time on the scene for the Mt. Oliver Volunteer Fire Co. is 45 minutes.

In the planning report, Deana Wuenschel said she must resign from the Planning Commission as she and her husband are moving out of the borough to an apartment.

“Thank-you for all your time and effort,” Mrs. McGough said. Council members and attendees clapped in recognition of her years of service to the borough.

Mrs. Wuenschel and her husband, Gerard, have lived on Walter St. since 1970. The couple raised nine children there.

Mr. Wuenschel’s family has lived in the borough since 1895 when his father emigrated from Germany. His father married in 1906 and raised his nine children – including Gerard, his youngest -- with his wife on Ottillia St.

In the treasurer’s report, borough manager Rick Hopkinson reported 73 percent of the property tax for 2019 has been collected so far, or $626,069. The total due is $861,780.

The collected amount is a little over what was collected last year at this time.

“We’re showing progress every year,” he said. The borough last raised millage about 12 years ago.

In the finance report, Councilwoman Tina Reft said advertising of various special events and meetings is required by state law, but is expensive in the Post-Gazette. But the borough has no other choice as it is the only local newspaper in circulation.

In the code enforcement report for June, Councilman Aaron Graham reported there were 54 violations, with 33 open cases year-to-date. Most of the 54 violations were for debris and overgrowth, he said.

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

Thirty rental licenses were issued for 73 units, and 39 rental applications were mailed out for licenses expiring July 31 (59 units).

A building permit was issued to demolish a detached garage, and a zoning permit was issued to replace a sign.

The Property Stabilization Committee spruced up two prior year projects on Hays and Margaret streets, and planted flowers in the “Mt. Oliver” planter at Brownsville and Arlington.

In other news, Mr. Graham reported the paving of Hays and Arlington looks very nice. The newsletter has gone out, and residents may contribute to future issues.

He also said the pending Walnut St. parking lot project will be a nice thing for businesses.

A Zoning Hearing Board replacement is needed.

In the public safety report, Councilman Justin Viale reported there will be a Civil Service test on Aug. 20 for a full-time police officer.

The fire department, in conjunction with the Option Independent Fire Co., will hold a Sportsmen’s Bash fundraiser on September 14. 

It will be held at the Braddock VFD #2 Social Hall. There will be free off-street parking and free food and drink. Doors open at noon.

Tickets are $40.

In the public works report for June, Mr. Hopkinson reported routine facility maintenance was conducted, like emptying trash, cleaning/sweeping, and re-stocking supplies at the borough building. TVs, tires, and debris were picked up throughout the borough.

Pot holes were patched around the borough. A sink hole was filled with gravel and cold patch on Hays and Ormsby.

In Transverse and Ormsby parks, workers emptied trash cans/spot swept three times per week. Grass maintenance was performed in both parks.

In sanitary/storm sewer maintenance, inlets were cleaned throughout the borough. Two dye tests were performed. A storm drain at Transverse Park was cleaned.

In the question-and-answer segment which concludes meetings, a resident said she hears “chickens being murdered” in an Anthony St. backyard in front of children. The family are renters.

Ms. Hopkinson said the current zoning ordinance does not address the keeping of chickens or livestock whatsoever. There is an Animals ordinance on the books that does address the keeping of chickens, but is not specific on the use.

The updated zoning which council will soon be voting on will address both in depth and will supersede the Animals ordinance. 

The next attendee complained about neighbors who let their pit bulls roam unleashed on public streets. As pit bulls, they are known to attack, she said, and have previously attacked another family’s pit bull, causing friction between the two families.

She asked what the procedure is should she call 911 on the unleashed dogs.

The police chief said dogs must be leashed. The responding officer can cite or issue a warning to the owners.

The attendee said the owners need to know the police are watching.

“I want to be able to walk down my street,” she said.

The final comments were from a non-resident who moved to the South area in February and who works in financial services.

She plans to conduct free financial literary programs at the Knoxville Library, with the first tentatively planned for July 27.

She hopes to hold the programs on a monthly or quarterly basis.

The next council meeting will be on Aug. 19.


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