South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Councilwoman resigns, new councilman sworn in Mt. Oliver Borough


Last updated 10/30/2019 at 7:57pm

A council member resignation and the swearing in of a replacement kicked off the Oct. 21 meeting of Mt. Oliver council.

Barbara Keener submitted a resignation letter "with sincere regret," stating the reason was "continual health issues."

The resignation, which council adopted by a 6-0 vote, was effective Sept. 30.

Mayor Frank Bernardini then swore in Francis Heckmann to finish the term of Ms. Keener, or until Dec. 31. As he won the primary election in May, he will be on the ballot in November for a two-year term.

Mr. Heckmann, 76, is a retired general manager of an air freight company. He has lived in the borough since 1973.

This will be his first time on council.

Mr. Bernardini reminded residents Paul Doyle, who attends most council meetings and is active on borough boards and committees, plans to run for council as a write-in candidate in November.

"He's very knowledgeable about this borough," the mayor said.

Next, he read the public safety report for September.

There were 666 total calls for service, and 51 drug arrests, the latter for the seizure of marijuana, crack cocaine, heroin, and drug paraphernalia. There were two DUI arrests.

The K-9 unit was used 34 times for arrests, park-and-walks, drug searches, a tracking, and targeted patrols. Five warrants were served by the police department.

The police responded to nine commercial alarms and six residential alarms.

Regarding abandoned vehicles: eight were posted; 18 warnings were issued; and three vehicles were towed. Two vehicles posted in August were towed in September.

Parking Enforcement wrote 108 borough tickets, while the Police Department wrote 25 borough tags. There were 50 state citations issued for parking violations.

The total collected for payment of fines for tickets issued in September was $1,450. The total paid in magistrate ordered fines was $65.

Officer Larkins is in charge of monitoring all police calls to check for nuisance properties. 

All police equipment is operating properly.

The total miles on all vehicles for September was 3,381 miles. Vehicle maintenance and repair totaled $852.

The police have been conducting targeted patrols in areas which residents have advised of possible disruptive illegal activity.

In conclusion, the mayor said he wants landlords held accountable for vacant property.

"They are living off taxpayer money," he said.

Borough manager Rick Hopkinson said an ordinance passed in 2013 addressed commercial properties. He said he is looking into have an ordinance that includes residential properties.

Mr. Bernardini said the public works department is being overtasked maintaining these vacant properties. He called their owners "deadbeat landlords."

In the fire update, it was reported the fire department celebrated its 150th anniversary last month. They received a plaque in recognition of the landmark on behalf of the borough.

Volunteers are needed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 9 to install smoke alarms in homes. No experience is necessary. Volunteers should meet at the fire house at 9:30 a.m.

Fire personnel and volunteers will be going to every home in the borough, and will install up to three smoke detectors on the spot. If a resident isn't home, there will be a door hanger left at the house for a future install. No registration is required.

The fire department received complimentary smoke detectors through the Red Cross for distribution to residents in need of such devices in their homes. 

In the administration report, Councilwoman Tina Reft reported the committee will begin working on the 2020 budget next week.

In the code enforcement report for September, Councilman Aaron Graham reported there were 60 violations. There are 37 open cases year-to-date.

There were no hearings scheduled in front of District Magistrate Richard King.

Thirty-nine rental licenses were issued for 69 units, and 53 rental applications were mailed out for licenses expiring Oct. 31 (79 units).

Nine occupancy permits and four building permits were issued.

Mr. Graham said code enforcement is working with the solicitor and borough council to develop a ticketing ordinance that will penalize repeat offenders for high grass, early trash, trash storage, and snow removal violations.

He also reported there was a good turnout for Fall Fest on Oct. 5 in Transverse Park.

The fall newsletter has been mailed. "We need participation in our council and committees," he said.

Trick-or-Treat in the borough will be held 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Halloween on Oct. 31.

In the public safety report, Councilman Justin Viale reported the police have been doing traffic enforcement at school bus stops as motorists are not stopping for busses' flashing red lights.

Council next voted to hire two full-time police officers: Nathan Swierkosz and Eric Brant.

In the public works report for September, Councilman Dave Lowe reported routine facility maintenance was conducted, like emptying trash, cleaning/sweeping, and re-stocking supplies. TVs, tires, and debris were picked up throughout the borough.

Pot holes were patched around the borough. There was continued replacement of faded and damaged signs.

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

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

Council then voted 5-2 to hire Ronald Joseph as a full-time public works laborer. Councilmen Nick Viglione and Mr. Heckmann voted no. Mr. Viglione said after the meeting he preferred hiring current part-time worker Vance Gonsowski as full-time.

"He was overlooked," he said.

In the economic development report, Light Up Night will be held on Nov. 22 in the hollow from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Mr. Hopkinson reported the borough was accepted into the Allegheny Together program. It is a program through Allegheny County Economic Development providing strategic planning and technical support for traditional mainstreets.

In the program, communities are led through a facilitated strategic planning process, utilizing data analysis, community engagement, and an urban design review.

Through this process, priorities are established and technical assistance is then provided to implement the plan with the primary goal of helping existing businesses succeed and attracting new businesses, thus increasing district vibrancy.

Mr. Hopkinson said the new team will convene in early 2020.

In unfinished business, Mr. Heckmann said he is worried about school busses blocking intersections as EMS vehicles would not be able to get by.

Police chief Matt Juzwick said is it done that way for children's safety as vehicles are not stopping for the busses. It has not been a problem yet, he said.

In questions-and-answers, an attendee said a residence on Locust St. stores garbage behind the home, thereby attracting rats.

Mr. Hopkinson said the owner has a Nov. 5 court date. The hope is he shows up at court, and clears the garbage. If not, more trouble will ensue for him.

Another attendee asked about chickens, which she keeps and received a citation.

Solicitor Emily Mueller told her the borough has a zoning ordinance. Currently, chickens are not allowed where the resident lives. But council will be adopting a new ordinance which may allow chickens in her area.

After the new ordinance is adopted, she will have to apply for a variance from the Zoning Hearing Board to keep her four chickens. There is a fee to apply for the variance.

Next, the mayor said large rats have been seen on a vacant Giffin St. property. Mr. Viglione said neighbors have to get together and buy traps.

At meeting's end, Mr. Bernardini reminded everyone about the plan to erect patriotic military banners on street poles to recognize borough veterans.

Veterans residing in the borough should provide their name, rank, years of service, and branch of service to him or the borough administration.

The military banner program adopted by numerous local boroughs is designed to honor any active, retired, or deceased military personnel who resides or resided in the borough by placing banners with the local heroes' photo and name on street poles.

The next council meeting will be on November 18.


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