Borough approves raises in salaries and a variety of fees
November 26, 2019
Adopted resolutions with salary increases and changes in borough fees highlighted the Nov. 18 meeting of Mt. Oliver council. Councilwoman Tina Reft was absent.
The average pay increase ranges from 2 to 3 percent for all non-uniform employees.
The police contract averages a 4 percent increase every year for three years with the primary goal of becoming more competitive with boroughs of similar population and income levels.
The main changes for the fee schedule are: alarm permits will increase from $15 to $20 for residential and $60 to $75 for commercial; the ambulance service subscriptions will increase from $35 to $40 per household; the Business Privilege Tax will increase from $250 to $275; and the ALCOSAN sewer rate will increase from $7.94 per 1,000 gallons to $8.50.
There will be no change in the borough sewer rate. Trash collection fees will increase from $156.00 per year to $160.00.
There will be no increase in property taxes.
In the public safety report that began the meeting, Mayor Frank Bernardini reported there were 602 total calls for service, and 27 drug arrests, the latter for the seizure of marijuana, crack cocaine, heroin, and drug paraphernalia.
Four burglaries took place: on Elizabeth St., Giffin Ave., St. Joseph St., and Walnut St. Suspects were arrested in all but the latter case.
There were no robberies, and three DUI arrests.
The K-9 unit was used 28 times for arrests, park-and-walks, drug searches, a tracking, and targeted patrols. Nine warrants were served by the police department.
Mr. Bernardini said there are 25 outstanding arrest warrants.
"They only come out when they think it is safe," he said of suspects hiding in the borough.
The police responded to four commercial alarms and 11 residential alarms.
Regarding abandoned vehicles for the month: two were posted; 22 warnings were issued; and one vehicle was towed. Three vehicles posted in September were towed in October.
Parking Enforcement wrote 100 borough tickets, while the Police Department wrote 11 borough tags. There were 50 state citations issued for parking violations.
The total collected for payment of fines for tickets issued in October was $1,135. The total paid in magistrate ordered fines was $270.
Officer Larkins is in charge of monitoring all police calls to check for nuisance properties. A letter was sent to the owner of a Jacob St. residence for violation of the nuisance property ordinance.
All equipment is operating properly.
The total miles on all vehicles for October was 3,122 miles. Vehicle maintenance and repair totaled $0.
In the code enforcement report for October, Councilman Aaron Graham reported there were 35 violations. There are 35 open cases year-to-date.
There were 13 hearings in front of District Magistrate Richard King.
Twenty-seven rental licenses were issued for 46 units, and 52 rental applications were mailed out for licenses expiring Nov. 30 (86 units).
Three occupancy permits, one building permit, and one zoning permit 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.
Code enforcement is also working with the solicitor and borough council to update and strengthen the Vacant Property Registration Ordinance for commercial and residential properties.
Mr. Graham reported there was a good turnout for Trick-or-Treat on Halloween on Oct. 31.
"We're in a good position to start building on the good things happening in the borough," he said, citing more occupied and owned properties, higher wages among residents, increased tax income, and more.
Other positive happenings in the borough include its first Light Up Night on Nov. 22, and the annual Cookie Tour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 7 in the business district in which there will be children's activities, free cookies, and more.
Another positive event was the Allegheny Together summit attended recently by borough manager Rick Hopkinson and Councilman Justin Viale.
The borough was recently accepted into the Allegheny Together program through Allegheny County Economic Development that provides strategic planning and technical support for traditional main streets.
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.
On another topic, the mayor said there was a time in the borough when couches were not permitted on front porches. Mr. Hopkinson said there was never an ordinance addressing that, but he will look into what can be done.
Next, in the public safety report, Mr. Viale reported smoke alarms from the Red Cross were installed in borough homes recently by fire personnel and volunteers.
The fire department received complimentary smoke detectors through the Red Cross for distribution to residents in need of such devices.
He also reported the borough is looking to hire two part-time police officers.
Mr. Viale also raised the topic of free parking for the holidays. Free parking will be available on Nov. 30 for Small Business Saturday, and from Dec. 18 to Dec. 25 for holiday shopping.
In the public works report for October, 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. Four dye tests were performed.
Council then voted 5-1 to hire Vance Gonsowski as a full-time public works laborer.
Council President Amber McGough voted no, explaining at meeting's end that council agreed to hire one full-time worker last month, and that changing the status of part-time worker Gonsowski was not part of their discussions.
Last month, council 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 that he preferred hiring part-time worker Vance Gonsowski as full-time, and that he had been "overlooked."
In unfinished business, Mrs. McGough said council will try out in January having regular meetings preceded those evenings by agenda meetings, instead of having the agenda meetings a week earlier.
"We need that spark. I would love to see Mt. Oliver have that," he said.
Mr. Hopkinson said the Allentown CDC was five years ahead of Mt. Oliver, and that the borough is working with Allegheny Together to develop an identity for the business district and also what the market can support.
Then the borough can target recruitment efforts, hard data, and community feedback.
"You don't want to walk down their streets at night," Mr. Viglione said of Allentown.
"You don't have to run for council to make positive change here," Mr. Graham told the resident.
On another issue, police Chief Matt Juzwick said parking signs were posted on Margaret St. 10 years ago which are not in the borough ordinance. He said he and public works supervisor John Michener will look into the matter.
An attendee asked if the borough has a "right to know" policy for obtaining documents. He was told the state has a "Right to Know" Law. A form can be completed on the borough website and the borough will get back to him about the desired document.
Next, a resident asked about the pending Auberle Family Healing Center, site of the former Mt. Oliver School building.
Mr. Hopkinson said the agency is working to submit plans and drawings. No permits have been issued yet.
Mr. Bernardini said the agency missed the six-month deadline, to which Mr. Hopkinson said he would consult the borough attorney.
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 everyone challenged by that addiction.
Mr. Bernardini has repeatedly expressed his opposition to the plan, stating the police department is overloaded with all of the drug activity in the borough. He is also concerned for public safety as numerous school busses drop off students by the Hays and Ormsby intersection, or very near the proposed facility.
The next council meeting will be on December 16.