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Sour grapes is unsightly


Last updated 11/28/2019 at 6:03pm

At last week's Mt. Oliver Borough Council meeting Councilman Nick Viglione and Mayor Frank Bernardini expressed sour grapes at the success of a neighboring community.

In questions-and-answers portion of the meeting, an attendee asked what Mt. Oliver could do to grow its business district like Allentown, which has a renowned restaurant, a successful coffee shop, and more.

Indeed, more than 15 years ago, members of the Allentown community began the planning processes, that has led to a dramatic change in their business district over the last five years.

While Borough Manager Rick Hopkinson explained the Allentown CDC "was five years ahead of Mt. Oliver, and the borough is working with Allegheny Together to develop an identity for the business district and also what the market can support," Mayor Bernardini and Councilman Viglione chose to take a different.

"You don't want to walk down their streets at night," Mr. Viglione said of Allentown.

Not so, says Hilltop Alliance executive director Aaron Sukinek, many people walk Allentown streets at night. He recalled that not so long ago, Mario Lemiuex and Jim Rutherford could be seen heading to Alla Famiglia.

Mt. Oliver Mayor Bernardini's complained the borough gets little or no help from the city or county and the Hilltop Alliance received a $475,000 grant and "none of it was coming to Mt. Oliver."

The $400,000 amount the Hilltop Alliance received is not a grant, but a fee-for-service contract where the Alliance is the administrator to help low and moderate income homeowners get much needed home repairs. The money comes from the Housing Opportunity Fund (HOF), a new tax that was tacked on to real estate transfers within the City of Pittsburgh. The Alliance's contract with the HOF required the work be completed in three city neighborhoods on the Hilltop.

Should the Mt. Oliver mayor and council consider adding a similar fund, the Hilltop Alliance would most likely be willing to discuss a fee-for-service contract to do the work.

Over the past five years, the Brownsville Road and Warrington Avenue corridors have both benefited from Neighborhood Partnership Programs through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, a tax credit program. Economic Development South has received $350,000 a year for the Brownsville Road corridor and the Hilltop Alliance $250,000 a year for Warrington Avenue.

During those five years, the Hilltop Alliance has assisted new and existing businesses in the corridor with 59 grants and loans and seen 36 new businesses with almost $9M in commercial property investment.

Since economic development is not often considered an essential government service, the Hilltop Alliance is happy to work with neighborhoods to do that work, assuming they can secure the funding/financing to do so, Mr. Sukenik said.

Instead of criticizing their neighbor over the next hill, Mayor Bernardini and Councilman Viglione should be looking to emulate them and they may see their grapes can be sweeter.


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