South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Boro honors long-time business at Mt. Oliver Council meeting


Last updated 12/27/2019 at 10:05am

The Dec. 16 meeting of Mt. Oliver Council began with the presentation by council President Amber McGough of a "Certificate of Recognition and Appreciation" to Don's Bar for its 60 years of business within the borough.

About 15 of owner Don Baumgart's family and friends were in attendance as he accepted the honor.

"I love it there. It is very, very nice," Councilwoman Tina Reft said of the bar/restaurant on Margaret St.

Resident Sandy Seiler said she had her first drink at Don's Bar when she turned 21, while others echoed the same sentiment.

Councilman Nick Viglione noted Mr. Baumgart's support for youth football and baseball programs over the years.

In the public safety report for November, Mayor Frank Bernardini reported there were 597 total calls for service, and 38 drug arrests, the latter for the seizure of marijuana, crack cocaine, heroin, and drug paraphernalia.

A burglary took place on Margaret St. where money was stolen. A suspect was arrested.

There were two robberies: one on Brownsville Rd. and the other on Hays Ave. There was one DUI arrest.

The K-9 unit was used 20 times for arrests, park-and-walks, drug searches, a tracking, and targeted patrols. Eleven warrants were served by the police department.

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

Regarding abandoned vehicles for the month: One was posted, and 20 warnings were issued. Two vehicles posted in October were towed in November.

Parking Enforcement wrote 71 borough tickets, while the police department wrote 18 borough tags. There were 43 state citations issued for parking violations.

The total collected for payment of fines for tickets issued in November was $835. The total paid in magistrate ordered fines was $260.

All equipment is operating properly.

The total miles on all vehicles for November was 2,851 miles. Vehicle maintenance and repair totaled $579.

Mr. Bernardini also reported that on Dec. 10 a group of pre-teens attacked two youngsters on Brownsville Rd. by the library. The boy was badly beaten, and the girl was on the ground.

Bystanders took photos with their cell phones.

"In broad daylight you can't even be too careful," he said.

He asked City of Pittsburgh Police Zone 3 officials to assign a police officer to the site for a few hours every day as the attack occurred on the city side of the street.

The borough officers responded quickly, Mr. Viglione said.

He also said he sees Zone 3 officers hurrying to Carrick High School every afternoon with their sirens blaring.

"It's bad up there," he said.

Next, the fire report was on the agenda, but there was no report. Mr. Bernardini asked if someone from the department should be there. Borough manager Rick Hopkinson said it has been requested.

In the treasurer's report, 84 percent of the property tax for 2019 has been collected to date, or $724,224.

Next, Ms. Reft reported the borough will contract with Paychex for a year of payroll services. The cost will be $2,300. The vote was 6-0, with Councilman Aaron Graham absent.

"Our system is obsolete and old," she said. Mr. Hopkinson said there are also borough administrative costs in terms of the time spent doing payroll.

In the code enforcement report for November, Mr. Hopkinson reported there were 32 violations. There are 37 open cases year-to-date.

There were 17 hearings in front of District Magistrate Richard King.

Fifty-five rental licenses were issued for 136 units, and 56 rental applications were mailed out for licenses expiring Dec. 31 (84 units).

Four occupancy permits, two building permits, and one zoning permit were issued.

Code enforcement is working with the solicitor and borough council to update and strengthen the Vacant Property Registration Ordinance for commercial and residential properties.

Next, in the public safety report, Councilman Justin Viale reported there will be free parking for the holidays in the business district from Dec. 18 to Dec. 25.

Council then voted to hire Stephen Beers as a part-time police officer, with a start date to be determined. Another part-time officer is being sought. Interested applicants should submit their application at the municipal building.

In the public works report for November, 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. Leaves were vacuumed around the borough.

In sanitary/storm sewer maintenance, inlets were cleaned. Five dye tests were performed.

In the economic development report, Ms. Reft thanked everyone for making the annual Cookie Tour on Dec. 7 in the business district a success.

Next, council voted 5-1 to adopt a 2020 budget with no tax increase. The property tax rate remains unchanged at 13.5 mills. The millage rate has remained the same since 2006.

The dissenting budget vote was cast by Mrs. McGough, who later explained she did not approve of the extra funds for the hire of a full-time public works laborer.

"The money could be better spent elsewhere," she said. She also said four full-time public works employees were not needed.

Last month, council voted 5-1 to hire Vance Gonsowski as a full-time public works laborer. Mrs. McGough voted no, explaining later that council agreed to hire one full-time worker, which it did, and then changing the status of part-time worker Gonsowski was not part of their discussions.

In unfinished business, Mr. Viale said this was his last council meeting after four years as he wants to spend more time with his family. However, he will serve on the Planning Commission.

Mr. Bernardini said he asked police Chief Matt Juzwick if he could do ride-alongs with the officers, but was told it was an insurance issue.

The chief said he must be a borough employee, and he would be a danger to the officer as the officer might react differently with a civilian beside him. While the mayor agreed to sign a waiver, it still puts the officer at risk.

"That would be my main concern," Chief Juzwick said.

In questions-and-answers, a Margaret St. property owner asked if yellow lines could be painted as his tenants cannot get in and out of the driveway. Council will look into the matter.

The same attendee said he will be moving but wants to keep his business here. He would like a rear address on his property as he will be using the garage in the back. Solicitor Emily Mueller said she would look into it.

Next, Ms. Seiler spoke about the homeless animal problem in the borough. With cats, for instance, they have kittens, which have more kittens, and on and on with no end in sight.

"We need a plan," she said.

Another problem is stray animals, like the two pit bulls on her block the prior weekend. Did they have rabies shots? she wondered.

Ms. Seiler suggested a database of legal pets living in the borough.

"We are working on it," Ms. Reft said.

Councilman Francis Heckmann said he calls Zone 3 police Officer Christine Luffey, who helps him. But he lives on the city line.

"I'm polluted with cats up my way, too," the mayor said.

Ms. Seiler said a solution is needed as four cats this year will be, as they reproduce, 64 cats next year.

Mrs. McGough said council would discuss the matter.

The final resident to speak was a Margaret St. resident who said he is continually being harassed by his neighbor who has cameras focused on the resident's house, and is always calling the police on him.

Family members are afraid to visit him due to the stress.

"This is insane. Do we live in America?" he asked.

That day his car was towed by the police department after sitting on his property for a year. He said the car was not hurting anyone.

"How much more can one person take?" he said.

Chief Juzwick said the car was posted in November for expired stickers, and that he sent the resident email on Dec. 5 about the matter. He emailed him again on Dec. 12.

The chief said if the resident told him he was having someone come over to charge the battery he would have given him an extension.

The mayor suggested he file harassment charges at the magistrate's office against his neighbor for the cameras.

The chief said he has received "hundreds of calls" over the past 20 years related to the neighbors' feud.

Mrs. McGough said the police have to follow rules, as they did in having the car towed.

The next council meeting will be on January 20.


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