South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Magistrate orders end to Mt. O. feud, council adopts a 'Code of Conduct'


Last updated 2/26/2020 at 8:28pm

Mayor Frank Bernardini began the February 17 meeting of Mt. Oliver Council with an update on a recent hearing before the magistrate.

Absent were council members Aaron Graham and Paul Doyle.

The hearing regarded feuding Margaret St. residents, to which the magistrate said "twenty years is long enough," and ordered it to end. At prior council meetings, police Chief Matt Juzwick said the department has received "hundreds of calls" over the past 20 years related to the neighbors' feud.

The magistrate waived the court costs for the hearing.

Regarding dogs not on leashes, the mayor said the police will give one warning, with the next occurrence resulting in a citation. With stray cats, "it's everywhere," he said, and the borough cannot control it.

He also said police officers cannot be used as a "peacemaker" between warring neighbors.

In the public safety report for January which followed, Mayor Bernardini reported there were 665 total calls for service, and 27 drug arrests, the latter for the seizure of marijuana, crack cocaine, heroin, and drug paraphernalia.

There were 25 outstanding warrants and two DUI arrests.

The police K-9 unit was used 41 times for arrests, drug search, park-and-walks, warrant service, and targeted patrols. Three warrants were served by the police department.

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

Regarding abandoned vehicles for the month: Two were posted, and 11 warnings were issued. Two vehicles posted in December were towed in January. Four vehicles posted in January were fixed or moved.

Parking Enforcement wrote 10 borough tags, while the police department wrote 65 borough tickets. There were 21 state citations issued for parking violations.

The total collected for payment of fines for tickets issued in January was $675. The total paid in magistrate ordered fines was $125.

A Jacob St. residence is still being investigated as a nuisance property.

All police equipment is operating properly.

The total miles on all police vehicles for January was 2,155 miles. Vehicle maintenance and repair totaled $273.

Next, in the Mt. Oliver Volunteer Fire Company report for January, Chief Fran Kestner reported there were 45 incidents, of which 36 were for EMS and nine were fire related. The average response time from dispatch to arrival is 5 minutes 33 seconds for EMS, and 5 minutes 52 seconds for fire.

The average turnout time from dispatch to en route for all calls is 2 minutes 45 seconds.

In the treasurer's report, 87 percent of the property tax for 2019 has been collected to date, or $747,555. The total due is $864,032. The new tax bills will likely be mailed out next week.

Next, in the code enforcement report for January, borough Manager Rick Hopkinson reported there were 65 violations. There are 58 open cases year-to-date.

There were 14 hearings in front of District Magistrate Richard King.

Forty-five rental licenses were issued for 66 units, and 33 rental applications were mailed out for licenses expiring Feb. 29 (48 units).

Condemnation notices were mailed and posted for four properties on Anthony, Fremont, Hays, and Louisa; demolition notices have been prepared and will be mailed in February

An occupancy violation notice was mailed and posted for a Brownsville Rd. property for operating a business without a commercial occupancy permit. The business owner and property owner are cooperating.

An attendee next complained about residents in a neighboring building urinating on his property. The owner is an absentee landlord.

"The building needs shut down," he said. The resident calls 911, but there is only so much the police can do, he said.

The mayor said absentee landlords must be heavily fined to get action.

As an example, he said a Locust St. resident was taken to court over lots of garbage he repeatedly refused to clear on his property.

The magistrate said he would be fined $1,000 a day if the garbage was not cleared up. To avoid the large fine, the resident cleaned up the garbage within a week.

In the public works report, department foreman John Michener reported routine facility maintenance was conducted in the borough building, like emptying trash, cleaning/sweeping, and re-stocking supplies. TVs, tires, and debris were picked up throughout the borough.

A handicap parking sign was installed on St. Joseph Street; a handicap parking sign was removed on Arlington Avenue.

Pot holes were patched around the borough. 

In Transverse and Ormsby parks, workers emptied trash cans/spot swept two times per week.

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

There were 43-and-a-half hours of overtime in January for salting streets and sidewalks.

The department took down the Christmas tree and decorations around the borough.

Public Works workers also cleaned up 1738 Arlington (vacant structure) and 725 Brownsville (vacant land).

In the executive committee report, council voted 3-2 to adopt a code of conduct. Its seven principles for how an elected official should act in his/her role are: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, and leadership.

The code on conduct also encompasses topics like conflicts of interest, gifts and hospitality, dress code, and meeting decorum.

Councilmen Nick Viglione and Francis Heckmann voted against the code of conduct.

Mr. Viglione said after the meeting that it is not enforceable, while Mr. Heckmann objected to having to adhere to the dress code of "acceptable attire." He said as long as a council member is dressed decently, that should suffice.

He also said he is retired from the military, and will not be pressured into wearing a suit and tie.

In the finance committee report, Councilwoman Tina Reft reported on a successful launch of Paychex and the sewer fund accounting. Also, the 2019 audit is currently underway.

In the report of the facilities and equipment committee, the 2007 Chevy 3500 (one-ton dump) has been in the shop and is in need of a new bed. The new bed can be transferred to a new vehicle in the future.

In the community development committee report, TC Candy is hosting an Easter event on April 4, noon to 6 p.m., featuring Easter Bunny and children's activities.

To mark Earth Day, a borough-wide clean-up will be held on April 18 from 9 a.m. to noon. One hundred volunteers are sought to help clean up 50 borough streets. Volunteers receive bags and gloves for their work. Lunch will follow.

Contact the borough to sign-up to be a volunteer.

In the solicitor's report, council adopted a resolution to assign an address to a Rustic Ave. garage. At a prior meeting, the owner said he would be moving, but wanted to keep his business here. He asked for a rear address on his property as he would be using the garage in the back.

In questions-and-answers, Councilman Heckmann said he observed speeding dirt bikes.

The problem is the borough police cannot chase them as the borough would be responsible if the bikers were injured or killed.

The next council meeting will be on March 16.


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