South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

South Side Clean Team to remain through the winter

PED money is down, but clean streets seen as a priority for Carson St.

 

December 15, 2020

The two-year East Carson Street Safety Improvement project continues in South Side. The project requires some below street level work in underground vaults along East Carson including at the South Side Welcome Center.

Updates filled the light agenda of the Dec. 8 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

In the PED update, city Councilman Bruce Kraus said revenue each weekend "descends a little bit more."

The PED is the enforcement of South Side Flats parking meters from 6 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

The funds must be invested back in the neighborhood for public safety, cleanliness, and infrastructure improvements. 

The PED has taken a financial hit with COVID-19 closures.

In its prime, the PED income was about $4,400 per weekend. It dropped with COVID-19, but rebounded to $2,200 with the limited reopening of restaurants and other businesses a few months ago.

For the weekend of Nov. 27-28, there was no revenue. For Nov. 6-7, the revenue totaled $1,832.58; for Nov. 13-14, it was $1,720.51; and for Nov. 20-21, the revenue was $1,418.42. 

The total PED revenue for November was $4,971.51.

The total 2020 revenue is $90,985.78. Last year, it was $210,000, for more than a 50 percent drop.

Mr. Kraus also reported the November cost for Block by Block, or the two-person Clean Team which maintains the E. Carson St. corridor and is paid by PED funds, was about $14,000. The larger amount represents a retroactive union wage increase for the past three months.

In November, the Clean Team removed 5,050 pounds of trash. They also removed 28 graffiti/stickers, and lent hospitality assistance 13 times.

The team also utilized a Billy Goat vacuum for leaf removal. The primary concentration of leaves were: East Carson, 10th, 18th, 19th, 20th, Sarah, Jane and 21st streets.

In relation to COVID-19, there was a heavy focus on sanitizing major touch points like bus shelters and benches.

The Clean Team cost is usually about $12,000 per month. But, he said, if only $20,000 is brought in the next four months, there will be a shortage without tapping the fund balance of $234,161.11.

Traditionally, the Clean Team is cut to one person in January-February, but with construction occurring, and not wanting to break up a team that does such a fine job, the Clean Team will remain as is for now, Mr. Kraus said.

He also said a means must be found to increase revenue, such as through grants, as there are desired purchases with PED funds, such as bikes for police officers.

But for now, "we have to really watch our pennies," he said.

The city's nighttime economy coordinator, Allison Harnden, said the National Restaurant Association reported spending was down 41 percent for October in Pennsylvania.

Some establishments are in "severe dire straits," she said.

On a positive note, Mr. Kraus said "I could not be happier" about the quality of work in the ongoing PennDOT safety improvement construction project on East Carson St.

Project upgrades include: milling and resurfacing; signage and signal updates; sidewalk improvements; ADA ramp and guiderail installations; high visibility crosswalks; and more.

Disruption to the public will occur when new lights and traffic signals are installed, he said.

Six months are completed of the 18-month project, which will extend from the Smithfield St. Bridge to 33rd St.

Mr. Kraus said he believes work will continue through the winter. He hopes there is a better footing in PED funds next fall, at which time a grand opening might be held to promote the district and businesses, he said.

He said he does not believe construction will stop due to the virus. Ms. Harnden noted it is great to have the work occurring at this time without the typical number of motorists or pedestrians to be disrupted.

South Side Community Council (SSCC) President Barbara Rudiak said she saw a sign at 20th and Carson streets listing the work to occur on the new signals, and which she commended. Mr. Kraus said he saw such signs walking up from Giant Eagle.

He also reported the annual Thanksgiving "Get Stuffed With Love" program, designed to ensure no city resident goes without a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, served 4,800 dinners this year. There are no income or age requirements. 

Candice Benson, family services coordinator at The Brashear Association, said many donations have been received for its holiday assistance program. Besides monetary gifts, unwrapped gifts have also been received.

The goal is to give each child three gifts, she said. Ages 9 to 12 receive gifts and gift cards, while ages 13 to 18 receive gift cards.

Referring to the National Restaurant Association report again, Ms. Harnden said 65 percent of operators expect to reduce staffing in the next few months, resulting in workers needing assistance down the road.

"I think the need will increase after the holidays," she said.

In reports, Ms. Rudiak updated participants on the SSSC's recent DAM, or Development Activities Meeting.

A DAM provides an opportunity for citizens, property owners, business owners, and stakeholders to learn about the proposals that affect them and to resolve concerns at an early stage of the application process.

At the Nov. 19 DAM, façade issues/plans were discussed for the Urban Tap building at 1213 East Carson St. The proposal involves opening a Mexican-themed restaurant at the site. The project will go before the Historic Review Commission in early 2021.

The next DAM on Dec. 17 will feature façade discussion for Historic Review on Excuses, 2526 East Carson St. A mural on a building at 2308 East Carson St. will also be discussed, although after the fact as it already appears.

Candice Gonzalez, executive director of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, reported the annual Holiday Mingle is cancelled in compliance with the COVID-19 pandemic advisory.

She also reported contractors are working at 11th and East Carson streets by the Welcome Center and under the sidewalk. She said the workers are good people and pleasant, and she does not mind having to be there by 7 a.m. each day.

"That is a significant disruption, but necessary," Mr. Kraus said.

Next, Ms. Rudiak thanked Lynn Kurhan, of UPMC Mercy, for her update on the UPMC Outpatient Center, 2310 Jane St .: walk-ins are still accepted, but there has been a change of hours.

The new times are: Mondays and Thursdays, 9 a.m. - 6:30 p.m .; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., and the first Saturdays of the month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Previously it was open every Saturday.

In his report of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA), Blake McLaren said that instead of the annual holiday party, donations were made to the Brashear Association's toy drive, and to the Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community.

The latter is for its community program of free meals on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The SSSNA Facebook page also has information on a gift card drawing for local businesses.

Mr. McLaren also reported a higher number of encampments than usual in South Side Park. In addition to cleaning up abandoned encampments with other volunteers, he spoke with one man encamped there.

Mr. McLaren said he would like to approach the matter on a more humane level, adopt a plan, and secure resources. Regarding the latter, he will reach out to the offices of Mr. Kraus and new state Rep. Jessica Benham for assistance.

Mr. Kraus said he engaged in conversation that day about the issue, and Mr. McLaren will be included along with others from his and the Mayor's Office.

Kathy Hamilton-Vargo, pastor of South Side Presbyterian Church, encouraged everyone "to keep the faith," as we will get through this, she said of COVID-19.

"Be kind to each other and attentive to those around you.

"Merry Christmas," she said.

The final news was from Gisele Betances, the new liaison with the Mayor's Office, who reported the Snow Angels program has begun.

The city is in need of volunteers for the program, in which snow shovelers help elderly residents and others with disabilities. The volunteers are matched with neighbors within a 10-minute walk.

Incentives for volunteers are being offered, like raffles for lunch with Mayor Peduto. Volunteers may also win a "Golden Shovel Award."

Mr. Kraus asked if the program might establish a sub-program for volunteers to clear major staircases in the Slopes, such as the 18th St. steps and the steps at Josephine and Berry streets.

For more information, visit: pittsburghpa.gov/snowangels, contact the Snow Angels Program at snowangels@pittsburghpa.gov or call 412-255-0846. 

The next Planning Forum meeting will be on Jan. 12.

 

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