South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Lastest plans for Division 4 presented to community

New campus should be ready for next winter


Last updated 3/3/2021 at 8:41pm

The new proposed campus for the Public Works Division 4 will be located in the same area as the former site. The plans were presented to the community during a Zoom meeting, although the plans are not final and may change.

The rebuilding of the Dept. of Public Works' (DPW) 4th Division site was the focus of the Feb. 11 Zoom meeting hosted by city councilmen Bruce Kraus and Anthony Coghill, and DPW. The Division serves the districts of both councilmen.

Construction will begin shortly on the same site on Bausman St. in Knoxville as the former 4th Division facility.

Mr. Kraus said the hope is that next year at this time the facility will be open.

DPW shut down the former facility five years ago when it became uninhabitable as the building was toxic and unhealthy, and no longer viable. Division 4 responsibilities have since been split between divisions 3 and 5.

The buildings were demolished in 2018.

Mr. Kraus said the delay in building a new facility was due to a landlord who did not want to sell nearby property, thereby necessitating designing a campus around it. Then, when the landlord had a change of mind and decided to sell to the city, a new campus had to be redesigned.

Mr. Kraus called it "a much better campus."

"There was a professional, concerted effort to design a campus," he said, adding he did not want it to interfere with the quality of life in Knoxville.

Under the current plan, the new 9,800-square-feet maintenance building was shifted southward in comparison to prior renderings.

The reason, said project manager Dana Klann of Civil and Environmental Consultants, is that the old building location was a topography issue. The utilities were also a problem.

The new acquisition made sense to rotate and move the building, she said. The materials storage will be moved to the northeast corner.

The fuel will be kept in the same location. A car wash will be inside the building.

There will be a yard debris drop-off on the property in addition to parking for employees.

There will be lighting for the site for safety and visibility, with the exact location still to be determined.

Signage will be added.

Stormwater management is a goal, city project manager Calli Baker said.

"We are trying to be green and friendly and save the environment," she said.

The proposed cul-de-sac at the bottom of the hill, as in the prior site plan, has been removed. Residential parking will be provided on Mathews Ave.

Recycling, and the salt dome, will remain on Route 51.

Chris Hornstein, DPW's acting director, said officials are studying the salt dome. He said while it would be beneficial to have the salt dome closer to the division site, the issue is finding a place for it.

"The most pressing need is to get the division up and running," he said.

Ms. Baker said safety is key to the new facility: slow down traffic, better lighting, noise control, and pedestrian safety.

"It is designed to respect the residential community around it," she said.

The 300-400 blocks of Mathews Ave. will be two-way. The 200 block and beyond to the east will be one-way.

To a question from Mr. Kraus about the construction schedule, Ms. Baker said there is no exact start date as many permits are required and utility coordination is needed.

But construction will begin this year, she said.

Mr. Coghill said the new facility will go a long way toward resolving the snow removal problems, such as those at Christmastime and the week preceding it.

He said those problems could be traced to: the salt distribution on vehicles regulated by computers was not putting out enough salt; lack of salt; and six vehicles being broken down.

As a result, the city was adjusting the trucks to drop more salt. Regarding the lack of salt, he said the 400 pounds per mile was increased up to 800 pounds per mile.

Mr. Coghill said there would be better service once the 4th Division returns.

With a new division, the salt and drivers will be nearby; under the current system, time is wasted as the trucks must travel here from the Strip District and West End.

Mr. Coghill said the district takes longer to plow due to the hills, for which experienced Division 4 drivers are best. In the long term, newer and smaller vehicles are needed for those hills, he said.

"I am tickled pink that next year at this time we will be up and running," he said.

"The administration has been fantastic through this," he said.

In questions-and-answers, it was asked whether the vehicles would be inside overnight. The response was that while most will be inside, some will be outside.

A Bausman St. resident commented she and her neighbors felt a "safety presence" in having the facility and its personnel nearby.

To a question of whether the streets will be done over, Ms. Baker said they will be resurfaced, resulting in the potholes going away.

A participant said while recycling in McKinley Park is an eyesore, he hopes it does not move into the new division site.

Mr. Hornstein said he has not been instructed to move the recycling location.

Regarding the salt dome on Route 51, Mr. Coghill said he feels there should be some salt on campus. He said he likes the idea of snow removal vehicles rolling right out and into communities.

To a question of why not all of Mathews Ave. would be two-way, Mr. Kraus said it was the traffic engineer's recommendation. The traffic engineer will be at the next meeting on the new facility, Mr. Kraus said.

A Knoxville resident said she is concerned about where traffic on Mathews Ave. will flow; Bausman St. is already busy, she said, with school busses every morning and afternoon.

She said she will express those concerns to the traffic engineer at the next meeting.

"It is paramount that we have the traffic engineer engaged in the process," Mr. Kraus said.

To a question if the site gates will be closed, Ms. Baker said yes for security and safety. There will be a secure fence around the perimeter.

An attendee commented he would hate to see local residents park their second vehicles in the parking spaces.

Mr. Kraus said he would put thought into that issue.

No date has yet been set for the next meeting on this topic.


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