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By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

Boro Council considers options to help Ottillia Street resident


Last updated 4/1/2021 at 8:14am

Gene Smith asked the Mt. Oliver Borough Council for help in keeping cars from sliding into his Ottillia Street property. Multiple times cars have ended up damaging his fence and even into his yard and porch. The Borough Council is considering what can be done to help.

The first order of business for the Mt. Oliver Borough Council at its March public meeting was to discuss a resident's request for steel poles to prevent cars from sliding into his Ottillia Street property.

Borough Manager Rick Hopkinson said Gene Smith on Ottillia Street had two requests. The first request was for steel poles to be placed in front of his home.

Mr. Hopkinson explained that on several occasions and again recently a car slid down Cathedral Street and into Mr. Smith's fence and yard. He added, unfortunately the borough doesn't have any control over Cathedral Street since it's in the City of Pittsburgh, along with half of Ottillia.

"I don't see anything in the ordinances that would prohibit us from granting that request," he said. "If council wanted to grant something like that, we would have to consider who would be responsible for installing that. Would it be the property owner or would we split it 50-50 so that we could control the design of the poles?"

He said it's not something they have specifications for from the past.

Council President Amber McGough said she knows of three- or four-times cars have slid down the hill into his property. Each time the homeowner had to submit an insurance claim to repair the damage.

She and Councilman Nick Viglione said the city maintenance on Cathedral has been lacking in recent years.

Councilwoman Christina Reft questioned whether Mr. Smith expected the borough to pay for installing the poles.

Mr. Hopkinson replied he thought Mr. Smith wanted, potentially, the borough to pay for the installation.

"It's up to you guys, I don't know that we should be doing the entire thing," he added.

There were questions whether the poles would be located in the sidewalk or in the street right of way. Mr. Hopkinson said there were ordinances governing placing things in the sidewalk, but not in the street.

Ms. McGough said placing the poles in the street leads into the second problem Mr. Smith is having: The sidewalk on Ottillia is level with the street and water coming down Cathedral isn't being captured by the sewers and is coming onto his property.

Next year, the borough is planning to do work on the street and they are looking at ways to divert the water, she added.

Mayor Frank Bernardini said it appears there's a clogged sewer in the city on Cathedral and it should be the city's responsibility to channel the water away. "It's on the city's side that's causing all the problems."

"I think we all agree on that," Ms. McGough said.

Mr. Bernardini suggested Mr. Smith attend the next Mt. Oliver City/St. Clair Community Group meeting and voice his complaints to City of Pittsburgh councilman Bruce Kraus or a member of his staff because "the borough can't do nothing about it. There is no curb."

Mr. Hopkinson said they will be in the Church Avenue and Anthony Street area this year in anticipation of doing work in there in 2022. Although, they can contact the city about the problem, he still wants the problem to be on the borough's radar for next year.

Borough solicitor Emily Mueller said if poles are places in the sidewalk, it should be the property owner's responsibility. However, if something is placed in the street, the borough should have input into what is being installed and she cautioned about doing something permanent. In other municipalities, she said property owners have placed things like boulders or walls in the right-of-way that have caused problems in having them removed.

"It's our right-of-way so we can regulate what goes in there," she said.

After further discussion, the council decided to ask Gateway Engineers for options on what could be placed to prevent cars from sliding into Mr. Smith's fence and yard.

In further business, Ms. Mueller said Pennsylvania American Water Company (PAWC) has revised its standard shut-off agreement to have the same agreement with all municipalities. The agreement allows municipalities to contact PAWC to shut off water service for delinquent sewage bills.

The new agreement had to be authorized by the end of March or PAWC was going to terminate the current agreement.

Ms. Mueller said she had two issues with the new agreement:

One issue was if the costs associated with sending notice and shutting off service is more than the fee then PAWC will charge the borough the actual costs. She was concerned because the agreement doesn't state on what the actual costs would be based.

"They use terms that don't really explain how they will arrive at the actual costs," she said.

Ms. Mueller said PAWC said the language in the agreement is in the current agreement and that PAWC has always charged the normal fee and not tried to collect any excess amount.

Her second concern had to do with wording in the indemnification paragraph. She said in the wording, the borough agrees to indemnify PAWC for certain things.

She said she would like to have PAWC make the wording neutral by agreeing that if PAWC wanted the borough to indemnify them, they should indemnify the borough also.

Ms. Mueller said PAWC told her 45 municipalities had already signed the new agreement and she didn't know if they would be willing to work with Mt. Oliver on making a separate agreement.

Because of the short deadline, she said there were two options: The council could authorize her to request the changes and if granted by PAWC, approve the agreement or approve the agreement, as is.

The council voted to authorize the agreement subject to Ms. Mueller's negotiations with PAWC.

The next agenda item had to do with people parking on Walnut and Luther streets along the cemetery. The complaint was that it was too tight for most vehicles to pass when cars are parked on both sides.

Multiple council members said they looked at the situation and didn't see any problems with clearance for vehicles to get through.

Police Chief Matt Juzwick said he didn't see a problem with people getting through. Occasionally, there will be a car parked illegally, but the police would be able to handle the situation with towing rather than changing the Borough Code to prohibit parking.

He said the complaints he has heard have been that cars are parking half in the grass and half in the street obstructing traffic.

Council decided to table the discussion and monitor the situation to see if further action is warranted.


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