By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Mt. O. City updates at Zoom meeting


Last updated 5/6/2021 at 8:16am

Crime statistics, urban farm news, and the Dept. of Public Works' 4th Division site update were among the topics at the April 27 Spring Meeting of the Mt. Oliver City/St. Clair Community Group.

Attendees at the Zoom gathering included City Councilman Bruce Kraus and Zone 3 community relations Officer Christine Luffey.

There will be a neighborhood spring cleanup from 9 a.m. to noon on May 22. There will be no Pitt or Duquesne University student volunteers as school will be ended. Residents should meet at the corner parklet, Mountain Ave. and Fisher St.

The meeting began with the "Love Your Block" planning committee report.

The committee will be installing a sign for the corner parklet. Contact the organization if you would like to be involved in the sign design, or be part of the committee.

In the parklet bench update, the benches are being refinished and repaired.

The grass was also cut. To a request for a mower from the city, Mr. Kraus said later in the meeting he would purchase a self-propelled mower the next day for the organization.

In the flag site update, the flag has been installed at the corner of Mountain Ave. and Wagner St. Additional funds of $2500 may be needed for the lights.

Sidewalks are being installed on Mountain Ave. and Fisher St. New crosswalks over to the farm from the school are being installed, and new steps up Burr St. are being put in.

Up to $170,000 in improvements are planned.

In the crime report, Officer Luffey said crime "is very low in Mt. Oliver City."

From January to April 27, there was: one criminal mischief; one disorderly conduct; one forgery complaint; seven harassment reports; one loitering complaint; one PFA violation; one reckless endangerment of another person; two simple assault reports; one stolen vehicle; one theft from auto; one theft; one terroristic threat complaint; one unauthorized use of a vehicle; and one drug arrest.

She highlighted a specific report: a call about shots fired in the area of the school at 4 p.m. on April 22.

Responding officers met with the school police and principal. While talking with the principal, another call came in from residents in the 400 block of McManus St. who said their house was shot at while they were sitting on their porch.

They said they saw a red Nissan drive by. Five minutes later, the same car came back and starting shooting at the porch. Officers saw the bullet holes.

Officer Luffey said she wanted residents to be aware of this incident, which is under investigation.

An attendee whose property is in the 400 block said it is the first time he is hearing of this.

Another issue is dirt bikes on streets, which are illegal. It is mostly juveniles riding rampant through city streets, she said.

They are not pursued on roadways as the police cannot risk injuries by having someone run over during a pursuit. A driver may also die in a pursuit.

If a pattern can be detected, officers can be sent to an area.

If names are learned, officers will talk to parents of consequences. Youngsters can be charged.

To a question of what residents can do, Officer Luffey said to call 911 and be very descriptive.

Questioned on what to describe as there are no license plates, she said any physical traits would be helpful. A photo or video from a cell phone would also be welcome.

Regarding abandoned cars, Officer Luffey said 17 vehicles from the Hilltop were removed that day.

Asked whether vehicles covered with tarp can be removed, she said officers must see the stickers. Attendees wondered aloud if a tarp is placed on purpose on vehicles to hinder their removal as there are at least three vehicles covered with tarps, and two of those on streets.

Mr. Kraus said that day was the first day of the Hilltop blitz, with 17 vehicles removed. Fifteen other cars did not meet the criteria.

Continue to call 311 about vehicles warranting action taken.

He asked attendees to email community group emeritus officer Suzanne Photos with information on five to six additional vehicles they would like removed, and she would email him the list.

The information needed is license plate, description of vehicle, including made and model, and where it is located. Photos are also helpful.

The towed vehicles will be put on property the city owns but not on streets, he said.

To a question about out-of-state plates, Mr. Kraus said a report needs to be filed, and then it would be up to the authorities to decide.

Next, Gisele Betances, of the Mayor's Office, said a Neighborhood Health and Safety community survey is available. For information on that and other projects, and to provide survey input, visit: . 

She also said a list of city streets scheduled for 2021 paving is available. Visit the Dept. of Mobility and Infrastructure website for more information.

She also reported Citiparks is doing great programming again at this time, such as the Kids of Steel Running Club, and Explorer Days.

To contact Ms. Betances, email: .

In the Hilltop urban farm update, new farm program manager Masoud Sayles said planting will take place this week.

The Hilltop Urban Farm, located on the former St. Clair Village site, is an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit entity.

Community group secretary Jamie Pierson said she hopes to schedule a tour of the farm.

She also said she is looking forward to the property transfer.

The property is owned by the federal government as the transfer of federal property into a public/private partnership takes time. The plan is for transfer to the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) to the Allegheny Land Trust.

Next, Jeph Martin, program coordinator, Hilltop Alliance, discussed the Property Stabilization Program.

It includes the Homeowner Assistance Program (HAP) which provides up to $30,000 in financial assistance to eligible Hilltop homeowners to rehabilitate and improve owner-occupied properties.

While HAP is for larger repairs, the Emergency Stability Grant provides $2,000 for emergency repairs.

Mr. Martin can be reached at: .

In his report, Mr. Kraus said groundbreaking for the new Dept. of Public Works' (DPW) 4th Division site took place a month ago, and that all plans and financing are in place.

Some permits are still needed to get construction underway.

The building will be fabricated.

The plan is for the new campus to be up and running for winter 2021.

DPW shut down the former Division 4 facility a few 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.

To a question of whether Mathews Ave. will become a cul-de-sac, Mr. Kraus said here will be a thru-way for pedestrians only, and a turn-around. Six to eight parking spaces will be provided.

To a complaint about residents storing trash all week long at the curb, thereby attracting raccoons, Mr. Kraus said the management of waste is the number one complaint to his office, garnering about 30 calls a week.

He said to take photos and email to him, and he will send to Environmental Services.

A truck will be sent to pick up the trash, and a letter sent to the homeowner on how to manage their waste.

Another complaint was of a two-year stagnant water site in a McManus St. backyard which draws mosquitoes. She will send Mr. Kraus a photo.

He said the site would create a health risk, and therefore could be cited.

For news on what is happening in the community, visit: .


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