South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

PWSA explains rate hike for stormwater efforts

 

September 28, 2021



By Margaret L. Smykla

Contributing Writer

A presentation by the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) on a proposed stormwater fee, and on stormwater planning efforts, kicked off the Sept. 14 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

Presenter Tony Igwe, senior group manager, stormwater, said stormwater matters because when it rains, excess water overflows rivers and homes are flooded. With better stormwater management, pollution and water into rivers can be reduced.

Today, Pittsburgh averages 38 inches of rain per year. Severe, highly-localized storms frequently overrun the sewer system and treatment capacity.

Occurrences of severe storms have increased dramatically in Allegheny County.

Too much stormwater plus sewer water equals pollution in our rivers. Mr. Igwe said it does not take much to overflow the system as it can happen with an inch or less of rainfall.

The Northeast U.S. and Pittsburgh have been getting much more rain over the past decades, as reflected in a 71 percent increase from 1958 to 2012.

Our system was not built for this volume of stormwater. Compounding the stormwater problem is that we have more pavements and hard surfaces than a century ago.

To tackle these stormwater challenges, PWSA is building an innovative stormwater management system designed to absorb or redirect as much rainwater as possible before it enters our overburdened sewer system, he said.

Mr. Igwe said before PWSA changes how it manages stormwater, it wants to change how it bills for stormwater.

Beginning in 2022, stormwater will be billed differently, pending Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approval.

Even if a parcel has no water meter, it will be eligible for payment of a stormwater bill to PWSA. Mr. Igwe said this will be more fair and equitable than billing by meter usage.

PWSA determined three tiers for all residential properties. Those in Tier 2, which over 70 percent of Pittsburgh residential properties will be in, would see an increase from a $5.96 monthly rate in 2022 to $7.95 in 2023.

By changing how PWSA charges for stormwater, improvements in the stormwater process, over time, can be made. The payoff should be fewer basement backups and less pollution, he said.

To report basement backups and flooding, call PWSA’s emergency dispatch at 412-255-2423; call 311; or report it using the myburgh app: pittsburghpa.gov/311/myburgh .

An attendee commented he used to pay $100 for water every quarter 22 years ago. Now, he pays $200 a month.

He said there has been no change in the 100-year-old neighborhood pipes, and the South Side is one of the oldest with combined sewage.

He said those residents will be angry if there is a rate increase with no change in infrastructure.

Ana Flores, associate project manager, said there are often projects occurring outside one’s neighborhood that benefit that neighborhood.

For more information, visit: http://www.pgh2ostormwater.com .

Next, nighttime economy coordinator Allison Harnden delivered the Parking Enhancement District (PED) report for July and August.

The PED is the enforcement of South Side Flats parking meters from 6 p.m. to midnight on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The expansion of PED hours to include Thursdays began last month.

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

In the July report, Ms. Harnden said revenue totaled $12,278.97, which is more than double last July’s PED revenue during the COVID closures.

For August, 2021, the PED revenue totaled $17,248.42, which includes the additional Thursdays revenue; last August, PED revenue totaled $7,648.

The 2021 revenue to date is $92,923.08. The PED trust fund totals $203,574.28. The total revenue since the PED began in April, 2017, is $771,721.69.

In license changes, there was a return from safekeeping for: Club Café, Mallorca Restaurant, and Dancing Crab Thai Noodle House. A person-to-person transfer due to new ownership occurred at the Carson Street Deli.

In her report of the Clean Team, or Block by Block which maintains the E. Carson St. corridor, Ms. Harnden said trash collection averages about 10,000 pounds per month. Weed and graffiti removal also took place.

The Clean Team removes trash and graffiti/stickers, lends hospitality assistance, and more.

City Councilman Bruce Kraus said total PED revenue would have surpassed $1 million by now if not for COVID.

He called the PED “a resounding success.”

As Parking Authority agents are frequently accosted, police officers will accompany them, he said.

Regarding a St. Patrick’s Day parade, it is planned for September 18, after which partiers from Pittsburgh and surrounding states typically descend on South Side. Portable toilets are planned at a cost of about $3,000.

Mr. Kraus said a part-time third worker was added to the Clean Team due to the condition of the streets on Monday mornings. He would like to make the worker full-time if the problem persists.

Funding for a third worker is from the PED trust fund.

Mike Clark, of the South Side Community Council (SSCC), said he would like to know the ticket breakdown, and why some infractions are ticketed while others are not.

He said if a police officer is added to every enforcement agent trip, why not have all infractions ticketed as quality-of-life issues abound, such as parking in crosswalks and being blocked by illegally parked cars, to send a message.

David Onorato, of the Parking Authority, said he can produce a breakdown of tickets which he will give to Mr. Kraus’ office.

He also said the Parking Authority is having trouble filling positions, and is down 15 employees.

Next, in Old Business, Barbara Rudiak, president of the SSCC, said a Development Activities Meeting (DAM) on August 19 featured two presentations involving Rite Aid.

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 Rite Aid’s 1915 E Carson St. store, the front facade was painted prior to contacting the Historic Review Commission (HRC) and learning that unpainted brick in the historic district cannot be painted.

Rite Aid is currently working with the HRC and the Local Review Committee to remove the paint.

The other Rite Aid is located at 2655 E. Carson Street, or the former American Eagle Outfitters. Again, changes in the facade were discussed within the context of the historic district guidelines.

Ms. Rudiak also reported that the Esser Plaza project went before both the HRC and the Art Commission. The HRC commissioners approved the project with one caveat.

A North Side canal stone repatriation group is seeking restoration of the old canal stones that were dispersed throughout the city. Esser’s Plaza has 62 of those stones. If the plaza can no longer use the stones in its renovation plan, the HRC asked that they be informed of the substituted stone.

The Art Commission asked for a change in the paver pattern. New plans were drawn up and a revised application was submitted to the Art Commission seeking final approval at its Sept. 22 meeting.

All of the SSCC’s DAMs are recorded, and can be viewed on SSCC’s YouTube page.

In the report of the upcoming DAM of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA), president Blake McLaren said it will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 23 to review one project: 32/44 Pius St. development.

For details, visit: https://pittsburghpa.gov/dcp/dev-activities-meeting. A zoom link will be published at the site before the meeting.

In committee reports, Candice Gonzalez, executive director of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, reported that Chamber and the URA of Pittsburgh will sponsor the South Side Sidewalk Shop & Stroll event on Saturday, Oct. 9 starting at 11 a.m.

Everyone is invited to retail shop and enjoy local bars and restaurants, and then stroll over to City Theatre for its 2:30 p.m. open house with treats and news about their live "in theater" featured performances starting that day.

Ms. Gonzalez also reported that the Chamber will hold its Annual Meeting and board of directors election on Tuesday, Oct. 12, at 5:30 p.m. in accordance with Chamber bylaws, most likely in Zoom format.

In the report of the SSCC, Ms. Rudiak said the second general meeting of the year would be held on Wednesday, Sept. 29, at 6:30 p.m. More information will be available shortly via the SSCC’s social media site.

Ms. Rudiak also reported that the SSCC held a virtual meeting on Sept. 1 with residents and city/state officials to discuss the increase in crime and disruption in the residential areas of the South Side due to the large numbers of people coming to East Carson St. on Thursdays through Sundays.

Officials responded to recommendations and provided clarity on various practices, while residents shared their experiences and concerns. She said the intent is to continue the discussion moving forward.

The meeting can be viewed on the SSCC’s YouTube page.

In SSSNA news, the 21st Annual StepTrek will be held on Oct. 2 The annual non-competitive, self-guided walking tour of the Slopes is the organization’s biggest fundraiser.

The next Planning Forum Zoom meeting will be on October 12.

 

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