South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

Mt. Oliver Borough to consider changing rental inspections times


Last updated 2/9/2022 at 8:34pm

Mt. Oliver Borough will be enforcing its snow removal ordinance more strickly. Property owners not clearing their sidewalks within 24-hours will get a warning and could face fines of up to $1,000. See more details in News/Local News

The postponed January meeting of the Mt. Oliver Borough Council began with a public hearing requested by former mayor Frank Bernardini.

Mr. Bernardini expressed concerns about recent proposals in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to limit situations when police can make traffic stops. He said there were eight hit-and-runs in the borough, which could be the cause of many vehicles having damaged bumper, broken tail lights and dented fenders.

"If people are going to drive through the borough, they better stock up on duct tape and bailing wire because the police will stop them," Mr. Bernardini continued.

He also complained nuisance properties that have been cited and have had hearings before the district magistrate have been given more time to remedy the situation.

"Everyone knows that 30 days turns into 60 days then 90 days and six months and the people are still in there," he said.

He complained about all the shootings that have happened recently in the borough and the surrounding area, blaming it on transients. When the code enforcement officer or the police file a complaint and it goes to the magistrate's office, that's all they can do, he added.

Council President Amber McGough asked Police Chief Matt Juzwick if there were any plans for the borough police to change any policies or procedures for traffic stops now in place. He confirmed there weren't any changes being planned.

In the Fire Department Report, Fire Chief Ron Lowrey said the fire company received an almost $30,000 matching grant from Duquesne Light to put LED lighting in the firehouse. The grant requires a contribution of about $4,000 from the fire company. The company will also pay $4,000 for additional electrical work to be done on the building during the lighting contract.

Mr. Lowrey estimated the fire company may save as much as $8,000 per year in energy costs after the lights lights are installed.

He said they are continuing to recruit new fire company members and are working with a consultant to produce a recruitment video and improve their social media presence.

In general business, the council approved the appointment of Steve Wilharm as the emergency management coordinator; Re-affirmed the authorized signers for the pension plans; And, approved an application from Mac & Mac Properties for a parcel consolidation of 106 and 108 Ormsby Avenue, as recommended by the Planning Commission.

The council postponed action on accepting the resignation of Alicia Wentzel from the Planning Commission and appointing Dave Beltz to the position.

The council chose to postpone a decision on approving a handicapped parking space request for 109 Fremont Street until further information is received.

Council also discussed the possibility of changing the Rental License Inspection Renewal from every year to every three years.

Borough Manager Rick Hopkinson said in the past when the borough contracted the inspection out, the inspections were completed in as little as 10 minutes and they were able to complete the 950 inspections every year. However, now inspections are performed in-house and are more extensive, taking as much as two hours each with more documentation and follow up.

He said under the old inspections 60 to 70% of the inspections were passing the first time where now 95% are not passing on the initial inspection.

While Mr. Hopkinson said he thinks it's a good standard to have, he didn't think the borough could commit to that volume now. He suggested dividing the borough in thirds or doing the inspections based on when the previous inspection was performed.

Mr. Hopkinson said even though owners get the requirement checklist in the renewal application, they are surprised how comprehensive the inspection can be. With the stricter inspections, he also suggested a longer grace period for property owners to make necessary repairs to gain the rental license.

Code Enforcement Officer Phil Quattrone agreed saying, "just getting over the anger factor is going to take a little while."

"We don't want to sacrifice our standard, but at the same time we want to make sure we can get everybody in and everybody up to that standard. I think systematic way is the best way to do it instead of being overwhelmed with 950 units every year," Mr. Hopkinson said.

Councilmember Lisa Pietrusza asked if when the standards were changed last August, if it increased homelessness in the borough. Mr. Hopkinson said the change was for property owners and he didn't feel it resulted in an increase in homelessness.

Councilmember Tina Reft said that after property owners go through the process the first time, their properties are improved and with each following inspection they will be kept up to set standards.

It was also noted there is a time of sale inspection that is also required. Each year, around 900 borough properties are sold and inspected. Mr. Quattrone said the inspection isn't quite as strenuous and buyers can agree to make some needed repairs after the sale goes through.

Council will consider changing the Rental Inspection to every three years and to give the code enforcement officer discretion in how much time is given a property owner for needed repairs. The change, if approved, will not affect the yearly Rental License and fee.


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