By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

Borough Council discusses gun raffle, decorum policy and leash laws


Last updated 10/25/2022 at 11:20am

October's meeting of the Mt. Oliver Borough Council included discussion concerning fire department fundraisers, time limits on public comment and leash laws.

Fire Chief Ron Lowry reported the fire department responded to 34 incidents, 27 EMS and seven fire calls, the prior month. The company also added eight new members over the last three months.

"One of them is a student at Duquesne and was also a firefighter at West Virginia, so he already has his training. The rest of that group will be starting their essentials of firefighting training with SHACOG in January," Chief Lowry said.

He said the fire company will be holding a gun raffle with tickets costing $25 each. The drawing will be the second week in February with two guns awarded a day for five days.

Councilmember Lisa Pietrusza asked if there were any concerns about holding a gun raffle fundraiser in an area with high gun violence.

"Yeah, that's a concern," Mr. Lowrey replied. "The issue is, that's the only thing that does sell unfortunately."

He added the fire department is also considering restarting its fish fry this year, but costs have increased. He said a 50-lb. bag of potatoes is now $22; a 10-lb. box of fish is $62; and, the crab cakes they sell are now $86 a box.

"We're thinking we're going to try. I don't know the community can afford the prices we're going to have to charge," he said.

In further questioning about the gun raffle, council members questioned if the department has had similar fundraisers in the past and how much revenue was raised.

Mr. Lowrey said prior to COVID, they had a gun fundraiser with another fire department. Each department cleared between $19,000 and $20,000 after expenses.

Recycling was another discussion before council. Although Mount Oliver is too small for mandatory recycling, the borough council discussed the possibility of trying a voluntary program that residents could opt-in for a monthly fee.

As proposed for 2023, Waste Management would pick up recycling materials, including clean and dry aluminum cans, tin cans, plastic-types one and two, newspaper and mixed paper and corrugated cardboard, twice a month. A glass option could be added in 2024. Cost to individual residential units would be $3.53 per pick up.

Another option the council discussed was putting a recycling dumpster at a central location such as Transverse Park where residents could bring their recyclables, similar to the City of Pittsburgh glass and cardboard recycling containers in McKinley Park. There were concerns with this option over people dropping off unwanted materials at an unmonitored dumpster.

A third option discussed was having a monitored recycling dumpster for special events or at limited times.

Council members expressed concerns over the cost of the program and the education aspect of teaching residents what can and can't be recycled. It was also mentioned that people who want to recycle paper, cardboard and glass are already taking it to the city's McKinley Park recycling bins.

Since the recycling proposal was for discussion only, there wasn't a vote on the issue. Borough manager Rick Hopkinson said he would invite a representative from the Pennsylvania Resource Council to attend a future Borough Council meeting to provide more information.

Also, on the agenda for discussion was a possible "decorum policy," that would among other things, establish a time limit for how long an individual from the gallery could speak on a topic.

"I mean, I think it'd be great, but I'm not sure that it was going to happen. Even if we voted on it," said Councilmember Aaron Graham.

Mayor JoAnna Taylor said she didn't think that was a reason not to do it.

Councilmember Pietrusza said it would make it easier for people to attend meetings if there's not chaos, and everyone speaking over each other with no time limits and no order.

Councilmember Tina Reft said while she agrees with a three-minute limit on talking, the policy would also give the president of council the discretion to permit speakers to talk longer.

Council President Amber McGough was concerned about limiting people's speaking time.

"If we had 100 people showing up at this meeting every month and everybody had questions and we were here until 12, one, two o'clock in the morning, I would definitely be saying 'okay,'" she said. However, she said with the amount of people coming to the meetings, she wouldn't want to limit them in the amount of time they had to ask their questions.

Ms. McGough noted in the past the council has tried using timers and it didn't work then.

"The nice thing about having to lay this in place with flexibility built into it is that you don't have to wait till you have a problem down the road. And, so for today and the next foreseeable future, you as the council president can run the meeting that way and say we don't have to enact that because it's written in here that I can allow it but you have it for if you need it and then you don't have to wait till it's a problem," said Mayor Taylor.

Mx. Pietrusza asked for a feedback period to learn what the risks to residents are if they don't institute a policy, and risks to the residents if they do it.

"What are people's thoughts about what are the risks? What are the risks to residents whether we do it or whether we don't do it because both decisions have grace and wisdom," Mx. Pietrusza said.

In the public comment period, Emilie Nottle returned to the council to ask for more signs to remind people their dogs must be on a leash when off their owner's property. She visited the council in March to make the same request.

Although more signs were placed after her request, she would like to see more in the parks and areas where there have been dog incidents. Adding later that if people see what the consequences are for not having their dog on a leash, they may be more inclined to follow the rules.

Mr. Hopkinson said he might be able to add signs to additional streets, but to not expect signs on every street.

Ms. Nottle also asked if the information could be placed in the Borough's quarterly newsletter on a continuing basis. Mr. Hopkinson replied they could post it for a couple of issues but that it couldn't be in for every issue going forward.

In other borough business, the council approved one handicapped parking space and voted down a second.

A handicapped parking space was approved for 106 Stamm Avenue. The second application, for 304 Quincy Avenue, was declined due to already having off-street parking available to the resident. No additional off-street parking is a requirement for approval of a handicapped parking space in Mt. Oliver.


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