Since 1939, Serving The South Pittsburgh Neighborhoods of • Allentown • Arlington • Beltzhoover • Bon Air • Carrick • Knoxville • Mount Oliver • Mount Washington • South Side Vol. 81 No. 24
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
Inside This Lastest plans Week’s South • Pittsburgh New campus
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for Division 4 presented to community
should be ready for next winter
By Margaret L. Smykla Contributing Writer The rebuilding of the Dept. of Public Works’ (DPW) 4th Division site was the focus of the Feb. 11 Zoom meeting hosted by city councilmen Bruce Kraus and Anthony Coghill, and DPW. The Division serves the disSee Page 3 tricts of both councilmen. Hilltop Construction will begin Free pubic wi-fi will shortly on the same site on be boosted at two City of Bausman St. in Knoxville Pittsburgh recreation cen- as the former 4th Division ters under legislation in- facility. troduced in City Council. Mr. Kraus said the hope is See Page 4 that next year at this time the facility will be open. Carrick DPW shut down the forConcord Presbyterian Church will host an Eas- mer facility five years ago ter Pancake Breakfast & when it became uninhabVendor Fair on March 20 itable as the building was toxic and unhealthy, and no from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. longer viable. Division 4 See Page 4 responsibilities have since Pittsburgh been split between divisions The City of Pittsburgh 3 and 5. Department of City PlanThe buildings were dening Public Art and Civic molished in 2018. Design (PACD) division Mr. Kraus said the delay in announced there will be a building a new facility was series of calls for artists in due to a landlord who did not 2021 to commission new want to sell nearby properpublic artwork as the city ty, thereby necessitating dehas dedicated more than signing a campus around $800,000 for public art it. Then, when the landlord projects across 18 neigh- had a change of mind and borhoods. decided to sell to the city, a @ sopghreporter.com new campus had to be redesigned. Mr. Kraus called it “a much better campus.” Classifieds................... Page 2 “There was a professionHistoric Review............. Online al, concerted effort to design Housing Court............... Online a campus,” he said, adding Zoning Board............... Page 2 he did not want it to interfere with the quality of life Or check them out at: in Knoxville. www.sopghreporter.com Continued on Page 3
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The new proposed campus for the Public Works Division 4 will be located in the same area as the former site. The plans were presented to the community during a Zoom meeting, although the plans are not final and may change.
Mt. Oliver to split building inspection duties By Tom Smith South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor
Mt. Oliver Borough Council, at its February meeting, made a change in who will be doing the third-party plan review for building inspections. Borough Manager Rick Hopkinson said a resolution before council was to appoint Henry A. Hegerle, P.E. to perform the administrative function of reviewing building inspections. The company currently performing the service, Building Inspection Underwriters (BIU) would continue to provide commercial and residential building inspections and rental and occupancy permit inspections. Mr. Hopkinson said in the past the borough has had challenges with BIU, mostly in having the third-party plan reviews completed prompt-
ly. He added there are three current projects that are taking an excessive amount of time for the review, waiting as long as four months. The borough has worked with Mr. Hegerle in the past,
but chose to go with BUI when their previous building inspector retired. Mr. Hopkinson said one of the deciding factors was that BUI was a “one stop shop” and could do everything.
Mr. Hopkinson noted Mr. Hegerle had no qualms with BUI doing the other inspections. The borough manager added at some point he would like to bring all buildContinued on Page 2
By Margaret L. Smykla Contributing Writer The introduction of the new Zone 3 commander was the focus of the Zone 3 Public Safety Council (Z3PSC) Feb. 15 Zoom meeting. Commander John Fisher began on the Pittsburgh police force in April, 1988. He was a classmate in the police academy with newly-retired Commander Karen Dixon, who he is replacing. Commander Dixon, who was in attendance, told him he was “blessed” to have a
zone with so many committed and passionate residents. Commander Fisher was born and raised in the South Hills. He is a graduate of Baldwin High School. He has been a Pittsburgh police officer for 34 years. Prior to that, he spent one year on the Mt. Oliver police force. Mr. Fisher was promoted to sergeant in March, 1995. He has worked in all three city police branches: operations, investigations, and administration.
He teaches criminal justice at Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC). He holds a master’s degree on the topic. “I like to think I’m very approachable,” Commander Fisher said. When asked about the Zone 3 strengths, he responded one strength is the younger officers and supervisors. He said the younger officers will grow and learn, and contribute new ideas. Another Zone 3 strength is Continued on Page 4
New commander introduced at Zone 3 Public Safety Council
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Mt. Oliver will reduce mechanical device fee for this year Continued from Page 1 ing inspections back “inhouse.” Joe Calloway from RE360 testified his company has a project in the borough that has been delayed multiple times and for months while they waited for the plans to be reviewed. The borough manager said, in the past, the experience with Mr. Hegerle has always been positive. Questioned on the length of the
contract would be, Mr. Hopkinson said it could be indefinite, until Mr. Hegerle fully retires or when the borough decides to bring all building inspections in-house with their own inspector. Mr. Hopkinson added they should work toward bringing building inspections in-house but could continue to use Mr. Hegerle until that time. Council approved a resolution making the change
Zoning Board hearings for Thursday, March 11
Pittsburgh’s Zoning Board of Adjustment Board meetings will be hosted on Zoom and streamed on YouTube Live on the Pittsburgh City Planning YouTube page at https://www.youtube. com/user/planpghvideo. To join the Zoom webinar, use the link: https://us02web.zoom. us/j/85171125255 or call 301-715-8592 with Webinar ID: 851 7112 5255. Those who are not planning to testify, should watch the YouTube Live stream to allow those testifying to be able to join the meeting. Information about each agenda item is available on the Virtual Zoning Board of Adjustment page at https://pittsburghpa.gov/ dcp/virtual-zba. To provide public comment: Join the virtual meeting and use raise hand function to speak. Call into the meeting on a telephone and use raise hand function by pressing *9 to request to speak. Those who wish to provide testimony this way, should register in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to ensure that they are provided time to speak. Zone case 7/21 on Thursday, March 11 at 9:00 a.m. is the appeal of Mark Firewicz, applicant, and Mark and Raeanne Firewicz, owners, for Amana Street/Romance Way, parcel 60-G-284, in the 29th Ward (Zoning District R1D-H). Applicant requests change of use from accessory garage to primary use Warehouse (General), to be used as care storage. Previously associated primary use was house since demolished. Variance: 911.02: Warehouse (general) is not a permitted use in the R1D zoning district. Zone case 45/21 on Thursday, March 11 at 9:40 a.m. is the appeal of Brian Link, applicant and owner, for 143 Merrimac Street, in the 19th Ward (Zoning District R1D-H). Applicant requests use of two-car parking pad at front of twounit dwelling. Variance: 903.03.D.2: Minimum 15’ front setback required. Zone case 16/21 on Thursday, March 11 at 10:00 a.m. is the appeal of Robert Steele, applicant, and Bailey Park Phase III Associates LP, owners, for 640 Science Street, in the 18th Ward (Zoning District R1D-M). Applicant requests new construction of single-unit detached dwelling with first-floor integral garage. Variance: 903.03.C.2: Minimum rear setback 30’ required, 19.2’ proposed; Maximum permitted height is 40’/3-stories, 4 stories proposed; 925.06.C: Minimum 3’ interior side setback permitted, 3.8’ and 2.9’ proposed.
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in reviewing building inspections. In other business, the borough was approached by Maxwell’s Pub to reduce or waive the Mechanical Devices Fee for 2021 due to reduced and restricted usage during the pandemic. “We don’t have any requirement to do that, we’re not obligated to do that, but it’s something we could consider,” Mr. Hopkinson said. Borough solicitor Emily Mueller said there were several other communities in the area that have reduced or waived the fee in 2020 or 2021. She recommended that if the council decided to reduce or waive the fee, to do it for only one year, “to see what next year would bring.” Councilwoman Christina Reft questioned what the fees currently were and how much the borough received from those fees. Mr. Hopkinson replied the highest fee was for pinball machines at $750 and juke-
boxes and similar machines were $500. Last year the borough collected about $4,000 from the fees. Mayor Frank Bernardini said everyone has suffered during the pandemic and said a reduction by a percentage would be reasonable. After discussion, the council passed a resolution decreasing the 2021 fee for mechanical devices by 50 percent. The council also approved a residential handicapped parking space on Sherman Street. In Old Business, council members questioned if there were any updates on the Mt. Oliver Fire Department’s request to be able to recover costs for its services using a billing service after incidents. The company would bill insurance companies for the type of apparatus needed, a charge built in to most insurance policies. Mr. Hopkinson said they
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are still gathering information. He was also questioned on when the new convenience store/restaurant in the 200 block of Brownsville Road would open. He said they are still proposing to open the convenience store under a Mercantile Use, but wouldn’t be able to open the restaurant and sell alcohol without an A2 Assembly Use and showing they had met the minimum seating requirement. Mr. Hopkinson said the borough should receive formal notice from the state when the liquor license is granted. Before adjourning, councilmembers commended the borough Public Works Department for the “excellent” snow removal during recent storms. Council President Amber McGough also wanted to remind residents there is a requirement for residents and businesses to clear their
sidewalks of snow and could face fines for not doing so. Mr. Hopkinson said citations were issued to those who didn’t clear their sidewalks. He added there was one elderly person who said they were unable to shovel the snow and would appreciate some help. Mayor Bernardini also referenced an incident with an Amanda Avenue resident where two borough police officers were threatened. He said the officers responded in an appropriate manner. However, he added anyone who has a complaint should follow procedures. “If they have a complaint, they can go through me or the chief of police or fill out a complaint form like they’re supposed to,” Mr. Bernardini said. He said he doesn’t have a problem with people calling him. “All residents, or non-residents, can file a complaint any time they want and we’ll address it,” he said.
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Plans for Division 4 presented to community at Zoom meeting Continued from Page 1 Under the current plan, the new 9,800-square-feet maintenance building was shifted southward in comparison to prior renderings. The reason, said project manager Dana Klann of Civil and Environmental Consultants, is that the old building location was a topography issue. The utilities were also a problem. The new acquisition made sense to rotate and move the building, she said. The materials storage will be moved to the northeast corner. The fuel will be kept in the same location. A car wash will be inside the building. There will be a yard debris drop-off on the property in addition to parking for employees. There will be lighting for the site for safety and visibility, with the exact location still to be determined. Signage will be added. Stormwater management is a goal, city project manager Calli Baker said. “We are trying to be green and friendly and save the environment,” she said. The proposed cul-de-sac at the bottom of the hill, as in the prior site plan, has been removed. Residential parking will be provided on Mathews Ave.
Recycling, and the salt dome, will remain on Route 51. Chris Hornstein, DPW’s acting director, said officials are studying the salt dome. He said while it would be beneficial to have the salt dome closer to the division site, the issue is finding a place for it. “The most pressing need is to get the division up and running,” he said. Ms. Baker said safety is key to the new facility: slow down traffic, better lighting, noise control, and pedestrian safety. “It is designed to respect the residential community around it,” she said. The 300-400 blocks of Mathews Ave. will be twoway. The 200 block and beyond to the east will be oneway. To a question from Mr. Kraus about the construction schedule, Ms. Baker said there is no exact start date as many permits are required and utility coordination is needed. But construction will begin this year, she said. Mr. Coghill said the new facility will go a long way toward resolving the snow removal problems, such as those at Christmastime and the week preceding it.
He said those problems could be traced to: the salt distribution on vehicles regulated by computers was not putting out enough salt; lack of salt; and six vehicles being broken down. As a result, the city was adjusting the trucks to drop more salt. Regarding the lack of salt, he said the 400 pounds per mile was increased up to 800 pounds per mile. Mr. Coghill said there would be better service once the 4th Division returns. With a new division, the salt and drivers will be nearby; under the current system, time is wasted as the trucks must travel here from the Strip District and West End. Mr. Coghill said the district takes longer to plow due to the hills, for which experienced Division 4 drivers are best. In the long term, newer and smaller vehicles are needed for those hills, he said. “I am tickled pink that next year at this time we will be up and running,” he said. “The administration has been fantastic through this,” he said. In questions-and-answers, it was asked whether the vehicles would be inside overnight. The response was that while most will be inside,
City looking to change steam heat provider for Downtown buildings The City of Pittsburgh has signed a letter of intent to move forward with entering into a formal energy services agreement with Clearway Community Energy (Clearway), experts in district energy, combined heat and power, and microgrids. The letter of intent states that Clearway will work closely with the city to create a plan for transitioning its current steam service to Clearway’s new district heating system. Currently, the city’s Downtown buildings are serviced by Pittsburgh Allegheny County Thermal (PACT), a customer-owned district heating company. “We look forward to continuing the tradition of safely providing reliable and costeffective service to our cus-
tomers,” said Ali Karvar, East Region general manager of Clearway Community Energy. “We are strongly committed to supporting the Pittsburgh community and excited for the opportunity to partner with the city.” “It is very important that Pittsburgh remain an enduring and adaptable city,” said Mayor William Peduto. “We recognize Clearway’s commitment to our community and feel confident about a smooth transition to their system. Most importantly, we are proud to be able to continue energy service that is both economical and environmentally-friendly.” PACT has been in talks with Clearway about a potential transfer for a few years. Following a board meeting on November 19,
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2020, the PACT board of directors announced their recommendation to move forward towards negotiating the execution of a development agreement with Clearway that will result in Clearway extending its district heating system into the Golden Triangle business district. “Signing this letter of intent is the first step after years of planning with our partners to identify a longterm, cost effective, sustainable, and resilient district energy system for our operations in the City-County Building and greater Downtown,” Mayor Peduto continued. “This agreement builds on the recommendation from PACT, our current steam provider, and an evaluation of the impacts on emissions, climate, economic cost, and system reliability for a partnership with Clearway that will allow us to continue advancing our 2030 climate objectives in a safe and affordable way. We look forward to continuing to work with the Clearway team to prepare an energy services agreement to send to City Council.”
some will be outside. A Bausman St. resident commented she and her neighbors felt a “safety presence” in having the facility and its personnel nearby. To a question of whether the streets will be done over, Ms. Baker said they will be resurfaced, resulting in the potholes going away. A participant said while recycling in McKinley Park is an eyesore, he hopes it does not move into the new division site. Mr. Hornstein said he has not been instructed to move the recycling location. Regarding the salt dome on Route 51, Mr. Coghill said he feels there should be some salt on campus. He said he likes the idea of snow removal vehicles rolling right out and into communities. To a question of why not all of Mathews Ave. would be two-way, Mr. K raus said it was the traffic engineer’s recommendation. The traffic engineer will be at the next meeting on the new facility, Mr. Kraus said. A Knoxville resident said she is concerned about where traffic on Mathews Ave. will flow; Bausman St. is already
busy, she said, with school busses every morning and afternoon. She said she will express those concerns to the traffic engineer at the next meeting. “It is paramount that we have the traffic engineer engaged in the process,” Mr. Kraus said. To a question if the site gates will be closed, Ms. Baker said yes for security
and safety. There will be a secure fence around the perimeter. An attendee commented he would hate to see local residents park their second vehicles in the parking spaces. Mr. Kraus said he would put thought into that issue. No date has yet been set for the next meeting on this topic.
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New commander introduced at Zone 3 Public Safety Council Continued from Page 1 all of the active community groups, he said. Commander Fisher said the highest number of police officers are in Zone 3 – 115 officers. “We have a full complement of officers and supervisors,” he said of Zone 3. Commander Fisher said he believes in pro-active patrols. He also supports officer-community engagement, like park-and-walks. “You have a right to be safe,” he said. He also said the public should be comfortable walking into a police station. To a question of what to do if one has a problem, he said to email him at john. firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Vicki, the Zone 3 clerk. To a question of which quality-of-life issues the police can address, he said he wants to know about the law enforcement-related ones. Others may not be for the police to address. The commander said there are growth opportunities in Beltzhoover and on the Hilltop, and other potential advancements in the zone neighborhoods. “The best days are coming,” he said of Zone 3. In questions-and-answers, Richard Carrington asked how the South Pittsburgh Peacemakers will fit in with the police.
The South Pittsburgh Peacemakers is an initiative of the South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace (SPCP). Mr. Carrington is the team leader of the South Pittsburgh Peacemakers. “I think outreach teams are crucial. “I welcome you wholeheartedly with open arms,” Commander Fisher said. Roy Blankenship, Jr., of the Hilltop Alliance, said Peacemakers is just what is needed. “They do great work,” he said. SPCP Director Rev. Eileen Smith said her organization is very proud of the work they do, and she would be happy to meet with the new commander. “We look forward to working with you,” she said. To an attendee’s question about illegal drugs in the area, Commander Fisher said the city has a Narcotics and Vice Unit that can be brought in. He added that law enforcement, education, and rehabilitation are needed, so it is a complex problem. Commander Fisher wondered aloud about the reason people come to this area to buy drugs. Is there a degree of acceptance? He said do not confront, but let them know their activity is not welcome. Call the police.
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He said word will get around that if you come in our neighborhoods to buy drugs, the residents will call the police on you. To report drug houses, call 911 or 311. The latter calls make their way to the drug task force. But addresses are needed. Another effective tool regarding disruptive properties is the Disruptive Properties list in which legal action is taken once a property receives numerous complaints. Regarding zone-wide crime, Commander Fisher said it is down 25 percent the past few years. “We want to keep it that way,” he said. To a question about homelessness in South Side Park, he asked if it was a police issue or, to be more pro-active, an issue the police and community can work on together to find a solution? The meeting began with attendees congratulating Commander Dixon on her
tenure as Zone 3 commander. She began the position in 2015. “You’ve been an extremely strong and responsive commander,” South Side Community Council (SSCC) President Barbara Rudiak said. She added, Commander Dixon made SSCC’s South Watch better by working with Duquesne University, attending meetings, conducting follow-up between meetings, and more. Commander Dixon said it was a tough decision to retire. She and her husband plan to travel. Donna Williams thanked her for all of her help with the block watches, National Night Out, and having officers attend various community events. “I’m really grateful,” Z3PSC president Liz Style said of Commander Dixon’s work in the zone. “I am loving retirement,
Free public Wi-Fi added to Hilltop recreation centers Free pubic wi-fi will be boosted at two City of Pittsburgh recreation centers under legislation introduced in City Council. Using $43,000 in CARES Act funding via the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, Citiparks plans to add public wi-fi access to the Phillips Rec Center in Carrick and the McKinley Rec Center in Beltzhoover.
This will effectively amplify the city’s current wi-fi that is provided at the centers, which allows residents to connect to it in the general rec center area, including their parking lots. Rec centers are currently closed to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. The technology upgrades were planned to be completed as early as last week.
Concord Presbyterian Church will host an Easter Pancake Breakfast & Vendor Fair on March 20 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Cost of breakfast is $5 for adults and $3 for kids under 6. All attending must wear facemasks and be socially distant. Hall capacity is 75
people, per COVID guidelines, including workers, vendors, diners and shoppers. The breakfast and vendor fair will take place in the Concord Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall, 1907 Brownsville Road, Pittsburgh PA 15210. Proceeds benefit holiday food baskets for those in need.
Easter Pancake Breakfast at Concord Presbyterian
and I wish you the same kind of love,” she said. “I gained a new respect for what leadership is,” Mr. Blankenship, Jr., said of the commander. “My kids love you, my whole family loves you. “People felt comfortable enough to bring things to your office,” he said. “You never turned us down for anything we asked,” Mr. Carrington said. New state Rep. Jessica Benham thanked her for all of the work she’s done. Commander Dixon told her, hopefully, she will come up with legislation to help with the unlicensed speak-
easies in the zone. City Councilman Bruce Kraus said he and Commander Dixon formed a “genuine friendship” over the past five years. “I still have your cell [number]. You ain’t going anywhere,” he said. “Your commitment made my job so much easier,” Commander Dixon said to the attendees. “I’ve been very blessed. I got to do the job I wanted. “Zone 3 was fantastic. I will miss it, but it was time,” she said. The next Z3PSC meeting will be at 6 p.m. on March 15.
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