|Mt. Olive Baptist Church Focus of '19 Black History Month|
Dana Watkins (photo, left) Wednesday night explained to the Coraopolis Borough Council that the theme for Black History Month 2019 will be the history of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church. Ms. Watkins went on to point out that this is the 120th anniversary of the church, which was founded in 1899. At its February 13th meeting, Council will see and hear a presentation by Roselle White and Pastor Michael Peterson.
It was an otherwise routine Council meeting. Due to the holidays, departments and agencies had people taking time off, so there was not much to report.
Police Chief Ron Denbow delivered the monthly police report, including 108 investigations, 20 arrests, $240 in property recovered, 14 motor vehicle violations, five vehicles towed, and nine alarm calls.
Council learned that bids are still being accepted for the new waste pickup and hauling contract. The deadline for bids is February 1.
$322,000 has been collected from delinquent property. This allows for more capital improvement in the borough.
Borough Manager Ray McCutcheon reported that 2018 revenues were up 13%, mostly due to new businesses locating in town. Expenditures for street and road repairs in 2018 came in under budget at $700,000. The next major projects, which will begin as soon as weather permits, will be the complete redoing of Fourth Avenue and Mulberry Street. Grant applications are now out for the projects after that, which will be for Cable Way, State Avenue and Montour Street.
The Americans with Disabilities Act improvements on First and Second Avenues is proceeding as weather permits. The entire project is one third complete, meaning one third of the new ramps have been built. A $256,000 grant is paying for this work.
Allegheny County has denied Council's application for a grant to cover work on Euclid Avenue. The grant will be resubmitted for the 2019 round of approvals.
Another flood plain management meeting will be held in late January but a date has not yet been set.
The December payroll of $145,074.49 and December invoices of $180,329.07 were approved.
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|Neville Supervisors Ponder Water Proposal|
The Neville Island Board opened its January work session Thursday night by listening to Nick Hoban of CWM Environmental Services (photo, right) present a proposal to provide emergency water system services.
CWM is a South Park based environmental firm, specializing in water and wastewater system management. It has recently begun handling Neville's monthly water testing.
Hoban explained that Neville would pay $500 a month for CWM to be on 24 hour a day, seven day a week call. Whenever their services were needed they would respond immediately at a cost of $85 an hour. Their men would be on the job in the time it took to drive from South Park, a 30 minure trip up I-79.
CWM carries its own insurance. It services 60 other townships and municipalities. The company can handle either biological or chemical problems.
Hoban said the initial contract would be for two years and would then be renewed in five year increments.
Neville does not have the manpower, expertise or equipment to provide these services on its own. But several Board members were a bit hesitant to commit $6000 a year and then $85 an hour. The agreed to discuss the matter among themselves over the next week and take action at the offici8al public meeting January 10.
On more immediate matter, Board members pointed out that street conditions on the Island have deteriorated to the point of crisis. Potholes are becoming more common, deeper and wider.
With a week of good weather forecast, members asked if something could not be done right away on the worst locations. But it was pointed out that street crews could not work in wet conditions, and with all the recent rain, even on sunny days, everything was still wet. The Board agreed to monitor the situation and order crews into action as soon as possible.
Blighted property was discussed. A Front River Road home has become a particular concern. The owners have died and the people who inherited the property are also deceased. Repeated property maintenance violations have occurred but there is no one to notify. The property has long been paid off, so there is no mortgage, meaning no bank is involved. The taxes are paid so there are no grounds to take over the property. Possible buyers don't know from whom to purchse the home. The matter must be pursued through the Allegheny County Blighted Property Agency. The Board was informed it must pass a resolution stating that no liens exist on the home so the County can place it for sale. The Board promised to pass such a resolution at its January 10th meeting.
The other issue was updating the Municipal Building sound system. Hollowood Sound has submitted a bid. Board members decided to seek additional bids, including from Sound Shack in Gibsonia.
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|Neville Board Faces Environment, Water Details|
At their December 2018 meeting, the Neville Board of Commissioners worked their way through a long list of end of year issues. But the most important concerned environmental details and the island's water syatem.
Commissioners Jim Brown, Gig Mundell, Al Whitaker, Rick Rutter and Bill Leon were all present, along with Engineer Ned Mitrovich (black shirt, photo right), Solicitor Charles Means (standing, photo below) and Police Chief Haney.
First, the Board approved the 2019 tax rate. There is NO tax increase for island residents.
The 2018 Volunteer Awards were presented to the Neville Volunteer Fire Company and Neville Green, the organization devoted to planting trees and flowers on the island.
The Board has paid off the streetsweeper and it is in full repair and ready to go.
The Pennske Truck Rental Pond has been successfully rehabilitated and it has passed state inspection. It now meets regulations.
Columbia Gas has continued to ignore communications from the Board. Columbia is in violation of state and county environmental regulations. The company developed a remediation plan which met requirements but has never implemented it. The last official deadline has passed and the Board can now take Columbia Gas to the Magistrate for noncompliance. As best the Board can determine, Columbia owns one building and leases a second one.
Another problem has arisen with Columbia Gas. They are allowed to use a parking lot adjacent to the Fire Company, with the agreement that when the Island holds events at the Park, C.G. will move its vehicles to free up parking for the event. The last two events, C.G. has not cleared the lot.
Shenango has informed the Board that by the end of 2019 it should have completed cleaning up its former site, including removing the network of pipes. It will then put the site on the market.
Calgon's situation has not changed. Calgon is behind schedule and asked for an extension. Neville gave it six more months but it still is not in compliance.
A $19,000 bid to redo the water lines along Walnut Street to eliminate the ponding which occurs there should allow the work to be done in 2019.
A brand new Neville Island website will go online in January. It's finished and is now being proofread by Board members before being uploaded to a server. It will include phone numbers, links, etc.
CWM Environmental Services is now handling Neville's water testing and in the last month everything is fine.
The Board briefly discussed an issue which it will have to examine in greater detail in January. Sediment (not sewage) entering the water lines can stress or even damage pumping and filtering equipment. But several factors are complicating this problem. More information must be gathered so it can be discussed much more extensively.
The island's parks have all been winterized and are ready for the off season.
The new boiler in the Neville Island Municipal Building has been installed and is working. Despite the cold weather, the building, including the Board Room, is quite comfortable
The Board spent considerable time discussing a problem at the Robert Morris campus. When special events are held, pedestrians are parking and walking across the four lane highway as it descends from the Coraopolis Bridge and makes a sweeping right turn to head up the island. Drivers are driving fairly fast across the bridge and have not slowed down before they reach the pedestrian crossing. Since it is not an official crossing, it is not marked on the pavement. Nor are there flashing lights or any caution signs on the bridge. The problem becomes especially serious after dark because of a lack of lighting. When the campus was first built, Robert Morris University promised it would provide campus police whenever an event was held. At the most recent event, no police at all were present within sight of the road. Board members agreed to contact Robert Morris and express their concerns. Neville does not have the police resources to man the crossing.
Members of the audience raised the issue of Waste Management trash pickup. They explained that they will set two trash cans out by the curb but only one will be emptied. The next week, that forces residents to set trash bags out next to the two cans. But there are Raccoons, Possum and other animals roaming the island, and they easily tear open the trash bags, strewing trash along the curb, which Waste Management employees then do not clean up. This is a recurring problem. Board members agreed and pointed out that they have been dealing with this problem for quite some time. When they call Waste Management, its officials agree and promise to do better, but the men on the trucks don't change. The Board explained that the long range solution would come each time they renew the contract, but no other company ever submits a bid, so Waste Management feels no pressure. However, Chairman Bill Leon promised to again call Waste Management and express Board dissatisfaction.
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|Mayor Declares Dec 16-22 Danny Larocco Week|
Coraopolis Mayor Shawn Reed opened the December Borough Council meeting by reading an official declaration and presenting Councilman Danny Larocco a certificate honoring him for a lifetime of service to the community. Reed declared December 16-20 Danny Larocco Week in Coraopolis.
Larocco, who recently turned 90, has lived his entire life in Coraopolis except for several years in the infantry in the Philippines and Korea. He has served on Council, held various other positions, and remained active in the Keith Holmes Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He has marched in 71 Memorial Day Parades, and in 2018 was Grand Marshall of the event (photo, below right).
Larocco was a wild child. He started working in the Glass House at age 12, then lied about his age and forged his parents' signatures to enter the army at 16. He dropped them a postcard from the train. He weas gone three days before they got the postcard.
There were times he regretted it. LSTs were dropping the men off in six feet of water and they had to hold their guns over their heads and wade ashore. But Larocco was short, and with the heavy pack and the gun was in way over his head. He came close to drowning. Several soldiers held him up and towed him to shallow water.
It got worse. As they came ashore there was hand to hand combat. He was viciouasly slashed across his left hand and wrist. Larocco used his bayonet to kill his attacker, but he was bleeding badly and there were no medics. He bandaged it with a handkerchief and kept going. It took weeks to heal and he still bears a really ugly scar. "They taught us how to use our bayonets in basic training, but I never dreamed the very first time I'd have to use mine would be the first man I ever killed. You do what you have to."
But he addressed Council and the audience after receiving his award and talked wistfully of his love for Coraopolis, of the many Mayors and Council presidents and Police Chiefs he's served under. Larocco talked about growing up during the town's glory days, of watching the mills leave and the town decline, and now of watching its renaissance.
Larocco was a pretty hard act to follow, and the rest of the Council meeting seemed quiet by comparison. But there was a long list of routine business items to wrap up in the final meeting of 2018.
They approved December invoices for $239,023.27. This includes payments to Hilltop Paving for work on the Ohio Valley Trail and payments for lighting and for new tasers for the Police Department. They approved a November payroll for $126, 121.08. A 2019 general budget for five million, 526 thousand 77 dollars was approved.
Millage for 2019 was again set at 12.5 mills, zero increase over 2018.
Jessica Watson's resignation as Director of the Coraopolis Memorial Library was accepted with regrets.
A proposal from Bactronix to remove and treat parts of the air conditioning system in the police locker room was accepted at $2,681.69.
The Police Report for December showed 1494 calls, 278 complaints, 124 criminal investigations, 24 arrests, $240 in property recovered, 15 accidents, one injury, 43 motor vehicle citations, four vehicles towed, and nine alarms. Chief Ron Denbow reminded everyone to always lock their vehicles, especially when parking at malls or stores with packages in them.
Council approved using money remaining in the 2018 budget to purchase a new pickup truck with snowplow attached to the front and salt spreader attached to the rear. It is neded to help plow and salt alleys, dead ends and cul de sacs where the bigger snowplows cannot fit or turn around.
Columbia Gas will be updating lines and restoring street surfaces along Thorn, Southern, Cable Way, Fawcett Street, Watson and the 900- block of Hiland. Some of that work will begin now and some will begin later in 2019.
Residents will see a $7 a month stormwater fee added to their water/sewage bills, to comply with federal, state and Allegheny County laws. This is to finance the separation of stormwater runoff from sewage, which in many places will require separating lines.
Council reminded everyone that the parks will not be maintained during the Winter, and voted to post signs stating this.
The final bills for Brook Street - McCabe's Run restorations at $128,000 and Riverfront Park at $200,000 were approved. ADA improvements along First and Second Avenues were also approved.
Thr next waste contract is now under negotiations and Council voted to include electronics and hazardous waste pickups. This will add $1.00 to $1.25 a month to each bill. Residents will have the right to deposit such items at the curb for pickup. Currently these are not picked up.
Council reminded residents that leaf collection is now concluded. They asked that residents park in alleys or driveways if possible, but if they must park on streets to pull tight to the curb so snowplows can get by.
President Rob Cardimen proposed a military banner program. Banners would hang from Duquesne Light poles. The only cost to the borough would be a fee paid to Duquesne Light. The banners would hang along Fourth Avenue.
Mayor Reed reported on a tour of Coraopolis business sites held for the president and vice president of Innovation Works, an agency which finances and supports entrepreneurs and startup companies.
|Boro Council Approves Christmas Festival, Tasers|
Coraopolis Borough Council at its November 2018 meeting gave final approval for the upcoming "Christmas In Coraopolis" Festival, applied for a grant to rebuild the Ferree Street Stairway, and budgeted $14,000 for new tasers for the Police Department.
Perhaps the most dramatic moment of the meeting came at its very start, when Police Chief Ron Denbow recognized two agents from the State Attorney General's Narcotics Division for their undercover work with the Coraopolis Police Department. Denbow presented the two agents with special commendations. Thanks to their work, the Cory Police caught two drug traffickers and confiscated 33 bricks of heroin, along with smaller amounts of various other illegal drugs.
"We've got to keep drugs out of this community," Denbow said. "If these traffickers know that if they come into Coraopolis, they're very likely to be caught, hopefully they'll just go somewhere else."
The tasers will replace the current models, which are 15 years old.
The tasers are no longer produced, having been replaced with newer models. Parts are no longer available for them. Newer tasers have more features. The Police will pay $7000 of the cost of new tasers, and Council will contribute $7000. Council directed Denbow to proceed immediately with the purchase.
The annual Christmas In Coraopolis Festival will be held Saturday, Dec. 1 from 11 a.m. til 6 p.m. in the parking lot across from the Old Borough Building. It will include a pancake breakfast at Tootsie's Restaurant, free hot chocolate, music by the Cornell Band, Santa Claus arriving on a fire engine, the official trimming of the Borough Christmas Tree, and other festivities. Further details are available at Coryfest.com.
Council deemed October's Harvest Festival and Halloween Trick Or Treat Night a huge success, noting that more homes are decorated more elaborately every year, more kids and their parents participate in Trick Or Treat every year, and the Harvest Festival and the accompanying Halloween Parade hold the promise of growing much larger.
Stormwater Management Ordinance #1806 was approved, fulfilling Environmental Protection Association requirements, as was Resolution 18-302 Emergency Operation Plan, which satisfies Pennsylvania NIMS requirements.
The Ferree Street Stairway (photo, bottom), a long flight of concrete steps leading from the Lincoln School Neighborhood up to the Montour Hill neighborhood, has been deteriorating for years. Both the metal railings and the steps themselves are crumbling. This is a heavily used connecting route for pedestrians travelling between downtown and a key residential area. Included in the reconstruction will be a Bicycle Runway, which will allow bikes to travel the route without having to be carried up or down the stairs. The total cost of the reconstruction will be $157,000, of which Council is applying for a grant from the Pennsylvania Multimodal Transportation Fund to cover 70%.
Council approved the acquisition of properties at 1037 Main Street and Lot 341-C-196 Hiland Avenue through the Allegheny County Vacant Property Recovery Program. Once acquired, the properties will be sold. Buyers have already applied to buy them.
Payment was approved for the recent work on Brook Street. This included repairing the pavement and restoring of the McCabes Creek streambed, which runs directly adjacent to the street and during high water runoff can overflow onto it.
New garage doors were approved for the Public Works Garages. The current 17 doors are in "deplorable shape," and three are missing. Bids were taken and the low bid of $43,106 was accepted.
McRandall Company was hired to perform Fall Maintenance on the HVAC system in the new Municipal Building. The twice yearly maintenance costs $1275 in the Spring and $875 in the Fall.
Council approved the next phase of construction on the Ohio Valley Trail, a biking and hiking trail which will connect the Montour Trail in Groveton with the Sewickley Bridge. A Greenways Trails grant of $88,880 will fund the project. Mackin Engineering will do the design and supervision, and Hilltop Paving the actual construction.
Chief Denbow's monthly Police Report showed 1660 phone calls, 374 complaints, 141 criminal investigations, 30 arrests, one stolen vehicle, and 73 motor vehicle accidents. The Police visited Cornell School for a presentation on Cyber Security and did a presentation on Scam Awareness at the Towers.
Melissa Walsh reported that the Coffee With The Cops and Coloring With The Cops programs had been a success and that she and others were now planning a Pizza With The Police event for January or February. The goal of these programs is to build positive relationships among the Police and various segments of the community.
Stacie Christie (photo, above) reported that the Coraopolis Historical Society is reorganizing and has new officers. She explained that the CHS was created back during the Centennial, and has never updated its charter to meet state legal requirements for a nonprofit.
Eric Rice (photo, right) of Rice Bothers Capital, thanked Council for its support and briefly reviewed Rice Brothers' past, current and projected activities within the borough.
Council noted that leaves began falling a month later than usual this year so borough leaf collection has just begun. Residents were asked to be patient as the trucks work their way around town.
The concrete on the new Main Street construction project is curing and as soon as it "sets" Winter sealing will be done.
The Blessing Of The Badges was held at Coraopolis Methodist Church for local Police, Fire, and EMS Technicians, to ask God's blessing for those who risk their lives to serve others. Special music throughout the service was offered by the Chancel Choir and the Robert E. Harper Men's Choir, as well as the Emerald Society of Bag Pipes.
As part of the Mayor's Report, it was mentioned that representatives of the Allegheny County Regional Asset Commission visited Coraopolis. $109 million in grants will be distributed to communities and Mayor Shawn Reed is hopeful Coraopolis can acquire some of this assistance.
|Neville Commissioners Discuss Stormwater Details|
At their October 11 meeting, the Neville Township Commissioners spent most of the evening focused on the island's Stormwater Operations and Maintenance Agreement.
With a detailed map of the island hanging on the wall behind them, the Commissioners listened to the Engineer Ned Mitrovich's report and then discussed its implications.
Federal, state and Alleghenty County regulations have been tightened in recent years, and communities are required to update their ordinances to comply. Like every other small town in the area, Neville is doing its best to keep up but it has not been easy. Federal, state and county guidelines are now focused on planting trees, shrubs and grass to soak up and hold rainwater, gradually releasing it over several weeks rather than all at once during or immediately after a storm.
Neville's current efforts rest atop two decades of prior efforts. In 1999 the Neville Island Development Association launched the Streetscape Plan and Redevelopment Strategy, part of which involved landscaping. More recently, the nonprofit Neville Green was founded to "restore, create and maintain green space on the island."
Neville Green originally planted 40 trees plus flower beds and planters along Grand Avenue. Then, in conjunction with Tree Pittsburgh, they planted 79 trees near the I-79 bridge.
But vast areas of the island are seriously lacking trees or other ground cover. Many of those treeless areas are in the industrial sectors. The state and county do not exclude those sectors from the requirements. So the Commissioners are in the awkward position of trying to force companies to comply with requirements which can be costly and time and labor intensive and which the companies do not neccessarily agree with.
Penske Truck Rental, for example, has done the required planting. But the plants keep dying. There is also a pond on its property which does not meet regulations. It has been a two year problem. A representative from Harrisburg is driving in this week to consult with Penske and the Commissioners on how to address this matter.
Columbia Gas has simply ignored repeated communications. Recently, it has not bothered to respond to an August 9 letter. The Commissioners have issued a citation with no effect. Columbia did file a corrective plan which met the requirements, but the plan has never been implemented.
There has also been no progress on the Shenango site. Chuck Snyder has been granted an extension and the Engineer estimated he should be in compliance by mid November. Calgon is behind schedule and requested a six month extension, but the Engineer pointed out that it has been making progress. He listed three other laggards.
The township's own ordinance has been updated, is now in draft form, and will be presented to the board for adoption at its November meeting.
The Engineer also reviewed three water issues. The water line along Neville Island Road will be dug up and replaced at a cost of $400,000. A grant should cover $350,000 of this.
When Fleming Park Bridge is jacked up for repairs, the Engineer warned that the Commissioners must make sure someone is there observing to make sure there is no damage to the Neville water line.
Water sampling was also discussed. The West View Lab that handled Neville's sampling has closed. A motion to hire CWM Environmental Services for $6240 annually to test monthly was approved.
The pumping station repairs have been completed. The Commissioners discussed the Cottage Park tennis court paving project and approved a contract for $39,310.70 with T. A. Robinson Asphalt Paving. They also approved a grant application for $45,815 for playground equipment improvements at Cottage Park.
The Commissioners announced that Trick or Treating on the Island will be Thursday, October 25 from 6-8 pm. Neville Green, the Neville Fire Department and Neville Township will host the annual Christmas Party on Saturday, December 8 from 6-8 pm.
Several members of the audience raised points during the Comment time. Jill Ammon proposed that the Commissioners contact Moon Community Access TV about videotaping and broadcasting meetings. She pointed out that other communities do this. She noted that the meeting room was filled, so there was clearly interest, but that many people were older or had health issues and could not attend, and they could watch at home. Susan McAlister asked about parking too close to corners, which blocked views and created traffic hazards. Jennifer Mihalyi raised the issue of broken windows in old buildings. Several audience members asked if copies of ordinances could be given to the audience so everyone could follow the discussions better. Members also listed several business sites where trash overflow was a problem.
|Boro Council Completes Routine October Meeting|
Coraopolis Borough Council checked through a long list of minor items at its October meeting Wednesday night but there was nothing major or controversial.
Chairman Robb Cardimen opened the meeting by asking for a moment of silence for long time Borough employee Rose Scappi, who recently died. Scappi filled various roles in her 56 years with the borough, but the one she became famous for was as a school crossing guard. Four times a day--- in the morning, as students went home for lunch and came back, and in the afternoon --- she guided elementary students at Cory's busiest intersection. She might be busy with other duties all morning, all afternoon and from 4:00 til 5:00. But in the heat and humidity, rain, snow, sleet or hail, she headed for her street corner at 8:30, 11:30 and 3:30. Current Police Chief Ron Denbow trained under Scappi as a Patrol Boy in the 4th grade at age 10. Several Council members recalled Scappi as an icon who ruled over both little kids and adult drivers.
Denbow presented the monthly police report : 1536 phone calls, 423 complaints, 122 criminal investigations, 15 arrests, 18 accidents, three injuries, 226 tickets, 143 moving violations, and three vehicles towed.
The town street sweeper has been repaired and will be back in action beginning Monday. Leaf collection begins the first week of November. But residents are warned to keep leaves out of the streets. They should be piled up near the curb.
The Brook Street reconstruction project is complete. The stream bank has been restabilized and the guard rails installed.
A meeting is scheduled with FEMA representatives to discuss flood plain management.
Council Member Rudy Bolea expressed concern over the quality of construction at several locations. He explained that he had personally walked the sites and seen loose gravel, sand and random rocks being paved over. Counciul agreed to inspect the sites and discuss the concerns with the company.
John Pessy commended the VFW on the repaving of the curbs and sidewalks along their building.
The next outdoor concert will be October 27th on Mill Street from 5 - 8:00. Two bands will perform. Admission is free.
The new basketball courts are completed and open for use.
The Shade Ttee Commission reported that it hopes to plant 90 trees in 2019, although some of those will be replacements for existing trees which are dead or dying. The majority of those 90 trees are planned for First, Mill and 4th Avenue. The Shade Tree Commission has increased its number of Certified Tree Tenders, which the Pennsylvania TreeVitalize program requires. Coraopolis and North Fayette Township have planned joint work days to provide each other with more manpower. Several Council members expressed appreciation for the flower displays the Shade Tree Commission has set up, saying they really help the appearance of Coraopolis.
Waste Management Company was discussed. Audience members brought complaints to the Council of trash not picked up. Council explained that the current contract will soon end, and the high number of complaints will be considered when deciding whether to renew it or not.
The Pennsylvania State Attorney General's Office will send representatives to Coraopolis on November 1 to conduct two workshops : one at the school,focused on cyberbullying, and one at the Towers, focused on phone scams.
Representatives from the Allegheny Regional Asset District will be in town to tour sites with the Mayor and Borough Manager to determine which projects the ARAD might help support with grants.
Plans have been finalized for the Coraopolis Fall Festival and Halloween Parade on October 20th. The costume competition will be held at noon. Tours of the train station restoration will be held in the morning and a website, Coryfest.com, provides all the details. The Fall Festival is seen as a recreation of the Coraopolis Halloween Parade and YMCA Fair that was held for most of the 20th Century by the Kiwanis Club. Organizers emphasize that this Fall Festival will be very modest compared to the original but hopefully will be a start which can grow over the next several years.
Coraopolis Trick or Treating will be on Thursday, October 25 from 6:00 to 8:00.
|Council Talks Trees, Parking, Traffic, Properties, Festival|
Coraopolis Borough Council at its regular September meeting focused on the upcoming Fall Festival, the problem of dying or dead trees, parking problems, abandoned property and economic development, in addition to the usual monthly administrative details.
The meeting began with Coraopolis Memorial Library Director Jessica Watson (photo, below) reviewing with the Council the details of County Love Your Library Month. Events include an Open House and Lunch At The Library. Various Council members observed that very few towns of 7000 population anywhere in the country have a library to match the one Coraopolis has, and it deserves continuing support.
Council then discussed the Vacant Property Recovery Program, which this month involves a residence at 109 Main Street, the former Van Balen Laundry business on 5th Avenue, and the former Turner House at the intersection of Montour and Vine Streets. Council emphasized that with new businesses opening and new residents moving into the town there is a general remodelling and upgrading trend and decaying properties, especially in highly visible locations, detract from that positive image.
Grants provide the Borough with the funds to acquire possession of those properties, remove them, and make them available for businesses or residents to build new structures, which add to the tax base.
Council then discussed and refined Ordinance #1804, which provides for the removal of any tree that because of rotting limbs or trunks provides a public safety hazard. Council focused on the time allowed for a property owner to take care of a problem tree once notified, and what to do about elderly or poor residents who might not have the money to hire an arborist for the job. They debated whether to allow 30 or 6o days. Council agreed it was essential to move forward with Winter bringing its inevitable snow, ice and high winds.
Council approved a motion to update the National Emergency Management System, which by state law must be updated every two years. This updating requires schools, emergency responders, doctors, those who transport or use hazardous materials, water authorities and government officials to come together and plan for local emergencies. This system is especially urgent in Coraopolis because of the increase in rail and truck traffic due to the new Intermodal Terminal and the Shell Ethylene Refinery currently under construction in Potter Township. CSX will not only be transporting ethylene through town, but more and longer trains will be blocking various intersections, which could impact emergency vehicles.
Council approved continuing funding of the Police Pension Plan for 2019. Borough Manager Ray McCutcheon informed Council that, unlike many such plans across the country, the Coraopolis plan was in very good shape, mainly because Council has always funded it.
Council approved the closing of the 400 block of Mulberry Street on Saturday, September 15th, for the VFW Bicycle Race.
Council approved handicap signs for Mary Lou Lanza at 1056 Vance Avenue and Carmelita Dolan at 623 5th Avenue.
They also approved the closing of Mill Street between 4th and 5th Avenues and Pine Alley from Willow Way to the Gazebo from 3 pm til 11 pm on Saturday September 29th and Saturday October 27th for Public Concerts On Mill Street.
Mayor Shawn Reed announced that (l) Progress is being made on plans for a Facebook page, (2) The state attorney general is working with local officials on opioid addiction and cyberbullying, and (3) Coraopolis is partnering with Robert Morris University on strategies to market the town to prospective residents and businesses.
Several Council members, and several members of the audience, spoke on the parking problem in parts of town.
Rudy Bolea singled out Hiland Avenue and Fleming Streets, where people are parking too close to the corners and school buses, waste management trucks and delivery trucks cannot turn. Chief Denbow pointed out that no one can legally park within 30 feet of a corner. Casey Wright and Becky Hedrick testified that residents treat the street as an alley, not only parking illegally along the street but often parking IN the street, which blocks homeowners from getting in or out and would block emergency vehicles. Chief Denbow urged residents to call police immediately so they can catch the vehicles parked there and take action. Denbow pointed out that the town was built for the single car households of the 1930s and 1940s, but now in the 21st Century households have three and four cars and no additional parking has been provided or can be provided.
Council Chairman Robb Cardimen explained that the traffic meters they had installed on Vine Street and Main Street had shown that much too much traffic is using the streets. Vine Street for 100 years had been an alley between Edgewood and Vance Avenues and a neighborhood street between State and Vance Avenues and Montour Street and Edgewood Avenues, while Main Street was a neighborhood street for the west central parts of town. In the 21st Century both streets have somehow become major connectors between Moon Township and Route 51. Cardimen said four way stops and crosswalks may be needed to protect the many children using the streets, especially those walking home from school. Several audience members, such as Tom Puskar, asked why speed bumps might not help. Cardimen said they would take that idea into consideration. Several audience members thanked Cardimen for the traffic sensors.
Attention turned to the upcoming Fall Festival and the revival of the beloved Coraopolis Halloween Parade. Lucinda Wade (photo, left) cautioned that they were starting over after a 30 year lapse, and this year they were just hoping for 20-30 kids (the original Halloween Parade was held at night and included area bands, floats, civic groups and three divisions of costume competition). The hope is that the Fall Festival might evolve over several years into an actual Halloween Festival. But Council's main problem with this year's Festival and Parade is the need to block off 5th Avenue, Mill Street and Pine Alley on Saturday, October 20th. Cardimen pointed out that construction has Main Street closed off between 4th and 5th. So if 5th, Mill and Pine are closed, there will be NO access for delivery trucks or emergency vehicles or even customers to the center of the business district. Bolea pointed out that the construction on Main might be completed by mid October so Council should table a vote until the October meeting. He also suggested Council members should talk to the affected businessmen (Volantes, Jailhouse Saloon, Key Bank, etc.) and see what they thought of the project. Council agreed to this.
|Cash Market Bails Out Shade Tree Commission|
Not all heroes wear Ss on their chest or run around in a flashy costume. Some are everyday people. Two of them, it turns out, wear grocers' vests and run The Cash Market.
Chad Kraynyk, Ken Maye and Ed Pitassi belong to a Coraopolis agency which plants trees and flowers all over town and waters and maintains them. Called The Shade Tree Commission, their agency strives to make the borough an aesthetically pleasing place to live and work or just drive through. Their trees also help absorb rainfall and reduce flooding.
They apply for grants and work with federal, state and county agencies to obtain the trees, then learn to plant and care for them. They spend three days a week caring for their trees and flowers, watering and fertilizing and trimming them, and planting new ones. To do this they've been using a 30 year old pickup truck. Recently, it died.
"We can't even drive it to the junkyard," Pitassi says. "It's done. We got every mile out of it that truck had to give."
Without the truck, they couldn't water or care for their plants. Their 350 gallon tank doesn't fit in the trunk of a Toyota Camry or even in the bed of a typical small pickup truck. Nowhere in their budget or the borough's was there money for a new pickup truck,. They were in a serious crisis.
Up stepped up Jim and Trude Mancini. They had been planning to trade their Cash Market pickup truck in on a new one. They do this every few years. When they heard of the Shade Tree situation, they decided to just donate their used truck to the agency.
"This is a great truck," Pitassi said excitedly. "It may be used, but they never drove it very far. It's in great shape. Compared to what we had been driving, this is wonderful. The engine doesn't have any issues. There's no rust. When you close the door, it seals. You're not seeing the pavement through the floor. It actually has air conditioning. You don't hear any gears grinding. There's no smoke coming out the back. It starts right up every time. And the suspension works. You don't feel every bump you go over."
In the photo above, that's Jim and Trude Mancini in the blue vests. At left, that's Ed Pitassi (left), Ken Maye (center) and Chad Kraynyk (right).
Readers might be tempted to dismiss three guys watering flowers and planting trees as so unimportant as to hardly justify government agency status. That would be a mistake.
The more we study trees and the environment, the more important they become. There is a 10 degree difference in a neighborhood or business district shaded by trees and one with no trees. That's the difference from 80 to 90 degrees. Trees absorb winds, shielding houses and other buildings from damage, and reduce wind chill in Winter, reducing heating bills. A recent study* found that local electricity and natural gas use is thus reduced by $19,300 because of reduced need for air conditioning and heating.
Trees add value to property and entire streets or neighborhoods lined by trees can increase real estate values by as much as $100,000. Americans have in their minds a sort of Norman Rockefeller or Walt Disney image of tree lined streets and when shopping for a new house they're willing to pay for it. People are also willing to drive further to shop in tree lined business districts. Local aesthetic and property values account for an estimated annual benefit of $307,349.*
As every grade school student learns, trees absorb Carbon Dioxide and Carbon Monoxide and other pollutants and give off Oxygen. One mature tree produces an average of 260 pounds of Oxygen per year, enough to totally support two active adults. That same tree removes and breaks down enough Carbon Dioxide and Carbon Monoxide as a typical vehicle gives off in 26,000 miles. In all, the air quality improvement caused by the local tree canopy is valued at $85,540 per year.*
But there's something more. Trees absorb water. Their leaf canopy soaks it up as it falls as rain, and their roots suck it up in huge quantities as it soaks into the soil. One large tree can suck up 100 gallons of water every 24 hours. 10 trees on a street can soak up one thousand gallons of water in 24 hours.*
Anyone watching the news nightly knows that every year, Allegheny County communities are suffering more and more flash flooding, mudslides and rock falls. This is happening because more and more trees are being removed as new malls and housing developments are built.
Those floods, mudslides and rockfalls are closing roads, destroying buildings, washing away vehicles, and drowning people. In times of heavy rain, water has no where to go, nothing to soak it up.
And there's more. Water rushing down drainpipes and streets enters storm drains and ends up flooding the local water treatment plants. They can't handle it. The overflow releases untreated sewage into the streams and, in this area, the Ohio River. The trees in Coraopolis intercept 15.2 million gallons of stormwater per year. The total annual value of this benefit is $26,969.*
This has forced the federal, state and county governments to respond. They have ordered communities to address their storm water runoff crisis, using several strategies, the most importsnt of which is replacing that lost tree cover as quickly as possible. To help, federal, state and county grants have been made available. More and more towns are setting up Shade Tree Commissions to apply for these grsnts and use the money wisely. In this area, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has been the driving agency. It has spawned TreeVitalize, which provides grants, training, supplies and professional assistance to interested communities.
And this is where Maye, Kraynyk and Pitassi come in. They are the link between Coraopolis, TreeVitalize and the West Penn Conservancy.
So far, they have planted 38 trees, set out 15 pots of flowers and prepared full beds of flowers at the entrances to town. They have planted trees at the school, the library, and on Mill Street, 2nd Avenue, Broadway (photo, right) and the 900 block of 4th Avenue. They have trees and flowers on part of 5th Avenue and have plans to add more as soon as possible. They will work with the Borough on the planned Riverfront Park, where they plan to plant 10 new trees to supplement the large number of trees already there. Eventually, they want to plant 1st Avenue. The trees they plant are recommended by a professional arborist who comes to town and checks each location. Sometimes, to avoid issues with power lines or nearby sidewalks, curbs or driveways, the arborist prescribes smaller trees, such as Boxwood, Japanese Maple or Miniature Redwood. They often attach "Gator Bags" (photo below) to tree trunks. They can fill the bags once a week and it will slowly release the water to the tree. Combined with at least one solid rain a week, this is usually plenty for a young tree.
Volunteers are trained at the TreeVitalize workshops how to plant, water, mulch, fertilize and prune trees. But an arborist still drops by twice a year and checks on everything.
"We schedule him," Pitassi explains. "We're working right now on setting up his next visit. The idea is that we should become as self sufficient as possible, but they still like to come by now and then to check on things."
The Shade Tree Commission is working hard below the tracks and in the business district but eventully wants to get up to the residential areas on the hills. "We'll need the owners permission to remove a dead or dying tree or plant a new one. Sometimes they refuse to give us permission."
Their work in the business district has been slowed because some owners won't grant permission. They have to actually sign a form. Down on 4th Avenue, Pittsburgh National Bank and Sewickley Savings Bank have not signed their forms. They refer Maye to the Sewickley or Pittsburgh offices, but no one there will respond.
Maye and his crew are concerned with a unified look. "We want the whole business district to look consistent. When someone drives through or is cosidering moving here, we want them to see an organized community. It may not be something they think about consciously, but it makes a better impression."
The Shade Tree Commission sometimes makes people mad. "They think we should go out to the woods and bring back those huge red and white oaks. That's the kind of tree the town used to have, and some are still here. But those are often the wrong tree. They can interfere with utility lines, buckle curbs and sidewalks, the roots can invade water lines, and one of those trees or even a large branch can crush a car if it breaks off in a wind storm or under heavy ice in Winter. One of those trees can cave in a roof if it falls. So, yes, they're beautiful trees, and, yes, they produce a huge amount of shade and suck up a huge amount of water. But in some places they're just not appropriate any more."
Fortunately, much of Coraopolis has retained its tree cover, as shown by the photo at right of Ridge Avenue. And the Shade Tree Commission's efforts have given us a Mill Street (below) with its nicely maturing trees. Pitassi would like to see 4th and 5th Avenues looking something like this, although with Route 51 coming through town on those streets it will not be possible to exactly duplicate it.
One advantage Coraopolis has is its steep and winding terrain. There are many areas too steep for either roads or buildings, and they usually have a heavy tree canopy. There are also major wooded valleys bordering the town, such as Thorn Run Hollow and Omlors Woods, and smaller woods within the town, such as the one bordering Vine Street and Vance Avenue. Very few towns in Allegheny County have deep forest within a 20 minute walk of the main business distrct as Coraopolis does. These areas help the town's tree canopy score on those Allegheny County surveys.
Anyone wanting to volunteer and attend the next TreeVitalize workshop should go to the Coraopolis Municipal Building and sign up. Or they could attend the next Borough Council Work Session or Meeting, where Ed Pitassi is almost always present. For each fully trained volunteer TreeVitalize gives the community 10 trees.
Right now, Cory's Shade Tree Commission has 22 more trees ready to pick up as soon as they have sites ready to plant. And they have newer grants in process.
"This is a never ending process," Pitassi emphasizes. "We have enough work in front of us for at least 10 years. Hopefully, within three or four years, we can have the business district finished."
* Study by the Penn State University Department of Ecosystem Science and Management.
|Council Nixes Casino --- For Now|
At a specially called meeting, Coraopolis Borough Council Wednesday evening voted 4-3 to "opt out" of consideration for a casino to be located within town limits.
The vote means temporarily Coraopolis will not be considered by Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh (owned by Walton Street Capital LLC) for a "Mini Casino." Council retains the right to reverse itself if it negotiates a deal with Rivers.
Rivers Casino (photo, right) opened in August 2009. It is assessed at $199.5 million, the largest assessment of any commercial property in Allegheny County. It produces $935,655 in property taxes and $2.77 million for city schools.
The Council vote came after prolonged discussion. "I favor inviting them to come," said Councilman Rudy Bolea. "It would generate income for the town. People are going to gamble. They might as well do it here. Why send them to Pittsburgh or somewhere else?"
Danny LaRocco also favored allowing the casino. "Any problems that developed, we could take care of. But all our mills are gone. We don't have other huge sources of income. This would generate a lot of taxes."
Chairman Robb Cardimen favored the opt out. "We can change our minds later. But if we vote to allow them in, we can't reverse that later. I want to know how many jobs, how much in taxes, and how much in community services we would be looking at. I am NOT opposed to a casino. I am opposed to Coraopolis losing control."
Ed Pitassi reminded Council that other communities that allowed casinos in experienced problems.
Borough Manager Ray McCutcheon told Council of his going to a casino at Lawrenceburg, Indiana (photo, left), a riverfront town like Coraopolis. "It brought in a lot of customers," he said. "Property values around the casino went up. Businesses located there because of it."
Michael Williams pointed out that Moon Township did not opt out. The strip of land between Coraopolis and the Sewickley Bridge is in Moon, and could be chosen as the site of a casino.
Bolea clarified that the Pennsylvania law allows only a casino within 25 miles to establish a "satellite" casino somewhere along the rivers in Allegheny County. That means no other company except Walton Street Capital, or possibly the Meadowlands, could put a casino in Coraopolis.
Most casinos locate on barges. "But they can't just pull a barge up and park it," Bolea stated. "They'd have to buy the piece of land first. Either somebody in town would have to sell them the land, or we as the Council would have to sell them some borough owned land."
Walton Street Capital has been negotiating with the Airport to locate a satellite casino there. Whether they would want yet another casino close to the first two is uncertain.
David Pendel pointed out that 200 Pennsylvania municipalities have "opted out" of being considered for a casino. "If we don't opt out, we're giving the state the right to make our decisions for us," he said. "The state can work out a deal with the company and set whatever tax rate or rules they want and we have to live with it." Cardimen repeated his concern that by opting out, Cory forces companies to sit down and negotiate terms and conditions. It doesn't mean a casino would not be allowed to come.
Several members observed that Cory has zero zoning laws pertaining to casinos. "We need to think about this. We need time to plan."
After the 4-3 vote to opt out, discussion turned to purchase of a new snow blower. Various options were considered : new or used, riding or walk behind (as seen in photo at left), large or small, and how expensive. McCutcheon and Bolea were assigned to go look at various snowblowers and purchase one. "We have a lot of additional sidewalks, parking lots and driveways around this new municipal building," Cardimen pointed out. "We can't ask men to go out there and clear it all with shovels and brooms." The blower also needs to be transportable to the Library and the now vacated Municipal Building, whose sidewalks, parking lots and driveways still need to be kept clear since they're downtown.
Council also discussed purchasing a shed to house the blower, a lawn mower, bags of salt, and trash cans. And it authorized the purchase of $17,000 worth of additional switches to fully activate the computer network in the new building.
Bolea asked about moving the chimes to the new municipal building. McCutcheon mentioned that in January it would be time to send out a new batch of delinquent tax letters. Finally, Council approved hiring Jessica Watson as the new Library Director, Gene Peck as Custodial Assistant, place handicap signs at the homes of Carolyn Rose and Dennis Shazer, and accept the resignation of Jason Burnette as part time police officer.
|Council Finishes 2017 In Black With No Tax Increase|
Coraopolis Borough Council held its final 2017 meeting in a good mood. The town has a new municipal building, has completed a million dollars worth of road repair and updating, has upgraded water and sewage lines, has installed handicapped ramps at several intersections, was one of the few Pennsylvania cities or towns which finished in the black, yet did not raise taxes and will not be raising them in 2018.
Borough Manager Ray McCutcheon announced that workers are still adjusting the climate control system in the new building. The building carries a one year bond so any work that needs to be done is covered. The new computer system is also in need of further servicing.
Council paid the final bill for the repair of water lines and repaving of Main Street. It came to $120,000.
Council set at 5% the contribution required by policemen toward their pension plan, but McCutcheon announced the pension system was more than 105% paid. If it reaches 115%, policemen will no longer be asked to pay into it. Many towns and cities across the state and nation have not been paying their share and have pension systems deep in debt.
The millage for 2018 was once again set at 12.5 mills, a zero increase.
Chief Ron Denbow presented the Police Report for the month. Police received 914 phone calls, fielded 429 complaints, pursued 98 criminal investigations, arrested 23, reported 15 vehicle accidents with one injury, issued 128 motor vehicle moving citations and 98 parking tickets, towed three cars and responded to eight alarms.
The Engineer's Report occupied much of the meeting. The grant for land acquisition between 1st Avenue and the river was denied. Cold weather has halted repairs on 1st and 2nd Avenues. Council approved a plan to temporarily patch potholes and then finish water and sewage line repair and repave the streets when warmer weather allows. Council approved paying the $342,000 for brick street repairs, which carry a warranty bond. A grant has been filed for streambank stabilization and repaving of Brook Street, which has McCabes Creek running alongside. The grant request to replace the generator for the flood pump was denied, so the borough will have to decide whether to pay for it themselves.
Council deemd the Christmas Tree Lighting a great success. Boy and Girl Scout troops and church choirs performed. Cornell students made all the tree ornaments. There were several related activities and a good crowd.
Council Chairman Robb Cardimen announced that an Open House will be scheduled sometime early in 2018 for the new municipal building.
The most interesting revelation of the evening was that a company is seeking land in Coraopolis for a casino. Council is seeking more details and may schedule a special meeting later in December to consider their options. Do they want a casino in town? Taxes would add revenue and hire locals, but casinos often cause problems in communities where they're located. This would be a Category 4 casino, a category which was created by the state legislature on October 30, 2017. A Category 4 casino can operate between 300 and 750 slot machines and up to 40 gaming tables.
The new law allows a municipality to "opt out," that is, to prohibit any casino within its boundaries. This declaration must be made in writing to the state by December 31, 2017.
Casino laws are complex. Under some conditions, a casino provides a hotel and restaurants, and only registered hotel guests can gamble. Many casimos in towns like Coraopolis are classified as "satellite casinos," owned and operated by larger casinos located within a certain distance.
Casino tax laws are also complex. Many casinos are built on barges and merely anchored alongside communities. How exactly these casinos are taxed is open for debate. Does Coraopolis "own" the Ohio River along its shores? How would a barge anchored at the foot of, say, Main Street be taxed? What authority would local police have on board the barge?
|Coraopolis May Primary Elections Set|
Candidates have declared and officially filed for the Coraopolis Borough Council's primary election scheduled for May. Winners in the primary advance to the general election in November. However, only Democrat candidates have filed and the deadline has passed. This means whoever wins the May primary will be unopposed in November, so the primary IS the deciding election of who will serve the next terms on the Council.
Incumbent Mayor Anthony Celeste has filed for reelection. He will be opposed in May by Shawn Reed.
For the First District Council Seat, Ed Pitassi has filed for reelection. He will be opposed by Melissa Walsh.
For Second District, Rudy Bolea has filed for reelection. In an unusual twist, Mayor Celeste has also filed for this seat. Allegheny County laws allow a candidate to file for two positions, but if Celeste wins both he would have to resign from one. This is a highly unusual move.
For Third District, Michael Williams has filed for reelection. Lucinda Wade will oppose him.
For Fourth District, Dan Larocco has filed for reelection. Jesse Robles will oppose him in May.
It would be the first time for Reed, Walsh, Wade and Robles on Council. The other seats are not up for election in this cycle.
This will be an important, even historic, term of office for the winners. The entire Coraopolis Borough government will have just completed its move into new headquarters as the new Council takes over. The Mill Street Passenger Station should be completed during the coming term. The new Route 51 Soccer Complex will open. Although they will not be within Coraopolis boundaries, the new Intermodal Terminal in Stowe Township and the new Shell Cracking Plant in Potter Township will open, hiring thousands of men and affecting real estate and business development in Cory. Expansion of the railroad right of way through town will probably begin and continue in this term. All of these will force decisions to be made, some of which may invite heated debate. At the top of the list will be highway and rail traffic management.
Over the next month, we'll be interviewing each candidate, asking them either why they should be reelected, or why they should be elected to replace the person now serving in that position.
We'll be asking them what their policies are on various issues facing the Borough, and how they might have voted on issues over the last two years.
We'll be asking the Mayor why he's running for both reelection to the Mayor's position and for election to a Council seat.
We'll be asking each candidate what they think are the most important issues facing the town during the next two years and what they would propose be done about those issues.
These interviews, one by one, will be posted on the Government page.
|Council Discusses Donations, Move Prep, Street Projects|
Coraopolis Boro Council covered a wide range of routine issues at its March meeting, one of the last to be held in the old Municipal Building.
As the Mayor had requested, they heard a Solicitor's report on laws and policies on donations to community organizations. Richard Start specified that only Council, not any individual member of Council, can officially donate to an organization. The organization must fulfill a civic purpose. Council can only donate to an officially registered 501C3 nonprofit organization; no matter how worthy a group might be, if it is not legally registered, Council cannot donate to it. However, the Solicitor concluded with the observation that any individual member of Council, or all members of Council combined, may unoficially donate to any group out of their own money. They just cannot donate using tax dollars.
State Representative Anita Kulik spoke to Council. She praised the resurgence occurring in Coraopolis, mentioning the new Municipal Building, the new businesses opening, the old train station under renovation, and the new Soccer complex. She pointed out that she has an office in downtown Coraopolis, and has been eating in the town's various restaurants. She reminded the Council that she is sponsoring a fund for purchase and/or cleanup of blighted property.
Police Chief Ron Denbow reported that the Police Department during the previous 30 days had received 865 phone calls, investigated 127 incidents, dealt with 12 traffic accidents, written 30 citations, and towed nine vehicles.
Engineering consultants Lennon, Smith & Soularet reported that the grant for the basketball court had been filed. Council approved a $19,200 bid by S & N Industries to redo the garage roof on the Mulberry Street building. And Council approved a $39,252.52 bid by Gary Metzinger to replace the wall on Sylvan Avenue.
Chief Denbow announced that on March 18 from 10 am - 2 pm at the Findlay Township Building there will be a special pickup for normally undisposable trash : TV sets, phones, computers and other electronic products. A limit of one TV per person will be accepted.
Ed Pitassi (photo, right) announced that on March 11 at the Coraopolis Library a film on the Holy Land will be shown at 2 pm with refreshments served. Pitassi also noted that on May 21 at the VFW a pasta dinner will be held from 2-6 pm to benefit the Library. Tickets are $10.
It was noted that a new dump truck was on the way for the Street Department.
Robb Cardimen reminded Council that it needed to call for bids on sealing streets and roads to help them last longer and save money on repairing or repaving so often.
Borough Manager Ray McCutcheon read a letter from the VFW assuring everyone that it would once again be sponsoring the Memorial Day Parade, this one on Monday, May 29 at 1:30 pm. Council approved donating $700 to the VFW to help defray expenses. It was noted that Coraopolis also supplies police and other services to the parade.
McCutcheon confirmed that 28 delinquent tax letters had been mailed.
He also informed everyone that work has begun on the new Soccer Complex on the site of the former Montour Railroad Yard along Route 51.
Dana Watkins expressed appreciation for the Council's recognition of Black History Month, and Tom Toomey (photo, left) told everyone they could go to the Library and see the new Teledyne Reader the Lions Club had donated. It can be used by those with poor eyesight to read small type.
Cardimen advised Council should advertise for a part time clerk to begin boxing up paperwork in preparation for the move to the new municipal building. He also pointed out that there was a sizeable collection of historic documents and special care would need to be taken in moving them. He suggested it might be appropriate to scan them first.
Council allocated $125,000 to buy a piece of property to add to Frank Letteri Park.
Finally, it instructed McCutcheon to call for presentations and bids for cameras, a sound system, phones and furniture for the new building. The contractor has informed Council the building will be ready for those to be installed within a few weeks.
|Black Culture Show Opens February Council Meeting|
|It has become tradition that at its February meeting, Coraopolis Boro Council begins an hour earlier so the local Black community can present a program on Black History and Culture. Wednesday, under the direction of Dana Watkins (shown below) and Roosevelt Jones, Council enjoyed not only an array of "Soul Food Desserts," but choral selections, lessons on Black women in NASA, dancing, and recognition for two very young local boys achieving great success in sports. The two boys also proved themselves to be quite posed before a capacity crowd and the entire Council. The boys are Khyvon Grace, shown at right, and Elija Faulkner. Grace is a 12 year old wrestler who has won 20 tournaments in four years under a co-op program which allows him to compete at Quaker Valley even though he attends Cornell. But his mother, Candice Faulkner, worries that as his 13-and-under co-op arrangement expires (as he turns 14), Cornell may not be able to work out a similar arrangement with either Q.V or Moon so he can continue. Faulkner is 10 and a 4th grader at Bon Meade. He's been winning championships in Track, Wrestling and Football since he was five years old, and he has a long string of team championships and individual first place honors. They include Three Rivers Track Championship titles in the 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash and long jump, two Junior Olympics silver medals in the 100 meter dash and two Junior Olympics gold medals in the long jump. His time in the 100 meter dash is 13.95, fastest of any boy 10 years or under. In wrestling, he has won three conference titles, two area titles, and placed 7th in Pennsylvania. He's been playing football for Quaker Valley, where his team has won 22 straight games and three championships. Faulkner has scored 130 touchdowns in four seasons. He's the son of Floyd and Stephanie Faulkner.|
Once the actual Board meeting began and the routine approvals of earlier meeting minutes, monthly budget projections, and other details were approved, the interesting issues of the evening came up.
The Board voted to pay Tucker Arensperger Attorneys to handle legal action against property owners not paying their taxes. This means there are now three entities in the tax collection process. Jordan Tax Services collects taxes when they're new. Once a property owner falls behind, delinquent taxes are handled by an Allegheny County tax collection agency, which notifies the borough who owes what, which penalties are due, and when the taxes are finally paid, and mails out late notices. But neither agency actually comes out to a community and initiates legal processes. This is why Council hired Tucker Arensperger. Coraopolis must claim these taxes because right they are owed over $2 million in taxes never paid. However, as word spreads the Council is aggressively moving to file property liens and other punitive actions, some property owners are already coming forward. One paid $30,000 in back taxes just this week.
The Borough also participates in an Allegheny County Co-Op Program to get vacant property back on the tax roles by making property available to new owners for extremely low prices or even free as long they build a new house, live there themselves permanently, and pay the taxes as they come due.
Council approved a bid to dig down, remove an old tank, and clean up the site on the new municicpal building property. The low bid was $15,504.
A vote to make a $200 donation to the Coraopolis Historical Society was passed, but Mayor Anthony Celeste requested Council work with their attorney to write a policy defining exactly who Council can legally donate money to. "We've got too many organizations requesting money," Celeste explained. "We cause resentment when we give to some and not to others. We need to find the exact wording and then post this so citizens know."
Police Chief Ron Denbow (photo below) recounted how the Police received 880 phone calls, conducted 131 crime investigations and 255 civil investigations, serviced 23 accidents, and collected $815 in parking tickets. Fire Chief Larry Birge reported two calls, one for smoke and one for an electrical fire.
Council commended the Cornell Girls Basketball Team for its Section Championship and its ending of Quigley's 10 year winning streak.
Council noted the Lions Club has donated a Teledyne Reader to the Library for the use of people with extremely weak eyesight. A Teledyne is a huge magnifier with its own built in strong lights.
Council noted the irony in Business Manager Ray McCutcheon reporting the spending of $9500 on road salt just as the weather stations were warning of a major snowfall beginning within the hour.
Mayor Anthony Celeste requested Council begin exploring options to deal with the town's out of control feral cat population. "We have about 75 on Mulberry," he cited. "We can't kill them. We could bring someone in to trap them, but then what? Is there no known disposal location? At the least we must insist people not feed them."
The Engineer (above right) reported that the new Soccer Complex would be laying three synthetic turf fields plus lights. It was approved.
Lucinda Walker appeared at the meeting to announce rhe opening of a new Community Center on the third floor above Anthony's. There will be a "Meet & Greet" March 23 at 7 pm to formally dedicate the Center.
Chief Denbow announced that he had obtained a Prescription Drop Box, and he urged everyone in Coraopolis with medicine they don't finish to bring it to the Police Station and drop it in the box. Do Not flush it down the toilet or throw it in the garbage.
The biggest controversy of the evening was the state requirement that streets leading away from a fire station be kept clear. After Memorial Day, when the Fire Station will officially move to its new building on 4th Avenue, parking will be prohibited on 4th Avenue and Chestnut Street down to the Duquesne Light property and up to 5th Avenue. St. Joseph's Catholic Church conducts an annual festival which is a huge money raiser, a big community event, and a church tradition. During that event they have always closed off Chestnut Street from 4th to 5th Avenue and installed game booths, food stands and carnival rides. It was announced this will no longer be possible. Alternate plans must be made.
|Robinson OKs New Municipal Building|
Robinson Township becomes the second local government in a year to OK a new municipal building, At its January meeting, the Robinson Board of Commissioners approved a new 35,000 square feet headquarters at The Mall At Robinson.
The new building will house administrative offices, board meeting rooms, police department, library, tax offices, zoning & planning offices, and other facilities.
The Board hired the Hayes Design Group of Pittsburgh and Weber Murphy Fox of Erie to draw up architectural plans. Once those are in and approved, the Board will advertise for construction bids. The Commissioners are hoping to move in by 2019.
Robinson continues a trend of boroughs and townships across Allegheny County building new facilities. Most of the original facilities are now 80-100 years old. While the buildings are historic and often architecturally significant, they are no longer functional. And it becomes harder and harder to retrofit them to meet today's requirements, including handicap access, wireless internet, safety standards and fire codes. It will usually cost more to modernize them than to finance a new building.
|Boro Council Opens New Year With Long List Of Issues|
Issues with the municipal parking lot, fire engines clearance at the new borough building and CSX tracks highlighted the January meeting of the Coraopolis Borough Council.
"Heavy trucks are entering our municipal parking lot from 5th Avenue and driving through to McDonalds, the Cash Market and alley trash dumpster pickups," Mayor Anthony Celeste explained. "I realize the delivery trucks don't want to drive around the block, and the trash trucks are trying to keep a tight schedule. But those big heavy trucks damage the asphalt surface. Then we have to pay another $10-20,000 to repave it."
Various Council members proposed solutions and raised complications. A height or width barrier would stop the trucks, but might also stop snow plows, street sweepers, emergency vehicles and people driving high clearance SUVs, pickup trucks and SUVs. One suggestion was placing a security bond on the trucks, so if the lot were damaged, the bond could be used to cover the repaving costs. Council agreed to look into the matter further and try to come up with a solution.
It was noted that parking would have to be prohibited on 4th Avenue and Chestnut Streets to allow fire engine clearance at the new boro building.
Two CSX issues came up. One was the stopping of trains on crossings, blocking traffic and posing a risk due to the contents of the railroad cars sitting in residentiual or busy downtown areas. The second was the discovery of contaminants from the CSX right of way onto the property of the new borough building. The building itself is not threatened but the edges of the property are. Council directed an investigation to determine exactly what the contamination is, how much of it is there, and how best to clean it up.
Street and sidewalk issues were discussed. Cory received a $71,000 grant to rebuild a basketball court along Ridge Avenue behind the old YMCA. Council voted to match the grant with $15,000 and begin work as soon as weather permitted. Pavement repairs were discussed for spots on State Avenue. The Borough Engineer testified that resealing the cracks in pavement prolongs the life of the pavement an average of five years, reducing repaving costs. Council agreed to have Ridge and Vance Avenues checked for places in need of sealing.
Brian Diggins spoke to the Council about six new businesses opening on the 1000 block of 5th Avenue. Council commended Mr. Diggins on his development work.
Dana Watkins (photo, left) spoke to Council about Black History Month, She will bring a dozen students to the February Council Meeting and put on a presentation which will include serving authentic Soul Food to Council members. Council agreed to arrive at 6:00 that day to allow extra time for the presentation, which will be in honor of Shelly Jones. Council would have liked to make a donation to the group, but Pennsylvania law does not permit donating to a nonregistered group. So each Council member made a personal donation, which totaled what the Council would have made anyway.
Council approved chairmanships and memberships of the Water & Sewer Authority, Zoning Board, Sanitary Authority, Civil Service Commission and Shade Tree Commission.
The Borough Engineer reported that permit applications were in process for the new Soccer Complex on the grounds of the old Montour Railroad Yard. These include the Stream Encroachment Permit, Stormwater Pemit and Driveway Access to Route 51. When built, the complex will provide numerous soccer fields, dressing rooms, concession stands, and a special practice facility for the Pittsburgh River Hounds professional soccer team. The River Hounds are committed to developing youth soccer in the area, and envision the Coraopolis property with its multiple fields as a location for huge soccer tournaments.
|License Plate Stickers No Longer Required|
Beginning last week, January 1, local drivers are no longer required to apply registration renewal stickers to the corners of their license plates. The change is part of Act 89, which saves the state $1 million in printing and $2.1 million in mailing costs for a total savings of $3.1 million. Act 89 is patterned after similar laws in New Jersey and Connecticut. Owners are not required to remove the existing stickers from the plates.
Another part of Act 89 allows owners to now print their permanent registration cards online.
PennDot officials are urging local police departments to buy AWACS scanning technology to replace the stickers.
The Western Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police lobbied hard against Act 89. Former Police Chief Dom Costa, now a legislator, will try to overturn it in Harrisburg later this month. But no Chief we talked to had any idea of what the odds for success were. For now, Act 89 is the law.
Moon Township Police Captain Greg Seamon admitted "it will make an officer's job a little tougher. It's one more detail he has to take care of."
Seamon is particularly unimpressed with the suggestion that departments invest in the AWACS technology. "Depending on the unit you buy, for one car it costs from $6000 to $25,000, and then it costs about $1000 a year to maintain it. Multiply that by 10, 15 cars in a typical fleet. Local towns are already under budget pressure. How many of them do you think will be spending $60,000 to $250,000 to outfit their police cars with this?"
The AWACS units are mounted on rooftops and continually rotate as the car drives down the street or is parked with the engine running.
Pictured at left, they scan every license plate in sight, even down side streets, in parking lots and going the other direction. They then run the plate number through a computer database and alert the driving officer that a car in his area has an expired plate, cancelled insurance or some other issue. On a GPS unit, it locates the car for the officer.
"It's powerful technology," agreed Robinson Township Chief Dale Vietmeier. "Cutting edge. But at the most I see a department only getting one or two cars with it. So the rest of us will be doing it the old fashioned way."
The old fashioned way is to type a license plate into the laptop computer each police car is equipped with, as shown above. The computer searches the database and tells the officer of any legal issues with that vehicle or its driver.
"The problem," Vietmeier explains, "is that now, we can tell from glancing at a plate if the registration is current. If it's not, we can run the plate and if we find a problem pull the car over. Often, once we pull a car over, then we find an expired drivers license, no drivers license, a mechanical problem, or even drugs or another illegal item. But by law we cannot pull a car over just because we suspect something might be wrong. So no longer using the stickers will mean a lot of other violations will go undetected. I predict the number of citations of all kinds will go way down because of this repeal." Vietmeier said every Chief he knew of had argued against passage of Act 89.
Ideally, it takes less than 60 seconds to "run a plate." But the system uses a massive computer database. If a large number of other officers are also online using the database, it slows down. On busy nights, it can take as long as 4-5 minutes. If the officer is driving down the highway behind a vehicle, five minutes is forever. And if he has pulled the vehicle over for speeding or some other offense, it means keeping the driver sitting in his car for 4-5 minutes before the officer gets out of the police car and walks up to the door of the other car.
"The longer you keep someone waiting, the more irritable they get," another officer pointed out. "A traffic stop is already uncomfortable for most people. They're already irritable. You don't want to irritate them even further. They lose their tempers. That's when situations develop. So this sticker law, in all likelihood, is going to increase the number of incidents at routine traffic stops."
|Coraopolis Targets Delinquent Taxes|
Coraopolis Borough Council is discussing its delinquent tax policy with the possibility of shortening the grace period from three years to one.
Until now, Cory's policy has been to wait three years, then place a lien on properties with unpaid taxes. But there are too many properties lagging behind, and the Borough and Cornell School District need the funds. Council discussed using Tucker Arensberg Law Firm to handle collections and if needed Sheriff Sales. However, Cornell declined to join the effort at this time.
In other business, the Borough has proposed a 2017 budget of $5 million, 17 thousand 50 dollars. This would avoid a tax increase.
Borough Manager Ray McCutcheon said reconstruction work along Fifth Avenue should be completed soon, at which time parking meters will resume working. In the meantime, downtown customers will have free parking. McCutcheon predicted the meters would be reactivated in January.
|Borough To Abandon Municipal Bldg|
|After 87 years, the government of Coraopolis is moving to a new home. The Municipal Building, which has housed Borough Council, the Mayor, Fire Department, Police Department, Bill Collection Offices and other agencies, will be abandoned. A new Borough Offices Building is already under construction on Fourth Avenue. The Municipal building was dedicated in 1929. At the time, it was considered one of the most beautiful and impressive town government offices in Pennsylvania. For 15 years the first Coraopolis Library was housed in the basement, before the separate library was constructed on School Street next to the Methodist Church. The municipal building was considered innovative since the front opened on Fifth Avenue on one level and the rear opened on State Avenue on a higher level. It was also unusual in that the Fire Department trucks were housed on the second floor. Other municipal buildings housed fire departments, but the heavy trucks were always housed on the first floor with offices up on the second floor. Over its long life, the Coraopolis Municipal Building was home to many occasions. The famous Halloween Parade, held in Cory for 65 years, had its judging stand mounted at the front entrance. It took a week every October to erect the stand over the front steps. The Police Department hosted a Patrol Boys Christmas Party every year the last Saturday before school let out for the holidays. The fire engines were pulled out and the Fire Hall was used for the party.|
The Borough is not vacating the building willingly. The massive structure is still solid and has been well maintained over the years. But it's become a health hazard because of mold. Several attempts have been made to remove the mold and sterilize the building but Borough officials have concluded that it will cost more to treat the building than it will cost to build a new one.
Bactronix Corporation tested the building and found mold levels 18 times what is considered safe. Policemen and Borough officials admitted they have suffered frequent respiratory illnesses.
Unlike some communities where firemen are professionals and live at the stations for days at a time, Coraopolis has a volunteer fire department. The men rush to the station when the fire alarm sounds and pull the trucks out, spending very little time actually inside the building. They do hold meetings and training sessions inside, and clean equipment after a fire, but the firemen hsve reported very few respiratory conditions. The Fire Department maintains a substation below the tracks, where they store a hook and ladder truck and several other vehicles.