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Vacant Properties, Sidewalk Closings, 'Taking the Plunge'

At Swissvale Council's public hearing: "... there's a field there instead of an eyesore."

Swissvale Borough's public hearing this evening was sparsely populated—with only one Swissvale resident in attendance—but action items were set for next week's council meeting. Among the voting items previewed: Receiving land, giving land away, a new police car, a new fire truck and a polar plunge.

Give it away now

If Resolution 12-21 passes next week, the borough will cede a parcel of land to Barbara Ondik at 1710 Hays St. The property adjacent to her—a former apartment complex torn down by the borough earlier this year at 1714 Hays St.—is now mostly vacant with a few garages remaining on the property. 

Councilman Darrell Rapp said the property owner planned to turn it into a "fenced side yard." 

Council President David Petrarca questioned whether the landowner would take over the garages as well as the vacant land. 

Fire Chief Clyde Wilhelm said he believes, yes, that's the case but that people he's spoken to on Hays Street don't seem to care; they're just glad someone's offered to take responsibility for the property.

"Everybody was very happy that the building's down and that there's a field there instead of an eyesore," Wilhelm said. "I guess they've all been pitching in to cut the grass and so that's one less thing they'll have to maintain."

At next week's meeting, council plans to vote whether or not to turn the property over.

'… Not a Real Estate Service'

Borough Secretary Amanda Ford said a property owner, Jackie Wesley-Lewis of 7704 Cannon St., offered to give her house and property to the borough for free. The house is in foreclosure, Ford said, and Wesley-Lewis "walked away from it." Wesley-Lewis is in the midst of a title search to get a grasp on how much she owes in fees and back taxes and liens, Ford said.

Ford advised Wesley-Lewis that the offer would be discussed at tonight's meeting but that the borough wouldn't be able to do anything about it until Wesley-Lewis had a better idea of how much she owed on the property. 

"I also advised her that the borough is not a real estate service," Ford said, noting that she had contacted the Mon Valley Initiative to see if they would take the property. She said MVI declined the offer. 

Multiple council members advised strongly against assuming responsibility for the property. Council President Pro Tem Darrell Bell suggested that if it's not borough policy to refuse gift properties, it should be.

Fire Chief Wilhelm agreed.

"You don't want to assume the liability of a vacant structure," Wilhelm said.

"Rotted Through Like Swiss Cheese"

The Washington Street Bridge is in deep disrepair, Darrell Bell said. State regulators were in town this week to inspect the bridge and said the sidewalks need to be closed to pedestrian traffic by this weekend. 

"It's not good news," Petrarca said. 

Bell said costs to fix the sidewalks could jump to $60,000 or $70,000 but that the borough "was not interested in spending" that amount to perform repairs. He stressed, however, that the bridge was safe to drive on—just not to walk on.

Wilhelm offered some context. He said the sidewalk's support beams were installed some years after the bridge—and that those supporting beams were not as sturdy as the bridge itself. 

"They're rotting through like swiss cheese," he said.

Alternatives fixes will be discussed next week, including repairs to fix one sidewalk and not the other to save money.

Taking the Plunge

In his official police report, Swissvale police Chief Greg Geppert said the police department has been recently certified for Taser use and CPR training. They also plan to lease a new Chevy Caprice PPV. 

Geppert added that—"don't forget"—Dec. 2 is the Pittsburgh Polar Plunge. The Swissvale police department will participate. All donations will benefit the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania.

In preparation—and to raise a little extra dough—the Swissvale Police Department will also provide a guest bartender at Pub in the Park on Saturday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.. Proceeds will benefit the Special Olympics, he said.

Other items to be voted on next week:

Down the ladder

A fire truck, in use for the last 37 years, will soon be decommissioned, said Fire Chief Wilhelm. A new truck has been purchased and Wilhelm suggests the old one should be scrapped instead of selling it. 

"The reason we're getting rid of it is that it's not safe," he said.

Next week's votes:

  • Whether to send Officer Deborah Indovino-Akerly to attend the CALU Criminal Investigations Course in November. 
  • Whether to award low bidder Sports and Recreation Associates Inc., for the Memorial Park Phase II Project.
  • Whether to hire two substitute crossing guards, Walter Clemmons Jr. and Mary Dickson.
  • Whether to allow Dennis Pasparage, resident of 7469 Schoyer Ave., to remove a tree from his property.

Also: 

Marianne Martoni, an administrative support representative for the borough's code enforcement division, has announced her retirement effective Wednesday.

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