Municipal managers address crowd at South West Chamber luncheon
Six municipal managers addressed members of the South West Communities Chamber of Commerce during a luncheon March 12 outlining the goals, challenges and accomplishments each community faces. Some of the challenges include completing redevelopment projects, improving recreation facilities, refinancing debt and increasing staff for growing populations.
Those who spoke, in alphabetical order, were:
Lori Collins, borough manager, told the gathering that Bridgeville has been working on the streetscape project for seven years that includes new, level sidewalks in the main business district. What’s missing in the streetscape project are the trees. Collins said roots from the previous trees were found to be wrapped around fiberoptics and other utilities, making the decision to eliminate trees easier.
This year, the borough will pave Baldwin and Railroad streets, and Bower Hill Road, with Bower Hill Road being paved to the municipal building. The small wall lost during the remnants of Hurricane Ivan in the fall of 2004 will be replaced during the paving project, Collins said.
Revitalizing Baldwin Street is important, as it was once the main business district for the borough.
Collins said some businesses are expected to upgrade store fronts after waiting for the streetscape project to be completed.
Sal Sirabella, township manager, said Collier Township has realized a 34.5 percent growth in population and in the past decade is one of the fastest growing communities in western Pennsylvania. With its easy access to Interstate 79 and Route 22 corridors, the township still has 40 percent of its land vacant. One of the main issues the township is lacking is an identity, and Sirabella stated that some of the goals are to develop a diverse mode of transportation, expand the infrastructure and preserve the rural character. One of the more attractive features of the township is that officials have held the line on taxes for the past 24 years.
In 2012, the township hired its first parks and recreation director and its first financial director.
Phase one of the park on the site of the former Nike site was completed, and on May 13, officials will break ground on the new recreation center on the same, former U.S. Army site that is still home to a commissary and barber shop.
Summarizing 2012, Sirabella said, “It’s been a good year.”
Joe Kauer, borough manager, told the chamber members that in 2012, the borough has completed construction and opened the community room with a mini museum detailing the borough’s 110-year-history. Restrooms were opened in Heidelberg Park and a state historical marker was erected at the site of the former Heidelberg Raceway, now home to WalMart, a grocery store, fast food restaurants and a home improvement store.
Work continues on the $1.9 million streetscape project that Kauer said should be completed in November, with the current work including relocation of gas lines to make way for the planting of trees and installation of lights. A facade project along Route 50 to “spruce up private properties” is expected to begin in the summer.
Manager Denise Fitzgerald said that while the township has 1,000 businesses and 17,024 residents, there is no main street area and the amenities are spread out. However, the township holds several events for its residents annually, including Community Day, a sled riding festival and an Oktoberfest celebration.
In 2013, the township will use grant funds to upgrade Meadow Lark and Larson parks with new surfaces and playground equipment, and a small parking lot for Larson Park that currently is only accessible by foot.
New retaining walls will be built at the township pool.
As for taxes, Fitzgerald said there has been only one tax increase in the past 19 years.
South Fayette Township
Manager Ryan Eggleston has been on the job for less than a year overseeing the township that is home to 14,400 residents, according to the 2010 census.
One of the largest commercial projects in the township for 2013 will be construction on the new UPMC Children’s facility on property that was once part of the Star City movie theater, just off of Route 50. Ground could be broken in April for the four-story, 60,000-square foot building that is expected to be completed in the summer of 2014, Eggleston said. A branch of Washington Financial Bank will be built on a separate parcel on the site.
The township purchased the Star City property in anticipation of moving the township offices. Eggleston said officials should decide on the future of any project this summer, including whether to go ahead with the current plans, sell the property to a private developer or demolish the building and construct a more energy efficiency complex. The Newbury project is moving ahead with the residential area in phase 3. Plans are also in the works for the development of three strip-mall type buildings at the Ionics site off Washington Pike.
Traffic could be impacted when the bridge on Washington Pike near the Bursca business park is replaced this summer, Eggleston said.
Upper St. Clair Township
Manager Matt Serakowski said the township is “focusing on stability” by refinancing debt and paying off fire equipment. The township, he said, has reached its maximum growth and few developable areas are left. However, there is redevelopment of formerly used land, such as the site of the former Consol Energy headquarters that will include a mix of commercial and residential sites. Plans submitted by 1800 Washington Road Associates calls for commercial, as well as multi-family housing that includes 21 patio homes and six duplex residences. The project is currently on the township planning commission level.
While new housing starts were a dismal nine to 10 per year a few years ago, 24 new houses were under construction in 2012, he said. Currently, there are several residential developments, including the proposed 136 new homes in the Bedner Farm plan.
On the commercial side, a new Target opened March 10 at South Hills Village, and an outparcel at the Village is now home to a Bonefish Grill.