Tarentum borough council met for a little over an hour Monday night. Many of the official comments and reports were upbeat, drawing attention to the work of the Recreation Board, the appearance of the parks, the summer concert schedule, and preparations for futher positive events.
Near the close of the meeting, Borough Manager Bill Rossey reported for the Redevelopment and Revitalization Committee. He reported about a number of significant grants that the Borough had received, and then described Tarentum's role in Allegheny County's own revitalization program. The county has identified four communities to be pilot projects for its county-wide revitalization program and Tarentum is one of the four.
Council President Carl Magnetta's comment on this news was that "We're going to turn this town around."
Mr. Rossey also reported that Tarentum's website might be up soon. We've been watching for it since February. When it is up the address will be www.tarentumboro.com.
As a counterpoint to the optimism expressed in the meeting, I heard a new set of citizen concerns being raised, different from the citizen concerns mentioned at the previous meetings I have attended. In the past the council has often responded to these concerns with promises of action, but at this meeting the council seemed hesitant to get involved with the matters citizens raised.
Mary Lou Sober of West 8th Avenue raised concerns about a nearby house with a large number of inhabitants coming and going with guns. The council has started its procedure for handling nuisance tenants with regard to this house, but the neighbors are going to need to continue to be vigilant and to report problems to the police when they occur.
Donna Purdinasi of West 9th Avenue raised concerns about bonfires being started by some neighbors, with flames that rise dangerously far above the tops of the burn containers. The fires need to be reported when they happen.
There was also a concern about children riding gas-powered vehicles in the streets without using helmets. The Council's attitude was that because it was legal for adult motorcyclists not to use helmets there must not be a law against what the children were doing.
Karen Davidek Virag and Dave Virag of Fawn raised concerns about the Brian Clark Associates development in East Tarentum. She said that the developer has contacted her residential tenants multiple times to encourage them to move, and that he is proposing to place the transformer for his development in a location that would interfere with the tenant's use of the back yard. The council's expressed attitude was that the developer has a right to use his land the way he wants within the law. The council's perception was that the developer had bent over backwards to work with the neighbors.
A resident of West 10th Avenue complained about noise and vibrations coming from Wulfrath Refractories, possibly caused by the dust collectors. He said the noise was up to twenty hours a day. Bill Rossey said no one else is complaining about the sound and that when it has been tested it has been within the limits allowed.
Mary Lou Sober also raised concerns about excessive use of street parking by a neighbor who brings home a work vehicle with a trailer in addition to his multiple personal vehicles. It seemed that the council did not want to get involved because the street parking is available for anyone.
Harley Herseime, a resident West 6th Avenue asked the council for equipment and tools to help the skateboarders clean up the park. Mr. Herseime has been providing his own trash bags to empty the receptacles at the park because they fill up too quickly. Apparently, someone decided to put two large vending machines at the skate park, and they contribute a large number of plastic bottles to the area. The council made it clear that it had no interest in hearing Mr. Herseime's concerns. He was the only citizen to be cut short from presenting his concerns fully, and he was ordered to leave when he objected. (Other citizens who kept talking after being interrupted by the council had been allowed to continue.)
The vending machines sell Pepsi products, and are serviced by Star Services. The machines are always well-stocked so they are making money for someone, but it is not clear where the money is going.
Meanwhile, skateboarders need to go through the trash and remove bottle caps in order to be able to compress the large amount of waste generated at the park.
Although Mr. Herseime brought a witness to vouch for the volume of trash, the council members said they did not believe there was an excessive amount of trash, and that trash pickups three days a week should be adequate.
At the end of the meeting there was a further citizen concern from Bob Hirtz of First Avenue, about the damage caused to his sidewalk by trucks. Mr. Hirtz is not the only resident concerned about the cost of maintaining sidewalks damaged by truck drivers who either cannot or will not stay on the street when making turns. The previous month I noticed this sign an angry homeowner had posted. This is one of many concerns that the council did not wish to address.
In previous council meetings I have seen the council members listen more supportively to citizen concerns. It is important that citizens be allowed to voice these concerns because they do indicate many of the problems that need to be addressed in the course of Tarentum's revitalization. I was puzzled by the degree to which the council at this meeting seemed to want to shorten the time for citizens to voice their concerns.
There was one other thing that puzzled me at the meeting. When I arrived before the meeting, I was told by others waiting outside that the council was meeting in executive session. During the meeting I never heard the council report two important facts to the public: 1) that they had met in executive session, and 2) what was being discussed in executive session. So it is not clear whether this was a genuine meeting in executive session or simply a private gathering of council members in the council chambers. Whichever is the case, closed-door formation of public policy does not bode well for Tarentum's revitalization. It discourages the level of public participation that is so desperately needed.