By Charlotte Hopkins
All members of the West Elizabeth Town Council were present for the April meeting. Some council members expressed concerns that the new property assessment taxes are unfair and much too high. In fact, the low-income community of West Elizabeth has a property assessment that is three times higher than Upper St. Clair, Baldwin, Brentwood, South Park and Bethel Park.
A resident, who wants to be anonymous, explained that the property assessment for her business went from $4,200 - $75,000. Solicitor Matt Racunas stated that West Elizabeth received a higher increase in property assessment than any other South Hills community. The town council encourages residents to express their dismay and if possible to file an appeal.
After contacting Allegheny County’s Office of the City Council, they explained that their office disputed the new property assessments and is continuing to fight against them. At the present, they are following instruction from Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Wettick. Upon contacting Judge Wettick’s office, they explained that the Office of Property Assessment (412-350-4600) is responsible for the new property assessments. Democrat John Palmiere represents West Elizabeth in the fight against the property assessment increase. Residents can express their concerns to him at 412-350-6490. Residents can also contact Amie Downs from the Chief Executive Office at 412-350-3711 with questions about the ongoing battle.
In other news:
Rob Rhoderick, who is running for state representative, was also in attendance. He wanted to meet the town council and the residents. Rhoderick also stayed after the meeting to answer any questions and listen to any concerns.
The town council sent a thank you letter to Eastman to show gratitude for all that they have done for West Elizabeth through the years. Eastman is one of three groups that make up the Citizens Advisory Board. Through the years, they have done a number of volunteer jobs for West Elizabeth. A thank you letter will also be sent to McKee Stewart for allowing the borough workers to store the salt truck in their garage during the winter months.
Letters will be painted onto the borough trucks to identify them as borough property.
Racunas suggested that the town council consider hiring a contingency grant writer. The role of the grant writer is to seek out and write grants. The grant writer would be paid a percentage of the grants that they collect for the West Elizabeth Borough.
Racunas and Emergency Management Coordinator Bill Wolfgang have completed the codifications of the town ordinances. They will be put into a book, and a copy of the codification book will be left at the borough building. This will make it accessible to residents who have questions about the town’s ordinances. A copy will also be given to Magistrate Beth Mills. Councilman Darryl Celestino, with residents’ concerns in mind, wanted to verify that exceptions to ordinances can be made in certain situations. However, residents must seek permission from a council member to be able to override an ordinance.
Councilwoman Susan Pershing asked for a picnic table for the Seventh Street playground. She stated that there are new mothers with small children living on her street, and they want to have picnics in the park. There were concerns over vandalism, but Pershing was adamant in her fight to get a picnic table for the families. Councilman Ray Armstrong suggested that they buy a new picnic table for the children. Council President Louise Biddle agreed with Pershing and Armstrong, and council will purchase the new metal picnic table for the playground.
There may be a “double trap” outside of the borough building. A trap was already there, and Tomco may have put an additional one over it. If this is the case, it could cause problems in the future.
Wolfgang received a message from resident Kim Dodds about the train blocking both of the crossings. This is not the first time that the train has blocked both crossings, creating problems for the residents. Biddle stated that the railroad should consider potential medical emergencies that could arise.
Russ Martin of Murray Amusement asked council members to reconsider the cost of the permits that the bars pay to have games and machines. He reminded council that when the prices were set in the 80s the businesses were flourishing, but today the costs are steep and make it difficult for businesses to keep their games. The annual cost of a pool table is $325, the cost for a juke box is $150 and it is $600 for video games/machines. Martin stated that West Elizabeth charges more than the other neighboring communities with the exception of Jefferson Hills. This is stopping them from putting in additional machines. For example, West Elizabeth used to have a dart league. It would be too difficult to bring the league back because dart boards today are now attached to a video monitor and would fall under the $600 cost. Racunas asked Martin to gather additional information that council members can use to decide whether to adjust the permit cost. They want to know what the neighboring communities charge for these permits. Councilman Darryl Celestino wants to know, for the bars and businesses in West Elizabeth, if price wasn’t a factor how many machines would they have? The council may be able to lower the fee if more machines are brought in to keep them from losing any revenue.
Officer John Snelson asked if the street department will assist in painting white lines on the streets. The Elizabeth Borough Police Department answered 38 calls in March. They gave four traffic citations and one non-traffic citation. They spent a total of three hours performing speed checks.