Spring is here, and it is a busy time for the Town of McCandless, with lots of exciting projects taking place.
With PADEP’s approval of a new, five-year Pollutant Reduction and MS4 Plan in January, Andy Banfield, the Town’s Stormwater Engineer, now nears completion of laying out the stream channel on the eastern side of Highland Road that will be reestablished with its banks laid back to achieve 25-year storm capacity. Winter weather, particularly rainfall, deterred survey work necessary for Andy to prepare hydrologic calculations and undertake his design. When he completes this stage we plan to meet with residents to show the plans and obtain their release for us to perform this work prior to submittal of detailed plans to PADEP.
Our Public Works Superintendent, Mark Sabina, has met with County representatives to lay out a piping project on the western side of Highland Road which we have offered to undertake jointly with the County. Andy Banfield and County Hydrologists are comparing their analysis of pipe sizing. Stormwater control on Harmony Drive, the third project in this area will be undertaken this year. Expansion and reconfiguration of Trolley Court stormwater basin has been designed and will be bid under the Town’s annual stormwater facility update contract. The County is working on its piping repairs under Highland Road. Mark Sabina and Town engineers are planning out the relocation of piping under Oneida Avenue and down Iroquois.
Over the past several months our Town Attorney, Land Use Administrator, Chief of Police and I worked diligently with INPAX owner Sam Rosenberg and his legal counsel to document safety and operating procedures for the firing range in the INPAX Training Academy currently under construction at McCandless Crossing. This was culminated in the issuance of a permit to INPAX by Chief DiSanti in accordance with the Town Code.
Phase one of the Vincentian Recreation Complex project took place last year, and phase two work (which involved the installation of new fencing), despite ongoing inclement weather, is now complete. The project entails enlarging one field to accommodate upper-age level baseball, combining two smaller fields into a combination girls’ varsity softball-sized and mid-level boy’s field, and installing a solar-powered scoreboard.
Devlin Park’s new playground is installed and open! We finished the retaining wall behind home plate on the ballfield, with an improved drainage system. Dugout construction is underway with backstop and extension of protective fencing to follow.
Speaking of parks, we have submitted an application for a grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to design a trail in the valley north of Wall Park. This trail has been identified as a great opportunity for more than a decade; we look forward to making it a possibility.
A quick note on "small-format hospitals" and Sheetz ...
On rare occasions, the Town receives requests from a potential property owner or developer to change the Town’s zoning code to allow for a proposed use they have in mind. This is the case with both the Allegheny Health Network proposing a “small-format hospital” on Duncan Avenue and Sheetz Inc. wanting to move their gas station and convenience store across Perry Highway from its current location. Each of these will have a public hearing. Before the hearings occur, these proposals will be reviewed by Allegheny County Planning and will receive further review by the Town’s Planning Commission. The hearings are scheduled for June 11 (for the “small-format hospital”) and June 25 (for Sheetz). These are hearings on the proposed zoning amendments only, NOT on a land development. If the zoning amendments are approved by Town Council, a formal land development submission to be reviewed by the Town Planning Commission and Town Council will be submitted by the developers.
On June 15th and 16th, storms of short duration, but great intensity, hit the Town. Some areas were hit harder than others. Our police, volunteer fire and public works departments all responded admirably, as we are accustomed to them doing. Residents, neighbors and businesses pitched in to help those most affected with time, energy, sweat and money. Public Works personnel helped to clean debris on Friday the 16th, then on Monday the 19th moved to inspect and clear all storm control facilities and inlets throughout the Town. Allegheny County cleared debris in and around their facilities. Town forces answered the call of anyone who let us know that they needed help to remove items or debris placed along the street, if possible.
The Town had Waste Management place dumpsters on the Town Hall parking lot for those who could bring their debris to a collection point. Public Works brought a sizeable shed that had moved several properties downstream to this site for disposal. Investigation of damage reports and requests for assistance and advice is just about complete. Public Works Superintendent Mark Sabina, Land Use Administrator Bruce Betty and Town stormwater consultant Andy Banfield of PVE Engineers continue to help individuals with questions and see if any drainage systems and streams have been altered by these storms. Follow up on potential collaborative work with Allegheny County on County and Town stormwater facilities in the area around Highland Road and its intersection with Sloop Road is underway.
Residents affected by these storms attended Town Council’s June 26 business meeting. Some extended their appreciation for all the help received and ask questions. Mark, Bruce and Andy joined me in answering questions and providing information about these storms and how the Town has worked diligently over the last 40 years to control stormwater.
Today’s techniques to manage stormwater differ greatly in many ways from those used in the past. Yet, some methods used previously are returning. McCandless developed steadily from World War II to the late 1970s. Stormwater inlets on curbed streets carry water through pipes to streams as expediently as possible. With the passage of Pennsylvania’s Storm Water Management Act in 1978, McCandless didn’t wait for the state to issue regulations to begin to manage stormwater in every subdivision, business or institutional development. These regulations have evolved with the advancement of engineering design. The Town maintains over 60 stormwater detention facilities. The private sector and institutions utilize a similar number. The Town has also installed, required developers and partnered with institutions to install regional stormwater control facilities such as dams along Highland Road below CCAC, on North Allegheny School District property below Carson Middle School and LaRoche College’s front yard. All of these are examples of innovation and cooperation which serve to manage uncontrolled stormwater generated by growth that had no such controls. Each of these does its part to control stormwater in the areas that were most heavily affected two weeks ago.
Over the past 10 years, we have promulgated the use of rain barrels, rain gardens and gentle contouring of land (swales) on existing properties and those being developed, large and small, to nudge stormwater control as close as possible to where stormwater originates. We created, with the help of the Audobon Society, a total of five rain gardens which also store runoff along the Lorraine G. Rogers soccer complex parking lot and the Town Heritage Center. We recently partnered with PennDOT to install a rain garden and open channels along Pine Creek Road. All of these are harbingers of the next area of focus — water quality in addition to stormwater control.
We now are about to enter yet another phase of water runoff management. To meet federal EPA requirements to improve water quality, PADEP will permit municipalities under the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) program to begin removing and preventing sediment accumulation in streams. Town staff and engineers have been working for over a year to update our watershed maps, and identify areas to target in our watersheds where we can meet the DEP requirement to reduce sediment and phosphorus in streams by 10% over the next 5 years.
It was heartwarming to see so many people take part in the opening of the McCandless/Northern Allegheny Heritage Center on Armed Forces Day. The display of antique military vehicles served as a segue to the military artifacts donated or on loan in the Heritage Center. And the large flag hung over Ingomar Road by the Ingomar and Highland Volunteer Fire Companies evoked a surge of patriotism as we sang our national anthem.
The construction of the Heritage Center demonstrates what can happen when people embrace an all-too-rare combination of generosity and humility. Over many years, local historian Joe Bullick single-handedly amassed many items that exemplify our heritage. This unique collection is now displayed for education and posterity. Joe's story and devotion to being a one-man historical society have inspired many who came forward to share their time, talent and money to make this preservation possible. This outpouring of unselfish community spirit forged an amazing team with the Town Public Works crew and Beattie Career Center students to prepare the site and construct the building that itself exudes history.
The building of the Heritage Center is reminiscent of the legendary Amish barn-raising — which occurs when a family is in need. The building itself reflects history, with its design that combines the look of the Ingomar and Peebles one-room school houses.
It's not unusual for Town employees to build a significant structure — picnic pavilions with restrooms and the multiple-use concession, announcing booths, stage and restroom facility at Vestal Field to their credit. But, it is unique to be able to utilize their craftsmanship in constructing a replica one-room school house to display our heritage ... and mentor high school students along the way. Beattie students will be able to return, perhaps with their children or grandchildren, and say "I helped build this."
As the need for this facility presented itself, the wisdom and foresight of the 2014 Town Council to rescue Joe's collection is evident. Their magnanimity in providing a home for artifacts from around the western North Hills further embodies the unselfish spirit sparked by Joe Bullick.
Below is a brief summary of the Center's actual costs from August 2014 through December 2016 for design, site preparation and construction. You can find more information in a spreadsheet on the website, and even greater detail in Town budgets since 2014.
298,347.44 (design, building construction and site preparation)
— 62,377.51 (cash donations)
$235,969.93 (total payments to vendors and suppliers)
In-house personnel costs (already budgeted for) were $298,281.44
Operating costs are anticipated to be $27,700 this year, which includes display setup and volunteer training. This amounts to 0.16% of the Town's 2017 budget. With the number of volunteers who continue to step forward, no personnel costs to "staff" the Center are budgeted. There is no admission fee. Monetary donations are beng accepted. Soon, fundraising events will help to further minimize operating costs and future maintenance. There also still is room for memorial bricks to be bought on our Pathway to the Past.
Programs and events are being developed, and school field trips organized. Group tours, such as class reunions and local clubs, already are popular and more are expected. New items are being donated and exhibits will be rotated, which will keep the collection fresh.
So please stop by. Also watch in Town media for special programs. Come and see what one man and the community around him has assembled — a home and future for our heritage.
"Hope I can make that left turn."
Equipment for a separate left turn arrow is expected to be installed for all left turns at Cumberland Road at McKnight Road and at Babcock Boulevard. PennDOT recently gave approval for the design change needed for these signal controls. A request for quotes has been sent out by Trans Associates — the Town's traffic engineer. Installation of new equipment will occur as soon as possible after a contract is signed and the contractor can schedule the work.
Public awareness, education and understanding of the opioid crisis is paramount in winning the war against this epidemic. We are doing our part in the grassroots effort needed by putting together a town forum for North Hills local government elected and appointed officials, school officials and especially you to mingle and learn more about this insidious problem — and what we all can do to combat it. See the box in this McMail™ and consult our website for more information. We hope to see you on April 11.
The hard work of our three volunteer fire companies — Highland, Ingomar and Peebles — has just achieved a significant milestone for all of us. ISO, the independent fire protection rating entity, has improved the Town's insurance rating from 4 to 3. As ISO writes, this numerical rating "will improve the predictive value for insurers while benefitting both commercial and residential property owners." We thank Highland Chief Shawn O'Brien, Ingomar Chief Greg Quatchak, Peebles Chief Matt Williams, their volunteer membership and our Fire Marshal Dan Stack for this rare achievement.
In other news, Public Works Superintendent Mark Sabina and I met with PennDOT's contracted bridge engineer to hear that our six Town-owned bridges all are in great shape.
Planning is underway for a Town forum on the opioid crisis. Stay tuned for a date and time.
Another big thanks to North Allegheny, JVS Environmental, Recycling Coordinator John Bojarski, Assistant Town Manager Rege Ebner, Mark Sabina and his crew members who helped make our electronic waste collection day held recently a smashing success.
Ordinarily, I haven't personalized messages on the Town's media. My style is to do things collaboratively and not direct attention to myself. But, I want to echo the engaging sentiments Chief DiSanti makes in his introductory posting. His comments are warm and heartfelt. They epitomize the way Town Council, staff and I think and function each day.
As to other news, the Pine Creek moved ahead swiftly after an early delay when the contractor encountered excess concrete around the McCandless Township Sanitary Authority's very large (36-inch) trunk line for a November 4 reopening. This leaves only nominal cleanup work to be done.
Don't forget to make use of our "At the Door" electronic and household hazardous waste collection included in our new recycling and trash contract. Details on how to schedule a pickup are in the updated handbook we mailed to households and also on the Town's website.
Our curbside leaf pickup concludes with a last complete tour around Town on Monday and Tuesday (December 5 and 6) to collect any of the residual drop of leaves raked by this weekend.
Some of you may have heard about a sale to Giant Eagle of a parcel of property at the site where a Walmart is proposed to go. The Town's role in a land development plan is our approval process — not private land transactions — but we're following the news just like you.