Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sale Of Bankrupt Mt. Lebanon Facility Delayed

The pending sale of The Covenant at South Hills, currently in bankruptcy, will have to wait at least another month.

Lifecare of the South Hills LLC, an affiliate of Chester, W.Va., company Orchards at Foxcrest, bid $17 million to take over the Mt. Lebanon facility in May. The final court approval of the sale was scheduled for a hearing before U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Judith Fitzgerald on Tuesday.

However, because of difficulties lining up the financing, approval has been pushed back until Sept. 3.



Bookmark and Share

Mt. Lebanon Focuses On Practical Fiscal Fixes

The aggravation of back-to-school has nothing on back-to-the-budget. Last Monday, Mt. Lebanon commissioners and administrators figuratively walked through the 136-page study they commissioned to California-based Matrix Consulting Group.

There were few surprises. Matrix already had released previous drafts, to which the municipality provided initial response. But the trick now is trying to incorporate such recommendations in a practical way. "The real hard work, as it relates to the implementation of the study, is just beginning," said Stephen Feller, municipal manager.


Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Girl Scouts In Mt. Lebanon Take A Hard Look At Soft Ice Cream

It might be how a young Andrew Carnegie started on the road to entrepreneurship ­-- minus the Blizzards, of course. One day earlier this year, three local Girl Scout troops toured the Dairy Queen at 1693 McFarland Road, in Mt. Lebanon, for a behind-the-scenes look at running a successful business.

They learned about food safety, product preparation, revenue, profit, overhead costs, ordering materials and more to help develop their entrepreneurial and leadership skills. At the conclusion, the girls made their own Blizzard -- ice cream with candy or fruit mixed in.

It was all part of the Second Annual DQ Girl Scout Appreciation Week, part of a two-month promotion with Dairy Queen. The partnership includes Girl Scout cookie-themed "Blizzard of the Month" selections for July and August.

Mt. Lebanon Dairy Queen owner Bob Rossi said it is also tied to the Children's Miracle Network which, on Aug. 13, will receive $2 from every Blizzard sold nationwide. Locally, the proceeds will go to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.


Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Falling Population Fuels Construction Debate In Mt. Lebanon

Newlyweds David and Marie Reese moved from Shadyside to Mt. Lebanon 39 years ago, lured by the pre-eminence of the school district's facilities and educational offerings.

Today, population loss is threatening that status. Between 2000 and 2008, the number of people living in Mt. Lebanon fell by 2,591 to 30,381. Its high school is projected to lose 239 students between 2006 and 2013.

"A number of people are leaving Mt. Lebanon or not moving into Mt. Lebanon because they see what townships like Upper St. Clair, Peters, Bethel Park are doing in terms of amenities and facilities for their communities," said Reese, 65, the father of two Mt. Lebanon High School graduates.


Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Blockbuster Development in Lebo High School Renovation Process

Dirk Taylor, lifelong Mt. Lebanon resident and longtime structural engineering advisor to the Mt. Lebanon School District, recently delivered to incoming Superintendent Timothy Steinhauer and the entire Board a careful yet blistering criticism of the Mt. Lebanon School Board's process and proposal to renovate the Mt. Lebanon High School.

Complete copies of his materials will be posted shortly for everyone to read, and there will be more coverage of the submission here at Blog-Lebo and, perhaps, elsewhere. For now, relevant excerpts include the following (posted with permission):

I received a copy of the current Schematic Design being presented from your office on July17th. After reviewing the plans in detail, along with comparing them to the current high school plans, I am concerned that the ommunity at large has not been given full factual information. In fact, it is my opinion that misleading and inaccurate statements presented throughout the evaluation process have resulted in very poor decisions regarding the direction this project has taken.

The current High School has been described in numerous presentations to the community by the Project Architects as a non-functional building that is proven not to work. Considering that for decades Mt. Lebanon High School has consistently ranked and continues to rank among the best high schools in the region, state, and nation in every significant category, including academics, athletics, fine arts, graduation rate, college attendance, and ultimate success of its students in the adult world this statement is puzzling. There can be no serious debate regarding the success of our students, whose achievements are well-documented public information.

To state that the current building is non-functional suggests a lack of understanding of what has been going on in the building. I imagine that the authors of that statement can provide documentation of various national studies used to develop current guidelines for an ideal high school design and show how our High School does not satisfy certain statistical criteria. But that in no way proves that the existing building is not functioning extremely well in its current state.

The post-graduate success of every Mt. Lebanon High School Class has proven that the building provides an excellent learning environment. For decades I have visited schools throughout the region as a student, athlete, parent of student-athletes, and on a professional basis as a structural engineer. I have been in virtually every major high school in the WPIAL, and quite a few other high schools throughout Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia. In my opinion, the design of Mt. Lebanon’s current High School is surpassed by no other school I have visited. In my opinion, we already have the best basic building design.

Because it has been nearly 40 years since the last major renovation, the School is in great need of major renovation/update to almost every architectural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and communication system. But having provided structural engineering services to the School District for the past 15 years, I can assure you that the entire building is in excellent structural condition, capable of serving the community for many more decades. To tear down a perfectly good structure and replace it with a new, slightly smaller structure would be an incredible waste.

Stay tuned.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Hiking on Robb Hollow Trail

Interestingly enough, I found this article about hiking on the Robb Hollow Trail on the Philly Examiner web site. It has a nice slideshow and write up about one of Lebo's lesser known trails.


Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Mt. Lebanon Wins Best of Maryland Tourney

It’s difficult to top the success of an undefeated, state championship season, but Mount Lebanon took the first step Tuesday, beating Holy Cross 72-57 for the Best of Maryland tournament title.

After finishing last season 31-0, head coach Dori Oldaker says her team is rebuilding, but Tuesday's performance did not have that feel as the Blue Devils wore out Holy Cross over the course of the game. Mt. Lebanon controlled the pace for much of the contest, consistently pushing the ball up court for quick points.


Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Turning Point in Mt. Lebanon

I've been away for a while. But I've been reading the blog and the comments, and as I approach re-entry (I'm in town only briefly), my general sense of Mt. Lebanon today is this:

I am more discouraged about the town, its governance, and its finances than I have been at any other time since I moved here in 1998. When it comes to neighborliness and neighborhood charm, there are few communities in the Pittsburgh region that can compete with Mt. Lebanon. And we appear to provide ourselves with high quality public services that are the best in the business.


The elephant in the room is the ballooning cost of the high school renovation / reconstruction. The School Board is determined to proceed with this project, and it is equally determined not to submit it to a public referendum, no matter what the cost, and no matter that the cost is all but certain to exceed the borrowing threshold beyond which a referendum is required by PA law. Read Dave Franklin's typically acute recent comment at this post.

The problems here are two-fold.

First, the School Board seems bizarrely indifferent to the fact that this is a project that the District simply cannot afford, at this scale ($115 million and growing and growing) and at this time.

Second, the citizens and taxpayers of Mt. Lebanon seem to be bizarrely indifferent to the massive tax increase that the project represents. The School District has now publicly acknowledged that taxes will rise by as much as 45%. (In a comment there, Bill Matthews points out that the District is lowballing the number; the 45% figure is closer to reality.) In a comment on a recent post, School Director James Fraasch confirmed that on an "average" Mt. Lebanon house, current $5000/year school taxes are likely to go up to $7000/yr -- within three to four years. I was wrong when I wrote way back in January -- that any of the school renovation options on the table at that time was going to bring a 20% increase in school taxes. I was low, by half.

Unsurprisingly, both the Board and the District have been soft-pedaling the financial implications of the renovation project. Because they must know that if the taxpayers knew how hard this is really going to hit, then the taxpayers would say "no." Will a new high school bring 45% more value to the quality of a Mt. Lebanon School District education? Will a new high school bring 45% more value to the worth of the typical Mt. Lebanon home?

I have my answers to these questions. Yours may be the same, or they may be different. But speak up! My casual, around the neighborhood polling continues to run 100% against a massive tax increase to fund this project. The GOP candidates for the Mt. Lebanon Commission are dipping their toes tentatively into this water, but their strategy is upside down. If you want to get elected, don't promise to cut costs and save services; instead, tell us just how bad things are. The GOP seems to be trying to win an election. It should be trying to save Mt. Lebanon.

How bad are things?

Like the School District, the Municipality is effectively out of money. If the town were an automobile, then it would be running on fumes. The recent mini-flap over issuing a $2 million bond to pay for street and sidewalk repairs is, as I wrote recently at Pittsblog, the proverbial canary in the coal mine. Read comments at this post and this post, and read not so carefully between the lines at the toe-dipping GOP survey. Or call up your Commissioner and buy him a cup of coffee. You'll hear the truth. They know what's happening, even if they don't write about it for MTL magazine.

What's happening is that Mt. Lebanon is entering an era of rising costs (many of them fixed, like the pension obligations coming due at the School District) and limited or falling revenues. The town cannot afford to buy the best of everything -- best schools, best library, best leaf and snow removal, best public safety, lively retail districts. Mt. Lebanon residents either are going to be asked to pony up more money in the form of direct contributions, or are going to be asked to pay more in taxes -- both of these things so that residents can continue to receive something approximating the *current* level of services and benefits. And Mt. Lebanon residents likely, eventually, will say "no." Sure, it would be nice to shop local and maintain a lively set of retail districts. But if I can economize by growing my own and buying more cheaply elsewhere, I may do that. Do I understand that I'm not internalizing all of my costs? Sure. But cash is cash, and I'm economizing.

The result of all of this (not just the shoplocal point)? Our local standard of living is likely to go down. Just as Mt. Lebanon's costs are going up and revenues are falling, its residents' costs are going up and their revenues (incomes) are falling. There's a fixed amount of money to go around; the pie is not growing. There are hard choices ahead. Right now, local government either is ignorant of them, is ignoring them, or is failing to share their decisions with us. But these will be our choices to deal with in the end.
Bookmark and Share

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mt. Lebanon Comes Alive Saturday August 8th With ULTRAparty

We received the following press release from the organizers of the upcoming ULTRAparty:

Mt. Lebanon Comes Alive Saturday August 8th with ULTRAparty
Former Pittsburgh Steeler Robin Cole to appear

Uptown Mt. Lebanon is the place to be Saturday, August 8, as Experience LEBO and Miller Lite present the third annual ULTRAparty, Mt. Lebanon’s premiere summer street party event, from 8 p.m. to midnight.

ULTRAparty provides an opportunity for the young (and young-at-heart!) to literally party in the street— Rt. 19/Washington Road closes to vehicular traffic from Cedar Blvd. to Castle Shannon Blvd.— and enjoy live music and refreshments in Uptown Mt. Lebanon. People can easily reach Mt. Lebanon’s Uptown the by T. Ample parking is available in Uptown garages and lots.

Popular 80’s cover band VELVEETA takes the stage at 8 p.m., and for a $5 cover, those 21 and over can purchase Miller Lite or Heineken and enjoy food and drinks on the street. New additions this year include a visit from Robin Cole, All-Pro Steelers linebacker and two-time Super Bowl champion during the "Steel Curtain" era, who will be on hand greeting fans and signing autographs, and a silent auction featuring sports memorabilia including autographed Steelers and Penguins items.

"ULTRAparty is a perfect fit for the Mt. Lebanon Partnership, attracting dynamic, energetic, diverse young people to enjoy Mt. Lebanon," noted board member Dorene Ciletti. "Last year’s event attracted more than 3000 people, and we expect a larger crowd this year."

The party furthers Mt. Lebanon’s goal of becoming “the main street of the region,” according to Mt. Lebanon Public Information Office Susan Morgans. "We are delighted that this event introduces people from all over to the restaurants, businesses and other amenities that our community offers. We hope they’ll see that Mt. Lebanon is a very special and welcoming place."

The Autism Center of Pittsburgh, the only facility in Western Pennsylvania that offers speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, psychological evaluations and parent support and information all in one place, will benefit from ULTRAparty. One of its three locations is on Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon

"Proceeds from ULTRAparty will allow the Autism Center to provide services and support for people affected by autism in our area," explained Anne Fleming Babish, event chair. "What better way to spend a Saturday night than by partying in the street, enjoying the music and sipping a cold drink while supporting a great cause!"

For more information about the event, including detailed sponsorship and volunteer opportunities, visit

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lebo GOP Wants To Know What You Think

The Republican Committee of Mt. Lebanon has put together a survey regarding the high school renovation project and other municipal issues. According to their web site, people that complete the survey by August 14 will be entered into a drawing to win $100.


Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Energy Certification Cost Raises Eyebrows In Mt. Lebanon

The Mt. Lebanon school board has agreed to pursue an environmental certification for the proposed high school, but some board members worry doing so will cost too much money.

Kerry Leonard of the OWP/P design firm in Chicago told the board the building likely will qualify for the certification. Another $500,000 commissioning fee at the end of the process, however, would push the project to $115 million, close to the district's debt limit.

That concerned several board members, including James Fraasch, who asked whether the board should discuss putting a bond referendum on the November ballot. "At what point do we say enough is enough?" Fraasch said. "We are right up against that wall."


Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Mt. Lebanon Native Nominated For Emmy

A documentary about a brilliant but self-destructive Pittsburgh-born painter has garnered an Emmy nomination for its director.

Mt. Lebanon native Jeff Stimmel received a News and Documentary Emmy nomination for his film "The Art of Failure: Chuck Connelly Not for Sale." It premiered July 7, 2008, on HBO.

Stimmel, who lives in Los Angeles, produced the documentary through his company, Divided Eye Films. Stimmel was nominated as producer and director in the category of Outstanding Arts & Cultural Programming. The winner will be announced Sept. 21 at Lincoln Center in New York.


Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Mt. Lebanon Alumnus Creates Movies In An Unconventional, Avant-Garde Style

Like many aspiring filmmakers, Caleb Foss once made a zombie movie. He was maybe 13 or 14 years old. That's about as mainstream as he's been willing to go.

"When you tell people you're studying [filmmaking in college], sometimes they get excited. It's a glamorous thing," he said. "If you tell them it's 'experimental' film, they say 'Well, what are you going to do with that?'" he added, laughing.

Mr. Foss recently completed his first year at The Conservatory of Theatre Arts and Film at Purchase College, which is part of the State University of New York system. He will present a talk and short screening on experimental film at 7 p.m. Monday at the Mt. Lebanon Public Library.



Bookmark and Share

Mt. Lebanon Girl Killed By Falling Tree Limb At W.Va. Camp

A 14-year-old girl from Mt. Lebanon was killed by a falling tree limb at a camp in West Virginia last night.

Leah Blum, who was in a tent at the time, was injured at the Emma Kaufmann Camp, which is owned and operated by the Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh. The camp is outside of Morgantown.


Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Costs Up, Still Many Unknowns In High School Renovation

Here's another article from guest blogger Bob Williams...

Perhaps a year before construction crews arrive at Mt. Lebanon High School, board members added an additional $875,000 in fees and expenses to the $115 million project, bringing the total in added fees and scope changes since June 8 to almost $5 million.

On July 20, the school board added “commissioning” and its intent to seek “silver status” LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) by the U.S. Green Building Council. Commissioning may be a PDE requirement when seeking LEED status to receive the extra reimbursement. PDE adds a 10 percent premium in state reimbursement for a project receiving LEED certification. In the case of Mt. Lebanon, it amounts to an extra $70,000 a year in reimbursement over the life of the borrowing term, board members said.

Commissioning adds another level of management oversight to a project. In addition to the architect firm, project management firm and contracting firms, a commissioning agent is employed to coordinate the mechanical, electrical and HVAC systems in a building to streamline and reduce energy usage. The bonus is there are likely fewer change orders (unless the school board adds new features), fewer callbacks for repairs after a building is occupied, and a measurable reduction in energy usage in a commissioned building versus a non-commissioned building. Studies have shown commissioning is most effective on new construction, and also when the commissioning agent is hired at the onset of the process.

One question school board members in Mt. Lebanon could not answer July 20, was whether the savings in future energy usage would offset the extra design and engineering fees, the commissioning agent fee and extra LEED certification costs. The LEED filing fee is $450. But in order to receive “silver” LEED status, Mt. Lebanon needs a specified number of points on the LEED scale. LEED gives points for energy efficient amenities such as geo-thermal heating or energy efficient lighting. There's a wide spectrum of items LEED grants credit for.

Right now, LEED gives certification for projects receiving from 26 to 69 points. On Jan. 1, 2010, however, LEED is changing its point system and requiring 40 points for certification and 50 points for “silver.” LEED upper point range "platinum" will be 80 points after Jan. 1.

Board member Mark Hart said the district could add all the energy efficient features without the LEED certification and commissioning. Costs would be less upfront and energy savings would still come down the road, he said. He voted against the $875,000 expenditure. Board member Dan Remely said the $450 fee would be payable immediately. But, he said the architect and project manager could weigh costs to see whether the building could even attain LEED silver. Those data will be offered in November. If it couldn’t attain silver, some or most of the $875,000 would be saved.

Board President Alan Silhol asked representatives from Celli-Flynn Brennan Architects to rate on a scale of 1-10, how confident they were the building could attain LEED silver. They said they were “extremely” confident, but declined to assign a number on a scale of 1-10.

Board member James Fraasch said costs are of extreme concern to him even before the project begins. “We don’t even know how many classrooms will be in the new building, but we are already within a hair’s breath of referendum,” he said. “Plans are to make Horsman Drive two-way, but we have no indication whether that will impact Lebanon Avenue or Cochran Road, and those costs. That's one example of what we just don't know about this project.”

Architects said the site work budget is $4 million and possibly could account for those roadway fees.

Right now, if the district borrows beyond $115 million, a referendum would be required to pay any costs beyond that. District Finance Director Jan Klein said perhaps the district could borrow $90 million this year in two bond sales. In a three and one-half year project, the $90 million (and interest generated) would carry the district through a couple years.

By that time, the debt limit will have increased as older debt is paid down. The district also has $10-$12 million in various surplus funds that could be drawn to pay for additional work. That money is separate from the current debt limit and won’t count towards it, Klein said.

On June 8, the school board added two more lanes to the proposed swimming pool and a third gymnasium, adding over $4 million to the $110 million estimates.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Mt. Lebanon Wants High School Project To Meet LEED Standards

The high school project in Mt. Lebanon is progressing. However, not every member of the school board is pleased with the rate of spending.

During a regular meeting July 20, the nine-member board voted to authorize the architects to design the project to the standards required for the silver level certification of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) which, in the long term, could save the district money in energy costs.

The U.S. Green Building Council's LEED for New Construction rating system addresses issues such as classroom acoustics, master planning, mold prevention and environmental site assessment. Levels for the project are based on a point system that are: certified, which is the lowest level, silver, gold and platinum, the highest points possible. All new construction and major renovations of K-12 school facilities seeking LEED certification must use the LEED for Schools Rating System.

The certification process is expected to cost the district $875,000, bringing the total expense of the 3 1/2-year project to close to $115 million.


Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Butler Firm Gets OK To Seek Purchase Of Mt. Lebanon Facility For Senior Care

Concordia Lutheran Ministries may compete with a West Virginia retirement home operator to buy the bankrupt Covenant at South Hills in Mt. Lebanon.

Concordia, based in Cabot, Butler County, owns nursing and assisted living centers north and east of Pittsburgh, and may submit a bid next month for the Covenant complex, attorney Ronald Roteman said after a hearing Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.



Bookmark and Share

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lebo Resident Gwyn Cready Wins Romance Novel Award

Gwyn Cready of Mt. Lebanon was awarded the Best Paranormal Romance Novel at the Rita Awards on Saturday in Washington, D.C. "Seducing Mr. Darcy," Cready's winning title, involves time travel to Regency England, and romance, of course.

Hosted by the Romance Writers of America, the RITA Awards promote excellence in the romance genre. Cready's third novel, "Flirting with Forever," is scheduled to be published in April 2010.


Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bishop Zubik To Bless Restored Virgin Mary Statue

Pittsburgh Roman Catholic Bishop David Zubik will bless a Virgin Mary statue that's been restored after being vandalized at a Mount Lebanon church.

Vandals entered St. Bernard Church in Mount Lebanon on June 6 and knocked the 5-foot-tall statue over, breaking its left arm and causing other damage. They also painted "666" in orange on its forehead and tore apart and scattered rosary beads about the grotto.

Pastor Dave Bonnar said it would have been cheaper to replace the statue after it had been damaged, but the decision was made to restore the original.


Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Pollock Places At Forensics Nationals

It was the final speech of his high school career. It was also the final round at the 2009 National Forensic League tournament. With only 30 minutes to prepare for a seven-minute speech, Mt. Lebanon graduate Ryan Pollock was feeling a flood of emotion.

"It was a pretty big auditorium so that was a little bit daunting," he said. "I knew it was going to be the last speech I'd ever give in high school so it was that element of excitement and fun and nervousness."

Pollock's speech on globalization earned him a spot in the top six finalists at the International Extemporaneous Speaking portion of the national tournament. He competed against nearly 250 other students from across the country.


Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, July 16, 2009

St. Clair Hospital Renovations Create New Cafe, Meeting Area

Face-lifts at St. Clair Hospital are not limited to plastic surgery. A $2.5 million renovation was unveiled at the facility in Mt. Lebanon yesterday morning, where cherry-paneled walls and sleek design have transformed the formerly gray, sterile public spaces in the lobby area of the fourth floor.

Although most of the work on the project was completed in late June, as of Monday, the air was peppered with the sounds of industrial vacuums and occasional hammering.


Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Commission Corrects Error, Moves Fitness Center Forward

Mt. Lebanon commissioners had a "do over" of sorts this week when they voted to amend an ordinance to allow Kossman Development Co. to build a 46,000-square-foot L.A. Fitness Center along Castle Shannon Boulevard.

The vote was a late addition to the Monday meeting agenda. It became necessary after the discovery that, in originally voting to approve the amendment June 8, the municipality had not publicly advertised beforehand.

"It's required that a notice of intent to enact legislation be published, and this was not done beforehand," said Stephen Feller, Mt. Lebanon municipal manager.


Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

America’s Gone “Green,” And So Has Mt. Lebanon

Here's another article from guest blogger Bob Williams...

Broad-based recycling options are leading more Mt. Lebanon residents than ever before to embrace ideas aimed at preserving the environment. Composting certainly helps fill out their gardens. But at least 80 residents near Robb Hollow Park say the municipality is not living up to the same standards it sets for residents who compost in their yards.

Living near Mt. Lebanon’s compost site in Robb Hollow Park hasn’t been too pleasant, say some 80 residents who signed a petition asking that problems be remedied. Residents from Arrowood, Pinewood, Firwood and Somerville drives, and Robb Hollow Road say they are especially affected. They contend the odor is unbearable in the summer, and concerns about vermin being attracted to the site are worrisome.

“The smell, and the noise from the grinding machine which goes all the time is unbearable. Quite frankly, it just stinks,” said a petitioner at a July 13 meeting.
Tom Kelley, Mt. Lebanon’s public works director, said a study is planned and grant funding has been sought to aid in remedying neighbor’s concerns. Residents approached the commission June 22. The Allegheny County Health Department has since examined the site and found no immediate dangers from vermin and the like. Officials asked residents for patience while the study is undertaken.

The municipality has two compost sites: the municipal golf course and Robb Hollow Park. The leaves are vacuumed from the municipal streets and stored at the two sites. After leaf pickup ends in late November, the leaves are shredded, windrowed into large piles – 300 feet long, 15 feet wide and 12 feet high – and turned at least once a month to accelerate the decomposing process.

Compost is available at the municipal golf course beginning in the spring. Compost can be purchased by the bushel or truckload. The municipality has been involved in composting since the mid-1960s. In the early 1980s, an unused girl’s softball field at Robb Hollow Park was converted to use as a compost site. It’s this area—near Painters Run and Robb Hollow—that has drawn fire.

Commissioner Joe Deluiis asked whether it was practical to transport the leaves to Upper St. Clair’s compost site instead of Robb Hollow Park. Upper St. Clair’s compost site is located off Boyce Road in Boyce-Mayview Park.

Officials said Upper St. Clair’s compost site is about 12 miles from Mt. Lebanon and it would be cost-prohibitive to transport the leaves. However, the distance between the two compost sites is about 6.2 miles by road, according to GoogleMaps.

Residents say the municipality is in violation of Pennsylvania’s Act 101 of 1988. Act 101 mandates recycling in Pennsylvania`s larger municipalities, requires counties to develop municipal waste management plans and provides for grants to offset expenses. It also requires municipalities to separate leaf waste from other municipal waste.

Residents say Act 101 forbids composting in parks, and within 300 feet of occupied homes. One petitioner said her home is 230 feet from the compost site. Kelley said Act 101 does not apply in this instance. Residents disagreed with him. Mt. Lebanon's code, (Chapter 7, health & safety-part 3) includes many guidelines for residents who compost on their property. Here is one of those rules, added by ordinance in 2007: "There shall not be any unpleasant or foul odors emitted from the compost.

Composting material shall be maintained in a manner that will promote the decay of the organic material, including regular turning and fluffing of the compost material."

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Monday, July 13, 2009

Districts Struggle To Fund Schools

Across Allegheny County, districts cited their 2009-10 budget year as one of the most difficult to balance. Mt. Lebanon officials approved a small increase this year -- $30 on a $100,000 home, equaling a 1.26 percent hike -- but the district's projections for the next five years are much more foreboding.

Jan Klein, director of business services for Mt. Lebanon, which is preparing to build a new $100 million high school, said school taxes could rise 19 to 45 percent by the 2014-15 school year in a worst-case scenario. Not all of the increase is tied to the new high school. Typical operating costs, such as teachers' pensions and how the district will pay for them, are responsible for a portion.


Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mt. Lebanon Garden Tour Full Of Delights

A big, bumpy cucumber basks in the sun, hanging above Fred Crissman's head. Mr. Crissman is yelling across the yard to his wife, laughing as he asks, "Hey Ar, how many variations of flowers do you think we have here?"

Arlene Crissman turns and stares at her husband for about 15 seconds, and then shakes her head as if to say "You've got to be kidding me." The "hundreds upon hundreds" of precisely planted flowers, herbs, vegetables and fruits growing in hand-crafted, screened-in, wooden enclosures in the Crissman yard were not organized by a professional landscaper.


Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Allegheny Regional Asset District Continues Hold On Spending

Local libraries, parks and cultural attractions, already hurting because of the declining economy took another wallop Wednesday from the Allegheny Regional Asset District.

RAD's board, worried about declining sales tax collections, announced that it would continue withholding 10 percent of operating grants and all discretionary capital grants at least for two more months.


Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Pick 3, Spend 50, Save Your Local Economy

I recently stumbled upon the web site for "The 3/50 Project" while doing some research on small businesses for my job and it made me think about our business districts. We've seen the loss of a number of businesses recently in town and I've wondered what we could do to help improve the viability of our local economy.

If you're a resident, it's pretty simple -- pick 3 and spend $50 each month to help our local economy. If you're a business, click on the resources page to see how you can promote the project right here in town to show your customers and visitors how important it is to spend their money locally.


Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Bob Williams, Guest Blogging at Blog-Lebo

Bob Williams, who recently left the staff of The Almanac, has volunteered to pitch in with the occasional Blog-Lebo post about Mt. Lebanon. Please welcome Bob (back) to the South Hills media space!

Just as Joe Polk and I don't always agree with each other, I don't expect that Joe or I will always agree with Bob, or he with us. And none of us expect that you, readers of the blog, will always agree with any of us! But we do expect both agreement and disagreement to (continue to be) thoughtful and respectful, even if it is sometimes pretty vigorous, and we look forward to those blog-worthy conversations.

By Bob Williams
Date: Wednesday, July 8, 2009, 12:43 AM

Mt. Lebanon lost a bright and quite capable counselor over the weekend to cancer. I'll remember him most as a man who kept his head in a hurricane of public hysteria, while everyone around seemed to be losing theirs. I say it because I witnessed it. As one journalist who covered the Upper St. Clair International Baccalaureate firestorm of February 2006, Theodore Brooks as school attorney handled himself with such grace and professionalism that I developed a deep respect for him.

He didn't speak often at school board meetings, but when he did, everyone listened. He was that kind of man. In that "mother of all school board meetings" of Feb. 20, 2006, I recall Mr. Brooks was asked point-blank by an IB supporter on the school board whether the 5-member board majority would violate policy by voting that night to disband IB--if such a vote was even legal. With over 1,000 IB supporters in the Upper St. Clair audience (yes, over 1,000) trying to gain whatever leverage they could to save the program, Mr. Brooks paused, then said yes, the board could vote that night. That despite objections, a majority of the board could vote to disband IB. And soon after, they did. I'll never forget it. I thought, "Yikes! That man either has some really huge ones, or he's got his tar and feather repellant suit on."

Let's just say there were some folks in attendance who didn't like that answer. But Mr. Brooks of course knew the law, and made his rulings based strictly on the law. That was just the way he was. I always thought he would have been a fantastic judge. He could put all the noise aside, look at the law and in short order render a verdict.

I heard he was ill several years ago, but he bounced back and looked great. He beat it, I thought. He resumed attending school board meetings and in no time he was on top of his game. Three years flew by. But Ted suddenly stopped coming to meetings. I was saddened to see a note from his wife explaining that Ted wanted to come home. That physicians said nothing more could be done. I wished it wasn't so.

In media circles, attorneys are generally the brunt of jokes. Journalists curse some of them (well, a lot of them maybe) in all manner of undignified language. But not Mr. Brooks. Seriously. You just didn't think things like that about Mr. Brooks. Ted always accepted media calls and gave straightforward answers. Every time. And he was also the kind of man who liked a joke and enjoyed a laugh. We have that in common, as I found out.

Case in point: I decided it might be humorous to start donning old vari-view buttons on my jacket in the fall months before November elections. It started with a "JFK-Man for the 60s" button. Ebay being a clearinghouse of old campaign buttons, I bought at least a dozen of them and rotated stock. One button caught Ted's attention. "Make it Emphatic, Vote Straight Democratic---Stevenson-Williams." Now, the "Stevenson" wasn't Mt. Lebanon's Tom, it was Adlai. Ted stopped, looked closer, laughed and said something about "Soapy" Williams!!! on my button. "He was governor of Michigan and was on Michigan's Supreme Court. Where the !#@! did you get that ???" he said laughing.

From then on, Ted followed the rotations of the campaign buttons and always got a laugh out of the newest fast fashion. But what about "Soapy" Williams? Surely, Ted was wrong about that. Who would vote for a governor named "Soapy?" Well..."Soapy" was the nickname for G. Mennen Williams, Michigan's governor in the late 1940s and 1950s. "Soapy" was no doubt a better name them something so Germanic as "Gerhardt" in post WWII America, but his family made its fortune off men's shaving products and soaps, hence "Soapy" and his brother "Bubbles." Sure enough, it became quickly apparent Ted was right as usual. We'll miss you friend.
Bookmark and Share

More on Proposed Cuts to the RAD Contribution to the Mt. Lebanon Library Budget

An important message from Joe Wertheim, regarding proposed cuts in RAD funding for the Mt. Lebaon Library:

Special Board meeting-Wednesday, July 8, at 4 p.m. in the RAD conference room, 1610 of the Regional Enterprise Tower, 425 Sixth Avenue, Pittsburgh. This meeting is to discuss projected revenues for the remainder of 2009 and 2010, as well as any other matters (which would be the proposed ACLA formula). Public speakers have to register by 10:30 a.m. the day of the meeting; comments are limited to 3 minutes.

Contractual Asset hearings are August 25 and 27 at 3:30 p.m. Same location.
(ACLA is a contractual asset)

Board meeting & prelim budget release: Sept. 29 at 4 p.m. Same location

Budget public hearing-October 21 at 3:30 p.m. Same location

Board meeting & adoption of 2010 budget--December 1 at 4 p.m. Same location

The RAD, however, will not vote on the formula until sometime in September, after they have heard the budget presentations from all the assets.

The RAD Board's next Board meeting will be September 29 at which time they release their preliminary budget. Public comments can be made at that meeting.

There will still be time after that to speak to the RAD at the October 21 budget public hearing.
The RAD adopts its final budget at the Dec. 1 Board meeting.

There is time before the vote to contact the RAD members to express your concern about the negative impact on our library if the ACLA formula is allowed to stand.

Thanks for your help.
Joe Wertheim, President
Friends of the Mt. Lebanon Public Library

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Why We Moved To Pittsburgh (Mt. Lebanon)

Mt. Lebanon residents Tim and Beth Nolan's journey to Mt. Lebanon has been highlighted in an article on Pop City about their reasons for moving to Pittsburgh and Mt. Lebanon.


Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Local Tennis Tourneys Feature Top Talent

The clay courts at the Mt. Lebanon Tennis Center aren't exactly Roland Garros, home of the French Open, but this week, they could be playing host to a future Grand Slam tennis champion.

The National Collegiate Clay Court Championships/West Penn Amateur and the main draw for the UBS Men's Futures of Pittsburgh tournament run today-Sunday on the Mt. Lebanon Tennis Center's clay courts.


Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Monday, July 06, 2009

Another Lebo Church Vandalized?

I noticed late this afternoon that the large sign outside Southminster Presbyterian Church, at the corner of Washington Road and Castle Shannon Boulevard, was heavily damaged in what appeared, to me, to be an act of vandalism. I'm hoping that I'm wrong. I looked at the Police Blotter but saw nothing that seemed relevant. Can anyone shed light on this?

Updated 7/7: I am wrong. Thanks, Marshall (in the comments), for the explanation.
Bookmark and Share

Covering Lebo News

Bill Lewis reported in a comment below:
Thought folks might want to be aware of the sad fact that Bob Williams is no longer a Reporter for The Almanac....a victim of the economy, the decline of print media in general and personnel reductions in the overall print enterprises of the Washington, PA based Observer - Reporter Corp., parent company of The Almanac. Bob's former duties will be assumed by a reporter from the Observer-Reporter and stringers reporting for The Almanac. Bob created a lot of *sunshine* for the public in area governance matters over 17 years of coverage, both municipal and school district, with fair and balanced research and reporting. I'm not at all confident he will be replaceable in kind.

The loss is certainly felt first and foremost by Bob himself, but it's also a loss for Mt. Lebanon, too. No print publication today offers sustained coverage of the ordinary processes of municipal governance here. Bob's work was straight reporting, but more than any other local writer he covered the Mt. Lebanon government beat as it should be covered -- closely and thoroughly.

As the fourth anniversary of this blog approaches, I'm more aware than ever that Mt. Lebanon residents who care about good government need a public place, independent of the Municipality, to raise and debate issues of interest and concern -- whether those concerns have to do with the Mt. Lebanon Commission, the Board of School Directors, the Parking Authority. For now, and unless a better venue emerges, that's a major goal of the blog.

Eventually, I hope that our elected and appointed representatives will find ways to respond.
Bookmark and Share

Save Mt. Lebanon Library

We received a flyer today from a member of the Mt. Lebanon Library Board of Trustees regarding the potential funding cut as a result of a change to the Allegheny County Library Association’s (ACLA) formula for the distribution of Regional Asset District (RAD) funds to 44 county libraries.

I have posted the contents of the flyer below since we can't upload PDF files to our blogging account:

Save Mt. Lebanon Library!

We need your help! Take action and tell RAD to say NO to the ACLA funding formula!


If RAD accepts the ACLA formula—Mt. Lebanon Library loses and so do you! Mt. Lebanon Library will lose more than $170,000 in annual funding.

You lose:

  • Friday and Sunday service at the Library—we will have to close for these two days—all year long!
  • Popular Library programs—for example—instead of five preschool story times each week—we will have one!
  • Valuable help from Library staff—we will have to reduce staff by six part-time positions!
  • Material for you to borrow—we will have to reduce our purchases of books, audio and video materials, magazine, and online databases by approximately 40%.

Don’t let this happen to this gem in our community.

Don’t let this happen to the thousands of people who use our Library. Don’t let this happen to you

Help now—by writing to RAD and telling them to say NO to ACLA!!! We need your help and we need it now. Thanks for supporting the Mt. Lebanon Library!

Here are some points about Allegheny County Library Association’s (ACLA) formula for the distribution of Regional Asset District (RAD) funds to 44 county libraries. Feel free to use those that resonate with you. Please contact the library if you have any questions or would like additional information. 412-531-1912.


You may call or send your letters or e-mail messages to:

Regional Asset District
425 Sixth Avenue, Suite 1610
Pittsburgh, PA 15219


The Regional Asset District (RAD) provides $5,175,000 to 44 public libraries in Allegheny County. Using a formula developed by the Allegheny County Library Association (ACLA), the funds are distributed to the county libraries (excluding Carnegie Library of Pitts-burgh, which receives its RAD funds directly). Since 1995, when RAD began distributing funds to regional assets such as the zoo, parks, and libraries, ACLA has served as a pass-through for RAD funds to libraries and has used a formula for the distribution. ACLA recently created a radically new formula, the third since 1995. The last revision to a formula was in 2000. The RAD must approve any distribution formula developed by ACLA. RAD will decide later this summer and fall whether to approve ACLA’s new formula.

Points about ACLA’s formula

Inequitable Support for Distressed Libraries

Support for distressed libraries is grossly inequitable. Wilkinsburg, a distressed library, loses $54,402. McKeesport, another distressed library, gains $132,771. The assertion that the formula’s swings in gains and losses are due to additional money going to distressed librar-ies is inaccurate. Net gain for the 8 distressed libraries is less than $150,000 (of the $5,175,000 RAD funds distributed to all 44 county libraries.)

Large Gains to Non-Distressed Libraries

Non-distressed libraries gain a total of $442,175 in the formula. Many of these libraries serve communities that can afford to support li-braries well, for example, Moon, Hampton, Plum, Northland [serving McCandless, Franklin Park, Ross, Bradford Woods, Marshall], Lauri Ann West [serving Fox Chapel, O’Hara, Aspinwall, Blawnox, Sharpsburg, and others], to name a few.

Inequitable Regional Distribution—the South Takes the Biggest Hit!

There is inequitable regional distribution in the formula: South Region libraries take biggest hit, with 10 of the 12 libraries losing more than $411,000 (Mt. Lebanon loses $171,000), while only 2 gain: Clairton, a distressed library, gains $25,108 while Pleasant Hills gains only $2,559. Green Tree library (in ACLA’s West Region, but contiguous to South Region libraries) loses $29,540. [Libraries in ACLA’s South Region: Baldwin Borough, Bethel Park, Brentwood, Clairton, Castle Shannon, Dormont, Jefferson Hills, Mt. Lebanon, Pleasant Hills, South Park, Upper St. Clair, Whitehall] The loss of library service to the residents of the South Hills of Allegheny County will be catastrophic. This cannot be considered fair or equitable.

Mt. Lebanon Suffers the Largest Loss—More than 10% of our Operating Budget!

Mt. Lebanon has long been one of the most successful libraries in the county and state, serving people of all ages from across southwest-ern Pennsylvania. The award-winning library’s high usage measures are evidence of this success and exceed those of peer libraries across the country: circulation, library visits, collection size, reference questions, program attendance, public computer use, web site visits, and more. Moreover, the library receives strong support from the municipality and residents of the community, which should be rewarded and leveraged in the funding formula, as it has been since 1995. It does not make sense that Mt. Lebanon Public Library is losing the largest amount in the formula, $170,976, more than double the next biggest loss by a library. This is more than 10% of our operating budget.

Large Swings in Gains and Losses is Too Extreme

This is not the time to enact a radically changed ACLA formula for the distribution of RAD funds to libraries, one that contains wild swings in gains and losses. Twenty-three of the forty-four libraries lose RAD funds in ACLA’s formula. In a year when libraries already face severe funding cuts from the State (perhaps as much as 50%), it is unthinkable that a formula redistribution causes so many of these libraries to suffer extreme losses.

No Incentive for Local Support

The lack of a factor that leverages local income and municipal support penalizes libraries that have good municipal support. Moreover, the lack of a factor to provide any incentive for local income will result in further reduced library support and diminished library service across the county. The intent of RAD funds has always been to supplement, not supplant, local municipal and community support of libraries and to leverage local financing. It is impossible for RAD to support county libraries in lieu of meaningful local contributions. The formula should reward local support of libraries.

We urge the Regional Asset District Board to reject ACLA’s new formula.

Save Mt. Lebanon Library—Tell RAD—say NO to ACLA!!

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Garden Party And Tour This Weekend

Garden Party -- Saturday, July 11th, 6 to 8 p.m., Library Courtyard

For the fifth year the Library Board is hosting a pre-tour Garden Party in the Library Courtyard. Cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and great conversation with fellow garden lovers! This event is attended by young and old. The food comes from great Mt. Lebanon establishments and the beer and wine flow all evening long. All refreshments are included with your ticket!

$25 admission, in advance (at the Library) or at the door!

19th Annual Mt. Lebanon Public Library Garden Tour

The 19th Annual Garden Tour benefiting the Mt. Lebanon Public Library will be held on Sunday, July 12th from 12 to 5 p.m. This year’s tour features seven distinctive Mt. Lebanon gardens. The famous plant sale is back, too!

The Garden Tour has been a significant source of funding for the library. Since 1991, Garden Tours have raised more than $292,000 for the benefit of the library. Proceeds from the previous Garden Tours helped build the new library and the outdoor courtyard, and have provided books, audio-visual materials, puppets, and programs for patrons of all ages.

Ticket prices remain the same as last year:

$12 in advance
$15 on tour day

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Amateur Antiques Roadshow in Lebo

OK, Tim: Thanks for your comment on the Trash Day post, which suggested that there's enough re-purposing of discarded furniture in Mt. Lebanon (by discarders and collectors alike) to support a kind of grassroots Antiques Roadshow. My original point was to prompt a conversation about whether or not this sort of thing is desirable (from the standpoint of a recycling/reuse/waste reduction ethos, or from the standpoint of the kind of town that Mt. Lebanon is or wants to be, or from a distributive justice standpoint [sorry - I have my academic hat on this afternoon], but I was assuming that the activity was both limited and somewhat surreptitious. It turns out, however, that it's the worst kept secret in town. Heck, if you haven't rescued an unwanted item from Mt. Lebanon's sidewalks, then maybe you aren't fully in the community swing of things! So I'll post a related but different prompt:

Post your favorite anecdote about "vulturing," "seagulling," "garbage" or "junk" picking in Lebo.


Bookmark and Share

Tour Provides Look At Mt. Lebanon Architecture

The Mt. Lebanon Historical Preservation Board gave residents of Arden Road some insight into the origins of their homes at a recent house tour.

Dan Gigler of Mt. Lebanon hosted the tour and shared information about who built the homes, the architecture type and the year the houses were built. He also provided each resident with an index card containing known information about his or her home.


Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share