When this column is published, I will have served almost 10 years as a Mt. Lebanon Commissioner. Time flies. It seems like only a year or two have passed since I was first sworn in. Much has changed over the years but some has not.
Mt Lebanon is still a wonderful place to live and raise a family. The real estate transfers show that people want to buy property in our community and at ever increasing average values. Unfortunately, the property across from St. Bernard’s Church and Pamela’s Diner, and the land near the Castle Shannon T stop remain undeveloped.
In 2013, Commission approved a comprehensive plan for Mt. Lebanon. This detailed document is required every 10 years and was produced with input from residents, municipal staff and elected officials. We were able to complete most of the goals set forth in the plan. We are working on the new 10-year comprehensive plan. Perhaps you have seen and talked with representatives of Pashek+MTR, the consultant firm we hired to help us gather input from residents. We want your input. How can we improve our town? This plan will be Commission and municipal staff’s roadmap for the next decade.
During my time on Commission, we have seen an improvement in our parks. We added land to Robb Hollow and Williamsburg parks. We have helped the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy fight invasive species in Bird and Twin Hills parks. We have worked with many Eagle Scouts who have upgraded our trails in the same two parks. We hired a parks and facilities manager, Phil Avolio, who is responsible for the maintenance of our parks.
We are not done yet. In 2022, we received an updated parks master plan. The previous plan had been completed in the early 2000s. Our Parks Advisory Board has been evaluating, with the help of consultants, our parks and street trees and ways to fight invasive species. Currently, a study is underway to analyze the best strategies to update and improve both Mt. Lebanon Park (also known as Main Park) and the recreation center.
We have upgraded other municipal facilities over the last 10 years. In addition to the replacement and improvement of our community swimming pool, the conversion of Middle/Seymour/Wildcat field to artificial turf, and the revitalization of our Uptown Business District, Commission approved a multi-million dollar revamping to our public works facility. The flow of the salt trucks is safer and more efficient. Dropoff at our many community recycling and shredding events has improved. And our snow and leaf removal trucks can now be parked indoors which should extend the life of this expensive equipment. In addition, solar panels were added to the roof of the library when that roof needed to be replaced.
Our team has changed over the last 10 years. I am the last remaining Commissioner from when I started. After municipal manager Steve Feller retired, we selected Keith McGill for the job. He has been our able and approachable manager for the past eight years. Coleman McDonough was our police chief when I begin my service. After he retired, we selected Aaron Lauth as police chief. Lauth and his team worked with Lexipol to have our police policies peer reviewed. The final product was then posted to our municipal website. Last year, our police department was recognized by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association. We are one of only 150 police departments in Pennsylvania to have achieved this recognition. Jason Haberman was selected earlier this year to succeed the now retired Chief Lauth.
Fire Chief Nick Sohyda continues to improve his department. Mt. Lebanon is one of three fire departments in the state and 200 nationally to attain an ISO Class I rating. During his term, we have replaced two of our fire apparatus. The chief and his team having been working on the design and funding opportunities for a fire training facility to be installed in our public works yard. Other fire companies will be able to rent this facility.
Over the past 10 years, we have spent roughly $25 million repairing, resurfacing, and reconstructing our streets. Our public works director, Rudy Sukal, has been our point person for our roads program. He coordinates with the various utilities and their contractors to leverage these projects to get the most value for Mt Lebanon. We try to minimize the disruption to residents as much as possible.
I have tried to be careful about the costs of these and other municipal expenditures. This is the public’s money. Commission and municipal staff have used grants, public-private partnerships and other methods to minimize the tax cost to our residents. As a result, we have had only one millage increase during my service on Commission.