Mt Lebanon’s three new commissioners—John Bendel, Kelly Fraasch and Kristen Linfante—met on Tuesday, January 31, from 10 a.m to 2 pm. with the municipal senior staff for an orientation that allowed everyone to meet each other and provided time for the commissioners to ask plenty of questions.
Manager Steve Feller started out by reviewing how Mt. Lebanon’s manager/council form of government works and discussed our Home Rule Charter, which the Commission will be looking at in the coming year in light of possible revisions. Assistant Manager/Finance Director Marcia Taylor followed with an overview of various issues, including how jobs are categorized, how employee pay is determined and what sorts of benefits employees receive. Each department head then made a short presentation, followed by questions from the commissioners. Here are some of the things they talked about:
Fire Chief Nick Sohyda discussed the fire department’s soon-to-come national accreditation, its preventative community outreach programs such as chimney inspection and the new fire education program for college students, and Mt. Lebanon’s emergency management plan. He expressed concern over county 911’s delay in notifying Mt. Lebanon of calls, which slows response time, and like Police Chief Coleman McDonough, said this issue needs addressing.
McDonough explained that the police department is not a law enforcement agency, although law enforcement is an important part of its job. He described his agency as focused on crime prevention and detailed those efforts. Both the police and fire departments offered to give the commissioners “ridealongs” if they were interested in seeing public safety work first hand.
Recreation Director David Donnellan talked about facilities and programs the Rec Department operates and explained that while the Rec Department is responsible for programs in the park, the Public Works Department maintains the parks. He also detailed how the tennis center and golf course facilities operate and how the pros are compensated.
Public Works Director Tom Kelley described the vehicle maintenance and replacement program and discussed the way street repairs and reconstruction are prioritized.
Information Technology’s Nick Schalles offered an overview of the computer systems, servers, databases, phones and other important things IT manages that everyone relies on (and hardly anyone understands.)
Planner Keith McGill previewed commercial developments under way in Mt. Lebanon and explained the planning board’s role as a recommending body to the commission. He also discussed the Land Use Group, which permits developers considering projects to discuss their proposals with municipal representatives prior to moving forward.
Inspection Chief Joe Berkley advised the commissioners to refer complaints about property maintenance and other code violations directly to him and explained why the process of getting compliance can often be long and drawn out, even after a citation has been issued.
Commercial Districts Manager Eric Milliron talked about new businesses opening Uptown and special events planned to showcase the business district. He noted that the Mt. Lebanon Partnership has a new five-year plan for enhancing the business districts and said he looks forward to working with Beverly Road merchants to achieve their goals.
Public Information Officer Susan Morgans talked about the office’s responsibilities, including publishing mtl magazine, overseeing website, cable and MTLTV content, handling media relations and special events and offering support services to other departments. She noted that the magazine is now budgeted to be supported completely by advertising sales.
Commissioners left with a packet of helpful information, and the staff appreciated the experience, which Inspector Joe Berkley described as “one of the best things we ever did.”