RELAY LUMINARIA Think back…way back, to Christmas Eve, 2019. Remember it? Or is your memory foggy?
It’s probably foggy. Last year’s Christmas Eve was SO foggy, it was hard to see your way down Washington Road to get to Grandma’s. But one thing stood out…hundreds of tiny tea lights in luminaria bags spread all over the sidewalks of Mt. Lebanon. It was the inaugural year for Light Up Lebo, the (now) annual fundraiser, sponsored by Relay for Life of Mt. Lebanon. The event was a huge success, and it will be back again this year.
Here’s how it works: Buy as many luminaria bags as you can and at sundown on December 24, line your driveway, sidewalk, front porch—wherever you like. All proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society as part of Relay for Life of Mt. Lebanon’s fundraising effort. We don’t have to remind you that Mt. Lebanon’s Relay for Life was one of the large-scale events that fell victim to cancellations due to the pandemic. Yet, cancer didn’t stop. So the fundraisers are trying even harder to make up as much of that fundraising as they can.
Suggested donation for each kit is $20 and that gets you supplies and instructions to create 10 luminaria. Place your order at charity.gofundme.com/light-up-lebo . Claim your kit at the drive-through pickup event at Dixon Field, off Cedar Boulevard, on Thursday, December 17, from 6 to 8 p.m.
You can also get cash-and-carry kits at Truver’s Jewelry, 3287 West Liberty Avenue.
For more information about Relay for Life of Mt Lebanon visit: relayforlife.org/pamtlebanon .
DANGEROUS DRAINAGE Most people agree that Mt. Lebanon does a pretty stellar job of keeping the roads clear of snow and ice. One thing that makes that task harder is those stealth ice spots that pop up all over town, the result of water discharged onto the street from sump pumps, the devices that keep excess water from accumulating in basements.
While most of the pumps either channel their water into pipes that tie in with the storm sewer system or discharge somewhere on the property, municipal engineer Dan Deiseroth estimates that Mt. Lebanon has about 100 cases where the water flows into the street. This water does not pose a health hazard, but in freezing weather it can make for hazardous driving conditions.
“Public Works has these ice spots mapped,” says Municipal Manager Keith McGill. “They treat them but the treatment is very short-lived. The water comes back out and washes the salt away.”
Commissioners have enacted an ordinance to address this problem. Beginning in 2021, newly installed sump pumps must direct water discharges into the storm sewer system when possible, or onto absorbent surfaces, such as grass, mulch or soil, or a sump pit, to ensure that water does not find its way onto the street or onto neighboring properties. Property owners need a permit for a sump pump, and a requirement for obtaining the permit is to demonstrate that the water will discharge more than 10 feet from the property line and the municipal right of way.
Existing sump pumps that continue to pose a problem will need to be brought into compliance with the new ordinance. Property owners will need to assume the cost of any remedies.
“We want to address situations where a discharge onto the property could still create a problem, if it’s still finding its way to the street,” says Deiseroth.
That could mean extending storm sewer pipes within the right of way to facilitate tying into the system. During street reconstruction, property owners in the area who have sump pumps that do not comply with the new ordinance will be given the chance to connect to the storm system.
“Going forward, we will include sump pump issues and storm infrastructure as part of the same problem,” says McGill. “We will extend infrastructure to give property owners a chance to tie in.
“We’re taking a combination of approaches,” he adds. “We’re putting something in place so that when we have new applications for sump pumps, we’re not going to continue to compound an existing problem. There will still be requirements on how they will be installed, and we will work with homeowners to try to address existing situations that are problematic.”
NEW YEAR, NEW BUDGET This is Municipal Manager Keith McGill’s fifth time preparing a Manager’s Recommended Budget and it is by far the most difficult one he has had to produce. As required by Mt. Lebanon’s Home Rule Charter, McGill must submit a proposed budget to the Mt. Lebanon Commission no later than November 1, to allow ample time for discussion before voting to adopt the budget before January 1.
In this year’s budget message, McGill quotes one of the Founding Fathers, Thomas Paine: “These are the times that try men’s souls.”
“I would amend that to say these are the times that try all of our souls,” McGill writes, in reference to the global COVID-19 pandemic. “Change is hard, but change without choice is harder. The pandemic took away many of our choices and caused all of us to reset our lives and expectations.”
In a year that featured lockdowns, quarantines and spikes in cases, Mt. Lebanon took a from-the-ground-up look at everything from staffing to communication to delivery of services, while keeping the safety of residents and employees in the forefront.
Judicious application of the municipality’s fund balance, combined with a rebound of earned income, real estate transfer and sales taxes allow for a continued delivery of services with no increase in real estate tax, which will remain at 4.71 mills. A mill is $1 of tax money for every $1,000 of a home’s assessed value. In addition to municipal property tax, residents are assessed a 4.73-mill county rate and a school district rate of 24.79 mills, for a total of 34.23 mills.
Mt. Lebanon’s proposed 2021 operating budget is $34.5 million. The total combined budget, which includes capital improvement items, is $52.5 million. In addition to regularly scheduled street reconstruction and sewer system improvements, budget highlights include $360,000 for improvements to Robb Hollow Park and $61,250 for the replacement of duty weapons for the police department. The Vibrant Uptown Project, an upgrade of sidewalks and lighting in the Washington Road business district, will complete its planning phase and begin work. The Mt. Lebanon Public Library will receive a new roof and plans are in the works for a turning lane at the intersections of Bower Hill and Washington and Bower and Segar roads.
Mt. Lebanon Commission will be voting on adopting the 2021 municipal budget at its Tuesday, December 8, meeting. Work on the budget begins in the summer, as all municipal department heads meet several times with McGill and with members of the Mt. Lebanon Finance Department. Commissioners held budget review sessions throughout November.