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Wagner audit critical of conditions in Allegheny County-owned parking garage

| Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, 11:40 a.m.

Allegheny County's Public Works department needs a maintenance plan for all county-owned buildings, Controller Chelsa Wagner said Thursday, eliciting a response from Executive Rich Fitzgerald that he has plans to offer one next week.

Fitzgerald said he will deal with the use and upkeep of all county properties, not just aging ones.

“We're looking at what is the best use of space, consolidation, how long leases are,” Fitzgerald said.

The latest dust-up between Democrats Wagner and Fitzgerald occurred after Wagner issued a report detailing problems with at least one county-owned building — the 82-year-old Fourth Avenue parking garage.

The garage is in such bad shape that the county has not allowed anyone to park there since February. It is leasing outside space for county-owned vehicles and some employees.

“The report (on Thursday) said the garage is in bad shape. We know that. I didn't want to endanger county employees so that's why we closed it in February,” Fitzgerald said.

Wagner's report said the county failed to do proper maintenance on the building since its purchase in 1989, resulting in sagging floors, freeze/thaw damage, broken drain pipes, exposed and rusted reinforcement bars, crumbling and broken concrete and structural beams that appear to be failing. Wagner said the Public Works department needs to devise a maintenance plan for all county buildings to avoid structural problems. “Allegheny County's continued practice of ‘band-aid' repairs as a maintenance strategy hurts its short- and long-term financial health,” Wagner said.

The county is paying $6,000 per month, or $46 per space, to lease a lot at the corner of Fourth and Ross streets Downtown that fits about 130 cars, many of which are sheriff's cruisers. Some county employees pay $60 per month to park there.

Fitzgerald said no final decision has been made about the garage, and he doesn't think it makes sense to repair an aging structure that has undergone no maintenance in 20 years.

Wagner criticized Fitzgerald's inquiries about purchasing the Lexington Avenue complex in Point Breeze from the Urban Redevelopment Authority. The county rents space that houses county police and 911 operations, and other departments.

Previous dust-ups between Fitzgerald and Wagner have involved assessments, the Port Authority and moving the Bureau of Weights and Measures from Wagner's office to Fitzgerald's domain.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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