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West Mifflin withdraws from Steel Valley council

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 2:06 a.m.

West Mifflin is withdrawing from Steel Valley Council of Governments.

Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to remove the borough from the organization that represents eight other municipalities.

“It wasn't the best fit for our community,” said council president Michael Moses of the decision to leave Steel Valley COG. “We felt we weren't getting return for our value.”

Borough officials said annual membership dues for the council are about $24,000.

“Their focus tends to be on demolition and land banking,” Moses said. “We feel that we're pointed in a different direction. Some of the other (councils of governments) offer a broader scope of programs as far as SWAT teams and police training and emergency medical services.”

Moses said West Mifflin's population, size and operating budget are larger than those of the council's other member governments, which are Braddock Hills, Clairton, Dravosburg, Homestead, Munhall, West Elizabeth, West Homestead and Whitaker.

Council has not determined to which council it will apply next, though South Hills Area Council of Governments is a choice that seems likely.

“We actually have done a lot of business with (South Hills Area COG) over the past couple of years,” Moses said. “A lot of our purchasing is aligned with them. To me, I think that would be a better fit, though we've looked at Twin Rivers (Council of Governments) as well.”

West Mifflin was a member of Twin Rivers COG until 2007. The borough leaving that council prompted Twin Rivers to move its headquarters from West Mifflin to McKeesport.

Moses said geography will be a determining factor in choosing a new council.

West Mifflin's membership in Steel Valley COG is paid through the end of the year.

Borough business manager Brian Kamauf said the decision to leave the Steel Valley council does not mean the borough will not continue to be a cooperative partner with neighboring communities.

“We're still friends with all our neighbors,” said Kamauf, noting that West Mifflin and Duquesne plan to share costs on an upcoming project to pave Hoffman Boulevard near Kennywood.

West Mifflin could be the second area community to join South Hills Area COG in less than a year. In November, Elizabeth Township commissioners switched from Twin Rivers to South Hills.

In other business, West Mifflin council approved hiring four new police officers. They are Richard Marone, Tim Kintigh, Tyler Scruggs and Stephen McBride.

Councilman Steve Marone, who is Richard Marone's brother, abstained on voting for his relative. Otherwise the new hires all received unanimous support from council.

West Mifflin Mayor Chris Kelly said the new officers are good news for the borough, which had to cut police several years ago for budgetary reasons.

“I commend the police department,” he said. “This is a very busy and active police department. They continue to solve crimes at a rate about 10 percent above the statewide average.”

Finally, council voted to establish a parks and recreation committee of five to seven members. Kamauf said volunteers who serve on the committee will assist recreation director Steve Keron.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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