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Lutz taking over in Baldwin one of top stories of 2012

By Laura Van Wert and Stephanie Hacke
Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, 8:57 p.m.
 

As 2012 draws to an end, the South Hills Record staff looks back on the events, projects and people that affected Baldwin Borough, Baldwin Township, Brentwood, Jefferson Hills, Pleasant Hills and Whitehall and the school districts in those communities.

Here is the Top 12 in 2012, in no particular order:

Korchnak /Lutz

Baldwin-Whitehall School District students, staff and taxpayers said farewell to Superintendent Lawrence Korchnak in June when he retired, while welcoming Randal Lutz, a 16-year employee, to the top spot.

Korchnak and Lutz worked even closer together than usual from fall 2011 until the former retired to make the transition easier.

Lutz, a lifelong Baldwin Borough resident, said he is determined to make what he calls a good district into a great one by focusing on improving the basics of the district and building goals.

Brentwood Park/municipal facility

Two projects dominated the conversations of Brentwood's borough council in 2012 – the $8 million, multi-phase park renovation and if and when to construct a municipal facility.

Council members want both projects to be financed and completed, but some members disagree on when to start the work.

The first two phases of the Brentwood Park renovation are scheduled to begin in 2013.

The estimated cost to construct a new municipal facility is $10.5 million, although council members have said that they would like the final cost to be about half of that.

Public works will move to a facility on Willett Road with a price of $1.25 million.

Brentwood/Monessen

Two school districts—once at odds over accusations of racial slurs and taunts at a high school basketball game— united during 2012 to promote positive attitudes and sportsmanship.

A Feb. 3 boys' varsity basketball game between Brentwood and Monessen at Brentwood garnered national attention after reports that two Brentwood students circled the court in banana costumes, which some perceived to be racist. Claims also were made that racial remarks were made during the game.

The WPIAL Board of Control cleared Brentwood of wrongdoing, but charged the two schools to work together and come up with a plan that will promote good sportsmanship at future events.

Administrators and school leaders met to formulate plans to promote unity between the towns.

Fire company finances

Becks Run Independent Fire Company, Baldwin Borough's oldest and smallest fire station, was closed in 2012 after two of its leaders were charged with stealing nearly $25,000 from a state-funded relief association over a five-year period.

Baldwin firefighters – who have not been shy about their need for additional funds – went all out in 2012, using creativity to raise money for their stations. Firefighters at South Baldwin Independent Fire Company even created calendars and stripped down to their underpants to dance in a video – set to the tune of PSY's “Gangnam Style” – in an effort to raise awareness for fire safety.

Plaza Drive property

Plans to construct a four-story, 85-unit senior living facility on 17 acres on Plaza Drive in Pleasant Hills will not move forward after seven months of discussion and public hearings.

Pleasant Hills Borough Council refused to grant zoning approval for the project.

Neighbors on Challen, Robinson and Steiner drives worried that the senior living facility would be low-income housing, the building would be an eyesore, would take away from the natural surroundings and would depreciate property values.

No police merger

What started with Brentwood council members seeking a grant to determine the efficiency of the police, fire and emergency medical services quickly morphed into a discussion with Baldwin Borough officials about merging resources.

Brentwood and Baldwin officials ultimately decided not to pursue formal discussion about merging police departments, but the reaction from potentially doing so was loud and clear.

Saccone/Levdansky race

Thirty-six votes separated two candidates for the state representative position for District 39 for several days after the Nov. 6 election.

Incumbent Rick Saccone, a Republican, ultimately beat David Levdansky, a Democrat, by 114 votes for the District 39 state representative seat, but not before election officials in Allegheny and Washington counties spent several days counting absentee and provisional ballots to reach the final result.

Reassessments

The release of the 2011 property reassessments in Allegheny County in 2012 caused some adjustments for residents and municipal officials alike.

South Hills residents flooded Baldwin High School's performing arts center in the spring for instructions on what the reassessments mean and how to file appeals. Residents scheduled individual appeal hearings throughout the first half of the year.

Also, municipal officials either delayed approving the communities' final 2013 budgets until January or approved them by estimating the millage rate as they wait for the final certified property rates from Allegheny County leaders.

WJH overcrowding

With continued growth — attributed to new housing development in the Jefferson Hills area — and an aging high school facility, West Jefferson Hills School District officials in 2012 focused on school overcrowding and building needs.

Board members in March charged the district architect, JC Pierce LLC, with creating a facilities master plan, which includes a review of district buildings and creating a blueprint for the future facilities.

Overcrowding at Gill Hall Elementary School in April led board members to approve a redistricting plan that moved more than 50 students to McClellan Elementary School in August.

Construction projects

• St. Thomas á Becket Parish celebrated the completion of a $8.2 million church in September.

The new church was a 48-year dream that came true, mostly because of support from the congregation and fundraising.

• A new $2.5 million, two-story, three-bay station for the Whitehall Fire Company opened on Route 51 in May. The borough borrowed about $2.6 million for the project, which was under construction for nearly a year, and came in within budget.

Streetlights down

In a cost-saving effort, Baldwin Borough officials in 2012 agreed to eliminate nearly 30 percent of the municipality's streetlights, which computes to the elimination of 366 of more than 1,300 streetlights. This will save the borough $66,000 a year.

EDS progress

Economic Development South — a nonprofit organization working to revamp Brentwood, Whitehall and Baldwin Borough and Pittsburgh neighborhoods of Carrick and Overbrook — received more than $400,000 in funding for the local communities through grants in 2012.

The nonprofit, alongside leaders from the Pittsburgh-based Penn State Center, also oversaw the formation of a multi-municipal shade tree commission between Brentwood, Whitehall and Baldwin boroughs. This was the first multi-municipal shade tree commission in the state, organizers said.

Applications were made to TreeVitalize and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, seeking grants for “free trees” for all three municipalities. The group received 25 trees for Brentwood Park that were planted by nearly 30 volunteers from all three communities in early November.

 

 
 


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