Lower Burrell’s former solicitor challenging 2 city councilmen for seat
Lower Burrell’s former solicitor is going up against two incumbent councilmen for one of their seats on the Democratic ticket in Tuesday’s primary.
There was a show of support on Facebook for Lower Burrell resident and longtime city solicitor Stephen Yakopec Jr. when his contract with the city was in jeopardy earlier this year, but that didn’t stop council from not renewing his contract. Cost was one of the reasons cited, although, the full story never has been made public.
Yakopec, who has considerable legal experience in local government, said his decision to run for council had nothing to do with losing his contract as city solicitor after 26 years.
Yakopec said he is running because he questions some spending at city hall.
His competitors, current city councilmen Chris Koziarski and Chris Fabry don’t talk of spending issues but their understanding of current commerce with the “Amazon economy” and how that is impacting the city’s business environment.
The most pressing issue in the city is retaining local businesses and attracting new ones, according to Koziarski and Fabry.
“We have to face facts that it’s 2019, and online shopping has changed the landscape,” said Fabry. “We have to work on specialty and destination shops.”
Fabry, who works in sales in the technology field, said he feels he brings his professional background and knowledge of the city, overseeing several departments during his tenure.
Koziarski, a business owner of an audio-visual architect firm, sees how areas of Pittsburgh attract people and believes in continuing to increase activities at the city’s parks, which bring visitors into the city.
Heading up the city’s parks during the last several years, Koziarski has annually been doubling the number of groups using the parks with organized sports, races and other events.
“With all of these activities, I’m pulling in a multitude of communities,” he said. Bringing recognition to the city through its parks and events is key to attracting people and, hopefully, business to the city, Koziarski said.
Koziarski’s business takes him to Pittsburgh’s East Liberty, Lawrenceville and Strip District neighborhoods, and he talks to people there to gain a better understanding of what has worked for them.
In terms of retail, Koziarski sees room for a home improvement store, restaurants and other possibilities.
“You have places like the Pittsburgh Mills mall with issues — it’s the Amazon Era,” he said.
Fabry is also looking at the city dealing with what he considers a fixed budget.
Fabry said he doesn’t want to raise taxes but would like to keep working on expenses. He wants to look further into consolidation to streamline equipment used by the city’s public works and parks department.
Fabry wants more resource sharing among local municipalities: “We need a bucket truck a couple of times a year; can we borrow one?”
Fabry wants to continue his work with financial transparency. He credits his development of in depth, quarterly breakdowns on city finances “to not only recognize current challenges but those we will be facing in the coming years.”
Yakopec is concerned about the city’s spending on projects.
The city just started its $3.1 million renovation of city hall including the construction of a new public works pole building, adding space to the police department and moving the tax office from a stand-alone building back to city hall.
Yakopec said city hall needed a new roof and the city needed a new pole building and more space for the police, but “I question the scope and cost of the whole project.”
He questions the extra expenses if city police has its own holding cell. Currently the city pays News Kensington to use its holding cell.
Yakopec is concerned about future project costs for the city, including paying to fix a high-pressure sewage line at the end of Edgecliff Road serving half of Lower Burrell, potentially costing between $1.25 million and $1.75 million.
“Lower Burrell is not a growing community, and I believe we have to be cognizant of how the money is being spent,” Yakopec said.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter .