Council gives preliminary approval for $1.6 million in funding transfers | Keeping Up With the Council

Council gives preliminary approval for $1.6 million in funding transfers

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$200,000 from street lighting. $100,000 from slope failure remediation. $28,888.52 from audible traffic signals.

Last week Pittsburgh City Council considered several resolutions to transfer funds from a variety of city projects in order to fund the maintenance of public safety, public works, and parks facilities.

“Pittsburghers deserve clean, safe and functional public facilities, as do our employees who work in these buildings day in and day out,” Mayor Bill Peduto said in a June 6 statement. 

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The fund transfers were spurred by an early June executive order from Mayor Peduto to launch a strategic investment and maintenance plan for city-owned facilities. Under the order, city officials were tasked with finding $1.6 million in unspent capital to fund 12 maintenance projects. A total of $5.1 million will be allocated for facilities maintenance in 2015.

"I know each one of us would prioritize the spending a little differently," District 8 Councilor Dan Gilman said of the transfers. "We need to make sure the buildings our employees work in are safe. And some of these buildings are down right unsafe. So unfortunately there are some projects that are going to be put on hold."

The nearly one dozen resolutions draw funds from several pools in the Department of Public Works. The bulk of the $1.6 million will come from $1.1 million in old, unused Community Development Block Grant funds. Another chunk, $450,000, comes  from play area and sport facility improvements.

Other proposed transfers include $77,982.10 from the Penn Avenue reconstruction project and $70,000 from the Penn Avenue Corridor Phasing Plan. 

"I think it's important to note that no project will not be completed because of this transfer," said Sam Ashbaugh, budget director for the city of Pittsburgh. "We're simply reprogramming and prioritizing work that needs to be done for city facilities that were identified as most critical needs."

City officials emphasized that no projects would be canceled as a result of the fund transfers, but admitted some could be delayed. Some councilors worried about what delayed projects would mean for city residents. Among concerns were the loss of funds for slope remediation and park improvements.

"I think we all agree these projects need to be done. My concern is where the funds are coming from and how these funds were determined," said District 2 Councilor Theresa Kail-Smith.  "When you're living next to those parks, it doesn't matter that it will be done next year. They want it done last year."

"When it comes to slope remediation we all have issues that there isn't enough money in the budget," said District 1 Councilor Darlene Harris.

In the past two years the city has used $8 million for parks, recreation centers and senior centers. There is still $2 million in the budget for slope remediation, although according to city officials, it would take $18 million to solve the city's slope remediation issues.

And that's exactly what worries Kail-Smith who says several projects important to city residents already don't have adequate funding. 

"I think you've done a good job, but I find it hard to believe that there's no where else in the city budget to get this money," Kail-Smith said. "I think you could have done it in a way that had the least impact on residents. Whether it was looking at our own office internally."

Despite the push back, the ten resolutions to transfer funds were affirmatively recommended by council. 

Editor's note: An earlier version of this blog post appeared with an error in the headline, stating the figure $5 million rather than $1.6 million.




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