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Senator Wayne D. Fontana
Senator Fontana participated in a Joint Senate & House Democratic Policy Committee hearing on voting technology at Point Park University on Oct. 26. Senator Fontana participated in a Joint Senate & House Democratic Policy Committee hearing on voting technology at Point Park University on Oct. 26.

Senator Fontana participated in a Joint Senate & House Democratic Policy Committee hearing on voting technology at Point Park University on Oct. 26. Senator Fontana is pictured below with Rep. Paul Costa, Sen. Lisa Boscola and John Hastings from Dominion Voting Systems gathering information about Dominion’s voting machines.

Water and Sewer Lateral Legislation Signed into Law

sewerEarlier this summer, the Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed my Senate Bill 656 (SB 656) that would allow local governments to tap government funding sources to help citizens fund sewer and waterline repairs — especially when public health or safety are at risk.  Given the lengthy process it takes sometimes for bills to pass the General Assembly, I found it best to have my language inserted into one of the budget bills.  By putting SB 656 into the Fiscal Code, this will expedite the commonwealth’s ability to start addressing private water and sewer laterals in a more timely manner.  

Under every residence and business, there are private sewer laterals and water service lines that connect to the public water systems. Unbeknown to many home owners is that they own and are responsible for the water and sewer lines that are on their property. More recently, local municipalities have come across problems with privately owned waterlines that contain lead and need repaired or replaced. While the water quality consistently meets federal water standards through the public water pipes, it has been found that sometimes the private residential lines contain lead which then contaminates the clean water supply coming in from public lines as it goes into homes and businesses.

The same can be said of sewer lateral lines.  The problem lies in what is known as I & I which is infiltration and inflow. When you have broken laterals, I & I of contaminated water or sewage enters into the clean part of the system instead of staying out of it. Identifying and removing I & I from our aging collection system is absolutely necessary because not only are they a cause for potholes or sinkholes, but also pose a risk to residents’ health and safety.

Addressing water and sewer lateral issues has become a challenge across the state, particularly for local municipalities, since prices for repairs range between $5,000 and $35,000. Furthermore, many authorities have found very few homeowners comply with the requirement to make these necessary repairs or are unable to pay these large costs, thus compromising our sewer system and water supply even more.

Thanks to passage of Act 44, local municipalities and municipal authorities will now be able to make public funds available to repair or replace broken sewer laterals or contaminated waterlines when they pose a threat to the public health or safety. It is important to highlight that this act does not force any municipality to participate and is only enabling legislation. It would be up to each local water authority to decide if they want to designate public funding for such a cause and determine the guidelines for eligibility for such a program.

Replacing aging lead waterlines and broken sewer laterals are a costly undertaking.  My legislation gives communities more options and flexibility to help citizens replace aging sewer laterals and waterlines on their property – ultimately improving the safety and reliability of Pennsylvania’s water systems.  Not to mention it will actually save money for local municipalities in the long run since the replacement of faulty lines can be done all at one time.  Passage of Act 44 is not only a significant win for the City of Pittsburgh, but for all residents of Pennsylvania. 

DEP Orders PWSA to Make Critical Infrastructure Upgrades

The PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) last week issued an Administrative Order requiring the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) to make critical infrastructure upgrades and repairs to its public drinking water system specifically to ensure adequate pressure and volume within the system.

This order requires no action on the part of PWSA customers. Residents should continue to use water as they normally would. The Department’s order pertains to improvements to infrastructure; there is no boil water advisory in effect.
 
DEP has issued an Administrative Order to require PWSA to take specific corrective actions on a schedule prescribed by DEP. This order targets the water system’s ability to provide a continuous supply of safe and potable water to consumers, and pertains to pressure and volume, not an imminent threat from contaminants. The order has been issued to PWSA, the lessee and operator, and to the City of Pittsburgh, which owns the water system.

In its Administrative Order, DEP requires the following and other actions from PWSA:

  • Restore the Lanpher Reservoir to service by completing repairs to the cover of the east cell of the reservoir initially, and ultimately the replacement of the covers and liners of both the east and west cells;
  • Resume operation of the Highland 1 Reservoir, which would require either the addition of an ultraviolet disinfection unit and other upgrades to the Highland Membrane Filtration Plant or the covering of the Highland 1 Reservoir, which would negate the need for operation of the Membrane Filtration Plant;
  • Ensure reliability of the Bruecken Pump Station by installing a backup pump and emergency backup power supply; and
  • Take necessary actions to assure that water at adequate pressure is continuously supplied to users.

PWSA has cooperated with DEP’s investigations and requests for documents, and DEP expects that PWSA will continue to comply with DEP oversight. Previously, DEP identified significant deficiencies and violations at PWSA, which resulted in enforcement actions and field orders that led to two Tier 1 boil water advisories in January and August 2017. Following the incidents, DEP conducted investigations of PWSA’s system.

DEP has requested the assistance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to perform a comprehensive performance evaluation of PWSA’s distribution system, which EPA has agreed to do.

Offices Closed

All Senate offices will be closed on Tuesday, Nov. 7 for Election Day.  My offices will re-open as scheduled on Wednesday, Nov. 8.

Information for Election Day

Vote PA Voter Registration For any questions related to voting, I encourage you to visit www.votespa.com.  This site has information on your rights as a voter, answers to frequently asked questions, and allows you to confirm your registration and polling place.  Below is additional information about the Nov. 7 General Election.  If you need any further assistance, or have any additional questions, please call one of my district offices and my staff will gladly assist you.

Deadline to Request Absentee Ballots

Any voter who needs an absentee ballot for the Nov. 7 General Election must complete and return the application to the Allegheny County Elections Division by 5 p.m. today.  The Elections Division is located in the County Office Building, 542 Forbes Avenue, Room 601 in downtown Pittsburgh.  You can download and print an absentee ballot application by clicking here or by visiting www.votespa.com.  You can also pick one up at any of my district offices.  For fastest results, you may visit the Elections Division office and complete an application in person.  If properly registered, you will be handed an absentee ballot on the spot.

Anyone voting by absentee ballot will be required to provide a PA Driver’s License number, PennDOT ID number, or last four digits of Social Security Number.  If you do not possess any of the aforementioned items, a copy of an acceptable ID must be provided with the application. 

Completed absentee ballots must be received by the Elections Division office by 5 p.m. this Friday, Nov 3.

Polling Place Locator

If you are a newly-registered voter, have recently moved or have not voted in a while, and are unsure where your polling place is located, you can visit the Polling Place Locator Page offered by the PA Department of State.  You will be asked to enter your county, municipality, house number and street name.  Once that information is entered, the site will inform you of your polling place and provide the address.  You will also be provided an opportunity to enter your name and birth date to determine if you are a registered voter and will also be able to view the ballot you will be presented with at your polling place.  If you are unable to find your polling place on this site, or if any of your information is listed incorrectly on the site, please contact the Allegheny County Elections Division office at 412-350-4500.

PLEASE NOTE – 19 polling places in Allegheny County have changed since the May Primary Election.  Voters in districts that are affected have been notified by mail.  The following locations in the 42nd Senatorial District have changed:

Municipality 

Ward District New Location
Coraopolis 3 1 VFW Post 402, 412 Mulberry Street
Coraopolis 3 2 VFW Post 402, 412 Mulberry Street
Coraopolis 4 1

New Coraopolis Borough Bldg., 1301 4th Avenue

Coraopolis 4 2

New Coraopolis Borough Bldg., 1301 4th Avenue

Pittsburgh 10 16 Brothers & Sisters Emerging, 5315 Hillcrest Street
Pittsburgh 10 19 Brothers & Sisters Emerging, 5315 Hillcrest Street
Pittsburgh 20 8 New Life Fellowship Hall, 725 Lorenz Avenue

Any registered voter who wishes to file a complaint about alleged election law violations can do so by visiting www.votespa.com and clicking on the “Election Complaints” tab.  The voter will be asked to enter their first and last name, address, county of residence, and date of birth to ensure they are a registered voter.  Once submitted, these complaint forms will be directed to the county election board for the county in which the voter making the complaint resides.  Written statements of complaint are available at all polling places and the Allegheny County Board of Elections.  You may also call 1-877-VOTES-PA (1-877-868-3772) to obtain a complaint statement.

Did You Know…

Did you know there are 921,847 registered voters in Allegheny County, the second highest number among Pennsylvania’s 67 counties?  Philadelphia County has the most registered voters of any Pennsylvania county with 1,031,195.  Cameron County has the least with 2,926.

Ballot Question

Voting Referendum I want to remind voters that a ballot question will appear before them when going to the polls next Tuesday, Nov. 7.  Voters will be asked if they are in support of amending the state constitution to allow local taxing authorities, counties, municipalities, and school districts the ability to increase the homestead exemption from 50 percent of the median assessed value to 100 percent of the assessed value of the property.  House Bill 1285 passed the General Assembly this summer and House Bill 147 in 2015, which is necessary to amend the constitution since a bill must win approval by the Legislature in two consecutive sessions before it can be presented to voters via referendum.

The current 50 percent homestead exemption is a constitutional amendment that was adopted in 1997.  An example of how the exemption currently works is a municipality has three homesteads—one assessed at $50,000, one assessed at $100,000, and one assessed at $200,000. The median assessed value in that taxing jurisdiction is $100,000. At this time, the municipality may exempt up to 50 percent—in this case $50,000—of all homestead properties from taxation. So, the homestead assessed at $200,000, is taxed on $150,000 of its assessed value; while the homestead assessed at $50,000, is fully exempt from taxation by that jurisdiction. 

If the constitutional amendment were approved and the local taxing authority decides to set the exemption to 100 percent, no homestead owner would have to pay property taxes.  However, the local taxing authority would then need to replace that lost revenue by imposing another tax or raise the tax rates on something like the personal income tax (PIT) or sales tax.  Millage rates is the only item prohibited from increasing on other real property to make up the difference.  Enabling legislation by the General Assembly would then be required to allow the local taxing authorities to increase taxes and establish guidelines for local governments to follow.

It’s important to note that this law would only affect homesteads and farmsteads – one’s primary residence and the property upon which it is built – and not businesses or vacant property.  Commercial properties are not a part of the potential reductions, and homeowners with multiple residences would be able to lower the assessment of only one of their properties. 

The ballot question will appear as follows: “Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to permit the General Assembly to enact legislation authorizing local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation up to 100 percent of the assessed value of each homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction, rather than limit the exclusion to one-half of the median assessed value of all homestead property, which is the existing law?”

Senator Fontana visited with Pittsburgh Firefighters on Saturday at their annual Operation Warm Coats for Kids distribution.  Senator Fontana visited with Pittsburgh Firefighters on Saturday at their annual Operation Warm Coats for Kids distribution. 

Senator Fontana visited with Pittsburgh Firefighters on Saturday at their annual Operation Warm Coats for Kids distribution.  Throughout the year Pittsburgh’s firefighters raise funds to purchase winter coats for children.  This Saturday was their annual distribution day.  Thanks to the efforts of the Pittsburgh Firefighters Local 1, well over 2,000 warm winter coats will be distributed this year to elementary school kids in Pittsburgh Public Schools.

LIHEAP Opens Tomorrow

LIHEAP LIHEAP Starting tomorrow, Nov. 1, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) will be accepting applications for this season’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).  The program helps low income families pay their heating bills.  You can apply and check the status of your application on the state’s COMPASS website (www.compass.state.pa.us).  You can also pick up an application in my district offices or download one yourself from the DHS LIHEAP website. Completed paper applications should be returned to the Allegheny County Assistance Office, located at 5947 Penn Avenue, 4th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA, 15206.

Funding for LIHEAP is provided by the federal government and eligibility is based on the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines.  The income limits for this season are as follows:

Household Size Income Limit
1 $18,090
2 $24,360
3 $30,630
4 $36,900
5 $43,170
6 $49,440
7 $55,710
8 $61,980
9 $68,250
10 $74,520

After your application is received you will receive a written notice explaining your eligibility and the amount of assistance you will receive.  Payments are generally sent directly to a utility company or fuel provider and will be credited to your heating account.  Crisis grants may also be available if you have an emergency situation and are in jeopardy of losing your heat.  For more information, please contact the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095.

Green Light Go

Greenlight Go Green Light Go I want to remind municipalities, counties and planning organizations that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is accepting applications for the Green Light Go grant program through November 9.  This program provides state funding for the operation and maintenance of traffic signals along critical and designated corridors on state highways.  This year the local government match has been reduced from 50 percent to 20 percent.

Eligible projects for the Green Light Go program include:

  • Study and Removal of Unwarranted Traffic Signals
  • Traffic Signal Retiming
  • Development of Detour, Special Event and Operations Plans
  • LED Replacement
  • Asset Management
  • Traffic Signal Operations (Real-Time Monitoring)
  • Traffic Signal Maintenance
  • Innovative Technologies
  • Communications
  • Connections back to Traffic Management Center
  • Detection Upgrades
  • Controller Upgrades
  • Modernization Upgrades
  • ITS Applications
  • Other Traffic Signal Improvements

For more information on the program, please click here or visit www.penndot.gov.

Flu Shots

shotI want to remind everyone that the PA Department of Health offers the influenza vaccine to underinsured/uninsured adults and eligible children at many of the State Health Centers across Pennsylvania on a continual basis.  Anyone who is interested and who qualify and have not received a flu shot yet this fall can call 1-877-PAHEALTH to schedule an appointment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older.  Flu viruses are constantly changing, and vaccines may be updated yearly to protect against the viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming flu season.  A person’s immune protection from the vaccine also decreases over time.

In addition to getting vaccinated, the Department of Health recommends the following tips to avoid the flu:

  • Wash hands often with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
  • Cover nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and throw any used tissues in the trash;
  • Keeps hands away from face, and don’t touch eyes, nose or mouth;
  • Disinfect frequently used surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, TV remotes or countertops; and
  • Avoid contact with individuals who may have the flu. When sick, stay home until at least 24 hours after your fever goes away on its own without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

Oasis Tutoring Program

OASIS Oasis The OASIS Intergenerational Tutoring Program is hosting two training sessions for older adults interested in volunteering as tutors.  OASIS is a non-profit organization that recruits and trains older adults (50+) to tutor children (grades K-4) in Pittsburgh Public Schools in reading and writing.   OASIS has tutors in over 32 schools and serves 200 students yearly.

Training sessions will be held Monday, Nov. 6 and Thursday, Nov. 9 from 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. at the OASIS office, located in the Duquesne Light Building, Suite 525 at 411 Seventh Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh. All training, materials and clearances are free. 

For more information on how to become an OASIS tutor, please contact John D. Spehar, Pittsburgh OASIS Tutoring Program Director at 412-393-7648 or jdspehar@oasisnet.org. OASIS is an affiliate of the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council.

M&M’sFontana Fact

According to 10 years of sales data compiled by CandyStore.com, the most popular Halloween candy in Pennsylvania is plain M&M’s.  Skittles and Hershey's Mini Bars finished second and third respectively over the last 10 years.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
Harrisburg
543 Main Capitol | Box 203042
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-5300
Fax: 717-772-5484
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
Kennedy Township
Kenmawr Plaza
524 Pine Hollow Road
Kennedy Twp, PA 15136
Phone: 412-331-1208
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
By Appointment
Northside (Mobile Office)
Carnegie Library | Allegheny Branch
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
By Appointment