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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Helping Homebuyers

Homeownership can both strengthen communities and provide stability for families. As a realtor by profession, I also understand the challenges many first-time homeowners encounter when trying to purchase a home. That is why I am a prime sponsor to Senate Bill 309 (SB 309).

HomeThis legislation would create first-time homebuyers savings accounts in Pennsylvania. First-time homebuyers can deposit money into a savings account for the exclusive purpose of purchasing a first home.  That money can be deducted form their state income tax. It is estimated that this type of savings account program in Pennsylvania could result in an annual increase of up to 4,000 home purchases within the commonwealth. 

While SB 309 hasn’t been considered by the full Senate yet, it does have bi-partisan support and I am hopeful the bill moves forward in 2020. In the meantime, while I work to see SB 309 ultimately become law, I want to highlight an initiative here in Allegheny County that seeks to assist homebuyers.

NeighborhoodLIFT is a national down-payment assistance program that is available in Allegheny County, through NeighborWorks Western Pennsylvania, and sponsored by Wells Fargo and NeighborWorks America.

The program provides eligible homebuyers, not only first-time homebuyers, with $15,000 to use toward down payment and closing costs on qualified homes. For veterans and service members, teachers, paraprofessionals, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians, the program provides $17,500. The program also provides homebuyer education that will prepare homebuyers for finding and financing a home and for managing the financial responsibilities of homeownership.

To start the application process for NeighborhoodLIFT down payment assistance, applicants need to make an appointment to assess their eligibility for the program. Before the appointment can be scheduled, applicants will need to create an account and upload a mortgage pre-approval from an approved lender as well as a fully executed purchase and sale agreement on the home they are attempting to purchase.

Anyone interested in learning more about NeighborhoodLIFT’s down payment assistance program, please visit www.neighborworkswpa.org to get started. On the site, interested individuals can create an account, view income limits and frequently asked questions, and schedule an appointment. For more information on the program please call 412-281-1138 or email lift@neighborworkswpa.org.

Did You Know…

Did you know that according to the National Association of Realtors, the share of first-time homebuyers in the national home sale market has fallen from 45 percent to 32 percent since the 2009 financial crisis?

Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement Program

Work Zone Speed EnforcementThis past Saturday, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and Pennsylvania Turnpike started a 60-day pilot program to formally test the Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement program. This program is designed to cause drivers to slow down in construction areas by setting up speed monitoring equipment in work areas.

Once the pilot program is finished, PennDOT and the PA Turnpike will be deploying private contractors in white Jeep Cherokee SUVs at various sites throughout the state to monitor speed beginning March 4.  If the mobile monitors detect someone going more than 11 miles an hour over the posted speed limit, the motorist will receive a notice by mail with a warning for the first violation, followed by a $75 fine for a second offense and $150 for each future ticket.

To learn more about this program please visit https://workzonecameras.penndot.gov/.

The Automated Speed Enforcement program was authorized under Act 86 of 2018.

New Senior Citizen ConnectCards

Senior Citizen ConnectCardsThe Port Authority of Allegheny County continues to issue new Senior Citizen ConnectCards and my office can assist. The new cards will replace the current blue or yellow PA Senior Transit ID cards and will have a photo of the cardholder on the card. These new cards will enable the user to ride Port Authority and other public transit vehicles for free across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Please note that effective January 1, 2020, seniors are no longer able to use a Medicare ID card to ride free on Port Authority buses, inclines or light rail vehicles.  The Port Authority will continue to accept blue or yellow PA Senior Transit ID cards indefinitely, but customers are encouraged to get the new ConnectCard.

Both my Brookline and Kennedy Township offices are equipped to help seniors get their new cards. Simply visit either office and bring with you ONE valid document that shows proof-of-age.  This includes a driver’s license or state-issued photo ID card, birth certificate, PACE ID card, or passport to name a few. My staff will enter your information into Port Authority’s system and upload your photo and a copy of your proof-of-age document. 

Upon receiving the information from my office, the Port Authority will produce a new Senior Citizen ConnectCard and then mail the card to my office where you can return to pick up the card. New cards should take a couple weeks to arrive at my office from the time Port Authority receives the information. When you return to get your new card, please bring with you your current senior bus pass so we can exchange it for your new ConnectCard.

Anyone age 65 or over is eligible to receive this new card and ride Port Authority and other public transit vehicles for free.

Citizen & Student Police Academies

The City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police is accepting applications for both their Citizen’s Police Academy and Student Police Academy.

Pittsburgh Police
The Citizen’s Police Academy (CPA) brings the police and community close together in a setting that offers a sample of police training to each participant. The program allows participants to experience some of the highlights of police training and they are exposed to the various operations of the police bureau, all in a safe and entertaining training environment. 

Participants will be taught the basics of criminal law, search and seizure, patrol tactics, firearms, police accountability and many other subjects. Participants will also learn about the processing of crimes, how police canines are used, and are exposed to a variety of the specialty police units.

Class sized is limited to 30 participants and all interested individuals must complete an application and give permission to the Bureau of Police to conduct a background check to determine if they have a criminal record.

The CPA begins on Feb. 5, 2020 and will be conducted every Thursday for 15 weeks, running from 6 – 9 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill. Registration closes on Jan. 30.

The Student Police Academy (SPA) offers an opportunity for students to become closely acquainted with the roles and responsibilities of the Police Bureau. The PSA will bring members of the Pittsburgh Police and high school youth together in a setting that offers a sample of police training and operations to each student.

Students are taught the basics of criminal law, search and seizure, patrol tactics, firearm safety and many other subjects. They will learn about the processing of a crime scene, how the Emergency Operations Center operates, and will be exposed to many of the specialty police units, including Bomb Squad, K-9, SWAT and Narcotics, among others. SPA participants will also meet and talk with many of the street officers, command staff, and police training personnel that serve their communities.

The SPA beings March 11, 2020 and will be conducted every Wednesday for 10 weeks, running from 6 – 9 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill.  Registration closes March 4, 2020.

Applications are available at https://pittsburghpa.gov/police/community-policing. For more information on the City of Pittsburgh Citizen’s Police Academy and/or Student Police Academy, please contact:

Sgt. Eric Kroll  
Pittsburgh Bureau of Police
900 N. Lincoln Avenue 
Pittsburgh, PA 15233 
412-323-7869, ext. 209    
Eric.kroll@pittsburghpa.gov   

John Tokarski
Department of Public Safety
City County Building, Suite 400
404 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
412-255-2117
John.tokarski@pittsburghpa.gov

Christmas Tree Recycling Programs

Christmas Tree REcyclingAllegheny County is again offering its annual Christmas Tree Recycling Program this year.  County residents may drop off Christmas trees through Tuesday, Jan. 14 at all nine regional parks from 8 a.m. – dusk.  All lights, decorations, tinsel and stands must be removed from trees prior to drop-off. Trees will be mulched and used in the county parks. Drop-off locations are:

Boyce Park – soccer fields parking lot          
Deer Lakes Park – Veterans Shelter parking lot
Harrison Hills Park – parking lot at intersection of Chipmunk & Cottontail Dr.
Hartwood Acres Park – Mansion parking lot
North Park – Swimming pool parking lot
Round Hill Park – Alfalfa Shelter parking lot
Settlers Cabin Park – Wave pool parking lot
South Park – Wave pool parking lot
White Oak Park – Chestnut Shelter parking lot

The City of Pittsburgh is again expanding its Christmas Tree Recycling Program this year by providing 12 drop-off locations for live trees through Jan. 26. The program empowers residents to have their trees recycled rather than sent to a landfill, which happens when they are placed at the curb. Trees collected this winter will again be chipped into pine mulch and made available to the public for free this spring.

Three Department of Public Works sites are available year-round for yard debris (including tree) drop-off, from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday through Saturday. They are: 

Hazelwood 
3rd Division of Public Works
Melanchton Ave. off 5200 block of 2nd Ave. 
412-422-6524
Homewood West
2nd Division of Public Works
North Dallas Ave. at Hamilton Ave.
412-665-3609
Elliott
5th Division of Public Works
1330 Hassler St. off Herschel & Steuben Streets
412-937-3054

The nine other drop-off locations will be open 24 hours a day through Jan. 26.  They are:

Friendship
Baum Grove Parklet
400 Roup Ave. (off Fairmont Ave.)
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
Deutschtown
Sue Murray Swimming Pool Parking Lot
Corner of Cedar & Stockton Aves.
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Brookline
Brookline Recreation Center 
1400 Oakridge St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226 
Brighton Heights
Jack Stack Parking Lot
600 Brighton Woods Rd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Squirrel Hill South
Prospect Dr. Roundabout in Schenley Park
Pittsburgh, PA 15217 
Highland Park
Highland Park Volleyball Ct. Parking Lot
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
Oakwood 
Oakwood Park Ball Field at Noblestown Rd. 
Pittsburgh, PA 15205
Southside
Riverfront Park Lower Parking Lot
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
Middle Hill/Terrace Village
Kennard Park at Kirkpatrick and Reed St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Fontana Fact

January was originally the eleventh month, not the first, until at least 153 B.C. The month was named for the Roman god Janus, protector of gates and doorways. Janus is depicted with two faces, one looking into the past, the other into the future.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Brookline District
1039 Brookline Boulevard
Suite 2
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
10 a.m. – 3 p.m. – First Tuesday of each month or by appointment