Last Thursday, the Wolf Administration announced the Department of Corrections would be closing SCI-Pittsburgh effective June 30. I am very disappointed in the Department of Corrections decision, as well as the hasty and flawed process it used to make its decision as I highlighted in last week's edition of my News & Views.
In its rush to close SCI-Pittsburgh, the department largely ignored community input, the plight of local prison workers and the impact that this closing will have on our region’s economy. It is important to emphasize that the department refused to hold or take part in a local hearing to respond to citizens’ questions and concerns. I will continue to advocate for my legislation to require public hearings in order to make this right for workers, families and communities who have to go through this process in the future.
With this decision in place, it is now imperative that we take steps to protect the jobs of our prison workers and see to it that their safety is not compromised under this consolidated prison plan. I will insist that the Corrections Officers Association has a seat at the table in determining the procedure for transferring employees. I will also urge the Department of Corrections to help workers and their families with relocation costs.
Finally, with the support of the Allegheny County legislative delegation, we will work with the governor on his commitment to provide ample state funding and resources to help us redevelop and market that 24-acre property to build on the Northside’s continued resurgence. A positive side of this promised reinvestment is to get the property removed from its tax-exempt status which will help lessen the burden on local taxpayers.
Lead Safety Issues
Recently, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) released the results from compliance testing for lead and copper required by state and federal regulations. The PWSA tested 149 residential sites based on a method prescribed under Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines. Results from lead testing taken in December 2016 were evaluated and the 90th percentile value was calculated at 18 parts per billion (ppb). Previous testing in June 2016 resulted in a 90th percentile of 22 ppb for lead. The U.S. EPA action level for lead is 15 ppb. You can read more detailed information on the results by clicking here.
The subject of lead poisoning took on heightened significance with the water crisis that took place in Flint, Michigan more than a year ago. Citizens have the right to clean water and the right to be informed if there are factors in play that could compromise their health and well-being. And, public officials at all levels of government need to do everything possible to ensure citizens are safe and well informed.
The PWSA wants everyone to know there is no detectable level of lead found in its drinking water source, the Allegheny River, or in PWSA’s treated drinking water when it travels through water mains. However, lead can be found in old service lines that run from water mains to homes. These service lines are a joint responsibility; for city residents, the PWSA owns the portion of the line in public space, and homeowners own the portion on private space that connects to their property. It is also possible for lead to be found in older household plumbing.
In response to the high levels of lead found in some homes, the PWSA is identifying and removing lead service lines in public space. As they identify the location of services lines, the PWSA will make the information available to the public. The PWSA is conducting studies to help determine why lead levels have risen and identify water treatment chemicals, or modifications to the treatment plant, that may reduce corrosion from lead pipes, while educating the public on lead and working to identify financial assistance for homeowners to replace their lead service lines.
As a result of the issues associated with lead, I have introduced legislation that aims to protect potential homebuyers by requiring that sellers with knowledge that their water contains lead disclose that information prior to a sale.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health the primary source of childhood lead poisoning in Pennsylvania continues to be lead-based paint, in the form of chips and dust, found in homes with paint from before its 1978 ban. The U.S. Congress passed the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992, also known as Title X, to protect families from exposure to lead from paint, dust, and soil by requiring the disclosure of known information before the sale or lease of most housing built before 1978. However, this is not part of the required contents under Pennsylvania law regarding property disclosure statements. The legislation I’m introducing would simply add this into state statute.
The U.S. EPA estimates that 10 to 20 percent of human exposure to lead comes from drinking water. Lead is rarely found in the source of public water, rather, it enters tap water through the corrosion of a home’s plumbing materials. Since a homeowner is responsible for the quality of plumbing in their home that carries the water delivered by local water treatment facilities, my legislation will provide added protection that if one knows their water contains lead, they must disclose this information.
I continue seeking co-sponsors to this legislation and will advocate for its support to move it through the legislative process and will keep you updated on its status. In the meantime, the PWSA wants residents to know that they can request a free lead test kit. Anyone interested in a test kit can contact the PWSA at email@example.com or 412-255-2423.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is accepting applications for the 2016 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. If you filed a paper rebate last year, you should receive an application in the mail. Applications are also available at my district offices, online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling 1-888-222-9190. As always, my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters. Please keep in mind, half of Social Security income is excluded. Some applicants who previously received rebates may continue to qualify despite Social Security cost-of-living adjustments that may have pushed their income past the eligibility limits.
Applications are due to the Department of Revenue by June 30. The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.
Did You Know…
Did you know that since the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program’s inception in 1971, older and disabled adults have received more than $6.5 billion in property tax and rent relief?
I want to remind everyone that the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services is 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. 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, 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:
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.
Protect Against Overdraft Fees
The Pennsylvania Department of Banking & Securities is advising consumers on ways they can save money and avoid overdraft fees, which can cost between $20-$45 per transaction. Last year Americans paid more than $11 billion in overdraft checking fees. The department’s secretary offers five tips to avoid overdraft fees in 2017:
- Sign up for automatic funds transfer: Instruct your bank or credit union to automatically transfer money from your savings or other accounts to your checking account to cover any shortages. Note: you many have to pay a fee for this service.
- Sign up for low-balance notices: Sign up for text or email notices from your bank or credit union if your checking account balance drops below a certain amount.
- Make sure funds are available: Make sure deposits into your checking account are actually available for your use before you spend that money. Note: review your bank or credit union’s “funds availability” policy.
- Take advantage of technology: Frequently check your account balances online, by phone, or nearby ATM machine.
- Check all transactions on your statements: Carefully review your monthly account statements, looking for fraudulent transactions as well as taking into account any checks written and deposits made that may not appear until next month’s statement.
Anyone can contact the Department of Banking & Securities at 1-800-PA-BANKS to ask questions or file complaints about checking accounts and other financial transactions, companies, or products.
Civic Leadership Academy
The City of Pittsburgh’s Civic Leadership Academy (CLA) program is accepting applications through Feb. 28 from city residents or business owners that are interested in participating. CLA is an engaging 10-week program that opens the doors of local government to the community and was created to foster informed, effective, and inspired community leadership. The program includes tours, hands-on demonstrations, and other fun activities that give participants an insider view on how the City of Pittsburgh operates.
For more information on the program please click here or visit http://pittsburghpa.gov/servepgh/cla. You may also contact Corey Buckner, the CLA coordinator, for more details by calling 412-255-2694 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Sunday is Super Bowl LI between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons from Houston, TX. Since first being played in 1967, the Super Bowl has become the most watched television broadcast annually. In the first 50 Super Bowls (with the Steelers wining a record six of them of course) a total of $4.5 billion has been spent on advertising with an average 30-second AD in 1967 costing roughly $37,000 and today costing between $5 million and $5.5 million.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol |
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
524 Pine Hollow Road
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
|Northside (Mobile Office)
Carnegie Library |
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212