Repairs continue on sinkhole in Ross

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Crews are continuing to repair a sinkhole on property adjacent to McKnight Road in the 7500 block of the busy four-lane highway.

McKnight traffic is not being affected by the work to repair a storm sewer pipe in the parking lot of Hollywood Tans, 7599 McKnight.

The pipe failed on Aug. 12, forcing officials to close southbound McKnight for several hours due to safety concerns.

The issue surfaced Monday night at the Ross commissioners’ meeting where one board member said officials should be able to compel property owners to fix broken storm sewer lines before they turn into sinkholes.

“The township has absolutely no liability. It has none. I understand that. [Property owners] understand that. But it is a serious, serious issue along McKnight Road,” said Dan DeMarco, Ward 1 commissioner.

The sinkhole took a Shaler woman’s car with it. The woman was helped out of a car window before the car completely sank. She was unharmed.

“That’s frightening. That woman came out with practically no scars, no bruises. But a few minutes later, she could have died,” Mr. DeMarco said. “Just think if a child had been in the back seat of the car in a car seat.”

Township officials had shared knowledge of the deteriorating storm sewer pipe with property owners along McKnight Road two years ago.

Although it is the property owner’s responsibility to fix the pipe, Mr. DeMarco said the township needs to have “some type of enforcement power or ability” to make them do so.

In other action, it was announced that a new public works complex is estimated to cost Ross $8.4 million.

Architect Dave McLean told commissioners the township would be better off building a new one rather than trying to fix what is wrong with the current building, which is built into a hillside.

The retaining wall in the back is failing, and the township has temporary supports holding it up. There is also “severe deterioration” of the upper floor, he said.

“By the time you do partial demolition, you are better off demolishing it entirely and making corrections to the site,” Mr. McLean said.

Mr. McLean recommended constructing a 10,000-square-foot storage building on the site of the current public works building. The storage would be split evenly between the police and public works.

He then recommended grading another portion of the property, behind the current fuel pumps, and constructing a new 30,000-square-foot public works building that will hold 35 vehicles on one floor. Before entering the building, the trucks would go through an undercarriage wash to remove salt residue that caused the deterioration of the upper floor, he said.

The building would also have room for offices, locker rooms, break and training rooms, mechanics bays and storage for outdoor equipment.

Mr. McLean also recommended building a new structure to store salt. The current salt storage building only holds 2,400 tons of salt at a time, and the township uses 12,000 tons in a typical winter. The proposed building would hold 6,000 tons.

Commissioners will discuss the proposal at their Sept. 2 meeting. With swift approval, they can begin work in March, 2015 and finish in April, 2016, Mr. McLean said.

In other business, commissioners approved an ordinance regulating digital signs. Under the ordinance, digital signs are only in the commercial 1, commercial 2 and industrial 1 zoning districts.

The ordinance sets the background, brightness, size and the timing of consecutive messages on the signs. It also prohibits movement, optical illusions or streaming videos on the signs.

Also, Amy Steele, director of Northland Public Library, told commissioners that the library is considering eliminating the county bookmobile’s stop at North Hills Village.

Ms. Steele also noted a study of bookmobile usage shows a majority of people using the bookmobile at that stop live in Pittsburgh, Ben Avon or West View, municipalities not served by Northland.

In six weeks, only 10 Ross residents used the bookmobile, and only five of them were regular users, she said. “We aren't serving very many Ross residents with this bookmobile stop.”

Ms. Steele said the library board would like to use the funds for the bookmobile for outreach into schools and preschools in Ross. Money saved by cutting the Ross bookmobile stops in half in January gave the library the funds to do outreach at Highcliff and McIntyre elementary schools and five preschools.

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer:

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