Controller criticizes Allegheny County for garage maintenance
Share with others:
Allegheny County should not buy additional buildings until it has a plan in place to care for the deteriorating structures it already owns, Controller Chelsa Wagner said today.
Ms. Wagner made the recommendation in her audit of the county's Fourth Avenue Garage. She said the county's long-term failure to do routine maintenance of the building has resulted in additional costs to taxpayers.
Upper floors of the garage were closed to parking in 2011 and the rest of the building has been shut down since February. Since that time, the county has been leasing space for part of its vehicle fleet and employee parking on a nearby surface lot for $6,000 per month.
The poor condition of the garage has "put the county's own employees and the public in serious danger," Ms. Wagner said in a statement. "We must be willing to learn from past mistakes and take immediate steps to correct our course and create a long-term plan for monitoring and maintaining buildings and other assets."
She called on the administration of county Executive Rich Fitzgerald to review the condition of all county-owned structures and develop maintenance priorities before buying additional real estate.
She specifically advised against acquiring several buildings on Lexington Avenue in East Liberty that house the emergency dispatch center and other county offices. The structures are owned by Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority.
"With the county's own roof caving in, it is absurd to consider purchasing a troubled asset on a credit card," Wagner said. The "credit card" refers to the possibility of buying the Lexington Avenue facility with some of the proceeds from the county's recent sale of $190 million worth of bonds.
The county has owned the Fourth Avenue Garage since 1989. Responding to the controller's office audit, Public Works Director Joseph Olczak said the county has sought multiple times to secure funding for garage repairs. The decision to close the garage followed studies by and recommendations from three structural engineering firms, he said.
"Public Works agrees that there is a need for formal maintenance plans of its assets, and we will work with the administration and budget to make certain that funding can be put into place," Mr. Olczak wrote in a response to the controller's audit.
First Published October 11, 2012 12:13 pm