By Jamie Wiggan
McKees Rocks council has appointed two new members to fill vacancies created by the death of Chas Maritz and the resignation of Leslie Walker.
Frank McQuillan was the only applicant for Walker’s vacated second ward seat and was
unanimously approved for the position during council’s May 10 meeting.
As a lifelong resident, McQuillan said he put himself forward for the position because he’d grown tired of raising concerns about property violations without seeing results.
Most recently he said he’s been unable to get council to intervene with a neighboring home that leaks sewage into his property.
“I was tired of not getting answers from the borough, and reaching dead ends without being answered,” he said.
Now he’s on the inside, McQuillan hopes to strengthen the borough’s code enforcement procedures and contribute to existing efforts to revitalize the community’s housing stock. He said he opposes plans under consideration to redevelop Hays Manor with federal funding and instead would rather eliminate the existing site and pump any available funds into rehabilitating old homes and relocating tenants there.
“I came to make a difference in the council,” he said. “I want to have a say-so in the town I’ve grown up in and lived in my entire life.”
Also during the meeting, Maryann Holland was unanimously approved as a replacement for Chas Maritz’, whose third ward seat became vacant April 11.
Holland, who described herself as a “Rocks girl,” said she wants to help turn her hometown into a regional destination by capitalizing on the newly-built Roxian and the town’s accessibility to high-traffic attractions.
“The best thing about McKees Rocks is the location,” she said.
“We’re four-and-a-half miles from downtown, we have a great transit area, and we’re close to the airport…McKees Rocks should be a destination for people to come live.”
Holland said she wants to approach the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation to discuss plans for several slices of property the organization owns along Chartiers Avenue. She said she wants to see them developed into retail outlets and restaurants that would revive the struggling business district.
“We’ve now got to get the businesses to come in,” she said. “[But] First of all, we have to have a place for them to go.”
After Mayor David Flick swore in McQuillan and Holland, some residents and unsuccessful applicants expressed frustrations with the appointment process, which they claimed gave the impression of insider politics.
Holland was one of several applicants to the third ward vacancy and was unanimously approved before any others were put forward for a vote. McQuillan was the only candidate for the second ward.
Dominic “Eszquire” Harris, one of the third ward applicants, said the process by which Holland was appointed made him feel like he and others were not given consideration. He also said he felt a lack of representation as a Black man speaking to an all-white council.
“The vote was a little frustrating,’” said Harris. “ I don’t feel [like I’m being heard] here.”
Resident Connor Griffin suggested in the future council could reconfigure the process so that all candidates would at least be given public consideration.
Responding to the concerns, President Archie Brinza said he wants to keep council open to all perspectives and vowed to reach out to all the unsuccessful candidates to hear about their visions for the borough.
“I’m glad you came here,” he said to Harris. “I’m glad you spoke up – I’m glad you said what you said.”