By Carrie Moniot
Fighting blight on Mill Street became the focus of a contentious borough council meeting in Coraopolis March 2.
Developer Brian Diggins, of Diggins Builders, came with a list of questions and concerns for council members but walked out of the meeting in frustration when his request to have a 10-minute time limit extended was denied.
Diggins, whose holding company owns a number of properties in Coraopolis, including more than half of the buildings on Mill Street between 4th and 5th avenues, is planning a major renovation at 423 Mill St. to include four upscale trendy apartments with outdoor landscaping and a parking lot.
A restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating is also in the works.
Diggins told council members a healthy and vibrant Mill Street is his aim. “I have a hard time not fixing something that I own,” he said.
He pointed to parking meters in deplorable condition and trash on the street. “No one picks up trash but me,” he commented.
Diggins came to Council looking for information on plans to address infrastructure deficiencies like broken parking meters, corroding street lamps, and buckling sidewalks, in addition to the timeframe for doing so.
“I was looking for their help and their input to partner up and do something positive,” he said.
Council President David Pendel told those in attendance, “We don’t have the money to invest in a project of this scale.”
Statistics show the population of Coraopolis peaked in 1940 at 11,086. The current population is 5,424 with a median home value of $95,599 and a median household income of $48,235.
“It’s OK if you don’t have the money for the big things. I get it. It doesn’t mean you just simply ignore the situation completely,” said Diggins.
According to Borough Manager Ray McCutcheon, there are road projects in the works. Coraopolis has applied for three grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Local Share Account.
A request for $830,000 was made for Mill Street roadway and waterline improvements; another $230,000 was requested for the Ridge Avenue Tot-Lot; while a $230,000 request was made for a salt storage facility.
“Our 2022 road program includes five sections of Pine Alley between 4th and 5th avenues in the business district, Chestnut Street between 4th and 5th Avenue, which is utilized by our fire department on about half of their calls, and St. Clair Street and Summit Street,” said McCutcheon.
Coraopolis did receive a grant to repair a section of Main Street from 6th Avenue to Neely Heights Avenue.
“This is an old brick road that has had many sections dug up and it’s in disrepair. We plan to have that section done in concrete. Hopefully, this will get started in late summer,” McCutcheon said.
“My next step is to keep doing what we do and hopefully encourage some change,” said Diggins. “It’s headed in the right direction.”
In other news:
• Chief Ronald Denbow presented Officers Mark Cillo and Shawn Quinn with certificates for their diligence in investigating the attempted child abduction case that occurred in Coraopolis on January 6. Nine-year-old Dezi Frawley was also recognized for her courage in defending herself that morning.
• Chief Denbow was recognized by Mayor Michael Dixon for outstanding service to the borough.