Updated: Aug 3, 2022
-McKEES ROCKS -
By Elizabeth Perry
Maribeth Taylor started off her comments to the McKees Rocks Borough Council ironically.
“I want to wish you a happy anniversary,” Taylor said at the July 12 meeting.
President Archie Brinza thanked her, but wasn’t sure what she meant.
“This begins three years of me coming to council about the dumpster on 114 Sarah St.,” Taylor said, to a smattering of laughter.
Brinza did not find humor in the situation.
“It’s not a happy anniversary to me, neither,” Brinza said.
Taylor, a former councilwoman herself, described such horrors surrounding the dumpster as a grocery cart full of raw meat being discarded, overflowing garbage and used toilet paper floating in the street.
“This whole building has been nothing but a nightmare since he took it over,” Taylor said in an interview after the meeting. The property is owned by a company called Alice Street Investments which is run by Thornburg resident Mark G. Puzas Jr.
After Taylor introduced the topic to council, discussion erupted about what could be done to address the ongoing problem. Brinza said the borough had levied several fines against the owner of 114 Sarah St.
“Are we issuing the landlord permit every year for this guy?” Councilman Nick Radoycis asked.
“He does not have one,” Megan Trumbull, borough solicitor said.
“Then why aren’t we shutting him down?” Radoycis asked.
The board passed ordinance 1753 in 2019 to increase standards for landlords. A valid occupancy permit is specifically required by this ordinance. Council’s Vincent Corrie wondered aloud if the borough would be responsible for finding homes for the people who lived in the building, but Trumbull said the council would not.
In a phone interview after the meeting, Brinza said he had scheduled a time to speak with Puzas.
“He owes a ton of money, there’s a lot of stuff behind this,” Brinza said.
Brinza said he had been trying to “give this guy leeway,” but that was no longer the case.
LeeAnn Wozniak, borough manager, said she could not discuss how meetings with Puzas are progressing because legal is involved. She confirmed the borough has been in contact with Puzas for at least a year.
“We’re in contact with him for various reasons, up to and including the garbage situation,” Wozniak said. She added that Puzas is one of 800 landlords in the McKees Rocks area.
Puzas and his wife Emily Gallagher, owe $9,586.70 in personal income taxes according to a suit filed in Allegheny County Court. Puzas has been brought to court by the Montour School District three times in the last three years for delinquent taxes with one bill as high as $12,644.94.
Sto-Rox School District has filed nine tax liens against Alice Street Investments and Cornell has filed four.
Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority filed municipal liens against Alice Street Investments six times in the past two years for unpaid bills ranging from $27,291.67 and $20,938.21 to $372.34.
The Borough of Whitehall brought a municipal lien of $45,698.91 against the company for “the furnishing of sewer rental and disposal,” according to court filings. The Baldwin-Whitehall School District brought the company to court in 2020, 2021 and 2022 with the highest tax bill topping out at $28,527.36. North Hills School District brought a tax lien of more than $7,000.
Taylor said in an interview after the meeting she has felt targeted for speaking out. She said she was given a citation this year for putting her trash out in Hefty bags after talking about the dumpster problem.
Taylor was given a warning about the garbage bags by a code enforcement officer who no longer works for the borough Wozniak clarified in a phone interview after the meeting. Nothing came from the warning, in that Taylor was not fined, Wozniak said.
Last year, Taylor posted her frustrations online with a Facebook post comparing photos of the dumpster with Puzas’ house. Someone from the household demanded the images be removed. Then, according to Taylor, McKees Rocks police knocked on her door and told her to remove her social media posting. She said she was later summoned to court and was charged a $200 fine for harassment.
Taylor remains resolute in trying to get the problem resolved.
“This is now beginning year three and as much as the president wants to admonish me, it was not a joke,” Taylor said.