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Plan OK’d to Raze UPMC Braddock

CCAC campus and medical clinic planned for site
Thursday, September 16, 2010
By Deborah M. Todd, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

During an emotional meeting, at which the death of Councilwoman Millie Devich was marked with a moment of silence and a bouquet of flowers behind her nameplate in council chambers, motions designed to address Braddock’s financial future added to the fervor.

Borough council voted, 4-0, to approve a memorandum of understanding among the borough, UPMC and the Allegheny County Redevelopment Authority regarding a plan to demolish UPMC Braddock and replace it with a multiuse facility.

Councilman Milan Devich was not in attendance.

The memo calls for UPMC to pay for the hospital’s demolition, estimated at about $5 million, to make way for the potential construction of a building that would feature a Community College of Allegheny County campus as well as a medical clinic.

Most of the land currently being used for parking would be used for new housing, but the Braddock Avenue lot where the former Sky Bank sat would be turned over to the borough once the Redevelopment Authority acquires the title.

The borough also would receive $90,000 per year for the next five years from UPMC as part of the deal.

UPMC would contribute $3 million toward the proposed $29 million development, but that sum is contingent upon the county receiving $3 million from the state to match the effort.

Solicitor M. Lawrence Shields said the state had already earmarked the funds for the borough.

Mr. Shields said the memo should be considered in conjunction with a recent agreement settling a federal civil rights claim filed against UPMC by council President Jesse Brown.

The U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights reached an agreement with UPMC to provide door-to-door transportation for Braddock residents to an outpatient site in Forest Hills and to UPMC McKeesport.

It also requires UPMC to provide six health screenings per year in the community; to have a patient liaison assist residents having difficulties accessing care; to assist health ministries in local churches; and to place strong emphasis on preventative care with its “Steps to a Healthy Community” program.

The agreement is in effect for three years.

“This is a package deal, so to speak, where both of these agreements interrelate,” said Mr. Shields. “Hopefully, through both of these agreements, we believe we’ve obtained the most we could possibly obtain under the circumstances.

“Believe me when I tell you we tried very, very hard to obtain as much as we possibly could for the citizens of Braddock.”

Mr. Brown said HHS representatives would discuss terms of the civil rights settlement at a meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Blazing Bingo Hall on Talbot Avenue.

Choking up during some points of his speech, Mr. Brown encouraged religious leaders, residents and public officials to come to hear exactly how much Braddock had gained thanks to efforts by local officials, and how much it stood to lose without those efforts.

“UPMC wouldn’t give us nothing,” Mr. Brown said. “They would have walked away and would have given Braddock nothing. But we do have some services that are a part of this agreement. We’re going to have an urgent care center, which we didn’t have before, that will be beneficial to the residents of this community.”

In the aftermath of the suspension of borough manager Ella Jones, council approved a number of measures designed to detect and prevent fraud.

Ms. Jones, 58, of Turtle Creek is accused of embezzling more than $170,000 from the borough since 2008.

From now on, all paper checks issued can come from only the borough’s general fund and payroll accounts. If funds from the remaining deposit-only accounts are needed in the event of an emergency, the money would have to be transferred to the general fund to write the check.

All emergencies must be explained to council in writing. Council also started a policy of reviewing a list of bills before approving payment each month.

Interim borough manager Paul Leger was authorized to sign off on borough checks, along with Mr. Brown and Vice President Matthew Thomas.

Mr. Leger also was appointed to the Southeast Allegheny Tax Collection Committee for Earned Income Tax Collection. Councilwoman Tina Doose was appointed to the finance committee.

Mr. Leger said the moves were an attempt to bring the borough in line with earlier suggestions made regarding the borough’s financial controls.

“This stuff is boring, but necessary to bring us in compliance with our audit recommendations,” he said.

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