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January 24, 2013

Senate community relations group gets project updates

The University Senate’s community relations committee convened Jan. 15 to hear updates on ongoing projects and make plans for the spring term.

On the horizon

• CRC member Tracy Soska agreed to arrange a field trip in April to Pittsburgh’s Larimer neighborhood in order to inform the committee about opportunities for the University to connect with the community.

• John Wilds, assistant vice chancellor for community relations, reported that Pitt administrators are scheduled to testify before the state House appropriations committee on Feb. 25 and the Senate appropriations committee on Feb. 28 as part of Pennsylvania’s annual budget process.

The specific time for the hearings has not been set, he said.

Wilds noted that the hearings come shortly after the scheduled Feb. 12 Pitt Day in Harrisburg, during which members of the Pitt community visit state legislators to discuss the University’s value and contributions.

• Kannu Sahni, director for community relations, reported that details on Pitt’s annual Partnership for Food drive, to be held in April, will be distributed soon.

• Sahni asked for help in compiling a complete inventory of Pitt community outreach initiatives to post under the “community” tab on the Pitt home page. He said more than 90 projects, mostly in the provost’s area, have been documented, but noted that many projects from the Schools of the Health Sciences need to be added.

Wilds said that the list includes both service learning and research endeavors that ultimately impact the community.

Christmas Day at Pitt

Wilds said that 1,600 people — a record number — were served at Christmas Day at Pitt, during which University volunteers, in conjunction with the Salvation Army, provided Christmas dinner and gifts to needy members of the community. He said the University community provided an overabundance of gifts for children who attended, adding that extra gifts were shared with other community organizations.

Construction update

Wilds said that, according to Facilities Management, construction at the Graduate School of Public Health and the new dorm, Nordenberg Hall, is on schedule and on budget.

Work on Salk Hall remains behind schedule due to difficulties in stabilizing the hillside behind the building. A retaining wall is in place and workers are beginning to lay the foundation for erecting structural steel.

Oakland task force report

• G. Reynolds Clark, vice chancellor for community initiatives, said the Oakland task force (OTF) recently discussed the problem of graffiti beneath the Boulevard of the Allies bridge. City workers recently painted over the graffiti during the recent warm weather, but “tagging” under the bridge long has been a concern, Clark said, prompting some discussion of using the space for public art.

• Clark said the Port Authority’s examination of the addition of rapid bus service is continuing. (See Sept. 27 University Times.) Bus rapid transit (BRT) is touted as a way to speed travel between Oakland and Downtown by having riders pay fares before boarding and limiting stops. Proposed routes include using Fifth or Forbes Avenue.

Clark also said there also has been interest in offering BRT service to areas including Shadyside, East End and Squirrel Hill.

• Clark said OTF is forming a subcommittee to examine ways to help Oakland homeowners who are finding it difficult to maintain their homes. The move was sparked by an unintended consequence of the Oakland 2025 master plan’s Oakwatch code enforcement initiative, aimed at negligent property owners. Clark said some homeowners who are having trouble maintaining their properties have been brought into the process, adding that while the task force doesn’t want to see the building inspector ignore violations, it likewise doesn’t want to see people who are trying, but having difficulty with home maintenance, cited.

• Another part of the master plan, removal of invasive plants from hillsides along Bates Street, is underway, Clark said.

In a three-year project, overgrown vines and trees will be replaced with native species to improve the corridor’s appearance.

Pitt and UPMC are among the primary sponsors, he said.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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