Preserving brick streets has become a focus of the Mt. Lebanon Historic Preservation Board.
Anna Siefken, who chairs the board, spoke at Tuesday’s Mt. Lebanon Commission discussion session about efforts in that direction, including making a request for additional funding in the 2020 municipal budget.
Some residents of Duquesne Drive attended the preservation board’s July meeting to express disappointment the brick on their street had not been replaced during a reconstruction project.
Since then, Siefken told commissioners, members of her board have been working diligently in examining what can be done going forward to ensure Mt. Lebanon’s brick streets remain as such.
“Many people see them as an asset to the community, in terms of historic charm,” she said.
To help the effort, she made a request for the commission to consider increasing the $65,000 allocated to the board this year, including $50,000 for the repair of brick streets. John Bendel, the commission’s liaison to the board, advocated for the expenditure.
“This is a repair budget, not reconstruction,” he said. “So it’s aligned with the large amounts of money we put in for asphalt restoration and resurfacing.”
Siefken also requested $25,000 toward salvaging and storing bricks.
“It actually becomes part of the problem, that we don’t have a sort of stockpile, because when a renovation is needed, we go scrambling for bricks,” she said.
Bendel said utility work on a brick street in Ward 1, which he represents, recently caused an issue.
“There wasn’t any stockpile of the old brick, so they ran into a dilemma of replacement,” he said. “And we’re going to run into this time and time again, since the old brick is hard to find on the market.”
Rudy Sukal, municipal public works director, said bricks used to be stored at the public works facility, but the stockpile was depleted.
Sukal said because bricks take up a lot of space, he and other officials been having conversations with the objective to “work a function into the specifications for the contract whereas the contractor has to salvage those bricks and store them in some other facility.”
Commissioner Kelly Fraasch said she would prefer to look into setting up a municipal storage site.
In the meantime, the historic preservation board has established a steering committee to address brick streets. Committee member Don Murray attended the discussion sesssion.
“He personally went door-to-door in his neighborhood on Crystal Drive to talk to residents to find out how the felt about brick streets,” Siefken said. “And the overwhelming majority, including one person who chased him down the street, was in favor of keeping a brick street.”
Commissioner Craig Grella said he has had similar discussions with residents.
“What I ran into was pretty much what Don ran into, which seems to be about 80/20 for repairing, up to a point, where you start having a conversation about cost and what that means, although there’s really no honing in on what that number means,” he said. “It sounds like a lot of this work needs to be done, really, before we’re going to get accurate numbers.”
Bendel said, though, the issue is comparatively straightforward.
“The budget request is for expanding the repair,” he said. “So I don’t think we have to do too much research to know that there are many brick streets that need repair, and $65,000 only does a certain percentage of them.”