Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cyber Town Hall Wide Ranging

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato took several questions on the Port Authority and the possibility of a city/county merger in his second Cyber Town Hall Meeting Thursday. The half hour question and answer session was webcast on the County’s website. Questions were submitted via email including several on the Port Authority of Allegheny County’s finances and the North Shore Connector. Onorato says with a new contract in place and a dedicated source of revenue PAT is finally dealing with legacy costs and moving forward on improving operations. He defended the T-line extension under the Allegheny River saying it was 80% federally funded and will not only serve as a connection for north shore attractions and CCAC but it is also the first step to extending the line to the airport. He did however say the county would not cover any cost overruns. When probed about the possibility of a city/county merger Onorato reiterated his support for the merger and called on other municipalities to think about following suit. He says there are still several details to be worked out including workforce, representation and debt issues. He says before the issue could go to a vote there would have to be a series of public hearings and forums. Onorato also took a question on how the county will deal with the economic crisis. The Executive fielded a suggestion that the County Police Department be eliminated. Onorato says he once felt the same way but changed his mind after taking office. He says those officers provide much needed specialty services to the county’s 130 municipalities including homicide investigations. He says without the department each municipality would have to hire more officers, which would lead to higher taxes. The webcast will be archived along with the first Cyber Town Hall on the county’s web page.

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