Deer, Hand Sanitizer Dispensers, Sun Screen Dispensers, Goats, Donkeys to Protect Goats. Now New Mt. Lebanon Update: It's Not the Deer, Stupid. It's the PEDESTRIANS!

Stephen Arch    sparch@comcast.net    www.sparch@facebook.com

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It's not the deer causing accidents in Mt. Lebanon. It's the people - the pedestrians.

Please bear with me on this one.  It seems as if I may be picking on Mt. Lebanon for the "political issues" they have.  However, I don't write the news, I don't make the news, and I am not a resident of Mt. Lebanon; I don't go to commissioners' meetings.  I only react to what I read in local newspapers, hear on local radio stations, and watch on local television stations.  Again, this stuff writes itself.  I only respond.  You'd think that Mt. Lebanon would want to stay out of the political spotlight in lieu of the controversial deer culling decisions they made recently that made local and national news.

  [Photo of David Singer] 

[Photo of David Singer] 

Additionally, after "solving the deer overpopulation" issue in this lovely town, the commissioners took to more pressing needs.  First, they voted to install "hand sanitizer dispensers" in local parks.  Was that enough?  Not according to  Danielle Deroy Pirain  who saw no similar trend for sunscreen distribution during summer. The Upper St. Clair woman wants to change that, and started by having her employer, Vujevich Dermatology Associates, post the first public dispenser in the region in Mt. Lebanon Park. The practice will refill the dispenser, located near the playground, through the summer.  USC woman gets sunscreen dispenser in Lebo park by David Singer Observer-Reporter Staff Reporter, Writing in The Almanac.
 

Mt. Lebanon, bending to public pressure from and Upper St. Clair resident, now has installed sunscreen dispensers in its parks.

The good thing is that the Mt. Lebanon tax payers are getting their money's worth from their elected officials.  But it didn't stop with deer culling, hand sanitizers, and sunscreen dispensers.  Mt. Lebanon also decided to hire Steel City Grazers, LLC to control the "weed population" in the township.  According to Angie's List, Steel City Grazers, LLC is Pittsburgh’s only company to offer vegetation management through animal grazing. Goats can be hired by organizations or individuals to clear brush and weeds instead of using conventional landscaping methods. Using goats to eat unwanted plants is a proven method for vegetation management. Goats love weeds, vines, and brush, with special preference for flower heads and leaves, leaving the plant unable to photosynthesize or go to seed. (Description taken from posting on Angie's List).

However, it doesn't end here.  How is Mt. Lebanon going to protect the goats.  That's easy, hire a donkey to protect the goats.  Donkey's protecting goats? Really?  Well, according to The Robinson Ranch in Madisonville, Texas:  SHEEP (OR GOAT) PROTECTION. A single donkey, usually a jennet, sometimes a gelding (jacks rarely work because they can be too aggressive with lambs) is introduced to the herd and undergoes a bonding stage. After it has bonded with the sheep, it will protect them against canine predators (fox, coyote, dogs) as it would one of its own. This is extremely beneficial in areas where the sheep have many acres to graze. The advantage of the donkey over the guard dog is that they can eat the same food as the sheep so they don't have to be fed separately. The donkey will also bed down with the sheep at night. Given a strange sound it will voice a warning to the flock which alerts them to danger. Then the donkey will chase and often trample the predator. Miniature donkeys are not usually large enough to handle the coyotes, and mammoth donkeys are usually too slow.

In Recent articles published on this subject, mt. lebanon publicized that the deer culling was to curb car accidents in the municipality. I disagreed.  After speaking with some mt. lebanon residents, I found that more residents were concerned about deer eating their expensive landscaping.  i found the following article sort of proving this fact first published in the pittsburgh post gazette in 2014

Since 2011 there have been 765 reported incidents involving the herbivorous menaces in the municipality, ranging from dead and injured deer to deer stuck in fences to deer “tearing up” a yard, according to an online tracker.  RESIDENTS FEAR LYME DISEASE, vehicle crashes and DECIMATED GARDENS thanks to the animals, which are hardly skittish these days, courtesy of frequent human contact.  "Mt. Lebanon Calls Off Controlled Deer Hunt" - Jonathan D. Silver. Pittsburgh Post Gazette.  December 23, 2014.  

My findings through responses and interviews was that the Mt. Lebanon residents were really angry about what the deer were doing to their gardens, not controlling car accidents.  Indeed, they do cause car accidents, but the deer culling efforts would decrease vehicular issues by 50 percent in 5 years, according to Mt. Lebanon commissioners.  But, the deer culling efforts would drastically put an end to the ruination of landscaping in the community.

Now, it's not the deer - they took care of that problem.  Mt. lebanon is looking at all of the pedestrians who are causing accidents in their "small suburban community"

Well, we just found that Mt. Lebanon doesn't have a deer/vehicle collision problem, it now has a pedestrian/vehicle collision problem.  So maybe it's not the deer accidents that are riling the residents and commissioners of Mt. Lebanon. It's those stupid pedestrians.  

Mt. Lebanon commissioners are holding a closed-door meeting this evening, July 27, 2015 to discuss the concerns of pedestrian accidents in the Municipality of Mt. Lebanon.  Remember, just a few short weeks ago, the Mt. Lebanon commissioners, worried that deer are causing so many accidents in what they call "their small suburban community," decided to allow "expert" archers into the neighborhood to cull the deer overpopulation.  "Too many deer causing too many accidents in our town," the commissioners bemoaned.  So, after months of debate - how to kill the deer, the town eventually reached it's decision.  

  Pedestrians are problematic in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania

Pedestrians are problematic in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania

But wait, now Mt. Lebanon commissioners are holding a meeting to discuss how pedestrians are actually causing more accidents in this wonderful hamlet nestled in the South Hills of Pittsburgh.  

While scrolling the internet for "news" from local townships, cities, municipalities, I came across this public blog posted by Mt. Lebanon commissioner Kelly Fraasch.  To show that I am not "attacking" Mt. Lebanon and to be fair to the commissioners, particularly Kelly Fraasch, Mt. Lebanon commissioner, the following is a word for word press release she published earlier this year about the "real" problem Mt. Lebanon faces - not deer, not sunburn, not weeds, not clean hands - pedestrians!

Pedestrian/Vehicle Concerns… Posted on March 3, 2015 by Kelly Fraasch

While Commissioner, I have been surprised by the amount of vehicle accidents in our small suburban community and I am not sure we are gathering all of the data.  As we have people that don’t report to the police department and go directly to the hospital.

More specifically, the pedestrian (walking/jogging/biking) vehicle collision rates are alarming. The 5th ward has a high incidence rate but so do the main arteries of the community.

As the deer issue gained more notoriety at public meetings some have suggested that car/deer collisions were a chief concern for reducing deer population.  The Commission spoke about the desire to reduce the accident rate but I don’t think we knew or understood the actual rate we had regarding accidents in general with vehicles and the injuries related.

When the Commission is given numbers on a small scale it can be hard to see the bigger picture or in comparison of the overall picture.  Some numbers can appear high when they stand alone, but looking at the overall picture it can be low or below average.  Also we never discussed the injuries endured by any accidents (minor/severe).

A friend and fellow resident put together a factually based map on data provided by the police department for me so we can visually see our accidents throughout the municipality.  As you will see the pedestrian/vehicle accidents have had severe injuries/fatalities.

Mapping of Accidents involved with Bicycles and Pedestrians by Tom Moertel

Please pay mind to our accidents.  This is why looking at the evidence is so important.  The number of deer/vehicle accident that sustained severe injury pale in comparison to pedestrian/vehicle accidents.  If we are going to address our public safety issue of accidents, we need to look at the accidents that have resulted in severe injuries or death which would be our vehicle/pedestrian incidents.

What have we done to address this issue?

As commissioners I personally pushed for and the Commission signed a resolution in 2012 to support legislation that allows local police to utilize Radar Devices to enforce speed.  I personally took this a step further and have supported an educational webpage to educate the public, advocated/educated our local leaders about the issues and work with the PA Mayor’s Association Chair, Mayor Jim Nowalk on this issue with our own Chief McDonough. 

If we can enforce our speeds in a more efficient manner, we will be able to support an effort to change behavior in our municipality.

I reached out to members of our staff about my concerns about walk-ability issues including Public Information Office, Police Department, Economic Development, and included some residents.  Admittedly, it has not gone anywhere.

I fully supported all of the enhancements recommended by our traffic engineer to improve our intersections and brought them up regularly to the Commission.

I also highly recommended to the Commission changes in our traffic signage for school hours as we need every opportunity to warn our drivers when we have a high number of children/residents walking near our school.  A first some Commissioners felt this was wasted funds, but I am glad they all supported this upgrade in our warning signals.

Pushed hard for a vote on the highly traveled areas near Washington school with the enhancements of the Crosswalk at Washington Road.  I met personally with Senator Smith and our staff on this issue several times.

However this isn’t enough by a long shot and I feel we are piecemealing an issue that needs a comprehensive, methodical way to address all of our negative impacts throughout our 6 square miles.

President Bendel asked me in January my top issues I wanted to address and I expressed this issue as a top concern, but again, each Commissioner and staff needs to comprehend entirely the full issue.

I am glad that President Bendel is supporting the issue and plans to consider this topic for our first Saturday meeting in the Spring.  We need this as a community to be one of our priorities.  I fully support this effort and encourage an overall comprehensive plan which will require commitment (financial/time) by the municipality, expert opinion/guidance and enforcement.

My role as Commissioner sometimes means tackling the bigger issues which fall outside Ward 5 but also may seem to take years beyond my time as an official.  That’s ok, if this Commission can move forward on some planning (long-term) and we see preliminary results I feel that we have succeeded.

If we can move forward on public education and enforcement of existing speed limit laws (through radar or other methods) this may have a beneficial impact not only on the number of car/pedestrian accidents but on the injury or death rate.

Something needs to be done about the accident rate between pedestrians/vehicles.  I have pledged to stick with this issue throughout my term as Commissioner and will continue in my second term if elected.

To all of my Mt. Lebanon friends. Please, this is not an attack.  Just merely some observations that your politicians and community leaders let us know through the local news outlets.  I just find these things amusing - I am aware that Mt. Lebanon cares about it's residents.  My goodness, it shows.  It's just that so much news from one "small suburban community" seems, at times, to be overwhelming.  Or is it that Mt. Lebanon is just out seeking the media spotlight with goats, deer, donkeys, sunburn, clean hands, weeds, and now pedestrians.  Like "they" say, I only report the news.  Not one of these "facts" is fabricated.  I only hope the goats and the donkeys don't start trying to cross the street!