GASP Urges Health Dept. to Not Squander Clean Air Funds on Building Renovation

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Comments delivered to the Allegheny County Board of Health on May 2, 2018

Good afternoon. My name is Rachel Filippini. I am the Executive Director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak today.

Under Agenda Item 5(E), Jayme Graham and Ron Sugar will be asking you to approve $66,000 from the Clean Air Fund for pre-construction oversight of the Clack Building One renovation project.

I am here to urge you to vote NO on this Clean Air Fund request because I do not believe one more cent of the Clean Air Fund should go toward this project.

The Clean Air Fund exists because companies have broken the law and are being penalized for threatening our health. This money belongs to the residents of Allegheny County, who have suffered from the adverse health effects of air pollution, and should be used to improve air quality. This is not the County’s slush fund or a back-door economic development fund.

The money in the Clean Air Fund should go toward projects that will result in tangible improvements in air quality. I do not believe the County can justify using $66,000 now and possibly as much as $4.5M in the future for a building renovation project. Imagine the worthwhile, air quality improvement projects that $4.5M could make possible. Projects that the Board of Health could truly be proud of supporting.

Allegheny County’s childhood asthma rates, our elevated cancer risk due to breathing in air toxics, and the fact that we can’t get off the American Lung Association’s top 10 list for most polluted air all make it crystal clear that using the County’s Clean Air Fund for anything but for projects that will actually improve the air would be WRONG.

GASP believes county employees deserve to work in healthy, safe, and productive office space. The buildings they work in are a County asset and the County should find a sustainable way to fund their upkeep. We’ve just learned that the County fund balance (meaning cash on hand) is over $44 million dollars. The County is in good fiscal shape. There is no reason that the Clean Air Fund should be raided to pay for this work.

As a member of the Air Pollution Control Advisory Committee, I am concerned with the lack of information disclosed to me by ACHD. My staff discovered that the $66,000 proposal being considered today is only a small portion of a $583,000 contract the County already signed, with Massaro, back in July 2017. In addition, the $66,000 proposal before you today partially covers payments already made to Massaro back in December 2017.

It appears to me that ACHD staff have already decided that the Board will approve using millions of dollars from the Clean Air Fund for this project. Their actions to date have not been transparent and the request they are making today is not within the scope of Clean Air Fund expenditures. I urge you to vote NO today and direct ACHD staff to pursue County funding for the remainder of this project.

Thank you.

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