South Fayette commissioners appoint police chief, new commissioner

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The South Fayette Township board of commissioners tackled a personnel-heavy agenda Wednesday, naming acting police chief John Phoennik to head the department before appointing a new commissioner and public works director.


The vote was unanimous for Phoennik, who was serving as acting chief since April after Louis Volle retired. Phoennik, 50, oversees a 15-officer force and said he plans to hire at least one more person before the end of the year.


“This community has been my backbone and why I serve this community,” he said after he was sworn in. “To the officers who have supported me, I want you to know I support you like you have me. And thank you to the board, for putting your confidence in me to become chief.”


The commissioners said they received positive feedback from the community regarding Phoennik and they noted the police force “has been improved greatly” since he became acting chief.


In other appointments, the commissioners named Ray Pitetti to fill the fifth seat on the board after the resignation of Todd Miller. The vote was 3-0-1 with commissioner Deron Gabriel abstaining, saying he didn’t believe the commissioners reviewed the seven applicants together as a group in great detail. He added after the vote he looks forward to working with Pitetti, who is medical director of express care at UPMC Children’s Hospital.


Pitetti looked surprised when the board motioned for his appointment.


“I’ve lived here 16 years, moved here with my family; fell in love with the township. And it’s just something I wanted to do, to help my community,” he said.


The board also named Miles Truitt as public works director. He has been acting director since May. Truitt, known to most by his nickname, “Butch,” said the department “has a bunch of talented guys, and their expertise is second to none. I look forward to it.” Truitt was hired as parks and recreation director in April 2013, a position he still holds, until a new director can be found.


The board then voted unanimously to advertise for a new recreation director.


“This position will be less about brick and mortar upkeep, and more on the recreation and programming side of things – what the township can offer to residents, and this person will need to expand and direct that programming,” township manager Ryan Eggleston said.


The board also heard first discussion about the future of the remaining 8.5 acres at the former Star City movie theater site. Roughly three acres are occupied by UPMC Children’s South, and a one acre plot is held by Washington Financial, according to Eggleston.


Eggleston said the property could be leased through the township, sold outright, partnered in a joint venture with another entity, or a township civic center, which would not be taxed, could be built. He said the next meeting would likely see advertisement for proposals.


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