Reopening of Route 30 After Slide Repair 'Excellent News'

June 29, 2018 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: Announcements

Emergency repairs to Route 30 in East Pittsburgh cost more than $6.5 million and required the movement of 39,000 cubic yards --- about 55,000 tons --- of crushed concrete.

But the reopening of the highway on Wednesday afternoon -- a little more than two months after it was closed abruptly --- is "excellent news for area residents," state Sen. Jim Brewster said.

The highway, which carries 21,000 vehicles per day, had been closed between the George Westinghouse Bridge and Electric Avenue since April 7, when a landslide caused the highway to collapse and damaged a house and an apartment building below.

Motorists from the Mon-Yough area and Westmoreland County were forced to use a lengthy detour over surface streets in North Braddock, East Pittsburgh and North Versailles Twp.

 
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County Hits Clairton Works With $1M Fine, Threatens Further Action

June 29, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

Editor's note: The author of this story has a conflict of interest. See the note at the end of the story.


U.S. Steel's Clairton Works in a 2010 photo by Patrick Cain. (Via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0)


An air-quality monitor across the river from U.S. Steel's Clairton Coke Works is the only one where pollution levels are out of compliance with federal standards, Allegheny County officials said Thursday.

As a result, the Allegheny County Health Department has fined U.S. Steel $1 million and has given the company 60 days to submit information about how it intends to clean up emissions from the facility.

If the company doesn't improve its performance within a six-month time period, a county health department spokesman said, the county will order two of Clairton Works' coke batteries to be shut down.

Meghan Cox, a spokeswoman for U.S. Steel in Pittsburgh, told Tube City Almanac on Friday the company is "reviewing the document at this time" but had no further comment.

 
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Demolition of Fire-Damaged W.O. House Begins

June 26, 2018 |

By Cami DiBattista | Posted in: White Oak News

The demolition of a property on State Street in White Oak destroyed by a fire began last week.

Legal approvals to remove nine additional structures have been received, borough Solicitor Krisha DiMascio said at last week's council meeting. The structures will be prioritized and demolished as funds are obtained.

Council also approved the instillation of electronic upgrades to the bathhouse of the White Oak swimming pool during the meeting, per the request of borough Manager John Palyo.

At a cost of $500, the installation will include a new front desk microphone system, two new cameras and a new high-definition radio.

 
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Police Allege Man Set Apartment Fire, Then Threatened Victim

June 25, 2018 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: Crime and Police News

A Pittsburgh man is being held in the Allegheny County Jail without bail after McKeesport police said he set another man's apartment on fire, and then threatened to come back and "finish the job."

Julien J. Sewell, 24, of Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood faces a preliminary hearing at 2:30 p.m. July 2 before Magisterial District Judge Eugene Riazzi in McKeesport.

A hearing originally scheduled for Monday was continued, court officials said.

McKeesport firefighters were called to an apartment in the 700 block of Ridge Street early on June 3 after callers reported smelling smoke. According to McKeesport police, firefighters arrived to find the door to the apartment unlocked, and paper plates on top of a stove, burning.

 
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One Dead in Weekend Motorcycle Crash

June 25, 2018 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: Crime and Police News

A Glassport man died Saturday evening when his motorcycle crashed in West Mifflin.

Frank Wehrer, 40, died of blunt-force trauma to the head sustained in the wreck, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office said. His death has been ruled an accident.

A spokeswoman for Allegheny County Police said the wreck occurred near the intersection of Duquesne and Center avenues just before 7 p.m. The accident is under investigation and police are still working to determine what caused Wehrer to lose control of the motorcycle.

Paramedics transported Wehrer to UPMC McKeesport hospital, where he was pronounced dead just after 7:30 p.m., officials said. He was not wearing a helmet, police said.

 

Warm Homecoming for 'Missing McKeesport,' Filmmaker

June 24, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

Sam Zolten (third from left) greets visitors following a screening of his documentary "Missing McKeesport" on Sunday afternoon at the McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center. (Photo special to Tube City Almanac)


Sam Zolten was worried that "maybe about 10 people" would attend a screening of his documentary, "Missing McKeesport," on Sunday afternoon at the McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center.

In fact, about 100 people filled the seats of the center's Boycott Room and stood in the lobby to see the 90-minute film, comprised of interviews with local residents, past and present, telling stories of McKeesport's Jewish community ---  and therefore, the city's history --- from the 1900s to the present.

"I didn't know what to expect," said Zolten, a McKeesport High School graduate who moved away in 1967 and now lives near Philadelphia. "I'm overwhelmed to see so many people I don't know, who aren't Jewish, but who can relate to the experience."

 
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Right-to-Know Request Seeks Information on Fire Hydrants

June 24, 2018 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: News

Tube City Community Media Inc. has filed an official request under the state's Right-to-Know law seeking records related to the condition of fire hydrants in McKeesport's Grandview and Hall Park neighborhoods.

The request, dated June 22, was sent to the city's water provider, Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County.

The Greensburg-based authority is a public entity but is managed by a private business, Resource Development & Management of Forest Hills, and serves 120,000 customers in five counties. It purchased McKeesport's water system in 1987.

A fire on June 16 on Cleveland Street in McKeesport destroyed one house, heavily damaged a neighboring house, and caused heat damage to four additional houses. Firefighters said that low water volume from nearby fire hydrants, which are supplied and maintained by the Westmoreland water authority, hampered their efforts to battle the blaze.

 
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Fire Department to Review Procedures in Grandview Area

June 22, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

Residents of McKeesport's Grandview neighborhood should not be alarmed if they see fire trucks --- especially water tankers --- in the area on Saturday morning.

City firefighters and volunteers from other communities will be evaluating new procedures and routes for responding to fires in the neighborhood, McKeesport fire Chief Jeff Tomovcsik said.

Officials are trying to be proactive and plan ahead before an emergency, he said. Lack of water volume at hydrants is being blamed for the damage caused by an early morning fire June 16 on Cleveland Street that sent four people to the hospital, destroyed a family's home and damaged five others, one seriously.

McKeesport is also "actively looking" for a water tanker of its own for the fire department, for use in the Grandview neighborhood, Tomovcsik said.

 
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Local Communities Could Benefit from Tax Incentive Program for Investors

June 20, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: Announcements

Shown in blue are "qualified opportunity zones" in the Mon-Yough area approved last week by the U.S. Treasury Department. The zones provide tax benefits for investors who have earned profits from stocks, bonds or real estate. (Map courtesy Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.)


McKeesport, Duquesne, Glassport and North Versailles Twp. may benefit from a new federal program designed to encourage investors to spend some of their profits on business development in impoverished communities.

Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department accepted a recommendation from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf to designate 300 different census tracts across the state as "qualified opportunity zones."

The opportunity zone program, created in 2017 under Congress' sweeping year-end tax reform legislation, allows investors who have profited from "capital gains" --- the sale of stocks, bonds, real estate or other investments --- to postpone or eliminate some of their taxes on those profits if they invest in an "opportunity zone."

“I’m excited to see us move forward with this program,” state Rep. Austin Davis said. Nine census tracts in Davis' 35th Legislative District are included in the program.

 
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Personnel Changes Top Agenda at Duquesne Council

June 19, 2018 |

By Cami DiBattista | Posted in: Duquesne News

Duquesne has done away with a requirement that police officers live within the city.

At last week's meeting, Mayor Nickole Nesby said Duquesne eliminated the rule so that the city can make an "honest effort" to make sure all races and both sexes are represented on the police force.

She publicly encouraged potential candidates to apply for openings in the police department.

Council approved police Chief Tom Dunlevy’s recommendation to offer a permanent position within the department to Lee Bartalicius. In other personnel moves, council accepted the retirement of longtime employee Jeanne Dowdle and voted to name Quincy Zitelli the city's acting code enforcement officer.

Council voted to terminate code enforcement officer Allan Chiesi. Nesby said the city would make no public comment about Chiesi's termination.

 
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Foundation Schedules 5K, Golf Outing During 41st Bondi Invitational

June 19, 2018 |

By Submitted Report | Posted in: Announcements

A "cash bash," tennis tournament, 5K race and fun run, and a golf outing are the highlights of a four-day fundraiser in July for the McKeesport Hospital Foundation.

The 41st annual Dr. Frank R. Bondi Invitational begins with a "cash bash" at 6 p.m. July 27 at the Boston Spectrum in Elizabeth Twp. Tickets cost $20 and include admission, dinner and a number for cash drawings held every 15 minutes.

On July 28, a doubles round-robin tennis tournament will be held at The Racquet Club in Monroeville. Tickets for the tournament are $100 and include prizes, trophies, snacks and dinner. The tournament begins at 12:30 p.m.

 
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Authority: Upgrades Will Improve Water Service in Grandview, Other Areas

June 19, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

Lack of water is being blamed for the spread of a fire that destroyed this home in the 2600 block of Cleveland Street on Saturday morning. The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County is promising upgrades to the distribution system in the next 12 months. (Photo special to Tube City Almanac)


The authority that provides water to McKeesport and neighboring communities plans $2.1 million in upgrades to the distribution system in Grandview and other parts of the city.

"The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County has invested more than $3 million on our McKeesport system in the past 12 months to improve both water supply and quality," said Matthew Junker, authority spokesman, in a prepared statement. "Further investments of $2.1 million are planned in the next 12 months."

Lack of water volume in Grandview is being blamed for the spread of a fire that destroyed a house on Cleveland Street on Saturday morning, and damaged five others. The authority did not release details on exactly how the new investments will address that low water volume.

Water tankers were called from Lincoln Borough, Monroeville and as far away as Rostraver Twp., Westmoreland County, as McKeesport firefighters and volunteers from several neighboring communities worked to bring the blaze under control.

 
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3 Local Racers Headed to World Soap Box Derby Finals

June 18, 2018 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: News, Sports

(All photos: Vickie Babyak, special to Tube City Almanac)


Steamy temperatures and scorching pavement didn't faze entrants in the 2018 Greater Pittsburgh Soap Box Derby, held Sunday morning on Eden Park Boulevard in front of McKeesport Area High School.

The annual Father's Day tradition has been held for 36 consecutive years, but actually dates to the 1950s.

The top finishers in each category will be headed to the All-American Soap Box Derby World Championships, to be held in July in Akron, Ohio.

Photographer Vickie Babyak braved the heat to grab these images.

 
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4 Injured When Fire Sweeps Home; Lack of Water Hampered Efforts

June 18, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

A sign urges passersby to help two families burned out of the home that once stood at 2615 Cleveland St. (Photo special to Tube City Almanac)


Little remains of a house in the 2600 block of Cleveland Street that burned on Saturday morning --- sending four members of the Sostaric and Murphy families to the hospital.

A lack of water from local hydrants hampered efforts by McKeesport firefighters to fight the blaze, which spread to a neighboring home a few feet away, and got hot enough to melt the siding from three houses on the opposite side of the street.

Neighbors said it isn't the first time that a lack of water has hampered firefighting efforts on the street. One neighbor, who asked that his name not be printed, pointed to a vacant lot directly across from the home that burned to the ground Saturday.

"That house over there burned a few years ago," the neighbor said. "That vacant lot a few doors up? That was two houses that burned. Every time, same problem --- no water."

 
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Teenager Dead in Duquesne Shooting; Police Seek Suspects

June 16, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: Crime and Police News, Duquesne News

(UPDATED with name of young man who was killed.)

A shooting Saturday morning in Duquesne left one young man dead and another hospitalized.

Duquesne police said in a release that officers were dispatched to the corner of Auriles Steet and Viola Alley at 1:18 a.m. when multiple callers reported hearing shots fired.

Upon arrival, police said, they found a white Chevrolet Impala stopped on Newford Alley, with the doors open. Inside the backseat, police found a 15-year-old, suffering from gunshot wounds. The victim, identified by the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office as Daevion Raines, was pronounced dead at the scene.

 
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Clairton Man Pleads Guilty in Fatal Drug Death

June 14, 2018 |

By Submitted Report | Posted in: Crime and Police News

A Clairton man pleaded guilty in federal court to distributing the drugs that led to the death of a local man.

Skyler Carter, 37, faces 20 years to life in prison and up to a $1 million fine, U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady said in a prepared statement Thursday. U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab scheduled sentencing for Oct. 4 at the federal courthouse in Pittsburgh.

Prosecutors allege that Carter had supplied fentanyl, an opioid painkiller, and cocaine to a co-defendant, Katie Spratt, which Spratt then sold to a victim identified only as "A.B.," causing his overdose death on June 5, 2017.

 
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Former Valley Man Headed to Prison on Heroin Charges

June 14, 2018 |

By Submitted Report | Posted in: Crime and Police News

A Washington County man with ties to West Mifflin is headed to federal prison after prosecutors said he sold heroin while on probation.

Maurice "Reece" Frezzell, 35, faces nearly 29 years in prison after his convictions this week before U.S. District Judges Arthur J. Schwab and David S. Cercone.

U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady called Frezzell "a career criminal and one of the most significant heroin and fentanyl dealers in Washington County" and said that people are "safer today, now that he is behind bars."

 
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Local Fire Departments Receive Grants from Water Co.

June 13, 2018 |

By Submitted Report | Posted in: Announcements

McKeesport officials, including city Administrator Tom Maglicco, community development director A.J. Tedesco, Mayor Michael Cherepko and fire Chief Jeff Tomovcsik, with representatives of Pennsylvania American Water Co. The company awarded a $1,000 grant to the fire department for the purchase of new hose nozzles. (Submitted photo)


Firefighters in McKeesport, Clairton, Glassport and Lincoln Borough are among those at 68 public safety agencies across the state receiving grants this month from Pennsylvania American Water Co.

The utility company announced that $50,000 is being disbursed through its annual Firefighting Support Grant Program to help fire and emergency services units to purchase protective gear, lifesaving equipment, firefighting apparatus and training materials.

“We are proud to support the critically important service provided by our communities’ emergency responders,” said Jeffrey L. McIntyre, company president, in a prepared statement. “At a time when funding and volunteers are stretched thin at many fire departments, our Firefighting Support Grants enable us to partner with and assist the dedicated men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our customers’ homes and businesses.”

 
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Two Men Sought in Connection With Teen's Shooting Death

June 13, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: Crime and Police News

Two men are being sought by Allegheny County police in connection with the death Tuesday night of a teen-ager in McKeesport.

Khaire Charles Cole, 17, of North Versailles Twp. died just before midnight at UPMC Presbyterian hospital in Oakland of a gunshot wound to the head, the Allegheny County medical examiner's office said.

His death has been ruled a homicide, a spokesperson said Wednesday night.

Another victim was wounded in the altercation, Allegheny County police Lt. Andrew Schurman said in a prepared statement. The second victim's name was not released. He was listed in stable condition and is expected to recover.

 
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Basketball Mini-Camps Coming to McKeesport, Other Communities

June 13, 2018 |

By Submitted Report | Posted in: Announcements

Free basketball "mini-camps" are coming to McKeesport, Homestead, West Mifflin, Wilmerding and eight other communities again this summer.

The "Hometown Hoops" program for ages 9 to 18 is offered by the Allegheny County Parks Department. The program kicked off Monday in Clairton.

A spokesperson said all events run from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and will include a free box lunch for participants, provided through the county's Summer Food Program. Participants should wear proper basketball attire.

 
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Lions Club Makes Awards to Six Local Charities

June 13, 2018 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: Announcements

From left, McKeesport Lions Club member Tony Ura; Jim Brubaker of Pleasant Hills; Geno Tognarine of Clairton; Eileen Lennart of McKeesport; Bill Lowman of Pleasant Hills; Jessica Carnprobst; and McKeesport Lions Club member Bobbie Billsborrow. (All photos special to Tube City Almanac)


Six local charities providing services to people with limited or no vision received donations Tuesday night from the McKeesport Lions Club.

In a ceremony at the McKees Point Cafe, Downtown, outgoing Lions Club President Duane Turnbull presented checks to Jim Brubaker, representing the Pennsylvania Lions Sight Conservation and Eye Research Foundation; Eileen Lennart, representing the Carnegie Library of McKeesport; Geno Tognarine, representing Beacon Lodge Camp in Mifflin County; Jessica Carnprobst, representing Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children and Bill Lowman, representing Leader Dogs for the Blind.

Also receiving a donation from the McKeesport Lions Club was Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh.

 
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Entrepreneur Eyes High-Tech Farm on RIDC Property

June 11, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

Entrepreneur Juan Lacey is hoping some day to grow some of these same vegetables using aquaponics technology in McKeesport. (Photo special to Tube City Almanac)


Urban farming in the Mon Valley isn't anything new --- but local businessman Juan Lacey isn't proposing an ordinary garden.

Lacey says he can grow produce and raise fish for 12 months out of the year at the RIDC Industrial Center of McKeesport using a technology called "aquaponics."

And if he can line up the financing --- if McKeesport is designated as an "opportunity zone" by the federal government --- Lacey says such a farm could be employing 16 or more people, producing fresh vegetables and fish for sale in supermarkets and use by restaurants within four to six months.

"Four acres can support 16 growing systems," Lacey says. "Each one of those creates 93,000 heads of lettuce per year, which is approximately 1.6 million heads of lettuce. That's a lot of product coming out."

James Rakocy, a retired researcher at the University of the Virgin Islands who is considered one of the fathers of aquaponics, says Lacey's goal isn't unattainable.

 
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Annual Fishing Derby Attracts Lake Emilie Crowd

June 10, 2018 |

By Vickie Babyak | Posted in: News

(All photos: Vickie Babyak, special to Tube City Almanac)


McKeesport's annual fishing derby attracted a crowd to Lake Emilie in Renziehausen Park on Saturday morning, including the Brooks, Nowak and Jordan families from Port Vue, shown above.

Organized by the McKeesport Recreation Board, this year's event was sponsored in part by Mutt Jr. Bait Shop and Smallies on the Yough, said Jim Brown, city recreation director.

Prizes were given throughout the morning and a lunch of hot dogs, chips, drinks and cupcakes was served.

Above, showing off their prizes are winners for most fish Caiden Tagaloe and Christine Wampler, and the winners for biggest fish Michael Blackwell and Leonnah Nehila.

 
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As Paving Progresses, City Discusses Litter-Busting Campaign

June 10, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

(Above: Paving projects are underway throughout the city and will continue "until the asphalt plants close down," McKeesport Mayor Mike Cherepko said. Photo courtesy City of McKeesport, via Facebook)


While city workers and private contractors tackle long-awaited paving projects throughout McKeesport, officials are becoming concerned about the amount of trash littering those same streets.

"You can ride down a freshly paved street and see litter all over the sides of it," Councilman Jim Barry said last week. "As fast as you pick it up, it's back down again."

If McKeesport wants to improve its image, Barry said, then along with removing blighted houses and paving streets, "we need to do something about the litter in this city."

 
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Railroad Tower on Track for $23K Makeover

June 09, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

(Photos special to Tube City Almanac)


One of McKeesport's neglected landmarks is on track for a $23,000 makeover.

Council has approved the use of part of the city's $1.075 million allocation of federal Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG, funds to repair and restore the railroad crossing watchtower at the corner of Walnut and Sixth streets, Downtown.

The tower is the only one remaining of possibly 20 or more that once guarded the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad's tracks when they cut directly through the Downtown business district.

A.J. Tedesco, McKeesport community development director, said the tower was deemed worthy of historic preservation.

 
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Council OK's New Restaurant, Other Projects

June 06, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

Three new commercial spaces --- including a new restaurant in the city's East End --- have been given the go-ahead by McKeesport City Council.

At Wednesday's meeting, council by 6-0 vote approved recommendations from the city planning commission to approve the new restaurant on East Fifth Avenue and a site plan for a new office building on Walnut Street in the Third Ward, as well as a request to consolidate several lots at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Market Street, Downtown.

The identity of the new fast food restaurant's operator is a mystery.

 
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Family, Army Pursuing Handbag Makers Who Used Army Vet's Name, ID Number

June 06, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

The family of a McKeesport veteran whose name and U.S. Army service number are being used as decorations on a series of purses and handbags are considering legal action against the companies importing them.

Jennifer Sopko, granddaughter of Thomas Piotrowski Sr., 90, said her family has consulted an attorney specializing in intellectual property law and will decide what action to take.

Separately, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army in Arlington, Va., said government lawyers are investigating whether the use of the Army's trademarked name and seal, along with a veteran's service number, violated federal law.

 
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Boss Tweed and Boss Block

June 06, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: Commentary-Editorial, Editorial Cartoons

* --- this cartoon was edited after publication to correct the quote attributed to William M. "Boss" Tweed (1823–1878), who supposedly told the editor of Harper's Weekly, "I don't care a straw for your newspaper articles; my constituents don't know how to read, but they can't help seeing them damned pictures!"


"For the past week, there’s been a feature noticeably absent from the editorial pages of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette — the political cartoons of award-winning cartoonist Rob Rogers.

"Rogers, who has drawn cartoons for the Post-Gazette since 1993, has seen six cartoons killed in a row by Keith Burris, who took over as the newspaper’s editorial director in March when the paper’s editorial board merged with its sister newspaper, the Toledo Blade. The cartoons included criticism of President Trump and of the NFL’s decision to prohibit players from protesting racial injustice during the national anthem."

-- The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 4, 2018


"I can't get into specifics here, but I felt that it was best under the circumstances to take some vacation days until issues with the Post-Gazette are resolved. I can't thank you enough for your support."

--- Rob Rogers, June 6, 2018


 
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Talk in Munhall Will Remember 'Carnegie's Captain' Jones

June 05, 2018 |

By Submitted Report | Posted in: Announcements

The man who arguably made Andrew Carnegie a titan of the steel industry will be remembered during a free talk and book signing Thursday in Munhall.

Author Tom Gage (above) will sign copies of his book, "American Prometheus: Carnegie's Captain, Bill Jones" during the event at 7 p.m. at the Pump House, 880 E. Waterfront Drive.



The event is sponsored by Rivers of Steel.

Gage is a great-grandson of William R. Jones, the first superintendent of Carnegie's Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock and the man credited, at the time, with perfecting and refining the techniques of steel manufacturing.

 
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Carnegie Library Posts June Events

June 05, 2018 |

By Submitted Report | Posted in: Announcements

(Carnegie Library of McKeesport photo via Facebook)


Carnegie Library of McKeesport, 1507 Library Ave., will again serve as one of the sites for the 14th annual World Wide Knit in Public Day, a spokeswoman said.

Knitters, stitchers and crocheters of any skill level are invited to join with other crafters on the library lawn from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday (June 9). A picnic lunch will be served. The event is free and open to everyone. For more information, call (412) 672-0625 or visit mckeesportlibrary.org.

In other upcoming events:

The library will mark National Gardening Week with a visit by Carol Korinko of the Garden Club of McKeesport at 4 p.m. Wednesday (June 6). Participants will learn to plant flowers, herbs and vegetables.

 
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