McKeesport City Council will hold its first meeting of 2020 on Monday at the public safety building, corner of Lysle Boulevard and Market Street, a city spokeswoman said.
Although council usually meets on the first Wednesday of each month, that falls on New Year’s Day.
Monday’s meeting will include the swearing-in of Mayor Michael Cherepko and re-elected city council members at 5:45 p.m., a workshop meeting at 6 p.m. and the council meeting at 6:15 p.m. All events take place on the second floor and are open to the public.
Tube City Almanac contributor Vickie Babyak has been participating in the Tube City Writers’ workshop, a program of Point Park University that’s being led by freelance photographer Martha Rial. The group meets on alternate Tuesdays at the Tube City Center for Business and Innovation (former Daily News Building).
Vickie has graciously shared this piece, which she wrote as part of her work with the writers’ workshop.
My daughter added me to a Facebook group that focuses on growing in spiritual logic and how to master your reconstruction.
Every day there’s a question to reflect on, and this question was something I wanted to answer:
“When do you feel most like yourself and do you embrace that every day, or is it the last thing you think of and are there certain times of the day or things that trigger this remembrance? It’s weird how little things can trigger pain, and we will succumb to the sadness, but when it comes to triggering ourselves to be our better selves, what do we do? How do we find a path to forgiveness?”
A new provider will be collecting trash and recyclables in McKeesport and North Huntingdon Twp. beginning Jan. 1.
Rostraver Twp.-based County Hauling was awarded a four-year contract by North Huntingdon commissioners on Sept. 18, replacing Waste Management, and a one-year contract by McKeesport city council on Nov. 6, replacing Big's Sanitation.
In both cases, officials from the municipalities said County Hauling was the lowest responsible bidder. The company is a subsidiary of Noble Environmental Inc. of Pittsburgh, which also owns the Westmoreland Sanitary Landfill near Monessen. Noble purchased the landfill in 2016 from Tervita, a Canadian company.
“We are a growing, locally owned company,” County Hauling spokeswoman Ro Rozier said in a prepared release. “We are thrilled to be able to provide service to McKeesport and many other communities in Allegheny, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties.”
Allegheny County parks, including Boyce Park, shown here, will have special holiday hours for outdoor activities — weather-permitting, of course. (Photo courtesy Allegheny County Parks)
All Allegheny County offices, including courts and magisterial district judges’ offices, will be closed Wednesday for the New Year’s Day holiday, a spokesperson said, but county parks will have special holiday hours.
In addition, on Tuesday, Allegheny County courts and the District Attorney’s Office will be closed. The county treasurer’s office will close at 12 noon. The marriage license and passport office will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but the rest of the Department of Court Records will be closed.
All other offices under the Executive Branch, along with the Controller’s Office, will be open normal business hours, the spokesperson said.
Allegheny County parks are accepting Christmas trees for recycling through Jan. 14, a spokeswoman said.
All lights, decorations, tinsel and stands must be removed from trees prior to drop-off at designated areas in all nine regional parks between 8 a.m. and dusk daily. Trees will be mulched and used in the county parks.
Local drop-off locations include:
• Boyce Park: Soccer fields parking lot • Round Hill Park: Alfalfa Shelter parking lot • South Park: Wave pool parking lot • White Oak Park: Chestnut Shelter parking lot
Representatives of the Allegheny County Office of the Public Defender will be available to explain the expungement process during a free event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 11.
The clinic is being co-hosted by state Rep. Austin Davis at the gymnasium of Founders’ Hall Middle School, 3600 O’Neil Blvd., McKeesport.
“So many people struggle with employment due to their criminal records,” Davis said. “However, many of them have already paid the price for their past mistakes ... This clinic hopes to help as many people as possible in clearing their name and finding gainful employment.”
For more information about this event, contact Davis’ district office at (412) 664-0035.
I drove past the "Daily News Building" recently and was so pleased to see the iconic neon Christmas lights in the windows. It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you to whomever had the foresight to save these lights. They are so much a part of McKeesport. Merry Christmas!
—Connie Andres, Pittsburgh
Editor’s Note: We passed your message along to McKeesport Mayor Mike Cherepko and city electrician Tom Rosso.
Former resident appreciates obituaries
I thank you so much for being able to see local obituaries, living in the Altoona area. This is a great service.
Herb Spang and an employee prepare to bale a customer’s tree at the family’s lot on Hartman Street in McKeesport. The Spangs have been selling Christmas trees at the location for nearly 60 years. (Emily Pidgeon photo special to Tube City Almanac)
Selling Christmas trees during the holidays may seem like a fun and easy way to make a buck, but after talking to some local tree lot owners, you may think differently.
“We have to fight snakes, spiders, the sun, the weather — everything, you know,” said Don Spang, 88, of White Oak, owner of Spang’s Trees on Hartman Street in McKeesport.
Spang and his brother Herb, 79, along with other family members and employees, are celebrating 59 years of selling Christmas trees in the very same location.
Spang said he’s sold as many as 5,000 trees in one season. These days, the lot sells closer to 500 trees.
White Oak Mayor Ina Jean Marton gives a hug to outgoing Council President Dave Pasternak. (Christy Walters photo special to Tube City Almanac)
Monday night’s White Oak Council meeting was the last for two of its members.
Council President Dave Pasternak and councilman Steve Pholar expressed gratitude to their fellow board members, borough employees, residents, and family members for support during their time in local government.
Neither man was re-elected for a new term in the November elections.
Pasternak served on council for 24 years and said he was appreciative of all the opportunities it afforded him, and the people with whom he interacted on a daily basis.
This is a time of year when people give thanks --- and on behalf of our board, volunteers and contributors, I want to thank each of you.
Several months ago, Tube City Community Media's websites hit a milestone I never thought we'd reach --- we had 10 million hits in a single calendar year. It's undoubtedly higher now.
When we expanded the operation of Tube City Almanac and launched our obituary service a few days after the McKeesport Daily News closed, we promised never to turn away any family for lack of ability to pay for a death notice, and we promised to keep it free of charge for readers. We are keeping that promise.
Two local school districts are partnering with Literacy Pittsburgh to bring volunteers age 50 and older into kindergarten through fourth-grade classrooms to help students work on their reading and writing skills.
Oasis Intergenerational Tutoring is already working in the Wilkinsburg, Woodland Hills and Pittsburgh school districts, and is now expanding into Duquesne and McKeesport Area schools.
“We only go into places where the districts want us to be there, so I commend all these districts because we know there is a high correlation between low literacy and poverty and these are high poverty districts,” said Carey Harris, Literacy Pittsburgh's chief executive officer.
Harris commended McKeesport Area and Duquesne for being proactive about seeking partners to provide additional enrichment support.
White Oak’s 2020 budget will be adopted at a special meeting on Dec. 23, according to Council President Dave Pasternak.
At this week’s meeting, Councilman George Dillinger said the budget to be presented does not include a tax increase.
The meeting on Dec. 23 will be open to the public and begins at 6:30 p.m. Council will hold a reorganization meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 6 to install newly elected council members. That meeting is also open to the public.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and White Oak police are looking for a suspect in connection with the robbery Saturday of the PNC Bank on Lincoln Way.
FBI spokeswoman Catherine Policicchio said a man entered the branch at 2:45 p.m., just before it was scheduled to close for the day, and demanded money. The suspect did not show a weapon and left the bank on foot, Policicchio said.
No one was injured, she said.
The FBI has not disclosed how much money, if any, was taken in the theft and did not say if any customers were in the bank at the time. A PNC Bank spokeswoman declined comment.
Conflict of Interest Note: The author has a conflict of interest. He is a member of the McKees Point Development Group. See previous coverage of this issue and the note at the end of this story.
Dennis Davin, state secretary of community and economic development (fourth from left, first row) joins city and county officials, state Sen. Jim Brewster (seventh from left, first row), McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko (fifth from left, second row) and U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (eighth from left, first row) announcing details of a six-year, $3 million development program. (Photo special to Tube City Almanac)
State officials approved a $3 million package of tax credits that will enable McKeesport to demolish blighted buildings in the Downtown business district and prepare the former Penn-McKee Hotel for possible reuse.
"We really appreciate this major investment by these corporations that reflects their belief that McKeesport is a great place to do business, and its future is bright," said Dennis Davin, state secretary of community and economic development.
The city is targeting most of a block of Fifth Avenue between Lysle Boulevard, Sinclair Street and Sheridan Alley for demolition, and hoping to environmentally remediate the Penn-McKee to prepare it for redevelopment.
The West Newton Center for Active Adults has posted several upcoming events, including two concerts and a craft event.
For more information on any program, call (724) 872-4976. The center is located at 103 E. Main St.
A spokesperson said the center will host "Lunch and a Show" on Dec. 20 featuring classic country music by "Keepin' It Country." A donation of $2 is requested for lunch, and tickets to the performance cost $5 in advance. The lunch will include chicken creole, green beans, rice pilaf and peaches.
McKeesport Area School District’s decision to compete in WPIAL’s Class 4A for football in 2020-21 and 2021-22 was done for student safety reasons, school officials said.
PIAA reclassifies districts every two years. At the school board’s open agenda meeting, School Director James Brown said the reclassification of McKeesport Area’s football team from 5A to 4A was approved in November.
Boys’ basketball will continue to compete in 5A.
Brown said the some of the schools classified as 5A for football have “double our numbers, double our student body population.”
Students participating in the Career Works program at the Tube City Center for Business and Innovation pose with Lisa Abel-Palmieri, Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania president and chief executive officer (fourth from right) and Emily Donato, career development coordinator (sixth from right). (Tube City Almanac photo)
Lisa Abel-Palmieri, president and chief executive officer, told Tube City Almanac the Pittsburgh-based non-profit wants to serve a growing demand for services for young people in the Mon Valley and eastern boroughs of Pittsburgh.
"We're excited to continue to grow our footprint in the Mon Valley," she said.
The new facility would include a "maker space" for STEM education, community center, gymnasium space and classrooms, Abel-Palmieri said. Although the facility is still in the planning stage, the organization hopes to possibly break ground in "two to three years" and will need to raise funds to it possible, she said.
School superintendents who attended a press conference in McKeesport on Thursday said most urban school districts in the Mon-Yough area --- and across the country --- face similar challenges created by poverty.
In the Wilkinsburg School District, about 99 percent of approximately 1,000 students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, said Linda J. Iverson, superintendent.
Some of them are coming from generations of poverty and "fragmented" home environments, she said.
“It's not just that they're coming in from trauma-informed instances," she said. "They may not have had food or sleep the night before, or they may not have clothes.”
Charter schools are causing “financial instability” to urban school systems, said McKeesport Area School District Superintendent Mark Holtzman Jr. and officials from other area districts, who participated in a state-wide rally Thursday to ask Pennsylvania legislators for charter school reform.
The news conference held in McKeesport was part of an effort among nearly 20 other districts and timed to coincide with the 64th anniversary of the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycotts sparked by Rosa Parks.
State Sen. Jim Brewster joined Holtzman and school district superintendents Sue Moyer of Duquesne City, Nancy Hines of Penn Hills and Linda J. Iverson of Wilkinsburg to discuss the impact of charter school funding in Mon Valley school districts.
State Sen. Jim Brewster speaks during a breakfast for veterans last month in White Oak. (Photo courtesy state Sen. Jim Brewster)
Saying “public service is about reaching out and meeting the needs of those you represent,” State Sen. Jim Brewster kicked off his re-election campaign Friday with a rally at the Monroeville municipal building.
Brewster, a Democrat from McKeesport, is seeking his third full term representing the 45th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.
The former McKeesport mayor, who was first elected to the state senate in 2010 to replace former state Sen. Sean Logan, pledged to seek bipartisan solutions to problems in education, economic development, job creation and infrastructure upgrades.
“By working side-by-side, and with the goal of helping everyone, we can do more and that is why I am seeking another term in the state Senate,” Brewster said in prepared remarks delivered Friday. “The district has a large geographic footprint, the communities are diverse, and the people are strong, vibrant and energized, yet there are challenges to overcome.
Killarney Cline, 8, and Hailey Fasiska, 7, both of Versailles, celebrate after a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus on Thursday night at McKeesport’s Festival of Trees. The event continues through Monday. (Photo special to Tube City Almanac)
McKeesport’s 34th Annual Festival of Trees continues from 12 noon to 9 p.m. through Monday, with more than 90 specially decorated Christmas trees on display. But before the doors open Sunday, volunteers will pause to honor the memory of a longtime volunteer.
At 11:45 a.m. Sunday, a live tree outside of Jacob Woll Pavilion in Renziehausen Park will be dedicated in memory of the late Pat Harris, who died in July at age 87.
Many in McKeesport knew Harris for the countless hours of effort she put into various volunteer organizations, including McKeesport International Village, the McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center and the Festival of Trees, for which she served as co-coordinator.
Where: McKeesport Little Theater, 1614 Coursin St.
When: Dec. 6, 7, 13, 14 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 8 and 15 at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $15 for adults, $10 for students.
Reservations or more information: 412-673-1100 or through the website.
McKeesport Little Theater, with its intimate setting and close proximity of the audience to the stage, is the perfect venue for “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.”
Joe Landry adapted the play from the holiday movie classic, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” which features James Stewart as George Bailey. Landry’s twist was to stage it as a 1940’s radio play, performed before a live audience as a show within a show.
Director Kalee George said the show shaped up “wonderfully, no pun intended. The cast keeps coming back with more and more ideas in layers.”
For the first time in anyone’s memory, holiday lights are decorating the windows of the People’s Bank Building, Downtown. Building owner Jonathan Stark and volunteers decorated the building in time for McKeesport’s Light-Up Night on Wednesday. (Tube City Almanac photo)
Scaffolding will be going up soon on part of the People’s Bank Building as workers replace a tile that fell into Lysle Boulevard on Nov. 27, and make other repairs to the facade.
Owner Jonathan Stark said an engineer visited the site on Monday and determined that each of the tiles was supposed to be secured with four metal anchors. On the tile that fell, two of the anchors were missing or never installed in the first place, Stark said.
The tile fell from the facade on the “annex” of the building that overlooks the corner of Lysle Boulevard and Walnut Street. The annex was reportedly built in the 1940s, after Lysle was widened.
Members of LaRosa Boys & Girls Club joined McKeesport city officials Downtown on Wednesday night for a Light-Up Night celebration.
For the first time, the city's holiday tree is located not in Kennedy Park, but in the nearby lobby of the Tube City Center for Business and Innovation, the former Daily News Building.
Participants in the Boys & Girls Club’s Career Works Teen Workforce Development Program, which meets in the Tube City Center on weeknights, served hot chocolate and refreshments to guests, while Paul Anselmo of New Century Careers, which is offering machinist training in the building, provided tours of his group’s classroom space.
Citing a lack of funding, Duquesne will suspend any additional hearings on demolishing abandoned buildings until the beginning of 2020.
But normal bills will be paid as usual, a city official said.
“We don't have the funds in order to take out the advertisements and the things that need (to be) done,” City Solicitor Myron Sainovich told council.
“The city will not hold any hearings on property demolitions until the beginning of next year, due to lack of funding,” he said. “We are running on a bare minimum budget until the end of the year. So some of these things are going to be put off.”
McKeesport, Duquesne, South Allegheny and other local school districts will participate in a statewide rally on Thursday demanding more oversight of Pennsylvania’s charter schools.
A group called Pennsylvania League of Urban Schools, or PLUS, is planning simultaneous press conferences at 12 noon at nearly 20 different school districts, calling on Gov. Tom Wolf and the state General Assembly to address what its leaders call “unfair and inequitable” funding.
“We are coming together in solidarity to stand up for fair funding,” said Stephen Rodriguez, president of PLUS and superintendent of the Pottstown Area School District, located about an hour northwest of Philadelphia in eastern Pennsylvania.
Other local districts planning to participate in Thursday's rally include Clairton, Penn Hills, Steel Valley, Wilkinsburg and Woodland Hills.
Duquesne will seek $1 million in state funding to upgrade the city's sewer and water infrastructure.
City council voted to pursue the grants from the state Department of Community and Economic Development's Commonwealth Financing Authority.
The city is requesting the maximum grant amount of $500,000 through the Pennsylvania Small Water and Sewer Grant Program and $500,000 request from the H20 PA program.
The Small Water and Sewer grant is designed to assist with the construction, improvement, expansion or rehabilitation or repair of a water supply system, sanitary sewer system, storm sewer system, or flood control projects.
North Versailles Twp. will hold a community Christmas party at 6 p.m. Dec. 20 the community center, 1401 Greensburg Ave., said township Commissioner Tracy Yusko on behalf of the parks and recreation department, the North Versailles Twp.
The township also will hold a contest to choose the "best decorated house," with judging on Dec. 13. To nominate your own house or someone else's, please register with the parks and recreation department. The township office phone number is (412) 823-6602.
Duquesne police Chief Thomas Dunlevy said during the month of October, police responded to 961 incidents and handled 85 criminal investigations resulting in the arrest of 53 adults and three juveniles. A total of 471 citations and warnings were issued. Police Officer Andy Carter submitted his resignation, effective Dec. 1, to accept a position with the Allegheny County Housing Authority Police.
Dunlevy said Duquesne police will hold a full active shooter drill at Duquesne Elementary Center in January 2020.