Roman Catholic churches in Duquesne and Wilmerding are among more than 60 in Western Pennsylvania that will merge into new parishes on July 1, Bishop David Zubik announced this week.
The mergers, which affect every part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, will create 15 new parishes, the diocese said in a press release.
They are among the latest changes that began in 2015 under the program the diocese calls “On Mission for The Church Alive.”
In a letter to parishioners released Wednesday, Zubik said the parishes to be merged had already been working closely together since October 2018 in regional church groupings to share clergy and resources.
A vigil will be held Saturday in Pittsburgh for the McKeesport woman who died after falling from the ninth floor of Midtown Towers, Downtown.
Central Outreach Wellness Center, a medical practice which specializes in treating members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, will host the vigil for Aaliyah Johnson, 32, beginning at 2 p.m. at its location on Pittsburgh’s North Side, 127 Anderson St.
Johnson was found dead Tuesday morning along the 500 block of Sinclair Street. County homicide detectives are investigating her death and said they believe she fell or jumped from her apartment window.
Foul play is not suspected, police said this week, but the cause and manner of Johnson’s death remain under investigation.
As school districts grapple with restrictions on large gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting cancelations or postponements of graduations, senior celebration days and the prom, many districts have planned alternative events to comply with social-distance requirements.
In the McKeesport Area School District, officials began looking at creative ways to connect with students, according to Mark Holtzman Jr., district superintendent.
One of the options they considered is a “senior procession,” to be held on June 3, the day seniors would have graduated. Holtzman announced the senior procession at the board’s meeting on Wednesday.
McKeesport Area School Board has approved a $71.2 million preliminary budget that includes a 0.80-mill property tax increase.
At Wednesday’s meeting, school directors voted 6-2 to approve the preliminary spending plan for the 2020-21 fiscal year. School board members James Brown and David Donato voted against the budget.
The tax increase will take the district's millage from 20.16 mills to 20.96 mills and represents a $40 increase on a house assessed at $50,000. It will be the third year in a row that MASD has raised its property tax rate. School property taxes increased 2.11 mills in 2018 and increased 0.68 mills in 2019.
Nearly 87,000 voters in Allegheny County have already returned their absentee ballots in advance of the June 2 primary election, a spokeswoman said this week.
Tuesday was the last day for voters to request a mail-in ballot for the primary, where voters in the Republican and Democratic parties will be selecting their nominees for President, representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and in many districts, the Pennsylvania Senate.
State and county officials have been encouraging voters to cast absentee ballots when possible because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Judith Sutton presents a history lesson to a group of young visitors at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. (Photo courtesy Sen. John Heinz History Center)
McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center will kick off its summer speaker series with a discussion of how women fought — and won — the right to vote in 1920.
Judith Sutton will present “Suffrage: The Road to the Vote for American Women” at 7 p.m. June 18. The event will be free and Sutton’s presentation also will be streamed live on Facebook, and available on Zoom.
Advance registration is required and will open during the first week of June, a spokesperson said.
Five sites in the Mon Valley have begun offering free tests for COVID-19, including clinics in McKeesport, Braddock and Homestead.
Allegheny County spokeswoman Amie Downs said the tests are being offered at no charge, and patients do not need a doctor’s referral. Anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested.
Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat and loss of taste or smell. Other less common symptoms include nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
Political newcomer Paul Eagle is running a write-in campaign for the 38th Legislative District seat currently held by state Rep. Bill Kortz.
Eagle was born and raised in Dravosburg, where he also currently resides. He took criminal justice courses at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and is a graduate of Community College of Allegheny County.
He currently serves as a Port Vue police officer and as police/resource officer in the West Mifflin Area School District, as well as constable for Dravosburg Borough.
Eagle is interested in running for office because he feels not enough gets done due to party divisions.
With state Rep. Bill Kortz announcing his retirement after 14 years, residents of the 38th Legislative District will be selecting his replacement.
Nick Pisciottano is currently seeking the Democratic nomination in the district, which includes Baldwin, Dravosburg, Glassport, Liberty, Pleasant Hills, Port Vue, South Park Twp., West Mifflin and Whitehall.
Pisciottano is a fourth-generation West Mifflin resident with deep roots in the community.
“I have grandparents, and great-grandparents that have been involved in local politics, local volunteer clubs, school teachers, things like that, for generations,” he says.
The author’s garden in McKeesport. (Emily Pidgeon photo)
Since news of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States broke earlier this year, most people are spending their time close to home — and many of them appear to have turned to gardening.
Local greenhouses and nurseries as well as big box stores say they’re low on stock or, in some cases, completely sold out of starter plants, seeds, annual and perennial flowers, and herbs and gardening supplies, including soil and mulch.
It seems like “victory gardens” have come back in a big way during the COVID-19 pandemic, but what exactly are they?
A U.S. Department of Justice grant will provide more than $119,000 to McKeesport to help support police operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The grant from the federal Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding program was announced this week by U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady in Pittsburgh.
The public safety funds can be used for the most pressing needs of state and local law-enforcement agencies, including new hiring and overtime pay, training, personal protective equipment and supplies and medical needs of prisoners.
Portions of Route 30 in North Versailles Twp. and East McKeesport will be reduced to a single lane of traffic in each direction Tuesday (May 26) as crews continue a $13.6 million improvement project.
The milling and paving work was to have been completed Thursday (May 21), but was rained out, said Steve Cowan, district spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.
The highway is being upgraded between Lenox Avenue in Forest Hills and Route 48 in North Versailles. The project includes milling and resurfacing, drainage improvements, installation of wheelchair accessible ramps at crosswalks, new guide rails, traffic signal upgrades and improved pavement markings.
White Oak police Officer Gregory Smith has been commended for his help investigating a bank robbery in December.
At Monday’s council meeting, Mayor Ina Jean Marton read a letter from FBI Supervisory Special Agent Timothy Wolford commending Smith for providing “exceptional assistance” in assisting the FBI during the investigation of the Dec. 14, 2019 robbery of the PNC Bank in White Oak.
The investigation led to the indictment March 3 by a federal grand jury of Chezeq Morgan, 26, of Monroeville, on robbery charges.
Plans to open Heritage Hill Pool this summer are in limbo.
At Monday’s council meeting, White Oak officials said it’s possible the pool could open under limited conditions if the borough can adhere to public health guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Borough Manager John Palyo said White Oak is still under an emergency declaration order at the local, state and federal levels. “The declaration has not been relaxed, released or removed,” he said.
Allegheny County voters who want to participate in the June 2 primary election — and who want to cast their ballot in person, rather than by mail — may need to go to a different polling location than usual.
Most communities in the county will have only one polling location open due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In McKeesport, all city voters who intend to cast a ballot in person will vote at the Public Safety Building (old Municipal Building) at the corner of Lysle Boulevard and Market Street. A list of Mon-Yough area polling locations follows this story.
McKeesport Area School District and six others will benefit from $350,000 in grants awarded to Allegheny Intermediate Unit.
The money includes a $200,000 grant from the Heinz Endowments to be used to purchase Chromebooks and Google licenses and an additional $150,000 from the Grable Foundation for electronic devices, as well as professional development for teachers and administrative professionals.
More than 1,700 devices will be distributed between McKeesport, Duquesne City, Penn Hills, East Allegheny, Highlands, Cornell and Wilkinsburg school districts, AIU said.
Duquesne is looking for a new public-works director in preparation for the summer and will consider revising its job description in an effort to attract more candidates.
The city has advertised twice recently for a new public-works director with no success, officials said at the most recent council meeting. City Manager Douglas Sample said that right now he is “wearing both hats,” as he also serves part-time as the public-works director.
The new job ad emphasizes relevant background in civic education or a related field.
McKeesport City Council Vice President Jamie Brewster-Filotei, fourth from left, was one of five local residents honored with “Living the Message” awards at the Feb. 5 council meeting. (Nick Zurawsky photo for Tube City Almanac)
Jamie Brewster-Filotei, McKeesport City Council vice president and longtime fourth-grade teacher at Francis McClure Elementary School, died May 12 after a nearly three-year battle with non-small cell lung carcinoma. She was 46.
McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko announced Brewster-Filotei’s passing Tuesday evening on his office’s Facebook page.
“Jamie was a dedicated civic leader, a dynamic educator, and a loving wife, mother, daughter and sister,” Cherepko’s office said. “She played many roles in our community and in the hearts of those she loved, and for that, we will miss her dearly. The impact she had on the City of McKeesport will never be forgotten.”
Nearly 800 families in McKeesport received a free hot meal on Saturday afternoon with the help of city and Allegheny County police.
About 40 volunteers, including uniformed McKeesport and county police officers and their family members, employees of state Sen. Jim Brewster’s office, and Mayor Michael Cherepko and city hall employees, handed out pizzas and bottles of water along Industry Drive in the RIDC Industrial Park and at the Harrison Village and Crawford Village housing complexes.
Volunteers also were delivering pizzas to shut-ins and people unable to drive, McKeesport police Chief Adam Alfer said.
Officers were planning to distribute 775 pizzas, with any leftovers donated to local food pantries.
Allegheny County police Sgt. Jason Binder said the effort was designed to recognize the public’s support of first-responders during the coronavirus pandemic, and to acknowledge that many Mon-Yough residents are out of work and stuck at home during the crisis.
Sarah Colon holds Javoni Hancharik and Nikki Hancharik holds Natalia Hancharik on Fawcett Avenue in McKeesport as they enjoying the dance party parade mix by DJ Jess. (Vickie Babyak photo for Tube City Almanac)
With entertainment venues closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Pittsburghers have been unable to go to any dances for almost two months.
So on Saturday, the dances came to Pittsburghers.
Disc jockeys from throughout the region participated in the first-ever Pittsburgh Mobile Dance Party, climbing aboard trucks and into vans to spread music and fun for a few hours.
Allegheny County’s four Kane Community Living Centers remain closed to almost all visitors and will stay that way, even after some restrictions on travel and business are lifted May 15.
“We will be following guidance from the state Health Department,” said Dr. Mario Fatigati, chief medical officer, at a news conference Friday. Although the county is scheduled to move from “red” status to “yellow” next week, none of the Kane skilled-nursing centers will be permitting visitors “until we’re moved to ‘green,’” he said.
Even then, Fatigati said, there will be additional precautions in place.
“This is not going to go away overnight,” he said. “I'm sure that we will be taking other measures to make sure that additional screening is going to be in place ... even in the green phase.”
The worldwide coronavirus pandemic means the city will likely not have a normal International Village this August, McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko is warning. (Tube City Almanac file photo/Denise L. Ritter)
McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko is “not ready to cancel events yet” but he and other city officials are acknowledging that the coronavirus pandemic is causing a lot of uncertainty in the spring and summer schedule.
“We offer so many highlights in this city that no one else can come close to,” Cherepko told council on Wednesday night. “The variety of things we do helps make McKeesport unique for a smaller city.”
Independence Day fireworks will take place on July 4, the mayor said, and there will be a Memorial Day ceremony on May 25, though it will likely be small.
But other summer events, such as the Sunday night concert series in Renziehausen Park, presented by the McKeesport Lions Club, and even the three-day International Village ethnic food festival held in mid-August, are still up in the air, Cherepko said.
A partnership between Penn State Greater Allegheny and McKeesport’s Healthy Village Learning Institute will provide tutoring sessions for McKeesport Area School District students in grades 10, 11 and 12 and personal development sessions for up to 40 parents.
Professional and peer tutors with the PSGA’s Gruskin Learning Center and Continuing Education Department will work with students to further develop their study skills, while offering virtual tutoring sessions in math, science, English, French and Spanish. Students can request virtual tutoring through PSGA's Gruskin Learning Center.
The “virtual” personal development programs for parents is designed to assist with understanding individual strengths, joys, needs, stressors, creating a positive work environment and “seeing yourself as others see you,” according to Victoria Garwood, spokesperson for PSGA.
Although Allegheny County continues to record new cases of COVID-19, there were only five presumed or confirmed cases reported Friday — one of the lowest numbers yet. (Source: Allegheny County Health Department)
Local officials expressed relief Friday after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s announcement that 13 counties — including Allegheny, Washington and Westmoreland — will be moved from “red” to “yellow” status and can begin relaxing some social distancing requirements.
The news means that many types of businesses in the Mon-Yough area, including retail stores, real estate agencies and child-care centers, can begin reopening on May 15, if they follow state and federal health guidelines.
“Our small business community has been struggling in the last eight weeks, but this news marks a light at the end of this scary tunnel,” State Sen. Jay Costa Jr. of Forest Hills, Democratic leader of the senate, said on Twitter. “Moving to yellow is one step (on) a long road to recovery.”
But state officials are cautioning that telecommuting for office workers “must continue where feasible” and that schools will remain closed. And businesses that provide “personal care services,” such as gyms, spas, hair salons and massage therapists must remain closed for the time being.
McKeesport officials will have difficult choices to make in the months ahead as the coronavirus pandemic strains the city’s already-tight budget.
Following Wednesday’s city council meeting, Mayor Michael Cherepko said that although federal officials have promised relief for municipalities with pandemic-related expenses, the aid packages in most cases don’t cover wages and salaries.
“We’re all dealing with COVID-19 and the impact it’s having, but I’m very concerned about the economy and I’m very concerned about the deficits we’re already seeing,” Cherepko said.
Diane Cole is a site coordinator at LifeSpan. (Submitted photo via Facebook)
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, all LifeSpan’s buildings are closed to the public until further notice, a spokeswoman said.
However, LifeSpan services are continuing as usual, said Joyce Asmonga, agency support assistant.
LifeSpan’s Community Resource Centers for Older Adults, including facilities in Olympia Shopping Center and Homestead, are closed, she said, but center staff are currently performing check-in calls with center participants.
The centers will re-open as soon as conditions permit, Asmonga said.
Serra Catholic High School was less than two weeks away from opening night of the musical “Mary Poppins” when schools were shut down March 13 to combat spread of the coronavirus.
“When they first announced the two-week closure, I tried to take a positive approach and thought it would be a good break for everyone,” director Jesse Bush said. “It would give us extra time to build props and costumes. I had hoped we would perform the show possibly sometime in May.”
Initially, students continued to rehearse online, he said, and choreographer Cassie Fedor created videos of all the dance routines so they could practice at home.
I was on a car ride with my camera exploring the neighborhood to photograph scenery. In an empty parking lot of a local office building in Dravosburg, I noticed tulips surrounding the area and I wanted to capture the beauty of their vivid cup-shaped flowers with photography.
Tulips are bulbous spring-flowering plants of the lily family and are perfect for bouquets or floral gardens. I was curious about the flowers’ origin and what they symbolize. I started searching Google and was surprised to find information unknown to me about the flowers.
They come in a variety of colors and like many flowers; the different colors have their own significant meaning.
Residents of Allegheny County want to know about coronavirus testing, and during a recent telephone town hall with local elected officials, they made that known in a big way.
During the April 22 phone call, organized by the Pittsburgh Black Elected Officials Coalition, U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, Democrat of Forest Hills, said legislators wanted residents to be able to ask questions about “unemployment, COVID-19 testing, funding, stimulus payments and other pandemic-related issues.”
Testing quickly topped the list of questions. Callers asked Dr. Debra Bogen, director of the Allegheny County Health Department, about a lack of testing in local communities — specifically in predominantly Black neighborhoods in the East End and Mon Valley.
On April 21, McKeesport Area School District administrators distributed electronic devices to students and parents so that they could do schoolwork from home during the coronavirus pandemic. Above, Joan Wehmer, district business manager, and below, Mark Holtzman Jr., district superintendent. (Both photos: Richard Finch Jr. for Tube City Almanac)
School board members in McKeesport Area School District expect to be considering a property tax increase for the 2020-21 academic year.
At April’s board meeting, Superintendent Mark Holtzman Jr. told school directors that the administration is working on a preliminary budget to determine “what the deficit is, and how we can manage that based on our current fund balance and expenses.”
Some of the expenses were predictable, including debt service, increases in pension costs and tuition for charter school students, Holtzman said, but others are related to the COVID-19 crisis that forced schools statewide to cancel all in-person classes on March 13.
Holtzman said the district is “still working on trying to (keep) the numbers down.”
The docks are in and McKees Point Marina is welcoming boaters again, but with social-distancing restrictions in place. (Tube City Almanac photo)
In a small sign of normality returning amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the McKees Point Marina opened for the season on May 1.
“We’re ready to go — we’re excited for another boating season, for the boaters especially,” McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said. “We’re just hoping everyone can enjoy their boating season.”
But the mayor cautioned there will likely be changes to other city activities, including the summer concert series and McKeesport’s premier annual event, the three-day International Village ethnic food and music festival, which is set to celebrate its 60th anniversary.
Along with golf courses, privately operated campgrounds and guided fishing trips, marinas were among the outdoor facilities that Pennsylvania officials last week said could resume operations.