East Allegheny School Board has approved an update to the district’s health and safety plan for the upcoming school year.
The district will be returning to a five-day-per-week regular school schedule when classes resume on Aug. 24.
“I now think we have a revised health and safety plan that I think reflects the best thinking that is present on how schools should go about entering this new school year,” Superintendent Alan Johnson said at a special meeting July 22.
At the end of the previous school year, EA was operating on a four-day-per-week schedule with an early dismissal at Logan Elementary School. Wednesdays were remote instruction days for cleaning purposes.
A “do not use” order has been lifted in 10th Ward, but some homes and businesses — in the area shown in red — remain under a “do not drink” order. (Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County map)
An order preventing residents of the 10th Ward from using their tap water for anything except flushing toilets has now been lifted, a water authority spokesman said.
However, about 20 homes and businesses along Romine Avenue, Rebecca Street and West Fifth Avenue have been told they should not drink or cook with the water, said Matthew Junker, spokesman for the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County.
A “do not use” order for residents of lower 10th Ward was issued July 17 after emergency personnel reported that firefighting chemicals may have been sucked into an open fire hydrant as crews battled a multiple-alarm blaze at McKeesport Auto Body on Rebecca Street.
McKeesport and Elizabeth Twp. police joined local elected officials on Wednesday morning as state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, center, announced a major new task force aimed at drug and gun trafficking. (Tube City Almanac photo)
Local and state officials will not accept that McKeesport area residents must put up with drug trafficking and gun violence, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Wednesday morning.
“I am done — done — hearing about how McKeesport is one of ‘the most dangerous cities in America,’” Shapiro said at a news conference to announce the creation of tje Region V Strategic Response Team in the attorney general’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation. “I refuse to accept that, and no one up here is willing to accept that.”
Shapiro was flanked by McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko, police Chief Adam Alfer, Assistant Chief Mark Steele, state Sen. Jim Brewster, state Rep. Austin Davis, acting Elizabeth Twp. police Chief Adam Blake and Brenda Sawyer, a former McKeesport police officer who now serves as regional director of the state Bureau of Narcotics Investigation.
An 18-year-old died early Saturday morning following a shooting at a home on Soles Street.
Dontae McKenith was pronounced dead at the scene, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office said. Allegheny County homicide detectives said Phillip Payne, 16, surrendered to McKeesport police at 8 a.m. and will be charged in connection with the death.
County police Lt. Venerando Costa said detectives believe that McKenith and Payne were passing a handgun back and forth when Payne pointed it at McKenith and pulled the trigger, striking him at least once. Payne fled the scene before police and paramedics arrived, Costa said.
The investigation is ongoing and police did not say whether there was a motive for the shooting or it was accidental. Payne in awaiting arraignment on charges of criminal homicide and firearms offenses, Costa said.
Payne turned himself at the McKeesport police station without incident, police said.
Residents in the affected area (see red area on map) have been advised to continue not to use the tap water for any purpose other than flushing toilets. Residents in the purple area have been told they can resume water use as normal. (Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County map)
A “do not drink” water advisory remains in effect for some residents of the city’s 10th Ward after traces of firefighting foam were found in water samples there. About 30 homes and businesses are affected.
However, the advisory has been lifted for most of the neighborhood, said Matt Junker, spokesman for the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County.
Meanwhile, an environmental group that has collaborated with McKeesport residents to test soil for lead contamination on Friday questioned why fire departments continue to use foams containing so-called PFAS — chemicals linked to low birth weight, nervous system and thyroid disorders and some types of cancers.
On Friday afternoon, Junker said further water line flushing and testing will be needed for a small section of 10th Ward near the scene of a large fire July 16.
Areas of darker colors show a higher number of positive COVID-19 tests over the past 90 days. Over the past three months, McKeesport has had the fifth-highest number of COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County. (Data courtesy Allegheny County Health Department)
As COVID-19 cases begin to rise again in Allegheny County, the health department has warned residents that although we may be done with the pandemic, the pandemic is not done with us.
Seventy new cases of COVID-19 were reported Monday and 55 on Tuesday, said Dr. Debra Bogen, director of the Allegheny County Health Department.
Health department data also indicates that over the past 90 days, McKeesport has had the fifth-highest number of COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County. West Mifflin is No. 7.
“Although these numbers remain significantly lower than during the spring surge, it is a notable increase from the 10 to 15 daily cases in June and early July, and a stark reminder that this virus is not done with us,” Bogen said Wednesday.
A former city man has been indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with suspected drug trafficking.
A spokeswoman for Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman said Brock J. Cochran, 30, is charged with possession with intent to deliver cocaine and the synthetic painkiller fentanyl.
A grand jury returned the indictment this week in connection with an incident that happened June 29, the spokeswoman said.
The law provides for a maximum total sentence of not more than 40 years, a fine not to exceed $5 million or both. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service conducted the investigation leading to the Indictment in this case, Kaufman’s office said.
Preliminary test results indicate that drinking water in the city’s Lower 10th Ward is not contaminated with firefighting chemicals, a spokesman said.
However, another round of testing will be necessary before a “do not drink” advisory is lifted, said Matt Junker, spokesman for the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County.
In the meantime, customers are being urged not to use their tap water for anything except flushing toilets — that includes not using the water for showers and bathing.
On Wednesday afternoon, McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko announced that shuttle buses will be available, beginning Thursday morning, to take residents to McKeesport Area High School if they want to use the showers there.
A Duquesne man is wanted in connection with an assault Tuesday morning in Wilmerding that also caused an “Amber Alert” about a possible child abduction.
Nicholas Lomax, 28, is charged by Allegheny County police with use of an electric device to incapacitate another person, simple assault, harassment and disorderly conduct.
Lomax’s 8-month-old daughter was found, unharmed, in Versailles, county police said. She had been reported missing from McKees Rocks and was the subject of a child-abduction alert from Pennsylvania State Police.
City officials said they are pressing the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County to quickly resolve the issues that have kept Lower 10th Ward residents from using their drinking water.
“I have been in constant contact with MAWC since Friday, and I will continue to see this process through,” McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said Monday. “We are doing everything within our power to expedite MAWC’s water-testing process to determine if any contamination took place during the Friday evening fire at McKeesport Auto Body.”
MAWC warned on Saturday morning that chemicals from firefighting foam “may have” entered the drinking water system in the area between the CSX Railroad tracks and the Monongahela River. Some homes on Romine Avenue, Rebecca Street, Arlington Street and West Sixth Avenue also are affected.
• Lower 10th Ward residents should continue not to use tap water for anything but flushing toilets
• Drinking water tankers remain in place on Atlantic Avenue, and bottled water is available at the Public Safety Building
• Residents may use the showers at McKeesport Area High School from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Enter at South Hall, near the gymnasium
(Tube City Almanac photo)
Gene Esken Jr. said “it was a very, very helpless feeling” as McKeesport firefighters waited Friday evening for the power company to shut off live wires sparking and hissing on the roof of a 10th Ward auto repair shop.
Esken, a deputy chief of the McKeesport Fire Department, was in charge of the response to what was originally reported to 9-1-1 as a “wires down” call at McKeesport Auto Body on Rebecca Street.
Those wires sparked a multiple-alarm fire that was battled for hours by crews from across Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, including Pittsburgh International Airport.
The effects are still being felt — for the family that owns the destroyed business and hundreds of residents of Lower 10th Ward who may be without drinking water for a week.
McKeesport Area High School Stadium was a frenzy of activity on Thursday as family, friends and community members came out to celebrate their campers at the closing ceremonies of the Let’s S.H.I.N.E. Discovery Camp, sponsored by the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation.
The partnership with the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation allowed for the district to run a full-day summer camp for the first time. The summer camp ran from June 7 to July 15 and was free of cost to McKeesport Area School District students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The culminating event of the afternoon was the distribution of new backpacks, stocked with fresh school supplies for the upcoming school year, to every camper present, and a special message from Swin Cash, a McKeesport native who is a former WNBA player.
Hoses snaked down Fifth Avenue near the McKees Point Marina on Saturday as crews from Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County flushed water lines on the opposite side of the Youghiogheny River in Lower 10th Ward. (Tube City Almanac photo)
Residents of McKeesport’s Lower 10th Ward should use their tap water for flushing toilets — and nothing else — until further notice.
Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, which provides water to McKeesport, Port Vue, White Oak and part of North Versailles Twp., warned residents that firefighting chemicals used to put out a fire on Rebecca Street on Friday night may have been accidentally sucked into the water supply through a hydrant.
The water should not be used for cooking, brushing teeth, washing dishes, bathing or showering, or even washing clothes, said Matt Junker, authority spokesman.
Efforts to flush the water lines were paused Saturday night while crews replaced an older piece of water line that was restricting water flow, he said.
A massive fire on Friday night left behind ruined equipment and cars at a 10th Ward auto repair shop. (Tube City Almanac photo)
From her living room on Rebecca Street in the city’s 10th Ward, Annette Slivka heard the noise and saw the sparks.
Her son, John Slivka III, who lives next door, was getting ready to order dinner when “all of a sudden, there was an explosion.” In the wake of a thunderstorm Friday evening, power lines had fallen onto the roof of McKeesport Auto Body Inc., next to Annette Slivka’s home.
The lines were sparking and snapping, John Slivka III said. Eventually, the building was set ablaze — yet firefighting efforts could not begin until the power was shut off, a process that the Slivkas and other sources said took more than 45 minutes.
The resulting fire sent a pillar of black smoke into the air that could be seen for miles, and was battled for hours by firefighters from throughout Allegheny and Westmoreland counties. A Dravosburg volunteer firefighter was treated for heat-related injuries, said Matt Brown, chief of Allegheny County Emergency Services.
Residents of the city’s lower 10th Ward were told Saturday morning not to use their drinking water while water authority crews work to flush the system.
The mandatory order affects homes and businesses between West Fifth Avenue and the Monongahela River.
Matthew Junker, a spokesman for the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, said McKeesport officials are concerned that firefighting chemicals might have been accidentally sucked into a fire hydrant on Friday night as crews worked to extinguish a massive blaze on Rebecca Street.
Junker said water authority crews began purging the system on Saturday morning as a precaution.
Editor’s Note: This is a developing story and is subject to change.
A massive fire destroyed a car repair shop in the city’s 10th Ward on Friday evening, sending a pillar of black smoke into the air that could be seen for miles.
Despite the efforts of firefighters from departments throughout Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, within a few hours, little remained of McKeesport Auto Body Inc. besides the outer walls. Crews were still on the scene early Saturday morning.
The fire was reported at around 5:30 p.m. and quickly went to multiple alarms. It broke out shortly after a line of thunderstorms, bringing high winds, moved through the area.
According to emergency personnel, there were reports that power lines fell onto the building’s roof, igniting the blaze. A witness told KDKA-TV they heard a loud explosion and saw burning power lines on top of the building.
The Allegheny County fire marshal’s office was on the scene Friday night investigating the cause.
Bluebirds are among the species that are being affected by a mysterious illness that causes eye and nervous system damage. Experts are encouraging homeowners to cover or remove bird baths, feeders and houses to discourage flocks of sick birds from spreading the disease. (Vickie Babyak photo for Tube City Almanac)
A mysterious disease that’s been making songbirds sick in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia has now reached the Mon-Yough area.
Local residents have reported finding sick or dead birds near feeders, bird houses and birdbaths.
Experts say that nestling and fledgling songbirds — mainly blue jays, starlings, common grackles, robins and cardinals — have been found suffering from eye and neurological issues. In some cases, these birds have been found dead in large numbers, report Audubon Mid-Atlantic and other conservation agencies.
According to Travis Lau, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, affected birds are being tested for different toxins, parasites, bacterial diseases and viral infections — but test results are so far inconclusive.
"Dracula, a Musical" cast members gather on the McKeesport Little Theater stage during a rehearsal break. The show, which made its debut on the same stage in 1993, opens today. (Bonnijean Cooney Adams photo for Tube City Almanac)
If you go...
“Dracula, A Musical”
Where: McKeesport Little Theater, 1614 Coursin St.
When: July 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25, with Friday and Saturday shows at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $20 for adults and $12 for students with a valid ID or under 18. To make reservations, call the theater at (412) 673-1100 and leave your name, phone number, the date of the performance you wish to see, and how many tickets you need. There are no online reservations for this show. No one will call you back about your reservation unless there is a question or concern. After 5 p.m. for same-day viewing, you will need to purchase tickets at the box office.
When the cast of “Dracula, a Musical” takes the stage at McKeesport Little Theater, it will mark only the third run for the show — all at MLT.
Roughly based on the 19th-century novel by Bram Stoker, it premiered on July 9, 1993, a collaborative effort among Carnegie native songwriter/lyricist Paul Michael Brown, his mother Rita Brown, who was the original executive producer, and family friend Al Snyder, who owns a Pittsburgh-based recording and production studio.
The well-received show was performed a second time in the late 1990s, and was to have been the MLT season finale in May 2020.
Eight people — including six adults and two children — were displaced early Wednesday morning by a fire on Stewart Street that heavily damaged one home and caused additional damage to two neighboring houses.
The American Red Cross is helping the victims, who were not injured in the blaze, McKeesport fire Chief Jeff Tomovcsik said. Four dogs were safely rescued from one of the homes, he said.
The Allegheny County fire marshal’s office is investigating.
A spokesperson for the fire marshal said the cause and origin are still undetermined, and it’s too soon to tell if the blaze was accidental or deliberately set, but that the investigation is “not leaning in either direction at this early stage.”
East Allegheny graduates Taylar Getsy (2020) and Chris Rayman (2021) return to the high school stage for a summer musical “A Pirate’s Tale” July 15-17. The musical was supposed to be the spring show in 2020, but was cancelled due to the pandemic. (Submitted photo)
If you go...
“A Pirate’s Tale”
Where: Online and live shows, East Allegheny Junior-Senior High School, 1150 Jacks Run Road, North Versailles Twp. Patrons are asked to wear a mask while at the performance if they are not fully vaccinated. Seating will be every other row to provide some distancing for patrons.
When: July 15, 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on the 17th. Streaming is available July 15-17 and 22-24.
High school musicals aren’t usually performed in the summer months.
But this week, “A Pirate’s Tale” is about to set sail at East Allegheny Junior-Senior High School. The show was supposed to be performed during the spring of 2020, then was postponed to summer, but COVID-19 thwarted every attempt to get it out of port, says director Amanda Rosco.
“I knew this was kind of the last shot if we were ever going to get it up with that semi-original cast. It was going to be this summer, because (after) this summer we would have had two classes of alumni that were off and doing other things,” she says.
The cast is smaller than the original one planned for 2020, she says — not everyone was able to recommit — but with the help of one guest actor and three staff members they make the show work.
Yep! After the horrible, no-good, very-bad year of 2020, when International Village (and pretty much everything else) was canceled, the Pittsburgh area’s largest and best folk music and food festival is returning to McKeesport’s Renziehausen Park on Aug. 10, 11 and 12, 2021.
We are once again producing a live video webcast of International Village entertainment from the main stage.
We’ve retired our old video cameras and have four new HD digital video cameras this year — and because it’s been known to rain during International Village, they’re waterproof. We’ve also purchased a new digital mixer. Together, they should produce a much clearer picture than we’ve ever been able to offer before.
Unfortunately, together, they’ve also set us back more than $1,000.
So we need to raise some money ... again. We need donations, and we need advertisers, and we need them fast ...
More than $270,000 in grants have been awarded to Mon-Yough area fire and EMS companies through a state program.
For agencies that could not conduct regular fundraisers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the money can be used to help make up for lost revenue, say local state representatives.
The annual Fire Company and Emergency Medical Service Grant Program, which is overseen by the Office of the State Fire Commissioner, provides funding for volunteer and career fire companies, emergency medical services and rescue squads.
Eligible organizations can use the funds for facilities and equipment, debt reduction, training and education and recruitment and retention.
The Allegheny County Health Department is asking the public to provide feedback on its 2022 Air Monitoring Network Plan.
A county spokesman said the Air Monitoring Network Plan is an annual report which provides a detailed description of how and where air pollution is monitored in Allegheny County, and is required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The county currently maintains air monitoring stations at 10 locations, including Clairton, Glassport, Liberty Borough, North Braddock, Wilkinsburg and Avalon, downtown Pittsburgh, Harrison Twp., Lawrenceville and South Fayette Twp.
Fawn Walker-Montgomery, co-founder of Take Action Mon Valley, said this Saturday’s event is a chance for Black business owners to network and reach out to the community. (Vickie Babyak photo for Tube City Almanac)
Events for Black entrepreneurs are regularly held in Pittsburgh, but this Saturday, Take Action Mon Valley is sponsoring Mon Valley Black Business Day in McKeesport.
“It’s not always easy to travel into Pittsburgh and some people don’t own cars,” said Fawn Walker-Montgomery, the group’s co-founder and executive director. “The organization came up with the idea to reach out to local Black businesses. We want to provide support for them and an opportunity to network.”
Mon Valley Black Business Day will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. July 17 at 2000 Eden Park Blvd., next to the side entrance of McKeesport Area High School, in the lot where Corner Pocket used to be.
(Submitted photo courtesy Miguel Sague Jr., via Facebook)
The story of the indigenous peoples of Western Pennsylvania will be told Sunday afternoon during a program at McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center.
Miguel Sague Jr. of the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center is the featured guest at 5 p.m. during the heritage center’s second “parking lot program” of the summer. Admission is free to center members and $5 for non-members.
A Cuban-American, Sague’s heritage is Taino — the indigenous people of the Caribbean islands. Sague is a former teacher in Pittsburgh Public Schools. An artist, historian and activist, he serves as a medicine man for the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center and is a founding member of the Canay Indigenous Spiritual Circle.
A White Oak woman died Wednesday afternoon after being struck in the parking lot of UPMC East hospital in Monroeville.
Josephine Mayni, 92, died in the emergency room of AHN Forbes Hospital shortly after the incident, the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office said.
Allegheny County police said Mayni was a pedestrian in the garage when she was struck by a car just after 2 p.m. She was taken by ambulance to Forbes Regional where she was pronounced dead.
Family members said Mayni had been a volunteer at UPMC East for seven years.
The county police Homicide Unit and Collision Reconstruction Unit are investigating. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call county police at 1-833-ALL-TIPS. Callers may remain anonymous.
McKeesport Area School Board has rehired Superintendent Mark P. Holtzman Jr. for another five years.
But in an unusual move, Holtzman first had to resign his position and then be re-appointed.
At a brief special meeting Tuesday, school directors voted 5-0 to accept Holtzman’s resignation, effective July 6.
School directors in attendance were Diane Elias, Tom Filotei, Ivan Hampton, Jim Poston and board President Joseph Lopretto. School directors Jim Brown, Dave Donato, Steven Kondrosky and Mindy Sturgess were absent.
The board then voted 5-0 to rehire Holtzman as superintendent for a five-year contract, beginning July 7, 2021 and ending June 30, 2026.
West Newton Public Library held an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony of their new children’s room on June 30, after a year’s delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pictured cutting the ribbon are John Medsger, Barb Pritchard Rutter, Pete Pritchard and library board President Gary Johnson.
The renovation and design was dedicated in memory of former library board member Patty Medsger and her mother, Emma Jean Pritchard, for their contributions to the library. The event was attended by family and friends and concluded with light refreshments.
A spokesperson for the library board thanked everyone who donated funds in memory of Medsger and Pritchard. These funds along with a bequest from a longtime patron and a grant from the Trixie Puff Foundation were used to make the renovations to the library.
The library is located at 124 North Water St. and is open 12 to 5 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays, 12 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, call (724) 633-0798.
A local non-profit comprised of former members, volunteers and employees of the LaRosa Boys & Girls Club will announce plans soon to reopen the facility.
At Wednesday’s McKeesport city council meeting, Councilman Jim Barry Jr. — a former executive with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania — said the LaRosa Youth Development Foundation expects to take possession of the property on Friday.
The club was abruptly closed in November 2020 by the Pittsburgh parent organization, which cited declining membership, rising expenses and a lack of participation by local youth.
The announcement set off a backlash from parents, city residents and elected officials, including McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko, state Sen. Jim Brewster and state Rep. Austin Davis, all of whom sharply and publicly criticized the move — and the leadership of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania.
A McKeesport woman died following a one-car crash Saturday afternoon near the McKeesport-Duquesne Bridge.
Levona Hawkins, 50, was pronounced dead at the scene, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office said.
Allegheny County police said the wreck happened in the 500 block of Pirl Street just after 4 p.m. The vehicle in which Hawkins was traveling was found over a hillside. Police said she had been thrown from the car.
The county police homicide unit and collision reconstruction unit are investigating, police said, and are seeking witnesses to the crash.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the county police tip line at 1-833-ALL-TIPS. Callers can remain anonymous, police said.
A fire May 12 rendered this Duquesne building uninhabitable. The demand for affordable housing in the Mon Valley outstrips the supply, say housing advocates and state Rep. Austin Davis. (Tube City Almanac photo)
On the night of May 12, Lakeya Wilson entrusted her four children, all under age 5, to her family members to babysit at her Duquesne home. Forty-five minutes later, Wilson received a call that her apartment building was on fire.
Thankfully, her family escaped unharmed, but the apartment where they had lived for two and a half years is now uninhabitable.
Wilson has a federal housing choice voucher — the program commonly called “Section 8” — and like many people in the Mon Valley is in search of a better apartment.
Wilson and her children are currently staying with family. She says she’s contacted more than 10 landlords to see if they have any vacancies for a Section 8 holder. So far, she says, all she’s heard is “no.”
With the summer holidays just around the corner, White Oak Animal Safe Haven Director Laura Massie knew she had to go the extra mile to help local animals.
Thursday marked the shelter’s first microchip clinic, with nine animals being microchipped.
“We decided to do this because a lot of shelters are full this time of year. Especially with (July 4) coming up – fireworks tend to spook the animals and they run away. So I came up with the idea that people could bring their pets in to be microchipped at a discounted price,” Massie said.
Allegheny County emergency officials are urging residents to be safe during the Independence Day weekend.
“In 2020, many commercial fireworks displays were cancelled due to the pandemic,” said Matt Brown, chief of Allegheny County Emergency Services. This caused many increases in fireworks purchases and use by the public. This trend also resulted in increased noise complaints, fire damages and injuries to those involved or nearby and has continued into 2021.”
Brown said residents should “consider leaving the fireworks displays to the professionals.”
McKeesport will have a fireworks display at Renziehausen Park at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, following a concert by The Vogues at the Lions Bandshell. Other nearby communities with fireworks on July 4 include Monroeville, at the Monroeville Mall Annex, and the city of Pittsburgh at Point State Park.