Poll: Shoppers Want ‘Made in America’ Gifts

November 28, 2023 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

Workers at Azzy’s Design Works in Finleyville sort linkage parts for shipping. The company, which tries to source its materials from other American businesses, makes gauges, parts and accessories for off-road vehicles. (Photo courtesy Azzy’s Design Works, via Facebook)

What’s on your holiday shopping list? This year, people may also be asking, “And where was it made?”

In a new poll from the Alliance for American Manufacturing, 81 percent of Americans surveyed said they would prefer to buy American-made gifts if given the option. The preference is driven by the belief buying products “Made in America” will help the economy, create jobs and support small businesses.

Bryan Spiegel, owner of Azzy’s Design Works in Finleyville, said it is important to support local businesses before looking elsewhere. His company recently designed a badge of honor for a local Girl Scout troop, which helped to market the business.

“Being active in your community, active in offering groups that kind of stuff, gets the word out best,” Spiegel said. “Because word-of-mouth has been the greatest tool I’ve had in marketing these past 10 years.”

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Firefighters Sound Alarm Over Declining Volunteers

November 28, 2023 |

By Yousuf Lachhab Ibrahim | Posted in: State & Region

Firefighters from Rainbow Volunteer Fire Co. in White Oak visited Mary of Nazareth Catholic School last month to talk about fire prevention and safety. Like other Mon-Yough area departments, the company says recruiting new members is challenging. (Photo courtesy Rainbow Volunteer Fire Co., via Facebook)

Departments across Pennsylvania are racing to come up with solutions for the declining number of volunteer firefighters. The number of volunteers statewide has dropped from over 300,000 in the 1970s to just above 30,000 now.

“This is not something that really happened overnight,” said Brandon Schmidt, chief of Rainbow Volunteer Fire Co. in White Oak. “The warning signs that this was happening were going on.” 

But Schmidt, who has been a member of the Rainbow company for 22 years, said that efforts to address this decline so far have been largely ineffective.

Last month, Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments and the Congress of Neighboring Communities held a meeting in Penn Hills with local fire departments to discuss staffing issues in local volunteer companies.

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Suspect in Officer’s Shooting Apologizes

November 25, 2023 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: Crime and Police News, North Versailles Twp. News

A man accused of shooting a North Versailles Twp. police officer early Friday morning apologized to detectives and his girlfriend before passing out from his own injuries, investigators said.

Ian Lamont Fields, 47, of Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood is being held at the Allegheny County Jail without bond pending a preliminary hearing Nov. 29 before Magisterial District Judge Kim Berkeley Clark.

Fields, who sustained two gunshot wounds to the leg in Friday’s incident, is accused of wounding a North Versailles officer following a domestic dispute in the 200 block of Arlington Avenue.

The wounded police officer was treated and released at a local hospital. His name has not been officially released.

In an affidavit of probable cause filed in Allegheny County night court, county detectives alleged that shots fired from Fields’ .40-caliber Glock pistol wounded the officer in the face and hand. Officers returned fire, according to the criminal complaint, striking Fields twice in the right leg.

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NV Twp. Officer Wounded By Suspect

November 24, 2023 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: Crime and Police News, North Versailles Twp. News

BREAKING: This is a developing story and will be updated with new information.

A North Versailles Twp. police officer was wounded early Friday morning when a suspect shot at him, Allegheny County police said.

The incident happened just before 4 a.m. in the 200 block of Arlington Avenue.

An intense police search for the suspect involving multiple agencies was underway in the early hours of Friday morning. According to broadcast reports, the suspect was taken into custody at about 8:30 a.m. His name has not yet been released.

Allegheny County police said that township officers were called to a report of a domestic disturbance with shots fired at 3:39 a.m. Responding officers encountered a suspect in an alley behind a home and attempted to take him into custody, police said. The man refused and instead produced a handgun, firing at least one shot at the officers, Allegheny County police said.

One township police officer was injured.

Police said a township offier returned fire and the suspect fled the scene. The wounded officer was taken to a local hospital where he was reportedly in good condition, according to a county police spokesperson.

Witnesses reported that a handgun was recovered on Delaware Avenue, about one block from the shooting.

Allegheny County homicide detectives are investigating. The suspect was described only as a Black male wearing dark clothing.

Anyone with information concerning the incident is asked to call the Allegheny County police tip line at 1-833-ALL-TIPS. Callers can remain anonymous.


Heritage Hill Park Gets New Play Equipment

November 23, 2023 |

By T.J. Martin | Posted in: White Oak News

Children in White Oak now have some new playground equipment they can use at Heritage Hill Park and, if all goes as planned, next spring, adults in the borough will have some new recreational opportunities as well.

At Monday’s meeting, Borough Engineer Kenneth Hillman told council that Snider Recreation Inc. has completed the installation of playground equipment as Phase One of the renovation of the park’s playground. Beneath the equipment for two- through five-year-olds, the company installed pour-in-place rubber and beneath the equipment for five- to 12-year-olds, it installed ground-up mulch, Hillman said.

The designs for a parking lot and a walking trail which are Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant and two pickleball courts are complete and ready to go out for bid, Hillman said. He said the pickleball courts will be adjacent to the playground in a space which now has a basketball court and racquetball court.

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JFK Statue Was Last Major Work of Famed Sculptor

November 23, 2023 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: History

© Tube City Community Media Inc., all rights reserved, except for archival images

McKeesport Mayor Andrew “Greeky” Jakomas (second from left) marks the spot of a new memorial for slain President John F. Kennedy, along with Councilmen Albert Elko, Robert Kaplan, Harold Blid, Harry P. Helmstadter and Sam Vidnovic. (McKeesport Daily News photo/Tube City Almanac collection)

(Tube City Almanac photo)

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy brought life to a halt across the United States. And McKeesport, like cities everywhere, acutely felt the grief.

Unlike many other communities, however, the Tube City’s civic leaders directed their pain into positive action. Before Kennedy’s funeral was complete, McKeesport Mayor Andrew “Greeky” Jakomas and leading citizens had launched a fund-raising drive to erect a statue of the slain president on Lysle Boulevard.

One year later — after raising the modern equivalent of $375,000 — McKeesport unveiled what was reportedly the world’s first statue of John F. Kennedy, along Lysle Boulevard, where it still stands today. It is also the last major work of world renowned artist Bryant Baker, who served as a sculptor of kings and presidents for a half-century.

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One Hurt in Duquesne Shooting

November 20, 2023 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: Crime and Police News

Few details are available regarding a shooting that sent a Duquesne woman to the hospital.

Allegheny County police said the victim, whose name was not released, was shot in the leg just before 4 a.m. Sunday. The incident happened in the 200 block of Fifth Street, police said.

The victim was taken to an area hospital in stable condition, police said in a release.

County detectives are investigating. Anyone with additional information concerning the incident is asked to call the county police tip line at 1-833-ALL-TIPS. Callers may remain anonymous.


Advocates: School Funding Needs ‘Bold Action’

November 20, 2023 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

Aaron Chapin testifies Nov. 9 at a public hearing in Bedford. He teaches fourth- and fifth-graders at Stroudsburg Area Middle School and serves as president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association. (Screenshot via Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission website.)

“Bold action” is needed to improve school funding across Pennsylvania, advocates testified at a recent hearing in Harrisburg.

During public hearings on improving school funding held Nov. 9 and Nov. 16, the Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission heard from people who stressed the need to set fair and adequate funding targets for every school in the state.

Aaron Chapin, who teaches fourth- and fifth-graders at Stroudsburg Area Middle School in the Pocono Mountains, serves as president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, which represents more than 187,000 teachers’ union members.

He told the committee it is important for the new plan to be transparent and sustainable, and fix the funding inequities across the state. Chapin noted that PSEA has found many equity gaps which need to be closed.

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Reader’s Viewpoint: Legislation Needed to Protect
Small Businesses, Consumers

November 20, 2023 |

By Submitted Report | Posted in: Commentary-Editorial

Tube City Community Media is committed to printing viewpoints from residents of the McKeesport area and surrounding municipalities. Commentaries are accepted at the discretion of the editor and may be edited for content or length.

State Rep. Nick Pisciottano chairs the House Democratic Subcommittee on Labor, Energy & Development. He represents the 38th Legislative District in Allegheny County, which includes parts of the Mon Valley and the South Hills. Pisciottano writes:

This Saturday is Small Business Saturday, and it’s the perfect time to start your holiday shopping by supporting the small businesses who create jobs and invest in our local community. But, it’s also a time to recognize that our main street businesses need more than just our dollars.

In the United States, a fair marketplace is a healthy marketplace. Open competition is the engine of our nation's economy, and we need to ensure that state law protects against companies that seek to restrain Pennsylvania commerce.

For decades, large companies across the nation have purchased smaller ones, creating concentrated power in almost all sectors of our economy. Large, monopolistic firms then use their dominant market share to engage in price gouging, collusion and other predatory, anti-competitive tactics that harm consumers, small businesses and workers by raising prices, suppressing wages and more.

This monopolistic consolidation has also led to offshoring our nation's production capacity, while creating brittle supply chains for even basic goods.

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Mayor Apologizes for Arrest in Tennessee

November 20, 2023 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko apologized Monday after being cited for public intoxication and trespassing in Nashville, Tenn.

Cherepko said the arrest came after a dispute involving a missing credit card.

“This is an embarrassing situation, and I’d like to apologize to my family and my constituents,” Cherepko said in a prepared statement.

“What started as a misunderstanding over my missing credit card could have been handled the next day with the establishment or my bank,” he said. “I should not have allowed myself to be in a situation like this, and unfortunately, I have to deal with the consequences. That means having my day in court and hopefully being absolved of any charges once the facts are explained.”

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like ... Halloween?

November 17, 2023 |

By Vickie Babyak | Posted in: State & Region

Editor’s Note: File this under the department of “better late than never.” It’s been a whirlwind few weeks here at TCCMI world news headquarters. My apologies to Vickie and the Masons of Lodge 765; I’ll try to do better. (At least we got this posted before Thanksgiving, right?) —Jason

(All photos: Vickie Babyak for Tube City Almanac)

Despite cloudy skies and intermittent rain, families enjoyed the fourth-annual Trunk or Treat held Oct. 29 by Harry S Truman Masonic Lodge 765 in Dravosburg

Lodge secretary Rob Stone said he had concerns about the rain but said, “It all worked out and the kids are enjoying themselves.”

Adults decorated their vehicles from a cute monster theme to a spooky funeral home theme and passed out candy to delighted children dressed up in their trick or treat costumes. The Shriner Clowns entertained the youngsters and made balloon sculptures underneath the lodge pavilion.

“We’ve been doing this for four years and this is the first year we have an award for the best-decorated vehicle,” said John Stein, past master of the lodge.

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Report: More Training Funds Needed in Pa.

November 17, 2023 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 354 accepts applications from potential apprentices in Westmoreland, Fayette, portions of Washington and Greene counties on the third Monday of each month from 8 a.m. to 12 noon at its training center, 263 Armbrust Road, Youngwood, Westmoreland County. (Photo courtesy Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania, via Facebook)

Pennsylvania needs more economic opportunities and a new report from the Keystone Research Center showed federal investments in climate and infrastructure projects would help grow a skilled construction workforce.

Diana Polson, senior policy analyst at the center, said the report revealed federal money would create thousands of trade jobs through expanding union construction apprenticeships leading to quality careers, as electricians, operating engineers, carpenters, and laborers.

“In Pennsylvania, for example, these apprenticeships train workers for jobs that pay more than most college-educated workers earn, and 61 percent more than the average worker in Pennsylvania,” Polson said. “Significantly, this training comes without any student debt.”

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Steeline Band Featured at City’s 58th Santa Parade

November 16, 2023 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(Submitted photo courtesy Pittsburgh Steeline drum band)

The Pittsburgh Steeline drummers will highlight McKeesport’s 58th Salute to Santa parade.

Called a “staple of Steelers entertainment” by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steeline group will be just one of the marching units at this Saturday’s event, which begins at 11 a.m. at the McKees Point Marina, Downtown, and proceeds up Fifth Avenue to Coursin Street.

More than 50 units will be part of this year’s celebration, city officials have announced. Tube City Community Media will provide free coverage of the parade via YouTube, beginning at 10:45 a.m.

The parade also will include the candidates for Queen, including Sydney Campusano (representing the McKeesport Area High School Tiger Band), Shai-Lynn Morgan (MAHS cheerleaders) and A’Naudya Robinson (LaRosa Youth Club); and Princess candidates Michelle Ferguson (MAHS cheerleaders), Amyah Harper (Little Tigers cheerleaders) and John’Nasya Mack (LaRosa Club).

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Duquesne Residents Could See Sewer Rates Go Up

November 16, 2023 |

By Tom Leturgey | Posted in: Duquesne News

Duquesne City Council’s meeting Tuesday night was one of the quickest of this calendar year at 38 minutes, but officials went through some important items.

City residents may see an increase in their sewage rates next year. “We received a template from Pennsylvania American Water Co. with ‘here’s why,’” said Councilman Aaron Adams. He noted that there were no definitive numbers yet, but rates may increase.

Adams countered that there will still be assistance plans available for those low-income residents who may need assistance. “And there might be discounts based on income.” The council hopes to know more about the matter by next month’s meeting.

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MAEA Union President: ‘Holding Period Right Now’

November 16, 2023 |

By Adam Reinherz | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(Adam Reinherz photo)

Correction: This story was corrected after publication to correct an editing error.

The president of the union representing McKeesport Area School District teachers remains hopeful that a months-long contract dispute is nearing conclusion.

“It’s not as bad as the press is treating it,” said McKeesport Area Education Association president Gerald McGrew Jr.

MAEA has been without a contract since Aug. 31. Weeks ago, the teacher’s union rejected a one-year contract offered by the district, but the decision wasn’t driven by financial greed, according to McGrew.

The issue is really about allowing the district to complete its audit and allow time for the new business manager to “get acclimated to the job,” McGrew said.

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NV Twp. Considers Sale of Sewer Authority

November 16, 2023 |

By T.J. Martin | Posted in: North Versailles Twp. News

The potential sale of the assets of the North Versailles Twp. Sanitary Authority to Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater Inc. took another step forward earlier this week when the North Versailles Twp. Commissioners voted Wednesday to support the evaluation of the proposed deal.

In a public presentation on the proposed sale during the monthly commissioners meeting on Wednesday night, the board heard from Scott Shearer, managing director of PFM Financial Advisors LLC, which the township and authority hired in June to help assist it with the proposed sale.

Aqua is owned by Essential Utilities of Bryn Mawr, Montgomery County, the parent company of Peoples’ Gas.

Shearer said Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater Inc. and the authority have signed a letter of intent in which the company will pay between $25 and $30 million for the sewer system, including the pipes and three pumping stations.

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Wilmerding Teen Dies After Shooting

November 15, 2023 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: Crime and Police News

A 15-year-old from Wilmerding was found dead Tuesday night following a shooting in the borough.

Dillan Shearer, a student at East Allegheny High School, was suffering from a gunshot wound to the head, Allegheny County homicide detectives said. He was pronounced dead just after 11:30 p.m., according to the medical examiner’s office.

The incident happened in the 300 block of Patton Street, police said.

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Two MASD Directors Lose Re-Election Bids

November 08, 2023 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: Politics & Elections

Two incumbent McKeesport Area school directors appear to have lost their bids for re-election.

Complete but unofficial returns from the Allegheny County elections bureau showed current school directors James Brown, a Democrat, in sixth place, and Joe Lopretto, a Republican, in seventh place. Five seats were up for re-election.

Mark Holtzman, who was cross-filed, led the field with 3,534 votes, followed by Jason “Shun” Pavlecic (cross-filed), Diane Elias (cross-filed), Matthew Keller (Democratic) and David Seropian (Republican).

Brown was caught up in a minor scandal in the closing weeks of the campaign, when he was accused of using a homophobic slur in an argument with a resident at the August school board meeting. He and other members of the board apologized for the incident.

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Dems Sweep County Offices — Except for DA

November 08, 2023 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: Politics & Elections

In an image from live video, former state Rep. Sara Innamorato celebrates her election as Allegheny County’s first woman chief executive with well-wishers at Mr. Smalls Theater in Millvale. (Facebook)

Democrats had a good night across Allegheny County on Tuesday — with one notable exception.

With 99.7 percent of the returns counted, former state Rep. Sara Innamorato was on pace Wednesday morning to become Allegheny County’s first woman chief executive, and other members of the party were capturing row offices and county council seats.

But Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr., running as a Republican, held off challenger Matt Dugan, winning re-election to a seventh term thanks in part to strong support in the Mon-Yough area.

Incomplete and unofficial returns from the Allegheny County Elections Bureau showed Zappala leading Dugan by nearly 12,000 votes with all but four precincts counted.

Dugan, a Democrat, defeated Zappala in the May primary, but Zappala won the Republican nomination with write-in votes, setting up the rematch.

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Fetterman: Bill Includes $1.7M for City Housing

November 07, 2023 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: Announcements

An appropriations bill passed by the U.S. Senate last week could include a boost — valued at $1.7 million — to plans by the city and a local land bank to develop new affordable housing in McKeesport.

Senators by an 82-15 vote passed legislation funding military construction, veterans affairs, transportation, housing and urban development, agriculture, rural development and the Food & Drug Administration.

The three bills are the first bipartisan appropriations bills to pass so far in 2023 in either house of the U.S. Congress.

Included is $1.7 million for a program to recover seven abandoned lots in McKeesport and construct four new houses, said U.S. Sen. John Fetterman.

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New Police Chief Promises to Be Visible

November 06, 2023 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

New McKeesport police Chief Mark Steele receives his badge from former chief Adam Alfer at October’s council meeting. (Tube City Almanac photo)

School safety and staying visible in the community are two priorities for McKeesport’s new police chief.

Mark Steele, a 27-year veteran of the department, was sworn into office by Magisterial District Judge Eugene Riazzi in October. He replaced retired Chief Adam Alfer, who took a job with South Allegheny School District.

“I don’t want to be an ‘office chief,’” Steele said. “I want to be on the road and learn first-hand what’s going on in the city.

“You never know where I’m going to show up,” he said. “That’s the only way to know what’s going on.”

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EPA Earmarks $1M Grant for Projects in City

November 06, 2023 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

City officials are excited about a $1 million grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency that will enable McKeesport to address stormwater runoff along the Youghiogheny River, add native shade trees to several neighborhoods, and engage young people in conservation work.

The grant includes partnerships with groups such as Allegheny CleanWays and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the city announced last week.

“We are thankful for this opportunity to improve environmental conditions within the City of McKeesport,” Mayor Michael Cherepko said. “This, like many other endeavors here, will be a whole-community effort. I can’t say often enough that I believe in ‘working together for a better McKeesport,’ and our community is full of organizations and volunteers who are committed to our city’s health and environmental wellbeing.”

The EPA in late October announced nearly $5.3 million for projects in Pennsylvania designed to address environmental problems in low-income communities. McKeesport was one of eight communities statewide that received grants, according to Virginia Nurk, EPA spokesperson in Philadelphia.

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