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City Council OK’s Property Tax Increase

December 07, 2023 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Click to Download McKeesport’s 2024 Budget

Read Mayor Michael Cherepko’s budget message

Listen to the budget message

City council has approved a 3-mill property tax increase for 2024 that McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said is directed toward salary increases for police officers and additional personnel for the police and fire departments.

The increase from 8.26 to 11.26 mills will only impact the value of buildings, not land.

The 2024 budget otherwise holds overall spending to 2023 levels and cuts expenses in several areas, Cherepko said following Wednesday night’s 5-0 vote. Council members Tim Brown and Brian Evans were absent.

Separately, council by 5-0 vote approved a four-year contract with members of the city’s police union that includes a 15.5 percent increase for 2024 and additional 3 percent increases in 2025, 2026 and 2027.

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Festival of Trees Sparks Excitement for the Holidays

December 07, 2023 |

By Elizabeth Laughlin | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Kerri Bryer, English teacher at McKeesport Senior High School, works with student Brianna Mignogna of White Oak add finishing touches to their Acts of Kindness tree. (Vickie Babyak photo for Tube City Almanac)

If you go...


McKeesport’s 38th Festival of Trees

Where: Jacob Woll Pavilion, Renziehausen Park, 201 Sycamore Drive

When: 12 to 8 p.m. Dec. 7-11

More information:

McKeesport’s 38th annual Festival of Trees is shaping up as one of the city’s largest ever.

Almost 100 community groups, organizations and businesses are participating in the event, which opened its doors at 12 noon today and continues through Monday (Dec. 11).

Organizations throughout the McKeesport area have been anticipating this yearly event. McKeesport Community Gardens will be taking part in the festival for the first time, said Laura Bosnak Thompson, who has been involved with the group since 1996.

“We’ll be setting up a tree with decorative garden shovels, garden tools and little seed packets,” Bosnak Thompson said.

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Lawsuit Alleges Excessive Force in ’20 Search

December 06, 2023 |

By Yousuf Lachhab Ibrahim | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Searches that took place in McKeesport in 2020 after the shooting of a city police officer amounted to “martial law,” said a community activist on Monday during a press conference announcing a wide-reaching lawsuit against the city and Allegheny County.

Fawn Walker Montgomery, founder of Take Action Advocacy Group, was joined by plaintiffs and the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. Together, they allege that police violated residents’ civil rights in December 2020 while searching for the suspect in the shooting of McKeesport police Officer Gerry Athans.

In the complaint filed this week in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, three McKeesport residents — Courtney Thompkins, Ezra Dixon and Kim Neal — name as defendants the city of McKeesport, Allegheny County, city and county police, and more than three dozen police officers. Most of the police officers are listed only as “John Does” and “Jane Does.”

The complaint accuses police of unfairly targeting Black and African-American residents, using excessive force, and violating constitutional provisions against unlawful search and seizure during the hunt for Athans’ shooter. The lawsuit demands both compensation and punitive damages.

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MASD to Resume Streaming Board Meetings

December 06, 2023 |

By Adam Reinherz | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Founders Hall Middle School choir members perform during the MASD meeting on Dec. 4. (Adam Reinherz photo for Tube City Almanac)

McKeesport Area School District will resume streaming its meetings online, the newly reconstituted school board announced on Monday.

In addition, the board will add another meeting each month.

Both decisions should increase transparency, said newly named board President Mark Holtzman. “We think it’s advantageous to the public,” he said.

Beginning in January, district meetings will occur the first and second Thursday of each month. The first meeting will enable the public to hear proposed business; the second meeting will afford time for board members to vote.

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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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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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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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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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DEI Expert: ‘Restorative’ Work is Fostering Healing

October 27, 2023 |

By Adam Reinherz | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

School directors and the public listen on Wednesday as Erika Kestenberg, a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant, addresses the McKeesport Area school board. (Adam Reinherz photo for Tube City Almanac)

A consultant working with the McKeesport Area School District said this week that school directors did the right thing by apologizing following an outburst at the last board meeting.

Erika Kestenberg, an expert on diversity, equity and inclusion who has worked with the district in the past, said Wednesday that in the wake of the September incident, a statement issued by six of the nine board members was the correct move.

At the end of a sometimes raucous board meeting on Sept. 26, a member of the audience confronted School Director James Brown over his remarks that the session had been a “sh-t show.”

Brown responded with what witnesses described as profanity and a homophobic slur.

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