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Two Named in Case Lament Lack of Openness

July 02, 2024 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Correction: Carmine Bloise Jr.’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story. We regret the error.

McKeesport has added a page to its website to explain the Right-to-Know Law, as well as a form for requesting information. (Screenshot)

Related Story: City Chastised for Right-to-Know Practices

Two of the people named in a state Open Records office ruling that criticized McKeesport’s handling of requests under the Right-to-Know Law said the city can — and should — do better.

Documentary filmmaker Carmine Bloise Jr., who is collecting police procedure manuals for a project he has been working on for two years, said McKeesport’s procedures for handling such requests were the “worst I’ve ever seen.”

“I thought it was crazy, but apparently it’s a pattern,” Bloise said in an interview. “I do a lot of a right-to-know requests. It’s pretty typical that you don’t get a response. But this is the worst I’ve ever seen. I was astonished.”

In a ruling released last week, the state’s Open Records office cited 10 cases where residents, members of the media, or businesses asked for documents from McKeesport officials.

 
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City Criticized for Right-to-Know Practices

July 02, 2024 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Related Story: Two Named in Case Lament Lack of Openness

The state agency overseeing access to public records last week issued a scathing report, accusing McKeesport officials of failing to respond to requests for information from members of the media, the general public and commercial businesses.

But city officials said they have responded, and that they have made changes to accommodate a right-to-know process that they argued itself is flawed and sometimes onerous.

In an strongly worded ruling, Catherine Hecker of the state Office of Open Records suggested that the city has opened itself up to civil penalities or sanctions for allegedly ignoring requests from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, KDKA-TV, private companies that specialize in real-estate records, and former McKeesport Area school director Joe Lopretto, who ran for mayor in 2023.

The ruling covers 10 such cases. The Open Records office cannot levy fines or penalties against a municipality. But Hecker wrote that she believes “a judicial finding of bad faith by a reviewing court would be appropriate here.”

Read the Ruling (PDF)

City Solicitor J. Jason Elash said that Hecker’s ruling was “disappointing” and that McKeesport officials have not engaged in any efforts to withhold public information.

 
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‘Mr. Vince’: Library Bids Farewell to Director

June 24, 2024 |

By Vickie Babyak | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Amber Webb and her daughter pose with Vincent D’Alesio on his final day with the library and say their goodbyes. (Vickie Babyak photo for Tube City Almanac)

After nine years of service to Carnegie Library of McKeesport, staff and parents have bid farewell to the man who younger patrons knew as “Mr. Vince.”

Vincent D’Alesio was hired in 2015 by the Carnegie Free Library of McKeesport to fill the role of children's librarian, and in 2021 he was promoted to library director.

After approximately nine years of dedicated service to the library, local schools and communities served by the library, D’Alesio has begun a new community outreach position at the Mars Area Public Library, where he will provide literacy activities for all age groups and do some grant-writing.

Saturday was his final day of work at the McKeesport library.

 
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Local Doctor: Heat Wave Poses Unique Risks

June 19, 2024 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(Source: National Weather Service)

Related: Record-breaking heat bakes Mon-Yough area; cooling centers opened

Temperatures above 90 degrees pose unique health risks because they’re so close to our core body temperatures of 98 to 99 degrees, a local doctor said.

“Heat transfer from your body surface to the environment becomes less efficient the closer the ambient temperature is to core body temperature,” said Dr. Thomas Kessler, a family medicine specialist in Trafford and Irwin who also practices at UPMC East in Monroeville.

“Humidity is also is an important factor,” Kessler said. “Sweat helps us regulate body temperature via evaporation.  If humidity is too high, producing sweat becomes more difficult. As an analogy, you can't be cooled off by sweat if you're submerged in a swimming pool, because your sweat won't evaporate. The combination of high heat and humidity can be very dangerous.”

The mid-Atlantic is currently trapped under a so-called “heat dome” that’s roughly centered over Ohio and Pennsylvania, but which extends from Michigan to New York.

 
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Record-Breaking Heat Bakes Mon-Yough Area

June 19, 2024 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(Tube City Almanac photo)

Related: Local doctor offers tips for staying healthy in extreme heat

The last time the Mon-Yough area had a stretch of heat like this was ... never.

Nevermind (if you can) the high temperatures near 100 degrees every day this week. The National Weather Service in Moon Twp. said Tuesday that low temperatures are expected to remain above 70 degrees through Sunday.

NWS forecasters said that in 154 years of record-keeping, Pittsburgh has never had a six-day or more stretch of low temperatures above 70 in the month of June. The last time it happened at all was in July 2011.

An excessive heat warning is in effect for the entire region through 8 p.m. Saturday. In a prepared statement, the NWS said “prolonged dangerous hot conditions” are likely, with heat indexes — the way the temperature feels, when combined with humidity — ranging from 105 to 110 degrees each day.

 
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Owner of Damaged Building Plans to Rebuild

June 18, 2024 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Only rubble remains of a vacant house on Federal Street destroyed in a suspicious fire early Sunday morning. Two neighboring abandoned houses also were destroyed and a neighboring apartment building and garage sustained damage. (Tube City Almanac photo)

The owner of a Jenny Lind Street apartment building damaged in a fire early Sunday morning said the blaze is a temporary setback.

“I’m trying to stay optimistic,” said Ahmad Francis, who also owns city-based Francis Masonry & Construction. “My wife and I were already planning to renovate it. We just have to do a little bit more, that’s all.”

Three vacant homes near the corner of Federal Street and Jenny Lind Street were destroyed early Sunday in a blaze that emergency personnel characterized as suspicious.

The Allegheny County fire marshal’s office is investigating and has not yet determined a cause, a spokeswoman said.

 
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MASD Makes Personnel, Infrastructure Moves

June 11, 2024 |

By Adam Reinherz | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(Adam Reinherz photo for Tube City Almanac)

Back to back meetings of the McKeesport Area School District showcased new hires and planned improvements to the district.

During Thursday’s special board meeting, the district approved the hiring of Matthew Mols as assistant to the superintendent. The new position comes with an annual salary of $130,000. Scott Smith was announced as director of building and grounds at an annual salary of $110,000.

During a subsequent open agenda meeting, board members voiced their intention to vote on several upcoming expenses, including paving services and band instruments.

 
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R.O.M.E.O.S. Award Teen $5K Scholarship

June 11, 2024 |

By Adam Reinherz | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Lorenzo Lewis receives a $5,000 award from the R.O.M.E.O.S. on June 6. (Adam Reinherz photo for Tube City Almanac)

McKeesport Area High School graduate and aspiring engineer Lorenzo Lewis was awarded “The Best Man” scholarship by the R.O.M.E.O.S. on Thursday.

The $5,000 prize, which was announced before McKeesport Area School District’s open agenda meeting, celebrates a graduating Tiger who demonstrates exemplary character, explained board member David Donato.

“He’s just a crowd pleaser,” Donato said of Lewis. “He's an amazing young man. Everybody spoke about his care for others and how much help he is to everyone — administration, teachers alike — active in the community, just a great kid and we're so proud to have him as our number one Tiger.”

 
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Large Crowd, Good Weather Greet UPMC Event

June 11, 2024 |

By Submitted Report | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(Submitted photos courtesy UPMC McKeesport hospital)

A record crowd attended the fourth-annual McKeesport Community Day on Saturday, a spokeswoman said.

More than 1,000 people attended the event, held along Market Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues. The celebration was sponsored by UPMC McKeesport hospital in cooperation with several area churches that are part of a faith-based “Call to Action” community health team, said Sarah Deist, UPMC McKeesport spokeswoman.

The event had previously moved to the campus of McKeesport Area High School. Deist credited the decision to return to Downtown McKeesport with increasing the attendance. The goal of the event was to promote health awareness and healthier lifestyles through free health screenings, health education, and access to local resources.

 
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Semper Fi Club Elects New Officers

June 11, 2024 |

By Vickie Babyak | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

New officers sworn in by the Semper Fidelis Club include financial secretary T. Renee Easley of West Mifflin; corresponding secretary Amber Webb of McKeesport; recording secretary Joyce Gwen Thompson of White Oak; president Norine A. Jenkins of White Oak; vice president the Rev. Anica Jones of McKeesport; and parliamentarian V. Fawn Walker of McKeesport. 

One of the city’s longest-running civic organizations is preparing for its 105th year of service.

During a meeting at Penn State Greater Allegheny Campus, members of the Semper Fidelis Scholarship Club inducted new officers, with outgoing club President Jacqueline Blake presiding over the ceremony.

Taking oaths of office were Norine A. Jenkins, president; Anica Paige, vice president; Tia Wanzo, treasurer; T. Renee Easley, financial secretary; Joyce Gwen Thompson, recording secretary; Amber Webb, corresponding secretary; Paula Robinson, chaplain; V. Fawn Walker, parliamentarian; and Joy Simmons, historian.

Blake said thank you to the incoming officers and members for their pledge of service, their commitment, and for the support and love that was shown towards her during her tenure.

 
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