A fast-moving New Year's Day fire has likely destroyed a home in the 3000 block of Versailles Avenue and caused some damage to a neighboring structure.
Five people were displaced by the blaze, according to the American Red Cross.
McKeesport fire Chief Jeff Tomovcsik said a resident of the home called 9-1-1 to report the blaze at 6:54 p.m. Monday. When the first units arrived at the brick, single-family home near the corner of Versailles and Freemont, the first floor was fully engulfed by fire, the chief said.
"It didn't take long before it spread to the second floor," Tomovcsik said. The volume of fire on the first floor slowed firefighters' progress for some time before they could enter the house, he said.
Extremely cold temperatures also made fighting the fire difficult, Tomovcsik said. According to the National Weather Center in Moon Twp., temperatures dropped to 6 degrees Monday night, with a windchill of -11.
(Above: McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko, Big's Sanitation president Joe Eori Jr., and Matt Gergely, assistant to the business manager at McKeesport Area School District, load Christmas hams for delivery to local families on Wednesday. Photo special to Tube City Almanac)
More than two dozen McKeesport families received surprise gifts of Christmas hams on Thursday thanks to a gift from a Rostraver Twp. business.
Joe Eori Jr., president of Big's Sanitation, donated the 28 hams "because I just wanted to give something back," he said.
"My dad was born and raised here and graduated from McKeesport High School," he said. "All of my relatives are from around here. If you have the means to give something back, then everybody should do so."
(Above: Members of the Mon Yough Chorale perform during a holiday concert Sunday at Sampson's Mills Presbyterian Church in White Oak. Photos special to Tube City Almanac.)
In the 19th and early 20th century, singing for fun and public entertainment was a common American pastime.
Companies and ethnic clubs like McKeesport's Swedish Singing Society and the Turners (originally known as the Turn und Gesangverein --- the "Gymnastics and Singing Union") sponsored choruses, concerts and even competitions.
Over the years, public singing faded away, and so did most of the community singing groups. But in McKeesport, the Mon Yough Chorale keeps the tradition alive.
The chorale --- now comprised of 35 to 40 volunteer performers under the direction of Ben Filippone --- recently completed a busy December schedule with a concert this past Sunday at Sampson's Mills Presbyterian Church.
Portions of that concert will be broadcast at 8 a.m. Dec. 24 on WEDO (810) and WZUM (1550/101.1), and the full concert will be broadcast at 3 p.m. Dec. 24 on Internet station WMCK.FM.
McKeesport City Council has extended its contract with Big's Sanitation through the end of 2018.
But Mayor Michael Cherepko said that his administration is exploring whether the city should purchase its own trash trucks and perform the work with its own employees.
"We've talked about it before, and I think we will finally be in a position to do that in 2019," he said.
McKeesport has used private contractors for trash collection since at least the early 1980s. Big's, located in Rostraver Twp., Westmoreland County, has been collecting the city's trash and recycling since January 2015, and also holds refuse collection contracts in neighboring Port Vue, White Oak and North Versailles Twp.
Above: Signing the paperwork completing the sale of McKeesport's sewerage authority are Jeffrey McIntyre, president of Pennsylvania American Water; McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko; and Dale McCall, chair of the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport. (Submitted photo)
Pennsylvania American Water Co. today completed its purchase of the assets of the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport.
The sale, valued at $159 million, includes wastewater treatment plants in the city's lower 10th Ward, Duquesne and Dravosburg, sewer lines and infrastructure serving 64,000 people in those three communities as well as East McKeesport, Elizabeth Twp., Glassport, Liberty, North Versailles Twp., Port Vue, Versailles and White Oak.
After all of the debts and obligations of the sewerage authority were satisfied, the city netted more than $40 million, officials said Monday. The money is already in a city account, though portions of it must be escrowed while the authority's remaining business is wound down.
What it means for consumers:
Continue to pay your MACM bill as scheduled. Pennsylvania American Water will begin sending bills Jan. 1.
Sewerage rates will not increase for at least one calendar year and rate changes will have to be approved by the state Public Utility Commission.
Customers who pay in person at the office in Christy Park may continue to do so. A collection box is also available at McKeesport City Hall.
The same phone numbers may continue to be used until customers are told otherwise. The MACM billing department may be reached at (412) 673-0850.
Demolition of the vacant George Washington School in the Seventh Ward will begin soon and take about a month, weather permitting.
That's the word from David Seropian, business manager for McKeesport Area School District, who said demolition crews are going to try to preserve some items from the 1928-vintage building, which closed in 2014.
"I don't know specifically what's being saved, but there are some things we want to try to save," he said Tuesday.
McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said the demolition is a positive step forward for the school's neighbors on Sumac and Freemont streets.
(Above: Click to download McKeesport's 2018 budget. PDF reader required.)
There are few surprises in McKeesport's 2018 budget, which holds the line on taxes while increasing spending on capital expenses.
At Wednesday's meeting, city council passed the budget on a 7-0 vote. Property taxes remain at 6.26 mills on buildings and 18.5 mills on land.
One mill represents $1 in taxes paid for every $1,000 for which a property is assessed. Land is typically assessed at a much lower value than buildings.
While calculating a so-called blended millage can be tricky, a house assessed at $48,000 by Allegheny County would pay approximately $300 in city property taxes in 2017.
Council President Rich Dellapenna Jr. said Wednesday night he's "very pleased" with the $23.1 million spending plan. "I give the mayor, the administration and (Finance Director) Tasha Phelps a lot of credit for all of the hard work they've put into it," he said.