Railroad Operations Disturbing Sleep, 10th Ward Residents Say

January 04, 2019 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

A CSX train passes through Downtown McKeesport in 2016. Residents of lower 10th Ward say nighttime railroad operations are knocking things from walls and disturbing their sleep, but the railroad says nothing's changed. (D.A. Liscomb photo via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)

The author of this story has a conflict of interest. See editor's note.

It sounds like "a pile of steel (being) dropped into an empty barge at two in the morning."

That's how Dwayne Yeager of lower 10th Ward described CSX Railroad's late-night and early-morning operations in his neighborhood.

Yeager, who is retired from factory work, has lived in his home since 1994, so he's used to the sound of trains passing through. He told McKeesport City Council on Wednesday that it's not the normal noise of train operations bothering him and his neighbors.

"That noise is nothing," Yeager said. "What they're doing is hooking and unhooking cars by camera, without a brakeman, at all hours of the day and night. They're shaking things off the walls and off of the windows."

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Police Chief Announces Retirement, Effective Feb. 1

January 02, 2019 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: Crime and Police News, News

McKeesport's police chief will wrap up an almost 26-year career with the department on Feb. 1.

Bryan J. "B.J." Washowich, who has served as chief since 2010, has announced his retirement. His successor has not yet been named.

Washowich, 47, grew up in White Oak, where his father, the late Wayne Washowich, served as a police officer, planning and zoning director, and code enforcement officer.

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North Huntingdon Family Hosts a Bright Holiday Tradition

December 24, 2018 |

By Cami DiBattista | Posted in: News

Over 10,000 lights synchronized with Christmas music create a unique holiday display in Markvue Manor. Al and Cindy Harff have been decorating their home for 12 years and donating all funds collected to charity. (Cami DiBattista photo special to Tube City Almanac)

One North Huntingdon Twp. family aims to make the season a little brighter for those in need in a very festive way.

The Harff family, who reside at 1907 Bernice Dr. in the Markvue Manor development of North Huntingdon, deck out their home with thousands of lights and holiday décor each year in an effort to raise funds for Jamie’s Dream Team.

The McKeesport-based non-profit organization, founded by Jamie Holmes in 2005, supports those suffering from serious illness, injury, disability or trauma.

“Jamie is such a wonderful person and works so hard to make dreams come true for local children and adults,” said Cindy Harff. “We are happy to support her organization and just thrilled with the success of the light display.”

This is the 12th year the family has decorated their home for the holidays in this manner. Christmas Eve is the busiest night for visitors.

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City Taking Another Look at In-House Trash Collection

December 19, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

Above: Seasonal public works employees Myselo King, left, and Austin Fagan and load recycle bins for delivery to McKeesport residents in this 2017 photo. Mayor Michael Cherepko said this month many bins are still available for city households. (Submitted photo by Jennifer Vertullo, City of McKeesport.)

McKeesport City Council has extended its contract with its garbage collection service for one more year.

But Mayor Michael Cherepko says the city is again considering purchase of its own garbage trucks and bringing the service back in-house for the first time in more than 35 years.

Council this month by 7-0 vote exercised an option with Big's Sanitation of Rostraver Twp., Westmoreland County, to collect the city's trash until Dec. 31, 2019.

Rather than a rate increase, Cherepko said, Big's has lowered its prices to the 2015 level.

The mayor's office has received some complaints about trash collection over the past year, Cherepko said, but added that Joe Eori Jr., president of Big's, has been "responsive every time the complaints have come in."

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Water Authority Pledges $843K to Grandview Fire Hydrant Improvements

December 14, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

(Map courtesy Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County. Click to download.)

The water authority serving McKeesport will invest more than $843,000 to improve the water flow to fire hydrants in the Grandview area of the city.

The improvements --- including more than a half-mile of new water mains and eight new fire hydrants --- were approved Wednesday by the board of directors of the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County.

Matthew Junker, spokesman for the water authority, said the board is responding to concerns raised by McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko, fire Chief Jeff Tomovcsik and residents after a fire June 16 on Cleveland Street leveled one home, severely damaged at least five others and sent several people to the hospital.

"I'm very pleased that they are going to finally make the necessary improvements up there, and make sure that water flow is never a problem again in the Grandview area," Cherepko said Thursday.

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No Tax Increase for City Residents in 2018

December 13, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

CORRECTION, Dec. 14, 2018: Police and fire staffing remain the same in 2019 as in 2018. Two firefighter job classifications have changed and are in a different line on the 2019 budget. This story incorrectly said two positions were being eliminated. We apologize for the error. -JT

Download McKeesport's 2019 budget (PDF reader required)

McKeesport officials will hold the line on taxes and fees again in 2019.

The city's $24.5 million budget, approved unanimously by council on Dec. 5, keeps taxes 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. A house assessed at $48,000 by Allegheny County would pay approximately $300 in city property taxes.

"There are no increases in taxes and no salary increases, beyond those we are contracted for," McKeesport Mayor Mike Cherepko said last week. "There are no increases for the administration."

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School Safety a Priority, MASD Superintendent Says

December 09, 2018 |

By Richard Finch Jr. | Posted in: News

The day after two McKeesport Area High School students were charged with bringing a weapon onto a school bus, District Superintendent Mark P. Holtzman Jr. promised school directors and the community that the administration is doing everything in its power to ensure the safety of students and staff.

“Considering some recent (events), I just want to reassure everybody in the audience, on the record, that we are committed to our students,” Holtzman said at Wednesday's school board meeting. “Before we educate children, we have to continue to focus on safety and security at all times.”

On Tuesday, McKeesport police arrested a 16-year-old student who they said had brandished a handgun on a school bus. Police believe the student was supplied with the weapon by a 15-year-old who was not in class that day, but entered the campus after dismissal and boarded the bus. The younger student also was charged.

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Neon Returns to News Building Windows in Time for Tree-Lighting

December 04, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

After an absence of three years, vintage neon holiday decorations have returned to the windows of the former McKeesport Daily News building.

The lights --- a staple of the holiday season in McKeesport for decades --- returned just in time for the planned lighting on Wednesday night of the city's official Christmas tree.

The ceremony in Kennedy Park will follow Wednesday's regular council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. Local gospel group "Chalice" is scheduled to perform.

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County's 25th RAD Budget Includes $111K More for McKeesport's Renzie Park

November 29, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

(Above: Crews renovate a pavilion at Renziehausen Park this summer. Photo courtesy Tom Maglicco, City of McKeesport.)

Allegheny County's 25th Regional Asset District budget includes $908,000 for capital improvements and operating expenses at McKeesport's Renziehausen Park --- an increase of $111,000 over last year.

Also included in the budget, approved Thursday, is $8,600 for the McKeesport Little Theater and $6.89 million for the Allegheny County Library Association, which provides support to the Carnegie Library of McKeesport, Braddock Carnegie Library and other member organizations.

The Regional Asset District is funded largely by Allegheny County's 1 percent sales tax, created in 1993. The first RAD budget provided just $53 million to 46 organizations.

In 2019, RAD will disperse $108.6 million to support 104 different non-profit groups and organizations. It's the first time the RAD budget has ever topped $100 million, according to a spokeswoman.

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Officials: No Hazmat Situation at McKeesport Kane Center

November 29, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

A patient from Kane Community Living Center in McKeesport died at the emergency room Thursday after suffering respiratory distress.

Despite rumors that the patient was exposed to a hazardous chemical or other contaminant, emergency officials said there was no evidence of that, and the facility was open as normal on Thursday evening.

McKeesport police, firefighters and McKeesport Ambulance Rescue Service were dispatched to the 360-bed facility at the foot of Ninth Avenue at about 1:20 p.m. Initial reports from Allegheny County 9-1-1 were that a patient was in cardiac arrest after being exposed to a "powdery substance."

Those reports were incorrect, McKeesport fire Chief Jeff Tomovcsik said Thursday night.

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