School Year Moving Smoothly for 'Rejuvenated' MASD Staff, Superintendent Says

September 28, 2018 |

By Richard Finch Jr. | Posted in: News

McKeesport Area teachers began their year with a bus tour of the communities and neighborhoods the school district serves.

At last week's board meeting, Superintendent Mark Holtzman Jr. told school directors the tour --- involving more than 350 employees and 10 school buses --- was "a very powerful event."

“I spoke to our staff a little bit about what we’re doing, what our direction is as a school district, and how we meet the needs of our students, and it was very moving,” he said, adding that he hopes the event sets the tone for a positive school year.

“I’m extremely proud of our building administration, our principals, people on the front line, our teachers and support staff, and their attitudes toward the education of our students,” Holtzman said. “We have a rejuvenated, energized and passionate group, and I look forward to building on that as we move throughout the year."

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American Textile Expanding to City's Industrial Park

September 20, 2018 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: News

(Tube City Almanac photo)

A Duquesne-based manufacturer of bedding sold in stores around the country is expanding into McKeesport.

American Textile Co. has signed a lease for a 98,000-square-foot building in the Industrial Center of McKeesport, located on the site of the former U.S. Steel National Works.

The deal was announced Thursday by the non-profit Regional Industrial Development Corp., which owns the industrial park. American Textile will be using a building at 200 Center St. formerly occupied by Steel City Products.

An RIDC spokeswoman said Steel City Products, an auto parts distributor, has moved elsewhere.

“As our pillow business continues to grow, we need this additional space to cover growing demand,” Lance Ruttenberg, American Textile's chief executive officer and president, said in a prepared statement. The company expects to add 30 employees at the McKeesport location.

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Local Legislators Unveil Plan to Reform Police-Community Relations

September 17, 2018 |

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

State Rep. Austin Davis, center, and State Sen. Jim Brewster (right, back to camera) participated in a peace walk through McKeesport July 6 following a police-involved shooting in East Pittsburgh. The McKeesport legislators have joined colleagues from Pittsburgh, Forest Hills and Mt. Lebanon to promote police reform legislation. (Vickie Babyak photo for Tube City Almanac)

In the wake of a police-involved shooting in East Pittsburgh that killed a 17-year-old and roiled the community, several local state legislators have unveiled a package of reform bills.

The legislation would be designed to improve police officer training and salaries; provide incentives for small municipalities to pursue regional police forces; encourage additional community oversight and recruitment of more diverse candidates to become police officers; and provide for an independent response team to investigate police shootings.

Backing the package of bills are state Sens. Jim Brewster of McKeesport, Jay Costa of Forest Hills and Wayne Fontana of Pittsburgh's Brookline neighborhood, along with state Reps. Austin Davis of McKeesport, Ed Gainey of East Liberty and Jake Wheatley of the Hill District.

“We need to do more to improve the training, quality and support of officers,” Costa said at a press conference last week. “But our improvements need to extend beyond police departments and into communities. I believe the package of bills we are working on can do that.”

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Allegheny County Declares Disaster Emergency Following Floods, Landslides

September 10, 2018 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: News

(This story will be updated throughout the day.)

Roads throughout the Mon-Yough area are closed due to floods and landslides after more than six inches of rain fell on the region from Saturday through Monday morning.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald on Monday afternoon declared a county-wide disaster emergency as a result of the three-day-long deluge, caused by remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon.

The declaration was issued on a recommendation from Allegheny County Emergency Services and enables county agencies to temporarily suspend bidding and contract requirements in order to contract with vendors for supplies and services.

“While flood warnings have expired, and rain showers are leaving the area, our department will begin its assessment of damages, and will do everything it can to assist in any recovery,” Fitzgerald said.

Five municipalities have reportedly issued their own emergency declarations, including Elizabeth Twp., where residents are being urged to evacuate from Blythedale, Smithdale, and parts of Industry and Buena Vista. Displaced residents are being encouraged to seek shelted at the community center, 429 Duncan Station Road.

Another emergency shelter has been opened at the Collinsburg Volunteer Fire Company, 514 Hickory Drive, near West Newton, according to a spokesman for the American Red Cross.

In Westmoreland County, the Sutersville Volunteer Fire Dept. was encouraging residents to evacauate and seek higher ground immediately. The fire department posted photos on its Facebook page showing that the Youghiogheny River had risen more than a foot in an hour, and was flooding the borough.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Yough at Sutersville was at 25.5 feet Monday morning --- more than five feet above flood stage. At 1 p.m. Monday, the fire department reported, water was covering First Avenue in the borough.

The National Weather Service in Moon Twp. said Monday afternoon that Monday's crest at Sutersville would be the highest at that location since 1996 and the sixth-highest in recorded history.

The Monongahela River at Braddock was near flood stage Monday afternoon and was expected to crest at least 18 inches above flood stage at 8 p.m., the Army Corps reported. In Wilmerding, Turtle Creek --- which drains into the Monongahela --- had risen from 5 feet Saturday afternoon to near 14 feet by Monday afternoon.

A landslide closed Route 837 in Whitaker Borough from 10 a.m. to about 4 p.m. Monday. Motorists exiting the Rankin Bridge were being forced to turn right toward Homestead, and through traffic was being diverted via Whitaker Way and Mifflin Street.

Route 837 also was closed in West Mifflin between the Valley Hotel and Anthony Crane, due to flooding.

Allegheny County emergency management said that Lincoln Way was closed in White Oak between McClintock Road and Rankin Road, while Route 48 was closed between Cool Springs Road and Marshall Drive, due to flooding. Both roads re-opened Monday afternoon just after 3 p.m., White Oak police reported.

A county spokeswoman said that White Oak Mayor Ina Jean Marton has issued a disaster declaration to allow for emergency work to be done to sewers after sewage began backing up into basements of many homes.

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State Grant Will Fund 'Multi-Faceted' Program to Reduce Gun Violence in City

September 07, 2018 |

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

State officials have awarded almost $150,000 to McKeesport police and partner agencies to create a program designed to reduce gun violence in the city.

The grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency was announced Friday by state Sen. Jim Brewster and state Rep. Austin Davis, both of McKeesport.

It will fund a new McKeesport Gun Violence Reduction Program designed by the office of Mayor Mike Cherepko, city police Chief Bryan Washowich, and other local and county leaders, including volunteers and churches.

The program will be modeled after successful strategies used in other cities to get illegal guns off the streets, a spokeswoman for the mayor's office said, and will work with young people in an effort to convince them not to resort to violence in the first place.

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More Vacant Houses to Face City Wrecking Ball

September 06, 2018 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

(Click the map to explore it in detail.)

Nine additional vacant houses were added to McKeesport's demolition list on Wednesday as city council awarded a contract to demolish those properties, as well as 85 previously targeted.

By 6-0 vote, the $679,000 contract for Phase III of McKeesport's 2018 city-wide demolition project was awarded to Jadell Minniefield Construction Services of Pittsburgh's Hazelwood neighborhood. Councilwoman Lu Ethel Nesbit was absent.

Minniefield in July was awarded a contract to demolish 92 vacant structures. Mayor Michael Cherepko said Minniefield was the lowest responsible bidder on Phase III, and had done excellent work so far.

"He's doing a wonderful job, and I'm glad he bid on our contract," Cherepko said.

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Two Eagle Scout Projects Fly High for Serra's Band

September 02, 2018 |

By Bonnijean Cooney Adams | Posted in: News

Ryan Gedman perches on the steps of the new conducting tower he built as part of an Eagle Scout project. (David Adams photo for Tube City Almanac)

Two Serra Catholic High School band members used their talents to make improvements that benefit the entire group while meeting ongoing requirements to attain the rank of Eagle Scout.

Junior Logan Kearns of Turtle Creek converted what once was the library in the school's friary into a much-needed instrument storage and uniform area, removing stacks and stacks of books, adding shelving and organizing the area for easy access.

“I worked on it over the summer, for four hours on three Saturdays to get it done,” Logan said. The junior said he belongs to Troop 184 out of Monroeville. “I am still in the process of obtaining (Eagle Scout),” he said. “I am very close.”

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McKeesport Area Schools Ready For New Year, New Challenges

August 21, 2018 |

By Richard Finch Jr. | Posted in: News

Superintendent Mark Holtzman Jr. is excited about the school year and said the McKeesport Area School District will hit the ground running when classes begin Wednesday.

Among new initiatives this year is a pilot program where all third graders will have one-on-one access to an iPad electronic tablet in their classrooms.

Besides enhancing the classroom experience, Holtzman said, the pilot program will help the district decide whether experiments with electronic tablets should be expanded.

“It will be costly,” he said. Because of the expense, deciding when and where to expand access to technology “is not always easy,” Holtzman said.

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District OK's Advanced Placement Agreement With Mt. Aloysius

August 20, 2018 |

By Richard Finch Jr. | Posted in: News

McKeesport Area School District has approved a dual-enrollment agreement with Mount Aloysius College to provide advanced placement courses for high school students.

The agreement with the four-year liberal arts school, based in Cambria County near Johnstown and Altoona, was OK'd by the school board last week.

While the district has AP college credit agreements with other schools as well, Superintendent Mark Holtzman Jr. said the Mount Aloysius agreement is an opportunity for students to earn college credits at a lower cost.

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School Board Hires Kovach as Boys' Varsity Basketball Coach

August 19, 2018 |

By Richard Finch Jr. | Posted in: News

Ending weeks of rumors and speculation, McKeesport firefighter Kevin Kovach has been named the coach of the boys' varsity basketball team at McKeesport Area High School.

The appointment of Kovach, 39, came at Wednesday's school board meeting by a 7-1-1 vote.

“I had some sweaty-palm moments,” Kovach said after the meeting. “I didn’t know anything coming into the meeting today. I don’t know what happened behind closed doors.”
Board member Ivan Hampton voted against hiring Kovach, with Steve Kondrosky abstaining. Kovach will be paid an annual salary of $7,100 for the 2018-19 school year, replacing Gerald "Puddin" Grayson, who retired in June.

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