Bird Illness Reaches W.Pa., Experts Concerned

July 16, 2021 |

By Vickie Babyak | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Bluebirds are among the species that are being affected by a mysterious illness that causes eye and nervous system damage. Experts are encouraging homeowners to cover or remove bird baths, feeders and houses to discourage flocks of sick birds from spreading the disease. (Vickie Babyak photo for Tube City Almanac)

A mysterious disease that’s been making songbirds sick in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia has now reached the Mon-Yough area.

Local residents have reported finding sick or dead birds near feeders, bird houses and birdbaths.

Experts say that nestling and fledgling songbirds — mainly blue jays, starlings, common grackles, robins and cardinals — have been found suffering from eye and neurological issues. In some cases, these birds have been found dead in large numbers, report Audubon Mid-Atlantic and other conservation agencies.

According to Travis Lau, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, affected birds are being tested for different toxins, parasites, bacterial diseases and viral infections — but test results are so far inconclusive.

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Fire Damages Three Homes, Eight Displaced

July 14, 2021 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Eight people — including six adults and two children — were displaced early Wednesday morning by a fire on Stewart Street that heavily damaged one home and caused additional damage to two neighboring houses.

The American Red Cross is helping the victims, who were not injured in the blaze, McKeesport fire Chief Jeff Tomovcsik said. Four dogs were safely rescued from one of the homes, he said.

The Allegheny County fire marshal’s office is investigating.

A spokesperson for the fire marshal said the cause and origin are still undetermined, and it’s too soon to tell if the blaze was accidental or deliberately set, but that the investigation is “not leaning in either direction at this early stage.”

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Fire, Rescue Companies Receive State Grants

July 12, 2021 |

By Submitted Report | Posted in: Duquesne News, Liberty Borough News, McKeesport and Region News, North Versailles Twp. News, White Oak News

More than $270,000 in grants have been awarded to Mon-Yough area fire and EMS companies through a state program.

For agencies that could not conduct regular fundraisers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the money can be used to help make up for lost revenue, say local state representatives.

The annual Fire Company and Emergency Medical Service Grant Program, which is overseen by the Office of the State Fire Commissioner, provides funding for volunteer and career fire companies, emergency medical services and rescue squads.

Eligible organizations can use the funds for facilities and equipment, debt reduction, training and education and recruitment and retention.

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Mon-Yough Shoppers Grin, Bear Rising Prices

July 12, 2021 |

By Jason A. Mignanelli | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(Photo, “Strong Night Angles & Lines at Sheetz,” by Steve Rhode. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License.)

“If you want to drive, then you’re gonna pay for gas, whatever the price is,” said Bridget Wisocki of North Versailles Twp.

As the nation begins exiting the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are noticing that prices on a wide range of goods have gone up.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall prices for consumer goods increased 5 percent between May 2020 — when many states, including Pennsylvania, were in “lockdowns” — and May 2021.

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Business Fair Will Host Black Entrepreneurs

July 12, 2021 |

By Vickie Babyak | Posted in: Announcements, McKeesport and Region News

Fawn Walker-Montgomery, co-founder of Take Action Mon Valley, said this Saturday’s event is a chance for Black business owners to network and reach out to the community. (Vickie Babyak photo for Tube City Almanac)

Events for Black entrepreneurs are regularly held in Pittsburgh, but this Saturday, Take Action Mon Valley is sponsoring Mon Valley Black Business Day in McKeesport.

“It’s not always easy to travel into Pittsburgh and some people don’t own cars,” said Fawn Walker-Montgomery, the group’s co-founder and executive director. “The organization came up with the idea to reach out to local Black businesses. We want to provide support for them and an opportunity to network.”

Mon Valley Black Business Day will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. July 17 at 2000 Eden Park Blvd., next to the side entrance of McKeesport Area High School, in the lot where Corner Pocket used to be.

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School Board Extends Superintendent’s Term

July 08, 2021 |

By Siana Emery | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

McKeesport Area School Board has rehired Superintendent Mark P. Holtzman Jr. for another five years.

But in an unusual move, Holtzman first had to resign his position and then be re-appointed.

At a brief special meeting Tuesday, school directors voted 5-0 to accept Holtzman’s resignation, effective July 6.

School directors in attendance were Diane Elias, Tom Filotei, Ivan Hampton, Jim Poston and board President Joseph Lopretto. School directors Jim Brown, Dave Donato, Steven Kondrosky and Mindy Sturgess were absent.

The board then voted 5-0 to rehire Holtzman as superintendent for a five-year contract, beginning July 7, 2021 and ending June 30, 2026.

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In-Person Meetings Resume in September

July 08, 2021 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

McKeesport City Council will return to meeting in-person, with public participation, in September.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Mayor Michael Cherepko, who participated by phone, said the city will lift COVID-19 mitigation measures in time for the Sept. 1 meeting and the public will be able to attend.

There is no council meeting scheduled for August.

“After a year of struggling with the obstacles caused by the pandemic, we want to get back to as close to normal as we possibly can,” Cherepko said.

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Group Will Announce LaRosa Club’s Reopening

July 07, 2021 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(Tube City Almanac file photo)

A local non-profit comprised of former members, volunteers and employees of the LaRosa Boys & Girls Club will announce plans soon to reopen the facility.

At Wednesday’s McKeesport city council meeting, Councilman Jim Barry Jr. — a former executive with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania — said the LaRosa Youth Development Foundation expects to take possession of the property on Friday.

The club was abruptly closed in November 2020 by the Pittsburgh parent organization, which cited declining membership, rising expenses and a lack of participation by local youth.

The announcement set off a backlash from parents, city residents and elected officials, including McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko, state Sen. Jim Brewster and state Rep. Austin Davis, all of whom sharply and publicly criticized the move — and the leadership of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania.

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Jerome Bridge East Lane Closed Friday Night

July 07, 2021 |

By Submitted Report | Posted in: Announcements, McKeesport and Region News

The eastbound lane of the Jerome Avenue Bridge will be closed Friday night — weather-permitting — so that crews can conduct bridge deck placement work.

The westbound lanes are currently closed and will remain closed through November.

A district spokesman for the state Department of Transportation said the eastbound lane, toward Downtown McKeesport from 10th Ward, is scheduled to reopen by 8 a.m. Saturday.

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Lack of Quality Housing Plagues Valley

July 06, 2021 |

By Nichole Faina | Posted in: Duquesne News, McKeesport and Region News

A fire May 12 rendered this Duquesne building uninhabitable. The demand for affordable housing in the Mon Valley outstrips the supply, say housing advocates and state Rep. Austin Davis. (Tube City Almanac photo)

On the night of May 12, Lakeya Wilson entrusted her four children, all under age 5, to her family members to babysit at her Duquesne home. Forty-five minutes later, Wilson received a call that her apartment building was on fire.

Thankfully, her family escaped unharmed, but the apartment where they had lived for two and a half years is now uninhabitable.

Wilson has a federal housing choice voucher — the program commonly called “Section 8” — and like many people in the Mon Valley is in search of a better apartment.

Wilson and her children are currently staying with family. She says she’s contacted more than 10 landlords to see if they have any vacancies for a Section 8 holder. So far, she says, all she’s heard is “no.”

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