Advocates Call for Rent, Mortgage Forgiveness

April 17, 2020 |

By Emily Pidgeon | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

State Rep. Sara Innamorato speaks during an online town hall Wednesday. (Screenshot via Zoom/Facebook)

More than 1 million Pennsylvanians have applied for unemployment benefits since Gov. Tom Wolf implemented his stay-at-home order on March 23, and many of those filers also rent or mortgage their homes. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grip the world, the order has been extended through April 30, and renters and homeowners remain unsure of the future.

During the “Freedom to Stay” virtual town hall meeting held Wednesday night, members of local and statewide community action groups called on state representatives, senators and local officials to introduce legislation cancelling rent and mortgage payments for residents.

“We’re in unprecedented times, so we need unprecedented legislation,” said state Rep. Sara Innamorato, Democrat from Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood.

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Brick Repairs Underway at People’s Building

April 15, 2020 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

A worker from Arch Masonry & Restoration of Lawrenceville maneuvers a crane platform into position at the People’s Building, Downtown. (Tube City Almanac photo)

Repairs are underway at the People’s Building, Downtown, after a section of brick near the eighth floor began to crack and peel away from the structure.

Although most construction work in Pennsylvania has been ordered shut down by Gov. Tom Wolf due to the coronavirus pandemic, emergency repairs are allowed to continue — and building owner Jonathan Stark said the brick repairs qualify.

“Any time you do a repair of that scope and size, at that height, it is dangerous, and we were concerned that it might fall onto Lysle Boulevard,” he said.

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Oursler ‘Blown Away’ By Unemployment Stats

April 12, 2020 |

By Nick Zurawsky | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Barney Oursler, director of the Mon Valley Umemployed Committee, testifies at an Allegheny County Sanitary Authority hearing in 2012. (Clean Rivers Pittsburgh via YouTube)

Nearly 405,000 Pennsylvanians filed an initial claim for unemployment compensation in the last week of March, according to the U.S. Employment and Training Administration. A month earlier, the number was a little over 12,000.

Barney Oursler, director of the Mon Valley Unemployed Committee, says he’s “blown away by the number of people desperately trying to get through and apply for unemployment.”

MVUC is a non-profit that aims to help unemployed and dislocated workers gain access to the benefits they need to remake their lives. The organization started in the early 1970s and played a key role defending workers during the steel industry collapse in the 1980s.

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Nesby, Other Mayors Seek More Pandemic Help

April 08, 2020 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: Duquesne News, McKeesport and Region News, Politics & Elections

Duquesne’s Nickole Nesby and Braddock’s Chardae Jones joined more than 30 other mayors of cities and boroughs across Pennsylvania to ask the federal government to increase production of medical supplies and coordinate distribution to communities.

In a letter signed by 113 municipal leaders from across the United States and released Monday, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group called on the federal government to do a better job of coordinating response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s time for leaders in Washington to have our back,” said John Henry, mayor of West View, north of Pittsburgh. “The federal government must do its job coordinating national disaster response to get us the masks and ventilators we need to save lives. Every minute counts.”

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Auberle Focusing on Positives During Pandemic

April 08, 2020 |

By Nick Zurawsky | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Last week, Auberle program participants chalked inspirational messages on sidewalks around the McKeesport campus. (Auberle photo via Facebook)

Despite the hardships everyone is experiencing during the coronavirus pandemic, Auberle’s John Lydon says he’s trying to stay focused on the goodwill that people are showing, and the good deeds that have resulted.

“It seems that everything out there is doom and gloom,” says Lydon, chief executive officer of the non-profit organization that provides a variety of social services to families and communities. “We need to know that there are people persevering.”

Some of the gestures are large, he says, but others are more personal, like the dozen hand-sewn washable face masks that were donated to Auberle by Amanda Huff, a local woman who runs a sewing shop.

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Council Awards $775K in Street Paving Contracts

April 02, 2020 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Streets in Myer Park, Haler Heights, Grandview and Peterson Plan and areas near the hospital all will be targeted for paving in 2020 under the city’s McKeesport Rising program.

The walking trail in Renziehausen Park also will be repaved and restored.

At Wednesday’s meeting, city council by 7-0 vote awarded a $723,428.50 contract to El Grande Industries of Donora, Washington County, to mill and repave portions of Evans Avenue, Fawcett Avenue, Fifth Avenue, Hospital Way, James Street and Marshall Drive.

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GetGo Plan for East End Site Gets City’s OK

April 02, 2020 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

* CORRECTION: This story was corrected after publication.

An architect’s rendering of a typical GetGo store, from the Giant Eagle website. City officials said they could not confirm any details of the proposed facility. (Giant Eagle website)

McKeesport city council has endorsed a traffic study from Giant Eagle, which plans to build a new GetGo convenience store and gas station at the foot of Hartman Street in the East End.

At Wednesday’s meeting, council agreed by 7-0 vote to adopt and endorse the transportation impact study for the store, which would be built on the current site of a car wash and several other properties along East Fifth Avenue.

In light of social distancing guidelines from county, state and federal authorities, three councilors — Jamie Brewster-Filotei, Lu Ethel Nesbit and Keith Soles — participated in the meeting via conference phone. Other council members sat six feet apart in city council chambers at the Public Safety Building.

The only spectators were reporters from the Mon Valley Independent and Tube City Almanac.

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Shutdowns, Changes Becoming Fact of Local Life

March 30, 2020 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: Duquesne News, McKeesport and Region News, White Oak News

CORRECTION: McKeesport city officials said the public is being asked not to attend Wednesday’s council meeting for social distancing reasons. We apologize for the error.

This story was edited after publication.

Port Vue (above), North Huntingdon Twp. and White Oak are among local municipalities that have closed playgrounds as well as basketball and tennis courts to discourage groups from congregating. (Tube City Almanac photo)

Although playgrounds are closed and police have been needed for traffic control outside of crowded banks and supermarkets, life during the coronavirus pandemic is continuing in Mon-Yough communities.

But shutdowns, closures and restrictions are expected to remain a fact of life continue well into the spring, and possibly the summer.

Some communities are canceling municipal meetings, while others are moving them online and inviting the public to participate.

On Monday, Allegheny County officials announced that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 is doubling every three days. There are now 290 cases and 38 people currently hospitalized, county officials said.

There were 158 confirmed cases on Friday.

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AIU Forum Targets School Funding Reforms

March 30, 2020 |

By Richard Finch Jr. | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Jon Delano of KDKA-TV moderated a March 12 forum on public education at Allegheny Intermediate Unit. Speakers included State Sen. Jim Brewster, state Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa Jr., and state Rep. Dan Miller. (Richard Finch Jr. photo for Tube City Almanac)

On the night before Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all K-12 schools shut down, legislators at a forum in Homestead said the state law governing charter schools is out-of-date and unfair to public school systems.

Frank Dalmas, superintendent of Sto-Rox schools, told the audience at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit that coronavirus wasn’t the biggest threat to his district — charter schools are.

The problem is in the hands of state legislators, he said. “What are you going to do to help solve this problem?” Dalmas asked Democratic legislators who also attended the event on March 12. “Is it your caucus? Is it the Republican caucus? Is it because the charter school lobby is so powerful and strong that you guys can’t come up against it?”

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Two COVID-19 Cases at Glen Hazel Kane Center

March 27, 2020 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Two residents of the county’s skilled-nursing facility in Glen Hazel have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said Friday.

Allegheny County spokeswoman Amie Downs said both residents of the Kane Community Living Center were tested after they were running fevers that could not be explained. They remain at the facility in isolation, she said.

On Wednesday, the Glen Hazel center reported that an employee had tested positive for COVID-19.

The employee in question did not have any direct contact with residents and had not worked since March 19, said Dennis Biondo, director of the county's four Kane Community Living Centers, which include the McKeesport facility at the foot of Ninth Avenue.

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