Garage Gets Council OK, After Debate

September 03, 2020 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

K&K Roadside Service has received the city’s permission, with conditions attached, to continue operating along Patterson Avenue. (Tube City Almanac photo)

City council has granted an occupancy permit — with conditions attached — to a Patterson Avenue car repair shop that neighbors have claimed looked more like a junkyard.

At Wednesday’s meeting, McKeesport council by 4-2 vote approved a conditional use application for K&K Roadside Service, LLC, to continue operating in the 2200 block, near the entrance to Myer Park.

Councilmen Jim Barry Jr. and Keith Soles voted no, and Council President Richard Dellapenna Jr. was absent due to a professional obligation.

Although the neighborhood is zoned for residential use, an auto-repair shop has been located on the site for decades. But since K&K moved onto the property from Braddock, neighbors have complained repeatedly to McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko and several members of council.

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People’s Building Full of Reminders of City’s Past

September 02, 2020 |

By Emily Pidgeon | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

This massive door in the former bank vault at the People’s Building weighs an estimated 15 tons, says owner Jonathan Stark. (Emily Pidgeon photo for Tube City Almanac)

Jane Jacobs, the writer and journalist who in the 1960s helped popularize the idea of preserving city architecture, once said, “New ideas often need old buildings.”

The Peoples Union Bank Building, with its high vaulted ceilings and old fashioned charm, has been a fixture in McKeesport’s skyline since 1906. Owner Jonathan Stark has ideas, and bringing commerce back to this old building is an important duty he holds dear to his heart.

Purchased by Stark in the late summer of 2019, the People’s Building has had a bit of a facelift and cleanup as well as some more serious construction in the past year. That included repairs to a section of the brick veneer that had pulled away from the exterior, with the potential to cause damage to cars and people below.

Stark was able to repair the damage before any major issues occurred and restored the brick without a hiccup.

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Volunteers Offer Smiles, Supplies to MASD Students

August 24, 2020 |

By Vickie Babyak | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Mindy Sturgess, a McKeesport Area school director and city resident, passes a backpack for a student through the family's SUV window. (Vickie Babyak photo for Tube City Almanac)

McKeesport Area School District students were invited to a “Back-to-School Giveaway” event held in front of the high school on Saturday afternoon.

Back packs and hygiene essentials were distributed by members of the McKeesport unit of the NAACP, along with community volunteers.

The event was made possible with donations from the McKeesport Community Fund, Walmart, Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and McKeesport residents.

Volunteers handed out appropriately filled backpacks for all students in kindergarten through 12th grade, as well as hygiene essential bags including products such as hand sanitizer, Kleenex and lip balm.

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Serra Show Draws on Scottish Lore, Music

August 17, 2020 |

By Bonnijean Cooney Adams | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Serra marching band student leaders for 2020 are: Serafina Szarmach, Ryan Gedman, and Harrison Potts, drum majors; Natalie Makovics and Nina Fassinger, colorguard captains; Jordan Premozic, woodwind section leader; Joe Crossen, brass section leader, and Abigail Bernick, percussion section leader. (Photo by Bonnijean Cooney Adams)

With a senior drum major who plays bagpipes, Serra Catholic Marching Band director Jesse Bush said he didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to do a Celtic-themed show.

So Bush decided on “The Secret of Loch Ness,” with musical numbers “Scotland the Brave,” “Skye Boat Song,” and “The Loch Ness Monster.”

Drum Major Harrison Potts plays bagpipes. He, and Drum Major Serafina Szarmach in a vocalist role, are featured in “Skye Boat Song.”

The annual two-week marching band camp kicked off Aug. 10 and concludes Aug. 21, with some business as usual and other activities modified to meet guidelines in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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First Commonwealth Closing City Office

August 07, 2020 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(Editor’s Note: The writer has a conflict of interest. See editor’s note at the end of this story.)

The long-rumored closing of the Downtown branch of First Commonwealth Bank is apparently official.

The location at 225 Fifth Ave. is one of 29 offices that the Indiana County-based bank intends to close, Jonathan Longwill, vice president and communications specialist at First Commonwealth, told Tube City Almanac on Friday.

Official notification will be sent to government regulators in early to mid-September, and the McKeesport branch is expected to close for business on Dec. 31, he said.

The closure will leave only two banks with branches in Downtown McKeesport. PNC has an office at the corner of Lysle Boulevard and Huey Street, and Dollar Bank has an office in the former Midtown Plaza shops.

Huntington Bank closed its office at 1415 Fifth Ave., near UPMC McKeesport hospital, in 2019.

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HUD Official Encourages City
to Utilize Opportunity Zone Program

August 07, 2020 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development met Wednesday with McKeesport leaders. Shown at city hall are A.J. Tedesco, McKeesport community development director; state Sen. Jim Brewster of McKeesport; Mike Horvath, HUD Pittsburgh field office director; Jane Miller, HUD deputy regional administrator; Mayor Michael Cherepko; and Joseph DeFelice, HUD Region III administrator. (Almanac photo)

McKeesport should take advantage of the federal Financial Opportunity Zone program to encourage investment in commercial properties and affordable housing in the city.

That was the pitch made Wednesday to city officials by Joseph J. DeFelice, regional administrator of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for five mid-Atlantic states and Washington, D.C.

DeFelice visited the McKeesport Housing Authority’s Crawford Village as well as McKeesport City Hall during a stop Wednesday morning. DeFelice said he has been criss-crossing Pennsylvania to visit with housing agencies and local governments.

“A lot of people come up with really great ideas sitting around offices, but they don’t know what’s going on at the ground level,” he said. “I want ideas to filter up from places like McKeesport and McKees Rocks. I think that’s a better way to do things.”

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McKeesport Schools Plan Combination
of In-Person, Remote Instruction

August 06, 2020 |

By Kristen Keleschenyi | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

McKeesport Area School District plans to offer both in-person and online learning for the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

Superintendent Mark Holtzman has been revealing the proposed plan for the district during a five-part online video series. The fourth video was posted online earlier this week, followed up by a school board agenda meeting on Wednesday.

The district will offer in-person learning five days a week, breaking the students into two groups by alphabet or by family.

“Children will come to school for approximately 3 to 3.5 hours, either in the morning or afternoon, and receive all the instruction necessary for the day,” Holtzman said. “Secondary students will run through their entire schedule, whether it's an eight- or nine-period day for a shortened period of time.”

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MAHS Tiger Band Wraps Up Unusual Camp

August 06, 2020 |

By Bonnijean Cooney Adams | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Musicians and colorguard from McKeesport Area High School rehearse the opening movement of “An Ancient Summoning.” (Bonnijean Cooney Adams photo)

McKeesport Area High School Marching Band students are preparing for a 2020 show full of classic struggles between darkness and light in “An Ancient Summoning.”

“We picked the theme to be vastly different than last year,” band director Drew DeCarlo said.

While the 2019 theme depicted a day in a steel mill, a sneak peek revealed through the band’s Facebook page revealed “an era before time.”

Based on Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” with additional original music by composer and arranger Randall D. Standridge, the show is divided into four movements, reflected in marching and interpretive motions.

The first is “The Summons,” followed by “The Darkness,” “The Light,” and “The Conflict.”

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Historian Wants to Preserve Church’s Cornerstone

August 02, 2020 |

By Chris Baumann | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(Submitted photos courtesy Nicholas Boros)

Historian Nicholas Boros came from Cleveland to Western Pennsylvania this summer to digitize some old Hungarian Catholic newspapers written by the Rev. Kalman Kovats, the founder of the church formerly known as St. Stephen’s Roman Catholic Church.

Located on Beacon Avenue in McKeesport, St. Stephen’s is scheduled to be demolished.

Boros decided on a whim to visit the church to take some pictures and has begun a movement to preserve its cornerstone.

“I’ve always had a great love of history,” said Boros. “I studied comparative religion in university. That really helped develop my passion for historical research on immigrant religious communities.”

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New Owner Overhauling Executive Building

July 24, 2020 |

By Emily Pidgeon | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Workers seal the roof on the Executive Building, Downtown, in June. New owner Jonathan Stark says the building is structurally sound and is hoping to attract new tenants. (Submitted photo via Facebook)

McKeesport’s Executive Building may not look like much these days, but with a little work and vision, new owner Jonathan Stark hopes to breathe some new life into the old building and bring commerce back to the Downtown area.

Right now, construction fence surrounds the main entrance of the building at 332 Fifth Ave. and adds to the feeling of abandonment. The Executive Building once housed Dollar Bank, a child-care facility, doctors’ offices, hair and nail salons and many other businesses.

But by 2017, the last remaining tenants had left the building, and it was condemned in January 2018 after pillars of brick began falling off the exterior wall.

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