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McKeesport city council has approved the demolition of a former Hungarian church just off Evans Avenue.
At the June 3 meeting, council awarded a $77,900 contract to demolish the former St. Stephen’s Roman Catholic Church on Beacon Street to Lutterman Excavating of Greensburg. Lutterman was the lowest responsible bidder, city officials said.
Built in 1900 and 1901 to serve the city’s Hungarian Catholic population, St. Stephen’s closed in 2002 following the death of its longtime pastor, the Rev. Stephen Kato, who had first come to the parish in 1962.
The church was purchased — along with hundreds of other churches — by Italian millionaire Raffaello Follieri in 2007, but the sale turned out to be part of an elaborate money laundering scheme for which Follieri was sent to federal prison. St. Stephen’s has been abandoned since then.
Funding for the demolition is coming from the Allegheny County Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund, McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said.
The former St. Stephen’s school, adjoining the church, is now used for wrestling matches by a local company, Pro Wrestling Express.
Once the church is demolished, Cherepko said Pro Wrestling Express anticipates using the property for parking. Some spaces are expected to be leased to employees at nearby UPMC McKeesport Hospital.
In other business
Council authorized Cherepko’s administration to apply for a $119,006 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program. If the grant application is successful, the money will be used to reimburse the city’s general fund for police overtime as well as additional equipment and sanitation supplies, Cherepko said.
In separate, 6-0 votes, council agreed to retain James Garvin as the city’s engineer; and Urban Design Ventures of Homestead as a consultant on the city’s community development block grant, or CDBG, program.
Urban Design Ventures first began consulting with the city after the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development complained in 2011 that McKeesport officials were not adequately explaining how federal CDBG funding was being allocated.
“We were not in good graces with HUD,” Cherepko said. “UDV really helped to guide us back to where we need to be.”
Councilman Jim Barry Jr. praised UDV’s work. “I’ve had some personal dealings with them,” he said. “They’re easy to work with and they’re super-efficient.”
Jason Togyer is editor of The Tube City Almanac and volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at email@example.com.
Originally published June 11, 2020.