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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.
Citing the small size of city council chambers at the Public Safety Building, and the impossibility of social distancing, the city closed the January meeting to everyone except city personnel and members of the media, and asked residents to submit comments in writing instead.
That prompted a lawsuit against council by four members of Take Action Mon Valley and the American Civil Liberties Union. No meetings were held in February or March.
Under an agreement reached before Allegheny County Judge John T. McVay Jr., the city agreed to allow Tube City Community Media to stream live audio of the meetings, extended the public comment period, and allowed residents to address city council over the phone.
According to the state Health Department, more than 66 percent of Allegheny County residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than half are considered fully vaccinated.
For the last week, Allegheny County has averaged only 16 new cases of COVID-19 and has reported no new COVID-19 deaths.
By comparison, in late November 2020, Allegheny County was averaging about 5,000 new cases per week and 140 deaths. Nearly 2,000 county residents have died of COVID-19.
Cherepko said he was heartened by the return of events such as the summer concert series at Renziehausen Park. Sunday’s concert — the first since 2019 — featured The Vogues.
“I don’t know if you had a chance to go to the park for the 4th of July, but it was incredible — seeing the park filled with people and the firework display and getting back to some sense of normalcy,” he said. “We’re looking forward to International Village and the ribfest over Labor Day weekend as well.”
In other business, council by 6-0 vote awarded a $357,557 paving contract to El Grande Industries Inc. of Donora, Washington County. Streets to be paved under the contract include Huey Street from Versailles Avenue to Sixth Avenue; and Versailles Avenue from Ohio Street to Grandview, Huey Street to Union Avenue, and Pirl Street to Scott Street. Councilman Timothy Brown was absent.
Also by 6-0 vote, council authorized a request to reallocate $50,931 in undistributed federal Community Development Block Grant funds for 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019 to street improvements. The money includes more than $14,000 in funding that had been designated to McKeesport Housing Corp., which has ceased operations.
Council approved a request from Regional Industrial Development Corp. to subdivide a lot in the Industrial Center of McKeesport into two lots, as well as a request to designate the Mon River Fleet Lions Club as a civic association under the state’s Local Option Small Games of Chance Act.
Jason Togyer is editor of Tube City Almanac and volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published July 08, 2021.