W.O. OK’s Hens, Nixes Feeding Stray Cats

January 01, 2021 |

By Sarah Turnbull | Posted in: White Oak News

White Oak borough has joined other municipalities like North Versailles Twp. and will allow residents to keep chickens at their homes.

Ordinance 2020-29, approved in December by borough council, allows White Oak residents to keep hens, but not roosters, at their own single-family dwelling if it includes at least one-half acre of property.

No more than four hens or chicks may be kept at any residence, and owners must provide a safe, stationary, enclosed, roofed coop, at least 30 feet away from any building on an adjacent lot, according to the ordinance.

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Tax Increase in New Year for W.O. Residents

January 01, 2021 |

By Sarah Turnbull | Posted in: White Oak News

White Oak council has enacted a property tax increase to close a nearly $1 million budget gap.

At the Dec. 28 meeting, council by 6-0 vote adopted the 2021 budget and set property taxes at 8.00 mills. Councilman Louis Bender was absent.

The tax rate for 2020 was 6.41 mills on each dollar of assessed valuation, said Councilman George Dillinger, chair of the finance committee, said. The increase amounts to roughly 25 percent.

Each mill represents $1 in taxes on each $1,000 of assessment. A homeowner with a house and land valued at $100,000 can expect their property taxes to increase $159.

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NV Twp. Commissioners OK Eastland Proposal

December 30, 2020 |

By Kristen Keleschenyi | Posted in: North Versailles Twp. News

The former site of Eastland Mall, seen after demolition work was completed in 2007. (Tube City Almanac file photo)

The North Versailles Twp. commissioners have unanimously approved a plan for a warehouse and distribution facility to be built at the former Eastland Mall site on East Pittsburgh-McKeesport Blvd.

Due to current COVID-19 restrictions, the vote was taken via phone during the regular December meeting.

The approval came just one day after a virtual zoning board hearing was held to discuss the project.

The tenant interested in the site was represented by Trammell Crow Co., a real estate development company that is in the process of buying the property, currently owned by Benderson Development Co. of Buffalo, N.Y.

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W.O. Boosts Holidays With Decorating Contest

December 30, 2020 |

By Sarah Turnbull | Posted in: White Oak News

Sherry Brakeall’s home was named the “Best Traditional” entry in White Oak’s first home decorating contest. Organizers are hoping it becomes an annual event. (Submitted photo)

White Oak’s parks and recreation committee made some Christmas magic and boosted the holiday spirit with the borough’s first home decorating contest.

Organizers are hopeful that they’ve created a new tradition.

“I’d like to thank everyone who made our inaugural year possible,” said Councilwoman Julie Opferman, who chairs the parks and recreation committee. “It gave us the Christmas joy we’ve been missing this year.”

A total of 40 houses registered for the contest. Participants could enter in one of three categories:

• “Best Traditional” for classic and elegant displays,
• “Clark Griswold,” named after the character in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” for the most extravagant light displays, or
• “Buddy the Elf” for the most festive display, i.e., themes and inflatables.

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Shooting Suspect Arrested in W. Va.

December 29, 2020 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: Crime and Police News

(This is a developing story and will be updated)

A McKeesport man charged with shooting and wounding a city police officer has been arrested in West Virginia.

Allegheny County police on Tuesday evening reported that Koby Lee Francis, 22, was taken into custody by U.S. Marshals at an apartment complex in Clarksburg, about two hours south of Pittsburgh.

Francis is being held at the North Central Regional Jail and Correctional Facility in Greenwood, W.Va., to await extradition back to Pittsburgh.

Francis is charged by county police with aggravated assault, attempted homicide, unlawful possession of a firearm, flight to avoid apprehension and escape, in relation to the Dec. 20 shooting of McKeesport police Officer Jerry Athans, 32.

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Four Face Charges in Search for Suspect

December 26, 2020 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: Crime and Police News

Four people face criminal charges in connection with the escape of a McKeesport man accused of shooting a police officer outside the Public Safety Building, Downtown.

Jasmyn Henderson-Bracey, 25, and Gesiah N. Grigsby, 21, both of McKeesport, are charged by the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office with multiple counts of hindering apprehension or prosecution.

They were arrested Wednesday and are each free on $10,000 bond pending a preliminary hearing Jan. 4 before Magisterial District Judge Beth S. Mills.

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Worst Christmas Movie Ever? Filmed in McKeesport

December 24, 2020 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: History

(This article originally appeared in Tube City Almanac on Dec. 22, 2008.)

Longtime friend, mentor and Alert Reader Clarke Ingram emailed me over the weekend. He's addicted to Turner Classic Movies --- and when it comes to addictions, that’s not a bad one to have.

If you ever watch TCM, you know that between the features, the network fills time with “short subjects” such as newsreels, “trailers,” and advertising and public domain films.

“So I’m sitting here watching a short film on TCM, entitled ‘A Visit to Santa (1963),’” Clarke writes. “I wasn’t paying much attention until I noticed Santa was on the Gateway Clipper. A few minutes later, he's on a Christmas float going past the Penn-McKee.”

A quick dash around the Internet tubes turned up a copy at the Internet Archive, where you can download your very own copy of “A Visit to Santa.” Some Internet critics call it, unkindly, “the worst Christmas film ever produced.”

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From 2019: Local Christmas Tree Lots
Keep Tradition Alive

December 24, 2020 |

By Emily Pidgeon | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Something was missing from the Christmas season this year.

McKeesport’s “Tree Man,” Don Spang, passed away July 30 at UPMC McKeesport Hospital. Spang was the owner and operator of Spang’s Landscaping and Tree Farms for more than 54 years.

For more than a half-century, beginning each November, Spang could be found along Hartman Street in the city, helping local residents pick out the perfect Christmas tree.

Writer Emily Pidgeon talked to Spang last Christmas. Our deepest sympathies to his family and many, many friends.

Herb Spang and an employee prepare to bale a customer’s tree at the family’s lot on Hartman Street in McKeesport. The Spangs have been selling Christmas trees at the location for nearly 60 years. (Emily Pidgeon photo special to Tube City Almanac)

(Originally published Dec. 20, 2019)

Selling Christmas trees during the holidays may seem like a fun and easy way to make a buck, but after talking to some local tree lot owners, you may think differently.

“We have to fight snakes, spiders, the sun, the weather — everything, you know,” said Don Spang, 88, of White Oak, owner of Spang’s Trees on Hartman Street in McKeesport.

Spang and his brother Herb, 79, along with other family members and employees, are celebrating 59 years of selling Christmas trees in the very same location.

Spang said he’s sold as many as 5,000 trees in one season. These days, the lot sells closer to 500 trees.

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Search Continues for Suspect in Officer’s Shooting

December 23, 2020 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: Crime and Police News

The search continues for a man accused of shooting a McKeesport police officer on Sunday afternoon.

On Wednesday, a federal agency and a Pittsburgh-area business owner both announced that they would offer rewards for information leading to the apprehension of Koby Lee Francis, 22, of McKeesport.

Francis is accused of shooting city police Officer Gerasimos “Jerry” Athans, 32, on Fourth Avenue outside the Public Safety Building and then fleeing the scene, still handcuffed from an earlier arrest.

He has been charged by Allegheny County police with attempted homicide, aggravated assault, escape, flight to avoid apprehension and violating the uniform firearms act.

Police have urged Francis to surrender himself to authorities.

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Groups Criticize Sunday’s Searches, Checkpoints

December 23, 2020 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: Crime and Police News

Residents and some civil-rights groups have criticized checkpoints and searches that were conducted Sunday night in the wake of the shooting of a McKeesport police officer.

But Allegheny County police Superintendent Coleman McDonough said this week that officers wanted to get an armed and dangerous suspect off of the streets as quickly as possible before any additional violence took place.

“We wanted it to end right here,” McDonough said at a press conference Monday. “We want this to be the last harm inflicted by that individual ... that’s our primary concern.”

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