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City Council OK’s Property Tax Increase

December 07, 2023 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Click to Download McKeesport’s 2024 Budget

Read Mayor Michael Cherepko’s budget message

Listen to the budget message

City council has approved a 3-mill property tax increase for 2024 that McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said is directed toward salary increases for police officers and additional personnel for the police and fire departments.

The increase from 8.26 to 11.26 mills will only impact the value of buildings, not land.

The 2024 budget otherwise holds overall spending to 2023 levels and cuts expenses in several areas, Cherepko said following Wednesday night’s 5-0 vote. Council members Tim Brown and Brian Evans were absent.

Separately, council by 5-0 vote approved a four-year contract with members of the city’s police union that includes a 15.5 percent increase for 2024 and additional 3 percent increases in 2025, 2026 and 2027.

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Festival of Trees Sparks Excitement for the Holidays

December 07, 2023 |

By Elizabeth Laughlin | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Kerri Bryer, English teacher at McKeesport Senior High School, works with student Brianna Mignogna of White Oak add finishing touches to their Acts of Kindness tree. (Vickie Babyak photo for Tube City Almanac)

If you go...


McKeesport’s 38th Festival of Trees

Where: Jacob Woll Pavilion, Renziehausen Park, 201 Sycamore Drive

When: 12 to 8 p.m. Dec. 7-11

More information:

McKeesport’s 38th annual Festival of Trees is shaping up as one of the city’s largest ever.

Almost 100 community groups, organizations and businesses are participating in the event, which opened its doors at 12 noon today and continues through Monday (Dec. 11).

Organizations throughout the McKeesport area have been anticipating this yearly event. McKeesport Community Gardens will be taking part in the festival for the first time, said Laura Bosnak Thompson, who has been involved with the group since 1996.

“We’ll be setting up a tree with decorative garden shovels, garden tools and little seed packets,” Bosnak Thompson said.

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Lawsuit Alleges Excessive Force in ’20 Search

December 06, 2023 |

By Yousuf Lachhab Ibrahim | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Searches that took place in McKeesport in 2020 after the shooting of a city police officer amounted to “martial law,” said a community activist on Monday during a press conference announcing a wide-reaching lawsuit against the city and Allegheny County.

Fawn Walker Montgomery, founder of Take Action Advocacy Group, was joined by plaintiffs and the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. Together, they allege that police violated residents’ civil rights in December 2020 while searching for the suspect in the shooting of McKeesport police Officer Gerry Athans.

In the complaint filed this week in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, three McKeesport residents — Courtney Thompkins, Ezra Dixon and Kim Neal — name as defendants the city of McKeesport, Allegheny County, city and county police, and more than three dozen police officers. Most of the police officers are listed only as “John Does” and “Jane Does.”

The complaint accuses police of unfairly targeting Black and African-American residents, using excessive force, and violating constitutional provisions against unlawful search and seizure during the hunt for Athans’ shooter. The lawsuit demands both compensation and punitive damages.

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MASD to Resume Streaming Board Meetings

December 06, 2023 |

By Adam Reinherz | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Founders Hall Middle School choir members perform during the MASD meeting on Dec. 4. (Adam Reinherz photo for Tube City Almanac)

McKeesport Area School District will resume streaming its meetings online, the newly reconstituted school board announced on Monday.

In addition, the board will add another meeting each month.

Both decisions should increase transparency, said newly named board President Mark Holtzman. “We think it’s advantageous to the public,” he said.

Beginning in January, district meetings will occur the first and second Thursday of each month. The first meeting will enable the public to hear proposed business; the second meeting will afford time for board members to vote.

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No Property Tax Increase in Duquesne for ’24

December 06, 2023 |

By Tom Leturgey | Posted in: Duquesne News

Duquesne home and business owners aren’t expected to see a property tax increase in 2024, but they “may” see sewage and water rates go up.

The proposed 2024 budget approved at Tuesday’s meeting sets spending for the year at $1.15 million, roughly the same as the 2023 budget. The spending plan is available for review on the city’s website.

Download Duquesne’s 2024 budget

The city’s proposed budget will be presented to the public again at a council meeting on Dec. 19 before council votes to approve it.

Councilwoman Elaine Washington noted that a “full staff” of municipal workers have been doing a “good job picking up trash and painting city hall.” She also noted that workers have been “doing what we need to do” to keep the city “clean and clear.”

Councilman Aaron Adams said that the city’s water testing has been “all clear” for the past month and fluorine levels were within the threshold of where they need to be for residents. He also said that there were no water main breaks in November; however, on Dec. 1 there was one in the city.

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NV Twp. Authority OK’s Sale of Sewer System

December 05, 2023 |

By T.J. Martin | Posted in: North Versailles Twp. News

The North Versailles Twp. Sanitary Authority voted 5-0 to approve an asset purchase agreement with Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater Inc. after three of the company’s executives told the authority board members about their company and the purchase agreement as they did earlier in November when they met with the township commissioners.

Scott Shearer, managing director of PFM Financial Advisors LLC, said his company was hired by the township in June to help with the sale. He said under the agreement, Aqua will pay between $25 million and $30 million for the township sewer system, including the pipes and three pumping stations.

Aqua is owned by Essential Utilities Inc. of Bryn Mawr, Montgomery County, the parent company of Peoples’ Gas. The company operates in nine states with more than 3,100 employees and under the agreement, all of the sanitary authority’s employees will be offered employment with Aqua.

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Two Dead in Christy Park Shooting

December 03, 2023 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: Crime and Police News

Allegheny County police are investigating a shooting in the city’s Christy Park neighborhood that left two people dead.

In a prepared release, homicide detectives said the victims were found dead of gunshot wounds inside a home in the 400 block of 27th Avenue on Saturday afternoon after worried relatives called police and asked them to check on the occupants.

The Allegheny County medical examiner’s office identified the deceased as Maria Moffitt, 49, and Roy Steele, 58, both of McKeesport.

Detectives said the circumstances of what led up to the shootings are currently under investigation, but investigators do not believe anyone else was involved, and said there is no threat to the community.

Anyone with information concerning this incident is asked to call the County Police tip line at 1-833-ALL-TIPS. Callers may remain anonymous.


Poll: Shoppers Want ‘Made in America’ Gifts

November 28, 2023 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

Workers at Azzy’s Design Works in Finleyville sort linkage parts for shipping. The company, which tries to source its materials from other American businesses, makes gauges, parts and accessories for off-road vehicles. (Photo courtesy Azzy’s Design Works, via Facebook)

What’s on your holiday shopping list? This year, people may also be asking, “And where was it made?”

In a new poll from the Alliance for American Manufacturing, 81 percent of Americans surveyed said they would prefer to buy American-made gifts if given the option. The preference is driven by the belief buying products “Made in America” will help the economy, create jobs and support small businesses.

Bryan Spiegel, owner of Azzy’s Design Works in Finleyville, said it is important to support local businesses before looking elsewhere. His company recently designed a badge of honor for a local Girl Scout troop, which helped to market the business.

“Being active in your community, active in offering groups that kind of stuff, gets the word out best,” Spiegel said. “Because word-of-mouth has been the greatest tool I’ve had in marketing these past 10 years.”

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Firefighters Sound Alarm Over Declining Volunteers

November 28, 2023 |

By Yousuf Lachhab Ibrahim | Posted in: State & Region

Firefighters from Rainbow Volunteer Fire Co. in White Oak visited Mary of Nazareth Catholic School last month to talk about fire prevention and safety. Like other Mon-Yough area departments, the company says recruiting new members is challenging. (Photo courtesy Rainbow Volunteer Fire Co., via Facebook)

Departments across Pennsylvania are racing to come up with solutions for the declining number of volunteer firefighters. The number of volunteers statewide has dropped from over 300,000 in the 1970s to just above 30,000 now.

“This is not something that really happened overnight,” said Brandon Schmidt, chief of Rainbow Volunteer Fire Co. in White Oak. “The warning signs that this was happening were going on.” 

But Schmidt, who has been a member of the Rainbow company for 22 years, said that efforts to address this decline so far have been largely ineffective.

Last month, Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments and the Congress of Neighboring Communities held a meeting in Penn Hills with local fire departments to discuss staffing issues in local volunteer companies.

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Suspect in Officer’s Shooting Apologizes

November 25, 2023 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: Crime and Police News, North Versailles Twp. News

A man accused of shooting a North Versailles Twp. police officer early Friday morning apologized to detectives and his girlfriend before passing out from his own injuries, investigators said.

Ian Lamont Fields, 47, of Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood is being held at the Allegheny County Jail without bond pending a preliminary hearing Nov. 29 before Magisterial District Judge Kim Berkeley Clark.

Fields, who sustained two gunshot wounds to the leg in Friday’s incident, is accused of wounding a North Versailles officer following a domestic dispute in the 200 block of Arlington Avenue.

The wounded police officer was treated and released at a local hospital. His name has not been officially released.

In an affidavit of probable cause filed in Allegheny County night court, county detectives alleged that shots fired from Fields’ .40-caliber Glock pistol wounded the officer in the face and hand. Officers returned fire, according to the criminal complaint, striking Fields twice in the right leg.

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