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Demolition Begins On Former Jaison’s Store

January 14, 2022 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Demolition of the former Jaison’s Department Store on Fifth Avenue, Downtown, began Friday. (Tube City Almanac photo)

For Jaison’s Department Store in McKeesport, the doorbuster sale to end all doorbuster sales began on Friday.

Crews from Unis Demolition of Aliquippa, Beaver County, are demolishing the building at 215 Fifth Ave., Downtown.

Jaison’s was most recently used for bingo games by a charitable organization, but had sat vacant for at least a decade.

Pittsburgh real-estate developer Barry L. Stein, whose company purchased the building in 2014, said he had hoped to find a tenant, but the structure proved impossible to rent.

“The roof was no good when I bought it,” he said Friday. “Second and third floors have little value without an elevator, and in that building, the elevator is in the middle of the building. That means you couldn’t have a lobby.”

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Feeling Post-Holiday Depression? You’re Not Alone

January 10, 2022 |

By Vickie Babyak | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Donna Campbell of Glassport holds a photograph of her father on his 99th birthday. Since his death from COVID-19 in March 2021, she’s been battling depression. (Vickie Babyak photo for Tube City Almanac)

Related story: Local resources for people struggling with depression

The holiday season is over, and a new year has begun. People may be asking themselves why they have been feeling blue. Mental health experts say there are different reasons people experience depression through the holidays and post-holidays.

Psychotherapist Trina Bennett, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and McKeesport Area Senior High School, says people may experience seasonal depression or have an increase in their depressive symptoms due to shorter days. The colder weather also decreases socialization and outdoor activities.

Bennett specializes in working with people who have confronted trauma, and has clients who experience increased depression during the holidays. They are triggered by that time of the year because holiday breaks from school left them vulnerable to home abuse, she said.

“I’d imagine it is awful to experience the expectation that everyone is cheerful when the season brings up body harm and/or cognitive memories of decreased safety,” Bennett said.

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Council Members, City Clerk Take Oaths

January 04, 2022 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

At Monday’s meeting, Magisterial District Judge Eugene Riazzi, second from left, administered the oath of office to McKeesport City Council Members Brian Evans and Jim Barry Jr., and City Controller Ryan Sturgess. Not shown: City Council Member Jill Lape. (Tube City Almanac photo)

At a short meeting on Monday, members of McKeesport City Council were sworn into office and meeting dates were set for 2022.

Magisterial District Judge Eugene Riazzi administered the oath of office to Council Members Jim Barry Jr. and Brian Evans, City Controller Ryan Sturgess and City Clerk Annette James.

Council Member Jill Lape was unable to attend and was sworn in earlier in the day at Riazzi’s office.

Barry, Evans, Lape and Sturgess were elected to four-year terms in November. James, who has served as city clerk for seven years, is appointed by Mayor Michael Cherepko and city council.

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Fate of Vacant Penn-McKee Awaits Report

January 02, 2022 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

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

(Tube City Almanac photo)

The fate of McKeesport’s long-vacant Penn-McKee Hotel likely depends on an engineer’s report due later this month.

The in-depth study, being completed by KU Resources on behalf of the Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh, will help advise city redevelopment officials on whether the historic structure near the McKees Point Marina can be stabilized for re-use, or must be torn down.

“Right now, we are gathering all of the facts so that we are able make a responsible, educated decision on the future of the Penn-McKee,” McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said.

Nearly $1 million has been set aside for environmental remediation of the structure, said Matthew Craig, executive director of the YPA. The organization was retained in 2018 to study the history of the area around the Penn-McKee, as well as possible re-uses for the building.

Located on Fifth Avenue at Strawberry Way, the Penn-McKee is like a person who has abused drugs and alcohol for decades “and then they go to the doctor and hope they can erase all of their bad choices,” Craig said. “It has sat vacant for too long.”

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Most Kane Residents, Employees Vaccinated

December 28, 2021 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(Tube City Almanac file photo)

More than 92 percent of residents of the Kane Regional Center in McKeesport are fully vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19, said the administrator of Allegheny County’s four public assisted living facilities for the elderly.

In addition, said Dennis Biondo, executive director of the Kane Community Living Centers, Kane employees are covered by Allegheny County’s mandate that required workers to provide proof of vaccination by Dec. 1.

About 94 percent of workers responded positively before the deadline.

“We’re keeping a close eye on it,” Biondo said. “And we’re keeping a close eye on our residents. I can’t say that we never have any posititve cases, but most recently we’ve not seen any significant serious illness for a while.”

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Serra’s Cleary Humbled By Gym Honor

December 23, 2021 |

By Jason A. Mignanelli | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News, Sports

Bill Cleary, retired athletic director and teacher at Serra Catholic High School, poses with a new sign at the gymnasium. Cleary’s 41-year career at the school in Haler Heights includes coaching the girls’ basketball team to a state championship and 18 section titles. (Photo courtesy Serra Catholic High School via Facebook)

For the first time in the school’s 60-year history, Serra Catholic High School has named an area of its campus after a former teacher.

On Dec. 11, at a ceremony attended by past and current teachers and faculty, the school in McKeesport’s Haler Heights neighborhood dedicated the William J. Cleary Gymnasium.

Cleary not only taught at Serra Catholic for 41 years, but he also held the Athletic Director position for 38 of those years.

“The thought of having the gymnasium named after me is just overwhelming and it’s incredibly humbling,” Cleary said recently. “I find myself paying closer attention to places that are named after people now. Someday someone will ask, ‘Who was that Coach Cleary guy anyway?””

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Jerome Bridge Going Tiger Blue in ’22

December 20, 2021 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

All four lanes of the Jerome Avenue Bridge have now reopened, but work on a $15.44 million rehabilitation project will continue through next year. (Tube City Almanac photo)

The dark blue paint on the Jerome Avenue Bridge is there to stay, and is a homage to the red and blue colors of the McKeesport Area School District, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation said.

Last week, all four lanes of the bridge reopened to traffic after being restricted to one lane since March 2021. Single-lane restrictions will continue on the bridge weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. through the spring of 2022, but traffic will be maintained in each direction, said Steve Cowan, spokesman for PennDOT District 11.

Built in 1937 by Allegheny County, the bridge connects West Fifth Avenue and Lysle Boulevard over the CSX Railroad tracks and the Youghiogheny River. Up to 11,000 vehicles per day cross the span, PennDOT statistics indicate.

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MASD Parents Still Frustrated By Bus Problems

December 15, 2021 |

By Siana Emery | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

McKeesport Area School Board had a packed house for its final meeting of 2021.

During a public comment period, Stephanie Graham, the mother of a student whose bus was cancelled two out of three days last week, asked where the district stands on the busing issue as winter approaches.

McKeesport Area School District has been locked in a dispute with its bus provider, Pennsylvania Coach Lines, since August. In September, the district asked Allegheny County Judge Arnold Klein to declare the company in breach of contract after the bus company repeatedly cancelled service, citing a lack of drivers.

Although an agreement was reached for Pennsylvania Coach to continue providing services, the dispute has continued. The case was scheduled to go to trial Dec. 15, but has been postponed, according to court records.

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Local Districts Keep Masking Plans in Effect

December 14, 2021 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: Duquesne News, McKeesport and Region News, North Versailles Twp. News

Local school districts are keeping their mask policies in effect for the time being.

Duquesne and East Allegheny school officials said their mandatory mask policies will remain in place, while McKeesport Area School District said the district is making face masks optional but “highly recommended” for all staff and students.

Masking also is mandatory on school buses, McKeesport Area officials said.

On Friday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the state Department of Health overstepped its authority on Aug. 31 by setting a blanket requirement for all students to wear a face mask while in class to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

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Pa. School Funding Trial Enters Fourth Week

December 12, 2021 |

By Emily Scott © Public News Service | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Pennsylvania’s school funding trial will enter its fourth week in Commonwealth Court on Monday.

Testimony so far has provided an inside view into the difficult decisions faced by educators in the state’s low-wealth districts with minimal resources.

In 2014, six Pennsylvania school districts—William Penn, Greater Johnstown, Lancaster, Panther Valley, Shenandoah Valley and Wilkes-Barre Area—sued state legislative officials, state education officials and Gov. Tom Wolf, alleging that the state’s school funding system violates the clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution that promises to provide a “thorough and efficient” system of public education.

The Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, the NAACP-Pennsylvania State Conference and a group of public school parents are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

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