Those trolley tracks that are going to be removed from West Fifth Avenue? They're not going to be removed at all.
Instead, an extra-thick layer of asphalt will be laid over a plastic fabric known as "Petromat," designed to prevent the tracks from flexing and causing potholes.
The city's former public works director, now a city councilman, says that's a good alternative.
"It's a great alternative to removing the tracks," says Councilman Darryl Segina, public works director under the late Mayor Joe Bendel. "The expense of removing the rails is kind of cost-prohibitive. The next best thing would be to use the Petromat."
. . .
As first reported in Saturday's Daily News, city and state officials have decided not to pull out the Pittsburgh Railways tracks --- unused since 1963 --- after learning how solidly the rails are fixed into the concrete.
The problem isn't the tracks themselves, but the destruction of the surrounding pavement that would be necessary, City Administrator Dennis Pittman tells the Almanac.
Reconstructing the curb lanes would push the cost far beyond the $1 million allocated for the project by the state through a special one-time grant.
It was a possibility that city officials were prepared to face, Pittman says, and the $1.09 million bid for doing the work was provided by Donegal Construction of Unity Township, Westmoreland County, on a "unit pricing" basis, not as a flat price. That means any additional costs would have been borne by the city, not the contractor.
. . .
The original construction plan called for several inches of concrete to be removed on each side of the rails, says Jim Struzzi, district spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.
The tops of the rails were then going to be cut away, he says.
But once the old tar and pavement was removed, crews discovered that the rails were actually holding the rest of the road together, Struzzi says.
Cutting out the rails, he says, would destroy the entire road.
. . .
Instead, the Petromat fabric will be laid over top of the rails to absorb stress and shed moisture. According to the product's manufacturer, Propex Concrete Systems Corp. of Chattanooga, Tenn., Petromat has successfully been used under airport runways, parking lots and highways.
An extra-thick layer of pavement will then top the Petromat, according to Pittman --- about 4-inches at the center of the road, instead of the usual 3.5 inches.
"In essence, it will encapsulate the rails," he says.
The city's sewerage authority has already raised its manhole covers to compensate for the increase, he says, and the road will be taped down to the curbs at each side.
. . .
The switch could save the city a significant amount of money from Donegal's $1.09 million estimate. That savings would then be used --- at least in part --- toward the city's portion of the cost of repaving the approach ramps to the W.D. Mansfield Bridge.
Under a 1940s ruling by the state Public Utility Commission, the city and Glassport Borough are responsible for paying a percentage of any work done on their side of the bridge. Allegheny County, which plans to begin a $33 million reconstruction of the bridge in 2011, is demanding $141,576 from the city as its share of the work.
"It's a win-win on two fronts," Pittman says.
Donegal was scheduled to pave only between Ramp Two and Rebecca Street, but with the money that the city saves by not removing the rails, the paving project might be extended to include the Mansfield Bridge approaches, he says.
There is no legal problem with the city using part of the state's grant money for extending the paving to the Mansfield Bridge, Struzzi says, because the contract with Donegal was awarded on a unit-pricing basis, and because the paving would be done on the same roadway.
. . .
West Fifth Avenue was last paved in 1996 using a German system called Ralumac, says Segina, who was public works director at the time.
Ralumac, according to several online sources, is a synthetic paving material designed to quickly resurface rutted and damaged roads. The city was promised that Ralumac pavement would last for approximately eight years, Segina says.
"We got 14 years out of it --- though it's been in bad shape for a couple of years," he says.
"Petromat has been around for a while, and I know the state has used it," Segina says. "Those tracks vibrate when traffic is going over them, and the Petromat helps to minimize the vibration. I feel better if they're going to use the Petromat underneath the pavement."
. . .
Work resumed this week after city and state engineers decided to proceed with Petromat.
City officials dismissed reports that Donegal suspended the project after not being paid. The reports were gossip --- spread by letters sent to local newspapers --- and were completely untrue, Pittman says.
"These things seem to take on a life of their own," he says.
All of the work --- including, possibly, repaving West Fifth as far as the Mansfield Bridge --- should be complete by October, Pittman says.
Most of the travelers arriving at Pittsburgh International Airport in the wee hours of a Sunday morning are lucky to be greeted with a cup of coffee and a taxicab.
But people coming in on the red-eye from San Francisco on June 20 got a big surprise --- they got a rousing welcome from the Penn State Nittany Lion and a group of staffers from the Greater Allegheny Campus in McKeesport.
That's because about two dozen of the passengers on this particular United Airlines flight were faculty members from Duy Tan University in Da Nang, Vietnam.
They're the first of about 100 Duy Tan business faculty who will be trained over the next four years by instructors from Greater Allegheny in Western-style methods of teaching.
For the next few weeks, they'll be living in McKeesport Hall --- the Greater Allegheny student dormitory --- and they'll take back the knowledge they gain to Da Nang, where they'll in turn help train their colleagues.
Last Tuesday, the campus and invited dignitaries welcomed this group of Vietnamese visitors to McKeesport with a special reception in Penn State's Student Community Center.
The international link-up between McKeesport and Da Nang sprang from a February 2009 trade mission to Vietnam by a group of business leaders from Western Pennsylvania.
Kurt Torell, director of academic affairs for Penn State Greater Allegheny, represented the higher education community on that trip.
Roger Granville, president of GlobalPittsburgh, says Torell served as a sort of informal ambassador or "citizen diplomat."
Among the special guests at last week's reception was the Vietnamese ambassador to the United States, Le Cong Phung.
Phung says the Penn State Greater Allegheny partnership is one of many that Vietnam is pursuing with American universities in an attempt to modernize its higher education system.
But Phung says the partnership between Penn State Greater Allegheny and Duy Tan University is more than a training program --- it's also fostering a productive and internationally important relationship between the United States and Vietnam.
Phung points out that although it's only been 15 years since the United States normalized relations with Vietnam, much progress has been made in that short period of time.
The Duy Tan visitors will get help during their stay in Western Pennsylvania from Vietnamese Americans and from the group "Friends of Da Nang," a Pittsburgh-area charity that includes many veterans of the Vietnam War.
Expenses for the Duy Tan linkup are being paid for by the Vietnamese government, and all of the faculty members selected for the program are fluent English speakers. But one visitor to McKeesport --- Duy Tan University's Vice Rector, Le Nguyen Bao --- addressed the reception in Vietnamese, so that the local community could hear him express his gratitude in his native language.
Beginning this fall, faculty from Penn State Greater Allegheny will begin traveling to Da Nang for at least two weeks each semester to model and monitor the training of Duy Tan's instructors.
Penn State Greater Allegheny Chancellor Curtiss Porter went to Vietnam in January, along with Torell, to sign the agreement with Duy Tan. He says the McKeesport campus is the first of the university's 19 branches to partner with an international institution, but is unlikely to be the last.
Porter says he's also hoping it blazes a trail for more cooperation between Vietnam and the Mon-Yough area. That connection, Porter says, could provide economic development and cultural exchange opportunities for many years to come.
Avoid the McKeesport-Duquesne Bridge, if at all possible, this weekend.
The Allegheny County public works department is closing the span all day Saturday through Sunday morning, weather permitting, so that crews can complete repairs to the concrete approach ramps on the Duquesne side of the bridge.
From Our Fair City, the posted detour --- shown above --- takes you onto Lysle Boulevard, the Jerome Avenue Bridge and West Fifth Avenue, across the Mansfield Bridge and down onto Route 837 via Lebanon Church, Camp Hollow and Philip Murray roads.
This sounds like the dumbest, longest and most pointless detour ever devised.
We're sure this detour was devised to accommodate 18-wheelers, and also to allow drivers to make a safe left-turn onto Route 837 at a red-light controlled intersection --- unlike the turn at McClure, which is thrilling in bad ways.
Of course, the other problem is that West Fifth Avenue is down to one lane in each direction.
And traffic on West Fifth was 57 different kinds of fouled-up last weekend. There are reports that babies were born in cars stuck in traffic on West Fifth. Some of those babies were also conceived in those same cars. (Rimshot.)
Anywho, avoid the McKeesport-Duquesne Bridge and West Fifth Avenue. That's all I'm saying.
. . .
Summer Concerts Continue: If you haven't been to the city's summer concert series this year, you're missing out. The entertainment --- sponsored by the city and the McKeesport Lions Club --- has veered away from oldies revival groups toward more modern rock and country sounds. It's a welcome change, and it would also be nice to see some younger faces in the crowd.
We do have a correction from last Sunday's concert announcement, however. It turns out that The Smicks no longer perform in Amish attire, despite what they say on their website. We were so mad, we nearly snapped our suspenders.
Otherwise, they rocked. If there had been a roof on the dump, they would have blown it off, and a good time was had by all.
This Sunday, it's Elton John tribute artist Lee Alverson. Bring your big oversized sunglasses and feathered boas. The show starts at 7 p.m. at the bandshell in Renziehausen Park, and it's free.
The refreshments are pretty good, too --- ice cream, funnel cakes and fresh-squeezed lemonade. The Lions Club is also collecting used eyeglasses for the needy and selling handmade straw brooms at all shows.
Joe Bob says check it out, and bring a blanket or lawn chair.
. . .
Calling CQ: Meanwhile, up at White Oak Park, Mon-Yough area ham radio operators will be participating in worldwide "Field Day" activities on Saturday and Sunday.
Events begin at 1 p.m. Saturday and continue through 3 p.m. Sunday up near the water tower off of Muse Lane, near the Westmoreland County border.
During Field Day --- organized nationally by the American Radio Relay League --- amateur radio operators are supposed to contact other operators both locally and around the world using only emergency, portable power supplies.
The exercise is designed to test ham radio operators' preparedness in the event of an emergency that knocks out normal communications. Radios in operation will include vintage sets and the latest digital models.
For more information, call (412) 664-1683.
. . .
Sleep Outside Saturday: Finally, Grandview Grapevine points out that Saturday is the sixth-annual "Great American Backyard Campout," sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation. Better stock up on bug spray and stuff to make s'mores.
Bowed but not broken, the YMCA of McKeesport is trying to win back its membership --- though the progress is slow so far.
About 100 people have taken out memberships at the Y's newly opened fitness center near UPMC McKeesport hospital, down from 600 at the old Sinclair Street facility that closed in June 2009.
Yet Jason Weinstein, a member of the YMCA's board and chief volunteer officer, is among those confident that the 122-year-old organization is in the city to stay.
"Our members are starting to come back, and now that we're out in public, we're sure that we'll have more," he says.
. . .
Carrying more than a half-million dollars in debt and saddled with an 88-year-old building that needs about $4 million worth of improvements, the McKeesport YMCA has struggled financially for several years.
But even after closing the pool and fitness center at the Sinclair Street facility, the YMCA has continued offering after-school and educational programs for children and teen-agers, says Dexter Hairston, executive director.
The financial problems are also being righted, he says, with help from officials at the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh.
. . .
That help and the past financial losses will come with a price --- the loss of the McKeesport Y's independence. The city YMCA is one of only two in Allegheny County (the other is in Sewickley) that are not part of the Greater Pittsburgh YMCA.
Hairston says the McKeesport Y expects to merge into the Pittsburgh Y by September.
Post-merger, the McKeesport YMCA's board of directors will become a local advisory board overseeing operations in the city, and will be able to name one member to the board of directors of the Greater Pittsburgh Y.
The Greater Pittsburgh Y has 17 facilities, including two in downtown Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh Y facilities in the Mon-Yough area include Braddock, Hazelwood, Pleasant Hills and Wilmerding.
. . .
There is good news, however --- the McKeesport Y's Camp T. Frank Soles near Rockwood, Somerset County, will not be sold and is open again this summer.
Kids and counselors are at Camp Soles this summer, Hairston says, and it's operating as usual. When the McKeesport Y is absorbed into the Pittsburgh Y, Camp Soles will remain open, along with two other Y camps currently owned by the larger organization, Camp Kon-O-Kwee Spencer near Fombell, Beaver County, and Camp Deer Valley near Meyersdale, Somerset County.
The four-story YMCA building on Sinclair Street is for sale for $450,000, Hairston says. County tax records indicate the building has a fair-market value of $707,800.
. . .
The Sinclair Street building had several amenities that the new fitness center lacks, including a gymnasium, swimming pool and indoor walking track.
But it also had amenities that had given the YMCA of McKeesport a stigma --- 87 sleeping rooms, or small apartments, for low-income men and transients. The residents --- some of them with mental illnesses or other issues --- scared away some potential members who wanted to use the fitness facilities.
The residential program is being taken over by Pittsburgh-based ACTION-Housing Inc., Hairston says, and will continue to operate for the next 18 to 24 months, or until the building is sold.
. . .
And the new fitness center has something Sinclair Street didn't offer --- namely free parking for members at a nearby, outside lot.
It also offers discounted memberships for UPMC employees. In addition, McKeesport YMCA members who want to use the swimming pool at the Wilmerding YMCA can get a dual membership for an extra $6, Hairston says.
Located in the renovated Frank R. Bondi Medical Building, the new fitness center offers cardiovascular equipment, free-weights, free-motion machines and group exercise areas, and is open at 6:30 a.m. weekdays.
. . .
There has been talk of constructing a new YMCA in the city to include a pool, which was one of the Sinclair Street building's most popular features.
''It's important that the YMCA continue to have a presence in McKeesport," says Mayor Jim Brewster, who added that city hall has fielded many calls from upset and worried YMCA members.
"We do want to continue the dialogue with the YMCA and enhance what we have," he says.
For now, the goal is to win back former members and attract new members to the Evans Avenue facility, Hairston says. Classes being scheduled include spinning, pilates, zumba and low-impact aerobics.
"We've got plenty of programs for community members, from infants up to senior citizens," Weinstein, the volunteer coordinator, says.
. . .
The YMCA of McKeesport fitness center, located at 600 Evans Ave., is open 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, and 8 a.m. to 12 noon Saturday.
The facility is closed Sundays and legal holidays. Memberships start at $10 per month for youth and $25 per month for seniors up to $40 per month for families. Call (412) 664-9168 for information.
Briefly Noted: City Y Opens Fitness Center, Kennywood Auction Set
Category: News || By Staff Report
New Fitness Center Opens Thursday: The YMCA of McKeesport will cut the ribbon on its new fitness center Thursday morning.
A spokesperson says a ceremony opening the exercise and meeting facility is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at the former Frank R. Bondi Medical Building on Evans Avenue, across from UPMC McKeesport hospital.
The 122-year-old Y, which has been struggling under a mountain of debts incurred by previous management, closed the gymnasium and fitness center at its headquarters on Sinclair Street in June 2009.
Officials from the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh have been providing management help and last year told The Almanac they expect to eventually absorb the McKeesport organization, which is one of only two YMCAs in Allegheny County not already part of the Pittsburgh YMCA.
The Sinclair Street building, opened in 1922, had become too expensive to operate, officials said.
Off-site programs for children and teen-agers have continued to operate as usual.
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Food Bank Auctioning Coaster Tickets: Coaster fans have until Sunday to bid on their chance to be one of the first 200 people to ride Kennywood Park's new "Sky Rocket."
The Duquesne-based Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is auctioning the first 200 tickets to the highest bidders via its website.
Bidders will be allowed to choose their seats, with the highest bidder getting first choice, a food bank spokeswoman says.
Minimum bids are $50, which includes a "ride-all-day" pass and Kennywood souvenirs. The first ride on the "Sky Rocket" is slated for 9 a.m. Tuesday.
A so-called "launch coaster," much like the old "Laser Loop," "Sky Rocket" will not be propelled by a chain lift. Its two trains each will hold 12 riders and travel a 2,100-foot track.
The ride is being completed in the area formerly occupied by the "Turnpike" ride.
. . .
Rankin Bridge Closing Slated: Traffic on both directions of the Rankin Bridge will be stopped tomorrow morning several times to allow delivery of steel beams, the county's public works department has announced.
The stoppages will take place between 5 and 6 a.m. --- before morning rush hour --- and will take no more than 15 minutes at a time, a spokesman said.
. . .
Lincoln Way Work Ongoing: Traffic delays are possible on Lincoln Way in White Oak while crews attempt to repair damage caused by heavy rainstorms in June 2009.
Crews from Plum Contracting of Greensburg are working on improving the shoulders of the road between Route 48 and the Westmoreland County line, says Jim Struzzi, district spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.
Workers will reduce traffic to a single, alternating lane as needed on weekdays through June 30, he says. The restrictions will occur between 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
Lincoln Way is one of several state-owned roads in Allegheny County where storm damage is being repaired by Plum Contracting under a $1.3 million contract, Struzzi says.
The driver of a pickup truck in the June 11 crash that severely injured the mother of a bride-to-be had racked up six guilty pleas and more than $1,000 in fines for traffic violations in the 18 months before the collision.
Which prompted your humble correspondent to send this email:
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: What a scoop!
Date: Wed, 23 Jun 2010
From: Jason Togyer
Congratulations on a great journalistic scoop! How did you ever crack that story?!
I'm so glad we still have newspapers and don't have to rely on those weirdos who write on the Internet to gather the news.
P.S.: How do I get my 10 percent finders' fee? Do I invoice the Post-Gazette? Or does my union president (Larry Goldbetter, National Writers' Union, AFL-CIO) have to call your union president? I don't want to violate any craft boundaries.
Warmest personal regards,
Tube City Community Media Inc.
c.c.: Lillian Thomas, City Editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
. . .
Now, of course, I myself had help with yesterday's report. I searched the court database for the name Tuesday morning, but didn't see anything. Then a little birdie whispered in my ear and said, "Try again, dummy." My little birdie wanted to stay anonymous, however, so I just hat-tipped him.
Seriously, would it have killed the P-G to say "after a local blogger first reported"? Sheesh.
I'm tempted to get a subscription just so's I can cancel it.
. . .
By the way, Kevin Barkes has steam coming out of his ears. I'm just glad he's not mad at me. We're both off of Jon Schmitz's Christmas card list, I'll wager.
. . .
Update: Just to be clear, I am not looking for accolades or pats on the back. As Kevin points out, it only took five minutes to do what I did.
I didn't do anything unusual, exceptional or difficult. What's sad is that the bar for local journalism is very low, yet a lot of us are failing to clear it.
Besides, I don't even have a dog in this fight. I couldn't care less what happens in Pleasant Hills --- I have my hands full.
The identification --- which was sent by U.S. Mail to Tube City Almanac on Monday, more than a week after the June 11 crash --- came after Tube City Community Media Inc. filed a state Right-to-Know Act request with Pleasant Hills borough officials.
. . .
Tube City Almanac does not routinely cover events in Pleasant Hills. The Right-to-Know Act request was filed Friday after South Park-based blogger Kevin Barkes reported that Pleasant Hills police were not releasing the name of the driver of the pickup truck.
The Almanac first requested the names on June 16 in an email to Pleasant Hills Mayor Warren Bourgeois.
Bourgeois did not reply. Instead, the Almanac was told to file the Right-to-Know Act request.
The state's Office of Open Records has repeatedly ruled that names of drivers involved in accidents are considered public information and subject to disclosure by police.
The accident remains under investigation and no charges had been filed as of Tuesday morning, court personnel told the Almanac.
. . .
According to published reports, a pickup truck --- whose driver has now been identified as Mains --- was headed south on the night of June 11 when it collided with a northbound car driven by Daniel R. Gump of South Park.
The accident happened the day before Gump's sister, Dana, was to be married. Gump was attempting to pull into the parking lot of the Primanti Brothers' restaurant on Route 51, where the wedding rehearsal dinner was being held.
Passengers in Gump's car included his girlfriend, mother and stepfather, according to various published reports. Gump's sister, Dana, and her fiancee, Jason Kirschner, had already arrived at the restaurant.
. . .
Route 51 is restricted to one lane in each direction north of Lewis Run Road during a $3.6 million paving project expected to last through late October, and two lanes of traffic must merge just south of East Bruceton Road.
Witnesses told police that the pickup truck was traveling at a high rate of speed in the curb lane, and was apparently attempting to pass a line of vehicles that was stopped at the merge point.
Seven people were hurt and six were reportedly taken to area hospitals, including the bride's mother, whose injuries were described as critical.
. . .
Because of the nature of the accident, which forced Kirschner and Gump's wedding to be postponed, the crash was widely reported by Pittsburgh's TV stations, the Post-Gazette, Tribune-Review and Daily News.
None of those reports identified the driver of the truck.
"The withholding by authorities of the identity of the person responsible for this horrendous incident is a valid story in itself," Barkes, a former editor of the Homestead Daily Messenger, wrote last week.
"Why have the police not released the driver's name?" he asked. "Is the driver politically connected, or related to someone who is?"
. . .
According to Barkes, the state's Right-to-Know Law, passed in 2008, is routinely abused by local police.
"When did the police decide they would determine what constitutes news?" Barkes asked. "And why is the media, including the P-G, not shouting this disturbing development from their front pages and 'breaking news' chyrons?"
The Almanac filed the Right-to-Know Act request on Friday only after learning that no other media outlets had done so.
Faculty members from Duy Tan University in Vietnam were greeted at Pittsburgh International Airport early Sunday morning by the Nittany Lion and staff from Penn State's campus in McKeesport, including Rosemarie Piccioni, director of continuing education, and Kurt Torell, director of academic affairs.
About 100 business school faculty from Duy Tan will be trained at the university's Greater Allegheny Campus over the next four years in Western-style educational methods. Training began today, according to Linda Curinga, campus spokeswoman.
The faculty are staying in the campus' McKeesport Hall dormitory during the session, Piccioni says.
Beginning this year, Penn State Greater Allegheny also will send two faculty members from McKeesport to Duy Tan every semester for at least two weeks.
"Establishing this program meets the needs of both institutions in expanding our international initiatives," says Curtiss Porter, chancellor of Penn State Greater Allegheny.
"Our agreement extends the internationalizing of Penn State and also extends the international capacity of Duy Tan University," Porter says. "Penn State business faculty teach at a world-class standard. Duy Tan faculty will benefit from this widely respected experience. Duy Tan students will be the effective beneficiaries of this joint effort."
(Photos by Denise L. Ritter, special to Tube City Almanac)
The alert is due to an air-inversion --- an area of high pressure --- over the Mon Valley, which traps pollution, generally from U.S. Steel's coke works in Clairton.
Soot particles about one-thirtieth the diameter of a human hair can get deep into the lungs and can cause significant health problems, according to the DEP. People with chronic lung conditions, small children and the elderly are advised to avoid strenuous outdoor activities during these alerts.
Wind and rain are expected to move through the valley Saturday afternoon and Sunday, dissipating the so-called PM 2.5 pollution, a state DEP official said.
McKeesport Heritage Center is following up last year's popular lecture on local architecture with a sequel tomorrow that covers more area landmarks.
"McKeesport Architecture: Part II" includes commercial, religious, residential and public buildings from 1900 to the present. The talk begins at 2 p.m. Saturday and is free.
Local historian and photographer John Barna, a member of the center's board of directors, and Executive Director Michelle Wardle-Eggers will highlight some structures (such as the People's Union Bank Building) that are still here, and others that have been demolished.
The Heritage Center is located at 1832 Arboretum Drive in Renziehausen Park. Call (412) 678-1832 or visit the website.
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Renzie Concert Sunday: Watch out for slow-moving buggies on Sunday. The Smick Brothers are coming to town.
The Pittsburgh-based country-rock band --- who wear traditional Amish garb and use a reflective orange triangle as their symbol --- perform at the Renzie Park bandshell at 7 p.m. as part of the city's free summer concert series. (Don't worry, their electric guitars will be plugged in.)
Their repertoire includes songs made popular by the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison and the Doors, along with more modern hits from Jimmy Eat World, Train and Cake.
. . .
'Broadway' Wraps Sunday: The 2nd Stage Players of McKeesport Little Theater (formerly the MLT's "juniors") wraps up this year's musical revue called "Broadway on Coursin" with a matinee show on Sunday afternoon.
"Broadway on Coursin" features highlights from some of the most popular musicals of the last 50 years, including "Annie," "Disney's Aladdin," "Hairspray," "Spamalot" and "Bye, Bye Birdie."
Show times are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $18 for adults or $7 for students.
The theater is located at 1614 Coursin St., near the Carnegie Library of McKeesport. Call (412) 673-1100 or visit the MLT's website.
It's difficult for me to maintain my sense of sunny optimism about the bright, cheerful future of the McKeesport area when we keep shooting each other.
Meantime, Pleasant Hills Mayor Warren Bourgeois has rebuffed Tube City Almanac's request for the name of the driver who caused last Friday's crash on Route 51.
The Almanac was instead this morning emailed a copy of the borough's Right-to-Know Act policy and told to submit the request in writing on a state Open Records Act form.
The email, from borough police Lt. Rick Kelly, was copied to borough Solicitor Fred Jug Jr.
The policy I was sent says --- under "crash reports" --- that "request(s) may be refused whenever there are criminal charges pending against any person involved in the crash."
But I'm just asking for the name of the driver --- not a copy of the investigative report.
In 15 years of covering local and state police, I have never before been asked to submit a formal "Right to Know" request for something as simple as the name of a driver involved in a traffic accident. I don't want to say it never happens, but it's pretty darned rare.
In effect, someone is stalling. But why? If you're a Pleasant Hills resident, you ought to be demanding answers.
If you're a Crawford Village resident, you ought to be demanding answers, too, but I'm not sure from whom.
Perhaps, but it's also possible that time has erased from local memories the true condition of some of the trolleys that served McKeesport (and the rest of Allegheny County) in the 1950s and early '60s.
. . .
The trolleys running in daily service in the 1950s weren't the polished gems currently preserved at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington County. Instead, they were working hard for a living. Some of them were rusty, dirty rattletraps, and poor maintenance meant they frequently broke down.
One rider of the 68 streetcar line that linked the city to Pittsburgh via Duquesne and Squirrel Hill called service "disgusting" and "abominable," and begged the state's Public Utility Commission to allow a competing bus line to run the same route.
No wonder the city's outspoken, proudly parochial mayor, Andrew "Greeky" Jakomas, rejoiced when Pittsburgh Railways announced in the summer of 1963 that it would discontinue all McKeesport-area trolley service.
. . .
Jakomas called the end of trolley service on Sept. 1 "a real shot in the arm" for the city.
"Greeky" and other local leaders, including the McKeesport Chamber of Commerce, were also fighting tooth-and-nail against the legislation that authorized creation of the Port Authority of Allegheny County.
People "want to drive their cars," said Jakomas, who gathered 15,000 signatures from the city and 23 neighboring boroughs and townships demanding a referendum on creation of Port Authority. "They don't want to ride public transit. Money, then, should be spent to build access routes to accommodate cars."
. . .
With a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and mounting evidence of global climate change caused by air pollution, that attitude now seems hopelessly naive. But it didn't seem so naive when the Shah was safely in power in Iran, and no one cared if a Chevrolet Bel Air only delivered 12 miles per gallon.
Frankly, if you had a choice in 1963 between driving a Chevy (from "Devie," naturally), or riding a trolley, the choice would have been clear. As early as 1951, one McKeesport rider compared the insides of local streetcars to "spittoons" --- and he was one of the people who liked riding the trolley!
To other people --- especially those trying to park on Downtown's narrow Fifth Avenue --- the streetcars were just a constant aggravation.
. . .
It's worth remembering that the trolley lines of the 1950s weren't like the current South Hills light-rail system. Much of the trolley track was in the same streets shared by cars, trucks and pedestrians, and was subject to the same traffic delays.
But unlike a car or bus, which could be diverted around an accident or a stopped vehicle, a trolley had to go where the tracks were laid. When a streetcar motorman was clanging his bell in front of Balsamo's or Green's or The Famous, it could only mean one thing --- someone had parked too far away from the curb, and the trolley couldn't squeeze past.
On the opposite side of Allegheny County, the burgess of McKees Rocks in 1958 begged Pittsburgh Railways to replace its streetcars with buses, calling trolleys "a public nuisance, old, dirty, slow-moving, antiquated traffic-blockers."
. . .
The problem was that Pittsburgh Railways --- which operated more than 200 buses --- didn't have the money to buy any more, or to maintain its more than 600 trolleys properly. The private, for-profit company went into a death-spiral after World War II.
Despite fare hikes that made Pittsburgh's streetcars among the most expensive to ride in the United States, the system was reportedly losing $3 million to $5 million in some years between 1950 and 1960.
And Pittsburgh's trolley system certainly wasn't suffering alone, according to a 1952 survey by United Press reporters.
"The automobile and suburban living have put most of the nation's municipal transportation systems in the red," UP said. "Whether publicly or privately owned, bus, streetcar, trackless trolley and subway lines in most major cities are losing money."
. . .
In Pittsburgh, those losses translated into maintenance and service cutbacks. Streetcars were run less frequently. They were cleaned less thoroughly. They broke down more often.
"Pittsburgh Railways has been through three bankruptcies," the Post-Gazette noted in 1954. "It is steadily losing patronage and revenue, with the result that its service is deteriorating. In view of that situation, it could hardly be expected to raise capital sufficient to modernize its facilities and improve its service."
By 1963, a consultant hired by Allegheny County reported Pittsburgh Railways was more riders per year at a rate faster than all 30 of the county's privately owned bus companies combined --- 15 times faster, in fact.
"There is every evidence that this defection of passengers ... largely the result of deterioration of service both in quality and quantity, will continue," the consultant told county officials.
. . .
Naturally, complaints poured in throughout the 1950s and '60s. One rider in West Mifflin told the Pittsburgh Press in 1950 that service on the 68 trolley line, connecting McKeesport with Pittsburgh via Homestead and Squirrel Hill, was "inadequate" and "disgusting."
Another, in Lincoln Place, told the Post-Gazette in 1960 that a ride from her home to the Syria Mosque in Oakland took two hours due to trolleys that arrived late or never showed up.
Pittsburgh Railways' service in the Mon-Yough area was "abominable," she said.
Jakomas would eventually make elimination of trolley service in McKeesport almost a one-man crusade, and at the time, only train buffs were truly unhappy.
. . .
In the early part of the 20th century, trolleys had served virtually every neighborhood of the city, running along Jenny Lind Street, Walnut Street and Versailles Avenue, up into Highland Grove and even (for a few years) into Port Vue.
But in 1937, those local trolleys --- mainly run by the West Penn Power Co. --- were dropped due to lack of riders and replaced by privately operated buses. Pittsburgh Railways continued to operate a trolley up Evans Avenue until 1953, when that line, too, was replaced by buses.
That left only three trolley lines running in McKeesport: The 56 line, which connected to Pittsburgh via Second Avenue in Hazelwood; the 68 line; and the 98 line to Glassport. The 68 line disappeared in 1958 when Route 837 was widened and Kennywood Boulevard was constructed, so then there were two.
. . .
To Jakomas, that was two trolley lines too many. In 1960, the city had unveiled plans for a 10-year, $17 million urban renewal program stretching along Fifth Avenue. It included the elimination of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad tracks that cut through the heart of Downtown, and a proposal to create a pedestrian-only shopping mall along part of the street.
But the mall couldn't happen if the streetcars were still banging and clanging through the heart of the city. So Jakomas was delighted when Pittsburgh Railways announced plans to convert the 56 trolley line to buses. (The 98 line to Glassport had been wiped out by a tornado on Aug. 3, and wouldn't return.)
"This will give us a chance to work on the Downtown area," he told the Post-Gazette. "It will help us to dress it up, to add additional on-street parking."
. . .
The pedestrian-only mall on Fifth Avenue turned out to be a disaster. So did the enclosed shopping mall that became the horrible Midtown Plaza.
It's tempting to say that removing the trolleys also was a disaster. The buses that were substituted now seem just as dirty and smelly as the trolleys of 1960, and they can clog traffic, too.
In addition, many cities that retained or reinstalled streetcars have found them effective at clearing congestion and improving property values, and even attracting tourists.
. . .
But it would have been a lot to ask McKeesport officials --- even if they had been visionaries --- to try to save streetcar service. Across the country, the tide of public opinion had firmly shifted against trolleys.
Plus, the elimination of the 56 streetcar had less to do with "Greeky" Jakomas' objections and more to do with the replacement of the Glenwood Bridge.
The new structure was scheduled for completion in 1966, and the cloverleaf interchange on the Hays side of the Monongahela River wasn't designed to accommodate trolley tracks.
Still, we'll wager that three generations of McKeesport-area drivers do wish someone had pulled up the trolley tracks way back when service ended. It wouldn't have made mass transit any better, but it would have saved 47 years of wear-and-tear on cars --- and on buses, too, for that matter.
I'm pleased to announce that State Rep. Marc Gergely and White Oak Floral have signed on as the first two sponsors of this year's webcast of International Village! We'll have further details as they become available.
Also, a big thank you to Adam, Barry and an anonymous donor for their generous contributions toward the International Village webcast.
We also need ongoing sponsors for Tube City Online and Tube City Almanac, so if your business or organization would like to advertise on the website, don't be shy.
Local IT consultant Kevin Barkes --- a former editor and reporter at the late, lamented Homestead Daily Messenger --- wants to know why Pleasant Hills police haven't released the name of the driver responsible for a serious accident on Route 51 Friday night.
And he also wants to know why local reporters haven't pressed harder for that information. (He targets the Post-Gazette, but the Daily News, Tribune-Review and Pittsburgh's three network TV stations could have just as easily been taken to task.)
Those are valid questions, and ones that I wrestled with constantly while working as a police reporter in Allegheny, Washington and Westmoreland counties. With Kevin's kind permission, I'm reprinting Monday's edition of his KGB Report.
It seems if authorities won't release the information, it's the end of the story.
No local media source has identified the driver of the pick-up truck responsible for that horrible accident in Pleasant Hills on Friday evening.
I asked the Post-Gazette via e-mail why the driver remains unidentified, and the response was:
...police have not released the driver's name...
Which begs the question: why not?
Why have the police not released the driver's name?
Is the driver politically connected, or related to someone who is?
Forgive my impertinence --- but why isn't the Post-Gazette asking these questions?
The withholding by authorities of the identity of the person responsible for this horrendous incident is a valid story in itself.
You published the details of the rehearsal dinner, the postponed wedding, the name of the pastor of the church where the wedding was supposed to be held, even the fact the bride-to-be was a former homecoming queen. Her family's background is now an open book.
But the person responsible gets a pass?
The PG came back with:
we do ask these questions. police rarely answer. they don't have to, under the state's poor sunshine law.
This, from "One of America's Great Newspapers"?
Irrelevant. There is still a story here:
Police won't identify
driver responsible for
wedding rehearsal crash
Pleasant Hills is a borough, which means the mayor is in charge of the police department. Ask the mayor. If he won't answer, your headline is now:
Mayor won't identify
driver responsible for
wedding rehearsal crash
Now, you have a significant story.
No reply, as yet.
What's really galling about this entire incident is that all the local media have taken the lazy way out covering this story. Initial reports didn't include the victims' names, because they weren't released by the police.
Yet there were 30 friends and family members at the restaurant, and several were interviewed on television (apparently to intersperse between the "bent metal" shots). It didn't occur to any of these Woodwards or Bernsteins to ask the names of those in the crash?
Failing to report the name of the pick-up truck driver is inexcusable. Basic Reporting 101: Who is involved? So far, we only have half the story.
The police won't tell you the name of the driver? That's also news. Publish it. Shortly after it appears, you'll start getting phone calls from persons who do know who the driver is. Preliminary reports indicate he was breaking several traffic laws. It occurred in a construction area, where fines are doubled.
Has anyone appeared before the local magistrate on traffic-related charges? If not, why not?
Napoleon is reputed to have said "Never attribute to malice that which can be blamed on stupidity." Or sloth, it appears. The local media have moved on to the next shiny object to attract its attention.
They could be covering up, aiding and abetting local officials in order to shield the privileged.
Nah. Too conspiratorial.
They're all just doing the minimum necessary to get by. They're bad journalists, doing a half-assed job. Reporting the name of just one driver in a two car accident? Reminds me of an old George Carlin routine: "And here's a partial score: Pittsburgh, 5."
. . .
The preceding was a guest commentary, reprinted with permission of Kevin G. Barkes. Responsible replies are welcome.
Tube City Community Media is committed to printing viewpoints from residents of the McKeesport area and surrounding municipalities. Commentaries are accepted at the discretion of the editor and may be edited for content or length.
To submit a commentary for consideration, please write to P.O. Box 94, McKeesport 15134, or email jtogyer -at - gmail -dot- com. Include contact information and your real name. A pen name may be substituted with approval of the editor.
Despite a few glitches, the webcast was very well received, and we want to do it again this year. But we can't afford to underwrite all of the costs out of pocket again.
In case you're wondering what we need to pay for, we have to rent a high-speed wireless connection and purchase some new equipment. We've spent $406.80 so far, and that's buying used stuff!
. . .
If you can donate a few dollars, we will very gladly and graciously accept your money. Use the ChipIn button to donate securely using PayPal or a credit card. And thank you!
. . .
In addition, we'd like to find a few sponsors to underwrite the broadcast. This is a great, low-cost opportunity to promote your church festival, volunteer fire department, labor union or other worthy cause.
If your business or non-profit organization would like us to read some short commercials during the broadcast, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A $50 donation will entitle you to one 15-second announcement per hour throughout the broadcast, along with small ads at Tube City Almanac and LightningFM.org throughout the week of Aug. 16.
A $100 donation will entitle you to one 30-second announcement per hour, along with banner ads at Tube City Almanac and LightningFM.org during that week.
'Broadway on Coursin': The 2nd Stage Players of McKeesport Little Theater (formerly the MLT's "juniors") present a musical revue called "Broadway on Coursin," featuring highlights from some of the most popular musicals of the last 50 years, including "Annie," "Disney's Aladdin," "Hairspray," "Spamalot" and "Bye, Bye Birdie."
Show times are 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $18 for adults or $7 for students.
The theater is located at 1614 Coursin St., near the Carnegie Library of McKeesport. Call (412) 673-1100 or visit the MLT's website.
. . .
Marina Concert Tonight: The Smooth Groove Band plays the McKees Point Marina, Fifth Avenue at Water Street, Downtown, beginning at 8 p.m. Saturday.
The soul, funk and blues band includes artists from Duquesne-based Bonedog Records and is fronted by singer Stevee Wellons and singer-guitarist David Avery. Admission and parking are free.
. . .
Wee Jams at Renzie Sunday:William Dell and Wee-Jams kick off the city's summer concert series Sunday at the bandshell in Renziehausen Park, Eden Park Boulevard at Tulip Drive. The show starts at 7 p.m. Bring a blanket or a lawn chair.
A oldies revival act, Wee Jams are frequent guests on local radio stations like Jeannette's WKFB (770) and Scottdale's WLSW-FM (103.9).
The concert is free and sponsored by the City of McKeesport and the McKeesport Lions Club. Members of the Lions Club also will be collecting used pairs of eyeglasses.
More than $40,000 in local scholarships and financial aid for college or technical school was awarded this year to 41 McKeesport Area High School seniors through the alumni association.
The awards include the new Zon Fleckenstein, Bechtol and Guarascio scholarships, which were presented for the first time this year, says Karen Kost, spokeswoman for the McKeesport High School Alumni and Friends Association.
The association is an initiative of The Consortium for Public Education. Association President Linda Croushore says "gifts large and small" are accepted on an ongoing basis, and donors who don't want or are unable to establish a scholarship can contribute to the "all-alumni fund."
This year's scholarship and grant recipients include:
Antoncic Family Scholarship: Matthew Domiano, Rachel Forsythe, Amanda Schrott and David Kisan, $250 each. Domiano will continue his education at LaRoche College; Forsythe at the University of Pittsburgh, Greensburg Campus; Schrott at Saint Vincent College; and Kisan at Penn State University, Main Campus. Established by McKeesport physician Dr. Rudolph A. Antoncic Jr., Class of 1961 and 2004 McKeesport High School Hall of Fame inductee, in memory of former McKeesport Area School District teachers, coaches and support personnel.
Nick Bakalis Memorial Award: Blake Guzewicz, $1,500 and Rhiannon Countryman, $1,000. Guzewicz will attend Penn State University, Behrend Campus, while Countryman is headed to Allegheny College. Established in 2002 in memory of Nick Bakalis, Class of 1949, by his daughter, Melissa Bakalis Milbank, Class of 1975, and his wife, Eleanor Frum, Class of 1951.
Bechtol Family Scholarship: Lisa Bodner, who plans to attend Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. The $500 Bechtol award is earmarked for a student planning a career in teaching.
Neenie Campbell Memorial Fund: Kendall Hunter, $500. Hunter will attend Westminster College. Established to honor longtime McKeesport High basketball coach, C.P. "Neenie" Campbell. (Another $500 from this fund each year goes to the varsity basketball program for items not included in the school district budget, Kost says.)
Mary Jo Sharbaugh Cerepani Scholarship: Ashley Domer, $250. Domer will attend the Community College of Allegheny County, South Campus. Established by Dr. Mary Jo Sharbaugh Cerepani, Class of 1977 and 2008 MHS Hall of Fame inductee, the award is earmarked for a student who plans a career in nursing.
Albert T. Fallquist Memorial Scholarship: Julian Brown, Dylan Wysni and Kevin Eric Henry, $1,000 each. Established in 2002 in memory of Albert (Abby) T. Fallquist, longtime chemistry teacher and varsity baseball coach at McKeesport High School. Brown will attend Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania; Wysni, Rose Hulman Institute of Technology; and Henry, Community College of Allegheny County. In addition, the Fallquist fund provides continuing support to previous winners throughout their college careers, Kost says. This year, 11 graduates will receive $1,000 renewal grants.
Marlene Keller Farkas Memorial Scholarship: Casey Bricker, $1,000. Established in 2001 by family members to honor the memory of Marlene Keller Farkas, Class of 1941. Bricker will attend Seton Hill.
Richard and Robert Fetters Memorial Gift: Rosheeda Bryant, $400. Bryant will attend the University of Akron. The gift was established in 1997 by Beryle Fetters Nathan in memory of her brothers, Robert Fetters, Class of 1935, and Richard Fetters, Class of 1941. This award is given annually to a senior selected by the high school administration on the basis of merit and need.
Zon Fleckenstein Memorial Scholarship:Lana R. Bodner, Carly Pollock and Zachary Blacka. Each received $500. Bodner plans to attend Saint Vincent College; Pollock, Clarion University of Pennsylvania; and Blacka, Saint Francis University. The scholarship honors the memory of Zon Fleckenstein, Class of 2005.
Garden Club of McKeesport Scholarship: Jenna Dunlay, $600. Dunlay will attend Chatham University. Established in 2008 by The Garden Club of McKeesport.
Gerald Grayson Scholarship: Megan Brinkos, $500. Brinkos will attend Chatham University. Established in 2009 in honor of Gerald Grayson, outstanding Tiger athlete and girls' basketball coach by Carla Coleman, Class of 1990.
Lou Guarascio Memorial Award:Trevor Dujmic, who will attend California University of Pennsylvania. The Guarascio award is a $250 grant for a member of the marching band.
Sam Liberatore Memorial Scholarship: Julian Brown, $300. Brown will attend Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. Established in 2002 in memory of Sam Liberatore, Class of 1963. The award is made annually to a senior member of the Tiger baseball team.
Kathy McCall Sportsmanship Award: Zachary Blacka, $500. Established by family members and friends of the late Kathy McCall, Class of 1972, to recognize the accomplishments of outstanding student-athletes. As noted above, Blacka will attend Saint Francis.
Justin R. Misura Memorial Award: Noelle C. Brancato, Laquala Jamison, Courtney Wright and Ivan J. Fleming Jr., $1,000 each. Brancato will attend The Art Institute of Pittsburgh; Jamison, LeCordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts; Wright, Lincoln Institute of Culinary Arts; and Fleming, Pennsylvania Culinary Institute. Established in 2004 in memory of Justin R. Misura, Class of 2001, by his family and friends, the award is offered annually to graduates planning to enroll in an accredited culinary arts program.
Arthur N. Rupe Foundation Scholarship: Casey Bricker, Lydia Kinkaid and Rachel Rajcsok, $2,000 each. As noted above, Bricker is headed to Seton Hill University, while Kinkaid is going to Westminster College, and Rajcsok to the University of Pittsburgh. The scholarship was established in 2001 by Arthur N. Rupe, Class of 1935 and a 2002 Hall of Fame inductee.
Walter C. Shaw Memorial Scholarship: Nicholas Ferraro, $1,000. Ferraro will continue his education at Washington and Jefferson College. The Shaw scholarship was established in memory of Walter C. Shaw Sr., former president and chairman of the G.C. Murphy Co., by his daughter, Elizabeth Shaw Gamble, Class of 1937.
Mary V. Tomko Scholarship: Dylan Rappold and Alijah Imani Buckham, $2,000 each, and Casey Bricker and Alaina Harvey, $1,000 each. Rappold will attend Penn State Greater Allegheny; Buckham, Westminster College; Bricker, Seton Hill; and Harvey, Penn State University, Main Campus. The Tomko scholarship was established in 1999 by Chris Casciato, Class of 1976 and member of the Hall of Fame, in his grandmother's honor.
All awards are administered by the alumni association in accordance with guidelines established by the donors and with the help of high school faculty and staff, Kost says. They are open to all seniors who are planning to attend college or a post-secondary school, including vocational schools, she says.
For more information about the alumni and friends association or the scholarships, call (412) 678-9215 or visit the Consortium for Public Education website.
It's an area that city Fire Chief Kevin Lust calls "lock to lock and up the Yough" --- the area where McKeesport police and firefighters respond to river emergencies.
Starting next year, they'll be able to respond more quickly with a more reliable and better-equipped boat.
City council has awarded a nearly $147,000 contract to Harbor Guard Boats of Corona, Calif., for a 24-foot, jet-drive fiberglass boat that will include built-in firefighting capability.
The boat, called a "Firehawk," will be delivered in about eight months, Lust says. Funding is coming from a U.S. Department of Justice grant.
. . .
"This is a purpose-built boat, equipped for fire service, not just fishing," Lust says. The fire department has had two river rescue boats, but both have been converted pleasure crafts and weren't reliable enough or durable enough for heavy use.
The 300-horsepower jet-drive engines on the "Firehawk" don't need propellers, Lust says, which will enable the boat to navigate the shallow waters of the Youghiogheny. The drivetrain also doubles as a water pump for firefighting.
Under an agreement with the U.S. Coast Guard, city fire and police respond to accidents on the Monongahela River throughout the "McKeesport pool" between the locks and dams at Elizabeth and Braddock, says Dennis Pittman, city administrator.
. . .
All city firefighters are now trained in river rescue techniques, Lust says, and the city will soon restart its dive team under the leadership of Deputy Chief Chuck Margliotti.
Police and emergency medical technicians from McKeesport Ambulance Rescue Service also will participate in rescues and dives. The Clairton and Greensburg volunteer fire departments also maintain dive teams.
Besides boating accidents, the city's river rescue squad is also called into action when someone threatens to jump from one of the local bridges, when a railroad accident has the potential to cause a chemical spill, or when utility lines break.
. . .
And there are less obvious uses, Lust says. For instance, when crews begin the reconstruction of the W.D. Mansfield Memorial Bridge next year, the city's river rescue boat will be required to stand by in case a worker falls into the water. (The city is reimbursed for such services, he says.)
Both of the city's previous rescue boats were donated. But city officials decided that trying to convert another fishing or pleasure boat wasn't practical, and they searched unsuccessfully for a used rescue boat.
The good news? While Harbor Guard warrants its rescue boats for 10 years, Lust says this boat could easily last 15 to 20 years.
When completed, the boat will be stationed at the McKees Point Marina.
The reconstruction of West Fifth Avenue doesn't include replacement or repairs to the rusty railings between the Jerome Avenue Bridge and Rebecca Street.
Mayor James Brewster says work on the ornamental steel railings was not part of the state's $1 million grant to repair the half-mile stretch of road.
Installed in the 1930s to match the Jerome Avenue Bridge, the railings were last painted more than a decade ago by a crew of part-time summer workers working in the administration of the late Mayor Joe Bendel.
Since then, the railings have become rust-streaked and scabby. There was no money this year to hire part-time summer help to do any maintenance or clean-up work around the city, Brewster says.
And there are jurisdictional questions involved --- while that short section of West Fifth Avenue is a state-owned and maintained road, the railings are part of the bridge, which is owned by Allegheny County. However, Brewster says, city officials are "investigating" whether the public works department can clean and paint the railings.
. . .
McKeesportBands.com Launches: A new website launched by the owners of the Viking Lounge on Versailles Avenue will round up opportunities to see live music in the city.
McKeesportBands.com debuted over the weekend, says Dan Carr, who with his wife purchased the bar and restaurant two years ago.
A local landmark, the Viking has hosted such dignitaries as Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. It was recently expanded to incorporate the former home of Breitinger's Flowers.
The McKeesportBands website lists concerts at the Viking Lounge, the Renziehausen Park bandshell and the McKees Point Marina.
. . .
Marina Concert Series Set: Meanwhile, the city has announced its lineup for the summer concert series at the marina.
The season begins this Saturday with the Smooth Groove Band, says Ray Dougherty, marina manager, and continues with live music scheduled on eight other Saturdays. All shows start at 8 p.m., he says.
June 19: The Tube City Dukes with special guest Eugene Morgan
July 10: Tim Scott Band
July 24: The McKees Point Marina "Christmas in July" Party featuring Tres Lads
August 7: Six on the Beach
August 14: Marina Poker Run (band to be announced)
August 21: The Tube City Dukes
September 4: The Tube City Dukes with special guest Guitar Zack
September 13: Smooth Groove
. . .
Grandview Flea Market Planned:Grandview Task Force will hold its first annual flea market and craft sale from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 19.
Located at the Beulah Park United Methodist Church at the corner of Grandview and Grover streets, sellers are being asked to bring their own tables. The flea market will include a 50-50 drawing, hoagie sale and bake sale.
The long-awaited reconstruction of West Fifth Avenue in the 10th Ward and Fifth Avenue, Downtown, is underway.
Crews from two separate contracting companies on Monday began projects totaling about $2 million that are designed to transform both the city's long-suffering business district and one of its busiest arteries.
The work means traffic restrictions and delays along a mile and a half of city streets.
Traffic along West Fifth Avenue between the Jerome Avenue Bridge and Ramp Two# was restricted to one lane in each direction Monday morning while Donegal Construction Co. of Unity Township, Westmoreland County, removed the cracked and broken pavement.
. . .
West Fifth Avenue, which serves as a main entrance into the city from the west, carries about 21,000 vehicles daily.
"For all of those people who have been clamoring for activity, I hope they're patient," Mayor James Brewster said.
Under a $1.09 million contract approved last month by city council, Donegal will not only repave the street, it will remove the trolley tracks buried in the street that have prevented previous repaving efforts from lasting more than a few years.
The work on the city-owned street is being funded primarily through a special grant from the state Department of Transportation.
. . .
Meanwhile, along Fifth Avenue between Market and Walnut streets this morning, workers for Carnegie-based Power Contracting Co. had begun preparing the reconstruction of Fifth Avenue and the return of the street to two-way traffic.
Funded by PennDOT's Home Town Streets program, the $929,000 project is designed to make Fifth Avenue "more functional and friendly" to both pedestrians and drivers, said Dennis Pittman, city administrator.
Though it was once Allegheny County's second-largest shopping district and home to many department and specialty stores, Fifth Avenue went into a steep decline in the 1960s after shopping centers opened in North Versailles, Monroeville, Pleasant Hills and other communities. Today, only a handful of retail stores remain open.
. . .
The reconstruction project --- first announced in 2006 --- covers approximately eight blocks of Fifth Avenue between Water Street at the McKees Point Marina and Coursin Street at the Shop 'n Save supermarket. Work will include new street lights, new signs, new traffic lights and replacement of wheelchair access ramps, Pittman said.
Curbs and sidewalks will be replaced in many areas and parking islands installed in the 1970s will be removed. "As much parking as possible will be preserved," Pittman said. Electronic parking meters also will be installed.
. . .
In addition, the so-called "Cox's Corner" parking lot at Fifth and Walnut will get a new entrance on Fifth Avenue, and new benches and planters will be installed. Those will replace trees and plants embedded in the sidewalk, which were difficult to keep clean and maintain, Pittman said.
Restoring Fifth Avenue to two-way traffic between Coursin and Water is designed to encourage traffic to circulate through the old business district between UPMC McKeesport hospital --- the city's main employer --- and the marina and Palisades area, Pittman said.
Power Contracting is renting the "Cox's Corner" lot from the city for $650 per month for use by its employees and as a base of operation, Pittman said.
Used Book Sale and Ice Cream Social: McKeesport Heritage Center will hold a used book sale and ice cream social on Saturday. A large variety of gently-used books --- most priced at $2 or less --- will be on sale, including local and national history, self-help and religious books, romance novels and mysteries. The sale runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
From 12 to 3 p.m., the center's board of directors also will host an ice cream social. Stay following the sale and enjoy some ice cream!
The Heritage Center is located at 1832 Arboretum Drive in Renziehausen Park. For more information, visit the center's website or call (412) 678-1832.
. . .
CD Release Party at Palisades: Bonedog Records and the Palisades Ballroom host a CD release party for Gus Collins' "Soul Social." A former singer with The Lateers and The Marcels for twenty years, "Soul Social" is Collins' first solo release.
The CD blends blues, soul, gospel and rock influences as varied as Collins' long career, and which recall the legendary sound of R&B classics from record labels such as Stax and Okeh. Memphis-style horns power songs like "Where the Rain Can't Reach," while sparse guitar licks underlay "A Short One."
The 37th release for the McKeesport-based label, "Soul Social" includes 10 original songs by Phil Sweeney, two covers and one group composition.
The CD release party will include Gus Collins, Stevee Wellons and Dave Avery fronting a nine-piece band. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8. Admission is $10.
The Palisades is located on Fifth Avenue at Water Street, Downtown, next to the McKees Point Marina and the Youghiogheny River trail.
Plans to put a new elementary school next to Renziehausen Park are on hold --- at least for a month --- as McKeesport Area School District officials consider changing their plans to avoid displacing several residents.
Council on Wednesday night tabled its approval of a site plan for the new school on the so-called Palkovitz property off of Tulip Drive in the city's 12th Ward, near Eden Park Boulevard.
The school board "wants to explore other options that will potentially displace as few other people as possible," said School Superintendent Michael Brinkos, who attended the meeting. "Within a month, the board will make a decision on how to proceed."
Mayor Jim Brewster told the Almanac last night he was glad the school district was going to re-examine its use of the 12th Ward site.
"I think everyone's intentions are good here, and sometimes it doesn't hurt to stop and re-visit the issue," Brewster said.
. . .
The unanimous vote to table council's approval was interrupted by City Controller Ray Malinchak, who demanded the floor to question what he called a "financial matter."
Ruled out of order by Council President Regis McLaughlin, Malinchak would not yield until he was escorted from council chambers by a city police officer.
"You don't vote, so you don't get a chance to speak," McLaughlin, visibly angry, told Malinchak when the controller continued trying to ask questions.
At past meetings, Malinchak has told reporters that he has questions about the process used last year by the city's Redevelopment Authority when it acquired the nearly 27-acre Palkovitz tract and resold it to the city.
Malinchak has alleged that he attempted to buy the property, but that his bid was not considered by the authority.
The property is currently owned by the city, which intends to retain part of the site for the expansion of Renziehausen Park.
According to Allegheny County court documents, taxes were long overdue to the city, school and county when the property was condemned and acquired in 2009 by the Redevelopment Authority through the eminent domain process. It had a fair market value of $31,900, according to tax records.
. . .
The school board wants to expand Francis McClure school in White Oak and build two new elementary schools within the city to replace the existing George Washington, Centennial and Cornell buildings, which range from 82 to 94 years old.
One of the new schools would be built on the present Cornell site at the top of Spring Street. The other would be on the Palkovitz tract. Each would cost $25 million to $27 million.
. . .
Besides replacing three increasingly antiquated schools, officials say the new buildings would be safer and would provide better separation between lower and upper grades, offer more modern classroom amenities, and improve the educational environments.
Centennial and George Washington schools, which house kindergarten through third grades, missed their "No Child Left Behind" targets in 2009 because of poor scores on state standardized reading tests, and both received warning notices from the state Department of Education.
Cornell, which houses fourth, fifth and sixth grades, is in the third year of a corrective action plan. Test scores at Cornell were below state standards in reading and math in 2008 and 2009, according to the state Department of Education.
. . .
Under a site plan approved by the city planning commission on May 20, access to the Palkovitz site would require taking several homes along Easler Street by eminent domain.
One of the houses on Oliver Alley has been occupied by John and Helen Dominik since 1951. Both are in their mid-80s. At a public hearing on Tuesday, their sons Larry and Kevin Dominik urged city council to reject the district's plan.
"Why is so much land being taken for the main entrance?" Larry Dominik asked council. "It seems like a wide opening for just a two-lane road. Greenspace is nice, but this seems like overkill."
. . .
City Councilman Darryl Segina also questioned the usefulness of the Palkovitz site, noting that the property was used as a garbage dump in the 1940s and '50s, and asking whether the surrounding neighborhood could handle the additional traffic.
"I don't like to see people's lives disrupted, especially when they've lived there for quite a few years," he said Tuesday. "I think you're going to destroy that neighborhood around Tulip Drive."
But others, including Councilman Michael Cherepko, who is a McKeesport school teacher, said new schools would enhance the marketability of the city.
. . .
"Not only are they going to put a state-of-the-art facility into that area, it's going to beautify that area," Cherepko said. "I'm excited about it, I'll admit it."
Brinkos told reporters Wednesday night that the district is committed to building both new schools, but that board members felt the Palkovitz site deserved another examination.
"The school board is listening to the voices of the public," he said, "but they truly want to move forward, because they believe these new schools are important to the community."
. . .
Brinkos declined to speculate on what the month-long delay would cost, or how the district might decide to change the site plan. Any additional expenditures would require a vote of the school board, he said.
Council by 7-0 vote approved plans for the new school on the current Cornell Intermediate School property. Council and planning commission approval was required for both sites because they are located within medium-density residential zoning areas.
Brewster said he supports the construction of the new schools, but that he'll wait to see the district's revised site plan before he takes any other public positions on the 12th Ward site.
"When you're thinking of the future, you have to think of the young people first," he said. "But relocation is emotional, and remediation is expensive. We'll wait and we'll react to their plan."
. . .
The school board has scheduled a public hearing on the Francis McClure project for 7:30 p.m. June 23 at the district's offices on O'Neil Boulevard near the high school campus.
Hearings on the new 12th Ward and Cornell schools are scheduled for 6:45 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on July 14.
Local singer, songwriter and producer Tom Breiding will share traditional folk songs about steel, coal and glass workers during a program Wednesday evening at McKeesport Heritage Center.
"Steeltowns, Coalfields and the Unbroken Circle" begins at 7 p.m. The program also includes Breiding's original songs about the industries that turned the Monongahela Valley into the "workshop of the world" in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Breiding is a Wheeling, W.Va., native who currently resides in Washington County. A former staff composer for a Nashville music publisher, Breiding has released nine CDs of his own music since 1992, including 2001's American Son, which benefited the United Steelworkers union.
Wednesday's program is sponsored by the Carnegie Library of McKeesport and supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council. The Heritage Center is located at 1832 Arboretum Drive in Renziehausen Park.
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