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Filed Under: History || By Jason Togyer

September 30, 2010 | Link to this story

Briefly Noted: 'Merit Badge U.,' Rte. 51/88 Meeting, Urban Farms

Filed Under: Events, News || By Staff and Wire Reports

'Merit Badge' Days at Penn State: Mon-Yough area Boy Scouts who need to earn several crucial merit badges can enroll in a one-day "Merit Badge University" at McKeesport's Penn State campus.

On two Saturdays --- Nov. 6 and Dec. 11 --- Greater Allegheny Campus will offer either half-day or all-day classes for scouts to earn 13 different merit badges in art, citizenship, crime prevention, emergency preparedness, engineering, fire safety, first aid, public speaking or other subjects.

Pre-registration and a $10 fee are required. The sessions are sponsored by Boy Scout Troop 338 of Whitehall and the Penn State Greater Allegheny's student-alumni "Lion Ambassadors."

For more information, call Rod Asberry at (412) 675-9010.

. . .

Route 51 Session Slated: State and federal officials will discuss plans to reconstruct a major access route for Mon Valley motorists.

The open house to explain the proposed reconstruction of the intersection of Route 51 and Route 88 is slated for 5 to 7 p.m. Monday at St. Norbert Church in Pittsburgh's Carrick neighborhood.

The state Department of Transportation has proposed a $10 million to $15 million reconstruction of the busy, congested intersection that would include realigning the streets and addition of a new bridge. The work, if approved, would begin in late 2012 and take two years to complete.

Plans, maps and details will be on display at Monday's meeting, a PennDOT spokesman says, and highway officials will be available to answer questions from the public.

According to PennDOT statistics, 32,000 to 52,000 vehicles use that section of Route 51 every day, and another 16,000 use that section of Route 88.

. . .

Consortium, Food Bank Seek Support: Two local charities are asking donors to support them during an upcoming "Day of Giving" sponsored by The Pittsburgh Foundation.

On Oct. 13, up to $500,000 in donations made through the website will be equally matched by the foundation. Both the city-based Consortium for Public Education and Duquesne-based Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank are asking supporters to donate on those days.

The Pittsburgh Foundation's guaranteed match will be good for 24 hours. To make a donation, users will need a valid credit card, and will need to select the charity or charities they're supporting from a pull-down menu on the Day of Giving website.

Other local charities which can receive funding during the event include Auberle, the Carnegie Library of McKeesport and the McKeesport Symphony Society. Donations are tax-deductible for charitable purposes.

. . .

Urban Gardens Wanted: For the second year, Allegheny County is accepting applications from groups that need help creating community gardens on blighted or abandoned properties.

Through a program called "Allegheny Grows," the county last year offered start-up materials and technical and educational assistance to develop urban gardens in Elizabeth, Swissvale and three other boroughs, along with urban farms in McKees Rocks and Millvale.

The Millvale farm, which is tended by 15 volunteers and a group of Boy Scouts, is providing produce for a local farmers' market and the borough plans to expand to adjacent lots and develop an orchard. The McKees Rocks farm is donating produce to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

A county spokesman says the gardens are intended to offer community development and job training opportunities while reusing vacant lots. To participate, municipalities must be eligible to receive Community Development Block Grant funds.

Applications are due Nov. 18. For more information, call (412) 350-1198 or visit the county's website.

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Posted at 5:11 pm by Staff and Wire Reports
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September 29, 2010 | Link to this story

WVU Studying Gas Wells' Effect on Mon River Water

Filed Under: News || By Staff and Wire Report

A boom in Marcellus shale drilling has also created a list of environmental concerns and accelerated the need for research and public policy at state and federal levels, say water quality experts at West Virginia University in Morgantown.

The drilling industry and its potential effects on local rivers and streams --- particularly the Monongahela and its tributaries --- are among the topics to be discussed at a conference next week in Morgantown, W.Va.

"We're having a particular focus this year on water-related regulations," says Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute.

"Water regulations, if they're done intelligently, will protect the environment and protect the (West Virginia's) economy," he says. "If they're not done properly, they'll do neither or they'll do one at the expense of the other."

. . .

The WVWRI, a program of WVU's National Research Center for Coal and Energy, is also working on a comprehensive water quality monitoring and reporting project for the Monongahela River watershed.

Water samples are collected bi-weekly from 16 sites --- including the Youghiogheny River near Sutersville and the Monongahela River near Elizabeth. The samples are analyzed in a laboratory in Morgantown for total dissolved solids and chemicals that may pose health risks.

Since early 2008, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has issued 3,800 Marcellus shale well permits. West Virginia regulators say about 500 gas wells have been drilled in that state in the last three years, with no signs of letting up.

. . .

Marcellus shale, a geological formation stretching under much of the Appalachian Mountains, is one of the nation's largest reservoirs of natural gas, with at least one estimate saying it could provide inexpensive natural gas for the U.S. for 14 years. A recent report from the American Petroleum Institute estimated it contained gas reserves worth $2 trillion.

Tapping the shale's gas using "fracing" (pronounced "frack-ing") has created environmental concerns. The process requires millions of gallons of fresh water plus small amounts of sand and additives. New York state has not allowed gas well drilling into the shale for two years.

Water treatment plants in McKeesport and Clairton are among those processing used fracing water.

. . .

"Marcellus (shale drilling) has the potential to be a very, very important component of our total water quality picture here," Ziemkiewicz says. "A lot of water is withdrawn to make up hydrofracing operations and a significant amount of water comes back out.

"If that's disposed of properly, then we don't have a problem," he says. "If it's recycled and goes back into the next frac job, we don't have a problem. But to the extent that some of that water can come back out into the environment then you are going to see some impact."

To combat those problems, Ziemkiewicz has received a $600,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for a research and demonstration project that aims to facilitate recycling of the returned frac water.

. . .

Removing solids is the first step in almost any water treatment process, but Ziemkiewicz says he is also looking for ways to remove enough of the salt and minerals so that water can be reused on the next natural gas well.

The system will be small enough to be trucked to a gas well for on-site water treatment. Then, instead of trucking untreated frac water off site, the treated water could be used for the next job. A pilot scale version of the system has been operating since March and further testing is under way. Ziemikiewicz also wants to explore ways to reuse treated mine water, either combining it with frac water to help the dilution process or filtering it on its own for reuse.

. . .

Next week's conference, which begins at 9 a.m. Oct. 6, combines educational programs with opportunities for researchers, engineers, policy makers, regulators, agencies and the public to share in the latest information, technologies and research, and will feature water quality experts from around the country.

Four sessions are scheduled for the conference including "New Gas Well Extraction Methods: Does Marcellus Opportunity Mean Water Threats?" Ziemkiewicz is one of the panelists for a forum on total dissolved solids in the Mon.

For more information, call WVU's National Research Center for Coal & Energy at (304) 293-2867.

. . .

(Source: West Virginia University)

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Posted at 12:00 am by Staff and Wire Report
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September 27, 2010 | Link to this story

For a Change, Some Possibly Helpful Advice

Filed Under: Commentary/Editorial, News || By Jason Togyer

If you've been following the Tube City Online Facebook page, you know that our World Headquarters was recently under siege. A relentless and annoying pest stormed our offices, demanding our immediate attention, leaving a mess, and providing nothing useful in return.

No, I'm not talking about teabaggers. I'm talking about the brown marmorated stinkbug. On Thursday afternoon, I opened the back door of our sumptuous office at the top of Dravosburg Hill and was confronted with the most alarming stench --- something like rotten fruit, or garbage left in the sun.

I thought the smell was caused by an article I'd written, but in fact, the windows and ceilings were crawling with the bastards. It was like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

After gathering up as many bugs as I could find, I made the mistake of looking online for information, and instead found paragraph after paragraph of complete misinformation. A lot of it came from bloggers and anonymous chat room commenters, but much also was generated by local TV news. (One story called them "the Al Qaeda terrorist of bugs" and said homeowners were "powerless" to stop them.)

The newspapers haven't been far behind in spreading claptrap. Stories have featured a lot of rumor and folklore: "Pesticides don't work! You can't keep them outside! Your house is probably already infested!"

. . .

To hear some reporters tell it, my best option was to burn down the house and flee to Antarctica, which is completely free of both stinkbugs and people who think health insurance regulations are socialism.

Naturally, I freaked out.

Luckily, before I started soaking the rugs with lighter fluid, I came to what amounts to my senses, and by Saturday morning I was stinkbug free.

Now, I'm no expert, but here's what I learned, thanks to some experimentation, and I'm posting it here at Tube City Almanac in the hopes that other people will benefit.

All of these tips, by the way, assume you don't mind using chemicals --- which I don't. (I take the approach of Robert DeNiro in The Untouchables: "I want them dead, I want their families dead!") If you're someone who says, "Oh, I don't like pesticides," then by all means, enjoy your stinkbugs.

. . .

'Pesticides Don't Work' is a Myth: Pesticides will kill stinkbugs, but you need to use the right ones, and they don't work instantaneously. If you're expecting to knock them out of the sky with one mighty blast, you're out of luck. (Any chemical that lethal would also kill you, right?)

You need to spray, and re-spray, and be patient, but even common Raid Ant and Roach Killer (the kind you can buy at Giant Eagle or Foodland) will kill 'em.

To spray the outside of the house, you need a pesticide containing one of the chemicals called "pyrethroids." I sprayed the outside of the house with Spectracide "Triazicide," and the next day, I had a bunch of dead stinkbugs around.

Also, most of these chemicals are not safe to be sprayed on food, or on the inside of your house, so you need to keep the bugs out of the house. And most of these chemicals break down or wash away after a few days, so you'll need to re-spray.

Incidentally, professional exterminators prefer chemicals sold under the trade names "Demand CS" or "Talstar Pro." These chemicals are not sold to the general public. (Of course, I found a half-dozen places selling them online, hint hint.)

. . .

'Soap Repels Them' is a Myth: I read a comment online by someone who was considering coating the outside of their house with Palmolive dishwashing liquid, because they were told dishwashing soap kills stinkbugs.

There isn't some magical chemical in dishwashing soap that kills stinkbugs, but it does smother them if you spray it on them, or if you knock them into a bucket of the stuff. It certainly doesn't repel them.

What does repel them is Deep Woods Off or Cutter bug repellent. Spritz some on your window screens and doors every day. Which brings me to my next subject ...

. . .

Air Conditioners Are a Welcome Mat: Despite the fact that my window air conditioner fit tightly and was sealed on all sides, stinkbugs were strolling right through it and inside the house. If you have one or more of those damned air conditioners, get rid of it! You'll eliminate a major entry point.

I also taped around the edges of all of my window screens with duct tape. It ain't pretty, but it works.

. . .

Once They're Inside: If you've got a room full of them, as I did, you need a nuclear option. Once I sealed the outside windows and taped up the screens, I set off a few Raid Fumigators and left the house for a few hours.

Upon returning, I found a whole bunch of corpses, and one barely-alive stinkbug. A second round (this time, with a few Black Flag room foggers) flushed out the remaining bugs and killed them, too.

Those foggers don't have any lingering effect (thank God), so you'll need to keep any new ones from getting in. But once you've sealed up a room, it will kill the ones inside.

. . .

I hope some of this information is helpful, but I'm not an expert, and you try any of these methods at your own risk. Now, if I could only come up with a repellent for teabaggers. I'm thinking about a copy of Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here ... wrapped around a brick.

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Posted at 07:49 am by Jason Togyer
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September 22, 2010 | Link to this story

Flashback: Pride of 1960

Filed Under: History || By Jason Togyer

Pittsburgh Civic Arena under construction, 1960

I find lots of interesting things at local flea markets that sometimes turn out to be very timely ... such as the February-March 1960 issue of U.S. Steel News, originally sent to someone who worked at the Duquesne Works:
With the completion of the support arm for the movable dome, steel construction has reached the half-way mark at the new Pittsburgh Civic Auditorium. American Bridge workmen finished the arm by attaching a 45-ton tip to the cantilever structure that juts out over the center of the auditorium.

One of the heaviest portions of the support arm, the final section contains pivot pins for each of the six sliding leaves of the stainless steel dome. The leaves will be hinged on those pins and will pivot on the vertical pins by means of giant spherical bearings. On the ground, the leaves will be mounted on wheels following banked tracks to allow the leaves to move easily.

The spherical bearings on which the leaves will roll at the top will fit over the vertical pins in the tip of the support arm. Machined in the Bridge Division's Ambridge, Pa., plant from stainless steel castings weighing 1,000 pounds apiece, the king-sized spherical bearings now weigh 713 pounds each.

The cantilever arm contains approximately 1,450 tons of structural steel fabricated at Ambridge. It consists of a huge, curved box girder and a tie-back framework. The girder extends 205 feet from a massive steel-reinforced concrete buttress to the center of the auditorium and rises 112 feet from the top of the buttress to the highest point of the tip.

Pittsburgh Civic Arena under construction, 1960

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Posted at 08:00 am by Jason Togyer
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September 21, 2010 | Link to this story

Bromides in (and About) the News

Filed Under: Commentary/Editorial || By Jason Togyer

Possible Gas Well Pollutant in River?: Scott Beveridge of the Observer-Reporter reports that Monongahela River water has become unexpectedly high in bromide contamination since July, according to a new study from Carnegie Mellon University.

Bromide is a chemical compound found in many products, including pop, fire retardants and prescription medications. Indeed, bromides were so often used as sedatives in the 19th century (including in Bromo-Seltzer) that the word "bromide" became synonymous with something that's tiresome or boring (in other words, it puts you to sleep).

Levels of bromide in the Mon spiked in July, coincidentally (or maybe not) as more and more Marcellus shale gas wells have gone online.

The gas in Marcellus shale is trapped in dense layers of rock, which must be fractured or "fracked" during the well-drilling process. To crack the shale, water, usually laced with other chemicals, is pumped into the well at high pressure. The wastewater is then pumped out, and is supposed to be disposed of properly.

However, as the ProPublica news service reported last year, local wastewater treatment plants such as McKeesport's can't remove salts --- such as bromide --- from the fracking water, and it winds up being discharged back into the river.

. . .

By itself, bromide isn't harmful, but it can't be removed by water treatment plants, either. And when it goes through a water treatment plant, the bromide combines with the chlorine to create bromate, a compound which has been linked to cancer.

Indeed, in 2007, bromate contamination forced Los Angeles officials to drain two reservoirs of 600 million gallons of drinking water.

Though city residents and others served by the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County get their drinking water from the Youghiogheny River, other area communities --- those served by Pennsylvania-American Water, for example --- are supplied from the Mon.

PAWC told Beveridge its drinking water meets all applicable federal safety standards. No one has definitively linked the bromide contamination to fracking water, but the state Department of Environmental Protection is trying to find the source, which could take "weeks or months."

. . .

Righteous Indignation Over Pa. Spying: On a related note, John Cole of Balloon Juice was steaming mad over the news that Pennsylvania Homeland Security officials have spied on local residents involved with groups that oppose Marcellus shale gas drilling --- and then turned the supposedly confidential reports over to the drilling companies.

"Because, you know, if you oppose corporations ruining your road, cracking your foundation, housing huge reservoirs of toxic water evaporating near your house and spilling into your well water, well, the government needs to keep their eye on you because you might be a terrorist," Cole wrote last week.

"And if you propose taxing these companies rather than just looting the land for resources and leaving behind 'externalities' and Superfund sites for you to clean up, then you are socialist, and that is even worse."

. . .

New Superintendent Named: In case you missed it, Assistant Superintendent Timothy Gabauer has been elevated to the top job at McKeesport Area School District. Gabauer, a former social studies teacher and high school principal, has worked in the district since 1994. He replaces Michael Brinkos, who resigned to take a job with the Allegheny Intermediate Unit.

Brinkos, a McKeesport High grad, was appointed superintendent just last year, and was the district's third superintendent in four years. He took a pay cut to work for the AIU, but told the Post-Gazette he was making the move "for professional growth."

We wish both Gebauer and Brinkos well, but all of the highly public personnel moves made over the past few years --- including the departure of the head football coach at the high school --- cause one to wonder about employee morale in the district.

Experience proves that when a company's morale goes down, the quality of its product goes down, too. Education is the only product of a school district, and if morale is going down, instruction starts to take a backseat to political bickering.

Children, teachers, support staff and taxpayers need the school board to supply consistent, stable leadership, and we hope things are on the right track.

. . .

Good Government Marches On, Part 1: California has taken a stand against illegal immigrants who sneak across America's borders and steal our jobs.

California Borough, that is, not the state.

By a 3-2 vote, borough council suspended the police chief because council supposedly has concerns about her citizenship.

Police Chief Tracy Vitale was born in Germany and adopted at age 3 by an American couple. That's not good enough for council, which has demanded documentation about her adoption.

That's triggered an investigation that includes U.S. Rep. Mark Critz and the German consulate. It certainly seems like a good waste ... I mean, use ... of everyone's time and money.

It's worth noting that Vitale was named acting police chief after the previous chief was demoted when Washington County prosecutors discovered drugs and other evidence missing from the police station.

The councilman who proposed the motion, Jon Bittner, said he proposed suspending Vitale "to protect the residents of California." Protect them from what? Germany's top-secret plan to take over small-town police departments?

Nobody asked us, but do you know what would really help protect the residents of Councilman Bittner's borough? Having a police chief. Where was council back when things were going missing from the evidence locker?

Heckuva job, California Borough Council! You are the Mon Valley's latest example of Good Government ... On the March!

. . .

Good Government Marches On, Part 2: But wait! Not far from California Borough, up in New Eagle, state police have charged the man who ran Ringgold School District's cafeteria program with theft and related offenses.

Police allege he encouraged his employees to falsify their applications so they could qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches, and that he listed his dog as a dependent in order for his family to qualify.

We now know why Ringgold school cafeterias were serving lunches that made gravy when you poured water onto them. (Rimshot)

(Some of these items previously appeared at Tube City Online's Facebook page. Opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not represent those of Tube City Community Media Inc. or any other organization.)

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Posted at 12:00 am by Jason Togyer
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September 20, 2010 | Link to this story

Seven Tapped for High School's Hall of Fame

Filed Under: News || By Submitted Report

Another diverse group of high-achieving alumni has been chosen for membership in the McKeesport High School Hall of Fame.

The Class of 2010 is the 23rd to be inducted, says Karen Kost, spokeswoman for the McKeesport High School Alumni and Friends Association. Honorees will be recognized at a banquet Oct. 9 at Stratigos in North Huntingdon Township, she says.

A reception will be held at 6 p.m, followed by dinner and the induction ceremony. Tickets are $40 and reservations are required by Oct. 1, Kost says. For more information, call (412) 678-9215 or visit the Consortium for Public Education website.

A biographical sketch of the nominees follows.

. . .

Urban Garrett ('48) was the first member of his family to graduate from high school and the first to earn a college degree. He put both to good use in an education career that spanned nearly 50 years.

He began as a public school teacher and musician in Humbolt, Tenn., after graduating from Fisk University with a bachelor of arts in music in 1952. He went on to earn a math degree from Memphis State University and to teach mathematics, eventually returning to the area to join the faculty at Community College of Allegheny County.

He spent 25 years at CCAC in a variety of positions, gaining expertise in working with diverse groups of students in need of improved developmental skills, from those seeking GEDs to ironworkers learning math. He began as a math tutor at CCAC's Allegheny Campus, went on to teach all phases of GED preparation, then worked as a coordinator responsible for the college's Math and Reading Labs before retiring in 2001.

During his years at CCAC, Garrett also taught piano, violin and voice for the Jazz Workshop in Homewood, offered GED math preparation at the Earnest T. Williams Center in the Northview Heights public housing community on Pittsburgh's North Side, and taught math for Urban Youth Action.

An accomplished musician on both piano and violin, Garrett has often been called upon to play the piano at special events around the area.

. . .

Ellen Vasey Show ('55) balanced her professional career in health care with her dedication to the community.

She began her career as a nurse in the emergency room at McKeesport Hospital before resigning her post and becoming a school nurse at McKeesport Area High School for four years, earning enough money to attend college at night and on weekends.

In 1965, she was recruited to return to McKeesport Hospital, where she was instrumental in launching its Intensive and Coronary Care Unit. She went onto study coronary care at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, then oversaw the expansion and redesign of the Emergency Department at McKeesport. She also opened the first Psychiatric Unit at McKeesport Hospital.

In the 1970s, while at the University of Pittsburgh, she collaborated with physicians and other nurses to set measurable standards for medical care, then tested the standards at local hospitals. Based on her efforts, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals made quality assurance programs mandatory for hospitals to obtain accreditation. She has written professional articles and won numerous awards for her work.

In the community, she volunteered for 13 years at the McKeesport Heritage Center and in 2008 began serving as a volunteer ambassador at the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. She is also a board member for the LaRosa Boys and Girls Club, and currently serves as president of the McKeesport College Club.

. . .

Robert E. Nahory ('56) credits strong McKeesport school programs emphasizing reading and music for launching his life-long interest in science and in music.

He learned to play the drums in fifth grade and continued playing throughout high school. After graduating as valedictorian, he earned a bachelor's in physics at Carnegie Tech, then enrolled at Purdue University, graduating with master's and doctoral degrees.

As a researcher at AT&T's Bell Laboratories, Nahory embarked on research into fiber-optic cables for use in high-speed data communications, leading directly to today's cable television and Internet networks. For this work, he and colleague Marty Pollack received the IEEE William Streiffer Scientific Achievement Award. Nahory has published more than 150 scientific papers and holds a dozen patents.

He left AT&T in 1997 and began teaching at Rutgers University, including both college-level physics and outreach to pupils in grades 2 through 12. Since 2003, Nahory has been working with Rutgers' Institute of Jazz Studies to archive and preserve performances digitally.

He is married to the former Dawn Muse of McKeesport.

. . .

Allan G. Bluman ('60) has spent his life helping people master mathematics and statistics, both as a teacher and later as a successful author.

After graduating from California University of Pennsylvania, he began his career in the classroom at McKeesport Junior High School, where he taught for three years. He went on to earn master's and doctoral degrees at the University of Pittsburgh and taught at Community College of Allegheny County for 36 years.

He has written seven mathematics books for the McGraw-Hill Company, two of which are currently used in over 400 colleges and universities in the United States.

Active in the community, Bluman also coached Little League baseball and is active in Versailles AARP, Elizabeth Township Sportsmen's Association, St. Angela's Keener Citizens, and the McKeesport Toastmasters Club. He is married to the former Betty Claire O'Brien.

. . .

Earlene Coleman ('64) has been active in the religious and civic life of McKeesport for more than three decades and is currently pastor of the city's historic Bethlehem Baptist Church.

When she was called to serve as pastor in April of 2003, she became the first woman to lead the congregation in its 120-year history. Under her pastorate, numerous innovative programs have been instituted and others have been re-invigorated. Presently, she is spearheading fund-raising efforts to establish a community center in the former R&J Furniture store, Downtown.

A graduate of the American Baptist College of Pittsburgh, Coleman was licensed and ordained under the leadership of the late Aubrey E. Swann. She has also studied child development, evangelism and ministry and has traveled and preached in Jamaica, the West Indies, Guyana, South America, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Her involvement in the community includes service on the board of the McKeesport YWCA and Womansplace; the city's Human Rights Commission; and McKeesport Women's Aglow, an organization which she headed. She is currently assistant secretary for the Baptist Ministers' Conference and serves on the Advisory Board of Penn State Greater Allegheny Campus.

Retired from McKeesport Area School District after 30 years' service, she is married to the Rev. Kenneth Coleman.

. . .

Cheryl McCall ('68) was once described by a friend and co-worker as "a rabble-rouser" and a "crusading reporter." Her editorials against the Vietnam War, written for the student newspaper at Wayne State College in Detroit, led then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to brand her a security threat.

As a reporter for the former Life magazine, McCall wrote about celebrities such as Willie Nelson, Maya Angelou and Billie Jean King, but also traveled to poverty and famine stricken areas of Ethiopia and Haiti. Her experiences led McCall to interview poor children closer to home and led her to write a story for Life called "Streetwise" about homeless youth in Seattle.

In 1985, McCall turned "Streetwise" into a documentary that was nominated for an Academy Award. Fed up with journalism's limitations, McCall entered Yale University Law School, passed the bar exam in California and became a child-custody attorney.

She died in 2005 after a long battle with breast cancer.

. . .

Margaret D. Larkins-Pettigrew ('72) is an assistant professor at Case Western University School of Medicine in Cleveland.

As the Director of Global Health Programs in Case Western's Department of Reproductive Biology, Pettigrew coordinates international education for medical students and faculty. She recently launched a program for women and newborn children called WONDOOR, which tries to educate global physicians through local and international health care collaborations.

Pettigrew also is a founding member and vice-president of health education for Project Africa Global-International Programs for Sustainable Solutions, where she helped develop and implement an international health care curriculum for residents, faculty and students from medical schools around the world. She also assists health care professionals who volunteer for medical missions in west and southern Africa.

An alumna of the University of Pittsburgh and California State University, Pettigrew earned an MD degree as well as advanced degrees in nursing, education and public policy and management, and she is a veteran of the U.S. Navy.

Locally, she is an active volunteer to many health care organizations and is a frequent speaker internationally and throughout the Pittsburgh region and is currently chair of Global Links, a non-profit organization that collects and distributes medical supplies to Latin American and African countries.

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Posted at 08:00 am by Submitted Report
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September 16, 2010 | Link to this story

Briefly Noted: Poet Laureate to Visit City

Filed Under: News || By Staff and Wire Reports

Penn State's poet laureate will come to the city Sept. 29 for a poetry reading at the university's Greater Allegheny Campus.

Robin Becker, a professor of English and women's studies at the university, is a Philadelphia native who has published seven books of poetry, including most recently Domain of Perfect Affection (University of Pittsburgh Press), and her work has been featured on National Public Radio and in a variety of newspapers and literary magazines.

She is a contributing editor to Ploughshares magazine and The Women's Review of Books.

Her work has been honored by the Mary Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College, the Massachusetts Artists Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and her collection All-American Girl in 1996 won the Lambda Literary Award for poetry exploring lesbian and gay themes.

A graduate of Boston University, Becker has cited her Ukrainian grandmother as a major influence on her early storytelling style, along with such poets and authors as Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Maxine Kumin, Denise Levertov and Susan Griffin. Her poetry, Becker has said, is designed to engage listeners "in the deep pleasures of poetry -- language crafted and shaped from words, the 'ordinary' material we all use every day."

The event, which is free and open to the public, starts at 7 p.m. in the Ostermayer Room of the Student Community Center.

. . .

MHS Class of '61 Reunion Committee to Meet: Members of the McKeesport High School Class of 1961 --- the last to graduate from the former "Tech High" on Cornell Street --- are looking for classmates interested in planning the 50th reunion.

The reunion is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 20, 2011 at Stratigos Banquet Centre in North Huntingdon Township.

People interested in helping should contact Judy Brennan Joyce at (412) 751-0268.

. . .

Rankin Bridge Down to One Lane Friday Night: Rankin Bridge will be restricted to a single alternating lane of traffic beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, an Allegheny County spokesman announced.

The restrictions run through Saturday morning and are part of the ongoing reconstruction of the bridge deck.

. . .

West Mifflin Honor Guard: The honor guard of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 "Intrepid" in West Mifflin carries the colors Saturday during the borough's parade near the Allegheny County Airport on Community Day.

From left are VFW 914 members David Luikart, a Vietnam veteran; Post Commander Charles Krebs, a Vietnam veteran; Jay Jabbour, a Korean War veteran; and Kenneth J. Curcio, Persian Gulf War veteran.

. . .

Women, Minority Business Open House Slated: Women and minority business owners are invited to an open house next Wednesday night to learn about regional entrepreneurship opportunities.

The open house is set for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the 31st floor of the Regional Enterprise Tower, 425 Sixth Ave., Pittsburgh and is hosted by the county's Department of Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise.

Discussion topics will include business opportunities in energy auditing and Marcellus shale gas drilling.

"We work to ensure that minority-owned, women-owned, and disadvantaged businesses have the best opportunity to obtain and perform contracts," said Ruth Byrd-Smith, the department's director. "Our open house is the perfect chance for these business owners and their employees to network with Allegheny County departments and other local businesses, as well as to learn about the newest business and contract opportunities."

Registration is requested. Call (412) 350-4309 or e-mail

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September 15, 2010 | Link to this story

This 'Network' Isn't Even Mad as 'Heck'

Filed Under: Good Government On The March, Commentary/Editorial || By Jason Togyer

(Editor's Note: In the interest of full disclosure and transparency, I have to acknowledge that I am currently working on a project with the Redevelopment Authority of the City of McKeesport, which is among the entities mentioned in the Post-Gazette's series called "The Network." Also, as a student intern in the 1990s, I worked for Rich Lord at City Paper, and have great respect for his hard work and talent.)

. . .

When I saw in Sunday's Post-Gazette that reporter Rich Lord was writing about what he called "The Network" --- the private, for-profit consultants who work with many Pittsburgh-area municipalities and agencies --- I started to drool a little bit.

As described by Lord, "The Network" runs straight through the Mon Valley and includes many longtime local figures, including former Duquesne Mayor George Matta.

Naturally, I figured this was going to be juicy gossip about people we all know. I even posted something to the Tube City Online Facebook page urging others to read it.

. . .

Then, rubbing my hands eagerly, I pored over the first installment, and thought, "OK, OK, this is just the background ... the second story is going to deliver some real dirt!"

On Monday, I read the second story and thought, "Well, Rich is just getting ready to deliver the knockout punch with the final installment!"

And then I read Tuesday's installment, and then I turned to the back of the paper to see what Beetle Bailey was up to. (He's still aggravating Sarge.)

It wasn't a case of all smoke and no fire. It also was a case of very little smoke.

. . .

I'm not trying to be critical of Rich, who I greatly admire and respect. He did a thorough job of naming the players and explaining their connections. His "Network" stories were fascinating to a government wonk such as myself, and did a wonderful job of explaining how RDM evolved. They're both well-written and meticulously researched.

In fact, if you like government privatization, Rich's stories are like a textbook example of how it works. They could --- and should --- be used in political science classes.

I'm just having a hard time seeing anything to get upset about.

. . .

To summarize the installments, for the past 20 years, what the Post-Gazette calls a "network" including former Turnpike Commissioner James Dodaro, attorney Jack Cambest, members of the Zappala and Matta families and others have been remarkably successful at winning consultancy contracts for a variety of local government agencies.

For instance, Dodaro sits on the board of a company called Resource Development and Management, which has been the state-appointed overseer for communities (such as Braddock, Homestead and North Braddock boroughs) who have been in Act 47 "distressed" status.

RDM also provides management for the city's Redevelopment Authority and the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, which operates the city's water system.

. . .

Dodaro, in turn, is a partner in Cambest's law firm, which represents the McKeesport Area School District and several municipalities, including those that do business with RDM. And so it goes. The Post-Gazette's graphic includes 12 people as part of this "network."

Rich quotes former Allegheny County Commissioner Mike Dawida as saying members of this "network" aren't doing anything illegal, and that government is "what they know better than anybody else," but that "they (aren't) necessarily in it for the good of the people."

Well, no. Surprise! They're providing services in order to make a profit, which is what private enterprise is about. That's not a bad thing, and it's a direct result of how local government has evolved in Pennsylvania.

. . .

Ever since the Reagan Administration, we've been told "big government is the enemy." That's exactly what the Tea Party movement is supposedly about, right? The mantra since the 1980s has been "privatize government agencies" and "outsource services to the private sector."

That's exactly what agencies have done. For instance, unionized McKeesport employees no longer collect the city's garbage --- a private contractor, Nickolich Sanitation, does that. If RDM is making a profit, well, good for them --- that's why they're in business.

Second, the "big government is the enemy" movement has violently objected to any attempts to force municipal consolidation. Take a look at the Tribune-Review editorial page, which is a reliable barometer of local right-wing strains of thought. Just this past Sunday, a lengthy op-ed from the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy inveighed against municipal mergers, saying that "bigger governments are not more efficient. Indeed, the opposite is too often the case."

. . .

As a result of Pennsylvania's mania for "local control," we have a patchwork of tiny municipalities like Wall (population 800, more or less) and Versailles (about 2,000). When those boroughs were created in the 1900s, local governments provided almost no services. Residents didn't have sewers, they used outhouses. They didn't have running water, they had wells or cisterns. The streets weren't even paved.

A small borough with few services could be easily run by a part-time borough council that only met once a month.

Things are a lot more sophisticated. Besides health and sanitation, residents demand broadband access and cable TV. Those franchise agreements have to be negotiated. They want recreation facilities and sports leagues and handicapped access ramps and code enforcement and all sorts of things that didn't exist 100 or even 50 years ago.

. . .

And that's without a community going into distressed status. Dealing with a morass of financial problems requires professional, experienced help, which is more than most small communities can afford. Instead, they hire a consultant such as RDM and share the expense with many other municipalities.

Arguably, it saves money. Rich notes that McKeesport pays RDM about $55,000 to manage the Redevelopment Authority. I doubt that even one employee --- without benefits --- could do the job for $55,000 annually.

. . .

Is RDM doing a bad job? Is it gouging the taxpayers? Well, according to Rich, Westmoreland Water's rates are actually lower than those of Pennsylvania-American Water, which serves many Mon-Yough communities.

Is RDM buying votes? Political contributions from the firm have been "frequent but modest," the P-G says. Over the last eight years, for instance, one Westmoreland County commissioner has received about $8,000 from three people connected to RDM, or about $300 per person per year.

Hey, if influence can be purchased that cheaply, then sign me up.

Finally, "The Network" points out that employees went to the same colleges or are related. Well, here's a news flash: At my full-time job, I regularly hire freelance writers and photographers, and I nearly always use people I've worked with before, or who have come recommended to me.

I trust them, and more to the point, I enjoy working with them. I'm hardly surprised that RDM and its related companies operate the same way.

. . .

Personally, I'm against privatizing government services. I think they should be operated by elected officials for the benefit of taxpayers.

I also think gas, electric and water utilities should be publicly owned. Then again, I'm a bleeding-heart liberal.

But I'm also against our ridiculous system of local government. For crying out loud, Allegheny County's 1.2 million residents are served by 130 cities, boroughs and townships, and 43 school districts.

The entire Borough of Manhattan, with 1.6 million residents, has one police department, one school district and one local government --- and it shares those services with the rest of New York City.

However, I'm in the minority around here. (I also like black licorice.)

. . .

There's no shadowy "network" running local government. There is, however, a crazy patchwork of tiny local governments and private consultants, and it's probably as inefficient as all heck.

But until we convince Pennsylvania residents to drag this state, kicking and screaming, into the 20th (not the 21st) century, "them's the conditions what prevails."

I look for that to happen right about the same time Beetle stops aggravating Sarge, or whenever "Beetle Bailey" is funny --- whichever one comes first.

. . .

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.

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Posted at 11:35 pm by Jason Togyer
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September 10, 2010 | Link to this story

To Do This Weekend

Filed Under: Events || By Staff Report

All-Day Gospel Sing Saturday: City-based Well Ministries will hold its 10th All-Day Gospel Sing in Renziehausen Park on Saturday.

Activities begin at noon at the Lions Bandshell at the corner of Eden Park Boulevard and Tulip Drive and continue until 8 p.m. In case of rain, events will move to the First Church of the Open Bible, 719 Union Ave.

"Puppets for the King" --- a project of the Well, based on Versailles Avenue --- will entertain kids and parents at 12 noon, followed by "Gospel Illusions."

The lineup of musicians includes the group Chalice --- another project of Well Ministries --- at 1 p.m.; Daughters of His Grace at 2; North Huntingdon-based Voice of the Bride at 2:30; Ed Lutheran at 3:15; Pastor Bob Fagin and "God's Grace" of First Church of the Open Bible at 3:45; Abraham's Promise at 4:30; "Thy Will Be Done," McKeesport Presbyterian Church's Praise Team, at 5:15; a reprise of Chalice at 6; HeartBeat at 6:45; and a rousing close at 7:30.

Admission is free. The "Frownie" mascot of King's Family Restaurants also will make an appearance.

Door prizes will be given away throughout the day and refreshments will be available. Attendees may also pack picnic baskets and bring lawn chairs or blankets.

The entertainment also will be streamed live online at The Well's website. For information, call (412) 206-9335.

. . .

'Honk!' at MLT: McKeesport Little Theater kicks off its 50th season with "Honk!" a musical by Anthony Drewe and George Stiles and based on the Hans Christian Andersen story "The Ugly Duckling."

Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $18 for adults or $7 for students. McKeesport Little Theater is located at 1614 Coursin St., off Versailles Avenue. Call (412) 673-1100 or visit the MLT's website.

. . .
Dancing at Palisades: The Pittsburgh chapter of USA Dance will hold a "more formal than normal" dance at The Palisades Ballroom, Fifth Avenue at Water Street, Downtown, on Saturday night.

Instructor Jim Paige will give foxtrot lessons at 7 p.m., and D.J. "Jivin' Johnny" will play music from 8 to 10:30. Visit the group's website for details.

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September 08, 2010 | Link to this story

Briefly Noted: Lincoln Way Bridge Opening Today

Filed Under: News || By Jason Togyer

A new bridge carrying Lincoln Way is scheduled to open today, ending two months of detours.

Barring any unforeseen delays, the two-lane span carrying the highway across Long Run near Oak Park Mall will open to traffic at around 12 noon, says Jim Struzzi, district spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

That portion of Lincoln Way in White Oak carries more than 14,000 cars daily, according to PennDOT statistics. Although the official detour routed cars up Route 48 to Route 30, many drivers were using the mall's parking lot as a shortcut, snarling traffic for shoppers.

The new bridge was built by Clearwater Construction of Mercer County under a $6.4 million contract to replace or repair several bridges in the Pittsburgh area, Struzzi says.

. . .

Police Promotions Announced: Three veteran city police officers received promotions in rank, Chief Bryan Washowich announced last week.

Police Lt. Tim Hanna was promoted to captain, Sgt. Tim Bliss was promoted to lieutenant, and Det. Chris Halaszynski was promoted to detective sergeant.

. . .

International Village Report Planned: This year's International Village grossed more than $77,000, city officials reported at Wednesday's council meeting.

A financial report will be released at October's council meeting, Mayor Jim Brewster says. The three-day ethnic food and music festival ended the year in the black, he says.

"We want to show the public that it isn't free --- there are expenses," Brewster says. The annual fireworks display at the close of the festival was canceled this year to save money, but sponsors have been lined up to pay for fireworks for next year's event, he says.

Brewster credits city Councilman Darryl Segina, who served as International Village chair for 16 years, with leaving the festival's finances "in good shape."

"We're just continuing what he was doing," Brewster says.

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September 07, 2010 | Link to this story

PennDOT OKs More W. 5th Paving

Filed Under: News || By Jason Togyer

State officials have given the city permission to extend the reconstruction of West Fifth Avenue to the approach ramps of the Mansfield Bridge.

Jim Struzzi, district spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, says permission was granted last week by District 11 Executive Dan Cessna.

Although most of West Fifth Avenue is a city-owned road, state permission was necessary because the work is being performed with the assistance of a special, one-time-only $1 million grant approved last year by Gov. Ed Rendell and state transportation Secretary Allen Biehler.

About 21,000 cars daily use West Fifth Avenue, but the city would not have been able to repave the street without the grant, Mayor Jim Brewster says. He credits state Reps. Marc Gergely of White Oak and Bill Kortz of Dravosburg with arranging the funding.

"When you're trying to get businesses to locate here, you've got to dress yourself up," Brewster says.

The city is also asking Allegheny County to count the additional paving toward its share of next year's reconstruction of the Mansfield Bridge.

Under the terms of a 1940s state Public Utility Commission ruling, McKeesport is being asked to contribute $141,576 toward repairs to the bridge's approach ramps. Glassport Borough is also being asked to contribute.

. . .

In related news, state officials have given the city permission to purchase a new traffic signal Downtown for use on Fifth Avenue as part of that street's reconstruction, says Bethany Budd Bauer, community development director.

Fifth Avenue is currently being widened and returned to two-way traffic between Water and Coursin streets under a $929,000 grant from the state's Home Town Streets Initiative. Paving is expected to be complete before November's "Salute to Santa" parade, Brewster says.

City officials say they are trying to arrange funding for new parking meters on Fifth Avenue --- as well as new Christmas decorations --- through the Downtown Business District Authority.

The existing parking meters are unsightly, and many no longer work, Brewster says. Parking meter revenue is included in each year's budget but has been neglected for too long, he says.

Parking fees will not be enforced at night or on weekends, Brewster says.

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Posted at 7:08 pm by Jason Togyer
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September 06, 2010 | Link to this story

Labor Day

Filed Under: Commentary/Editorial, Sarcastic? Moi? || By Jason Togyer

Back when Republicans thought society had an obligation to provide people with luxuries such as education and health care, and when Democrats didn't wet their pants every time someone raised their voice, there was something called the American "middle class."

The middle class existed roughly from 1940 to 1980. It was based on the idea that if people worked hard and were honest, they could move out of the lower class and afford a house and other items without taking on crippling levels of debt.

Luckily, over the past 30 years, we've come to see the folly of that kind of thinking.

Thanks to far-sighted individuals such as Alan Greenspan, we've drastically cut taxes on the wealthy, and paid for those cuts by eliminating needless frills such as public transit and schools for those parasites in the lower classes.

. . .

This has gotten us closer to the utopia envisioned by Ayn Rand and libertarians, where a privileged class of oligarchs --- who obviously are smarter and more talented than the rest of us, because after all, they're rich! --- make decisions from their luxurious enclaves, while everyone else fights for the remaining scraps.

Getting us to this libertarian wonderland are talented strivers such as the Koch brothers, who fund many of those commercials you see and hear ("call the liberals in Congress and tell them to stop eating kittens") through foundations with noble names like Americans for Prosperity.

. . .

Back in the dark ages, one of the leaders of the movement to create a so-called "middle class" grew up in the Mon-Yough area. He was an immigrant (and thus not a "real American," as Tom Tancredo and Sarah Palin would point out) who learned that the coal mine where he worked in North Huntingdon was cheating him, so he led a strike and took the rest of the miners off the job.

Westmoreland County's government intervened on the side of righteousness --- they arrested this miscreant and threw him out.

The miscreant --- Philip Murray, whose picture appears here --- went onto found the United Steelworkers union and become president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations.

. . .

You can read more about him by clicking on this link to Tube City Online's "Local History" section, where we've reproduced part of a Nov. 14, 1940 profile from the Pittsburgh Bulletin-Index.

All sarcasm aside, despite Philip Murray's role in creating the American middle class, you will not find a monument to to his memory anywhere, as far as I can tell. You'll find Philip Murray Road in West Mifflin, and another one east of Glasgow, Scotland; you'll find a Philip Murray Avenue near the General Motors factory in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, and Pittsburgh Murray Elementary School (formerly Philip Murray Elementary) near that city's St. Clair Village. And that's all.

You probably didn't read about him in American history or see a "Biography" of Phil Murray on A&E.

On the other hand, the noted humanitarian Henry Clay Frick is honored with a building at the University of Pittsburgh, the Frick Art and Historical Center in Point Breeze, the Frick Building in downtown Pittsburgh, and the Frick Museum in New York City, among other things.

. . .

Back to the sarcasm: It's too bad Phil Murray didn't grow up reading Ayn Rand. If he'd only spent more time oppressing the workers than helping them, he could have done something useful with his life, like managing a hedge fund or offering sub-prime mortgages, or maybe raiding American companies and selling their assets to China.

Hey: Happy Labor Day, fellow parasites!

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Posted at 08:00 am by Jason Togyer
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September 04, 2010 | Link to this story

Downtown Eat 'n Park Staying Put, Plans Renovations

Filed Under: News || By Jason Togyer

Eat'n Park's fans in Our Fair City indeed have something to smile about.

The restaurant on Lysle Boulevard --- among the first in the regional chain --- is not only staying put, it's slated for renovations and a bigger parking lot when a new so-called "flyover ramp" is built into the RIDC Industrial Park.

"We're excited," says Kevin O'Connell, senior vice president of marketing for Homestead-based Eat'n Park. "We've been in McKeesport since 1952, and we're staying in McKeesport."

The company has also agreed to sign a 10-year extension on its present lease on Lysle Boulevard, according to a letter sent Thursday to Mayor Jim Brewster from Eat'n Park's vice president of real estate, William Bates.

. . .

The Almanac first reported on Aug. 11 that county officials had reached a tentative agreement with Eat'n Park on construction of the flyover ramp, which will require taking several parking spaces from both Eat'n Park and the neighboring Rite Aid pharmacy. County officials are still negotiating with the owner of the Rite Aid property.

The long-awaited flyover ramp will eliminate a major hurdle to marketing the industrial park at the old U.S. Steel National Works site. Cars and trucks must use railroad crossings at Center or Locust streets to enter the property and sometimes face significant delays.

While Eat'n Park will pay for its own interior renovations, Allegheny County will provide assistance with changes necessary to the exterior, the letter says.

. . .

The agreement "represents a continuing commitment (by Eat'n Park) to enhance the viability of our county's brownfield sites," Bates told Brewster in the letter.

When the new ramp is built, a new entrance and new parking spaces will be added to Eat'n Park. City officials have agreed to give the restaurant Martin Street, an unused alley between the restaurant and the Mega Muffler garage.

The city also will work with Eat'n Park to construct a dedicated left-turn "stacking" lane into the parking lot from Lysle Boulevard. Lysle Boulevard is a state highway, and the lane is subject to approval from state Department of Transportation officials.

. . .

Eat 'n Park expects the present parking lot to grow from 44 spaces to more than 50, O'Connell says. At the same time, the interior will be extensively remodeled, he says.

Exact details of the renovations aren't yet complete, O'Connell says, and the work won't begin until construction plans for the ramp are finalized.

"We will be making some significant upgrades to the restaurant," he says, "and we should be giving the people of McKeesport a very nice place to eat."

. . .

The current Eat'n Park is successor to an earlier, car-hop style restaurant that also was located on Lysle Boulevard. Another Eat'n Park at the intersection of Walnut Street and Eden Park Boulevard closed in the early 1980s.

Besides preserving one of Downtown's few sit-down eateries, the Eat'n Park announcement also preserves the jobs of cooks, waitstaff and others at the restaurant. O'Connell did not have exact employment figures for the city location.

Founded in 1949, the privately owned company has food service operations in seven states, including 80 Eat'n Parks in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, where it is the state's largest family restaurant chain.

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Posted at 08:00 am by Jason Togyer
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September 03, 2010 | Link to this story

Briefly Noted: Boston Bridge Construction Begins Sept. 13

Filed Under: News || By Staff Report

State officials will hold a public hearing Tuesday in Elizabeth Township to discuss the upcoming rehabilitation of the Boston Bridge.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Boston Spectrum, 6001 E. Smithfield St., says Jim Struzzi, district spokesman for the state Department of Transportation. PennDOT representatives will be available to answer questions, along with representatives of the Trumbull Corp. of Pittsburgh, prime contractor on the $17.3 million project.

Built in 1931, the 1,182-foot span is one of nearly 6,000 statewide that were rated "structurally deficient" in 2005. About 17,000 vehicles daily use the bridge, which carries state Route 48 over the Youghiogheny River between Versailles and Elizabeth Township.

Work begins Sept. 13 to replace beams, bearings and expansion joints; the steel and concrete bridge deck; and the sidewalks and railings, Struzzi says. Other work will include repair of broken or damaged concrete on the foundations and abutments.

Besides carrying cars and trucks, the bridge is popular with joggers and hikers. It serves as a link between the six-mile McKeesport-Versailles "LOOP" trail with the Great Allegheny Passage trail.

According to Struzzi, throughout the project, two lanes will remain open weekdays during morning (5 to 9 a.m.) and afternoon (3 to 7 p.m.) rush hours. However, lanes will be restricted to 11 feet wide and the bridge will be closed to northbound traffic (from Elizabeth Township into Versailles) every night, beginning at 7 p.m.

In addition, periodic closures of both lanes may take place for 15 minutes at a time, Struzzi says.

The posted detour takes trucks over Route 48 to Route 51, then to Route 837 and the McKeesport-Duquesne Bridge, onto Route 148 through the city. Cars will be sent over Route 48 to Finney Road, Liberty Way, Washington Boulevard, Rebecca Street, West Fifth Avenue, the Jerome Avenue Bridge and Walnut Street, back to Route 48.

Work is scheduled to wrap up in late 2011, Struzzi says.

. . .

McKeesport-Duquesne Bridge Inspection Underway: In other news, crews are performing routine inspections of the McKeesport-Duquesne Bridge through next Friday, weather permitting. All ramps will remain open.

The work is being performed by Mackin Engineering and Sofis Rigging Co., Struzzi says. Motorists are advised to use caution, slow down, and be prepared for changing traffic patterns. No work will be done on Labor Day, Struzzi says.

. . .

Route 51 Crack Sealing: Finally, Struzzi notes that PennDOT crews are currently sealing cracks in Route 51 between Rostraver Township and West Elizabeth.

The work is being done by Matcon Diamond Inc. of Pittsburgh's South Side between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., he says. Crews will be using slow-moving trucks and some traffic restrictions are possible.

Weather permitting, the crack-sealing operation will wrap up by Sept. 17.

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September 02, 2010 | Link to this story

Child Recovering After Police K-9 Incident

Filed Under: News || By Jason Togyer

A 6-year-old Christy Park girl is recovering from injuries suffered during an incident with a city police dog.

Police Chief Bryan Washowich said Wednesday night the department is reviewing its dog training and handling procedures after yesterday's events, which also injured Patrolman Francis Angert and the girl's mother.

Neither the girl nor her mother were identified by police.

"At this point, it looks like it was an unfortunate accident," Washowich said.

According to Washowich, with the start of classes in McKeesport Area School District, police officers were asked to check their beats and make sure no children were missed by school buses.

Angert was on routine patrol Wednesday morning near the intersection of 30th Avenue and Rockwood Street with his K-9 partner, Nero, when he spotted the girl and her mother, who are related to Angert, according to police.

As Angert talked to the girl's mother about giving the girl a ride to school, the mother unexpectedly opened the back door of the squad car, Washowich said.

Nero interpreted the action as a threat, the chief said.

"The dog can't differentiate between a friend and a foe," Washowich said. "Unfortunately, the dog was doing what it was trained to do."

The child was bitten on the abdomen and treated at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Washowich said. The mother and Angert also were injured as they separated Nero from the girl. Angert received wounds to his hand that required stitches.

An 15-year veteran of the department, Angert received a city medal of valor last year for saving the life of a Bethel Park officer who was injured during a training exercise with Nero.

Nero and other police K-9s were among the featured attractions at International Village last month, where they put on demonstrations of skill and agility and posed for photos with visitors.

Nero is temporarily off-duty until he can be evaluated by a dog trainer, Washowich said.

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September 01, 2010 | Link to this story

City Council Considers Gas Lease on 12th Ward Site

Filed Under: News || By Jason Togyer

A Westmoreland County company will ask city council tonight for permission to drill for natural gas near the site of a proposed new elementary school in the 12th Ward.

Under the proposal from Penneco Pipeline Corp. of Delmont, as many as six gas wells would be drilled on a few acres of the so-called "Palkovitz property" near Renziehausen Park.

But the wells would be conventional "surface" wells, not the more controversial and expensive wells that access gas trapped in the Marcellus shale layer nearly a mile below the ground. And they would not interfere with possible construction of a school on the 27-acre parcel along Eden Park Boulevard, city officials said.

The 18-month lease would pay the city $10,000 per year until the wells were drilled, plus a 12.5 percent royalty on any gas obtained. In addition, the city would receive up to 400,000 cubic feet of free natural gas per year.

. . .

Penneco officials will answer questions from council at 6:30 tonight in the Public Safety Building, 201 Lysle Blvd., Downtown. The regular council meeting begins at 7 p.m.

During a discussion at Tuesday's council work session, city officials didn't have possible production figures available for each well, but said the amount of revenue would be small compared to deeper wells that access gas in the Marcellus shale.

(An analysis by the Almanac suggests that each well would net the city between $2,000 and $7,500 per year in royalties, though much higher figures are possible.)

Nevertheless, the lease --- if approved by council --- would be an important step, Mayor Jim Brewster says.

"One of the things that I've been trying to do is open up the new revenue streams that we're going to need over the next decade," Brewster says. "Fortunately, we have an opportunity in that we have access to gas on a property that (the city) already owns."

. . .

Gas wells have been a common sight in Western Pennsylvania since the 1900s, and the Palkowitz parcel is actually part of the so-called "Snake Hollow Gas Belt" that was the site of the famous "McKeesport gas boom" --- a rash of speculation in 1919 that saw thousands of wells drilled.

Indeed, Pennsylvania has more gas wells than any other state except for Texas --- about 55,000, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. City officials said a gas well is already located next to the Palkovitz property, behind the former Babe Charapp Ford dealership on Eden Park Boulevard.

A state database shows seven gas wells in McKeesport's city limits, with three more in neighboring Versailles and 20 in White Oak. More wells dot Port Vue, Glassport, Liberty, Lincoln and other communities.

"I've been out in the woods in Washington County and Greene County, and you can't go too far without finding a gas well --- it's not a new technology," Brewster says.

Most of Pennsylvania's gas wells are relatively shallow wells, not deeper wells into Marcellus shale, and are classified as so-called "stripper" wells that produce less than 60,000 cubic feet (60 Mcf) of gas per day.

. . .

According to the Independent Oil and Gas Association of Pennsylvania, a newly drilled shallow gas well (PDF) produces up to 16,544,000 cubic feet of gas (16,544 Mcf) per year --- about 45,000 cubic feet (45 Mcf) per day. The state Department of Environmental Protection says most wells, however, produce less than 11,000 cubic feet (11 Mcf) per day --- about enough to fuel a single-family home for a month.

With gas currently selling for less than $4 per Mcf on commodities exchanges, if each well produced only 11 Mcf per day, the city would net less than $2,000 per year. At 45 Mcf per day, the city would net about $7,500 per well per year.

. . .

However, there have been some highly publicized accidents recently involving gas wells. In July, two people died after a gas well exploded near Natrona Heights in the northern part of Allegheny County.

Although gas well procedures are inspected and regulated by state authorities, Brewster told council members they shouldn't hesitate to ask tough questions of Penneco.

"There's no haste to approve this until you're thoroughly aware of everything in the country," he said.

. . .

Drilling will not impinge on a new elementary school proposed by McKeesport Area School District. The wells would be drilled at the southwest corner of the site, said Dennis Pittman, city administrator, while the school has been suggested for the northern part of the parcel.

However, plans for the school have been on hold since June, when district officials announced they were considering other alternative locations. The city has received no updated plans from the district since then, Pittman said.

The lease, if approved by council, would also guarantee Penneco an option to drill in Renziehausen Park if the park was ever opened for gas drilling. Although city officials have been investigating for almost a year whether it's possible to drill horizontally to reach Marcellus shale gas underneath the 258-acre park, they have no plans to allow surface well drilling, Pittman said.

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Posted at 08:00 am by Jason Togyer
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