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May 27, 2011 | Link to this story

School Board OK's $57.5M Budget; Final Vote in June

Category: News || By Jennifer Sopko

By Jennifer Sopko
Special to Tube City Almanac

Nearly 50 people could be laid off and taxes are expected to increase slightly, but no programs are scheduled for cuts next year in McKeesport Area School District.

That's according to a $57.5 million preliminary budget approved Wednesday night by school directors. The layoffs are about half of the number of positions originally threatened.

MASD Superintendent Tim Gabauer praised the district's teamwork in the face of drastic education funding cuts in Governor Tom Corbett's proposed state budget, and what he called "unjust and unwarranted attacks" on public education across the country.

"McKeesport has always been what I consider a very resilient community," he said. "The people who work in this district regardless of the position that they are in are extremely passionate and will stop at nothing to do what's best for the children in our district."

"I look at the McKeesport Area School District as a powerful example of what it takes and I'm very proud of be a part of the team here," Gabauer said.

. . .

Over the past few months, the school board has struggled to make up for a $4.4 million loss in state education funding in the budget.

Under the proposed 2011-12 spending plan, which passed unanimously, property tax millage would increase from 16.71 to 17.05 mills, or about one-third mill. District officials said that equals approximately $10 dollars a year per taxpayer.

Board member Patricia Maksin said the tax increase would generate almost $250,000 for the district and is solely dedicated to the $65 million cost of building two new energy-efficient schools and the expansion of Francis McClure Intermediate School in White Oak.

The preliminary budget, which must be ratified next month, also draws almost $4.2 million from the district's reserve fund. Board members say they hope to reduce that amount in the final budget.

. . .

The tax increase is a point of contention in the budget. Board Member Mark Holtzman said that while he would vote to approve the preliminary budget in the interest of time constraints, he would not vote for any tax increase in June.

"I'm a thousand percent behind building the schools," Holtzman said. "I just believe that we can look at some other areas before we raise taxes in this district," he said.

Business Manager David Seropian estimated that the district saved $150,000 to $175,000 this past year in utility costs with the demolition of Cornell Middle School. He added that the district expects to save approximately $700,000 with the new green schools.

"For as much as I hate to raise taxes --- I'm a taxpayer here too --- we have to do this," Maksin said. "Our kids are too important."

The board will maintain the all-day kindergarten program using federal Title I funds, instead of an Accountability Block Grant, Seropian said.

. . .

Although there have been reports that the state may restore approximately $1 million in basic education funding and $400,000 in Accountability Block Grant funding to MASD, he said the district can't assume that, because it won't know until the final state budget is passed.

"The challenge with everything that we've done over the last couple of months is trying to keep the integrity of everything such as the arts and everything else we have in the district intact," Gabauer said. "We believe we've been able to achieve that.

"We can assure you that we are going to continue to provide a comprehensive and exemplary educational experience," he said.

. . .

However, the preliminary budget includes elimination of 46 positions in the district, down from 90 layoffs that were originally considered. The eliminated positions include 31 teachers or other professional positions.

Gabauer said the move would save the district approximately $500,000.

The superintendent said the board was able to decrease the number of cuts thanks to an early retirement incentive approved at the May 18 agenda meeting, as well as a wage freeze that all teachers and administration agreed to in a contract extension for next year.

"That's going to be a tremendous help for us as far as education in the district," said School Board President Wayne Washowich, who thanked teachers and administrators for working together on the contract extension.

. . .

Even so, Gabauer cautioned that additional layoffs were still possible. While he could not provide an exact number, he was hopeful that the early retirement package and approved staff eliminations would also decrease the number of potential furloughs.

The board plans to take action on the final budget at their next regular meeting on June 22.

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May 26, 2011 | Link to this story

Gone Fishing

Category: Announcements || By Jason Togyer

I should have posted this earlier in the week, I suppose, but Tube City Almanac is on a short hiatus while I take care of some other minor things in my life, such as earning money, sleeping, bathing, eating, etc.

Somewhat regular posting will resume next week --- although we will have a report this week from Jen Sopko on the school board meeting.

I would offer refunds, but since only about four or five people have ever donated anything to The Almanac on a regular basis (you know who you are, and I have personally thanked each of you, I hope), I'll only apologize to them.

For the rest of you cheap bastards frugal consumers who never chip in a nickel to keep this website operating, refunds for this week will be handled by Tube City Omnimedia's Director of Customer Service, Mrs. Helen Waite. If you need a refund, go to Helen Waite.

(P.S.: I actually had my tongue in my cheek --- well, a little --- with those last two paragraphs. But this is a friendly reminder that we do take donations via PayPal, and that you can advertise on Tube City Almanac for as little as 50 cents per day. You can place an ad directly with me, or by going to Google AdWords.)

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May 20, 2011 | Link to this story

To Do This Weekend

Category: Events || By Jason Togyer

The McKeesport Heritage Center opens its summer speaker series this weekend with local historian Frank Kordalski, author of the new book Images of America: Plum Borough.

One of Allegheny County's seven original communities, Plum Township was founded in 1788. In the early 19th century, the township became an agricultural community, and by the mid-20th century, was developing into a bedroom suburb for Pittsburgh. The township became a borough in 1956.

Kordalski, of White Oak, is the archivist for the Allegheny Foothills Historical Society in Plum and has served on the organization's board of directors. His book is part of Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series.

The discussion begins at 2 p.m. Saturday and copies of the book will be available for sale. Admission is free. The center is located at 1832 Arboretum Drive in Renziehausen Park. For more information, call (412) 678-1832 or visit the website.

. . .

Also This Weekend: Carnegie Library of McKeesport holds its third-annual disco fundraiser with the group "Dancing Queen" at the Palisades ballroom, 8 p.m. Saturday ... and McKeesport Symphony Pops wraps up its 2010-11 season with a program featuring Frank Sinatra tribute artist Bo Wagner at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Details here.

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May 19, 2011 | Link to this story

UPMC McKeesport Faces Challenges, Eyes Growth

Category: News || By Jason Togyer

(First of two parts. Editor's Note: Correction appended May 23, 2011.)

McKeesport's hospital is here to stay.

That's the message that University of Pittsburgh Medical Center officials are trying to deliver in the face of rumors that the 213-bed facility is to be downsized or closed. In fact, UPMC McKeesport has several opportunities to expand its service area and market penetration, says Cindy Dorundo, the hospital's chief executive officer.

"We have many, many dedicated and talented professionals here at UPMC McKeesport," she says. "We have some managers here who have been here 30 years, but we also have new sets of eyes looking at things. I think we have a very good balance of vision and passion."

. . .

The hospital's more than 1,000 employees --- 72 percent of whom live in the McKeesport area --- are "actively focused" on ways to cut costs "and still expand our core services," Dorundo says.

Indeed, over the past two years, UPMC McKeesport has gone from a $2.9 million annual deficit to a $4.5 million surplus. Hospital admissions are up 20 percent, emergency room visits are up 18 percent, and $2 million was invested in the hospital's infrastructure in 2010 --- with another $8 million to be invested this year.

But at least some of those gains are due to the closure of UPMC Braddock, another hospital in a struggling Mon Valley community. UPMC Braddock's January 2010 closure came as the state was preparing to invest $6 million to upgrade the facility.

. . .

And UPMC Braddock isn't the only local hospital to have closed. Over the past five years, other Western Pennsylvania milltowns such as Aliquippa, Brownsville and Jeannette have lost community hospitals. Last year, UPMC's rival, West Penn Allegheny Health System, downsized its one-time flagship West Penn Hospital and turned the former Suburban General Hospital into an outpatient and long-term-care facility.

With UPMC preparing to open a new 156-bed* hospital in Monroeville --- only an 18-minute drive from the city on Route 48 --- rumors have continued to swirl about UPMC McKeesport's future.

Monroeville's UPMC East, scheduled for completion in 2012, could siphon off at least some UPMC McKeesport patients who would rather travel to a new facility in an upscale shopping area than to an existing facility in a struggling inner-city neighborhood.

. . .

UPMC McKeesport is not like UPMC Braddock, says Dorundo, who would know. She previously served as CEO of UPMC Braddock and for a brief time oversaw both the McKeesport and Braddock hospitals.

The McKeesport hospital serves an area almost three times larger than UPMC Braddock, she says. And a much higher percentage of residents in UPMC McKeesport's service area --- which stretches roughly from Route 51 to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and south to the Washington County line --- use the hospital.

Indeed, according to Pennsylvania Department of Health statistics, in 2008-09, although UPMC McKeesport had only about 50 more beds than UPMC Braddock, it served nearly three times as many patients and had an occupancy rate of 77 percent, versus 69 percent at Braddock.

In addition, UPMC McKeesport's CT and MRI scanners were each used almost twice as much as UPMC Braddock's, state Health Department statistics indicate. But UPMC Braddock's overhead wasn't proportionately smaller --- it employed 652 people before its closure.

. . .

UPMC McKeesport is also a teaching hospital for students from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dorundo says, and offers cardiology and cancer care that Braddock never offered.

"What we'd like to see is UPMC McKeesport increasing its footprint," she says. Only 4 percent of the hospital's admissions are from the North Huntingdon area and only 8 percent are coming from north of Route 30.

With this year's closure of Excela Jeannette Hospital in Westmoreland County, UPMC McKeesport believes it "can secure or even grow that" market share, Dorundo says. "There is real opportunity in terms of growth, not replacement of market share."

. . .

As for UPMC East, it's designed to serve patients from Monroeville, Churchill and other eastern Allegheny County communities who aren't utilizing UPMC McKeesport anyway, she says. At least 100 patients daily from the Monroeville area are driving to UPMC's Oakland and Shadyside hospitals, Dorundo says.

"We see UPMC East as being a partner, not a competitor," she says.

Still, UPMC McKeesport faces challenges the Monroeville facility won't face --- among them, a perception that McKeesport has become "unsafe" for visitors and that UPMC McKeesport isn't as good as other hospitals in the UPMC system.

. . .

What's more, UPMC McKeesport serves a patient base that's overwhelmingly poor and elderly. According to the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, UPMC McKeesport serves the highest percentage of charity cases of any hospital in a seven-county region --- about 5 percent of care provided by the hospital isn't paid for, or about twice the regional average.

More than 59 percent of UPMC McKeesport's revenue comes from Medicare patients -- third-highest in the region, after only Jefferson Regional near Clairton and Alle-Kiski Medical Center near Tarentum. About 10 percent of UPMC McKeesport's patient revenue comes from people receiving Medicaid, which is near the regional average, but still 10th-highest among 27 hospitals.

(The hospitals treating the lowest percentage of Medicaid patients include St. Clair Memorial in Mt. Lebanon, UPMC St. Margaret near Fox Chapel, and UPMC Passavant in McCandless and Cranberry --- all wealthier suburbs.)

. . .

There's little that UPMC McKeesport can do about the demographics of the Mon Valley, Dorundo says, and with the federal government cutting Medicaid reimbursements by 12 percent, the difficulty of serving a poor, elderly population will become more acute.

"We know what the reimbursement structure is," she says. "There's no question that it's a challenge."

Partners "help mitigate the economic challenges related to the population," Dorundo says. Those partners include the McKeesport Hospital Foundation, which has supported capital improvements at UPMC McKeesport and community outreach programs since the formerly independent hospital merged with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in April 1998.

But the perception of the quality of care at UPMC McKeesport doesn't match the reality, Dorundo says, arguing that by most standards, the hospital does quite well.

. . .

In fact, UPMC McKeesport meets or exceeds state and national averages on most benchmarks for surgical and heart attack care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The department says the hospital is at or near 100 percent in measurements that examine whether patients received the right treatments at the right time.

"Many of the best hospitals in the country are not located in the best parts of cities," Dorundo says. "Out of several hundred hospitals across the state, we have the third-highest compliance rate with the protocols of care."

More proof of the hospital's quality, she says, comes in the success of residents who have trained there. In recent years, "100 percent" of medical students who trained at UPMC McKeesport have passed their state boards.

. . .

Part 2: Addressing the challenges

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May 17, 2011 | Link to this story

Debt Reduction Would Cut City's Costs, Raise Credit Score

Category: News || By Jason Togyer

City officials are working on a plan to reduce McKeesport's debt load and increase its working capital.

Under the plan proposed by Mayor Regis McLaughlin and city Administrator Dennis Pittman, the city's sewerage authority would use an $18.4 million grant from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, or PennVEST, to prepay debt owed to the city.

McKeesport, in turn, would pay off about $20 million of its own debts --- including some of the money borrowed in 2005 under former Mayor James Brewster's "Renaissance 2005" program.

John McShane, managing partner of the Pittsburgh-based investment firm Boenning & Scattergood, and Pittman are scheduled to present details of the plan to city council at a work session on May 31.

. . .

The city last year proposed refinancing some of its debt to lower its interest payments and close a $750,000 gap in this year's budget. But according to a memo sent by McLaughlin to city council this month, interest rates and market conditions "do not warrant that action at this time."

However, McLaughlin said, "if we could retire existing debt," the city's credit rating would improve and would save about $168,000 in annual insurance premiums on its bonds. In addition, it would boost the city's fund balance --- or financial reserves --- from $420,000 to $1 million, the mayor said.

PennVEST in April awarded the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport an $18.4 million grant and an $18.4 million loan to help pay for an estimated $53 million in improvements and expansion of its sewage treatment plant in the lower 10th Ward.

The work is necessary to bring the plant into compliance with federal and state clean water requirements related to stopping untreated sewage from overflowing into rivers during heavy rain storms. MACM plans to boost the system's treatment capacity from 11.5 million gallons per day to 56 million gallons per day.

The authority serves 62,000 people in the city, East McKeesport, Elizabeth Township, Glassport, Liberty, North Versailles Township Port Vue, White Oak and Versailles, and is taking over Duquesne and Dravosburg's systems.

. . .

The city in 2009 sold its sewerage system to the authority for $3 million plus $1.9 million annually for 20 years, and receives about $400,000 annually from the authority to pay debt service from a PennVEST loan previously used for sewer system improvements. Under McLaughlin's proposal, instead of receiving those payments annually, the authority would prepay those debts.

Besides allowing the city to save money on bond insurance premiums, lowering the outstanding debt from $30 million to $11 million would make it easier and less expensive to borrow money in the future, Pittman said.

One of the nation's largest bond-rating agencies, Standard & Poor's, currently puts the city's credit at AA+ and rates the city's outlook as "stable" and among the "top quality borrowers."

But S&P's biggest rival, Moody's Investors Service does not currently rate the city's creditworthiness. When Moody's last rated the city in 2008, its bonds were graded "Baa1," one of the agency's lowest investment-level scores and only two steps above "high risk" status.

. . .

City Estimating Share of Bridge Improvements: In other business, city officials expect to find out soon whether they'll still owe Allegheny County money for repairs to the Mansfield Bridge.

County officials have asked McKeesport to pay $150,000 and Glassport to pay $120,000 toward the upcoming three-year, $35 million reconstruction of the bridge that crosses the Monongahela River at Dravosburg. Under the terms of an agreement reached when the bridge was built in the early 1950s, the municipalities are responsible for the approach ramps at the south end of the span.

But the city has asked the state Department of Transportation to certify the exact amount of last year's repaving and reconstruction of Fifth Avenue between the bridge and Ramp Two. Once that number is known, the city will ask Allegheny County to use that number as a credit toward the Mansfield Bridge project, Pittman said.

If any money is left over, city council could vote to apply that credit to Glassport's share, Pittman said.

In 2009 McKeesport received a one-time $1 million grant from PennDOT to repair the city-owned road, which carries about 21,000 vehicles daily.

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May 16, 2011 | Link to this story

Briefly Noted: Library Plans Fundraiser Saturday

Category: Events || By Submitted Reports

Carnegie Library of McKeesport welcomes back the ABBA tribute group "Dancing Queen" this Saturday at the Palisades.

The library's third-annual disco fundraiser starts at 8 p.m. and continues until midnight. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door.

For more information, visit the library's website or call (412) 672-0625.

. . .

Swing Concert With MSP: The McKeesport Symphony Orchestra wraps up its 2010-11 season this Sunday with a pops concert featuring Bo Wagner and another winner of the symphony's annual Young Artist Competition.

Wagner, who formerly performed with The Vogues and now frequently performs in his tribute show, "Let's Be Frank," will perform a selection of vintage swing and jazz tunes made popular by Frank Sinatra.

Also featured will be Andrew Percy, winner of the MSP's Young Artist Competition for violinists, who will perform Édouard Lalo's "Symphonie Espagnole," while MSP principal clarinetist Evgeny Taimanov will perform Artie Shaw's "Concerto for Clarinet."

The MSP is conducted by music director Bruce Lauffer. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for students. The concert will be held at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the auditorium of McKeesport Area High School, 1960 Eden Park Blvd.

For more information, visit the McKeesport Symphony's website.

. . .

PSGA Offers Nursing Home Administrator Course: The Pennsylvania Department of Welfare will hold an orientation at McKeesport's Penn State University campus for anyone interested in becoming the administrator of a personal care home.

The orientation from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 16 is designed to provide knowledge of the Pennsylvania state regulations regarding personal care homes and will be held in the Ostermeyer Room of the Student Community Center at Penn State Greater Allegheny.

The session is open to the public. For more information, call (412) 675-9058.

. . .

Crews Continue Work on Route 148: Motorists should be careful on Route 148 in the city and White Oak this week as crews continue to seal pavement cracks.

Swank Associated Companies of New Kensington is the prime contractor, said Jim Struzzi, district spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

Temporary restrictions are occurring daily --- weather permitting --- during daylight hours. The work is slated to wrap up Friday, Struzzi said.

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May 13, 2011 | Link to this story

To Do This Weekend: 'Guys & Dolls' at MLT

Category: Events || By Submitted Reports

The musical "Guys and Dolls" continues this weekend at the McKeesport Little Theater. Based on short stories by Damon Runyon about Times Square gamblers and their "dolls," the musical has been a perennial favor since its debut on Broadway in 1950.

Some critics consider "Guys and Dolls" to be one of the best American musical comedies of all time. With a book by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling and music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, the musical's enduring songs include "Luck Be a Lady," "If I Were a Bell," "A Bushel and a Peck" and "Sit Down, You're Rockin" the Boat."

The show continues through May 22. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $18 or $7 for students.

. . .

In addition, a special performance will be held at 8 p.m. May 19 to benefit the McKeesport Business and Professional Womens' Club and the McKeesport Heritage Center. The ticket price includes a social hour and mixer at 7 p.m., before the performance.

To purchase tickets for the May 19 performance only, visit the McKeesport Heritage Center, 1832 Arboretum Drive in Renziehausen Park, or call (412) 678-1832.

For all other tickets, call the McKeesport Little Theater at (412) 673-1100 or visit the MLT website for more information. The theater is located at 1614 Coursin St., near the Carnegie Library of McKeesport.

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May 11, 2011 | Link to this story

Campaign Platform: Loretta Diggs

Category: News, Politics || By Submitted Report

Only one candidate for McKeesport City Council submitted information to Tube City Almanac. Loretta Diggs is seeking a Democratic nomination for re-election to council:


For the last eight years, I have had the distinct pleasure of serving as your McKeesport City Councilwoman and now as City Council Vice President. We have made great strides in the last eight years to turn McKeesport around, but there is still much work to be done.

For that reason, it is with great pleasure to announce that I will be seeking a third term as your McKeesport City Councilwoman. We are again looking forward to another election cycle we must face.

We must continue to move this city forward and develop the solutions that are important to the working families of the City of McKeesport. There are many critical races on the ballot for the upcoming primary election. I would again like the chance to represent you and your issues as a member of McKeesport City Council. I am sincere and committed to working for better communities and neighborhoods in our city. We can have a city we can be proud of again. I humbly ask for your support and vote in the upcoming May primary.

It is my opinion that some of our elected officials are in need of compassion and Integrity. We cannot and I will not go along with personal vendettas. I had thought that this is something that we had really gotten past in this city.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "A house divided cannot stand." These people are destroying the faith of our people in this city, that has long wanted to see change. Let's continue to have positive images of our city in the future.

If we don't come together and elect people who have the city's best interest at heart I fear we will be taking a big step backwards. We have come a long way as a city and we cannot afford to go back. The May primary is important, so I urge you to get out and vote. If you need assistance getting to the polls please contact your local Democratic committee person. Once I again I humbly ask for your vote and your support this May.

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May 10, 2011 | Link to this story

Democratic Candidates for Mayor Present Platforms

Category: News, Politics || By Submitted Reports

Five candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor of McKeesport in the May 17 primary. In alphabetical order, they are Michael Cherepko, Regis McLaughlin, Darryl Segina, Lori Spando and A.J. Tedesco Jr.

All candidates were invited publicly to submit their platforms for publication at Tube City Almanac. Candidates were limited to 400 words. Rules were announced on Jan. 24, March 1, March 31 and April 30 at, and

No candidates are filed for the Republican nomination, according to the Allegheny County Elections Division.

Following are the profiles submitted by Cherepko, McLaughlin and Tedesco. They have not been edited for content. No information was received from Segina or Spando.

. . .


My name is Michael Cherepko, and I would be honored to be your next mayor.

I was born and raised in McKeesport and am now raising my own family in Fawcett Plan. My wife, Nicole, and I have two children: Jake, 2, and Madeline, 4.

I have been a teacher at Cornell Intermediate School in the city's Seventh Ward for 12 years. I have served on council for eight years and am currently serving as council president. I want to be your mayor because I want my children and grandchildren to be proud to call McKeesport their home, just as I have been.

I have a comprehensive plan to provide new opportunities to give our youth a constructive outlet for their energy. I will call for a new spirit of volunteerism to provide the guidance that many of our youth lack in their lives. I will combine these efforts with a complete overhaul of our Property Maintenance Code and our enforcement efforts in this regard.

I will ensure the safety of our city by maintaining first-class police and fire departments. This, in conjunction with the continued demolition of blighted structures, will make our city a place to be proud of once again and enable us to recruit the new residents and businesses we need to expand our tax base.

I will also formulate a comprehensive marketing strategy to attract new businesses and residents. I will organize and meet with city business owners to ensure that we are fostering the best environment possible and enlist their help in recruiting new businesses.

Former Mayor James Brewster and I partnered over the last eight years to guide McKeesport through some of the hardest financial times the city has ever faced, without a single tax increase.

Many of my current opponents have stated they will follow the recommendations set forth in the Delta Report. While we have already implemented most of their suggestions, I can assure you I will not be raising taxes immediately as the report suggests. Tax increases raise little revenue and hit our senior citizens on fixed incomes the hardest.

No --- we will continue to think outside the box and work hard to find other solutions to our city's financial woes. We have made progress, but the job is not finished. I look forward to building a better McKeesport and know that together, we can overcome any challenge!

. . .


With a financial crisis facing the city of McKeesport, my first act of business was to refuse a $10,000 raise, forgo a city car, and decline city-paid hospitalization insurance.

Prior to my appointment as mayor, I served for 18 years as a board member for the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport and as the chairman of the board for five of those years. For 13 years I served McKeesport as a council member and sat as president of the council for seven years before being appointed to my current office.

As a member of the MACM board, I worked to purchase parts of the sewage infrastructure from McKeesport, which generated more than $6 million in revenues for the city. In addition, I implemented a plan to purchase $600,000 of debt from McKeesport and developed a system to collect delinquent sewage bills.

Additionally, because we have actively sought new revenue streams for the city, we will soon repurchase $750,000 of debt from McKeesport by using the newly generated funds from the gas well waters treated by MACM.

As a councilman and as mayor, I have found ways to generate revenues and cut expenses, all while maintaining the same services to residents. As a lifelong resident of McKeesport and as a public servant who has worked closely with many of the service providers in the city, I have learned that while there are many areas in the city that need improvement, McKeesport residents are blessed to have some of the finest police, firefighters and public works employees in the commonwealth.

If elected mayor for a full term, I will continue to work for the residents of McKeesport to balance the budget, provide city services and encourage economic development in the city.

. . .


  • 34 years old

  • Elected member of McKeesport City Council

  • Elected member of Democratic State Committee, 45th District

  • Supervisor, Allegheny County Department of Court Records, Civil Division, Finance Department

  • McKeesport Area High School graduate

  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Pittsburgh

  • Enrolled in Graduate Studies, earning a master's degree in law and public policy, California University of Pennsylvania

  • Lifelong resident of McKeesport, residing in the Seventh Ward

  • Member of Western Pennsylvania Humane Society and ASPCA Founders Society

  • Website:

  • Only candidate for mayor who voted "no" to the current City of McKeesport budget that allocated an $80,000 payout to the former mayor.

  • Only candidate for mayor that voted "no" to creating a city job for a political hire at an allocation of $25,000 annually.

  • Opposed a proposal to pay the solicitor a $120,000 salary plus benefits and expenses.

  • Has pledged not take the city's vehicle.

  • Father, Alfred Tedesco Sr., retired City of McKeesport police chief

  • Mother, Kula (Manolakis) Tedesco-Goughnour, former member of the City of McKeesport Recreation Board

Plan to Revitalize McKeesport
  • Reducing crime by increasing police visibility on the streets enforcing community policing our neighborhoods;

  • Creating a proper economic environment to attract new businesses to McKeesport and put people to work;

  • To continue to reject any unnecessary and wasteful city spending ensuring our tax dollars are used efficiently to improve our city;

  • Reduce the cost of government and professional services in order to provide needed equipment and training to our public works, police and fire departments;

  • Pledging a new era of transparency and inclusive government to the citizens of McKeesport. As mayor, I pledge to not serve on other boards or authorities in the city.

. . .

Editor's Note: Tube City Community Media Inc. is not presently a tax-exempt organization, but in compliance with Section 501 of the U.S. Internal Review Code, Tube City Community Media does not endorse political candidates, conduct lobbying activity or participate in political activity of any kind.

Note: Incorrect information was posted for A.J. Tedesco Jr. The error was mine, and was corrected within 30 minutes. Thank you to Alert Reader Jeff for spotting the mistake! --- Jason

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May 10, 2011 | Link to this story

Briefly Noted: City Controller Launches Own Garbage Probe

Category: News || By Jason Togyer

Bypassing the mayor and city council, Controller Ray Malinchak has launched his own investigation into McKeesport's garbage collection practices.

In a press release, Malinchak announced Monday that he had hired Corporate Security and Investigations of Monaca, Beaver County, to find out why the amount of garbage collected in the city has gone up about 20 percent since the contract was switched to Clairton-based Nickolich Sanitation. No timetable was outlined in the release.

Malinchak argued that he is authorized under McKeesport's Home Rule Charter "to review and investigate current fiscal operations and affairs of the city."

. . .

"The city controller, with significant assistance from CSI a professional investigative firm, will fulfill these authorized responsibilities by seeking to isolate the causes for a precipitous over 2,000 tons increase in 2009 trash invoices," Malinchak said in his statement.

The city's home rule charter gives the controller authority to "review or investigate any fiscal operation of the City including any board, commission, authority or agency utilizing City funds upon majority action of City Council."

While the charter does not give the controller authority to appropriate money, it does entitle him "to his actual expenses incurred in the performance of his duties," which presumably means taxpayers will be paying for CSI's services.

City council in April voted to investigate the increase. In May, after Mayor Regis McLaughlin recommended the city hire CSI at a cost of $5,000, Council President Mike Cherepko said the city would instead seek competitive bids and award a contract at the June council meeting, or at a special meeting before June.

. . .

But Malinchak's announcement Monday also carried political overtones. Although he is not a candidate in this month's Democratic primary, Malinchak was rumored to be considering a run for mayor.

Indeed, the controller used part of his press release to attack Cherepko, former Mayor Jim Brewster, and city employees for delaying the release of the so-called "Delta report" into McKeesport's finances; and to criticize the city for not competitively bidding the services of its health insurance broker.

Cherepko, who's the endorsed Democratic candidate for mayor and a ally of now-state Sen. Brewster, last week said Malinchak and others were using the garbage hauling contract to score political points.

Malinchak claimed that Cherepko "(abused) his discretion" by not holding a vote to hire CSI at the May 4 council meeting. "The assistance of CSI in this complex matter is in the best interest of the City, and will afford government transparency, and ensure Controller autonomy," Malinchak said in his statement.

. . .

CSI, formerly known as Gentile-Meinert & Associates, was paid $5,500 in 2010 by the West Mifflin Area School District to investigate hiring, personnel and financial practices of the late Patrick Risha, former district superintendent. The company has also performed work for other local municipalities.

Last week, a lawyer for Nickolich Sanitation said the city's trash collections have increased because the company is collecting more garbage than the previous waste hauler, Allied Waste Services. Nickolich picks up loose trash that Allied didn't collect, including construction waste and furniture, said attorney John Linkosky.

Calling some of the comments made by city officials "defamatory and slanderous," Linkosky also attacked Malinchak and city council members for not calling Nickolich to discuss their concerns before airing them in the media.

Linkosky invited city officials to ride with Nickolich crews and inspect the tonnage slips when the trash trucks are weighed.

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May 06, 2011 | Link to this story

Town Hall Turns Into Rally to 'Save Our Schools'

Category: News || By Jason Togyer

(If the above video doesn't load, please visit YouTube directly.)

Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed budget isn't a move toward fiscal responsibility --- it's a ploy to cripple unions and gut public education. That's the message delivered by speakers during a town hall meeting at McKeesport Area High School on Thursday night.

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May 05, 2011 | Link to this story

Trash Hauler Defends Record; Residents Voice Support

Category: News || By Jason Togyer

An attorney for the city's trash hauler on Wednesday night lacerated several McKeesport officials, accusing them of spreading "defamatory and slanderous" rumors about his client.

John Linkosky of Carnegie told city council that "not one person" has ever directly called Nickolas Nickolich of Nickolich Sanitation to ask why the amount of trash collected in the city has gone up 20 percent.

"If you want to sit there and make accusations of criminal conduct and fraud, then do Mr. Nickolich the courtesy of picking up the phone and giving him a call," Linkosky said. "You want to follow the trucks? Call Mr. Nickolich. You can meet his trucks at 4 a.m. when they start out."

Linkosky distributed photos taken by Nickolich's truck drivers --- some of them from Wednesday morning --- showing in one case a pile of trash "as high as a garage roof."

"Today, Nickolich Sanitation picked up 12 mattresses and box springs and five sleeper sofas," Linkosky said. "It's been raining all day. What do you think happens to this stuff when it sits out on the curb and gets saturated with water?"

. . .

McKeesport pays for garbage hauling on a "tons collected" basis and assesses residents a quarterly fee of $70 for trash pickup, street lighting and other services. Since switching its garbage contract from Allied Waste Services to Nickolich, the annual tonnage hauled has increased from approximately 10,000 to 12,000 tons.

For two months, several city officials --- notably Councilman Darryl Segina and Controller Ray Malinchak --- have questioned why trash collection has jumped even as the city's population has fallen. Although no one has publicly accused Nickolich of submitting incorrect bills, elected officials have openly discussed several anonymous letters that have made accusations about the garbage contract.

The identity of the letter writer or writers has not been made public, though two elected officials on Wednesday night privately told the Almanac it's possible the letters were sent by a Nickolich competitor.

About 20 residents in the audience at Wednesday's council meeting gave Linkosky a round of applause when he finished his defense of Nickolich. They said Nickolich's crews are doing a more careful job than previous city trash haulers, and often haul rubbish that was left behind because it wasn't bundled or in cans.

Council President Michael Cherepko agreed. "Our other garbage haulers would not haul everything," he said. "If it wasn't packed up nicely, it was just left in the street. You'd ride around the city after a trash pickup and you'd see cans left everywhere, and garbage scattered in the street."

. . .

Several council members have been pressing for the city to hire a private investigator to find out why Nickolich's tonnage is higher than Allied's. Among his council colleagues, Cherepko has been cautious about pressing for an investigation, and has accused Malinchak and others of trying to turn the garbage contract into a political issue because of the upcoming election for mayor.

Cherepko, Segina and Councilman A.J. Tedesco Jr. are challenging Mayor Regis McLaughlin and former school board President Lori Spando for the Democratic nomination. Malinchak was also rumored to be considering a campaign, but is not a candidate in the primary.

Linkosky said his client heard about the accusations from articles in the Daily News. "Guess how many questions Nick has gotten from you?" he asked city officials. "Zero. You want to conduct an investigation? Fine. You want to spend taxpayers' money to hire a private investigator? Go ahead.

"I have a better idea," Linkosky said. "Come ride on Mr. Nickolich's trucks as he collects the garbage. Get on the scale with the trucks when they're weighed."

. . .

Councilwoman Loretta Diggs said Wednesday it's possible that McKeesport's high transient population is contributing to the increase in trash volume. Some rental properties change hands two or three times in a year, Diggs said, and the tenants leave their old furniture and clothes behind to be hauled away.

"If people are moving out every couple of months, that's a lot of garbage," Linkosky said.

And police Chief Bryan Washowich and Public Works Director Nick Shermenti said they've caught outsiders dumping construction debris in trash bins. A contractor from Pittsburgh was recently cited for dumping more than five tons of demolition material in a roll-off bin at the city garage over the Easter holiday weekend, Washowich said.

One trash truck driver called Nickolich on Wednesday morning because a garage door was left for curbside pickup, "and there wasn't a garage at that house," Nickolich said.

Malinchak said that if Nickolich wants to put all of the rumors to rest, he can help pay for an independent investigation. Linkosky laughed at the suggestion. "Now you want him to fund your investigation?" he said. "Give him a break."

. . .

McKeesport's policy of offering unlimited garbage collection for residents "is different from a lot of other communities," Nickolich said yesterday. "In other communities, we charge the homeowners" or limit the amount of trash picked up, he said. In McKeesport, Nickolich's crews pick up "a lot of building material" and "a lot of grass" from lawn mowing, he said.

It's probably unlikely that the city would bill residents individually, or charge residents based on the amount of garbage they put out, Cherepko told the Almanac after Wednesday's meeting.

"No one wants to bid on a per-can or per-house contract because it becomes a problem to collect the fees," Cherepko said. "If people don't pay their garbage bills, everyone else winds up paying higher rates."

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May 04, 2011 | Link to this story

Council's Trash Probe Leads to New Political Jabs

Category: News || By Jason Togyer

The president of the city's trash hauling contractor will appear before council Wednesday night to answer questions about his company's collection practices.

But that's unlikely to satisfy several members of council or the city's elected controller, who want an outside investigator hired to find out why trash collection costs are 20 percent higher than expected. Council President Michael Cherepko on Tuesday agreed to solicit bids from several agencies before the June meeting.

The issue has become more volatile because of a heated Democratic primary campaign for mayor that has pitted three current members of council against Mayor Regis McLaughlin and former school director Lori Spando.

. . .

At Tuesday's council work session, Cherepko --- the endorsed Democratic candidate for mayor --- announced that Nickolas Nickolich, president of Clairton-based Nickolich Sanitation, would speak at council's regular meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Council last month voted unanimously to investigate why the amount of trash being collected by Nickolich is about 20 percent more than collected by the city's previous garbage hauler, Allied Waste Services. The increase in trash collection has virtually wiped out any money the city expected to save by switching to Nickolich.

In a memo to council, McLaughlin recommended that the city hire Corporate Security and Investigations of Monaca, Beaver County, to conduct the investigation, but Cherepko did not put the recommendation on the agenda for this month's meeting.

. . .

That led Controller Ray Malinchak to write a memo to city officials last week --- which was sent over the weekend to the Daily News, a freelance writer for the Post-Gazette and Tube City Almanac --- accusing Cherepko of "suppressing" an investigation. If council doesn't hire CSI, Malinchak said, he would hire the firm himself.

A frequent critic of former Mayor Jim Brewster and other city officials, Malinchak was rumored to be considering a run for mayor, but he is not a candidate in the Democratic primary. Cherepko is a political ally of Brewster, who's now a state senator.

On Tuesday, Councilman Darryl Segina --- who is a candidate for mayor in the primary --- repeated the accusation, saying that Cherepko is "throwing up barriers" to council's probe.

. . .

"I'm not throwing up any barriers," Cherepko said Tuesday, adding that he objects to spending $5,000 or more to hire CSI before hearing from Nickolich.

"If you just want to know how much tonnage (Nickolich) is collecting, you could have five city employees ride around with Mr. Nickolich for five days or 10 days and see what the tonnage is," Cherepko said. "That would be significantly less than $5,000."

Councilman Dale McCall suggested that city police could conduct an investigation, and council "wouldn't have to pay anything."

. . .

But Malinchak charged that city officials and employees have a "conflict of interest" because they could be implicated if any wrongdoing was uncovered. "There have been accusations made against this council," Malinchak said. "Who is going to sit on this committee that doesn't have a possible conflict?"

An series of anonymous letters sent to city hall have claimed that Nickolich, which collects trash in several neighboring boroughs and townships as well as McKeesport, hasn't been completely emptying its trucks before collecting the city's garbage. That, claims the anonymous letter-writer, accounts for the increase.

"I wouldn't be stupid enough to (accuse) Nickolich of any misdeeds," Segina said Tuesday. The increased collection may have a benign cause, he said. "Nothing is going to come out of an investigation that's going to be earth-shaking news," Segina said.

. . .

Some city officials have suggested that several factors could have caused trash collection to increase, including trash dumping by residents of neighboring communities, single-family houses that have been converted into multiple-unit rentals, and commercial garbage being thrown in bins at the Palisades and McKees Point Marina.

If the investigation devolves "into a heated debate" among political rivals, Segina said, "we don't get any closer to finding out where this additional tonnage is coming from."

Councilman A.J. Tedesco Jr. --- another candidate for the Democratic nomination for mayor --- suggested council should get competing bids from several outside investigators besides CSI.

Cherepko said he would solicit proposals before June's council meeting: "If we get (bids) before the June meeting, we will convene (council) before then to discuss them."

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May 02, 2011 | Link to this story

GW Teachers Honored for STEPP Award

Category: News || By Jen Sopko

By Jennifer Sopko
Special to Tube City Almanac

The staff of George Washington Elementary School has received an award for "outstanding support of children receiving special education services."

The Scott E. Folmer Memorial STEPP Award is sponsored by Allegheny County's Local Task Force on the Right to Education. GW staff was nominated for the award because of their outstanding efforts with the inclusion of disabled students in regular classrooms.

At last week's school board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Tim Gabauer presented a certificate to several staff members present at the meeting, including principal Paul Sweda, kindergarten teacher Melissa Hale, guidance counselor Cory Kunicky, special education supervisor Menas Zannikos and special education director Patricia Tkacik.

"The STEPP award is a powerful example of our staff's dedication in educating all children and our commitment to educating each child socially, emotionally, physically and academically," said Gabauer, who pointed out that this is second such award that the district has received in the past three years.

The superintendent also commended the McKeesport Area High School & Technology Center's robotics team for securing $8,000 from sponsors within a 48-hour period in order to fund their trip to Cleveland State University for a regional robotics competition earlier this month, where they finished in seventh place overall.

Also last week, the school board approved the following agenda items:

  • The YMCA of McKeesport Summer School Program from June 27 through July 14 and from July 18 through August 4

  • A field trip for Y-I-STA Program students to Niagara Falls, NY and Splash Lagoon in Erie, PA from June 6 to 7

  • The high school boys' soccer away camp at the YMCA's Camp Soles from August 13 to 15

  • A proposal from Nutrition, Inc. renewing food service management of the district cafeteria for the 2011-2012 school year; the price of breakfast is set at 65 cents and the price of lunch is set at $1.05 for elementary students and $1.15 for secondary students

  • A five-year contract with Teamsters Local Union 205 for a term beginning July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2016

  • A proposal from ATI Development Inc. for work on existing steel beams at McClure Elementary/Intermediate School in an estimated amount of $18,800, not to exceed $25,000

  • Additional asbestos abatement of houses adjacent to the site of the former Cornell Elementary/Intermediate School in the amount of $6,000

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