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Category: News || By Submitted Reports

September 30, 2011

Briefly Noted: South Park Theatre Presents 'Godspell'

Category: News || By Submitted Reports

The South Park Theater presents "Godspell," a 1971 musical by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak, this weekend. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Based on the New Testament's Gospel According to Matthew, the musical has a strong Pittsburgh connection. Tebelak was a master's student at Carnegie Mellon University. He was reportedly inspired to write "Godspell" --- the gospel as interpreted from a counter-culture perspective --- after attending an Easter service at St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland. Following the service, a police officer frisked him, looking for drugs.

"I left with the feeling that, rather than rolling the rock away from the tomb, they were piling more on," Tebelak said later.

South Park's production is produced by Stage 3 and is being directed by stage manager Dek Ingraham. Tickets are $10 for subscribers and $15 for non-subscribers. Call (412) 831-8552 or visit the group's website.

The theater is located at the intersection of Corrigan Drive and Brownsville Road in South Park, next door to the county police station.

. . .

Turtle Creek Bridge to Be Replaced: Work is underway to replace the Greensburg Pike Bridge, which spans Turtle Creek between North Versailles Township and Turtle Creek borough.

County spokeswoman Judi McNeil says the project includes constructing a new four-span, 663-foot-long steel girder bridge just downstream of the existing bridge; moving utilities; tying existing roadways into the new bridge; and demolishing the old seven-span steel truss structure.

There will be no traffic restrictions until the end of September 2012, McNeil says. At that time, a detour will be put in place, and the old bridge will close for approximately nine months in order to tie existing roadways into the new bridge.

Overall completion of the project is expected in August 2013.

General contractor is Brayman Construction of Saxonburg, the low bidder at $16.2 million.

According to the Bridges and Tunnels of Allegheny County website maintained by Bruce Cridlebaugh, the current bridge was constructed in 1925, and carried the Lincoln Highway --- America's first transcontinental highway --- until 1932, when the route was moved to the new George Westinghouse Bridge to avoid narrow streets in Turtle Creek.

The bridge is a Pratt-style through-truss, according to Cridlebaugh, and its total length is 845 feet.

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Posted at 6:01 pm by Submitted Reports
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September 30, 2011

Washowich Resigns as School Board President

Category: News || By Jennifer Sopko

After serving on the McKeesport Area School Board for 14 years, Wayne Washowich has stepped down as board president due to his residency change.

The school board accepted Washowich's resignation at its regular meeting on Wednesday night. Superintendent Timothy Gabauer read a statement from Washowich clarifying his reasons for resigning from the board.

After living in White Oak for 45 years and serving on the MASD school board since 1997, Washowich explained that he and his wife decided to move to Elizabeth Township in order to build a new home on available property, which the couple was unable to find in White Oak.

"The time I've dedicated to the McKeesport Area School District was the most fulfilling and I will certainly miss that aspect of my community involvement," Washowich said in his written statement. "I am committed, however, to this area and will continue to be active in White Oak as its Zoning and Code Enforcement Officer."

The board wished Washowich luck on his new ventures. "Wayne Washowich has given so much of his time not only to White Oak, to the schools, but also working as a police officer and zoning officer ... It was my pleasure to sit here with him on this board and he will be sadly missed," said board member Mark Holtzman.

The school board is accepting letters of application for Washowich's vacant seat until October 14.

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Posted at 12:46 pm by Jennifer Sopko
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September 28, 2011

School Proposal Now Online

Category: News || By Jason Togyer

As a public service, Tube City Almanac is posting the complete "Project Description Booklet" for the proposed new McKeesport Elementary School to be built near Henderson Road. You will need a PDF viewer (such as Adobe Reader) to read the file, which is approximately 8.6 MB.

Click this link to download the booklet.

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Posted at 11:00 pm by Jason Togyer
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September 26, 2011

New Schools Will Reduce District's Overhead

Category: News || By Jennifer Sopko

(Second of two parts. Part one is here.)

The new school proposed for the so-called Buck property between the city and White Oak is part of a multi-phase construction project designed to consolidate the McKeesport Area School District's five elementary schools into three elementary-intermediate schools (K-6), reducing space and operating costs while providing students with state-of-the-art facilities.

Ryan Pierce, principal architect for architecture firm J.C. Pierce, said last week that several alternatives have been considered, including building new structures, renovating existing facilities, or some combination of those.

The board concluded that reducing the district's number of schools by building a new facility on the Cornell site and on the Buck property and simultaneously upgrading facilities Francis McClure was most fiscally responsible plan that addressed all of the issues facing the district.

. . .

The proposed new elementary-intermediate school off Henderson Road, like the other two buildings, is designed around a "schools within a school" concept, with two separate wings and entrances for elementary (K-3) and intermediate (4-6) students and a shared gymnasium, cafeteria and library/media room.

Projected for completion in December 2013, the 118,665-square-foot building will house approximately 750 kindergarten through sixth grade students and utilize space more efficiently in order to accommodate the same number of students within less space.

. . .

Another goal of the modern, energy-efficient state-of-the-art building is to improve the image of the community, Pierce said.

"One thing we are going to finally see when this project comes to fruition is that the children of McKeesport Area School District will have the type of state-of-the-art facilities that they truly deserve to be in on a daily basis," School Superintendent Tim Gabauer said.

In addition, the district would reduce operating costs by consolidating to three buildings. According to Pierce, the district would spend a little more than $1 million per year to maintain five buildings, but a conservative estimate of the new three-building structure would be just over $530,000.

. . .

Critics of the new schools have pointed out that the student population in the McKeesport Area has declined from 5,200 to 3,800 students over the last 12 years. But school officials said that the student population is not declining at the rate predicted in a demographic study done six years ago by Shelby Stewman, a sociology professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

According to Pierce, the actual numbers show 480 more students are enrolled for the 2011-2012 school year than was predicted in the 2005 study.

"The reality just doesn't jive with the rumor," Pierce said. "We are showing a much slower decline rate than that Dr. Stewman predicted."

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Posted at 4:49 pm by Jennifer Sopko
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September 26, 2011

Third School Cost Nears $32M

Category: News || By Jennifer Sopko

(First of two parts)

A proposed new elementary-intermediate school complex on the border of the city and White Oak will cost about $31.8 million, McKeesport Area School District officials said last week.

But neither Superintendent Timothy Gabauer nor board members revealed what their response will be to McKeesport City Council's recent rejection of the conditional use application for the project.

The board may file an appeal with the Court of Common Pleas or consider an alternate site for the proposed school.

. . .

On Wednesday, at what's called an "Act 34 public hearing" --- required if the district wants to be reimbursed by the state Department of Education for part of the project --- the board presented an overview of the new school, which has stirred up some controversy about its proposed location.

During a public comment period, Robert DeTorre reiterated his opposition over the district's plan to use 26 acres of his 37-acre property along Henderson Road for the new school.

DeTorre, who has owned the land for 24 years, believes that a residential development of the scenic wooded area would attract more families and young adults and yield a sizable tax bracket for the community.

"In light of our declining population and school enrollment ... this property is a valuable asset that can contribute to the growth that is much needed in the White Oak and McKeesport Area," he said in a written statement.

. . .

Several residents testified about their concerns over the fiscal impact of a $31.8 million construction project. Solicitor Gary Matta estimated the total cost of the three-phase project --- expanding Francis McClure Intermediate, building a new school on the former site of Cornell Intermediate, and establishing the brand new elementary-intermediate school --- at between $79 million and $84 million.

With a maximum building construction cost of $23.9 million and a maximum project cost of $31.8 million, all or part of the cost of the proposed elementary-intermediate school would have to be financed, a representative from financial services firm Janney Montgomery Scott told the board.

The district would recoup 17 cents from the state for every local dollar spent.

. . .

During the board's open agenda meeting following the hearing, swim coach Scott Smith asked the board to estimate how the costs of three schools would impact the district's property tax rate.

While the board could not pin down an exact number, Business Manager David Seropian said the millage equivalent of the debt increase for the entire project would be 4.1 mills.

But Seropian said that doesn't necessary mean the district will have to raise taxes by that amount. "That's what I would call a worst case scenario," he said.

Haler Heights resident Beatrice Longo said she was concerned about the effects of construction costs and legal fees upon citizens with declining incomes.

"I abhor eminent domain when there are other alternatives available," she added.

Gabauer said the district will continue to explore options for the new elementary-intermediate building, and ways to decrease expenditures for the project along the way.

. . .

(See also Part 2: "New Schools Will Reduce District's Overhead")

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Posted at 1:48 pm by Jennifer Sopko
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September 24, 2011

Town Hall Meeting to Feature Doyle, FCC's Copps

Category: Announcements, Shameless Horn-Tooting || By Jason Togyer

U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle and Michael Copps of the Federal Communications Commission are among the featured speakers at a town hall-style meeting Monday in Pittsburgh.

Tube City Community Media Inc., parent corporation of The Tube City Almanac, has signed on as a co-sponsor of the event, called "Owning Our Airwaves: A Community Dialogue With Media Policymakers."

The event at Carnegie Mellon University in Oakland is being organized by Free Press, a non-partisan, non-profit organization based in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

Founded in 2002 by Robert McChesney, a communications professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Josh Silver, former director of development for the Smithsonian Institution, Free Press bills itself as the largest media-reform organization in the United States.

The organization's goals include promoting public media, quality journalism, more access to communications and diverse and independent ownership of news outlets.

. . .

At Monday's event, a spokeswoman said, policymakers and community leaders will discuss the changes "needed to guarantee Pittsburgh residents access to in-depth investigative reporting and quality local news that promote government and corporate accountability and represent the diversity of the city."

Doyle, a Forest Hills Democrat whose district includes the Mon-Yough area, was instrumental in creation of the Local Community Radio Act, which would guarantee spaces on the FM dial for a special class of non-commercial, low-power radio stations.

The Pittsburgh discussion comes as the FCC reviews the regulations governing how many radio and TV stations that a single company may own nationwide, and in a particular city.

Other speakers will include:

  • Deborah Acklin, president and CEO of WQED Multimedia;

  • Marge Krueger, administrative director for the Communications Workers of America;

  • Khari Mosley of Pittsburgh United;

  • Jon Peha, assistant professor of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University and a former advisor to the FCC;

  • Chris Ramirez of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists; and

  • Matt Wood, policy director of Free Press;

The meeting is free and open to the public and will be held in the McConomy Auditorium of CMU's University Center, the student union, at 5020 Forbes Ave. Doors open at 6:30 and speakers take the stage at 7 p.m.

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Posted at 5:30 pm by Jason Togyer
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September 23, 2011

To Do This Weekend

Category: Announcements || By Jason Togyer

(If above video fails to load, visit the link on YouTube.)

. . .

Well, I was just going to post plain old boring video, and then I thought, "let's make it a commercial," and then I found this seriously cheesy music on, and things got out of hand.

Pretty soon I was re-creating the bad local TV of my youth. Remember WPTT-TV, when it was still on Seco Road in Monroeville? Well, all that clip is lacking is Eddie Edwards' voice --- and maybe a hair on the screen or a slide coming into frame upside down.

. . .

The commercial's a spoof, of course, but the flea market is real --- it's at McKeesport Heritage Center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 12 noon to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Items for sale include books (both adult and children's), toys and games, jewelry and accessories, housewares and kitchen utensils, paper products and office supplies, linens and fabric, glassware and collectables, small appliances and some furniture. No clothes or shoes are being sold.

Admission is free and sales proceeds benefit the Heritage Center, which is located at 1832 Arboretum Drive, next to the rose garden in Renziehausen Park. Call (412) 678-1832 or visit the center's website.

And yes, in the early days of television, McKeesport's WMCK radio did apply for the Channel 4 license. Pittsburgh Mayor David L. Lawrence pulled some strings, and the license went to Hearst Broadcasting instead, which created the present-day WTAE-TV. (You could look it up, as they say.)

"Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: 'It might have been!'"

. . .

Final Weekend for 'Dixie Swim Club': McKeesport Little Theater wraps up its production of "The Dixie Swim Club" this weekend with shows at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

A comedy by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, the MLT describes the play like this: "Five Southern women, whose friendships began many years ago on their college swim team ... set aside a long weekend every year to recharge their relationship. Free from husbands, kids and jobs, they meet at the same beach cottage on North Carolina's Outer Banks to catch up, laugh and meddle in each other's lives. As their lives unfold and the years pass, these women increasingly rely on one another, through advice and raucous repartee, to get through the challenges (men, sex, marriage, parenting, divorce, aging) that life flings at them."

The theater is located at 1614 Coursin St., near the Carnegie Library of McKeesport. For ticket prices and other information, call (412) 673-1100 or visit the theater's website.

. . .

Oldies Dance Saturday: It's the "fall fling oldies dance" on Saturday at the Palisades, 100 Fifth Ave., Downtown. Frankie Day and Glenn Raymer of WKFB (770) radio spin the dusties from 7 to 11 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door and all proceeds benefit the Westmoreland Yough Trail Council --- a non-profit, all-volunteer group that maintains and improves the Yough River biking-hiking trail in the West Newton area.

For more information, call (724) 872-5586 or visit the Palisades' website.

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Posted at 6:42 pm by Jason Togyer
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September 21, 2011

Spread the Word

Category: Cartoons, Commentary/Editorial || By Jason Togyer

© 2011 Jason Togyer/Tube City Almanac

From the Politico website:
A Google search for 'Santorum' has generated some inappropriate results since gay columnist Dan Savage organized an online campaign to link graphic sexual terms to the socially conservative senator's name.

Now, the Republican presidential candidate says he's convinced Google could do something to remedy the issue, if the company wanted to ...

He continued: "To have a business allow that type of filth to be purveyed through their website or through their system is something that they say they can't handle but I suspect that's not true."

In case you're not up on Internet lore, here's what happened. Back when Rick Santorum was ostensibly a Republican senator from Pennsylvania (but living full-time in Virginia), Savage asked readers of his sex-advice column to come up with a definition for the word "santorum."

Since Santorum has been so focused on the mechanics of sex between partners of the same gender --- comparing them to people who have sex with animals --- the winning definition was only appropriate. It defined "santorum" as the by-product of anal intercourse. Savage then launched a website called "Spreading Santorum" to memorialize the definition permanently.

Of their own free will, tens of thousands of people began linking to that website. So many have linked to it, in fact, that it's now much more popular than factual websites about Santorum.

. . .

When this happened, did Rick Santorum take any action to make himself more popular? No. Did he apologize for all of the hateful things he's said about gays? No. Did he ask Savage to stop spreading his alternative definition of "santorum"?

No. (Savage told Politico he's still waiting for Santorum to call him directly.) Instead, Santorum treated Savage as someone beneath contempt --- the same way he's treated gays, and people who support equal rights for gays, and in fact, anyone who disagrees with his narrow version of morality, for his entire political career.

As a result, people have continued to link to Savage's website, and thus made it the most popular website in Google's searches for the word "santorum."

. . .

Santorum has always been arrogant. He tried to make the Penn Hills School District reimburse him for sending his children to charter school while he (and they) were living in Virginia.

But claiming that he's a victim of a vast Internet conspiracy --- and demanding that Google filter its search results to help his campaign --- represents a new level of hubris.

Experience has taught me that bullies are often the biggest whiners about perceived slights and injustices, and in many ways, Santorum behaves like a classic playground bully.

Every day at recess, this bully has called the same kid a "f-ggot" and a "fairy" and a "fruit." Well, that kid has finally turned around and punched the bully in the nose.

Now the bully has the unmitigated gall to run to the teacher and cry, "Hey! He hit me!" Maybe Santorum's crocodile tears will work with his supporters. But the rest of us should be glad to see him getting his comeuppance.

. . .

P.S.: Frankly, I always preferred former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey's definition of "Santorum."

. . .

Opinions are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Tube City Community Media Inc. To submit a commentary for consideration, please write to P.O. Box 94, McKeesport 15134, or email tubecitytiger -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 11:50 pm by Jason Togyer
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September 19, 2011

Briefly Noted: Boston Bridge to Reopen Oct. 10

Category: Announcements || By Submitted Report

The Boston Bridge will reopen to two-way traffic on Oct. 10, an official at the state Department of Transportation said.

The bridge that carries Route 48 over the Youghiogheny River between Versailles and Elizabeth Township was scheduled to reopen on Sept. 27 after a $17.3 million rehabilitation project. But repairs to the 80-year-old structure have "proven to be more difficult than anyone anticipated," said Dan Cessna, executive in charge of PennDOT District 11.

"When you are dealing with an old structure like this, additional, unknown problems that must be addressed are often revealed after work begins," Cessna said.

"We understand the impact this extension of the long-term closure will have on commuter and local residents, but we simply have no other choice," he said. "The work must be completed to safely reopen the bridge and extend its service life."

A long-term closure was needed to replace what are called truss-pin assemblies --- the movable joints that hold together the different structural members of the bridge.

That, in turn, required removing the bridge's deck --- the part that supports the pavement.

Crews are currently placing a new deck on the bridge, said Jim Struzzi, district PennDOT spokesman, but the work can't be done with traffic on the bridge.

When the bridge reopens, a single 10-foot wide lane in each direction will be maintained during morning and evening rush-hours, but a barrier will remain in place on one side of the bridge, Struzzi said. Occasional lane closures and overnight and weekend detours will be necessary throughout the fall to complete the work.

All of the work is now scheduled for completion in late December, Struzzi said.

About 17,000 cars and trucks use the bridge on an average day, according to PennDOT traffic measurements. General contractor on the job is Trumbull Corp. of Pittsburgh.

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Posted at 8:43 pm by Submitted Report
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September 16, 2011

Briefly Noted: West Mifflin Road Work Posted By PennDOT

Category: Announcements || By Submitted Report

Two short-term road projects next week will affect Route 885 in West Mifflin.

Beginning Monday, technicians will be taking samples of the ground underneath the road in preparation for a possible paving project next year. Weather permitting, the work will cause temporary closures of one lane of Route 885 between Lebanon Church Road and the entrance to Community College of Allegheny County's South Campus.

Both directions of the road will not be restricted at the same time, says Jim Struzzi, district spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

At the same, PennDOT and the Allegheny County Airport Authority will be performing a routine safety inspection of the tunnel that carries Route 885 under the airport's runways. The work will be conducted, weather-permitting, through Thursday.

The tunnel --- near the Port Authority's West Mifflin Garage --- is owned by the Airport Authority. Single lane restrictions will occur as needed between 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., Struzzi says. but only one direction will be restricted at a time.

. . .

Buttermilk Hollow Inspection Set: Meanwhile, on Tuesday, crews will be inspecting the overpass that carries the Union Railroad above Buttermilk Hollow Road near Bettis Laboratory.

The work is being performed by Orbital Engineering on behalf of the railroad, and PennDOT is not involved, Struzzi says.

Brief delays are possible between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on the portion of Buttermilk Hollow between Pittsburgh-McKeesport Boulevard and Thompson Run Road.

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Posted at 7:44 pm by Submitted Report
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September 16, 2011

Briefly Noted: Art Group Slates First Meeting

Category: Announcements || By Submitted Report

McKeesport Art Group holds its first meeting of the season at 7:30 p.m. Monday at McKeesport Area High School, 1960 Eden Park Blvd.

Jan Catalogna, president, says the group welcomes everyone with an interest in painting, drawing, sculpture, crafting and other visual arts.

"There are guest demonstrators each month --- such as painters in all disciplines," Catalogna says. At the annual kick-off meeting, members bring in projects they've worked on during the summer. "Gentle critiques are offered," she says.

The public is welcome and refreshments are served. The meetings are held in the high school's art room. Upcoming meetings will be held on Oct. 17 and Nov. 15.

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Posted at 7:32 pm by Submitted Report
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September 15, 2011

Checking the Mailbag

Category: Another Viewpoint || By Submitted Letters

Alert Reader James S. writes (via email):

I absolutely agree with you on what should be done on the former church lots along Seventh Avenue.

In fact, you forgot to mention the homes built in the Hill District in Pittsburgh. These upscale joints lack the waterfront/marina location. I fail to see what the hell they have to offer, except proximity to Downtown Pittsburgh (to me a dubious feature!) There is also the redevlopment of East Liberty (I give that five minutes).

I would in a heartbeat buy a house in Downtown McKeesport if it was built as a townhouse or a single house faithfully styled as a late Victorian or Edwardian type that was typical of the architecture of the McKeesport area with modern features.

Unfortunately for me any new house is out of my price range, but I am trying to save to buy a house and the McKeesport area is my target (McKeesport, Glassport, Port Vue, Wilmerding, etc.) I think this area is underrated and has a chance to be developed.

In this economy a reasonably priced area that has good connections to Monroeville on one side and Pittsburgh on the other --- and is a hell of lot closer to "the action" than Cranberry --- is a decent bet.

Just don't build another "Shopping Destination," and concentrate on office/industrial/housing, and the Mon Valley can be restored. It has location, location, location! It just needs someone to sell it!

. . .

Alert Reader Dominic writes from Spring Hill, Fla.:
Please send me the new map of McKeesport if they are still available.

I lived in 10th Ward on Atlantic Avenue and went to St. Pius and Holy Trinity. Dad, my grandfathers and all of my uncles worked at National Tube or (other) U.S. Steel plants. I last visited the area in '68 or '69 before I went into the U.S. Air Force in 1972, where I stayed 24 years and then retired. Everyone I knew there has since passed away, but I still have one cousin in Pittsburgh.

We indeed do have copies of the map available, and if anyone else wants one, they can send a self-addressed, stamped, legal-size envelope to "Map, Tube City Online, P.O. Box 94, McKeesport, PA 15134." And thanks for reading Tube City Almanac, James and Dominic!

. . .

Tube City Community Media Inc. 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 tubecitytiger -at - gmail -dot- com. Include contact information and your real name. A pen name may be substituted with approval of the editor.

Opinions are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Tube City Community Media Inc., its directors or volunteers.

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Posted at 12:26 pm by Submitted Letters
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September 14, 2011

City, County Come to Terms on Bridge Repairs

Category: News || By Jason Togyer

The city has apparently dodged a financial bullet --- and rescued Glassport at the same time.

City Council and Allegheny County officials have agreed on a plan that would forgive $141,576 that McKeesport taxpayers were expected to contribute to the reconstruction of the W.D. Mansfield Bridge.

McKeesport must accept responsibility for snow removal and pothole repairs on the approach ramps, but as for footing part of the bill for the construction, "we're out of the woods," says Dennis Pittman, city administrator, "and Glassport gets the same deal."

The 1,931-foot bridge over the Monongahela River is one of 6,000 statewide rated structurally deficient by inspectors. A long-delayed rehabilitation project is now scheduled for 2012, according to bid documents released by Mark Patrick Flaherty, Allegheny County controller.

. . .

Although the bridge is owned by Allegheny County, two obscure 1940s rulings by the state Public Utility Commission held the city and Glassport liable for a share the cost of reconstructing the ramps at the south end. Glassport's share was calculated approximately $120,000.

For more than a year, city officials have argued that the rulings --- which concerned long-forgotten railroad crossings --- are no longer enforceable, and that the money spent last year to repave West Fifth Avenue between the bridge and the Marathon gasoline station should count toward its share of the work.

The county initially balked, in part because the West Fifth project was funded by the state. But on Aug. 15, county officials agreed to pay for the bridge ramp reconstruction in both McKeesport and Glassport.

In exchange, however, McKeesport is required to accept future "financial, maintenance and ownership" responsibilities for those portions of West Fifth Avenue that connect or pass under the bridge, and which are located within the city limits.

. . .

Reconstruction of the Mansfield Bridge was originally slated to begin in 2009, but the schedule was pushed back to allow the county to repair other bridges that cross the Monongahela, including the Rankin Bridge.

Published estimates for the repairs have been in the $37 million to $38 million range. The work is scheduled to include painting, repaving and structural repairs.

According to the bidding documents, proposals are due by Sept. 29, the work is expected to begin sometime after January 2012, and the project must be complete by October 2014.

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Posted at 12:00 am by Jason Togyer
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September 09, 2011

Attorney: Malinchak's Statements Could Be Actionable

Category: News || By Jason Togyer

There remains an open invitation for City Controller Ray Malinchak "or any member of city council" to inspect the trucks hauling McKeesport's garbage, said an attorney for the trash hauler.

But if Malinchak continues to make "unsubstantiated allegations" against Nickolich Sanitation, the company will consider legal action, said attorney John Linkosky, who represents Nick Nickolich, president of the Clairton-based firm.

"I haven't spoken with Mr. Nickolich, but if Mr. Malinchak is making false statements that impugn Mr. Nickolich's business and reputation, that is something that is actionable in Pennsylvania," Linkosky told the Almanac Friday morning.

Malinchak hired Corporate Security and Investigations over the objections of Council President Mike Cherepko. On Wednesday night, Malinchak told city council that after interviewing 12 witnesses, the investigators determined that "trash not originated in (McKeesport) was improperly charged to our city's account" and that "there is ample information to presume that there may have been a premeditated scheme to alter or falsify weight slips at disposal sites and thereby financially harm the city."

The controller did not identify the witnesses or their affiliations and said he will not release a copy of the investigators' report to city council. Malinchak paid the firm more than $5,000 out of his own money, but said he will submit a bill to city council for reimbursement.

Malinchak is challenging Cherepko for the mayor's office in the November election.

"I don't know what the political background is, or what any person's political motivation would be with an investigation like this," Linkosky said, "but it seems to me that with Mr. Nickolich's invitation to city council and the controller to ride on Mr. Nickolich's trucks as they're collecting the garbage, that there's money being thrown away.

"I don't know if anyone can gain any political ground from that," Linkosky added.

The attorney confirmed that neither he nor Nickolich spoke with the investigators. Malinchak told the Almanac and a reporter for the Post-Gazette that he didn't ask the investigators to speak to Nickolich because he felt their side was adequately explained at the May council meeting.

At that meeting, Nickolich and Linkosky said that trash collection in McKeesport has increased because of illegal dumping in city trash bins and because many single-family homes are now rental units.

"What I heard at that meeting, one thing after another, was that the city is inundated with trash," Linkosky said Friday. "One lady said someone cleaned out a house and left a trash pile two stories high.

"There's been no untoward conduct concerning the city or its garbage or the billing or anything," he said. "I think we've adequately explained why the amount of tonnage has gone up."

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Posted at 12:01 pm by Jason Togyer
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September 08, 2011

Controller Alleges Trash Hauler Over-Billed City

Category: News || By Jason Togyer

An investigation commissioned by City Controller Ray Malinchak has uncovered what he called "systematic" overcharging by McKeesport's trash hauling company.

According to Malinchak, a report by Corporate Security and Investigations of Monaca, Beaver County, suggests that McKeesport is being billed for trash that was picked up in neighboring municipalities by Nickolich Sanitation of Clairton.

Malinchak made his announcement during a public comment period at Wednesday night's city council meeting.

Witnesses interviewed by investigators also alleged that city employees have purchased tires for "certain persons affiliated with the city" and engaged in what Malinchak called "incomplete financial transactions" totaling $7,500.

. . .

But Malinchak, who has promised to turn the report over to county and state law-enforcement agencies, said he will not share the report with city council --- though he intends to ask for reimbursement from the city.

Neither Nickolich nor the company's attorney were questioned, Malinchak said, and investigators did not do a first-hand inspection of Nickolich's trash-hauling practices. And the controller will not identify the 12 witnesses that investigators questioned.

That led Council President Mike Cherepko to accuse Malinchak of being on a politically motivated "witch hunt."

Malinchak is running as an independent candidate for mayor against Cherepko, the Democratic nominee.

"This was a limited investigation," Malinchak said. "If we would have had more money and more time, we definitely would have talked to more people."

. . .

Cherepko said Malinchak is exposing the city to a lawsuit by making public accusations without performing what Cherepko called a "thorough investigation."

Furthermore, Cherepko said Wednesday, since council never authorized Malinchak to conduct an investigation, Malinchak wasn't doing the investigation in his official capacity, and could be guilty of using city resources to campaign.

"If you were doing it as a mayoral candidate, then let's be very clear," Cherepko told Malinchak. "We have people all across the state of Pennsylvania being indicted for things like that."

Malinchak fired back that Cherepko has a conflict of interest because he accepted a campaign contribution from Nick Nickolich, the president of Nickolich Sanitation.

Nickolich "came to a golf outing," Cherepko acknowledged. "How did (Malinchak) know about it? Because it was on my campaign finance report, as it was supposed to be. Everything was as legal as can be."

. . .

The city's trash collection bills have been the subject of a battle since March, when officials reported that the amount of tonnage being collected has gone up 20 percent since the contract was switched to Nickolich from Allied Waste Services.

The examination of the bills was triggered in part by a series of anonymous letters sent to city council. The author or authors of those letters has never been identified, but at least one person who came to city council to complain about Nickolich signed in using a fictitious name.

Though Nickolich charges $16 less per ton than Allied, the increase --- from 10,000 tons per year to 12,000 --- has virtually wiped out a projected $800,000 savings.

. . .

During the public comment portion of Wednesday's council meeting, Malinchak read a prepared statement that said CSI interviewed "12 persons who were believed familiar with the matter."

These interviewees "alleged that trash not originated in our city was improperly charged" to McKeesport's account, Malinchak said.

Speaking to reporters following the council meeting, Malinchak would not identify the witnesses, saying he feared retribution against them.

But the controller acknowledged that no managers from Nickolich Sanitation were questioned, and investigators did not follow trash trucks or inspect them to see if Nickolich was co-mingling trash.

. . .

At May's city council meeting, Nickolich and his attorney, John Linkosky of Carnegie, said the amount of trash being picked up in McKeesport has increased because Nickolich trucks are picking up construction debris, vegetation, furniture and other items that Allied didn't collect.

McKeesport's high transient population is another factor, because rental properties frequently change hands and tenants leave furniture and clothing out on the street, Linkosky and Nickolich said.

On Thursday morning, in an email sent to The Almanac and to Post-Gazette correspondent Jonathan Barnes, Malinchak said "an interview with Nickolich would most likely not reveal anything that was not already discussed by his attorney, (city public works director Nick) Shermenti, and some council members."

Malinchak called their explanations "lame." Linkosky could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

. . .

The investigation cost approximately $6,000, said Malinchak, who added that he would be sending a bill to the city for reimbursement.

But instead of the city reimbursing Malinchak, Cherepko said, the controller ought to be reimbursing McKeesport for "tying up our employees" with an "unauthorized investigation."

If the city won't pay the bill, Malinchak last night threatened to file a civil complaint in magisterial district court to recover the money.

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Posted at 9:48 pm by Jason Togyer
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September 07, 2011

Briefly Noted: Controller Says Garbage Investigation Complete

Category: News || By Jason Togyer

A private security firm has completed its investigation into the city's garbage hauling contract, City Controller Ray Malinchak said Wednesday night.

Malinchak said he received the report last Thursday from Corporate Security and Investigations of Monaca, Beaver County, but that he would not be supplying a copy to city council.

However, Malinchak claimed that the investigation has uncovered what he called "systematic" overcharging of the city by its trash hauler, Nickolich Sanitation of Clairton.

Malinchak, who is planning to run for mayor this fall as an independent, vowed to turn the information over to law enforcement agencies.

His announcement during the public comment period of Wednesday's council meeting set off an angry exchange between Malinchak and Council President Michael Cherepko, the Democratic candidate for mayor.

Cherepko accused the controller of misusing city hall employees and of conducting a politically motivated "witch hunt."

More details will follow in the Almanac.

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Posted at 10:32 pm by Jason Togyer
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September 07, 2011

Council Nixes School Zoning Request

Category: News || By Jason Togyer

City council has rejected McKeesport Area School District's request for conditional-use zoning to build a new elementary school near Penn State Greater Allegheny Campus.

By a 4-3 vote, council on Wednesday rejected a recommendation from the city's planning commission and declined to grant the request made by the district for 26 acres of the former Buck estate, which spans McKeesport and White Oak.

A conditional-use permit is necessary to build a school on the site, which is zoned for single-family homes.

Councilors Richard Dellapenna Jr., Dale McCall, Darryl Segina and A.J. Tedesco Jr. cast no votes.

Some council members said they were motivated to reject the request by the testimony of the property owners, Robert and Joanne DeTorre of White Oak, who are fighting the district's attempt to seize the land through the eminent domain process.

The DeTorres' property encompasses 37 acres total, including the former Buck mansion on Henderson Road in White Oak. Robert DeTorre testified on Tuesday that he wants to sell the land for a housing development.

Segina and Tedesco said they agreed with DeTorre that the land --- one of the last large wooded parcels available for development in the city --- might be better suited for new housing than a school.

But council's rejection doesn't necessarily stop the district's plans. Following the meeting, City Solicitor Craig Alexander said council will explain to the district why the permit request was deficient in the city's eyes.

The district then has 30 days to appeal council's decision to Common Pleas Court, Alexander told the Almanac, or it could ask city council to reconsider the application.

McKeesport Area School District is in the midst of a process to consolidate five elementary schools down to three. Francis McClure School in White Oak has recently been expanded, and Cornell School in the city's Seventh Ward is being replaced with a new building.

After reportedly examining and rejecting 19 locations for the third school, the school board in July voted to acquire 26 acres of the Buck property. The land, most of which is currently vacant, is valued at $282,500, according to county tax records.

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Posted at 10:07 pm by Jason Togyer
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September 06, 2011

Area Residents Blast Proposed School Site

Category: News || By Jason Togyer

A former mayor has added his voice to those of local residents criticizing the site of a proposed new elementary school.

At a hearing Tuesday night before city council, Wayne Kucich said that if the McKeesport Area School District takes the so-called Buck estate property via the eminent domain process, it will hurt "not only McKeesport residents but the adjoining property owners as well."

The 37-acre Buck property, which adjoins Penn State's McKeesport campus and Henderson Road in White Oak, would be better used for housing, which would generate tax revenue and attract new residents, said Kucich, mayor from 2000 to 2004. He now lives in White Oak.

"The worst thing is that this guy doesn't want to sell his property, and (the school district) is going to make him sell it," Kucich said. "Why don't they take some of the abandoned properties in the city, and use those instead?"

. . .

The hearing was necessary because the school district is seeking a variance, or so-called "conditional use," from the city's zoning ordinance to build an elementary school on 26 acres of the former Buck property, which spans the city and White Oak. Council is expected to vote on the request at its Wednesday meeting.

The request was unanimously approved earlier this month by the city's Zoning Hearing Board.

The vacant property is currently owned by Robert and Joanne DeTorre of White Oak, who live in the former Buck home along Henderson Road.

. . .

DeTorre, 70, told council last night that he doesn't want to sell, and he objects to the school district trying to take the land through the eminent domain process.

"There were no negotiations or anything," DeTorre testified. "We sat down and they said, 'We're going to take your land.'"

DeTorre told council he would like to subdivide the land and sell it for a housing development. The property could support up to 70 single-family homes, he said.

"To take this land and develop it into a school instead of housing is a travesty," DeTorre said. "Surely there are other sites where a $34 million school would be an asset --- places where you are getting no tax revenue."

. . .

The proposed school is the third piece of a years-long building program underway that will reduce the district's five elementary schools to just three serving kindergarten through sixth grade. An expanded Francis McClure school in White Oak is already operating and a new school is being built on the former site of Cornell Intermediate School in the city.

When the three new schools are operating, George Washington and Centennial schools in the city are to be closed. Each of the new schools is being designed to accommodate about 700 students.

District Superintendent Tim Gabauer, who also testified, said that school officials have looked at more than a dozen sites over the past five years, only to rule each of them out for one reason or another.

The school district was close to building the new school on the so-called Palkovitz property along Eden Park Boulevard, only to stop short after city officials objected, citing traffic concerns and the need to evict several residents from their homes.

. . .

"There's not a single property we've looked at that wasn't displacing someone --- sometimes multiple residents," Gabauer said last night. "Actually, that's one of the advantages of the DeTorre property --- there's no displacement of anyone."

The present site of George Washington school is hard to get to and lacks parking, he said, while the Centennial school site is too physically close to Cornell.

As for suggestions that the district expand Francis McClure or Cornell even further, those are non-starters, Gabauer said. "You're talking about a monster of a school building, and academically, it isn't a good idea," he said.

. . .

Citing the region's ongoing population losses, City Controller Ray Malinchak asked Gabauer if the district could simply "freeze" its current plans for several years.

"I'm concerned that in 10 years, another 700 students will not exist and in theory we'll have an empty school building," said Malinchak, who plans to run for mayor this fall as an independent.

But Gabauer said some of the district's older buildings --- Centennial opened in 1921 and George Washington opened in 1928 --- are long past their useful lives as schools. "The buildings are to the point where the infrastructure will no longer last into the future," he said.

Furthermore, several schools are already overcrowded and students have been housed in temporary "modular classrooms," or trailers, Gabauer said.

. . .

City Councilman Darryl Segina cautioned his colleagues that they weren't there to rule on the merits of a new school --- simply on whether to grant the district's request for conditional use of the property.

Still, Segina expressed his own reservations about the district's plans. "As a taxpayer and a citizen, I'm concerned that we're losing 13 acres of taxable land," he said. "I think it's senseless to build a school up there ... and I think McKeesport is going to be the loser in all of this."

But Council President Mike Cherepko, a teacher at Francis McClure school, said the new schools will be assets to the city.

. . .

"There are a lot of pros and cons to this site," said Cherepko, the Democratic candidate for mayor. "Personally, I greatly anticipate seeing this school being built, but I don't think we're here to debate whether or not a school should be built."

As for DeTorre's suggestion that the property would be better used as housing, Cherepko noted that DeTorre owned the land for 24 years and made no move to subdivide it for development.

"I think having three brand-new educational facilities is attractive to the city," Cherepko said. "I think they're things that will help us market the city."

. . .

Council meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday on the second-floor of the public safety building (former city hall) at the corner of Lysle Boulevard and Market Street, Downtown.

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Posted at 11:38 pm by Jason Togyer
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September 01, 2011

Briefly Noted: MLT Seeks Actors for 'Cuckoo's Nest'

Category: News || By Submitted Reports

McKeesport Little Theater is holding auditions for its upcoming production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

The auditions will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Sept. 19 and 21, a spokesperson said.

Producers are seeking 18 men ranging from their late teens to 50s, and five women from their early 20s to their 40s. Prospective actors should bring a two-minute monologue and be prepared to do cold readings.

The 1963 play by Dale Wasserman, adapted from Ken Kesey's 1962 novel, later served as the basis for an Academy Award-winning film starring Jack Nicholson. It will be staged by the MLT in November and will be directed by Lora Oxenreiter, managing director of the Pittsburgh New Works Festival.

The theater is located at 1614 Coursin St. Call (412) 673-1100 or visit the MLT's website for more information.

. . .

NHT Goose Hunts Scheduled: Indian Lake Park in North Huntingdon Township will be closed for three consecutive Saturday mornings as the township attempts to cull the Canada geese there.

The park will be closed to the public on Sept. 10, 17 and 24 for three hours, beginning at sunrise, a township spokesperson said.

Hunters interested in participating should call the township's parks and recreation office at (724) 863-3806.

. . .

County Pools Closing: Allegheny County wave pools at South Park and Boyce Park will close for the season on Labor Day, a county spokeswoman says.

For information, call South Park at (412) 835-4809 or Boyce Park at (724) 327-0338.

. . .

Tar and Chipping Posted: State highway maintenance crews are putting down tar and chips on several area roadways this week, and drivers are urged to use caution.

Mon-Yough area roads receiving the treatment include:

  • Route 48, Elizabeth Township, between Peairs Road and Gibson Drive

  • Mentor Road, Elizabeth Township, between Roberts Hollow Road and Route 51

  • Church Hollow Road, Forward Township, between Raccoon Run and Bunola River roads

  • Walton and Ridge roads, Jefferson Hills borough

Motorists should drive slowly over recently treated roadways, says Jim Struzzi, district spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

"Tar and chips," properly called "seal coat," helps preserve the life of a road surface, but is less expensive than repaving, according to PennDOT.

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Posted at 12:16 pm by Submitted Reports
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White Oak Florist State Rep. Marc Gergely


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