McKeesport Area News from Tube City Almanac
White Oak Council Prepares For Community Center Opening
Wed, 18 Oct 2017 13:11:00 -0400

Another step has been taken toward the opening of the White Oak Community Center.

At Monday's council meeting, borough Council President Ron Massung said the center has received its official occupancy permit and the building is being cleaned and prepared with supplies.

The official public opening will hopefully happen in December, Massung said, but a so-called "soft opening" will happen next month when White Oak hosts a Steel Rivers Council of Governments meeting at the facility.

In other business:

  • Council approved the borough's application for a community-development block grant in the amount of $49,000 to demolish houses at 736 O’Neil Blvd., 608 Osborne St., 606 New Jersey St., 700 New Jersey St., 907 Coulter Road, 2420 O’Neil Blvd. and 1828 California St.
  • Council approved a motion from Councilman Edward Babyak for the borough to participate in PennDOT's Green Light-Go program. The program provides state funds for the operation and maintenance of traffic signals along critical and designated corridors on state highways.

  • The borough is partnering with the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office to install cameras at the intersection of Route 48 and Lincoln Way. The cameras, which will capture images of license plates and other identifying features, will allow local police to more quickly apprehend wanted criminals.

    “We would eventually like to expand to other intersections as well,” Councilman Joseph Nagy said.

  • Mayor Ina Marton submitted the monthly police report which included 33 arrests (31 adults and two juveniles) and 69 traffic violations. Arrests included one for criminal trespassing, nine for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, six disorderly conduct citations, eight for drug offences, four for thefts, two for forgeries, one public drunkenness citation, one arrest for deception or fraudulent business practice and one for hindering apprehension.

  • On the recommendation of Solicitor Krisha DiMascio, council voted 4-to-3 to ratify a sales agreement for 806 Maple St., which the borough acquired through sheriff’s sale for $10,000.

  • Council approved of the acquisition and subsequent disposition of a vacant property in the 1100 block of California Avenue in accordance with the Allegheny County Vacant Property Recovery Program.

  • Council approved the application of a community development block grant for $41,600 to begin Phase I of accessibility upgrades for Heritage Hill Pool was approved. The local share of the costs of general construction is estimated at $22,600, plus engineering costs, borough officials said.
Scout Troop Attends White Oak Council Meeting
Wed, 18 Oct 2017 13:00:00 -0400

Boy Scout Troop 1640 attended Monday's White Oak borough council meeting to observe the actions of local government.

The visit was a requirement for the Boy Scouts' "Citizenship in the Community" merit badge, according to Scout Master Bill Klimek.

(Photo by Cami DiBattista, special to Tube City Almanac)

Residents Voice Objections to County's Bus Rapid Transit Plan
Mon, 16 Oct 2017 23:39:00 -0400

Above: Port Authority senior analyst Amy Silbermann and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald greet an audience Monday night at the Palisades ballroom in McKeesport. (Tube City Almanac photo)


Port Authority officials and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald came to McKeesport on Monday night to explain a "bus rapid transit" system that they said would relieve overcrowding and late buses between downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland.

But what residents heard was that McKeesport, Duquesne and Homestead could soon be getting 45 percent less service from the heavily traveled 61C route --- and they don't like it.

At times, the atmosphere in the Palisades ballroom was tense, with arguments breaking out at one table between residents and Port Authority board members, and Fitzgerald exchanging sharp remarks with transit advocates in the audience.

"I chose to live in McKeesport because I saw that the bus service would be beneficial to me," said Dan Beyerlein, who said the 61C is his lifeline to doctors in Squirrel Hill and Oakland, and provides a connection to his church in Wilkinsburg.

Eliminating 45 percent of the 61C's daily runs to McKeesport, Beyerlein said, would make him unable to get his connecting buses. "Then I'm late to my doctor's appointments and there's nothing I can do about it," he said.

The hearing in McKeesport on Monday --- originally scheduled for Oct. 11 --- was the second of three in the Mon Valley.

The first was held Oct. 2 in Braddock and the third will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (Oct. 18) at Duquesne City Hall, 12 S. Second St.

Comments may also be left via the Port Authority's website.

(Story continues below this map.)


The proposed bus rapid transit system, or BRT, would connect downtown Pittsburgh with Oakland using dedicated bus lanes, with buses running every three to five minutes during peak hours.

Some buses using the BRT would circulate in a continuous loop, while others would leave the BRT system in Oakland and continue on the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway; on surface streets to Greenfield; or to Shadyside and Highland Park.

The BRT is designed to solve a severe overcrowding problem on current bus routes between downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland, said Amy Silbermann, a senior analyst at Port Authority.


Above: Port Authority's Amy Silbermann. (Almanac photo)

Buses passing through the Oakland corridor are late 27 percent of the time, and are among Port Authority's top 10 most overcrowded routes, she said.

"The buses are unreliable between Oakland and Downtown," Silbermann said, "especially during rush hour. Buses are bunching up --- meaning buses on the same route are coming one after the other. That's really bad."

But the transit authority's data indicates that after a bus leaves downtown Pittsburgh headed toward Oakland, most of its passengers exit before they get to Squirrel Hill, and many of the remaining passengers get out in Pittsburgh's Greenfield neighborhood, she said.


The 61C serves McKeesport, Duquesne, Homestead, Squirrel Hill and Oakland's hospitals and universities before heading into the Golden Triangle.

On average, 61Cs arrive in McKeesport from Pittsburgh with about eight passengers, Silbermann said.

If the BRT system is implemented, then the 61C would go from McKeesport to Oakland, where riders would be required to transfer to a BRT bus to continue into the Golden Triangle.

Other bus routes that would terminate in Oakland, and no longer go into downtown Pittsburgh, would include the 61A to North Braddock and 61B to Swissvale, and the 71-series buses to Wilkinsburg and Point Breeze.

The 61C buses also would run less frequently --- on 30-minute headways instead of the current 15-minute headways.


"I'd be interested to see how this doesn't disproportionately harm people of color, low-income people and people with disabilities," said Laura Wiens, director of Pittsburghers for Public Transit, who was in the audience of about 40 people.

"What people are hearing is that they're going to have less service," she said. "We appreciate that you're going to get people from downtown to Oakland five minutes faster, but in the meantime, people are going to be waiting on the street in McKeesport for 30 minutes."

That brought a sarcastic retort from Fitzgerald: "I guess things are going so well in McKeesport that we can leave everything like it is."


The county executive added that transit ridership to and from McKeesport is down 27 percent, while the area's population is down 20 percent. Ridership on the 61C alone is down 37 percent, Fitzgerald said.

"Don't you think some of that ridership decline is due to the cutbacks in the bus routes on the hills around McKeesport?" asked Sue Scanlon, a Port Authority transit driver who works out of the West Mifflin garage, and a member of Pittsburghers for Public Transit. "People have found other ways to get around."

"You lost ridership because you eliminated service in Port Vue, Liberty and Glassport," added Carole Kast, a commuter from Port Vue. "We've been down this road before."


Silbermann said the Port Authority estimates that more frequent and more reliable bus service in the Golden Triangle-Oakland corridor would have ripple effects that would increase overall ridership 10 percent.

"If you take away service, how are you going to increase ridership?" McKeesport Councilwoman Fawn Walker-Montgomery said.

The audience of about 40 people included Port Authority's interim chief executive officer, David L. Donahoe, several Port Authority board members, and transit advocates such as Wiens.

The discussion was sometimes heated. At least one person was heard calling the meeting "a farce."

"You made a lot of these decisions before you even came here tonight," Helen Gerhardt, an organizer with Just Harvest, told Fitzgerald and Donahoe.


Above: Helen Gerhardt of Squirrel Hill, an organizer with Just Harvest. (Almanac photo)

"I am all for data-driven decision making, but the people who are going to be affected were left out of these decisions," said Gerhardt, who lives in Squirrel Hill and said she rides the 61C "every day."

Most of the people that her agency serves don't have cars, she said, and they shop for food every few days, going to and from the store on buses.

"There are a lot of people being displaced right now (from Pittsburgh) to areas like Penn Hills and McKeesport, which already puts them under enormous stress, and if you then cut down the frequency of bus service, you can really wreck people's lives," Gerhardt said.

Some people were rankled because BRT is being designed to speed people between Oakland and downtown Pittsburgh.

"The people on the BRT system will have the cream of the crop, and all of these different options for buses," Pearl Hughey of Rankin said. "Out here, we'll still only have one option."

According to published reports, residents of the Braddock area who attended the Oct. 2 hearing voiced similar complaints.


Port Authority officials stressed that nothing about BRT has yet been decided, and that the agency will listen to all of the comments it receives before making a decision.

Fitzgerald and Silbermann said one idea under discussion is increasing the frequency of two routes that connect McKeesport with downtown Pittsburgh but avoid Oakland --- the 56 via Lincoln Place and the P7 McKeesport Flyer.

"We're not trying to hurt the community --- we're trying to help the community," Fitzgerald said.

He said Port Authority has studied 42 different alternatives for improving service through the Oakland corridor, and the proposed solution was the best.

Updated plans will be presented to the public in Spring 2018, Silbermann said, with project construction estimated to begin in 2019 and 2020.

The estimated cost of the upgrades necessary to implement BRT is $195 million, Fitzgerald said, but the Port Authority expects substantial savings each year in its operating budget.

Volunteers, Students Break Ground on Grandview Greenspace
Mon, 16 Oct 2017 17:09:00 -0400
Vickie Babyak photo special to Tube City Almanac

(Photos by Vickie Babyak, special to Tube City Almanac)


Volunteers and students from McKeesport's Youth CAST along with staff from GTECH Strategies broke ground Saturday morning for improvements to a greenspace at the corner of Grandview Avenue and Auburn Street.

GTECH, a Pittsburgh-based non-profit, has been working in the city since 2015 to reclaim and re-use vacant lots for community purposes, while Youth CAST, which stands for Communities and Schools Together, is a McKeesport-based leadership development program for young adults in grades 6 through 12.

Last year, in cooperation with students and several other local organizations, GTECH and Youth CAST developed a playground and greenspace --- called a "Green Playce" --- at the corner of Jenny Lind and Butler streets.

Above are Youth CAST members, seated, Ajayla Johnson, Calise Johnson, Paul Francis and Isaiah Johnson, and standing, Nyiana Watson, Youth CAST program coordinator Aaron Johnson, Deja Newby, Skylar Palmer, Nicora Watson, Zekeil Palmer, Denaja Newby, Sontee Peterson, Dajere Newby and Savanah Still.

More photos below the jump.


Above, Tom Mulholland and Ian Brown of GTECH, Aaron Johnson of Youth CAST, City Administrator Tom Maglicco  and Harold Allen of Youth CAST.

Maglicco, Johnson and McKeesport Mayor Mike Cherepko.

(All photos by Vickie Babyak, special to Tube City Almanac. For reprints, contact vbabyak@yahoo.com.)

Attorney, Newspaper Co-Owner Pleads Guilty in Fraud Case
Mon, 16 Oct 2017 13:22:00 -0400

A suspended attorney pleaded guilty on Monday to charges he embezzled funds from one of his clients, then used the money to support the Mon Valley Independent newspaper.

Keith A. Bassi, 61, of Jefferson Twp., Fayette County, will be sentenced on three counts of mail fraud March 14 by U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab, said a spokeswoman for Acting U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song. Bassi faces up to 60 years in prison, a fine of $750,000, or both.

Bassi's license to practice law has been suspended, the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania announced on Aug. 16.

Prosecutors said that Bassi had power of attorney over the estate of an elderly client suffering from dementia. They accuse him of engaging in "a series of financial transactions" in which he diverted the estate's assets into his own accounts at CFS Bank and PNC Bank.

According to investigators, some of the funds were used to support the operation of the Independent, a daily newspaper which he helped to found with three other investors. The paper, which began publication in May 2016, recently expanded into the McKeesport area.

The newspaper reported on Sept. 27 that the criminal investigation of Bassi "will not affect the newspaper's operations," while Bassi's attorney was quoted as saying anyone defrauded would be "made whole with no financial losses."

Bassi was a former partner in the law firm Bassi, Vreeland & Associates and, among other his duties, served as city solicitor for Monongahela, Washington County.

Prosecutors allege that in one instance, Bassi purchased an insurance policy using the victim's funds, then cancelled the policy and kept the cash proceeds for himself.

The victim has not been identified.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory C. Melucci is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspectors and the FBI.

One Dead in Jenny Lind Shooting; City Man Charged With Homicide
Sat, 14 Oct 2017 14:55:00 -0400

Updated Oct. 15 with victim's name and arrest details.

Updated Oct. 16 with bond and arraignment information.

Above: Damien L. Ashley. (Photo courtesy Allegheny County Police.)


A shooting Saturday afternoon in the 1600 block of Jenny Lind Street has left one man dead and another man hospitalized and facing charges.

Allegheny County police said the shooting stemmed from an argument between the two victims. McKeesport police were dispatched to the area at 1:20 p.m. and found two people suffering from gunshot wounds.

One victim was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. He was identified by the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office as Wyatt L. Gaza, 28, of Pittsburgh.

Minutes later, McKeesport police were called to UPMC McKeesport hospital where a man was reportedly being treated for gunshot wounds. County police said that man has been identified as Damien L. Ashley, 28, of McKeesport.

In a prepared release Sunday afternoon, Allegheny County detectives alleged that Ashley and Gaza were arguing and that they believe Ashley began shooting at Gaza, who returned fire. Police allege that Ashley fled after being shot and said he was driven to the hospital in a private vehicle.

Ashley was later flown to a Pittsburgh hospital's trauma center for treatment, police said.

According to court records, Ashley has been charged with homicide, unauthorized possession of a firearm, carrying a firearm without a license and tampering with evidence.

He was arraigned Monday and is currently being held without bond in the Allegheny County Jail pending a preliminary hearing at 11 a.m. Oct. 27 before Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey Manning.

County police said the investigation is continuing.

Court records indicate that Ashley has an arrest record in Allegheny County dating to 2007, including a 2008 arrest on charges of two counts of attempted homicide and one count of aggravated assault. That case was ultimately not prosecuted by the district attorney's office.

At the time of the shooting, according to a court docket, Ashley was free on $5,000 percentage bond after being arrested Sept. 16 by Pittsburgh police on charges of carrying a firearm without a license. He faced a preliminary hearing on those charges Oct. 19 in Pittsburgh Municipal Court.

Ashley also was charged Sept. 4 by McKeesport police with carrying a firearm without a license, simple assault, recklessly endangering other people, making terroristic threats and harassment.

He was released on his own recognizance Sept. 9 following an arraignment by Magisterial District Judge Robert Ravenstahl Jr., pending a preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Eugene Riazzi in McKeesport.

Library Homeowners Urged to Apply for Rehab Grants
Fri, 13 Oct 2017 16:08:00 -0400

Cornell Street is part of the city's Library and Cultural District. (Tube City Almanac file photo.)


If you live in the city's Library and Cultural District and own your home, Joe Costa at ACTION-Housing wants to hear from you as soon as possible.

Costa, a housing associate with the non-profit agency, is putting together a grant request to the state's housing trust fund and is seeking homeowners whose houses need remodeling or rehabilitation work.

"We have one candidate signed up already," he said. "We need 10 candidates altogether. These could be safety upgrades, structural repairs, roof, wiring, plumbing repairs --- anything needed to keep a house up to code."

People who are interested should call Costa at (412) 281-2102, extension 2053, or email jcosta@actionhousing.org.

Interested residents who want to learn more about the program are being urged to attend a meeting at 7 p.m. Oct 17 at McKeesport Presbyterian Church, corner of Versailles and Union avenues.

The rehab program is one component of a program announced last week by McKeesport Mayor Mike Cherepko to upgrade housing in the area around Carnegie Library of McKeesport, Twin Rivers Elementary School and McKeesport Little Theater, and to build two new homes along Cornell Street.


The housing trust fund, officially known as the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund, or PHARE, is supported in part by the realty transfer tax and gas-drilling impact fees, and supports construction and rehabilitation of affordable homes in disadvantaged parts of the state.

The city, in cooperation with ACTION, is seeking enough money from the fund to build two new homes and provide about $110,000 in upgrades to 10 others, Costa said.

"You have great housng stock up there, but a lot of them are on the verge of being too far gone," he said. "We're tyring to preserve as much as we can, because you really can't replicate those homes. You put any of them into Shadyside, and they're worth double or triple what they're selling for in McKeesport."

In the 1920s, the neighborhood was the home of many of McKeesport's wealthiest and most prominent families, including the Macks and Shaws of the G.C. Murphy Co.


The new homes proposed for vacant, city-owned lots at 1619 Bailie Ave. and 1400 Manor St. are not yet designed, but Costa said they would be designed to blend with the existing houses.

"Probably three bedrooms and two bathrooms, with a porch," he said. "We would want them to have a basement and ideally, they would include brick." Construction details and materials won't be finalized, Costa said, unless the city receives the PHARE funding and is able to set a budget.

The houses would be targeted to sell at $125,000 each, but would cost more than that, Costa said. The PHARE money would be used to make up the difference between the construction price and the sale price, he said.


The rehabilitation and construction program that's being proposed comes on the heels of a $200,000 effort to tear down abandoned and blighted houses in the area.

Neighborhood resident Shari Holland, who is part of a group called the Concerned Citizens of the Library District, said she's excited about the program.

"I really like that they are pairing the idea of new homes that will aesthetically fit the neighborhood, with providing resources for residents to rehabilitate the homes already here," she said.


If the program is funded, Costa said, the rehabilitation grants will only be available to households earning $36,500 or less per year.

The two new houses, if built, will have no income restrictions, he said.

"Our goal is to get some other reinvestment in the neighborhood," Costa said. "There are also hopes of re-developing the old Centennial School."

Because housing prices are so depressed in McKeesport, he said, it would be difficult for any private real estate developer to turn a profit on new home construction. ACTION and the city are hoping that the new houses, and rehabbing some existing houses, will help "prime the pump" for others to invest as well.

"What we've done in the past is invested in a (targeted) area, and what you notice pretty soon is other private investment, either across the street or on the same block," Costa said. "We're trying to get something going in that neighborhood. We'd like to see a wave of investment there."

New Police Officer Joins Duquesne Force
Fri, 13 Oct 2017 10:18:00 -0400

Duquesne has added a new police officer.

During Wednesday's city council meeting, Mayor Phillip Krivacek reported that Thomas Cranmer was hired Sept. 15 at the recommendation of police Chief Richard Adams.

“Our great department now has 12 officers, which is the highest we have had in some time,” Krivacek said.

In other business:

  • Councilwoman June Wilson announced that water rates will be increasing 1.8 percent next year. The rate increase was imposed by the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, which supplies Duquesne's water.

  • Councilman Timothy Caldwell announced that the city has acquired a house at 32 S. Sixth St. in lieu of back taxes following a 10-year court case.

    He recommended council survey the property and obtain quotes for demolishing it.
  • Council authorized the transfer of properties at 28 Aurilles St., 615 Hill St. and 605 Richford St., to the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Duquesne.
  • Caldwell requested the city file a grant application with the national non-profit charity KaBOOM! for a renovation of the Polish Hill playground. He encouraged the city to seek partners for the project.
  • Fire Chief Andrew Fedor reported that Duquesne firefighters responded to two multiple-vehicle accidents and provided mutual-aid assistance to a house fire, a porch fire and an apartment fire.

  • The engineer’s report, given by Dave Gilliland, included the status of several properties slated to be demolished, including 828 West Grant St., of which the work is completed, 1027 Kennedy and 1104 Barbara, of which the work is 95 percent and 90 percent complete, respectively.

  • The state of Pennsylvania has provided the city with a Volunteer Fire Relief Association allocation in the amount of $20,691, a $2,000 decrease from last year, and a 2017 General Municipal Pension Aid in the amount of $174,353, a $14,000 decrease.

  • Citizen comments included remarks from Andy Vanmos, who thanked the council for the city's recent demolition of properties located on Barbara and Kennedy streets, on behalf of a group of residents.
Four Honored for Living City's Message of Respect, Hope, Love, Dignity
Thu, 12 Oct 2017 17:44:00 -0400

From left: Tony Riggs, Ty-Meer Brown and Brian Evans were honored this month for living the "McKeesport Message" of "Respect, Dignity, Hope and Love." (Tube City Almanac photo.)


Four people were honored this month by McKeesport Mayor Mike Cherepko and the McKeesport Message Committee for upholding the values of respect, dignity, hope and love.

A subgroup of the mayor's Select Committee on Crime and Violence, the committee accepts nominations from the public and makes the selections four times per year.

Citations were presented at the Oct. 4 council meeting to Brian Evans, Tony Riggs and Ty-Meer Brown. Another citation was issued to Linda Brewster, who was unable to be present.


RESPECT

Tony Riggs is a lifelong McKeesporter who goes above and beyond his neighborly duties to keep his part of the city’s Seventh Ward in order.

Riggs, 64, is a jack of all trades – having worked in every field from carpentry to steel production to public transportation. But when he retired from the Port Authority of Allegheny County two years ago, Riggs started spending more time in his neighborhood.

“About a year ago, I welcomed a new dog into my home,” he said. “We go for walks every day, and I’ve started paying attention. To be honest, there are times when I don’t like what I see.”

Rather than complaining about the decline of his neighborhood, Riggs took it upon himself to turn negative emotions into positive action. Not only did he continue to maintain his property at a standard of which he can be proud, Riggs sought to help his neighbors do the same. He began mowing lawns for elderly and disabled neighbors, and he went on to trim grass and shrubs around abandoned homes and vacant lots.

“It means something to me,” said Riggs, who grew up on the 1800 block of Beech Street and now maintains his own home in the 1400 block, where he looks after his 88 year old mother. “I do this on my own to make things easier and to make things better in my neighborhood – to show people what you can do in your small corner of the world.”

During the winter months, Riggs shovels paths for his neighbors – even paying close attention to rough spots in the road where snow plows can’t quite navigate effectively. He tries to help when he can, and he sets a good example in his neighborhood.

“That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” he said. “When I came up, my mother and grandmother instilled in me to love and respect everybody. I can’t make a person do what they don’t want to do, but I will help anyone when I can.”

In his spare time, Riggs enjoys horticulture and jazz music. He has grown up to 75 varieties of plants in his home and yard, and he is learning to read music while sharpening his skills on the tenor saxophone.

“You’re only as young as you feel,” Riggs said. “If you keep it moving, keep it real, and keep it honest, you will last a long time.”


DIGNITY

In his youth, Ty-Meer Brown was a star McKeesport Area athlete who excelled on the football field and basketball court, as well as in the classroom. Today, he has returned to his home district to serve the community that helped to build his character.

When he graduated from McKeesport Area High School in 2010, Brown went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology at the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in sports administration at Boston College. He played football at both schools, and even joined the coaching staff in Boston.

“That was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life,” Brown said. “I commuted from Rhode Island seven days a week – waking up at 4 a.m. to go work 16 hours a day. I used to look forward to a 12 hour day, which felt like a break. I knew I had to stay dedicated and keep pushing toward what I wanted to accomplish, and that was to get my master’s (degree).”

Upon completing his education, Brown knew he wanted to return to his hometown to work with children and teens in his community. He presented an idea to the school board and athletic committee with a vision to mentor student athletes and kids enrolled in other extra-curricular programming.

“These activities make students more well-rounded people,” Brown said. “Different activities bring out different qualities. Playing football focuses on discipline. It develops hard work and determination. Playing an instrument works a different part of your brain. It inspires creativity.”

As the Student Affairs assistant and a leader in the high school’s new mentoring initiative, Brown works on personal development with his students. He attends games and events, and he is supportive of extra-curricular activities. He also monitors academics – making sure incoming freshmen understand the weight of their high school grades in terms of pursuing higher education.

“A lot of kids quit when things get hard, but I want to tell them that it’s not going to be hard forever,” he said. “You have to push through it, and that’s when you become successful.”

Brown can relate to McKeesport Area students on a personal level.

“I can show kids that being present is half the battle,” he said. “If someone from a different place comes in and reads them a rule book, it’s different than someone who walked these halls telling them how it is.”


HOPE

In her role as president of the McKeesport Trail Commission, Linda H. Brewster is an advocate for the growth of McKeesport in terms of recreational and economic development.

When the Great Allegheny Passage was developed as a hiking and cycling trail connecting Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., initiatives began to highlight destinations along the way. Brewster, along with city officials and trail volunteers, worked hard for McKeesport to earn its designation as a Trail Town – capitalizing on its beautiful location at the confluence of the Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers and developing amenities to serve trail-users.

“If we move forward with plans to develop this riverfront, we could have everything from a hotel and restaurants to retail businesses or industries that want to be close to the great things happening in McKeesport,” Brewster said. “There’s a great future ahead for our city, and it starts with what we can offer along our trails downtown and in Christy Park.”

With DuraBond Industries having purchased a former U.S. Steel facility adjacent to the RIDC Riverplace Industrial Center of McKeesport, the city will gain easements to develop the confluence into a recreational destination – something Brewster and city officials have envisioned for decades.

She organized the conversion of an old concession stand along Joe Bendel Way (formerly Water Street) overlooking the Marina at McKees Point. Using grants as well as funds raised through McKeesport Trail Commission events, the hostel is now a fully operational facility that can provide overnight accommodations for up to three guests any day of the week during their travels along the Great Allegheny Passage.

“We get a lot of notoriety for our trail and our hostel,” Brewster said. “A lot of people come through here, and we are always proud to hear what they say as they pass through McKeesport. They love everything – the scenery along the river, the marina, the café.”

In addition to her work on the McKeesport trail system, Brewster is involved in numerous community activities and organizations. She is the treasurer and past president of the McKeesport/White Oak Kiwanis Club, a member of the McKeesport Lions Club, a member of the American Legion Post 361 Auxiliary, and a committee member/gate coordinator for International Village.

Years ago, while working for McKeesport Area School District, Brewster organized Mini-Olympics for the 11th Ward Elementary School. Brewster currently is employed at McKeesport Ambulance Rescue Service as a secretary/bookkeeper. She is the wife of state Senator James R. Brewster, and together they have three daughters and six grandchildren.


LOVE

Brian Evans is sharing his love of athletics with future generations by standing alongside his children and their peers – coaching them through involvement in a variety of sports organizations.



“I’m using my love of the game to give back to my community,” he said. “I have a true passion for giving back to my community.”

Evans, 41, is a lifelong McKeesporter who graduated from McKeesport Area High School in 1994. In his youth, he played a variety of sports for the White Oak Athletic Association and McKeesport Area School District.

By day, Evans drives buses for the Port Authority of Allegheny County, and on evenings and weekends, he dedicates his spare time to teaching kids the value of sportsmanship on the basketball court, as well as softball and soccer fields. He has coached in the McKeesport Metro traveling league, White Oak Athletic Association, and McKeesport Area Lady Tigers Athletic Association. He serves on the boards for WOAA and MALTAA.

“I love the game, and I love teaching kids about the game,” Evans said. “It’s not only about improving their skills. It’s about sportsmanship. It’s about teamwork. You learn early on that it’s not always about winning or losing.”

Evans has coached age groups up to eighth grade. He said he loves teaching children to apply themselves and push toward their goals. He wants kids to have the patience to make good choices.

“As a coach, you are helping young people build character,” Evans said. “You are teaching them to respect others – their teammates and the opposing team. Any team in any sport will experience adversity. Overcoming that in a game gives you the experience you need to face the obstacles in your life.”

Evans said the hardest part about being a coach is treating your own children fairly. He pushes his daughters Brianna, 15, and Brooke, 11, to be strong and respectful players. He can’t wait until his son Brady, 23 months, is ready to play.

“I feel like I’m so much harder on my own kids than the rest of the team,” Evans said. “I know what these kids are capable of, and I want my own children to set a good. Somehow, my kids actually enjoy working with me as a coach. It gives us an opportunity to spend quality time together doing something we all love.”

Evans said he looks forward to coaching for years to come and finding new ways to be involved in the McKeesport community.
 


Living the Message

The McKeesport Message Committee, a subgroup of McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko’s Select Committee on Crime and Violence, invites the public to nominate community members who exemplify the words, “Respect, Dignity, Hope and Love.”

McKeesporters of all ages – from youth volunteers to senior citizens – display characteristics of Respect, Dignity, Hope and Love on a daily basis in our community. Whether through organizing community activities or offering a helping hand to those in need, everyday people are doing their part to make our city a better place. If we look within our schools, our neighborhoods, our churches and our service organizations, we will find acts of kindness for which we all can be proud.

Living the Message awards are intended to showcase these individuals and give the community an opportunity to share its good news. Awards are given quarterly.

Using 250 words or fewer, describe how the individual of your choice embodies one of the four words.

For more information, contact the mayor’s office at 412-675-5020, ext. 605. Nominations can be mailed to the mayor’s assistant Jennifer Vertullo, 500 Fifth Avenue, McKeesport, PA 15132, or emailed to jen.vertullo@mckeesport-pa.gov. The deadline for the next round of nominations is May 31, 2017.

Croatian Club Slates Halloween Party Oct. 21
Thu, 12 Oct 2017 00:04:00 -0400

Yukon Croatian Club will kick off the Halloween season with its over-21 Halloween Party on Oct. 21 with a DJ from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

The festivities also include a prize for best costume and a door prize ticket, a spokeswoman said. Admission is $1. The club will open at 7 p.m. It is located at 109 Union St. in Yukon, exit 53 on I-70.

For more information, call (724) 722-4100.


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