McKeesport Area News from Tube City Almanac
One Dead in Spring Street Shooting
Sat, 16 Dec 2017 14:49:00 -0500

(Updated 11 p.m. with victim's name)

One man is dead following a shooting Saturday morning on Spring Street.

Allegheny County police Lt. Andrew Schurman said emergency crews responded at 11:43 a.m. after callers reported a man was lying in the street and unresponsive just off of Jenny Lind Street.

The victim, identified as Mahlik Cash, 21, was suffering from multiple gunshot wounds and pronounced dead at the scene, Schurman said.

The killing is the 13th in McKeesport and the 29th in the Mon Valley so far this year, according to statistics from the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office.

Schurman said county homicide detectives are investigating. No further information has been released.

Four West Mifflin Students Receive VFW Scholarships
Fri, 15 Dec 2017 23:04:00 -0500

Scholarship awardees Reagan Rubright, Kada Jackel, Nicholas Kosuda and Dylan Ruffing with VFW Post 914 Commander Jake Bradich. (Submitted photo)

Four West Mifflin students each received top honors from All-American Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 Intrepid West Mifflin for this year’s Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen contests. 

The winners were accepted from more than three dozen entries that gave the local scholars a chance to earn some of the $2 million in national educational incentives awarded annually through the VFW.

Earning the nod for this year’s VOD competition are Reagan Rubright, Kada Jackel and Dylan Ruffing from West Mifflin Area High School. 

Nicholas Kosuda from the West Mifflin Area Middle School was awarded the top slot for the post’s Patriot’s Pen scholarship.

“We are again very pleased with the high participation and quality of essays we’ve received from students this year,” said Jake Bradich, commander of Post 914 and VFW life member. 

“Over the last several years, there’s been an enormous amount of support from the school district staff," he said. "The veterans here are proud that youngsters in our community are eager to get involved.”

The three VOD winners each received a $100 award from VFW Post 914 Intrepid West Mifflin at the organization’s Nov. 30 meeting at the Thompson Run Athletic Association, as well as a VFW medal.  A $100 check and a VFW medal was also presented to the post’s Patriot's Pen winner.

The topic for this year’s VOD essay competition was "American History: Our Hope For The Future."  Competitors for the Patriot’s Pen contest wrote to the theme of "America’s Gift To My Generation."

In all, VFW Post 914 received 38 entries for this year’s VOD competition.  The post is permitted to advance one in 10 entries for each competition annually.

Melissa L. Fulmer, an English teacher at West Mifflin Area High School, again assisted with the program promotion and collection of essays for this year’s competition. Last year, Fulmer was named by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of Pennsylvania as the VFW Voice of Democracy Teacher of the Year.

Navy veteran and Post Quartermaster Gary Ruston said the quality of essays the organization received this year was "simply outstanding." 

“It was hard to pick three winners," he said. "The total number of essays were whittled down to 11, then down to five.  And after much deliberating, we finally got our three winners.”

All of the VOD candidates will move to the next bracket of competition to be held at Pittsburgh’s VFW District 29.  If forwarded from there, entrants will earn a chance to compete at the VFW Department of Pennsylvania.   After that, winners will then vie at the national level where the top laurels include a $30,000 scholarship.

Other VOD national scholarships range from $1,000 to $16,000, and the first place winner from each state earns a minimum scholarship of $1,000, plus an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. 

Last year, approximately 40,000 high school students throughout the United States participated in the VFW’s Voice of Democracy audio essay competition.

As the Patriot’s Pen award winner, Kosuda also earned the chance to advance to the next level of competition in the VFW’s youth essay contest. The top Patriot’s Pen competitors selected from each state can earn $50,000 in awards, as well as a top prize of $5,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.

Auditor General: 'Significant' Failings in Duquesne City School Finances
Fri, 15 Dec 2017 12:21:00 -0500

In a scathing report, Pennsylvania's auditor general this week said he would refer a complaint to the state Ethics Commission about the Duquesne City School District.

But the state-appointed receiver for the district said the practices flagged by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale have now been "prohibited" and that the problems have not affected "instruction, programs and services" provided to Duquesne's 331 students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

"Full funding has been maintained for all student instruction, programs and services," Paul B. Long said Thursday in a letter to parents and the district's elected school board.

At issue in the 42-page report released by DePasquale this week were payroll advances that administrators --- including a former school superintendent --- made to themselves without any oversight from the elected school directors or Long.

DePasquale said the advances amounted to "personal no-interest loans" and called the practice "total insanity" and "outrageous."

The auditor general's report, available online, also criticizes:

  • The district's poor documentation of the number of foster children being educated, which the auditors said has been a "recurring" problem in the district's last four audits;
  • The district's inadequate procedures for tracking the number of students traveling by bus, which DePasquale's office said resulted in an overpayment to Duquesne City School District of $180,431 by state taxpayers between 2012 and 2016; and
  • The district's failure to verify that all school bus drivers had valid driver's licenses and had passed criminal background checks.

In regards to the last point, DePasquale's office said they reviewed the records of all of the bus drivers involved, and that no deficiencies were found.

But, the auditors said, "merely relying on a contractor to obtain licenses and clearances, reviewing the clearances, and providing that documentation to the district does not satisfy the district's legal obligations."

Duquesne City School District currently serves 561 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, including more than 200 who attend school in neighboring districts under a tuition-reimbursement plan.

The district was declared financially stressed in 2000 and placed under state oversight in 2012, the same year that the middle school was closed. Duquesne High School closed in 2009.

Given the district's precarious financial state, DePasquale called it "outrageous" that between 2013 and this year, then-school superintendent Barbara McDonnell authorized $41,250 in interest-free personal loans to four district employees, including herself.

Auditors found that McDonnell obtained $23,150 through payroll advances in a four-year period.

According to the auditors, the loans were given in the form of payroll advances and were not authorized by Long, the school board or the state-appointed recovery board.

Instead, McDonnell authorized them, or made her own requests directly to a payroll clerk, the auditors said, "thereby essentially approving her own loans."

DePasquale said district officials told auditors the loans were offered to help employees suffering from "financial hardships," but that auditors in most cases found no specific reasons for the advances.

In one case, DePasquale said, McDonnell requested an advance of $1,000 to help with "the holidays."

“It is outrageous that the staff of the Duquesne School District --- including its former superintendent --- used this district’s general fund as a piggy bank for personal no-interest loans,” DePasquale said in a prepared statement.

McDonnell came to work for Duquesne City School District in 2000 as dean of discipline, according to her biography on the district's website, but resigned last month, citing "personal reasons."

The district advertised for a new superintendent three weeks ago.

In a written response to the auditors, the school district said that the practice of making payroll advances has been discontinued, and that advances were made to assist employees with "health care, college tuition and a theft of personal property."

"At no time was the intent to be fraudulent in nature, abuse district funds or violate ethical practices, as is evidenced by the full repayment through payroll deductions fo all salary advances in a timely manner," Duquesne school officials wrote, adding that the district will ask those employees who received advances to repay interest on them.

Long said Thursday that "all payroll advances were paid back in full" and that the administrative "problems have not affected the instruction, programs and services" that children receive at Duquesne Elementary School.

Nevertheless, the auditors said, the loans represent both a conflict of interest and a potential violation of the state Ethics Act.

In other findings, the auditors found that although Duquesne City School District received more than $1.3 million in transportation reimbursements from the state Department of Education, it had no independent documentation of the number of students being carried by school buses.

Instead, it relied on reports from school bus contractors. As a result, the auditors said, "some reporting errors were so blatant" that the district was overpaid at least $180,431 during the four-year period.

The district also failed to ensure that bus drivers had the proper endorsements on their driver's licenses, or that they had passed criminal background checks, relying on the contractors to provide that information.

At least six drivers of 18 used by the Duquesne district had no information on file.

District officials said that they do not have a transportation department and have relied on the bus contractors to collect and report the information.

The auditors urged the district to be "significantly more proactive" in "obtaining, reviewing and maintaining all transportation documents."

“For the sake of the students and the taxpayers of the Duquesne School District, I certainly hope that the board and district officials get their house in order," DePasquale said.

Free Tax Prep Services Available to Duquesne Residents
Fri, 15 Dec 2017 11:25:00 -0500

Free tax preparation services are being offered to Duquesne residents who qualify, beginning next month, Mayor Phil Krivacek said. The service is sponsored by United Way.

A workshop to help residents prepare their taxes is slated for Jan. 16 through April 17, he said.

Beginning Jan. 10, appointments can be scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. by calling 2-1-1.

Additionally, a free Duquesne tax clinic will assist residents in filing their 2017 taxes. Those with a total household income of up to $45,000 or an individual income of $25,000 are encouraged to take advantage of the service from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. either Feb. 23 or March 23, Krivacek said.

Contact United Way at 2-1-1 for an appointment.

Acting Business Manager Named in Duquesne
Fri, 15 Dec 2017 10:56:00 -0500

Mary Louise Bittner will serve as Duquesne's acting business manager.

At Wednesday's city council meeting, outgoing Mayor Phil Krivacek said Bittner will fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Frank Piccolino last month.

Bittner will serve until the next administration selects someone permanent for the position, Krivacek said. Newly elected mayor Nickole Nesby takes office after the first of the year.

In other business, council will be accepting proposals for a new delinquent tax collector after a contract with Keystone Municipal Collections was terminated last month. Proposals will be accepted until Jan. 31.

Police Chief R. Scott Adams said the department answered 268 calls for service during the month of November. There were 67 offenses committed in the city resulting in 31 arrests, 26 of which were adults and five juveniles. Police investigated six motor vehicle accidents, issued 58 traffic citations and answered six false alarms.

Additionally, Adams reported that five applicants are currently being considered for a full-time position with the Duquesne Police Department. The contenders will soon complete an agility test to determine their eligibility.

Fire Chief Andrew Fedor reported that the fire department responded to five structure fires, six auto fires, two EMS calls, six mutual aid situations and six miscellaneous calls for service.

Councilman Allan Chiesi reported that 33 occupancy permits and seven building permits were issued, totalling $1,450.

City Controller Beth Kracinovsky thanked everyone who helped make the 23rd annual "‘Tis the Season" celebration a success.

“It was a lovely evening a wonderful way to start off the holiday season,” Kracinvosky said.

Police Log: Dec. 14, 2017
Thu, 14 Dec 2017 13:39:00 -0500
  • Arrest records published here were provided by the McKeesport Police Department.
  • Not all arrest records are published.
  • A report of an arrest does not mean the person identified has been convicted of a crime.
  • All people arrested are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Charged in Assault: A city juvenile was charged with aggravated assault, robbery, recklessly endangering another person, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and tampering with physical evidence after an incident near McKeesport Area High School.

McKeesport police said a woman reported that two young men attacked her at about 4:25 p.m. Nov. 8, took her cell phone and then fled on foot toward Mayfair Avenue. She was treated at UPMC McKeesport hospital and released. A 15-year-old male was charged in connection with the incident and remanded to Shuman Juvenile Detention Center, police said.

Charged in Assault: A 16-year-old male and a 13-year-old male were charged by McKeesport police with aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person following an incident at 12:30 p.m. Nov. 11 outside a convenience store on Walnut Street. Police said they assaulted and robbed another juvenile.

Endangerment Charges: A city woman was ordered held for court Nov. 27 on charges of endangering the welfare of children and recklessly endangering another person. Tiffany Gall, 39, was charged by McKeesport police in connection with incidents that occurred on Oct. 13 and Nov. 2.

A preliminary hearing was held Nov. 27 before Magisterial District Judge Eugene Riazzi. Gall is currently free on her own recognizance pending formal arraignment in Allegheny County Court at 10 a.m. Feb. 1.

DUI Charges: Gregory Tippett III, 24, of Braddock Hills was charged by McKeesport police with driving under the influence and careless driving following a traffic stop at 11:06 p.m. Nov. 11 near the intersection of Fifth and Evans avenues. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 8 before Magisterial District Judge Eugene Riazzi.

Joshua L. Santos, 25, of Port Vue was charged by McKeesport police with driving under the influence and reckless driving following a traffic stop at 3:43 a.m. Nov. 24 near the intersection of West Fifth Avenue and Dale Street. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 22 before Magisterial District Judge Eugene Riazzi.

Indecent Assault: Two 15-year-old males from Olive Street in the city were charged with indecent assault and harassment in connection with an incident Nov. 10, McKeesport police said.

Domestic Assault: A North Braddock man waived his right to a preliminary hearing on charges filed by McKeesport police in connection with a domestic dispute. Dominique J. Reaves, 34, is charged by McKeesport police with strangulation, simple assault, criminal mischief and harassment in connection with the incident that occurred at a home on Nov. 9. Reaves faces formal arraignment in Allegheny County Court on Jan. 29.

Resisting Arrest Charge: A Wilkinsburg man is being held in Allegheny County Jail in lieu of $1,000 bond after McKeesport police charged him with resisting arrest, giving false identification to law enforcement and disorderly conduct in connection with an incident near the intersection of Centennial and Cornell streets early on the morning of Nov. 14. Scott E. Payne Jr., 30, faces a preliminary hearing Dec. 29 before Magisterial District Judge Eugene Riazzi.

Theft Charge: A McKeesport man waived his right to a preliminary hearing in connection with a theft by unlawful taking charge. Daniel Golden, 58, faces formal arraignment Feb. 8 in Allegheny County Court. McKeesport police said a Grandview Avenue woman hired Golden in October to do some painting work at her home. After he left, police said, she found jewelry missing. Golden was charged Nov. 10 and is free on his own recognizance, court officials said.

Theft Charge: A McKeesport man waived his right to a preliminary hearing in connection with charges of theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property. Demetrius McClendon, 18, is free on his own recognizance pending formal arraignment Feb. 15 in Allegheny County Court.

McKeesport police said a Versailles Avenue woman started her car Nov. 11 and went inside the house. When she came back outside, the car was gone. Police tracked the vehicle through the OnStar system, according to a report, and recovered it a short time later in the 3800 block of Walker Street. A warrant has been issued for a second man in connection with the case.

Charged in Dispute: Amanda Hardman, 27, of McKeesport was charged by McKeesport police with aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person following a dispute at 1:04 a.m. Nov. 16 inside a private residence on Grover Street. Hardman is free on her own recognizance pending a preliminary hearing Feb. 12 before Magisterial District Judge Eugene Riazzi.

Drug Charge: Wendy Ressler, 42, of McKeesport was charged by McKeesport police with possession of a controlled substance following a stop at 9:35 a.m. Nov. 17 near the intersection of Sixth and Huey streets. She faces a preliminary hearing Jan. 8 before Magisterial District Judge Eugene Riazzi.

Theft Charge: A McKeesport woman faces formal arraignment in Allegheny County Court on Feb. 13 in connection with the theft of approximately $1,500 in cigarettes from a convenience store in Dravosburg.

McKeesport police said that Jennifer E. Trout, 44, is a former employee of the store and has been accused in the theft that occurred Sept. 9. Charges of receiving stolen property, retail theft and criminal trespass were waived to court prior to a preliminary hearing Dec. 7 before Magisterial District Judge Eugene Riazzi. Trout is currently free on her own recognizance.

Glenn Miller Concert Will Benefit Scholarship Fund
Wed, 13 Dec 2017 18:03:00 -0500

The McKeesport Area Education Foundation and the McKeesport ROMEO Club will present a concert by the Glenn Miller Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 22.

The concert, titled "In the Holiday Mood," will help raise money towards scholarships for students in the district.

"I want to applaud that because it's really a win-win for our students as well as the organization," said Mark Holtzman, school district superintendent.

Tickets are $10 and are available by sending a check or money order to McKeesport Area Education Foundation, 3590 O'Neil Blvd., McKeesport 15132.

For more information, call Andy at (412) 708-3945.

Community Fitness Classes Hosted by Penn State
Wed, 13 Dec 2017 16:21:00 -0500

Penn State Greater Allegheny will hold community fitness classes at its new McKeesport Community Center, 410 Ninth Ave., Downtown, a spokeswoman said.

Zumba classes with Tiffani Hurt will be held from 11 a.m. to 12 noon on the following Saturdays: Dec. 16; Jan. 13, 20 and 27; Feb. 3, 10, 17 and 24; March 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31; April 7, 14, 21 and 28; and May 5, 12 and 19.

Yoga classes with Anne Mason will be held from 1 to 2 p.m. on the following Mondays: Jan. 8, 15, 22 and 29; Feb. 5,12, 19 and 26; March 5, 12, 19 and 26; April 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30; and May 7 and 14.

The center is located in the former YWCA building, just off of Walnut Street.

District Will Try to Save Some GW School Items
Tue, 12 Dec 2017 18:27:00 -0500

(All photos: Special to Tube City Almanac)

Demolition of the vacant George Washington School in the Seventh Ward will begin soon and take about a month, weather permitting.

That's the word from David Seropian, business manager for McKeesport Area School District, who said demolition crews are going to try to preserve some items from the 1928-vintage building, which closed in 2014.

"I don't know specifically what's being saved, but there are some things we want to try to save," he said Tuesday.

McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said the demolition is a positive step forward for the school's neighbors on Sumac and Freemont streets.

"This project has been on the city's and school district's radar for quite some time," Cherepko said. "I'm very grateful that the school district is taking responsibility for this property, and that the burden of this building will be removed from the neighborhood before its condition deteriorates further."

George Washington and Centennial schools were closed when Twin Rivers Elementary, located on the site of the former Cornell Elementary School, opened.

Although closed for only three years, "G.W." has been targeted by vandals and many windows have been broken.

"Whenever you have a vacant building, the longer it gets vacant, you do have some issues," Seropian said. While the doors were boarded up and no trespassing signs are posted, break-ins also were a nuisance, he said.

There was at least one proposal to reuse the school as a religious center, but it never materialized.

The final straw, though, was a major water line break that flooded the second and first floors, causing extensive damage and scaring off potential developers, Seropian said.

Unlike Centennial School, which has been sold and is being converted into a senior citizen complex, G.W. could not be salvaged, he said. "We couldn't sell it in that condition," Seropian said.

The insurance settlement from the water line break is being used to pay for the demolition. Franjo Construction of Homestead was the low bidder for the work at $360,000, Seropian said.

Some of the preliminary demolition work has already been completed and when the building is down, the lot will be filled in, leveled and graded, probably in the spring of 2018, Seropian said.

The demolition will leave the neighborhood with approximately two acres of vacant land, spanning most of a city block.

No decision has been made by the school board on the disposition of the land, Seropian said, but if it has value to developers, the district would be open to suggestions.

Medallions, cast in concrete, decorate the Freemont Street entrance to the school. They depict two scholars, including a woman carrying the torch of knowledge and a man bearing what appear to be books and tools.

Next to the medallions are engraved the phrases, "Education is Indispensable" and "Education Must Be Universal."

In recent years, George Washington had roughly 500 pupils, but enrollment was much higher in the past, Seropian said. Assuming 500 students over the course of 86 years, more than 43,000 young men and women were educated at G.W. during its career.

The district will look at options to sell commemorative bricks if McKeesport Area school district alumni are interested, Seropian said.

But from the district's perspective, "we're glad it's finally being torn down," he said.

Former State Representative Sentenced in Gambling Case
Mon, 11 Dec 2017 23:50:00 -0500

A former state representative from White Oak who pleaded guilty to his role in a video poker ring has been sentenced to 18 months of electronic monitoring.

Marc J. Gergely, 48, also was sentenced Monday to two years' probation after pleading guilty before Allegheny County Judge Ed Borkowski to violating state election laws and conspiracy to violate state gambling laws, court officials said.

Both charges are misdemeanors.

Gergely was caught up in a widespread investigation of illegal gambling by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office and Pennsylvania State Police.

In September 2013, a grand jury indicted 16 people, including a retired police officer, a former McKeesport city councilman and a former McKeesport Area school director, with running an illegal gambling ring in three counties.

Gergely and Washington County attorney Louis Caputo were accused of using their positions to encourage reluctant business owners to accept video poker machines from the man accused of running the gambling operation, Ronald "Porky" Melocchi of West Newton.

Melocchi pleaded guilty and is currently serving 10 years' probation.

Gergely represented the 35th Legislative District, which includes Clairton, Duquesne, Lincoln, McKeesport, Munhall, South Versailles Twp., Versailles, Whitaker, White Oak and part of West Mifflin, from 2003 until he resigned in November.

A special election will be held Jan. 23 to fill the remaining 11 months of Gergely's term. McKeesport City Councilwoman Fawn Walker-Montgomery, a Republican, and Austin Davis, a Democrat, are running to replace Gergely.