Donora Demolishing Former Fifth Street School

For more than a decade, Virginia Summers anticipated the day she could gaze across the street from her Donora home and see – nothing.

She is about to get her wish.

The borough on Thursday began demolition of the century-old building known as Fifth Street School. The structure, located at the intersection of Fifth Street and Allen Avenue, has been deteriorating for years and had become a safety issue.

“It’s been a pest,” Summers said. “… It is unsafe and everybody knows it. You could see bricks falling down. We’ve been troubling council for 10 years asking to please get it down, get it down. And I’m grateful they were finally able to make it happen.”

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Gas Industry’s Pain Ripples Across Western Pennsylvania

Lunch crowds in the Hardwood Cafe used to be packed with dozens of workers from the natural gas industry.

A lot of them were regulars. Lately, some familiar faces have disappeared.

“I would say it was right after the holidays that a lot of them were not coming back,” said Justin Trainor, who owns the restaurant in Penn. “The servers would say, ‘Oh, I haven’t seen so and so,’ and (the gas workers) would say, ‘Oh, they didn’t bring them back.’ ”

The falloff in customers has put a dent in Trainor’s business, which has benefited from the gas industry boom in Western Pennsylvania. But low gas prices have forced companies such as Rex Energy and XTO to pull back on new drilling, and the effects are beginning to ripple throughout the region’s economy.

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Washington County Hamlet’s Residents Worry About Safety Of Tap Water

Sunlight spilled through a window into Pat West’s darkened kitchen as she filled a glass with water.

“It smells fine. It looks fine,” said West, 70, holding the etched glass to her nose and peering at it. “I still drink the water, but my kids won’t.”

West and her husband, Don, raised 13 children in their two-story house in Millsboro, a hamlet in East Bethlehem, Washington County.

Theirs is one of four houses on Harmony Avenue, where the Wests have lived since 1959. Between them and the Monongahela River is Tri-County Joint Municipal Authority, which is under orders from the state Department of Environmental Protection to reduce potentially carcinogenic chemicals in the water it pumps to homes.

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Uniontown, Washington Crown Center Malls For Sale

Two malls in Western Pennsylvania were put up for sale by their Philadelphia-based owner as part of its strategy to sell lower-performing properties and improve returns.

Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust said Monday that Uniontown Mall in Fayette County and Washington Crown Center mall in Washington County are among five shopping properties it will try to sell this year.

“I’m a little surprised,” said Jeff Kotula, president of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, who lives nearby. “Over the past year, the Washington Crown Center has done a lot of upgrades, adding a Marshall’s, Ross and Ulta. From what I’ve seen, they’ve been investing in that mall. The improvements make it very attractive, in my opinion.”

The company said it sold eight properties in other areas in 2014 for a total of $191.7 million. It has sold interests in 16 properties for more than $424 million since its portfolio review began in 2012.

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Charleroi Envisions Riverfront Destination As Focal Point Of Business Redevelopment Plan

Map of Washington County higlighting Charleroi.

Map of Washington County higlighting Charleroi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  Imagine that, another town with a vision and a plan…with the rash of shootings going on in Pottstown again….a vision and a plan would be in order.  Just sayin’…

Donn Henderson sees the Charleroi riverfront development he wants 25 miles away in Pittsburgh.

“It’s not rocket science. There are plenty of examples,” said Henderson, manager of the borough, which will announce a redevelopment plan for the central business district Thursday. “Just look at the North Side. That’s a great model. The South Side, too.”

Re-creating Pittsburgh’s successes deep in Washington County‘s Mon Valley will not be easy. But continuing to watch the once-thriving industrial and retail community lose population amid growing drug and crime problems certainly will accomplish nothing, Henderson said.

“We cannot continue that trend and survive,” he said.

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5 Cal U. football Players Arrested In Assault

DSC01929Editor’s note:  As a graduate of this university, I find this behavior appalling and the perpetrators should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

California University of Pennsylvania canceled and forfeited its home football game Saturday with Gannon University after five team members were arrested for an assault outside an off-campus restaurant that left a 30-year-old man very seriously injured.

The assault followed an exchange of words between a man and his girlfriend outside Spuds restaurant in California and the football players, according to criminal complaints filed with Brownsville District Judge Joshua Kanalis.

The university, in a statement, said all five had been suspended from school.

California police Chief Rick Encapera said the five men were arrested during practice Thursday. They were arraigned later by Judge Kanalis.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/sports/college-district/2014/10/30/Cal-U-cancels-football-game-in-wake-of-violent-incident/stories/201410300291

Shale Oil, Gas Finds Put Mon Valley On Path To Renaissance, Leaders Say

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Washington County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Washington County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lue Ann Pawlick never envisioned companies connected with oil and gas beating a path to Alta Vista Business Park when it broke ground in tiny Fallowfield, Washington County, in 2001.

Today, three of the five companies in Alta Vista work in the industry. An energy company is set to start construction in the spring, and at least one more is close to signing a deal to locate there.

“We’re trying to keep it a mixed-use business park, but we have to recognize the oil and gas industry is the biggest game in town right now,” said Pawlick, executive director of the Middle Monongahela Industrial Development Association. “They are the ones driving demand.”

Ten years ago, Fort Worth-based Range Resources Corp. drilled the first Marcellus shale well in Washington County. Now the county — which dubs itself “Energy Capital of the East” — is home to about 1,000 wells, the most in Pennsylvania.

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Southwestern Energy Snaps Up Assets In Marcellus, Utica From Chesapeake

Chesapeake Energy continued its sell-off of gas drilling operations in the Marcellus and Utica shales Thursday with its biggest withdrawal from Appalachia.

Pennsylvania’s biggest shale gas producer agreed to sell 435 shale wells, 1,100 conventional wells and the rights to drill in more than 400,000 acres to Houston-based Southwestern Energy Co. for $5.375 billion.

“I certainly think this is consistent with what we’ve seen from Chesapeake,” said Scott Hanold, an energy analyst at RBC Capital Markets.

Read more: http://triblive.com/business/headlines/6974705-74/energy-southwestern-marcellus#ixzz3GPXRKihi
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Range Resources To Pay $4.15M Fine, Close Old Gas Drilling Impoundments

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Washington County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Washington County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Range Resources Corp. will pay the largest state fine levied against a Pennsylvania shale gas driller and close five drilling wastewater impoundments in Washington County because of leaks into soil and groundwater, officials said on Thursday.

The Fort Worth-based company signed an agreement with the state Department of Environmental Protection that requires paying a $4.15 million fine, closing the troubled facilities and rebuilding two impoundments using what regulators call “next generation” technology.

“There are two messages we are sending today. One is we take these kinds of situations very seriously and there are going to be consequences even when a company is a good corporate neighbor,” department Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo told the Tribune-Review. “And to the citizens, the message is we’re going to handle these matters.”

Davitt Woodwell, president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council said, “I commend Range for coming forward. And it appears DEP has taken this as an opportunity to leverage better standards.”

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Mon Valley Transit Merger Decision Might Come Next Month

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Washington County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Washington County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The future of transit services in the Mon Valley and throughout Washington County likely will be decided in the next month.

The Middle Monongahela Transit Authority provides services for 21 Valley municipalities. It has been studying a possible merger with Washington County Transportation – also known as Washington County Rides – and the City of Washington Transit Authority.

The MMVTA board will discuss a possible merger in a closed-door meeting this week.

By the end of September, each transit agency is expected to vote on consolidation. The MMVTA board could vote either at its Aug. 28 or Sept. 25 public meetings.

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Pennsylvania Boasts Progressive Movement To Preserve Farmland

Picture 487Before Bill Iams began raising beef cattle and planting acres of hay on a farm in southern Washington County, five generations worked the soil and raised livestock there.

Soon, Iams hopes to ensure the 155 acres in Amwell, which the king of England granted to his ancestors before the American Revolution, remain farmland forever.

“Look around at the changes in this area over the last 50 years, especially in the Washington area. North on Route 19 was all farms,” said Iams, 57, owner of Log Cabin Fence Co., a farming supply business off Interstate 79 in Amity. “Now you’ve got malls and everything else going on but farming.”

Iams awaits approval by a state committee to sell development rights to his farm to Washington County through the county’s Farmland Preservation Program, part of a statewide initiative to make certain that fertile land is used for agriculture.

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Survey Of Washington, Greene Elected Officials Shows Positive Views Of Gas Industry

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Washington County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Washington County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A survey of elected leaders in Washington and Greene counties found generally positive experiences with the gas exploration industry that has changed the face of their communities.

“They’re starting to see a lot of vitality. There’s physical activity in the communities and new wealth among some property owners. New employees. That’s all very positive,” said Diana Stares, the director of the Center of Energy Policy and Management at Washington & Jefferson College, who oversaw the survey. “Now they’re anxious to draw from that development some long-term results. And some don’t know how to go about that.”

Interactions between drilling companies and local officials are improving as both sides get to know each other, and as money and jobs flow into the region, several people said.

“It was a growing experience, I think, by some of these companies coming in here,” said Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi, a Democrat. “But they saw that if you treat people fairly, they’ll respond in a positive way.”

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Pittsburgh-Area Employers Added 22,300 Jobs In April

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro ar...

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro area in the western part of the of . Red denotes the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, and yellow denotes the New Castle Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Pittsburgh-New Castle CSA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sunny Kourkoutis spent six months on unemployment and a couple more working in a job she hated before she found something that suited her restaurant experience.

“When I was on unemployment, I could have easily gotten a job as a server,” said Kourkoutis, 42, of Bridgeville. “But at my age, it’s not something I really saw myself doing.”

In April, Kourkoutis finally found a job she enjoyed. She was hired as reservations manager at Jacksons Restaurant in Cecil and since was promoted to assistant executive manager. In so doing, she joined a hospitality industry that added 8,100 jobs last month and has led growth in the local economy.

Employers in the seven-county Pittsburgh region added 22,300 nonfarm jobs in April, and the unemployment rate declined two-tenths of a percentage point to 5.6 percent, according to preliminary figures released on Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. The decline occurred as 3,900 more people began looking for work, an expression of confidence in Pittsburgh’s economy.

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Interstate 70 Modernization Projects To Move Highway Into 21st Century

Belle Vernon/ Speers Bridge

Belle Vernon/ Speers Bridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  This road was a death-trap when I was living in the Mon Valley back in the 1970’s.  Glad it only took 40 years for PennDot to realize it!

A grassy mound in the backyard of Melvin “Bucky” Walkush’s childhood home is the only visible reminder of the popular carhop restaurant that served the best pizza he’s ever tasted.

It was the 1950s. Elvis topped the charts. Ike was in the White House. The Ford Thunderbird was one of the hottest cars around.

And the New 71 Barbeque along old state Route 71 in North Belle Vernon, owned by Walkush’s brother Joe and his wife, Adeline, was the place to stop for anyone using the highway linking Greensburg and Washington, Pa.

The restaurant is gone now, and the stretch of Route 71 that Walkush, 84, remembers was decommissioned in the 1960s to become part of Interstate 70 between New Stanton and Washington.

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The Meadows Racetrack And Casino In Washington To Be Sold In $465M Deal

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Washington County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Washington County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The owners of The Meadows Racetrack and Casino accepted a $465 million offer on Wednesday to sell the Washington County gaming business off Interstate 79 at a time when revenue is falling as competition for gambling dollars is growing across the region.

Las Vegas-based Cannery Casino Resorts, which opened The Meadows in 2007 when few casinos operated locally, agreed to the cash and equity deal with Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc., a Berks County-based real estate investment trust that owns property associated with 22 casinos.

The deal is subject to approval from the state Gaming Control Board and Racing Commission and is expected to close next year.

Gaming and Leisure Properties, the nation’s first casino-focused real estate investment trust, formed last year to hold the real estate of Penn National Gaming Inc. and acquire more properties.

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Pennsylvania Woman Was On Board Missing Malaysia Airlines Jet

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Washington County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Washington County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MONONGAHELA, PA — A company official says a woman based in western Pennsylvania was among the 239 people aboard a Malaysia Airlines jet that disappeared en route to Beijing over the weekend.

A spokeswoman said Mei Ling Chng, a senior process engineer for Flexsys America in Monongahela near Pittsburgh, “is confirmed to have been on the flight.”

Tracy Kilgore of Flexsys parent firm Eastman Chemical Co., which is based in Kingsport, Tenn., told reporters in an email that officials “are deeply shocked and saddened.”

She said Chng went to work for the chemical company Solutia in Malaysia in 2005 and transferred to Monongahela in 2010.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140310/pa-woman-was-on-board-missing-malaysia-airlines-jet

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Gas Field Politics Affect Leadership In Western Pennsylvania Communities

Map of Washington County higlighting Robinson ...

Map of Washington County higlighting Robinson Township. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rodger Kendall says he never wanted to enter politics, but when he did, he waded into one of the biggest political conflicts in Pennsylvania.

Kendall became a supervisor in Robinson, Washington County, in January, less than three weeks since it won a landmark state Supreme Court ruling overturning part of new laws aimed at eliminating local obstacles to shale drilling.

Despite the win, he used his first night in office, Jan. 6, to lead a vote to remove Robinson from the case. Then he made his first official call as a township supervisor to Range Resources Corp.

In one election, voters dumped two of the township’s three supervisors and shifted the township’s position on drilling.

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Frugal California University Of Pennsylvania Cuts Back On Spending, Saves Millions

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Washington County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Washington County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Channel-surfing college football fans may notice one area team missing from this fall’s TV lineup.

California University of Pennsylvania decided it no longer could justify spending up to $150,000 a season to produce and broadcast games played by its Division II Vulcans football team — not with classroom cuts looming.

Suddenly frugal Cal U also pared service on its Vulcan Flyer, a shuttle named for the school’s mascot that used to leave campus stops every 10 minutes. Students now wait a bit longer, saving Cal U half a million dollars.

Still more money — another $1.6 million — was recouped by telling campus departments to return unspent money at year’s end, suspending a practice that had let them amass surpluses, even in years that the university tapped reserves to balance its books.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/education/frugal-california-university-of-pennsylvania-cuts-back-on-spending-saves-millions-706559/#ixzz2h3iK9R1u

Unemployment In Pittsburgh Region Falls To Lowest In Post-Recession Recovery

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro ar...

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro area in the western part of the of . Red denotes the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, and yellow denotes the New Castle Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Pittsburgh-New Castle CSA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unemployment in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area fell to 6.8 percent in June, a rate one-tenth of a percentage point below May’s 6.9 percent but that marks a new low of the post-recession recovery.

The last time unemployment was at 6.8 percent in the region was in March 2009, when unemployment was rising in the midst of the Great Recession.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/unemployment-in-pittsburgh-region-falls-to-lowest-in-post-recession-recovery-697432/#ixzz2aYC55kY0

Pittsburgh-Area Hotels Find Niche In Oil, Gas Workers

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro ar...

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro area in the western part of the of . Red denotes the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, and yellow denotes the New Castle Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Pittsburgh-New Castle CSA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To endear a hotel to the oil and gas crowd, give them a place to eat and sleep at all hours of the day, a place to wash their boots, a warm place to smoke in the winter and a cold beer once in a while.

So goes the formula developed by Tejas Gosai, president of the Washington, Pa.-based business Shale Hotel Inc.  The company is managing two hotels geared toward oil and gas workers, building two others and preparing to turn the Monroeville Holiday Inn into an industry destination for workers summoned here by the Marcellus Shale, the natural gas deposit underlying much of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Gosai represents a group of four doctors, among them his father, who bought the 187-room Monroeville hotel in June.  His goal is to replicate there what he has helped to do in Bentleyville — attract at least half of the guests from oil and gas fields.

The Gosais have been in the hotel business for a dozen years.  Kam Gosai, a practicing physician in Washington County, co-owns the Holiday Inn Express and the Best Western Garden Inn in Bentleyville.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/pittsburgh-area-hotels-find-niche-in-oil-gas-workers-694646/#ixzz2YT5pEbAE