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Briefs: Group urges mayor to immediately cut city parking tax

| Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership urged Mayor Tom Murphy and the City Council in a letter Monday to decrease the city's 50 percent parking tax immediately instead of waiting until 2007 to lower it incrementally.

Yesterday's letter from Nancy Hart, interim director for the nonprofit group of Downtown business and corporate heads, said the 50 percent parking tax approved in February 2004 has hurt Downtown business, increased office vacancies and missed city revenue predictions for the tax. She also cited statistics showing the number of people parking Downtown has plummeted since early 2004.

The parking tax isn't scheduled to begin decreasing until it drops to 45 percent in 2007 and then gradually to 35 percent by 2010.

Duquesne Heights man gets 7 years in drug ring

A man who admitted being a distributor for a heroin ring allegedly headed by the former managers of Chauncy's nightclub in Station Square has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison.

Freddie Chew, also known as "Worm," 23, of Seward Street, Duquesne Heights, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Hardiman to 87 months in prison followed by five years' supervised release for his role in the multistate drug trafficking ring.

The managers of the now-defunct nightclub, Vernon "Ted" Jackson, 36, of the West End, and Duane "D.J." Moore, 33, of Shadyside, are awaiting trial.

Judge will mull block on firefighters contract

A Commonwealth Court judge will consider a request Wednesday to block Pittsburgh from following a new five-year contract with city firefighters.

In a court motion filed Monday, Judge Keith B. Quigley agreed to expedite a court review of the request from Pittsburgh's state-appointed fiscal oversight board. If approved, the city could be barred from following the contract until the oversight board's lawsuit is decided.

The oversight board, also known as the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, filed a lawsuit Friday against the city, a second city financial watchdog and the firefighters union in a bid to dissolve the contract on grounds that it repeatedly violates the city's five-year spending plan approved in June 2004.

West Penn Allegheny adds oncology expert

West Penn Allegheny Health System has recruited Moyed Miften, a nationally renowned physicist specializing in advanced radiation cancer treatment, to join its staff.

Miften will serve as the director of the physics section for both Allegheny General Hospital's radiation oncology department and the West Penn Allegheny Cancer Institute's radiation oncology network.

The physicist comes to Pittsburgh from Duke University in Durham, N.C., where he established and directed the medical center's intensity modulated radiation therapy program. AGH, North Side, was among the first hospitals in the country to offer this sophisticated computer technology that targets hard-to-reach tumors with maximum radiation and minimal harmful side effects.

Man shot on North Side

A 21-year-old Coraopolis man was shot and critically wounded Monday on Pittsburgh's North Side.

Brian Wiggins was standing with a relative outside a cousin's home in the 1400 block of Nixon Street in Manchester when he was shot in the hip by someone inside a passing vehicle, police said.

Wiggins was taken to Allegheny General Hospital, North Side, for treatment. City homicide detectives are investigating.

Anti-defamation group To honor Equitable CEO

The Anti-Defamation League's National American Heritage Award will be presented today to Murry S. Gerber, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Equitable Resources.

It will be presented at a gala dinner at The Westin Convention Center Pittsburgh, 1000 Penn Ave., Downtown.

The award recognizes individuals who have served their community to promote civil rights, justice, freedom, equality and friendship.

South Side
Homeless man pleads guilty in fatal beating

A homeless man pleaded guilty Monday in Allegheny County court to fatally beating another homeless man during a spat over who would pay for a six-pack of beer.

Anthony Mark Knorr, 46, pleaded guilty to a general homicide charge in the August 2003 killing of Erik Waugh, 27. Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman will decide on the specific degree of homicide when he sentences Knorr on May 31.

Assistant District Attorney Elliot Howsie told Cashman that the fatal beating took place after Knorr, Waugh and another homeless man spent the night in a campsite along East Carson Street on the South Side. Waugh had agreed to buy beer in exchange for his spot at the site. But when Waugh hesitated to buy the beer, Knorr beat him, and Waugh died on the street.

Strip District
Gala to feature first black woman in space

Former astronaut Mae Jemison, the first black woman to go into space, will be the featured speaker at ASSET Inc.'s 10th anniversary celebration Thursday.

ASSET, which stands for Achieving Student Success through Excellence in Teaching, is a nonprofit education initiative that provides professional development for teachers and science materials for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The gala will begin with a 6 p.m. reception at the Sen. John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center, 1212 Smallman St., Strip District. For more information, call ASSET at (412) 481-7320. Oakland

Nobel winner to speak on what we can see

Donald A. Glaser, Nobel laureate in physics, will lecture at 4 p.m. Friday in Room 343, Alumni Hall, at the University of Pittsburgh.

Glaser, a professor of physics and neurobiology at the University of California at Berkeley, won the prize in 1960 for inventing the bubble chamber, which is used in high-energy nuclear physics. He currently is studying how humans see and creating models for explaining the performance of sight.

His lecture, "What Can We See, How Do We See It, and Why Do We See Things that Aren't There?" is sponsored by Pitt's math department. His talk is free and open to the public.

Doctor will discuss ways to help tsunami victims

Dr. Robbie Ali will discuss his recent trip providing humanitarian relief to Indonesia at 8 p.m. Thursday at the William Pitt Union Ballroom at the University of Pittsburgh.

Ali is director of the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities at Pitt's Graduate School of Public Health. He will discuss ways people can help victims of the Dec. 26 tsunami.

His talk is free and open to the public.

Baldwin Borough
Beechview man dies in motorcycle crash

A Beechview man died Thursday morning of injuries he received when his motorcycle hit a utility pole along the 600 block of Becks Run Road in Baldwin Borough.

David Daniels, 26, was traveling west when he apparently lost control of his motorcycle, Baldwin Borough police said. Speed and alcohol were contributing factors, police said.

Daniels was thrown from his Harley-Davidson and was not wearing a helmet, according to the Allegheny County Coroner's Office.

The 600 block of Becks Run Road was shut down for several hours after the accident occurred at 1:41 a.m., police said. Daniels was taken to Mercy Hospital, Uptown, where he was pronounced dead at 9:30 a.m. An autopsy is scheduled for today.

Preliminary hearing for Habay delayed till June

A preliminary hearing for State Rep. Jeff Habay, R-Shaler, on a 21-count criminal complaint scheduled for today has been delayed until June.

Habay, who was in Harrisburg Monday, faces charges after being accused of falsely saying a political foe mailed him a suspicious white powder and intimidating a staffer who cooperated with district attorney investigators. Habay's attorney John Elash declined comment yesterday.

Habay pleaded not guilty to all charges and is free on $10,000 bond. District Judge Eugene Zielmanski ordered Habay to have no contact with witnesses or alleged victims in the case.

Ross Ross fires patrolman facing meth lab charges

A Ross police officer accused of having a methamphetamine lab in his Shadyside apartment was fired Monday by Ross commissioners.

The vote to fire patrolman Michael Baird was unanimous and takes effect immediately. Ross commissioners declined comment. Baird, who was hired in 1997 and was receiving an annual salary of $61,900, had been suspended Feb. 28. He was arrested Feb. 25 while on disability leave.

Authorities reported finding chemicals used to make meth inside Baird's high-rise apartment on South Graham Street in Shadyside. He was charged with risking a catastrophe; attempted manufacture, delivery, possession with intent to manufacture or deliver narcotics; conspiracy to manufacture, deliver and possession with intent to manufacture and deliver narcotics; and recklessly endangering another person.

Reserve Gas leak forces evacuation of 10 dwellings

Ten dwellings, including at least two apartment buildings, in the 2100 block of Mt. Troy Road in Reserve were evacuated late Monday afternoon because of a natural gas leak.

Natural gas pockets were detected in several areas and forced residents to spend the night elsewhere, Equitable Gas Co. spokesman Dave Spigelmyer said. All electrical and telephone service also was shut off in an attempt to prevent anything from sparking an explosion, he said.

Repair crews found what Spigelmyer called "chronic problems" with the line, making it necessary to excavate and replace it. Although residents will be permitted back in their homes when the danger is past, it could take days for service to be restored, he said.

Judge Zoller drops out of magisterial race

Citing "personal reasons," three-term Verona District Judge Richard Zoller has withdrawn from the contested race in a consolidated magisterial district that would have pitted him against incumbent Springdale Borough District Judge David Sosovicka.

On Monday, Zoller, 63, had his name scratched from the May 17 primary election ballot, leaving Sosovicka, 46, running unopposed on both the Democratic and Republican ballots as he completes his first term.

At the end of the year, Zoller's district will be split between Penn Hills District Court, which will get Verona cases, and Sosovicka's court, which will take Oakmont cases, along with the current caseload from Springdale Borough, Springdale Township, Cheswick and Harmar. Zoller plans to work as a senior judge.

Allegheny County
Onorato will speak on politics and Catholicism

Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato will discuss Catholic faith in relation to politics Thursday evening to cap off the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh's 2005 spring lecture series.

Onorato's lecture -- "Can a Faithful Catholic be a Faithful Politician?" -- argues that "just as voters are not asked to leave aside their most deeply held moral convictions when they enter a voting booth, so elected officials are not asked to deposit their moral and ethical convictions at the door of Congress, the State Assembly or other political institutions where they serve," according to a diocesan announcement.

The lecture will be at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium at St. Paul Seminary 2900 Noblestown Road, Crafton.

Bus routes will use detours for construction

Several Port Authority of Allegheny County bus routes will be detoured beginning today for construction work.

The 26B will be detoured until a time to be announced to accommodate renovations to the former IGC Center complex. The 71A Negley, 81B Lincoln and 86A East Hills will be detoured from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and Wednesday to accommodate sewer line work along outbound Centre Avenue. The 21C West Park will be detoured from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. today because of a gas line inspection at McKees Rocks Road and Chartiers Avenue Extension.

Riders should expect travel delays. Some bus stops might be temporarily discontinued or moved. For more information, call (412) 442-2000.

Rep. Keith McCall named to transportation panel

State Rep. Keith McCall, D-Carbon County, has been named to a commission to assess the state's transportation needs and how best to meet and pay for them.

Among the tasks of Transportation Funding and Reform Commission are audits of the Port Authority of Allegheny County and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, which serves the Philadelphia area. The commission also will examine the state of roads, highways and bridges. McCall is the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation Committee.

Beaver County

Fire at funeral home causes roof to collapse

A roofing torch is believed to have caused a Monday morning fire resulting in extensive damage to the Todd Funeral Home in Beaver, Beaver fire Chief Alex Kaluza said.

The fire was discovered at 10:18 a.m. at the funeral home, in the 300 block of Third Street. Crews remained on the scene for about four hours after the roof collapsed on the funeral home, built in the early 1900s, Kaluza said.

No injuries were reported, and at least one body being prepared for viewing had to be removed after roofers reported the fire, Kaluza said. The Noll Funeral Home, located directly across the street, immediately took the body from Todd, he said. Traffic had to be rerouted while firefighters fought the blaze.

Tow boat crew spots man's body

The body of a white man was pulled Monday from the Ohio River.

A tow boat crew spotted the body at about 10:30 a.m. in the waters off the shore of the railroad yard in Conway, Beaver County Deputy Coroner Bill Pasquale said. The man, who was not carrying identification, appeared to have been in the water for some time.

An autopsy revealed no sign of trauma, but the cause and manner of death remain under investigation, Pasquale said.

Butler County One killed, one hurt as plane crashes on landing

A single-engine airplane went off a runway and into an embankment while landing Monday in Warren County, leaving one person dead and another seriously injured, officials said.

The four-seat Cessna 177 took off from Butler County and was landing at the Warren Airpark near Star Brick at around 4 p.m. when it traveled off the runway, said Jim Peters, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Based on the plane's tail number, records showed the craft was owned by Duane Burtner, of Butler. A phone message left at a listing under his name was not immediately returned. Authorities didn't immediately identify who was on the plane.

Southwest Pennsylvania
CCAC will host student debate tournament

The third annual Invitational High School Debate and Forensics Tournament will be Friday with up to 20 high schools from four counties competing.

Students from Allegheny, Beaver, Butler and Washington counties will compete in four rounds of debates between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Community College of Allegheny County's North Campus, 8701 Perry Highway, McCandless. The awards presentation will be at 2 p.m. The event is open to the public and is sponsored by CCAC-North Campus Far North Debate Club.

Cambria County
Pitt professor files discrimination lawsuit

An assistant English professor at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown says she was passed up for a tenured position because of her age, gender and disability, according to her federal lawsuit.

Michelle L. Mock, 42, who has worked in her nontenured position since March 1996, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November 2000 but has continued to work, according to her federal lawsuit. Mock applied for a tenured position as an assistant professor of English literature, but the university in May 2003 hired a less-qualified, younger man, her lawsuit said.

University attorney Patrick Noonan said the allegations are untrue and asked U.S. District Judge Kim Gibson to throw out the lawsuit.

Westmoreland County
Greensburg man pleads guilty in fraud scheme

A Greensburg man on Monday became the sixth person to plead guilty in federal court in connection with a kickback scheme involving construction at hospitals and an electric utility company.

Mark J. Marsula, 43, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and mail fraud before U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry. Assistant U.S. Attorney James Garrett told McVerry that Marsula operated an electrical contracting company that defrauded Allegheny Power, a subsidiary of Allegheny Energy, Inc., by submitting false bills with inflated charges for work done at the electrical company's office complex in Greensburg.

Marsula paid bribes to an Allegheny Power employee responsible for oversight of construction, prosecutors said. He faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $750,000.

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