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The Jeannette Spirit's 2013 Year in Review

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Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

With the year 2013 in the rearview mirror, The Jeannette Spirit is taking a quick look back at the stories that shaped the past 12 months.

January

City Council passed a $5.1 budget, keeping the tax rate at 32.62. The previous year did not go as well financially as planned and the city entered 2013 with the 2012 $414,000 police pension payment unpaid.

Within weeks of the new year, council made the decision to revise the 2013 budget and began looking to sell assets and considered other ways to increase revenues.

The deterioration at Monsour Hospital made it difficult for engineers to gauge the building's stability.

The city's grace period for enforcing the use of Jeannette garbage bags comes to a close and those who fail to use the correct bags will not have their garbage picked up and may be fined. Residents line up at the first council meeting of the year to protest the new bags, including a lack of formal notification sent from the city to all residents.

Jim Benson resigns from city council and the remaining members begin looking for someone to fill the seat. Kathie Tanyer was appointed and remained on council through the end of 2013, when the term of Ron Dinsmore, who held the seat originally, expired.

Police Chief Brad Shepler said the department is going to begin targeting parking violations throughout the city, including wrong-way parking on streets, parking on sidewalks and other violations.

State Sen. Kim Ward begins actively seeking funds to clean up sites at Monsour and Jeannette Glass.

Lady Jay Ciara Gregory breaks the girls basketball scoring record in a game against Greensburg Central Catholic. She had scored 1,785 points as a Jeannette player by the end of that game, breaking the record set by Kayla Cook, which stood at 1,777. Gregory finished her career in Jeannette by surpassing 2,000 points.

Residents brace for daylight restrictions on Route 30, part of PennDOT's construction to widen the highway.

The city is ordered to pay Frank Trigona $235,000 in a case that began in 2005 when the city withheld permits on Trigona's rental properties because he owed back taxes to the city.

February

Jeannette Hospital Foundation wraps up its charitable giving, two years after the hospital closed.

Jeannette McKee elementary and middle schools kick off an anti-bullying campaign with a musical and comedy show.

First National Bank gets involved in the Trigona lawsuit, claiming any money awarded to the Jeannette businessman should go toward his outstanding debt at the bank.

Bankruptcy, layoffs and selling assets are all on the table as city council grapples with ongoing financial issues in the city. Finance chairman Bill Bedont explained that the city was at the point where big decisions needed to be made and made quickly.

Opposition to the new garbage bag ordinance continues, some residents say they oppose buying city required bags as a matter of principle.

Residents talk to city council members at the monthly meeting expressing support for upcoming ‘tough decisions' that will need to be made. Others express frustration with local government for the city's continued financial distress.

Jeannette School Board begins to fight high absentee rates at the high school by instituting a plan that enables students to erase missed days from the records by attending sessions on Saturdays. The board also decides that in the fall, the number of total permitted absences will lower across the board in an effort to increase attendance throughout the district.

Council asks employees to offer alternative solutions or to expect layoffs and deep cuts to various departments.

Council sent out layoff notices to nearly all city departments and rolling layoffs were considered.

March

The City of Jeannette police department agreed to rolling layoffs to avoid the outright furlough of four full-time patrolmen. The city's firefighters agreed to a 5 percent pay cut, all city managers agreed to a 10 percent pay cut, and two positions in the public works department were subject to layoffs as well.

Jeannette High School students prepare for “All Shook Up,” the annual spring musical will include Elvis Presley tunes.

Council revised the 2013 budget, but did not amend it. Taxes were not raised, a so-called “Trigona Tax” that had been discussed by some city advisers, but never by council, was not enacted.

The “reforecasted” budget was expected to leave the city even as the year drew to a close. That did not end up happening, as the city met all of its obligations last year with the exception of the 2013 police pension payment, the same payment that was not met in 2012.

The Keynote Cafe and its owner, Jill Sorrels, were awarded the Peace Partner Award by the Center for Victims in Pittsburgh.

More than a dozen police officers, firemen and EMTs were honored with awards during a council meeting.

City council begins what would become a year-long debate over whether the city should continue to offer garbage collection in-house or begin to outsource the work to a corporation. Some residents ask council to get out of the garbage business, believing it will save the city and residents money.

Developers begin to express interest in Jeannette Hospital and Monsour Medical Center sites. At issue is the price to renovate or demolish the buildings to make way for new businesses.

April

Mayor Robert Carter learns he will face opposition in the primary as he prepares to run for re-election. Richard Jacobelli intends to run against Carter in the Democratic primary. There are no other opposed races on city council or school board.

Recreation board members want to ask District Attorney John Peck to investigate what happened to a $65,000 grant that was spent to build a recreation center. Construction on the center never began.

Jeannette McKee Elementary School holds a rally to get children geared up for the coming PSSA tests. The Pirate Parrot attends.

The price tag to demolish Monsour Medical Center is estimated at $1 million.

After more than four months, city council members determine that layoffs and other measures taken earlier in the year have not saved enough money to fix the city's financial problems. Negative impacts on city services and increased spending on police overtime are added problems.

Jeannette School Board announces it is in the process of building the 2013-14 budget and looking at year-to-date tax collections shows the district is ahead in revenue collections.

The board also discusses several infrastructure and academic upgrades made possible by federal dollars, including a move to make each building equipped with wireless Internet capabilities.

May

The mansion that sits on the Monsour Hospital property burns down. Officials say the fire is an example of why the property is such a danger to the public.

The first draft budget of the Jeannette School Board calls for a 1-mill tax increase. During the meeting to discuss preliminary figures, administrators realized there were some errors caused by a new computer system that may account for the 1-mill deficit.

Two of the six suspects arrested in connection with the string of arsons that rocked the city throughout 2012 pled guilty when their hearings began. A juvenile was also adjudicated delinquent and three other adult men were set to have hearings in 2013 for the arsons and related charges.

Visible progress is being made to clean up the former Jeannette Glass property owned by New York businessman Abe Zion. The sight line visible from nearby streets is much different than a year ago, but DEP officials remained concerned about the dangers that couldn't be seen.

QT's Bar owner considers closing after shooting outside his establishment.

Jeannette McKee Middle School student Juccora Barton wrote a winning essay in Excela Health's “healthy habits” contest. Barton was featured on a billboard in the city.

City council discusses putting out a request for proposals to outsource the garbage collection to determine if that will save money. The council also discusses ways to bring blighted properties back onto the tax rolls.

Sandy Shaw, a kindergarten teacher at Jeannette McKee Elementary, writes a children's book, “Do you know where the bus driver will go?”

Jeannette High School students enjoy their prom.

Mayor Robert Carter is running for a second term in office as Richard Jacobelli prepares to take him on in the primary. This is Jacobelli's first election. Carter has been elected to council twice, run an unsuccessful third re-election campaign and then successfully run for mayor in 2009.

The official preliminary budget for the Jeannette School District contains no tax increase. The budget that called for 1-mill tax increase was voted down, 7-2, and the board decided to retool the spending plan to eliminate the tax increase.

Jacobelli won the primary with 66 percent of the vote. Carter vows to run a write-in campaign in November's general election.

Though unopposed on the ballot in the primary, city treasurer Democrat Sam Casino will face opposition in the November election because Michael Nestico mounted a successful write-in campaign. Nestico earned enough votes in the May election to appear on the official November ballot as a Republican.

The Dance Factory on Clay Avenue prepares to celebrate its 35th anniversary.

June

Jeannette High School graduates 71 members of the Class of 2013.

First Presbyterian Church celebrated the 100th anniversary of the dedication of its church building on Bullitt Avenue.

Jeannette Library volunteers Louise Hall, Chris Gavatorta, Betty Dopkowski, Joann Billheimer and Clarice Smith are honored with Jefferson Awards for their efforts.

City council decides to make some changes to garbage and recycling collection to make the work more efficient. The new plan calls for recycling pick up to occur the same week throughout the city.

Bushy Run Battlefield is making plans to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the battle.

After trimming nearly $50,000 from the spending plan, the Jeannette School Board plans to approve a budget that holds the lines on taxes.

Sam Casino, the city treasurer, resigns his position. He was first elected to the job in 2002. Council must appoint a replacement to fill the remainder of the term. Council discusses appointing Michael Nestico as treasurer, because he is the Republican candidate for the office.

Friends and family donate and help to build an aviary at Wildlife Works in memory of Anthony Milito, a 21-year-old Jeannette resident who died in September 2012.

Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at klinden@tribweb.com or 724-838-5154.

 

 
 


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