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McKeesport to upgrade, expand public works fleet

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By Jennifer R. Vertullo
Thursday, March 7, 2013, 3:36 a.m.

McKeesport will borrow nearly $500,000 to upgrade and expand its public works fleet.

During Wednesday's meeting, council authorized the city's administration to finalize a $488,584.37 loan through First Commonwealth Bank to purchase two 10-ton trucks, a 1-ton truck and an excavator.

“The city, by no means, is in a great financial position,” Mayor Michael Cherepko explained during the previous night's caucus. “We know where our hardships are and the financially distressed condition we are in. ... To come up with $400,000 or $500,000 all at once is not an option at this time.”

The mayor said public works crews are driving around near-antiques to keep city streets clear in the winter, and the maintenance and funds required to keep those vehicles operational often are overlooked as a budgetary concern.

On Wednesday, the mayor commended public works staff for doing a tremendous job with what they have. After an overnight snowstorm that dropped roughly 6 inches on the city, he said roads were cleared quickly and efficiently.

“A lot of snow came in a very short period,” Cherepko said. “I was out throughout the night with them ... and our streets were in very nice shape.”

While the trucks used for snow removal and road maintenance are necessary improvements, Cherepko said he is most excited for the excavator purchase.

City staff will be trained to demolish many of the 400 or more dilapidated homes in town.

“It's hard to attract new residents and new businesses when you have so much blight,” he said. “If you are paying $8,000 to tear down a house ... you do the math. That money only goes so far.”

So that the city's liability insurance is unaffected, city workers only will take on projects that aren't adjacent to occupied structures.

“Well over half of our homes that are vacant throughout the city are not sitting right next to an occupied structure,” Cherepko said. “These will be the ones the city focuses on to eliminate blight on our end while we continue to secure funding from other sources in order to tackle the blighted property issue.”

Council approved the following:

• Changing the names of Marshall Drive Extension to Lou Washowich Way and Water Street to Joe Bendel Way.

• Entering an agreement with W.G. Land Co. for $41,860 of improvements to the Jimmy Long baseball field in Renziehausen Park. Allegheny Regional Asset District funds will be used for the bulk of the project.

• Amending the mission statement of the Downtown McKeesport Business District Authority to “promote and advocate for existing businesses and attract new businesses” to the city.

• Recognizing April as Fair Housing Month.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or

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