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McKeesport to set limit on memorial displays

| Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 4:41 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
A makeshift memorial of flowers, balloons and teddy bears is tied to a utility pole outside Pav's Tavern where Tameko Wall was killed on Aug. 5, 2012.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Flowers, candles and stuffed animals sit along the hillside off Riverview Street where Carlos Hudson and Jana Randolph drove after being shot on Aug. 22.

McKeesport council is considering an ordinance that would place a 14-day limit on temporary memorials for victims of accidents or violence.

Council conducted a public discussion prior to Tuesday's workshop meeting.

“Council's trying to build a bill that's fair, that puts a time line that respects the grieving process of the individual's loved ones,” Mayor Michael Cherepko said. “You have to handle it very carefully. We're making it very clear that we're not trying to disrespect the grieving process. We want to give time without hindering other residents who don't want to come out of their house every day and be reminded that someone was just shot and killed maybe two houses up from where they live. We're trying to find a happy medium.”

Councilors proposed a seven-day limit. Others proposed applying for a permit. Those were dismissed.

Councilwoman V. Fawn Walker-Montgomery susggested the 14-day limit, noting that families have funerals, wakes and other obligations when a loved one dies.

“If you look at the history (of temporary memorials) they don't come out immediately after (the death),” Walker-Montgomery said. “It's after the funeral.”

Councilors rejected a fee requirement for memorials.

“What we're doing is breaking it down to the very core,” council president Darryl Segina said. “If there's some abuse of the ordinance itself and people take advantage of that, then you can add on if you want permits and fines and fees. This is just the initial step, letting people know we have this particular (ordinance).”

“You still need to have a line in (the ordinance) somewhere to notify the police,” Councilman Dan Carr said, noting that officers need to know who owns the materials used in the monument.

The mayor said at least five memorials have been up for “some time.”

There are a few along Versailles Avenue and Eden Park Boulevard, and one is near the car wash along Fifth Avenue.

“It does give sort of a somber look to the city when you see all these memorials around here,” Segina said. “The bereavement period for any death in the family is usually a few days. You may grieve after that, but I think 14 days is adequate time to celebrate the life and death of someone, and then life has to go on.”

The discussions were sparked by callers concerned that memorials have been left for months.

“Many of them view it as difficult to focus on the future and the better days when we are constantly reminded of the unfortunate incidents that take place,” Cherepko said.

Solicitor J. Jason Elash said the proposed ordinance is a hybrid of laws in other municipalities and discussions by city officials.

Elash said McKeesport's proposal deals only with memorials on public property or roadways.

“In your own yard there's nothing we can do about that unless there's a code violation,” Elash said.

No residents were present to speak at Tuesday's public discussion.

“We will provide an opportunity prior to our work session next month for them to come in to share their concerns with council and with myself,” Cherepko said.

An official date and time for the next discussion was not set on Tuesday.

The next work session is scheduled for Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. Council plans to adopt the ordinance at its Nov. 6 regular meeting.

Those who want to share their concerns but cannot attend the work session may contact city hall at 412-675-5020.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1965, or

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