A look back: Carnegie, Bridgeville areas had plenty of memorable stories in 2017
Carnegie elects its first female mayor
After more than 120 years, Carnegie Borough will have its first female mayor.
At 36, Stacie Riley never realized she would be breaking through a glass ceiling when she decided to run for mayor of Carnegie.
“I just wanted to be the best person for the job,” Riley said last month after the general election.
When two-term Mayor Jack Kobistek chose not to seek re-election and instead run for local district magistrate, Riley, who has served as a Ward 2 council member for two years, said she knew it was her turn to “step up to the plate to keep Carnegie moving forward.”
She pointed to the borough's thriving business community and said in her role as mayor, where she will oversee the police department, she is dedicated to making Carnegie “the safest place to live, work and play.”
Riley also plans to tap into connections she has made while serving on council to help ensure the borough's infrastructure continues to grow, she said.
“We are booming right now,” she said.
Forsythe mini golf reopens
After a four-year hiatus, Forsythe Miniature Golf and Snacks in Carnegie reopened in May with a newly renovated course.
Kristi Spitzer — a member of the Forsythe family — and her husband, Sam, moved from Colorado with their young children to care for her grandmother and to reopen the business.
The course originally opened in 1942.
Rondinelli to retire
After spending more than eight years at the helm of the South Fayette School District, Superintendent Bille Rondinelli will retire in early January. She announced her plan to step down earlier this year, saying she wanted to spend more time with family.
“Serving as the superintendent of schools for the children, parents, family, and community of the South Fayette Township School District has been the greatest journey of my career,” Rondinelli said at the time. Rondinelli was hired in South Fayette on Aug. 25, 2009. Before joining South Fayette, she worked as an assistant superintendent at Moon Area, assistant principal at Jefferson Middle School in Mt. Lebanon and chair of the high school English department at Shenango Area School District in Lawrence County.
The district hired Kenneth Lockette, who has spent the last nearly 2.5 years as the assistant superintendent in the Avonworth School District, to replace Rondinelli.
Carnegie church's windows undergo restoration
With All Saints Polish National Catholic Church in Carnegie's 100th anniversary coming up in 2018, the Rev. Richard Seiler said he and the congregation wanted to find a way to give the massive Gothic Revival building on Third Avenue a face-lift, but without emptying the collection plate.
They decided on restoring the church's stained glass windows.
“People took a lot of interest in the project because their families struggled and sacrificed to build the church,” Seiler said at the time. By choosing a renovation that would be highly visible, the parishioners felt and saw their investment in the work, he added.
The project, which began in 2009, has been a slow one due to financial challenges for the small church. However, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation's historic religious properties grant program helped ensure the windows would be finished for the centennial.
The first grant All Saints got from PHLF in 2014 was a technical assistance grant, with no cash toward the project. Since then, All Saints has received about $25,000 toward their stained glass restoration project, with $3,000 coming from the 2017 grants.
The only windows not being refurbished ahead of the 2018 centennial are the church's massive rose windows, which Seiler says are still in good condition.
Chartiers Valley opens its new middle/high school
A colorful, strategically crafted learning space for middle schoolers opened in the Chartiers Valley School District this fall. As part of a $92 million project to construct a new middle and high school in the district, middle school learning towers — composed of classroom-like learning studios and outdoor terraces — opened at the start of the 2017-18 school year.
Most of the rest of the building was expected to open in December, Superintendent Brian White said in an email.
Phase I of the new high school project also opened for the start of the 2017-18 school year. This includes a new digital media center, engineering classrooms and work spaces and art classrooms. The high school project will be completed in 2019. The building projects have been in the works since 2013.
Elementary students witness solar eclipse
The Carlynton School District decided to operate its first day of class with an early dismissal due to concerns over the potential health risk for students, but fifth-graders were permitted to stick around to take part in science teacher Scott Donnelly's “LunaPalooza” event to learn about, track and watch the solar eclipse with special glasses Aug. 21.
The Pittsburgh region was not in the path of totality, but viewers watched as the moon blocked 81 percent of the sun.
Bridgeville Police Department reunited a man with his missing set of dentures in February in what was a classic Cinderella story as the missing object turned out to be the proper fit.
The teeth and their owner had been separated for six months. In August, the police department announced via Facebook that a pair of dentures had been found.
“By putting it out on Facebook, because we have a pretty good following, I figured that somebody in town could have lost a pair of false teeth,” police Chief Chad King said at the time. “If they then had internet access and a Facebook account, they could put two and two together. I was hoping it would have been returned a lot sooner.”
National recording artist FRZY visits Chartiers Valley High School
Rapper Harvey “FRZY” Daniels, a native of East Liberty who moved to Los Angeles a year ago, visited Chartiers Valley High School teacher Alan Welding's rhetoric classes to discuss the influence rap music has had in shaping today's society in October.
During the session, FRZY had students debate which rapper had the most influence on society, and if they should buy a product just because someone famous endorsed it.
“I hope they go home with a better appreciation of hip-hop, a better appreciation of rap, a better appreciation of branding,” FRZY said at the time. “A lot of them learned about new artists today, but also about the power of opinion and the influence that they have as consumers. If an artist tells you to buy something, you don't have to buy it.”
To the delight of students, FRZY also competed in a freestyle rap battle with senior Ryan Vercammen.
Watson Institute center opens in South Fayette
The Watson Institute's Education Center South celebrated its opening Jan. 18 at the Hickory Grade Road campus in South Fayette. The 47,000-square-foot facility serves more than 100 students who originally attended the Watson Institute's Leet campus near Sewickley.
The Leet location still serves 180 students. The new Education Center South will employ around 40 people. The Watson Institute consults with local school districts and families who have exhausted all resources in a public school environment.
Watson celebrated its 100th anniversary this year.
UPMC backs out of South Fayette
After moving forward with plans to build a hospital in South Fayette, regional hospital giant UPMC backed out of the plan that would have put a medical facility in the Newbury mixed development.
There was a sense of “surprise and disappointment that UPMC would abruptly change their plan,” township spokeswoman Andrea Iglar said in September, after UPMC announced its decision.
Instead of South Fayette, the hospital giant now has plans to open a facility in Jefferson Hills.
Newbury Market will become the first Pennsylvania location for Dallas-based Topgolf. The facility could attract as many as 450,000 people in its first year.
Dogs roam free again
Dogs can run free again in South Fayette — that is, if owners get a permit. South Fayette Commissioners approved an ordinance re-allowing dogs to be off their leash in a portion of the park. Commissioners suspended off-leash dogs late in 2016 after a dog-on-dog attack.
Dog owners can apply for a permit to let their dogs run free. Permits are $50 per household for South Fayette residents and $100 for nonresidents. To be approved, dogs must have a current license and proof of rabies vaccination.
While the off-leash area is the same as before — the northernmost hilltop of the park — a new entrance near the Rotary Pavilion was created.
The new ordinance specifies several restrictions dog-handlers must abide.
In addition to staffers Bobby Cherry and Kristina Serafini, the following writers contributed: Eric Eisert, Matthew Peaslee, Kim Lyons and Stephanie Hacke.