YMCA closing, big football win among top Penn Hills stories of 2018
Over the last year, Penn Hills bid farewell to some, welcomed others and celebrated wins.
Here are the top stories of 2018:
The YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh announced in July it would save $1 million by closing three branches: Robinson, Penn Hills and Wilmerding. Residents had a hard time letting go, pointing to the facility’s many programs for young and old.
Some fought to keep it open while others sought to find other agencies and groups to fill the hole once it left. Ultimately, the building closed and sold to a Monroeville church.
Penn Hills bid another goodbye to former municipal manager Moe Rayan, who announced his resignation in May and said he would be returning to his former position as director of public works. He said he stepped down because of “political interference” in his daily duties.
Rayan, who served as manager for nine years, ultimately did not take the job as the director of public works. He stayed in his role until a replacement was named and officially left his post in September. A Tribune-Review investigation into his contract showed he stood to earn up to $222,626 in a severance payout. It remains unclear what his payout was.
Most recently, the Penn Hills community said goodbye to Bill Fralic, who died Dec. 14. The beloved Penn Hills and University of Pittsburgh football superstar died at age 56 after a battle with cancer.
The manager’s departure ignited a months-long search for his replacement and resulted in the hiring of Scott Andrejchak, who previously served as Butler County’ chief clerk.
Residents also welcomed a brand new government center along Duff Road. The $12.3 million project wrapped up in June, and municipal officials and staff moved in throughout the summer.
The complex has 165 parking spots, a firing range for police, five holding cells, an emergency responders training room, a training site for firefighters, locker rooms and a full kitchen for EMS workers. Eventually, the police and veterans memorial also will be featured on the property.
The municipal complex was a major construction project in 2018, and more is to come in 2019. Penn Hills will welcome two new fast food joints — Taco Bell and Rally’s Hamburgers — in its commercial district, along with an O’Reilly Auto Parts on Rodi Road. The municipality also likely will see two new housing projects, one for seniors and the other for veterans, along Saltsburg and Jefferson roads.
Wins and losses
Residents were thrilled with their high school football team, which, after an undefeated season, earned a state title in Harrisburg.
Die-hard fans lined the streets for a celebratory parade in December. But the football team’s victory wasn’t the only one highlighted. The high school’s basketball team, which won the WPIAL title this past season, had its own float, too.
The parade was followed up by an assembly in the high school auditorium, where the championship teams honored Penn Hills’ Hometown High-Q team for their recent victories.
Penn Hills also paid close attention to its high school soccer team this year — though for different reasons. Some players accused Connellsville players of hurling racial slurs at them during a game in the Fayette County community. After learning of the verbal skirmish, Penn Hills administration canceled all future games against the school.
The WPIAL eventually looked into the matter and determined racially charged insults possibly were hurled at Penn Hills players. The WPIAL required Connellsville to hire an outside consultant to train student-athletes on racial and cultural insensitivity.
In other Penn Hills school district news, the board of directors raised property taxes to 28.6646 mills. The new tax rate means a house valued at $100,000 will pay about $110 more in taxes.
The school district, which is still approximately $172 million in debt, also furloughed 12 teachers.
The past year held many happy moments for the municipality, especially for one man and his dog, “Boss.”
Timothy Hill of Penn Hills and his pit bull mix were in a SUV dragging a pontoon boat that hit a residential garage and plummeted off a 300-foot cliff at the intersection of Grove and Lincoln roads in July.
The two dodged catastrophe as they hung and waited for rescue teams to hoist them back up to safety. Several agencies assisted in the rescue, including police, paramedics and fire departments from Penn Hills, Monroeville and the city of Pittsburgh. Ultimately, the driver and other first responders were hospitalized for minor injuries. The dog is also safe.
Also in 2018, we shared the story of the amazing Arrow family.
Eric and Jackie Arrow, who formerly lived in Penn Hills, adopted two children through the county’s adoption agency after fostering them for nearly two years.
The couple raised four biological children before taking in James, 4, and Wadell, 11. They also began fostering three additional children, bringing the total people living under one roof to nine. They moved to a larger home in Springdale recently.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @dillonswriting.