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Briefs: Ex-Cmdr. Freeman named to police review board

| Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2003

City Council unanimously confirmed a new member of the Citizens Police Review Board on Monday, giving the beleaguered body a long-awaited fifth vote. Two slots remain open.

In a 7-0 vote, council named former Pittsburgh police Major Crimes Cmdr. Ronald Freeman to the post, which expires in October 2005. Freeman, who served on the police force from 1965 to 2001, has taught criminal investigation at La Roche College since 1998. He also has worked as a consultant on police investigation techniques in movies such as "The Silence of the Lambs," "Striking Distance" and "Diabolique."

Freeman's appointment provides breathing room for the seven-member board, which finally began meeting in September after a four-month hiatus. For months, the board had just three members -- one short of a quorum. In September, two more members were appointed but another member's term ended, leaving the board with four members until Freeman's confirmation yesterday. School rebate expected

Pittsburgh Schools Superintendent John Thompson is expected to announce an $8.5 million real estate tax rebate when he presents his proposed 2004 budget to the public on Nov. 12.

Thompson told the school board Monday night that district officials estimate a 0.72 mill rebate will be needed to return extra money to taxpayers from the 2001 countywide reassessment.

Still, Thompson said rising health care and retirements costs will eat into the district's $82 million budget surplus. If the proposed tax rebate is approved, property owners will save about $7.20 for every $10,000 of assessed value.

The school board, meanwhile, asked for an analysis of how a proposal by board president Darlene Harris calling for the district to join the city and county in the Homestead Exemption program would impact the district's finances.

The program exempts homeowners from property taxes on the first $10,000 assessed value of their homes. If the school district joins, homeowners would save an additional $140 a year.

City department merger rejected

The Murphy administration has turned down City Council's proposal for merging the departments of public works and engineering and construction.

In a letter to council members dated Oct. 31, Executive Secretary Tom Cox said the departments have no significant overlapping functions. Merging the two units wouldn't save money or make either department more efficient; a combined department, he wrote, would not require less equipment, fewer engineers, fewer laborers or less funding.

Two overlapping functions, however, could be consolidated, he wrote. Authorization and installation of traffic signs should be done by one shop, not both, and street lighting, which is now handled by Public Works, might be better handled by Engineering's technical expertise, according to Cox.

Heart pump gets OK

Doctors at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have received government approval to use a promising heart pump on patients with chronic heart failure who don't qualify for a transplant.

The approval, which follows 2002 clearance from the Food and Drug Administration, could benefit hundreds of patients who have seriously weakened hearts.

UPMC officials said Monday they are actively evaluating patients who could benefit from the pump, known as a left-ventricular assist device. Its use had been limited to patients awaiting heart transplants.

The device helps the heart's left ventricle pump blood.

Medicare approval covers those patients with chronic end-stage heart failure who have a life expectancy of less than two years and who do not qualify for transplantation. Patients must meet additional medical criteria.

A complete list of medical centers offering the device is available at www.cms.hhs.gov/coverage/lvadfacility.asp.

Lawrenceville 'Blackbird Artists' set to take off

The developers of Blackbird Artists Loft, a 15-unit loft residential and retail development in Lawrenceville, expect construction to begin on the $4 million building before year's end.

Linda Metropulos and Becky Burdick, of Artists and Cities Inc., said the 31/2-story building at 36th and Butler streets is being marketed to artists or art-related personnel, but it also is open to the public.

PNCBank will finance the development once sales of the residential units have reached a specific number, Metropulos said. Occupancy is planned for next fall.

This will mark the developer's third project. The firm converted a former automobile dealer showroom on Baum Boulevard, East Liberty, into a 37-unit apartment, and provided work space for 32 tenants at the Ice House in Lawrenceville.

Washington County Youth may face trial in February for murder

A 17-year-old boy accused of killing his adoptive mother and abusing her corpse could face trial in February.

John Gebauer, who was 15 when Alison Gebauer, 47, was killed on Feb. 13, 2002, was formally arraigned last week on homicide, abuse of a corpse, rape, attempted rape and other charges before Washington County Judge Katherine Emery.

The teen is accused of killing his adoptive mother at their farm in Fallowfield Township. Gebauer was pulled over by police while driving the family's truck and authorities found him with weapons.

"What happens if a minor murders someone• I murdered and raped my mother," Charleroi police said Gebauer asked them after his arrest.

He will be tried as an adult.

District Attorney John Pettit has not said whether he will pursue the death penalty.

Gebauer was adopted in 2000. He previously had spent several years in foster homes after his birth mother died of cancer when he was 7.

Rapist gets prison term

A man was sentenced to three to six years in prison for raping a former girlfriend and videotaping the acts -- a copy of which he hung on her doorknob in a plastic bag in an attempt to intimidate her.

Ronald Tamulinas, 32, of Washington, pleaded guilty to rape, aggravated indecent assault and aggravated assault in July and was sentenced on Friday.

Tamulinas was charged with raping the 27-year-old woman twice while she was unconscious after drinking on Dec. 7. The woman afterward obtained a protection-from-abuse order and said Tamulinas began stalking and harassing her.

On Dec. 21, Tamulinas hit a male friend of the victim in the head with a hammer when he told Tamulinas to leave the woman's home, prompting the aggravated assault charge.

Tamulinas' attorney had asked Washington County Judge Paul Pozonsky to postpone sentencing until February, so Tamulinas could be with his wife during childbirth. The judge refused.

North Side Man pleads guilty to heroin ring charges

A North Side man pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to conspiracy to distribute at least 100 grams of heroin.

Gary Richard "Big Gary" Sloan, 43, of 126 Maywood St., pleaded before U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti, who set sentencing for Jan. 30.

Prosecutors said Sloan, who faces from five to 40 years in prison, participated in a drug operation run by Michael Keith Good, of the North Side, and eight others.

Sloan's brother, Alphonso "Sonny" Sloan, 52, of Pierce Street, Shadyside, also has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Troy Rivetti said Gary Sloan participated in the conspiracy from November 2002 until February when telephone wiretaps intercepted conversations between the Sloans and Good about the drug shipments.

North Hills Project to hamper access to lakes

Access to certain areas around Lake No. 2 and all the facilities at Lake No. 3 are restricted during work being performed at Deer Lakes Park in West Deer.

The Allegheny County Department of Public Works' $700,000 project includes replacing pedestrian bridges at both lakes and dredging of Lake No. 3. It also involves installation of new handrails, electric and water service at the Veterans Shelters and a new handicapped-accessible path around Lake No. 3.

The work, which began Monday, is being performed by Shawrose Construction of Coraopolis.

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