The South at a glance
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With all the gift giving during the holidays, one group sometimes overlooked is the elderly who live alone.
"Most people aren't aware that there are thousands of seniors in every community who have no family and are alone," said Lucy Seger, owner of Home Instead Senior Care.
"What's more, this holiday season finds many older adults struggling to make ends meet," she said.
To remedy the situation, the caregiver organization, which serves seniors in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties, has joined local community organizations, churches and retailers to provide presents to lonely seniors who will be identified by social service agencies.
Holiday trees are displayed at some retail locations in the region and are decorated with ornaments bearing the first names of the seniors and their gift requests.
Tree locations include these in South Hills: Century III Mall, West Mifflin; Parkway Center Mall, Green Tree; and Washington Crown Center, North Franklin.
Holiday shoppers can choose an ornament, buy items on the list and return them unwrapped to the store, with the ornament attached. From Dec. 7-15, volunteers will collect, wrap and deliver the gifts. Volunteers are needed.
Details: 412-595-7554 or www.beasantatoasenior.com or www.homeinstead.com/greaterpittsburgh.
An average of nearly 2,300 drowsy driving-related crashes occurred each year between 2005 and 2009, according to the state Department of Transportation.
"With busy schedules and plenty of demands on people, it can be easy to push too hard and not be as sharp as you should be when you climb behind the wheel," said Allen D. Biehler, PennDOT secretary.
Driving drowsy or fatigued are among the top 10 reasons for auto accidents, said acting insurance commissioner Robert L. Pratter. "Studies show the risk of an accident doubles after just four hours on the road," he said.
PennDOT suggests these tips to avoid falling asleep while driving:
• Avoid alcohol or medication;
• Get enough sleep before going on a long drive;
• Stop for breaks, resting for 10 minutes after every 100 miles of travel;
• Get safely off the road if you feel sleepy;
• Always wear your seat belt.
Follow PennDOT on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PennDOTNews.
Pennsylvania's Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is accepting applications to help low-income families pay home heating bills.
Application forms are at the office of state Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick, at 1917 Brownsville Road. Details: 412-881-4208. Applications also are available at the Allegheny County Department of Human Services at 1-800-851-3838 and at utility offices and community service agencies.
Applications for LIHEAP cash grants are online at www.compass.state.pa.us. Applicants can call 1-866-857-7095.
Last winter, more than 600,000 Pennsylvania families used the aid. To qualify, a household of one can earn up to $17,328; a family of four can earn up to $35,280.
Starting Jan. 1, the Bethel Park Community Center will charge for use of the facility's gymnasium and walking track.
It will cost Bethel Park families $25 a year to use the gym and track, while children and seniors will be charged $5 annually, and a one-year membership for adults will cost $10.
If residents do not want to buy a membership, they may buy day passes for $1.
Fees will be charged only for the gym and walking track, said Judith Miller, assistant municipal manager. Use of other rooms at the center will continue to be free, she said.
Nonresidents who use the gym and track also will be charged, but those figures were not determined Monday night when council voted unanimously to approve rates and membership categories.
The fees for nonresidents will be slightly higher than the rates for Bethel Park residents, according to council President Tim Moury.
The fees will be used for maintenance costs, Ms. Miller said.
The popularity and excessive use of the facilities led to charging the fees, she said.
Council unanimously approved maintaining the real estate tax rate at 2.18 mills for 2011. The tax rate is not expected to increase upon passage of the municipal budget, board members said.
The Bethel Park police department is accepting applications for the Citizens Police Academy and Law Enforcement Apprenticeship Program. The academy is open to all residents and business owners in Bethel Park. The apprenticeship program is for high school students interested in law enforcement.
Applications can be obtained at www.bethelpark.net or by calling Officer Tom Rigatti at 412-831-6800, ext. 104. Students can get applications at the high school office.
The Police Pals food drive, operated through the district schools, will take place from Nov. 29 to Dec. 15. This year a new component is being added in which the organization hopes to find residents and business owners who are willing to "Adopt a Family" to help during the holidays.
Details: Officer Tom Rigatti at 412-831-6800, ext. 104.
Council voted 6-2 Monday night to give preliminary approval to a $4.32 million budget for 2011 that includes a 1-mill tax increase.
One mill generates about $45,000 in the borough. Councilman Rich Russo said the increase would mean about $13 more in property taxes per household next year, if the increase gets final approval.
Councilmen Paul Sharkady and George Coleman cast dissenting votes.
New earmarks in the 2011 spending plan include $20,000 for new radio and computer equipment for the police department, $25,000 for the first of five annual payments on two new public works trucks and about $20,000 more for winter road maintenance.
Council also gave preliminary approval to the 2011 spending plan for the Canonsburg-Houston Joint Authority. That $1.65 million budget includes no rate increase for 2011 and represents a $300,000 increase in spending over the current year.
Both budgets will be on public display for 30 days and are scheduled to be formally adopted next month.
First United Methodist Church of Canonsburg is hosting a salute to veterans and active military personnel today at Trinity United Methodist Church. Its band, choir and representatives of New Day Band will perform. The church is at 161 W. Pike St.
The future of a sober-living home is in a "holding pattern," council President Joe Milioto said, because of confusion over whether action was actually taken at a zoning hearing board meeting last week.
Pamela Jones, who operates three sober-living homes on East College Street - one of them for men only - asked the zoning hearing board for an exception to continue operating the men's home even though it is in a high-density residential zone.
She first appeared before the board in late October and the meeting was continued to last Thursday, where board chairman John Alterio allowed Ms. Jones five minutes to reiterate her case. He did not permit anyone from the standing-room-only crowd to address the board.
Telling those in attendance that the board had taken into consideration all of the information presented, Mr. Alterio said the board was ready to vote on the application. Although he asked for a motion to approve the application three times, none was made.
"I do not have a motion," Mr. Alterio said. "The motion is denied and the variance is denied."
That's when Councilman A.J. Williams told the board that there were "misconceptions" about the testimony provided at the October meeting by its solicitor, Pat Derrico.
He said council never authorized Mr. Derrico to testify that it wanted Ms. Jones to "cease and desist." He said instead that members had a "neutral" stance and suggested she appeal to the zoning board.
Mr. Williams then implored the three-member board to at least vote on the matter. "Someone right now can still make a motion," he said.
Mr. Alterio disagreed.
"We did take a vote," he told the councilman. "This is what we do up here. I'm not going to argue with you."
Accounts of the meeting minutes are not consistent with a transcript of the minutes distributed Monday, which indicate that a vote to deny Ms. Jones' application was made, seconded and unanimously approved after the conversation between Mr. Williams and Mr. Altiero took place.
Borough manager Terry Hazlett said Tuesday that he is working to clarify what happened.
Supervisors are accepting letters of interest from residents who would like to serve on the parks and recreation board. Letters of interest are to be mailed to the attention of Donald A. Gennuso, township manager, 3599 Millers Run Road, Suite 101, Cecil 15321.
Charleroi Borough Authority has been approved for a $2.09 million Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority grant to address water quality for Cokeburg water system customers.
The existing water system has excessive aluminum in the finished water, high levels of trihalomethanes in the distribution system and has failed to meet enhanced coagulation requirements, all of which are violations of the Pennsylvania Safe Drinking Water Regulations.
Concerns have been raised by the state Department of Environmental Protection staff about the ability of Cokeburg to meet current and future regulations because it is a small system with a small customer base.
Charleroi Borough Authority, a regional water supply system, will take over the Cokeburg water system and bring it into compliance.
The Pennvest funds will be used to install about 15,000 feet of waterline and related components that will allow the authority to serve the 338 Cokeburg customers. Total cost of the project is estimated at $2.29 million.
In addition to ensuring safe drinking water, the project will create 10 construction jobs.
While some school districts continue to struggle with contract negotiations, the South Fayette teachers and school board have agreed on a five-year pact.
School directors voted 9-0 Monday night to approve a contract with the district's 168 teachers, following 16 months of bargaining.
School board member Leonard Fornella, an attorney who led the district's negotiating team, and high school math teacher David Taylor, president of the South Fayette Education Association, sat side by side after the vote and signed the contract, which is retroactive to the beginning of the school year.
"We achieved a very fair and reasonable agreement for the taxpayers, the teachers and the kids," Mr. Fornella said. "I'm really pleased we were able to achieve this without consternation, without threat of strike. We did it internally, without external negotiators."
Mr. Taylor said both parties made compromises and realized some benefits.
Under the contract, teacher raises will result in an average payroll increase of 3.25 percent, with the amount of individual raises depending on a pay scale. Top-paid teachers will see an average increase of 2.2 percent a year.
In exchange, the contract requires teachers to contribute more money toward their health insurance premiums, wait longer to reach the top of the pay scale and accept a reduction in the retirement incentive package.
Over the next five years, teachers gradually will pay more toward their health, dental and vision benefits, until their contributions rise from 6 percent to 8 percent.
Starting in the 2012-13 school year, one step will be added to the pay scale, delaying how long it takes a teacher to reach the highest salary level, which will save the district money.
A lump sum payment included in the retirement offer will decrease from $15,000 to $10,000, and the total package, including cashed-in sick days, will be capped at $18,000.
Language changes in the contract promote professional development and incentives for obtaining national board certification in particular subject areas to help improve student learning, according to a district news release.
District officials said they will develop a fair policy for community groups that want to use district facilities, but members of one organization expressed doubts about that.
A school board committee met for nearly three hours last Thursday evening in an effort to facilitate communication among district officials, Steel Valley Midget Football and other groups concerning the use of William Campbell Athletic Field and other school facilities.
William Dorsey, midget football general manager, and coach Mike Todd accused the district of treating their organization with disrespect. Mr. Todd said the district has charged the group a $500 deposit for using the field while waiving the fee for other groups.
Mr. Todd and Mr. Dorsey also said the district has not allowed the group to use facilities such as the concession stand, rest rooms and press box.
"I've been involved with this league since 2000 and we did not have any problems until last year," Mr. Dorsey said.
Thomas Olson, school board director and committee chairman, said some items in the press box and concession stands had been damaged, prompting the district to take away privileges for non-school organizations.
But he said the district would revisit the issue.
Shawn McCallister, athletics and activities director, noted that other districts charge higher rates than Steel Valley.
"We did not charge them janitorial or custodial fees," Mr. McCallister said. "That is charged by other districts.
Mr. McCallister said Jeannette School District, a district similar in size to Steel Valley, charges a total of $1,600 for use of the field during the season, which includes janitorial, custodial and security fees. Plum charges a use fee for the league of $1,950 for a season.
Mr. Olson said the school board needs to come up with a fair fee policy.
Mr. Olson, Mr. McCallister along with school director Joseph Ducar reiterated that school-sponsored groups such as athletic teams and the marching band will get preference to use the field over community groups.
The midget football organization had an opportunity to host the championships Oct. 23 but was unable to do so because the marching band was practicing on the field.
Mr. Olson said the organization could have had use of the field later in the afternoon or the next day, but Mr. Todd said the organization was not notified of the availability in time. The games eventually were held at the Woodland Hills Wolvarena in nearby Turtle Creek.
Family Hospice and Palliative Care is launching its 10th annual Holiday Memorial Tree campaign, which honors the memories of loved ones who have died, at seven local malls.
For $20, a loved one's name is inscribed on a tag and placed around the neck of white doves that adorn the trees. At least 15 trees will be on display from Monday through Dec. 26 at local shopping malls, including Century III. Details: 412-572-8812 or www.familyhospice.com.
First Published November 11, 2010 5:45 am