Category Archives: Aliquippa

A New, Massive Plastics Plant in Southwest Pennsylvania Barely Registers Among Voters

Environmentalists in Beaver County alarmed by harmful emissions from the plant once it opens say they are discouraged by most voters’ inattention, but not deterred.

By Emma Ricketts

Inside Climate News
November 5, 2022

Photo: Shell’s new petrochemical plant in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Credit: Emma Ricketts

Environmentalists Fear a Massive New Plastics Plant Near Pittsburgh Will Worsen Pollution and Stimulate Fracking


Oct. 27, 2017 – A New Shell Plant in Pennsylvania Will Soon Become the State’s Second Largest Emitter of Volatile Organic Chemicals


ALIQUIPPA, Pa.—From the tranquility of her garden in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, Terrie Baumgardner worries that her grandchildren will grow up without access to clean air, clean water and a safe space to play outdoors.

For decades, Beaver County’s economy has been dependent on polluting industries—first steel, and more recently natural gas drilling. Many longtime residents, who remember the prosperity brought by the steel industry, have welcomed the construction of a massive new Shell petrochemical plant and the politicians that support it.

Baumgardner and other environmental activists are discouraged that local residents and politicians favor the continuation of fracking and the new mega plastics plant it has spawned, but they are not giving up their fight.

“People say that’s what we do in Beaver County—we trade our health for jobs,” Baumgardner said. “But it’s unfortunate, because it doesn’t have to be that way now.”

A reluctant activist, Baumgardner first became involved in environmental issues in 2011, when she learned about the dangers posed by fracking. Concern for the environment and health of local residents led her to canvas for signatures in 2016 as Shell moved toward building the plastics plant.

Spanning nearly 800 acres along the Ohio River, the plant is expected to open later this year. The facility will convert fracked gas into 1.6 million metric tons of polyethylene per year.

Polyethylene, made from ethane, a form of natural gas, is the key building block in numerous common plastic products—from food wrapping and trash bags to crates and bottles.


Despite assurances from Shell that the facility will be safe for the surrounding community, environmental activists have warned that the plant will cause air and water pollution, and a protracted dependence on fracking.

Under Shell’s permit, the plant can release up to 159 tons of fine particulate matter and 522 tons of volatile organic compounds per year. Exposure to these emissions has been linked to issues in the brain, liver, kidney, heart and lungs. They have also been associated with miscarriages, birth defects and cancer.

“They’re going to unload all of these toxic chemicals, hazardous air pollutants, volatile organic compounds and millions of tons of CO2 gas. What’s going to happen?” asked Bob Schmetzer, a local councilman from nearby South Heights and a long-time spokesperson for Beaver County’s Marcellus Awareness Committee. He has opposed the plant since it was first proposed 10 years ago.

Jack Manning, a Beaver County Commissioner, does not share these concerns. “I have great faith in the technology and in the competency of those that will be running the facility,” he said. “It’s a state-of-the-art, world-class facility.”

Manning blamed people’s apprehension on unfair comparisons between the environmental impacts of the plant and those of the steel mills that used to occupy the area. “Those heavy particulates are a different type of pollution,” he said.

Shell has assured residents of the safety of its plant. “At Shell, safety is our top priority in all we do and that includes being a good neighbor by communicating about plant activities that could cause concern if not expected,” Virginia Sanchez, a Shell spokesperson, said in a statement. “When we are in steady operations, it is our goal to have little to no negative impact on our neighbors as a result of our activities.”

For activists, these assurances do little to allay concerns. On a grassy hillside overlooking the massive complex, Schmetzer spoke with his friend and fellow activist, Carl Davidson. While the plant is not yet operational, the grinding sounds of industrial machinery and screeches of train cars disturbed the clear fall day.

Photo: Bob Schmetzer and Carl Davidson, standing above the petrochemical plant. Credit: Emma Ricketts


Davidson, a self-professed “solar, wind and thermal guy,” wore a Bernie cap and alluded to his youth as a student leader of the New Left movement in the 1960s. While he estimates that around one-third of residents were concerned about the plant’s potential impacts from the beginning, he expects this number to grow once it opens. “People are starting to see two things,” he said. “Number one, there is all kinds of pollution that they didn’t know about. And second, all the jobs that were promised aren’t real.”

The plant sparked hope for a revival of economic prosperity in the area. However, now that construction is largely complete and thousands of workers have finished working on the site, the plant is expected to only employ about 600 people going forward, according to Shell.

While opponents wait anxiously for the plant to begin operations, they don’t think it will influence next week’s elections. The Shell plant has been a non-issue in the tight race for the 17th Congressional District in Beaver County between Democrat Chris Delluzio and Republican Jeremy Shaffer, both of whom support continued fracking.

In the state’s closely watched U.S. Senate race between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz, both of whom support fracking, the environment has barely come up in a nasty campaign focused on abortion rights.

Similarly, fracking and the environment have hardly been mentioned in the governor’s race between Democrat Josh Shapiro, the state’s attorney general, and Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Trump supporter and election denier.

Beaver County, while only counting for 1.3 percent of the votes cast in any given election in Pennsylvania, is a bellwether, according to Professor Lara Putman of the University of Pittsburgh. “It is socio-demographically similar to counties that, collectively, make up about one-quarter of Pennsylvania’s population. So in that sense, when Beaver shifts other places are usually shifting as well,” she said.

Baumgardner called the political candidates’ silence “disheartening.”

“I wish they would have the courage to speak up, to take a position and stick with it,” she said.

However, she understands the political risks associated with taking an environmental stand in a community that believes its economic fortunes are tied directly to pollution. She just wishes this wasn’t still the case. “We have alternatives,” she said. “We just need our political leaders to embrace them and get serious about renewables and removing the subsidies on fossil fuels.”


According to Davidson, the key to awakening the public is to ensure that alternatives are tangible. Good ideas aren’t enough to make people give up the job opportunities they have, he said. Clean energy projects are great in theory, but until workers can see a real job with similar wages, many will continue to support the status quo.

Progress might be slow, but Baumgardner, Davidson and Schmetzer remain hopeful that the realities of the plant will sway public opinion once residents’ senses are assaulted with the acrid smells and cacophony of relentless sound they expect the new plastics plant will emit. They each stand ready to educate people on its health and environmental impacts, as soon they are ready to listen. They may be discouraged, but are not deterred.

“Nothing is going to shut me down as long as my grandkids are here,” Baumgardner said.


Emma Ricketts is a graduate student at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She focuses on politics, policy and foreign affairs reporting, with a particular interest in climate change and environmental issues. Previously, Emma practiced as a lawyer in a New Zealand-based commercial litigation team where she focused on climate-related risk.

Voice Of Aliquippa: Gino Piroli Was Champion For Community

By Garret Roberts
Beaver County Times

HOPEWELL TWP. – A leading voice for Aliquippa and the Beaver Valley has been silenced.

Sept 1, 2022 – Longtime Aliquippa historian, sports reporter and Times columnist Gino Piroli, 96, died Saturday at his Hopewell Township home surrounded by his family. And in the days since, people from throughout the Beaver Valley have shared their respect and admiration for a man who not only shared tales of the community but also helped shape it in so many ways.

“We were fortunate to have such a positive role model to emulate,” said David Piroli, speaking for the family. “He was a bridge between the generations that came before to ours of today.”

Gino Piroli played an influential part in the creation of various athletic organizations across the Beaver County community, with his legacy of service being honored by the Beaver County Sports Hall of Fame in 2016. He also served in numerous public roles and influenced many in the generations to follow.

Serving in the Navy during World War II, Piroli was always willing to help and be an active part of his community. Both before and after the war, Piroli was an active coach and athlete in Aliquippa, serving as a leader for softball and basketball teams within the Aliquippa Community League and the Jones and Laughlin sports programs.

Piroli would begin his influential sports writing career in 1961, serving as a reporter for The News for over 27 years. During this time, he would quickly rise through the ranks to become the sports editor at the publication, making a name for himself with his writing skills.

In addition to his career in writing, Piroli could be heard on the local airwaves at various points over the decades. He was a play-by-play announcer for games around Beaver County and hosted shows on WBVP and WMBA.

Adding to this deep involvement with sports in Beaver County, Piroli was the founder of the Aliquippa Sports Hall of Fame in 1972 and served as the chairman of the organization. He also served as a charter member in the creation of the Beaver County Sports Hall of Fame in 1975, later being inducted into the organization’s Class of 2016.

Piroli’s influence wasn’t just in Aliquippa, as he was also the founder of the Hopewell Basketball Boosters and served as the first commissioner of the Beaver County Bantam Basketball League. Piroli was heavily involved with the Hopewell Township Little League as well, acting as a coach, manager and officer for the league over a period of 17 years.

Beyond the world of sports, Piroli’s community involvement includes his role as the Aliquippa postmaster, a member of the Hopewell Township Commissioners and serving as the President of the Aliquippa Hospital Board of Directors. Throughout the years, he was also known as a leader for various local church and library organizations.

In 1998, Piroli began a popular column with The Beaver County Times. Discussing his love of the Aliquippa area and the history of the steel town, the series continued for over 24 years, with the last one posted this past May.

“I don’t know how you could even begin to categorize his legacy, because it goes in so many different directions,” said Tom Bickert, a former managing editor at The Times who worked closely with Piroli. “He was all about sports, but he was also all about the community, especially in his columns for The Times. He established a standard for reporting on the history of the community. I don’t think there’s anybody out there today who could even come close to knowing and sharing and being a champion for Aliquippa the way he was.”

Sharing some of his own experiences as a member of the Aliquippa community, Piroli often gave readers an in-depth history of what makes the old steel town special. Friends and family described his enthusiasm for the project, which helped many younger generations learn about the region their families remember.

“He is one of the last of the Greatest Generation,” David Piroli said. “He contemplated retiring his article from The Times due to the absence of his generation. We expressed to him how much the recollections and stories he passed on in the Times articles were the memories of the parents and grandparents of today’s readers.”

“He just loved sharing what he knew about Aliquippa with other people,” Bickert said. “It was never about the money, it was always about wanting people to know what he knew about the town, the community and the people. Anybody who came from Aliquippa who had any kind of national standing or national notoriety, Gino knew the person and he would share stories about them. He was a priceless historian for the community.”

One of those impacted by Piroli’s writings was fellow history columnist Jeffery Snedden, who grew up reading the column in the Times “Little News” newspapers.

“I was always fascinated with our local history, specifically the stories I would hear from my parents and grandparents about the glory days of Aliquippa and J&L Steel,” Snedden said. “Gino’s writings gave several generations of Beaver Countians a peek behind that curtain into the golden years of our area. For others, his frequent columns were a welcome reminder of days gone by. Whether he was educating readers about the labor industry, remembering an old colleague, or simply writing about the history of his beloved hometown of Aliquippa, Gino Piroli was loved and appreciated by thousands of people each and every week.”

Serving as both an inspiration and mentor, Piroli was one of the first people to give Snedden feedback on his column when it began at The Times.

“He called me to say that he enjoyed my writing and that he had learned a lot from reading it,” Snedden said. “That simple validation meant the world to me, and it gave me confidence as I crafted my own era of local history coverage for Times readers. Over the years, Gino would provide me with vital research and a helping hand in my work. I cherished his friendship and I am blessed to have learned from the man I would often call ‘Mr. Aliquippa.’”

For his role in local athletics, Piroli was honored as the Aliquippa Sportsman of the Year in 1972 and Hopewell Junior Chamber of Commerce Sportsman of the Year in 1973. He was also named Citizen of the Year by the Aliquippa Chamber of Commerce in 1980 and honored for his service by the Sons of American Revolution in 2000.

Visitation will be Wednesday from 2 to 7 p.m. at Aliquippa’s Anthony Mastrofrancesco Funeral Home, located at 2026 McMinn Street. Memorial contributions can be contributed to the B.F. Jones Library.

“We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and respect that has been shown by so many,” Piroli’s family said in a statement.

This article originally appeared on Beaver County Times: Voice of Aliquippa: Gino Piroli was champion for community

Beaver Falls Native Linwood Alford Has Always Been ‘Called to Serve’

By Timothy Cox
Beaver County Times

BEAVER FALLS, March 7, 2022 — For older generations in the city, the name Linwood Alford has been a constant for several years.

As a Google subject, his name quickly arises as the childhood friend of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Willie Namath.

Boating buddies Linwood Alford (Left) and Joe Namath. The Beaver Falls natives have known each other since childhood. Alford is best known outside Beaver County for his friendship with Namath, but county residents tout his service to his community.


Now, The Times provides Alford a chance to recite his own story – including his early years, in connection with the world-renowned professional athlete.

Service to the community


As a career, for many years, Alford has focused his energies in support of those who may have difficulties helping themselves. A self-described “union man” and proud Democrat, Alford initially worked in the construction industry before serving on boards while committing his life to the continuous improvement of Beaver Countians, in all phases, regardless of ethnicity, creed or culture.

Linwood Alford as member of board of directors for the Larry Bruno Foundation Pictured are, first row, l-r, Ron Main, Artie DeSisto; second row, Linwood Alford, Pete Pietrandrea, Ed DeRose, Bob Ricci; and third row, Jim Carbone, Judge Richard Mancini and Steve Higgins.
In recent years, Alford has served as vice president of Lincoln Park (Midland Innovation Technology) Charter School; vice president of Beaver County Democratic Board; director of Civil Rights Labor Council; Job Training Board and (I-DAC) aka Individual Diversity Awareness Council; and as an official with the Beaver-Lawrence Central Labor Council.

He’s also a member of the Aliquippa Council of Men and Fathers.

In addition to Namath, Linwood has several local notables of which he considers close friends and associates including Senior Beaver County Judge Richard Mancini, Ambridge attorney Steve Kocherzat, area broadcast notable Chris Shovlin, Beaver Valley NAACP President Mtume Imani and another lifelong friend, Victor Freddie Mannerino.

“I’ve known him for many years – but respected him, even before I knew him,” Mancini said.

If it pleases the court


“I’ve always called Linwood a gem for our local community. Regardless of creed, color or religion – he’s just been a good person. Of course, many people know him as Joe Namath’s original friend, but there’s so much more to him than that. It goes back to his upbringing. Real Beaver Falls residents know,” added Mancini, 68, himself a Beaver Falls native.

In his spare time, Alford works as a tip staffer at the Beaver County Courthouse, under the auspices of Mancini. He describes his courtroom role as similar to a bailiff, adding that he often introduces the judge to courtroom attendees.

“He’s a natural in this position,” Mancini said. “Linwood is a people person and it takes someone with personality in order to be effective in this role.”

Sixth Street Brothers’


Linwood was born Jan. 5, 1944 – the youngest of eight siblings to Clifford and Mary Lee Coleman Alford.

Having recently turned 78, Alford admits he’s humbled and blessed to have maintained a sharp memory, enough to still recall significant past episodes of his life.

Having joined Tabernacle Baptist Church at age 13, Alford said he remains forever thankful that his parents provided him with a spiritual foundation that has kept him in safe, protective environments “especially during his 14-month” U.S. Army stint in Vietnam.

Continue reading Beaver Falls Native Linwood Alford Has Always Been ‘Called to Serve’

‘We have rights’: Renters protest ‘unlivable’ conditions at Aliquippa’s Towne Towers

Chrissy SuttlesBeaver County TimesView Comments

Tamika Lee with Beaver County United on Wednesday urged Towne Towers residents to start a claim with Neighborhood Legal Services and withhold their rent until property owners address 'unlivable conditions' at the 434 Franklin Ave. building.

ALIQUIPPA — Iris Jackson says she hasn’t had reliable heat in six days as frigid air continues to grip western Pennsylvania.

That’s par for the course at downtown Aliquippa’s Towne Towers, the longtime tenant said, as is rampant flooding, pests and mold. 

Jackson, using her walker for support, joined Beaver County United activists on Wednesday demanding property owners address “unlivable conditions” at the century-old 434 Franklin Ave. building.

Such conditions, Jackson said, include unpredictable heating in the winter, inadequate air conditioning in the summer, flooding due to unrepaired pipes, water-damaged ceilings, rodent infestations and broken elevators.

The rodent infestation has led to feces and urine in the halls and ceilings, residents reported at the rally. Mold and mildew are often spotted throughout the 60-unit building that houses a number of low-income renters, including older adults with disabilities. 

Iris Jackson, of Aliquippa, tells Aliquippa Code Enforcement Officer Jim Bologna about the “deplorable” state of Towne Towers at Wednesday’s rally.

Speaking outside of the Aliquippa City Building, Jackson said property managers are abusing their power and ignoring renters’ complaints.

“No one should have to go without heat in the middle of winter,” Jackson said. “As tenants, we have rights. Rats…I almost sat on one. I killed another in my kitchen; I have urine and feces coming down my ceiling from 2020 that’s still not fixed.”

Towne Towers is owned by Texas-based Eureka Multifamily Group, which also owns Valley Terrace Apartments in Aliquippa. The company on its website touts a range of amenities at both properties, including “individually controlled central air and heating.” Calls made to the building’s office and Eureka leadership were not immediately returned Wednesday. 

“I think tenants should withhold their rent until housing fixes their situation,” said Tamika Lee with Beaver County United, urging residents to start a claim with Neighborhood Legal Services. “If you are paying your rent, there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to access your building. Forcing tenants to pay rent in unlivable conditions like this is violent, and management needs to be held accountable for neglecting their tenants while taking their money.”

Property owners and landlords are facing widespread scrutiny throughout the region for their sluggish response to heating interruptions as temperatures plummet. 

More:The Cornerstone of Beaver County offering aid across Beaver County

Towne Towers, at 434 Franklin Ave. in Aliquippa, is over 100 years old.

State laws governing landlords are sometimes hard to enforce. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in the 1970s established the “implied warranty of habitability” that entitles renters to a safe, habitable home. This, in part, requires landlords to make non-cosmetic repairs that would otherwise put lives or welfare at risk, including lack of running water and inadequate heat in the winter. 

Landlords are also typically responsible for eliminating insect or rodent infestations and fixing substantial leaks. What’s considered “adequate” heat in a rental unit is often determined at the municipal level, according to the Housing Equality Center of Pennsylvania.

The city “isn’t sitting idly by,” said Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker and Aliquippa Code Enforcement Officer Jim Bologna, but because the building is privately owned and receives Section 8 funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, their influence is “limited.”

“The city has been fighting,” Walker said. He and Bologna have met with HUD officials and property owners to work toward a solution, they said.

Governor Wolf Talks Revitalization During Aug 11 Visit to Aliquippa

Gov. Tom Wolf, right, stands beside Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker on Wednesday in Aliquippa. Wolf visited the city to discuss ways Aliquippa will use the $11 million in state grants it has received since 2015.
Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker with Gov Wolf

ALIQUIPPA — Gov. Tom Wolf visited Aliquippa Wednesday morning to take a closer look at what a several-million-dollar investment into the city will look like.

The city was awarded several state grants since 2015 reaching a little over $11 million. Each grant targets innovation and revitalization in the old mill town, which has struggled economically since the demise of the steel industry.

Talking Tykes:Aliquippa: Some of the greatest started here, but it wants to be more than a football town

“If you think about the history of Aliquippa, 51% of the population lived and worked in that mill,” Mayor Dwan Walker said Wednesday. “So why not us? Why not Aliquippa come back as a phoenix rising from the ashes, why not a renaissance in Aliquippa?”

Walker explained what the city has done, and plans to do in the future, with the grant money. 

Some of those projects include reconfiguration of the Route 51 interchange, manufacturing, updated housing and commercial buildings, updated zoning ordinances, pedestrian and vehicle safety measures, and other developments spearheaded by local committees, residents and officials, including the Aliquippa school board, city council and water authority, the city Economic Development Corporation, and others.

Wolf visited the East End Development Site in Aliquippa to see how state investments have helped the city to remove blighted properties and prepare the land near a Route 51 interchange for future business development and prepare to capitalize on the petrochemicals plant that Shell Chemicals is constructing a few miles from the city. 

Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker, right, answers questions from the press on Wednesday during a visit from Gov. Tom Wolf, left, to discuss ways the city will use the $11 million in state grants it has received since 2015.

More than $7.7 million of the $11 million will support the East End Development Site.

Some of the investments made in Aliquippa to date include:

  • Grant and low-interest loan financing to perform environmental site assessments and remediation work at former industrial sites through the Industrial Sites Reuse Program.
  • Funding through the Blight Remediation Program to assist with blight remediation.
  • $7 million to reconfigure the Route 51 interchange adjacent to the East End Development site through the TIIF program.
  • $72,500 in Act 47 funding to support Aliquippa in its redevelopment efforts.
  • $365,000 in Keystone Communities funding to demolish commercial buildings at the East End Development site.
  • $500,000 to make pedestrian and vehicular safety improvements to the main corridor on Fifth Avenue through the Multi-Modal Transportation Program
  • $140,233 to complete site preparation and clearance on the Bricks site project.
  • $25,000 through the Municipal Assistance Program to update land-use regulations including the zoning ordinance.
  • More than $2.4 million in Neighborhood Partnership Funding via a donation from BNY Mellon to fund the redevelopment of Aliquippa.

Visiting Aliquippa reminded Wolf of his own town of York. Before getting into politics, the governor said he was involved in revitalizing that community.

“I got into politics because I was concerned about my own community, York,” Wolf said. “And I saw in Dwan the kind of leadership that every community really needs.

“It takes both state and local leadership to make projects like Aliquippa’s effective,” he said.

“There is an inside game and an outside game, and state is the outside game, and we need to do what we can do to help, but it really is a wonderful thing when you have leadership and the energy that you’re showing, Dwan, because Aliquippa early deserves to be back to where it was, and even better,” Wolf said. “And you’re doing that, and I’m proud to be a partner with you.”

Some during Wednesday’s briefing asked if gentrification could result from these revitalization efforts.

Wolf said having local people spearhead these projects will help keep the integrity of the community.

“Who’s in charge of this development? That’s going to make a really big difference,” he said. “They’re not just at the table, they are the table.”

Walker said as a life-long resident of Aliquippa, he and others committed to these projects will make sure gentrification doesn’t happen.

“Gentrification is not something we speak of,” he said. “Everybody in this city will have an equal opportunity to speak on anything that comes. We’re looking for partners, we’re not looking for bullies.

“So if you want to sit down and talk about how the future is going to be, we’re here to listen. But if you’re going to come in and take advantage of us, we’ve already had that happen,” Walker added. “I don’t know why our residents think gentrification is going to happen — it’s not.” 

He called the projects and initiatives in the city “a renaissance of Aliquippa,” built on partnership and collaboration, and hope and possibility.”

“The state programs have helped usher in a renaissance in the city of Aliquippa,” Walker said.

Gov. Tom Wolf stands with local leaders during his visit to Aliquippa on Wednesday. Leaders spoke with the governor about ways the city will use the $11 million in state grants it has received since 2015.

Working-Class Culture: Bocce, Bands, Car Cruises Gets Rolling Again at Aliquippa’s Sheffield Lanes

By Scott Tady
Beaver County Times

May 11, 2021 – ALIQUIPPA – Bocce balls and bands soon get rolling again at Sheffield Lanes.

The Aliquippa fun spot, long popular for its bowling lanes and its Ricky Dee’s Pizza, knows people are looking for outside entertainment, too.

Hence the return of two regulationsize bocce courts that debuted successfully in 2019, but didn’t see much action last year due to the pandemic.

“We’ll be available all summer for people to play bocce from Thursdays to Sundays starting May 20,” Zach D’Agostino, of the familyowned Sheffield Lanes, said.

Customers can try their hand at the traditional Italian balltossing sport played on a natural surface below a veranda where guests can lounge and sip a drink, puff a cigar, or on some nights catch a live band.

The veranda and bocce courts were hopping in this 2019 photo from Sheffield Lanes. The Aliquippa restaurant has reopened the bocce courts and will bring back bands in June.
“We are launching music on the veranda in June,” owner Rick D’Agostino said. “I was being a little cautious when I scheduled bands, so I only booked one per week on alternating Fridays and Saturdays, but I am thinking of filling in a couple more dates here and there.”

Currently booked:

•June 4 and July 10: The Living Street, an acoustic folkrock duo focused on harmonies and songwriting.

•June 12 and July 16: Joe Munroe, Beaver County Musicians’ Hall of Famer, keyboardist for Ghost Hounds and human encyclopedia of music.

•June 18 and July 24: Bobby Thompson, the acclaimed rock & blues guitaristvocalist.

•June 26 and July 30: The High Level Band jam band that gets people dancing.

•July 2: Jordan McLaughlin, solo vocalist and acoustic guitarist heard on WLERFM (97.7 The Rock Station.)

Continue reading Working-Class Culture: Bocce, Bands, Car Cruises Gets Rolling Again at Aliquippa’s Sheffield Lanes

High-Tech Manufacturing: Aliquippa Summer Camp Opens New World to Students

Kordell Boose, 17, of Aliquippa takes instruction on finishing an aluminum cast during the Titans of Pittsburgh Summer Camp’s field trip Wednesday to Robert Morris University’s engineering lab. [Lucy Schaly/For BCT]

Learning about career opportunities in the manufacturing industry is the purpose of the pilot Titans of Pittsburgh Summer Program developed by Catalyst Connection and Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ.

By Marsha Keefer
Beaver County Times

Aug 10, 2019 – MOON TWP. — Students, most of them from Aliquippa, gathered Wednesday at a robotic work cell in an engineering lab at Robert Morris University’s John Jay Center for the School of Engineering, Mathematics and Science.

For most, it was a seminal moment. The two previous days, they sat at computers at the Family Life Center housed in the Church in the Round in Aliquippa, and used software to design a product. Now, those drafts would be programmed into a computer-controlled milling machine to carve their designs in a rectangular block of aluminum — a process that took all of seven minutes.

What had been merely a concept would come to life.

Most of the 23 students enrolled in the four-day summer camp — high school juniors and seniors and a few recent graduates — had never worked with computer-aided design (CAD) programs and certainly not computer numerical control (CNC) routers, said Scott Dietz, director of workforce initiatives at Catalyst Connection, an economic development organization based in Pittsburgh that helps small- to medium-sized manufacturers improve competitive performance.

“We’re seeing sparks happening already this week in the few days we’ve had with them,” he said. “We’re seeing light bulbs going off. The students are seeing stuff they haven’t been exposed to before. We think the program is definitely a success.”

Essentially, learning about career opportunities in the manufacturing industry, is the purpose of the pilot Titans of Pittsburgh Summer Program developed by Catalyst Connection and Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ, a manufacturing workforce development program that engages high school students in robotics competitions to stimulate interest in manufacturing careers.

Catalyst Connection works with 2,800 manufacturing companies across 12 counties in western Pennsylvania, Beaver County included, Dietz said.

“When we go in their doors, the first thing they tell us when we ask ‘what is their biggest pain point’ is workforce — lack of workforce,” he said.

Dietz estimated 30 percent of the current workforce will retire in the next 10 years and that’s compounded by the large number of job needs now.

“We recently did a survey of 100 of those manufacturers who told us they have 2,300 job openings,” he said. Extrapolating those numbers, Catalyst Connection projects a shortage of about 20,000 workers, Dietz said. Continue reading High-Tech Manufacturing: Aliquippa Summer Camp Opens New World to Students

Ten Men vs. J&L Steel: How a Supreme Court case rooted in Beaver County forever changed America’s labor movement

By Jared Stonesifer
Beaver County Times

Many battles have been fought in western Pennsylvania in the last 300 years, but one in particular had far-reaching consequences that forever shaped the labor and workers-rights movement in the United States.

Indeed, workers’ rights might not even exist today if it weren’t for a U.S. Supreme Court case that unfolded in Aliquippa in 1937. The case was the last to challenge the legality of labor unions, mostly because the Supreme Court had the final word and deemed the practice constitutional.

Generations of workers have benefited since, but many have forgotten the significant role played by Beaver County workers to ensure those rights.

While residents celebrate Labor Day, it’s important to remember and pay homage to those who came before us, those who fought for their rights and won them in the highest court in the land.

Rededicating the monument

Ten men vs. Jones & Laughlin

It was in 1935 when Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act, commonly referred to as the Wagner Act. Among other things, the legislation guaranteed the basic rights of private-sector employees to organize into unions, to engage in collective bargaining and to strike.

The act also created the National Labor Relations Board.

But just because Congress passes a law doesn’t mean everyone adheres to it. Such was the case with Jones & Laughlin Corp., the gigantic steel company located along the Ohio River in Aliquippa.

Less than a year after the Wagner Act passed, a group of J&L employees decided to join the emerging Steel Workers Organizing Committee, a group of steelworkers who organized in Pittsburgh in 1936.

That action didn’t go unnoticed by J&L officials, who promptly fired the 10 employees who worked at the Aliquippa plant.

However, the newly formed National Labor Relations Board was there to advocate for the workers and ruled the company had to reinstate the fired employees while also giving them back pay.

J&L officials vehemently rejected that opinion, however, and said the company would not conform to the laws laid out in the Wagner Act, because those officials considered the act unconstitutional.

So set the stage for a court battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court. It didn’t take long for the court to hear the case in 1937, and it also didn’t take long for the justices to return their verdict.

The court ruled by a 5-4 vote that the Wagner Act was indeed constitutional. The Steel Workers Organizing Committee flourished, and in 1942 it disbanded and became the United Steelworkers of America.

It was the birth of a labor movement that still exists and is stronger than ever today.

Ramifications of the decision

For Hopewell Township resident Gino Piroli, the 1937 Supreme Court decision was more than just a blurb in history books. It changed his life, and the lives of countless other Beaver County residents.

Piroli was only 10 years old when the decision came down, meaning he remembers a time before labor unions were even legal.

“It gave the working man dignity,” Piroli, 90, said. “Companies had abused workers ethnically, by race when it came to job promotions. That was a big thing.”

Continue reading Ten Men vs. J&L Steel: How a Supreme Court case rooted in Beaver County forever changed America’s labor movement

Aliquippa Crime: Perception Isn’t Always Reality

 

By Kristen Doerschner

kdoerschner@timesonline.com

    ALIQUIPPA — When District Attorney Anthony Berosh speaks to community groups throughout Beaver County, he poses a question to them: How many homicides do you think Aliquippa had last year?

      The estimates people typically give are astoundingly high, he said, often ranging from 20 to as high as 40.

      In reality, the numbers aren’t even remotely close to that high. There was one homicide in the city in 2013, two in 2012 and none in 2011.

      Berosh said when he tells people the actual numbers, they are “flabbergasted.”

      Certain factors within a community tend to correlate to higher crime statistics. Berosh said areas of dense population, a higher proportion of lower-income residents, a large number of rental properties and a large number of residents under the age of 25 tend to have more crime.

      Statistics do show the instances of violent crime in Aliquippa have been on a downward trend over the past decade.

      “You can’t deny that crime occurs in Aliquippa. You can’t deny that crime occurs in any of our communities,” Berosh said.

      The problem is the perception many people have regarding that crime.

      Berosh is quick to point out the perception problem isn’t Aliquippa’s problem.

      “The problem we have as a Beaver County community is the perception we have of Aliquippa,” he said. “They don’t have that problem of perception. We do.”

      Residents and community leaders in the city are frustrated by the view so many people seem to have.

      Herb Bailey moved to Aliquippa from Nashville, Tenn., nearly two years ago to run the ministry at Uncommon Grounds, a popular coffee shop on Franklin Avenue. He quickly found the city to be an inviting place that he made home and moved his family to Franklin Avenue.

      He said he has no hesitation about living in the city or letting his teenage daughters walk through town on their own. He doesn’t view the city as a dangerous place.

      But Bailey learned in short order how others view his new home.

      He said his daughters — who have an interest in art and attend Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School in Midland — would invite friends to visit, but their parents were afraid to let their children go to Aliquippa.

      Slowly that is changing, and more parents are allowing their children to visit, he said.

      Continue reading Aliquippa Crime: Perception Isn’t Always Reality