Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hebe must know something

Photo of statue of Hebe in Tarentum PA, with balloon saying Forget my nectar and Ambrosia! Eat more Ham Loaf at Central Presbyterian Church of Tarentum

According to myth Hebe gave the Olympian gods the nectar and ambrosia that made them immortal. But she must know something about the upcoming ham loaf dinner at Central Presbyterian Church of Tarentum.

September 15th, 2007, 4pm - 6pmHam Loaf Dinner— at Central Presbyterian Church of Tarentum, 305 Allegheny Street, Tarentum, PA

Call 724-224-9220 for reservations. $7.00 for adults, 3.50 for children under 12. Ham loaf served with parsley potatoes, green beans, apple sauce and cole slaw.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Renovations at Grandview


They are doing some external renovation work high up on Grandview Elementary school with a huge crane and scaffolds.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rebates, taxes, improvements, demolitions, and drains: Tarentum borough makes progress.

Monday night's meeting of the Tarentum Borough Council was a positive meeting in which the Council continued to move ahead. During the 48-minute meeting the council members were responsive to citizen concerns, polite to one another, and focused on the business of the borough.

The borough is going to have a procurement card through PLGIT (the Pennsylvania Local Government Investment Trust). Borough Manager Bill Rossey explained that this card is a MasterCard that will give rebates to the borough and also make it possible for the borough to set limits for the procurements of each department. Rossey expects the rebates to be about $20,000 a year.

The Council approved an "Agility Agreement" with PennDOT. This agreement will make it possible for the borough to ask PennDOT to do certain things that the borough needs but lacks the capability to accomplish. In return the borough will do certain tasks for PennDOT from time to time. The specific tasks to be traded were not named in the meeting, but the value of the work done will be determined so that each party will know how much work is owed to the other.

The Council is looking at whether there is a more efficient way to collect delinquent taxes. After the Administrative, Employee Relations, and Finance committee has spoken with the Tax Collector there may be a recommendation coming to Council.

The Council awarded the contract for paving the Dreshar Stadium Parking lot to Ron Gillette for $50,000.

The Council recognized "Tarentum Citizens of Recreation" as an organization that will support the Tarentum Recreation Board. This new organization may apply for a license to sell small games of chance in order to raise funds for the Tarentum Recreation Board.

Manager Bill Rossey reported on a number of matters. There is an estimate in excess of $3,000 to repair one of the engines of Eureka Fire & Rescue. The borough will be advertizing for garbage pick-up service as well as for an electricity supplier. There may be a 70% increase in the cost of electricity. There has been a meeting with the Port Authority about establishing a Park & Ride under the bridge. A number of streets are going to be paved in the near future. A section of East Sixth between Corbet Street and Bridge Street will need to be closed at least three days for paving. The borough is going to receive more of the payments due for the Liquid Fuels Tax.

Council President Carl Magnetta reported that he received a letter from members of the family who own the former Pracko Market on West Seventh. This building is next to the Salisbury property that is slated for demolition. The members of the family offer to donate the building to the borough. If this building also needs demolition, the donation may simplify the demolition of the Salisbury property. There were concerns from some council members as to whether the Pracko Market building is free of liens and back taxes.

Citizen concerns at the meeting included the problem of the storm drains backing up. A resident on East Eighth was concerned about the fact that heavy rains cause water to come up like a fountain through the drains in her basement. (This is a very similar problem to one we have at Central Presbyterian Church, where we have had water in our lower level five times this summer.) Borough Manager Rossey offered to send people up with a camera to check the status inside the storm drains around this residence; when the borough sent a camera to check the storm drains near the church earlier this summer they found that a catchment basin was clogged and needed to be pumped out. I don't think they know yet what is causing the problem that affects so many people in Tarentum, but the borough is working on it and trying to solve the mystery.

At this meeting the Council was concerned for Mayor Wolfe, who was absent because of his health. Many were pleased to see Councilwoman Mary Newcomer who had missed a number of council meetings because of her health but was able to be present this week. The Valley News Dispatch today ran a story about the absenteeism of another council member who claims "work-related" reasons for not attending meetings. I think that what the council actually did in the meeting is an important (although less scandalous) story. While health or other priorities have kept some council members from being present at all meetings, those who did show up at the meetings have made sure that the borough continues to make progress on a number of fronts.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tamburitzans at Tarentum

Rankin Jr. Tamburitzans in Tarentum, August 18, 2007The seventh concert of Tarentum's 2007 Summer Concert Series was the performance by the Rankin Jr. Tamburitzans today at 1:00 PM. There were about 80 people in the audience.

Freshly returned from their trip to Croatia, the young people performed mostly music and dance from Croatia, but they also offered some folk music from the Carpathian Mountains, from Bulgaria, and from Serbia.

This group of young people were ages 4 through 16. They wore costumes representative of the region, and played traditional instruments.

Rankin Jr. Tamburitzans in Tarentum, August 18, 2007

Linked arms

Rankin Jr. Tamburitzans in Tarentum, August 18, 2007

At the food stand today the Recreation Board added krupy, a Slovak dish, to the traditional fare offered at the concerts.

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Mid-August odds and ends

Sunday was nice because a number of good things happened in worship at Central. We were able to present a scholarship certificate from Westminster College to Jessica Mriso. During the service Jessica sang a duet of "Close to Thee" with Renee Shreffler, accompanied on the piano by Verne Bergstrom, Jr. One of our shut-ins who had not been in worship for about a year was able to surprise us with a visit. And it seems that some people are starting to invite their friends to accompany them to worship.

Sinkhole at New Kensington Giant Eagle Plaza, viewed from Clarion Hotel parking lotThe sinkhole in the Giant Eagle Plaza access road is now a month old. When the hole first appeared I think it was a sign of grace that no one fell into it. They promptly filled it in, but the next morning the hole had sunk again. There is now a lot of equipment all around the site, with a larger area fenced off. Everybody says that the area is heavily undermined, but there is no definitive explanation for the hole. The store is right on the route I follow between home and work, but the repair site has interfered with the shortcut I had been accustomed to using. The lack of an explanation for the hole leaves doubts about the efficacy of any repair job that will be done. I am looking forward to the opening of the Aldi Foods in Lower Burrell; it will also be on my usual route, but some distance away from this other shopping plaza. And the sinkhole.

Tuesday the weather was glorious. We decided to take our Bible Study outside from the Tuesday Meal and Ministry. It was a nice walk to Riverview Park, and on the way we ran into a number of old friends. The Bible Study was the beginning of the story of David and Goliath.

Broken glass in door at Lee's Chinese Restaurant, TarentumWednesday I was disappointed to see that Lee's Chinese Restaurant had a break-in overnight. Restaurant owner Laurie Hayden told me that in addition to breaking glass in doors to get in, the robbers trashed the place. They didn't steal anything valuable but did take some food. Laurie told me she was glad that at least someone was not starving.

Tarentum's police worked fast to find and arrest the alleged culprit(s).

Titanium Hip at Riverview Park, TarentumWednesday evening was the sixth of Tarentum's 2007 Summer Concert Series. The group was Titanium Hip, and they played music from the 60's to the present. I really enjoyed this concert, as I also enjoyed the frequent comments from those present that it was "too loud." (When I ordered some supper at the food stand, it was hard to communicate with the people inside the stand.) Make whatever comments you want about the volume of the music or the slowness of the audience to get on their feet and clap their hands, but I think the most telling comment on the performance was that when it started to sprinkle halfway through the concert no one left. It was a great group and a lot of fun.

The concert series will include a performance of the Rankin Jr. Troup of Tamburitzans today at 1:00 PM.

I also did some visiting at the Lund Center at Concordia in Cabot this week. I really appreciated the stained glass windows in the chapel there.

"I am the First and Last" stained glass window in chapel at Concordia, Cabot

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Union decertified

NLRB notice at Alle-Kiski Medical CenterAbout a week ago when I was doing a hospital visit at the Alle-Kiski Medical Center I saw a large notice from the National Labor Relations Board; it said that there was to be an election Wednesday on the question whether certain employees would be represented for purposes of collective bargaining by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Local 23.

There was not a lot of information about what the issues were. I assumed that UFCW had been trying to organize a union and was seeking certification.

Today's Valley News Dispatch had an informative article about the results of the election and some of the history leading up to it. It turns out that what was at stake was the decertification of the union that had represented the employees since 2003.

I am sure there are lots of personal stories behind this election, stories that may never be told about why people on either side voted as they did. But I appreciated the paper's putting the election in context.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Church marketing and marketing to the church

During the last month I received a telephone call from an automated system informing me that someone had found Central Presbyterian Church through Google, and that a customer had left a rating at The first time I received one of these calls I held back on responding, and wanted to learn more first about what this organization was.

I've grown a bit cynical about telemarketers offering me web services. A couple years ago it seemed that everyone was offering to sell me a website. The come-on was an offer of a website "with all the bells and whistles" free for a month with a ridiculously high monthly charge after the free month. The telemarketers never seemed to be aware that the church already had a website (which told me that they didn't know me) and they never explained why a website needed a bell or a whistle (which told me that they didn't really know web design).

But I did decide to check out MerchantCircle, and it turned out to be a free web service offering a free listing along with a number of other services that provide interaction with people who might want more information or have information to share.

I was disappointed that there was not really a rating left by anyone. The reputation score that they offered was flawed. It was based on there being listings on other web services, but MerchantCircle appeared not to have done a real search for the listings that would have shown up. For example they gave Central a lower score because they did not find a listing on, when the listing was perfectly obvious.

They have a section for online "coupons". I decided to experiment with using a coupon to solve one of the ongoing problems I have with people expecting me to know by telepathy that they are in the hospital. So the coupon offers a free pastoral visit in a local hospital - something I would be ready to do anyhow - but it requires the person using the coupon to call the church phone number and make the request. I will be interested to see whether it accomplishes anything.

MerchantCircle includes a mapping feature using Google maps, but the flags on the map all seem to be shifted away from the actual location of the businesses. (Central Presbyterian Church shows up on the wrong block, as does just about everyone in downtown Tarentum.) So it might get people into the neighborhood but anyone who relies on these maps had better know they will need to look around to find their destination.

MerchantCircle has set up a good system for businesses to have and extend their web presence, but I am really left wondering whether they understand churches, and whether using systems such as this will confuse people as to what the church is really about. The standard listing on their site includes a feedback link with the text "Request a Deal." I wonder whether this creates the impression that faith is just one more thing for sale. It would probably be nice if MerchantCircle had a way to let someone customize their listing with more appropriate language for some of the links that were designed for conventional merchants.

Anyhow, if you want to see the Central Presbyterian Church listing on MerchantCircle it is here. I'll be interested to hear what you think.

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