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Around the Rivers: A Teachers Contract, a Dance For Hines Ward, a Race For a Hero and a Trial For Ex-Firefighters

Here's a review of the week's headlines from around our region's Three Rivers.

The West Penn Allegheny Health System announced plans to and its other hospitals with Highmark Inc.

A jury from Dauphin County  to death for the slayings of three Pittsburgh Police officers in 2009. Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver  and his "Dancing with the Stars" partner Kym Johnson brought home the Mirror Ball trophy for fans to admire at a packed rally Downtown.

In communities all around Western Pennsylvania, folks , stocked their cupboards and staked out the best hometown spots to watch fireworks as the  approached.

Patch brought you plenty of other stories as well from Around the Rivers over the past week. Among them:

 

After a yearlong impasse that resulted in a strike in November, Moon Area teachers and approved a four-year contract.

The pact increases the amount of teacher contributions to health care premiums. It also freezes wages in the first year of the contract but includes percentage wage increases in the years that follow.

As a result of the agreement, the teachers union withdrew an unfair labor charge before the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. District administrators in turn canceled the planned of four district teachers. 

"This is an agreement that left the district in a very good financial state for the next four years," said , a high school biology teacher and representative for the Moon Area Education Association. "Programs for students should not have to be cut and teachers shouldn't have to be furloughed under this contract."

 

Should Nicholas Balzer get a break?

That's the question now being considered by and officials with Budget Rent A Car, who pursued theft charges against him for driving off with a rental car and not bringing it back for nearly seven months.

Police confiscated the white Hyundai and charged Balzer, 38, of Port Richey, FL, who turned himself in to police  after racking up nearly $900 in late rental fees for the car.

In an interview with Moon Patch, the former Pittsburgh man called it all a misunderstanding, saying his grief over his mother's death and confusion with his auto insurance agency prevented him from returning the vehicle on time. 

"I've come up here to try to straighten everything out," said Balzer, who said he planned to plead not guilty at his preliminary hearing, set for July 12 in Coraopolis District Court.

 

Two former  volunteer firefighters will stand trial on charges stemming from an arson and vandalism spree through two communities after waiving their right to preliminary hearings.

Leetsdale Magisterial District Judge Robert Ford on Tuesday dropped one of two felony arson charges filed against Brandon Marcell Diewald and Justin Edward Chorba, both 18 and both of Leetsdale. He held both men for trial on a less-serious third-degree felony arson charge, along with criminal mischief and conspiracy charges in the June 22 incident.

Police in  and  said the men slashed tires and damaged nine cars in the two boroughs and used Old Spice body spray as an accelerant and lighters to set fire to a pile of garbage in front of a home on Shields Lane in Edgeworth.

Police have said the two confessed they vandalized property because they were bored. Neither commented after leaving court Tuesday, and neither is a member of the fire department as a result of their arrests.

 

A caved-in portion of Pearce Mill Road in Pine Township is forcing the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to close the state-maintained road for repairs on July 11.

Repairs on the cave-in, located north of Route 910, are expected to be completed by November, PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said. The major artery will be closed between Route 910 and Warrendale Road, and only local traffic will be permitted north and south of the work area, Cowan said.

A detour will follow Route 910 to Babcock Boulevard and then north to the Red Belt/Warrendale Road. Emergency crews have been notified of the detour, and the Pine-Richland School District will reroute buses during the road closure. 

 

Cranberry Township officials last week outlined big changes planned for Route 228, one of the development- and traffic-conscious community's most heavily trafficked corridors.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation plans to build new northbound and southbound ramps from Route 228 to Interstate 79 next year. The ramps are intended to cut back on traffic backing up on the highway by eliminating a left turn from Route 228 to the interstate.

Also in the works for the highway: wider westbound lanes, new triple left-turn lanes from the Cranberry Woods business park -- a first for the region -- and a connecting road between Mars Road and Cranberry Woods Drive. A new flyover ramp is planned to carry traffic from I-79 over Route 228 to the highway’s north side.

Loved ones of Marine Sgt. Joseph Caskey, who grew up in West View, organized the Fearless 5K race on Saturday to honor the Marine who died on June 26, 2010 while on duty in the Helmand province of Afghanistan.

“He was definitely a very patriotic person,” said Megan Clark, 24, Caskey's girlfriend and organizer of the race that began at the North Park Boat House.

“He loved his country, and he loved serving for his country. That’s where we got the Fourth of July weekend in mind. It just seemed appropriate with how his personality went.”

Caskey, who joined the Marines after graduating from in 2004, was on his second tour of duty when he was killed. He had been scheduled to come home in November.

Dormont-Brookline Patch Local Editor Dan Nephin, who ran with friends in the race on Saturday, called it a well-organized and "wonderful tribute to Sgt. Caskey."

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