Sunday, October 17, 2010

You've gotta love Clairton!

First a word about the Clairton Bears…

Game # 7 - Brentwood: Thanks to the many readers who keep me apprised of Clairton area happenings, particularly Cal Sabo who is usually first with the Bear news. Last Friday the unbeaten Bears put their streak on the line against a strong 4-1 Brentwood team and quarterback Cory Bauer, one of WPIAL’s top rated passers. The result? The QB completed two of 16 passes for a total of minus two yards and four interceptions. The entire Brentwood team could not manage a single first down and ended the game with minus six yards total. So how did our lads do offensively? Josh Page, Desimon Green, Brandon Small and Tyler Boyd all scored touchdowns… BEFORE THE GAME WAS TEN MINUTES OLD!!! Boyd netted 106 yards and two touchdowns ON THREE CARRIES! The Bear defense forced turnovers on three of Brentwood’s first six plays. Final score: Clairton 52, Brentwood 0. For the season: Clairton 381, Opponents 12. The Brentwood coach shook his head and said, “I’ve never seen a team like that.”

There was one scary moment in the game when Pitt recruit Desimon Green, after he had made two sacks and batted down five passes, made a tackle that left him lying on the turf. He was removed from the field to a hospital in an ambulance. But coach Nola reports that the move was precautionary and Desimon is fine.

Clairton coaches and politics: Coach Nola is being carried around on a throne as though he was a genius. But a few short years ago he was being vilified over – shoes! As Dinah Washington (wife of football great Frank “Night Train” Lane) used to croon, “What a Difference a Day Makes.” So it is for Patrick Risha, successful Clairton football coach from the 1980s. He left gridiron for another field – educational administration, and became Superintendent of South Allegheny, McKeesport Area, and West Mifflin Area. Just as his Bears teams won on the field, several teams of businesses won contracts in his school districts – but not without lawsuits and controversy. There have been allegations that school district employees were directed to do work on the homes of his son as well as a school board member on company time. Controversy also followed his tenure in which favored companies submitted low bids for work, then billed the district substantially more by implementing “change orders” that nearly tripled the cost of the project.

Controversy began to swirl around Coach Risha then he was assistant superintendent at South Allegheny. He and a cousin were appointed to the Port Authority board. Soon there were allegations of bid fixing, but the controversy didn’t hurt his professional status as he was soon named superintendent of the school district. He left that position under pressure but with a negotiated $325,000 settlement. He and the attorney who had negotiated the settlement moved on to McKeesport as superintendent and school district counsel respectively. He then moved on to West Mifflin where the same attorney was solicitor. Between 2005 and 2009 the attorney’s firm collected nearly $ 1 million from McKeesport and West Mifflin school districts. In 2009 Superintendent Risha, who by then was working from home, resigned shortly after school board elections saw his supporters defeated by his antagonists. Reports continue to circulate that the 60-year old former superintendent and Clairton football coach is being investigated by the State Ethics Commission.

Same family; different controversy: Coach Risha’s son, Patrick, is neither a coach nor a school superintendent. Rather he is a businessman who, along with relatives of two officials of the Clairton Municipal Authority, started a business and came up with a clever and fascinating scheme that turns water into wine – well, not literally. The firm, Green Disposal, was formed in 2009 and two months later bumped 146-year old CNX Gas Corporation to become the designated firm to dump tainted water from shale gas extracting (fracking) into Clairton’s Mon Valley sanitation plant.

Here’s how it works: Green Disposal pays Clairton 6.5 cents per gallon to accept wastewater from the fracking process, and treat it at the plant located at “Peters Creek Bottoms” near State Street before it flows into Peters Creek and the Monongahela River. Once Green Disposal got the contract to treat the water, it contracted with CNX (yes, the same firm they edged out to get the Clairton contract) to allow CNX to deposit its waste water into the Clairton plant. Result? Green Disposal gets paid by CNX to allow CNX to dump tainted fracking water through the Clairton waste water treatment plant. Green Disposal then pays Clairton 6.5 cents per gallon to allow the water to be cleaned at the plant. The contract between Green Disposal and CNX is private so we do not know how much profit Green Disposal makes without ever touching the tainted water. But Clairton stands to make nearly $ 700,000 in the deal this year alone! And Green Disposal? They’ve already moved on to the West Mifflin Sanitary Sewer Municipal Authority and signed a contract with them. To paraphrase an old mining adage, “Thar’s gold in that there water!”

A labor of love: John Hodish loves his hometown. Born and raised in Clairton, he not only chooses to remain, but is on a campaign to improve the City. He led a recent March to Washington to raise the awareness of the plight of Clairton, seek political help, and raise funds on behalf of the City. John heads the Clairton Community Outreach Program (CCOP) that has formed many partnerships and outlets for Clairton residents in need (see photo above). Their Gospel Choir is going strong and the boxing club boasts the fifth ranked boxer in the nation, Samantha Griffith. Much of the help has come from ordinary folks, some from extraordinary ones like State Committeewoman Ruth Pastore, whose Crime Watch program works hand-in-hand with CCOP. As an offshoot of the Crime Watch program John and his volunteers are starting a program to address domestic abuse of women and children. They hope to eventually offer temporary shelter for abuse victims. I remember ex-Clairtonian the late Alex Ross making a plea at a class reunion. He said, “We need to give back – to help our city. We need to show it that some of us may have moved away, but we have not abandoned Clairton.” I encourage every reader of this blog to contact John Hodish at Send him an email and ask how you can help your hometown.

A little blogging music Maestro… “HELP!” by the Beatles.

Dr. Forgot

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