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Demo crews implode defunct Elrama power plant

Flash! Bang! Gone! Well, almost.

Demolition crews used explosives Friday morning to take down a section of the defunct Elrama power plant along the Monongahela River in Union Township.

The demo attracted crowds of people who gathered on railroad tracks across the river as simultaneous blasts erupted at the base of the power plant at exactly 9:37 a.m., followed by shock waves that reverberated across the water before most of the main building and several smokestacks came tumbling down.

Elrama Assistant Fire Chief Billy Weeks said the demolition appeared to go “smoothly” as volunteer firefighters were on standby to assist if needed. He said the demolition crews made plans to implode the power plant’s main building Friday, and then would take down the largest smokestack at a later date.

“There was a lot of dust, but the initial explosion went safely,” Weeks said.

However, when the dust settled following the morning demo, it became clear the entire building didn’t collapse, prompting crews to conduct a second blast Friday night to finish the job. State Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson Lauren Camarda said inspectors were at the site all day to ensure the demolition was conducted properly.

“DEP has been on-site for the demolition and demo preparation,” she said, adding all proper permits were approved for the work. “A second blast (Friday) evening will be needed to knock down a portion of the building that didn’t fall. More environmental permits or approvals may be required depending on the future use of the site.”

The plant, which was built in 1950 and straddles the county line between Allegheny and Washington along Route 837, once was operated by Duquesne Light Co., but deactivated in 2012 while run by NRG/GenOn and has since changed ownership. Washington County tax assessment records list the property’s current owner as Trogon Development LLC, which has a mailing address in Puerto Rico. Tax records show Trogon purchased the property for $5.13 million from Duquesne Light’s parent company in March 2021.

Another section of the plant was imploded Nov. 1. It’s not known what Trogon’s plans are for the 28-acre property when the site is reclaimed.

Friday morning’s demolition brought with it a carnival-like atmosphere with people looking for the best vantage point to watch the spectacle. Numerous people stood on the railroad tracks beside Bunola River Road in Forward Township to have a front row seat to the action, with some bringing breakfast pastries to munch on while waiting for the demolition that was scheduled for 9:30 a.m.

Mike Lucko of Elizabeth Township was coming home from his evening shift at work when he stopped by to watch the demolition from across the river.

“That was cool. It caught me off guard,” Lucko said of the moment the explosives detonated and sent a shock wave across the river. “You could kinda feel it from over here.”

A bright beam: Uniontown students make teacup candles in memory of beloved classroom aide

“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.” – William Shakespeare, “The Merchant of Venice”

For Mother’s Day this year, students in Uniontown Area High School life skills teacher Bridgette Bishop’s class presented their moms with candles they made in honor of longtime classroom aide Alessia Romeo, who died in February.

The candles were made in vintage china teacups that belonged to Romeo.

“We were her family. She loved coming to work, she loved the kids,” said Bishop.

Romeo had worked as Bishop’s aide for about seven years, and had been with some of the students in the class for five or six years, seeing them grow up.

When Romeo – who had been diagnosed with cancer about 20 years ago and battled several health issues since then – passed away, a cousin asked Bishop if she would like to have the teacups.

Bishop wasn’t sure what she would do with them, “but I thought they were pretty and cute and dainty, and there were a lot of them,” she said.

While looking on Pinterest for Mother’s Day gift ideas, Bishop saw teacup candles and thought making the candles in the cups would be a fitting tribute to her friend and aide.

“The parents knew Alessia, and I always try to think up something on Mother’s Day that has meaning for them,” Bishop said.

So earlier this week, in the kitchen of the life skills classroom, the students picked a wax color and a scented oil – lemon, vanilla, rose or lavender – and then melted the wax, inserted a wick in a teacup, and poured in the wax.

“They had a lot of fun with it and they turned out really well,” said Bishop.

For Bishop, the project was especially meaningful.

“Alessia was amazing. We clicked from day one. She looked forward to coming to work every day, she never missed work. She was always so thoughtful,” said Bishop, recalling that Romeo bought the students gifts for birthdays and Christmas, and provided them with shoes or jackets, or items they needed.

Bishop marveled at Romeo’s positive outlook on life. She said Romeo often told her she viewed every day since she first beat cancer as an extra day she wasn’t guaranteed to have.

And Romeo had an impact on the students.

“She got along great with the kids. Knowing the teacups were hers and that the kids knew her so well makes this special,” said Bishop. “I would like them to take away that these candles are special because you will always have a memory of Ms. Romeo.”

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Former Bentleyville couple sentenced to federal prison for role in Jan. 6 riot

The former Washington County couple seen rummaging through government documents on the Senate floor during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol were sentenced to federal prison for their roles in the riot, although to vastly different lengths of incarceration.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly on Thursday sentenced Dale “DJ” Shalvey to serve 41 months in prison, while Tara Stottlemyer was ordered to spend eight months incarcerated. After each is released, they will serve 24 months on supervised release.

A video posted online showed Shalvey and Stottlemyer wearing green helmets while inside the Senate chamber and going through paperwork on Sen. Ted Cruz’s desk moments after the senators were rushed from the room. Shalvey was also accused of stealing a letter from Sen. Mitt Romney meant for former vice president Mike Pence.

Shalvey was charged in February 2021, while Stottlemyer was indicted and arrested several months later. A third co-defendant in the case, Katharine Morrison, who has no known ties to this area, was also sentenced Thursday to serve eight months in prison.

Shalvey, 38, and Stottlemyer, 37, each pleaded guilty in October to obstructing of an official proceeding, while Shalvey also pleaded guilty to an additional charge of assaulting or impeding certain officers for throwing an object at a DC Metro police officer outside the Capitol. Kelly sentenced Shalvey to the lower end of the sentencing guidelines, but he sentenced Stottlemyer to the prison length requested by federal prosecutors.

Shalvey is originally from Wheeling, W.Va., while Stottlemyer grew up in the Charleroi area. They were living in Bentleyville and managing a regenerative farm in Centerville at the time of the attack, but the couple has since married and moved to Conover, N.C., where they’ve started a new farm named Free Folk Pastures.

In their pre-sentence memo, federal prosecutors included pictures of Shalvey and Stottlemyer on the Senate floor, along with photographs of the documents they captured while rummaging through desks, including the letter from Romney meant for Pence.

“Shalvey was on the West Front and assaulted a MPD Officer there. He also was present when the police broadcast a loud dispersal order on the West Front,” prosecutors wrote in the sentencing memo. “Nonetheless, he still breached the Capitol, advanced deep into the building to the Senate Chamber, and searched Senators’ desks, while remaining in the Capitol for almost an hour. He also destroyed a document he obtained there and his phone that he had at the Capitol. In addition, he lied to the FBI regarding assaulting an officer at the Capitol.”

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors said Stottlemyer has shown no remorse for her actions.

“Stottlemyer’s criminal conduct, witnessing rioters fight and overwhelm the police on the West Front, disobeying the command to leave Capitol grounds, and corruptly obstructing of an official proceeding by entering the Senate Chamber, searching for, and photographing, Senate documents, is the epitome of disrespect for the law,” prosecutors wrote in their memo.

In asking for leniency, the couple’s defense attorneys noted that Stottlemyer recently gave birth to a girl in March. The couple lost a son shortly after his birth, although it was not known when that occurred.

Shalvey’s defense attorneys also wrote in their pre-sentence memo that in addition to managing the couple’s farm, he has a woodworking business. Shalvey has not caused any issues while free on bond, his attorneys stated in their memo.

“In contrast to many other January 6 defendants, Mr. Shalvey has not boasted nor advertised his participation on social media,” Shalvey’s defense attorneys said. “To the contrary, he has expressed an immense amount of remorse for his actions and even his presence on that day.”

It was not known when Shalvey and Stottlemyer would report to prison, or if they would serve their sentences at the same time.