Articles by Jonathan Cortez

Ellwood City School Board August Meeting Brief

The following is a brief summary of the Ellwood City Area School Board meeting held on Aug. 11: Awards/Recognition The following teachers received EcoLab Visions of Learning Teacher Grants for the 2016-17 school year: Jill Folino- $1071 for 72 sets of headphones for classroom tablets Dana Stelitano- $500 online computer program for speech Seth Rosenberger- $2287 materials designated for learning through kinesthetics Chris Costa- $3000 designated for use of the Mark lab Facility at Perry Megan Berty- $2987 designated for PA Common Core Standards Materials Brittany Severn- $2586 for reading resource books Sheery Shearer- $2100 hands on learning for reading,…


Opinion: Leaving EllwoodCity.org

I have moved on in life and will soon no longer be the journalist at EllwoodCity.org. This is goodbye. Rather than having an abrupt end date, I will more or less fade out while the next journalist moves in and starts another chapter of Ellwoodian adventures. To answer questions about what I’m doing next: I have a position with a company that does a thing somewhere. Rather than say much, I have included links of articles I wrote that are important to me. A Farewell to Carmike Plaza (Lots of memories going to this theater) Ellwood’s Petrak is the Swimming…


Ellwood City Company Signs Contract with North Allegheny School District

Ellwood City-based marketing company Thought Process Enterprises (TPE) recently signed a contract with North Allegheny School District forming a partnership that will allow advertisements on the district’s website as a means of generating revenue for the district. With school districts facing increasing financial difficulties, some districts have looked for alternative means to raise money beyond tax revenue and government funding. TPE helps districts in their search for additional income. Through their online advertising division, EDGEclick Advertising, TPE has created a network school districts that earn supplemental revenue through banner ads on the school district’s website. North Allegheny is the 36th…


Letter from Standing Up to Ellwood Electric to Ellwood City Borough Council

At the Ellwood City Borough council agenda meeting on Aug. 8, Rob Brough, representing the citizen group “Standing Up to Ellwood Electric,” which has almost 1,200 members, read a letter requesting an informal meeting of citizens and council members to discuss the Ellwood City Electric Department. At the conclusion of the meeting, council president Connie MacDonald met with Brough to set the date, time and place. Because such a meeting would have less than four council members present (the minimum number required to pass legislation), the meeting doesn’t have to open to the public and press. The letter is included…


Standing Up to Ellwood Electric Resource Page and Right to Know Request

Standing Up to Ellwood Electric, a Facebook page created in response to larger-than-average electric bills in the Ellwood City Borough for July’s billing cycle, has grown to nearly 1,200 members. One of the group’s moderators, Dave Gulish, created a resource page available to anyone wishing to learn more about Ellwood’s Electric Department and borough government. On July 20, Gulish filed a Right to Know request with the borough for information including wages, wage increases, overtime wages and general information on the electric department. On July 27, Borough Manager Bob Villella responded with a letter to Gulish stating that the borough…


Town Hall Meeting Leads to Potential Future Meeting Concerning Electric Department

Earlier this year, the Eric Ryan Corporation, a nationally-known utility auditing company, obtained information from the Borough’s electric department using Pennsylvania’s Right to Know act. At a special town hall meeting on Monday, Borough Manager Bob Villella read an email he received from Keith Venezie, ERC’s CEO. “Based on the information we were provided, we were able to validate that the borough is being billed correctly by the suppliers based on the contracts that were negotiated and executed, the borough is billing the customers (who’s bills we reviewed) correctly based on the current ordinance, and the PPA that is part…


Electric Meeting Set for Monday

A town hall on the Ellwood Borough Electric Department will be held on Monday, Aug. 1 at 6 p.m. in the borough auditorium. An official from American Municipal Power (AMP) will be present. The electric department has been subject of citizen criticism after bills dramatically increased in July, bringing to the forefront concerns over customer service, billing and the necessity of the department itself. Over 50 visitors attended council’s agenda meeting on July 11 and over 100 at the regular meeting on July 18. A Facebook group titled “Standing Up to Ellwood Electric” has over 1,100 members. Previous articles on…


Residents, Council Set Up Town Hall to Further Discuss Electric Department

“Many of you are here because you want to have freedom of choice,” borough solicitor Ed Leymarie told a crowd of over 100 visitors at Monday’s council meeting. “But the Pennsylvania government took away that choice.” Leymarie was referring to a state law allowing municipalities with government electric departments to require residents to purchase power from them. Monday’s crowd stemmed from a Facebook group, “Standing Up to Ellwood Electric,” with over 1,000 members. At the agenda meeting on July 11, over 50 residents showed up to protest electric rates and customer service policies at the Ellwood Electric Department. This in…


Zoning and Pandering: Council Approves New Zoning Ordinance

Following a length visitor portion concerning the Ellwood Electric Department, the Ellwood City Borough Council proceeded with Monday’s agenda. On that agenda was an amendment to the zoning ordinance dividing the business district into four sections. Council passed the new zoning in a 6-1 vote. At a public hearing on June 27, several business owners and realtors opposed the zoning ordinance. The passed ordinance was created by council over a several year period in conjunction with Town Center Associates, a downtown consulting agency. The vote was not without discussion. Council member Judi Dici, who took office in January, was not…


Council, Residents Divided Over Electric Department

Last Monday’s council meeting highlighted a number of potential issues in the Ellwood City Borough Electric Department, namely customer service concerns and the advantages of private utilities over a municipal-owned utility service. As explained in a previous article, Ellwood City Borough has its own Electric Department, which belongs to a consortium of municipalities called American Municipal Power (AMP). The borough uses a consulting group, Utility Engineers, for its purchasing agreements, and in 2015 entered a five-year contract with an electric provider. The borough purchases electricity at a yearly rate of $.08529 per kilowatt (kWh). In turn, it sells electricity to…