Tamaqua Borough Council made short work of replacing outgoing Police Chief David Mattson, who submitted his letter of retirement earlier this month. Last night, council appointed Sergeant Rick Weaver to replace Mattson when he steps down in April.
"I'm honored and humbled to be appointed chief," said Weaver. "I look forward to working with council and the mayor to make the community a safer place."
Weaver will be facing an enormous challenge right out of the gate, as PennDOT will begin reconstruction on the East Broad Street Bridge in May and a massive detour route will be required. Council approved the necessary parking and traffic changes for the project, which will require the complete and total shut down of that block of East Broad Street for the duration of the project, which is anticipated to last 18 months.
Included in the changes are the prohibition of parking on both sides of Cedar Street, between Center and Greenwood streets and on the East side of Greenwood Street between Cedar and Broad Streets.
The following parking spaces will be eliminated: two spaces on the east side of Greenwood Street from Mauch Chunk Street south to the first driveway, one space on the west side of Greenwood Street at the southwest corner of Greenwood and Mauch Chunk Streets, one space on the south side of Mauch Chunk Street at the southwest corner of Greenwood and Mauch Chunk Streets, and one space on the west side of Pine Street at the intersection of Pine and Mauch Chunk Streets.
Parking on the north side of Mauch Chunk Street between Pine Street and Schuylkill Avenue will be prohibited on Sundays. All parallel parking spaces on East Broad Street between Pine Street and the bridge closure and all parallel parking spaces on East Broad Street between Greenwood and the bridge closure will be eliminated and approximately 26 perpendicular parking spaces will be set up in their place. Trucks over 40 feet in length will be prohibited from traveling on Cedar Street. Council will also request that PennDOT move the stop bar and traffic loop on Cedar Street to create more room to maneuver through the intersection.
Additionally, PennDOT is responsible for placing adequate signage at appropriate distances from the project to advise motorists of the detour routes. Tractor trailers are to be prohibited from using the detour through town, and instead will be required to make the loop up to Hometown and out Route 54 to reach 209 in Nesquehoning.
Several council members again expressed concerns over the duration of the project and the stress that will be placed on the town as a result.
"Eighteen months is a long, long, long time," said Ken Smulligan. "The Center Street bridge project was a walk in the park compared to this one."
Smulligan said that he has discussed the burden that will be placed on business owners and residents with state Rep. Jerry Knowles and has asked that PennDOT find a way to operate two shifts and work seven days a week until the project is finished.
"That could cut the time in half," he said.
Parking and traffic committee chair Dan Evans also said that these initial changes are only a "foot print" for the restrictions and revisions that will be needed for the project. More changes could be coming.
"The citizens of this community don't even realize the magnitude of the traffic and the congestion and the aggravation," said Smulligan.
In other parking related matters, council voted that residents who apply for handicap parking spaces and have a doctor's letter stating that their disability is a permanent one will not be required to submit annual proof of their disability once the first letter is received.