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Council updated on street, bridge, sewer line issues

Published June 17. 2010 05:00PM

Tamaqua Borough Council received several pieces of bad news from borough manager Kevin Steigerwalt at last night's meeting.

Regarding the ongoing streetscape project on East Broad Street, Steigerwalt informed council that the contractor is not going to meet the deadline and has asked for a 90-day extension.

"It is due to unforeseen circumstances and something that is beyond our control," he explained.

The ornamental street lights are a custom order and the fabricator is behind on providing them. A relocation of some conduit was an original request by the borough that was initially shot down by PennDOT.

"Now there have been some changes, and the person in charge feels that it's a good idea to move it," said Steigerwalt.

He added that the contractor does intend to have the sidewalk by the train station completed by this weekend's SummerFest event.

Several months ago a section of the borough's Pleasant Row wall collapsed jeopardizing the street that it supports. The area is along North Railroad Street and according to a survey that the borough had done, the property belongs to the Reading & Northern Railroad.

"The borough is willing to overtake the work," said Steigerwalt, "but we are looking for a contribution from the railroad. The railroad is only willing to provide us with a free railroad inspection."

Steigerwalt added that it is only a matter of time before the collapsed section jeopardizes the street that runs over it.

The borough's plan includes fixing about 400 feet of the wall, although the damaged area is limited to about 30 feet.

"Our proposal was to get in there and address what we consider to be in the worst condition and then it's good for another 100 years," said Steigerwalt.

"It doesn't make sense, just doing a small part, and then in three or four months, we have to go and fix another 20 feet," added Councilman Steve Tertel.

Additionally, the borough has been stockpiling retaining wall blocks to help with the repair. Steigerwalt did not have specific costs for the project, but estimated that it could run between $40,000 and $60,000.

Borough solicitor Michael Greek said that the borough has several options to pursue, some involving potential litigation. Council advised Greek to send the railroad a letter outlining the options.

"The railroad is the property owner and they have some responsibility for it," said council President Micah Gursky.

PennDOT has also informed the borough that plans for the Center Street bridge repair may not go as originally promised.

"Years ago, council and local officials asked that we have the ability to review the plans and when they're designing (the bridge) that they include some historic looking attributes on the bridge," said Steigerwalt.

This would include a historic treatment, to make it look like stone or brick, and lighting and sidewalks on both sides of the bridge.

"I've gotten some messages stating essentially that this is going to be a standard looking bridge," said Steigerwalt. "PennDOT is telling us that there's no funding to do a historic treatment on the bridge and it's too far along in the project to add lights."

Steigerwalt said a meeting had been held last week at the PennDOT office and was attended by state Rep. Jerry Knowles and a representative from Sen. David Argall's office, as well as Steigerwalt.

"I think that meeting went rather poorly," said Steigerwalt.

In addition, the proposed project will require the relocation of the borough's water and sewer lines, a project that is projected to cost $1.2 million, of which the borough may be required to pay half.

"I don't understand why we're responsible for relocating the water and sewer lines for their project," said Gursky.

The repairs to the bridge are required to bring the federally funded roadway up to specifications to support large, heavy trucks.

"According to federal law, they have to save that bridge, if they can. There are requirements they are bound to," said Gursky, referring to the historic status of the bridge. "They have to do this, but we do have a lot of say in what they're doing and why they're doing it. We need to dig our heels in."

Gursky went on to say that he has never heard of a community having to "pony up" $600,000 for a PennDOT project.

Steigerwalt said that the borough's sewer and the water authorities have already spent money on engineering work. Gursky recommended advising the authorities hold off on committing more money and resources to the project until this situation can be addressed. The project is slated to begin next spring and continue through two construction seasons.

Finally, Steigerwalt informed council that due to the recent fish kill in the Little Schuylkill River and DEP's involvement in tracing the source of the kill, they have become aware of two situations that may affect the water quality of the Wabash Creek, and ultimately, the Little Schuylkill, one being the wildcat sewers along the Wabash and the other being the discharge of treated swimming pool water into the creek from the community pool.

Regarding the pool, Steigerwalt said that the water needs to get into the sewer system, instead of the storm drain system.

"We're still working to resolve some fixes," he said. "I can't tell you right now what the solution is. We are being pressured by the EPA to address (the wildcat sewers)."

Steigerwalt presented council with the request for proposal to identify the sewers.

"We need to identify the sources and then those individuals will have to connect and go into the sewer," he said.

The investigation has been discussed several times in the past, however, now that DEP and the EPA are involved, progress must be made.

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