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Fire chief says Lowe's, Wal-Mart dragging their feet on installing emergency vehicle pre-emption systems

Published August 09. 2011 05:01PM

Two of the biggest developers are giving Mahoning Township Fire Chief Mark Ebbert the runaround, so he claims. He appeared before the Mahoning Township supervisors to request their assistance in getting the emergency vehicle pre-emption systems installed in both the traffic light at the new Wal-Mart and the existing light at Lowe's. As it turned out a representative from Lowe's was at the meeting on an unrelated manner and was able to discuss the older light, but Wal-Mart remained elusive.

"I'm concerned and frustrated with the amount of time it has taken to get this emergency system installed at that new light," Ebbert told supervisors. "It's a real safety concern and no one (at Wal-Mart) is returning my phone calls."

Wal-Mart was told last year the township was requiring the pre-emption system which works on a photo-electric sensor to change the traffic lights to green in the direction of an equipped emergency vehicle's route to minimize response time to an emergency call. The new light at Normal Square was one of the first to have them installed and Wal-Mart still has not completed the installation at their light on Fredericks' Grove Road.

Chairperson John Wieczorek told Ebbert he spoke to engineer Skip Schneider about other loose ends including the Ashtown Road work, but he did not think to ask about the light. "I will call him regarding this issue and find out what they are going to do." The supervisors began to discuss whether the light was on the original plans and Secretary-Treasurer Natalie Haggerty said she believed it was.

Supervisor Franklin Ruch said he believed they may be delaying it on purpose. "I think they are dragging their feet so long that they think we will forget about it." He also mentioned that they have a temporary occupancy permit and failure to do something about this could hold up their permanent permit.

Ebbert said, "It's my understanding they will be scheduled to receive the permanent occupancy permit in September for the building." Solicitor Tom Nanovic asked the board if inspector Carl Faust was aware of the situation and whether it would play a factor in the final permit.

Nanovic asked whether the pre-emption system for the light was included as a condition in the original bonding for the improvements. "We should be able to look at the agreement and see if it is in there and then if so, we can compel them to do it or we can take the money out and do it ourselves."

A bit later in the meeting Lowe's development representative David Koemer was present to discuss some minor alterations to the plan as it related to the neighboring property of Edgar Steigerwalt, but during their discussion they talked about the traffic light.

Koemer said he believed Lowe's would be willing to take responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the light. This would be done by opening an escrow account for the light. He was less sure about the installation of the pre-emption system.

"I believe that since the intersection is shared by Lowe's and the mall that Lowe's would want to see the mall accept some responsibility for the liability related to that intersection but that would be something for the attorneys to work on language and terms," Koemer said.

Wieczorek asked Koemer what he thought would happen if the mall didn't want to accept the shared responsibility. Koemer said he was not able to make a decision but he would present it to his company. "Lowe's has done this in other places, but I cannot commit them to any decision like this especially with another party involved."

Supervisor George Stawnyczyj said, "You need to understand the light was not there before Wal-Mart. When Wal-Mart was built the light was added and it was their responsibility so the light goes with the property."

Koemer said he understood what Stawnyczyj was saying but he added the point that once the light is changed it no longer is an existing system and it adds more to Lowe's responsibility to keep it safe.

The discussions about the pre-emption system concluded with Wieczorek assuring Ebbert he would contact Schneider to discuss the Wal-Mart light, and Wieczorek directed Nanovic to work with Koemer and his attorneys to develop a plan for the Lowe's light by contacting the mall and working out terms.

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