Irish eyes aren't smiling
RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS Piles of snow still exist along Broadway and West Broadway in Jim Thorpe, but the conditions won't postpone the 17th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade on Sunday.
When it comes to attracting people to Jim Thorpe, the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade may rank number one every year for a single-day attraction.
However, the Irish spirit is dampened this year, as recurring snowfalls and accompanying bitter cold has created mounds of snow along the parade route.
Tom and Michelle Loughery, who own a bed and breakfast on West Broadway, expressed to various borough officials their safety concerns and asked that the parade be postponed until another day.
One resident Wednesday was chopping ice in front of her residence on West Broadway. The woman declined to give her name because she was going against her doctor's orders, but said, "I'm afraid somebody watching the parade will fall on the ice and sue me."
Several residents expressed their unhappiness on Facebook.
Parking will not be allowed along the parade route this year, forcing residents along Broadway to find somewhere else to park. Few options are available within walking distance.
Noel Behan, a planner of the parade with the Ancient Order of Hibernians, said the parade committee discussed the options and feel the situation is safe enough to hold the parade.
"The committee is not concerned," he said. "Hopefully, some of the snow will be removed. The borough is banning parking on Broadway and West Broadway to make it safe."
Chief of Police Joseph Schatz said the decision to ban parking was made by Mayor Michael Sofranko because of the large snow piles.
"This is the first year there is no parking on the whole parade route," Schatz said. "In the past, there was only no parking from Race Street to Hazard Square. We had concerns about snow accumulation and safety."
Working on the snow
Wednesday borough and county workers were out removing the snow on Route 209 between the square and the inner-borough bridge.
One borough worker said no more snow was expected to be removed from Broadway.
All snow was hauled away from the south side of the street where most of the residential parking occurs.
In some areas, the south side of West Broadway is barely passable for pedestrians.
Sofranko said he spoke with borough council members on the matter and although there are some concerns, steps were taken to make the situation as safe as possible.
He said it is financially impossible for the borough to remove all the snow; hence the decision was made to eliminate parking on Broadway from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
"The borough financially has had a rough winter, like other boroughs," the mayor said.
He said other years, with cars parked on one side of the street, people could stand on the opposite side of to watch the parade.
This year, that side has large snow piles, necessitating the removal of the cars.
Sofranko said his big concern is that young children sitting on a snow pile could slide off, into the path of a truck in the parade.
The Lougherys, in their letter to the borough, said, "The parade is putting its visitors in a dangerous situation! And if an accident happens, which (with the influence of alcohol and the festive atmosphere) it likely will, who will bear the brunt of the legal matters that would arise? The parade committee? The borough itself? The property owner? That is a huge concern for us, and one that most of us should not want to bear, or be forced to bear."
They added, "Don't get us wrong, most of us love the parade … heck, we (personally) usually throw a huge party for it … but this year the conditions are just not right to have thousands of people in our town.
"There's no room to walk or to stand, and there are too many dangerous areas of ice and snow. If the parade occurs this weekend as planned, we are going to cancel our parade party and take drastic measures to keep people away from the dangerous areas of our properties (police tape, signs, barricades).
"It won't be pretty, but we need to protect ourselves from problems. An easier way to protect ALL property owners and the borough from the liability (and make it a better experience for guests) is to reschedule the parade."
Don Minnich of Hazleton was walking down Broadway Wednesday and said he doesn't feel the parade should be held.
"There's no problem here," he said standing in front of Jim Thorpe National Bank, "but walk down the street a few blocks and you can only walk on one side of the street. I usually come down for the parade and it gets pretty crowded. I'd be concerned if I lived here."
Ron Sheehan, a member of the parade committee, said, "There's no such thing as scheduling a raindate. Bagpipe bands are booked every weekend in March and they're hard to find. St. Patrick's Day will always be held in March."
He's hoping that temperatures above freezing several days this week will melt some of the snow, but doesn't feel it's enough of a problem for stopping the parade.
"I walk to work every day down Broadway and I don't have a problem," he said.
The mayor agreed that postponing the parade would be a bad idea.
He said the sponsoring group "spent over $20,000 to put the parade together. If they would postpone it, they would lose all their down payments."
He agreed it would be impossible to reschedule many of the bands.
"The borough council is doing the best it can do," Sofranko said.
The parking ban is only in effect for this year, he said.