Property owner: Location of boxes is dangerous

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Several Punxsutawney business and property owners shared their concerns regarding PennDOT’s downtown traffic signal project at Monday’s Punxsutawney Borough council meeting.

Joe Ferrara, who, with his wife Joan VanDyke, owns the building at 101 East Mahoning St. that houses the studios of VanDyke & Company, expressed concern about what he believes to be a dangerous situation for property owners and pedestrians alike regarding the new traffic control devices that are being constructed on the sidewalks throughout the downtown area.

Ferrara, who presented photos of the new traffic control stations and crosswalk signal activation buttons Monday, also spoke at council’s Dec. 12 meeting.

“The sidewalk, which was eight feet wide, will now be reduced to four feet wide in the areas where the activation button is going to be installed,” he said, adding that the black poles that house activation buttons have a foot-wide square base and are being installed in the middle of the sidewalk.

“Everyone uses the sidewalk. It’s not right for PennDOT to not consider alternatives, with all the conduit and wires sticking up through the concrete it looks like an industrial site,” he said.

Council member William Spencer said if Ferrara did this on his sidewalk, he would be arrested.

Borough Manager Ben White said he spoke with PennDOT Project Manager Kirby Starr, who said the project meets ADA requirements.

Ferrara also said he did sign a right-of-way agreement with PennDOT for the project, but the document did not properly describe the completed project.

“I’ve talked with other downtown property owners, and they all said they would not have signed the agreement if they knew this was how it was going to look,” he said.

Spencer said in his travels, he has never seen anything like this in other towns.

Ferrara said he is circulating a petition, asking PennDOT to change the project, that other property owners have agreed to sign.

White said that the next step is to contact state Rep. Sam Smith and state Sen. Joe Scarnati so they can see the project for themselves.

Council member Robert Reesman said if signal work hasn’t been done this way in other towns, why should Punxsutawney have to put up with it.

“When PennDOT begins to plow snow, it will reduce the width of the sidewalk even more,” Ferrara said, adding that he encourages all the members of council to go and inspect the project for themselves.

Council approved a motion to send Smith and Scarnati letters asking them to inspect the project and see what alternatives are available.

Jess and Dwayne Miller, owners of Miller Brothers Furniture, also echoed Ferrara’s remarks.

Also at Monday’s meeting, council:
• Approved a request from the Punxsutawney Fire Department to hold a gun raffle fund-raiser April 21 at Gobbler’s Knob.

• Approved a request from the Central Fire Department to remove David Burkett and Larry August from the active list.

• Approved a request from the Central Fire Department to add Heather Wingert to the active list.

• Approved 6-0 a $150,000 loan to Hoffman Diamond Products from the borough’s economic loan fund. Hoffman currently has a $100,000 loan from the economic loan fund.

Mike Porada abstained from voting.

Solicitor Jay Lundy said Hoffman handled its first loan in a fine manner and was aware of the new guidelines that had been put in place by council.

• Approved a motion to have Lundy advertise a proposed change in the zoning ordinance for property owned by Dr. George Cherian.

• Approved the resignation of Tom Chelgren from the Punxsutawney Library Board.

• Approved the appointment of Lara Little to the Punxsutawney Library Board.

• Approved hiring Randall F. Verdill as a full-time sewer vactor crew operator. His probationary period will expire Jan. 25.

• Approved council’s request to reappoint Ira Sunderland to the Punxsutawney Municipal Authority with his term to expire Dec. 31, 2016.

• Approved council’s request to reappoint Richard Alexander to the Punxsy Borough Police Civil Service Commission with his term to expire Dec. 31, 2014.

• Approved council member Eric Story filling a vacancy on the Planning & Zoning Commission with his term to expire Dec. 31, 2014.