PHILIPSBURG — Residents using the closed East Presqueisle Street Bridge here will likely be inconvenienced for several more years.
The bridge, which connects Philpsburg Borough, Centre County and Chester Hill, Clearfield County was closed by the state Department of Transportation in March as testing by PennDOT revealed the steel is becoming brittle during low temperatures, which could cause cracking under loading.
At last night’s Philipsburg Borough Council meeting, action was taken that puts the bridge in the hands of PennDOT, with PennDOT stating it could take “at least 6-8 years” before a new bridge is installed.
Philipsburg Borough Manager Joel Watson said they received a letter from PennDOT giving the borough four different options. The first would be to install a municipal-owned pedestrian bridge in which all funding would come from the state’s Turn Back Program — with the right-of-ways turned over to each municipality. Watson said this could be completed by next year.
Option two would be a vehicle bridge much like the current one was — again paid for through the Turn Back Program — but it would become owned by the municipalities. This option would then have a three-year timeframe.
Option three would be for PennDOT to replace the bridge at a future date. Watson said this would keep the truss closed until the project can be programmed on the state Transportation Improvement Program for a new PennDOT-owned bridge.
“That (option), according to the meetings, is at least six years off,” Watson said, with the PennDOT letter stating “at least 6-8 years.”
Option four would be to remove the bridge altogether and not replace it, which could be done by the end of the year.
Councilwoman Faith Maguire said she felt they should cross option three off due to the lengthy timeframe. However, Councilman John Knowles said option three would be the only option he’d support.
“I want don’t want us owning a bridge,” Knowles said.
Knowles also said that at Chester Hill Borough Council’s meeting, they voted to go with option three — meaning if Philipsburg Borough would decide on something else, they would solely be responsible for the upkeep once it’s installed.
After some discussion on the matter, council officially voted in favor of option three for the bridge, with all council members voting in favor except for Maguire, who abstained from the vote.
Clearfield Municipal Authority discussed extending the water line along Woodland Road and potential mandatory upgrades to the Montgomery Run water plant at its meeting yesterday.
The state Department of Transportation is undertaking a road replacement project on Woodland Road, which includes replacing the aging water line along the roadway.
The total cost of replacing the water line is about $630,000, according to CMA Engineer Jim Balliet of Gwin, Dobson, & Foreman of Altoona.
PennDOT will be footing much of the bill and the CMA’s portion will be about $228,000.
However, the authority is considering having the entire length of the 100-year-old water line replaced from the intersection with E. 14th Street to U.S. Route 322 as well.
The water line could be included in PennDOT’s project and the installation would be done by PennDOT’s contractor. However, because this portion is not included in PennDOT’s scope of work, CMA would have to foot the entire cost of this portion of the water line.
To have this portion of the water line included in PennDOT’s project would cost about $72,000. It would cost more than twice as much if CMA replaced this section on its own — about $147,000, Balliet said.
He said the CMA could ask PennDOT if it could pay off the cost of the water line extension over a three year period, which it has done in the past on other projects. Ballet recommended the CMA use this route if possible because the CMA’s total outlay for the Woodland Road project would be $300,000.
“We have a lot on our plate right now,” Balliet said.
Board President Russell Triponey said CMA should strongly consider having PennDOT replace the entire water line because it will need to be replaced eventually and they would have significant cost savings if it is replaced now.
“We have to save money everywhere we can,” Triponey said.
CMA Manager John Williams also said the CMA is undertaking a program to look at replacing some of the older sections of the water system to prevent future water main breaks, and will be looking for grant funding to help pay for the upgrades.
Balliet added that the state Department of Environmental Protection is requiring CMA to make safety upgrades to the Montgomery Run water plant. He said the state Department of Environmental Protection wants water plants to have electronic monitoring and automatic shutdown systems at water plants in case there is a problem with water quality. These systems are already in place at the Moose Creek water plant, since it was built relatively recently.
However, the Montgomery Run plant, which was built in 1991, does not have these new monitoring systems. Balliet said they submitted a plan to DEP where the CMA would study the issue for the rest of next year and have all of the following year to make the improvements.
Balliet said the DEP has a lot of these plans to review, stating they probably won’t have an answer on whether their plan is acceptable for another three to six months.
He added that they won’t know how much it would cost to make the upgrades until the study is completed.
Williams said a lot depends on how well the 1991 technology meshes with the new technology.
HOUTZDALE — A small group of parents of sixth grade students expressed their concern about possible limitations to their children’s education.
At Monday’s Moshannon Valley School Board meeting, a spokesperson for four parents said they do not agree with the board’s recent decision not to replace a retired sixth grade instructor.
Students from that previous fourth classroom have been consolidated into the remaining three classes with each having an average of 23 students.
“We don’t believe it will benefit our children. We want Moshannon Valley to be a leader and provide the best education for our children. We don’t believe enrollment should determine the number of teachers, rather it should be based on need,” the parent said, adding she believes there are some students that struggle and others with behavior issues that will require additional attention from the teacher, therefore taking individualized instruction time away from other students.
The mother said she believes what a student learns during sixth grade plays a direct role in whether they have a positive experience in high school and said she is unsure if a class of that size would allow students to learn what they need to allow them to succeed.
“If you are not going to fill the position, at least take measures to monitor the situation. How will you measure changes, successes and failures?” she asked.
Superintendent Dr. John Zesiger thanked the parents for attending the meeting and expressing their concerns. He said the board has opted not to fill the position because directors believe it is best for the district’s long-term financial well-being. He said each of the district’s teachers represents an investment of more than $3 million during their tenure.
“We don’t want to get to the place where we have to furlough teachers, if it can be avoided,” Dr. Zesiger explained.
He said a similar situation occurred in kindergarten several years ago when the number of instructors was reduced from four to three. He said the district’s administration at that time, as they will now, kept a careful watch on the situation and made adjustments to address any needs that arose from the change.
Dr. Zesiger encouraged the parents to remain informed about the situation and to immediately contact the elementary principal if there are any concerns.
“Don’t hesitate to let us know any data points that the district can use to make decisions as we move forward,” he said.