HOMER CITY — Borough officials have taken issue with an order from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to fix holes on two state-owned streets in the borough, and want PennDOT to patch the holes at the state’s expense.
In dispute are holes on Wiley Street near Race Street and Elm Street near Cooper Avenue, both parts of Old Route 56. Borough Manager Rob Nymick told council Tuesday that PennDOT blames the holes on problems with pipes under the street and claims Homer City should be responsible for repairs.
“I’m refusing to fix it,” Nymick said. “PennDOT’s trying to say it’s my responsibility. They came up with this grand plan that if we dig the road up, they’ll patch up. I would like to patch it and let them dig it up.
“You tell me how far to push this,” he told council.
“Get a hold of (Rep. Jim) Struzzi and (Sen. Joe) Pittman to come deal with it,” Councilman Matthew Black said.
Solicitor Michael Supinka asked for clarification.
“They say there are holes in the pipe under the pavement and they say we’re responsible for it,” Nymick said. “What I’m trying to say is if we’re held responsible for it, then I don’t want any of their anti-skid in our pipes. So if we own it, I want to choose the way to fix it. And they don’t like the way I want to fix it. I want to fill it with concrete.”
“PennDOT has a lack of accountability; they always have and they always will,” Black said.
Supinka suggested that the borough “should have a conversation with the elected officials and see if they could intercede … but the issue becomes that if it’s our responsibility and if the hole gets bigger, we don’t need any liability.”
“My guess is that they have something somewhere that says you’ll fix it according to their specs,” Supinka advised.
Nymick estimated the borough’s cost to dig out and fill the holes at “a couple of thousand dollars.”
The angst subsided with council taking Supinka’s advice to “explore getting some help from the representatives and then look at what our options are.”
Nymick also advised residents that the borough crews have completed local street surfacing but PennDOT crews will be applying tar-and-chip coating on Main Street.
“We are not in charge of that project,” Nymick said. “They will be here all week, weather permitting, and may work until dark some days.”
The manager’s report didn’t go without acknowledging and praising PennDOT’s work in the borough on another front: the installation of catch basins and storm sewer grates along Route 119.
“I’ve got to congratulate them … for easing the flooding through town. I think its going to help and I think we’ll find out in the next few days,” Nymick said.
Council completed a full agenda for its monthly meeting Tuesday. In other business:
• Mayor Arlene Barker said the borough would hold a traditional Halloween parade from 5 to 6 p.m. on Oct. 31 and would permit door-to-door trick-or-treating from 6 to 8 p.m. Council voted approval of street closings needed for the parade.
• Secretary Karen Valyo reported progress on the effort to enact an engine brake retarder prohibition — an ordinance to prohibit the use of “jake brakes.” The borough’s formal request for PennDOT approval of a proposed ban for trucks traveling on Route 119 has been delivered to the District 10 executive’s office for review.
• Council took a first look at a draft budget for 2020. It details $589,530 in revenues and expenses, both up from $568,605 for 2019, and requires no increase in tax rates, Nymick said.
The borough is projecting higher police payroll, increased legal fees for police contract negotiations and an upgrade of the office computers and network. Spending will be cut in November when the borough pays off a loan for a truck.
Valyo said a property tax increase enacted this year and general austerity efforts across the board have enabled the borough to hold tax rates steady.
• Valyo said Homer City has been told to expect $58,887 of state liquid fuels tax funds and $3,400 of state road turnback money for 2020 on March 1. She also reported that the borough received $7,239 of fire insurance funds and has paid the money to Homer City Volunteer Fire Department.
• Police Chief Anthony Jellison reported that the new police car, intended for transportation of K-9 officer Thor, has been delivered. It still must be equipped with a K-9 cage in the rear seat area, he said.
• Council President Joe Iezzi reported that the United Mine Workers of America, the labor union representing the borough police officers, agreed to the council’s proposed increases in hourly pay rates for the officers.
• Nymick advised downtown merchants that Dominion Peoples Gas Company crews have returned to Main Street to complete repairs to the sidewalk and pavement, which were left broken after a recent gas line replacement project.
• On behalf of Central Indiana County Water Authority, Nymick said the company brought in an engineering firm to help in the search for underground leaks. Crews have spent the past week “sounding” the pipes in the Cherry Run area and have turned the search to stream crossings.
• Nymick said the leaf pickup program would soon be under way. Leaves must be bagged and placed at curbside, he said.
He also reported that 23 tons of antiskid material has been delivered to the borough and similar amounts of salt are expected.
“We also will be working on the equipment and the spreader … because winter’s almost here,” Nymick said.