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Municipalities welcome spring with heavy work agendas

Municipal crews all across the commonwealth have been busy removing the plows from their vehicles, greasing up the lawn mowers and rolling out the hoses in anticipation of spring. But their “to-do” list don’t stop at that.
There’s always the resin of winter still lingering behind after the first robin lands, signaling the arrival of spring.
Pot holes, areas containing excessive anti-skid and clogged storm water drains are just a few of the problems municipal road crews all over Northern Blair County will be working on in the weeks ahead to assure a smooth transfer into spring.
All neighboring communities – Tyrone, Bellwood, Birmingham, Antis Township and Snyder Township – are centering most of their attention on the roads.
“Our most immediate concern is all the extra anti-skid that’s scattered all over the borough roads,” said Tyrone Mayor Patricia Stoner. “There’s a lot in certain areas downtown and other parts of the community. All it is is crushed stone, but it’s very dangerous to walk on. We’re working diligently to get it all cleaned up.”
According to Stoner, all the extra anti-skid is the result of dwindling salt supplies at both the local level and at PENNDOT because of the harsh winter. Both entities mix salt with crushed stone when salt supplies become low.
“We’re encouraging residents to sweep that extra anti-skid toward the gutters,” said Stoner. “Our crews are now out a lot in the street sweeper and that will be able to pick all that stuff up.”
Stoner said the collection of the extra anti-skid not only benefits the community because it no longer poses a threat on the street, but it is also recycled and used to alleviate another problem that’s being experience by all the communities – potholes.
“We had one of those kinds of winters that makes potholes come up everywhere,” said Rick Caswell, road foreman with Bellwood Borough. “It seems like we’ve been spending a lot of time filling potholes in the last couple weeks, but there are still more out there. We’ll get them.”
The pothole repair work is also being done in Snyder Township.
“Most of the bad roads are the hollow roads because they’re made mostly of dirt,” said Viola Dysart, secretary of Snyder Township. “We’re well on our way to spring. We’re taking the plows off and getting all the other equipment ready.”
In Antis Township, the potholes have been fixed, but now township crews are dealing with the same problem as Tyrone Borough – anti-skid.
“It seems to be all over the place,” said Amato. “We’re out there sweeping a lot of it up. It’ll just take some time, but we’ll get rid of it.”
Amato said, remarkably, the roads aren’t the biggest problem in the township. Right now, he said the garbage is what’s being centered on.
“We’re picking up trash, trash and more trash. People are unloading their trash everywhere,” said Amato. “There are places in the township that people have decided on as their personal dump. It’s wrong and if we find out who has been doing it, they’re going to get fined.”
According to Amato, an area of River Road, where the township recently installed a gate near Altoona Enterprises property, has been selected by someone who decided to dump shingles, old refrigerators and aluminum.
“It just looks terrible and we want it stopped,” said Amato. “The state police in Hollidaysburg have already been contacted and agreed to send more patrols to the area. We do have a couple leads on this thing and police are investigating.”
Amato said anyone caught illegally dumping on township property could receive a fine of up to $500.
In addition to the garbage pickup, Antis is also busy installing storm water drainage piping and grading roads proposed for street paving.
The roads, the trash and the anti-skid aren’t the only problems, although they are the largest.
Snyder residents have already seen the township’s street sweeper making passes on their roadways and crews all over Northern Blair are keeping their eyes opened for the next problem that lies ahead.
“I think we’re ready for whatever comes up,” said Dysart. “We have a good crew that really knows what they’re doing out on the roadways. We can’t be everywhere at once, but we’re taking care of things one thing at a time.”
Stoner echoed Dysart’s sentiments.
“We have a great group of guys taking care of our community,” said Stoner. “These people are very knowledgeable in what they’re doing. They’ve been doing this stuff for a lot of years and they know what has to be done.”
Stoner said in addition to the road work, borough crews have also spent a great deal of time preparing public places for use as the warmer weather moves closer.
“They’ve already cleaned Soldier Park and should be making their way into Railroad Park here pretty soon,” said Stoner. “After that, they’ll be in Reservoir Park, hopefully, getting it ready for May when we’re thinking about a formal opening of the park with the new playground equipment.”
Low-hanging limbs and downed branches seem to be the focal point in the parks now, and Stoner said once the weather warms up even more, crews can begin working on the road system at Reservoir Park.
Some communities are just beginning to get their plans in place. Officials at Bellwood Borough said sweeping is continuing, but a street project plan hasn’t been laid out.
The situation is similar in Birmingham Borough.
“We didn’t have a council meeting last month, but will on the first Monday of April,” said Lee Pryor, president of Birmingham Borough Council. “That’s when we’ll talk about the spring clean up that we do and cleaning out the drainage ditches and the roadways.”
According to Pryor, the borough makes an assessment by looking and that roads and drainage ditches and determines what needs to be repaired.
“Then we go from there,” he said.
He also noted the importance of the spring clean-up.
“The spring clean-up is always a big thing to reduce the amount of items to be disposed of that the garbage man doesn’t take, like appliances, large tires, ect.,” said Pryor.
Despite all the work that has been done and that’s going to be done, Tyrone, unlike many other communities, have decided to keep its plows attached to its trucks.
“I think we’ve seen hard winters here before,” said Stoner, “and I think when you live in this part of Pennsylvania, you do experience hard winter. I don’t think we’ve taken the plows off yet because we still don’t know what may be out there.
“I have confidence we can make this transition,” she said. “First thing you know, the flowers will be blooming and all will be happy.”