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Drainage problems threaten sidewalks in Saxonburg

| Thursday, April 4, 2013, 12:26 a.m.

Saxonburg Council acted quickly Wednesday evening to try to resolve a downspout drainage issue that could shorten the life of the new sidewalks being installed as part of the Main Street restoration project.

A solution for downspout drainage on the north side of the street is not addressed in the final plans, officials said at an informational meeting about the project held prior to council's meeting. That's the side of the street where the Hotel Saxonburg is located.

The water would run directly onto the sidewalk as it has for years. The troughs that funnel water toward the curb would not be replaced.

The $1.4 million Main Street project includes construction of concrete gutters and curbs, wheelchair ramps at the intersections, brick paver sidewalks, trees and pedestrian lighting on the eastern portion of Main Street, from Rebecca Street west to Pittsburgh Street and State Street.

William Pysh, who owns a building on the north side of the street, said he was surprised to learn that the downspouts weren't being redirected.

He was among about 40 people who attended the informational meeting.

“When it rains and you have the downspout running onto the sidewalk, it freezes and thaws and causes the sidewalk to lift,” he said.

Pysh pressed officials to find a solution. He suggested that other businesses could use an underground downspout extension like the one he installed when he replaced his sidewalks four years ago. The water drained into the grass between the sidewalk and street.

Pysh said he plans to replace the extension, which was removed when the contractor tore out the sidewalk, before the concrete is poured for the new walkway.

One of the features of the project is a “greenspace” with trees between the sidewalk and curb the length of Main Street.

Based on Pysh's suggestion, council approved Borough Manager Mary Papik's request to secure any federal Community Development Block Grant funds left over from the stormwater project to address the downspout issue.

“There is a possibility that there is stormwater money available that could be used to remediate the problem on Main Street,” she told council.

She has to confirm with the county that there are additional funds.

John DeSantis, project manager for S.E.T. Inc., primecontractor for the Main Street Project, said that downspouts normally are connected directly into the stormwater system, which the borough had installed last year.

Doing so was cost-prohibitive, said Tom Knights, Saxonburg's building inspector and zoning and sewage enforcement officer.

In other business brought up at the informational meeting, Don Pflueger asked if business owners could be notified a few days in advance of work that could substantially affect parking and pedestrian access, such as when the concrete is poured.

“It just helps to know that you're going to be there,” said Pflueger, who owns two Main Street businesses. “I've had people cancel appointments because of what was going on.”

S.E.T.'s field supervisor for the project, Ken Kretchman, said he had no problem with such notifications.

The contractor recently began tearing out the sidewalk on the north side of the street.

Two-way traffic and pedestrian access will be maintained throughout the project, with brief traffic stoppages while equipment is moved, DeSantis said.

He said that the sidewalks should be completed by early July. The project will be finished, except for planting trees, by mid-August.

Only a portion of the north side of the sidewalk will remain unfinished when work begins on the south side, he said.

“We want to be out of here as quickly as possible with as little disruption as possible,” he said.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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