Roads come up short as Allegheny County refigures miles
By Brian C. Rittmeyer
Published: Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, 4:30 p.m.
It's that time of year for checking lists twice, especially for Allegheny County municipalities maintaining county roads.
That's because the county has cut the number of miles it is paying some municipalities to salt and plow its roads even though the roads have not changed.
In renewing winter maintenance agreements with 27 townships and boroughs, the county used maps and geographic information systems to recalculate the distances, county spokeswoman Amie Downs said.
The county is proposing three-year agreements that would cost a total of about $752,000 over that period, according to Mike Gable, the county's deputy public works director.
Gable said the agreements make sense, and benefit residents in places where local crews can clear and treat the roads faster than the county.
Indiana Township Manager Dan Anderson agrees, but he and other local officials are wary.
There, the re-measuring reduced the miles from nearly 8 to about 6.3. Indiana Township officials think the county's mileage recalculation is wrong. The county also removed entirely from the agreement a 1.6-mile section of Middle Road.
As a result, the county's payment in the first year of the new agreement is about $6,000 less than the prior year, Anderson said.
The township is verifying the mileage, Anderson said.
“It would be a real problem for Allegheny County should we all elect not to continue the maintenance agreements and they have to pick up that amount of roadway,” he said. “It's in their interest to resolve this issue with the municipalities.
“We like to see the service provided to our residents,” he added. “Obviously, these roads are not as much a priority on the county's list as they are on our list.”
In West Deer, a reduction of about 1.5 miles could cost the township about $7,000. The county has reduced the total distance for four roads — Middle, Bairdford, Middle Road Extension and Tarentum-Culmerville — from slightly less than 10 miles to about 8.4 miles, township Manager Daniel Mator said.
Township supervisors recently approved the maintenance agreement contingent on verifying the miles, Mator said.
Officials in neighboring East Deer are a step ahead. They've done that and found the county was in error.
The county's agreement with East Deer includes one mile of Crawford Run Road and 1.3 miles of Bailies Run Road. But the county initially contended the portion of Bailies Run Road covered was only 1 mile.
Commissioners Chairman Tony Taliani and a township police officer drove the distance and determined it was 1.3 miles. Downs said it was changed back to that distance.
Downs said the distances were re-measured because the county administration “inherited” the last agreement in the middle, had no information on where the data had come from and wanted a baseline to go forward with.
It was done not to save money, but to “make sure we had accurate information to go from,” he said.
In cases where the mileage has been reduced, Downs said the county is not seeking reimbursement for any past overpayments that would have apparently resulted.
In addition to recalculating mileage, the miles the county is paying municipalities to clear have been lowered by the county taking some roads back under its own maintenance, temporary agreements expiring and municipalities opting out, Downs said.
In total, the numbers of miles the county would pay municipalities to maintain was reduced by about 36 miles, amounting to about $139,000 over three years.
Anderson said the county was late in getting the agreement to Indiana Township, which has presented difficulties.
“We've already been out doing the winter maintenance for the season,” he said.
Not all re-measurements have resulted in reductions.
In Fox Chapel, the county's recalculation increased the miles covered for Fox Chapel and Delafield roads, manager Gary Koehler said. The distance increased from about 4.6 miles to a fraction over 5 miles.
Plum Manager Michael Thomas said his municipality tends to so few county roads that it wasn't an issue there.
Gable said municipalities that have problems with the mileages stated in the agreements should bring them to the county's attention.
“They certainly have the right to do that,” he said. “We will double-check it.”
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Freelance writer George Guido contributed to this report.
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