Wilmerding seeks National Guard's assistance to repair Ice Plant Hill Road

| Monday, June 9, 2014, 3:56 a.m.

Wilmerding officials may be able to enlist the assistance of the Pennsylvania National Guard to fix Ice Plant Hill Road.

A landslide occurred there, across from the Wilmerding YMCA, on Jan. 15.

It forced closure of the road at the Wilmerding/North Versailles Township line, affecting YMCA patrons as well as motorists traveling from East McKeesport into Wilmerding. Motorists can reach the Y from East McKeesport, where Morrelle Avenue leads into Ice Plant Hill Road, but cannot access adjacent Westinghouse Avenue in Wilmerding.

Wilmerding council president Stephen Shurgot said on Friday the borough sought assistance from local legislators, and received a response from U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills.

“Doyle reached out to us and sent us the application for the project that we used 17 years ago for the National Guard to come out,” Shurgot said. “We submitted that. It's been accepted, but they won't proceed with it until we get this soil analysis. We reached out to (Allegheny) County again to see if they'll help us with this soil sample study. We have a bid of a little under $16,000 to do that, so we're looking for people to partner with us, and we're waiting on a response.”

Ice Plant Hill Road and Westinghouse Avenue have been lined with Jersey barriers to hold back falling rocks and dirt since the National Guard was called in during the 1990s by Doyle.

Doyle's spokesman Matt Dinkel confirmed on Friday that Wilmerding's application was submitted to the National Guard for its Innovative Readiness Training program.

“They basically use training exercises to help communities with their infrastructure needs,” Dinkel said. “Since they have to train in doing some of this work anyway, they make it something that's useful to some community in Pennsylvania ... We're waiting to get a copy of their application. Once we have it, we'll write a letter of support for the project. If it all works out and the project is selected, then the National Guard would do the work in 2016. That's the cycle they're in now. In the meantime, studies have to be done first.”

East Allegheny School District rejected a proposal to pay the lion's share of costs for the study of the unstable hillside.

Allegheny County public works director Steven W. Johnson wrote a letter earlier this year stating the three taxing bodies that jointly own the land that is the focus of the study should sign an agreement to share the costs based on taxes. That would mean East Allegheny would pay 68 percent, or roughly $10,400, Wilmerding would pay 20 percent, or around $3,000, and the county 12 percent, or a little less than $2,000.

District officials said in April that there were not enough funds available for the effort.

Shurgot said something needs to be done quickly because emergency vehicles are having a hard time responding to calls, and referenced a medical call at the YMCA on June 1.

Shurgot is executive director of Eastern Area Prehospital Services, the Turtle Creek-based ambulance company that serves his borough and other municipalities.

“It took us about four minutes longer than usual to get there because there was no direct access,” Shurgot said. “Our worst fear was realized (that) day. Ice Plant Hill's closed, Greensburg Pike's bridge is closed and a tree blocked Fifth Avenue (on June 1.) We had to come all the way into town through West Wilmerding, come up by Wal-Mart and make a big circle. The fire department had a fire call and had to do the same thing ... Everything was OK, thankfully.”

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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