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North Huntingdon alley needs repairs, but who's responsible?

| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 9:03 p.m.
(c) 2012 Aaron Loughner
Damage to the alleyway between Hahntown-Wendel Road and Laurel Avenue shows damage so sever that the road surface is almost destroyed. Aaron Loughner | For The Norwin Star
(c) 2012 Aaron Loughner
Damage to the alleyway between Hahntown-Wendel Road and Laurel Avenue shows damage so severe that the road surface is almost destroyed. Aaron Loughner | For The Norwin Star
(c) 2012 Aaron Loughner
Damage to the alleyway between Hahntown-Wendel Road and Laurel Avenue shows damage so sever that the road surface is almost destroyed. Aaron Loughner | For The Norwin Star
(c) 2012 Aaron Loughner
Damage to the alleyway between Hahntown-Wendel Road and Laurel Avenue shows damage so sever that the road surface is almost destroyed. Aaron Loughner | For The Norwin Star

The North Huntingdon commissioners says the owner of an unnamed alley between Laurel Avenue and Hahntown-Wendel Road is responsible for its upkeep.

The 40-foot-long alley, which sits between a home and a commercial building that houses the Korner Store and Fox's Pizza Den, has large potholes, which make it unsafe for vehicular use, according to manager John Shepherd.

“We need to talk to the property owner about maintaining it from a code enforcement standpoint or close the alley by blocking it off at Laurel Avenue,” Shepherd said. “At some point, someone is going to get injured there.”

Shepherd said ownership of the alley has been a source of dispute for several years.

Officials determined the alley is at least 21 years old after reviewing aerial photographs of the township, Shepherd said.

Shepherd said township officials plan to send letters to adjacent property owners and await their responses before surveying the alley to determine who owns the property.

After consulting with Solicitor Craig Alexander, and reviewing subdivision, public works, surveying and road-dedication records, Shepherd said, the township never claimed the alley, meaning it is privately owned.

“If it were ours, there'd be no question of what we would do (to maintain it),” Shepherd said. “But (public works director) Rich Albert has been very cognizant that we do not perform work on private property.”

The township does not plow the alley in the winter and never has performed any maintenance, Shepherd said.

According to Andrew Blenko, township engineer and planner, the Korner Store and Fox's Pizza Den building is owned by Helen Pilipovich, and the home is owned by Eugene and Joyce Richardson.

Joyce Richardson said she and her husband would not be upset if the township closed the alley.

“We see no reason not to close it, because it's kind of dangerous in the winter time,” Joyce Richardson said. “Unless the township wants to fix it themselves, we can't (if the alley is part of their property), so closing it might be the best thing to do.”

Although she doesn't remember when the alley opened, Joyce said that at one point, it was covered in tar. It was used more frequently after the Korner Store opened, she said.

Joyce said she does not use the alley, because she considers it unsafe. She said it's difficult to see oncoming traffic when coming out of the alley.

“I just drive up to the corner, because it has a stop sign,” she said. “It's safer and much easier to see.”

Pilipovich could not be reached for comment.

Albert said several residents use the alley as a shortcut from Laurel Avenue to Hahntown-Wendel Road.

Commissioner Zachary Haigis said he often fields phone calls from residents upset about the alley's condition.

“My main concern is safety, and I have no intention of the township going in and paving it, but we need to do something,” Haigis said.

Haigis said anybody walking along the alley could be injured. It's not uncommon for storm water to wash sediment and gravel from the steep alley onto Hahntown-Wendel Road, which creates unsafe driving conditions, he added.

Board president Lee Moffatt said he does not think the township should take over maintenance of the alley. Motorists need to travel about only 100 feet further down Laurel Avenue to turn onto Hahntown-Wendel Road, which makes it nonessential, he said.

“To me, taking it over is not a good option,” Moffatt said.

Once the township determines who owns the property and if the owner does not repair it, Shepherd suggested placing a guide rail along one of the ends to keep motorists out.

“If it gets fixed in the future, I wouldn't be opposed to moving the guide rail,” Shepherd said.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or bpeder sen@tribweb.com.

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