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Indiana County pays fee to hang communications cable on utility poles

| Friday, April 18, 2014, 12:45 p.m.

Indiana County Commissioners have signed off on a measure to rid the public safety radio project of a “hiccup” that has been holding up completion of the $17 million endeavor.

The commissioners on April 9 approved a change order that adds $102,000 to the county's contract with Salsgiver Telecommunication Inc. for the final stages of the public safety radio project.

“One of the hiccups we're having right now is some optic fiber installation along one of our critical routes which gives us what they call redundancy in public safety operations,” commissioners chairman Rod Ruddock said.

The additional money in the change order will be paid to Penelec, part of FirstEnergy Corporation, so the county can hang fiber optic cable on utility poles owned by Penelec along Old Route 119 in Center Township.

Ruddock said the county will challenge the cost being demanded by Penelec through the Federal Communications Commission in hopes of recouping part of the $102,000.

“I really think that Penelec and FirstEnergy want to be partners with us on this, yet there are some obligations they have to their constituents as well, to the people that pay their rates,” Ruddock said. “We want to find a happy medium.”

The change order should have installation work on the radio system completed within a month, Ruddock said, and will keep the county from needing to pay extra weekly fees to Motorola while the optic fiber portion of radio system is unfinished.

In another item related to public safety, the commissioners approved the creation of a Traffic Incident Management (TIM) team for the county, which would bring together emergency responders in a multi-disciplinary effort to improve responses to incidents that affect traffic on roadways in the county.

The TIM team's goals will be ensuring the safety of first responders, clearing roadways quickly to reduce traffic congestion and improving communications between responding agencies.

The team's first meeting was April 10 at the Armagh-East Wheatfield Fire Department.

Commissioners approved a request from the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development and the Indiana Community University District (ICUD) Plan Steering Committee to enter into a contract with SmithGroup JJR, of Ann Arbor, Mich., for completion of the ICUD Plan.

The contract totals $47,400 for professional planning services and will be funded through Department of Community and Economic Development and Local Government Academy grant funds, along with in-kind and local cash contributions from the project partners: Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana Borough, White Township and the county.

The ICUD Plan is a planning initiative for areas immediately adjacent to the IUP campus. SmithGroup will prepare documents designed to represent a shared vision for those areas and a strategic plan to advance that vision through coordinated land-use planning and policies.

Commissioners approved two new private provider contracts and the renewal of another on behalf of Children and Youth Services, agreeing to new contracts for as-needed services from Playhouse Children's Center in Punxsutawney and Family Care for Children & Youth. Rates for non-placement services increased by three percent under a renewed contract with Family Acts, Inc. of Ford City.

Commissioners recertified the Revolving Loan Fund as a housekeeping item, and approved a resolution authorizing the county's Office of Planning and Development to file a grant application to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources requesting $180,000 in state grant funds for engineering and design of a bicycle and pedestrian bridge to help the Hoodlebug Trail span Route 22 near Route 119 in Burrell Township.

Among four motions approved by commissioners regarding Liquid Fuels funding was a request of $7,381.81 to partially offset project costs for drainage repair and materials purchases in Saltsburg Borough.

Commissioners gave consent for the state Department of Environmental Protection to cross a portion of the Hoodlebug Trail with its vehicles in order to address an abandoned coal mine shaft on property owned by Lucille Fix off Railroad Avenue in Homer City.

“We already have Mrs. Fix's permission to go onto the property,” DEP real estate appraiser Darryl Audia Sr. said. “We have written agreements permitting us to do this work, and this work will eliminate a hazard. It's not only a hazard, but it seems like a dumping ground.”

DEP will remove garbage and debris from the shaft before filling it in and demolishing two small buildings adjacent to the shaft. Under the agreement, DEP will leave the section of trail used to access the site in as good or better condition than at the start of the project.

“This is, I think, a prudent step on the part of DEP,” Ruddock said. “It's about a $125,000 project, which is not small dollars. This particular shaft, according to what I was given, is about 170 feet deep. I guess they did have an issue there where a child fell into that not too long ago and required some action and support from the local fire company. Fortunately, I think the youth was OK.”

In other business, commissioners:

• Approved the use of Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund money for the purchase of a 2015 Ford F-250 pickup truck for Indiana County Parks and Trails. The truck will cost $23,250 under state-contracted pricing, including $2,500 in trade value for a 2001 pickup it will replace.

• Approved a contract adding Family Promise of Indiana County to the county Human Services SHARE database system.

• Passed a resolution recognizing the Kiski-Conemaugh Water Trail, which includes 50 miles in Indiana County, as an important environmental and recreational asset to the county. The resolution also pledges to support the continued development of the natural, cultural, historical and recreation resources of the Kiski-Conemaugh Rivers.

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or

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