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West Deer walking bridge in no man's land

| Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011

West Deer officials are trying to determine the fate of a walking bridge along Little Deer Creek Valley Road.

The bridge has fallen into disrepair and is not safe to walk on, according to code enforcement officer Gary Bogan.

Closing the bridge would create another hazard, he said, by forcing pedestrians to walk onto a narrow portion of Little Deer Creek Valley Road.

"They walk (on the bridge) because (they think) it's safer," township Manager Daniel Mator said, "but the bridge is not safe."

Bogan sent notice of the hazard to Thomas Piltoff of Russelton, who owns property near the bridge.

Piltoff said at Wednesday night's meeting that the property isn't his.

Officials said the bridge is on a state right-of-way. But the state doesn't maintain sidewalks or walking bridges, Bogan said.

"Somebody needs to do something with it," he said.

Piltoff expressed concerns about who would be liable if someone got hurt on the bridge.

About a year ago, officials said, someone did.

Mator said a man walked over the bridge, fell and hurt his shoulder because of the bridge's poor condition. The man contacted the township but, Mator said, because the bridge isn't township property, West Deer's insurance company didn't cover it.

"It's not our property, it's not our road," he said. "So it's a tough position."

The township's hands are tied when it comes to fixing the bridge. According to Mator, if West Deer performed the repairs, which Piltoff estimated would cost a few hundred dollars, the township would be liable for any future accidents.

The township, nonetheless, will see what it can do.

"We'll look into it," Mator said. "We have a good working relationship with the state."

In other business:

•The West Deer EMS asked supervisors for approval to use its $25,000 annual allocation from the township to cover worker's compensation costs for its staff.

The service usually uses a portion of the allotment to cover the costs, but this year it has taken on a new carrier -- UPMC Health Benefits -- and has to seek approval again.

The cost through UPMC is a little more than $15,000, according to Carol Makowski, of the EMS service. She said that represents about a $10,000 savings over what West Deer EMS paid when it purchased worker's compensation through the state.

Supervisors will take action on the request at the board's September meeting.

•The township is accepting bids for an asphalt paving project at Bairdford Park that will improve accessibility to its baseball field and pavilion for those with disabilities.

The project is supported by a Community Development Block Grant that West Deer recently received.

Bids will be opened on Sept. 13.

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