While it certainly wasn’t as bad as it could have been, havoc had its hand in Pennsburg borough both before and after Hurricane Irene.
And officials said there is much left to do to make sure a repeat of last week’s “comedy of errors” doesn’t happen again.
According to Borough Council President John Lear at Tuesday night’s council meeting, a lack of planning and fully functional equipment left both borough employees and area motorists in danger starting last Thursday. That day, power went out in the borough for about five hours and that started a chain of events he deemed a “totally unacceptable situation.”
The borough building’s backup generator kicked on when the power went out to the building on 6th Street. But that generator had very little fuel in it. The old propane tank that serves that generator, which no local companies wanted to fill because of its physical condition, was eventually filled by Trexler-Haines thanks to some last-minute phone calls by Roads Supervisor Rick Krupp. Lear told council three hours later, exhaust leaks from the generator sent toxic carbon monoxide into the borough building, which thankfully was outfitted with carbon monoxide detectors, and staff evacuated.
The same day the traffic signal at Main Street and Route 663 was out due to the power outage and the borough had to rely on Pennsburg fire police at one of the intersections they said is easily the heaviest traveled in a 10-mile radius. A battery backup system for that light has been nonfunctional for approximately four years, Lear said. Instead, it took two people to carry the borough’s backup generator to the traffic signal, where, when hooked up, it fried some of the circuit boards.
“That battery backup must be done,” Lear said. “We can’t rely on the fire police, they had other calls to go to. We have no choice; that intersection is too dangerous and the generator doesn’t always work.”
Two days later, Lear said during the hurricane weather, the borough’s offices were inundated with water from the ceiling and from the windows, which left water on the floor. As staff was moving large filing cabinets and furniture to save them from damage, they found old mold growing along a wall. Other damage was also done to the drywall in the office from the storm.
Lear and newly appointed building committeeman Kris Kirkwood explained that the borough building has many issues that need to be addressed including cracked glass block windows and large spaces around the windows that leave the building exposed to the elements. Roof leaks were also found in the civic building and the borough garage.
Council agreed that while they were in the process of pursuing a PennDOT grant for the approximately $5,000 needed for the battery backup at the light at Route 663 and Main Street, they couldn’t wait on things any longer. They moved to spend the money to purchase the light and said they hoped they were among the 400 applicants for the funding to be chosen so they could be reimbursed. Lear said council hopes to obtain quotes on fixing the generator’s exhaust problems by the time budget talks start Oct. 18.
Regardless, he noted, next year council would have no choice but to spend money fixing many of the maintenance issues in the borough’s buildings. He also publicly expressed his frustration with members of the emergency management committee, whom he said he heard nothing from with the impending hurricane or during the extreme weather itself. Council members thanked Lear and borough staff for all their hard work last week.
In other news, council voted to accept a bid from Farm and Home of Telford for fuel oil for $3.35 per gallon, a savings of more than 10 cents per gallon over last month’s bids. Councilman Doug Landis said he thought council might need to review their budgeted monies for fuel as he said they were already $2,500 over budget just to heat the borough building. It costs approximately $15,500 per year to heat the building.
Community Day events are scheduled to kick off for the borough and East Greenville this Saturday at 10 a.m., and will run until 4 p.m. with a rain date of Sept. 11.
Council also voted to join the Montgomery County Public Works Association, at a cost of $50, and to release the Pennsburg Fire Company’s 2011 donation balance in the amount of $80,000 in lieu of receiving their financial audit. Upper Hanover resident Lusandre Lee Chaudruc also spoke briefly to council about her plans to continue the beautification of the borough with shrub and flower planters along Main Street, as she did in East Greenville.