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Local roads dangerous for home owners

by Sierra Dole

Beechnut Street in Pine Grove Mills was still mostly covered with snow and ice two weeks after the December 26 snowstorm.

The winter months can usher in some scary and potentially dangerous weather, especially for the residents of Beechnut Street and Butternut Street off of Kocher Lane in Pine Grove Mills. The unpaved roads, which are barely wide enough for one car to utilize at a time, are riddled with potholes deep enough to do damage to passing vehicles and receive no township-supported snow removal during the winter season.

After being covered in several inches of snow during the week of Christmas, many residents experienced problems with entering and exiting their driveways or parking places via the one-way roads. Some even struggled to navigate their vehicles up the length of Kocher Lane.

Veolia Environmental Services also had trouble accessing the road for trash pickup due to the road’s conditions. In fact, parts of the street were still too icy for Veolia to complete trash pickup on January 3.

“There are unsanitary conditions,” said Ron Mills, Beechnut Street resident. “We had 11-12 bags [of trash] out there and the animals tore all into it and there’s still trash out there in the mud I have to go pick up. There’s crows, there’s cats, and they’ve really been chewing the crap out of it.”

Even though Kocher Lane, Beechnut Street and Butternut Street are not maintained or cleared by the township, it surprised many residents that part of their local income taxes pay for the maintenance and care of other roads within the township.

According to the Ferguson Township website, for every $1 collected from income taxes, 60 cents is used by the township for several things including maintenance and care for other roads.

In 2013, the township plans to spend approximately 4 million hard earned taxpayer dollars on repairs to Whitehall Road, $600,000 on Aaron Drive, and $550,000 on Old Gatesburg Road.

Mills said that he and his family have been afraid to travel on their road several times throughout the season.

“There’s no other entrance, you’re paying taxes, and it’s very dangerous,” Mills said. “My buddy I work with came up here to get his tools and there was a sheet of ice, and he almost slid out onto the [main] road down here. We weren’t home and he called me, scared to death, asking if there was another way out of here, but we really had to tell him ‘no’.”

Not only does Mills pay taxes to take care of roads besides his own, but he has also been forced to spend even more money out-of-pocket several times since moving into his home due to the poor road conditions.

“There’s only one way in and out, so if two cars are coming down it, one has to back up,”Mills said. “This was an issue when it was icy. I spent $700-800 on tires just so we could get up and down this road. But, when it’s ice, it’s ice. And it does ice. And it’s on a hill. Sears said our other tires were decent and he couldn’t believe I was getting rid of them, but I told him ‘I don’t have nowhere to put them’, so I had to pay almost $1000 for winter tires and just throw away our old ones. And, a week or so ago, we realized we were going to need a new muffler because the road ripped a hole in our exhaust.”

Even though Ferguson Township refuses to recognize them as public roads, Beechnut Street and Kocher Lane do show up on the GPS.
“The GPS recognizes it [Beechnut Street] as a road, so you could actually have somebody lost or who missed their turn and the GPS will bring you up and try to turn you around up here,” Mills said.

David Modricker, Director of Public Works, told one resident that these private roads would need to be brought up to current road standards by the residents before the township would adopt and maintain them. Some of these standards include having 6 inches of stone base, 5 inches thick of asphalt and storm sewers, and the road must be widened to 50 feet. Also, all residents would have to convey ownership rights to the township, so a deed would need to be made up conveying each and every homeowner’s rights to the road over to the township.

“Apparently, the street’s named after the Kochers for some reason, and there are Kochers who live up here, so what do you want to get into as far as making people mad or whatever?” Mills said. “But, something should be done. Everybody should have a decent passage to their home. I could see it being snowy for a day or two, but not a week.”

While some residents are outraged and would like something to be done about the condition of the road, there are a few less mobile residents who are more accepting of the conditions.

“We’re retired, so if the weather is bad, we just stay home,” Sue Foster, a Beechnut Street resident, said. “But, now that I think about it, it does concern me that a fire truck or an ambulance might need to get here.”

Foster, who has lived on Beechnut Street since 1972, said that the residents are used to the conditions and deal with it as best they can.
“It is what it is,” Foster said. “Ferguson Township is extremely, extremely difficult to work with. In order for them to adopt the road, we [the residents] would need to buy part of the surrounding property to make it wider, but we don’t have the money to do that. Charlie next door plows it for us and we’ve come together to put some stone down before, but there’s only so much you can do.”