2010-02-18 / Front Page

Residents Blast Union Township Snow Removal

Supervisor says crew did “very absolute best” in recent storms
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

Still reeling from back-toback snowstorms that dropped an estimated 31 inches of snow in southwestern Fulton County, some Union Township residents are calling to question the work ethic and snow-removal procedures utilized by their own board of supervisors.

Warfordsburg area resident Denise Richards Conley was one of several residents to speak to the “News” in regard to what they see as a lack of caring displayed by the Union Township Board of Supervisors during and after the most recent blizzard that deposited an additional 10 inches of drifting snow on top of the existing 21 inches left by the “Snowmagedon.”

Conley, who resides along Shaded Acres Lane off Old 126, told the “News,” “Every single time we get a storm, PennDOT officials are immediately working on state roadways and many other townships are doing the same. Union Township often doesn’t plow until the storm is completed. Even then, there’s still a layer packed down on the road. Sometimes there’s cinders, sometimes not.”

While other roads are “perfectly passable,” Union Township’s roadway conditions are touted as having played an instrumental role in the Southern Fulton School District having to close school additional days.

Hoping to voice their concerns and raise questions, Conley and her husband, Chuck, attended a meeting of the Union Township Board of Supervisors during 2009. Conley stated the board asked if they were there to listen or complain.

“We got nowhere. Their basic excuse was that there just wasn’t enough money,” she said.

Late last week additional reports continued regarding the Union Township portion of Old 126 being down to one lane at some points with drifting still ongoing. Papertown Road was also reportedly impassable, while the big hill on Hendershot Road was also closed to motorists.

One woman reported her brother’s township road was impassable, and he was not able to return home. A supervisor was contacted, the woman stated, but was found to be sleeping. The road was not a priority, the family learned, and after a personal visit to the supervisor’s home, one path was swathed through the snow.

“There is no excuse for roads being sloppy and impassable at this point,” another resident chimed in on Friday.

Melissa Strait, who resides on Schriever Road only one and one-quarter mile from the township building, shared with the “News” her husband, Brock, encountered difficulties when trying to drive home from work during the morning hours last Thursday, February 11. According to Strait, she contacted a supervisor to inform him her husband was due to arrive home and would not be able to get to their home even with four-wheel drive.

Strait maintains the supervisor gave the family three options or suggestions after being unable to find anyone available to plow their road, which was deemed nonessential: park their truck if space could be found and walk to their home; drive to the residence of the supervisor’s brother-in-law to hitch a ride home; and have Strait’s fatherin law bring a state truck over in order to have the road plowed.

“As of noon last Thursday, the township had not plowed our road since 3 a.m. on Wednesday, and it wasn’t half this deep or drifted,” said Strait, who added the township didn’t return to the scene until Saturday evening to replow and address drifting.

She went on to say a family member was able to render assistance on Sunday and plow the snowdrifts by their garage and widen Schriever Road. “He ended up doing the township’s job ... this was his personal time and the use of his own equipment and the cost of fuel,” she noted.

“This is not the first time this has happened. Before the school bus started coming and picking up our children, we would not see a plow until three days after a snowstorm. If school is in session, they plow around 3 a.m. in the morning and then do not come back for a day are two. The supervisors are rude, and one laughed at me when I talked to him about my husband’s situation,” she concluded.

Hoping their concerns will be met and heard, several of the residents are planning on attending the next meeting of the Union Township Board of Supervisors scheduled for Monday, March 1, at 7 p.m. There to discuss the issue and take their criticism head-on will be supervisors Gary Sheeder, R. Victor Wilson and Paul Schriever.

“Someone needs to step up and say enough is enough. Saying it ourselves doesn’t seem to help,” Strait told the “News.” “We need to question ourselves and ask how did these guys get elected, and what are we doing to do about it next election?”

Responding to the outrage voiced by the residents, Supervisor Sheeder commented that even with the several complaints that have been logged, there have been even more commendations for a job well done by the township road crew. Among those reportedly giving kudos to the township were Gail Wilson, Sinclair Cattle Co., the Steinekes of Foster Road and a local bus contractor.

Sheeder stated township policy dictates that once two inches of snow has fallen, the township begins plowing. The same practice was followed during the storm on February 9 and 10, and all was well within the township until the wind picked up, according to the supervisor.

A decision was made by the township early on to close Zach’s Ridge Road as well as Hendershot Road due to the steep hills. In prior storms, township equipment has gotten stuck on those hills, requiring removal. During the last storms, equipment drivers found themselves stranded around 10 times.

The township currently has four truck drivers, a laborer and a grader operator on its road crew, in addition to the several township residents and individuals contractors who were called on for assistance last week to help with the clearing. The crew logged numerous hours, Sheeder said, with many days running 15 to 17 hours.

For instance, fellow Supervisor Wilson worked 105 hours during the last two weeks, and Bob Shipley worked 92 hours. Remaining Supervisor Schriever, who has been under the weather, still logged almost 50 hours, Sheeder noted, and the grader operator managed almost 45 hours.

Priority roads for the township include Old 126, and certain areas such as Lehman Road and Rice Road encountered severe drifting.

“You can only throw back the snow so many times until it has nowhere to go,” said Sheeder, who noted Rice Road was possibly the worst township road of all due to the drifting across open fields. “It was calm, and when it got bad, it was really bad.”

“How many times have we had a snow of this magnitude?” questioned Sheeder of this series of “eye opening” storms. “ ... We did our very absolute best ....”

Road closures still in existence as of Monday afternoon in Union Township include all or portions of Hendershot Road, Zach’s Ridge Road, Schriever Road and Negro Mountain Road.

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