HOLLIDAYSBURG — Borough Council approved a proposed grant application that members hope will entice property owners to replace damaged sidewalks.
After looking at the budget, Borough Manager James Gehret recommended that Hollidaysburg spend $50,000 of capital reserve funds to set up a grant that would reimburse property owners 25% of the cost to replace damaged sidewalks.
By setting up the grant, the borough would utilize the $50,000 to get about $200,000 of work done, Gehret said.
“I think hopefully that would help them and encourage them and mushroom into a bigger project in the years to come where we could maybe start to get our walks a little under control as far as safety for people walking — as far as elderly or children or honestly anybody,” Councilman Brady Leahey said.
The grant application Gehret drafted allows materials authorized in borough ordinances. For example, the borough doesn’t allow blacktop sidewalks but does allow paver sidewalks.
A motion to approve the proposed grant application was made by Leahey and seconded by Councilman Jeffrey Ketner, before being unanimously approved.
Further into Thursday’s meeting, Leahey said that it had been brought to his attention that the borough was not planning on replacing its street sweeper once the current one stops running.
He said that there was a plan to instead replace the street sweeper with a vacuum truck.
“I just don’t feel like that’s going to do what we need to do to keep our streets as clean as we do now,” Leahey said. “I think that’s one perk that our taxpayers have is sweeping the streets the way we do.”
Gehret said that the issue won’t be addressed until September when the first draft of the borough’s budget comes out.
He also said that it would cost over $280,000 to replace the street sweeper, and that the borough could potentially get a leaf vacuum truck using a grant where the borough would only be required to pay 10% of the total cost.
Leahey voiced his concern that a vacuum truck would not be able to get close enough to the curbs because of low branches on trees lining the streets.
“I have a box truck, and I have a lot of problems parking in the borough along the curb because of the branches, and the vacuum truck is much larger than that,” Leahey said. “It has just the suction to vacuum up piles but not the wide area and sweep and put everything to the side and suck it up.”
Gehret said that the borough’s intent was to rent a street sweeper in the beginning of the year when there is a lot of anti-skid on the roads, saying that is similar to what Logan Township does.
“They rent it for a month, they pay probably around $10,000 currently, and in four weeks, they get all the heavy stuff up and then this vac truck gets the droppings that are there from against the curb to about 2 feet out which is basically where all of your residual stuff goes after it rains,” he said.
Gehret assured the council that the borough isn’t making any rash decisions.
Instead of buying a new street sweeper for $280,000, officials were looking to rent one for two months a year at $10,000 a month, he said.
“There’s a time when the gravel needs (to be) picked up and then there’s the time right after the trees all drop their stuff,” Gehret said, adding that they could possibly see how the street sweeper and vacuum truck work in tandem.
The borough’s current street sweeper is 18 years old, but Gehret doesn’t think a new one would last that long as parts in newer models are made from plastic instead of metal.
“I have talked to a few public works people, and they say they would hate to see the sweeper go,” Leahey said.
Gehret recommended removing the item from the agenda for the time being, but Leahey opted to leave it on for future meetings.
In other matters, the council approved changing the municipal building’s phone carrier from Windstream to Breezeline.
Gehret said that Breezeline gave it a quote that was less than what the borough is paying for phone service under Windstream, adding that Windstream was canceling its service effective Aug. 2.
The council also approved the purchase of a used utility truck and used pavement roller for $58,000 and $29,500, respectively.
“Both of these prices are better than what they would sell on the open market,” Gehret said.
During his report, Mayor Joe Dodson said that with Officer Bill Sheehan “about ready to retire in the near future,” the Hollidaysburg Police Department would be down to six officers to cover 21 shifts a week.
“I’m asking the council to move quickly with the approval of hiring an officer upon certification,” Dodson said. “This hiring will most likely happen prior to the chief being appointed.”
The borough and HPD have been looking for a police chief for close to a year.
In August 2021, the council voted to approve Richard Oldham as officer in charge due to the absence of then-chief Rodney Estep Jr., Mirror records show.
The appointment was to continue until Estep returned to work, but he never did, instead choosing to retire in October. Since then, the council has been advertising for a new police chief.
Also during the October council meeting, it was announced that the council would additionally need to hire a new police officer to replace Officer Sander Vanoutryve, who was selected to enter the Pennsylvania State Police Academy. However, the council agreed that it needed to hire a police chief first so that the department leader could participate in the hiring process for the new officer.
“I think the chief should be a part of the new hiring. … Then he has a say so in the new hire of a policeman that he’s going to be in charge of,” Leahey had said.
Mirror Staff Writer Rachel Foor is at 814-946-7458.