Paving on East Franklin Street in Greencastle will yield sighs of relief

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
In late June New Enterprise concentrated heavily on finishing its work on East Franklin Street.

The construction equipment will be gone soon.

East Franklin Street will get its top coat any day now, dependent upon the weather and other obligations of the paving company. That and parts of South Washington, South Carlisle, South Jefferson, West Franklin and Dahlgren streets, South Carl Avenue, and alleys were included in a major infrastructure improvement project. Two years of disruptions for local businesses, residents and motorists are about to come to a close.

For some, it can't be too soon. For others, it is the finale that fit the original timeline.

In succession, utility lines were installed to upgrade aging infrastructure. Columbia Gas started in the spring of 2014 by replacing low pressure lines with medium ones and moving meters to the outsides of homes. The company replaced 55 sidewalks, at no cost to property owners. Other residents along the streets had to install or repair their curbs and sidewalks, and that was all completed by the deadline.

The Borough of Greencastle awarded J.A. Myers the bid to modernize the storm drains. Then D&M Contractors replaced water lines, some dating to 1910. The size was increased from four to eight inches. The borough did some work in-house on sewer lines. The last phase was paving this year, and New Enterprise (sister company of Valley Quarries) finished the wearing course. The final surface will be laid before the August deadline. Ganoe Paving also helped out on certain portions of the project.

Inconveniences

Ken Peiffer, 58, and his wife Nancy Peiffer, 62, were at times trapped in their home at 42 E. Franklin St. They wish they had been notified each stage of the way, as they had to step outside to see what was happening next. When the sidewalk or street was torn up, it was difficult for Ken, who uses a wheelchair, to get to the car. At times, there was no sidewalk ramp available for use, or stones became a temporary surface.

“You can't take a wheelchair through stones,” said Nancy.

Once they called an ambulance for help with transport, but the vehicle had to park on South Washington Street. On occasions, a police officer pushed Ken up the street, as did a borough worker. Sometimes Nancy stopped the van in the middle of Franklin, and pushed the chair over cardboard to avoid sticky tar. Since both of the couple are on disability, they said the effort was more than they should have had to endure. And going through backyards to get to the church parking lot was also hard work.

Fellow members of the church, Greencastle Church of the Brethren, were helpful, and one man went to the borough office to report the problems the Peiffers were having.

“Ken's handicap rights were violated,” said Nancy.

They wonder who will pay for the damages they suffered — a crack above the door and on the second story of the house from vibrations, tar that got on the carpet and in the car, wheels gouged by stones.

“The only thing we ever asked was, 'Please let us know,'” said Nancy.

Ken stated, “They tell us one thing and do another.”

Their landlord Mary Zeigler, 77, 36A E. Franklin St., also owns house 36. She voiced unhappiness with Columbia Gas, claiming damage to a patio from its excavations. A hole collapsed, causing water to enter her cellar, and raise the patio base.

“They told me they weren't fixing it,” she said.

Businesses affected

A few retail stores operate on East Franklin between South Jefferson and South Carlisle streets. Landlord Robert Newcomer, as owner of the three buildings that housed four businesses, believed the construction had to hurt sales.

“At times it was very difficult to get down there,” he said.

Ruth Mowen, owner of UpScale Consignment, said the blocked street over the past two summers was a detriment.

 “I'm not saying it was not a necessary project,” she acknowledged. “It greatly affected business. We're hanging on as best we can.”

Customers who could get in to shop were under the mistaken impression that the borough or the insurance company would reimburse her for lost revenue, Mowen said.

“No one reimburses you.”

Greencastle manager Susan Armstrong asked Newcomer to make adjustments to the corner building since it had an elevated concrete deck that extended to the street. There was no sidewalk at that location.

“She asked me to take it down,” he said. “At first I said no.”

However, they reached an agreement to share costs, and the cooperation resulted in a sidewalk that enhanced safety for pedestrians, according to Armstrong. The borough became involved because the structure was in the right-of-way.

“It opens up the business district,” she said.

Newcomer is satisfied with the result.

“I'm glad we could work it out. I couldn't envision it looking like it does now.

Susan and her people were very good to me and I enjoyed working with them.”

The end run

As with other major street work in Greencastle, there were complaints and issues to solve, Armstrong agreed.

“Everything went relatively smoothly, how we planned it as far as the contractors went. There were also growing pains.”

She said within hours of being notified about the Peiffers' situation, she and an engineer were at the house to address the mobility issue. The church friend was the only person to ever contact her about their Franklin Street concerns over the two years, she said. Other borough officials were watchdogs on the project and asked questions along the way.

Armstrong said most contractors take photographs of areas they work on, and make sure properties are in the same or better shape when they leave. The borough hosted a meeting at the church before the project began. Residents were invited to learn about the timeline and speak to any of the utility company personnel about their planned activities. Very few people attended.

And because borough business is never static, residents are now getting an unofficial notification that the next streets to get some upgrades will be Jefferson from Franklin to Madison, for storm drains; and a short section of South Washington for a water line. Those will be done in 2016.