Trucks damage road

ROARING SPRING – Every spring day, weather permitting, trucks laden with fresh-cut timber rumble down the slopes of Loop Mountain along Plum Creek Boulevard toward nearby highways.

Their cargo, cut from a 1,400-acre patch of Taylor Township owned by nearby Roaring Spring Borough, weighs the trucks down – digging their tires into the half-finished road and forming potholes where the ground was once relatively smooth.

The damage loggers have wreaked on Plum Creek Boulevard could cost Taylor Township hundreds of thousands of dollars, officials there have said. Attempts to get money from Roaring Spring – which has profited from selling logging rights on the land – have been rebuffed, with borough representatives arguing that the contractor alone is to blame.

“It’s beat up. It’s damaged and destroyed,” Taylor Township supervisors Chairman Bill Replogle said Tuesday of the mountain boulevard. “Everybody knows that kind of road is not made for 80,000-pound trucks.”

Replogle, a former PennDOT engineer, spoke Monday before the Roaring Spring council to make his case for a financial contribution.

He claimed Oakridge Lumber, the Clinton County-based company that won the latest bid to log on the wooded land, has allowed its subcontracted truck drivers to smash the road with winter-tire chains in an early rush to move as much timber as possible.

“It didn’t take long until [Oakridge’s owner] said, ‘I’ve got a contract, I’ve got to make money, I don’t care about you guys,'” Replogle said.

Representatives of Oakridge Lumber didn’t respond to a message seeking comment Tuesday.

Because the logging takes place on Taylor Township land owned by Roaring Spring – part of the borough’s former municipal watershed – Roaring Spring officials have an obligation to help pay for road repairs, Replogle said.

“Morally, Roaring Spring is being enriched at the cost of the township,” Replogle told the council Monday.

The borough has made some $400,000 from logging since about 2010, Roaring Spring Council President Bill Brumbaugh said Tuesday. Officials have periodically put sections of the woodland up for bid since the 1960s, he said.

Borough officials expressed sympathy for their rural neighbors, but most seemed unwilling to pay the hefty sum Replogle had sought.

Even after a $107,000 annual roadwork contribution from PennDOT and additional funds from a bond held against Oakridge, tens of thousands of dollars are still needed to repair then fully pave the remaining section of Plum Creek Boulevard, Replogle said.

Roaring Spring Solicitor Larry Lashinsky disputed the argument that the borough must dip into its logging largesse to help its neighbor.

“You’re talking about a substantial amount of money,” Lashinsky said. “It’s like me saying, ‘You’ve made a lot of money in your career. Now pave my driveway. It’s your moral obligation.'”

Instead, Lashinsky and Roaring Spring officials said Monday that Taylor Township should “play hardball” with Oakridge: Call in a $16,500 bond to repair the stretch, they advised, or threaten a cease-and-desist order to keep timber trucks off the road.

All parties agreed that the longer Taylor officials wait, the deeper the potholes will grow and the pricier the project will become. Replogle said he has photos of oversized construction vehicles and chain-tired trucks cruising down Plum Creek Boulevard, with hundreds more loads apparently scheduled before Oakridge’s 2014 deadline.

At least six to eight truckloads run along the battered road each day during the warmer months, said Dan Reese, who’s lived along Plum Creek Boulevard for all of his 63 years.

“They just tore it up,” Reese said. “And they have other [forest] sections marked off, so it’s going to be coming again.”

But the potholes end as abruptly as the fully paved road section begins, and Roaring Spring officials have pointed to that difference as an argument against paying. Taylor Township’s supervisors decided not to pave the entire stretch years ago, Brumbaugh said; had they spent the money to cover the whole street, the damage wouldn’t be nearly as severe today.

“Had the township supervisors before you taken care of the road, we wouldn’t have this problem,” Brumbaugh said.

Both Brumbaugh and Replogle stressed that they’re not interested in sparking an intermunicipal feud. Both noted that the issue can be resolved in the courts, likely with Oakridge forced to pay off its $16,500 bond for allegedly damaging the road.

“Bill [Replogle] and I had a lengthy discussion and I said, ‘You know what, Bill? I can make a great argument from either side of this issue,” Brumbaugh said. “Really, there’s not a winner here.”

Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.