Ebensburg firm to create plan

L.R. Kimball contracted to design sidewalk project

EBENSBURG — An Ebensburg engineering firm has been contracted to design a plan for extensive sidewalk improvements, which could begin as soon as next year.

Borough Council members voted to pay L.R. Kimball $43,125 for the design work. Councilman Scot May abstained from the vote because he works for the firm.

L.R. Kimball was the lowest of seven bidders, which were evaluated on criteria, including recommendations from previous clients and experience in sidewalk design.

“Actual construction could not begin until late spring or early summer” of 2019, Councilman John Cobaugh said.

Last month, borough officials said the entire project would cost about $1.77 million for the replacement of 8,740 square yards of sidewalk and 21,405 linear feet of curb.

Of that cost, the borough would pay $986,750, and the remaining cost would be paid by affected property owners.

“All affected property owners are assessed approximately one-half the cost of work performed at a property,” according to an information sheet distributed in May.

Borough leaders began to address sidewalks in 2003, periodically upgrading them through smaller projects.

Last month, Borough Manager Dan Penatzer presented a plan to address all remaining problem sidewalks at one time, borrowing money to complete upgrades.

Completing all sidewalk work at one time could be cheaper because of the larger scale, Penatzer said.

Monday’s council decision was the first step in moving that project forward.

But Councilwoman Theresa Jacoby made sure to point out that approving design work does not mean construction has been approved.

“This is just to approve the design of the sidewalk. This isn’t necessarily saying we are absolutely doing the sidewalk project, is that correct?” she asked.

She was correct, Penatzer answered, but the conversation continued.

“I assume the intent is to at some point do a sidewalk project,” he said.

Bids for construction could be sought as early as February or March, he said. At that time, council members can decide whether they want to move forward with construction, delay it to a later date or eliminate the project entirely, Penatzer said.

Penatzer said he hopes an elimination does not become a reality “because that’s $43,000 wasted” on design costs.

In May, some concern was expressed about the sidewalk work coming at the tail end of a large-scale sewer replacement project, which is underway.

Many borough homeowners will have to pay to repair or replace private sewer lines in conjunction with the ongoing project.

That burden could be compounded by residents’ required financial contribution to the sidewalk project, Councilman Dave Kuhar said in May.

“There is just a little concern on my part about hitting people, maybe two years in a row in some cases, for what to a lot of people is a major expense,” Kuhar said.

On Monday, that issue was not discussed, but one resident voiced a sidewalk-related concern.

George Kopchik of East Sample Street said he had worked to improve landscaping on his property, and he fears the sidewalk project could negatively impact that work.

“I just hope that at some point, the residents can have some input,” Kopchik said,

Penatzer assured him that meetings will be held, and public feedback will be taken into consideration when drafting the final plan.

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.