A company that distributes industrial and medical gases will install an 18,000-gallon liquid propane tank near Pleasant Valley Boulevard, as part of its relocation from Margaret Avenue.
Dale Oxygen obtained land development approval Tuesday from the city Planning Commission to move into the former Keystone Novelty building near 14th Street, but not before assuring officials and a resident the nearby tank will be safe.
"You've got a bomb sitting there," commission Chairman Bob Gutshall said.
"Not really," said the company's landscape architect Steve Parks.
The 46-by-24-foot tank will lie on concrete cradles at the back of the parcel, 54 feet from the street, surrounded by chain link fencing topped with barbed wire and protected from runaway vehicles by steel bollards.
While the tank won't have an automatic alarm for leaks, it will include the most up-to-date safety equipment such as shutoffs that trigger automatically in the event of a faulty hose connection, company President Harry Bennear said.
The company will fill the tank only to 80 percent capacity, as a cushion against expansion.
It will allow no untrained employees to tap the tank, Bennear said.
Asked by neighbor Donna Royer whether the tank could explode or catch fire if a truck hits it or kids vandalize it, Bennear said either is only a "remote" possibility.
There are lots of propane tanks around, including many privately owned ones not subject to the kind of stringent regulation that will apply here, company officials said.
The city fire inspector will enforce city safety regulations for the tank.
Having the opportunity to install one here to refill domestic and industrial cylinders is a key reason for the move, eliminating the need to service local customers with bulk tanks at Dale locations in Johnstown or Indiana, Operations Manager Mike Reilly said. It will also give the company more room to store cylinders and more showroom space.
The commission denied the company's request to waive a requirement to build sidewalks, despite there being no sidewalks in the area.
The company argued that sidewalks would encourage people to walk in an area that's unsafe. Commission member Barbara Wiens-Tuers argued that adding sidewalks would make pedestrians safer.
Eventually, when enough new projects add sidewalks, they'll begin to connect and help make the boulevard pedestrian-accessible, she said.
Gutshall spoke of pressure from City Council and PennDOT for more sidewalks on the boulevard.
Given PennDOT signs prohibiting pedestrian crossing in Pleasant Valley, the agency's urging more sidewalks there is "schizophrenic," Parks said.
"We have some appreciation that we're forcing you to be pioneers," Planning Director Larry Carter told company officials.