City, vets agree on monument license

City Council has approved a licensing agreement giving the Blair County War Veterans Council responsibility for maintaining a veterans monument in Garden Heights — while authorizing the group to make improvements to the monument and the small triangular median on which it stands.

The council and the Central Pennsylvania National Guard and Veterans Association sought the agreement as part of their ongoing effort to restore all the military monuments in Blair County.

The groups plan to add soil to raise the level of the plot, replace the shrubbery, replace the wooden plaques with granite ones and shorten the flagpole, which is between 60 and 80 feet high — causing problems with torn flags and rope that wraps around the top.

The groups plan to begin work soon, according to council President Lloyd Peck and association President Ken Hollen.

The groups hope to remove the current pole and its base and replace it with a new pole 25 or 30 feet tall, according to Hollen.

The agreement should absolve the groups of the need to comply with the city’s “adopt-a-median” rules, approved in 2017, that require that new flagpoles that applicants place on city property have a “fall zone” 1.5 times their height.

That regulation helps ensure that if the poles fell, they wouldn’t impinge on the street or other vulnerable space.

Given the small size of the triangular plot, that would limit the height of a new pole to about 2.6 feet.

Hollen believes such constraints won’t apply.

“They signed off,” he said. “Whatever we want — carte blanche.”

Within reason, he added.

If it turns out that those adopt-a-median rules apply, the veterans might still be able to achieve a reasonable height through “grandfathering,” he said.

They would do that by cutting the existing flagpole, then adding a new “sheath,” he said.

Presumably, the city should be amenable to the much lower flagpole that the groups want to install, given that the current pole is high enough that if it fell, it could strike a house, Peck indicated.

The agreement is “revocable at any time whatsoever,” and the veterans groups can never claim to wrest ownership of the plot from the city through “adverse” possession, according to the document.

The groups plan to enlist the Altoona Fire Department to help with the progressive cutdown of the old pole, Hollen said.

In other business, council recently:

— Voted to apply for a $1.4 million grant from the Multimodal Transportation Fund of the Department of Community and Economic Development and PennDOT to replace curbs and sidewalks along Beale Avenue from 24th Street to Margaret Avenue.

The city would match that streetscape grant with $434,000 from its 2020 capital budget.

— Rejected the single bid it received for the rehabilitation of the 13th Street pedestrian crossover on the recommendation of Public Works Director Nate Kissell.

The bid was $40,000 higher than a preliminary estimate, Kissell told council.

The bid came from Ventura Construction Services of Altoona. The company’s base bid was $243,000, plus $83,000 for “additional work items.”

The work to be done includes concrete repair and sealing, painting; replacement of a sun screen, a grate and stair treads; recaulking, installation of a pier cap, installation of a turnstile and application of surface treatment, according to the contractor’s bid document.

— Awarded a $117,000 contract for City Hall parking lot improvements to RT Contracting of Duncans­ville.

Workers will add a storage shed, green space, landscaping, sidewalks and visitors parking spaces to the departmental directors lot along 14th Avenue; will mill and resurface part of the employee lot along 13th Street and add landscaping, trees and accessibility ramps; and will seal cracks in the visitors lot on the side of City Hall opposite 12th Street, according to a memo from Kissell. Workers will also seal coat and repaint lines on all three lots.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.