Coudersport Residents Outraged at Lack of Sidewalk Upkeep

Editorial by Tim Hallman
Editor/Publisher CoudyNews.com

COUDERSPORT – As a result of the tragic accident that occurred this past Saturday, in which a mother and her daughter were severely injured when struck by a car, local residents have expressed anger, frustration, and outrage at the lack of sidewalk maintenance in town.

Bridge on Main Street in Coudersport

While it is still unclear whether or not mother Donna Thomas and her daughter Becky Thomas were walking in the road at the time of the accident, it is believed that they were, due to the lack of maintenance on the East Second Street Mike Franklin Bridge walkway.

Since the accident, many residents have called and emailed us, and with that I decided to investigate.

My journey began this morning as I walked from the Coudersport Post Office towards downtown. There was indeed one common denominator regarding most of the sidewalks in town; they were snow-covered and hard to walk on. Some sidewalks were completely shoveled, salted, and bare, such as the walk in front of Fastenal, while others showed a semblance of upkeep. However, many appeared to have been untouched since the beginning of winter, such as the one in front of the bowling alley.

I talked to several business owners and pedestrians.

Jamie Fry seen here shoveling the sidewalk in front of the COS Verizon store

My first stop took me to the COS Verizon store in town, where employee Jamie Fry was busy clearing the walk. I asked Jamie if she and her employer maintained the walk in front of the store on a consistent basis, and she told me they shovel the walk every morning beginning at 10:00 am when they open, if it has snowed. Fry said that despite this, they have received complaints in the past, since they do not begin shoveling until 10:00 am.

This bridge on Main Street in Coudersport is rarely maintained

I continued walking west on Main Street and stopped at the bridge that spans from Water Street to Allegany Avenue. It was at this point that I happened across Joanne Benjamin, who was walking in the road. A quick look at the bridge and it was quite clear why Joanne was walking along road; the sidewalk on the bridge was nearly impassable by foot, with a good six to ten inches of snow covering it. The snow was packed down and covered by fresh snow in places. It was clumpy, and patches of ice, surely created from past foot tracks, made walking a chore to say the least. I can say from personal experience that this bridge is hardly ever shoveled.

Upon talking to Mrs. Benjamin she expressed disgust at the lack of upkeep, and told me she was walking in the road because the sidewalk was impossible to walk on.

She also told me that she has placed phone calls in the past to the local newspaper, the Borough office, and others, all without success. She went on to tell me that she was so fed up with the situation that she walked into the offices of the Potter Leader Enterprise not long ago, but was told to “write a letter to the Editor”, which she says she has done in the past. She said she unhappily exited their office that day stating to newspaper staff that, “you need to go out and shovel your walk too.”

This sidewalk in front of Greely's Auto was not only unmaintained, but blocked by a pickup truck

I continued walking and came to Greely’s Auto. The sidewalk looked as if it had not been cleared at anytime in the recent past, and more troublesome was the fact that a truck with a snowplow sat parked in front of the store, blocking the sidewalk.

I placed a call to Coudersport Borough Manager Marlin Moore and asked whose responsibility it was to maintain the sidewalks on the three bridges in town. Moore told me it was PennDOT’s responsibility. He also stated that both businesses and residents have a 24 hour window after a snow storm to clear their sidewalks.

Next I spoke with County Maintenance Director Scott Majot, who confirmed that it was indeed PennDOT’s responsibility to maintain the walkways on the three bridges in town.

Majot explained to me that the roads are their number one priority, and that they simply do not have the staff to maintain both the roads and sidewalks. He said his department typically takes care of the sidewalks after the roads have been cleared, stating, “We only have so many people. We have to stop doing what we’re doing. We have to make the decision, either take a truck off the road that is going to plow something like Dutch Hill and Dingman Run to take care of those sidewalks, or make sure the roads are safe.”

Obviously not just fresh snow on this walkway. Clumped-up ice beneath the fresh snow makes a twisted ankle an easy possibility.

“You can walk in snow,” said Majot, “but driving in it is another matter.”

Majot went on to say that most other Boroughs, such as Genesee and Galeton, simply take care of those small portions that are technically PennDOT’s responsibility. He said those Boroughs just continue over the bridges when clearing the sidewalks, but that Coudersport Borough does not.

He also explained that in order for a PennDOT worker to clear those sidewalks, they would need to stop their trucks and unload equipment, such as snowblowers. A task he says is time-consuming and takes away from maintaining the roads.

Majot did say that he expects the second shift crew today to be out taking care of the sidewalks on the bridges, but was not certain if it would be possible, as another one to three inches of snowfall is expected this evening.

Next I asked Coudersport Chief of Police Lee Gross if they had cited residents and business owners in the past for not maintaining their sidewalks. Gross told me they have not, but they expect to begin ticketing those who do not adhere to the twenty-four hour maintenance requirement this year.

As I write this, one thing seems clear; much attention has been focused on the lack of sidewalk maintenance in Coudersport following Saturday’s tragedy, and I would expect the lack of maintenance situation to improve.

As a final thought, I cannot help but to think of many ways that we as a community could improve the task of clearing sidewalks without spending more tax dollars or hiring additional staff. One such thought is utilizing work-release eligible inmates from the local jail, who routinely are released from the jail to shovel the sidewalks at the courthouse.

Perhaps various local agencies could coordinate an effort to establish a program where these same inmates would be afforded a furlough during the day to shovel sidewalks.


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15 Comments

  1. Susan Kline says:

    What an excellent idea, I for one walk alot , because i have no vehicle, have to walk on the roads and sometimes u cant even do that, with bad knees ,Im afraid to fall alot..I know prisoners at the jail, well some, would love to get out , this has been like this for years not just now. Who would u go to to try and get this going,? and how could I help?Also maybe a way for them to do their community service.

  2. Robin says:

    Good idea on the use of prisoners for cleaning the sidewalks.. Give them something to do and would help the community a lot.. Another option is I know that kids would probably do it as a community service project.

    If they do begin to enforce the 24hrs to clear the sidewalk law I wonder what will happen if Penndot doesn’t do it? I can imagine it’s only going to end up affecting residents and businesses.. Which obviously would not be right but you know how the government and anything involving it the rules don’t apply to them.. I do hope something good comes out of this tragedy..

    I keep thinking about the 15 year old girl fighting for her life.. It kind of sounds to me that the people driving in cars lives are more important than the lives of people walking.. Well in this case three peoples lives are affected here and all of their family, friends and the community.. All over time/money that couldn’t be spent clearing the sidewalks hmm just doesn’t make sense to me.. Safety needs to come first there shouldn’t be be cuts in programs that affect the safety of the people.. Or if there isn’t enough people to handle that then government officials need to do something hire more people or something.. Towns need to be safe for all people driving, walking ect..

  3. Anonymous says:

    So glad that somebody had finally addressed this.

    It’s too bad that it took something so bad as a girl getting hit to get something done. smh

    Bless these two people Lord, we pray that will take this gril in your arms and heal her worldy wounds.

  4. anonymous says:

    This needs to be taken care of asap! That poor 15 year old girl has been thru such terrible things in her life, and now she is fighting for her life, again the system has failed her. Bless her mother and her

  5. Essie says:

    Tim: Bravo for coming up with a possible resolution to a very urgent problem in downtown Coudersport! Now that’s what I call great investigative reporting.

    Everyone has the right of free speech to complain, but how many bother to offer a solution so there are no further accidents?

  6. admin says:

    Essie, thank you for your positive comment 🙂

    Also, please let me stress that rather than point fingers or blame the problem on anyone, we should focus on a resolution to the problem instead.

    I didn’t launch CoudyNews to just be another platform for anonymous bickering and character assassination. Rather, it is my desire to use this forum for positive change in our community.

    Obviously however, any type of problem or situation requiring improvement must first be identified, and I feel that with the help of the community we are currently addressing a problem that certainly requires a solution.

    Although this article does mention particular businesses, it goes without saying that these businesses are not unique, and there are certainly many others who are also neglecting to maintain the walks. Also, this does not mean that those mentioned continually neglect the walks. It just so happens that that was situation on this particular day.

    This article was never intended to point the finger at anyone. I simply reported my experience as I walked downtown today, which is what I set out to do.

    Thanks everyone!

  7. admin says:

    Also, please pick up a copy of the Endeavor News this Saturday, as this article should appear in edited format there.

  8. Phil says:

    Atleast we can park our cars this year. I remember other years you couldn’t get out of your car in the town. The snow was pack right up in the curb.

  9. Kevin says:

    Tim,You are to be congratulated on having the idea for the prisoners to shovel the walks in town.As growing up here I remember before Adelphia was even an idea,the streets were always maintained and we always had the streets cleaned and garbage picked up.i myself think its time for a change for our Borough Leadres.Time for new blood and maybe some pride in the town we live.lets find some constuctive ideas to do the upkeep of the town.this is a great town and i would like to see it taken care of. properly,if not how can we attract new buisness and new rewsidents.
    again thanks for your concern,now lets all work together to come up with plans for our Town

  10. joyce says:

    My heart and prayers go out to Thomas And the young boy involed. I often see Irwin Duell in the early mornings shoveling the sidewalks. But think it should be up the boro they get paid for this.

  11. admin says:

    Well folks, I am happy to report that the bridge in this story has been completely cleared of snow and salted.

  12. linda says:

    and this is the county seat wow

  13. Anonymous says:

    The police have to start citing people, without preference or favoritism. A couple of tickets and people start to get the message

  14. Robin says:

    Well atleast things are being taken care of now.. Unfortunately sometimes it takes something serious happening to change things.. May things only keep getting better from here..

    Still praying for the little girl.. May she have a full recovery…

  15. brian wilson says:

    bravo coudy news!! went to the boro mtg. tonight tried to explain what doing the right thing means when you run a boro.i have sat on council and in the mayors chair. talked to them before about sidewalk clearing no matter whos sidewalk it is. they just dont get it! was made fun of and offered a shovel by the boros lawyer. who said i was the man for the job. and made fun of for other issues i brought up. so i understand there are council seats up this year. i will be running for one in ward one. they said tonight they are taxpayer friendly. you make the call!!

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