On the sweltering first night of summer, Allentown City Council took action to improve safety on city streets after snowstorms.
That’s right: snowstorms.
Specifically, council is making it easier for city police to give tickets to people who shovel or plow snow or ice onto the right-of-way of any street.
It was just one of many issues before council at its Wednesday night meeting.
Others ranged from reducing unsanitary “accidents” in public pools, to the restoration of a mid-city playground, to another update on the long-delayed 15th Street Bridge replacement project.
The new snow and ice regulation gives police a stronger and faster enforcement tool against violators, explained Ann Saurman, who manages the city’s SWEEP ticketing program. It’s an alternative to police issuing citations, which she said “clutters the courts with small quality of life issues.”
Saurman said people who shovel snow into travel lanes of plowed and salted streets create a public safety issue, because the stuff they throw into the street can refreeze and/or create black ice. That creates a new danger on a street the city already has cleared.
Penalties are $25 or $100, determined by the severity of the offense. Those who plow parking lots and push snow and ice into travel lanes can expect the pay the higher fine, said Saurman.
In other action, council approved using $70,000 from the Trexler Trust to overhaul Franklin Park playground, which is off Turner Street between 14th and Franklin streets, and $29,117 to erect educational and historical signs to enhance the experience for visitors to the Lil-Le-Hi Trout Nursery along Fish Hatchery Road.
City parks superintendent Rick Holtzman said Franklin Park is one of the city’s oldest playgrounds but “in very bad condition, to the point we can’t even repair it anymore. It needs to be rebuilt.” He said the park is heavily used every day.
The new equipment, which has not yet been ordered, will be for children from pre-schoolers up to age 12. It will include swings, slides and climbing apparatus.
Holtzman said the existing equipment should have been replaced two years ago.
Some of it blocked off from use because it is outdated, broken and can’t be repaired.
Holtzman, who is the city’s acting parks and recreation director, hopes new playground equipment will be installed before fall.
The city also plans to install the signs at the trout nursery by autumn.
Before council’s 7 p.m. meeting, Holtzman told its parks and recreation committee the trout nursery has no signs, so visitors just wander around without learning about its purpose or history. He said people with smart phone will be able to scan the new signs to learn even more.
Also during the parks and recreation committee meeting, city officials announced very different signs soon will be erected at Allentown’s swimming pools.
At the direction of the state Health Department, the city is initiating a public education campaign at pools with the theme: “Keep it clean. We could be closed for days.” The goal is to reduce release of human fecal matter into pools, which requires temporarily closing them. Information will be provided advising people not to swim when sick, to wash hands after using toilets, to take children for bathroom breaks and to have small children wear swim diapers, which are available at all pools.
“What is going on with the 15th Street Bridge?” demanded Leon Lichtenwalner, a south Allentown resident, during council’s meeting. He said he repeatedly was promised work would begin by June 1.
On May 2, City Managing Director Francis Dougherty announced to council that demolition of the existing bridge would begin by June 1.
On Wednesday, Dougherty indicated the city has heard from many unhappy residents about the delayed project. “I hear their frustration, I share their frustration with the delay.” He said the city still is waiting for one last permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection before it can proceed.
Richard Young, the city’s public works director, said Allentown should get that DEP permit in about two weeks. After the meeting, Young said the bridge project should begin by late July.
Council authorized spending $55,000 in federal funds to install new street lights along Seventh Street from Turner to Hamilton, to complete new lighting along N. 7th . Young said that work will begin very soon.
Without explanation about its purpose, council authorized spending $75,000 on the Old Allentown Streetscape Project. After the meeting, Young explained that project involves improving19th Street between Liberty and Tilghman, including new sidewalks and curbs, decorative crosswalks, street signs and street lighting. He added work will begin before the end of July.
Council introduced a “lazy double parkers bill” with no discussion about its merits. The bill was sent to council’s public safety committee for a recommendation. It proposes establishing an additional $100 penalty for anyone who double parks within 10 feet of an open parking space. It also establishes escalating fines for repeat double-parking offenders.