Landslide forces closure of township road

YELLOW CREEK – The recent combination of winter melt and rainy conditions blamed for a landslide on Hibbetts Mill Road on Tuesday prompted Yellow Creek Township trustees to order a section of the road closed to traffic, effective 8 a.m. tomorrow, March 1.

A portion of the rocky cliffside overlooking the road slid down to the road’s edge, bringing a pair of trees with it. At Tuesday evening’s trustees meeting, board member Larry Brewer said a township resident with a chainsaw proceeded to cut the downed trees, which were blocking the road. The only problem, he said, was that the person chose to dispose of the trees by letting them fall down into the creek ravine. The larger tree snagged the telephone line running across the ravine, where it remains suspended on the wire, which is still intact but heavily strained under the weight.

“Again?” asked township road worker Randy Matthias in disbelief, recalling a similar incident last spring. “Oh, it’s on there pretty good,” Brewer replied.

Although the road is currently passable, trustees worried that the recent winter melt combined with upcoming rains could result in additional landslides. For that reason, they issued an order closing a section of Hibbetts Mill Road approximately a half-mile from the state Route 45 intersection, until further notice.

The need for repairs to other township roads came up for discussion. Trustees agreed that the township had the resources for no more than a mile and a half of chip-and-seal repairs at current costs. “It depends on what’s needed and where it’s needed at,” Brewer said.

Matthias, who represented the road department for absent roads foreman Gary Mitchell, said hills should be prioritized. Certain areas, such as on Bolivar Road, are in such poor condition they cannot be effectively salted in the winter. Brewer advised waiting on Forbes Road as long as it remains covered by a road usage maintenance agreement with Chesapeake Energy, which is utilizing the road for gas exploration.

Matthias asked trustees if they had ever calculated the per-mile costs of chip and seal versus the number of potholes that could be filled for that same amount. Boyd conceded that they hadn’t. Brewer had figures from 2011 pricing one-and-one-half miles of chip and seal for $17,318. Boyd then assumed a price of approximately $15,000 per mile this year versus a 10-ton load of patch for approximately $800.

“How many loads do we normally use?” Matthias asked. “A lot,” Boyd answered.

Fiscal officer Debbie Lyle promised to research the figures before the next meeting and have the calculations ready for comparison. In the meantime, Brewer suggested Matthias and Mitchell complete berming work before moving on to patching potholes.

In other business, Lyle reported on an email she received from Benjamin Rich at FirstEnergy Solutions regarding the non-payment of aggregation fees due to the township. At $.10 per enrollment with the aggregation plan and 265 enrollments in the township, Yellow Creek is due $2,650, which Lyle has been pursuing for more than a year. “It’s just been a nightmare,” she said.

The email stated that the previous aggregation representative, Colette Appolito, is no longer with the company for reasons not stated. Rich apologized for the “embarrassing situation” of Yellow Creek and other communities not receiving their payments. “This is completely unprofessional and unacceptable, and I am going to fix it,” Rich states.

The health insurance controversy addressed in previous meeting has also been resolved. The issue was the result of what trustee Kenny Biacco admitted was a misunderstanding on the part of township trustees regarding the policy from Anderson-Campbell Insurance. The late arrival of insurance cards from the agency added to the sense of worry on the behalf of Matthias and Mitchell, but further explanation of the payment process from the agency provided trustees with the assurance that, in fact, the total $2,500 deductible will be covered as originally planned.