City resident glad to see repairs made to streets, curbs

“Yesterday” couldn’t arrive soon enough for Ralph Keller, of Hughes Street.

It was 48 years ago when work crews had last resurfaced and paved the street outside his house on the corner with Elizabeth Street, near Brandon Park.

That same month The Beatles’ hit song, “Yesterday,” climbed the charts.

“It was October 1965,” Keller said Wednesday morning. He remembers the last repair job as if it were yesterday.

“The very next day it rained and it sunk at the corner,” Keller said of the work done nearly a half-century ago.

On Wednesday, contractors with HRI Inc. laid wooden footers and prepared to pour concrete for curbs at the intersection.

“Many of these streets haven’t been attended to in more than 40 years,” said Mayor Gabriel J. Campana during a news conference at the corner. “Today marks the start of the largest paving plan in the city’s history. For years, residents have expressed their complaints about the street conditions. We’ve listened to their message and heard them loud and clear.”

It was a curb repair that Keller was grateful to see, especially for whenever he uses his snowblower.

“I am glad they are putting in the handicapped accessible curb,” he said of the smooth transition from curb to pavement.

Over the next two years, the city plans to invest $5 million in paving and reconstruction, said John Grado, city engineer and director of community and economic development.

The funding is due, in large part, to the infusion of cash as a result of natural gas impact fees. These are the guaranteed payments to the city under Act 13 from the nearby wells operating near the city, he said.

Starting this year, the city will spend $1.3 million on 25 streets, with $2 million of investment for Reach Road and the industrial park in the city’s West End. Another $750,000 of gas impact fees is anticipated next year from gas impact fees, general fund spending and liquid fuels, according to Grado.

In addition, the Williamsport Municipal Water and Sanitary Authority is contributing $750,000 for its reconstruction requirements.

The HRI contract is $1.2 million and there’s $1.4 million in the city budget, Grado said.

“That allows the contractors to get storm sewer work done by removing catch basins before the streets are paved,” he said.

Alternative jobs such as portions of Park Avenue, Hepburn Street now may be paved and the new parking lot at State and Church streets can have catch basin improvements.

Brick overlay will be removed on Grafius and Court streets, to be replaced with a surface material, making them safer to drive and walk on.

Next summer, a section of West Third Street, where college students and staff cross at the Pennsylvania College of Technology, will be opened up and excavated and old trolley ties and wood pieces that cause a rough ride for motorists will be removed.

“The city is waiting until the college is on summer break,” Grado said.

“These are streets that are in our six-year capital projects budget,” Campana said.

That’s a “to-do” list of projects, some with available funding and others without, the administration believes needs to be done to improve the city.