TIOGA - Matt West, of Wellsboro, tourism information counselor at the state Department of Transportation Welcome Center, has received an IdeaLink Award for submitting an idea to promote tourism and enhance customer experience at the center by having binocular viewers installed.
West submitted his idea last October and, by June 5, four binocular viewers were installed at the center, one of them handicapped accessible.
"In November, the secretary of transportation contacted me and told me it was a great idea and they would implement it," he said.
According to PennDOT officials, the binocular viewers cost $18,500.
A crew that was at the center to clean up the damage from a pine tree that snapped off in a storm and to put in a new pergola also installed the viewers.
West, 35, has worked for PennDOT for 10 1/2 years. He also monitors the bald eagle and osprey nests in the area and said that having the viewers has enabled visitors at the center to get a close-up look at the big raptors, for free.
"There were no fixed binoculars up there at all and now we have two on the patio, one in the north picnic area and one in the south picnic area," he said.
People love the feature, West said.
"They say it is a great idea and really gives them a closer look at Tioga Borough, Hammond Lake and Tioga Lake," he added.
Earlier in September, West said he was talking with a co-worker when he looked outside and saw a couple of people using the binocular viewers. They were "real excited, and I went outside and saw a mature bald eagle flying about a hundred yards away."
"Obviously, it was the first time they had ever seen a bald eagle," he said.
Twenty-two other PennDOT employees also were presented with IdeaLink Awards on Sept. 19 during a ceremony in Harrisburg, honoring them for their ideas to improve safety or efficiency in the department.
The employee suggestions were submitted through IdeaLink, an online PennDOT system that empowers all department employees to share innovative ideas to improve workplace safety and enhance operations.
"I am honored to present the IdeaLink Award to our employees who have taken a proactive approach in making the department a better business partner and employer," PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch said. "These employees are dedicated to creating a more efficient, safer and more cost effective agency; this makes us a better employer and a better agency for our customers."
The IdeaLink Awards Program focuses on new ideas that improve the department in the areas of efficiency, safety, customer service, cost savings and revenue generation.