This is just one of several public safety concerns raised at what Chairman Hayden Phillips called Council's first capital projects meeting in 12 years. In 2011, former Council member Ron Angle did form an ad hoc long-range planning committee to review capital projects. But this is the first formal effort in over a decade.
Northampton County's parking deck, first built in 1975, is already well beyond its projected 30-40 year lifespan. In 2008, former Executive John Stoffa proposed a new parking facility, but scrapped that idea in favor of renovations when bids came in lower than expected. Unfortunately, in 2010, a $1.7 million project grew by $500,000 when an engineer claimed there were "unforeseen circumstances." The garage never was properly renovated, and in 2012, the County sued Cleveland-based RAM Construction over defects like cracking, misaligned joints and defective overhead patches. RAM blamed Pennoni Engineering, which designed the project, and the matter is currently being sorted out in federal court.
DeSalva told Council that, for the past year, water has been leaking onto cars, depositing a salt that is difficult to remove. He then added that pieces of concrete have been damaging cars, acknowledging that they could hit people. He said that, for the past year, an engineer has been studying the best way to secure netting to protect vehicles and people. In the intervening period, DeSalva indicated that he makes safety inspections and places traffic cones in areas he considers unsafe.
"It took a year for someone to tell us where we could put up netting to protect people?" asked an incredulous Glenn Geissinger.
Mat Benol suggested the County place "Park at your own risk" signs throughout the lot and use Lehigh and Lafayette engineering students to solve this problem. Executive John Brown distanced himself from those suggestions.
In addition to the parking deck, DeSalva told Council there's a public safety risk at points where county-owned trails cross major roads like Airport and Weaversville Roads. This is in response to a 2007 accident in which a six-year old boy was severely injured while crossing Weaversville Road along the Nor-Bath Trail. Though the County had all the signage required by PennPOT, a subsequent lawsuit revealed that additional safety precautions were necessary. "We're upgrading the crossings to make them safe," DeSalva told Council, noting that Hanover Engineering has been working on the matter for the past two years.
A final public safety risk raised by DeSalva concerns two quarries at the County-owned Gall farm in Plainfield Township, where there is a risk that people could accidentally fall in and drown. Though the County budgeted $50,000 for security-fencing three years ago, the project was only completed last year. According to DeSalva, it's still unsafe. More fencing is needed.
In addition to these public safety concerns, DeSalva updated Council on other pending capital projects.
• A $500,000 facelift for a leaking roof, asbestos, bird and vermin-infested computer room, which is also exposed to dangerously high temperatures, is five weeks ahead of schedule. DeSalva is projecting substantial completion on May 9.
• Because he still has to select an engineer, DeSalva does not expect even the design phase for a back-up power system at Gracedale to be ready before the end of the year. "This is not something we do that often," he explained. The county-owned nursing home had to rely on the National Guard for an emergency generator when its own generator failed during Hurricane Sandy.
• The Gracedale boilerhouse, located near a creek that is increasingly prone to flooding, needs stormwater management. DeSalva estimates that will be completed by the end of July.
• The jail exterior wall, which consists of large stone blocks and is subject to cracking, must still be reviewed by an engineer. DeSalva told Council it presents no danger.
Chairman Hayden Phillips pressed DeSalva to come up with a maintenance management plan for County facilities by June. "Say what you're gonna' do, do it and prove it," he put is in its simplest form.
Executive John Brown recently named Allentown's Director of Public Works, Richard Young, to succeed DeSalva. But DeSalva will remain as Young's Deputy, as the County has learned the hard way that one engineer is just not enough.