Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Grates at Collapsed Bethlehem Tp Culvert Installed by PennDOT, Sez Former Worker
In 1977, Debra LaForm stepped out of her stalled car during a rainstorm to make a call for help from the nearby hotel now known as The Keystone Pub. Returning to her car, she suddenly vanished. She had stepped into an open drainage ditch, which sucked her body through an 18" drainage pipe and ultimately, into the Nancy Run Creek.
Her body was found eight hours later.
This has been a problem area in Bethlehem Township for many years because it is a low point in the Nancy Run watershed. Township engineer Leonard Fraivillig refused to approve PennDOT plans for stormwater along that roadway because he believed a straight 96-inch pipe would be necessary to drain the ditch on the west side of Santee Road. PennDOT nevertheless went ahead anyway. Fraivillig's plan was never acted on because it was too costly.
This, along with an absence of fences or guardrails around that ditch, cost Debra LaForma her life.
The collapsed culvert being studied by the township now is on the other side of the street, and PennDOT has insisted it has no responsibility in that area. That's odd because it is PennDOT who installed the metal grates. On Tuesday, Township resident Scott Culpepper came forward. In the early '70s, when he was fresh out of college, he was working for PennDOT as a laborer and was involved in the installation of the grates over the collapsed culvert to which PennDOT disavows any knowledge.
What Culpepper told me has been relayed with his permission to township Commissioners and Manager Melisa Shafer. President Mary Zawarski stated he plans to pursue this matter with State Senator Lisa Boscola. It appeears that the pottery barn rule could be invoked against PennDOT, who did most of the drainage work in that area.
"If in fact PennDot did install the grates then it is clearly their responsibility not ours," noted Commissioner Michael Hudak.