The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

February 10, 2013

Tangled in bureaucracy

Tree dangled while officials dodged responsibility

The Tribune-Democrat

— If a tree falls in Conemaugh Township, Somerset County, does anybody hear it?

More importantly, will anyone take responsibility for its removal?

That’s the question that Kim Miller, who lives on Saylor School Road, wondered as a tree that was tangled in wires dangled above traffic for days.

Miller, who drives a school bus, reported the potential problem to her dispatcher on Jan. 31. But when she had not seen any action on it by the weekend, she posted a photo of the tree on the The Tribune-Democrat Facebook page.

She was worried about what could happen to the tree.

“It looks like it could slide right out of there,” Miller said. “I don’t want it to fall on someone and them get hurt over something silly like this, and if a higher truck comes down the road it could hit it because the tree is that low.”

Reporter Kelly Urban called the Conemaugh Township supervisors’ office, where a secretary told her that she would need to contact the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation because it is a state road.

So, she did.

PennDOT said it was Penelec’s problem because the tree was tangled in electrical wires.

Urban called Penelec, which told her that they were telephone wires, not electrical wires, so it was Verizon’s problem.

So, she called Verizon and, after speaking to several people about the issue, eventually was told that it wasn’t Verizon’s problem but the township’s.

Ever wonder why people get frustrated with governmental (and corporate) runaround?

Nobody wanted to take responsibility for the tree. It wasn’t until Monday afternoon – four full days after it was initially cut down by members of the Conemaugh Township Fire Company – that it was removed.

Eventually, Verizon workers did take care of the issue.

We just don’t understand why it took so long for this to happen. Too many people washed their hands of the problem instead of stepping in and making sure that it was taken care of before someone was seriously injured or killed.

Thankfully, Miller was persistent in her efforts to have the tree removed. There are plenty of government and business officials who could learn from her example.

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