The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

October 24, 2012

Portage Twp. seeks options for old shed

Kathy Mellott

PORTAGE — In 1916, a shed was built to house mules working in the nearby Sonman coal mine. Today, that structure houses trucks and plows used to maintain Portage Township roadways.

Township supervisors hope to change that. After years of discussion, plans are being forwarded to build a township garage.

The proposal currently on the table falls short of an initiative put forth by Supervisor Chairman Richard Olshavsky, who favors a facility replacing the garage and providing a township office and public meeting room.

But after looking at other buildings and vacant properties in the township, it appears Olshavsky’s wishes will not materialize.

“My goal was to get everything located in one spot,” Olshavsky said. “If we could get everything together, it would be like Portage Township starting a new life.”

The township office and public meeting room are located in the Miller Shaft area on Route 164, about three miles southeast of the garage.

At issue is the size of the one-acre tract housing the garage just across from the coal-cleaning plant operated by Amfire Mining Co.

The proposed 40-by-100-foot garage would share space with a road salt shed, anti-skid material, parking and equipment storage.

That would prompt the township to seek a deal with adjacent landowner Say-Core Inc., a concrete prestress operation.

A portion of a Say-Core building was mistakenly built on township property several years ago, opening the door for a small land swap, Olshavsky said.

“We looked at other buildings. We looked at other land,” he said. “One piece was wetlands. Another needed a bridge for access.”

The township has a population of just less than 4,000 and is increasingly serving as a bedroom community for people working in the Johnstown and Altoona areas. The township has a healthy fund balance, which is boosted by $72,000 annually for hosting several wind turbines that went into operation in 2009.

The existing garage houses three of the township’s larger trucks and a lunch area.

The township assumed ownership of the building in the early 1950s, Olshavsky said. The building was not equipped with a restroom until 1992.

Walls are lined with wooden shelving so the small area also serves as a parts room.

Supervisor Elwood “Benny” Selapack said he, Olshavsky and Supervisor James Kovach agree something needs to and will be done, but efforts have to be made to keep costs down.

“We’re trying to get something nice, that isn’t so expensive,” Selapack said.

Preliminary drawings for a four-bay garage are being developed by  The EADS Group, the  township engineering firm.

If all goes as planned, construction bids may be awarded in spring.


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