The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 11, 2009

Townships reach agreement on boundary dispute


CASSANDRA — A long-running boundary dispute between Portage and Washington townships appears to have been resolved during an informal meeting Wednesday.

Steps will be taken to guarantee that questions over location of the line along Route 53 do not surface again, officials from both townships said.

Using a recently completed land survey and maps from the former Pennsylvania Railroad, Portage and Washington supervisors say they’ve reached a consensus that the line and road signs should be midway on the hill north of the former Kick’s Convenience Store between Portage and Lilly.

“We plan to have (survey) pins put in and we want to put up a concrete monument so 300 years from now they know where the line is once and for all,” Portage Supervisor Ken Trimbath said.

Questions about the line along the busy highway have existed for years.

Following a Route 53 upgrade several years ago, the road sign designating the boundary line was replaced at the bottom of the hill just outside Cassandra. PennDOT officials at that time said the sign placement was based on a global positioning system map.

But the GPS map did not look back to the boundaries of 200 years ago, Washington Supervisor Ray Guzic said.

Nothing was done to determine the line until 2008, when a dispute over fire company territory reignited the issue. Portage Supervisor Jim Kovach moved the sign about 1,200 feet north toward the top of the hill.

Sensing potential problems, both townships agreed to split the $1,600 cost of a land survey of the line east to Blair County, and the matter was all but forgotten about.

Last week an accident on Route 53 in that area brought emergency and fire personnel from the north and south.

“It was kind of like, ‘OK, let’s get this settled once and for all,’ ” Trimbath said.

Local land surveyor Fred Brown had completed much of the work, and he showed officials the line is farther north than PennDOT had indicated.

Brown’s survey includes maps from the early 1800s and 1900s.

“It is just a matter of cooperation,” Trimbath said. “Fred brought the railroad information in and made common sense of it.”

Guzic said he never believed the line was at the bottom of the hill, and agrees with the determination that is it about midway to the top.

“We’re going to lose a little bit on one end, but we’re gaining a little bit on the end toward Blair County,” he said.

The redesignation has no impact on any homes or businesses.

Officials of both townships will talk to their solicitors and take steps over the next few months to approve the new line and have the information filed at the Cambria County Courthouse.