The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

March 12, 2013

Courthouse left high and dry during water line maintenance

County not forewarned about loss of water

Kathy Mellott

EBENSBURG — Work on a $5 million upgrade for the municipal water system serving the Ebensburg area forced many offices at the Cambria County Courthouse to close early on Tuesday.

Water pressure at the courthouse dropped significantly at mid-morning, forcing county maintenance personnel to close the restrooms.

By noon, Chief Clerk David Knepper had made arrangements for employees to use the restrooms at the office of state Rep., Frank Burns, D-East Taylor, whose office is a half-block from the courthouse.

Burns’ office was not impacted by the water loss.

Shortly after lunch, President Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder instructed Knepper to contact the row officers and send staff home early if they chose.

On an average day, there are more than 200 employees working at the courthouse. Tuesday was especially busy because dozens of criminal cases were being handled in the courtrooms.

“They shut down the offices about 1:30 p.m.,” Knepper said.

Ebensburg Borough Manger Dan Penatzer was apologetic because the county had received no prior notification that the water service would be interrupted.

“We dropped the ball on this one,” he said.

Much of the water line replacement in the massive upgrade was completed over the winter. Contractors now are dealing with installation of 45 valves being set in place throughout the system, he said.

Tuesday was the day to install three of the valves on Center Street at Triumph, Lloyd and Ogle streets near the courthouse.

The existing system is so antiquated, Penatzer said, that when a problem develops at one end of town, large areas lose water, something the valves will change.

“These valves will allow us to isolate areas across the town,” he said.

Meanwhile, the courthouse employees were taking a light-hearted approach about the lack of restroom facilities. Many went to convenience stores and restaurants for lunch rather than eating in.

The courthouse snack bar, which usually does a brisk lunch business, was able to stay open to meet minimal food needs.

“I was able to make all my lunches. There is tiny little bit of water pressure so I had enough to do the dishes,” said manager Keri Burke.

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