The following is from the Herald Standard, Letter to the Editor, Friday, January 17, 2014
Floods threaten proposed prison
By Karen Sharpe
I believe Fayette County taxpayers should be made aware of the big mistake that the
Fayette County commissioners may be about to make as reported in the
Herald-Standard's front-page story on Jan. 8, "Commissioners consider buying building.''
What happens to the temporary prison if flooding occurs? And later, what happens to
the half-million dollar storage facility and its contents if flooding occurs? Here are
excerpts from a letter I sent to the commissioners:
It is with great concern that this correspondence is being submitted regarding your
consideration of buying property a 32 Iowa St., Uniontown, Pa.
I was an employee of the Department of Labor & Industry from 1968 to 2003. I was
involved in the construction process of this building, attending project conferences,
walk-throughs, etc. It was built by Walter Mucci Construction of Perryopolis, funded by
the State Department of General Services and mortgaged to the State Department of
Labor & Industry in 1972.
This building was flooded with 13 inches of water in March of 1972, two weeks prior to
the grand opening of the Bureau of Unemployment Security of "unemployment office''
as it was called. We, the employees, did the cleanup.
In June of 1972, Hurricane Agnes flooded the building with 42 inches of water. Upon
opening the office doors, debris and more water poured in and furniture was upset and
swept throughout the building. The office manager was pictured in the Herald-Standard
on a row boat on Iowa Street. Again, after the water receded us employees did the
cleanup of the mud, silt, debris and drying out of files.
After the first two floods, sand bags were purchased to put in front of the doors to keep
the water out. Hip wader boots were also provided for management, so in the event of a
flood, they could go into the building to retrieve or raise important files.
The third flood proved the sand bags inadequate. Then angle iron frames were placed
outside the doors to support marine plywood (stacked three layers high). This allowed
some water to enter but kept the debris out.
Over the years there were numerous threats of flooding or flood warnings. Each time we
were required to move bottom files, computers etc to higher elevations on top of desks
and filing cabinets.
The building flooded at least six times from 1972 through the 90s. FEMA was also
present during the later flooding, and may have more information of damages and
restoration costs. The parking lot flooded many more times. Redstone Creek was
dredged but soon became a garbage dump again. Storm drain catch basins in the parking
lot had to be cleaned periodically of debris. Even with these precautions, a hard
downpour or heavy snow runoff into Redstone Creek would cause the building and/or
parking lot to flood. Many times the water in the parking lot rose over the tires and into
the vehicles of employees.
A Herald-Standard article on Nov. 24, 2011 stated "Uniontown swamped by flood
waters,'' regarding the food bank the day before Thanksgiving. The flood affected
Fayette, Iowa and Grant streets. On Nov. 21, 2003, the headline of a Herald-Standard
read, "Library lucky, escapes flood's worst.''
In summary this building is located in a flood plain. The post office has a basement,
which has been flooded, and the library is built on a knoll, which allows it to become an
island when heavy rains hit. Thirty-two Iowa St., is sitting in a hole on a slab and takes
the brunt of the flood waters.
In addition or unless the Uniontown Area School District made major renovations, the
building exists as follows:
_ It is built on a concrete slab with electrical conduits running through troughs in the
floors, which when flooded have to be cleaned, dried and sometimes rewired.
_The electrical heating system consists of zones with dampers which must be adjusted
constantly to control heat and air conditioning in various areas.
_ The air handling system needs balanced twice a year when switching from heat to air.
Auxiliary radiant heaters under the windows need thermostats replaced often.
_ The flat roof was replaced approximately 20 years ago with an innovative rubber roof.
It was not sealed properly, bobbled up, and leaked through the ceiling tiles into the main
_ The asbestos ceiling tiles were painted, which caused them to lose their acoustics,
creating an echo effect in the larger open area of the building.
Therefore, it is evident that purchasing or leasing this building is a very irresponsible
decision and a big mistake on your part, in addition to being a very big burden on
taxpayers. There are many other buildings available for your consideration. You, as
public servants, should respect the people you serve and do a more through investigation.
Karen Sharpe is a resident of Brownsville.