Category: Kittanning Borough

125-Year Celebration of Kittanning Hose Company #1 Continues

Kittanning Hose Company #1 has come a long way since its first fire engine in 1912. Their year-long celebration as the longest fire department in Kittanning Borough continues this weekend with a banquet dinner.

By Jonathan Weaver

 

“There’s been people around that tried to do away with us, sell our truck, try to shut us down, cut our funding (but) we stayed strong, pulled together and it actually made us better, tougher, and stronger than ever before – and we’re going to continue to be that way.

 

“We had a lot of hurdles in front of us, and we jumped every one of them.”

 

Kittanning Hose Company #1 Fire Chief Gene Stephens and local firefighters will continue to celebrate overcoming those obstacles and the past 125 years of volunteer service to the community with a dinner Saturday night at the St. Mary’s Parish Hall.

 

Members and non-active members, along with their spouses or girlfriends, and local dignitaries –including State Rep. Jeff Pyle, Senator Don White and members of Kittanning Borough Council – have all been invited.

 

Currently about 100 have RSVP’d, according to Fire Department President Jerry Shuster, and citations from the U.S. Senate, Congress and House of Representatives, as well as the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives have been issued.

 

“It’s a celebration of the company,” Shuster said.

 

Chief Stephens joined the fire department when he was 18. Besides his father – former fire chief Carl “Skeets” – and uncles, William “Abe” and Eugene “Chuck,” Stephens had brothers part of the department before they moved and currently has two cousins alongside him as a firefighter.

 

“I’ve been around the organization as long as I’ve been knee-high to a grasshopper, working carnivals, bingos and other functions like that with my father,” Stephens said.

 

Many members of the fire company share in those family traditions – including Shuster (a third-generation firefighter celebrating 51 years in the company with son, Patrick, who is also a firefighter) and Assistant Chief Kevin Kline (a firefighter who saves lives alongside his daughter, Kendra, father – Kittanning Hose Company #4 Fire Chief and Borough Fire Marshal Earl “Buzz” Kline, brothers –including Kittanning Hose Company #6 Fire Chief Scott Kline and cousins.

 

“It’s a family business,” Kline said. “She loves it – when school and work don’t get in the way, she’s very active.”

 

Kline has volunteered with Hose Company #1 a combined 17 years at Hose Company #1 and was a certified paramedic with Kittanning #6 for 10 years.

 

About 26 active members make up Hose Company #1– and officers are currently reviewing more applications. Applications are always accepted – even from those who want to do more than fight fires.

 

Even two children that are sons of firefighters – Fire Department Treasurer Earl Kline’s son, Colin, and Stephens’ son, Sye, – are awaiting their turn to be more involved.

 

Hose Company #1 firefighters – which have responded to about 120 emergency calls (from fire alarms and vehicle accidents to elevator high-rise problems and, of course, fires – in 2014) protect residents from South Water Street to Union Avenue, but assist with the other Kittanning fire departments on fire calls and also respond to incidents in Applewold, West Kittanning, Ford City, East Franklin and Worthington.

 

Usually with full support, Chief Stephens said.

 

“I’m real happy with the members of this fire department because when the whistle blows, I can probably put 15-20 guys on the street,” Chief Stephens said.

 

A certified non-profit organization, firefighters have sponsored dances and street fairs in the past to the current-Waves of Thunder motorcycle show and trout derby.

 

“We wouldn’t be in existence if it hadn’t been for the support of the community,” Shuster said. “You don’t get to be 125 years old if you haven’t done something that merits that support.”

 

The first company fire station sat along an extension of Mulberry Street where Balcony Towers now sits until Kittanning Borough purchased the former-Presbyterian Church in the early 1900’s with a $5,000 bond. Firefighters spent $10,000 to renovate the building.

“It was the happenin` spot back in the day – the only place big enough at that time to hold events like that,” Stephens said. “People from out of town would come in to square dance – thousands of people were in that structure.”

 

The fire station – which was demolished in 2013 to make way for an extension to AAAA Tire next door – was used 100 years – until 2001 – when the current structure was completed.

 

Proceeds from those fundraisers and a gun bash – held November 1 at the West Kittanning Fire Hall – set aside money for turnout gear (costing approximately $2,500 each firefighter) and the dreams of a new aerial truck.

 

Safety Officer Matt Graham started as a junior firefighter in April 2003, but has been around the firehouse since he was five years old with stepfather George Schreckengost – also a firefighter. He can be seen at the fire hall sometimes until 4AM on the weekends – even if just for the comradery.

 

“I’ve learned a lot from Gene and George,” Graham said.

 

Fourth Ward Councilman and Hose Company #4 Firefighter Andy Peters congratulated the firefighters across town. Peters has been a firefighter about a dozen years

 

“It’s a wonderful thing – it’s an accomplishment to be in service that long,” Peters said.

 

Kittanning Businesses Oppose Proposed Traffic Changes

Whitman, Requardt and Associates Senior Project Engineer Dan Fritz shows a graph of those surveyed in late-2012 – many of which for two-way traffic along McKean and Jefferson Streets. But, some local business owners and residents were against the proposal and addressed their concerns at last night’s town hall meeting.

By Jonathan Weaver

A group of downtown Kittanning business owners stand against proposed plans to allow two-way motor traffic back onto McKean and Jefferson Streets.

More than 20 people attended a town hall meeting at the First Church of God – including at least four local business owners, six members of Borough Council and Mayor Kirk Atwood – to address those concerns and review the project designs with Whitman, Requardt and Associates Senior Project Engineer Dan Fritz.

Starting in 2012 and ending in February 2013, engineers surveyed residents and business owners, analyzed traffic patterns and monitored vehicle movement along the two roadways as they interfaced with Market Street – with most responders wishing for two-way traffic.

“When we took the three alternatives out to the public – the existing, partial two-way street conversion and full two-way street conversion – the public overwhelmingly selected the full two-way street conversion for both streets,” Fritz said.

“All said and done, we conducted various surveys and public outreach. We touched probably about 371 – close to 400 – people, who were involved in the decision-making of this project,” Fritz added.

Engineers considered only converting the southern blocks – such as from Market Street to Jacob Street – to two-way, but found it would not be as beneficial as the choice selected.

Road access and parking topped the list of importance to those surveyed, but responders agreed both areas needed improvement. And the converted roadways would safely permit access from as little as two routes to as many as six.

“There’s where you really see your greatest benefits because folks really have full access to the central business district in town, it opens up possibilities to some of your community assets – like the YMCA – and also special event access – with several festivals that happen in Riverfront Park when Water Street is closed and traffic is detoured,” Fritz said. “Now, folks can take either Jefferson or McKean – depending where they want to go.”
“Sounds like a win-win.”

But, it’s not a win for South McKean Street Lawyer Paula LaStrapes or South Jefferson Street businesses Bugsy’s Pizza Owner Jeff Bowser, Oakwood Tavern or Family-Life Media Owner David Croyle – who were not of the 10 different business owners that receive truck shipments interviewed

Those interviewed by phone by engineers included seven along Jefferson Street (such as Obade Candy, Family Dollar and Klingensmith’s Drug Store) and one along North McKean – Sprankle’s Market.

Croyle – also a First Ward councilman – said incoming business for the vacant properties in town will need access to new infrastructure, but will create more problems and parking headaches.

A businessman and resident in the 100 block of South Jefferson Street, Croyle was adamantly against the proposed changes.

“I appreciate the work you’ve done; however, I am totally against two-way traffic,” Croyle said. “Nobody except Armstrong Beer Distributing was even contacted, when we’re the ones so directly associated.

“From the time I’ve come on Council, my main concern is making sure we become business-friendly. I want to see business come in, but it won’t be in the 100-block if it’s two-way – there will be (no truck access unless blocking the entire lane). This is not going to be good for business.”

Bowser was also against the changes and also for allowing specific loading zones during certain times of the day.

“The last two-three weeks alone I’ve walked up-and-down that street, and if traffic’s now allowed to make a turn from Market onto South Jefferson and there’s traffic coming the other way, they’re going to hit oncoming traffic head-on. No ands, ifs or buts about it,” Bowser said. “It happens now – they go around trucks that are parked there.

It becomes a nightmare.”

Oakwood Tavern has been on South Jefferson Street since 1999, according to Family Manager George Johnson, and never –legally-seen two-way traffic. The business also receives deliveries twice per week of various orders

“The more I get, the longer they’re going to be there – as of now, there’s hard to deliver with the parking beside us,” Johnson said. “Now, if there’s two-way traffic, it’s going to be an even-bigger hassle.”

Armstrong County Tourist Bureau President Jack Bennett noted beer trucks that stopped outside South Jefferson Street bars for nearly an hour while FedEx and UPS trucks also delivered packages. He also questioned business owners, but could not find any that completed the online survey – and said that even Borough Police Chief Bruce Mathews is against the proposed changes.

Any reversal of the current plans will have to be voted on at the December 1st council meeting.

The two-way traffic is part of Phase II in the Downtown Kittanning Revitalization Project – which is estimated to be about $2.6 million, according to County Community Division Director Jennifer Bellas.

Design drawings were originally expected to be delivered to PennDOT – since Market Street is a state highway – by Friday to prepare for next construction season, but due to a potential reversal of plans in two weeks, more time could be added to the process.

Kittanning Hose Company #4 Fire Chief Earl “Buzz” Kline predicted if more people came to earlier public meetings, this might no longer be an issue

Resident Bill Steim said the two streets were converted to one-way in the early 1970’s by PennDOT.