PennDOT, Chapman get ready for winter

We may still be seeing sunny days and moderate temperatures in Warren County, but the first snowflakes have already fallen in many places.

With coming weather in mind, state entities in the county are making sure they are prepared for the annual onslaught that is winter in western Pennsylvania.

PennDOT preparations are well underway, according to Warren/Forest County Manager Wes Hess.

“All but a few dump trucks are set up or snow removal,” Hess said in an Oct. 28 e-mail. “We are trying to get last minute maintenance concerns completed before setting up the remainder of the trucks later this week.”

He said salt and anti-skid has been delivered and brine-making operations, which are handled at the PennDOT facility in Starbrick, are ongoing. The brine will be delivered around the county and to Forest County and two sites in Venango county.

PennDOT personnel are being prepared as well.

“Employee safety training for operation of material augers along with mounting/unmounting snow plows has taken place,” Hess said.

He added all employees would be attending winter training covering, “all aspects of winter snow removal operations,” between Oct. 29 and 31.

New faces at the department are preparing as well.

“We have 12 new employees in Warren and Forest that will be ready to take over for retirements,” Hess noted. “The experienced operators and mechanics will be missed but these new folks are professionals and ready to step up. The training process will be ongoing.”

Locally, PennDOT is also conducting interviews for three temporary operators needed to cover seasonal full-time department shortfalls.

Agreements with local governments and assurances to the state are also completed.

“Municipal agreements are in place for townships and municipalities who plow and de-ice state roads during winter months,” Hess said. “Winter preparedness presentations to district office and Harrisburg have been completed to assure senior management that we are ready.”

Hess also had some advice for motorists traveling while PennDOT is performing winter duties.

“Give us room to operate safely so we can be as efficient as possible clearing the highways,” Hess said. “Stay back away from trucks plowing and spreading to prevent damage to personal vehicles and so the drivers can see you. Remember they stop often to move materials back to the spreader.”

Hess also asked individuals to ensure their mailboxes are repaired and sturdy and to call PennDOT at 814-723-3500 if they see any maintenance concerns.

Warren County’s local state park is bracing for winter as well.

According to Park Manager Jim McCorkle, Chapman State Park’s preparations are well underway.

“Lots going on to get ready right now,” McCrokle noted.

A warming hut has been put up at the sledding hill and fencing at the site will be installed.

Trails have been cleared of debris snowmobiles will be tuned for grooming soon to besnow covered ski trails.

Two buildings have been winterized, while sides are being put onto a pavilion McCorkle said is used primarily for Winterfest. Two buildings have been pressured washed and refinished as well.

Water hydrants and fountains that are not designated frost-free have been winterized.

Fields have been brush hogged, the skating rink basin has been mowed and a work crew from State Correctional Institution Forest has visited to cut and stack firewood for winter events.

Summer equipment is being cleaned up and serviced as well.

McCorkle reminded boaters that life jackets are required to be worn on the water regardless of what type of boat they are in starting Nov. 1.