WEST SCRANTON - Department of Public Works crews have been working steadily the past two weeks to fortify the weak, steep embankment that has threatened to cause structural damage to St. Lucy's Church.
The problem at St. Lucy's manifested itself within the past 12 months at a portion of the church's parking lot located just behind the church structure. There, the blacktopped lot has cracked and sloped increasingly in a well-defined pattern that points toward the steep cliff that ends St. Lucy's property.
The problem was identified at the bank itself. Located about 10 feet from the church and consisting of railroad ties, stone and dirt, the embankment was found to be eroding rapidly.
"In the last year, it really dropped," said the Rev. Paul Cottone, St. Lucy's pastor, pointing to the cracked, sloped parking lot. "It dropped so bad that the iron fence that was up fell. I didn't know where to turn."
Upon heating of the church's problem, Community Development Director Jim Connors contacted, 'among others, Public Works Director Ed Pisano.
"Over the years, water runoff and age and time have a toll on the bank," Pisano explained. "When I went up and looked at the situation and saw the help the church needed, I knew we had the capabilities to do the job."
Pisano figured that if the wide expanse below the embankment was filled in, the bank would hold tight. The problem was finding enough dirt and rock – called "clean fill," as opposed to construction debris -- to shore up the bank, which dips in a 50-70-foot plane from the edge of the church parking lot.
One source of fill was some small dumping grounds where contractors have unloaded excess fill in the past. A bigger source has been provided by the land next to Battaglia-Cawley Field, located about a block from St. Lucy’s from which DPW dump trucks and backhoes have transported hundreds of tons of fill and, with the same stroke, created a large parking lot for the baseball field.
For about the past two weeks public works crews have devoted full-time attention to the project at St. Lucy’s working their way toward the slipping bank by filling in the expanse with the fill.
"I’m very happy with how quickly we’ve gotten to this point," Pisano said. "The area we’re starting to fill in now is the most crucial area. Once we get this portion filled in, I’ll feel more comfortable because the danger of the wall collapsing should be eliminated."
Pisano said he hopes the entire job will be complete before the end of the year.
"It’s really not costing anybody anything," he noted. "But it could have cost a substantial amount of money if it had to be contracted out."
"This is a good project because it serves a large portion of the community in West Scranton," he added. "We’re just glad we are in a position to help out."
So is Rev. Cottone, who leads a parish of 1,100 families.
"I’m certainly grateful for the help and the cooperation they’ve given us," he said. "(The crack and slope in the parking lot) was creeping right back, and you could see it would keep moving. It would have hit the structure."
Pisano said any contractor who has extra fill may donate the material to the project at St. Lucy’s.
"If they just dump it there (at St. Lucy’s embankment), we’ll take care of it," he said.
Pisano emphasized, however, that only clean fill is being used in the project.
Scranton Times, Nov. 4, 1989, Section A8
DER Orders Firm to Halt Dumping
The state Department of Environmental Resources has ordered a New Jersey demolition firm to stop dumping demolition material in a void behind St. Lucy’s Church in West Scranton.
Jim Lennan who represents Demo Carriers, Jersey City, N.J., said the company offered to dump the wastes to fill a 40-foot void which threatens the church and an adjacent parking lot.
But Scranton Community Development Director James Connors said DER ordered a halt to the dumping after determining the material being put in the void was demolition waste which must go to landfills.
Connors, who claims he initially told Lennan on Aug 23 to slop dumping on the church grounds, said he ordered
barricades and police tapes put around the void Thursday, after visiting the site with DER representatives.
"I also instructed city engineer John Luciani to write Lennan a letter ordering him 10 stop dumping" Connors said.
The CommD director said DER ordered Lennan to stop dumping after determining that the material was demolition debris and finding Demo Carriers does not have a permit from New Jersey to bring the materials here.
"DER told him verbally not to dump there any more," Connors said. "and currently is preparing a report for us on the composition of the stuff being dumped."
Because the materials being dumped contain tree stumps and other wood, Connors said, it is not acceptable fill material under DER regulations.
He also maintained that because the wood eventually will deteriorate, it is not suitable for "shoring up" eroded areas around the church.
"Lennan," according to Connors, "had maintained the material contained a mix of only five to 10 percent wood. What he brought in though, contained 30 percent wood."
Connors estimated six truckloads of the material were dumped into the void before he and DER ordered a stop to the dumping. In addition he said, the demolition firm pushed additional material which other haulers had brought to the site into the void.
These other materials were brought to the site under a plan Connors and Public Works Director Ed Pisano had formulated to fill the void with clean fill from contractors in the area. Pisano, according to Connors, had instructed contractors to dump fill on the parking lot for inspection before it was used to fill the void.
"We wanted DER to check what was going in there," said Connors, "We want to help the priest and the parish…but in the right way."
Connors said he has not yet determined what will become of the materials already dumped into the void, but said Pisano has commitments from people to bring in clean fill and compact it.
Because the city owns property immediately below the bank that has eroded, causing the void, he justified using city equipment on the project.
Scranton Times, Friday, Sept. 1, 1989, pg. 14
Church Backfilling Project to Be Checked Out
Describing backfilling at a West Scranton church as nearing a public health and safety issue, John Pocius, city council president, Wednesday, said he will schedule an on-site meeting to review the project.
Council members agreed to schedule an on-site meeting at St. Lucy’s Church after a group of West Scranton residents raised the subject at council’s meeting, contending the backfilling was creating a safety hazard for children.
Begun two years ago to stabilize the foundation of the church, the backfilling "has now reached the stage where the bank is extremely high and with the type of fill that is exposed has become a major concern," Beverly Gilarde, president of the West Scranton Neighborhood Association, told council.
"The bank in its present condition is nothing more than a time bomb and it is only a matter of time before some child is seriously hurt or killed," she said.
Although the Rev. Paul Cottone, pastor at St. Lucy's, told the group the work would be completed in "due time," Gilarde said two years is usually enough to finish a project of this type.
She said the organization's complaints to Mayor Jim Connors, the city engineer, John Luciani Jr.; Greg Herbster, director of the Bureau of Parks and Recreation, and litter control officer Barry Gilhooley have produced no results.
Gilarde asked the council to take a role in completing the project. In particular, she said, the organization was requesting immediate erection of a fence.
Pocius said council would schedule an on-site meeting as soon as possible to "try to come to a reasonable conclusion to this thing."
The conditions that exist there, he said, "are starting to approach a public health and safety issue."
A motion to request Ahlstrom Development Corp. to drop its proposal to build a $270 million co-generation plant in the Marvine Section failed for lack of a second.
[From here on, the article dealt with other Council business.]
Scranton Times, June 4, 1992, pg 7
3-Year Embankment Project at St. Lucy’s Comes to an End
By TOM KAHRIGER
WEST SCRANTON - Finishing touches are being applied to a three-year project to fortify what was an eroding, dangerous embankment behind St. Lucy's Church.
When the work is finally complete, the steep bank will be much stronger and safer, according to volunteers who have supervised the three-year effort
Tons of clean fill was deposited upon the bank over the past month by the Cerminaro Construction Co. All that remains to be done is the installation of a fence at the top of the bank, just off the church parking lot, and the seeding of the dirt-covered bank.
"Thank God it's over with," said St. Lucy's pastor Rev. Paul Cottone. "I'm grateful to everyone who offered their services for the last three years."
Work to secure the eroding bank began in 1989, when its deterioration began to cause considerable structural damage to the church itself.
A Department of Public Works crew worked to secure the bank initially. Ed Pisano, who was the city's DPW director at the time, recalled that the steep embankment was extremely dangerous and presented a public safety hazard.
"It was a nightmare waiting to happen," he recalled. "The bank. dropped about 75 feet and everything was caving in. If a kid fell off of it, he would have been killed."
After the DPW temporarily secured the bank, local contractors were asked to provide fill at the site to build up the bank.
The dumping continued on and off over the past three years.
Most recently, workers from Cerminaro Construction Co. spread clean fill over the entire bank, covering large rocks that had been a source of concern from some neighbors.
"I think the people who had concerns about this project are going to be very satisfied with the final result," said Pisano, who continued to help supervise the work over the years.
A concrete wall has also been erected near the base of the bank to prevent any future erosion from affecting residents of the adjacent Jackson Terrace housing project
Pisano joined Cottone in praising the many volunteers who donated time, equipment and material to the project.
"This has been a big community project," he said, noting that the entire job cost the church only $15,000 to $20,000, despite much higher initial estimates.
John Vadota, who also helped coordinate the project, recalled working alongside his son, John Jr., in the beginning stages of the project to clear trees and heavy brush from the eroding bank.
"It took a lot of hard work, but I'm glad I was a part of this," Vadota said. "This shows how much can be accomplished when a lot of community-minded people pitch in."
This week Crown Vetch will be planted throughout the bank. The vegetation will help keep the bank from eroding in the future and beautify the steep slope, Pisano noted.
Security lights have been installed near the bank and a long fence will be erected at the top of the bank to keep children and pedestrians from venturing too close to it.
Another positive result from the project included clearing weeds and large brush from an area at the rear of the adjacent Novembrino Swim Complex, located at the top of the bank.
The parking area of the Battaglia-Cawley Little League Field, located below the bank, was also enlarged as a result of three-year project.
In addition, the removal or many trees and overgrowth from the large bank cleared an expansive view or the East Mountain and downtown that can be seen from the church's parking lot.
Cottone expressed hope that part of the recently cleared area at the bottom of the bank may be used to erect a small play ground for children who live in Jackson Terrace.