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Chester County Press

Getting the job done

12/17/2018 09:30AM ● By J. Chambless

The Road Crew brings in help from surrounding townships to save everyone money on projects all year. (Photo by John Chambless)

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

Early last week, with the temperature hovering around a finger-numbing 37 degrees, the East Marlborough Township Road Crew was quietly going about its business, this time installing a new bridge over a tiny creek at the intersection of Poplar and Mill roads in the township.

A backhoe was flipping chunks of pavement and concrete torn out of the old bridge, which had deteriorated beyond repair. A pump was diverting the flow of creek water away from the newly dug trench where the new bridge would eventually be placed, and Road Foreman John Chambers was explaining that this was a pretty typical week for the road crew.

“It was 24 degrees out here this morning when we started,” he said of the project, which was projected to be finished this week. “We're replacing this bridge. It had old stone walls with a concrete top on it. We're digging it out, and we have a prefab bridge coming. We have to dig out for the footers and have everything ready. Once the walls of the bridge are in place, we backfill around the walls, and blacktop it ourselves.”

The East Marlborough Road Crew handles jobs that would othewise cost the township much more money and take much longer to complete. There's a long history to the crew, which does everything from plowing snow, to helping with fallen trees in the township.

Jeff Simpson, the East Marlborough Director of Public Works, said, “A friend of mine is a PennDOT construction inspector and told us that he worked on a very similar sized project two years ago that was $400,000. This project is estimated to cost $110,000, of which $69,500 is being funded by a grant we received from the Chester County Conservation District's Dirt, Gravel, & Low Volume Road Maintenance Program. The program is funded by the State Conservation Commission and focuses on improving unpaved roads, and low-volume roads, to reduce the amount of harmful sediment pollution that reaches the streams. The culvert we replaced was severely deteriorated and undermined, which was leading to sediment being carried away in the unnamed tributary of the Red Clay Creek.”

The Public Works Department has five full-time employees, made up of four on the Road Crew and one on the Wastewater Crew. There are also two part-time seasonal employees who assist where needed. For the bridge replacement, which is scheduled to be finished around Dec. 19, eight men, including Simpson, worked with a local contractor with an excavator for three days.

The Road Crew rotates weeks of duty, but somebody is ready to respond every day of the year, 24 hours a day. “So when it's snowing on Christmas Day, we're plowing snow,” Chambers said at the job site. “If there's trees and wires down, we come in and put signs up until PECO gets in and clears it, and then we come back in and clean the road up. There's always something going on. If a big storm comes through, we're really busy.”

Simpson said the Road Crew's long list of duties includes “Maintenance and repairs to 60 miles of township roads, signs, stormwater facilities, township buildings and facilities, vehicles and equipment. We trim trees and do roadside mowing. During the winter months, we also provide snow and ice control duties to 15 miles of PennDOT roads within the township, in addition to the 60 miles of township roads. We maintain the Unionville Park, with mowing, tree trimming, walking path maintenance, pet waste disposal and restroom cleaning. The road crew also assists with the wastewater operations of maintaining the treatment plant, 100 acres of spray irrigation fields, 10 municipal pump stations, and 600 individual grinder pump stations in the low-pressure sewer areas of the township.

“Two of the employees are volunteer firefighters with the Longwood Fire Company, and two other employees are volunteer firefighters with the Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company,” Simpson added.

One of the unique features of the road crew is that the township swaps vehicles and equipment it owns with equipment owned by surrounding townships. When it comes time to fix something in those other townships, East Marlborough offers its own manpower and equipment. That way, each township doesn't have to own everything they might need in the course of a year.

Simpson explained, “We belong to the Southern Chester County Municipal Cooperative, which consists of Pennsbury, Pocopson, Kennett, East and West Marlborough, New Garden, and London Grove townships, Kennett, Avondale, and West Grove boroughs. There is a long history between these municipalities of sharing equipment and personnel that has saved each of us money over the years. We also jointly bid materials annually, such as fuel, stone, paving and line painting. For this bridge project, we used Kennett Township's air compressor and jackhammer, New Garden Township's jackhammer that mounted to our backhoe, London Grove Township's surveying equipment, and Pocopson Township's roller. We also had extra pumps and hoses on hand, in case we needed them for keeping up with the flow of the stream. We also used a mini-excavator that is owned by one of our road crew.”

“That's where we save our money,” Chambers said of the cooperative arrangement. “If you can borrow a piece of equipment, and not rent it or contract it out, you save a lot of money. We're all working as a team to get the job done.”

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email

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