Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Help Desk: A Truck in a Creek

THE PROBLEM: Two years ago, when Anthony Stamato moved to Morrell Park, a quiet neighborhood in the Far Northeast, he thought it would be nice to have a creek trickling behind his new home.

Help Desk: A Truck in a Creek

THE PROBLEM: Two years ago, when Anthony Stamato moved to Morrell Park, a quiet neighborhood in the Far Northeast, he thought it would be nice to have a creek trickling behind his new home.

That is, until he looked at it.

Byberry Creek, he found, had been playing garage to a '99 Chevy pickup truck. Stuck between the creek and its bank, the vehicle juts out of the water at a 45-degree angle, seemingly frozen in that position for years. With its muddy brown paint, missing tires and bright-blue graffiti, the clunker was an eyesore, but to Stamato, even more worrisome was its effect on the water - especially when it rains, he said, and the water rises, almost submerging the truck. It can't be good for the creek, which joins with the larger Poquessing Creek before running into the Delaware River, he thought.

The woods around the creek - all city-owned property - held more surprises.

There were the skeletons of two cars - Stamato believes they're from the '50s - so embedded in the landscape that the woods had claimed them, overgrowth springing up from various parts. There was also a huge cracked and broken storm sewer.

Stamato reported the pickup to 3-1-1 and was told the matter would be transferred to the abandoned-auto unit. Still, nothing happened. When Help Desk looked up Stamato's 3-1-1 report online, it said that the request had been responded to by the Neighborhood Services Unit (NSU), but that it was unable to tow the vehicle.

3-1-1 also told Stamato that they had alerted the Water Department about the broken storm sewer, but he never heard back. It seems that this part of Stamato's 3-1-1 request had gotten lost, as the service only assigned him a number for his abandoned-truck complaint.

SO WE CALLED OUR FRIENDS AT THE NSU. The unit, whose responsibilities range from removing abandoned vehicles to combatting graffiti to assigning officers to troubled schools, last gave Help Desk a hand with an abandoned van that had been taking up a parking spot in Olney. Sgt. Frank Spires of the NSU was incredulous when he heard about the pickup in Byberry Creek.

Despite the 3-1-1 report that said NSU had investigated the vehicle, Spires said this was the first time he'd heard of the case. He wasn't sure why an NSU officer deemed the car inaccessible.

After a quick license-plate search, Spires told Help Desk that the truck's registration had expired in 2001 and that he'd send an officer to check it out the following day. Spires was confident his unit could take care of the pickup, only warning that if it was a lot of work, it would have to wait until the summer, when the land around the creek was firmer.

REALLY, THAT EASY? Almost.

The NSU officer thinks the truck might have been there since its registration expired because houses have been built around it. Spires said it was so difficult to get down the ravine to the creek that the officer had to borrow a golf cart from the club that flanks the woods. That golf course is also the reason Spires' officers can't remove the vehicle just yet. Because it's on the golf-course side of the creek, a tow truck would have to traverse the course. Spires said this wouldn't fly with the course's owners.

"They'd sue . . . the city if we ruin it," Spires said.

Spires will have to wait a few weeks to get help from the busy Water Department, with which NSU often works. The Water Department has the equipment needed to drag the pickup out without harming the golf course.

WHAT IF THE REGISTRATION HADN'T EXPIRED? NSU removes abandoned vehicles in a few cases: if it has an expired inspection or registration, if it poses a public hazard (broken windows, flat tires, etc.), or for environmental reasons. In this case, Spires said, if the truck's registration hadn't been expired, NSU would turn to the Water Department's environmental specialists to investigate the damage the vehicle might cause. With transmission fluid and gas, Spires said, the car would definitely harm the water.

The disintegrating cars are so far gone that there's a small chance NSU won't be able to get them out, Spires said. But

it'll try its best, he said.

THE PROBLEM: Two years ago, when Anthony Stamato moved to Morrell Park, a quiet neighborhood in the Far Northeast, he thought it would be nice to have a creek trickling behind his new home.

That is, until he looked at it.

Byberry Creek, he found, had been playing garage to a '99 Chevy pickup truck. Stuck between the creek and its bank, the vehicle juts out of the water at a 45-degree angle, seemingly frozen in that position for years. With its muddy brown paint, missing tires and bright-blue graffiti, the clunker was an eyesore, but to Stamato, even more worrisome was its effect on the water - especially when it rains, he said, and the water rises, almost submerging the truck. It can't be good for the creek, which joins with the larger Poquessing Creek before running into the Delaware River, he thought.

The woods around the creek - all city-owned property - held more surprises.

There were the skeletons of two cars - Stamato believes they're from the '50s - so embedded in the landscape that the woods had claimed them, overgrowth springing up from various parts. There was also a huge cracked and broken storm sewer.

Stamato reported the pickup to 3-1-1 and was told the matter would be transferred to the abandoned-auto unit. Still, nothing happened. When Help Desk looked up Stamato's 3-1-1 report online, it said that the request had been responded to by the Neighborhood Services Unit (NSU), but that it was unable to tow the vehicle.

3-1-1 also told Stamato that they had alerted the Water Department about the broken storm sewer, but he never heard back. It seems that this part of Stamato's 3-1-1 request had gotten lost, as the service only assigned him a number for his abandoned-truck complaint.

SO WE CALLED OUR FRIENDS AT THE NSU. The unit, whose responsibilities range from removing abandoned vehicles to combatting graffiti to assigning officers to troubled schools, last gave Help Desk a hand with an abandoned van that had been taking up a parking spot in Olney. Sgt. Frank Spires of the NSU was incredulous when he heard about the pickup in Byberry Creek.

Despite the 3-1-1 report that said NSU had investigated the vehicle, Spires said this was the first time he'd heard of the case. He wasn't sure why an NSU officer deemed the car inaccessible.

After a quick license-plate search, Spires told Help Desk that the truck's registration had expired in 2001 and that he'd send an officer to check it out the following day. Spires was confident his unit could take care of the pickup, only warning that if it was a lot of work, it would have to wait until the summer, when the land around the creek was firmer.

REALLY, THAT EASY? Almost.

The NSU officer thinks the truck might have been there since its registration expired because houses have been built around it. Spires said it was so difficult to get down the ravine to the creek that the officer had to borrow a golf cart from the club that flanks the woods. That golf course is also the reason Spires' officers can't remove the vehicle just yet. Because it's on the golf-course side of the creek, a tow truck would have to traverse the course. Spires said this wouldn't fly with the course's owners.

"They'd sue . . . the city if we ruin it," Spires said.

Spires will have to wait a few weeks to get help from the busy Water Department, with which NSU often works. The Water Department has the equipment needed to drag the pickup out without harming the golf course.

WHAT IF THE REGISTRATION HADN'T EXPIRED? NSU removes abandoned vehicles in a few cases: if it has an expired inspection or registration, if it poses a public hazard (broken windows, flat tires, etc.), or for environmental reasons. In this case, Spires said, if the truck's registration hadn't been expired, NSU would turn to the Water Department's environmental specialists to investigate the damage the vehicle might cause. With transmission fluid and gas, Spires said, the car would definitely harm the water.

The disintegrating cars are so far gone that there's a small chance NSU won't be able to get them out, Spires said. But it'll try its best, he said.

Follow us on Twitter and review city services on our sister site, City Howl.

About this blog
Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

It's Our Money contributors

Tips? Comments? Questions?
Contact:

Holly Otterbein:
215-854-5809
hm.otterbein@gmail.com
@hollyotterbein

It's Our Money
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected