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Making progress in getting things fixed

Potholes. Downed utility poles. Torn flags.

The problems that cross Fix It's desk every week range from the serious to the merely annoying, from the dangerous to the perplexing. But they all have one thing in common: They need to be fixed.

Looking back over the past year, the column has had some successes. A light pole in the Aldi parking lot in Hamburg that had been knocked down in a storm and left lying on its side for more than a month was replaced quickly after a Fix It story appeared.

A torn flag at a local elementary school was replaced even before a picture could be taken of the old one once Fix It made inquiries.

Crosswalk lines were repainted at a newly paved road on Avery Street in North Buffalo. The list goes on and on.

While some of these problems are just annoying or inconvenient, some are more serious.

A concerned reader who asked to remain anonymous pointed out such a situation in the City of Lockport.

There are no guardrails on Route 78 -- also known as Clinton Street -- she said, as it passes over Eighteenmile Creek at the bottom of a steep hill. Add to that the fact that it is a truck route, and you could have a recipe for disaster.

After The Buffalo News contacted the city's Public Works Department earlier this month, Highway Superintendent Michael Hoffman immediately checked out the situation and called in the city's director of engineering, Norman Allen.

He also checked out the site and agreed it needed a guardrail. He then took his concerns to the city's Traffic Advisory Committee.

"The traffic committee has made a recommendation to the Common Council to seek bids to place a guardrail," he said in an e-mail to The News. While the bidding process may take a while, the end result will be a safer road for drivers in Lockport.

Another situation, this time in Buffalo, might not have been as serious, but in a city that's struggling to rebuild its image, it's one that was taken seriously.

After The News contacted Lovejoy Council Member Richard Fontana about what one reader called "rags on city light poles" on both Clinton Street and Fillmore Avenue, Fontana drove to the site in his district and took down the torn community banners on Clinton Street.

"I want the area to look good," he told The News.

The banners on Fillmore Avenue were another matter, because the Masten District did not have a Council member at the time due to the election of former Council Member Antoine M. Thompson to the State Senate.

Since that time, however, Demone Smith has been appointed to fill the seat. When contacted by The News, he said he noticed the banners and is very serious about correcting the problem.

"We're going to work on getting them down as soon as possible," Smith said Friday. There are some honoring Martin Luther King Jr. that will stay if possible, he said, but only if they are in good condition.

"The ones that are deteriorating and are an eyesore, you have my pledge, we're going to take them down," he said.

In any review of Fix It, it is safe to say that lighting issues are one of the most common complaints received. While in many cases local utilities are responsible for maintaining and fixing those problems, there are also instances where it is up to the municipalities.

Court Street in Buffalo was one such situation. Decorative lights on the Richmond Avenue and West Ferry Street traffic circle were another. In both cases, the lights were fixed.

The Skyway, as a major entry into Buffalo from the Southtowns, pops up frequently as a problem.

Just before Christmas, several readers contacted The News to complain about as many as 20 lights being out on the roadway. They said the situation could be dangerous, especially in winter weather.

Some readers did say that past complaints about the lights had been addressed by National Grid but that the problem needed to be looked at again.

National Grid Spokesman Steve Brady told Fix It at the time that he would look into the matter, but that due to the unique nature of the Skyway, it might take some time.

He said that lanes had to be closed, and that involved working with both the state Department of Transportation and Buffalo police.

The good news is that the lights were back on shortly after the story appeared.

"The crews worked hard to get them back up," Brady said Friday.

Some problems spotlighted by Fix It last year are still pending.

Tonawanda Creek Road in Clarence, which collapsed in 2004, has gone through some soil testing, according to Deputy Erie County Public Works Commissioner Gerard J. Sentz, and the project is moving forward. Sentz said the Federal Emergency Management Agency is involved in the project and is providing a good part of the funding.

But the road is still blocked off, waiting for the wheels of government to grind a little quicker.

The former LeisureLand facility in Hamburg also is in limbo, as federal agencies check reports of possible asbestos on the site.

The structure's roof collapsed after a heavy snowstorm in 2005 and cannot be renovated or demolished until the asbestos question is cleared up, according to an employee in the town's Building Inspection Department.

Fix It is here to help get action on the small, bothersome infrastructure problems people encounter in their everyday travels. To report something that needs fixing, call the Fix It line at 849-6026, e-mail or write to Fix It c/o The Buffalo News, One News Plaza, Buffalo, NY 14203.

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