Boy Scout’s Project Adds Color to Oil City Hydrants

An ongoing project to give Oil City’s fire hydrants a facelift received a huge boost from local Boy Scouts. Under the leadership of Eagle Scout candidate Nicholas Barletta, eight teens and four leaders from Boy Scout Troop 11 in Oil City painted nearly 125 hydrants on the city’s South Side.

For his efforts, Barletta was honored at a city council meeting last week, and Mayor Barbara Crudo proclaimed Oct. 10, 2013, as Nicholas Barletta day and commended the Scout for taking on the project.

The teen humbly accepted the honor, only standing for a formal recognition at the behest of the mayor.

Oil City fire chief Steve Hinds wasn’t quiet about praising the work of Barletta and the other Scouts.

“It was a great project and it did a lot for the city,” Hinds said at the council meeting.

The fire department started a repainting program in 2012, in hopes of giving the city’s 487 hydrants a uniform safety yellow color.

He said many of the hydrants still bore the colors given to them during a painting contest held about 25 years ago.

At that time, the city encouraged residents to paint the hydrants in their neighborhood however they would like. While it brought out participation from lots of people, Hinds said the contest also led to some hydrants being painted more muted or camouflage-style colors.

Two decades of rain and snow have taken its toll and the hydrants were in need of some care.

“Some of them look pretty bad,” Hinds said.

Last year, the department started a new campaign to repaint each hydrant and concentrated on not just the aesthetics but also safety, according to Hinds.

“At night they (newly painted yellow hydrants) are much easier to see,” he said. Fire department crews were able to get out and work on some of the fixtures, but only as the schedule allows. “We did some of the higher traffic areas,” Hinds said.

So when Hinds heard that a fellow city employee’s son was looking for Eagle Scout project ideas, the fire chief encouraged Barletta, son of William and Chris Sporer Barletta of Oil City, to consider the painting project. Chris Sporer Barletta is the city engineer for Oil City.

“They (the Scouts) ran with the whole thing,” Hinds said.

In the end, Barletta and his friends painted more than 100 hydrants, spending approximately 50 hours this fall scrubbing the hydrants with wire brushes and applying two coats of paint. Best off all, “the South Side in nearly completed,” Hinds reported to council.

He estimated about half the hydrants are now down and is optimistic the rest will be down within the three year timeline. Hinds is open to help from additional groups looking for service projects and can be contacted at the department’s Central Avenue station.