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Tractor driver's free ride likely to end

July 12, 2007|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

In Williamsport, a long-standing "gentleman's agreement" for a little free power is coming to an end.

Steve Danfelt of Potomac Street said he's parked his tractor - without a trailer - near a former town building, to keep it out of the way, for about 20 years.

When the weather's cold, he runs a heater for about an hour, using town electricity, to warm up his truck - particularly the diesel fuel, which can thicken.

Danfelt had the unwritten blessing of previous town officials for the parking place and electricity, which appears to amount to about $5 a winter.

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Former Mayor John W. Slayman said he and council members approved the set-up many years ago.

"Why can't we as town fathers help our residents?" he said Wednesday.

The Herald-Mail asked about the arrangement Wednesday after receiving an anonymous comment on The Daily Mail's "Mail Call" phone line.

"I'd like to know why our mayor is allowing his next-door neighbor to park his tractor-trailer on town property and to plug it into town utilities to keep it charged," the caller asked. "I know this uses a good bit of electricity and I know he's not being charged for it. Is it just for the mayor's next-door neighbor or can we all do this?"

James G. McCleaf II, the town's mayor since 2005, said he hadn't thought about it, but the town should start charging Danfelt. A majority of the council supports the change and probably will vote for it at the next meeting, he said.

"Any time a citizen has a complaint, it's important, no matter how big or how small," he said.

McCleaf said Danfelt's arrangement had nothing to do with the fact they live near each other.

He and Danfelt questioned why no one said anything to them and complained to an anonymous call-in line instead.

Danfelt was puzzled.

"People looked out for people in this town," he said. "I'm sure I didn't have any enemies."

He said he'd gladly pay for the electricity and has offered more than once to do so.

According to McCleaf, Danfelt's block heater uses about 850 watts, or .85 kilowatts, of power.

Allegheny Power spokesman Allan Staggers said the hourly cost would be .85 kilowatts times the town's electricity rate - which is about 9.7 cents per kilowatt hour, according to Clerk/Treasurer James R. Castle.

Therefore, one hour of Danfelt's heater would cost .85 kilowatts times the rate of about 9.7 cents, a total of about 8.25 cents.

At one hour a day, five days a week, the heater bill for three months of cold weather would come to about $5.

McCleaf said the town probably will continue to let Danfelt and another family park their vehicles on town property at no charge.

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