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SEP 16- SEP 24, 2014

Water Board Chief Threatens to Douse Hydrant Artwork

By Anna M. Howard

September 16, 2014

While these masterpieces of Niagara Falls’ Seth Piccirillo may be cute, they actually represent a safety hazard. Fire hydrants are painted ‘OSHA yellow’ for the precise reason that firemen can see them better at night!

Only in Niagara Falls could something as mundane and humdrum as decoratively painting fire hydrants turn into a controversial “he said - he said” situation between the Niagara Falls Water Board and Community Development Director Seth Piccirillo.

As the story goes, Piccirillo approached Paul Drof, Water Authority director, with the idea of allowing community volunteers to repaint several city hydrants in various colorful designs.

The hydrants were painted. Now, several months after the fact, the Water Authority has announced it will possibly move to have the hydrants painted over and restored to their original yellow.

It appears that while Drof and Piccirillo did communicate, they did not memorialize their agreement on paper. Drof said he never intended for so many hydrants to be decoratively painted and Piccirillo has stated that he had no idea he was violating any previous agreement regarding the number of hydrants that could be painted.

Disagreements happen in all manner and type of commerce and government. However it’s classic Niagara Falls foolishness to end up with a local authority and local volunteers at complete odds over a simple “artistic” endeavor.

We understand that some localities, such as Youngstown, have elected to paint their hydrants in a whimsical fashion. However we’re willing to bet that the Youngstown fire company and those doing the hydrant painting worked in agreement as to the exact nature of the painting program.

While these masterpieces of Niagara Falls’ Seth Piccirillo may be cute, they actually represent a safety hazard. Fire hydrants are painted ‘OSHA yellow’ for the precise reason that firemen can see them better at night!

The Reporter is torn as to the question of whether there is benefit, artistic or otherwise, to be gained by painting fireplugs. In spite of our being conflicted, we’re going to let our creative juices flow as we suggest that this program of painting fire hydrants be expanded to include:

Manhole covers; We think they should be painted bright yellow with smiley faces. People driving our streets need something to make them giggle as they navigate the ruts, bumps and potholes of Niagara Falls.

Telephone poles: Think seasonal, think Christmas with red and white stripes and giant candy canes 50 feet tall. No other community has such poles…it’s time for us to be the first.

Mailboxes: BORING in their quasi-federal government red and blue; we need fluorescent orange, polka dots, stripes and whatever else the artistically bent can contrive.

Power transformers: They sit atop telephone poles, they rest in barren fields and they roost on rooftops. We think a nice camouflage motif works well here so they blend in with their surroundings.

Finally, when we look at the granite curbs in front of every house and business in the city, we see boring gray and ask, “why not allow each home and business to paint their curb in colors of their own choosing?”

Art, color and creativity are exactly what Niagara Falls needs.

But seriously, one of the first challenges that firefighters face when they arrive at a fire is finding a suitable water source that provides enough water for the type of fire they are fighting.

Fire hydrants are commonly color coded to indicate how much water a particular hydrant will provide. This allows for quick decision making when they are deciding which hydrant to access.

In an effort to make it easier for firefighters to know what a specific hydrant will supply, the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) recommends that fire departments and water districts follow a set standard of color-coding.

OSHA Yellow fire hydrants have the highest visibility at night.

So while it may be cute to paint these hydrants as if they were art, they actually serve a function: to protect the people.

It is foolishness to make them harder to find at night, or to not provide the necessary information about water quantities of hydrants in order to paint leprechauns and Dalmatians.

What do you think?





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