Any change to sidewalk policy gets trampled

PAT FRIDGEN

An intensive effort by Greencastle Borough Council to develop a sidewalk policy after years of uncertainty went down Monday night. On a 4-3 vote, members failed to adopt the policy formulated by a special committee. After two hours of discussion, which included making slight changes to the committee recommendations, the surprise tally left advocates speechless.

Opposing adoption of the policy were Mark Singer, Harry Foley, Craig Myers and Matt Smith.

In favor were Charles Eckstine, Duane Kinzer and Paul Schemel during the roll call vote.

Singer, Myers, Schemel and borough manager Kenneth Womack were on the committee that created the recommendations. They made a color-coded map of the borough, with streets labeled in red, yellow, blue and green, related to the urgency with which streets would be required to have sidewalks to make Greencastle a "walkable community." They took several factors into consideration, including safety of pedestrians, cost, traffic, connectivity and feasibility.

"I can't believe, as hard as we worked, we couldn't come up with a policy we agreed on," said president Eckstine. "As far as I'm concerned, this is a dead issue. We go back to the old practice, which is nothing."

Visibly shaken, Schemel said, "We must make a determination, especially for the Williamson Avenue residents. It is mystifying this failed. We haven't done anything. The residents have the same crap we've been faced with for the last six years."

He planned to bring the matter up to some kind of vote in November, with different wording to his motion, which had been seconded by Kinzer.

The discussion

Council members had submitted suggested changes to the policy after it was presented in September. Eckstine let each person explain his rationale, and then by a show of hands, accepted the change if at least four people agreed with it. Some streets near the schools were raised in priority colors. In other places only one side of the street was seen as necessary to accomodate walkers.

Singer did not support or oppose any modification, stating his perspective was different. He did not want any mandatory installation of sidewalks in the current economy, and saw no evidence that the concept of safety outweighed the cost of the pathways. He preferred the borough focus on repairs and maintenance for the next five years, and over a 10-year period fill in gaps of sidewalks on specific blocks.

Kinzer countered that despite the economic climate, residents on Madison were being required to install sidewalks since that street was being improved next year. The current ordinance stated that the borough "may" require curb and sidewalks when streetwork was done.

Smith said his initial reaction to the need for sidewalks in town was that they should be everywhere except U.S. 11, and that continued to be his stance. He did not make suggestions to change the colors on any streets.

Myers said that because decades ago council first required someone to put in a sidewalk "that condemned the fate for the rest of the residents." He wanted the entire community sidewalked regardless of geography or financial status. "We're three-fourths of the way there," he stated. "I propose we finish the job."

Foley, Myers and Smith each favored some of the color changes during the discussion. When Eckstine called for a motion, Kinzer initially balked, wanting a timeline established.

Mayor Robert Eberly responded, "This shouldn't be so controversial. What will be (controversial) is the timeline. You get to vote on that next time."

Myers asked that the policy vote be delayed one month, so all could see the map with the color revisions. Singer objected, since the entire process had already taken so long.

Myers and Smith said they voted against the policy because they wanted every street to have sidewalks. They were against leaving any green, which indicated sidewalks were not necessary. Among the few left in that category were Meadow View Circle, Wilhelm, Dahlgren, Tyrone, Teaberry and Blue Bird.

Eckstine left the meeting puzzled. "In my 17 years on council, this is the only issue we can't resolve. It's a big disappointment. This would have been a big step forward."

Other business

The panel approved an agreement with the Franklin County Area Tax Board, to accept its new name which previously was Chambersburg Area Wage Tax Board; to admit nine more jurisdictions into membership, including Greencastle, Antrim Township and the school district; and to change the voting structure so that each entity had one vote. Eckstine was impressed the equal voting power was an option, considering Chambersburg was part of the group. Womack cautioned that 13 out of the 25 jurisdictions had to approve the plan, but he was optimistic it would pass.

The council also appointed James Farley to represent Greencastle on the FCATB.

North Carlisle Street was accepted in transfer from PennDOT, to join its half to the south as a borough street.

Lori Facchina from the Beautification Committee asked for $8,000 for lighted Christmas decorations for poles on Center Square and across Baltimore Street. Womack thought it was a little late to purchase and install them this year.

Schemel reported on behalf of the Public Safety Comittee that the police department had obtained a $230,000 grant for police car computers, and three years of maintenance on satellite access. The computers will be used for quicker background checks during traffic stops, and reduce the time officers spend in the office doing paperwork.