Words fly as council adopts sidewalk policy

PAT FRIDGEN
Resident Don Coldsmith addressed borough council on the sidewalk policy Monday night. He and a few other people spoke against adopting a color-coded map prioritizing streets in Greencastle.

Tempers flared often during another sidewalk discussion by Greencastle Borough Council and resulted in the reversal of a decision made last month. A color-coded map addressing a potential sidewalk installation policy was turned down on a 4-3 vote in October, and brought back to the floor by Sidewalk Committee chairman Craig Myers on Monday. On Oct. 4 Myers, Matt Smith, Harry Foley and Mark Singer opposed a map as amended that evening. Colors assigned to streets gave priorities for when they would need sidewalks based on traffic, pedestrian use and safety issues. President Charles Eckstine, H. Duane Kinzer and Paul Schemel had supported that version of the map.

The same map with a slight change passed 5-2 Nov. 1 after a lengthy sparring. Myers, Smith, Schemel, Eckstine and Kinzer voted yes, Singer and Foley voted no.

Myers said he voted against the policy the first time because he wanted a month to look at the revised colorations. He had asked council to wait but Singer disagreed, stating the matter had already taken too long. Sidewalks have been a hot issue for the borough for years, and took on heightened controversy after homeowners on Williamson Avenue were directed to prepare for sidewalks when the state resurfaced the road in 2007. That meshed with the ordinance that said council 'may' require curbs and sidewalks when a street was improved. Kathy Sharkey then presented a petition from Williamson residents who did not want them, believing they were unnecessary due to low foot traffic and because of topography. Council put their situation on hold until it could come up with a firmer policy.

The recommendation from the Sidewalk Committee in September was based on colors: red = sidewalks already present or necessary, yellow = sidewalks necessary as development occurs, blue = sidewalks not needed for the safety of pedestrians, green = sidewalks not needed due to low foot-and vehicular traffic.

Sharp words passed between council and the public, and between council members themselves as the conversation finally led to a vote.

The arguments

Singer and Mayor Robert Eberly questioned how the topic could come up again. Singer said it was 'Monday morning quarterbacking' and accused those on the losing end for resurrecting the issue until they got their way. Eberly wondered if it was allowed according to meeting protocol.

Borough manager Kenneth Womack said, "I would argue you don't adhere to Roberts Rules of Order at your meetings." Eckstine agreed the rules were never officially adopted.

Sharkey, who had already spoken during public comment, reiterated that most residents in town did not want sidewalks and previous council had railroaded the issue. Eckstine responded, "We are here tonight specifically because of your appearance here years ago. You insisted we act that night."

She disagreed and said the vote then was 'spite.'

Foley interjected that Sharkey just wouldn't back down, to which Eberly replied, "I think it's happening again."

Kinzer said the purpose of the discussion was to move forward on a policy to accomodate growth in the borough. And if everyone in town was against sidewalks, the room would be overflowing, instead of the 14 people present.

Former council member Don Coldsmith said he was part of the board that chose the word 'may'. He considered it the best option for the present.

Eckstine saw it another way, stating the policy was really no policy.

Schemel joined in. "’May' is the problem. Williamson is the reason we are here tonight."

He immediately moved to change the color of Teabery Drive, Blue Bird Trail and James Way from green to blue and adopt the map. It was seconded by Myers. After Sharkey asked that because of the tension, council wait another month to act, and a heated exchange occurred between Singer, Myers and Foley, the vote took place. Singer and Foley then criticized Kinzer for his position.

This time on the losing end, Singer asked if the issue would resurface at another meeting.

"If you bring it up, it can," Eckstine said.

The president then directed the Sidewalk Committee to set a timeline for sidewalk requirements on the different streets, define the duties and number of members for an appeals board, create a repair and maintenance schedule for existing infrastructure, and plan how the map would mesh with the current ordinance, especially the trigger points for installation.

He also thanked everyone for participating in the 'passionate discussion.'