I attended the Council’s Administration and Finance Committee hearing meeting last Monday to discuss the budget, PennDOT’s Multi-Modal Fund, and to present this blog’s $25 Sidewalk proposal.
First, the committee’s explanation as to why the projected 2014 $2.2 million budget carryover didn’t necessarily constitute a “surplus” did not clarify things much. As it was explained to me, Council budgets money so that they need to buy stuff for the next year.
“So the money is earmarked?”
Well, no, but we may need to buy a fire engine.
“So, the money is discretionary?”
I will leave this issue for a discussion with an accountant with no ties to the Borough and plenty of patience. And I will take the Council up on their invitation to attend the budget planning meetings.
Second, I asked whether or not the Borough applied for — or at least considered applying for — the state’s Multi-Modal fund as a possible source of money to pay for repairs to our sidewalks. The committee and Borough Manager George Locke expressed awareness of the fund, but didn’t seem to think that it applied to Jenkintown’s needs.
Mostly, my sense was that no one even considered the fund for this project. George Locke asserted that with regards to sidewalks, the state intends the fund to go to commercial districts that feed to transit. Given that the Jenkintown train station sits in a mostly residential section of town, one might reasonably assume that PennDOT would make an exception if indeed one needed to be made. Besides, I have a list of applicants from the PennDOT website that would belie this assertion.
Finally, after presenting my $25 Sidewalk plan to the committee, Councilor Rick Bunker showed that he continues to labor under the false assumption that the Borough does not own the sidewalks. I pointed out to him that in fact, according to my property markers and the county’s website, the sidewalks are indeed part of the public right-of-way.
Then, he flat out told me, with hand pounding on the desk, that he didn’t see any reason why Jenkintown should break with the rest of the state and take on the maintenance of sidewalks, despite the fact that it’ll be cheaper and produce better sidewalks. In his own words, “This is the we’ve always done it, and it’s the way the rest of the state does it. I see no reason to support this change. No one is complaining about the way we’re doing this.”
In the words of Admiral Grace Hopper, “The most dangerous words in the language are ‘It’s always been done that way.'”
Much to her credit, Councilor Laurie Durkin interrupted Bunker’s tirade, saying, “I do think this is worth considering. I think we should look into it further.”
After all, this is all I’m asking.