Outcry forestalls garage project
Township officials form committee to seek alternatives
Sometimes politicians listen to the voice of the people — if it’s loud enough.
The people who lined up to speak Monday night in the Pottsgrove Middle School cafeteria spoke loudly and clearly about their view of a proposal to spend about $2 million on a new public works complex on Heather Place — they did not
like the price tag.
And what they said had an impact on township officials.
As Commissioner France Krazalkovich had noted — he had reservations about the project from the beginning and as the cost continued to rise, he was joined in those doubts by Commissioner Martin Schreiber — the only incumbent running for reelection in November.
The two had tried to have the bids for the project rejected, but the motion failed on a 3-2 vote.
But as the meeting came to a close, Commissioner John Bealer, who is not running for reelection and will be off the board at the end of the year, said the comments had convinced him the residents do not want the project and said he is now inclined to vote against it.
Although Schreiber indicated a desire to vote then and there, he was told because the legal notice for the meeting had not indicated a possible vote, it would be improper to do so.
Besides, Commissioners’ President Elwood Taylor — whose displeasure at the turn of events was hard to hide — wanted the residents to put their efforts where their mouths were.
Looking at the list of people who had signed up to speak, Taylor said he wanted some of them to volunteer to be part of a citizens committee that would provide the board with the alternatives so many of them had insisted were available for the taking.
Most of the more than a dozen people who spoke acknowledged that the current 4,050 square-foot facility is too small to accommodate the ever-growing highway department — needed as more development builds more roads to be maintained.
But the $1.97 million at which the bids came in for the project — a project into which taxpayers have already invested $80,000 for design, permitting and bid specifications — was paying too much for too little, speakers said.
“I agree, the current building is a disgrace,” said Chuck Note, who nevertheless asked the commissioners to reject the bids “and look at the bigger picture.”
Dennis Elliott suggested the commissioners consider a Quonset Hut of the same size — steel, $42,000 and dependable. He said it could easily substitute for the seven-bay, solar-powered plan the board of commissioners had put out to bid.
Another speaker said the efficiency on solar panels drops to 80 percent after 10 years while Michelle Reddick called the project “a glorified pole barn.”
Darryle Tillman called it a “glorified shed” while another speaker called the project a “Taj Mahal” that the township did not need.
Several said they feared that after the new highway garage was built, that the cost of renovating the old one into a new police station, would be another hit to their pocketbook.
“In two years, you will come back and say we need another $2 million for the police station renovation,” said Reddick.
Deborah Bingham told the commissioners she believes all the township’s needs should be looked at together — and that perhaps having the police, highway and administrative offices all in the same location would provide the most efficiency.
Until 2000, when the township offices were moved into the renovated basement of the Upper Pottsgrove Fire Company, that had been the case, but the space was too small for the growing township.
Jim Capinski said the township property on which the project is planned — along Route 100 — would be more valuable to be sold for a commercial use to raise money for the project and improve the township’s tax base.
Taylor said the township had looked at an existing building, but it was sold before the township could move on it.
As the meeting wound down, he said “I heard everything I expected to hear, Taj Mahal and all that and that there is nothing I could say that would make everybody happy, which as we know is impossible.”
Nevertheless, recognizing that sentiment and the tide on the board had moved against him, he challenged residents to join a committee and come up with a better alternative, noting that “all the options that have been mentioned here will cost more than $2 million.”
Speaking against the proposed garage, one resident told the commissioners “we don’t need a Taj Mahal.”
This map, on display during Monday’s hearing at Pottsgove Middle School, shows the proposed lay-out of the new public works facility in Upper Pottsgrove.
The crowd that showed up for Monday’s special meeting about replacing the 4,050-square-foot highway garage in Upper Pottsgrove eventually topped 75 people.
Upper Pottsgrove residents line up to speak at a special hearing Monday night about the proposal to spend about $2 million on a new seven-bay, 12,000 square-foot solarpowered highway garage on the township’s property on Heather Place.