Outcry fore­stalls garage pro­ject

Town­ship of­fi­cials form com­mit­tee to seek al­ter­na­tives

The Community Connection - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

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.”

EVAN BRANDT — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Speak­ing against the pro­posed garage, one res­i­dent told the com­mis­sion­ers “we don’t need a Taj Ma­hal.”

EVAN BRANDT — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

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.

EVAN BRANDT — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

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.

EVAN BRANDT — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

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.

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