I would like to take this opportunity to follow up on the discussion at the last Board of Selectmen meeting and my last post regarding improvements in town, most specifically the potential work on the intersection of Center Road and Route 136. Clearly, when there are large events at Greiser’s and people have to park across the street in the Congregational Church parking lot this creates a dangerous situation. I do not believe that this situation arose because of poor planning on the part of the town.
Adding seating for 10 to 15 people and the partnering of a new operator with the original owner did not materially change the status of the business. What changed is that in their partnership Dick Greiser and Adrienne Burke became wildly successful, in a way that changed Easton very positively, by providing opportunities for townspeople of all ages to come together socially. Very few opportunities had existed for such interactions previously, and this was clearly appealing to people of all ages, toddlers to grandparents.
Not only should the town be excited about the success of this venture, but having seen that success, the town should be interested in at least making it safer for these events to take place. That is where the work at the intersection comes in.
In my view, there are, or will be other such situations where Easton should do what it can to improve the safety of our citizens or the quality of their lives. Those are my two priorities as first selectman, and although not every project will benefit every demographic equally, in the end, all should be better off. The second thing I recognize is that revenue in this town is hard to come by, and in fact comes almost 100% from our property taxes. I am respectful of the fact that people cannot afford ever-increasing taxes to accomplish some of these projects.
Therefore, I have looked to do things that can be substantially funded with outside grants or other sources. Understand that this will never make them completely free, but if we would benefit from something like the work to make the Center Road/Route 136 intersection safer, and once we pay the design cost, the state will fully fund the construction, that is a tremendous return on our investment. Yes, we will also be responsible for the long-term maintenance of sidewalks and crosswalks, but for a town that always struggles with revenue to fund what we do, it is a substantial infusion of cash in return for a relatively small amount of initial and long-term expenditure. There will be well over $100,000 dollars given to our town.
Clearly, the alternative is to spend nothing and do nothing and be forever restricted by the fact that our only source of revenue is our property taxes. I recognize that there are those who believe that this is our best course. I believe that what has happened at Greiser’s has shown that things can and will change from time to time, and the results can be an improved quality of life for all of us. Furthermore, I have been told repeatedly that our revenue issues are unsolvable and we will forever be limited by the fact that we have only our individual property taxes to live on.
I do not accept this and will continue to look for ways to bring outside funding into Easton to accomplish what we as a town decide is in our best interests to do. Again, not everything we do will benefit every person in town, and some will always find fault in how particular things are designed or accomplished, or that even a single dollar was spent at all. Nonetheless, that is my reason for pursuing the state grant to fund construction of the safety improvements at the intersection, and my general philosophy of how to proceed in the future.