As I have said previously I want to present the reasons why I believe that the funding and construction of the multi-use path along sport Hill Road from Helen Keller Middle School to Silverman’s farm is important for Easton. Much of the reasoning has been summarized in an excellent article authored by our land-use consultant, Justin Giorlando, printed in the Courier on March 15.
The number-one concern is of course safety. While some residents based on their own observations question this, the former and current police chiefs are of the belief that this is in fact a serious safety concern. While some question how many kids actually walk this path, the principal of the middle school says a significant number.
State engineers and planners helped in the design of this path and its submittal to the state. In a competitive process, the state decided that this was an important project to provide substantial funding to. I really do not see how there is a rational argument that this is not a matter of safety. Even those on the Board of Finance who voted against the appropriation did so saying they recognized the safety issue. They just wanted the path to take another route.
I have discussed before how I would present the town opportunities to bring added revenue into our town. We all struggle to pay for projects in town with our tax dollars alone. I also have discussed how getting outside funding generally requires investment by the town as well. It is easy to understand why when the state or federal government gives us money they want to know that the town has some “skin in the game.”
That is the case for the pathway. For an investment of $249,400 the town will receive as a return on that investment of $997,600. Further maintenance of the path is estimated by DPW as $1,500-3,500 per year. There was also comment on how the money coming in is still our tax dollars whether state or local. To be clear your state or federal taxes will not be reduced if Easton does not take this money. The money will simply go to another town, possibly one that competes with us for new residents, and certainly to a project which the state had originally found to be less worthy.
Nor will this program go out of the state budget because Easton turns down the grant, so it will not help your state taxes in the future. I do not debate that $249,400 is a significant expenditure. Just that one has to look at the bigger picture. The stage we are at now is that the state has approved the expenditure. If the town appropriates the money we go to the design phase. That again begins forming an actual plan, with public input.
So what are the arguments against this path? I believe that the biggest question for the people of Easton, besides the cost, is should Easton have pathways along some of its main roads, or does that somehow detract from the “character of the town?” I feel strongly that the answer is that the path is compatible with what Easton should look like, but I can understand why some people might feel otherwise. I believe that alternatives have been thoroughly vetted, and the state approved money only for this path.
Another route would mean the cost would fall entirely to the town, even if another route were viable. Some will argue that this has not been fully explored despite the extensive process culminating in the charette and its findings. In a similar vein, could this proposed route be engineered to be done less expensively? This will be flushed out in the coming design phase if the town approves to begin the process.
Lastly, there have been statements that building the path takes away from a new EMS headquarters. While the town has limited funds, money spent for the path doesn’t come out of some specific other use like a new EMS. That is just not true. What is true is there is no return on investing the money elsewhere as there is in investing it in the pathway
I believe that the path and the safety it brings to our residents is a great idea. I believe that the investment is worth it given the return in the state’s contribution of almost $1,000,000