Pathway and Roof Replacement Generate Debate
The Town of Easton held a Special Town Meeting at Samuel Staples Elementary School on Sept. 13 to give voters their say about major town decisions in advance of a referendum on Tuesday, Sept. 21. Following are the agenda items that will be on the ballot:
Two of the five agenda items sparked significant debate among the Easton Voters: The appropriation for the partial roof replacement at 660 Morehouse Road (old Samuel Staples School) and the appropriation for the initial design of a multi-use pathway along Sport Hill Road. The 660 Morehouse complex contains Easton County Day School, The Speech Academy, Easton Senior Center, Easton Board of Education and the Easton Park & Recreation office.
The roof at the old Samuel Staples School is in need of repair following a winter of heavy snow and ice, as four classrooms have experienced leaks, according to Public Works Director Edward Nagy. While the leaks have since been patched, Nagy said the roof, which was originally built in the 1970s, is “at the end of its life”.
Resident Ed Czernik was concerned about the cost of this repair project. “Boy, I have some questions about this roof. This is a roof I’ve been involved with, this one and two others right next to it. We did these three roofs all together, and on Staples for $225,000 … so I’m wondering how we arrived at the $550,000 because I would like to see some drawings to see what we are replacing. Maybe we could patch this, as we have done before, and it lasted 12 years. This is way too vague for anyone to take any action in town, and allocate any money,” said Czernik.
The proposal for the appropriation for the partial roof replacement accounts for the cost of the project prior to the insurance reimbursement. Town officials said that roughly half of the $550,000 will be reimbursed. Czernik was not alone in expressing concern about the partial roof repair project. Resident June Logie questioned the details of construction. “Do we know when we are going to begin construction of this, and how long would it take?”
Nagy said, “The problem is that the material supply is terrible … It depends on when we get the materials. Once the materials are delivered to the job site, it will be 60 days from then to be completed. However, we have winter coming up, so we will postpone it until probably the spring or so.”
In addition to the discussion of the proposed roof replacement, the most contentious item on the agenda was the appropriation for the initial design of a multi-use pathway along Sport Hill Road.
First Selectman David Bindelglass gave a brief presentation before the audience weighed in. “The design is in three phases: a preliminary phase which is $80,000 and two subsequent phases which will equal a total of $150,000. If the town goes ahead with the preliminary design, which will cost approximately $80,000 then, as for the entire project, the town will be reimbursed 80% of that cost.
“If the town then decides to go on to the two final stages of the design, the total cost will be $150,000. Should we then continue to go with the path the entire amount will be reimbursed at 80%. The only exception to that would be if we continue with the design process to completion, and then decide to not to build the path, at that point then the town will be responsible for the $150,000,” he said.
Some members of the Easton community showed support for the multi-use pathway out of concern for the potential danger of pedestrian traffic on Sport Hill Road. Resident Nanette DeWester said, “I live on Sport Hill Road, and here is my vision: All we are doing is taking $16,000 as a town to look at this. The first person who dies or is harmed is on all of us for not even asking the question to see what this could possibly be.”
Other members of the community questioned the motives behind the construction of the pathway. Resident Beverlee Dacey said, “This isn’t about a sidewalk, if anybody has been following our plan of conservation and development, and I hope everybody reads it, because it’s pretty troublesome to see the changes that they’ve brought to our town. The fact of the matter was everybody who spoke, with the exception of one person, disagreed with that plan … and that plan got implemented, despite what everybody in town wanted.
“That is not how things should operate in my opinion. Included in that plan are the village districts, five of them, one is the area around the sidewalks. So what are the sidewalks really for? Are they for our children, or are they for something bigger? We know, those of us who were involved with MetroCOG, and I am, the fact of the matter is MetroCOG doesn’t care about us, they care about our governance as a region. So this sidewalk is for the region, not for us.”
The Special Town Meeting gave voters the opportunity to participate in important town matters that affect their lives. Bindleglass said it was important for the town to be able to come together and have these conversations. “It was great,” he said. “We’re a town meeting form of government, the people rule… I think we got a lot of really important things done.
“The land use ordinance is an historical thing in the history of this town. I think the ethics ordinance is important, I think recognizing those of us with disabilities is important. I think the pathway is going to continue to be a lightning rod, but everybody has their opinions and the town gets to vote. The chips will fall where they may,” he said.
The agenda of this Special Town Meeting will be settled via a machine vote to be held on Tuesday, Sept. 21, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Samuel Staples Elementary School, 515 Morehouse Road. Absentee ballots are available. Read more on the town website.
It will be up to members of the community to get out and vote.
You can watch the video of the Special Town Meeting here.