PennDOT Leaves Twp. Out Of Loop About 739 Closure
By Wayne Witkowski
Pike County Dispatch - Thursday, October 1, 2020
DINGMANS FERRY -- Delaware Township supervisors are preparing for a scrap with Pennsylvania Department of Transportation because they were not completely informed that the work project they approved will close down part of Route 739 in early November.
Supervisors say the road closure, expected to take 5-7 days while a large culvert is installed in the road bed a few hundred feet west of Akenac Park, will hurt local businesses along the well travelled road. That includes the Delaware Plaza, under construction with Weis Market as the anchor store, which is expected to open by the end of the year, perhaps by early November.
"They (PennDOT) never told us about that," said Supervisor Rick Koehler after the bi-monthly general meeting last week when the supervisors discussed the topic at length. At the meeting, the supervisors had to pass retroactively a motion for their approval of the project that they had already granted to PernnDOT a few days earlier, voicing half-hearted "yes" votes.
The document, with printed copies available to the public at the meeting, simply is an authorization for the work of replacing the pipe, with no mention of closing the road. It would mean detouring traffic onto Doolan Road. Drivers also can take Log & Twig Road off Milford Road/State Route 2001 if they want to take the long loop to the Route 739 eastbound direction where they could reach Delaware Plaza and other businesses.
Supervisor Jane Neufeld said during the meeting the board never received an impact statement of the road closure, which raised the concern of the supervisors. "The impact is more than what was presented to us," said Neufeld. Township Administrator Krista Predmore said afterward it could become a "disaster" for businesses and drivers who would travel that way, particularly if winter weather conditions strike early.
"Our businesses have taken a big hit this year and we don't need to have this on top of it," Neufeld said.
Township Emergency Management Coordinator George Beodeker talked about requesting influential local lawmakers such as state Sen. Lisa Baker and state Representatives Mike Peifer and Rosemary Brown for help "in full force."
"They're the ones you need to speak to," said township Solicitor Tom Farley of the lawmakers. "PennDOT listens to them. They get things done. It works."
Also at the meeting, the board approved advertising for bid specifications on the Akenac Park maintenance building repairs as set forth by township Engineer Jon Tresslar of Boucher and James.
Township Roadmaster Vince Flatt was approved as a voting member for a three-year term representing the township on the Pike County Road Task Force. Supervisors also congratulated Flatt on his recent appointment as vice president of the Task Force. Chris Kimble was appointed as an alternate for the township, also for a three-year period.
The board also agreed to give a $300 donation requested by the Pike County Conservation District.
Pocono Spray Patching Inc. was approved a $2,330.11 change order for work on Myck Road.
Members of the township Recreation Committee talked during the workshop prior to the regular meeting about the idea of having a drive-through Christmas lights event at Akenac Park. The lighting fixtures would cost $2,500 and could be reused from year to year. Committee member Therasa Tarquini showed pictures of some lit attractions that people could see from their cars and not worry about being exposed to the coronavirus.
But Board of Supervisors chairman John Henderson said that money for the lights ultimately would come out of residents' taxes, which some people are hard-pressed to pay. "I don't want any senior (citizen) to say that 'because of your $2,500 purchase, I have to move.'"
One resident was skeptical that the turnout would not compare to the 300 people who came to last year's Christmas event at Akenac Park. saying, "I don't think many people will come out with what we are facing (the virus).".
The timeworn Akenac Park tennis courts were discussed. Predmore said the courts could not be repaired and would have to be replaced. Supervisors suggested that, if that happens, to include other activities such as racquet ball and pickleball, which combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis.
After the meeting, Neufeld, as township Treasurer, gave her first presentation in a budget workshop and discussed the General Fund, Recreation Fund, state Liquid Fuels and long-term improvement projects. Township taxes have held steady in recent years. Early figures show a surplus of nearly $13,000 -- about $1,273,000 for income and about $1,261,000 for expenses.
She said, when asked, no businesses in the township were forced to close because of the slowdown during the coronavirus.
Neufeld said that although municipal tax revenue from sources such as real estate transfer tax is down by 10 percent, other sources of revenue have increased from a year ago. She said permit fees are "significantly up" as residents have been making home improvements while restricted to their homes during the coronavirus. She said the virus also forced cancellation of some Recreation Committee activities, including last weekend's Harvest Fest and the upcoming Trunk or Treat event which led to a surplus of $60,000. "We hope that by (next) April, COVID-19 will be under control," said Neufeld, meaning an increase in township activities.
She said road projects are caught up, for the time being, aside from a $200,000 revitalization of Log & Twig Road. She will continue to seek grants to cover a $700,000 improvement to the final area of need on Myck Road.
Neufeld said the township is looking into hiring interns for township offices and to buying some new computers, which were last purchased seven yearDs ago. She said the township also is considering buying laptops for part of the municipal system so office employees can bring them home to work out of the houses.