In Your Opinion: There Is More To The Sidewalk Story

By Richard Seamon, Somerset.

It was with great interest that I read the story regarding the town council presentation of the proposed $57 million municipal budget.  As a licensed professional Civil Engineer, I found the discussion of resurfacing township roads to be extremely important and long overdue.  In fact, I recently attended training from the New Jersey Asphalt Pavement Association where representatives of the NJDOT discussed the numerous ways that they perform pavement restoration based on the level of deterioration of the existing roadway.  I certainly hope that our township moves forward with this needed pavement maintenance work.

Unfortunately, I was rather dismayed with the discussion of the installation of sidewalks throughout the township.  As you may know, I recently ended a 3-year, 8-month term on the Franklin Township Board of Education where I served as the chair of the Facilities, Transportation and Technology Committee and as chair of the Strategic Planning Ad-Hoc Committee.  During 2010, I participated in a number of meetings between the BOE and members of the town council and sidewalk construction was one of a number of topics that we discussed.  In fact, the minutes from BOE Facilities Committee meetings on 6/29/10 and 9/20/10 clearly refer to these discussions with town council.  During my almost 4 years on the board, the district provided sidewalk lists to the township on a number of occasions through Mr. Calavano or Mr. Peatick so it was very disappointing to read that members of council are unaware that they actually have these lists already.

It is further disappointing to see that the current BOE leadership has not responded to the town councils requests for a meeting.  During my tenure with the BOE, I had the privilege to work directly with the citizens of Franklin Township on a number of important issues: the numerous meetings with town council mentioned above regarding sidewalks and other issues during 2010; the four public outreach meetings regarding the district’s long range facilities plan in 2011; the three public outreach meetings regarding the district strategic plan in 2012; and the three public meetings regarding the referendum plan in 2013.  In fact, Dr. Chase (Councilman – Ward 1) was rather helpful during one of the referendum outreach meetings when, as a member of the audience, he stepped up to assist with answering a question from another audience member.  His assistance that evening was greatly appreciated.

Improving the safety for our children by providing sidewalks is a critical issue.  Unfortunately, it seems that four years of talking still has not yielded a plan that enjoys the full support of town council.  If, as alluded to in the Franklin Reporter & Advocate article, a lack of action by the current leadership of the Board of Education is to blame for this issue remaining in limbo, that’s shameful and there is no excuse for it.

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