Tempers Erupt Over Sidewalks At Township Council Budget Hearing

2-16-16 Carl Wright - 3

Township Councilman Carl Wright said he was “kinda miffed” that none of the $750,000 allocated in last year’s budget for sidewalk installation was used.

Tempers flared at the Township Council’s second budget hearing Feb. 16 after one councilman said he’d been “hoodwinked” by his colleagues over sidewalk installation in his ward.

Township Councilman Carl R.A. Wright (D-Ward 4) said he was “kinda miffed” that none of the $750,000 included in the 2015 budget plan and earmarked for sidewalk installation in streets around Franklin Middle School had actually been used.

The comments came during the council’s second budget hearing. The council is expected to introduce its 2016 spending plan at its  Feb. 23 meeting.

The proposed 2016 capital spending plan also includes a $750,000 line item for sidewalks on streets near schools.

“I was asked last year about sidewalks, “Wright said, looking down the dais at his colleagues. “I said I believed the students, when walking to school, need sidewalks.”

“But sidewalks were left alone,” he said. “Sidewalks were put in the back pocket. I don’t like that.”

“I allowed it to happen because I thought things were going to move ahead,” said Wright, who is a member of the council’s public works committee. It is the public works committee which would have recommended an ordinance to build the sidewalks.

Responding to Wright’s question as to how it happened that none of the 2015 allocation was used and why the 2015 allocation couldn’t be added to the $750,000 allocation for 2016, Councilwoman Kimberly Francois (D-At Large) said that “we budget from year to year. We are appropriating $750,000” this year. “We can’t go back to last year’s budget.”

Referring to capital expense items requested by other departments, Wright said, “I believe that the safety of our children walking to school is paramount to buying a dump truck, paramount to buying a police car.”

“I was going to take the $750,000 from this year,” he said, “but I was looking for the $750,000 from last year.”

Township manager Robert Vornlocker said that installing sidewalks on all streets around the middle school would cost about $1.6 million.

“We’ve heard what your request is, now we need to move on,” Francois said to Wright.

“No, we don’t need to move on,” Wright responded.

Addressing the camera recording and live-streaming the meeting, Wright said he wanted to apologize to residents of the fourth ward.

“I took my eye off the ball,” he said. “Because I took my eye off the ball, certain things did not happen.”

“I promise you I will not let it happen again,” Wright said. “I will not let things slip by that I thought were being taken care of by my fellow township council members.”

Vornlocker said after the meeting that the $750,000 in the proposed 2016 budget would be used to install sidewalks on some streets around the middle school. He said that equal allocations in 2014 and 2015 were not used at all, although some Community Development Block Grant money was used in 2014 to install sidewalks on one street.

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