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Waynesboro council votes to keep square open

May 02, 2002|BY RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

Waynesboro's Public Square will stay open.

The Borough Council, on a 4-2 vote Wednesday, reversed its 1999 tie-breaking vote to reconfigure the busy four-way intersection by bringing in all four sides. That plan is favored by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation as the best way to move traffic through what is now a sometimes difficult maze made more difficult by an antiquated system of traffic lights.

PennDOT has set aside $1.2 million to close in the square and add a synchronized traffic light system through downtown.

The move to reverse the 1999 vote was led by Council President Douglas Tengler, a three-year council veteran who represents Ward Two. He pushed the issue to keep a campaign promise, he said.

"It took three years, but I've kept my word to the people in Ward Two," he said in an emotional speech following the vote.

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Three years ago, the council voted 3-3 to close the square, a move that merchants said would eliminate half of its 18 parking spaces. The plan also drew the ire of many residents who wanted the intersection left as is for nostalgic reasons.

Mayor Louis Barlup had sided with those who sought the change and cast the tie-breaking vote.

The makeup of the council changed in the November election when John Cook, a proponent of an open square, came on board and gave Tengler the vote he needed.

The council tabled a vote in March when it received a letter from PennDOT saying it could cost the borough up to $60,000 to change its mind. PennDOT officials said considerable money had already been spent on preliminary engineering based on closing the square.

That letter was followed by one from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission that challenged PennDOT's right to charge the borough for any additional work.

Tengler said he was told by PennDOT officials this week that the highway department had not charged a local government under similar circumstances for at least 12 years.

Encouraged by that news, Tengler organized his backers for a new vote Wednesday. The four votes to keep the square as is were cast by Tengler, Cook, Charles "Chip" McCammon and Ardie Winters.

Councilwoman Vicki Jo Huff and Councilman Allen Porter cast the dissenting votes.

Barlup, who only votes to break ties, questioned where the $60,000 would come from should PennDOT ask for it. McCammon said borough residents would donate it.

"There's too many unanswered questions," Barlup said.

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