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Walkway plans hit a dead end

Sen. Terry Punt pulled the funding for the sidewalk project and criticized borough and Renfrew officials.

Sen. Terry Punt pulled the funding for the sidewalk project and criticized borough and Renfrew officials.

October 24, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Plans to build a nearly one-mile walkway connecting the Borough of Waynesboro to Washington Township along East Main Street ended this week when an angry State Sen. Terry Punt said he would pull the funding.

Punt had secured $265,000 of the estimated $325,000 cost of the walkway.

He criticized Waynesboro officials for dragging their feet on the project and for Renfrew Museum and Park officials for opposing it because of insurance liability and aesthetic concerns.

The proposed route took the sidewalk along the south side of Pa. 16 (East Main Street) from the Waynesboro Mall through Renfrew, which is owned by the borough, to Welty Road in the township.

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The Washington Township Supervisors supported the walkway, saying it would provide a safe place for pedestrians along the busy stretch of road.

Supervisors President Paul Benchoff said Wednesday that since Punt pulled the funds they would ask him for money to build a sidewalk along Pa. 16 in Rouzerville connecting Midvale Road to Old Forge Road.

"I'm receptive to the idea," Punt said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "I'd be willing to meet with them any time to consider such a request."

Council members, in a June letter to the township supervisors, said they support the concept provided the concerns of property owners and Renfrew are considered.

Renfrew officials objected because a proposed bridge over Antietam Creek which runs through the park would be too disruptive to its historic grounds. Construction would also mean the loss of some big trees.

Benchoff said Punt "tried to do something for the area and he got slapped in the face."

Punt, in a letter to Benchoff Friday, wrote: "Due to the hankerings of Renfrew and the indecisiveness of the borough, I am left with no alternative and I would rather take the funds and put them in some community who will welcome them and want to do some good for its people rather than losing the funds because of indecisiveness, elitist attitude and self-promotion."

"When one Renfrew Board member objected to the bridge by raising the issue of someone jumping off the foot bridge, falling five feet into a stream that rarely has 4 inches of water and committing suicide, it was utterly ridiculous," Punt wrote.

Punt said Wednesday his decision "may not be popular, but it is correct. Renfrew is more concerned about trees than the public safety."

"I'd say we're relieved," Jeffrey Bliemeister, curator at Renfrew, said of Punt's decision to pull the sidewalk funds.

"We're the last people in the world to stand in the way of progress or the public's safety and we never opposed those basic concepts," Bliemeister said.

Renfrew officials wanted to see better planning for the project, including placement of the bridge over the creek, he said.

"We thought it should be built along side the highway bridge instead of 100 feet onto our property," he said.

Bliemeister said Renfrew's biggest concern was liability for the part of the walkway that passed through museum property. Neither the township nor the borough would accept the responsibility, he said.

Punt sent copies of his letter to Main Street Waynesboro Inc., the Greater Waynesboro Chamber of Commerce and Waynesboro Vision 2015. Neither Renfrew nor the Borough Council got one.

He said he was going to send the council a "different" letter but would not discuss the contents.

Waynesboro Mayor Louis Barlup said it's always difficult when three government bodies have to decide on a single issue.

"I hope Senator Punt doesn't forget us in the future over this," Barlup said. "I've always considered him to be a true friend."

Borough Councilman Allen W. Porter, who favors the walkway, said it's needed for the safety of the community.

"I see students walking there with the book bags and they walk with their backs to the traffic on the south side," Porter said.

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