Candidates bash bypass in Washington Township, Pa.

May 08, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Two candidates for public office in the May 20 primary election met under a spreading maple tree on the Shank Farm Wednesday to rail against the Washington Township Supervisors' plan to turn part of the historic 78-acre farmstead into a new municipal office building and highway bypass.

Last month the supervisors started eminent domain proceedings against the owner of the farm at 11556 Country Club Road.

Christopher Firme, 41, of Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., is one of two candidates running for the single supervisor's seat up this year. His opponent is Jeff Zody, 47, of Zullinger, Pa. Both are Republicans. No Democrat is running.

Firme shared the limelight at the press conference with Scott Blanchard, who is running for a seat on the Franklin County Commission.


Firme said he is opposed to the bypass, the first leg of which is expected to be under construction within a year.

It is pegged to cost $5 million. Included in the cost is a new municipal office building. The money will come from a bond issue.

"Welcome to what used to be the Shank Farm," quipped Firme in opening statements. "It's been in the same family for seven generations."

Firme said a bypass is not needed at this time. "The township's population is only about 12,000," he said.

Zody said he initially opposed the supervisors' plan to build a bypass around the township.

"I rejected the premise at first until I started to ask questions. My eyes were opened. From 80 to 90 new homes are built in the township every year. It's growing," he has said.

A bypass to relieve traffic on Pa. 16 has been on the minds of township planners for 30 years, township officials have said. The supervisors say they need to start planning for future growth now.

Firme said traffic studies show that 24,000 vehicles a day go through the township's east end where the first phase of the bypass will begin. Only about 12,000 to 13,000 vehicles pass through the township's west end in Zullinger.

"Basically you have traffic going back and forth in the east end," Firme said. "Something is wrong here. A bypass won't do anything."

He said a new municipal complex is not needed either.

The current one on Welty Road houses the supervisors' meeting room, administrative offices and the police headquarters up front.

Firme said enough township-owned land exists to expand the current facilities. Such a plan could include a new supervisors' meeting room in the rear of the building, along with a new police station there. The administrative offices would expand to the front of the building formerly occupied by the police.

"That would cost a lot less than spending $5 million," he said.

Blanchard and Firme called on township supervisors to seek alternative routes for the bypass that would use existing roads. Firme admitted it would end up a zig-zag route.

"Not only will the cost of this bypass be borne entirely by Washington Township taxpayers, the loss of farmland and open space that will be taken will be irreversible," Blanchard said.

Blanchard, of St. Thomas, Pa., is challenging incumbents Robert L. Thomas and G. Warren Elliott in the Republican primary for a seat on the county commission.

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