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Councilman down on lift-bridge renovation

February 14, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

WILLIAMSPORT - Plans to renovate a Williamsport landmark would benefit the town, Town Council members told a colleague who said during Monday's meeting that he does not support spending money on a National Park Service lift-bridge project.

Councilman Nelson F. Deal expressed the lone vote of dissent in a 5-1 decision to commit $30,000 over this budget year and next to start the design phase of restoring the lift bridge at Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park.

"If we can raise the 30,000 (dollars) without touching our fund, gentlemen, I say, I'll give my full support," Deal said.

Clerk/Treasurer James R. Castle said the National Park Service also would provide $30,000 toward the design phase.

Mayor James G. McCleaf II said he believed outside groups would be willing to help pay for the project. According to estimates that are about five years old, the entire cost of renovating the bridge and restoring the area to its original appearance would run $400,000 to $500,000.

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Current estimates are $500,000 to $600,000, McCleaf said after the meeting.

Town Councilman Jeff Cline told Deal that he believes work on the bridge is key to the town's future.

"Right here, we're sitting on a gold mine, and you're looking the other way," Cline said. Hundreds of bicyclists from organized groups are among the people who have expressed interest in the area, he said.

Councilman Earle R. Pereschuk Sr. and Assistant Mayor Monty R. Jones also expressed support for the project, which Jones called an investment.

Deal argued that he did not trust the National Park Service's commitment to the project, and he compared the agency to the Baltimore Colts. That team, he recounted, left town in the dead of night.

"I hate to see us get involved and all of a sudden, the lift bridge is kaput, with no further input," Deal said.

Cline was equally impassioned.

"I think this is one of the important steps into the future of this town. Again, I'll repeat, the future of this town is its history," Cline said.

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