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Tempers flare at township meeting

May 30, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - An already glued gavel snapped at Tuesday's Washington Township Supervisors workshop, where a handful of residents verbally attacked the supervisors for the development of a $14.3 million relief route and their study that could lead to construction of a new municipal complex.

A police officer was brought into the meeting, in which voices were raised and names were called.

The brunt of the argument concerned a government complex that an architect said could be 83,000 square feet and require almost 4.5 acres of developed land.

Jennifer Greenlee, of Newcomer Associates, said she would return in two weeks with cost estimates and a site plan.

The Chambersburg, Pa., firm's study does not bind the township to any land acquisition or construction plan.

"This is a wish list," Supervisor Christopher Firme said. "This is what you might like the Washington Township Municipal Complex to look like in five, 10, 15 years down the road."

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A screaming match broke out early in the meeting, and nearly two hours of heated public comment ensued. Supervisor Chairman Carroll Sturm, a participant in the yelling, broke his gavel while trying to restore order.

Richard Aughinbaugh, of Landis Avenue, charged that the residents' wishes expressed in a survey were ignored as the township planned for Washington Township Boulevard north of Waynesboro. He called it a "development road" rather than a relief route.

Another man repeatedly demanded to know the projected price for the municipal complex, and resorted to asking for the price to build 1 square foot. Greenlee reiterated that she would provide figures in two weeks, and said the price per square foot varies greatly by type of building.

During a lull in the arguments, Greenlee broke the room into groups, asking one group to rearrange buildings on the existing township site and another to plan for them on a 10-acre tract.

The group working with the existing South Welty Road land built two-story buildings, left the Blue Ridge Fire & Rescue Co. off site, cut the size of a garage and parked vehicles in a flood plain.

The group with the new site spread out the buildings, pushing stockpiles and storage sheds to the back of the property. With Greenlee's assistance, the group moved vehicles to the west side of the property, so the morning sun would melt ice off the trucks.

Greenlee expressed concerns with the foundations of buildings on the township's current land, where the water table is believed to be just more than a foot underground. The 3.8-acre site has 1.4 acres outside of the flood plain.

Residents questioned the cost of a new complex, frequently referencing the "taxpayers' money."

They suggested leaving the fire and rescue squad, township municipal authority and senior center out of plans. They also encouraged that the offices be built on levels and questioned the perceived needs as generated by the department heads.

Newcomer Associates' plan suggests building in two phases.

The township has been posting information about the facilities plan on its Web site at www.washtwp-franklin.org.

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