East Greenville's efforts to revamp the borough's handicapped parking ordinance were again met by criticism from residents at Monday night's council meeting.
What started as an effort to clarify the ordinance, which allows people to apply for a handicapped designated parking spot in front of a residence, has drawn ire from community members over the last several weeks – both for being too vague and too specific.
At Monday's meeting, Mike Schwenk of Jefferson Street in the borough said that although he admires council's efforts, portions of the draft ordinance were "totally ridiculous." Schwenk took particular issue with sections of the ordinance that would limit the number of designated spaces to two per block, noting that on his block there are already three handicapped spaces. He also voiced concern that the borough would open itself to potential lawsuits if the ordinance gave borough officials the power to rescind parking spaces at their discretion.
Borough Solicitor Steven Kramer said that the changes would bring East Greenville's ordinance more in line with comparable municipalities. He noted the draft includes language that would allow council to approve more than two-spaces per block if there is a need.
Council President Timothy Huff tried to quell concerns about the borough's ability to rescind spaces, saying, "We're not in the business of taking people's spots away, but we need to be able to police the situation" and have the ability to rescind spots in cases of clear abuse.
Mayor Ryan Sloyer also raised issue with proposed language that would prohibit people without vehicles from obtaining a handicapped spot. For example, he said, an elderly resident might not have a vehicle, but still rely on a family member to pick them up for doctors' appointment and other errands, thus necessitating a designated space.
Council debated the merits of that line of the ordinance, weighing the difficulties posed by people double-parking to pick up a handicapped resident, against the ever-present need for parking on crammed streets.
In the end, council decided to strike the vehicle ownership requirement from the draft, as well as the $10 annual renewal fee for a designated spot. The mayor – or in his absence, borough manager – would be able to immediately approve applications for spaces, while the full council would decide whether to grant spaces in exceptional cases.
Kramer said he would make the changes to the draft and present the new proposed language at the next council meeting, adding that there was "too much polarization" on the issue to have moved forward Monday night.
Schwenk also questioned why snow was plowed in front of the handicapped curb cuts this winter, as it makes access to the sidewalks impossible for a person in a wheelchair. Borough Manager Jim Fry said he would talk to the roads crew about not blocking the curbs; however, he added, "This was an unusual year. There wasn't much thaw between snow storms," and there weren't many options for getting rid of the snow.
In other business, Borough Engineer Scott McMackin of Cowan and Associates spoke about efforts to create a master roads plan for the borough. According to McMackin, developing a multi-year plan to repair borough roads would allow for a "more systematic" approach and allow the borough to "be more proactive" in addressing the roads situation.
Moving forward, McMackin said, the engineering firm would have to analyze current roads materials and then create a plan to fix them. He said he would work with borough officials to create a "priority list" and provide a costs and analysis outline to council. He added that because some municipal workers have "expertise" in road matters, the borough will be able to save some money on the project.
Council authorized up to $10,000 for McMackin to begin crafting the roads plan. About $60,000 has been budgeted for roads work this year.
In addition, council discussed applying for a community development block grant that could be used to reconstruct Second Street between Main and Washington streets and add sidewalks to that section. However, Fry acknowledged that because the borough had recently received similar grants, the application might not be approved.
In budget news, council member Andrew Rock said that PennDOT had reimbursed the borough more than $5,700; however, he added that even with that money, the borough is still about $500 in the red on its budget for road salt this year.
As the meeting concluded, Sloyer asked council to keep an eye out around town as the weather gets nicer to see if any property maintenance code items need to be addressed this spring.
Council meets next on Tuesday, March 25, at 7:30 p.m.