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A new courthouse debate – ballot question proposed

Delaware Township Supervisor Tom Ryan said the rest of Pike County needs to be involved in the courthouse addition debate and proposed a ballot question.
TRR photo by David Hulse

By David Hulse
March 26, 2014

MILFORD, PA — New voices last week joined in the Pike courthouse addition debate that has dominated county commissioners’ meetings since the beginning of the new year.

Over that period, spokespersons for the 500-member preservation-minded Concerned Pike Taxpayers (CPT) group have been questioning and calling for alternatives to county plans for the addition, in particular the demolition or removal of the Kenworthy Building in the borough’s National Historic Preservation District.

The commissioners’ basic response has been that alternatives that the group seeks would add an unreasonable new project cost of $1.4 million for utility relocations. The county is also negotiating with Verizon about who would pay to relocate utility lines. Additionally, the county position is that the borough’s architectural review board, which oversees the historic district, is the place to debate the future of the Kenworthy Building.

On March 19, as the debate was renewed, Delaware Township Supervisor Tom Ryan said that after listening to months of debate, it was time for “the whole county to be represented. We’ve heard from 500. Fifty thousand haven’t been heard from.”

Ryan said residents in the county’s southerly townships, who have been hard-hit by property value losses and tax sales in the current recession “don’t want to hear about new taxes. The new expenses to be incurred by the people of the county far exceed the value of the Kenworthy Building.”

Saying it was time to engage the rest of the county in the discussion, Ryan proposed that issue become a ballot question.

Commissioner Rich Caridi confirmed that “if you’ve got 350 qualified voters favoring it, (the question) goes on the ballot as a non-binding resolution.”

Commissioner Karl Wagner agreed with Ryan. “I’m tired of hearing the same questions and the same answers. I’ve read the minutes of meetings where I have been absent and they are the same questions and answers as before,” he said.

Wagner, an attorney, said the county would not litigate the utility costs in court. “I know what litigation entails—level after level of litigation. I’m not going to get involved in litigation.”

Saying hers was a “struggling family” with two kids, Blooming Grove resident and county employee Tammi Gillette said she had taken personal time to attend the meeting. She said the commissioners were trying to “hold the line,” and “99% are being pushed around by 1% for personal and financial interests.”