During the research for the January/February edition of BreakingGround I was repeatedly struck (and frustrated) by the seemingly insoluble problem of paying to repair and expand our highways, bridges, locks/dams, etc. Our elected officials seem much more concerned about getting re-elected and run scared from the tough calls.
One local municipality has decided to buck the trend and take the solution into their own hands. Cranberry Twp. has been struggling with correcting serious problems that resulted from the extended growth of the area along Route 228 and Freedom Road. Coming into this fiscal year the leadership of the township decided that their obligation to their residents meant budgeting construction and an increase in revenues to pay for the work. That meant a tax increase.
Here’s what township manager Jerry Andree says about their choice:
“…our community, and its elected leaders, did confront those tough decisions for our community for 2012 and raised local taxes and dedicated that new revenue to maintaining our local road infrastructure. Our community waited for our state government, through two Governors of different political parties, to address the decreasing state revenue dedicated to local roads and the unfunded mandates that drive up the costs of road maintenance. We heard nothing but more study committee results repeating the same warning that our infrastructure is falling apart and we must do something, and then nothing. Another amazing fact, we received overwhelming positive feedback from our public. State and Federal officials perhaps give little credit to the ability of the taxpayers to figure out what is happening. We find that our residents are very well informed, engaged and understand the importance of building and maintaining a community that they are proud to call home. This includes their financial obligations associated with a high quality of life and the supporting infrastructure, from the sanitary sewers, to the parks, to the library, to the roads, they are all connected and people understand that. The key is to listen and learn from the entire spectrum of residents and the answers are there, the challenge is listening is too often restricted to the fringe groups on either side of an issue.”
That sounds like an attitude that should be cloned. And it may be the only solution to the problem of a decaying infrastructure: trust the residents.