Rush Township intends to create a safe connection between Rush Elementary School and other areas in the village of Hometown. A former chairman of the board of supervisors, however, said he disagrees with the idea.
On Wednesday, the board of supervisors announced details of the Hometown Area Safe Roads to Schools project at the Schuylkill County commissioners meeting held at the Rush Township Municipal Building.
The ambitious, $240,000 federally-funded project will include $204,000 in federal monies secured through the Northeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Enhancement Funding Program and the remaining $36,000 match coming from the township general fund.
Specifically, the project will upgrade the sidewalks and paths to connect Rush Elementary to Mahanoy Avenue (SR54).
The streets to receive proposed improvements are Meadow Avenue, Oak Lane, Lincoln Drive and Mahanoy Avenue.
The improvements would include upgrades to existing sidewalks, installing additional sidewalks, curbing, crosswalks, detectible warning systems, signage, bike racks, shoulder widening and surface painting.
The project would connect the school to business and residential areas of the township and improve safety.
Additional phases would connect the project to the municipal building, shopping, businesses, residential areas, recreational facilities, and two river corridors, according to supervisors Stephen W. Simchak and Robert Leibensperger.
A former chairman of the board of supervisors attended the meeting and voiced objections to the project.
George Pinkey, a 12-year public servant, said he questions the wisdom in doing the project at all since the school hosts only very young children who wouldn't be walking to class.
"The Tamaqua Area School District chose to send second, third and fourth grade students to Tamaqua," said Pinkey. "This left only kindergarten and first grade in Rush Elementary. Most parents wouldn't allow their children to walk."
Pinkey said budgets are tight, "but all of a sudden there's $214,000, with $36,000 from Rush Township where they couldn't afford to buy cold patch in the winter to fix the streets."
Pinkey also said the 2010 Census shows the township as losing population, and added that he thinks it's apparent that consultants offering their services "are doing a good sales job," in Rush Township. "I would hope all grant applications would be more scrutinized."
However, Leibensperger spoke to the media following the meeting and said Pinkey is in error because "the school has playgrounds, a ballpark and facilities used by all ages."
In addition, Leibensperger said the project includes replacing road signs, crossing signs and other mandatory work that has been neglected for years. In fact, he said, the project, along with an aggressive storm water remediation program, would correct problems that have existed for many years and would actually be saving money for taxpayers in the long haul.
The project has been endorsed by state Sen. David G. Argall, R-29, Rep. Jerry P. Knowles, R-124, Jason Boris, executive director, Eastern Schuylkill Recreation Commission; Gary Bender, county grant writer; Schuylkill County Commissioners; Mark Scarbinsky, county administrator; Tamaqua Area School District and the board of the Northeastern Pa. Alliance, Stanley Costello, chairman; Jeffrey Box, president and Alan Baranski, vice president.