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September 30, 2016
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No axes to grind in Honesdale

The Honesdale Borough Council spent a good part of its September 9 monthly meeting listening to the public second-guess it. Ed Kraus of Narrowsburg, NY, Earl Mohn of Beach Lake, Stan Pratt and Jerry Theobald of Honesdale, each witnessed multiple incidents occurring between June and August of this year in which serious vehicular accidents were narrowly averted. Because each incident involved a driver attempting to go the wrong way on one-way streets, all of the men were of the opinion that the one-way traffic pattern was responsible for those close calls.

Kraus identified himself as a long-time Narrowsburg resident and frequent visitor to Honesdale for business, shopping and recreation. Declaring that he had no axe to grind with regard to the traffic flow pattern, he stated that concern for public safety was his only reason for appearing before the council. After acknowledging that he was no expert on traffic engineering, he said he thought that resuming two-way traffic on Church Street could prevent the kind of near-misses that he encountered this summer.

Mohn reiterated Kraus’ concerns, saying that the situations he had witnessed were similar in nature to those Kraus described, and noted that he also favored resumption of two-way traffic flow on Main and/or Church Streets.

Pratt and Theobald added their testimony to that of Kraus and Mohn, advocating increased speed enforcement and more signage on Church and Main streets. Council president F. J. Monaghan thanked the four men, and observed that the dangerous situations they had witnessed were living examples of the adage, “old habits die hard.”

This testimony prompted council action on the three-year-old traffic flow debate. Church and Main streets are maintained by the state, and therefore fall under PennDOT jurisdiction. In order to change current traffic flow, a formal request must be submitted to PennDOT. Initially, Councilman Robert Jennings called for a motion requesting that the ad hoc committee, established to study the consequences of traffic flow, petition PennDOT for the change. But Councilman James Brennan pointed out that the committee had originally been charged with deciding whether the benefits of traffic flow change warranted its continuance. Jennings withdrew his motion, asking instead that the committee evaluate the findings of the Bogart Accident Analysis, as well as new traffic camera footage, and then offer its recommendation to the council.

In other news, as Monaghan announced that Rick Southerton had been nominated by the council for chief of police, Brennan read aloud a rebuttal to the September 5 Wayne Independent editorial critical of the council’s selection process. The editorial questioned the thoroughness of the nine candidate interviews conducted by the council at its August 28 meeting. Each interview lasted 15 minutes only. It also questioned the order of the process, noting that civil service appointment nominees usually come from the Civil Service Commission to the council, and not the other way around.

Southerton has yet to be appointed. He must first appear before the Civil Service Commission on September 20. If the commission is satisfied that Southerton meets all eligibility requirements for the position, he will again meet with the council, this time to negotiate job parameters. Specifically, it will determine whether the position will be that of a working chief (police officer responding to calls) or one of administrative duties only. Based on the result of those negotiations, Southerton may choose to accept or decline the position.