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In Damascus, all roads lead to hardship

By Linda Drollinger
December 4, 2013

Finding the wherewithal to maintain, repair and rebuild its 116 miles of paved and unpaved roads is nothing new to Damascus Township. It’s been a challenge for as long as the roads have been there. But in the wake of hurricanes Irene and Sandy, a recession that now looks suspiciously like a lifestyle, and unparalleled fiscal constraints in Washington, Harrisburg and Wayne County, road upkeep seems to be an impossible dream.

So dire is the situation that Damascus Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey Dexter, who could not attend the November 18 meeting of the board, sent a three-page memo to Charles Grady and Joe Canfield, who co-chaired the meeting in his absence. The memo detailed Draft Amendment #2 to the 2014 proposed budget: a plan for establishing a dedicated tax-supported fund, Improvement Fund for Roadways and Bridges Improvement, to address the current road upkeep shortfall. As laid out in the memo, “the town currently spends $638,000 on roadway maintenance. Only $243,000 comes from the Liquid Fuels Allocation (Pennsylvania tax surcharges on gasoline, ethanol and diesel). In the years that we are able to pay for paving, it cuts into routine maintenance projects and services. The township has been unable to fund adequate care for its paved roadways for many years. The existing paved roadways continue to deteriorate, the costs for repaving is escalating. The longer we wait, the worst just get worse, and the costs climb upward. It will take 10 years just to repave the existing paved roadways.”

The draft amendment went on to describe the difficulty of establishing the fund under existing taxation laws. It concluded with Dexter’s recommendation that the township make no decisions on the dedicated fund at the November meeting, pending action by the Pennsylvania House on possible transportation funding increases. “If approved, as passed by the senate, the township could realize a $100,000 increase in liquid fuels allocations. If the increase in the threshold of ‘prevailing wage’ is approved, it would greatly increase the township’s purchasing power. However, it could take upwards of two years before the township would receive the increase. The tax increase could allow the township to pave this summer, if the fund were created.” The board voted unanimously to table the amendment vote until next month’s board meeting at 7 p.m. on December 16.

Webmaster Ed Lagarenne announced that 12 years of free server usage for the township, courtesy of a Canadian Web provider, has come to an end. Small donations ($5-$20) are being sought from businesses to meet the costs of the township’s website server.