Haddonfield Sidewalk Vote Divides Commissioners

"It amazed me that any elected official would take a vote, in my opinion, against pedestrian safety," Mayor Tish Colombi says.

A vote last week to install a 1,400-foot sidewalk has opened a fissure in the usually close-knit Board of Commissioners.

The vote came after weeks of debate about the 2012 road improvement program, a topic that usually hardly raises an eyebrow among borough residents. But a push to install sidewalks along the Washington Avenue corridor that leads into the Tavistock golf course rallied neighbors against it.

Commissioner Jeff Kasko sided with the neighbors and voted against installing a sidewalk along the sprawling, winding roadway with large, distinctive homes. Commissioners Tish Colombi and Ed Borden voted to install the sidewalks. The sidewalks will be installed.

"It amazed me that any elected official would take a vote, in my opinion, against pedestrian safety," Colombi, the mayor, said. "What I heard at every meeting from neighbors there was that 'we need something to control the speeding. Why not give us speed bumps?'"

Neighbors there have grown accustomed to not having sidewalks and extending landscaping to the street. The residents have also expressed concerns about maintenance of sidewalks, which customarily reverts to the homeowner once installed.

Borough officials have argued that they have a responsibility to promote pedestrian safety and sidewalks are part of that mission. They also stressed that the cost of the sidewalks is significantly reduced when including them with area road projects. The sidewalks here are expected to cost about $60,000 out of a $700,000 road and drainage improvement.

But Kasko eventually decided the neighbors' concerns and the sidewalk cost added up to a no vote.

"I don’t think we should have a blanket rule that where ever there isn’t a sidewalk we’re going to put one in, no matter what," Kasko said. "I’m all for public safety and pedestrian safety, but there are other concerns. You weigh the cost of the project, what effect it has on flooding and shade trees.

"It didn't pass the test. Is it worth it to spend that money and create divisiveness up there in that neighborhood for the couple of people who are going to walk on the sidewalk? It's not worth it."

Kasko has increasing found himself at odds with Colombi and Borden in recent months. He and Borden had a when both slammed their hands on a desk to make a point. 

Borden, the commissioner who oversees public safety, said the sidewalk on Washington Avenue was the right thing to do.

"I think when we are installing streets it's the least expensive time to install sidewalks," he said. "To me, it's a safety issue. Sidewalks are safe for pedestrians. It's the right and safe thing to do."

Colombi hinted that Kasko's vote could be "political." All three commissioners, the highest elected borough officials, are up for reelection in 2013. But the current division in borough government crosses party lines. Kasko and Colombi are Republicans and Borden is a Democrat. But borough elections are nonpartisan and party affiliation is not listed on the ballot.

Kasko dismissed Colombi's insinuation that his vote was about politics.

"Everything that I approach, every vote to spend tax dollars, is not motivated by politics," he said.


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Brian Kelly August 27, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Former union member, It's interesting when someone outside the loop comments and puts things in perspective. The sidewalk issue is just one of many happening in a critical time in Haddonfield's history. While it may seem to you like Bill and I have to much time on our hands it shows the passion between residents in Haddonfield and is reflective of the way citizens all over the town are feeling. I, for one, think it's outstanding people are voicing their opinions over matters that are directly affecting their lives in a big way. As for Maryann Campling's comments about the catholic ghetto east end, she is a referring to herself and her neighbors at Lee avenue and how an unfair political decision has affected their lives. The very attitude you correctly pointed out has been thrust upon them. Haddonfield at its finest indeed.
Maryann Campling August 27, 2012 at 11:34 PM
Greetings FUM and fellow Patchers and Patchettes: I was raised in a household that valued and encouraged debate and discourse. I remember at age 4 or 5 sitting on my Grandpop's lap, while he and his goombas drank homemade "dago red" and smoked those little black cigars and argued about politics, religion, current events and how much veal should go into the meatballs. They all yelled and pounded the table, then hugged and went home. I LOVE the banter between H-field residents...it alarms and saddens me that most people know all of the stats of their favorite sports team, or who's winning "Dancing with Stars", but are clueless about matters that affect their everyday quality of life, on a federal, state and local level. It's scary. Regarding the Catholic ghetto/single toilet comment......these are phrases that my friends who were born and raised here told me about. The Catholic Ghettoi refers to the area around C the K, and the single toilets homes on the east side, built in the 40's, for the most part had one bathroom, as opposed to homes in the high rent district, which had multiple bathrooms. I've been told that there has always been an east/west mentality in H-field....it is just more covert these days.
Maryann Campling August 27, 2012 at 11:42 PM
As a practicing Catholic, I was amused a few months ago, when someone told me that we think that we are better than everyone else and that we"pray to statues and worship the Pope." Did you know that, FUM? 16 plus years of Catholic education....I guess I was asleep during that class. And the comments were made by a highly educated, born and raised Haddonfieldlian. Well...keep the debates going....God Bless America and the First Amendment! (And Bill, mea culpa re the L of A/private road issue....I must have misunderstood the engineer's comment at the Commish Mtg, Ciao
Brian Kelly August 28, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Maryann, You might just given the final word (for the moment) on this particular installment of sidewalks in Haddonfield! It's outstanding to see so many residents engaged in the issues of the town.
Kathi Boggs-Shaner September 10, 2012 at 05:17 PM
If the politicians really cared about pedestrian safety, perhaps they should figure out a way to install sidewalks on Hopkins Lane. Understand, I'm not suggesting home owners' property should be disturbed, many have built attractive landscaping and, like the folks on Washinton Ave, I feel they have a right to beautify their property, but there sure is plenty of land on the other side where a safe haven for pedestrians could be considered! I guess they're just waiting to spend a millions on the Bancroft takeover and hope no one is injured in the meantime. On another note, I've always wondered... if the land belongs to the Borough, why doesn't the Borough accept repsonsibility for maintaining it? Many towns have certificate of occupancy requirements that hold home owners responsible for repairing cracked and uneven sidewalks prior to the sale of their homes. Most of the time, its the trees the towns have planted that destroy the sidewalks and the owner ends up paying to replace the damaged pads. Fortunately, Haddonfield has not adopted that requirement, yet.


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