One of the quaint subtleties residents enjoy in Adams County is that our smaller communities provide ample opportunities to safely walk through local neighborhoods.
Any given evening, you can find couples walking through our boroughs, or pet owners and their furry friends getting some exercise. Kids ride their scooters and make chalk drawings on their front sidewalks. Mail carriers bring parcels to your door as they stroll by daily.
People in many boroughs and townships enjoy these activities, but not in Abbottstown. A walk down parts, or all, of the main corridors and the Center Square is a treacherous one, according to local residents.
Perry Shearer served as the borough’s mayor for several years.
“As a dedicated dog owner, I enjoy walking with my best four-legged friend around town. However, it does become a challenge with the condition of the sidewalks here in our town. Attempting to make the trek after dark is virtually impossible with the uneven surfaces, cracks and broken-up concrete,” he said.
Susanne Littlestar won a nomination this past Spring for borough council.
“The sidewalks that are here have been in place many years. Weather changes and neglect have severely damaged them. Broken or crumbling sidewalks pose tripping and falling hazards. Some areas have no sidewalks, and this presents a problem for safe access,” Littlestar said, adding that accessibility for pedestrians and the handicapped is a major issue in the borough.
Much smaller boroughs in the county have a defined pedestrian route, such as Arendtsville and Bendersville, with ample sidewalk service throughout their main arteries. Verily, anyone who has traveled on foot along U.S. Route 30 or state Route 194 in Abbottstown knows that there are some good sidewalks, some very bad sidewalks, and, in some places, no sidewalk at all.
“Six years ago, present council members ran on the fact that sidewalks have been neglected and still there have been no improvements made,” added Shearer, who also owns The Abbott House at the end of town on Route 30.
Borough council is currently completing a massive streets improvement plan, with tens of thousands of dollars going into long-overdue and much needed base repairs to the side streets. In the coming weeks, those streets and more will have a fresh coat of asphalt for the first time in many election cycles.
In addition, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has completed base repairs to Route 194 (Queen Street) and will be milling and overlaying the road from the Beaver Creek bridge to Short Cut Road just north of town. Once these projects are complete, crosswalks will be repainted to connect the four corners of Center Square. The town will have the best streets it has had in many decades, but poor or no sidewalks for our pedestrians’ safe travel.
Christian Harris is a lifelong Abbottstown resident who lives along Route 194.
“The lack of sidewalks definitely makes some walking unsafe and the unlevel paths can make it difficult and dangerous for our elderly residents,” he said. Harris grew up in the borough and has recently graduated with a masters degree from West Chester University, where walking from building to building is an essential part of life.
Borough council members have heard the comments of those who have relayed the very same sentiments about the conditions (or complete lack thereof) of our borough sidewalks. Last year, in connection with our code enforcement activities, residents along King and Queen streets were asked to evaluate the condition and safety of their sidewalks, to gain voluntary compliance of borough ordinances.
In 1979, the borough council adopted an ordinance mandating property owners along these routes construct proper sidewalks and curbing within 30 days of notice from the municipality. After 40 years of no progress or enforcement of the ordinance, the project has once again gained attention.
This week, property owners and tenants along King and Queen streets were sent letters and a copy of Ordinance 1979-1, which outlines the borough plan for sidewalk and curb upkeep. In the letter, they were informed that council is now calling up the prescribed mandate. While the ordinance gives property owners only 30 days to complete the upgrades, council understands this immediacy may impose some hardships with costs. So, owners have been asked to submit a plan in the next 30 days for the repairs or installation of such, and they will have until June 2020 to complete the work.
Borough administration will waive the zoning permit costs, but residents will still need to follow the same process during their projects. Once their plan is submitted, the code enforcement officer will review it with the homeowner and make any necessary suggestions for compliance with construction standards along PennDOT state highways. A permit will be issued when these plans are approved, and the owners will be responsible for contracting out the work and paying the costs of repair or installation, not unlike the other boroughs in the county.
Those who may cry foul over these efforts by council, professing the ease of waging an unfunded mandate on our citizens from lofty ivory towers, can keep those arrows in their quivers; three of the five current council members live along these routes and will be responsible for the sidewalks in front of their properties, also.
“As council members, we are not exempt from code enforcement; we are just as responsible as everyone else to do the right thing. If our properties are out of compliance, we receive notices just like everyone else,” said council President Dennis Posey. “This project is forty years overdue. When we ran for council, we promised improvements to the borough. We are now following through on those promises and our borough will be much better as a result.”
Abbottstown Borough Council has done much in the past two years to improve our municipality. Many of our ordinances are being upgraded or enforced to the betterment of our community. By working together, borough council and our residents will make Abbottstown look like an entirely new, safer, better borough, and that is a breath of fresh air.