It is always nice to see when our municipal officials are voting in favor of improvement projects.
The counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania aren’t some of the wealthiest in the state, so we are very aware that sometimes every dollar counts. We all know there really isn’t ever enough money to check off all of the items on a wish list when it comes to taking care of our communities. Most often, our officials are faced with choosing the most pressing projects and doing more with less.
But tax dollars combined with grants do help get some of the most impactful projects done. Once that money is spent and the project is complete, the residents should have some responsibility in ensuring that those costly projects last as long as possible.
Officials in Connellsville recently voted to move forward with a sidewalk replacement project on Francis Avenue — an area very much in need of repair. Funding for the project will come from the Community Development Block Grant program.
But taking a drive around the neighborhoods that wind through the city, as well as the township, we can’t help but wonder if new sidewalks is really just money wasted.
Most of the neighborhood streets in the rural areas throughout Fayette, Westmoreland, Greene and Washington counties are not constructed to allow for on-street parking. But that doesn’t stop residents from parking there. Because many of the residential and business district streets are narrow, residents try to solve the problem by pulling up onto and parking on the sidewalk to alleviate jam ups from motorists trying to get through.
The purpose of a sidewalk is to separate pedestrians from motorized vehicles. They are purposed for safety, not for extra free parking.
After repeated stress and wear and tear on the sidewalks, they start to wear down and crumble, much more quickly than they normally would. Now, when a car isn’t obstructing a path and a pedestrian can actually utilize a sidewalk, cracks and others damage present further safety issues.
As a result, taxpayers are footing the bill for replacing cracked or otherwise damaged sidewalks, or the city has to use funds from a grant that could have been used elsewhere.
It’s really no different than a municipality spending money to erect a memorial in a town with taxpayer money or a grant, then allowing folks to come by and swing a hammer at it until it’s damaged and in need of repair. Of course that sounds absurd, so why wouldn’t costly items like sidewalks be considered the same?
We hope that as officials move along with projects that better our communities, they also take the time, perhaps by ordinance, to help preserve those upgrades.
We’d all be hard pressed to find a property that doesn’t have enough space to accommodate a vehicle — whether that be a driveway or a yard. Perhaps it’s time to start enforcing that residents will just have to sacrifice a piece of their property for parking instead of damaging property for which all residents have paid.