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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Public left out of vital meeting on CVS project

  • Once again, the people of Honesdale have been ignored by their elected leaders.
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    Once again, the people of Honesdale have been ignored by their elected leaders.
    On Tuesday afternoon, four members of the Honesdale Borough Council, with their lawyer present, held an illegal meeting. There was no public notice given and a quorum of council members were present.
    That in itself is bad enough.
    But it gets worse.
    The issue being discussed was the proposed CVS Pharmacy to be located at 4th and Main streets. Particularly, they were discussing that intersection.
    And the public had no clue.
    This is troubling on many levels.
    First and foremost, this is a big deal. The busiest intersection in Wayne County was being discussed yet the public was not even made aware there was going to be a discussion.
    That's not to mention the other businesses in that area which will certainly be impacted by any changes at the already dysfunctional intersection.
    Nobody from the Wayne Highlands School District was invited either. They are a big player in this matter because almost every bus in the district travels that intersection twice daily.
    Traffic already backs up badly when school buses are on the road.
    Nobody from the Honesdale Borough Police Department was in attendance either. You would think they would be there to discuss the safety aspects of the problem.
    Those who were invited were officials from CVS and their engineering firm as well as local developers Tom Shepstone and Steve Putzi.
    That should tell the public everything it needs to know.
    This issue is about money.
    Page 2 of 5 - The officials and others can say all they want about the good of the public and safety, but that is pure bunk.
    The all mighty dollar is the focus.
    Let's throw some facts out on the table.
    CVS wants to get this deal done before the end of the year.
    Money.
    Shepstone and Putzi want to get the deal done as quickly as possible to make the real estate transaction with CVS.
    Money.
    Some on borough council, most notably finance committee chairman Scott Smith, wants to get the deal done by the end of the year because it's part of the current budget. Without it, the numbers will not look as good.
    Money.
    That issue alone is ridiculous because state law clearly dictates zoning and building permits should not be used to enhance budgets, but boroughs and cities across the Commonwealth make it a regular practice.
    So it seems very clear to us that money is the biggest motivation when it comes to getting this deal done.
    And the public is shut out of the process.
    The first thing all involved should really care about is public safety. That is mission one.
    If that were the case, Tuesday's discussion would have been greatly different.
    The borough's own hired engineer said the proposal by CVS, though approved by PennDOT, won't work.
    She is right.
    Safety committee chairman Bob Jennings made an excellent point when he said it was PennDOT which approved the existing intersection and it doesn't work now.
    Page 3 of 5 - Yet both Smith and Monaghan seemed to question their own engineer about her facts.
    Sure, questioning and disagreements are healthy, but when your own hired hand is saying it won't work, you should probably listen.
    The changes being proposed would include relocating the "stop bar" on Highway 191 for northbound traffic.
    On paper, it makes sense.
    In reality, it does not.
    Moving that bar back toward the railroad tracks is only going to make the intersection back up more than it does presently. In fact, it could mean that vehicles like tractor-trailers and buses would have to stop right on the tracks.
    Another issue never discussed was the fact there is another stop light in the area at Terrace and 4th streets.
    Anyone who has been on these streets knows just how bad traffic backs up under the present conditions.
    Engineer Mary Bogart, who is hired by the borough, pointed out that tractor-trailers attempting to make a right-hand turn onto 191 could have difficulty if vehicles don't stop at the stop bar.
    It could shut down the entire intersection, she said.
    Also not discussed at the meeting was foot traffic. Anyone who has been around the current CVS location knows just how big a volume of foot traffic there is at the store. That's not going to go down at the new location and in fact could go up.
    How will that impact the intersection?
    No discussion was held.
    What was discussed was how quickly everything can get done so a deal can be made. Dec. 10 is the target date, which is the next borough council meeting.
    Page 4 of 5 - CVS officials say they will have several items which need to be approved at that meeting in order for the project to proceed.
    We want to be clear here, we are not opposed to the new CVS. In fact, we are very much in favor of commerce and construction. The borough needs that to happen.
    But it should not happen at the price of public safety.
    And it certainly should not happen at illegal meetings.
    It was clear at Tuesday's meeting local officials weren't expecting this newspaper to be present. In fact, Monaghan opened the meeting by saying no decisions would be made because it would be "inappropriate."
    Yet in the hour of discussion, many decisions were made even though formal votes did not take place. An agreement was made that engineers would work together to come up with a cost for the alternative if the intersection does not work.
    It was agreed that CVS would do that cost estimate and share that information with the borough's engineer.
    It was agreed the paperwork would be ready for the Dec. 10 meeting.
    These are all agreements done at a meeting which should not have happened.
    What should have happened is the borough solicitor should have stopped the meeting before it ever started.
    He knows the law when it comes to public notice. There was none in this case yet the meeting went on as planned.
    This kind of behavior is simply unacceptable on the part of the elected officials. They owe the residents of Honesdale a public meeting to discuss this important situation.
    In fact, that should happen very quickly. If it does not, the council should in no way, shape or form take any formal action at the Dec. 10 meeting. The citizens, business owners and school district officials were not given the proper input and that is flat wrong.
    Page 5 of 5 - This meeting was about ramming through a proposal so that money could start flowing. We all want to see money start flowing, but it needs to be done properly, not just for the benefit of a few.
     
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