Lansdale Councilman Rich DiGregorio is determined to get a flashing school zone on Knapp Road next to Knapp Elementary.
The problem: Knapp Road is the dividing line for Lansdale Borough and Montgomery Township.
Lansdale cannot install a flashing school zone area and police the area without agreement from Montgomery Township.
“We have a school zone. We have support from Montgomery Township, I was told from the chief of police. For the next year, I would like to propose to see if we can put these lights up at the school,” said DiGregorio at last week’s council meeting during the budget presentation.
“It’s a safety situation,” he said. “The district and principal would like to have the lights up.”
DiGregorio said he would like the borough to allocate some money to be put aside for the infrastructure.
“So if this project does come about, we’d be able to fund it,” DiGregorio said. “Since we were talking about having extra money coming in from the other budget, I suggest something like this coming to the table.”
Administration and finance chairman Dan Dunigan said DiGregorio’s effort was “commendable.”
“But you guys have been talking about this since 2008. Last I checked, you and several others were on a committee that decided that what was done so far was good enough,” Dunigan said. “If I’m not mistaken, one of the issues you were running into is, we can’t stick a light pole in somebody else’s municipality without their agreement.”
DiGregorio reiterated that he talked to Montgomery Township Chief Richard Brady and “it’s in the works.”
“My understanding,” Dunigan said, “is they are willing to do it, but they are not willing to pay for it, the last I checked.”
Dunigan thought it was a settled issue.
“After months and months and months of the committee responsible for it, there was never any action on it,” he said. “The last thing (records) show is it’s over and done with. It doesn’t mean it isn’t something we can’t bring up or come back to.”
Montgomery Township Manager Larry Gregan said it hasn’t been discussed with supervisors or any committees since his 18-month tenure as township manager.
“I did hear from Chief Brady last week and he advised that a councilman from Lansdale might be sending the township a letter with that request,” Gregan said. “It will be something I will have to present to the board and ask for their input on it. It’s always more complicated when the road is split between municipalities.”
DiGregorio told Dunigan the issue wasn’t done and over with; the borough didn’t have the money at the time to pay for the light poles.
Dunigan said it wasn’t just the borough – the North Penn School District wouldn’t fund it and Montgomery Township wouldn’t put money toward it.
“We still have the issue of policing somebody else’s municipality,” Dunigan said.
Gregan said it is not unusual for municipalities to work together to install traffic signal devices and share in the cost.
“We generally enter into cost-sharing agreements. If it requires any PennDOT permitting, then maintenance responsibility agreements and the like have to be reached,” Gregan said.
Gregan said that, mechanically, it could be done.
“I don’t know what the cost is, or what the terms are, but nothing has been formally presented to the township,” he said. “If it is something Lansdale is interested in pursuing, submit a request and we will take it to the board for consideration.”
Dunigan recommended to DiGregorio that he collaborate with residents in his neighborhood and coming in with a petition.
“I recommend that you, Jack (Hansen) and (public safety committee chairman) Mike Sobel sign off on that petition. Get it to the school board, get their buy-in, then I’m sure you’ll get the full backing of council. You’ve got mine,” Dunigan said. “Get that part accomplished so it gets in front of a public body. If we get the buy-in from the district and ourselves, and if Montgomery Township is saying they won’t come up with whatever the dollars and cents are, we at least have a position to lean on them.”
Dunigan said in the meantime, DiGregorio is talking about something that he talked about in 2008.
“We will be back in the same position we are now,” Dunigan said.
DiGregorio said he understood what Dunigan was saying, and that he has a petition on board.
“The school district is on board with it. I talked to the police chief (of Montgomery Township) and he said he is willing to go with it. He told me that with our borough manager and their township manager, something would be in works in the future,” DiGregorio said. “The point is just going forward and getting the dialogue out there is very important because it needs to be done in the future. It’s too long and there needs to be something done about it.”
Councilman Jack Hansen agreed with Dunigan.
“When this happens, it needs to be shared responsibly, financially and safety-wise between the three different government bodies,” he said. “We approached them in 2008 and the school board rejected us and Montgomery Township rejected us at that time.”
Hansen said it would not be that expensive if the borough gets all three governing bodies in it together.
“Patrolling of it is not that severe when you have two municipalities working on it at the same time,” Hansen said. “This is something we have to go into in the future, and I hope it is something we consider in the near future so we can go to the school board and Montgomery Township.”
Dunigan said the borough has a $30 million budget, and at some point in time, even if it’s not planned in this budget, the borough can find a way.
“Restart what you have, freshen it up and go with that approach,” Dunigan said. “We’ve spent plenty of dollars and cents on sending (borough traffic engineer) Earl Armitage out, paint, signs, all that good stuff.”
Council President Matt West, a member of the public safety committee, said he thought a consensus was reached on what was out there today – crosswalks.
“Everybody was in agreement with that, that that was an effective means to address the issue,” he said. “What I encourage you to do, if you believe there is a continued perceived issue out there that the current situation is not addressing, is let’s revisit that through our committee … and do another assessment of that.”