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Could 'Blame Game' Slow Willow Lane Progress?

The objective is a 'safe and successful walking program,' township engineer says.

It's time to move on.

Moreover, the most important thing right now is to move forward. And, according to all involved, that would mean making the area around Willow Lane Elementary School safe for the students who will be crossing streets to walk to school in the fall.

Indeed, the two statements have been repeated over and over as parents and school and township officials try to downplay the question of whether Willow Lane was designed as a school for walking students while they try to hash out the details of what's needed to make the intersection at Willow and Sauerkraut lanes -- and several surrounding intersections -- the safest they can be for the young students.

But some officials are stuck in what Lower Macungie Township Commissioner Ryan Conrad described recently in a Facebook post as the “tit-for-tat about who knew what when about the Willow Lane walking situation…” In the scheme of things, he wrote, placing blame “is so insignificant.” Conrad blames the media for creating and driving the issue.

Much to Conrad's dismay, however, after the talk at the of Jan. 17 Board of Commissioners meeting about what improvements can and should be implemented, and how quickly East Penn School District and the township can put them in place, the same old issue that seems to keep stalling the process returned.

"I’m a little troubled that the school board has decided what we’re going to do, [and said] 'now you go and pay for it.' I don’t like that the school district already has made that decision, yet we’re expected to go forward and pay for all these improvements,” Commissioner Roger Reis said, especially since the school was not designed for walking students.

Conrad sat on the dais with his head in hands saying, “The issue is moot.”

Some would argue it’s not moot, though, if it slows or curtails the installation of safety measures for the children, which is what some parents fear. The 2013-14 school year starts in August, before Labor Day.

Documentation supports both the school's and the township's claims: Minutes from the township's March 2007 Willow Lane School Zoning Hearing Board meeting indicated the school was never built as a school to which students would be walking, Township Manager Bruce Fosselman said in a recent email.

Minutes of the district's Act 34 Hearing, held Aug. 6, 2007, clearly say, "The new school will enhance the concept of 'Neighbor Schools' which allows some children to walk to school." Pennsylvania Act 34 of 1973 requires that a public hearing be held on all new school district construction.

Township Commissioner James Lancsek said he remembers the Willow Lane process from its very inception when it was discussed during his longtime service as a township zoning officer. Willow Lane was never designed as a walking school, he said at the Jan. 3 commissioners meeting. At the Jan. 14 school board meeting, possibly in an attempt to put the topic to rest, East Penn Superintendent " by failing to remind township officials what was needed.

Township Engineer William Erdman said that while Willow Lane may have been designed as a walking school, in the beginning there were no walkers, so safety measures were not needed. Now that there will be walkers, safety measures will be put in place.

“The major objective is for township and school district to work together for a safe and successful walking program,” Erdman said.

for real January 23, 2013 at 11:29 AM
I hope people can see that this issue is also being used for political purposes by some of the school board directors. The same people who have taken the I will never raise taxes pledge now become the champions of restoring funding for transportation. One of these directors promised no tax increases and smaller class sizes at Willow. I guess it's easy to talk a good game if people like the way it sounds.
Scott Alderfer January 23, 2013 at 12:25 PM
I've lived down the street from Willow Lane School since 2005, and my child has attended there since it first opened. I like to think that I keep pretty well abreast of local news and issues, particularly regarding Willow Lane School. I never heard the claim that Willow Lane was not supposed to be a walking school until Commissioner Lancsek first mentioned it at the 11/1/12 BOC meeting, probably in an attempt to deflect blame/costs from the township.
Scott Alderfer January 23, 2013 at 12:43 PM
And Commissioner Conrad's claim that the media created and have been driving this issue is completely untrue. Willow Lane parents have been driving this issue ever since the parents meeting on 11/27/12 at which the district presented findings from their Walkability Audit Report for Willow Lane school. That meeting was held at the school and was attended by parents, district officials, the district's traffic safety engineer, PA State Police, LMT Code Enforcement Officer Ben Galiardo, and a rep from the LMT Public Safety Commission. I was there. The media were NOT present. Dr. Seidenberger has admitted blame for dropping the ball on his side. Why can't LMT Commissioners admit that they share in the blame? Could it be because the president and vice president of the BOC and the commissioner who chairs the public safety committee are all up for re-election this year?
Robert Sentner January 23, 2013 at 02:16 PM
I have a question, all this aside, is there any schools in our area that don't have a school zone ??? reduced speed, striping, signage, etc....
Ron Beitler January 23, 2013 at 02:24 PM
The only one I've heard that does not in the entire county is Jaindl elementary in UMT. Driving out that way today, I'm going to check it out.
Ron Beitler January 23, 2013 at 02:25 PM
Appreciate Conrads focus on the solutions, not the causes at meetings... Reis and others on the board seem obsessed with grandstanding/playing politics on the dais placing blame on a district who already has accepted responsibility for mishandling the issue. MOVE ON. They are two separate issues. Regardless of walking or busing the school has zero signage. Zero. To be clear, there is not one sign telling motorists a school is near. Not one. How does an elementary school open without signage? I've been saying that for a year now. The township is responsible for off campus safety issues. Always has been. It's the responsibility of a board President (Eichenberg and before that Reis) to put forward items of concern. Clearly lack of any safety features hasn't been a priority for this board over the last two years since Willow opened. Not until the media started covering it and parents started showing up at meetings did they start to address these issues. Traffic issues specifically speeding and trucks are the number 1 issue people come to meetings to talk about and it goes hand in hand with traffic signage, traffic calming and safety features. The board wants to invite endless development well then they have to start addressing the negative impacts. http://www.ronbeitler.com/2012/12/17/my-letter-to-commissioners-re-walkability-willow-lane-elementary-corridor/ http://www.ronbeitler.com/2013/01/21/why-wont-township-officials-consider-traffic-calming-measures/
Mary Kutish January 23, 2013 at 02:55 PM
Lower Macungie Middle School does not have School zone speed limits nor do they have a 15 MPH light.
Scott Alderfer January 23, 2013 at 03:11 PM
I agree with Ron that Conrad is doing the right thing by trying to move the issue toward resolution rather than playing the blame game. But trying to move forward while taking a parting shot at the media was not appropriate, particularly when the media did not pick up on this story until the parents made it into an issue.
Ron Beitler January 23, 2013 at 03:17 PM
LMMS has no walkers. I should be more specific... walking schools without signage. I do not know if Jaindl in UMT has walkers. HOWEVER i'm of the mindset all elementary schools should have at the bare minimum "school" identification signage. It's just common sense to alert motorists that a school is nearby. For ex. Wescosville has signage. Do students walk to Wescosville? I've heard both they do and don't. Another issue I have with the board at the last meeting was an insistence that "safety features will be in place when "walking starts".... Guess what....walking is happening right now at Willow. Right now there are households who have to drive/walk their kids to school.
Brian Higgins January 23, 2013 at 04:30 PM
I agree with Ron's assessment. I wanted to post my thoughts but there was just too much to say here. http://higgins4lmt.blogspot.com/2013/01/who-cares-whos-wrong-fix-it.html
Ron Beitler January 23, 2013 at 05:18 PM
LMT BOC.... Jaindl issue: "Lets move past this" "Lets repair polarization"... don't fixate on the cause... What's done is done.... yadda yadda Willow Lane Safety issues: "It's the School districts fault" "The School district put us in this mess" Hypocrisy much?
Carl Stevenson January 24, 2013 at 01:24 AM
Could it be that rampant development in Lower Mac has exacerbated the traffic problem. I know that many in Upper Milford are unhappy with the impact even beyond the demands on the EP School District.
careless fills January 24, 2013 at 01:31 PM
This is a silly comment. Who care what those people said? It is irrelevant to the issue at hand. They didn't cause it and they won't solve it. The miscommunication is mainly between the school district administration (and board attorney) and the townships administration (and planning board). Perhaps, also a little sloppiness on the parts of both the school board and town council for not making sure things got done or kicking the can down the road by expecting the other to take care of it and pay for it. But to put the onus on the people who wanted to cross the I's and dot the T's in the best way for the temporary solution is just silly, and unproductive. Just get it done!!
Giovanni Landi January 24, 2013 at 01:52 PM
If I remember correctly Mr. Stolz and Mrs. Donches both voted against cutting the Willow Lane bussing from the start. The people making this political are people like "for real" who also seem to be promoting revisionist history. A simple search on Patch will show you who supported cutting the bussing before the appropriate safety steps were taken and who stood up for the safety of the children. You can try to mislead people all you want "for real" the public isn't falling for it anymore. We want solutions not finger pointing and dishonest statements from posters like you.

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