Lehigh Valley

Phillipsburg council tables bond ordinance, looks at options

Renovation vs. new municipal building weighed

PHILLIPSBURG, Pa. - Citing due diligence, Phillipsburg town council tabled a bond ordinance Tuesday that would have appropriated $2,000,000 for renovation and construction of municipal buildings.

Rather, the town engineer will make bid-ready specifications for both of Phillipsburg’s options: to renovate the current municipal building on Corliss Avenue or to build new at the Heckman Street Complex.

Both projects will go out for pricing with the results presented to the public before a final decision is made, said council member Joshua Davis, laying out the next steps.

“You deserve to have those full bids,” Davis said.

The meeting proceeded without the Mayor Stephen Ellis, who is a guest at council meetings and Tuesday was unusually absent.

Residents took the opportunity to voice their grievances with the administration itself and with communication between council and the mayor’s office.

Joan Pierce, who has been advocating for a stop sign on the corner of Lewis and Fulton Streets, demanded to know who had the authority to approve signage after council tabled a separate stop sign ordinance pending engineering review.

Pierce said she had received word from Ellis that her stop sign request had been approved.

“Why can’t we just do it tonight and get it over with?” Pierce demanded, saying she was sick of empty promises and the process’s slow progress. “An innocent child is going to get killed.”

Phillipsburg council is in charge of approving stop signs – but only after review from the town engineer and police chief. To date, they had not received a report for the intersection in question.

“Town council cannot just willy-nilly place stop signs at intersections,” said town solicitor Richard Wenner.

Council introduced an ordinance, 2017-31, designating a three-way stop intersection at Fulton and Lewis Street. 

Faced with tabling the ordinance pending engineering review, council also voted to have Police Chief James Faulborn and township engineer Stan Schrek to issue a report on whether the intersection’s signage was warranted.

Also, council voted against an ordinance allowing skateboarding in Walters Park in order to protect Delaware River Park.

The ordinance, which changed the town’s park regulations, would have paved the way for the Recreation Department to move a skatepark from Delaware River Park to Walters Park – a move council members said would leave area teenagers in the lurch.

Resident Bill Timmann said the town should build a new skate park instead of taking the equipment from the kids who frequent the Delaware River Park off South Main Street.

Though the skatepark is little more than modular equipment set on a cracked asphalt pad, it remains popular with youth, Timmann said.

Other residents echoed the sentiment, saying that the move would only encourage mischief and kill a park that still showed promise.

Phillipsburg set money aside for park improvements in 2016. When the projects weren’t completed, the funds carried over into the 2017 budget.

But those improvements, which included sports arenas at Green Street and Walters Park, have not started, despite being priced out earlier this year.

Council vice president Bernie Fey, who had championed the improvements, said he was disappointed.

 “We had it allocated for two years,” Fey said. “It should be done.”

Also, council unanimously voted down an ordinance to establish permit parking in the Riverside Way lot, saying the decision would drive business away because it essentially made people pay to go to work.

“I think it’s a bunch of balderdash,” said council president Todd Tersigni.

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