Bridging a lack of fiscal logic

And, a great weekend to get off the couch and to remember

By Mike McGann, Editor,
Ah, nothing says fall in the Brandywine Valley like water rushing down the street, right?

At this writing, the floodwaters have largely receded, but if you listen you can just make out the sound of teeth gnashing over the sound of rustling leaves.

One group, increasingly ready to grab torches and pitchforks, is less than amused about the Route 926 bridge over the Brandywine — and with more than a little reason. More on that in a minute.

A second group, sotto vocce, is complaining about two, count ‘em, two closures of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District in the first two weeks of the school year.

Really? After there were some rumblings about the first day of school being cancelled (kind of a dream come true for many kids — mine were doing the happy dance) there was some grumbling about the last-minute nature of the closing — coming a mere 12 or so hours before school was slated to open.

Whoa. Some folks need to lay off the espresso, methinks. Anyone paying attention had to, at least, see the possibility of school not opening (you know, the whole Hurricane Irene thing was on the TV). Those expressing shock need to take a short ride on the clue bus.

When schools were closed Thursday, after a two-hour delay Wednesday, there was a bit more grumbling — this time with working parents frustrated by having to juggle a sudden need to care for their kids. Thursday’s closing was more last-minute, but with fair warning that it might come as the Brandywine was impressively unruly, it made perfect sense.

From where I sit, I can’t fault the schools on either count — and having surveyed the conditions it’s hard to argue with either the decisions or how they were communicated.

That having been said, people have more than a little right to be angry, just not at local school officials.

How many times has Route 926 flooded out at the Brandywine? How long has the bridge been slated for replacement — along with plans to elevate the roadway on both sides of the roadway?

The answers are A: a lot and B: since at least 2000.

That’s the earliest reference I can find confirming that our pals at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (you know, the “what’s yellow and sleeps six? A PennDOT truck” guys) were ready to replace the bridge and deal with the flooding issue.

We’re taking more than 11 years, four different Pennsylvania governors and no progress  or changes, other than regular reductions of the weight capacity of the bridge, which, bless its heart, is trying its hardest to rust out and fall into the Brandywine.

The bridge was slated for replacement in 2012 until it became evident that PennDOT, to save money, had planned to only replace the bridge and not address the flooding issues. Rightly, local officials in Birmingham and Pocopson were less than amused. Imagine all the headaches of closing the bridge for 18 months to have it immediately close because of a flood within days of it reopening.

Bridge to nowhere? Hah. We could get a bridge to underwater.

Now? 2013 at the earliest. And maybe the flooding gets addressed. Maybe — in part because the solutions to the flooding issue are more than a little tricky, which means very expensive to fix.

And of course, no one wants to raise taxes to pay for things like this.

Consider, though, that you are already paying. Every time the road closes, it means more gas and more time on your commute — you can imagine the number of texts I got from angry folks stuck in traffic this week. Time is money, right? If you’re a professional, your time might be worth $100 an hour, so an extra 20 minutes of commuting each way and maybe half a gallon of gas, and you’re out $80 or $90 bucks in time and or money, each and every time the Brandywine floods.

And if that happens eight or 10 times a year, you’re talking an extra grand in lost time and expenses. With the local population, we’re talking millions and millions in “invisible” taxes.

Just some food for thought the next time you’re temped to shake your fist over your state tax bill being too high.

* * *

I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to pause and reflect on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Even thought it’s been a decade, it still feels like a punch in the gut. Setting aside my own personal connection to New York (both my parents were born there and I worked and lived around the city throughout my 20s), the loss of folks I knew in the World Trade Center (a childhood friend and another person I dealt with in the 1980s as a journalist), it’s good to see, finally, we’re moving forward from that awful day.

New, even taller buildings are rising on the site — the best way to tell the world that we may have been bloodied, but that we will never be bowed.

With all of the terrible things that came out of that day, maybe the best thing is the renewed reverence for those in our communities willing to put themselves at risk for the general well-being. No longer do we take our friends at the Longwood and Po-Mar-Lin fire companies for granted (although both companies really could use more volunteers — something to consider if you have any spare time). Our local and state police and other first responders have rightly been restored to their status as heroes.

Those who wear our nation’s uniform — often at great sacrifice to themselves and families — finally are getting some of the proper appreciation (although, still not nearly enough pay or funding for medical care), something long overdue.

As a country, it seems a bit like we’ve spent the last decade trying to find our way, a little put out of sorts. Maybe, now we start the process of getting past that and moving on. Moving on doesn’t mean forgetting, but it does mean getting back to life full time.

Here’s hoping that Sunday is a step in that direction.

* * *

This weekend kind of kicks off the unofficial fall festival season, with Chadds Ford Days and the Mushroom Festival. Next week, there’s Pocopson Founders’ Day and early next month is the Unionville Fair. Those are just a few of the events on the schedule and they offer a wide range of experiences and fun.

What they do all have in common is a cadre of volunteers who work long hours to make these events happen.

Without them, nothing would happen.

So, here’s a couple of suggestions on how to thank them: First, get off the couch and go! The more folks that attend and enjoy themselves, the more worthwhile the hard work and effort seems to the volunteers. Second, when you go, thank the people working and running and let them know how much you enjoy the event.

Those are two very small prices to pay for events that so enrich the lives of so many here in the Unionville community.

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One Comment

  1. MJ says:

    The UCFSD administration should be commended for CANCELLING school due to the flooding. Although it might be a nuisance for some folks to reschedule their lives to spend yet more time time with their children–imagine that–these same folks would most likely be the first to complain if their children got to school and then couldn’t get home. At least it’s only water floating down 926 and not a school bus full of our precious children. Kudos for caring about the safety of the students…even if it means a few more days of vaca in 2011 and a few less days of summer vaca in 2012.

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