UPPER TOWNSHIP — Township Committee has committed to covering the local share of the cost to install a warning light on Route 50 in front of the Tuckahoe fire station, although officials do not yet know how much it will cost.
The light will flash when the crews from the Tuckahoe Volunteer Fire Company prepare to pull out onto the busy road. As it stands, the company now uses volunteer fire police to stop traffic when responding to a fire.
“This time of year, it’s almost like we’ve got to push the cars out of the way,” fire company Chief Ed Carter said Monday, July 8, after the meeting at which the matter was discussed. “The drivers do not want to stop.”
He said the company first proposed the light while the state Department of Transportation (DOT) undertook extensive improvements to Route 50, including repairs to the bridge to Corbin City and the installation of crosswalks in the historic downtown.
At that time, Carter said, the state determined the traffic on the road did not warrant a light. He said the fire company had requested it in exchange for signing over a right of way needed for the roadwork.
More recently, Upper Township officials have asked for a light or other means of improving safety for pedestrians crossing Route 50. The Tuckahoe downtown has been in use since the 1800s, seeing a long line of booms and declines. Locals report that the downtown is in the midst of a rejuvenation, which is good for business but puts pedestrians in conflict with the ever-increasing shore traffic using the road in the summer.
In May, township officials said the DOT indicated it would study the issue. The light for the fire house is a related but separate issue.
At the meeting Monday, township attorney Daniel Young reported that the DOT wanted a commitment that the township would pay 25 percent of the cost of installing the light. But at the same time, township engineer Paul Dietrich said there was no cost estimate for the project yet.
Similar projects have cost more than $100,000, he said, which could put the local share at $25,000.
Young had suggested the township consult with the fire company about paying a share of the cost. At the meeting, Carter said that would be up to the fire district commissioners, which set the budget for the company.
“I think the township should pay for it,” Committeeman Curtis Corson said. “My personal opinion, we’re paying workman’s comp for firemen to stand out and direct traffic. God forbid somebody gets hit by a car … $25,000 is cheap.”
“I’m with you, Curtis,” Mayor Richard Palombo said. “They certainly put a lot of time and dedication in to protect the public whenever there’s an accident or a fire. We’re happy that they’re there to serve us. I think we owe it to them to take on the responsibility.”
Committeeman Ed Barr still wanted to talk with the fire district commissioners about sharing the cost.
“It’s a taxing agency. I mean, the fire districts tax everybody in the township for fire protection,” he said.
“I’m not opposed to having that discussion, but I don’t want to rule out having us fund it,” Palombo replied.
He indicated he would want to know the impact that spending by the fire district might have on training and equipment.
Young said the spending would most likely be in the next fiscal year. The money was not included in the township’s 2019 budget.
“Well, we can’t really approve anything because we don’t know how much it’s going to cost,” Palombo said.
Committee members unanimously agreed to send a letter to the DOT stating their support for the project. They said they would make sure it gets done and the money is found.
“I think we should budget it next year,” Corson said.
Committeeman Hobie Young described getting trucks in and out of the fire station on summer days as “a mess.”
“It’s a safety issue,” he said.
He also thanked the volunteers from Tuckahoe and the other fire companies in the township for their efforts at the July 4 fireworks and celebration at Amanda’s Field.