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Taking care of what you have

Aug. 31, 2009

by Herald Journal & Enteprise Dispatch Editor Lynda Jensen

I drive by the DC Bike Path several times a day, everyday.

When I do, I see an average about five to 25 people on it at a time – a mix of families with strollers, senior citizens, students and people my age (I almost wrote “middle aged, but I’m not there yet).

There’s no question that it gets used, and that the public loves it.

The path itself is an unusual symbol of how many levels of government can actually get anything done at all – in fact, I wonder how it ever came to be in the first place, crossing over two counties, located in state right-of-way, inside townships, touching one school district and involving two cities.

Nevertheless, it is here. Many years ago, a committee of energetic, forward-thinking people wanted to connect our communities with this path, providing this symbol of community.

Is it a need or want? Some would say that it could be classified as a need, since you would be taking your life into your hands by walking along Highway 12. Even crossing the highway is a bad idea. Highway 12 drivers are a little crazy. In this sense, it’s like a sidewalk that would be built in a city.

In this economic climate we live in, this path – if proposed as a new path – would be classified as a want, not a need, and would surely not be built, and perhaps rightly so.

You can’t watch your neighbor lose his job and then ask him to pay for a new bike path.

However, that isn’t the issue, here. It’s not a new path, and taxpayers are being asked to maintain that which is already there.

The point isn’t whether we should build a new bike path. It’s here. We have it now, and it is used by the public, joyfully. Its initial installation was heavily funded by grants and other dollars.

The issue is whether we should pay for its maintenance now, or pay a lot more later for its removal.

Cost estimates for its removal are likely three to four times of this “crisis” maintenance bill we are looking at of $89,000.

How many of us would buy a car and refuse to change its oil? Is it wise to watch the car fall into disrepair, and then pay a bigger bill later to the scrap yard? Is this good stewardship?

I do have a healthy respect for those who are excruciatingly frugal with tax dollars, especially now.

Grassroots local government can be the best kind of government, since they are immediately accountable for every penny they spend.

All levels of government should always be counting every single penny of what they spend, mindful of the fact that they are spending money from others.

But when does the chiseling end? Is it frugal to refuse maintenance of public facilities that already exist? Is this common sense?

Quote of the Week

“Before I got married, I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children, and no theories.”
~John Wilmot