Antis’ approach twisted

Antis Township’s decision to abandon maintenance of two roads within the Northside Modular Village development was a decision too long delayed.

For years, the township acted improperly in performing maintenance on Northside Drive and Waterline Drive — mostly at taxpayers’ expense — without the roads first having been accepted into the municipality’s road system.

It’s illegal, as well as improper, for public officials to spend public money to maintain private facilities. That’s a basic prohibition with which all public officials should be familiar, beginning with their first day of elected service.

It’s puzzling that, years ago, when a former Antis supervisors board first was considering maintaining the two roads, that that board didn’t seek, was not given or didn’t accept legal advice discouraging the board from engaging in that maintenance, because the township lacked ownership.

The fact that the maintenance began during the tenure of a previous supervisors board is irrelevant. The current board never should have allowed itself to be party to continued misspending of taxpayers’ funds in that way, and it should not have allowed improper use of township labor assigned to the work.

The modular village’s roads situation has been a protracted comedy of errors, except that there’s been nothing funny about it from taxpayers’ perspective.

There’s no acceptable excuse for what occurred, even though the maintenance apparently began based on good intentions. When the township began maintaining the roads, township officials believed that the roads eventually would be dedicated to the municipality.

Unfortunately, those and succeeding officials didn’t stop to consider that improper spending of taxpayers’ money opens elected officials to possible surcharge.

Why no one persistently pressed for the maintenance to end long before now, on the basis of the surcharge fear alone, must remain a matter of speculation.

Current officials are contending that the lack of progress regarding dedication of the roads has been due to lack of cooperation from the modular village’s developer, Bob Brubaker Sr.

Regarding Waterline Drive, Brubaker is contending that the township already owns the road — even without an official dedication — because of work the township performed, part of which was paid for with a $65,000 bond Brubaker provided.

But money from that bond wasn’t enough to pay for the Waterline Drive work completed; township taxpayers paid the difference.

This Antis roads issue should be instructive to other elected officials, not only in Blair County but throughout all of Pennsylvania. Failure to follow rules and regulations can come back to haunt a municipal body in many ways, including what Antis continues to experience.

According to Lucas Martsolf, township manager, the existing Northside Modular Village homes make up only the first of three proposed phases of the overall Brubaker plan. Martsolf said work on Phases 2 and 3 cannot proceed until the Phase 1 roads issue is resolved.

However, Brubaker told Mirror reporter Sean Sauro that “I just can’t find it in my heart to do it (dedicate the two roads) right now.”

Brubaker needs to seriously rethink his stance, but the township has the bigger obligation of ensuring that its taxpayers never again pay for anything for which they should not be held responsible.