Rules of the Road

The purpose of this blog is to share with you my thoughts on issues pertaining to Oil City and Venango County and to foster discussion.

However, that requires some basic rules. Personal attacks, inappropriate language and venom-filled postings will not be tolerated. Comments will be screened, and if necessary edited, before posting.

Disagreement and a variety of opinions are encouraged, but I ask that it always be in a respectful, positive manner. So fire away, but do so cleanly

Sunday, October 30, 2011

More on the Ramp

As nearly everyone knows, city council voted last week to not spend another $260,000 on repairs, stopping the work on the parking ramp and instead shuttering it until it can be demolished.

It was not a good choice, for there were no “good” choices. For me, and I suspect for other members of council as well, it was simply the best of the bad.

Without the ramp, I worry about trying to attract more northside businesses and downtown residents with greatly reduced parking options. I have much the same parking concern when it comes to our growing downtown events, such as the Indie music and film festivals, and of course Oil Heritage Week.

The fact we will have a building anchoring a downtown corner that will continue to deteriorate and look it until we can find the money to tear it down is both unappealing and frustrating.

But to some extent, having thought of those things we can at least search for solutions.

It is what we have not thought about that is most troubling, To be sure, there will be unintended consequences. There always are.

One of my greatest fears as a councilman has been that some decision council makes no matter how well meaning becomes what I call a cascade event, setting in motion a series of negative events that end up having major costs to the city, whether economic or social. You always hope it goes the other way, but you never know and it might well be the next generation that finds out.

So, you tread gingerly and try to make the best of bad options.

And I suspect there are going to be more and more situations where there are no good choices, just lesser of bad. Oil City and really all of Pennsylvania’s core communities are facing perhaps the greatest challenges since the Great Depression, maybe even more so.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Between the rock and the hard place

Thursday council will have to make a decision on whether to continue with the current repairs on the parking ramp, or close it and save the remaining money – about $300,000 -- borrowed through a bond offering to repair the ramp.

There is no good decision, just what will be the best for the community of a number of bad options. And no matter what decision is reached Thursday, that is not the end of it.

If repairs continue and the ramp reopened, the city must decide whether to undertake more extensive repairs and major maintenance in the future to extend its life and the huge financial commitment that requires, or if it is just going to buy some time. If closed, attention must turn to its demolition, estimated to cost at least $1.3 million.

Right now – Monday evening, Oct. 10 – I’m leaning towards completing the current repairs, to buy the time to sort out the many issues related to the ramp, our downtown and parking and to develop a long-term plan for whatever the eventual outcome, including the financing.

Unfortunately, I can not attend Thursday’s council meeting due to having to be away on business. It’s quite possible that my current view would be changed by those discussions, and of course whatever recommendations City Manager Ryan Eggleston makes.

Today in a brief discussion with me the City Manager did a good job of outlining the pros and cons of both continuing and stopping work and closing the ramp for me. There are still a number of questions outstanding that would impact the pros and cons.

Whatever decision is made Thursday, I personally believe this council must come up with a definitive resolution over the next few months. It would be unfair and irresponsible to “kick the can down the road” and leave the question and costs of either demolition or renovation to some future council.

There is no easy answer to the problems presented by the ramp. Every answer is costly and potentially financially devastating to the city and every answer carries with it its own set of problems for our downtown and community.

The city (council) is truly between the rock and the hard place on this one, or perhaps the phrase should be between the concrete and asphalt.