"Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing."
-- Albert Schweitzer
Is it me, or have you noticed how more and more residents have been working on their homes recently? Whether it is a new addition, new landscaping and flowers, or simply keeping their lawns nicely cut, it just seems that I am noticing more and more of these home improvements being performed over the last few years. Perhaps it is signs of the economy improving or perhaps it is a renewed sense of pride it the community. This situation seems to illustrate the “Broken Windows Theory.” This concept says that if a community is in a state of disrepair, (i.e. full of store fronts with broken windows), then those who visit or reside in said community will too treat it as such. However, if these windows are fixed, trash swept up, flowers planted, etc. the community too will follow suit and do the same for their own properties.
The Borough has been doing its best to live by this theory and its higher standards. The Borough tries to set an example to the entire community. As I am sure most of you can attest, the Borough has been busy doing its own maintenance, improvements, and housekeeping. Did you know that over the past seven (7) years alone, the Borough as spent nearly $15 million dollars on capital improvements and other beautification projects? The majority of these have been associated with the park and stadium renovations, but you can also notice the newly paved streets, new LED lighting, Centennial Banners, and the beautiful flower baskets that line Brownsville Road every year.
In addition, the Borough has stepped up its enforcement of property maintenance codes to hold all property owners, especially those who are absentee, accountable. We proactively send out Notice of Violation letters, rather than waiting and letting the properties get further and further in a state of disrepair. The Borough has been sending out a DPW crew to vacant properties that are in violation so as to ensure that the grass gets cut and the garbage gets removed. Brentwood subsequently bills the owners for this service. I can assure this amount is a lot more than had they had neighborhood kid cut the grass for a few bucks.
Borough officials have proven their commitment to these beautification efforts and infrastructure improvements. Council has adopted a Five Year Road Program that dedicates $700,000 annually for repairing and reconstructing streets in the Borough. Most recently, Council adopted a Sidewalk Cost Sharing Policy that will allow the Borough to work collaboratively with property owners to cover the cost of repairing sidewalks that are in violation of code standards. Brentwood is a “Walkable Community,” so it only makes sense for the Borough to partner with its residents. I call this a “win-win” scenario. A win for the property owner on cost savings, as well as a win for the community with new safe sidewalks throughout the Borough.
Residents should consider working together on improvement and beautification projects. A collaborative effort can help transform the look of a block. The Borough does not have the resources to complete all of the projects on its “wish list,” but I believe we have been doing a tremendous job in setting an example. Now is the time to continue this trend, and to work street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood, until the entire Borough is like a pristine park.
George Zboyovsky, PE