At West Cocalico meeting, past and future converge

By on April 13, 2016

The past and the future came together at the April 7 meeting of the West Cocalico Township supervisors.

Terry Scheetz, former supervisor, was on hand to address a long-standing issue of concern.

And, West Cocalico’s two supervisors appointed farmer Leon Eby to fill the remainder of Scheetz’s term.

Scheetz, who is also a former Pennsylvania state representative and township supervisor, offered comments on an ongoing dispute the township is having with PPL Electric Utilities regarding stormwater issues at a substation along Swamp Bridge Road, between Route 897 and Pine street.

Scheetz was angered by a project done by PPL “without approval of the township.”

“They have created a very dangerous (to motorists) situation,” Scheetz said. “This could have easily been avoided if they would have cooperated with the township staff before and during the construction. Their arrogance is revealed in the comment, ‘As a public utility, we can do what we want.’ This project has cost the township much in terms of staff and legal fees.”

Scheetz has a warning to other municipalities that “have to deal with PPL:

“Remember, they will use the public utility exemption as justification for ignoring your local input,” said Scheetz.

Scheetz also wants legislators to “beware.”

“You have a research staff available to you that can locate the language in the current law, which PPL claims gives them the right to ignore local input for items such as stormwater control and safety issues,” Scheetz said. “If there is a desire to avoid these problems in the future, I am positive a change in legislation can correct the problem.”

Originally, PPL created a new substation along the road to improve electrical transmission in the area, and the utility re-graded the adjoining farm field and created a swale for water run-off. The run-off flooded part of the road and after fixing the problem, more problems occurred such as a steep ditch near the white line of the road with a concrete structure at the bottom.

Last week, PPL contacted Carolyn Hildebrand, township manager, by phone.

“PPL has given us an offer of $5,000 one-time payment for maintenance costs in the future for a guiderail,” said Hildebrand.

“While the payment is very generous, they don’t want to take ownership of it. That won’t even cover one time if there was a hit-and-run.”

“At this point, there is a dangerous drop-off with no guiderail, “ said Supervisor Chairman James J. Stoner.

The road would be especially “restricted for farm vehicles” with a guardrail, he said.

Stoner and fellow supervisor Ray Burns voted to appoint Eby to the empty supervisor seat.

Eby and Eugene Martin were the two township residents who expressed interest in the position.

“I appreciate Gene Martin stepping forward from the township and we’d like to find another place for him,” said Stoner.

Burns stated why he voted for Eby.

“I feel strongly that this board should have a representative on the board that can support our agriculture community because they make up a large portion of our community and they deserve proper representation on this board,” he said.

In other news:

* Supervisors have decided to continue using Windstream instead of switching to Blue Ridge due to communications with Jeff Sauder, a Windstream official.

“I really give Mr. Sauder a lot of credit for stepping up,” said Stoner. “Nobody asked him to do it. As a West Cocalico Township resident, he saw that (frustration with outdated Windstream internet) in the paper and came forward.”

The township building is set to become an emergency center and needed its phone and internet capabilities upgraded.

* In a letter to the supervisors, Mark Stoner asked the supervisors to permit the Schoeneck Civic Association to install an outfield fence at Schoeneck Park at no cost to the township.

“In order to limit the maintenance costs, it is recommended that a 24-inch-wide stone layer be installed at ground level along the fence,” said Stoner, chairman of the parks board.

At the meeting, Rich Beiler and Gary Christ, both representing the Shoeneck Civic Association, explained that the field as it is can be used only for younger league players because of the size of the outfield. There is a downhill bank which presents a hazard if kids chase balls. A fence in the outfield will allow more use of the field with older kids playing.

They suggested this could be an opportunity for a Boy Scout looking for a project for his advancement. The supervisors said they would like to approve it but more details need to be worked out. The topic will be discussed at the next meeting.

* PennDOT responded to the township’s request for the installation of yield signs at both approaches to the bridge located between Wollups Hill Road and Cherry Alley. PennDOT will install a “Yield” sign, supplemented with a “To Oncoming Traffic” sign at the eastbound approach to the bridge. The installations should take about 30 days to complete.

* Hildebrand reported on the progress of the new walking trail at Chapel Gate Park.

“I was absolutely amazed at the number of people that were out there enjoying the walking trail even though it’s not even halfway completed,” she said.

Michele Walter Fry welcomes your comments at michelewalterfry@gmail.com.

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