East Cocalico supervisors oppose MS4 program

By on February 20, 2019

Photo by Michele Walter Fry
Retiring tax collector for East Cocalico Township, Joan Fischer, was recognized for her work. Fischer has been the tax collector since 1983. Pictured (left to right) are Romao Carrasco, Rick Fischer, Joan Fischer, Alan Fry, and Doug Mackley.

Usually the manager of a municipality and the supervisors come to an agreement over big decisions before public meetings where actions are taken. This was not the case on Feb 7.

Discussion over the MS4 program was divided.

“We have to figure out how not to fund it,” said supervisor Romao Carrasco, to save East Cocalico Township approximately $152,000.
The stormwater requirements of the federal Clean Water Act are administered under the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer (MS4) program.

Municipalities adopt stormwater ordinances that comply with state and federal laws which reduce damage from flooding, erosion, and combined sewer overflows to improve the quality of residents’ lives.
It was announced that Dr. Ken McCrea has been hired to work on the program.

Scott Russell opened a discussion on how to fund MS4.

“If we do not do the work that’s in that Pollution Reduction Plan, this township will get a fine,” said Scott Russell, township manager. “I have to report that we are complying with the Pollution Reduction Plan. I will not sign a report if we are not complying.”

Russell said he formally disagrees with the position of the board.
“I’m asking for reconsideration of this MS4 program,” said Russell, and then spoke of two areas of concern.

“(I want) an acknowledgment that it can’t go away, we can’t ignore it, we can’t defer it,” said Russell. “Two, it’s going to get more expensive, it’s going to quickly burn through what we have left in capital reserve and still be an expense after capital.”

Russell said it is now “too late” to tax residents but wanted a discussion on giving residents a “stormwater fee.”

Frustration was heard in Russell’s voice as he tried to convince the board that “this is real,” “it’s not going away.”

Romao Carrasco, vice chairman, opposed Russell.

“I chose to accept the subject matter expert as he presented himself from PCI’s (Pennsylvania Certified Inspectors) opinion that I heard from multiple business owners…that MS4 can be deferred, delayed or even eliminated,” said Carrasco.

The township was approximately $33,000 “in the positive” in the original 2019 budget.

“The MS4 calculation required roughly $151,800,” said Carrasco.
Carrasco is hoping not to pay that amount and plans to run a “parallel plan, just in case” the fee can’t be delayed or eliminated to “avoid possible fines.”

A fine can be approximately $100,000 if funding is delayed.
Carrasco said PCI “sold the board,” along with the East Cocalico business community that MS4 could be delayed, deferred, or eliminated.

“They (PCI) needs to come to us immediately with that plan of how to defer it or delay it,” said Carrasco. “Every tax payer in this community should be demanding that and it has to be done immediately.”

Carrasco made a motion that PCI must present East Cocalico with a detailed plan of how the MS4 program can be delayed, deferred, or eliminated.

“I think this is such a critical issue that…we need, at a minimum, a personal presentation at every single township meeting as to the status of that elimination or delay,” said Carrasco.
The motion unanimously carried with all supervisors present.
On another topic, Russell said the township has an “EMS crisis” and is “bleeding money.”

“Reamstown Fire Company budget is helping Reamstown EMS stay afloat with a balanced budget,” said Russell. “The township is required to provide basic life-saving services.”

Douglas Mackley’s complained about “false rumors” circulating in the township.

“We put $96,000 in our budget for EMS!” said Mackley. “We have not spent any of that yet!”
Michele Walter Fry is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review.

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