Proposed Cocalico Commons Shopping Center site receives extension

By on December 12, 2018

Attorney Jonathan D. Andrews from McNees, Wallace and Nurick, LLC, explained to supervisors at their Dec. 6 meeting that Benderson Development Company, Inc, who proposed developing the 57 acre site along Colonel Howard Boulevard as a shopping center ten years ago, continues to work toward that goal.

Andrews cited challenges currently facing retailers such as online ordering and malls with vacant stores due to financial difficulties. Benderson continues to consider anchor stores and other businesses appropriate for the site. Supervisors granted Benderson’s time extension request to extend the deadline for final plan approval until Dec. 30, 2019.

Supervisors, after much discussion, agreed to call the new stormwater management assessment which helps fund the federal MS4 stormwater mandates reducing sediment that drains into the Chesapeake Bay, a “tax” instead of a “fee.”

A tax means the assessment will not be required to be paid by tax exempt properties, such as churches, schools and other non-profits. Township manager, Scott Russell, explained that the rationale for originally suggesting a fee assessed to everyone is that everyone contributes to the stormwater management problems.

The township hasn’t heard what monies might be awarded to them through their MS4 stormwater grant applications. Knowing these numbers will help to determine the stormwater tax amount, or rain tax, as some people have dubbed it, to be assessed. It will be based on assessed property value.

Supervisors will vote on the proposed 2019 budget at their Dec. 20 meeting.

In other business:
• Supervisors agreed to start 2019 evening meetings thirty minutes earlier. They’ll begin at 7 p.m. Meetings continue on the first and third Thursday of each month with the exception of canceling the July 4th meeting. What’s new is that quarterly – Feb. 7, April 19, Aug. 1 and Oct. 3, 2019 supervisors meetings will be at 9 a.m. “We’ll try it. Maybe some second or third shift workers who are interested in attending meetings will come. We’d also have our township employees able to appear if needed since they’d already be here,” said supervisor Doug Mackley. Supervisors will continue to use the three fire companies as evening meeting sites with Stevens Fire Company on March 7, Reamstown on June 6 and Smokestown on Sept. 5.

• Supervisors said non-uniform employees will stay on their PPO plan. Previously it was announced they’d move to a high deductible and utilize a health savings account. Health care savings result from elimination of a road crew and office position as well as two of the three supervisors going on Medicare.
A lively discussion on health care costs, which new supervisor Carrasco claimed he’d not take but did, ensued with several residents in the audience. Carrasco said he donated his $3,200 supervisor’s salary to help offset his approximately $26,000 health care premium the township pays. Health care benefits, although legal for class two townships in PA, have been a source of contention the last several years since total supervisor health care benefits exceeded $100,000.

• Russell announced that the EMS working group continues dialogue with other EMS providers about how they might cooperate in providing services.
Alice Hummer is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review.

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