Akron council considers Colonial Drive-to-rail-trail connection

By on March 22, 2017
This  telephone  pole  on Fulton  Street  in  Akron was  part  of  the discussion  at  Akron Borough  Council recently.

This telephone pole on Fulton Street in Akron was part of the discussion at Akron Borough Council recently.

With Akron’s parks budget stretched to its limit, borough councilman Nathan Imhoff said he is investigating the possibility of a GoFundMe campaign to pay for an access path from Colonial Drive to the rail trail that skirts the town’s northern border.

Imhoff spoke at council’s regular meeting March 13. Estimated cost for the project ranged from $4,500 to $10,000. GoFundMe is an online mechanism that individuals and organizations turn to raise money for just about any legitimate purpose. College students use it to raise money for tuition. Victims of accidents, crimes and natural disasters have benefited from GoFundMe drives. Non-profits and municipalities also use it to raise funds for all kinds of projects.

Imhoff’s comments came after council heard from Edgehill Drive resident Doug Evans, whose adult son, Justin, is wheelchair dependent. Evans pointed out that a pathway from Colonial Drive to the trail had been part of the project’s master plan from the beginning, but it has never been implemented. Colonial Park is about two blocks from the Evans home, a distance that could be negotiated by his son in his wheelchair. Getting across the park’s grass, however, is not an option.

The only other wheelchair access would be through a parking lot at an apartment complex on Colonial Drive, but that lot is posted with private property signs. The sidewalk at Fulton Street would be an option except that the way is blocked by a telephone pole at one point in the middle of the sidewalk.

Evans said a paved pathway through the park would benefit not only his son, but also many of his neighborhood’s residents, some of whom need walkers or other aids to get around.

Imhoff said he would be discussing the GoFundMe idea at council’s next committee meeting, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., March 27, at borough hall.

Another topic to be discussed at that committee meeting is the possible erosion abatement measures for the unnamed stream that runs through Roland Park, and another anonymous stream that flows much of the year between the rail trail and the back yards of a number of Bomberger Road homes.

Council’s fourth-Monday-of-the-month committee meetings are work sessions open to the public, but any formal action requiring a vote must be taken at its regular meeting on the second Monday of the month.

Council’s March meeting began with remarks by George Diilio, newly elected board president for the Ephrata Public Library. He thanked council for Akron’s many years of support, and presented them with a certificate of appreciation.

Following that presentation, Mark Hackenberg, a landscape architect and a principal with RGS Associates in Lancaster, talked about the quiescent, for now, plans for a 67-unit expansion at Maple Farm. Hackenberg serves as the engineer for Garden Spot Village, which owns Maple Farm. He said he attended the meeting to rekindle discussion with the borough about supplying water and sewer services for an expanded facility.

Farley Fry, a senior project manager with Hanover Engineering in Lancaster, was at the meeting to talk about the borough’s participation in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection MS4 program. “MS4” stands for “Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System.” MS4 guidelines call for municipalities to decrease stormwater pollutants — mainly soil sediments and fertilizer chemicals — by 10 percent per year. MS4 has six main components: public involvement and participation, illicit discharge detection and elimination, construction site runoff control, post-construction stormwater management, and pollution prevention and good housekeeping for municipal operations and maintenance.

DEP grants partial or full credit annually to municipalities based on their success in setting and attaining goals in each of the MS4 components. MS4 is one reason the borough is looking at ways to control streambank erosion in the Roland Park and Bomberger Road streams. Control measures, Farley Fry pointed out, “…can be quite expensive.”

Councilman Tom Murray made a motion to replace the borough’s current 2001 gas-powered crane truck with a new diesel-powered Ford F350 from Reading Truck Body. The old truck has 57,000 miles on the odometer, presumably nearly all of which has been put on within the borough limits. The new truck will cost $87,250, paid over three years through a loan from Fulton Financial. The truck will be purchased through Pennsylvania’s Costars program, which is a cooperative buying program set up to help municipalities get the best possible price on major purchases.

Former councilman Jeff Shirk asked about the annual maintenance cost of the current truck, but public works department head Tom Murray Jr. said he didn’t know. Murray added that because Ford’s new diesel engine has proven its worth, trade-in values for the old gas-powered trucks have declined. Murray estimated the old truck would sell for $5,000-$10,000 on an online auction site for used municipal vehicles.

Shirk went on to question the wisdom of buying a new truck before the wheels have fallen off the old vehicle. Council President John Williamson replied that the falling-wheels approach could leave the borough vulnerable in an emergency where a working crane truck would be desperately needed.

Council voted unanimously to buy the new Ford.

Imhoff reported he had recently been approached by Akron resident Tom Burnett with an offer to donate 27 trees to be planted in Colonial Park near the rail trail. Burnett bought the trees from the Lancaster County Conservation District’s annual plant sale, which ended March 13. He will pick the trees up in Lancaster April 12, and they will be planted later that day by a crew of volunteers, Imhoff said.

Councilman Earl Shirk expressed concern about invasive tree root damage to the rail trail surface, especially from the pin oaks that are part of the package. Imhoff said that he, Burnett and borough manager Sue Davidson would visit the site to determine the best spots for planting all 27 trees.

Council President John Williamson, referring to an Ephrata Area Joint Authority report on the borough’s annual water use, noted the borough pumped 88 million gallons of EAJA water through its municipal lines, got paid for 81 million gallons, and used another 3.2 million gallons for municipal purposes. He commended the public works department for successfully delivering all but 4.5 percent of the water pumped, noting that it is not uncommon for municipal systems to see losses of 20 percent or more.

Councilwoman Tammy Ruth, who coordinates the steering committee for the borough’s new comprehensive plan, said surveys would be mailed to all borough households in the near future. She also said the survey had been put on Survey Monkey, an online site. The Survey Monkey site will be shared with residents through a link at the borough’s website. Steering committee meetings are held the fourth Thursday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the Akron fire hall. The next meeting is March 23, and Ruth encouraged attendance and participation by all Akron residents.

Mayor John McBeth reported that the year 2020 will be the 125th anniversary of the borough’s founding. He said the centennial — 25 years ago —had been celebrated by a number of events coordinated by a committee, now disbanded. McBeth said he talked to a number of people about the possibility of a coordinated effort to celebrate the 125th anniversary, which is also the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Mennonite Central Committee. The mayor voiced optimism that there might be some joint observances with MCC. He asked council if they were interested in supporting such an effort, and got a positive response. He also asked council if they would assist in finding volunteers and someone to head up the effort.

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