Akron ponders remedial riprap

By on April 27, 2016
This is the unnamed stream between the Akron rail trail and the backyards of six Bomberber Road homeowners. The stream, which is often dry, fills up when it rains and is eroding the backyards of the property owners.
This is the unnamed stream between the Akron rail trail and the backyards of six Bomberber Road homeowners. The stream, which is often dry, fills up when it rains and is eroding the backyards of the property owners.

This is the unnamed stream between the Akron rail trail and the backyards of six Bomberber Road homeowners. The stream, which is often dry, fills up when it rains and is eroding the backyards of the property owners.

In his report to the Akron Borough Council April 11, Borough Manager Dan Guers said he received engineering cost estimates for a streambank restoration project on a small stream between the rail trail and the backyards of six Bomberger Road homeowners. The estimates, said Guers, “…were staggering. They came in at $150,000 for riprap and $300,000 for gabion baskets.”

Riprap consists of rocks piled on mildly sloping streambanks. A gabion basket is riprap in a wire cage, and it can be installed vertically.

The issue with the stream, which is dry much of the year but contains water for at least six months out of 12, is that it is considered an unnamed tributary of the Cocalico Creek and therefore a water of the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection regulations are very strict about what can be done with waters of the Commonwealth, which is apparently very little. The streambed itself cannot be disturbed, and work on the streambanks must be approved ahead of time.

The rail trail construction has increased the rate of erosion from the backyards. Guers said there is no state or federal mandate requiring the borough to remedy the erosion. But unless something is done to stop it, he added, those property owners will continue to lose more and more of their backyards. Another issue is that the streambanks on the trail side of the stream are also eroding, but not as fast as the Bomberger Road side.

Council took no action on the streambank issue, but Guers said he would try to meet on the site with an excavator before council’s next committee meeting, which is scheduled for April 25 at 6:30 p.m. at borough hall.

Guers said he received an application form from borough resident Don Reese for an Exelon environmental grant.

The energy giant gives grants to communities in its service areas and Guers said there is $100,000 available for projects in Lancaster and York counties. The deadline for applying is April 30, and Guers said he plans to apply for a grant to specifically address the Bomberger Road issue.

Guers also reported that the Cross Alert systems, where the trail crosses Fulton and Main streets, has operated properly for six days in a row. He personally has tested them twice a day. He added that a handicap accessible porta potty has been placed on the rail trail opposite the borough’s Colonial Park. For the time being, he said, the $130 monthly fee for the porta potty will be borne by the borough.

Paul Moore, Ephrata police department’s school resource officer assigned to the Ephrata Area School District, appeared before council to describe his work with the district’s seven schools, 4,000 students and 500 employees. He said his job touches on law enforcement, teaching and assisting in guidance programs. He attends national, regional and local SRO gatherings for training and information on things like student transportation, cyber safety, and dealing with bomb threats. He works with schools on evacuation and lockdown drills.

Akron Police Chief Tom Zell said he’s been particularly impressed with the lockdown drills he’s witnessed. A lockdown happens when there’s an intruder in a school. Teachers are trained to lock their classroom doors, then gather their students into a group in a place where they’re invisible to an intruder. Part of the drill is to make sure that students are visible to police and other emergency personnel outside the building. Zell said he has peered through the glass in classroom doors and was amazed that he couldn’t see anybody.

Freshman council member Phil Benigno, who chairs the water committee, expressed frustration at the Susquehanna River Basin Commission’s requirement that the borough find an additional source of water. He said he plans to reach out to State Sen. Ryan Aument and Rep. David Zimmerman for their input.

Former councilman Jeff Shirk, at the end of his term, volunteered to continue working on landscaping restoration and screenings for homeowners whose properties border the rail trail. The work is ongoing, with some plantings already installed. The cost for each property is between $300 and $500 and is part of the rail trail budget.

Realtor George Wolf, a lifelong Akron resident and former councilman and mayor, addressed his concerns for the second time about the HandiVangelism International plan to convert the Westview golf course into a tax-exempt, Christian based, summer camp facility for handicapped people.

He said he has nothing against the work that they do, but feels their tax-exempt status places a higher tax burden on Akron residents. He added that he has seen a sketch plan of what the property would look like if it were developed with 10 private homes, which would be subject to real estate taxes.

Community relations chairman Perry Lorah said the annual Akron night at the Barnstormers is scheduled for Friday night, June 24. Tickets for the game are $8 per person and are available at borough hall and a number of other locations.

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