Borough approves no-tax-hike budget

By on January 2, 2019

Rec says outdoor pool had another good year despite rough weather

The budget approved by Ephrata Borough Council on Dec. 10 will keep the current millage the same as last year for borough residents, at 1.7625 for 2019. The total budgeted revenue is expected to be $44,057,409 and the total budgeted appropriations are expected to be $43,797,515.

The breakdown for appropriations is $12,656,635 for the general fund; $1,585,519 for water; $17,415,014 for electric; $4,749,337 for sewer; $960,119 for sanitation; $2,541,014 for capital fund; $385,000 for highway aid; $151,250 for economic development; and $3,326,677 for internal services.

Council authorized an unbudgeted expenditure of $26,950 from the economic development restricted revenue account for a parking study in the central business district.
Also approved was the Police Pension Contribution Resolution for 2018-2020, establishing the contribution to the Ephrata Borough Police Pension Fund for all active members of the police pension plan to contribute five percent of gross pay for their pension.

Council also authorized several additions to civic contributions in the capital budget, namely: a matching donation of $26,229.37 to the Ephrata Performing Arts Center; an increase to $2 per capita to the recreation center, for a total increase of $13,394; and $10,000 each to the Lincoln and Pioneer fire companies for confined space rescue equipment, as well as $5,000 to both fire companies for their truck fund.

Council President Susan E. Rowe thanked department heads and staff for their work on the budget and their efforts to keep down costs. Rowe wasn’t entirely satisfied with the budget, but did not specify what she would have liked to see changed.

“There are things in the budget I agree with, but there are some things I’m not quite comfortable with,” Rowe said. Council renewed the agreement with American Municipal Power and EcoSmart Choice, which will end in 2020. Through the agreement, borough residents can choose to purchase their power from renewable energy resources at a cost of an additional 0.003/kwh.
Council also accepted an offer from the borough’s solar farm contractor, DEPCOM, to donate up to $20,000 to a number of not-for-profit organizations in the borough. It was recommended that $5,000 each be granted to Ephrata Area Social Services, Ephrata Cloister Associates, and the Ephrata Public Library, while deferring the remaining $5,000 to Ephrata Township for a non-profit of their choice.

The Reliance Environmental Inc. company also received approval to install two groundwater monitoring wells.

The borough’s public works department received approval to purchase a 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe SSV 4wheel-drive to replace a 1999 Ford Explorer. The purchase price will be $36,750, which includes up-fitting with safety equipment and an emergency radio.

The department will also be purchasing a 2019 Ford pickup truck with plow, replacing a 2005 model. The price is $37,700, which also includes safety equipment. In another matter, Tim Crowder of North Oak Street, asked the council to reconsider some of the proposed “no parking” areas scheduled for Oak Street. Crowder said the resolution would make parking difficult for the residents who live along the street, and added that parking has already been “tight” since the opening of a brewery in the neighborhood.

Council members Victor Richard, Tim Barr, and Ricky Ressler agreed that the matter should be further examined before changing the street’s parking status and the resolution was removed from the table, to be considered and voted on at a later date.

Outdoor pool success
Jim Summers, executive director of the Ephrata Recreation Center, was the featured speaker for the council’s “Municipal Moment,” and informed council of the success of the community pool, helped by renovations done in 2012.

“I’d like to give you a 10-year snapshot, looking at some numbers,” Summers said. “Some of the challenges we were running into two or three years ago are now filtering into other area pools who are having problems.”

Those issues including visitors not following management rules, disregard for lifeguards’ instructions, littering, and bringing contraband or illegal substances into the park and pool area.
Summers said the Ephrata pool officials have taken steps to increase better behavior among those using the pool, and they are seeing a marked improvement. That includes the hiring of a security presence for weekends at the pool.

Summers said they are also having more managers visible and checking bags brought in to the pool area.

Other area pools are having problems with an increase in disruptive behavior as well as a decrease in number of visitors, he said. The Lititz Community Pool won’t be managing the Leola pool this year, Summers said. The Manheim Borough is close to closing down their community pool, he said.

“They’re still seeing significant (financial) losses,” Summers said. Officials considered closing the Manheim pool a few years ago, but an organization stepped in and donated money to keep the pool afloat at the time.

“The New Holland pool needs extensive renovations to put into a facility that is experiencing a decrease in membership,” Summers said.
Budgets in the red are putting a number of area community pools in jeopardy, Summers said.

“We are unique in that we are not considering closing our pool,” Summers told council. Attendance is staying fairly steady, he said, but can’t be controlled because pool-going is a weather-dependent activity.

“If we have a cool spring, people will only start to go to the pool in late June and by then, it may be too late for them to think about getting a season pass,” Summers explained. The first six weeks of this past summer, the pool did not have one full weekend without rain, he said.

“Even so, we still had good numbers,” Summers said. He presented a chart, comparing attendance in years. In 2012, there were 638 family memberships, while in 2018, there were 466.
In 2012, 108 individual passes and in 2018, 73 individual passes.

Seniors rose a bit, from 41 in 2012 to 59 in 2018. Student passes dropped by half, however; in 2012, there were 287, and in 2018, 188. Pre-school numbers also dropped; in 2012, 41, and in 2018, 24. In 2012, the year renovations were competed, memberships brought in $146,972, while in 2018, membership funds were still going strong, at $139,467. Daily attendance in 2012 was 572, and in 2018, 375.

“The numbers are still good,” Summers said. In 2018, there were five days when attendance passed 1,000 people, Summers said, and 35 days with more than 500 people at the pool.

“Your figures confirm to me that the renovations were the right thing to do,” said Councilman Victor Richards. “It was a total success and the bottom line, I believe it was what the people wanted, so it’s a ‘win-win’ situation.”

Council President Rowe asked about more people coming to Ephrata’s pool, if the other nearby pools close their doors.

“If Manheim closes, no, but if East Cocalico and New Holland close, that might bring in more people,” Summers said. In other business, council also approved the request of the Adam Dechow family to build a fence of four feet high wooden posts along the perimeter of their backyard and through the drainage easement at 985 Martin Avenue.

Marylouise Sholly is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review. 

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