Concerns raised about street plates

By on July 10, 2019

Borough residents aren’t the only ones being inconvenienced by the extension of the UGI natural gas line installation, noted Ephrata Mayor Ralph Mowen at the July 1 borough council meeting.

A number of horses have slipped on the metal plates being used as temporary street coverings, Mowen said.

The horses, used for conveying people and packages by the local Plain community as they pull buggies, have difficulty maneuvering on the traction-less slippery plates.

“We’ve had several horses go down,” Mowen said. “The sooner the plates are out of here, the better.”

At least one horse was hurt, Mowen said, adding that it took several people to get the horse to stand.

Mowen asked if it wouldn’t be possible to place rubber mats over the steel plates.

With a local Amish community of moderate size, council asked why UGI had not thought to cover the smooth steel plates with regard to the horses’ safety before problems arose.
The issue of liability also came up, since the horses represent an integral part of the Amish lifestyle and are a significant expense.

In a related matter, council members were concerned about the July 4 Firecracker Run, as participants would run on the steel plates.

Luckily, the rain held off and police reported no injuries on Thursday morning.

Steel plates can be found on State Street and around Sunset Street, to name a few, said Borough Manager D. Robert Thompson.

Signs will be placed where runners can see them before they get to the steel plates, it was decided. Proposed gas main extensions include East Fulton Street, from Lake Street to the municipal boundary line east of Bethany Road, also Jeff Avenue and part of Tom Avenue. At this time, UGI has not begun any pavement or concrete sidewalk restorations, although sidewalk restoration along West Pine Street and North and South State streets is expected to be finished by August 30.

Southcentral Pennsylvania may be in the middle of a heat wave, but snow removal, salt sheds, and Christmas festivities were all part of the discussion on Monday evening as members looked ahead to the cooler months.

On June 24, the Highway Committee of the borough reviewed the “Christmas in Ephrata 2019” events request from the Christmas in Ephrata Committee of Mainspring of Ephrata.
At the meeting, one downtown merchant aired her concerns about Main Street being closed at 3 p.m., explaining that the closure impacted her business on the busiest shopping day of the year.

Councilman Ricky Ressler asked if it was necessary to close the Main Street that early in the day. For the Christmas event, East Main Street is closed between State Street and Lake Street. With the activities beginning about 5:30 p.m., the 3 p.m. street closing actually makes for a tight deadline, said Councilmember Linda Martin, also a member of Mainspring.

“Perhaps we should get out some information about what all is involved in getting the town event-ready,” Martin said. “From the laser light show to the vendors getting set up, it’s a rush to get it all done, and it’s all hands on deck.”

Council President Susan E. Rowe asked that representatives of the Christmas in Ephrata Committee and of Mainspring contact downtown merchants for their feedback regarding the time for closing the road.

East Main Street has been closing at 3 p.m. for the annual holiday event for the past few years, Martin said.
Martin looked at the positive aspects of the holiday event for the town’s business owners, explaining that the crowds of people could easily become customers.

“We have about 7,000 people coming in that night and that’s great exposure,” Martin said. “That’s thousands of people who can see the businesses down there, and the businesses can be welcoming, have specials, and be inviting for the people to come check out their shops. It would be great for all the businesses to be open during the event.”

Further discussion on the matter will take place during the July 22 meeting of the Highway Committee, which begins at 6 p.m. The public is invited to attend. In another matter, the Highway Committee also reviewed the Municipal Winter Traffic Services Renewal Agreement with PennDOT and the borough.

The agreement area is 2.97 linear miles along East and West Main streets (Rout 322) from Bethany Road to Market Street. The borough will be compensated at a rate of $1,168.77 per travel lane mile for snow and ice removal during the 2019-2020 winter season.

The total anticipated reimbursement to the borough is expected to be $6,942.49, plus any adjustment needed in the event of severe winter conditions.
Council is expected to approve the agreement at its July 8 meeting.

In another matter, a proposed salt storage shed has been removed from the agenda for consideration at this time. The 50-by-100-foot, mono-slope building from Clearspan Structures would have cost approximately $153,000, and was within the budget. Clearspan had provided a proposal for a roof structure to cover the salt bins. No further information was provided.

In another matter, at the June Budget and Finance Committee meeting, council was provided with an update on the PILOT program funds received so far this year.
The borough has received a total of $4,504.93.

Not-for-profit organizations, including churches, are not obligated to pay real estate taxes in the borough. Through the PILOT program, these organizations are asked to make a contribution for the betterment of the borough in lieu of taxes.

This year, 65 letters were sent out, but only 10 tax-exempt property owners, or about 15 percent, have responded.

President Rowe asked for ideas on helping to increase that response number.

“Most of the contributions come from churches, even though they already help the community in many ways,” Rowe said.

Thompson suggested that the letter to the non-profits include mention of benefits the borough provides, from public safety to street lights. In other business, Jim Summers, executive director of the Ephrata recreation center, explained “bather load” regulations at the Community Services Committee meeting at the end of June.

The rec center pool has been compliant with insurance regulations and with PA Department of Health standards, Summers said.

The number of swimmers allowed in the lower pool is 354 and in the upper pool, 444. In addition, up to 2,000 individuals are allowed on the deck area.

Summers said they don’t come close to those numbers, but to address citizen concerns, the rec center has implemented a policy to allow a maximum of 1,000, or approximately 600 day passes and 400 scans (season pass holders).

After this summer season is over, the committee and the rec center will be reviewing a change in fees, with the possible increase of the price for day passes, and a discounted membership rate for

Ephrata Area School District residents and borough residents.

“I think we need to raise the rate of non-resident day passes,” Mayor Mowen said.

Nothing has been finalized, but the committee will be addressing the day pass rate for the 2020 season.

Marylouise Sholly is a freelance feature writer for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at weezsholly@verizon.net. 

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