Council clarifies skate park position

By on June 27, 2012

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

"We are interested in moving forward with a new skate park but not at this time or with any specific location."

That was the official position Ephrata Borough Council member Tom Reinhold asked council to agree on with regard to discussion of a new skate park to replace the one displaced by the renovations to the Ephrata Community Pool.

Council had not been scheduled to act on a new skate park for at least another year. However, in response to requests made by residents, the matter was brought to the full council working session on June 4. The net result of input from the full council was that more locations should be looked at and considered before moving forward.

Up until the Ephrata Community Pool complex was closed for major renovations at the end of last year’s swimming season, the skate park was located in a fenced-in area under the roof behind the bathhouses. Four locations were considered as possible locations for the new park, including the lower portion of the pool parking lot, an area between the pool and the American Legion in the vicinity of Vine St., the lower portion of the Ephrata Library lot and adjacent to the borough’s ball field and playground on Irene Ave.

Each location, however, posed significant concerns, from traffic to noise to the threat of flooding during torrential downpours. This led council to suggest that further consideration would be the best course of action before investing the estimated $50,000 to construct a 60-foot by 120-foot cement pad surrounded by an eight-foot fence. The council was informed that the staff would have to bid the project and that it would likely not be completed until Oct. or later. The matter was sent back to the Community Services Committee, on which Reinhold serves as chair.

At the Community Services Committee meeting on June 21, several residents from the Sunset Ave./Vine St. area attended to express their concern over the Vine St. location. Penny Talbert of the Ephrata Public Library was at that meeting and indicated that embracing the community’s teen population was consistent with the library’s mission statement and that she would speak with her board about the library location. The Committee suspended the discussion until they know what the library board’s position on the library location is.

In other borough news, council voted to approve an application by Brian F. Dell Isola to rename the Ephrata Rail Trail the Major Dick Winters Memorial Trail. The motion passed with no discussion and with council president Dale Hertzog casting the only no-vote. The project would now need to satisfy all requirements of borough code for dedications and memorials including sections on the placement of plaques and markers.

"I was pleased that the naming of the rail trail in honor of Major Dick Winters passed during the Council’s voting session," commented council member Bob Good. "Major Winters was a genuine war hero whose exploits have been recognized both nationally and internationally. He was a true leader of men who were asked to do extreme things under extreme conditions. His leadership was a positive example which brings credit to all veterans. I believe that all citizens of Ephrata can be rightfully proud to recognize Major Winters as one of us, and that he was proud to call Ephrata his home. In a small way, we do him justice by dedicating the rail-trail in his name."

"Major Winters was a man of remarkable character," Good added. "He could be extremely tough when he had to be. But he also looked out for his men and their welfare in every way he could. He was a compassionate man who hated war, and prayed for peace. He was humble and never recognized himself as a hero, but rather, said that he served with heroes. He led by example, never sought recognition for himself, and remained humble his entire life. I believe that Major Winters was an exceptional individual, who not only contributed to this community, but also to our nation because of his exemplary service. He is still contributing to our community by bringing people to Ephrata to see his boyhood home and his burial site. We can all learn valuable lessons by the leadership of Major Dick Winters."

As part of the consent agenda, council authorized the council president and secretary to execute a professional services agreement with ELA Group of Lititz for Land Planning services associated with the extension of the borough’s rail trail south from Sycamore Road to the borough limits. The cost of the agreement was set at $33,470 based on ELA’s proposal dated April, 17.

Per a recommendation from the Budget and Finance Committee, council unanimously approved changes which would reduce borough office staff by 15 hours per week at an estimated savings of $20,000 per year. Under the plan, the hours the borough office is open to the public would be reduced by 30 minutes per day and a open full-time position would be filled with a part-time position.

Committee member Susan Rowe requested that staff track any complaints as a result of the changes and report back to council.

"We just want to see if any changes to this new policy are warranted," explained Rowe. "We are not recommending an amendment to the proposal but just simply asking staff to tally and report on any complaints."

Council member Vic Richard likewise showed concern about service levels to the taxpayer.

"We did discuss this to make sure this does not have a negative impact on the taxpayers," noted Richard. "Other municipalities on the area have similar hours but we still need to know how this works out for the taxpayers."

Richard added that he felt the change might actually improve the levels of customer service since the move would also involve outsourcing credit card payments currently taken by phone. This move is expected to further free up staff time which can now be used for more time with borough customers face-to-face.

Lastly, council voted unanimously to authorize an unbudgeted revenue of $122,963 to be added to the current budget and an unbudgeted expenditure in the same amount also be added for the construction of the Railroad Station Plaza.

"When we received the bids, the low bid exceeded the project budget," explained Borough Manager Robert Thompson. "We were able to secure additional grant funding to cover the shortfall. The action taken by council was purely administrative so the budget document reflects what actually occurs. Specifically we increased the expected revenues in the budget to reflect the additional grant monies and we increased the amount of the expenditures to be consistent with the bids that were awarded. There is no change to the project."

For a schedule of all borough council meetings, which are open to the public, visit the borough’s website at ephrataboro.org.

Gary P. Klinger welcomes your comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail at klingerglobal@gmail.com. More SKATE PARK, page A18

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