Ephrata council considers electronic traffic devices

By on April 17, 2019

Ephrata Borough Council will consider an addition to next year’s budget to purchase electronic traffic devices to make the borough a safer place to be.

Borough resident and former Lincoln Fire Chief Randy Gockley addressed council April 8, asking that they consider bringing two more “Opticon” traffic light systems into the borough.
The Opticon systems give an automatic right-of-way for emergency vehicles, like ambulance, police units, and fire trucks.

Gockley addressed Council now because of a bid being awarded for traffic signal detection upgrades to be put in place in the borough. The low bidder was C.M. High of Myerstown, for $116,500.
According to the Opticon website, Opticon EVP (emergency vehicle preemption) enables emergency response vehicles to navigate congested intersections effectively in an emergency.
With signal preemption, the possibility of crashes at intersections can be reduced and responses can take less time, with studies showing that these systems can reduce intersection crashes by 70 percent.

Without that electronic assistance, emergency vehicles have a much greater chance of being delayed in traffic.

Much of the borough already has the Opticon system installed, with the exception of the intersections at West Main Street and Academy, and West Main and Market Street, Gockley said.

“Those intersections need that type of stoplight,” Gockley said. “The borough needs to be 100 percent Opticon systems.”
Delayed response to an emergency can put lives and property at greater risk, he added.

Police Chief William Harvey added that the intersection of State Street and Fulton Street also needs an Opticon unit.

“That affects us, too,” Harvey said, referring to the police department. “For all emergency vehicles, the Opticon helps to expedite moving through traffic.

“It gives those vehicles the right-of-way, and it’s not only for our own fire companies, ambulance, and police, but other companies coming into the borough to help in emergency situations,” Harvey said.

Council President Susan E. Rowe said funds for more Opticon systems will be added to the budget for consideration.

The price of an Opticon system was not immediately known.

In another matter, Lowell Haws, president of the Historical Society of the Cocalico Valley told Council about the goals and accomplishments of the society during the evening’s “municipal moment.”

Haws also thanked the borough for their financial support, both for a cultural arts grant and from the borough’s budget. Some of that funding has gone toward improvements to the outside of the Connell Mansion on Main Street, the building that houses the Society and serves as the group’s museum. Founded in 1957, the Society exists to “discover, gather, and preserve historical materials pertaining to the Cocalico Valley,” Haws said.

Membership of the group is at about 500 people, Haws said.

“We preserve the past for the future,” Haws said. “There is a tremendous amount of history in this area.”

Recently, the Society transcribed copies of The Ephrata Review, beginning in 1998 onto microfilm.

Visitors use the older copies of the newspaper for both historical and genealogical reasons, he said.

“I appreciate your efforts in preserving the history of our town,” President Rowe told Haws.

The group has four main activities: Programs and Exhibits, Outreach, Additional Collections, and Fundraising. A number of the Society’s programs are conducted with the help of the Ephrata Area Public Library.

Programs range from information about the Native American Lenni Lenape to early architecture in the area, Haws said. A recent program on trolleys in the borough proved to be very popular, Haws said, bringing out more than 125 people.

This coming Nov. 11, the Society will cooperate with the library, presenting a speaker from the Pennsylvania Military Museum, and commemorate the end of World War I.
Group members also visit historic places of interest, such as the White Horse Tavern in Berks County, an establishment actually visited by George Washington, and Berks County’s Heritage Museum.

Group members also take exhibits of historic interest to nursing homes and schools. Outreach includes touring area churches and examining significant historical features of various buildings.
Fundraising efforts include craft shows, tours, book sales, and a Christmas open house held the first Saturday in December.

The holiday open house has become very popular, Haws said, adding that the group also offers their own Christmas cards each year. Haws is pleased with all the additions to their historic artifacts that are being given to the Society.

“We’re getting an extraordinary amount of materials,” Haws said.

The Reamstown Historical Society gave the group school records dating back to the 1870s, Haws said, adding “That’s a tremendous find.” The Connell Mansion is 150 years old, Haws said, and the Hammacker House, which serves as the group’s library, is 90 years old, and both require ongoing repair.

“Maintenance issues are a big part of our budget,” Haws said. A new roof for the museum will cost about $100,000, he said.

“It’s a slate roof and we would like to have it restored as the original, but we’re not sure we can,” Haws said.

Regarding a slight uptick in borough residents’ electric bills, President Rowe said she monitored her own household for four months, and found that her bill would be going up by about $1.22 per month, she said.

“By establishing new electric rates, the customer charge is being increased, but it’s not that much of an increase (about $2 monthly) and the actual cost of the energy is going down,” Rowe said.

The increase will be 0.5 percent, effective with invoices issued after May 1. The rate increase comes after a study by consultants GDS that reviewed the cost of service by the borough for electricity.
Rowe cited statistics from a study about electric rates and said any borough resident could ask to see the information by going to her website. In other matters, Council approved a funding request from Mainspring of Ephrata (formerly the EDO) for the release of $87,028.

Also approved was Mainspring’s request to use the Whistle Stop Plaza for the 2019 Night Market, which will be held every third Saturday from May through October.

The request includes use of the entire property from East Main Street to Rose Alley, providing electric for the event, and selling beer and wine. Jim Summers, executive director of the Ephrata Recreation Center, was on hand to hear borough council approve keeping pool rates the same as last year.

In the absence of Mayor Ralph Mowen, President Rowe read two proclamations, the first recognizing April as “Pennsylvania 811 Safe Digging Month,” across the state, as the utility notification information center notes 47 years of service.

The second proclamation is to celebrate Arbor Day, which occurs on April 23.

The proclamation encourages all residents to plant and care for trees.

Marylouise Sholly is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review. 

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