Fireworks also erupt at meetingStrong pleas again made to keep size of pool intact

By on July 6, 2011

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Despite some compelling information brought forward at Tuesday night’s Ephrata Borough Council meeting regarding the upcoming pool project, the message from council was clear — the information was too little, too late in the process to affect the final outcome.

Others disagreed.

Nancy Houck, president of the Lancaster Aquatics Club, along with head coach and Ephrata native Casey Coble presented council members with a one-page summary of key points which would support keeping the current 50-meter Olympic competition pool in its current configuration rather than cutting off the 25 meters closest to Oak Street and filling it in.

For the past 20 years LAC has rented the pool and various equipment from the borough and Ephrata Rec Center, hosting at least one swim meet per summer. These events generally last three days and draw more than 700 participants from all over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and New York. Houck and Coble said the annual event generates roughly $5,760 in revenue for the borough and center and untold amounts of customers for local businesses, restaurants and hotels.

At the 2010 event, 51 teams consisting of 728 swimmers came to town for the long form event. This also brought coaches, parents, siblings, friends and extended family members.

Houck and Coble urged members of the community, but especially members of council to stop by this coming weekend for the 2011 event. They added that the annual meet is so popular that this year’s event is already sold out.

Council members agreed it was a good presentation, but signaled their unwillingness to take the information presented into consideration.

"We have discussed this matter for over three years," council member Vic Richard said. "We have held countless meetings requesting input from every possible source. We don’t build pools so we were looking for guidance. Granted there is some income from an event every year at the pool, but not enough of a keeper to affect the design of the pool. Here we are at the 11.5 hour. I welcome this but I am at a loss for words."

Richard went on to cite the long hours and hard work already done over the past several years to carefully consider all considerations as well as the needs of the community in making this decision.

"It is interesting," Richard said, "but I’m not sure what else to say. It is too little, too late unless we are willing to jeopardize the bidding process. We made the best decision we could based on the info we had."

Council member Susan Rowe weighed in on the matter.

"I concur with Vic," she said. "This has been discussed at least four years. I’m very sorry this info didn’t come forward sooner because it would have made a difference in the final outcome."

Houck adamantly and repeatedly pointed out that she had, on numerous occasions, offered council members, committee members and rec center officials information on the topic but was told it was either not going to be on the agenda or was already a decided piece of borough business.

"Over the past nine months I have certainly shared this info with people in your committee, including the numbers on my summary sheet," she told council. "I’m very sorry if it did not make it to your council meeting but it was shared with people from parks and recreation and others. I apologize if you think I’m here at the 11th hour to disrupt your plan. However, at the 11th hour, I was asked not to come to committee or other meetings."

Clearly frustrated by council assertion that they were bringing this information before council too late in the process, Houck went on.

"I don’t want to appear foolish that Casey and I have wasted our time but we have shared our info," asserted Houck. "This is not the first, second or even third time we have presented this. Whether this was just tabled and never got the proper places … I just want to go on record that I have done due diligence on my end to bring info that you may need to make a good decision."

Kilkuskie’s response was that the pool design and features have been the topic of discussion for a number of years.

Ephrata Rec Center Director David Lloyd said Wednesday morning that Houck never presented him with information about the economic impact the pool changes would have on the borough.

"The event brings in a lot of money for them, but not necessarily the borough," he said. "There are rental fees that we make money off of, but it doesn’t net a terrible amount of money when you factor in the cost of security and traffic control."

Houck and Coble pointed out that there are very few 50-meter pools remaining in the area and because of that, the association expressed interest in using the Ephrata pool for additional events and training. The association currently pays $150 an hour to use the 50-meter pool on the campus of Franklin & Marshal College.

The group has in the past expressed interest in using the pool for practice during early morning hours, Lloyd confirmed, but has encountered scheduling conflicts with the Ephrata Swim Team.

Any delay in construction at this point, Rowe pointed out, could mean the project would not be completed by the 2012 goal. A pre-bid conference was held at the pool Wednesday morning (July 6) and bids will be opened and read at a public meeting July 15.

According to acting borough manager Bob Thompson, in order to stay on track, a contract would need to be awarded at the August borough council meeting. Thompson added that changing the planned configuration of the pool at this stage of the game was more a decision of whether or not to fill in that section. It would affect numerous areas of the plan, from pump and filtration systems to the proposal to re-use sections of the spouting from the existing Olympic pool in other portions of the renovated pool.

Council member Bob Good questioned what impact the LAC-sponsored meet actually had on local businesses, hotels and restaurants. Richard said that no credible information had been presented which would adequately answer that question.

But this was one of the points resident and longtime stalwart of the pool debate Andy Kuzmiak challenged council members on. He cited figures Lloyd presented, based on figures compiled by the Pennsylvania Dutch Travelers Bureau, indicating that those coming to town for the annual weekend-long event would spend roughly $162 per person per trip.

Kuzmiak conceded that perhaps younger visitors would spend less, but said that conservatively the weekend swim meet would mean $25,000 in business to local merchants.

Not every council member was closed to the idea of reconsidering the size of the Olympic pool. Council’s newest member, George DiIlio, agreed with Richard that good numbers were needed but not necessarily available.

"Whether we have credible numbers or not, when we bring kids and their parents in for these meets, we need to be ambassadors for the borough and this is nothing but a plus," he said. "I truly wonder why we were looking to eliminate this from the beginning, that reducing this would have any such positive impact. We have this huge expense to build a top-notch facility. We need to share that facility not only with our community but other communities as well. We must recognize that we have people coming into our community because we have a top-notch facility."

DiIlio said the bottom line comes down to –can we proceed with what we are doing and just hold the line on the reduction issue or can we move ahead and decide the length at a later date?

In the end, the debate was closed, perhaps permanently by council president Anthony Kilkuskie.

"You have made good points and we have received them," Kilkuskie told Houck and Coble before moving on to the next item of discussion.

? In other borough business, public safety committee chair Richard said he would ask council to vote on a measure which would extend the term of an agreement with the Ephrata Area School District providing for a school resource officer. Richard asked borough solicitor James McManus to explain the changed terms of the agreement under consideration.

McManus explained that current agreement had a termination date of June 30, which was a date which conformed to a period of funding from the time of the program’s inception when a state-funded grant helped provide the funds needed to get it started. He said that while municipal budgets generally run from January to December, the school budget is based on school year.

The school district pays 50 percent of the cost of the officer, with Ephrata and Akron boroughs and Ephrata and Clay townships each paying a portion of the remaining 50 percent based on that municipalities’ portion of the school population.

However, changes in population have meant that portions have likewise shifted. According to McManus, there was no uniform agreement on the term of this new agreement, whether it should be for one, two or three years. The previous two terms were for three years.

When it comes before council next week, members will be asked to simply restate the term of the current agreement with a new termination date of Dec. 31.

McManus explained that this would give the municipalities time to decide on the level of their further commitment.

? Brad Ortenzi of the Ephrata Police Department has become one of five municipal officers from across the county to be sworn in as county detectives on the new Lancaster County Computer Crimes Mutual Aid Task Force.

Police Chief William Harvey discussed Ortenzi’s work, adding that he will be able to complete much of his work from his desk at the police station.

"(District Attorney Craig Stedman) received a grant to get these extremely high-tech computers that screens everything going across the Internet in this region," Harvey explained. "With this technology they can read the URL and the codification and see if this is soft core porn, hard core porn, kiddy porn etc. and track it to your e-mail and your server.

"We have a problem in this part of this county," noted Harvey. "This technology does the yeoman’s work. It is a fantastic technology. We can see what areas are the hot beds between soft, hard and child pornography, then start working it from there. This is a county-wide resource to be able to deal with this."

According to Stauffer’s article: "The detectives, who have an interest and experience in working with computers, can use specialized equipment set up in eight work stations in a new first-floor office at the Lancaster County Courthouse. They will work with county Detective John Duby, state police Cpl. James Strosser and computer analyst Ryan Harrison, all of whom are trained in doing forensic computer analysis."

In closing comments received from those present from the community, Kuzmiak asked council members to make their e-mail addresses public through The Ephrata Review. DiIlio commented that not everyone on council wanted that information known, as he handed one of his business cards to anyone present who wanted his e-mail address. Hertzog said the question of whether or not to make this information readily available should be left up to each individual council member and promised to give this some additional consideration. More BOROUGH, page A16

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