Key part of 322 widened Change reported at Twp. meeting; school officer program also praised

By on October 23, 2013

By:

GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent

, Staff Writer

To the passing motorist, it would appear the developers of the new Ephrata Marketplace along Route 322 east of Ephrata removed concrete curbing to simply replace it with one made of asphalt.

But according to Ephrata Township officials, that is not the case.

The township, however, does not have the final say in the project which has, over the past several weeks garnered a fair share of attention over the width of the shoulder in front of the new complex which will soon become home to a new Giant grocery story along with several other businesses.

After careful review by PennDOT officials, the developer was told to push the curb back one foot, creating a five-foot wide shoulder area.

"We would have preferred they push it further for at least a six-foot wide shoulder but the developer did what PennDOT made them do," noted Township Manager Steve Sawyer.

Perhaps the reason the roadway does not appear wider is the way the concrete marries up with the asphalt. In replacing the curbing, the radius for the turn lane was reconfigured from the point of the first entrance point closest to Route 222 and located along Route 322. Since the two types of curbing meet up, one may think the only thing that changed was the material used, but that is not the case.

Concerns had been raised that perhaps the shoulder was not wide enough to accommodate the high amount of buggy and bicycle traffic in the area. The concerns centered not only around safety but traffic congestion as well.

Yet, while the current overall width may not be as wide as some would like, Sawyer was hopeful that as that corridor continues to be developed over the next several years, significant additional improvements would be made to that portion of roadway. Other land owners in that area of town have approached PennDOT on the nature of any future traffic studies which might be needed as preliminary steps toward more development.

However, as Sawyer pointed out, those are very preliminary steps and no actual or specific plans for further development are in the works at this point in time.

Businesses are slated to begin opening yet this fall, with Giant planning to open as soon as November.

In other business discussed by the Ephrata Township Supervisors at their meeting earlier this month, leaders discussed the School Resource Officer (or SRO) program which the township cost-shares with several other municipalities and the Ephrata Area School District. Since 2006, Officer Pete Sheppard has acted as the school’s SRO. Fifty percent of the funding for the program is provided by EASD. The other half is shared from among those municipalities served by the school district: Ephrata Borough, Ephrata Township, Akron Borough and Clay Township, with each municipality paying in proportion to that municipality’s district enrollment.

By all accounts, the program has been widely successful and has only gained in support, especially in light of recent school tragedies such as last December’s Sandy Hook school shooting.

"Our percentage of the funding fluctuates a bit but has been pretty consistent," Sawyer explained to supervisors. That percentage has ranged from a high in 2006 of 27 percent to last year’s low of 24.8 percent.

Sheppard has been asked to attend the next supervisors meeting to report on the program and answer any questions.

"I think it is a good thing for Officer Sheppard to be coming to the next meeting," added Sawyer. "I’ve only heard good things about the program and I think it’s a great thing to have. Hopefully the other municipalities will agree to continue the program."

According to both Sawyer and Ephrata Police Chief William Harvey, everyone from parents to students to faculty and administration has agreed that the SRO program is a success which should be continued.

Harvey added that in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, what EASD has in place has become a model for what other schools countywide should be implementing.

"I cannot explain all that we have in place," noted Harvey, "But I can say we are one of the highlights of the county and that makes me feel real good. Here we have a point of excellence which is outstanding. It’s amazing."

Harvey also sang the praises of the work done by Sheppard.

"He is a lot of the reason we have the safe school environment we have," said Harvey. "He works with all the schools, works harmoniously with the other agencies and is a walking atlas of information. This program has paid off infinitesimally in many directions."

Supervisor Clark Stauffer questioned Harvey on the relationship between Sheppard and the student body.

"Has it made it that out in public the students feel more comfortable approaching the officers?" asked Stauffer.

Harvey assured him that is has. He added that a new school system has been put in place where students are able to provide tips and leads to the SRO anonymously and safely.

"There is much more positive interaction between the student body and police here with the SRO than other places where there is not one," added Harvey. "A lot of kids have a fear of police officers but here they are used to seeing him, in uniform. There is a direct correlation of good kids because of Officer Sheppard."

Supervisors also questioned Harvey on whether or not Sheppard is armed in the school building.

"Indeed he is armed," Harvey responded. "I will not put an officer in that school that is not armed. If he must intercede he must be prepared."

The current SRO agreement with the district is set to expire at the end of 2013. The district has already expressed its desire to see the program continue. With the school set to cover half of the cost, the lion’s share of the other half would be paid for by Ephrata Borough, which has 1,804 students enrolled and would pay 44 percent. Ephrata Township has the second largest enrollment with 1,056 students and would pay 25.76 percent. Clay Township comes in third with 733 students, paying 17.88 percent and Akron Borough, with 507 students enrolled would contribute 12.37 percent.

The district and municipalities are considering extending the program for another three years. For 2014, the overall cost of the program is $121,594. EASD would contribute $60,797; Ephrata Borough would contribute $26,751; Ephrata Township would contribute $15,659; Clay Township would contribute $10,869 and Akron Borough would contribute $7,518.

A decision on the SRO project is one of several such issues being contemplated as municipalities begin the process of adopting their fiscal 2014 budgets in time for enactment Jan. 1.

For additional information on Ephrata Township, visit www.ephratatownship.org. Gary P. Klinger welcomes your feedback and questions via e-mail at klingerglobal@gmail.com.

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