Mainspring updates Ephrata Borough

By on August 14, 2019

The community of Ephrata is doing well, but maybe the future could be even brighter.

That was the gist of Borough Council’s “Municipal Moment,” as addressed by Mainspring’s Executive Director, Kelly Withum.

Mainspring’s mission is to improve the quality of life through economic development, Withum told the council members Monday evening.

The name comes from the idea that “innovation is the main spring of a new economy,” Withum said. “We want to honor our past, embrace the present and create inspiration for the future.”

The economic development organization has been in place for a year, after consolidating three organizations: Downtown Ephrata Inc., the Ephrata Alliance, and the Ephrata Economic Development Corporation.

Streamlining the organizations gave a greater focus and less redundancy to many of the events and missions of the groups.

“We want to strengthen neighborhoods and strengthen community identity and celebrate the community identity on a regular basis,” Withum said.

Tourism development is also a “big deal,” Withum said.

President of Mainspring is Robert Harter, and vice president, Anthony Kilkuskie.

Much of the new organization’s work has been behind the scenes this year, Withum said, like implementing a new website and getting all documentation in place.

But the group has also been busy on the front lines, Withum said, noting that Mainspring had partnered with Millersville University, the Council for the Arts, and the Ephrata Area School District to create a mural at the Whistlestop Plaza.

The group also partnered with Franklin and Marshall College on a student project and participated in the “Great American Clean-up.”

One of Mainspring’s biggest projects now is to see the Heatherwood Bike Park to fruition, a task they’re taking on with the Susquehanna Mountain Biking Association.

As a result of the new park a mountain biking club was started in the high school, she said.

“The park will be opening in late September or early October and that is extremely exciting,” Withum said. “This is part of a strategic plan to engage our youth; we want these bright minds to come back (after school and college) to strengthen our community and to move our community forward.”

Mainspring also worked with EASD intermediate school students on a year-long project about economic development.

The group also held nine events during the year and partnered in a number of others, with one event bringing 8,000 people to the downtown, Withum said.

Mainspring continues to work on a rental bike-share program for the community too, she added.

One of the group’s biggest programs now involves increasing home ownership in the community, Withum said.

“Businesses will help people who are on the financial cusp of home ownership,” Withum said.

No other details were available on that plan as yet.

Ephrata has some special history going for it, like the Cloister, she said.

“We wanted to nominate the Cloister as a destination of distinction, since that brings free national advertising,” Withum said, adding that honor might be in the future.

When asked about the biggest challenge for the community, Withum cited low income for a number of families.

Mainspring’s Facebook page photo highlighting its Live… On The Plaza event at the WhistleStop.

“Community poverty is huge; if people don’t have disposable income, it’s very hard for them to support local businesses,” Withum said.

Mainspring is very appreciative of their volunteers and is always on the lookout for more, she said.

“We can’t do it alone; we have a wonderful group of volunteers and they give us the greatest gift; their time,” Withum said.

In other business, borough resident Jim Sandoe spoke to council about the plan to use diesel-powered generators as a stand-by power resource in the community.

The borough is planning to use the generators during peak times of power usage in order to save money.
Sandoe is concerned about pollution from the diesel-powered generators and instead, would like the borough to work on a gasification project, producing power from an organic source, which produces an end-product called biochar.

Sandoe read a letter from an engineer who disagreed with many of the borough’s reasons for not going with the gasification option.
Borough officials were told that the gasification plants can’t be run in cold temperatures, but that is not true, Sandoe said, citing one that is being used in Russia.

Whether or not the biochar is safe for land application or has the ability to be sold for profit is also in question, with different sources having varying opinions.

The gasification project didn’t come up for a vote at council because not enough solid information was available for the borough’s committee to bring forth the gasification project for a vote, said Council President Susan E. Rowe.

That doesn’t mean they are totally against the idea, Rowe said, and Council may consider it in the future when more facts are available.

In another matter, Council voted unanimously to opt-out of allowing video gaming terminals into the borough’s truck stops and gas stations. The vote came after Senate Bill 321 was signed into law, giving municipalities the choice.

Council also approved a resolution to update the base power supply cost from 0.07281/kwh to 0.07358/kwh. This change occurred with the first billing in May, 2019, which decreased the PCA used to bill residents.

Council approved a request from Lori Weaver, representing Boy Scout Troop 38, to use the Ephrata Borough parking lot and the Major Winters Memorial Trail parking lot adjacent to East Fulton Street during the 2019 Ephrata Fair to park cars as a fundraiser for the group.

Council also approved a request from the Ephrata Area Education Foundation to conduct a 5K “Purple and Gold Color Run” on Saturday, Sept. 28. The run will take place in the Lincoln Heights area.

Looking ahead, Council also approved plans for the annual “Christmas in Ephrata,” to be able to conduct activities associated with the annual Christmas tree lighting, Santa’s arrival, Holiday Waking Tour, caroling, and the hosting of Santa in his cottage.

On the night of Santa’s arrival, East Main Street will be closed at 3 p.m. so that preparations may be made and for the safety of the crowds that will attend the festivities.
Ephrata’s Public Works department will be making new “no parking” signs which will have larger, easier to read text to define parking time restrictions.

Marylouise Sholly is a freelance feature writer for The Ephrata Review. She welcomes your comments and questions at weezsholly@verizon.net. 

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