Skatepark coming soon to Ephrata library property

By on April 10, 2013

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

The question of where the borough skatepark will be relocated since it was displaced from the pool complex two years ago appears to be answered.

On Monday night, Ephrata Borough Council approved a waiver of planning for the proposed parking lot and skate park pad at the Ephrata Public Library. This move was made conditional on staff providing a copy of the design plan to the Ephrata Borough Planning Commission.

The skate park is intended to replace the one previously located on the lower level (former teen center) behind the pool house at the Ephrata Community Pool. That skate park was closed in 2011 as part of the recent renovation project at the pool.

The skatepark is planned for the Cocalico Creek side of the property and construction is slated to begin mid- to late summer.

Library director Penny Talbert was asked how this whole project unfolded.

"The Borough was looking for a place for the skatepark. There were several sites they were considering, including the library," Talbert said. "At a meeting where this was discussed there was one neighborhood with a petition about it not going there and it was clear everyone thought it would come with so many problems.

"As I was sitting there, I thought about the library’s place in the community and our mission and realized that it may be a good fit. I spoke with our board and let (borough manager) Bob (Thompson) know they weren’t opposed to it. It was initially the Borough’s idea as a possible location and I think our willingness to discuss it made it quickly evident that it was the right place in the community."

While some may not immediately associate a skatepark with a library, when one takes the library’s year-round efforts with the youth of the community into consideration, the connection makes sense.

"We are looking at it as an opportunity to both help the community and potentially make the library available to the kids who use the skateboard park but may not use the library," Talbert said. "We’ve tried, particularly for the last decade, to make the library a place in which teens have ownership. We have a lot of teen patrons, we have the largest teen reading participation in the county and we’ve been recognized nationally by VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) as a "Most Valuable Program" in the country for teens (2005). It is my hope that those using the skatepark will also make a visit to the library part of their routine. "

As stated earlier, even more positive news for the library will be the arrival of more parking on its property.

"The Capital budget includes an additional parking lot in addition to the skate park," explained Thompson. "The parking lot is to provide an additional 30 spaces and is estimated at $110,000. The skatepark (is expected to cost) $80,000."

Talbert said the additional parking was needed regardless of the new skatepark.

"(It) was needed for our daily traffic. When the library was built there was no way to anticipate how high usage would be. On average we have approximately 1,300 people visit the library per day. In the summer, we have days that over 2,000 people visit in a day, Talbert said. "With the minimal parking, it is often hard to accommodate all those cars. We’ve tried to alleviate some of it by asking staff to park next door behind the Curves building but that isn’t enough anymore. The parking lot was in the plan before the skateboard park decision was made.

"That being said, we could not accommodate that additional traffic (from the skateboard park) without the additional parking."

Talbert was asked what kind of impact she feels the skatepark may have on the property or the library operation itself.

"I am not sure what impact it will have. The park is far enough away from the library building that visitors to either will not ‘get in the way’ of the other," she said. "Clearly, there have been problems in the past when the park was located in Grater Park. I think more visibility and the library staff having line-of-sight will make a difference in those problems."

There is no question Talbert is upbeat and appreciative of these changes coming to the library property.

"The Ephrata community, in particular the borough, has been very supportive of the library because they realize the importance that libraries can play in a community," Talbert said. "There has always been a tremendous amount of forethought where the library is concerned. Our goal has always been to be a cornerstone of the community – more than just a library. In the past decade, this has clearly happened.

"We are a meeting place, a village post office, a passport office, a place to learn, a place to play and that will continue. The addition of the skatepark is one more way that we can partner with the borough to provide community services within our mission.

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In other borough council news:

With little fanfare and no further discussion, members of Ephrata Borough Council Monday night approved an unbudgeted civic contribution to the Ephrata Recreation Center in the amount of $26,000 for use in hiring the services of Silbert Fundraising to help the financially struggling center. The money will come from the unappropriated fund balance of the Capital Reserve Fund.

Silbert Fundraising will be working directly with the Rec Center for consulting services and for a professional viewpoint on raising funds for the Rec. In what is expected to take approximately four months to complete, Silbert will spend the first three months doing a feasibility study by actively conducting in-person interviews of people across the Rec Center’s service market.

That work will begin with a study which would look at community perceptions as well as what support funds within the community may be as of yet untapped. The goal of the work is to draw on this information to customize an approach which will lead to greater corporate contributions and local donations. During her presentation in March, Jennifer Silbert emphasized that the Rec Center simply cannot make it on memberships alone. And she added that the community needs to embrace the fact that the center is a community center meeting a number of very specific needs across the community.

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Council also approved an unbudgeted expenditure for $11,595.47 from the unappropriated fund balance of the Capital Reserve Fund to furnish and install a 30′ x 30′ shade structure above the kiddie play area at the Ephrata Community Pool. Biting Recreation, Inc. of Harrisburg was hired to complete the work.

The shade canopy was in direct response to concerns raised about possible burned hands and feet in that area due to the summer heat. The structure would be removed at the end of each season and stored away, a factor which lead council member Vic Richard to be the sole "no" vote on the measures.

"I had voiced an opinion on this last week," stated Richard. "I’ve been involved in the pool for six or seven years and I don’t support this. I don’t think this is the answer to cool the structure when it has to be put up and put down each season. There has got to be some other solution."

Council member Sue Rowe questioned Ephrata Rec Center executive director Jim Summers, who was on hand for Monday night’s meeting, whether shoes could be required in that area to help prevent small children from burning their feet.

"I know it would be difficult but it is something to think about," said Rowe.

For his part, Summers said there are lifeguards on duty that encourage this practice and that such a policy could be enforced, although he agreed with Rowe that this would be difficult.

"I do have some reservations about this plan, even though I do plan to support it," added council member Anthony Kilkuskie. "They are also grabbing other stuff. It’s not just their feet that are hot. The whole structure gets hot."

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Council also approved yet another unbudgeted expenditure in the amount of $44,079.66 from the capital reserve fund for the upgrade of the phone system at the borough office and satellite locations.

"The current phone system is 12 years old and is not longer supported by the manufacturer," explained borough manager Bob Thompson.

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Council member Kilkuskie wanted to clarify his recent comments that a fire tax could potentially double borough taxes if such were imposed to support the Ephrata Pioneer and Lincoln Fire Companies.

In presenting the recent annual report, Lincoln Fire Chief Randy Gockley indicated that even by conservative estimates it would cost $750,000 if the borough had to pay to support the Lincoln Fire company with six full time paid firefighters manning the station 24 hours per day.

Kilkuskie explained that the borough has approximately $665M of marketable valued/ assessed value real estate and that a one mill charge would generate $665,000. He said it would take approximately 1.2 mills to cover Gockley’s estimated $750,000.

"Since our tax rate is currently at 2.07 mills, that would not double taxes but amount to a 50 percent increase," added Kilkuskie.

But Mayor Ralph Mowen pointed out that figure would need to be doubled in order to support both the Lincoln and Pioneer Fire Companies.

"We would be looking at Pioneer and Lincoln at six people each," Mowen pointed out.

Kilkuskie then amended his view by stating that indeed if both fire companies became manned by paid firefighters the cost would in effect double the tax rate.

"I just want to emphasize, however, that this council IS NOT considering a fire tax," council member Rowe pointed out emphatically. "I have gotten some very angry phone calls on this and I just want to make sure everyone understands that we are not considering a fire tax."

Mowen added that when he has been questioned about the possibility of a fire tax he has challenged residents to make sure they are supporting the fire company with contributions so as to help avoid a fire tax in the future.

For additional information on Ephrata Borough, visit ephrataboro.org. Gary P. Klinger welcomes your comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail at klingerglobal@gmail.com. More SKATEPARK, page A18

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