Still the lowest

By on December 11, 2013

No tax increase for Ephrata Borough

Borough residents will see their real estate taxes remain the same as borough council adopted a 2014 operating budget of $39,097,253 Monday.

The 2014 real estate tax is 2.07 mills, representing no increase over 2013, which the council unanimously approved.

“In 2013, our tax rate was the lowest of any borough in Lancaster County. Unless another borough lowers their tax rate for 2014, we will be the lowest of any borough in the county again,” said Bob Thompson, borough manager.

The approved budget does not include any reductions in services to avoid a tax, and there will be no utility rate increases. The main spending projects for 2013 included:

• A new skate park at the foot of the public library near the creek budgeted at $200,000

• Construction of the Warwick to Ephrata Rail Trail budgeted at $437,000.

• Upgrades to the new countywide communication radio system including contributions to Lincoln and Pioneer fire departments and Ephrata Ambulance.

• Completion of the updated comprehensive plan and revising the zoning ordinance based on the changes to the comprehensive plan.

• Design and construction of a new salt storage facility at the Public Works Complex for $301,600

• Full depth reclamation of Church Avenue from the Cocalico Creek, north to the borough limit, including storm water improvements for $525,000

More good news was celebrated with awards for the borough.

The American Municipal Power Inc. (AMP) Safety Award was presented to the Ephrata Electric Division in recognition of its outstanding safety record. Specifically, this award recognizes that there were zero lost time hours due to injuries. Out of 130 AMP members, only 22 were recognized, and in Pennsylvania, just two members were recognized. This is at least the third consecutive year that the electric division has won this award. Ron Strubeck represented for the electric division.

Ephrata’s Glen Buchter has won the AMP Hard Hat Safety Award for 2013.

“This is a special award recognizing Glen’s outstanding contribution toward the safety performance of the electric division. Out of hundreds, Glenn is one of 17 individuals to be honored,” congratulated President Dale Hertzog.

Ephrata Borough was also recognized with the Most Improved Credit Score Award.

“This award recognizes the conservative fiscal management of the electric division, sound cash management policies and the successful implementation of the power cost adjustment,” said Hertzog. The award was presented to Thomas Natarian, who was recognized for his contributions to the AMP Board and will continue to represent Ephrata and Pennsylvania as a member.

The AMP Hard Hat Safety Program, established in 1991, was developed to reduce accidents by encouraging better use of safety equipment, preventing serious injuries and giving electric system employees a better awareness of safety precautions.

Pete Sheppard, the Ephrata Area School District School Resource Officer (SRO), presented the Municipal Moment of the month.

The SRO program has been funded through Ephrata Borough, Ephrata Township, Akron Borough and Clay Township. Sheppard started his duties in January 2006, which include law enforcement, counseling, mentoring and teaching. Counseling and mentoring are part of his duties due to usually only one counselor per building. He also deals with cyber bullying and harassment surrounding Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

“These are things I, and most of us here, never had to deal with in school,” said Sheppard.

He carries a gun and Taser as part of his uniform while in school and handles criminal incidents in and around the school including evening activities.

“The high school now has a double buzzer entry system, one into the lobby, and one into the school. You can’t just roam freely like you could in the past. We’re trying to make things safer in the wake of some of the issues we’ve had with school violence, we’re trying to do what we can to redesign our buildings,” said Sheppard, adding “I’d like to think the Borough of Ephrata could be proud of this program, it’s proactive, it builds relationships and I think it’s worthwhile. The school is very supportive of the program.”

“Do you provide training to the professional staff at the school on either crisis management or security issues, and I’m specifically thinking of ALICE Training?” asked Hertzog.

ALICE is an acronym for Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate. The purpose of this is to train police and school administrators in strategies and techniques designed to enhance the traditional response protocol commonly known as LOCKDOWN.

“We have not adopted the ALICE training yet. It’s basically run, hide, fight principles,” responded Sheppard. “Some districts like Cocalico are working with it, but we have not adopted that yet.”

Also at the council meeting, Police Chief William L. Harvey specifically directed the media to warn residents of spammers using the holidays and disasters such as the typhoon in the Philippines to take advantage of people’s generosity.

“If you are going to make donations, especially this time of year, make sure you are making them to the right people and not someone scamming from their living room. You can do a charity check on the Internet; go to the Better Business Bureau and other sites. If you don’t have Internet access, call us and we’ll help.” He also said there is major hacking going on and recommended that if you have a Gmail, LinkedIn, Facebook to change your password and not use the same password for any of them.

The council thanked retiring council member George DiIlio for his service and commitment to the borough and his willingness to do work. “You will be forever remembered as the best tree hugger on the borough council by reactivating the trees commission. We see your trees all over the place,” said Anthony Kilkuskie, fellow council member.

From last week’s work session

In Development Activities Committee news, residents in the Personal Touch/Moyer Personal Care Homes will need to find a new home by the end of next year.

“Earlier this year, it was discovered that Ronald Moyer was continuing to operate a personal care facility without a current valid state license,” said Vice President Susan Rowe.

One item that will be brought forward for a vote is a compliance agreement with Moyer which allows him to continue to care for the 11 current residents at his properties located at 230, 232 and 240 South Reading Road until they can find better living arrangements. Moyer will agree to not take any additional tenants as residents once they move out and will comply with all other Borough codes.

In June, Moyer requested to change the family owned and operated assisted living facility to a boarding house, but it was denied. The compliance time for Moyer to close his facilities is Dec. 31, 2014 or he will suffer a severe penalty.

A personal care home falls somewhere between a boarding house and an assisted living facility. In addition to food and lodging, personal care homes offer help with eating, bathing, toileting, grooming or dressing, and they can supervise administration of medication.

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