Thompson named borough manager D. Robert Thompson

By on November 9, 2011

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Interim manager D. Robert Thompson was appointed Ephrata Borough Manager on Monday night by a unanimous vote of council.

Thompson, who has been serving in that capacity for the past eight months since the parting of ways between borough council and long-time manager Gary Nace, was named to the position effective immediately, at a salary of $108,000

In addition, council voted unanimously to award a $3,200 bonus to the borough’s director of administration and finance/ treasurer Gail M. Bare, for her additional workload during that same period during the transition from Nace to Thompson. This amounts to $400 per each of the eight months.

"A lot of things have been asked of Bob and the staff over the past year," commented council president A. Anthony Kilkuskie. "His response has always been strong, prompt and professional with the intent to accommodate the request and the meaning of the requests. I think this is a very timely motion and I’m glad to speak in support of it even though I don’t feel it needs any other comment."

With regard to the Bare bonus, Kilkuskie said that she had been asked in many occasions to provide information, guidance and advice for the best interest of the borough.

"I think this bonus is well-earned," said Thompson.

Both votes came on a night when council typically does not conduct votes. The first meeting of the month is usually the council’s working session where committees report to one another on their activities as well any upcoming motions for the council’s regular session, held the second Monday of each month.

In other borough council news, Bill Warrell, president of the Downtown Ephrata Inc. Board of Directors, made a presentation explaining the group’s past year. In great detail, he explained the multitude of different programs and services offered through DEI. He also requested council consideration for funding in 2012. A number of funding sources were detailed, including income from two loans facilitated through DEI. He explained that state grant money received a number of years ago had been made available to DEI in order to help local businesses with the interest received to, at the same time, provide an income stream to DEI. That interest accounted for just over $2,000 of the groups’ 2011 income of $50,115. Warrell indicated that the $50,115 made up approximately two-third of its annual budget.

Council member Russell Shirker questioned Warrell, as well as DEI Director Marsha DiBonaventuro, on the group’s practice of lending money, stating that he was unaware that they were engaging in this activity.

"I’m just curious," asked Shirker, "if this is the norm for your organization to give loans."

Shirker also questioned why the bank is listed as a guarantor on those loans before DEI. Warrell explained that since the bank’s interest in the properties was greater than that of DEI they were listed first.

"So why are you in the lending business?" questioned Shirker.

Warrell explained that a grant from the state for anchor building projects made money available to DEI to then allocate in such a way as to promote the downtown business district and provide an on-going stream of income while also enabling DEI to lend money back into the community. He added that this becomes a revolving loan fund to re-lend.

"The focus of my visit tonight is not to press a request for funds," said Warrell. "I fully understand that income equates to much, so too expenses. But I would like the opportunity to discuss this further at some point."

DEI is seeking a council pledge of $45,000 per year for three years.

Pressed for additional details on funding, it was revealed that without any income from any source, the group has approximately five or six months worth of operating expenses on reserve, underscoring the need for a wide variety of funding sources going forward.

Warrell also detailed some upcoming projects DEI is working on throughout the borough, including plans for a new community herb and vegetable garden to occupy the space behind the Fun-nest Toy Store Ever! in space once occupied by the former Sprecher’s Hardware warehouse. He also said that DEI is working on a concept which would eventually update and upgrade the second and third floors of the toy store for use as office space. In particular, it could be rented as individual office space for people working out of their homes, serving as a major attraction to young, high-tech startup type companies. That space has been empty for most of the past ten years and is significantly out of date with regard to building and safety codes, a hurdle which would need to be overcome. Such a project would mirror "The Candy Factory" project in Lancaster City.

And finally, the budget and finance committee will ask council to approve a new ordinance setting the rate per annum collectible on municipal claims at 10 percent. This would apply to all past due claims and liens. Borough solicitor James McManus explained that this was a result of a recent case before the Supreme Court which now allows such practice.

Resident Andy Kuzmiak challenged council on setting the rate so high, asking them to set it at 5 percent in order to give the citizens of the community a break.

"If you make the rate too low you become the last person to be paid," responded Kilkuskie, who explained that setting too low of a penalty rate for those not paying their borough bills only encouraged more of the same while doing so at the cost of those borough customer who pay their bills on time.

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