Town Christmas lights coming down…forever?

By on January 7, 2015

Could it be that the Christmas lights in Ephrata could go out permanently?
Does anyone care?
That was the question posed by Ephrata Mayor Ralph Mowen Monday night at the working session of Ephrata Borough Council.
There is a very real possibility that in the near future, the look of Christmas in downtown Ephrata could be significantly less bright. In fact, there is a growing possibility that there might not be any Christmas lights in the downtown business district.
That is because the current Christmas decorations are quickly nearing the end of their life span. As it is, the Merchants Association and borough crews had to make the difficult decision to light fewer trees for the 2014 Christmas season in order to double up the number of lights per tree. An inherent characteristic of modern LED Christmas lights like those used downtown is that over time they grow less and less bright. Therefore the only way to offset the issue was for the borough to double up.
Ephrata Borough Council had contributed $10,000 to purchase the current lights. It approved $2,000 as part of its 2015 fiscal budget to help the merchants cover the costs.
Recognizing the costs associated with decorating downtown Ephrata, Mayor Ralph Mowen issued a simple challenge to the community last year. He would match personal or corporate contributions to the fund with up to $1,000 of his own personal funds.
Yet, according to Mowen, so far there have been absolutely no donations.
Not. One. Red. Cent
“This greatly disappoints me,” Mowan told council. “We certainly cannot do much with the funds we have set aside.”
There were no additional comments by members of council with regard to the situation.
“Not a single person has stepped forward to help,” added the mayor. “So, I’m not sure what will happen next year. We put some aside in the budget but we need more than $3,000.”
In other business, council voted to hire the firm of Maier Duesel to once again handle the annual borough audit for a cost of $21,704.
This is not the first year the firm has handled the borough audit, nor was their bid the lowest. But as budget and finance committee chair Vic Richard explained, the lowest bid was based upon nearly half the number of hours of the winning bid. And, considering their experience with the borough, it was the committee’s contention that the winning bid was likely more realistic.
According to Richard, the firm has been handling the borough’s audit since 2006.
Committee member Susan Rowe suggested it may be a good idea to change firms periodically so as to insure accuracy and increase accountability. Richard pointed out that while the same firm has been handling the audit for several years, the actual team assigned to the work has not been comprised of the same individuals.
In a rare move for a working session, members voted unanimously to approve the contract so that the audit could move forward.
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