Township considers signs, park projects

By on February 22, 2012

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent klingerglobal@gmail.com, Staff Writer

Regardless of what the local groundhogs may say, the signs of spring were more than present at Tuesday night’s Ephrata Township supervisors meeting.

Township Manager Steve Sawyer obtained approval to move forward on plans to extend the Community Park Trail Project.

Sawyer presented supervisors with three bids to add 280 feet of trail to connect the eastern side of the lake, where a rough fisherman’s trail is currently located, to the perimeter trail. Low bidder on the project was Zimmerman Excavating at $5,249 to construct trial and install 300 feet of silt sock filled with large wood trips to control silt formation. Since the trail will be within 30 feet of the large lake and lead to the small stream, the silt sock will be used to make sure there won’t be any sentiment running off site. Work to complete the trail extension will include removal of between two and three dozen trees.

Where possible, township crews will assist Zimmerman in order to help move the project along more quickly and at a lower cost.

Supervisors unanimously approved the bid, not to exceed $5,249. The project will get underway as soon as is feasible for Zimmerman Excavation.

Sawyer also sought approval to move forward on the expansion of the Community Park Playground Project. The initial playground area was added last year. This year, the township is looking to add a section designed for children ages 2 to 5. Plans call for the equipment, safety turf and curbing to match that which was put into place last year.

In bringing this to the supervisors, Sawyer was not seeking to begin the actual construction of the project, but feedback on the plans and approval to begin gathering a hard cost picture for it. He has begun to gather prices on the concrete slab, safety mat and extension curb.

The project is expected to cost approximately $35,000, or about half the cost of the initial phase of the playground. Work could begin as early as this spring with the laying of additional curbing. Later on, the concrete crews would come back to lay a concrete slab which could then be used for picnic tables or perhaps even a gazebo or steel structure for parents to use while their children are playing.

Supervisors questioned Sawyer on the selection of materials for the parent area with some concern that the concrete might prove too cold for the children to play on. However, they agreed that using the safety mat material would prove unsuitable due to the inevitable spills that come with children.

"I feel the concrete would last longer than the safety mat," said Sawyer. "Some safety mats still look good at 15 years, but some need to be remilled and recapped."

Supervisor Tyler Zerbe agreed that concrete would be better.

"I think the concrete would be better with the food," he said. "I don’t want that on a safety mat surface."

With the approval of supervisors, Sawyer will now begin to collect pricing for consideration as early as the next supervisors meeting.

Supervisors also continue to debate the question of Electronic Variable Messaging Signs or EVMS. The growth in use of this technology within the township has prompted leaders to carefully consider the size parameters, locations and even the rate at which their messages can be changed.

It’s a complex issue and supervisors are sorting through all considerations in draft regulations pertaining to EVMS.

An EVMS is a sign where the message copy includes characters, letters or illustrations that can be changed or rearranged electronically from a remote location without touching or physically altering the primary surface of the sign.

Supervisors considered the first draft of regulations, which would dictate precisely where such signs could be used in relation to adjoining residential or commercial properties. The regulations would also specify how bright signs could be, what size they could be and how often the messages could change. Draft language called for messages to change nor more often than once every hour. Supervisors feel that may be a bit excessive and will reconsider. The main concern is the level of distraction such signs have been to motorists. The goal is to not have more than one change from the time the sign comes into view until the motorist has effectively passed the sign.

The zoning hearing board, local and county planning commissions have also been a part of the process of working through the issue.

"I think it will be interesting to see if (the zoning board) ultimately goes on lot size or building size to settle this," said Zerbe.

Chairman of the board of supervisors, Clark Stauffer, said that staff needs to give consideration and consider frontage, lot size and building size.

Sawyer noted that one nearby municipality has a formula accounting for all factors in determining what was allowable on a case-by-case basis.

In the end, the draft was sent back to zoning to consider the comments and concerns the supervisors gave to Sawyer.

For additional information on Ephrata Township, visit their website at ephratatownship.org.

About Ephrata Review