Twp. supervisors table Comcast agenda…for now

By on September 4, 2019

In the near future, only cable if they’re able.

A Comcast representative, Todd Eachus, told Ephrata Township officials of Comcast’s plan to expand their cable and Internet service throughout the township at Tuesday evening’s supervisors’ meeting.

The township already has a franchise with the cable and Internet company since last year, having introduced Comcast services along the main business corridors through the municipality, like Route 322.

The internet company is now planning to expand into residential developments, beginning with Copperwood Lane in Sycamore Acres, with about 12 more areas to cover.

Eachus, senior director, government and external affairs for Comcast Cable, explained that the company has run into setbacks regarding where to dig to place the infrastructure. Most of the necessary equipment would be underground, with only a pedestal sticking out of the ground. The pedestals are about one-foot square and about 25 inches high. One pedestal generally serves four households, he said.

Comcast would like to place the pedestals in the green strips of grass that run between the curb and the sidewalk, but the township supervisors aren’t sure they approve. Those rights-of-way typically belong to a municipality.

Without that approval, Comcast cable won’t be coming to town.

The supervisors aren’t sure they want pedestals popping up throughout the township’s landscape.

Supervisor J. Tyler Zerbe asked why the equipment couldn’t be flush-mounted, and level with the ground.

Eachus said that wouldn’t work for two reasons; it’s too easy for the connections inside to be flooded, and it’s easier for technicians to find the pedestals if repair work has to be done.

Eachus said the project would involve aerial installations, where the equipment would be attached to poles, and where poles are not available, most of the equipment would be underground.

Township Manager Steve Sawyer noted that Blue Ridge Cable, Windstream phones and PP&L have all their equipment together underground.

“I feel that’s where they (Comcast) need to go,” Sawyer said. “Typically, our right-of-way is six inches to a foot behind the sidewalk and that’s not enough room. I’d like to see the pedestals and any other equipment farther back from the roadway.

“To me, it doesn’t make sense to have these pedestals in the grass strip so close to the roadway,” Sawyer said. “It would be very easy for a car or truck or snowplow to clip them when they’re only an inch behind the curb.”

Eachus said any damage sustained by the pedestals from traffic would be paid by Comcast.

“By its very nature, an underground project is always disruptive,” Eachus said. “The perfect scenario would be to co-locate the pedestals with the other utilities.”

Another problem the company is having, Eachus said, is that property easements don’t transfer to the homeowner, and if that’s the case, the homeowners couldn’t give permission for the pedestals to be placed in their yards.

“If we elect not to put it in the grass strip, what’s the alternative,” asked Chairman Clark Stauffer.

The plan is to ‘plant’ the pedestal in the homeowner’s yard if that’s possible, legally.

Comcast employees have been knocking on doors, asking permission to dig in the near future.

If possible, the pedestals would be located near to a traffic sign or street light, to save some grassy areas.

“Last year Comcast asked for the franchise essentially to do a limited build for the business corridor, but people asked us to do more,” Eachus said. “Our intent is to have service available to every home.

“This is a construction project and we want to do it cleanly and professionally and have happy people willing to buy our services,” Eachus said.

Township Engineer Jim Caldwell weighed in.

“As your engineer, I have concerns about putting another obstruction in the right-of-way, for the safety of pedestrians and motorists,” Caldwell said.

The supervisors tabled the Comcast agenda for now.

In another matter, Todd Shoaf of Pioneer Management LLC represented the Ephrata Mennonite School and displayed their plans for building a new school.

The current school teaches Christian education to about 290 students, Shoaf said, and is located at the intersection of Stevens and Schoeneck roads.

School officials have wanted to expand and accept more pupils but are unable to build on their small property.

The school is planning to buy a 29-acre parcel on land zoned I-2, industrial and institutional.

After purchasing land just up the road, on Stevens Road, the school plans to construct a three-story, 14,952-square-feet building.

A 28,000-square-foot gym/auditorium with 1,000 seats is also on the blueprints.

The sketch plan shows an overall building footprint of 64,886 square feet, including stands at the proposed softball field and two soccer fields.

A greenhouse is also planned and will be located across from the soccer fields.

The plan includes a parking lot for 298 vehicles and several school buses.

When the school is built, officials anticipate an enrollment of 390 students in grades K-to-12, Shoaf said.

No action was needed regarding the school.

In another matter, Sawyer told the supervisors about the Carpenter Road Bridge which recently received an engineering inspection.

The steel bridge, built after Hurricane Agnes drenched the area in 1971, is 45 to 50 years old and not in good shape, Sawyer said.

While the bridge was designated as being able to hold 20 tons, the weight limit was decreased to three tons after the inspection.

Because of that change, the bridge now needs to be inspected annually, he said. Closing the bridge is an option, the state’s engineer said, or the township has to come up with plans for improving the bridge.

The Carpenter Road Bridge is split by three municipalities; Warwick, Clay, and Ephrata townships. Warwick owns 50 percent of the bridge, with Clay and Ephrata each getting 25 percent.

If the municipalities decide to replace the bridge, it would cost about $70,000, Sawyer said.

Very little traffic crosses the bridge, which has about a 35-foot span, Sawyer said.

“The bridge is not up to public transportation,” Sawyer said.

He suggested that the bridge be vacated and closed to traffic.

Three homeowners in the vicinity would be affected by the bridge being closed, including one farmer whose fields are on both sides of the bridge, he said.

“If we would close the bridge, he would be cut off from his fields,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer suggested the bridge be vacated, but the townships build a smaller scale bridge, then turn it over to the farmer for his use.

Once the bridge is vacated, it is no longer open to the public.

Local horse and buggy traffic do use the bridge, Sawyer said, adding that the farmer could give permission to cross the bridge for horse and buggy traffic only.

One reason the buggy traffic uses the bridge is that fewer motorized vehicles take that road, making it a somewhat safer route.

Supervisor Zerbe liked the idea and suggested township staff look into it further.

In another matter, a “Tour DaVita” charity bicycle ride is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 23 and riders will use several roads within the township. Stefan Teichert is the local coordinator of the event.

The TourDaVita isn’t a race, but a chance for riders to give back to the health care community. This year, the ride will benefit “Bridge of Life,” a nonprofit organization working to strengthen health care globally through sustainable programs that prevent and treat chronic disease, according to its website.

The 250-mile course changes each year and riders will be traveling through much of south-central Pennsylvania this year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *