East Cocalico Township manager submits resignation

By on June 28, 2019

East Cocalico Township supervisors accepted the resignation of their township manager at their June 20 meeting.

Scott Russell, who had held the job for more than two years, will leave his post on Aug. 30.
“I can’t say I was caught off guard,” said supervisor Douglas Mackley. “There’s a lot of pressure. Scott is here for meetings a lot of evenings and on weekends. I don’t most people realize what is involved in being a township manager. You don’t leave this building and then forget about it. It’s like being the chief of police. They’re on-call 24/7.”

The township plans to hire an interim manager until a replacement for Russell can be found.
“We offered the position internally but we didn’t have any good results, so we’re going to look outside,” Mackley said.

In other news the township’s redesigned website went live June 24. Created by Civic Plus, which has worked with various local municipalities on their websites, the new site will be accessible not just by computers, but also by smart phones and tablets. The previous website could not be used on cell phones.
Four months went into the planning for the new site, Russell said, with a focus on making it simple and friendly for residents seeking township news and information. Among its features are two rows of tabs to access information on such things as Water/Sewer, Codes and Ordinances, Stoney Pointe Park, Tax Collection, Minutes & Agendas, Report A Concern and Sign up for E-Alerts. There is also easier access to important township related news, a volunteer section, legal notices such as rezoning requests, and residents and business pages listing applicable information. All boards and committees are listed, along with police contact information.

A monthly calendar appears with township meeting dates high-lighted.

“The goal of the board was to have a much more interactive website that would allow better use on people’s cell phones and tablets,” Russell said. “Also we wanted a website that was much more intuitive and where people could easily extract information.”

“This website will be much more timely in regards to what’s important in the township than our previous website was,” said supervisor Romao Carrasco.

Also at the June 20 meeting, the board dealt with an issue a lot of municipalities wish they had; a huge cash windfall. Two major real estate deals, including the recent sale of the mammoth Super Value distribution center to Acme Markets, resulted in large-scale transfer taxes flowing into the township coffers, giving East Cocalico a budget surplus of $659,032.13. Because of that, the supervisors rescinded a budgeted transfer from its capital reserve to its general fund of $118,240 that was to cover an anticipated shortfall that is no longer a concern. In addition, the supervisors voted to transfer $500,000 from the general fund into a restricted account to be used exclusively for roadway paving that Russell said was “to address documented future residential roadway maintenance” for the next five years.
Russell noted that over the last two years, the township has had to pull funds from its capital reserve to the general fund to cover budgetary shortfalls.

“This more than makes up for those transfers,” he said.

Later in the meeting the supervisors balked at reimbursing a request from Reamstown Ambulance for $25,295.70. The board does not have a problem with the amount; they have budgeted some $96,000 earmarked to help keep the EMS service solvent. The problem was a lack of details in the request.
The bill submitted for reimbursement was from Ephrata Community Hospital to cover services amounting to $18,858.68 and salaries amounting to $6,437.02. The reimbursement request, said Carrasco, lacked sufficient detail on which to write a township check.

“All we have is two line items on a bill and a copy of a check,” Carrasco said. “I personally believe that it’s irresponsible for me to do that. We need, as a bare minimum, a copy of the contract between Reamstown EMS and WellSpan.”

He said he has several questions and “those questions have not been answered.”
Mackley concurred, saying that the said state auditors are “very detailed” and “will try to pin you down on details.” As a result, the township will need to present that contract to the auditors.
“We’re willing to pay,” Mackley said. “But I’m not about to just write a check when someone says ‘we need money.’ I want to be able to justify it the auditor.”

He acknowledged that the township will support Reamstown Ambulance as plans proceed in separating the EMS portion from the Reamstown Fire Company, but that the board has a financial responsibility to the taxpayers.

“I personally do not believe that we can write that check until we have a copy of that contract,” Mackley said.

In recent months the township has been pushing for a separation of the two Reamstown emergency groups.

“Most of the other ambulance services around that were associated with fire companies have become their own entity,” Russell said after the meeting. “What the board says is we agree to fund EMS but we want it to become a separate entity.”
He said there has been “push back” of late from Reamstown Fire.

“It’s an on-going discussion,” Russell said.

The supervisors also voted to accept a deal with Land Studies of Lititz in connection with the Reamstown Park Streambank Stabilization plan. Among the goals are ways to stabilize bank erosion through bank grading and vegetation. The $45,000 cost will come from state Growing Greener Grant funds.
Larry Alexander is a freelance columnist based in Ephrata. He is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He can be contacted at larry2851@yahoo.com.

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