Putting on the brakes…Trucking practices accelerate citizen ire

By on December 28, 2016

The final West Cocalico Township supervisors meeting of 2016 focused on noisy trucks and farmland practices.

A visiting resident “speaking for many” voiced his concern about truck traffic at the Dec. 20 session.

“We live on South Cocalico Road and there’s an issue that’s getting close to unbearable,” said Ray Prince. “It’s the trucks, not just the quarry trucks, but a lot of others with their jake brakes. There’s no reason for that. Guys don’t know how to drive a truck. There’s no reason for them to do that. If they weren’t going that fast when they crested the hill, they wouldn’t need a jake break. It’s a residential area.”

Supervisor Chairman James J. Stoner expressed his concern on the issue.

“I wasn’t going to say something this evening, but I live on a level road, and this past Sunday, a tractor was headed east and wasn’t going fast, but he had to put the jake brake and every gear he down-shifted on,” he said. “I’m in my house on a Sunday morning and it’s annoying, so I know what you’re talking about. I’m not sure if we have an ordinance on that.”

Prince described the area where the noise and vibrations are most noticeable.

“From the square, to Len Lyn Farms past the fire company,” he said. “They wrap them and climb the hill as fast as they can and then they hit them coming the other way, past Sandy Hill. A lot of them are quarry trucks.”

Prince asked if someone could talk to New Enterprise Stone and Lime quarry in Schoeneck from which many trucks are driving in and out.

Supervisor Ray Burns said there had been at least one complaint of jake brakes in Schoeneck.

“I’m speaking for at least a dozen,” said Prince.

Prince was angry enough to follow one of the trucks.

“We do have a noise ordinance, but it’s something we want to look at and will involve the police department,” said Stoner.

“John Martin’s trucks are quiet, Denver Cold Storage, Fishers trucks are quiet,” said Prince.

“A lot of them are quarry trucks, and if somebody could talk to New Enterprise,” he said, addressing Lt. Thomas Shumaker of the Ephrata Police Department which provides coverage to West Cocalico. “There’s a lot of people really upset about it.”

Shumaker said he would start with the quarry and see if “I can get some voluntary cooperation.”

Everyone at the meeting agreed that “speed has something to do with it.”

“Since it’s been black-topped, people have been picking up their speed, I think we need to look in to that,” said Stoner. “Especially in the residential areas.”

Stephanie Armpriester, municipal outreach coordinator from Lancaster Farmland Trust, also visited the supervisors.

Armpriester presented findings from a two-year project concerning “the township collecting agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) assessment data from all farms in the township.” The project is rooted in the township’s effort to address Chesapeake Bay watershed issues and to address water quality issues in the township.

“There are multiple sources that cause pollution such as industrial waste water run-off that comes from urban and suburban areas,” said Armpriester.

“You have fertilizers that come from residential properties, but also from farms as well. You have urban sewage and residential septics that also contribute to failing septic systems, and also air pollution.”

Armpriester said that farmers are required to have a plan on their property and “there are two plans that are required.”

“One is a conservation plan or an Ag E and S plan,” she said. “They are also required to have a manure management plan or nutrient management plan depending on animal densities. These have been on the books for decades and there really hasn’t been any enforcement associated with these plans, so as part of this project, we are looking at compliance numbers.”

Armpriester admitted that there has been a disconnect between the “people who have plans and what is actually happening on the ground.”

“We are a good middle man on behalf of the township to collect data on behalf of the township,” said Armpriester. “We are not a regulatory agency, we’re not here for enforcement. We are here to collect data and also listen to the concerns farmers have on their property.”

A mission of the Lancaster Farmland Trust is to reduce soil erosion from the property. Armpriester said trust officials want to “look at all the practices that are happening on your farm and try to meet a soil-loss limit.”

West Cocalico Township had a 100-percent participation rate from farmers.

“This was really fantastic,” said Armpriester. “It only shows that farmers are willing to give data when they feel non-intimidated.”

Armpriester described how farms are different in West Cocalico.

“We visit a lot of dairy operations in other townships,” she said. “Here in West Cocalico, we have a lot of poultry operations, hog operations. These are very intensive animal operations.

“Fifty-one percent of farmers in West Cocalico do not have a conservation plan, but it does not mean they’re not implementing BMPs. There are some plans that are out-of-date.

“Sometimes having a third party like Lancaster Farmland Trust to do the face-time with the farmer can be very successful in getting that farmer from a ‘maybe to a yes’.”

Still, there is hesitation in getting farmers to partner with government agencies, especially when they feel the pressure of enforcement.

Supervisor Leon Eby said his farm was not visited for the study and then asked if Lancaster Farmland Trust has a list of the farms which are “not in compliance with the plans.”

“We do,” said Armpriester.

“It can be intimidating to get a visit from anybody on your farm, and on the other side, farmers are feeling pressure for what they’re hearing,” said Armpriester. “It’s important to participate, but we don’t want farmers to feel targeted.”

Michele Walter Fry welcomes your comments at michelewalterfry@gmail.com

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