Akron council clears a path to the rail trail

By on September 20, 2017

After years of wrestling with the issue of a handicap accessible path from Colonial Drive, through Colonial Park, to the rail trail, Akron Borough Council voted Monday to proceed with the project.

Councilman Tom Murray moved to use pervious concrete to construct the short length of sidewalk at the trail entrance on Colonial Drive. His motion also included the use of pervious asphalt for the path through the park.

Murray wants to use pervious materials because they allow rainwater to pass through the surface, rather than running off. Impervious asphalt and concrete shed water contribute to stormwater runoff challenges. Impervious materials also slow the return of surface waters to underground aquifers.

Mayor John McBeth asked about the cost of pervious compared to impervious. He also asked about the possibility of using asphalt for the sidewalk part of the project.

Murray said the cost difference would have little impact on the final cost of the project estimated at $10,000 to $12,000. Murray also said he has seen every part of the borough, and has never seen an asphalt sidewalk.

The aesthetics of asphalt versus concrete aside, Murray said he would like for the borough to set an example for future paving projects within the borough which, he feels, should be made with pervious materials.

Councilman Nathan Imhoff, who chairs the parks and water committee, had set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for the project. In the five months of its existence, it has raised $1,040. That money will be used to help pay for the work. Jeff Lied, of Melron Industries, has offered to contribute the work of excavating the path, and also to place the stone base, stone for which will be supplied by the borough.

In order to speed up the process, Murray’s motion included authorization for borough manager Sue Davidson to advertise for quotes, choose a contractor or contractors, then proceed with the awarding of contracts and overseeing the work. The access path will meet all requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and is expected to open by the end of this year.

About 16 minutes into the meeting, council adjourned for an executive session to discuss a personnel matter. They reconvened after about 10 minutes to announce they had been discussing the 2018 contract with the borough’s police force. Negotiations between the borough and the Akron police association were to have been completed by Aug. 31. With that deadline passed, the association hired an arbitrator, even though negotiations were going well, according to council President John Williamson. At Williamson’s suggestion, council voted to go through the PA State Association of Boroughs to work with attorney Michael Miller, who will represent the borough’s interests in any negotiations.

During their executive session, council developed a draft plan which they will present to the association. That draft includes a 5 percent pay raise for 2018, with 3 percent raises in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Council proposes to hold copays for health insurance at $45 per two-week pay period for married officers, and $20 for those who are single. The borough will also propose to increase to 10 years the maximum length of time they will pay 60 percent of retired officers’ health insurance premiums. The current maximum is 42 months. Copays would apply to officers who have served the borough for a minimum of 25 years, and would cease when the recipient turns 65.

Williamson pointed out that the borough’s compensation offer is designed to attract and keep a corps of good officers.

Penny Talbert, an Akron resident and also director of the Ephrata Public Library, talked to council about the library’s finances for the coming year. In past years, she said, she has asked municipalities served by the library for a contribution of $5 per citizen. She said she’s observed that local officials weren’t keen on a number that didn’t seem connected to anything concrete. So, she said, she worked to come up with more exact numbers.

Talbert said it costs the library an average of $1.89 for every item circulated, whether it’s a physical book, a downloaded audio book, a video, etc. Akron residents checked out 58,056 items last year for a total cost to the library just shy of $110,000. Talbert broke down the funding per circulated item this way: $0.25 comes from state funds, $0.02 from the county, $1.28 raised by the library itself, and, this year, $0.34 from the borough.

For 2017, the borough contributed $20,000 toward library operations. For 2018, Talbert said she is asking the borough and other library serviced municipalities to contribute $0.41 per circulated item. For Akron, that request would amount to $23,800 for 2018.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Broad Street resident Daryl Witmer said he arranged for the second annual community movie night at the Broad Street park. The showing will start at dusk, close to 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept 23, and the feature will be Herbie the Love Bug.

Proposed changes to the borough’s zoning ordinance will be on the agenda for council’s regular public meeting at borough hall, Monday, Oct. 9, beginning at 7 p.m.

Davidson reported the crumbling steps on the walkway from Main Street to the Broad Street park have been removed, and will be replaced in short order.

Murray said the finance committee will hold a special meeting on Monday, Sept. 18. The parks and water committee, of which he is a member, will also hold a special meeting Wednesday, Sept. 20, to discuss possible projects. Both meetings are open to the public and begin at 7 p.m. in borough hall.

The steering committee working on updating the borough’s 25-year-old comprehensive plan, met Aug. 24 to discuss quality of life issues. The committee will not meet in September due to a conflict with the Ephrata Fair. Its next meeting will be held Thursday, Oct. 26, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Akron fire hall.

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