EASS proposes plan to help with electric bills

By on March 13, 2019

Earlier this month, as temperatures hovered in the teens, the Ephrata Area Social Services (EASS) agency asked Ephrata Borough Council to consider the EASS plan to let people know they can get help with their electric bill.

The service organization is proposing the inclusion of a flyer to residents who are receiving delinquent notices or even disconnection notices about their electric utilities bill in order to let them know that help may be available.

EASS Director Joy Ashley attended the council meeting March 4 to lend support to the proposed plan.

The flyer, outlining the services and programs of the EASS, would not be included in all electric bills; only those bills that are delinquent.

The flyer will include contact information so customers may call EASS if they are having difficulty paying their power bill. In 2018, EASS provided financial assistance to people experiencing difficult times in the amount of $28,889, with $11,224 of that amount going to the borough for help in paying customer electric bills, according to Ashley’s report.

Ephrata Area Social Services is a part of the HUB, a group of service organizations that will be quartered in offices in the Ephrata Area Public Library’s Exploratorium when the building renovations are complete.

“Right now, some people have to travel to Lancaster for their services,” said council member Linda Martin. When the Northern Lancaster County HUB services are in place, fewer people will have to travel out of the area to receive help from human service agencies.

Currently, the EASS office is on State Street, where the agency provides a food bank, clothing bank, and financial assistance for people who meet the qualifying criteria. Specifically, the HUB requested permission of the borough to add a flyer to late notices issued for electric utilities.

The service organizations that comprise the HUB would like to catch the problem before electric service is discontinued.

In addition to the flyer apprising people of potential help from EASS, all tenants receiving the flyer would also be notified that a letter would be sent to their landlord. Generally, disconnections will occur the end of March, it was noted.

“This is a way to let people know there could be assistance out there,” said Martin, a member of the Budget and Finance Committee. “The flyers would basically say ‘please call EASS if you’re having trouble paying your bill;’ it’s a way to connect people to services and programs.” In another matter, Martin, who is chairman of the Community Services Committee, told council of the possibility of a mountain bike trail being added to a local park.

Representatives of the Susquehanna Area Mountain Bike Association (SAMBA) recently did a presentation to the Community Services Committee, outlining tentative plans for a mountain bike trail in Heatherwood Park.

The mountain bike association is prepared to make a cut-out through the wooded area to make a small bike trail of a few miles, as well as a “tot lot” for very young riders. The park is adjacent to the brickyard in the borough.

“It’s a public park, but it’s under-utilized,” Martin said. “It has some low-lying swampy areas, but you can walk through it. You can see there’s potential if you clean it up and get rid of the trash.”
The park property abuts on property owned by Councilman Ricky Ressler, who said he was all for the idea.

Because the area is close to the rail trail and somewhat secluded, occasionally unsavory activity has been known to occur in the area. Ressler said the mountain bike trail would be a good alternative.

“It’s exciting to me if we can have a more wholesome activity going on there,” Martin said, adding that the economic impact would probably be favorable.

However, the bike trail has a long way to go before it becomes reality. After the presentation by the SAMBA, the committee agreed the idea has potential.

“It’s being proposed, but it’s still in the discussion stages,” Martin said. “The committee decided we’d like to pursue this.”

The borough’s solicitor will be asked to draw up a memorandum of understanding since the land in question is borough property.
Much still has to be decided.

“If they’re creating trails, who is going to maintain the trails? Do taxpayers pay for this?” Martin asked. Even if the mountain bike association agrees to do maintenance, everything must be in writing to make sure the borough is protected from liability, Martin said.Even after the borough’s solicitor and SAMBA’s attorney draw up all necessary paperwork, the committee will look at the plans before they go to council for a vote.

“It’s not ready to roll out yet,” Martin said. “But we think it would be a win-win for so many people.”

In another matter, the Public Safety Committee will recommend that council approve the Middle Creek Search and Rescue urban setting training exercise on May 5 in Ephrata.

This is a canine rescue service, Police Chief William Harvey told the council, and members will go through different areas of the borough, with canine teams setting up scenarios for rescue situations.

Marylouise Sholly is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review. 

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