Ephrata mayor advocates for more trees in borough

By on January 23, 2019

Keeping the community of Ephrata beautiful by planting more trees is a commitment that’s important to Ephrata’s Mayor Ralph Mowen, he told borough council on Jan. 14.

At borough council’s voting session, Mowen read an Arbor Day proclamation signed by the mayor that not only celebrated last year’s Arbor Day celebration, but urged residents to plant more trees.

“I get very disturbed when I see healthy, beautiful trees getting cut down for no reason,” Mowen said. “I’ve seen so much of that over the past few months and it’s very stressful. People have no love for trees.”

The mayor’s proclamation praised last year’s event, which took place April 27, and also notified residents that a similar celebration of nature will take place this coming spring. The borough’s shade tree commission was largely responsible for the 2018 Arbor Day event, Mowen said, which included a video program that detailed the importance of trees, and several trees being planted in the borough.

“It will happen again this April and will also include some tree planting,” Mowen said. Borough President Susan E. Rowe told Mowen she felt much the same about the need for trees in the borough.

“We need to remember how much they do provide to us,” Rowe said.

Mowen also told the council the history of Arbor Day, which goes back to 1872 when a man named J. Sterling Morton proposed to the Nebraska Board of Agriculture that a special day be set aside for the planting of trees. That state’s agriculture board agreed, and on the first Arbor Day, more than a million trees were planted in Nebraska, Mowen said.

“Arbor Day is now observed throughout the nation and the world,” Mowen said. In Mowen’s proclamation, he noted that trees reduce the erosion of topsoil by wind and water, lower heating and cooling costs when planted near homes, moderate the temperature, clean the air, produce oxygen and provide habitat for wildlife.

As a renewable resource, trees are used for paper, wood to build homes, fuel, and innumerable other products, he said. Trees in the borough increase property values, enhance the economic vitality of business areas, and beautify the entire community, the proclamation stated.

“I urge all citizens to plant and care for trees, to promote the well-being of this and future generations,” Mowen said.

The meeting’s municipal moment was provided by Andrea Glass, president of the Ephrata Performing Arts Center.

“I want to share our important work with you, share our goals for 2019, and let you know about the challenges we’re facing,” Glass said. “We’re really proud of our recent season.”
2018 was one of EPAC’s most successful seasons ever, both artistically and financially, Glass said. Referring to the Ephrata Development Organization, Glass said EPAC also plays a part in the community’s renewed focus on economic development.

“Our theater touches the lives of many people right here in our community,” Glass said. “We’re passionate about bringing the arts to Ephrata.” The EPAC theater can seat 294 patrons, she said, and this past year, EPAC had put on eight major productions.

There have been 6,500 visits per month to the group’s website and they have about 6,000 followers on Facebook, she said. The Center also took home 13 “Broadway World” awards for their productions, Glass said. The EPAC organization is funded by donations, grants, and corporate sponsors, and this year, is hoping to raise $300,000 for improvements that include lobby upgrades and lighting upgrades.

Glass thanked the borough council for the community funding they received. This year, a strategic planning task force will be formed to help with goals and funding, Glass said. Glass said many of their productions are intended to broaden the perspective of the audience.

“We are always proud to stand behind theater that matters,” Glass said. The group’s “EPAC on the Edge” will be back for its third year, Glass said, and will include a feature focused on the LGBT community.

“We are producing theater that matters for many different people,” Glass said.

The organization’s “Kids For Kids” productions have plenty of impact on the youngsters of the community, Glass said, and involve about 500 school-age children. The youngsters’ productions always sell out quickly, she added. A new karaoke event is scheduled for the fall, Glass said.

“This is a great way for them to experience the theatrical process,” Glass said. “We are committed to serving all the citizens of the borough.”

Bob Checchia, vice-president of EPAC, and head of maintenance for the group, also addressed council members. Recent HVAC upgrades have been completed, Checchia said, so that theater-goers will see a major difference in the temperature of the theater, and lobby bathrooms are also being upgraded.

“We’re trying to stay ahead of an older building,” Checchia said. “It’s a great building; it’s our greatest resource and it’s going to take a lot of money to maintain. “We not only want to put on a show that will bring people to Ephrata, but we want to have a building that will stand out,” he added. “We want to maintain it to the best of our ability.”

The building is functioning mechanically, Checchia said, but needs upgrades to the basement area and classrooms. Through the borough’s grant, EPAC hopes to add new flooring, he said.

Mayor Mowen said he has been an EPAC subscriber for the past six years and is always appreciative of the performances.

“My wife and I try not to miss any; the performances are second to none,” Mowen said. “They do an outstanding job.” Councilman Ricky Ressler added that he is also impressed with the quality of the EPAC performances.

In another matter, for the new year council ratified the by-laws and rules of order with no revisions.
Mayor Mowen shared the results of the recent fund-raising campaign for the fire companies in the borough, saying he was disheartened by the poor results.

Only 16.1 percent of residents and businesses gave a donation this year, Mowen said. While historically not a high figure, donations had been around 25 percent in recent years.

“The fire companies struggle to get money to operate,” Mowen said. “I can’t believe this amount of people don’t feel it’s necessary to give money to those who are protecting them, who go out any time of day or night, in any kind of weather.”

The total for donations for the fire companies this year was $66,000, Mowen said.

Of about 5,300 residents, only 950 made a donation, and of 438 commercial properties, only 59 gave a donation. In answer to a question about the borough’s solar project, Borough Manager D. Robert Thompson said he believes the solar panels will be operational by the end of March.

Marylouise Sholly is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review. 


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