New EDO finds a home

By on February 14, 2018

Planned events under the Ephrata Development Organization’s jurisdiction include the Brewfest, Veterans’ Lecture Series, Whistle Stop night markets, Party on the Plaza, Veterans’ Day Luminary Trail, Christmas Tree Lighting, and Jingle Bell Trolley Tour

Last spring, Ephrata Borough proposed the creation of the Ephrata Development Organization through a merger of a number of groups.

The new organization officially landed “on the map” Monday when borough council authorized the lease the offices at the railroad station to the EDO.

In a unanimously vote, council approved the lease with no rent or electric utility fees since the EDO is now the only organization recognized by the borough for economic development.

EDO was initially formed through a merger of four groups, the Ephrata Economic Development Corporation (EEDC), Ephrata Alliance, Downtown Ephrata Inc. (DEI), and Ephrata Borough Chamber of Commerce.

Since the time of the planned merger, the chamber of commerce — which had its offices in the railroad station until the end of January — has withdrawn from the EDO, although the remaining three bodies are moving forward, EDO Chairman, Bob Harter said.

Council’s approval of the building lease is subject to receipt of binding resolutions from the three former volunteer groups.

EDO’s executive director and administrative assistant will have offices in the railroad station building on East Main Street.

Council also granted EDO’s funding request for $158,256.

That request includes $70,995 for salary, payroll tax, and benefits, including for the executive director and administrative assistant; $30,000 for marketing, specifically for a web site and social media set up; $25,000 for a parking study to identify current parking available and parking strategy for new projects such as the Wenger Feed Mill; and general start-up expenses of $32,241.

The EDO’s mission statement looks to assist in the creation, retention, and reinvestment of resources to increase economic opportunities and improve the quality of life for people in the community.

According to the group’s vision statement, they seek to “foster a vibrant, prosperous and growing Ephrata through extraordinary community and economic development.”

In order to meet their goals, the organization also established a structure to include donations, borough funds, sponsorship or membership.

Harter told council about the EDO’s accomplishments to this point.

As a non-profit entity, the EDO has created an interim board and functioning committees, as well as articles of incorporation and bylaws.

The group is in the process of reviewing regulations for banking, insurance, and financial services, securing tax ID’s and submitting IRS applications.

They have also secured approval to begin transferring assets from the EEDC and Alliance.

Committees have also been formed, including an executive and finance committee, community and events, business development, and physical development, which will focus on influencing commercial real estate management and improvement.

Planned events to be under the EDO’s jurisdiction include the Brewfest, Veterans’ Lecture Series, Whistle Stop night markets, Party on the Plaza, Veterans’ Day Luminary Trail, Christmas Tree Lighting, and Jingle Bell Trolley Tour.

After reviewing last year’s community events, EDO members decided to eliminate “Shamrocks and Shenanigans” for 2018.

The EDO has developed an approval process for new community events that includes having a designated person in charge, meeting a ‘break-even’ point, and having enough volunteers and sponsors.

Plans for business development include hosting a forum for borough businesses to discuss what support and resources they would find most useful, and hosting a forum with the Lancaster Economic Development Committee as a networking opportunity.

They may also develop and distribute a survey to business owners for more input.

The EDO wants to make Main Street more amenable to people, wants more people walking on Main Street, would like businesses to be open in the evening, better, more identifiable signs, stronger businesses, and an increase in popular community events.

In a related matter, the council approved a request to hold the annual Brewfest on June 23, subject to a Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board special occasion permit and a certificate of insurance.

The council also approved a request by Kim Malmer to have a 5K race and fun run of one mile or less on Saturday, March 24 in the Lincoln Heights section of the borough.

In other business, borough council granted a request for an extension of time to record the land development plan for the Ephrata Re-Uzit Stores to April 9.

Council President Susan E. Rowe expressed her appreciation to the Pioneer Fire Company, after having attended their annual awards banquet.

“It’s always a pleasure to meet with the members of the Pioneer Fire Company and thank them for their dedication, loyalty and service to our community,” Rowe said.

The borough also presented a formal resolution in opposition to PA House Bill 1620, “Wireless Infrastructure Deployment Bill.”

In part, the resolution reads “Broadband service is critical for economic development, student achievement, quality healthcare, and the efficiency of local government, and so, Ephrata Borough supports the deployment of broadband services,” then explains that a relatively new wireless technology, “distributed antenna systems, “ or DAS, includes the placement of wireless towers and antennae in public rights-of-way.

Because municipalities manage public rights-of-way, by law, including vehicle and pedestrian traffic, and facilities installed by public utilities, the municipalities are responsible for the safety of their people and also have the right to preserve the character of their communities.

According to federal laws, municipalities have the right to regulate the placement and construction of wireless facilities through their local zoning authority, and the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has also issued regulations on how municipalities may regulate placements.

But House Bill 1620 would abolish municipal zoning authority over wireless antennae in rights-of-way and would nearly abolish all municipal authority over wireless towers, placing public safety at risk, according to the resolution.

The public would also be excluded from any say in the approval process of these antennae and towers.

The house bill would also allow wireless contractors to submit up to 50 permit requests in one application and would curtail the time frame for review from 30 days to 10 days, so that municipalities would be unable to perform the reviews in time.

The resolution also states that if the Pennsylvania General Assembly is permitted to abolish municipal rights-of-way authority over wireless facilities now, it could go further by abolishing all municipal authority over the public rights-of-way at another time.

Council adopted the resolution, after expressing the opinion that the bill would not be in the best interests of Pennsylvania.

The resolution will be sent to the borough’s state Representative, state Senator, Governor Tom Wolf, and all members of the House Consumer Affairs Committee, to which HB 1620 has been assigned.

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