No tax hike expected in Clay Township

By on November 20, 2019

Even though Clay Township’s 2020 budget is still incomplete, residents have reason to be happy. The township’s financial plan calls for no tax hike, but will remain where it has been since the last countywide reassessment at 1.17 mills.

What’s holding up the budget, township manager Bruce Leisey said at the Nov. 11 meeting, is basically, among a few other things, needed information on several capital improvement projects on tap for 2020, including widening of a stretch of Hackman Road.

“We’re not going to raise taxes, that’s for sure,” Leisey told the board. “It’s just fine-tuning some capital improvements.”

Other items, such as salary adjustments and the police contract, also need to be finalized. This latter could change due to contract negotiations, but Leisey doesn’t expect any major jumps.

“That won’t change more than a few thousand dollars,” he said.

Leisey expects to have all the data he needs in time for the township’s Nov. 26 meeting, when the document will be advertised for inspection. Discussion by the board will take place at the Dec. 10 meeting with final passage at the township’s second meeting, the date for which has not been set since the usual fourth Tuesday is Christmas Eve.

Supervisors support Drug Task Force resolution
Supervisor Gary Landis briefed the board on a resolution approved Nov. 4 at a countywide gathering of county and township officials. The resolution called on the Lancaster County Commissioners “to continue this vital county initiative” and to fully fund the Drug Task Force “in a sustainable manner.” At present, the county pays $100,000 of the task force’s $1.4 million budget. The balance comes from forfeitures from arrests and municipal contributions of $1 per person. Clay’s share in $6,308.

Landis related the heated discussion between the commissioners and District Attorney Craig Stedman, and said the municipalities “do not think the way it’s funded is in the townships’ best interests.”

“This is not a municipal problem,” Landis said. “This is a countywide issue, and therefore should be funded as a countywide issue. It appears as if the commissioners say they have fully funded it, and that it’s always been fully funded. But Stedman indicated that the money that’s been used to fully fund it not only has it been contributions from municipalities directly, but has also comes from one huge forfeiture that happened X number of years ago and that is running out.”

Clay Township fully supports the resolution approved on Nov. 4.

Also at the meeting the supervisors agreed to a letter of support requested by the Ephrata Area Joint Authority to take part in a Clearwell Baffling Project and a second maintenance project, both aimed at promoting “water conservation, increase public safety and bring cost savings to its customers.”

The Clearwell Baffling program is part of a Department. of Community and Economic Development (DCED) small water systems grant program. EAJA is requesting a $130,000 grant that has a 15 percent match on EAJA’s part if they are awarded the grant.

The money being requested through DCED for the maintenance project is an H2O Grant for Water and Sewer Systems. Geared for larger projects, EAJA is requesting $715,000. The grant requires a 50/50 match, leaving EAJA to come up with $357,500, but the grant can be performed over six years. The grant will allow EAJA to replace 2,500 aging commercial water meters in Ephrata and Clay townships where EAJA has experienced an “unaccounted water loss of 20 percent” or about 80.33 million gallons per year, a letter from Ephrata Borough Manager Robert Thompson states.

The new pumps will reduce EAJA’s unaccounted water loss while increasing revenues. EAJA has received support letters from the Lancaster County Planning Commission, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, Ephrata and Clay townships, Ephrata Borough, and the offices of Sen. Ryan Aument and Rep. David Zimmerman.
The new Swedish-made meters, according to Gary Landis who is the township’s representative on EAJA, will be able to monitor the system and “listen down the pipe” to detect sources of water loss.

He said Clay will be a “test site” for these new meters that “listen for leaks.”

Township engineer Bob Lynn said the new meters are extremely sophisticated. They are computerized with no moving parts.

“If somebody has a slow leak, it might not get down to more than a quarter gallon an hour, and a current meter would not be sensitive to that,” Lynn said. “These new meters are.”

“It’s really quite impressive,” Landis said. “I’m very anxious to see just how well they work.”

The deadline for grant submission is Dec 5 and grants will be awarded around the end of the first quarter or 2020.

Also at the Nov. 11 meeting, there was an update on sewer pipe repairs needed in the area of Maurice Drive, Hopeland Road, Maple Street, Matthew Drive and Hannah Drive in the Hopeland area.

A robotic camera sent into the pipes showed images of sagging pipes, cracks in manholes, cracks in pipes that have allowed plant and tree roots to infiltrate, and faulty taps where the homeowners’ sewer lines connect to the township’s. Some of the needed repairs are the township’s responsibility, and Leisey said the new budget reflects costs up to $40,000, although he said that amount “is on the higher side.” However, some repairs will be the homeowners’ responsibilities.

Bids for the project will be opened on Dec 6 and the project awarded on Dec. 9.

Supervisor Keith Martin asked if letters have been sent to the affected homeowners alerting them to the expected costs. Leisey said they’d be sent by the end of the week. Homeowners will have the option of getting their own contractor or piggy-backing on the one hired by the township. However, Leisey said several already know they will be affected after reading about the problems in the newspaper and contacting the township office.

Construction will be at the whim of the weather, Lynn said. If just inserts are required to fix the problems, they could be done anytime. However, if excavation is required, work might be put off until spring.

Problems began in April when a letter from the Department of Environmental Protection was received, stating that, according to the municipality’s annual reports, Clay had exceeded the capacity of a small treatment plant so that it was “hydraulically and organically overloaded.” The excessive flow lasted just one day. The state wanted a Corrective Action Plan.

Larry Alexander is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review. He can be contacted at larry2851@yahoo.com.

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