Secret visitor gives Akron Borough $150,000 check

By on October 23, 2019

 Wrote ‘truck’ on memo line after asking manager what was needed

The big news at the Oct. 14 Akron council meeting was the story of the man who walked into borough hall the week before and offered manager Sue Davidson a check for $150,000.
It was an out-of-the-blue donation and Davidson was caught a bit off guard. When the man asked if the borough needed anything, she said equipment. What kind of equipment, the man wanted to know.

“A truck?” Davidson said.

And so the man wrote “truck” on the check’s memo line, got into his car and drove away. Davidson said he gave no indication that he wanted any kind of recognition for his donation. Unless he comes forward in a public way, neither Davidson or any other borough official will reveal his identity.

There was some discussion at the council meeting about whether or not the windfall could be used for some other purpose. But with “truck” right there on the check, the borough is shopping for a new dump truck to replace a 2005 rusty Ford with 19,000 hard miles and which, by some accounts, was never quite up to some of the tasks it was asked to do…particularly plowing snow.
2020 budget

Another big discussion item was the 2020 budget, which is in the early stages of development. Police chief Tom Zell believes the borough needs another officer. The force now consists of five full-time officers and two part-timers. Zell would in particular like more overnight coverage. Council President John Williamson said he discussed the matter with the chief, and believes he made a good case for expanding the force. It would add $100,000 to the annual budget, which would call for a tax increase on top of the 30 percent increase levied on the town’s citizens last year.

Williamson said he has discussed the issue with a number of residents, the majority of whom were in favor of a tax hike to pay for enhanced police protection.

Williamson said he’d like the budget committee to develop two proposed budgets, one with and one without the added police expense.

Mayor John McBeth commented on the current budget, and asked if there had been an accounting of how (last year’s) 30 percent increase had been used. Council’s finance chair Tom Murray, Sr., said he would prepare an audit of the borough’s books to show how the increase had been used.

Walnut Street

The ongoing Walnut Street sidewalk and curb issue was brought up by members of the audience. Davidson said she expects all the concrete work to be done before the end of October. Asked this week if the street would be repaved before the end of the year, she said it would not. It will have to wait until spring because local asphalt plants are shutting down for the season. She said the stone-filled trenches on both sides of the street will be temporarily patched.

Davidson said Arro Consulting engineering firm will not pay for the rework. At the council meeting, Williamson said the borough would seek redress from its own insurance company through the borough policy’s errors and omissions clause.

In other sidewalk news, Akron Mennonite Church leaders were at the meeting to request a waiver of a sidewalk requirement because they want to build a path away from the road. The church members at the meeting said a macadam path away from the road would be safer, less steep, and more in keeping with the nature preserve they would like to see on their property.

The matter was tabled for consideration at a later meeting.

Former council member Jeff Shirk said he thought the church had an excellent idea that made perfect common sense. He then brought up the matter of Front Street, which is due for repaving in 2020. Front Street residents have been informed that they need curbs and sidewalks installed before the repaving is done. Front Street residents will have a legitimate gripe, Shirk said, because the rail trail that parallels the street, is ADA compliant and is perfectly suitable for pedestrian traffic.

Other business
•Council went into executive session after the regular meeting was over to discuss two personnel matters. Returning after a short interval, they returned to report that they had discussed changes to the non-uniformed employee handbook recommended by the borough’s labor lawyer. They voted to adopt the changes. The second matter was a letter received by the borough from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. That union is seeking to represent the borough’s four-person public works department. Council took no action on the letter.

•Tenth Street residents aired their concerns about the number of leaves that accumulate on their street every fall. One resident said she could load her pickup truck three times a week and dispose of them at $15 a load. John Williamson expressed sympathy for their plague of leaves, noted that it was a neighborhood problem, and said the borough would look into possible solutions.

•Council accepted a resignation letter from Keith Landis, who had served on that body for two-and-a-half years. They plan to appoint a replacement at the Oct. 28 meeting, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. in borough hall. Williamson urged anyone who might be interested in the position to attend the meeting.

•Williamson is working on a grant request to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. If the $107,500 request is granted, the funds would be used for work on a 500-foot section of the unnamed stream that runs on the north side of Roland Park. Grant money could also be used for work on a rain garden behind borough hall. Williamson said the grant would be contingent on receiving 30 percent in matching funds.

•Mayor John McBeth reported that he and other mayors are doing what they can to encourage the state legislature to legalize the use of radar for speed enforcement by Pennsylvania’s municipal police. State police have been using radar for decades. Mcbeth said Pennsylvania is the only state out of the 50 United States that does not allow local police to use radar.

•McBeth also gave a sales pitch for this year’s Christmas cards from the Historical Society of the Cocalico Valley. The cards feature two snowy scenes of Roland Park, both of which were taken by Akron photographer Donald Reese.

Holiday decorating contest

Darryl Witmer, council’s community and special relations chair, said there will be a Christmas decorating contest this year for borough residents. Decorated homes will be judged in three categories: most beautiful, best use of lights, and most entertaining. Contact borough hall if you would like to register your house.

Dick Wanner is a reporter/photographer for The Ephrata Review. He can be reached at rwanner.eph@lnpnews.com. 

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