What to do with skateboard park

By on June 6, 2012

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

When Ephrata Borough Council approved the final plans for renovating the community pool complex, part of that plan included the relocation of the skateboard park which had been located under a roofed section behind the pool house.

Now council must decide exactly where that new location should be.

Council members discussed the matter at Monday night’s working session with no one sight decided. Mayor Ralph Mowen as well as other council members indicated that a number of different possibilities were discussed with four rising to the top of the short list. But with each of the possible final locations posing different challenges, the decision is not going to be easy or quickly made.

Option one would be to permanently move the park to the Irene Avenue playground area. Option two would relocated it to the lower end of the pool parking lot, with a third option being to locate it next to the sand volleyball court which is located between the pool and the American Legion parking lot. Council also discussed the possibility of locating the skate park at the lower end of the Ephrata Public Library lot.

The budget for the new skate park is $50,000 which includes a new 60 x 120 cement pad with an eight-foot tall fence and two gates. Plans called for the new park to be built during fiscal year 2014 and not during 2012 or 2013. But hearing from local young people and witnessing the downsides of not having such a location in place, council is considering moving forward with this sooner rather than later.

"We are having a horrendous problem with kids in the street without the skate park for them to go to," said Mowen. "Right now we have nowhere for them to go. This is a severe problem."

Mowen noted in particular kids coming down Irene Avenue riding skate boards and scooters on the street and ignoring traffic signs such as stop signs. Mowen is concerned about the obvious safety issues of such behavior.

Committee member Anthony Kilkuskie said that the location near the volley ball court was favored but had not yet been chosen. One concern with this location is the close proximity to homes located along Vine Street which may not be as enthusiastic with the extra foot traffic and noise such a park might bring. Property owners would be contacted to poll their thoughts on the matter prior to a final decision.

The other three locations, however, each pose concerns of their own. For example, locating the park at the lower end of the pool parking lot could mean it would be under water several times a year after storms similar to the ones that passed through the area this past weekend. The Irene Avenue location is seen as less ideal because of the fact it is not as centrally located for the majority of borough young people to be able to utilize it. With a ball field and playground already located in the area, concerns that already exist about pedestrian safety would only grow significantly with the skate park added. And while every effort to locate the skate park out of the flood plane would be taken, there were concerns about locating the skate park that close to the public library. In addition, there seemed to be agreement that locating it at a central location and in concert with other recreational venues would be the best.

"Kids know that if they are caught skating on the street they will lose their board," added Mowen. "It was just better when we could redirect them to the skate park. We did not have an issue when we had the skate park."

Council member Tom Reinhold agreed, adding that the police would not have as easy access to the park if it were located at the library location.

Reinhold noted a need to get this project moving. However, realizing that with a budget of $50,000 the project would need to be placed for bid, slowing down the process considerably and making it highly unlikely a new skate park would be opened during the 2012 season. Borough manager Bob Thompson suggested that even if a location had been approved at Monday night’s meeting, it would be August until council could be in a position to award the bid with construction beginning this fall at the very earliest.

In the end, council agreed that further discussion was necessary before moving the discussion forward.

"We deserve to give this a good outing," added Kilkuskie. "Making this public that we are considering this and give the public some time to weigh in is only appropriate. This is a major decision and expenditure of $50,000 for something that could become an empty slab if the location did not work out."

The borough will advertise the next committee meeting and encourage the public to attend either the committee or borough council meetings to provide their feedback on the possibilities.

In other council news, members discussed the possibility of reducing office staffing by 15 hours per week. According to budget and finance committee chair Vic Richard, a staff opening was created when someone was promoted from within the office. Rather than fill that new position with another full-time staffer, the committee is considering filling it with a part-time position. This move would also change the hours the business office would be open to the public. Currently the hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Under consideration are new hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Richard stated that many other municipalities follow similar if not further reduced schedules.

To further support the effort to reduce staffing, council is considering ways to reduce the time required to process borough customer payments via phone. At this point borough staff process approximately 100 such transactions per month, each taking between eight and 10 minutes per transaction. Outsourcing these transactions would free up staff time.

The combination of measures could save the borough approximately $20,000 per year. The borough office manager has been active in and supportive of the changes, although the non-uniformed employees union would also need to be consulted prior to a change being made. Thompson said he felt that the changes would create more staff flexibility around vacations and absence, yet the work load of filling a full-time position with a part-time position would be alleviated by outsourcing credit card payments and slightly adjusting the hours of the office.

***

At last month’s council meetings:

Ephrata Borough’s main vendor for electrical power, AMP Ohio is asking borough council to consider investing a very small amount of their portfolio of electric power portfolio in renewable energy, namely the Blue Creek Wind Project.

By all accounts, the move would not necessarily make market sense in that wind power may cost a bit more than power generated through other means. However, it would be more a matter of policy to indicate in a tangible way the borough’s commitment to renewable energy sources. Further, while the inclusion of renewable energy in the power portfolio is not currently mandated, it is believe such a mandate may…or may not become a reality in the not too distant future.

Council members were presented with two arguments in favor of such a project and one against.

Not only would participation in the Blue Creek project speak to borough policy with regard to renewable, it would also put the borough in a prime position should such a mandate come forward. This would prove beneficial to the borough at that point because a mandate would flood the market with other municipalities looking to get into such projects, thus potentially driving up the costs.

The borough had hired Garrett Cole to review such projects. Cole issued a report on Blue Creek since the last Municipal Enterprises Committee.

According the report, Cole said it would amount to a policy decision by council whether or not to support green energy. If the borough would choose to participate it would do so in the 100 to 300 mega watt range over a 10-year period at a cost of $35 per megawatt hour. This would be less than the current market cost, but over time is expected cost more than the projected amount.

"If we want to adopt this, it would be a policy, not necessarily an economic consideration to say we wan to support green energy," said committee chair Anthony Kilkuskie. "And with wind it would be a ‘take and pay’ type of program meaning we would only pay for what we consume. If we wait to do this until it becomes a mandate the resources would be more expensive because everyone would be moving to get it."

But whether or not this will ever become a mandate is anyone guess at this point.

Borough manager Bob Thompson pointed out that currently the borough already purchases a limited amount of green renewable energy which it sells to about 19 customers within the borough who prefer to purchase green energy. He also pointed out what a small component of the borough’s overall electrical portfolio would be affected regardless of council’s ultimate decision.

In other borough council news, members will be asked to approve a plan to replace part of the HVAC system at the Ephrata Public Library. The library was served by three HVAC units and only one was working at the time. The total projected cost of the project, which includes engineering fees and the bid and alternates, is $257,050.

"This project is supported, in part, through a $50,000 grant with the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, Department of Education, with funds provided from the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund, " explained the borough’s Nancy Harris.

A system failure last summer prompted diagnostics on the several-year-old system. While the original 2012 budget set aside $133,000 this year and $150,000 next year for the project, council will be asked to approve the complete project immediately.

Thompson explained that while doing the entire project in 2012 would dip into the reserve fund by approximately $143,000 at the end of fiscal 2012, by the end of fiscal 2012 the reserve fund would actually be up by $25,000 due to savings realized doing it all at one time.

"What we are saying is that since we have the reserve funds we should utilize them to save money in the longer term," added Thompson. "If we did not have reserve money, I would be saying ‘no’ to this but we have the funds so lets us them to our advantage."

According Harris, "The project will begin no later than June 1, 2012 and should be completed within six weeks — weather permitting. This is one of the busiest libraries in the county so we are trying to get this project accomplished as soon as possible."

Also with regard to the library, council will be asked to approve work to the walkway which crosses the library parking lot. Concerns have been raised that certain portions of that walkway could present a tripping hazard. If approved, A-Z Home Improvement would be hired as the low bidder to level off the walkway at a cost of $1,250.00.

The Highway Committee will seek approval to hire DE Gemmel of Red Lion to provide and install performed thermoplastic pavement markings for the cost of $124,092.00.

It will also seek to award a contract to low bidder Martin Limestone in the amount of $93,661 for milling and overlay of South State Street from Old Mill Road to Reading Road.

The Highway Committee will also recommend council approve the request from the Ephrata Farmers Day Association to hold the annual Ephrata Fair from Sept. 24-29. It will further recommend the request for sleeves to be installed on overhead wires along Main Street between Park Avenue and Church Avenue be denied. Thompson explained that such requests have been turned down in the past. The use of the sleeves would come into play should there be a need for utility worker but presented no risk to fair patrons.

"This is not a matter of code," explained Thompson. "This is a protection measure for crews working on the wires but not as a protection of the public. This request has been turned down in the past."

For additional information on Ephrata Borough, visit www.ephrataboro.org. Gary P. Klinger welcomes your comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail at klingerglobal@gmail.com. More BOROUGH, page A23

About Ephrata Review