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Emmaus rejects compost fee refunds for apartment dwellers

By Randy Kraft, WFMZ.com Reporter, RKraft@wfmz.com
Published On: Feb 04 2013 10:42:57 PM CST
EMMAUS, Pa. -

Apartment dwellers in Emmaus may not have any yard waste, because they don’t own yards, but still must pay the new $6 annual fee to help support the borough’s composting center.

An unidentified landlord who owns three apartment units recently complained to borough council that his tenants shouldn’t have to pay the annual fee because they don‘t maintain the yard. He said he does the lawn and shrubbery maintenance so only he should have to pay the fee.

On Monday night, council member Jeffrey Shubzda, who chairs the health, sanitation and conservation committee, told council his committee had reviewed whether it was appropriate for multi-unit residents to pay the $6 fee.

He said his committee voted 3-0 to not offer them refunds of that fee. Voting with him were council members Michael Waddell and Brian Holtzhafer.

Shubzda said the committee decided it would be impossible to determine who uses the compost center and who doesn’t. He said apartment dwellers could have plants that die and wind up there.

Council member Brent Labenberg supported the committee’s recommendation, saying many people in apartments have live Christmas trees that are placed curbside after the holidays and taken to the compost center.

Council took no further action on the recommendation of Shubzda’s committee.

Also during Monday’s meeting, resident Maggie McElroy complained about the “craziness” of driving and parking around St. Ann School at 435 S. 6th St.

McElroy told council she lives near the school and has two small children, so she is concerned about safety.

She said much of the problem involves people dropping off and picking up children before and after school, as well as on Wednesday nights.

She also said: “The parking gets insane.” While acknowledging the school is on a public street, she said residents can’t park near their homes when they come home. She suggested the borough should issue resident-only parking permits for one side of the street.

McElroy also said parking is supposed to be prohibited on one side of a street along the side of the school from 7.am.-4:30 p.m. weekdays, but questioned whether it is enforced because people are parking there.

She said three parking lots are around the Catholic school, but parents pick up children on the street – including at night, when visibility is poor. “You have kids running in the dark.”

She accused parents of driving recklessly, including making U-turns and chewing up curbs. McElroy said other residents living around the school also are unhappy about the traffic situation.

Council vice president Holtzhafer, who chaired the meeting because president Lee Ann Gilbert was absent, referred the matter to council’s public safety committee, which will meet at 3 p.m. Feb. 14.  He suggested McElroy attend that meeting.

In other business, Holtzhafer announced the borough’s plan to deactivate and sell fire alarm boxes hanging on poles around Emmaus has run into some snags.

“It’s a complicated situation, much more complicated than I expected when I first looked at it,” said Holtzhafer. “I thought we could just pull those boxes off the poles, sell them and move on.”

The boxes, called the Gamewell System, hang on about 40 utility poles. Because people carry cell phones that can be used to report emergencies, Holtzhafer said it’s an antiquated system that belongs in a museum, adding residents are surprised to learn it’s still operational.

The complication is that the boxes also are inside seven businesses, including senior citizen housing, and are tied directly into fire suppression/smoke alarm systems of those businesses.

Holtzhafer said those businesses rely on the Gamewell System and he doesn’t want to just cut it off, which could put people in danger.

He said the borough will contact those businesses to see how difficult it will be for them to enter into agreements with private alarm system companies. “We don’t want to eliminate this system until we have a solution for the businesses. We’ll have to give them a time frame.”

Holtzhafer said signals from the boxes go to both the fire department and to Dispatch Answering Service in Emmaus.

 He said the addresses of places with Gamewell boxes are senior housing at 333 and 120 Ridge St., 633, 643 and 659 Broad St., plus General Machine at 302 S. 4th St. and Air Products at 733 Broad St.