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Borough council asked to contribute $3,000 to help Emmaus businesses

By Randy Kraft, WFMZ.com Reporter, RKraft@wfmz.com
Published On: Jul 16 2013 05:36:25 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 16 2013 10:18:36 AM CDT
Emmaus Borough Council
EMMAUS, Pa. -

Emmaus Borough Council is being asked to contribute $3,000 to help promote businesses in the community through an advertising campaign, even though that request was rejected several weeks ago.

On Monday night, Teri Madison, executive director of Emmaus Main Street Partners, asked council to revisit the request first submitted in April “so we can better help the businesses in Emmaus thrive and prosper and hopefully expand as well.”

While Madison expanded on the original request by providing a written proposal on how the money will be used, two of the seven council members made it clear they again intend to reject it.

Madison described it as a partnership between the borough and the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. The chamber will provide a $3,000 grant if the borough will match it with another $3,000.

She said that $6,000 will be used to market Emmaus businesses.

Council member Michael Waddell still wanted to know: “What’s our return on this investment?”

Madison admitted the borough might not immediately see any tangible benefits, “but if we can keep our businesses here it does benefit you” through increased tax revenue.

She said council members know a lot of Emmaus businesses are struggling right now and do not have the advertising dollars they need “to keep their business afloat.”

Madison noted Emmaus had a very high vacancy rate before the inception of the Main Street program nearly 20 years ago.

Even now, she said, “It’s a daily struggle for us to make sure our businesses stay here. And we work on filling the holes that are already here.

“The idea is to give these businesses a boost, a hand-up, to help them stay here, keep them going and keep the community thriving.”

Based on figures Madison provided to council, the full cost of the promotional project is $6,500 -- $2,000 for a TV commercial that will be done by Emmaus-based FireRock Productions, $2,500 for airtime by VIA Media, $1,500 in print advertising with three weekly papers of the East Penn Press chain and $500 for one year of on-screen advertising by Emmaus Theatre.

She said most of those companies are offering discounts, with FireRock and Via absorbing more than half of their costs to help the project.

She explained the borough’s contribution is needed this year.

Said council member Brent Labenberg: “This is money that was not budgeted. Where’s it going to come from? We all struggled to come up with a budget this year and we cut programs left and right, including positions. We’re going to spend money we don’t have? I’m not willing to do that.”

Waddell recommended the request be reviewed by council’s budget and finance committee, indicating there have been changes – “pluses and minuses” since the budget was passed in December.

Council member Brian Holtzhafer, who chairs that committee, said the Main Street funding request will be discussed at its next meeting at 3:30 p.m. July 23.

“We have to talk about it, we owe them that,” said Holtzhafer, but he added: “We already denied them once. I am not voting a second time to give them money.”

At council’s June 19 meeting, Holtzhafer reported his committee voted to deny Main Street Partners’ $3,000 request. The rest of council apparently made no attempt to reverse that committee’s action.

In a related issue, Madison said a recent survey done on community perceptions of the borough’s business district showed four major areas of concern: the hours businesses are open, the mix of businesses, the lack of nightlife and inadequate or improperly marked parking.

She indicated that before the survey was done, all those issues already were included in Main Street Partners’ five-year plan and all will be addressed. She called the results “an indication that we’re on the right track, we’re reading our community correctly.”

Triangle Park

Also during the meeting, some council members lamented that the sheen literally is off Triangle Park in the center of town.

Labenberg said the brick-like surface in the park was shiny and colorful when it first opened, but has turned dull and gray. His public works committee will look into it.

Waddell said: “I also was surprised that the sheen that was on those bricks in 2009 is pretty much gone.” He wants to know if any warranty exists to ensure that the appearance of the patterned concrete that looks like brick should still look as it did four years ago. If not, Waddell asked: “What can we do to make it look better? It doesn’t look like it should look. The red that was put on to make it look like brick is gone. It looks like concrete.”

Labenberg said something also should be done about people playing in the park’s fountain on hot days. He has fewer problems with people putting their feet in the fountain. He said the fountain initially had colored lights to illuminate it at night, but the colored pieces got broken all the time and became too expensive to replace.

“That’s because people are in there dancing around in the fountain.”

Council President Lee Ann Gilbert said borough police do tell people to get out of the fountain.

Waddell said two signs advising that dogs are not allowed in the Triangle can’t be seen until people already are in the Triangle. “That’s not right.”

And Labenberg said just before the council meeting began, “two skateboarders were jumping up and grinding on the fountain.” He said enforcing rules against skateboards and bicycles in Triangle Park should be a greater priority than people walking their dogs in the park, because bikers and skateboarders cause more damage.

Other business

Also during the meeting:

* Council unanimously agreed to spend $19,500 to have emergency work done on at a home at 402 Broad St., which is privately-owned but vacant. The place is in such bad shape that the borough considers it a public safety hazard and the owners had been fined many times. The roof will be replaced, as will any rotting wood, and the porch will be rebuilt to retain the historical integrity of the house.

“We will be able to recover that money through the lien process,” said borough manager Shane Pepe. He said tearing down the house would cost $26,000. He confirmed that litigation could result in the borough owning the property.

* The third annual Emmaus Community Day will be noon to 8 p.m. Saturday in Emmaus Community Park. Council member Wesley Barrett said it will be the biggest Community Day yet, with 19 craft vendors, three food vendors and 38 participating organizations. He added “the new community park field” also will be dedicated during that event.

* After getting complaints about dog and geese feces at Furnace Dam Park from a resident who recently rented a picnic pavilion there, council will look into the possibility of no longer charging to rent the pavilion in that park or finding an affordable and effective way to get rid of the geese. Barrett said many people would want to rent that pavilion if they knew the park would be clean. Gilbert suggested not renting that pavilion any more this year, “until we figure out how to get it clean and keep it clean.”

* John Eyer, chairman of the board of the Emmaus Youth Association, was honored as the borough’s 2011 Volunteer of the Year. Council member Nathan Brown praised him for giving his time, effort and even his finances to the community. Eyer said he has been involved with the youth sports association for 32 years. He was presented with a brick that will be installed in his honor in the borough’s Remembrance Garden.

In June, council honored the 2010 and 2012 recipients of the volunteer award, but Eyer could not make that meeting. The award is supposed to be presented annually, but lapsed for a few years.