A proposed benefit run to help victims of the March 17 fatal fire in Emmaus was met with some initial skepticism when presented to Emmaus borough council Monday night --- because of the timing and because of plans to sell beer at the event.
Also during the meeting, council members unanimously voted to start charging residents of Macungie $20 a year to use the Emmaus composting facility.
The proposed Emmaus Survivors Benefit Run would raise money to help survivors of the St. Patrick’s Day fire, which killed four people in a nine-unit apartment building at 36-38 S. 5th St.
“A couple of weeks ago we had a tragic fire in town and the Emmaus Main Street Partners would like do something to help those families that survived,” said Gene Clock, president of that organization. “It’s certainly a heart-wrenching situation. We want to make an event where we can do everything to help these people who have suffered much loss.”
Clock sought council’s blessing to allow the run on borough streets, beginning at 3 p.m. May 11.
Council member Brent Labenberg said it usually takes council six months to a year to prepare for a race and that such proposals are reviewed through its committee process before being approved.
"This is not a race,” replied Clock. “It’s a benefit run. And it is being done on fairly short notice to help these folks now, rather than six months or a year from now.”
“I support the concept totally,” said Labenberg. “My concern is the planning of it.”
Clock said the run will end on S. 5th Street, where the fire occurred. He said fund-raising plans include a beer truck, food served by local restaurants, a raffle and a couple of bands.
“Why a beer truck at a run?” asked council member Brian Holtzhafer.
“Runners love beer,” replied Clock.
Labenberg said he runs in 20 races a year and has never been to one where beer was served after a race. “A lot of runners don’t even bring money to a race because they are running in their shorts.”
“I think the turn-out will be much larger than just runners,” predicted Clock, adding spectators will be buying food and beverages.
Council did not act on the proposal Monday because “we don’t have the information that we need,” said president Lee Ann Gilbert. She asked Clock to attend the next meeting of the public safety committee, which she chairs, at 3 p.m. April 11. She suggested that because the run will involve closing streets and council does not know what route is being proposed.
Clock was unable to provide that route but said it will be about 2.5 miles long. Gilbert said closing any state roads in Emmaus will require approval from the State Department of Transportation, which takes at least 30 days. Said Clock: “We’re trying to avoid that.”
“A lot pf people are working feverishly to pull this off,” said Clock. “It’s something timely that should be done. It’s fresh on our minds. And those people need help.
“It will take a lot of work and we’re prepared to do that.”
Council member Wesley Barrett supported the idea, calling it a community event that could raise a lot of money.
For the first time this year, Emmaus residents are paying a $6 annual fee to help support the borough’s composting operation.
Emmaus has an agreement with the neighboring borough of Macungie that allows Macungie residents to also use the Emmaus composting facility. About 100 Macungie residents have been using it.
Council unanimously voted to start charging Macungie residents $20 per household to continue doing that. Macungie residents probably will go to their borough hall to pay that fee.
Despite the unanimous vote, Holtzhafer said he would have preferred charging more than $20. But Labenberg said if it is too expensive, Macungie residents won’t bring their yard waste to Emmaus “and then we lose revenue. I wonder if those 100 people are willing to pay $20 to drive over here.”
Holtzhafer said Emmaus will get no more than $2,000 from the change, adding he does not think Macungie residents are bringing dump truck loads of materials to Emmaus.
Mayor Winfield Iobst cast the deciding vote against spending $225 for three “volunteer of the year” bricks to be placed in the Emmaus Remembrance Garden.
The mayor’s vote was needed to break a three-three tie on the issue because council’s seventh member, Michael Waddell, was absent.
Council plans to select volunteers of the year for 2010, 2011 and 2012. Council member Nathan Brown said somehow council dropped the ball on recognizing people for the last few years “but we have a lot of great people here in the borough that need to be recognized.”
Labenberg, who voted no, said: “We cut a lot of important things out of our budget. I can think of better things to spend $225 on, even though we want to recognize our volunteers of the year. We can still recognize them, just don’t do the bricks.”
Holtzhafer and Gilbert also opposed spending money for three bricks, while Barrett, Brown and Jeff Shubzda supported it.
Volunteers of the year are listed on a plaque inside Emmaus Town Hall, which Iobst said is sufficient.
Council still plans to give borough residents an opportunity to purchase dozens of old fire alarm boxes that are on poles around town. The Gamewell boxes are being taken out of service – no longer needed because most people carry cell phones.
Borough manager Shane Pepe said the boxes probably will be sold via bids. He said the borough could use local news media to make residents aware when the boxes are available. Both Pepe and Barrett said many residents are interested in buying the alarm boxes. Labenberg suggested donating one to the Emmaus Historical Society.
Alarm boxes that are inside seven buildings in town will remain in service.