The president of Lower Macungie’s board of commissioners is calling on township residents to show their support for planned improvements at Camp Olympic Park by attending the Jan. 9 meeting of Lehigh County commissioners.
“Spread the word,” said Ron Eichenberg. “Please join us. The more people who can come out, the better.”
Eichenberg hopes a large turn-out by residents interested in the future of that park will sway county commissioners who seem determined to kill Green Future Fund grants the township and five other Lehigh County municipalities hope to get for park and trail projects.
A majority of the nine county commissioners don’t want to spend just over $1 million in the Green Future Fund for the projects. They stress they are not opposed to those projects, but don’t consider them priorities when the county is facing a multi-million-dollar budget deficit. County executive William Hansell told county commissioners money is in the county budget to fund the projects.
“I’m very upset with our county commissioners and their approach,” said township manager Bruce Fosselman. “We think we have a fair request for some Green Future Fund money. It’s becoming a political football. It’s frustrating to see when people don’t work together. That’s what I don’t like about what happens there. We’ve got to try to work together as a team.”
At Thursday night’s Lower Macungie meeting, Fosselman said he and Eichenberg have attended three county commissioners meetings since Nov. 20, the night a bill authorizing the Green Future Fund grants was introduced.
County commissioners delayed voting on those grants on Dec. 12 and again on Wednesday night, when they decided to wait until Jan. 9 to take action on the grant requests.
Fosselman said he will ask county commissioners to make a decision Jan. 9 – “don’t drag us out anymore. It’s the third month now.” He said nothing really got done Wednesday night.
“Limbo is a terrible place to be,” said Eichenberg, president of the township commissioners.
Fosselman joined Eichenberg in encouraging residents to attend the Jan. 9 county commissioners meeting, which will begin at 7:30 p.m. inside the county government center near the southeast corner of 7th and Hamilton streets in Allentown.
Four Lower Macungie commissioners and other township officials attended Wednesday night’s county commissioners meeting. Eichenberg hopes all five township commissioners will attend the Jan. 9 meeting.
On Dec. 12, Eichenberg told county commissioners many Lehigh County residents enjoyed Camp Olympic when growing up. Before becoming a township park it was a private sports camp. He said the township’s renovation includes maintaining historical features “so county residents can continue to enjoy this park.”
Lower Macungie hopes to get $238,000 from the county to make improvements at Camp Olympic, which is along Cedar Crest Boulevard near Emmaus.
The county’s Green Future Fund is a matching grant program, meaning the township has to pay at least half the costs of any project. Lower Macungie’s match is in the 2013 budget township commissioners approved Thursday night. Fosselman said the township has $250,000 of its own money in the budget for the project.
The township plans to refurbish older structures in the park, including two pavilions, a bridge and a barn, explained Sara Pandl, Lower Macungie’s planning director. She said that barn will get new restrooms, to add restrooms at the upper end of the park.
“People love these old facilities and old Camp Olympic,” said Pandl. She said a playground also will be added near Camp Olympic’s barn, but that will be funded with a grant from the state.
“If we don’t get the county money, we’ll have to scale back the project for Camp Olympic,” said township commissioner James Lancsek. He advised Pandl to start looking at a scaled-back project in case the township does not get the county funding.
Township commissioners approved the $18.129-million budget Thursday night. Eichenberg said unlike the federal government’s budget, Lower Macungie’s budget is balanced, pays down debt, includes capital improvements and “is improving the quality of life for our residents.”
“The people in this township expect a high level of service and we try to provide that,” added commissioner Roger C. Reis.
The township will hire two new employees, one for the parks and another for the community center.
Eichenberg said Lower Macungie residents have paid no township property taxes for at least a decade.
Also during the meeting, commissioners approved:
• A 10 percent sewer rate increase, which will cost residents $20-$25 more in 2013. That increase will pay for sewer inspections mandated by the state without any state funding, explained Reis.
• A 16-page fee schedule for 2013. Commissioner Ryan Conrad said husband/wife pool passes will increase from $110 to $120 and the township’s popular summer playground program will increase from $75 to $100. Some fees also are increasing for non-residents who use township facilities.
• Advertising a draft ordinance containing new design standards for larger shopping centers, those with a total of more than 100,000 square feet of floor space.
Commissioners plan to vote on those shopping center regulations in February. The township planning commission developed the shopping center standards last year and is anxious to see them approved, said Pandl. She said the proposed regulations address safer vehicular and pedestrian circulation, outdoor dining and public gathering spaces, building facades and a coordinated sign program.