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Will PPL end Emmaus banner tradition?

By Randy Kraft, WFMZ.com Reporter, RKraft@wfmz.com
Published On: Mar 04 2014 11:10:07 AM CST
Updated On: Mar 04 2014 11:11:31 AM CST
EMMAUS, Pa. -

Will the Emmaus tradition of stretching banners over the main streets to promote community events become a thing of the past?

For many years such banners have been hung across Main Street at one end of town and across Chestnut Street at the other end.

Borough manager Shane Pepe said different banners are raised 20 or 30 times each year.

Now PPL has come up with new regulations and the borough must sign an agreement with the utility if it wants to continue attaching the overhead banners to the company's utility poles.

The one-time $50 agreement fee is not the issue, Pepe told borough council Monday night. "This issue is all of a sudden there are new guidelines they want us to follow."

He said PPL already is delaying Emmaus raising banners until the agreement is signed. He explained PPL's height requirements may be an issue. "If it's too low we need to raise it. If it's too high, we need to lower it. If it doesn't work, then it doesn't go up there."

"This is a change of tradition for us," said Pepe. "We're not so sure we can meet the requirements. But they kind of control the whole thing. One of their engineers is saying that one of the locations - I don't know which one - isn't meeting their specifications."

He suspects it's the Main Street location near the Emmaus Library and Superior Restaurant. The other banner location is near 10th and Chestnut streets.

"We've never had to do this, which means there probably was a change
in leadership somewhere," said Pepe.

"I think council feels these banners are important and would want to preserve the tradition," said council member Wesley Barrett after the meeting. "They have a nice small town charm to them. If we were not able to do this I would think we would find an alternative."

On another issue, some members of borough council may have been influenced by Monday night's bone-chilling cold when they expressed skepticism that any residents will show up for the first electronics recycling drop-off of the year, which is scheduled for noon to 6 p.m.
March 10.

But after some discussion, council decided to stick with that date.

The e-waste drop-off site was created because trash haulers no longer collect electronic devices. It is at a dumpster next to the public works garage off Klines Lane, behind the Mobil gas station along Main Street.

"I'm not sure anyone's going to be recycling any electronics on March 10," said council member Jeff Shubzda, referring to the weather. He suggested canceling the March date and starting this year's once-a-month program in April.

"My bigger fear is can we find the dumpster," said council member Brian Holtzhafer.

"It's probably buried in snow," said Shubzda.

Arguing council should stick with March 10, Barrett said: "I think people will have stuff."

"Yeah, snowblowers," replied Shubzda.

"I agree with Wes, it's advertised and people will show up, because we haven't had it for three months," said council member Brent Labenberg.
"At the last one, the turn-out was fantastic. And I don't see any snow in the forecast, knock on wood."

Labenberg said the borough can do robo-calls to residents if another snowstorm should wipe out that first electronics recycling date.

"Is the facility ready to accept electronics?" asked Holtzhafer. "As of today, no."

The borough manager said the public works crew will dig out the e-waste dumpster or just put the material at another location on the site until it is dug out.

"It's supposed to be in the 40s by the weekend," said council president Lee Ann Gilbert.

Staffing the site one day a month costs the borough four overtime hours, said Pepe.

The site will be open noon-6 p.m. the second Monday of every month, except holidays. It is closed in December, January and February.

The drop-off will accept nearly 70 different items -- TVs, computers, fans, electronic games, cell phones, air conditioners, microwaves, even popcorn makers.

Fees are charged for some items dropped off, such as TVs, but most can be taken for free. Anyone bringing items to the site must provide proof that they are borough residents.

Council members did agree to delay the opening of the borough's organic yard waste compost site. It was scheduled to open March 12, but will open March 26.

"If you have compost in your backyard that you're working with right now, I'd like to see your backyard," said Pepe.

The compost site, which also is off Klines Lane but farther up the hill and across the railroad tracks, will be open Wednesdays and Saturdays only until May, then Mondays Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Also during the meeting, with no discussion council unanimously denied requested cost-of-living increases for seven retired police officers for 2014.

Holtzhafer, who chairs council's budget and finance committee, said those increases would cost the borough about $27,000. "Unfortunately, we do not have that extra $27,000 budgeted for this year."

After the meeting, Pepe said 2009 was the last time the retired police officers got a cost-of-living increase.

Council voted to spend $10,815 to replace the engine in a 23-year-old dump truck used by the public works department. Borough mechanics will install a rebuilt engine, which will have a warranty.

"Our belief is it will extend the life of the truck for a considerable amount of time," said Holtzhafer. "And it's a lot cheaper than $145,000 for a new truck."

Pepe indicated it is the borough's second oldest truck and is used for plowing snow. He said the truck's body is "not necessarily" in good condition. "It's a useable, functional truck. I don't know how long it will last but, again, I'd rather spend $10,000 than $150,000."

After the meeting, Pepe said his main concern is the truck's frame could rot out after so many winters of exposure to road salt.

Council passed a resolution supporting the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission seeking a $25,000 state grant that will be used to help pay to update the southwestern Lehigh County comprehensive plan.

Pepe said that plan must be updated every 10 years. He reminded council that it already has voted in favor of the plan update and budgeted money to get it done.

The plan is for Emmaus, Macungie, Alburtis, Lower Milford Township, Upper Milford Township and Lower Macungie Township.

The current comprehensive plan, adopted by the six municipalities in 2005, must be updated before the end of 2015, said Pepe.

Assuming LVPC lands the state grant, Pepe said the comprehensive plan update will cost each of the six municipalities $7,000 to $10,000. He
said the total cost to do the plan is about $75,000.

Also during council's meeting, resident Liesel Adam was reappointed to another term on the Emmaus/Upper Milford Joint Environmental Advisory Council.