Sunday, April 25, 2010

Environmental work holding up West College Avenue project

An environmental study of potential problems at an old service station on West College Avenue has delayed the start of the project to extend it toward the M&M/Mars factory. At its meeting on April 15, Elizabethtown Borough Council authorized spending $81,000 -- which was not budgeted in the $3.3 million project -- to determine the extent of any issues.

A prior environmental study concluded that underground storage tanks at the service station might have caused problems. It did not reveal the extent of, or even if there were, problems. The additional money that Borough Council authorized spending will pay for a second phase study that will do just that.

The work is required by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and the borough must follow regulations from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

For many months, the borough has been hoping to put the second phase of the West College Avenue project (estimated to be $2.5 million of the entire $3.3 million cost) out to bid. This latest issue will delay any construction by at least 12 weeks, with perhaps a completion date by the fall of 2012.

To say that Borough Council is unhappy about this latest twist is an understatement, especially as we look at such a large unbudgeted expense. Yet, we all realize that we must forge ahead. The West College Avenue extension, and the renovated  intersection at Market Street, will be a significant improvement for Elizabethtown.

We also must thank M&M/Mars for being a great corporate citizen by allowing traffic to cut across its driveway/parking lot on Bainbridge Street. During the first phase of the project, completed in September 2008, traffic was diverted from Bainbridge Street to West High Street, causing significant backups and delays at times.

Thanks to M&M/Mars, traffic can flow relatively normally while the second phase is constructed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

E-town Area SD receives conditional approval for East High Street plans

Elizabethtown Borough Council granted conditional approval to the Elizabethtown Area School District for its plans to expand East High Street Elementary School and other improvements to the campus and sports fields on East High Street.

School district Superintendent Amy Slamp and other representatives presented the plans in a conditional use hearing to Borough Council on April 15. The hearing was the first step in the approval process for constructing the addition at the elementary school. The district will need to seek additional approvals from the zoning hearing board and Borough Council after submitting a land development plan.

Under the borough's zoning ordinance, applicants who submit plans to expand their facilities by more than 10,000 square feet must have a conditional use hearing before Borough Council. During the hearings, the applicants and the borough administrative staff present testimony is a quasi-judicial hearing. If council approves of plans, it can impose conditions.

In the case of EASD, council approved the application with a list of 31 conditions.

Slamp told Council that the district needs to expand East High Elementary because of overcrowding in the district. The construction of Bear Creek Intermediate School, underway on the EASD campus but situated in nearby Mount Joy Township, will move 900 students in fourth, fifth and sixth grades there when it opens for the 2011-12 school year.

"It gives us elbow room and space to grow," Slamp told council in March when she went over the district's plans informally.

The East High Street Elementary School addition will include a gym, computer rooms, an art room and small group space. The district plans to complete the addition and then remodel the rest of the school by wing, moving students from one wing into the addition until work is done and then moving the back.

In addition to the new construction, the school district has plans to renovate the athletic fields, including the the football stadium and the field hockey field, from the high school all the way to the Elizabethtown Fairgrounds (which the district owns). Slamp said the district does not want to burden taxpayers with the expense of work on the athletic facilities and will be seeking funding through grants and fundraising.