Saturday, March 26, 2011

Businesspeople and college president receive awards at gala

Epic Photopgraphy, Dan Robrish of the Elizabethtown Advocate and Elizabethtown College President Theodore Long received awards last night at the Elizabethtown Chamber of Commerce's annual gala. The dinner was held in the Susquehanna Room at Elizabethtown College.

Epic Photography, owned by Jamie and Andrew Schoenberger, received the 2011 Chamber Appreciation Award for their dedication to the community and their volunteering time and services to a wide range of community events.

In remarks after receiving the award, Andrew Schoenberger, an Elizabethtown native, urged gala attendees to get involved in the community and volunteer. He said he is a big fan of events such as the holiday parade and the town's New Year's celebration Let E-town Ring, but he said "these events don't happen by themselves."

The chamber honored Robrish, owner and publisher of the Elizabethtown Advocate, with the 2011 Rising Star Award. Robrish quit his job with the Associated Press in Philadelphia to start the weekly newspaper from scratch at the beginning of 2009.  A recent article in the journalism trade journal Editor & Publisher reported that Robrish is close to making a profit on the venture.

Elizabethtown Borough Council President Phil Clark presented Long with the Vincent O'Connor Public Service Award. The award, named after a former borough councilman with a lifelong devotion of service to others, is presented annually to an individual who has selflessly devoted tme to the public good of residents in Elizabethtown through community and civic endeavors.

Long, who is retiring from his post this summer after 15 years, "has exemplified the spirit of the late Vincent O'Connor," according to the program for the award. In addition to leading the college and being active in academia and higher education, Long has served the Elizabethtown community as a board member of the former Elizabethtown Economic Development Corp. and helping to integrate the college into the community.

Speaking briefly after receiving the award, Long said that he and his wife, Betty, have come to call Elizabethtown their home. He noted that one of the reasons that students choose to attend college here is because Elizabethtown is a special community.

(Let me offer full disclosure: My wife is employed at Elizabethtown College.)

I'd like to offer my congratulations to all of the recipients. For years, I've said that Elizabethtown is a great town with a tremendous amount potential -- and it's great to see others who don't just recognize it but are living out the potential in real ways.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Borough opens Facebook page

Elizabethtown Borough now has a Facebook page. If you haven't checked it out and "liked" it, I recommend that you head there now. It's another tool for the borough to use to communicate with the public -- and in my mind, there's nothing but good that can come of it. You can click on the link at the beginning of this post or type into your browser.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Work on $3.14M West College Avenue project to begin soon

The excitement among members of Elizabethtown Borough Council was palpable tonight after a unanimous vote to approve Pennsy Supply, doing business as McMinn's Asphalt, as the low bidder for the construction of West College Avenue.

"It's a red letter day for Elizabethtown!" said Mayor Chuck Mummert.

The bid came in at $3.14 million for a project that borough officials have discussed for the past five or six years. The project, to be funded with federal highway dollars, has seen delays thanks to environmental concerns at an old service station and because the economic climate held up the start of the bidding process. But with the bid now awarded, a pre-construction meeting with Pennsy and other contractors will be held in the next week. Residents will see action this spring.

"It hardly seems possible we're ready to do work on West College Avenue," said Borough Council President Phil Clark. "Actually, we're very happy it's here."

 "You'll see a lot of smiling faces in Elizabethtown," added Councilman Tom Shaud. "It's been a long wait."

The first phase of West College Avenue was completed about three years ago at about the time that an expansion of the Mars chocolate plant. At the time, the plan was to start the second phase, which includes the construction of a bridge and creating a new signaled intersection at Market Street and College Avenue, soon after the first phase.

As my fellow councilmen said tonight, much credit goes to the borough staff who shepherded the project through approval processes with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. PennDOT is administering the federal grant money.

There's not a specific time frame for completion of the project. Optimistically, if everything goes smoothly, it could be done this year. Realistically, I'm thinking the road will see traffic on it sometime next year.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Council set to approve low bidder for West College Avenue project

Elizabethtown Borough officials received word this week that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has approved the low bidder for the construction of West College Avenue at Market Street. I don't have all of the details right now, but Borough Council will vote to approve the low bid at its meeting tomorrow night.

This means that the project is just weeks away from starting. It's likely residents will see construction activity early next month.

I'll post more details as I get them.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Incumbent councilmen running unopposed for re-election

Three members of Elizabethtown Borough Council are up for re-election this year, including the author of this blog, and all three are running unopposed, according to the Lancaster County Board of Elections.

Phil Clark, who is currently president of council and represents Ward 3; and Tom Shaud, who is vice president and represents Ward 1; and Jeff McCloud representing Ward 2, all filed petitions to be placed on the May 17 primary ballot.

All three were elected in 2007. At the time, then-Borough Manager Pete Whipple said there had never been such a large turnover of council members.

I can only speak for myself as to why I am running for another term. It has been a privilege to serve Elizabethtown as a member of Borough Council. I continue to believe that Elizabethtown is a great community, and I want to ensure that it is an even better place for the next generation.

Even as the country has faced a dire recession, we on Borough Council have worked hard to keep the town moving forward. Among the things I'm proudest of, we secured $9 million in funding from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to improve the Elizabethtown Train Station -- a project that by all accounts has been great for town. The entire project should be completed this spring.

We have overseen a smooth transition in our administration from a long-time borough manager by promoting our assistant. She has done a great job assembling a new team and working with the staff to ensure that the borough's business continues without interruption.

Over the last few years, we have met with our counterparts in West Donegal and Mount Joy townships to discuss issues that impact everyone in the Elizabethtown area. In fact, Conoy Township has joined the Elizabethtown Area Regional Authority with the other municipalities so all of us can work on implementing recommendations from a regional comprehensive plan approved last year. Working together is an important step for the entire community because what happens in one area has an impact on other areas -- and it's important for us to discuss issues openly and come to consensus on the solutions.

As I complete the fourth year of my first term on Borough Council, I am excited about the possibilities for Elizabethtown. There's more work to do, and I plan to do my best to ensure that we do it responsibly, cost effectively and keep the long-term interests the borough and the region in mind.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

E-town Area Water Authority moves to merge with Mount Joy Township Authority

In a move that many local people have discussed for years, the Elizabethtown Area Water Authority (EAWA) board voted unanimously last night to continue merger negotiations with the Mount Joy Township Authority (MJTA). Full disclosure: I am a member of the EAWA board.

Discussions started informally last week -- but the issue gained momentum Tuesday when Mount Joy Township Manager Casey Kraus met with four members of MJTA. At last night's EAWA meeting, he said there was a "unanimous consensus" from the members to look at regionalization. And he noted that township supervisors "absolutely" agree.

John Buch, a former borough councilman for 24 years and a member of the EAWA board, said: "I think it's long overdue that we have some cooperative arrangement. We should take a step toward some form of consolidation."

Both authorities provide water to residents in the Elizabethtown region. EAWA was formed about six years ago when Elizabethtown Borough and West Donegal Township merged their water system. At the time, Mount Joy Township was part of the discussions, but some officials there didn't agree and shot down the township's participation.

Kraus said last night there's been a shift, particularly since there's been some staff and board turnover at MJTA this year. In January, its manager resigned unexpectedly, and the board's chairman resigned. That left the authority with three "field employees" and Kraus appointed as  interim manager. And then one of the field employees recently took a job elsewhere.

The vote last night was only to proceed with negotiations; many details remain unresolved. Among issues that will be finalized are establishing water rates for MJTA customers that come into the EAWA fold and changing EAWA's bylaws to add new board members from the township. Currently, EAWA's board consists of three residents of Elizabethtown Borough and two from West Donegal Township. What the makeup will be when a merger is finalized will be part of the negotiations.

No specific time line has been established, although EAWA board Vice Chairman Keith Murphy said, "I'd like to see this done by the end of the year." Kraus said he thinks "that's doable."

Among the EAWA board, there was a sense of excitement about merging because the issue has been discussed and broached for years. Speaking as one board member, it certainly makes sense. In recent months, elected officials from all the local municipalities have gathered to discuss tackling some issues on a regional basis.

This development with the water authorities, while not expected even a month ago, certainly builds on the idea that township supervisors and Borough Council discussed at a joint meeting earlier this year. In my mind, it would be a setback to those discussions and for Elizabethtown and Mount Joy Township if this merger doesn't happen.