Monday, October 24, 2011

Flooding damage to borough infrastructure estimated at $350K

Elizabethtown's infrastructure, including bridges and its wastewater treatment plant, sustained $350,000 in damage from the flooding in early September, according to estimates from the borough administration.

One bridge, on Chestnut Street behind the community park's softball field, remains closed because the sidewalk and road collapsed. Estimates for its repair are $70,728. The other bridges are open for traffic, but the South Poplar Street bridge has erosion  under the roadbed, curb and sidewalk on the southeast side (damage estimates, $27,514); the West Bainbridge Street bridge is unsafe for pedestrians because of a major washout on the southwest and southeast corners (damage estimates, $11,800).

The borough has awarded a contract to do the bridge repairs to B R Kreider.

Other major damage came at the sewage treatment plant. The lower buildings – the maintenance building/garage, the blower building and digester received heavy flooding. The basement of the maintenance building was flooded and a couple of inches of water on the first floor.  This impacted electrical panels, pumps, our potable water system, lighting, and left a lot of mud to be shoveled out. Estimates for the damage at the plant are $117,562.

Other damage that borough staff reported included:

  • A bank washed away at East Willow and North Mount Joy streets, exposing sewer line. Estimated damage: $75,000.
  • A major washout at the end of Holly Street: About $2,100 in direct damage, plus $27,000 in remediation to prevent problems in the future.
  • Major stream bank erosion in the parking lot behind Groff's Meats. Damage estimated at $5,000.
The borough administration reported that insurance will cover about $95,000 at the sewage treatment plant. Meanwhile, borough staff have been attending and participating in meetings with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and going through the process to ensure the borough will receive 100  percent reimbursement for damages.

The administration emphasized to me that this is initial assessment of the damages and helps with planning to keep track of the damages and the work borough crews and/or contractors will do. This is not a final report, and the dollar figure could rise.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

High school students can text anonymous tips to cops

An anonymous tip texted via cellphone to Elizabethtown School Resource Officer Rick Farnsler earlier this school year might have saved a life.

Through a program Farnsler set up, an Elizabethtown High School student texted that another student might be suicidal. Upon receiving the text, Farnsler communicated anonymously with the first student and was able to get the name of the second student. He then contacted school officials, who set in motion crisis intervention to help the second student.

Farnsler is a borough police officer assigned to the Elizabethtown Area High School full time for several years. Since working at the school, he told Borough Council earlier this month, he has tried various ways to encourage students to provide tips. They have included a hotline and a "suggestion" box -- but he said he "never once" got a tip through either.

Knowing that teenagers text as a primary way of communciating, Farnsler researched how he could use texting to receive anonymous tips. He found a program that is entirely anonymous, with no way for him to find out who texted him because the servers are located in Canada. That, he said, is key because students don't want want to develop a reputation as a "snitch." All students have to do is text to the number 27637 and include "etown" in the body of the message, and he and several school officials receive a text.

The program cost $1,600 per year. Farnsler approached the Elizabethtown Rotary Club, which is sponsoring the program for this school year.

"It's a great partnership between the school, the police, the borough and the Rotary," he said.

"If we saved that life," Police Chief Jack Mentzer said, referring to the suicide intervention, "this program has already paid for itself a thousand times over."

Farnsler said this is the only program of its type -- completely anonymous texting -- for high school students in Lancaster County.

I echo what my fellow Councilman Tom Shaud told Farnsler: "You've done something to make the borough proud."