Borough leaders breathe sigh of relief

By on October 31, 2012

By: GARY P. KLINGER Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer

Even as the effects of Hurricane Sandy were still being felt throughout the area, Lititz Borough officials were breathing a huge sigh of relief that the storm had not been as bad as it could have been.

"It is good to know that common sense can still prevail," said Lititz Mayor and Lititz Fire Chief Ron Oettel. "People were heeding the advice to stay off the road, which makes a huge difference when we need to move things around. In the end it is just common sense that prevails."

Oettel, who had signed a disaster proclamation as mayor, noted that it was a relatively quiet evening for the fire department.

"The roads were barren," he commented. "There was some notion that perhaps we were over-preparing, but when you tell people that something is coming they probably won’t listen. It’s arguable that we painted this as big and dynamic and people heeded this warning."

Like nearly every other area in Pennsylvania, Oettel noted how stores were completely sold out of things like water, batteries, milk and flashlights.

"We had hardly a scratch from Sandy," said Police Chief William Seace. "We had a few limbs and trees down and a few buckled sidewalks. And as of 3:00 today the electric on Keller Drive (the only power outage) was back on."

Council President Karen Weibel noted that there was a similar power outage in the same area during some of last year’s storms. She added that while this was still a relatively new development, she wondered if perhaps there was something more going on to account for the power outage.

Monday’s power outage on Keller Drive was apparently caused by fallen tree branches that pulled two main supply lines from a home.

Oettel told council that he had an fire engine baby-sitting the downed wire for a period of two hours until the matter could be resolved. He described the dangerous scene with the wires arcing and causing such sparks that even in wet conditions it could have started a fire if not properly attended.

Both Oettel and Seace noted that throughout the storm no accidents or injuries were reported as a result of Sandy.

"Things went very well considering how it was pounding us wind-wise," added Seace.

Weibel congratulated borough teams for a job well done and shared some thoughts of her own.

"With a fresh recollection of last year’s two storms still in mind it probably also helped urge people to heed the warnings," said Weibel. "I think overall everyone was better prepared. I guess it’s better to have the supplies and no need them than to find yourself short."

Weibel also pointed out to a comforting factor for customers of municipal water. While general storm preparation warnings urged residents across Sandy’s broad path to fill bathtubs with water for flushing toilets, Lititz Borough residents could rest assured this was one preparation step they could bypass. Representatives from Severn Trent, the company which operates the waste water treatment plants servicing the borough said that four of the five pumps serving the borough are already equipped with generators to provide electrical back up in the event of a power failure.

Storms such as Sandy can disrupt water service when individual wells are shut down due to a power failure. This is especially true with more rural residents who are dependent on their own wells for water. This is less of a factor for most municipal water customers because so many municipal wells have generator backup. And that fact, said Weibel, was comforting.

In other borough news, council members approved the land development plan for a 700- square-foot addition to the Word of Life Mennonite Fellowship Church, located off of Main Street on Willow Street and Mulberry Alley. This clears the final hurdle for the church to begin work on its expansion project.

Throughout the process parking had been one of the few concerns raised by the borough. The church’s Jim Copenhaver explained efforts of the church to alleviate the problem.

"The church plans to lease up to 15 spaces from Linden Hall for overflow parking," said Copenhaver. "The plan also adds about six spaces."

Copenhaver added that, out of concern for their neighbors, the church had actually put someone in place each Sunday to monitor the situation and assure that traffic flow and neighbor access was not negatively impacted by church members, who have also been asked to park in an appropriate manner.

Plans for the church addition did not require a storm water plan because they will not be increasing the amount of impervious area. The existing parking lot is a combination of both gravel and bituminous material.

"Over the years there had been some concerns raised by the neighbors, but the church has worked through those issues," noted Seace. "To my knowledge we have not had any call backs on the issue. I have not received any complaints that I know of. I think everyone is satisfied."

Weibel also weighed in, saying that "I know it has been a long process but you got through it. You are really shoe-horned there and we’re just glad to see that church being used. I’m very appreciative of your efforts."

Of the parking issues, Copenhaver noted that prior to the start of the expansion process, he was unaware of the parking impact on the church’s neighbors.

"I don’t think we were even aware of some of the parking issues before we started but I’m glad we were able to work through them," commented Copenhaver. "I’m also thankful to Linden Hall. They could have refused our request but they did not."

In his report to council, Seace shared some impressive statistics from the recent shredder event and the drug take back program sponsored by the Lititz Police. During the shredder event, where local residents could bring up to two boxes of outdated paperwork to be shredded and safely discarded, over 7,000 pound of paper were shredded. During the drug take back event, residents could bring both prescription and over the counter drugs which were either outdated or no longer needed for proper disposal, 213 pounds of drugs in 12 boxes were taken back. This is a huge success considering only 40 pounds were collected the first year the event was held. Seace noted that he advised the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (or DEP) to bring a small truck to collect the drugs.

In recent years Lititz borough has worked hard to raise awareness about the proper disposal of old medications. Such medications should not be thrown in the municipal trash nor should they be flushed down the toilet where they make their way to the municipal water supply. There is also some concern that improperly disposed of medicines could make their way into the wrong hands. By sponsoring the annual event, Lititz Police give residents a safe way of handing expired medicines.

Seace said that in light of the growing success of both programs, he anticipates continuing to hold the event, which has been held on the parking lot behind Lititz Mutual Insurance, with the Susquehanna Bank also partnering in the event.

For a wealth of additional information on Lititz Borough, visit lititzborough.org. Gary P. Klinger welcomes comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail at klingerglobal@gmail.com. More BOROUGH COUNCIL, page A4