Momentum builds for Save Speedwell

By on November 22, 2011

By: MELINDA ELMER Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer

Elizabeth Township supervisors are enthusiastically behind community-based efforts to save Speedwell Forge Lake.

Residents Joel Gibbel and Debbie Mosimann presented information to the supervisors Nov. 14 about the recently-drained lake and its deteriorated dam in the southwestern part of the township. The two are part of the organizational committee Save Speedwell, an advocacy and fundraising group seeking non-profit 501(c)(3) status.

Gibbel said that if the area experiences a two-inch rainfall onto wet or frozen ground, or a four-inch rainfall onto dry ground, the lake bed will fill with water from the 26-square-mile area that drains into the lake. The water then will drain away slowly. That is, if the dam holds.

There are 26 homes in the direct path of the drainage, and 80 that might be endangered. Gibbel said that Randy Gockley, director of emergency management for Lancaster County, believes that the 26 homes would need to be evacuated every time we get a substantial rainfall, an average of two to four times a year. He’s afraid that we could "cry wolf" one too many times, with disastrous results.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission estimates it will cost almost $6.5 million to repair the dam and spillway.

Save Speedwell, still in its infancy, has engaged the services of an attorney willing to draw up the 501(c)(3) papers, but the group will need to come up with "filing fees between $1,300 and $1,500," Mosimann said. "I’m confident that, with the energy and enthusiasm we have behind us, the money is out there."

Unfortunately, until the paperwork is filed, the group cannot accept donations.

"I’m not asking for money now. We may ask the township for help with the filing fees (in the near future)," Mosimann said.

Gibbel mentioned the possibility of multi-municipality fundraisers involving Elizabeth, Warwick, Penn and Clay townships. He is hoping to have the lake restored in "three to four years, best case scenario."

Supervisor Rodney May said he is committed to finding money in the township’s general account to help the effort. The supervisors agreed that Save Speedwell may use the township’s meeting room and park facilities for its meetings and projects.

Mosimann believes the lake brings people into the area, and those people pump money into the local economy. She noted that Save Speedwell already has over 1,700 Facebook fans.

In other business, the supervisors voted unanimously to set the 2012 real estate tax at zero mills, unchanged from last year. The complete proposed 2012 Elizabeth Township budget is available for public perusal at the municipal office during regular business hours. More information is also available online at elizabethtownship.org.

Resident Janice Sexton, who lives along Route 501 near the Lancaster-Lebanon county line, requested the supervisor’s help with traffic conditions along that road. She noted an apparent increase in truck traffic over the years, as well as an increase in speed along the two-lane road that has almost no shoulder.

She said the truck traffic literally makes her house shake and wakes her at night.

She has contacted Sen. Mike Brubaker and Rep. Tom Creighton with her request. She has not contacted neighboring Heidelberg Township in Lebanon County.

Sexton asked the supervisors to perform a road study in the area between Waldeck and Fox roads, hoping to justify a reduction of the speed limit to 45 mph. She also requested signs indicating "driveway ahead" and "curve ahead," and repairs to the damaged road surface. She noted PennDOT has the road slated for rebuilding next summer.

The supervisors noted that residents may not request action directly from PennDOT, but must go through the local municipality. The local government will then contact the state if it deems the project necessary.

"I don’t know enough engineering to make a recommendation to PennDOT," said supervisor chairman Brian Wiker.

Supervisor Jeff Burkholder recommended postponing a decision until next month’s meeting to give the supervisors time to look into the situation.

On a more festive note, the supervisors approved a request for fire police services for Elizabeth Farms’ holiday light show, which began Nov. 18. A resident questioned the use of the township-supported volunteers by a for-profit business. Supervisor Jeff Burkholder said he would like the township’s attorney to look into the question for future reference.

Wiker noted that the event will go on with or without the fire police helping to direct traffic. He would rather have the fire police assisting, if they are willing, than to risk an unsafe situation. Elizabeth Farms will make a donation to the fire police.

Work is progressing on the new pavilion in the Elizabeth Township Park. The site has been graded and stoned, and work will continue in December.

The supervisors approved an expenditure of up to $2,000 for trees to be planted around the pavilion and restroom facilities, to be matched by a grant.

"I’d rather see us get not as many, but get four to five inch (diameter) trees for around the pavilion," said road superintendent Glenn Martin.

The supervisors agreed.

In other business:

The Brickerville Fire Company answered 21 calls during October. The Fire Police responded to 17 calls. The Brickerville Ambulance report was not available.

The zoning officer issued eight permits for work valued at $463,709.

Recycling will be received on Saturday, Dec. 3, from 8 a.m. until noon at the municipal building. Volunteers to man the station are needed the first Saturday morning of each month during 2012. Contact the township office for information.

The next meeting of the Elizabeth Township supervisors will be on Monday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. at the municipal building on South View Drive.

Supervisor Rodney May closed the meeting by saying, "I am thankful for the good core of volunteers we have looking out for the safety of people in the township and going through the township."

Everyone in attendance agreed. More ELIZABETH TWP., page A18