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Emmaus borough building to close to the public

The Nov. 16 Emmaus Borough Council meeting began with a community minute from Councilwoman Teri Sorg-McManamon. The councilwoman gave a shout-out to the Emmaus Arts Commission for the ‘Paint a Hydrant’ project this year.

Fire hydrants were painted by local artists around the borough. Residents can find them all over town. A volunteer application to become an artist can be found at emmausarts.org.

In special presentations, Emmaus Main Street Manager Ashley Lorah attended to give thanks to council for its recent help in planning past and upcoming events.

Lorah announced Nov. 28 will be “Small Business Saturday.” Emmaus Main Street Partners will distribute tote bags this year with coupons and other free items. She hopes shoppers will be incentivized to walk around town and spend time shopping at the local businesses in Emmaus. A virtual option will be provided, with a schedule of live shows to be released through social media soon.

Holly Jolly shopping is another initiative to get residents to shop around the local Emmaus businesses. Lorah said people will receive a slip when shopping in the local Emmaus businesses. Bins will be in three locations around town for shoppers to drop the slips and be entered into a drawing.

Lorah said multiple small prizes will be given out. A Napoleon Grill donated by Kleckner and Sons is the grand prize. A winner will be announced Dec. 23.

In communications, a request for reappointment to the Emmaus Arts Commission by Tara Santoro was approved for another 3-year term. She is the treasurer for the commission. Additionally, former Councilman Mike Waddell sent a letter of recognition to Mayor Lee Ann Gilbert for the great work by the Emmaus emergency response team while addressing an issue at his neighbor’s house.

In new and old business, four ordinances were passed by council.

Ordinance 1205 amends the rate of compensation and commission for the borough real estate tax collector. The rate of compensation has been .750 percent of taxes collected and deposited; however, this percentage was based on revenue from 20 years ago and does not reflect rates among other similar municipalities in Pennsylvania today. The new rate will be .50 percent of taxes collected and deposited.

Ordinance 1206 will add a residential disabled parking sign and assign a permitted parking spot on the public street located in front of 38 N. Sixth St. In 2017, the state changed the laws to allow individuals to apply for a disabled public spot.

Ordinance 1207 removes a residential disabled parking sign on the public street located in front of 637 Walnut St.

Ordinance 1208 is the establishment of the position of deputy chief of police for the Emmaus Police Department. It was announced Chief Charles Palmer will be retiring at the end of May 2021. This position will be for a subordinate position, used for training, to transition to the next chief of police. A job posting was approved to be advertised and placed online.

Both public works and the health, sanitation and codes committees announced candidates ready for hire. Shane Pepe was specifically excited about the hiring of an assistant to the health, sanitation and codes team, as he knows the person has great experience and is from the borough. All hires were approved unanimously by council.

In general administration, it was announced the borough interviewed three architectural firms for the building renovations.

W2A Architectural was selected with a quote of $269,000. Council President Brent Labenberg said all three firms were qualified; however, the price ultimately played the biggest factor as W2A came in with the best quote.

Budget and finance Chair Chris DeFrain announced the biweekly bill list to be approved by the council. The total amounted to $456,864.99.

Junior Councilman Jonas Hausman announced Emmaus High School has been closed since the beginning of last week due to positive COVID-19 cases. The school does not plan to open until at least Dec. 1. The students are currently strictly virtual.

In the borough manager’s report, Pepe said the public works department continues to work on water runoff issues. “The more we can fix ourselves, the less we will have to pay to others,” Pepe said.

Lastly, with COVID-19 cases rising in the borough and entire county, Pepe raised the idea of shutting the borough building down to the public. Also, he wanted to hear council’s thoughts on going back to virtual borough council meetings. The Emmaus police and fire departments are already closed to the public.

Council members ultimately decided to support going to strictly virtual Zoom meetings and closing the building to the public, except for by appointment. A motion was made and approved to start the shut down Nov. 19. If issues arrive, they will push to Nov. 20.

A re-examination will be made once a better idea of the COVID situation in the borough and Lehigh County is had. At this point, Pepe announced, “We’ll just play it by ear.”

Following this decision, the meeting was adjourned. The next Emmaus Borough Council meeting will take place virtually through Zoom. Check the Emmaus Borough website to find the link to the meeting. It will take place 7 p.m. Nov. 30.