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Council approves fiscal year budget for 2021

The Emmaus Borough Council meeting Dec. 21 began with public personal appeals.

An appeal came in concerning runoff water that flooded a borough resident’s property on Pennsylvania Avenue. The runoff was so high it damaged the windows of the home, according to the resident.

A retention basin was built prior to help contain the water, but a gate is still allowing water in. The residents were previously told by Emmaus Borough Manager Shane Pepe fixing the gate would not be possible. Pepe consulted an engineer on the matter. The residents pleaded they need to have the gate fixed, as this damage will keep occurring.

Council President Brent Labenberg stated he is sympathetic to their plea and that all of their prior communications were received and read. The solicitor said they are working to find a solution. The solicitor asked for a chance to work through the systems at hand to fix their issue.

The residents were told they will be updated through the process with action expected at the next public works department meeting.

Councilman Roy Anders gave a short speech during the community minutes. Anders asked for everyone to order from local businesses. He stated small businesses are suffering severely and helping out local restaurants and shops would help them tremendously.

An Upper Milford Township street sign request was received and Hanover Engineering submitted their professional fee schedule for 2021 during the communications section of the agenda.

A motion was denied increasing the cost of living fee for the police pension program.

Borough Engineer Jeffrey Ott attended the meeting. Ott noted work was done at the Emmaus Community Park to repair a stream. It had catastrophic damage and still needs further rehabilitation.

Following the borough engineer, Emmaus Borough Solicitor Jeffrey Dimmich said progress is being made with Verizon to bring the borough 5G. Dimmich said Verizon is hoping to get into their new building as soon as possible.

In new business, Ordinance 1210 was introduced and approved. The ordinance amends Chapter 15, Part 4 of the Borough of Emmaus Consolidated Code of Ordinances to prohibit the parking of trailers without attached motive power on borough-owned property.

Emmaus Mayor Lee Ann Gilbert did not have a report. She thanked the members of the Emmaus Police Department who raised $1,000 during their No-Shave November fundraising campaign. The money was used to help five families in the borough, Gilbert said.

Councilman Chad Balliet introduced a representative from Liberty Engineering, who attended the meeting to present a construction project. The project is a 20,000 square foot industrial addition to the Emmaus Commerce Center off of Broad Street. The solicitor stated the plan was in accordance with previous plans. Following the short presentation, the board approved the preliminary final plans.

A second plan was introduced to build two buildings consisting of 14 units on a property off of Delong Avenue. This project was also approved.

Councilwoman Shana Baumgartner asked people to attend the virtual recreations, parks and trails survey 7 p.m. Jan. 28, 2021. Residents may join the meeting on the borough’s website by searching for park study.

Councilman John Hart presented three full-time police officer hires during the public safety agenda item. Francis Hurd, Brandon Smith and Michael Minsavage were selected and will undergo several physical and psychological examinations before starting. Each candidate must complete a one-year probation period.

Hurd is an Army veteran and is currently working as a deputy sheriff in Montgomery County.

Smith is a Marine Corps veteran and currently serves in the Marine Reserves.

Council President Brent Labenberg was excited to hire veterans, as he is a veteran himself.

In other meeting news, Anne Zayaitz was appointed to the Emmaus Public Library Board of Trustees.

Councilman Chris DeFrain presented several resolutions for the budget and finance committee.

One resolution covered miscellaneous fees, another adopted the 2021 tax, water and sewer rates and the largest resolution was the approval of the 2021 Fiscal Year Budget.

Pepe stated he was proud to see no tax raises, as necessary cuts were done in this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pepe was glad to get ahead where now the borough won’t see any tax hikes.

Additionally, it was decided Berkheimer will be the business privilege tax collector for 2021. This is different than previous years, as the borough would typically collect this tax.

DeFrain finished his report with the approval of the bill list. The bills for the first half of the month of December totaled $444,658.

It was noted in the revenue the borough received a sizable grant to purchase four body cameras for the police department.

Jonas Hausmann gave the junior councilmember’s report. Hausman reported the Emmaus High School theatre department released a play online. The play can be found on YouTube by search terms 2020 Emmaus High School play.

The meeting closed with the borough manager’s report. Pepe reviewed the 2021 budget in detail.

“We are proud to not see any tax raises in the upcoming budget,” Pepe said.

Pepe added a lot of the budget items concerned infrastructure. Fixing the piping and water runoff issues on main roads, purchasing necessary equipment and multiple building updates were focused on, Pepe said.

Pepe said several times infrastructure is the focus of the 2021 budget. Pepe mentioned council will be very busy with approvals in the coming year.

After Pepe’s report, Labenberg thanked everyone for attending and wished all a Merry Christmas.