Emmaus to save money on energy and insurance costs

Posted: 11:58 PM EDT Jun 19, 2013

Things are getting a little greener in one Lehigh County municipality.

Emmaus Borough Council members learned Wednesday night that energy and workman's compensation costs could soon be coming down.

Council voted 6-0 to give borough manager Shane Pepe the authority to lock in rates paid by the borough for electricity and natural gas that could save Emmaus tens of thousands of dollars.

Pepe told council he is "in touch" with seven energy companies, and if he had taken the lowest rate offered on Wednesday, he could have saved the borough $27,000 on electricity and $7,000 in natural gas costs.

Pepe noted that the rates offered by various energy companies fluctuate rapidly, sometimes day to day, and that makes it difficult, if not impossible to get council's approval in a timely fashion to lock in a low rate.

Pepe told council he was looking to lock in rates for one to three years.

Emmaus currently spends about $300,000 on electricity and $30,000 on natural gas annually, he said.

The borough manager also told council that the cost of workman's compensation insurance will drop by $7,000, from $372,000 to $366,000.

The borough received only one bid to provide the insurance, because of all the claims filed in 2009 and 2010, Pepe said.

"Insurance companies aren't there to protect you. They're there to make money. They do everything based on risk," Pepe said after the meeting.

Emmaus was able to save money in part because council enacted light duty policies for clerical, public work and non-union employees at Wednesday night's meeting, and because the borough created a state-certified safety committee about a year ago.

If the borough can continue keeping down the number of claims, the cost of insurance could drop by as much as $100,000 next year, Pepe said.

In other business, council approved a termination agreement with borough public works director Jeff Clapper.

Clapper led the Emmaus Public Works Department for about eight years and had been working for the borough since 1995.

No reason was given for Clapper's departure, and borough officials said after the meeting that it was "a mutual termination."

Council appointed John Dychala, the assistant  public works director, as Clapper's replacement. He will be paid $75,000 a year.

Council voted 5-1 to change the name of Emmaus Legion Field to Emmaus Community Field.

Council member Dr. Mike Waddell cast the no vote. He said beforehand that, given all of the improvements made to the field, he thought the name "should have something with the word stadium in it ... like Yankee Stadium."

That prompted council member Wesley Barrett to joke to his colleague, "If you throw enough money our way, we can call it Waddell Stadium."