A big step was taken Thursday toward improving fire protection for the Lower Macungie municipal complex along Brookside Road, as well as the Dries hardware store and nearby homes along Indian Creek Road.
Township commissioners voted to financially participate in the installation of a new public water main next year, which will include fire hydrants in those locations.
Officials took smaller steps toward:
• Hiring consultants who will help determine if Lower Macungie should have its own police department
• Making it easier for residents to walk through the township, by connecting paved walkways, such as those along Brookside and Lower Macungie roads that “literally don’t go anywhere.”
• Acquiring land so the township can expand Camp Olympic Park and add a new entrance road off Lower Macungie Road.
Also during their meeting, commissioners reduced the posted speed limit from 35 to 25 mph on Mill Creek Road between Spring Creek Road and Sauerkraut Lane.
Ron Eichenberg, president of the commissioners, said a number of residents have asked the township to reduce the speed limit on that section of Mill Creek Road, which is less than one mile long.
Mary Schaeffer, a Mill Creek Road resident at the meeting, told commissioners: “I just want to thank you so much. I’m really happy that this went through in such a timely manner.”
The action was taken for the “safety and welfare” of residents and others using that road. That stretch soon will be posted with 25 mph speed limit signs.
Commissioners voted 3-1 to join Lehigh County Authority and Dale Dries, owner of the hardware store, in extending a public water line that now ends in the nearby Indian Creek mobile home park.
Commissioner Douglas Brown voted no.Eichenberg recused himself from the discussion and vote, because he is the Realtor selling Dries’ 7.6-acre property next to the hardware store. Dries has been trying to develop or sell that land since 1993 and hopes public water service will improve its marketability.
The proposed 12-inch water line will run along Indian Creek Road, then go up Brookside Road past Dries’ property to the township building.
New fire hydrants on that water line will serve 10-15 homes along Indian Creek Road, Dries Hardware and the township’s campus, which includes the municipal building, library/community center and public works building.
Brent McNabb, the township’s assistant fire chief, said the nearest fire hydrant to the township complex is a half mile away and it would take 15 to 20 minutes for firefighters to get hoses laid and operating between that hydrant and township buildings.
“A fire doubles in size every minute,” he warned, adding most of the township buildings have sprinkler systems, but they may not be adequate to stop a fire.
Commissioner Ryan Conrad said he was shocked to learn no fire hydrants are in or near the township’s municipal campus.
Dries Hardware was destroyed by fire in 1989, but rebuilt.
The township’s estimated share of the project is $54,538. Brown wasn’t comfortable using public tax money to “significantly” benefit Dries. And he noted that estimate does not include paying for lateral lines so residents and the township can hook up to that new water main.
Township engineer William Erdman said Lower Macungie is only being asked to pay for a portion of the water line. He said the full cost is about $300,000, adding LCA will spend about $150,000 and Dries will spend $100,000.
The line will total 2,350 feet in length, according to Harold “Bud” Newton, Dries’ engineer. Newton said Lower Macungie will pay for 624 feet, while Dries and LCA will pay for the rest.
Commissioners Conrad, James Lancsek and Roger C. Reis voted to include $55,000 for the water line project in the 2013 budget, with stipulations that there must be an agreement with Dries and LCA for the project to proceed.
Also during the meeting, Reis announced a decision will made at the Sept. 20 commissioners meeting to hire consultants who will study police service in Lower Macungie.
Reis said he’s partial to having that study done by Drs. Gary and AnnMarie Cordner, who teach criminal justice at Kutztown University. He added Gary Cordner is a former police officer.
He said the Cordners, assisted by Atty. Edward Connors, are willing to do a six-month study for only $8,000.
Reis said two other proposals received by the township would cost $40,000 or $57,543. He said the Cordners’ bid is so much lower because they live in the Lehigh Valley and are willing to donate half their time.
Reis said that study will consider four options: staying with Pennsylvania State Police, creating a Lower Macungie police department, forming a regional police department with an adjoining municipality or contracting for police service from a nearby municipality.
Reis said the study will review pros and cons of each option, including costs, but will not make a recommendation. He explained commissioners will have to make that decision.