Emmaus Borough business owners interested in sprucing up the outside of their storefronts will again have the ability to receive matching state funds after Emmaus Council passed a resolution accepting a $50,000 grant Tuesday night.
Borough Council, by a 4-1-1 vote, accepted the $50,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, which will be managed solely by the borough and not in conjunction with the Emmaus Main Street Partners.
Emmaus Main Street Partners is a non-profit program that works to support and revitalize the borough's downtown area.
The group led a similar DECD grant effort in the borough in 2012.
However, this latest grant will be managed by Emmaus Borough Manager Shane Pepe.
"I believe this is important," Pepe said. "Emmaus Main Street Partners went after the grant and businesses have already submitted interest and we'll work off that list."
The grant gives local business owners an incentive to improve the exterior of their properties. It will match business owners expenses dollar-for-dollar up to $5,000.
Council chairwoman Lee Ann Gilbert, Roy Anders, Jeffrey Shubzda and Nathan Brown voted to accept the grant. Councilman Brian Holtzhafer voted against and councilman Wesley Barrett abstained.
Holtzhafer voiced concern about a similar renovation project that is now incomplete.
Brown said that the only other alternative council had was to give the money back to DECD.
"We're not taking tax money, it comes from the participants," Brown said. "It's state and federal money and it's to make facades aesthetic looking. At the end of the day, the responsibility is the borough's."
Recent storms were budget-busters
Pepe said recent harsh winter snowstorms have taken a toll on manpower, equipment and the borough's budget.
"The overtime budget is crushed, destroyed," Pepe said. "The Public Works department worked 14-hour days last Tuesday through Thursday to get through the storm and worked Saturday, Sunday and the Monday holiday to get more of the snow removed."
Pepe said equipment issues, including a dump truck in need of repair, combined with injury and illness problems made tough sledding in dealing with the most recent winter storm. Another issue was the dearth of salt in the area.
"We're down to the bottom on salt supplies. We have enough salt for the next storm and a half," he said. "We've borrowed salt from PennDOT and purchased more from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. Our salt has been back-ordered for weeks."
Pepe said road projects and other projects planned for later in the year may have to be curtailed or scrapped in order to pay for the massive snow removal costs.
In related business, council voted to pay $4,500 for a snow plow that will be installed on a borough water truck and entered into a lease with First Columbia Bank and Trust for a three-year lease on a new dump truck.
Elsewhere, council is in discussions with Lower Macungie Township, Macungie Borough, Upper Milford Township and Alburtis to form an intergovernmental agreement for joint use and sharing of materials, supplies, equipment and manpower.
Pepe said the borough has already realized savings from unofficial agreements, such as getting a paver and a trailer from other municipalities.
"We share equipment and services with other municipalities now and we'll continue to look at saving taxpayers money by working with other municipalities," Pepe said.