EMMAUS BOROUGH COUNCIL
Winfield Iobst, mayor of the Emmaus Borough for 20 years, attended his final council meeting in borough hall Dec. 18.
Iobst was presented with a certification of accommodation by the Emmaus Police Department for all of his work over the years.
As the police department stated, “We have a 20 man department, and somehow you’ve sworn in 23 full-time officers, eight sergeants, three chiefs, oversaw four cycles of accreditation, the building of a new police department and served under four U.S. presidents; congratulations.”
The police department also presented him with a shadow box and Council President Brent Labenberg presented him with a certificate of congratulations from U.S. Congressman Charlie Dent on behalf of the United States Congress and Congressional District of Pennsylvania.
“I’m very proud of everything that has gone on in 20 years,” Iobst said. “I mean, we started at a tough time, and we really came into everything working well. I’m proud to leave with 20 years in, we have a top notch police department, and I’ll always be proud of it.”
Former Chief of Police David Faust also spoke, and praised Iobst for his contributions to the borough.
“What I’ll carry most with me about you, is that you were always for the people of Emmaus first, no matter what the circumstance, no matter what the crisis, no matter what the decision was, you always said it was about the people of Emmaus.”
In addition to Iobst retiring, Councilmen Wesley Barrett and Nathan Brown will also be leaving, while Councilwomen Lee Ann Gilbert will be taking over as the new mayor.
Brown has served with the borough for 10 years and will be taking on a new position as Lehigh County Commissioner in District 5. Council members praised Brown for being incredibly involved in the borough and wanting to know the inner workings of the borough, whether it be through ride-alongs, or talking to department heads or borough workers.
Barrett has served on council for 12 years, and played a large role in making the Homestead Trail happen. Barrett is the founder of the Emmaus Halloween 5K race, which donates all money raised to the borough. Barrett will be moving about “300 feet” outside of the Emmaus borough lines, thus not being qualified to serve on council.
Gilbert has provided the borough with 18 years of service and will be taking on her new role as mayor Jan. 1, 2018. She was the first and only female president to serve borough council and served all 18 years on the public safety committee and was very active in the process of design for the new police department.
In other business, council unanimously passed ordinance 1169, which will raise taxes by 5.917 mills for the fiscal year of 2018. The average tax bill will increase by 8.44 percent, with the average household worth $163,000 seeing a $75.84 tax increase for the year.
Borough Manager Shane Pepe said at the previous council meeting the tax increase stems from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court case ruling the borough’s firefighters are indeed employees and need to be paid as such.
After being presented at the previous council meeting, the 2018 budget was officially passed, with a total of $16,598,255 – $11.6 million alone is for the general fund. It is $128,565 lower than the 2017 budget.
Pepe said the cost for the new library building is turning out to be much higher than originally anticipated after the bidding event Monday.
Pepe said the bottom bid to construct the new library was higher than what the library budgeted for the project. The base range for the bids, including plumbing, electrical and HVAC, are between $1.2 million and $1.4 million.
In addition to the $500,000 grant, the library has around $500,000 saved for the project. Pepe said the rough number he came up with for the additional money they needed was $200,000. He said nothing is finalized and the architects need to go through everything and meet with the library board.
Pepe said the grant for the project expires in March and ‘the commonwealth of Pennsylvania made it very clear they are not extending it.”
If the deadline to start construction isn’t met by March, they are in jeopardy of losing the grant. Pepe said the library board has a lot of decisions to make.
The main reason the project costs so much is because the area is in a flood zone. “Because they have to raise that [building] so high, there’s a lot of concrete, and the cost of the concrete is what’s really killing the project,” Pepe said.
In related business, council voted 6-1 in favor of allowing the library to place a five foot by eight foot LED sign in front of the library. The conditions were the sign has to be shut off from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. each night, and the library will be solely responsible for installation, cost, and maintenance of the sign.
Amy Resh, library director, feels the sign will help to draw attention to library events as well as improve the low turnout they have been receiving at their recent events. The sign will cost $22,297, with $20,000 already donated by two donors. The remaining difference will be paid by the library.
Barrett voted against the addition of the sign. “I would rather see, based on the financial situation of the library, that it go toward something else.”