EMMAUS BOROUGH COUNCIL
It was unanimously voted on by the Emmaus Borough Council, at the meeting held via Zoom May 18, to close the Emmaus Community Pool for the 2020 season.
The pool closing is mainly due to all of the uncertainties and circumstances involving the current situation surrounding COVID-19.
One of the largest concerns would be abiding to social distancing regulations put into effect by the state government.
Borough Manager Shane Pepe said even when Lehigh County is moved to the yellow zone, groups of no more than 25 people will be allowed. Twelve of those people would be pool employees alone and there was no fair way to determine the remaining 13 people who would be allowed to come inside the pool.
“There are too many questions, and for what you have to do to prep it, and then try to make sure other people socially distance, make sure you’re sanitizing everything, and relying on college and high school age students to maintain all that, and still not knowing how many people are allowed in the pool or when, the committee [Parks and Recreation] felt it was not the responsible thing to do,” Pepe said.
He said they held off making the recommendation as long as they could, “because there’s an emotional part of this.” When the committee weighed everything, they were looking at it logically rather than emotionally.
Councilwoman Shana Baumgartner said another logistical challenge was the uncertainty for when they would even be allowed to open the pool. Even if the borough were trying to hire pool employees, they would have no start date for training or the opening itself.
Additionally, the pool needs an estimated $30,000 in repairs done.
In other news, it was announced at a previous meeting that some of the upcoming local primary election locations for Emmaus residents would be moved. The new locations for certain Emmaus precincts are as follows: Precincts One and Two will go to the public works department highway garage located on Klines Lane and Precincts Four and Six will be at Bethel Church in the gym. Precinct Three will remain at St. Johns UCC and Precinct Five will remain at Faith Presbyterian Church. The borough will be sending out robocalls the week before the primaries to remind residents of the new locations.
The compost center will continue to be open during the restricted hours of 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. If a resident is unable to make those allotted times due to work, Pepe said they may call the borough, explain their situation and the borough will try “their very best” to accommodate them.
It was noted the center may be out of certain items soon such as mulch, as the Tub Grinder [mulch machine] is currently not working. When Lehigh County dissolved their compost site, agreements were made between Lower Macungie and Emmaus to share equipment. Part of that agreement was lending out the Tub Grinder to other municipalities. During one of the recent lends, a giant piece of steel was fed into the machine which broke the axel, causing $50,000 worth of repairs. Due to COVID-19, the shop doing the repairs is on backlog.
It was also noted some Emmaus residents are putting unauthorized items into the compost site including fences, fence posts and metal to name a few.
Regarding COVID-19, Pepe said the borough has to start looking at where they go from here.
“We’ve done everything that we can as far as cuts, as far as holding off purchases, deleting purchases, making decisions to furlough people, cutting out the swimming pool. Our next conversations we are going to start having with you guys [council] are the next steps.”
He said they need to start planning for when the county turns yellow and what that means for local businesses. They are already getting questions about outdoor seating for restaurants, what this means for retail and other types of businesses. They also have to decide when the borough will start doing different types of inspections again and gearing back up other borough operations.
Pepe said they also need to prepare for “the what ifs” moving toward winter time and a possible resurgence of cases.
“Collectivity as I said before, we’ve done a really good job of trying to get out ahead as quickly as we could, trying to maintain as quickly as we could and trying to prevent as much as we could,” he said.
Pepe also praised the support they have been receiving from the community. The borough has had mask donations for emergency services, sanitizer and supplies donated and even someone offering to pay their neighbor’s local taxes.
“It’s really cool to be part of a community where people care that much about each other,” Pepe said. “This community is really a special place.”
Council voted 7-0 to apply for a Cares Act Community Development Block Grant, which could possibly land them roughly $10,000. However, Pepe said one of the strings attached to the program is “if you are eligible, not even if you apply, if you are eligible for any other kind of funding in any of the other programs, you’re not allowed to apply for that under this program.”
They’ll be applying for equipment they’ve had to put into the ambulances and some equipment they will need to put into ambulances due to the virus.
It was announced the Emmaus Veterans Committee has canceled the 2020 Memorial Day Parade.