Solutions to East Greenville's struggles with truck traffic on borough roads may be closer at hand after Home City Ice representatives listened to officials' concerns at Tuesday night's board of supervisors meeting.
For the last couple of months, supervisors have been reaching out to Home City Ice about its use of borough roads, especially Washington Street.
"Their trucks are supposed to be utilizing Penn Street to Route 663, in and out [of the plant]. Our roads are not built for truck traffic and we're going to be getting into the busy season," Mayor Ryan Sloyer said in April. Truck traffic, except local deliveries, should be taking designated roads, including Route 663, Church Street and Water Street to circumvent the borough.
On Tuesday, Home City Ice corporate office representative Rick Wetteran and East Greenville Plant Manager Mike Guido attended the council meeting as requested by officials.
Council President Timothy Huff and Sloyer gave an overview of the borough's comditional use agreement with the company, which aims to restrict truck traffic through the borough, as well as regulate the times of day that trucks can leave from and return to the plant. Sloyer also said that the borough sent the company letters last year about the truck traffic, asking a representative to let them know if anything in their business plan had changed.
"But we never heard from the company," he said. "It seems like we're reaching out, but Home City Ice won't let us know what's going on."
"Yes, we are supposed to be using 663," Wetteran said; however, he added that business at the East Greenville plant has doubled since 2011 when the conditional use agreement with the borough was reached, meaning there are more trucks on the road in general. According to Wetteran, the East Greenville facility is now at full operating capacity.
Guido said the drivers are aware that they should be using only the designated borough roads and "they try to do it." He surmised that the trucks may be using nondesignated routes on their return trip.
"We understand you want to grow your business, but you're in a residential area and you're creating problems for the residents," Huff said.
Wetteran agreed to work on a plan to address the concerns and said a Home City representative will present it at the next borough council meeting June 24.
The Pennsburg Borough Council Roads Committee also attended the meeting and asked to be included in all plans and discussions, which East Greenville officials agreed to do.
However, Pennsburg residents who attended the meeting expressed increasing frustration with the plant. One woman railed against Sloyer, saying, "You allowed a huge company to come into a tiny residential neighborhood, [and now] residents have to suffer the noise and the traffic." The woman also chastised council for trying to redirect the traffic through Pennsburg, which is dealing with its own struggle to keep roads in good repair.
Another woman, who lives on the Pennsburg-East Greenville border, said the trucks at the plant sometimes idle or run for hours while they are waiting for new loads and asked whether the borough had a noise ordinance to prevent the practice. She added that she has spoken to Guido in the past, and he was responsive to her concerns, but with summer now started, she fears the practice will begin again.
East Greenville Borough Manager Jim Fry said there are federal laws in place to prevent truck idling and there is also a nuisance ordinance that would possibly apply to the noise situation.
Huff asked Wetteran and Guido to look into that issue, as well.
Also at Tuesday's meeting, Upper Montgomery Joint Authority (UMJA) Executive Superintendent Glenn Quinn gave a brief presentation about the sewer authority's permit renewal process and the need for sewage plant upgrades. UMJA provides sewer service to East Greenville, Pennsburg and Red Hill boroughs.
According to Quinn, UMJA in recent years has had problems with sewer overflows and infiltration inflow, which need to be addressed. While the plant has been able to fix some of the problems, state and federal environmental requirements will force additional changes at UMJA.
Quinn said the current system is "dated" and treats sewage by filling tanks with diluted sewage, which is then chlorinated and expelled into the reservoir. "We have to fix that," Quinn said, by building a sludge treatment plant. Quinn discussed several options for updating the plant, including the anticipated need to begin removing nitrogen from sewer waste.
The projects could range from $14 million to $17.7 million dollars, although Quinn added that now is the optimal time to begin the projects so UMJA can take advantage of historically low interest rates.
Sloyer asked Quinn how much the upgrades would cost UMJA customers, and Quinn said there could be a one-time, double-digit increase of about 20 percent, followed by 3 and 4 percent increases. He estimated the average cost would increase by about $16 per quarter for customers, but added that those figures were not firm.