East Greenville and Pennsburg officials spar over escrow suggestion
Some Home City Ice trucks will now use Washington Street and Second Street to alleviate some of the traffic on other roadways, including Penn Street in Pennsburg. The East Greenville company will also work to ensure that semi-trucks that must run their coolers overnight are parked on the north side of the plant, rather than near residences on the south side.
At Tuesday's East Greenville Council meeting, corporate office representative Rick Wetterau and East Greenville Plant Manager Mike Guido presented these ideas as part of their plan to address residents' complaints about traffic and noise.
According to Wetterau, the company is now in its peak season, which lasts through September. During this time, approximately eight box trucks and up to four semi-trucks are in and out of the plant each day, with additional trucks added on holiday weekends.
In recent months, residents of both boroughs have become increasingly vocal about their concerns. On Tuesday, Pennsburg resident Robert Stevens, who lives near the plant, described a "rolling sound" from semi-trucks parked along the hedgerow that keeps him awake during the night. "It's quiet during the day, but from 3 p.m. till morning it just sounds like the trucks are running all night," he said.
Wetterau said the noise is from coolers running, not idling trucks, but parking the semis away from the homes will allow the plant itself to serve as a buffer against noise. In addition, Wetterau said the company will work to ensure it disengages back-up beepers from rental vehicles as another strategy to reduce noise from the plant.
Wetterau also said that the company is also trying out trucks that run on compressed natural gas, rather than diesel, that are "considerably quieter." The East Greenville plant currently has one such truck, a beta model, but the closest place it can refuel is in Allentown, making it difficult to use the truck on a daily basis.
Pennsburg's Roads Committee, borough council members Mike Mensch and Ethel Ritchey and Mayor Vicki Lightcap, also attended the meeting to address the concerns of Pennsburg residents. Although Ritchey said she had no comment on the issue, Mensch said the borough would like Home City Ice to create an escrow account for future Penn Street road repairs.
The request struck a nerve with East Greenville Mayor Ryan Sloyer. "Why do you think you can now ask for money" from an East Greenville business, Sloyer asked, suggesting that Pennsburg has not fully cooperated with East Greenville in the past regarding issues like the closure of the recycling center, road closures and the expansion of the dorms at The Perkiomen School. He noted that although Pennsburg received money from the prep school for allowing the dorm construction, East Greenville saw none of it, even though there could be a potential increase in pedestrian and vehicle traffic in the borough as a result.
"I have a little bit of an issue" with Pennsburg asking for escrow funds from an East Greenville business for their roads, Sloyer said.
The Pennsburg representatives argued that the parallels Sloyer was trying to draw were incorrect, and Mensch said that "if we have to, we'll go through our solicitor" to try and secure escrow funds.
Lightcap said the borough must act to address residents' concerns, as those living near the plant are "coming to us in droves, saying, 'What are you going to do about this?' … It is now time for us to step in and just have conversations with you" about solutions to the problems.
Sloyer said he welcomes open discussion, but added that having conversations is "completely different" than asking for money.
After the board voted to amend the conditional use agreement for the plant to allow box trucks only to use Washington and Second streets, Lightcap said she would have to check Pennsburg's ordinances to see whether semi-trucks are allowed on Penn Street. Directing the box trucks to different roads would alleviate some traffic, but semi-trucks would still need to use Penn Street because they would not be able to make a left turn onto Route 29 from Second Street.
Sloyer asked Lightcap if the borough was considering banning the trucks, but Lightcap said only, "I have to look and see what our ordinance reads because size might be an issue ... I don't know what our ordinance says."
Also at Tuesday's meeting, Sloyer said council needs to address adolescent loitering in the 100 block of School Alley between Jefferson and Main streets. According to Sloyer, a group of teens is causing problems for residents in the area, blocking garage entrances and a dumpster truck trying to work in the area, as well as trespassing and intimidating residents.
Borough Manager Jim Fry also noted some vandalism in the area that had occurred recently. "They are cussing the residents out. They have no respect, so I would like to see council address this," he said, adding that the police "are making a presence, but it's not dispersing them ... These kids literally think they control this whole section."
Sloyer suggested reworking the curfew (currently set at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday) or banning loitering in the alleyways. He noted that the teens are not coming from the community center located near the site. No action was taken at the meeting, but Sloyer said he has asked the Upper Perk Police Department for a report and action plan on the issue.
In other business, repairs to Sixth Street will have to wait, as costs to repair the 100 block of Washington Street are higher than originally anticipated. Council last month approved $18,000 for road repairs on Washington, Third and Sixth streets, but the estimate did not include materials for Washington, which add about $7,000 to the project. Council decided to fix Washington at a cost of about $14,000; the borough will make its own repairs to Third Street; and Sixth Street may be addressed later in the year.
Council also approved a $10 fee for posting water shut off tags in the borough. Fry said about 10 percent of customers (around 100 residents) don't pay their water bill until a shut off notice is posted, and this creates considerable work for the borough. The $10 fee will be added to the resident's water account.
In addition, residents may now purchase East Greenville trash bags at Weis and C.R. Dampman.