When: Ephrata Borough Council meeting, May 3.
What happened: Borough Council has again extended the moratorium on electric shut-offs, this time 30 days to June 10.
Why it’s important: Council approved the measure, proposed by councilman Ricky Ressler, out of concern that residents facing shut-offs have not had sufficient time to apply for help through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. As of April 26, 135 residents were still in arrears and subject to disconnect. Altogether, they owe $107,561, including $68,626 for 92 tenant-occupied units and $38,935 for 43 owner-occupied units. To date, 12 residents have filed assistance applications with one being approved and 11 pending.
Where to find help: Information and applications are available locally through Ephrata Area Social Services and the Northern Lancaster County HUB.
Quotable: Describing the program, Rebecca Beres, a resident and council candidate said, “It enables us to help our fellow borough residents who are really struggling.”
Ephrata Fair: Councilman Vic Richard said he received a letter from the Ephrata Farmers Day Association requesting use of the borough streets and Grater Park for the 102nd annual Ephrata Fair to be held Sept. 21 to 25. The letter also asked for use of the usual streets for the annual fair parade Sept 22. The letter stipulates the Fair Association will follow the 2021 guidelines set forth by the Pennsylvania Fair Industry Reopening Plan and will monitor COVID-19 data health and safety rules from the state health department. Richard is recommending approval at the May 10 meeting.
County health department: Councilman Thomas Reinhold discussed a resolution asking Lancaster County commissioners to create a public health department. The resolution considered is based on one created by the Manheim Township Board of Commissioners, but Reinhold feels if council follows suit, it should be more specific than that proposed by Manheim Township. In addition, Ressler added his voice in favor of a resolution that speaks more for the residents of the borough than for the county overall.
WellSpan official weighs in: Carrie Willets, Market President of the East Region for WellSpan, which operates Ephrata’s hospital, encouraged council to follow through. She said a county health department offers expertise during a public health crisis that health systems cannot do on their own. During the pandemic, counties that have established health departments “saw real-time testing” and were able to access and distribute vaccinations “much more quickly and more effectively,” Willets said. Those counties also offered effective contact tracing, she said. “We advise you to encourage the commissioners to establish this.”
What’s next: Council will take up the question of a county health department next month.