Members of the Central Carbon County Regional Comprehensive Plan committee approved changes to the fourth segment of the plan during a meeting held Thursday night at Att. William Schwab's office.
Representatives attending the meeting were Bruce Steigerwalt, Mahoning Township; Rod Green and Paul Kocher, Franklin Township; Att. Schwab, East Penn Township and Darryl Arner, Lehighton. No representative attended for Weissport. Allen Heist, project manager and consultant with Stell Environmental Enterprises, led the discussion of the meeting.
Heist organized the plan into five focus or issue areas based on the problems, needs and opportunities of the region that will be used to set the framework of the plan: ensure the economic vitality of the community, improve mobility in the region; determine land use plans; identify physical and historic settings and determine present and future residents needs of the area.
During Thursday's presentation, Heist reviewed the area's natural and cultural resources. Based on his analysis, he believes that the only services in need of significant upgrade is the public water service provided by the Lehighton Water Authority.
"The water authority is at or near its maximum capacity," he noted. He noted that LWA needs to replace a substantial amount of aging water lines and has insufficient capital improvement funds.
"The region's other community facilities and utilities appear adequate to meet the area's future needs and demands," said Heist. "These include emergency services, municipal administration, police protection, public sewage capacity, schools and utilities."
Heist said that the revenues from the Lehighton borough owned power company provide alternative revenue source for the borough which helps to maintain a low tax rate.
Heist noted that after reading residents' surveys, he read that the majority of residents who completed the citizen survey feel that the level of maintenance of local roads is inadequate. He said that there is a need to evaluate the number of road department employees and road equipment needs to see how the level of service can be improved, including the increased usage of shared equipment.
He said that with the existing call volume, the number of police officers appears to be adequate.
Several representatives at the meeting said that Heist may not realize that many part time police officers work few hours a month, so that his figures may need adjusting.
He also commented that while the Carbon County Municipal Authority's sewage treatment plant has sufficient capacity to meet future needs in the region as a whole, it has infiltration problems during storms from Lehighton borough which should be addressed.
He also noted that any new community sewage systems should be either spray or drip irrigation systems to offer environmental benefits compared to typical package plants.
He was also concerned about the recycling rates in the region. He noted that the area should try harder to reach a goal of recycling 25 percent of waste generated and should step up the educational and promotional materials to continue promoting recycling.
He noted that because of mutual aid agreements, the fire protection seems to be adequate, but that when population increases, there should be monitoring of the services.
Heist also noted that the local library appeals to meet minimum standards for the community.
Heist also noted that no overcrowding is projected in Lehighton Area School District presently, but that by 2015-16, the will be a need to expand elementary school to accommodate overcrowding issues.
He noted that the area is adequately serviced with high speed broadband service in the area which is attractive for the Wall Street Initiative.
The meeting continued with reviewing community facilities and services which attract new residents to a community. This includes the buildings, structures and lands that contain programs and activities that are essential to municipal government operations, such as adequate trash removal, electric service and ambulance service, local hospitals and medical services.
The next planning meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18, at Schwab's office, Mahoning Township.