PERKASIE — After getting a 50 percent electric bill reduction for electricity used between March 15 and April 15, borough residents and businesses will see the rates go back to normal for the just-completed following month, Perkasie Borough Council decided in a split vote at the board's May 18 meeting, held as a teleconference.
Perkasie is one of about three dozen boroughs in Pennsylvania that owns and operates its electric utilities.
The decision to cut the rate in half for the bills that went out in April was made in March as a way to assist residents and businesses dealing with the financial repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think we still have folks in need for this and we need to be able to identify them and provide them with some relief,” council member Steve Rose said at the May meeting.
He said he would like to see a group formed to help determine how that could be done.
He is not in favor of continuing to offer an across the board discount on the electric bills at this time, though, he said.
“I think across the board is not needed. It was nice that we did it the first time, everybody agreed to it, but this time, no,” Rose said. “I think we need to target any future changes.”
It was also suggested the borough start and move some money into a fund that would be used to help pay for costs related to COVID-19.
In answer to council President Jim Ryder's question about how that could be set up, Jeff Garton, the borough solicitor, said the borough would first have to decide how much money to put into the fund and how it would be administered.
“You have to be careful because your rates have to be uniform, so you may need to just establish a fund and then develop some kind of criteria for those folks that are in need that that fund could be used for,” he said.
Borough Manager Andrea Coaxum said there has already been some discussion of a borough recovery fund being set up and the administration will make recommendations to be reviewed by the Finance Committee, then the full council.
Council member Jim Purcell said there has been discussion of creating an application for residents and small businesses to use to apply for help.
“That way, we can drill down on the businesses and the people that need it instead of going across the board for everyone,” he said. “Now we should be focusing on the small business and residential customers that really need it and I think we could be a better help that way.”
Votes were taken on three different motions to continue electric rate cuts for another month, with each one voted down.
The first, to continue the 50 percent cut, was defeated 7-2 with council members Matt Aigeldinger and Aaron Clark casting the two votes in favor.
The other two, first for a 25 percent cut, then for a 20 percent cut, were defeated by 5-4 votes, with council members Randy Faulkner, Steve Rose, Chuck Brooks, Jim Purcell and Steve Pizzollo casting the five votes to discontinue the cuts.
That won't be the end of the discussion, though, Ryder said.
“When we have a better footing and better idea of how things are gonna end up, this is something we'll be looking at again,” he said.
Later in the meeting, council member Scott Bomboy said the new Pennridge Community Recovery Fund has been started.
“Our goal is to go out and raise money for non-profits and charities on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis” in the eight towns in Pennridge School District, he said.
Information at https://www.betterunite.com/pennridgefund says the fund will go to help “fund charities that provide food security, shelter, public safety, counseling, and social services to a community of approximately 50,000 residents.”
All the money has to go to COVID-19 related costs, Bomboy said.
The fund is not directly related to Perkasie Borough, he said. It also is not associated with Pennridge School District, the website said.
“As a non-profit, we can do a lot of things that a government can't do,” Bomboy said.
The non-profit cannot give money directly to businesses, Bombay and Mayor John Hollenbach said, but could buy products from businesses and distribute those items.
As an example, Hollenbach said, masks and take-out boxes could be purchased from local businesses and given to local restaurants.
In other matters at the meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Megan Prusienski said plots are still available for this year's community garden and that the Perkasie Farmer's Market will be opening, as originally scheduled, on June 6, within guidelines.
Plans for reopening the state call for counties and regions moving from the red designation to yellow, then green. Southeastern Pennsylvania currently remains in the red designation.
“The governor's basically come out and said pools will fall under green, so at this time, we're a long way away from green unless something rapidly happens,” Park and Recreation Committee Chair Chuck Brooks said in answer to a question about Menlo Aquatics Center.
The borough had previously announced the pool would not be opening until at least July 1.
As in other towns, Perkasie still doesn't have a final answer on whether it will be possible to open the pool for a shortened season, Brooks said.
“Everybody's on stand-by, but at the same time, everybody's kind of leaning towards the thought that this probably won't happen,” he said.
It will cost the borough more than $100,000 to keep the pool functioning even if it doesn't open, he said.
“It'd be great if we could get it open part of July and August,” Ryder said.
“It would be,” Brooks said, but said that will depend on the state restrictions.