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Christmas to return to Hoffer Park

There will be Christmas lights in Hoffer Park after all.


Middletown Borough and the the union that represents the borough's non-uniform employees have settled a grievance that borough officials said had forced them to suspend the decoration of Hoffer Park, an annual holiday tradition.


The settlement, announced on Thursday, Nov. 21, allows for volunteers to decorate the park and Middletown's square, the borough said.


The borough now is seeking volunteers to help decorate the park. Volunteers may gather in the Borough Hall parking lot at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23 and Sunday, Nov. 24.


Hundreds of people visit the park to see the Christmas display each year, and Santa Claus holds court amid the lights and bulbs.


Councilor Barbara Arnold announced earlier this year that the borough would not decorate the park because of a grievance filed by the union, Teamsters Local 776, that sought compensation for work that volunteers did last year. The borough solicitor advised against using volunteers to decorate the park until the matter was resolved.


According to the settlement agreement, Teamsters Local 776 recognizes the borough's right to use volunteers so long as volunteer work does not result in layoffs of borough employees, the borough said.


"We appreciate the union leadership's efforts to resolve this matter in time for Christmas,'' said Tim Konek, borough manager, who is a member of the borough's contract negotiating team. "In the end, we were able to find common ground and put aside our differences for the good of Middletown.''


Trees already have been ordered for the Hoffer Park display, said Chris Courogen, borough secretary and director of communications.


News that the tradition would be suspended had resulted in a citizens' committee, under the auspices of the Middletown Area Historical Society, to erect a decorated tree at South Union and Ann streets, on property owned by the Society.