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Coroner identifies Middletown man who died in apartment fire

The Dauphin County Coroner has identified James McMeniman, 54, as the man who died in a fire in his apartment in the 200 block of Lawrence Street in Middletown.

The fire started at about 11:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 26. McMeniman died of smoke inhalation, according to a statement from county Coroner Graham Hetrick. The death has been ruled accidental in nature, Hetrick said..

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. however Middletown borough officials say they believe the fire to be accidental. 

Two other residents who lived in the apartment building are also homeless as a result of the fire. The Red Cross is assisting these residents, the borough said.

A dog also died in the fire, according to Middletown police. 

McMeniman's cat was revived by personnel with the Middletown Volunteer Fire Department and taken to the Rossmoyne Animal Emergency Trauma Center, according to the borough.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 January 2015 15:39

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A newcomer, two incumbents to run for commission posts

 

truntzphoto1 28 15WEBTodd Truntz
Newcomer Todd Truntz, an attorney, has joined incumbents Michael Davies and Jon Wilt as a Republican team running for three seats up for election on the Lower Swatara Twp. Board of Commissioners in 2015.

 

Truntz, the vice chairman of the Lower Swatara Twp. Municipal Authority, works as an attorney with Saidis, Sullivan and Rogers, a Cumberland County law firm. “I have enjoyed serving on the municipal authority for years,” he said.

Truntz said he is interested in public service, and that he has no specific issues he plans to tackle if elected. 

“We’re excited to have him on board with us,” said Commission President Tom Mehaffie.


daviesphoto1 28 15WEBMichael DaviesIf elected, Truntz would assume the vacancy created by departing Commissioner Nick DiFrancesco, who was appointed to the board in September 2013. DiFrancesco had previously served on the Lower Swatara board as well as Dauphin County commissioner and Highspire Borough Council.

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WILTphoto1 28 15WEBJon Wilt

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 January 2015 15:41

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Bowman named to council seat

Middletown Borough Council – over strenuous objections of nearly a dozen residents – voted 4-3 on Tuesday, Jan. 20 to appoint Mike Bowman to a vacant First Ward seat on council that was created by the resignation of Thomas Handley in December.

Bowman will serve throughout 2015. Voters in this year’s election will decide who will hold the seat for the last two years of Handley’s term, which runs through the end of 2017.

Bowman told the Press and Journal on Monday, Jan. 26 that he does not intend to run for re-election. Candidates have until March 10 to file petitions to get on the ballot for the May primary.
The Jan. 20 meeting was preceded by a protest that was held outside the borough building. Inside council chambers, all 40-plus seats were filled as council’s meeting started, and at least another 20 or so residents were either standing or were outside in the hall.

No one in the audience spoke in favor of Bowman, although after the meeting one councilor who voted for him cited a Jan. 6 letter from Rep. John Payne that requested that Bowman’s “credentials be reviewed for appointment” to the vacant council seat. Payne was not at the meeting.

On Friday, Jan. 23, Payne e-mailed to the Press And Journal a letter in which he criticized Council President Chris McNamara for comments attributed to McNamara in an article posted on PennLive after the council meeting.

In his comments about Panye’s letter about Bowman’s credentials, McNamara was quoted as saying, “How do I go against this guy when he’s telling me to take a look at the appointment of Mr. Bowman to the council when John Payne has brought almost $3 million to this borough since I’ve been sitting on this council? How do I go against that?”

In his letter to the Press And Journal, Payne said, “I am disappointed that, according to a recent news article, Chris McNamara took the opportunity to make this an issue and implied the reason why Middletown Borough Council appointed Mike Bowman was because I have secured in excess of $3 million in state funds for Middletown Borough. The inference is that I acquired the money in return for Mike Bowman’s appointment. I resent Chris McNamara insinuating a pay-for-play occurred.”
The full text of Payne’s letter appears on our Viewpoints page, page B4 in this edition.

Payne wrote that he was prompted to send the Jan. 6 letter after having a conversation with Bowman “roughly between Christmas and New Year’s,” in which Bowman “indicated” that only two candidates were in the running for the First Ward position and that one of the candidates did not live in the ward.

Bowman, upon learning of these statements in Payne’s letter, told the Press And Journal on Monday, Jan. 26 that he never spoke to Payne, but spoke to an assistant in Payne’s office in Hershey. Bowman also said he told the assistant that three people were in the running for the seat, not two.

“I deny making those statements to John Payne, I absolutely deny it,” Bowman said. “I didn’t speak to him between Christmas and New Year’s.”

Moreover, Payne’s letter to the borough is dated Jan. 6. First Ward residents had until the end of Friday, Jan. 9, to submit their application and resume to the borough to be considered by council for the vacant seat.

Bowman’s appointment was not the only fireworks during the Jan. 20 meeting. McNamara survived a call for his resignation by a 5-3 vote – with the newly-seated Bowman among his backers. Councilor Scott Sites called for him to resign his presidency, to be replaced by Councilor Ben Kapenstein.

 “This town is not ruled by the nine of us but by you, the dictator,” Sites said to McNamara in calling for his ouster.

 Besides Bowman and McNamara himself, voting to keep McNamara on as president were councilors Robert Louer, John Brubaker and Sue Sullivan.

 Sites, Kapenstein, and Councilor Anne Einhorn voted to replace McNamara with Kapenstein. Councilor Vicki Malone was absent.

McNamara, who represents the Second Ward, is up for re-election in 2015, and after the meeting said he “absolutely” is running again.

One potential challenger to McNamara for his Second Ward seat is former borough electric department supervisor Greg Wilsbach, who has emerged as a vocal critic of the McNamara-led majority on council.
After the meeting, McNamara defended his leadership record and recited a long list of things that he said have been achieved in the borough under his tenure.

He said the borough has “zero debt” as a result of council’s decision earlier this year to lease the water and sewer systems to United Water for 50 years. The borough received a $43 million payment from United Water that not only took care of all the town’s debt but will pay for three infrastructure projects – projects to increase water pressure in the Spring Street area, replace aging water and sewer lines under Route 230, and replace the bridge over Swatara Creek, McNamara said.

The $1.5 million downtown streetscape project is being funded with no local tax dollars, McNamara said. He also pointed to the roof of the Elks Building being replaced within six months of the building being acquired by the Middletown Industrial and Commercial Development Authority, and the hiring of new Police Chief John Bey and related efforts to improve the police department.

“I’m not here for politics. I’m here to make things happen and to get things done. I don’t care what people think of me,” McNamara said.

Referring to council’s vote to retain him as president, he added, “Obviously my colleagues are satisfied with the way things are happening.”  Before voting to replace Handley council heard from several First Ward residents who asked that Bowman not be appointed to fill Handley’s seat. Charlotte Bixler of Swar Avenue called Bowman “one of the biggest slumlords in Middletown” – a charge that Bowman vehemently denied after the meeting.  “We surely cannot allow council to reward Mr. Bowman for his disrespect of the town,” she said.

 “I do not want Mr. Bowman representing myself or anyone in the First Ward,” said Cortney Hartnett of Nissley Street, who added that the controversy over appointing Bowman had gotten her out to her first council meeting after living in the borough for six years. “I will not be silent anymore. I pay your stipend, I pay them all. I am a taxpayer and I will be heard. If you don’t like it, resign.”

 First Ward resident Dawn Knull, who had applied to fill Handley’s seat but was rejected on Jan. 12 by council’s administration and personnel committee, was one of several residents who said Bowman should not be picked because he had run for council in the First Ward previously and lost.  “The residents in the First Ward have spoken, not only on Facebook but in the polls numerous times,” she said.

“I’m not here to bash Mr. Bowman, but the majority did not vote for him,” said Cathy Winter of the 100 block of West Water Street. “I don’t want to be represented by Mr. Bowman. I believe Mr. Bowman has a great passion for this town, but I don’t believe he is very objective. I don’t believe extremes ever work in any situation, and extremes do not belong in government.”

When it came time for the vote, Sullivan moved for Bowman to be appointed, prompting thunderous jeers and boos from the crowd. Louer seconded Sullivan’s motion.

 “This is council giving you all the middle finger,” Sites announced to the crowd.

Earlier during the public comment period Hartnett had called on McNamara to recuse himself from the vote because, as she put it, “You are dating his daughter. This is a conflict of interest, sir.” Before the vote, McNamara asked Solicitor Adam Santucci if he should recuse himself. Santucci said that in his opinion McNamara did not need to abstain.

McNamara after the meeting acknowledged that he is in a relationship with Bowman’s daughter. However, he pointed out that he had asked if he should abstain, and Santucci said no.
After the meeting, Bowman had little to say.

“I turned in a resume and I got the job,” he said.

Bowman later told the Press And Journal that the characterization of him as a “slumlord’’ is “absurd.”
“I have never taken a building and turned it into apartments,’’ he said. “Half the buildings I brought were condemned already. I only fix them up.” Public records show only one charge filed against Bowman since 2010 – he pleaded guilty to a summary charge of failing to maintain a fire escape. The charge was filed against Bowman by the borough’s fire marshal, Mick Shrauder. Following the end of the Jan. 20 meeting, Louer was asked why he voted for Bowman despite the objections from the First Ward residents.

“As presented he [Bowman] was a better man.” Louer said.

Brubaker said he voted for Bowman “because of the recommendation he got from Payne.”

Middletown Press and Journal - Mike Bowman Council Appointment Response 1-22-15-3



 

Last Updated on Thursday, 29 January 2015 17:29

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Apartment fire kills man, dog in Middletown

 

An unidentified Middletown man died in a fire in an apartment building on South Lawrence Street late Monday, Jan. 26, Middletown police said.

The fire began around 11:30 p.m. in the 200 block of South Lawrence. A resident of the apartment and a dog died in the blaze, police said.

The Dauphin County coroner’s office will attempt to identify the victim, according to the borough.

The victim’s cat was revived by personnel with the Middletown Volunteer Fire Department and taken to the Rossmoyne Animal Emergency Trauma Center, according to the borough.

Two other residents were homeless after the fire and assisted by the American Red Cross, the borough said.

The fire does not appear to be suspicious, according to the borough. A Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal and Dauphin County officials are investigating.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 January 2015 14:58

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MIDDLETOWN MAN DIES IN APARTMENT FIRE

An unidentified Middletown man died in a fire in an apartment building on South Lawrence Street late Monday, Middletown police said.

The fire began around 11:30 p.m. in the 200 block of S. Lawrence St. A resident of the apartment and a dog died in the blaze, police said.

The Dauphin County coroner's office will attempt to identify the victim, according to the borough.

The victim's cat was revived by personnel with the Middletown Volunteer Fire Department and taken to the Rossmoyne Animal Emergency Trauma Center, according to the borough.

Two other residents were homeless after the fire and assisted by the American Red Cross, the borough said.

The fire does not appear to be suspicious, according to he borough. A Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal and Dauphin County officials are investigating.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 January 2015 03:52

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