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Award-winning writer David Barr joins Press And Journal as reporter

David Barr, the new general assignment reporter at the Press And Journal, is no stranger to journalism.

The Douglassville native last worked at The Public Opinion in Chambersburg. While education was his primary focus, Barr was also a general assignment reporter. 

barr davidDavid BarrBut his interest in writing began long before that. He enjoyed reading and writing as a child and officially became a reporter in 2007, when he joined his high school newspaper during his sophomore year. He spent the final three years of high school writing for the paper. 

The summer before his senior year, he began an internship at his hometown weekly newspaper, where he worked for several years.

He graduated from Mansfield University in 2014, earning a bachelor’s degree in mass communications with a dual emphasis in print journalism and television broadcasting. 

 He served as a reporter, sports editor, and news editor on the campus weekly newspaper and served as a reporter and anchor for the campus television station. 

He didn’t leave Mansfield with only a degree. The paper where he had been working during breaks from school asked him to write a weekly column. He began writing about NASCAR in the summer of 2013. In the spring of 2014, weeks before he graduated, he was awarded with a first-place Keystone Press Award for his column “Up to Speed.”

Barr began working for the Reading Eagle’s sports department in August 2014. He collected and recorded statistics, records and notes from the high school athletic events in Berks County and prepared them for publication. He wrote a few stories about local athletes and their accomplishments.

In late summer 2015, he took an education reporter job with The Public Opinion.

“Journalism has been good to me, and I look forward to serving our readers to the best of my ability,” he said.

Barr’s duties at the Press And Journal will focus on Lower Swatara and Londonderry townships.

“We are happy to have an experienced reporter such as David on board,” said Editor Jason Maddux.

In his spare time, Barr enjoys NASCAR, NFL, archery and reading.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 January 2017 12:23

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Yes, one election just ended, but there is another around the corner

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We just got done with an election, right? Well hang on, folks. We’re about to get started on another one. 

The year 2017 is a municipal election year. The seats of many local officials who impact your daily life more than Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton are up for grabs. They decide how much you pay in property taxes, what municipal services you get, how many police officers patrol your streets, and how your property is zoned, to name just a few things.

The list also includes many of the district judges who are the first step in the court system for anyone from an overdue parking offender to a suspected murderer.

 

Judge seats

Speaking of district judges, the first two people throwing their hat into the re-election ring are David Judy and Michael Smith.

Judy on Jan. 3 announced that he is running for a sixth six-year term as district judge. His office in Royalton presides over cases from throughout Middletown and Royalton boroughs, and Conewago and Londonderry townships.

“As the only level of our judicial system that most citizens will ever see or visit, magisterial district courts represent access to justice for those who reside in the communities that we represent,” Judy, of Middletown, said in a press release accompanying his announcement.

Smith is running for a third six-year term as the district judge who handles cases throughout Lower Swatara, Paxtang Borough, and most of Swatara Township. A retired Swatara Township police officer, Smith lives in Lower Swatara.

Smith and Judy are among eight district judges throughout Dauphin County whose seats are up this year, said Gerald Feaser, director of the county office of elections and voter registration.

Three county judge seats are up this year. Michael Rozman of Steelton has announced that he is running for one of the county judge seats.

Rozman is a prosecutor who has worked in the Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office since 1994. He was the president of Steelton Borough Council in the 1990s.

In addition, incumbent Dauphin County Judge Lori K. Serratelli announced on Jan. 9 that she is running for re-election to a full term on the county bench. Serratelli was appointed a Dauphin County court judge in June by Gov. Tom Wolf.

Other countywide offices up this year include prothonotary and the coroner.

Here’s a look at some of the many seats that voters will decide:

 

Middletown borough

Mayor James H. Curry III, elected in 2013, will be up for a second term.

Three four-year seats are up on borough council — those of President Ben Kapenstein, Anne Einhorn and Ian Reddinger, who was appointed in 2016 to replace Greg Wilsbach, who was elected in 2015 but resigned in 2016. Also up is a two-year seat held by Dawn Knull.

As Feaser pointed out, this will also be the first at-large election since borough council did away with electing councilors by wards in 2016. All four seats up this year will be decided upon by voters from throughout Middletown.

 

Middletown school board

Six of nine seats are up on Middletown Area School Board — those of Mike Corradi, Melvin Fager, David John, Brian Keating, Darnell Montgomery, and John Ponnett Jr.

Keating, Montgomery, and Ponnett are all new members who have been appointed in the past few months to replace members who had resigned.

 

Lower Swatara Township

Two seats on the board of commissioners are up. One is currently held by Laddie Springer and the other is held by Benjamin Hall. The board on Dec. 21 appointed Hall to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Tom Mehaffie, who stepped down on Nov. 30 after Mehaffie was elected to the state House.

 

Royalton

Mayor Judy Oxenford is up for re-election, as are two borough council seats from the First Ward and two council seats from the Second Ward. 

 

Londonderry Township

The seats of two members of the board of supervisors are up — those of Bart Shellenhamer and Michael Geyer — both of whom were elected to six-year terms in 2011.

 

LD School Board 

Four seats on the nine-member board are up in 2017, including the seat from Londonderry Township representing Region 1 of the board. The current holder of the seat, Kerry L. Wolfe, is resigning as of January 2017 so the board will have to appoint someone to replace her.

The three other seats up this year are those now held by Debra J. Macut and Eric M. Samples (both representing Region 2 which includes Hummelstown Borough and part of South Hanover Township), and Kevin J. Busher (who represents Region 3 which includes East Hanover Township and part of South Hanover Township). 

 

Other seats

Tax collectors and possibly auditors will also be on the ballot in these municipalities. Feaser also reminds voters that judges of elections and inspectors of elections will be chosen by voters in 2017 for every precinct in Dauphin County.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 January 2017 13:22

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The King was a 'good old boy': Middletown businessman was in basic training with Elvis Presley

webPresleyandRoweElvis Presley stands with Frank Rowe in this photo of their Army unit at basic training in Fort Hood, Texas, in 1958.

“I don’t believe it!” is how people typically react when Frank Rowe of Hershey mentions that he was in Army basic training with The King — Elvis Presley.

But Rowe has a black-and-white photo of himself and Elvis standing in front of the barracks at Fort Hood, Texas, to prove it — plus another old photo with The King’s signature.

“I’d like to have somebody tell me that it’s fake,” said Rowe, referring to those TV shows where people take something to a pawn shop and it turns out to be bogus.

Elvis Aaron Presley would have turned 82 years old on Sunday, Jan. 8.

 

‘Good old boy’

Rowe — who in 1973 founded the Frank Rowe & Son Inc. pet supply business, now located in the former Middletown post office on South Union Street — is 81 and took basic training with Elvis in 1958 at Fort Hood.

Presley by then was already an international sensation, having recorded such classics as “Heartbreak Hotel” and having done his famous from-the-waist-up-only appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

Rowe grew up poor in Hawley, a small borough in northeast Pennsylvania. Like Elvis, Rowe was drafted into the Army in 1958.

Presley was one of 174 soldiers in Rowe’s basic training unit.

“He was pretty darn big” in terms of already being famous, by the time Presley arrived at Fort Hood, Rowe remembers. 

“Women came by the truckload” to try and see Presley on the post, Rowe said. 

“It got so bad that he had to move off post. He’d come to work in the morning in a big Cadillac or Lincoln” that looked like a stretch limo, he said.

But Rowe said he and the other soldiers didn’t resent Presley’s fame. To the other soldiers, he was just one of the guys.

One day at Fort Hood the soldiers got a tag football game going.

“If you ever play tag football, they don’t last as ‘tag’ very long and then they knock you down,” Rowe said. “Presley had the ball, he’s running, and a guy named Shorty and a guy named Abbie came out from each side to block him. He ran through those guys and they went flying down through the field. From that second on, Elvis was a good old boy.”

 

Special treatment?

Rowe recalled a few personal encounters that he had with Presley. The girls coming to the post was so constant that one time Rowe said to Elvis, “Why don’t you take some of the girls out for a date some evening?”

“He said, ‘Frank, you can do it, I can’t. All they want is a baby,’” Rowe recalls Presley telling him.

webPresley1Elvis Presley signed this photo of himself at basic training for Frank Rowe.

Presley pulled his weight like any other soldier, but he wasn’t always treated like every other soldier — even by the normally tough-as-nails drill sergeants.

One time Rowe, Presley and the other soldiers were all out on bivouac waiting on the truck to bring chow. The mess truck came in, everybody ate, and Rowe was sitting there with Presley.

“Elvis got up and walked away and left his rifle laying there,” Rowe said. “I picked it up and I was going to give it to him when one of the drill sergeants said, ‘Rowe, I’ll take care of that,’ and he (the drill sergeant) said ‘Elvis, you forgot your rifle.’”

“That doesn’t happen very often,” Rowe said with a laugh. “You’d be doing push-ups and sit-ups and yelled at and cleaning it for a year.”

After basic training, Rowe and Presley were both on the same ship heading for overseas service in Germany. 

Rowe said Presley wasn’t allowed to sing in public on the ship, because somebody would try to record him and make money off of it. But one day on the voyage he was playing piano.

“You couldn’t get near (him). The room was packed. You could hear him play, but you couldn’t see him,” Rowe said.

The military is often tight-lipped about troop movements, but when the ship arrived in port with Elvis, the Fräuleins already knew he would be there.

Crowds of them were at the dock waiting with flowers. They descended on the first guy who got off the ship, only to find that he wasn’t Elvis. The solders debarked in alphabetical order, so the girls had to wait until it was Presley’s turn, Rowe said.

Presley went to Friedberg, and Rowe was sent elsewhere in Germany to be a tanker. 

Rowe never saw The King again, and they didn’t keep in touch.

 

After the service

Presley served on active duty until March 1960, and was discharged from the Army Reserve in March 1964.

Rowe made sergeant in two years, but got out of the Army and returned to Hawley. It didn’t take long before he realized that he liked Army life better. He was back in within a month, at the same pay grade. 

Presley2Frank Rowe holds an autographed picture of The King.Rowe made the Army a career, spending 20 years. He did a tour in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970.

In 1973, the Army transferred Rowe to Fort Indiantown Gap, which is how he ended up in Hershey. Rowe started the pet supply business the same year along with his son, Dan Rowe. 

The business eventually got too big for the Hershey location. Dan’s wife Debbie went on the Internet and the search led to Frank Rowe acquiring the former post office on Union Street and moving the business there, where it remains today.

Frank is just part of a proud military tradition in the family. Frank’s father fought in France in World War I. Dan is retired from the Air Force, and Debbie spent 10 years in the Air Force.

 

Changes in Vietnam

In February 2016, Frank and Dan took a cruise to Vietnam, spending time in Saigon and stopping at four other ports in the country.

The changes that Frank saw in the country since he was there amazed him.

“There are 7-Eleven stores all over Saigon,” he said. “The young people are modern as all get out.”

Dan said that his father talks about being in basic training with Elvis “all the time.”

Frank said he likes Elvis’s music, but he never went to see him in concert. He’s never even gone to Graceland, although Frank said he’s traveled to every continent of the globe and set foot in at least 100 countries.

In a rather amazing coincidence, Dan said that his mother — Janice Johnson, who is divorced from Frank — was born on the same day, and in the same year, as — Elvis Presley.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 January 2017 14:52

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Interim police chief was NYPD detective, was at Ground Zero on 9/11

Screen Shot 2017 01 05 at 6.36.13 PMMayor James H. Curry III swears in George A. Mouchette on Thursday afternoon in the council chambers as Middletown's interim police chief.

Middletown’s new interim police chief was on the New York Police Department on 9/11.

How the country came together that day and in the following days still gives him goosebumps.

“The night before 9/11, I was out doing a narcotics operation,” said George A. Mouchette, sworn in Thursday afternoon as the interim chief. “I arrested eight people. I was sitting in court in Brooklyn when the first plane hit the towers. Everybody in the courthouse ran out and went across the Brooklyn Bridge in a caravan. When I got there, the second plane hit. I didn’t leave Ground Zero for around three days. I was covered in gray. Everybody out there was covered in gray. 

 

CLICK FOR MORE: Level of service regional police would provide questioned at meeting

CLICK FOR MORE: Lower Swatara officials: Early talks are about contracting for police by Middletown

 

What struck him then — and still does — is the unity that the country showed.

“It made me proud to be an American. Everybody came together. Construction workers brought their equipment down. Firemen, EMS, regular citizens, everybody was helping each other. I would have to say that was my proudest moment.

“There were no Republicans, there were no Democrats. There were no white officers or black officers. There was just Americans — gray Americans. Everybody was covered in gray, and everybody was just trying to do what they could to help. We saw people eventually over the next couple of weeks come from Florida and California, search and rescue, Red Cross workers from middle America, and just how everybody just came together and pitched in to help. I still feel goosebumps when I think about it.”

mouchette daughterMayor James H. Curry III looks over paperwork after swearing in George A. Mouchette on Thursday afternoon as Middletown's interim police chief. Mouchette's daughter, Samantha, also was in attendance.Mayor James H. Curry III swore in Mouchette (pronounced moo-CHAY) on Thursday afternoon in the council chambers as his 4-year-old daughter, Samantha, watched. Mouchette is a retired New York Police Department lead detective who retired from the force after more than 20 years when his wife took a job with The Hershey Co. several years ago.

He said he wasn’t planning on retiring when he left the NYPD, but financially it made sense because of his wife’s opportunities with Hershey. 

“When I got down here, I was just trying to find different ways to make myself useful,” he said, including working as a substitute teacher and a personal trainer. “When I heard about this position, it just fit with my skill set.”

On Dec. 6, Chief John Bey resigned effective Dec. 30. Curry has been in charge of the day-to-day operations of the department since then. He said the mayor can appoint an interim chief without council approval.

“I’m told that the borough has a bit of a narcotics problem. I’ll focus a little on that and see what can be done about that,” Mouchette said after being sworn in. “Like the mayor said, I’m just going to hold the fort down and make improvements where I can.”

Mouchette will be an interim chief until a final decision is made on regionalization of police forces with Lower Swatara Township or potentially a contract for services with that department. Curry said there was no time frame on that decision, but it is something he said the borough should not rush into.

“People have been trying to do this for 25 years. I have no idea what the correct answer to that question is. All I can say is, if an agreement is reached that gives this community and the community we are hopefully partnering with the same or better level of service and it cuts costs, we’ll do it. If it’s not, then I’m not even touching it,” Curry said. 

 

Craving Kuppy’s

Mouchette said he learned a lot about Middletown from its most famous eatery — Kuppy’s, which he says has the best bacon he’s ever had in his life.

The first time he was there, he said, he ordered bacon and eggs, no potatoes, with extra toast. 

“I went back there a couple of days later because I had to get some more of that bacon. (Owner Greg Kupp) actually remembered what I ordered the first time. And I said, ‘I guess this is my regular.’ He said, ‘This is your regular.’ So now when I go in there, he’s like, ‘Do you want your regular?’ ‘I want my regular.’ I’ve never been in a place where I had a regular. In New York, everything is so impersonal. Nobody knows you. I walk into a restaurant, I can go there every day, nobody really knows what I want. I walk into Kuppy’s twice and he knows exactly what I want. That’s what this place is all about.”

Mouchette was a first-grade detective for the NYPD. He said the department has about 8,500 detectives, and only about 300 make it up to first-grade detective.

He said he did not have supervisory authority in that job. 

“But you don’t have to have the authority to be a leader. Detectives in my unit all followed me, and I was given a lot of latitude because of my leadership skills to design operations and assign people to what they should be doing,” he said.

Curry said he interviewed four internal candidates and three external candidates for the interim job. The position was offered to Sgt. Richard Hiester, a 26-year veteran of the force, Curry said, but an agreement could not be reached. Hiester last week officially notified the borough that he would be retiring — effective Friday, Dec. 30, the same day as Bey.

Curry said he asked Bey for recommendations on an interim chief. Bey recommended Hiester as an internal candidate and Mouchette as an external one. With input from council, he said, he pursued Hiester, but when it was clear he couldn’t reach an agreement with him, he pursued Mouchette, who Bey had considered a year ago for a deputy chief position that never materialized.

 

From NYC to Middletown

Mouchette said moving from the largest city in the United States to Middletown’s force will be a smooth transition.

“Being here two years, I’ve realized that everything that happens in New York happens in rural America. It just happens a lot more in New York. So if you have a population of 50,000, you might get one domestic dispute. In New York, there’s 8 million, so you’d get 20 of them. But it’s the same. A domestic dispute in New York is the same as a domestic dispute in Middletown. So I think my skill set is just having the volume of experience that some other officers in rural America might not,” he said.

The focus in his career has been Internal Affairs and narcotics, so he has done all types of investigations, including state and federal.

Curry said talks about regionalization will move forward with public meetings. 

Council President Ben Kapenstein and Curry recently met with Lower Swatara Township officials, including Commission President Jon Wilt and Frank Williamson, the township’s public safety director/assistant manager. Kapenstein described the meeting as “positive” but that “nothing detailed” was discussed.

“Our goal was to pick the best candidate for what we need right now. We need an interim chief right now to man the ship as we look at the regionalization effort,” Curry said. “Do I think George would make a great full-time chief? Absolutely. But that’s not what we’re looking for right now. So if the regionalization efforts for some reason are not fruitful, then we would have to go through the proper process of hiring a full-time chief. That would include advertising, that would include the Civil Service Commission, that would include all those protocols that are necessary to make a permanent employment.”

Nothing of significant substance was discussed with Lower Swatara officials, Curry said, other than whether discussions should continue.

“For the public’s sake, there is nothing set in stone at all,” Curry said. “I know there’s been a lot of chatter about this. There has been one meeting where we said, ‘Hi, how are you. Would you be interested in talking about this.’ ‘Yes we are.’”

 

About Mouchette

Mouchette has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. 

He also is a blackbelt in shotokan karate, chang shou kung fu and muy thai kickboxing, and is proficient in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, Japanese jiu-jitsu, aki jiu-jitsu and kali.

“Being in Internal Affairs I think is a huge benefit,” Curry said. “I’m not saying that our officers are doing anything wrong or inappropriate. But I’m just saying in terms of his experience, he knows what to expect of a professional police force and people who have the utmost standards of professionalism.”

He will make $28.85 an hour, which would be $60,000 a year. He will not receive benefits or a pension or be eligible for 401(k). Curry said Bey made more than $80,000 at the time he left.

For now, Mouchette is ready to get started.

“I want to thank the mayor for giving me this opportunity,” he said. “I’ll do the best I can.”

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 January 2017 15:15

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Lower Swatara commissioners establish board, committee jobs

The Lower Swatara Township Board of Commissioners began the new year on Jan. 4 by filling several positions on township committees and boards. 

The board also discussed the township’s ongoing trash service transition and a planned installation of public water service along Strites Road.

In a way, the meeting was a continuation of a reorganization process that commissioners began last month when appointing Ben Hall to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of commissioner president Tom Mehaffie. At that time, members appointed Tom Wilt as president, with Laddie Springer replacing Wilt as vice president.

On Jan. 4, township commissioners appointed these individuals to municipal boards:

• Planning commission: four-year term, Dennis Fausey.

• Zoning hearing board: five-year term, Jason Wagner; four-year term, Steven Artman; three-year term, Jon Strite.

• Municipal authority: five-year term, Dan Magaro.

A vacant five-year term for the township’s civil service commission will be filled on Jan. 18, township commissioners said. Officials also are considering leaving two code hearing board positions vacant and instead using the county board for township code matters, but no final decision has been made on this matter.

Commissioners also appointed these municipal representatives for 2017:

• Public safety committee chairman, vice chairman — Springer, Wilt.

• Public works committee chairman, vice chairman — Commissioner Todd Truntz, Hall.

• Budget and finance chairman, vice chairman — Commissioner Michael Davies, Springer.

• Community development chairman, vice chairman — Hall, Springer.

• Personnel chairman, vice chairman — Wilt, Springer.

• Building committee chairman, vice chairman — Truntz, Springer.

• Commissioner liaison, EMS — Wilt.

• Commissioner liaison, EMA, fire department — Davies.

• Commissioner liaisons, Olmsted Recreation Board — Springer, Hall.

• Commissioner liaisons, Middletown Area School Board — Davies, Truntz.

• Commissioner liaison, municipal authority — Truntz.

• Commissioner liaison, Dauphin County Agency on Aging — Hall.

• Delegate, alternate, Capital Region Council of Governments — Public Safety Director/Assistant Township Manager Frank Williamson, Public Works Superintendent Daniel Wagner.

• Commissioner liaison to MS4/water quality — Hall.

• Commissioner representative to Penn State Advisory Board — Wilt.

 

No major issues reported with township change in trash hauler

Interim township manager Terry Kauffman noted Jan. 4 that Lower Swatara’s ongoing transition to a new trash hauler has made for “an eventful two weeks.”

“Really, there’s been no surprises. When you’re changing 2,000 people with pickup dates and times and haulers, there is some confusion. Overall, though, I think it went well,” Kauffman said.

On Dec. 7, township commissioners approved a new five-year contract with Lebanon Farms Disposal that began on Jan. 1, 2017. On Dec. 31, 2016, the township’s five-year trash disposal contract with Penn Waste expired.

Under the new contract, Lebanon Farms Disposal will bill township trash customers a set quarterly price of $62.48 that won’t change for the length of the five-year contract. Although this is more than Penn Waste’s previous quarterly fee of $51.91, the Lebanon Farms contract still will save residents money, Kauffman said. If the township had renewed a contract with Penn Waste, the new price would have been $70.70 per quarter, he said.

Customers with unused Penn Waste trash bags are advised to turn these in to the township. Municipal officials will submit these for fiscal reimbursement from Penn Waste on customers’ behalf.

 

Suez planning to put in 12-inch water main along Strites Road

Suez Water is planning to install a 12-inch water main along the entire length of Strites Road from Chambers Hill Road to Longview Drive later this year, making public water available in this area for the first time, Public Works Superintendent Daniel Wagner reported on Jan. 4. 

“(Suez) wants to get this rolling by spring,” Wagner said. 

For now, however, the water company is awaiting necessary clearances for the project.

Suez also plans to install a connection point at Powderhorn Road and state Route 441 near Kreider Drive, but this won’t make new service available for anyone in this area, Wagner said. Instead, the water company is installing a retainer for existing service in the Fulling Mill Road area.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 January 2017 17:03

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