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Borough nixes snow plowing pact with state

In past winters, the state paid Middletown Borough at least $7,300 a year to plow snow from Route 441, Route 230 and Vine Street under an agreement between the borough and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

 

This year, the borough chose not to sign the agreement, citing the loss of manpower and snow-removal equipment resulting from the borough entering into a 50-year lease of its water and sewer systems to United Water. The lease deal goes into effect on Jan. 1.

 

As a result, state-owned roads in Middletown won’t get plowed as fast this winter if the borough expects the roads to be cleared by the PennDOT, a department spokesman said.

“There definitely will be a slower response,” said spokesman Greg Penny. “People will experience a lower level of service and our response to getting there will be later or slower.”

 

Critics say the decision goes beyond inconveniencing drivers in that the borough is opening itself up to potential liability concerns if, for example, emergency vehicles cannot get up the hill on North Union Street – Route 441 – to reach the Frey Village Senior Living Community.

 

“You are gonna look like a bunch of fools,” resident Jack Still told Middletown Borough 

Council during a council meeting on Monday, Dec. 1.

 

Council President Chris McNamara defended the decision, citing costs to the borough in health care and overtime paid to plow the state roads.

 

Other municipalities in southern Dauphin County have agreements with PennDOT to plow state roads within their borders, Penny said. As a result, the closest PennDOT truck available to Middletown is assigned to Route 283.

 

“Their priority will be to treat 283 and then take care of 441, 230 and Vine,” Penny said. “The bottom line is that the level of service in Middletown will suffer. We won’t be able to get there as soon, as quickly and as frequently as borough crews had in the past.”

 

The issue also came up during a meeting of council’s public safety committee on Wednesday, Dec. 3 when resident Marlin Knull voiced concern over police and emergency vehicles not being able to reach the Middletown Area School District complex on Route 441.

 

Committee member John Brubaker pointed out that the complex is in Lower Swatara Twp., and thereby served by Lower Swatara police – and that school would not be in session anyway if the roads were that bad. That did not satisfy Knull.

 

Middletown Police Chief John Bey also sought to provide assurances that police will be able to get where they have to go. 

 

Compounding the situation is that Middletown waited until September to notify PennDOT that it was not signing the municipal agreement this year. PennDOT prefers that municipalities notify the department no later than July, to give the state time to supplement its own winter plowing resources.

 

PennDOT enters into agreements with construction companies to rent their trucks for use as snow plows over the winter, Penny said. Now that the economy is coming back, more contractors are holding onto their trucks year round for construction instead.

 

Also, PennDOT is “always in competition” with shopping malls, which pay a higher rate to rent trucks to plow their lots.

 

“It puts us in a bind,’’ Penny said. “Withdrawing in September is very late for us.”

 

Middletown has 3.5 miles of state roads, which equates to seven “snow lane miles” because the plow has to go down one direction and back the other.

 

PennDOT tried to convince the borough to keep plowing the state roads, arguing borough plows probably have to drive on state roads anyway to get to the borough roads that need to be plowed.

 

“It’s on the way, so why not take care of it and earn some money? They chose otherwise,” Penny said.

 

During a bad winter with a lot of snow – like last winter – PennDOT gives municipalities an extra payment to cover plowing the state roads. In the case of a mild winter, municipalities can make money because PennDOT doesn’t reduce the size of the payment, Penny said.

 

Council voted 5-2 on Monday, Dec. 1 to approve an update to the borough’s winter maintenance plan, with Councilors Anne Einhorn and Ben Kapenstein dissenting.

 

Middletown’s decision to walk away from the municipal agreement actually runs counter to the direction that PennDOT wants to go.

 

“We would like to enhance the municipal agreement program and beef it up to get more municipalities involved with it,” Penny said.

 

As an incentive, PennDOT is looking at a program where the department would sell its used snow plows to municipalities at a much lower cost than now.

 

PennDOT District 8 Executive Mike Keiser touched on the initiative during a transportation summit in Hummelstown in October that was attended by officials from Middletown and other municipalities. The program is not in place yet but is still in the concept proposal stage, Penny said.

 

Middletown at any point can change its mind regarding the municipal agreement. It would get a pro-rated share of the $7,300 fee if it decided to sign the agreement after winter has begun.

 

Dan Miller: 717-944-4628, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 December 2014 21:21

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Disabled parking in Middletown may be revamped

1 2014 SUBS EOM version 1 version 1Press and Journal photo by Dan Miller -- A disabled parking sign on a street in Middletown

 

Middletown does not have to provide reserved on-street parking spaces for persons with a disability – but the borough will continue doing so. Residents should be on the alert for changes to the program, however.

 

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 December 2014 20:59

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Finger-licking GOOD? His invention would cook a better chicken

chickenpic12 3 14Submitted photo -- Chad Oswald poses with his cooking invention, the “Daddy Long Legs.’’

 

Chad Oswald likes to tinker with barbecue methods and recipes. He tried beer can chicken, but he quickly decided there must be a better way to infuse a marinade into meat. 

 

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 December 2014 20:50

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She jumped into the bakery business; now she’s baking in Middletown


hessphoto12 3 14webPress And Journal Photo by Jim Lewis -- Mary J. Hess stands next to a display of her baked goods at Macri’s.

Mary J. Hess was working in an office at a private school that her daughter attended when she and a coworker in the cafeteria decided to take a bold career turn: They would buy a bakery together.

They took over a bakery along Route 22 in the Harrisburg suburbs, a move that was “very daunting,’’ Hess admits, because she had never even operated her own business before.

It’s one thing to dream of baking your own loaves of fresh bread daily to sell to a grateful clientele, but it’s another to actually do it.

“It was tough, but we did it – we got it down to a science,’’ she said.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 December 2014 20:31

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MIDDLETOWN’S GADGET GUY: His shop was filled with plumbing doo-dads

 

laudermilchpic12 3 14Submitted photo -- Michael Laudermilch

 

plumbersoutside12 3 14Press and Journal Photo by Jim Lewis -- The Plumber’s Helper, owned by Mike Laudermilch.

 

Walking into The Plumber’s Helper in Middletown was like walking into “your dad’s basement,” as one local customer describes it. The shop at Ann and South Union streets was lined with boxes and bins filled with every type of plumbing-related fitting, part and gadget that you could imagine.

 

 

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 December 2014 20:31

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