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When TVs kill: Congressman urges retailers to promote TV safety as Super Bowl nears

TVphoto2 4 16

Televisions can kill.

TVs can tip over if not secured on furniture – in fact, 430 people have died in the U.S. between 2000 and 2013 from being struck by TVs, stands and other furniture that have tipped over, according to a study by staff at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

And about 38,000 people were treated by emergency personnel for injuries from tipped TVs and furniture between 2011 and 2013, the study said.

TVs are "one of the top hidden hazards in the home,'' the commission warns on its Web site.

How serious is the problem? A Pennsylvania congressman has penned a letter to major retailers urging them to warn customers of the potential dangers of falling TVs in time for National TV Safety Day – Saturday, Feb. 6, the day before the Super Bowl, one of the most popular TV events in the U.S. Last year's Super Bowl, between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, was the most-watched show in U.S. TV history, according to Neilsen data.

Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) on Thursday, Feb. 4 released an open letter he wrote to retailers, including Walmart, Target, Amazon, Costco and Home Depot, asking that their sales staff warn customers about the hazards of unsecured TVs and provide them with safety information to take home.

The problem, in part, is that customers who buy new TVs often move their older, bulkier models from their living rooms and dens into bedrooms or other rooms, placing them on furniture that cannot safely accommodate a TV, Casey said in his letter.

There are now anchors, TV mounts and straps that can be used by consumers to secure TVs, if the public is made more aware of the potential danger, Casey said. He urged retailers to stock anchoring kits near the TV displays to increase the visibility of safety accessories.

Of the 430 fatalities between 2010 and 2013, 360 (84 percent) were children age 10 and younger, according to the commission study. Nineteen (4 percent) were adults age 28 to 59, while 51 (12 percent) were adults age 60 and older.

Most (81 percent) occurred in a home – and 42 percent occurred in a bedroom, the study said.

The text of Casey's open letter to retailers, e-mailed to the media on Thursday, Feb. 4:

"I write to draw your attention to the dangers that television and media stand tip-overs present to our nation’s children. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a child dies every two weeks as a result of a tip-over; a majority of these deaths involve televisions and the furniture they are placed on. While the CPSC, safety advocates and many product designers and retailers have taken steps to increase public awareness of this issue and promote the use of safety straps and anchoring tools, we can and should do more. I urge you to take further action to ensure that customers – especially those with children – are aware of the potential hazard and can take steps to make their homes safer.
"Falling appliances, electronics and furniture have caused at least 363 fatalities between 2000 and 2011, according to the CPSC. The vast majority of these victims (82 percent) were children under the age of 8, and 226 of these deaths involved television tip-overs. Televisions may be of particular concern, as many consumers buying new televisions move their older, bulkier models into different rooms, onto furniture that has not been designed to safely accommodate a TV. Positioning televisions safely and securing them with anchors may help prevent tip-overs and save lives. A CPSC consumer survey found that despite the potential risk, very few of the people surveyed secure their TVs or TV furniture, perhaps in part because they are unaware of the risk. Your companies and salespeople can play a vital role in consumer education.
"I appreciate the steps taken by some retailers to make their customers aware of the dangers of tip-overs, such as making information available online and offering anchors and TV mounts for sale. But more can be done to educate the public and encourage consumers to properly secure their furniture and televisions. For example, I urge retailers to post notices about tip-over safety in the TV departments of their stores, encourage sales associates to discuss the issue with customers and provide customers with safety information to take home with them when they purchase TVs and media stands. This would help buyers with young children understand the potential tip-over hazard and let them know what additional steps they can take to secure both new TVs and media stands, as well as old TVs that they may be moving to a new location. Retailers should also consider stocking anchoring kits near their TVs and media stands to increase visibility of these safety accessories and encourage shoppers to purchase them. Similarly, online retailers should consider posting tip-over warnings on product pages, offering wall-anchoring kits as recommended companion items for TVs and media centers and prompting customers buying these items about the availability of safety accessories.
"Tipping televisions and furniture present a daily hazard to our nation’s children. It is exceptionally important that we make sure consumers, and parents in particular, are aware of tip-over risks and have easy access to solutions. We must all continue to do our part by taking common-sense steps to stop hundreds of preventable deaths and help make American homes safer for our children.''

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 February 2016 16:01

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Council resurrects planning commission

The new majority on Middletown Borough Council voted 8-0 during its first full meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19 to bring back the borough planning commission, abolished by a former council in 2012.

It was one of several moves that the new majority has taken to undo the actions of the previous majority from January 2012 through December 2015.

The former council had voted to eliminate the planning commission as a cost-cutting move, citing the $5,000 a year that the borough was paying commission members.
The town wasn’t legally required to have a planning commission, and the job of reviewing development plans could be performed just as ably by a planning committee made up of councilors, the former majority decided.

However, getting rid of the commission “led to confusion over issues of zoning land use and development that is ongoing in our town,” said Councilor Diana McGlone, a former council president who won election in November.

The new planning commission is to review all subdivision and land development plans and make recommendations for their approval or disapproval by the council.

The commission will also consider and make recommendations to council regarding changes to the borough’s zoning and subdivision ordinances and is to draft a comprehensive plan that will “set forth a common community vision for the future of our borough,” McGlone said.

The commission is to consist of five members – all borough residents – who will be appointed to four-year terms by the council.

McGlone said the borough’s “practice” had been to pay a stipend to planning commission members, as is the case with zoning board members. Commission members should be paid $100 apiece, but only when the body meets, McGlone afterward told the Press And Journal.

The revised 2016 budget now being considered by council includes $10,000 for the new planning commission – $2,000 to cover the stipends to commission members and $8,000 for a solicitor.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 February 2016 15:55

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Council taps Bey as interim manager; communications job eliminated

The newly-seated Middletown Borough Council tapped Police Chief John Bey to take over the duties of borough manager on Tuesday, Jan. 19 – until a permanent replacement can be found.beyphoto2 3 16John Bey

His trial by fire came soon after, when the largest snowstorm in recorded history in Middletown dumped 30.2 inches of snow on the borough.

Welcome to life at the top, chief.

Council also named a familiar face – from many years ago – to be an advisor. Bruce Hamer was hired to serve as a management advisor. Hamer was Middletown borough manager from 1986 to 1992.

Hamer was hired to assist in crafting of policies and procedures to guide the new staff that council is in the process of placing in Borough Hall.

However, it’s likely that Hamer has been pressed into service in other ways as well – especially in light of the snowstorm. He was at the council table providing advice during a special meeting on Monday, Jan. 25 held to approve a snow disaster resolution, and he and his laptop were assisting during council’s budget workshop that same night.

Hamer and Bey are doing their jobs on an interim basis until permanent replacements can be found.

The borough is currently advertising for a new borough manager and a director of finance and administration – a new position that has been described as an assistant borough manager position. The application deadline for both positions is Monday, Feb. 15.

Bey still is police chief and will continue as such after the new borough manager comes on board, according to council.

Councilors have also said they will seek applications for a new solicitor and a new firm to do the borough’s independent audit. The firms currently holding these contracts – McNees Wallace & Nurick and Zelenkofske Axelrod, respectively – can choose to re-apply, council has said.

Chris Courogen leaving, council eliminating position

One person who won’t be returning is Chris Courogen, the borough’s former communications director.

The former majority on council hired Courogen in 2012 as one of its first personnel moves. In one of its last moves in December, it tapped Courogen as acting borough manager following the staff resignations of former Manager Tim Konek, Public Works Superintendent Lester Lanman and Borough Secretary Amy Friday.

The new council majority said nothing to make it official, but the quick move to make Bey interim borough manager was a clear sign that the new majority didn’t intend to keep Courogen around.

Moreover, in one of many personnel moves tied to the revised 2016 budget, the new council also eliminated the communications director position for an estimated savings of $84,043.

Council has not said who will be responsible for assuming the many duties that fell under the communications director position, such as managing the borough Web site and Facebook page and publishing the borough’s newsletter.

Several of the new council members during the campaign called for more – not less – communication and transparency between the borough and residents.

Courogen was also the borough’s appointed Right-To-Know officer, a position council is required to fill by state law. Council was expected to appoint a Right-To-Know officer during its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 2.

A former Patriot-News reporter, Courogen was brought on board to improve communications in light of the Tropical Storm Lee flooding disaster in 2011. In short order, he picked up additional duties, even serving as acting borough manager for a few months before Konek was hired in July 2012.

However, his tenure with the borough was at times marked by controversy. Courogen was known for aggressively defending the policy decisions of the former council to where he engaged in public clashes with opponents, including Mayor James H. Curry III. Several of those opponents are now members of the new council majority, newly-elected in 2015.

Courogen often said that all he was trying to do was to set the record straight – to counter what he contended was a deliberate campaign of “misinformation” waged against opponents of the former council majority led by Chris McNamara.

Neither Courogen nor new Council President Ben Kapenstein have been specific regarding Courogen’s current status. He has definitely not been fired, Kapenstein has said, but beyond that he defers to it as a personnel matter to be worked out between lawyers.

For his part, Courogen says he accepts the new council’s actions as the occasional reality of appointed government service.

“Change in borough government staff is par for the course. It comes with the territory. That’s something I knew when I accepted the position,” Courogen told the Press And Journal. “The new council has every right to have a team they are comfortable with and they feel positions them to reach their goals and objectives.”

“Whatever decisions they make regarding myself and my employment, I respect that. That is their prerogative,’’ he said. “I certainly won’t have any hard feelings about anything that comes about, and I won’t hang my head about the work I did. I am very proud of our accomplishments, and what we did.”

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, 02 February 2016 16:45

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HIA agrees to sell Bethlehem Steel land to developer

A New Jersey warehouse developer is buying about 40 acres of former Bethlehem Steel Corp. property off Whitehouse Lane along Route 230 in Lower Swatara Twp.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 February 2016 15:10

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TROUBLED BRIDGES: PennDOT rates five local spans as “deficient’’

283bridge2 3 16Press And Journal Photo by Eric Wise -- This bridge on Route 283 in Lower Swatara Twp. was rated “structurally deficient’’ by a PennDOT inspector in August 2014.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has identified five structurally-deficient bridges in the Middletown area – including one heavily-traveled span that carries Route 283 over Interstate 83 near the Pennsylvania Turnpike interchange in Lower Swatara Twp., according to a Press And Journal review of department inspection reports.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 February 2016 15:04

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