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Preparing to say goodbye to the Star Barn and friends


Did you know the beloved Star Barn had siblings? Seems the same louvered stars that decorated the popular landmark along Route 238 in Lower Swatara Twp. could be found on two smaller farm buildings at the Bryncoed Farm, off Fulling Mill Road in another part of the township.

The Star Barn-esque hay barn and corn crib at Bryncoed were part of a collection of Gothic Revival Style farm buildings that included another star barn. The star barn at Bryncoed is long gone, but those two smaller buildings remained.

It’s interesting that a company now wants to move the hay barn and corn crib to a new home in West Donegal Twp. – the same property where the Star Barn itself is to be moved.

The Ironstone Ranch, a 275-acre property owned by DAS Companies, would use the buildings to host weddings, corporate events and fundraisers, said company spokesman Michael Kleinhans.

The company has already dismantled another old barn, the Mayer-Hess Barn, an edifice that stood since the 1870s along the Fruitville Pike in Manheim Twp., and put it in storage, ready to rebuild it at the ranch.

All DAS needs is a change in West Donegal’s zoning ordinances to accommodate its plans, and a land development plan that would be approved by the township. Supervisors in West Donegal have scheduled a vote on Wednesday, Sept. 30 on the changes in their zoning ordinances.

So many people have fallen in love with the Star Barn over the 40 years it’s stood along Route 283. It will be sad to see it go, but at least it’s going to be saved – and, in fact, used.

It could be joined by the two smaller star farm buildings at Bryncoed, and Lower Swatara will see an architectural era disappear. Fortunately, West Donegal isn’t far away.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 September 2015 16:17

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Our trellis problem


The trellis proposed for Middletown’s business district is not the little lattice structure like the one on which your Aunt Rose grows her clematis. It’s bigger and more ambitious, a structure meant to be a signature piece to Middletown’s multimillion-dollar downtown renovation.

Its creator, the consulting firm Dewberry, has a landscape architect on staff who noted in a previous report on Middletown’s restoration project that the borough, the oldest in Dauphin County, possesses wonderfully historic architecture.

The trellis – the word might be misleading, but it’s the closest word to generally describe it – and an accompanying pavilion were designed by someone who has seen Middletown, and knows its beauty. It’s not the whim of a collection of local government bureaucrats, or a committee of business people. In fact, the borough purchased property on the corner of Union and Emaus streets to build the trellis and pavilion, and create a new town square at the intersection.

If you can’t picture in your mind exactly how this trellis would look, you’re not alone. It hasn’t gotten a substantial public vetting, though it has been shown to business people considered stakeholders in the downtown renovations. And an artist’s rendering of the trellis, shown in this edition of the Press And Journal, still requires a bit of imagination to picture.

Indeed, we’re not the only ones who simply can’t picture what the consultant had in mind: Contractors who bid on the renovation project seemed unsure as well. The first time the work was offered for bid, the bids were so high that the Middletown Industrial and Commercial Development Authority, the authority instructed by Middletown Borough Council to oversee the project, wisely decided to rebid the entire renovation project earlier this summer.

The second bidding go-round brought another budget-busting price for the trellis – more than $500,000 – and the ICDA has decided to rebid the trellis yet again. Fortunately, the authority separated it from the rest of the renovations, and the downtown makeover can proceed after years of anticipation.

The trellis has drawn enough attention that it now has its own group of detractors – an anti-trellis coalition, as it were, of residents, local politicians and candidates for council seats in November’s general election who charge that the project is too much buck for too little bang. Current estimates are that the trellis and pavilion would cost about $263,000.

Even the owner of the Brownstone Cafe, where one side of the trellis was to have rested, has become skeptical of the project, agreeing to only a one-year easement on his property that would allow him to remove any work that he considers to be unsatisfactory, according to Matt Tunnell, chairman of the authority. The trellis, therefore, will be smaller on that side of Union Street.

Indeed, what will this trellis look like? Decorative metal work? Turned wood? Will it be something less than originally envisioned, to keep it within budget?

Perhaps a third attempt to solicit bids will produce a satisfactory product that will honor the vision of its creator. The more the ICDA struggles to find an acceptable proposal, however, the more uncertain we become. No one wants a cheaply-made structure dominating the streetscape of Middletown’s refurbished downtown.

The renovation project cannot be finished without a resolution to the trellis problem, though thankfully it can be started without an answer. It will be interesting to see what the third round of bids brings. We hope the ICDA, and the borough, has a Plan B in hand, one that will utilize the borough’s new space at Union and Emaus, the entrance to the business district.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 September 2015 16:37

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Juggling Expenses


There will be no real estate tax increase in Londonderry Twp. in 2016, township officials say, and that’s good news for property owners.

The millage rate has increased in recent years as the township attempts to replace small bridges over a period of time.

But Londonderry faces an increase in future expenses as it tries to comply with federal and state regulations. The 2011 flood from Tropical Storm Lee has brought scrutiny by FEMA about the condition of summer cabins and other getaways on the islands in the Susquehanna River, and by the state for the retreats’ sewerage systems. The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered the township to cut down 600 trees at the township-owned Sunset Golf Course that are considered to be in the flight path of nearby Harrisburg International Airport, though the timbering project has been delayed until at least 2017.

Londonderry’s inventory of buildings on the river islands alone will cost about $100,000 to $150,000.

The township may have to delay some public works projects to pay for the unexpected expenses they face, said township manager Steve Letavic.

We hope Londonderry can continue to juggle projects and expenses to keep future tax increases to a minimum. It’s a goal the township already has set, and implemented.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 September 2015 17:16

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A teacher is a great thing to have on the gridiron


Among the players, coaches, helmets, pads and Gatorade on the sidelines at Middletown Area High School’s varsity football games is a teacher, chosen to be honored by the Blue Raider team each week for his or her inspiration.

This past week, at the Raiders’ first game of the season, it was high school history teacher Amanda Rhinehart, decked out in a Middletown football jersey.

It’s a nod to education that became a regular thing under Coach Brett Myers and his staff when Myers  arrived at Middletown to coach the Raiders last year, and it’s a good idea.

The tradition is a reminder to the players of the importance of education. Often, in sports, performance on the field – and victories – seem to be treated by society as greater than performance in the classroom.

Sports is fun, and some players dream of turning it into a career – or, at least, an opportunity at a college scholarship.

Enlisting teachers as Middletown does shows students that sports does not trump education.

The players have embraced the idea, as have the teachers, who have participated every Friday home game.

Congrats to all, and a pat on the back, for taking part in such worthwhile symbolism.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 September 2015 12:20

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