For the past year or so, the roar of construction equipment has become a familiar sound in Middletown. Our streets have been torn up and detours established.
Rest assured, inconvenience is temporary. The benefits of updated infrastructure, however, will be reaped far beyond our years. I fully support this aspect of our revitalization and redevelopment.
Despite the fact much work has already been completed, a “ground-breaking” ceremony has been scheduled mere days before the May 19 primary election. It is my understanding many distinguished guests have been invited, including Dauphin County commissioners and the governor himself. I, too, have been asked to attend. Please allow this letter to serve as my official RSVP and an explanation to you, the residents, as to why I must respectfully decline.
Many of you have contacted me to express frustration and confusion over the “downtown revitalization” project. In fact, many residents have confirmed they do not understand the interplay between the Middletown Industrial and Commercial Development Authority, (“ICDA”) and the borough. According to the borough Web site, the ICDA is “tasked with aiding and facilitating the redevelopment of older business areas in the borough, strengthening the downtown area as a commercial center, working to help attract new business development and expansion in appropriate areas, and encouraging the expansion of existing business.”
Make no mistake about it: The ICDA is a borough entity. In fact, at its inception, the ICDA was funded with seed money provided by the borough. While it is true the ICDA has received funding by way of grants, it is necessary for you to understand the very real fact that taxpayer money is intricately intertwined with the ICDA.
Allow me to provide a verifiable example: The Water/Sewer Authority commenced the infrastructure project in downtown Middletown. As reported in the press and discussed at numerous Middletown Borough Council meetings, that project was nearly $1 million over budget. As the Water/Sewer Authority was also an entity of the borough, guess who was forced to foot the bill? Middletown Borough. In other words, you, me, us. Were it not for the extra money acquired from the lease of the water/sewer system, which was utilized to cover the shortfall, we would be in a very tough spot.
I cannot promote aspects of the revitalization project I feel are not in the best interests of the citizenry and are not grounded in common sense. Nearly $350,000 was spent to acquire the property across from the Brownstone Café. Approximately $20,000 was spent to demolish three business sites in a town aching for business. Approximately $250,000 will be spent to build the trellis/gazebo. Another $75,000 is to be expended to refurbish the town clock, which is perfectly fine as it sits. Nearly $700,000 will be spent to “revitalize” two corners in downtown Middletown.
For a fraction of that amount, we could have refurbished three business sites and solidified future tax and utility revenue. Instead, those business locations have been eliminated. Instead, a structure will be erected which has a complete inability to bring tax or utility revenue. Instead, a liability has been created, which will need to be cared for and maintained.
Even if this entire project was funded with grant money, are we really to believe this is the best use of the funds? These decisions are poor.
Read the above mission statement of the ICDA again. Are these decisions in accordance with it or do they eliminate business in a town that is quickly becoming ghost-like?
Ultimately, as aforementioned, this project is your responsibility if it is over budget at completion. This time, however, we won’t have a piggy bank to bail us out.
Surprisingly, yet not surprisingly, the “ground-breaking” ceremony will occur on the very spot the trellis is to be built. It would be two-faced of me to vehemently oppose the project, only to smile as I dig a golden shovel into that symbolic ground. It would be duplicitous of me to utilize the ceremony as a photo opportunity to gain notoriety. It would be hypocritical to rub elbows with governmental elite when I believe in my heart of hearts the project runs contrary to the best interests of the borough and its residents.
I’m not a hypocrite. I’m your mayor. I stand by my decision and by you.
Mayor James H. Curry III
Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 May 2015 16:24
Click here to view David Rhen's letter to Middletown voters.
Please print this letter in time to get to the voters of Middletown Borough.
It seems that members of the current Borough Council like to make statements at the 11th hour that are either vague or factually inaccurate. Here are a few examples:
• Dave Rhen, chairman of council's Public Safety Committee, recently mailed a letter through out the borough. In one statement, Rhen says, “I know all too well the problems associated with the Borough's Police Force.” Rhen held hearings in 2011 dealing with police corruption. The only people speaking to police wrongdoing were those who had been arrested by the police. The media covered those hearings but nothing was ever reported on the news. Dave Rhen and crew went to the District Attorney and Attorney General with their tales of corruption. They were told that there was nothing criminal going on. Rhen is the one who has given our Police Department a black eye with his unfounded accusations of corruption. He even urged more civil law suits against the Borough. Has Middletown been sued more than other police departments?
• Rhen's statement that the police force was “Virtually unmanaged for most of the past two decades.” Rhen was on council three different times – 1984, 2001 and 2010. So Rhen has been on council for at least 12 years while all this so-called mismanagement was happening – and as chairman of the Public Safety Committee, what did he do to correct it?
• Let's talk about police overtime. Again I quote Rhen, who said police “have cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in unbudgeted overtime expenses.” You slashed a budget item to an unrealistically low amount, then say it is the police force's fault that overtime is over budget. If overtime is truly over budget by hundreds of thousands of dollars, then it is poor budgeting on the part of the Borough Manager and Borough Council. Several police officers have retired/resigned and the positions have not been filled. So there are less officers to fill the same number of shifts, making the only alternative overtime. The national average is 2.3 full time officers per 1,000 residents. Middletown has 13 full time officers for just over 9,000 residents – 2.3 x 9 = 20.7. How safe do you feel?
• Rhen states, “Borough Council has been taking major steps to modernize and professionalize the Police Department.” What steps, and how much did it cost? Remember, this council says the borough's broke.
• Rhen states, “Police dispatch has been moved to Dauphin County's 911 system, which will hold officers more accountable for their whereabouts and actions.” The dissolution of our dispatch center is the reason that none of us can contact the police officers or get copies of reports. County 911 has no control over our police officers and does nothing to hold them accountable – they only dispatch the calls.
This council has appointed three police chiefs in the last two years. I certainly hope they get it right soon. How much did they spend to buy each of those chiefs out of their contract?
How much will the quest for accreditation cost us taxpayers?
Rhen states, “Excess overtime has been curbed.” Do you notice that dollar amounts are never quoted. If they saved us so much money why not tell us how much?
• Now, Bob Givler's $63,000 payout: If Mr. Givler was dedicated enough that he didn't use the leave available to him, then he was entitled to get paid for it when he retired. Unlike police chiefs who get their contract bought out when we want them to move on.
Do you see how easy it is to be mislead by vague statements? They make statements without backing them up with any facts.
What axes do these people have to grind with our Police Department? Is it that several of them or their family members have been arrested?
Let me tell you something about our police department. In a 2010/2011 study done regarding the Communications Center the statistics showed our Police Department made more criminal arrests than departments more than twice our size. The study was made part of the public record and previously listed on the borough's website.
I'm not sure why our candidates have not asked this question: How could this council take us from a surplus of funds to financially distressed in less than two years?
Dave Rhen was sure willing to make accusations about Bob Givler but doesn't say what Mr. Curry is going to do or what he is about, other than he has no ties to the Police Department. What does Mr. Curry know about running or overseeing a police department?
Mary L. Hiester
(The writer is a former president of Middletown Borough Council.)
Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 October 2013 19:00
For those who might remember, I wrote a letter years ago challenging another letter writer, Herbert C. Moore, to give me an example of one species evolving into a higher species. I waited, and was interested to see his example. There was no example.
I still haven’t seen any evidence from Moore in any of his recent responses to my recent letter (“Evolution is a fairy tale for adults,’’ Feb. 13 Viewpoints).
Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 March 2013 16:22
Written by For Publisher
I’m writing to thank you for publishing my little press release (and photo) about the ladies at The Essex House and their Halloween party.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 November 2012 14:06
When I first took office on Middletown Borough Council I was quite impressed. Middletown was so well off financially that they allowed the Middletown Area School District to keep the entire 2 percent of the local earned income tax. It was designed to give 1 percent to the school district and 1 percent to the municipality.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 November 2012 13:59