Written by Larry Etter
The Middletown football team returned to Hersheypark Stadium on Thursday evening and ran away with the District III 3A championship trophy after routing Wyomissing 48-20.
The Blue Raiders earned their first district title since the 1988 season while rolling to their 12th straight victory of the season.
Their next opponent is yet to be determined, as is the date and time of the game. They will play the winner of 11-1 Scranton Prep and 10-2 Montoursville, who battle Friday night, Nov. 18.
Wyomissing entered the title game with an 8-3 record that included a win over Bermudian Springs in a district semifinal the week before. With numerous district wins and titles filling out their resume, the Spartans came to Hershey with hopes of adding to those numbers by knocking off the top-seeded Raiders. However, the Spartans became another victim of the Middletown express train that has rolled over everyone in its path.
This remarkable season started at Hersheypark Stadium in early September against Lower Dauphin when the Raiders claimed a 27-7 victory in the Iron Spike Bowl. Since then, the Middletown team earned a Mid-Penn Capital Division title and, now, a District III championship and a berth in the upcoming state playoffs.
The celebration went on for quite some time on the field following the win and carried over back home with a rolling parade through town that ended at the new high school. Many of the huge number of fans who took in the game joined in the parade or lined the streets cheering on their champions along the route near Main and Union streets.
The heroes in the win were many as players on both sides of the ball stepped up.
The Blue Raiders shook off an early deficit and a couple of mistakes in a dominating performance. Quarterback Chase Snavely and running back Brady Fox ended up in the spotlight following the win and handled the attention like professionals.
“I’m not used to all those lights and cameras in my face, but I guess I did OK,” Fox quipped following the interviews.
That was an understatement. He rushed for 163 yards on 17 carries with three touchdowns.
Snavely was equally cool under pressure, both in front of the cameras and on the field. He completed 10 of 14 passes for 151 yards and three scores as well.
The Middletown defense also gets equal billing. The Raiders pretty much shut down Wyomissing’s run game while limiting the Spartans’ offensive opportunities. From the pleased look on his face, it was easy to tell that head coach Brett Myers appreciated the efforts of his championship team.
On the game’s first possession, the Spartans were forced to punt as the Raider defense held. But Tyreer Mills had a bit of trouble fielding the high deep kick and Wyomissing’s Jordan Caraballo recovered the muff at the Middletown 24. The best the Spartans would get, however, was a 36-yard field goal by Connor Mendel and a 3-point lead at 7:17. One of the real characteristics of this Middletown team is its ability to bounce back from adversity, and it showed when the Blue Raiders took the field on offense.
Keyed by a 52-yard kickoff return by Fox, the Raiders were set up at the Wyomissing 39. Runs by Fox and Jaelen Thompson, along with a Snavely-to-Chris Plummer pass of 15 yards, moved the ball to the 1 yard line. Following a Middletown penalty, Snavely connected with Fox for 5 yards and then went in for the touchdown on a keeper with 4:14 left. Donovan Brady’s kick gave the Raiders a 7-3 lead and they never trailed the rest of the way.
Wyomissing followed with a steady drive that reached the Middletown 10 as the first quarter ended. On the second play of the second quarter, Griffen Radabaugh sacked Spartan quarterback Brayden Eberhart for a 9-yard loss and Wyomissing had to settle for another Mendel field goal, this one from 41 yards out.
From that point on, Middletown took control of the game.
Overcoming a pair of holding calls, the Raiders marched on for their second touchdown. Keys to the drive were a pair of Snavely passes of 27 yards to Tre Leach and 26 yards to Mills. Breaking an attempted tackle at the 10, Leach capped the drive with a 9-yard reception with 7:18 left in the first half. The Blue Raiders were up 13-6.
Led by Radabaugh, Bobby Graham, Tristan Maxwell and Haden Landis up front, and the linebacking of Hunter Landis, Blake Jacoby and Laron Woody along with backs Kyle Truesdale, Jonah McCoy, Leach and Mills, the Middletown defense gave up nothing during the balance of the first half.
At the same time, the Raider offense popped in two more scores before halftime. The first was a lightning-quick 62-yard sprint by Fox at 5:33 and the other was on a 15-yard catch and run by Mills with 58 seconds left.
“I don’t even know how I got so open on the run,” Fox said, amazed at how much room the offensive line gave him. Ethan Newton, Tommy Staker, Trey Michal, Radabaugh and Brendan Douglass were dominant all night.
On the Mills score, the speedy junior latched onto a low throw out in the left flat and raced down the sideline for the touchdown that gave the Raiders a 27-6 lead at the break. Mills intercepted an Eberhart pass that took away Wyomissing’s chance for a late first-half score.
Taking the opening kickoff to start the second half, the Blue Raiders padded their lead to 34-6. Staying mainly on the ground, but aided by an 18-yard reception by freshman Jose Lopez and a pair of Spartan penalties, the Raiders marched to the 7 in eight plays. With Graham set up as a blocking fullback, Fox followed his lead into the end zone with 8:44 left in the third.
Following an exchange of punts, Wyomissing was back on offense at their own 37 with 4:38 left in the third. Their biggest play of the game, a 32-yard run by Caraballo, coupled with a pair of major penalties by the Raiders, keyed the Spartans drive for their first touchdown of the contest. A tipped pass fell into the hands of tight end Hunter Niedrowsky who was lying on the ground in the end zone. With 59 seconds left in the period, the Spartans trailed 34-13.
Starting at their own 42 following a failed onsides kickoff attempt, the Blue Raiders appeared to have another quick score when Mills went the distance on first down. But a penalty inside the 15 negated the tally and the ball was placed at the 23 instead. A pair of runs by Thompson closed out the third quarter.
Four plays into the fourth quarter, Snavely was sacked for a 10-yard loss setting up a third and goal from the 22. After Snavely’s pass to Plummer moved the ball to the 10, the Raiders went for it on 4th and goal. And the gamble paid off when Mills got open in the middle of the end zone and Snavely fired a strike for the touchdown with 8:39 left in the game. With Brady’s PAT, the Raiders’ quickly grew to 41-13 and iced the victory.
Wyomissing did follow with a scoring drive that covered 77 yards, but the grinding 13-play drive that was helped by a roughing call against the Middletown defense, ate up 5 minutes of clock time. With 3:31 left, the Spartans were running out of time. And, just to put an exclamation point on this championship victory, the Middletown offense scored one more touchdown for good measure.
Thompson’s 32-yard run on second and 13 set up Fox’s 10 yard score three plays later that locked down the win that crowned the Middletown Blue Raiders as District III champions.
Last Updated on Friday, 18 November 2016 13:17
Written by Dan Miller
Middletown Borough Council's decision to reject a $500,000 state grant for the Elks Theatre might not be a done deal after all.
Council President Ben Kapenstein Thursday afternoon confirmed that council plans to hold a special meeting regarding the theater on Monday, Nov. 21, at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers.
Council during its Nov. 15 meeting voted 4-2, with Councilor Anne Einhorn abstaining, to reject a $500,000 grant for the Elks Theatre that Gov. Tom Wolf had authorized from the state's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP).
Council must let the state know by Nov. 28 whether it will accept or reject the grant. If council accepts the grant, the borough then has six months - until April 28, 2017 - to complete and submit an application that the state requires in order for the borough to get the grant.
The $500,000 state grant requires a dollar-for-dollar match by the borough - the borough must come up with its own $500,000 in order to get the $500,000 from the state.
That matching grant requirement is what led to the 4-2 vote to reject the grant on Nov. 15, based upon comments made by councilors and by Mayor James H. Curry III, who as mayor did not have a vote - unless council would have ended up in a tie - but who has been an active participant in the ongoing discussion regarding the future of the Elks Theatre.
Kapenstein and Councilor Diana McGlone were the two councilors who favored accepting the grant. Those voting against were Council Vice President Damon Suglia and councilors Dawn Knull, Ian Reddinger, and Robert Reid.
Einhorn did not vote because her husband is on the board of directors of Friends of the Elks Theatre, a nonprofit group that since August 2015 has had a proposal before the Middletown Industrial and Commercial Development Authority to lease the theater from the authority and operate it.
The authority - an entity of the borough - owns the theater. The authority closed the theater for renovations in April 2015 and it remains closed.
Kapenstein said he is working on a plan that would allow the borough to meet the $500,000 matching requirement "using less taxpayer money."
"We'll never be able to say no taxpayer money, but I am putting together a hypothetical plan that uses very little" taxpayer money, he said.
Kapenstein hopes that the $500,000 match can be satisfied not with tax dollars but through money that the borough has already spent, either on the Elks Building or the Elks Theatre itself, or on a project closely related to the Elks Building such as the downtown streetscape.
The value of the Elks Building itself - which would have to be established through a formal appraisal done by the borough - could also possibly count towards the $500,000 match instead of using tax dollars, Kapenstein said.
"I have some credible people telling me we can get this match without (using) cash," Kapenstein said.
The borough has also already committed future revenue from a cell tower lease for the next two years and proceeds from sale of the McNair House property towards the Elks Theatre renovations.
He is also exploring whether $436,000 that was paid back to the borough by the owner of Woodlayne Court Apartments in 2013 can be applied toward the Elks Theatre project.
Kapenstein said officials have told him that the Woodlayne Court money cannot go toward the $500,000 match, but that it possibly could go toward covering the Elks Theatre project if it exceeds $1 million.
The state RACP requires that any project receiving a $500,000 grant total at least $1 million.
The borough does not have a firm estimate for what it will cost to renovate and reopen the Elks Theatre - either as a stand-alone movie house or as a multi-use performing arts center.
However, estimates that came out during a public meeting in July set the project at $1.3 million or more.
Kapenstein is to meet on Friday Nov. 18 with the state budget office to discuss the $500,000 grant offer.
Kapenstein said his intent for Monday's meeting is not to press council to rescind its earlier vote of Nov. 15 and to then vote to accept the grant, in time to meet the state's Nov. 28 deadline.
Instead, "what I will be doing is providing new information I have come across, and let council discuss (that). I'm not going to be asking council to rescind. I am just giving more information."
Mayor posts Facebook video to explain his position
Curry in a video he posted on the Middletown Residents United Facebook page said he would have voted to accept the $500,000 state grant, if he had had to vote to break a 3-3 tie.
However, Curry said he would have set "the caveat" that if firm estimates to complete the Elks Theatre project came back too high, that the borough would have "to back out of" its commitment to accept the grant.
"If that number came back as $3 million I would have said 'we can't do this.' I would have said 'yes' with the caveat that once we acquired the real facts and figures here, we may have had to back out of it."
Earlier during his 13 minute long video, Curry elaborated on his concern over how accepting the grant and committing $500,000 to the match could come at too high a price tag to borough taxpayers.
"If we spend our cash or take on additional debt for the theater we run the risk of being up against the wall in the future with regard to numerous" capital improvement projects and items, Curry said.
Among them he listed the borough needing a new streetsweeper for $250,000, the fire department needing a new fire engine within the next few years that could cost $2 million, the need for new trucks that could cost several hundred thousand dollars each for the public works department, fixing up borough parks, repaving Ann Street, and upgrading the Spruce Street electric substation.
"These are just a few of the very real capital improvement endeavors that we are going to have to embark upon in the next couple of years, and somebody has to pay for that," Curry said.
Last Updated on Sunday, 20 November 2016 21:16
Written by Eric Wise
The couple wanted in connection with a Nov. 13 carjacking in Middletown was captured after a police chase that ended in a wreck in Swatara Twp., police said.
Lisa Dawn Smith, 45, of Hummelstown, has been charged with conspiracy - robbery of motor vehicle, and both felony and misdemeanor counts of conspiracy - theft by unlawful taking.
Alfred Charles Carerra II, 44, of Hummelstown, has similar charges pending from Middletown Police, according to Sgt. Richard Hiester of the Middletown Police Dept. Additional charges for retail theft in Middletown and other jurisdictions are also pending. Carerra was also previously wanted in connection with driving a stolen Nissan truck prior to the theft of the Durango.
Carerra and Smith are accused of approaching a woman at Hardees on Main Street in Middletown at about 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13. Carerra reportedly threatened to shoot her and stole her wallet, keys and gray 2006 Dodge Durango.
Carerra eluded police during a high-speed chase that began in Mt. Joy, Lancaster County, Tuesday, Nov. 15. Carerra is alleged to have pushed a shopping cart of unpaid items from a Giant store in Mt. Joy prior to the chase, much as he is accused to have done in Middletown.
A Pennbrook police officer noticed the Durango during a patrol Wednesday evening in the borough. This officer and others from nearby jurisdictions pursued Carerra.
“His efforts to escape were dangerous to anyone nearby,” said Chief David Hiester of Pennbrook Police. Swatara Twp. Police had joined the pursuit, but broke off because of the dangerous conditions, according to Lt. Darrell Reider of Swatara Twp. Police.
The pursuit ended when the Carerra crashed the Durango at 8:45 p.m. Nov. 16 at the intersection of Paxton Street and City Park Drive in Swatara Twp.
David Hiester said charges for the crimes committed during the pursuit Nov. 16 are pending. He did not know whether Carerra and Smith were armed when they were captured.
Last Updated on Thursday, 17 November 2016 16:06
Written by Dan Miller
There could be a coffee shop at the site of the new Amtrak train station in Middletown, and other types of commercial businesses.
There could be a hotel, and even a parking garage. Much of this appears to depend upon the private company or developer that the state - the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation - ends up hiring to build major parts of the long-awaited station project.
PennDOT on Nov. 16 hosted a visit to the train station site along West Main Street for private companies that are interested in getting the contract to partner with the state in developing the station.
On Dec. 16 a "statement of qualifications" is due from these interested companies regarding the Middletown train station project, PennDOT says.
PennDOT didn't say when the state will select and award a contract to this private company, however work on the train station itself is to start late in 2018.
The entire train station project would be finished and opened to the public sometime in 2020 or 2021, PennDOT Deputy Secretary for Multimodal Transportation Toby Fauver told the Press And Journal on Nov. 16.
In the meantime, the work to prepare the site for construction of the station - and whatever ultimately goes with it - is to be fully complete by May of 2017.
Norfolk-Southern railroad is expected to start an estimated $6.5 million in track work before the end of 2016, PennDOT says. An estimated $4.3 million in track work that has to be done by Amtrak is expected to begin late next year.
As for the private company/developer to be chosen, this entity "will develop, design, build, finance, operate and maintain parking facilities" that will provide at least 400 new parking spaces throughout an eight-acre tract to meet needs of the new train station.
If the private company proposes a plan for commercial development upon the site - even something like a small hotel - a parking garage might be needed to make up for the loss of surface parking spaces that would be taken up by any new buildings, Fauver said.
The developer has to provide at least 400 spaces, but whether all those spaces are on a surface lot, or some of them in a parking garage, will be determined based on what the private developer proposes for the site, Fauver said.
The private company to be hired by the state will also be in charge of completing the extension of West Emaus Street to West Main Street as part of the train station project.
Middletown borough officials view extending West Emaus as vital to the ongoing downtown revitalization. The train station project also includes building a pedestrian bridge over West Main Street to make it easier for students at Penn State Harrisburg to get to the station - and to the downtown.
PennDOT has always referred to extending West Emaus as one of the last things to be done before the train station itself is finished.
But with the timetable to open the station now 2020 or even 2021, does the borough have to wait that long before the street can be extended?
Ultimately, that too is a decision that will primarily lie with the private company that is hired by PennDOT, Fauver explained.
"I have not wanted to say we can open the road prior to the station being completed, although there is a possibility" that could happen, Fauver said. "It really depends on the area the contractor" - the private company to be hired - "needs to do work."
"If a commercial developer comes in and wants to propose a plan that requires space for them to do do work, we didn't want to open a road to traffic and then have potential conflicts with traffic or pedestrians in an active contraction zone," Fauver added. "If opening the road to traffic isn't going to create a conflict then it is possible we could open the road early."
"I just don't want to tell someone we will open it in 2018 and then not meet the date because of some thing that happens, because we'll get beat up over it," Fauver said.
Last Updated on Monday, 21 November 2016 08:59
Written by Dan Miller
Middletown Borough Council during its Nov. 15 meeting voted 4-2 to reject a $500,000 state grant that had been authorized by Gov. Tom Wolf for improvements to the Elks Building - primarily to reopen the Elks Theatre.
The sticking point is a state requirement that the borough come up with $500,000 to match the $500,000 grant being offered by the state. The borough could ultimately have to come up with more than $500,000, if the theater project ends up surpassing $1 million.
Skeptics led by Councilor Dawn Knull questioned how the borough can afford $500,000 or more for the Elks Theatre when the town is facing having to pay for several other big ticket capital improvement projects over the next few years.
“The people want it,” Knull said, referring to reopening the 105-year-old theater, which has been closed since April 2015. “But next year when we have to do all these capital improvements are the people going to be ok when this council sits here and says we have to increase your taxes? Are they going to be ok with that?”
The borough currently has no firm estimate for how much it will cost to reopen the theater, either just to show movies as before or as a multi-use performing arts center. Friends of the Elks, a nonprofit group that wants to operate the theater and lease it from the borough, has estimated the cost at about $500,000; while others have set the price at $1.3 million.
At that price tag the borough could have to come up with as much as $800,000, including the $500,000 match.
Council President Ben Kapenstein pushed to accept the grant, while refusing to rule out that the matching requirement could lead to a tax increase, regardless of whether the money comes from cash reserves or from borrowing.
“You’ve got to pay the piper sometime. Depending upon the circumstances next year you may need to raise taxes to cover it,” he said.
However, “when someone gives you a half a million dollars I have a hard time turning it down,” Kapenstein said.
Knull countered “I’m sitting here making the decision for 9,000 people who are saying they can’t afford their electric, they are saying on Facebook that they can’t afford their taxes and they are going to move out, and you’re sitting here saying we need at least $800,000 - and next year all these capital improvements come due? Are they going to be able to take another hit? That’s my whole worry.”
Mayor James H. Curry III said he couldn’t see how the borough can afford to commit at least $500,000 to the Elks Theatre, when the fire company is already saying it has some big equipment needs to pay for over the next few years.
“Either one of those (fire trucks) are either slightly more than what we would have to invest in the theater, or double. That’s scary to me,” Curry said. “You’re not going to pass on replacing that. We don’t have that. We don’t have $2 million sitting around.”
The borough under terms of the state grant offer has until Nov. 28 to tell the state it will accept the grant. The borough would then have had six months - until April 28, 2017 - to submit a grant application to the state in order for the state to award the money.
Kapenstein had proposed that the borough’s grant application be prepared and submitted by the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and Capital Region Economic Development Corp. at a cost to the borough of about $15,000.
Kapenstein and Diana McGlone were the only two councilors to vote for accepting the grant. Voting no were Knull and fellow councilors Vice President Damon Suglia, Ian Reddinger, and Robert Reid.
Councilor Anne Einhorn abstained as her husband is on the board of directors of Friends of the Elks.
Council tentatively adopts 2017 budget
In other news, council tentatively adopted a propose 2017 general fund and electric fund budget that includes no increase in taxes or the electric rate. Council will consider final passage of the spending plan on Dec. 6.
Council hires new IT provider
Council also voted to hire Intermix IT of Harrisburg as the borough’s new information technology provider, effective Dec. 1 to provide a transition between Intermix and 2K Networking, also of Harrisburg, which has been the borough’s IT provider since mid-2012.
Council had voted in June to seek proposals for a new IT provider, following complaints McGlone had raised over the roughly $8,000 a month that the borough had been paying 2K Networking.
2K Networking was one of five companies bidding on the contract, said Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter. Intermix will charge the borough $4,268.35 a month for IT services, Klinepeter said.
The new IT contract with Intermix is a one-year deal expiring on Dec. 31, 2017.
New pension investment advisor
Council also voted to hire the PFM Group to manage the borough’s pension investments. Details of the contract were not immediately available.
PFM was one of three firms that had sought the contract from the borough; the others being Wells Fargo Advisors and Morgan Stanley.
Kapenstein, who is employed by PFM, abstained from the vote and has recused himself from the discussions and presentations involving the pension investment advisor contract.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 November 2016 11:18