Written by Dan Miller
All Middletown borough councilors from now on are to be elected by residents throughout the town.
Council by 6-1 vote during its Sept. 6 meeting gave final approval to an ordinance that replaces the current system of electing councilors by wards with a new system where councilors will be elected on an at large basis.
The number of councilors is also being reduced from nine to seven as part of the same ordinance. The nine-member council currently had two vacancies.
Councilor Robert Reid, who had represented the First Ward, was the lone dissenting vote.
Second Ward Councilor Anne Einhorn had previously voted against the change. But she said most people she has spoken to in the Second Ward were in favor of getting rid of the wards and electing councilors at large. The only reservation voiced by some was over why council was looking to make the change now.
In other matters, council also voted 7-0 to hire Bruce Hamer as the borough’s director of finance and administration, a new position that council created in January. Hamer will be paid $72,800 a year.
Hamer is a former Middletown Borough Manager - from 1986 to 1992 - who came out of retirement in January when he was asked by the new council to serve as a management advisor. Previous Borough Manager Tim Konek and other key borough staff members had all departed at the end of December 2015.
More than 20 people applied for the director of finance and administration job but of four finalists no one was interviewed, said Council President Ben Kapenstein. One of the four found another job, a second wasn’t interested anymore, and Kapenstein could not recall why the two others weren’t interviewed.
At that point Kapenstein decided to personally approach Hamer, who was still serving as a management advisor although in a lesser capacity since new Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter had started in early May. Hamer decided to accept the offer.
Hiring Hamer is the first step toward a goal of bringing all borough financial operations in house, Kapenstein said. The borough currently pays over $200,000 a year to have its financial operations done by an outside consulting firm, Susquehanna Group Advisors, under an arrangement put in place by the previous council.
“We’re going to see significant savings” from bringing financial operations in house, Kapenstein said.
Otherwise, borough residents may see their trash bills go up in 2017 for the first time in several years.
Council approved putting the borough’s contract for collecting trash out for bid for the first time since 2009.
Penn Waste in 2009 was awarded a two-year contract and the contract was extended through 2012, Klinepeter said. For the past four years since then the previous council allowed Penn Waste to continue collecting trash at the same rate, he added.
“It’s not a good practice to keep extending” the contract year after year, Kapenstein said in urging competitive bidding.
Competitive bidding could lead to the price going down if there is a “bidding war” among trash collection firms, Kapenstein said.
However, the expectation is that the price will go up because the price that the borough is required to pay for having trash go through the Harrisburg Incinerator will be going up in 2017, Klinepeter said. The borough has no choice in this, regardless of what firm is hired to collect the trash, he added.
Council will seek proposals from firms for a three-year contract that would run from Jan. 1, 2017 through Dec. 31, 2019. Bids from firms must be received by Wednesday, Oct. 12.
Council also voted 7-0 to intervene in the appeal that has been filed in Dauphin County Court by opponents of the proposed crematory at the Fager-Finkenbinder funeral home at 208 N. Union St.
The appeal seeks to overturn the recent 1-1 vote by the Middletown zoning hearing board that upheld a permit granted in June 2015 by a former borough zoning officer approving the crematory as an accessory use to the existing funeral home.
Council’s vote does not obligate the borough to intervene in the appeal. Instead, the action is required to preserve the borough’s ability to intervene, if that is deemed necessary.
“This is for the protection of the residents,” Klinepeter said. “If this appeal goes sideways and we feel that borough residents are in jeopardy, or if (the appeal) is detrimental to residents then the borough would have the right to appeal (the county decision) to an appellant court later on.”
“This does not mean we are on either side, but we are protecting our right for later on if we feel that the decision is detrimental to our residents in general,” Klinepeter said.
Council’s decision to intervene means that the borough will continue paying the law firm of Eckert Seamans to represent the borough with regards to the crematory for at least as long as the county appeal is underway, Kapenstein said.
Council in February voted to hire Eckert Seamans as a special solicitor to represent the borough in the crematory case at a rate of $250 an hour.
The amount of money that the borough is paying Eckert Seamans in the crematory case should go down, at least as long as the borough is not actively intervening, Kapenstein said.
Eckert Seamans is also representing the borough at the same pay rate in negotiations over the selling of electricity between the borough and Librandi’s Machine Shop, Kapenstein pointed out.
In another matter, council approved Monday Oct. 17 as the date for the annual Halloween parade, with a rain date of Tuesday, Oct. 18.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 September 2016 13:55
Written by Eric Wise
Owners of cabins on Beech Island will be able to obtain the title to their leased properties as the property owners have decided to transfer the deeds to them.
Beech Island, a slender island that runs north-south and lies west of Three Mile Island in the Susquehanna River, is divided into 70 lots that feature a variety of summer homes and recreational cabins.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 September 2016 15:13
By Gabe Mink
Special to the Press And Journal
A spectacular fireworks display was the finale to the Middletown Labor Day weekend community party held at the fields at Susquehanna and South Union streets on Saturday night.
The event allowed Middletown residents an opportunity to come together and bring the summer to a close with contests, prizes and refreshments hosted by the Middletown Borough and other local organizations.
“Events like this unite our community,” says Amy Benner, a member of New Beginnings Church. “Things like this are nice for small churches like ours to do outreach work.
New Beginnings hosted a tent with refreshments and prizes.
“The town needs something like this, because it seems that lately the borough has been at odds,” resident Dianne Shaffer said.
Councilman Dawn Knull said she was happy to see the party draw as many people as it did.
“Positive things like this are what the community needs, she said. “The new council is trying to bring the community back together.”
More than 200 residents came out to the party, which featured a corn hole challenge, baseball hitting contest and free Zumba class and flag football on the Middletown High football practice field. Many more arrived for the evening fireworks.
The entire event, from the games and contests to the fireworks display, was funded by the nearly $20,000 raised during the Mayoral Madness charity event in 2015.
“Community events are what bring the town together,” said Council president Ben Kapenstein, adding that he looks forward to more programs like this where Middletown residents can, “get out and meet each other.”
Members of the Fink Elementary PTO used the opportunity to sell concessions to bring in an author for a year-end assembly for the students.
“This (event) has been a success for us,” says Jessica Wheeler, the Fink PTO president.
Longtime resident Carol Helman summed up the entire festival with one word: “Awesome.”
Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 September 2016 17:01
Written by Dan Miller
Borough council's 7 p.m. meeting will be preceded by what could be the last meeting of the Middletown Industrial and Commercial Development Authority at 6:45 p.m. in council chambers.
Council earlier this year decided to dissolve the authority, which was created by a previous council in 2012.
Here is the draft agenda for council's meeting on Sept. 6:
Last Updated on Friday, 02 September 2016 17:55
Written by Eric Wise
Lower Swatara police have charged a 28-year-old York man with six counts of access device fraud and six counts of identity theft.
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Sihee Omar Jamison, who is accused of using a cloned credit card linked to the account of a victim in Lower Swatara Township. He made purchases of $640 at York County businesses with the card.
A surveillance video shows Jamison attempting to use five other credit cards that did not work before using the victim’s card, which was processed. Police were able to recognize Jamison’s face and tattoos from the surveillance video, Detective Robert Appleby said.
“In identity theft and cyber crime, it’s rare to get an arrest,” Appleby said. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence the charges happened right after the victim used the card in York County.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 September 2016 13:57