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Councilor seeks ban on 'jake' brakes

Truckers should not be allowed to use noisy engine braking in Middletown Borough, Councilor Mike Bowman argued during a Middletown Borough Council public works committee meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

Bowman, a committee member, said he believes Middletown needs to enact an ordinance banning the use of “jake’’ brakes and post signs.

“We need one at each entrance to the town,” suggested Councilor John Brubaker, another committee member.

Bowman said he is especially concerned with truck traffic on Ann Street, where he would like to see trucks limited to those making local deliveries. Diesel trucks may be equipped with a engine compression brake that assists with slowing down the truck. Compression brakes, like those offered by Jacobs Vehicle Systems, releases compression from the engine when the driver activates a switch.

Using compression braking creates a series of staccato rumbles that had led to bans in residential areas.

The ban on jake brakes and the limits on Ann Street traffic must be considered by the full council. If council decides to pursue these actions, the borough will have to coordinate its decision with the state Department of Transportation to ensure the legalities.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 September 2015 11:56

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No Labor Day fireworks? Mayor blames council


goodfireworkspic9 9 15WEBLabor Day fireworks in 2013.

There was no fireworks show in Middletown on Labor Day – and it may be another example of a lack of routine coordination and communication among Middletown borough officials that again results in residents being short-changed.

James H. Curry III took to Facebook to vent his frustration, posting on the Middletown Residents United site on Tuesday, Sept. 1 that the lack of fireworks was a direct result of Middletown Borough Council’s failure to act.

Curry had led an effort to raise about $10,000 to put on the fireworks show. A little less than $5,000 of that came through Mayoral Madness, the charity basketball game between Middletown Area High School athletes and alumni that was organized by Curry and held in March.

Curry said he persuaded United Water to pledge another $5,000 toward the fireworks. Another $300 was raised through an event that was held at Cassel Vineyards of Hershey.

On Aug. 3, the mayor asked council to provide the remainder of the money that would be needed for the fireworks – about $7,000 to $8,000, Curry estimated. “My request was brushed off and President (Chris) McNamara indicated it would be discussed at the Aug. 17, 2015 council meeting,” Curry wrote in his post on Middletown Residents United’s Facebook page.

But council could not act on Aug. 17 because not enough members were present for a quorum. McNamara was absent, as were councilors Robert Louer, John Brubaker, Suzanne Sullivan and Vicki Malone.

That left council’s next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 1, as the last opportunity for council to act on Curry’s fireworks request before Labor Day. Instead, the meeting was abruptly canceled.

“Apparently, President McNamara is ill,” Curry said in his Facebook post. “Funny, no meeting was ever cancelled when I was unavailable. Likewise, Mrs. Sullivan hasn’t been to a meeting in months, yet we still proceeded. In any event, as this is the last meeting before the holiday, it is physically impossible to approve the expenditure for the fireworks.”

Sullivan has not been to a meeting since before the May primary due to illness, borough officials have said.

Curry closed out his Facebook post with this vow: “Middletown, I apologize. I wanted nothing more than for you to have something to smile about. You deserve it. The money raised and donated will remain untouched in an account until next year. At that time, I can promise you Middletown will have the best damn fireworks display around and we’ll be celebrating Labor Day…and a bit more.”

The obvious inference of Curry’s post: Council acted to deliberately sabotage the mayor’s campaign to hold the Labor Day fireworks. In a phone interview with the Press And Journal, Curry stopped short of saying so, but he didn’t exactly close the door on it, either.

“I’m not saying these actions are calculated, but I am saying they are very curious,” the mayor said. “I’m not going to flat out accuse somebody of something, but if you connect the dots something seems a bit odd.”

Asked why council would do such a thing, Curry responded, “Perhaps because I was the one that spearheaded the effort to get it done.”

The Press And Journal e-mailed Curry’s Facebook post to McNamara for the council president’s comment. McNamara did not respond.

That left it up to borough spokesman Chris Courogen to provide an explanation on council’s behalf.

The mayor’s efforts to raise money for Labor Day fireworks in Middletown are to be applauded, Courogen said. However, he waited too long before he brought his funding request to council, Courogen added.

Setting off the Labor Day fireworks is not as simple as it would seem, Courogen said. It involves getting approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration due to the proximity of Harrisburg International Airport, and from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission because the fireworks are set off in the boat launch area.

It was Courogen’s job to cut through the red tape the last time the borough set off Labor Day fireworks in 2013.

Even if council had acted on Aug. 3, it would have been “a real challenge” for the borough to get through all the hurdles in time to set off the fireworks on Labor Day, Courogen said.

It would have been “darn near impossible” if council acted on Aug. 17, he said. By Sept. 1, it didn’t matter whether or not council met – it would have been too late, Courogen said. By Sept. 1, the best that could have been hoped for was to plan to hold the fireworks on another holiday this year, like Veterans Day.

To Courogen’s knowledge, neither Curry nor anyone else formally approached council or the borough about making the fireworks happen before Curry brought it up during the Aug. 3 meeting.

“There had been talk about it” on Facebook but the borough did not know how much money had been raised – and therefore how much the borough would be asked to contribute, Courogen said.

For example, the borough did not know of the $5,000 contribution from United Water until the mayor mentioned it in his Sept. 1 Facebook post, Courogen said.

“The mayor is well-meaning but still seems to struggle to understand how government works,” he said. “It would have helped to get the borough staff involved and to get the ball rolling way before August.”

Informed of Courogen’s comments, Curry said it was public knowledge as long ago as March – before the Mayoral Madness game was held on March 27 – that the intent was to raise money for the Labor Day fireworks celebration. For the borough to suggest it was unaware of that is incredulous, Curry said. “They knew in March I would be coming to them for the rest of the money,’’ he said. “That was made perfectly clear to the entire council. Everybody knew this was on the table.”

If there truly was a time crunch as Courogen said, then McNamara’s delaying tactic makes no sense, the mayor said, since McNamara was on council the last time the fireworks were held and was therefore aware of all that is involved in making the event happen.

However, Courogen said he doubts even McNamara is aware of all the hurdles the borough must clear to put on the fireworks show.

Curry said as mayor all he could do was request the money for the fireworks. Getting the approvals was the borough’s responsibility.

Asked if he could have done more to keep the borough informed, Curry said the communication between himself and borough officials has gotten so bad that he doesn’t even bother anymore.

“I can’t even get an answer to a simple question,” the mayor contended. “At this point, after two years, I don’t even try anymore because it is impossible to get an answer.”

Curry said the close to $10,000 raised for the fireworks remains in an account under the auspices of the Middletown Area High School boys’ basketball booster club. The money is in a separate account that is not commingled with any of the booster club’s funds.

Curry said he didn’t place the money in an account under the borough because “I did not trust handing” it over to the borough.

“That money will not move – not a penny of it will be spent” until the rest of the money is raised to hold a fireworks show for Labor Day in 2016, Curry said.

He plans to hold his Mayoral Madness charity basketball game again in 2016, and again the proceeds will go toward the fireworks.

Barring some “unforeseen” event beyond local control – like the FAA or the Fish and Boat Commission saying no – Curry guarantees Middletown will have its Labor Day fireworks celebration in 2016.


Last Updated on Thursday, 10 September 2015 09:45

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Who should plow state roads in town? PennDOT should – if Main Street isn’t paved by winter, council committee says


Middletown Borough staff has recommended to a Middletown Borough Council committee that the borough have crews from the state Department of Transportation plow state roads within the town limits this winter, a proposal that drew criticism from residents last year.

“Nothing has changed in the borough the makes us more capable than we were last year,” said Lester Lanman, public works superintendent, told council’s public works committee on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

The borough may track its time and materials to receive a direct reimbursement from the state for plowing Main Street, Union Street and Vine Street under a pilot program.

Or the borough may enter the standard five-year agreement with PennDOT that provides a set amount of money to Middletown each year for plowing. Under the agreement, the state may release additional money if the winter is especially bad, but does not request repayment in the event of a mild winter.

Committee members – councilors Robert Louer, Mike Bowman and John Brubaker – went along with the recommendation for 2015-2016. The decision will be brought to the full council for approval.

Council decided on Dec. 1 to not renew its agreement to receive $7,300 to plow the borough’s 3.5 miles of state roads, a move that drew protests from some reisdents. Council then reversed itself, voting on Dec. 15 to approve the agreement. However, the agreement was delayed because borough manager Tim Konek refused to sign the documents.

The committee bemoaned PennDOT’s inaction in paving Main Street now that the water and sewer replacement project is completed, and the rough road surface that exists was a reason cited for giving PennDOT the responsibility to plow state roads in town.

If the street is not repaved, its rough condition will create problems for plowing, Lanman said. He suggested letting PennDOT deal with problems of paving rough roads if they fail to pave as promised.

The borough expedited the water and sewer project so PennDOT could repave Main Street before winter, Konek said. In fact, “We gave up a fair amount of sewer line replacement to expedite,” Lanman said.

“We gotta have the road level by the first snow,” Bowman said. Lanman said borough engineer HRG has been in contact with the Main Street project’s contractor, Doli Construction, about the condition of the street in the event that the state repaving is not done by winter. “What’s out there ain’t gonna cut it,” he said.

Lanman said the borough has not received word on whether they will or will not pave this winter. “We’re waiting on them to pave,” he said.

Brubaker was skeptical that PennDOT would do the work by winter. “You won’t see that street paved for two years,” he said.

“All nine of us (from borough council) should go up and picket PennDOT,” Bowman said.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 September 2015 11:25

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Man charged with arson: Fight over a skateboard led to fire, police say


An 18-year-old Middletown man was charged with arson for allegedly setting a house on fire in the 100 block of North Catherine St. on Tuesday, Aug. 18 after a fight with one of the home’s residents over a skateboard, Middletown police said.

nelsonphoto9-2 15WEB2Carl Eugene Nelson IVCarl Eugene Nelson IV, of the 400 block of Ann St., was arrested on Friday, Aug. 28 and charged with arson of an inhabited building or structure, arson with a danger of death or bodily injury, and arson-related criminal mischief.

He was arraigned before District Judge Michael J. Smith and held in Dauphin County Prison in lieu of $250,000 bond, according to court records. A preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 7 before District Judge David Judy.

The fire allegedly stemmed from a dispute over a skateboard that occurred on Monday, Aug. 17 between Nelson and Daniel Andujar, who lives in the house where the fire was set, according to court records filed with Judy by Middletown police, and according to Andujar’s mother, Esmeralda Gonzalez, who owns the residence.

Gonzalez told the Press And Journal that Nelson took her son’s skateboard from the front porch of their residence during the summer of 2014. Nelson had never returned the skateboard, and Andujar confronted him about it on Aug. 17.

Police said that early in the morning on Aug. 18 Nelson and a friend drank cough syrup. Nelson then returned to the residence on North Catherine Street and set the front porch on fire with kerosene that he had carried to the scene in a bottle of Gatorade, police said in court records.

Police and firefighters were dispatched to the house at about 3:10 a.m. on Aug. 18. Gonzalez’s daughter, her boyfriend and the couple’s 10-month-old baby were in the house at the time when the daughter and her boyfriend smelled smoke coming through a third-floor window.

The flames on the front porch were about a foot high but the boyfriend, Dylan Finegan, put out the fire with a few pitchers of water, police said.

The fire melted and destroyed vinyl siding on both the front of the porch and the side facing north, police said. The fire also damaged a plastic mailbox and a chair that was sitting on the porch.

Damage was estimated at more than $8,000, police said. A duplex on the right side of the structure was not damaged.

Esmeralda Gonzalez said she is glad that police made an arrest in the case.

“I can sleep better at night knowing he has been arrested, but it’s still not going to make up for what he did,” she said. She noted that a natural gas line was close to where Nelson had allegedly set the fire.
“You were upset over a skateboard and you set a person’s house on fire, possibly killing people? This could have been catastrophic,’’ Gonzalez said.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 September 2015 15:22

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Mosquito Spraying Mon., Aug.17 In Londonderry Twp.


Three areas in Londonderry Twp. are to be sprayed this Mon., Aug. 17 to control mosquitoes as part of Dauphin County’s West Nile Virus (WNV) Control Program.

The treatment of the insecticide will take place at 9 p.m. in the Cedar Manor, Pine Manor and Braeburn Park areas of the township. According to county officials, the treatments will be administered with ATV-mounted equipment that dispenses Biomist 3 + 15, a permethrin insecticide product, at a rate of 0.75 ounces per acre. usethispinecedarmanor“This is a very low concentration of a pesticide that has been tested and approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency for use in controlling adult mosquito populations in and around people,” according to a press release from the county announcing the spraying.

County officials also noted that residents who do not wish to have their properties sprayed should contact the WNV Control Program coordinator at (717) 921-8100 by 4 p.m. on Aug. 17.

A rain date for the application is Wed., Aug. 19.

Samples collected by the WNV Control Program have shown a high adult mosquito population carrying the virus. A total of 20 infected mosquito samples have been collected this summer in Dauphin County. Earlier this week infected samples were found in Conewago, Derry, East Hanover and Swatara townships. Three positive samples were collected in Londonderry Twp. County officials said the increase of positive samples in the county prompted the WNV Control Program to step up surveillance and spray for mosquitoes.Usethisbraeburnrd

County officials also noted residents may place their homes on a “no-spray” list. More information about the list is available by calling the County WNV Control Program at 717-921-8100.

The press release from the county listed the following frequently asked questions about mosquito control:

1.  Should toys and other items in the yard at the time of the application be washed?

It is not necessary to wash items in your yard after the application.  Due to low application rates, any exposure from contact with these surfaces would be low and pose negligible risks.

2.  Should swimming pools be covered before the application?

No, residue in a pool would be low and also diluted by the water in the pool.

3.  Should windows be closed and air conditioners turned off?

The ULV vapor disperses readily, and little movement of the material into open windows with screens is expected.  However, individuals with upper respiratory problems, such as asthma, may react to ULV applications.  Closing windows and turning off air conditioners is recommended for those with upper respiratory problems. 

 4.  How long should residents wait before a pet is permitted outdoors?    

When the chemical is applied at the labeled rates, there are wide margins of safety for humans, dogs, cats and other mammals.  Indoor pets may be "let out" immediately following the application.  Outdoor pets may be left outdoors.

5.  How long should residents wait before allowing children to enter a yard?

The ULV vapor disperses very quickly after the application.  Individuals with respiratory problems may react to ULV application.  People with these health issues may want to wait an hour before resuming outdoor activities in treated areas. 

Additional information about the program is available on the CDC’s Web site at and by calling the County’s WNV Control Program, call the Conservation District, (717) 921-8100.


Last Updated on Friday, 14 August 2015 21:06

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