Written by Dan Miller
Middletown Borough Council voted 9-0 tonight to hire John Bey of Susquehanna Township to be the town's new police chief.
Bey will be paid a salary not to exceed $72,500. He will also receive no benefits. Council President Chris McNamara said that Bey had asked not to be paid benefits.
It will likely be several weeks to a month before Bey is available. He needs to retire from the Pennsylvania State Police, where he has been for 25 years. Bey holds the rank of captain, and is now director of training for the state police Bureau of Training and Education. Bey is also a senior master sergeant and a 28-year-veteran of the U.S. Air Force Reserve.
Bey, who was at tonight's meeting and was present for the vote, received a hearty standing ovation from council after the decision was made.
Bey stood up from his seat in the front row of the audience, shook hands with the council members who came over to congratulate him, and told the crowd he was pleasantly surprised to have received the ovation.
Hiring Bey was among several items involving personnel and potential litigation that council discussed during a closed-door executive session held during Monday night's meeting.
However, when it came to any public discussion or disagreement on council regarding choosing Bey, there was none.
Bey was one of three finalists who had emerged from a total of about 25 applicants for the chief's position.
One of the other finalists, Corporal Travis Thickstun of the Indiana Excise Police Force, withdrew his candidacy after council's public safety committee voted 2-0 to back Bey.
Committee Chairman Scott Sites, who was not present when the committee voted to recommend Bey, had favored Thickstun. However, Sites made no comment Monday night other than to nominate Bey as the new chief.
No mention was made of the third finalist, Stephen Mazzeo, the former Sunbury police chief.
Bey said he hopes to start as Middletown's new chief within a month. He took a required psychological exam earlier Monday, and needs to be certified by the state as a municipal police officer. He also needs to receive his honorable discharge from the state police.
On the borough's side, Councilor Ben Kapenstein said that the borough will conduct a background check into Bey. He must pass a non-competitive examination through the borough civil service commission, and Bey must also undergo a polygraph test to be administered on the borough's behalf.
Kapenstein said he believes all this could be achieved within a few weeks to a month, but he could not say for certain.
Kapenstein also said that during this interim period council plans to possibly reconsider the current ordinance requirement that the police chief become a Middletown resident within 15 months of being hired.
The requirement had emerged as a potential stumbling block toward hring Bey, in that Bey said he had just recently completed building a new home for his family in Susquehanna Township.
Bey told The Press and Journal during a break in Monday's meeting that he hoped the council would be willing to waive the requirement, at least for a period.
The ordinance does allow for a waiver, however it is not clear if the requirement can be waived indefinitely under the current ordinance.
Kapenstein said he expects the council while waiting for Bey to come on board will review the ordinance to see if the residency requirement for the police chief should remain in place as it currently exists, or if the requirement should be changed in some way or eliminated all together.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 August 2014 20:35
Written by Dan Miller
Last week it was a bird, this week it may have been a squirrel.
In any event, Middletown residents early this morning experienced the second power outage within nine days.
Borough Communications Director Chris Courogen said the outage occurred at about 6:40 a.m. today.
He did not immediately provide details concerning where the power loss occurred. However, a person in the borough office earlier today said the outage appeared to be concentrated in the areas of East Emaus, Race and Rupp streets.
Judging by posts to the Press and Journal Facebook page, the outage also impacted portions of East Main and Adelia streets, a portion of the 600 block of Vine Street; and parts of East Water, Spruce, and Maple streets.
The outage lasted close to an hour and a half, as power was restored by 8 a.m., according to the Facebook posts.
Courogen said he couldn't say for certain, but suspected that a wayward squirrel may have been the culprit. Public Works Director Ken Klinepeter could not be reached.
On Tuesday July 15 borough residents and businesses lost electricity for about 90 minutes. That outage was blamed on a bird that got into the electrical equipment and led to a number of fuses being tripped.
While Middletown isn't the only place where the electricity goes out on occasion, Courogen said it does seem to be happening with more regularity of late - and that critters like birds and squirrels are a major reason why.
"I suspect that the (Middletown Borough Council) Public Works Committee will start looking" at what can be done to solve the problem, Courogen said.
Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 17:08
Written by Dan Miller
Middletown residents will have the chance to see – and possibly meet – the two remaining finalists to become the borough's next police chief on Monday, July 21.
Middletown Borough Council's public safety committee will interview one of the two finalists behind closed doors at 4 p.m. in council chambers at the borough hall. The closed-door session will last about 30 minutes, after which the committee will present the candidate to the public and ask the candidate several questions in open session.
Then, starting at 5 p.m., the committee will repeat this same process for the other finalist.
If you cannot be at either the 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. session, your best shot to meet either or both of the two candidates could be at about 6 p.m.
By then, the committee expects to be done with its part of the process, said Councilor Scott Sites, public safety committee chairman. So from about 6 p.m. on, the candidates will be free to meet and mingle with residents, and answer their questions – if the candidates choose to do so.
Borough residents already have the scoop on one of the three finalists, John Bey of Susquehanna Twp. Bey could not make Monday's session, so the committee interviewed Bey and presented him to the public on Tuesday, July 15.
Bey took full opportunity of the chance to meet with borough residents in council chambers after the committee was done with him.
As for the other two finalists, who will be interviewed on Monday: One is from this area, while the other is from the Midwest.
The full council will meet during its monthly committee-of-the-whole session at 7 p.m. on Monday. However, council will not act on the top cop job at that meeting, Sites said.
The target date for council to choose the next chief is Monday, Aug. 4, Sites said.
Last Updated on Friday, 18 July 2014 19:46
Written by Dan Miller
Middletown Borough Council will discuss a proposed $3 million line of credit that would be used to help pay for various capital projects during a meeting on Monday, July 21.
The borough is exploring the line of credit jointly with the Middletown Borough Industrial and Commercial Development Authority. The authority acted in favor of securing the line of credit during its last meeting on Wednesday, July 9, during which the authority also approved a sales agreement to acquire the Elks Building from the Greater Middletown Economic Development Corp.
Authority Solicitor Salvatore Bauccio at the time said that the idea behind the line of credit is for the authority to have funds available while the borough waits to receive money from various government grants that are in the pipeline.
Essentially, the line of credit would serve as a "bridge" funding mechanism, allowing the authority to move forward on projects until the money from these grants becomes available to the borough.
According to language in a proposed ordinance before council, the $3 million line of credit would be issued through PNC Bank and would be backed by "the full faith and credit" of the Borough of Middletown. That means that if the authority spends any or all of the line of credit money and cannot repay the bank by any other means, the borough is on the hook.
Bauccio said earlier that the line of credit would enable the authority, should it ultimately acquire the Elks Building, to move faster with various improvements to the building, such as fixing portions of the ceiling and roof. The authority also hopes to refinance terms of the building's $500,000 mortgage which must be repaid to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.
The ordinance does not mention the Elks Building by name, but says that proceeds from the line of credit are to be used for unspecified capital improvement projects, as well as "alterations, restoration and repairs" within Middletown that have resulted from flood damage.
In a July 14 meeting during which council's finance committee discussed the line of credit, Borough Manager Tim Konek identified two government funding proposals now in the pipeline that could be used as repayments for the line of credit.
Konek described as "forthcoming" to the borough $1.2 million in flood reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"The stream is flowing," Konek said, referring to the FEMA funds.
Konek also noted that the borough has applied for a grant from the state's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program – officials call it "R-CAP" – to pay for streetscape and infrastructure improvements in town.
The borough has applied for $2 million. The state could decide to award the entire $2 million, or something less than that, or refuse to provide the grant at all.
Jay Pagni, a spokesman for Gov. Tom Corbett and the state's Office of the Budget, confirmed that the state has received the borough's R-CAP grant application and that it is still pending. He could not say when the administration will make a decision on the borough's application.
The authority could use other sources of funds to repay the line of credit. It is not restricted to repaying the money with grants that the borough may or may not receive.
Chris Courogen, the borough's director of communications, noted that one of the authority's goals in acquiring the Elks Building is to increase the cash flow that the building and its various tenants generate. That could also be a source that the authority could tap to repay the line of credit, Courogen said.
Read the proposed ordinance:
Last Updated on Friday, 18 July 2014 19:30
Written by Dan Miller
John Bey lives in Susquehanna Township and is a veteran of 25 years in the Pennsylvania State Police. He has held a variety of positions in the state police, from serving on the force's Special Emergency Response Team for eight years to being director of the state police's Heritage Affairs Office. Bey is currently director of training for the Bureau of Training and Education of the state police.
Bey is also a senior master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, where he has served for 28 years.
Bey is one of three finalists Middletown Borough Council is considering as the town's next police chief. Council's public safety committee presented Bey to the public tonight following a closed-door interview with Bey that lasted about 30 minutes. The committee then asked Bey four questions in open session. Afterward, the committee adjourned the meeting and Bey spent about 20 minutes answering questions from residents, until no more questions were left.
Close to 20 residents attended the session, including several other borough council members, and two uniformed members of the Middletown Police Department.
The public safety committee is to meet with the two other candidates in closed-door interviews starting at 4 p.m. Monday afternoon, after which these two finalists are also expected to be presented to the public before the full council meets at 7 p.m. Of the two other finalists, one is from the area and the other is from the midwest.
One of the residents asked Bey why he wants to leave the state police.
"It's time," Bey said. "I have over 25 years" with the state police. "I'm ready to get back down into boots on the ground."
Bey said he has been "reading the papers" and is well-aware of the challenges and issues that confront the borough and its police department. He said the department needs a "180-degree" turnaround and a change of culture.
"I understand that it is a beehive I would be coming into," Bey said of Middletown. "You just have to give me some time."
Bey said as chief he would seek to form a "Middletown Advisory Council" made up of citizens in the community from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. The council would also include the police chief and have representation from business owners, the faith-based community, and the borough council. Bey said the council would hold regular meetings "to begin to get our finger on the pulse of the community."
Bey said as chief he would emphasize training and accountability in the police department. In response to a question from Public Safety Committee Chairman Scott Sites regarding relations with Penn State Harrisburg, Bey said he knows this is a priority of Mayor James Curry so it would be his priority too. Bey said he would meet with the Penn State Harrisburg police chief toward developing an "action plan" to address college functions and activities that could impact the town.
One potential stumbling block could be a requirement Sites mentioned that the new chief move into Middletown within 15 months of accepting the job. Bey said he just built a new home in Susquehanna Township and would have to discuss the issue with his family. He noted he would only be 13 miles away from Middletown.
Sites said the residency requirement is in writing, but he also suggested there could be some flexibility regarding the issue.
Bey said if the borough chooses him as chief, he would be here for "a long time."
"We all know that change is difficult but change is also good," he said. "I'm not from Middletown, I'm not beholden to anybody and I don't owe anybody favors…there will be no hidden agendas."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 00:30