Written by Joe Sukle
The Dauphin County Election Board today reminds residents who would like to vote in the general election on November 3 of important deadlines for registering to vote and obtaining and filing absentee ballots.
The deadline for registering to vote before the general election is October 5. To register to vote, an individual must be:
•A United States citizen for at least one month prior to the November 3 election
•A resident of Pennsylvania and the election district for at least 30 days prior to the election, and
•At least 18 years of age on or before November 3.
Citizens who meet these requirements may also register to vote online at www.register.votespa.com, a website hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of State. If the applicant has a driver's license or other Pennsylvania Department of Transportation identification card, the signature already on record can be immediately linked to the voter record. Applicants who do not have an electronic signature on file will be able to print, sign and mail the completed application or to request a signature card be mailed to them, which must be returned to the county bureau no later than October 5.
More than 200 people have registered in Dauphin County using the electronic format.
Residents who are unable to vote in person at their polling place on Election Day can apply for an absentee ballot. The last day to apply for a civilian absentee ballot is October 27. Civilian absentee ballots must be received no later than October 30.
Those offices on the election ballot include statewide judges; county officials; seven of the county’s magisterial district judges; city, township and borough officials; constables; and school directors.
Voter registration and civilian absentee ballot forms, as well as a list of polling places, can be found on www.DauphinCounty.org by clicking “Government Services,” and then on “Elections & Voter Registration” and then “"Vote,” or by calling the Bureau of Registration and Elections at 717-780-6360.
Last Updated on Monday, 28 September 2015 17:01
Written by Jim Lewis
The Kiwanis Club of Middletown's 62nd annual Halloween Parade will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 19 through the streets of Middletown.
The parade will begin at the intersection of Race and Conewago streets, and end at Karns Quality Foods.
• The parade begins at Race and Conewago streets, then
• left on Water Street and heads west, then
• left on Pine Street and heads south, then
• right on Emaus Street and heads west, then
• left on Union Street and head south to Karns, where it ends.
The route is subject to change depending on construction work on borough streets.
Want to participate? Advance registration is required for all participants to receive a parade permit number.
Registration forms were available as of Wednesday, Sept. 23 online only at www.kiwanisclubofmiddletown.com. Registration will close at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 7.
The rain date for the parade is Tuesday, Oct. 20.
Last Updated on Friday, 25 September 2015 17:52
Written by Eric Wise
Officials from Harrisburg International Airport have delayed a plan to cut down 600 trees at Sunset Golf Course in Londonderry Twp. until the Federal Aviation Administration is satisfied with an inquiry into the environmental effects of the proposal.
“We need to complete a full environmental assessment,” said Tim Edwards, executive director of HIA. “It’s probably going to be delayed until some time in 2016.”
The FAA told Londonderry Twp., the owner of Sunset Golf Course, that 600 trees in the flight path must be removed. “That’s still our intention,” Edwards said.
The trees must be cleared from the airport’s flight path because obstructions shorten the effective length of the airport’s runway, which limits the type of commercial passenger, military and freight aircraft that may use it.
The mature trees on the golf course are part of the character of the course and help direct play, according to the Londonderry Twp. manager Steve Letavic. Even if the trees are removed during the winter months, the course will probably lose several weeks of prime golf season to establishing landscaping in place of the trees.
Letavic estimates that revenue from the course may drop 10 to 20 percent, at least in part because golfers do not favor a wide open course without trees.
The plan calls for denuding most all of the first nine holes on the course, leaving the second half of the course with many mature trees. Letavic said the township will have to address issues of drainage from slopes now covered by trees and an increased need for irrigation on bare fairways.
Edwards said 90 percent of the $1.1 million project will be paid by the FAA. Letavic said he intends to contract with a timber company so the township may receive some compensation for the timber.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 September 2015 16:04
Written by Eric Wise
Utilities have been preparing for Middletown’s downtown improvement project to begin, so the project is set to move forward. When construction work begins, it will not include the project’s most controversial components, the trellis and pavilion that are stalled in the process.
The project starts with improvements to the intersection of Union and Emaus streets. On the north side of the intersection, the Middletown Industrial and Commerical Development Authority has planned a trellis for both sides of the street, a smaller one near the Brownstone Cafe and a larger one across Union. Across from the Brownstone, the authority razed a commercial building that contained businesses, and the plan is to create a trellis and pavilion in its place.
“The concept is to have an area that is a gathering place,” said Chris Courogen, borough spokesman. He said the concept was developed by a “highly qualified urban planner.”
Dewberry, a consultant, proposed the improvements in December 2012. The borough celebrated this project with a groundbreaking ceremony in May, a month before they even received bids that were ultimately rejected because they were too high.
When the authority members reviewed bids on Tuesday, Sept. 15, the trellis/pavilion project was still too expensive at $513,000, so the authority decided to go through the bidding process for a third time. The core project with two of the options authorized was approved at a cost of about $3.4 million.
Residents and members of Middletown Borough Council have spoken out against the trellis at meetings earlier this year. As recently as June, the authority reported that the trellis portion of the project would cost $263,000, which drew the ire of some residents. The news that the latest bids came in at more than half a million dollars has not assuaged the opposition.
“We need $500,000 spent on other things, a greater good,” Mayor James H. Curry III said. He said investing so much in one small area of the town was not in the town’s best interest, and that the trellis had created something Middletown will have to spend money to maintain.
“That’s a hell of a lot of money for a trellis,” said Jim Nardo, a member of the authority during the September meeting. The authority ultimately voted to send it out for new bids, a process that will cost money in legal, advertising and engineering fees.
“The community doesn’t want a trellis,” said Diana McGlone, a former borough councilor and candidate for council in the November general election. She repeatedly criticized the purchase of the property, razing the building and erecting a trellis at several meetings this year and on a popular Facebook page, Middletown Residents United.
McGlone’s objection, at the authority’s Sept. 15 meeting, drew a response from Nardo: “It’s not the community’s decision,” he said. “Don’t start that crap again!”
Curry called the response “disappointing, disrespectful and very offensive.’’
“Non-elected officials should not make $4 million decisions,” Curry said.
Curry said he was disappointed the ICDA has forged ahead with the trellis despite the outcry at meetings from the public. “They don’t answer to anyone,” he said. “If council ignores the public, they don’t get re-elected.”
Councilor Benjamin Kapenstein has also voiced concerns about the mounting costs of the downtown improvement project and whether the trellis and pavilion is the best use of the borough’s money. That is another point of contention regarding the project: Council President Chris McNamara, repeatedly said that the project does not use local taxpayer money. “They lied,” Kapenstein said. “We are using taxpayer money.”
With the current cost of the project, Kapenstein said the only way ICDA can pay for it is by using some of the $4 million left from its payment for the lease of the water and sewer system – money that belongs to the residents and taxpayers of Middletown.
Authority Chairman Matt Tunnell said he is proceeding with the project, including the trellis, in concert with council. “Borough council authorized ICDA to do this project,” he said. “This was reaffirmed in June. We would not have gone to bid with this if we didn’t have funding approved.”
If the authority approves bids and moves forward, it’s possible that the trellis and pavilion will be completed. However, if the process drags on, the future of this part of the project – and the ICDA – could be in question. The spring primary election created a ballot for November that could change the direction of council come January.
A new borough council majority could make major changes, including dissolving the ICDA. If the ICDA does not finalize its contract for the trellis and pavilion, that portion of the improvements could be cancelled, leading to questions for the future of the property.
“ICDA should not even exist in this town,” Curry said.
Curry said he is at a loss for what Middletown should do with the property if the trellis is not built. He said the property is not particularly well-suited for commercial development, should the borough sell it.
Courogen said he is “unable to speculate” the property’s future without the trellis.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 September 2015 15:37
Written by Eric Wise
Middletown’s downtown improvement project, with a price tag topping $4 million, may start moving forward following the approval of a winning bid on Tuesday, Sept. 15 awarded by the Middletown Industrial and Commercial Development Authority.
The authority accepted a bid for the streetscape improvements, covering the drainage, street paving, sidewalks, trees and lighting and a traffic signal. The authority approved that part of the project for $3.4 million, more than the $2.7 million estimate.
The construction contract, awarded to Flyway Excavating of Lititz, accounts for $2.79 million, plus an additional $632,000 in non-construction costs, which are mostly the engineering costs.
Prior to moving forward with the project, the authority has already spent about $350,000 for a property at North Union and Emaus streets, including razing the building that formerly housed a Laundromat, karate school and tattoo parlor. In addition, the authority is funding a $75,000 project to refurbish Middletown’s iconic clock, which would be moved about 10 feet north on Union Street.
Thus the authority and the borough have dedicated $3.8 million to the downtown improvements, but officials have not revealed the cost of its other consultants, including Dewberry, the Virginia-based firm that drew up the downtown improvements plan, and fees charged by McNees Wallace & Nurick, the law firm that serves the authority.
A controversial trellis and pavilion planned for the intersection of Union and Emaus streets had been estimated to cost $263,000, but a bid to build them arrived at $513,000, prompting the authority to advertise it for bids for a third time. The trellis/pavilion had been part of the project that was expected to cost $2.7 million.
In June, Middletown Borough Council authorized the authority to seek bids for a second time when the initial bids came in significantly over the $2.7 million budget. A third bid was withdrawn. The second round of bidding separated the core project and enumerated six “options” that were previously a part of the project. The trellis/pavillion was bid separately in the second round because it requires a different type of work.
The authority approved the winning bid for the streetscape renovations with the addition of two options – one that adds decorative bricks in place of thermal plastic at crosswalks for about $260,000 and a second that adds four-inch granite curbs for an additional $37,000.
The authority rejected other pricey options, including more expensive trees along the streets for $6,000, a decorative pole for the traffic light at Union and Emaus streets for nearly $100,000 and decorative fencing around the trees for $85,000.
Following the meeting, authority chairman Matt Tunnell said he felt the authority reached the right decisions regarding the options for the project with the expert advice of engineers. “The balance of cost and useful life is an important consideration,” he said.
The authority also considered making about $240,000 in improvements to the area in front of the Brownstone Cafe, which would have required an easement from the restaurant’s owner. Tunnell said the owner agreed only to a one-year easement that would allow him to remove any unsatisfactory work on his property after the year ended, and the authority dropped this idea. As a result, the trellis planned for the west side of Union Street will become smaller as to not encroach on the Brownstone property.
The board debated the merits of several options, although it was hard for the crowd of 20 people to hear all the comments. Chris McNamara, authority board member and president of council, had spoken loudly regarding other issues but mumbled and held his hand in front of his face as the authority members debated the options and their costs, drawing requests from the audience for him to speak up.
In addition, the authority sought a separate bid for the controversial trellis and pavilion portion of the project. The trellis and pavilion drew a low bid of $513,000. Tunnell said he was disappointed by lack of a broader interest in this portion of the project and the high cost. The authority will again seek bids for the trellis (one trellis on each side of Union Street) and pavilion.
Council was initially briefed on the vision for the project proposed by Dewberry in December 2012. When council reviewed updated plans in 2013, Borough Manager Tim Konek declared, “Things are going to happen quickly.”
Tunnell briefed council on the plans for this project in December 2014. He projected a $2.7 million cost for the entire project, which included the cost of the trellis, pavilion and all the options.
The trellis and pavilion may have been innocuous when first discussed by Dewberry, but they became a target of public scorn this year when some members of council and the public questioned the logic of spending $263,000 for a trellis when there are other areas of town that could benefit from such an investment.
Tunnell told council he was confident the $2.7 million estimate would be adequate to cover the project costs. “We feel pretty comfortable that these numbers have been vetted well and that the project should remain within this budget,” Tunnel said in December.
Some council members questioned if the project might end up costing more or going over budget. “This should absolutely be on budget,” Tunnell said last year. “There is no excuse for a project like this to go over budget.”
After the authority went ahead with the project, reduced in scope and already $700,000 over the estimate, Tunnell said, “I think any time you get engineering cost estimates you want them on target.”
“I am very concerned about the price going up,” said Councilor Ben Kapenstein, who serves as the chairman of council’s finance committee. “Bidding (for the trellis and pavilion) again will cost taxpayers at least $5,000.”
Said Tunnell: “I am not happy it exceeded the cost estimate but it is part of the design and build process.” He indicated some elements of the project went under-estimated in the process before bidding.
McNamara repeatedly asserted during the ICDA’s latest meeting that the downtown streetscape project “uses no local tax dollars,” a statement that was challenged by some other borough officials.
“That is a flat-out lie,” said Middletown Mayor James H. Curry III. The ICDA will be using a portion of the $50 million the borough received through its concession agreement with United Water to operate the borough’s water and sewer systems for 50 years. “The concession money is taxpayer money,” Curry said.
The growing project cost at $3.4 million, plus the cost of the trellis and pavilion, drew criticism from Curry. “Non-elected officials should not make a $4 million decision,” he said. McNamara is the only member of ICDA who is an elected official; he is also the only resident of Middletown to serve on the authority.
The project will be funded with a $250,000 Dauphin County gaming grant, about $745,000 in liquid fuels money the borough receives as its share of state gas taxes and a $1.5 million loan from Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank. The authority will be responsible for about $900,000 for the project, not including the costs associated with buying the property, demolishing the building and restoring the clock, Tunnell said on Sept. 15.
The borough’s engineering firm sent out a letter awarding the bid to Flyway on Wednesday, Sept. 16, the day after the ICDA meeting. Council will not vote or consider the project again, said borough spokesman Chris Courogen. “They have already approved that,” he said.
Tunnell said he is proceeding with the project, including the trellis, in concert with council. “Borough council authorized ICDA to do this project,” he said. “This was reaffirmed in June. We would not have gone to bid with this if we didn’t have funding approved.”
Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 September 2015 15:33