Written by Dan Miller
As with the Elks Building and former Lamp Post Inn, another economic development opportunity beckons in Middletown with Guido McNeal’s being put up for sale on the square at Main and Union streets.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 September 2016 15:26
Written by Eric Wise
State and local officials continue to push ahead with projects to replace bridges near Middletown.
Loan being pursued
Two bridges may be replaced in Lower Swatara Township with a Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank loan, as the commissioners passed a resolution to pursue Sept. 8.
The township will seek a loan of up to $1.149 million to replace box culverts for Highland Street and the Richardson Road bridge that is near Summit Ridge Drive. The township closed the Highland Street bridge in March due to its deterioration. Highland Street is closed from its terminus at Route 441 to the bridge over Laurel Run. Motorists must continue north on Route 441, using Keckler Road in Swatara Township to reach Highland Street, which includes one Lower Swatara Township home and several homes in Swatara Township.
The loan also includes replacement of a bridge over Buser Run on Richardson Road. This bridge is currently open.
“We’re about three years out from the structures being replaced,” said Erin Letavic, township engineer.
A previous loan from the Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank will be used to replace the other Richardson Road bridge, which crosses an unnamed tributary of Laurel Run and has been closed for safety reasons. Construction on this bridge is planned to begin this fall.
Three projects under way
Londonderry Township officials recently announced progress with three bridge projects on township roads.
The bridge carrying Braeburn Road traffic in Londonderry Township reopened to traffic Aug. 26.
Braeburn Road had been closed since June 27 from Deodate Road to Highland Road to allow for the demolition of the old bridge and construction of a new cast-in-place box culvert. Due to a backorder on guide rails, barrels were temporarily used as a barrier on the sides of the bridge.
The Hollandale Street bridge near Royalton Recycling has been closed since Aug. 1 to allow for its replacement. Replacement will take six weeks. Drivers may take River Road (Route 441) and Water Street to access the western end of Hollandale Street.
Beagle Road, from Braeburn Road to Deodate Road, was closed to through traffic during the first week of September. The old culvert was removed Sept. 8 in anticipation for the replacement. Drivers will have to use Braeburn Road to avoid the closure. This replacement will also take six weeks.
Overpass repairs to begin
PennDOT contractors will soon begin construction on two overpasses that pass over Route 283. A truck carrying an excavator with an improperly secured boom struck the North Union Street overpass in Lower Swatara Township and Newberry Street overpass in Londonderry Township on May 2.
“Work has not yet started on the damaged Route 283 overpasses,” said Michael Crochunis, press officer from PennDOT. “This emergency contract to replace the damaged beams and subsequently replace a portion of the bridge deck should start before the end of the month.”
PennDOT previously announced the tentative closure of the bridges through Nov. 22.
Supervisor questions delays
Ron Kopp, Londonderry Township supervisor, said he is frustrated by the slow progress on the replacement of the bridge over the Swatara Creek on Route 230 that links Londonderry Township and Middletown.
“I don’t know what the problem is,” he said.
During the past few weeks, Kopp said he has seen no one working on the project at all.
The timing of the traffic light to use the bridge’s one open lane has caused problems for the township’s residents, he said.
The project has been delayed as the contractor had problems having bridge beams delivered in the expected timeframe, said Greg Penny, a PennDOT spokesman. He also said the crew experienced delays from technical problems.
In July, Penny said PennDOT expected traffic to the be shifted to the new eastbound lanes while the old spans are removed from the westbound lanes by late August or early September. Penny was unavailable to comment for this article.
In contrast, the bridgework on Route 743 between Hershey and Elizabethtown is ahead of schedule, said Letavic. He said that project, anticipated to take two years, will be completed in six months.
The contractor for the Route 743 project in Lancaster County shifted traffic to the southbound lane July 27 and began working on the northbound side, Crochunis said.
“The goal is to finish construction of the new bridge before the end of this year so that the bridge crossing can be restored to two lanes of traffic for the winter season,” Crochunis said. “When warmer weather returns after the end of winter, the contractor will complete the project by paving the roadway approaches to the bridge in early April.”
Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 September 2016 15:22
Written by Jason Maddux
Some trips to last week’s open house at Three Mile Island were short, completed by nearby neighbors who like to visit the nuclear plant during the annual event.
But that wasn’t the case for Joanne Laudeman of Wilmington, Delaware.
She rearranged her work schedule and planned a special trip to the event Thursday night, Sept. 8, along with her mother, Angelina Marnickas, who lives in the Hershey area.
About 400 people showed up for the event, according to Ralph DeSantis, an Exelon spokesman at TMI. Exelon owns the plant. Attendees were able to take a bus tour to the island, although the bulk of the event was held at the TMI Training Center, 1009 Pecks Road.
There was free food and a tour of the control room training simulator, as well as a room full of displays. Youngsters could fight a simulated fire. There were TMI safety presentations and discussions of how the plant works. About 650 people are employed at the plant.
All of it was great fun for Laudeman, she said.
“We just find the whole Three Mile Island thing fascinating,” she said, adding that the tour would be great for children as well as adults. “As a matter of fact, we might come back next year.”
She enjoyed going to the island itself and learning about the wildlife on the island, which includes 50 to 200 deer, ospreys, bald eagles and peregrine falcons.
She was a junior in high school in Pottsville when the 1979 accident happened, she said, and “it’s nice to put all that together” by visiting the site.
Laudeman said she was impressed by all the safety training and precautions at the plant.
Chad Strausbaugh of Hummelstown agreed that it was interesting to see that safety is a top priority.
“It’s just neat to know how things work, the training that people go through and the procedures they have in place. I think a lot of people don’t know about that,” he said.
It was his first time to the plant, although he said he drives by it “all the time.”
“The control room is just amazing,” he said. “It was pretty intense.”
The control room simulator is an exact replica of what would be found in the plant, said Ed Carreras, operations training manager for Three Mile Island.
Those on the tour were able to see how some of the safety features work. Saige Wilt, 12, of Middletown, was picked from the crowd to press a button to start a shutdown. It only took a few seconds for the shutdown to occur.
Doug Carl, who lives near Bainbridge, brought his family. He, too, said they drive by the plant every day but had never been there.
“I didn’t realize there was actual water flowing down at the base of the (cooling) tower,” he said. “You can’t see that from the road.”
Carl said people his age identify with TMI and the 1979 meltdown.
He said his children were interested in seeing the plant up close, and had a bonus of viewing deer as well on the bus tour.
“We just definitely appreciate that they try to connect with the community and the people around the plant,” he said.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 September 2016 15:20
Written by Eric Wise
Three experts testified Sept. 8 in support of Lee Dickerson’s proposal to use the remnants of his five-generation family farm on North Union Street for commercial development.
A conceptual plan for the site includes a restaurant and a retail store along North Union Street, with a road leading east to sites for a second store, an office building and a hotel.
Lower Swatara Township’s three-member zoning hearing board is considering granting two variances for this proposal, one allowing commercial development and one allowing a future development to cover more than 30 percent of the area with impervious coverage — areas that do not absorb water, such as parking lots.
The board was hearing the second night of testimony, continued from July 14. After nearly three and a half hours of testimony, Chairman Randall C. Breon announced the hearing would continue Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 6 p.m.
New traffic patterns
Jarred Neal, a Lower Swatara resident and traffic engineer with Traffic Planning and Design in Harrisburg, said traffic generated from this development would not significantly delay the traffic at North Union Street and the ramps that enter and exit the eastbound lanes of Route 283.
Neal said that while the development would add about 3,500 vehicles to North Union Street traffic every day, only 20 percent would use North Union Street south of the development. Instead, most would head north toward Route 283 and Fulling Mill Road. The development would mean one additional vehicle every three to four minutes during the morning traffic peak, one vehicle every three minutes during the afternoon traffic peak, and one vehicle every two minutes during the weekend peak of traffic on North Union Street.
Resident Nancy Avolese, an opponent of Dickerson’s variance requests who lives half a mile south on North Union Street, quizzed Neal on whether the development would affect adjacent properties or impair public welfare. Neal repeated that his conclusions as a traffic engineer did not support an impairment of neighbors using their properties or safety of the road “from a traffic perspective.”
Avolese disputed his findings, based on her experiences as a North Union Street property owner, prompting Breon to remind her and others that people who have requested to be added as a party to the case may question Dickerson’s witnesses, but should refrain from making statements of their own beliefs while the applicant’s witnesses were making his case.
Under the plan, Neal said traffic would enter the site using Lee Drive that could be reached by traffic in either direction on North Union Street. Traffic would be able to exit using the same road and to turn either direction, although a second exit would allow vehicles to leave turning right on North Union Street toward Route 283 and Fulling Mill Road. At least 60 percent of exiting vehicles will use the right-turn only exit, Neal said. The impact of this development will not require the addition of a traffic signal at Lee Drive, the new street that will be created by the development.
Saving the township $500,000
Dickerson’s plan for commercial development will bring water and sewer to North Union Street at a cost of $500,000, said Rob Shaffer of Act One and Associates. If the variance is not allowed and no development pays for the connection, “the burden would entirely be on the township and residents,” Shaffer said.
Several North Union Street properties, including those in this application, have failing septic systems and wells contaminated by this on-lot sewage, Dickerson said.
“That can’t help but have an effect on property values,” said Tom Luttrell, a consultant working with Dickerson.
This development will bring sewer and water to the area because the site cannot be developed to its full potential without these services, Dickerson said. The addition of public services, especially public sewer, will enhance property values for residents along North Union Street.
If the township were forced by regulation to connect public water and sewer for this area, the residents along North Union Street would be responsible simply for a standard tapping fee, said township solicitor Peter Henninger.
“If the township brings it in, the tap fee will go up for the whole township,” Luttrell said. The current tapping fee for Lower Swatara Township is $3,200.
“The township municipal authority could create a special sewer district and require a higher fee,” said Dickerson’s attorney, David Tshudy, in dispute of Henninger. This special fee would include the cost of sewage treatment capacity and the $500,000 needed for the connection, Tshudy said.
If Dickerson provides sewer lines to North Union Street at his property, the township then would be able to extend the public sewer line along this section of North Union Street and potentially serve the residents along the street, as well as along several short private lanes that connect to North Union, including Balls Lane, Condran Drive and others.
“Highest and best use’
“When you have a corner, as long as it’s easy access, that’s where the commercial development goes,” said Bill Gladstone, a commercial real estate expert who appeared on behalf of Dickerson.
Gladstone said this “highest and best use” will bring the most value to the property and allow the development to pay for improvements, including $500,000 cost for having public and water sewer lines connected to the area.
Henninger disputed Gladstone’s ability to judge the site’s value for residential development because his experience has been with commercial real estate.
Dickerson said the property’s location near the highway makes it unattractive and unmarketable for residential development, should the eight existing homes be torn down.
Breon asked why the Shope property, on the west side of North Union Street close to Dickerson’s property, has not attracted development despite its present zoning for highway commercial uses, which is how Dickerson seeks to use his property.
“You’ve got to have deep pockets,” Gladstone said.
With more than 200 acres zoned for that type of commercial use, the Shope property could attract a much larger type of commercial use, such as a large retail store, Gladstone said. In commercial real estate, sellers would be looking at a different type of buyer for a site like that, he said.
The testimony for the night ended with Dickerson still expecting to call two additional witnesses. Other parties will then have an opportunity to present evidence, and residents will be permitted to comment on the variance proposals, Breon said.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 September 2016 15:12
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 had two vacancies.
Councilor Robert Reid, who had represented the First Ward, was the lone dissenting vote.
Second Ward Councilor Anne Einhorn had voted against the change, but said that most people she had spoken to in the Second Ward favor 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, Einhorn added.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 September 2016 14:58