Written by Eric Wise
Lower Swatara Twp. commissioners approved a proposed policy on Wednesday, March 4 that would allow them to participate in meetings remotely by phone or other electronic media.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 March 2015 15:58
Written by Dan Miller
The Elks Theatre in Middletown will close on April 15. When – or if – it reopens, and in what form, is unknown.
Toward the end of a lengthy meeting on Wednesday, March 4, the theater’s owner, the Middletown Industrial and Commercial Development Authority, (ICDA), approved a motion calling for the theater to close on April 15 to complete repairs to address life safety issues and to bring the theater up to code.
The motion, read by authority Solicitor Sal Bauccio, said that the theater would be closed for “an estimated six months.” However, that timetable was revised to “indefinitely” in a press release issued by borough Communications Director Chris Courogen on Friday, March 6. The borough press release also said that the ICDA has given notice to the theater’s operator, the Greater Middletown Economic Development Corp. (GMEDC), that its lease is being terminated.
Closely related to the theater situation, the ICDA also decided to seek proposals from other entities – in addition to Phantom Theatre Company, which had expressed an interest in the theater last September – that may be interested in operating, or possibly owning, the Elks Building, which houses the theater.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 March 2015 17:01
Written by Dan Miller
Middletown’s Web site has gone from a source of irritation to Mayor James H. Curry III, who says that for six months he’s been trying to get his cell phone number listed on it, to several members of Middletown Borough Council with incorrect e-mail addresses, to residents like David Hawkins.
During council’s meeting on Monday, March 2, Hawkins, a public relations specialist for the military, spoke at length about deficiencies in the Web site.
Besides the continuing omission of Curry’s phone number, Hawkins noted that contact information for several borough councilors is “woefully out of date.”
Councilor Ben Kapenstein’s e-mail address is that of Barbara Arnold, a former borough councilor. Councilor Vicki Malone’s e-mail address is that of Judy Putric, also no longer on council. Tom Handley, who resigned from council in 2014, is still listed on the Web site as a councilor – although Handley’s e-mail goes to another former councilor, David Rhen.
Current Councilor Anne Einhorn has no e-mail address listed. Councilor Mike Bowman, whom council appointed in January to replace Handley, isn’t listed on the Web page for borough councilors.
The events page still shows events from Halloween, Middletown Area High School’s Homecoming and the Fall Gathering.
Minutes have not been posted on the site since last April. Even on the prototype new site being promoted on the borough’s Facebook page by Communications Director Chris Courogen, the minutes are current only through Dec. 29, Hawkins noted.
“I understand the site is changing, I’ve heard that,” Hawkins said. “But the existing site is what we are looking at, and what people are using to look at our borough.”
“If I were to ask for a show of hands in this room, you would most likely see a few people who have the knowledge and experience to understand that it does not take a whole lot of effort to update most Web sites,” he said.
Besides making it harder for residents to contact the local officials they elected, Hawkins said the current state of the Web site sends a bad signal to the rest of the world outside of Middletown.
“When they want to move into the Borough of Middletown, they are going to look for that Web site – and to me, showing information from last year is fruitless, and actually hurts us as a borough, because it shows that we don’t care, or it shows that somebody doesn’t care about the information,” Hawkins said. “So I would encourage – and I know that you are saying that the site is about ready to go up, and I hope it does – but if it doesn’t, I would encourage that old site to be updated.”
Council President Chris McNamara said the borough received a state grant to address the town’s information technology issues, including the Web site and the borough phone system, as part of the borough being in the state’s Early Intervention Program.
McNamara said the borough has had to overcome a number of challenges in addressing the Web site issue.
“When the Web site was originally launched, someone used their own credit card to purchase the domain. So it took our own IT folks, through Mr. Courogen, quite some time to get that back under the borough’s control,” McNamara said.
“All that is what has been going on behind the scenes. I’ll take full responsibility for that not getting communicated, but the decision within staff was to fix it … What I’m tired of hearing is the suggestion that nothing is being done.”
Courogen, who is in charge of the Web site, did not respond to phone and e-mail messages seeking comment for this article.
McNamara said that Courogen “is about ready to go live” with the new Web site, although no specific date was given.
The council president voiced frustration that neither the mayor, nor apparently anyone else on council, had responded to an e-mail Courogen sent out regarding the Web site. In the e-mail, McNamara said Courogen asked to take photos for the Web site of all the elected officials. He also wanted to check the contact information he is putting on the new Web site to make sure it is correct.
Curry said he did not respond because he has already repeatedly asked Courogen to put his cell phone number on the Web site.
Responding to Courogen’s e-mail would be “pointless,” Kapenstein said, as he and Curry for months have been asking for updates to the old site that they believe would take a few minutes to accomplish.
Hawkins thanked McNamara and the council for hearing him out and for devoting so much time during the meeting to discussing the issue.
Last Updated on Friday, 13 March 2015 15:51
A public meeting on the possible future of policing in Middletown and the rest of southern Dauphin County will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11 at Penn State Harrisburg’s Capital Union Building.
The meeting is part of a police regionalization study led by the Dauphin County commissioners.
A consulting firm hired by the commissioners – the Police Executive Research Forum, based in Washington, D.C. – will present preliminary results of its study during the meeting on Wednesday.
Those results are expected to include findings that are specific to police departments in the lower end of Dauphin County, including Middletown, Highspire and Steelton, according to county officials.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 March 2015 15:05
Now that Middletown Borough Council has decided to keep the borough’s human relations commission, councilors want to see if anyone wants to serve on it.
At the urging of Mayor James H. Curry III, council voted 8-0 on Monday, March 2 to advertise to solicit residents interested in serving on the long-dormant commission. Once the advertisement is placed, residents will have 30 days to submit a letter of interest to the borough.
The commission would receive complaints regarding alleged discrimination in the borough and could choose to either investigate the complaints locally or refer them to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.
Council voted in September to keep the commission, over objections of Council President Chris McNamara, who contended that a local commission was unnecessary given the existence of the state HRC and the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 March 2015 15:04