For more than a year now, I have regularly attended the Lower Swatara Township Board of Commissioners’ workshop and legislative meetings. It is one of the ways that I connect with my community since I have retired. It may sound corny to some but I feel it is my civic responsibility as well.
What I have observed is the responsible manner in which our local commissioners utilize our tax funds. They repeatedly search for ways to save money, provide better services, and repair badly needed infrastructure. They passed balanced budgets the past two years without raising taxes. They apply for, and utilize, grants whenever possible. They partner with other agencies to provide more cohesive services in public works, police services, and essential community needs. They reissued bonds to save hundreds of thousands in tax-payer dollars. In addition, they are reviewing new and old ordinances, studying pension and benefit packages, and evaluating the need for staff positions. And I don’t think I’ve ever attended a meeting where roadwork, park improvement, or storm water management was not on the agenda.
However, lately it concerns me how the Press and Journal reports the news. I expect to see more responsible reporting that covers both sides of an issue and to be able to read the facts without a biased or slanted news article.
The behavior of a few residents who attend the township meetings is also distressing. When residents have a problem that they need help in solving or want a question answered, they come up to the microphone, state their name and address, and then speak directly to the commissioners. The commissioners address their concern by providing timely information in return, explaining they need to seek out additional data, or that they must talk to all related parties.
However, there seems to be a trend among some residents that when the answer or timeframe is not to their liking, they rudely walk away while the commissioner is in the middle of a statement. What has happened to common courtesy and joint community effort in solving problems? What has happened to a little bit of patience?
I have never seen a commissioner speak offensively to anyone, look down on anyone (regardless of how they are dressed or have acted), or not taken even the smallest issue seriously. I take notes at the meetings and have found they have always followed up with the resident in some manner.
I wrote this letter to the editor because I have lost tolerance with half-truths, unprofessional reporting, and “Sound-Off” assassinations. I’ve attended other area borough meetings and school board meetings that are nowhere near the level of professionalism that I have witnessed at my township meetings. Does everyone forget who was on the board before? When over 700 residents signed a petition against farmland being rezoned for commercial development, the commissioners of the past did not listen to the residents. We are now blessed with intelligent, fair men who are currently our commissioners, who provide positive and constructive feedback, who dress appropriately for meetings, and who use proper decorum at all times.
In case you are reading this and don’t know the names of the Lower Swatara Township commissioners, they are: President Thomas L. Mehaffie III, Vice President Jon G. Wilt, Commissioner Michael J. Davies, Commissioner Laddie J. Springer, and Commissioner Todd F. Truntz. Along with them every first and third Wednesday are Peter R. Henninger, our township solicitor; Erin Letavic, HRG contracted engineer; Anne Shambaugh, township manager; and Jean Arroyo, administrative assistant.
If you missed one of the recent township meetings, you should know our current commissioners are interviewing to hire two police officers, have completed the purchase of a new police car (it is being detailed by a local dealer), have approved the purchase of a new truck for the Municipal Authority that will also be used for plowing snow, are looking to begin 2017 budget meetings, and are working to repair two township bridges, while providing other routine duties.
The public and each commissioner are provided time to speak at every meeting. Even after the public comment period, President Mehaffie usually asks if there are any other questions or comments from the public before the meeting is closed.
I urge you to come to a township meeting and learn what is really happening and what is actually being discussed. Let’s show some support and find out what you can do to help your community become a better place to live.
Lower Swatara Township
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 August 2016 11:47
Reading an article in the Press And Journal recently about the Elks Theatre, I was compelled to share some thoughts on the matter.
After a recent visit to Alexandria, Virginia, and touring the Torpedo Factory and Art Center, it seemed an obvious restorative solution for this historic landmark.
Establish a creative, inspired space offering classes, rental opportunities, studio spaces, etc. The Elks Theatre would be a great focal area for community involvement. Offer a “maker space,” studio spaces for local artists, shops for local small business owners, and event rental opportunity. It would be an eclectic mix of interests to the downtown area.
These innovative places, much like the new Millworks in Harrisburg, not only offer opportunity for artists to showcase their work, but allow the public to witness the artist while working. A small gallery could also be part of the theme housed in this space. Offering exposure for local artists and an outlet for younger generations to the many positive benefits of creative expression.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 August 2016 11:45
Written by Scott Sites
Members of Middletown Council and citizens:
I am writing you with regards to the Elks Theatre. It is my position that the Borough of Middletown should not engage in the owning or funding of a movie theater.
The industry as a whole is going through challenges, one of those challenges involve the ability to watch movies from the comfort of your home.
The Elks as we all know is a one-screen movie theatre. This significantly impacts the revenue that may be generated from such an operation.
You may ask, how does that limit revenue? Well, it restricts your audience.Do you show children movies? Horror movies? Comedy? No matter what movie you show you are limiting your audience.
You might that say we could add a stage to have performing arts or band performances. This sounds great, but can we compete with Hershey or Harrisburg?
Additionally, history is meant to evolve.
For example, HersheyPark Arena, a local entertainment venue. There was much history made in the arena, whether it was the Hershey Bears winning eight Calder Cups or Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points in an NBA game.
But the arena’s time came and so the Giant Center was built.
Why was it built? Because the old arena couldn’t compete with the new ones. There were no luxury boxes, no club seats and no air conditioning!
The Elks Theatre is much like the HersheyPark Arena. Its time has come and gone and new and expanded theaters have popped across the region. It is now time for those theaters to make history much like the Giant Center.
In closing, the people of this town must ask themselves if they had just $500,000 would you invest that money in a business that will not generate a return on your investment? If you answer no, then the only choice is to close the doors for the final time on the Elks Theatre.
What it turns into I don’t know, but I do know that it cannot be a theater at this point, especially on my dime.
Editor’s note: Sites is a former member of the Borough Council.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 August 2016 16:29
The frantic calls from Middletown-area residents to 911 have been alarmingly high in the past year.
Often the panicked call is not reported as “a suspected drug overdose.” Instead, it is logged as a “cardiac arrest,” an “unresponsive person,” or a loved one “not breathing.” The repeated culprit is a light white powder. The hundreds of medical emergencies it has generated in Middletown and beyond in the past year alone turn a spotlight on two shocking truths: the next heroin fix may be a user’s last, and despite this fatal possibility, the heroin epidemic rages on, taking most users in the prime of their lives.
The loss of so many young lives in Middletown and throughout the county has forced police, the district attorney, and the coroner to repeatedly warn the public about the Russian roulette that is injecting, smoking or snorting substances cut with any number of unknown toxins.
A recent rash of deaths underscores that heroin users have no idea what they are getting in each bag of heroin they buy, how much will be too much, or how hard it will be to stop this toxic habit once it starts. When the heroin “switch” turns on, it doesn’t just turn off with one good-faith flip.
Dauphin County is attacking this high-stakes scourge in multiple ways, and it can’t happen soon enough. Drug overdoses take the lives of seven Pennsylvanians a day, on average. In each strategy we are pursuing, we are matching the aggressive nature of our enemy and venturing right into the dark heart of the action. Our newly launched strategies revolve around these five key actions:
1. Immediate intervention: Two new “mobile case managers’’ are being hired and soon will be on call 24/7 to respond to the scene of an overdose, whether it is the hospital emergency room, a bar, a home or anywhere else in the county. The goal is to guide, support and encourage overdose survivors to voluntarily enter inpatient treatment starting at that critical moment, rather than letting them leave a hospital and return to their addiction.
2. Follow up with overdose survivors: For those we do not see at the time of their overdose, we will be mobilizing county-trained, certified recovery specialists.
3. Narcan training: We are training probation officers, county staff, and the community to administer the overdose reversal drug, naloxone — which goes by the brand name Narcan — to reverse overdoses. Thanks to the district attorney’s leadership, nearly all police departments in the county are now carrying naloxone.
(Narcan, which can be either inhaled or injected, blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and restores breathing within two to eight minutes without harming other vital organs.)
Additionally, we will be making Narcan available to friends and families of people suffering from the disease of addiction and training them in its use. Narcan is also available at all CVS pharmacies without a prescription.
4. Continuing treatment for those released from prison: We are ensuring that once inmates are released, they are continually in a treatment program to continue the progress they made behind bars. Additionally, the county is expanding the availability of medication-assisted treatments for opioid addiction that stabilize the patient and curb cravings, including methadone, buphrenorphine (suboxone), and vivitrol. Vivitrol, or long-acting naltrexone is not an opiate, rather it is an opiate blocker and can also be used to treat alcohol dependence. These medications show great promise when partnered with clinically appropriate drug and alcohol treatment.
5. Reduced waiting period for treatment: Not just in Dauphin County, but statewide, there is a long waiting list for treatment, especially for detox beds. Fortunately, providers such as Gaudenzia Common Ground are increasing bed capacity, making slow incremental progress. We are working directly with emergency room doctors at hospitals such as Pinnacle Health to ensure immediate access to treatment.
Education remains a vital tool in our efforts. We have held multiple town hall meetings, talking to more than 200 concerned citizens. Drug and alcohol counselors are also now located in every middle school and high school in the county. With each of these actions, we hope to chip away at the stigma of addiction.
Our message is simple: If you suffer from the disease of addiction, you are not weak, or stupid. You need help.
Treatment works. You can get better. We urge those in need to let the county be the bridge to treatment for you or your loved one. The county phone number is 717-635-2254. We can even help you navigate your insurance for substance abuse help. In the heroin war, there is no magic “fix.” But, in Dauphin County, trained and caring helpers wait for you at every point in the journey toward recovery, ready to help you take on the enemy.
Jeff Haste (left), Mike Pries (center) and George Hartwick III are Dauphin County's commissioners.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 July 2016 15:32