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National Night Out might move to MAHS; Lower Swatara, Middletown plan to work together

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 1/3/18

After years of doing it themselves, Middletown is joining forces with Lower Swatara Township in holding National Night Out in 2018.

But a big …

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National Night Out might move to MAHS; Lower Swatara, Middletown plan to work together

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After years of doing it themselves, Middletown is joining forces with Lower Swatara Township in holding National Night Out in 2018.

But a big change looms. The event might move from Hoffer Park to Middletown Area High School, at least for 2018, although it does not appear that a final decision has been made. Lower Swatara officials said they are still discussing it, but a conversation by Middletown officials made it sound like MAHS is the likely location.

Held every year on the first Tuesday in August, National Night Out is one of the biggest community events of the year in Middletown, if not the biggest. It is aimed at strengthening relationships between law enforcement and the community.

Under the leadership of Middletown police Officer Gary Rux, National Night Out grew to where close to 5,000 people showed up in 2016. A national organization recognized Middletown’s 2016 National Night Out as one of the best in the country for a town the borough’s size.

The event earned a reputation as being one of the better National Nights Out in the region. Many attended from outside the borough — including Lower Swatara, which had no National Night Out of its own.

In 2017 Rux was promoted to detective, and responsibility was delegated to Officer Adam Tankersley.

The 2017 version was billed as more scaled back, but  the event still attracted hundreds of people.

On Dec. 20, Vice President Dawn Knull told the rest of Middletown Borough Council that Lower Swatara for the first time has agreed to help run the 2018 National Night Out.

However, Knull said that Lower Swatara wants to move the event from Hoffer Park to Middletown Area High School, which has more room in its parking lot.

Located just outside the borough in Lower Swatara, Knull said the township also sees the high school as being a more accessible location to residents of both municipalities than Hoffer Park.

Councilor Ian Reddinger objected to the potential  move, noting the number of people from outside Middletown drawn to the event who end up spending money at businesses in the borough.

But Knull said she sees the change in venue as an acceptable trade-off, at least for one year.

“This takes the burden off of a lot of Middletown people and also takes the financial burden off of Middletown,” she said. Moreover, the base of volunteers the borough can rely on for National Night Out “is getting less and less.”

“National Night Out is not something you throw together in a month. We start in March doing this,” Knull added. “If they are willing to step in and get some volunteers and get some help, I’m all for it going to the high school for one year and see how it goes.”

However, Lower Swatara Police Sgt. Scott Young, the township’s interim police chief; and interim township Manager Frank Lynch both told the Press & Journal on Dec. 28 that no decision has been made yet regarding where it will be held.

Young said he had been looking at holding the event at Greenfield Park, and using parking at the high school to support that location.

But he emphasized in an email that the location “has yet to be decided.”

Lynch said that “all options are on the table” for a venue location, and that the decision will be up to a committee that Young has formed to plan the 2018 National Night Out for the township.

“We want to make it as accessible to as many people as possible,” Lynch said. “Wherever those plans may take us we are happy to pursue with the borough. I think all options are open at this point.”

Young in the email said he came up with the idea “to possibly combine the National Night Out with our department, Middletown, and possibly Royalton this year. We have been kicking that around and started to have meetings concerning this possibility.”

“Patrolman Tankersley and Detective Rux have done an outstanding job from what I have seen and experienced in being part of their program the past couple of years and I was looking for that experience to assist us,” Young said, adding Lower Swatara Fire Chief John Weikle is also involved, and that Young has reached out to Robert Givler of Royalton police.

Middletown Borough Council reduced its appropriation to National Night Out in the general fund budget from $6,000 in 2017 to $2,000 in 2018, based on the amount that the borough had spent on the event in 2017.

Lynch said Lower Swatara did not set aside funds for the event in the 2018 budget, but they are available in the police budget if needed.

The township is hoping for “healthy support” for the event from businesses and the community, Lynch noted. “We want as much participation from community leaders as possible."