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Damon Suglia elected new president of Middletown Borough Council

By Dan Miller, danmiller@pressandjournal.com
Posted 4/4/17

Middletown Borough Council elected Damon Suglia to replace Ben Kapenstein as council president during council’s meeting on Tuesday, April 4.

Councilor Dawn Knull was elected vice-president, …

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Damon Suglia elected new president of Middletown Borough Council

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Middletown Borough Council elected Damon Suglia to replace Ben Kapenstein as council president during council’s meeting on Tuesday, April 4.

Councilor Dawn Knull was elected vice-president, replacing Suglia, during a reorganization that was held at the start of the meeting.

Suglia, who was elected to council in 2015, was the only person nominated to be the new council president, and the vote for him was unanimous, 7-0.

Kapenstein nominated Knull for vice-president, however Councilor Diana McGlone also nominated Ian Reddinger for vice-president. Reddinger was appointed to council in 2016 but is not seeking re-election.

The vote for Knull as vice-president was 6-1, with McGlone voting for Reddinger.

Knull was elected to a two-year term on council in 2015. She is running for a four-year seat on council in the 2017 election.

Kapenstein has been council president since January 2016. He announced his resignation on March 21, saying that the obligations of the position had become too much for him considering the demands of his own full-time job, and his family.

Council approved Kapenstein’s resignation just before the reorganization, which was presided over by Mayor James H. Curry III.

Kapenstein was elected to a four-year term on council in 2013. He is seeking re-election to a two-year term in 2017.

Suglia thanked council for its trust in electing him as president, and also praised the job that Kapenstein had done as president.

“He did a heckuva job for us in a real rough time,” Suglia said, referring to Kapenstein taking over after most of the borough’s previous top managers had left in December 2015.

Curry agreed, saying of Kapenstein “We appreciate your service.”

Suglia announced a few changes he is making as president. First, council’s second meeting of the month on the third Tuesday of the month will be a workshop session, with no items being voted on other than for meeting minutes and to pay the bills.

Exceptions will be made at the council president’s discretion for “very pertinent issues” that cannot wait until the next council meeting, Suglia said. Otherwise, the first Tuesday of the month will be council’s “business voting meeting” during which council takes action on items that are discussed at the workshop session, he said.

Suglia also said that from now on the public comment period at the beginning of each council meeting will be for residents to bring up any matter they wish, not just regarding the items that are listed on the agenda.

Up until now residents had to wait until a second public comment period at the end of the meeting to bring up items not directly related to the agenda.

In other matters, Councilor Anne Einhorn requested that council consider donating $20,000 to help stabilize and keep open the Middletown Interfaith Senior Services thrift store on South Union Street. The thrift store has announced that it is closing in July, Einhorn said.

The store provides jobs, helps people who are less fortunate, and is a “social place” where people gather, Einhorn said.

She suggested the money come from the $20,000 that council had placed in the 2017 budget to upgrade council chambers, a move that Einhorn has criticized as unnecessary. Council did not take any action on her request during the meeting.

“It’s another piece of Middletown that needs preserved, instead of becoming an empty storefront,” Einhorn said of the thrift store.

In other business, council approved the borough setting aside $1,250 to pay half the cost of a WHP-21 television commercial that would be aired during the Big 33 football game in June to honor Middletown Area High School running back Jaelen Thompson, who has been selected to play in the game.

The commercial is to cost $2,500, and council’s action is conditioned upon the other $1,250 coming from Middletown Area School District, said Kapenstein, who said he was approached by the TV station to see if Middletown is interested in doing the commercial. The commercial would be aired four times during the Big 33 game, Kapenstein said.

Council approved the request 7-0.

Earlier in the meeting, Kapenstein introduced Middletown Area High School 10th grade student Terrance Jefferson as a new non-voting member of the council who will also act as council’s liaison to the school district.

Kapenstein said it is only fitting that one of Jefferson’s first jobs as the new liaison be to help bring council’s request regarding paying for the TV commercial to school district Superintendent Lori Suski.

Jefferson, who arrived about midway through the meeting and sat next to Kapenstein, wasted no time involving himself in discussions regarding several matters that were being considered by council. He was enthusiastic in his support for Middletown doing the commercial, not just to honor Thompson but to honor the community.

“With our football team being so successful this year, not only did the football team become a family but it was like everybody kind of set aside their differences and became more like one giant student section family,” Jefferson said. “We are a smallish community in central Pennsylvania surrounded by bigger giants. People know of us but they don’t know who we are, so it would be a great thing to not only get our name out there but to let people know that we are a town that takes pride in our town.”

Councilor Diana McGlone also gave an update on the Middletown Hometown Heroes Banner Program, which seeks to recognize Middletown area residents who have served in the military.

More than 85 people have sought to order the banners, which McGlone said she hopes to have ordered through the borough by the end of this week. The banners are to be placed before Memorial Day on poles along Main Street and North and South Union streets, and also along some secondary streets throughout town.

Jefferson, the student liaison, suggested that the banners also be placed in public areas of the borough where people congregate, such as in parks.

The banners are to cost $85 each, however the actual cost per banner is not yet known, McGlone told Mayor Curry. Curry said that numerous residents have asked him what the actual cost of each banner will be, and if the actual cost is less than $85, what is to be done with the money left over.

Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter suggested that any funds left over from the $85 being paid for each banner go into a fund that the borough would use to maintain the banners, and to cover any associated liability.

There are also additional costs to the borough, Klinepeter said. For example, Public Works Director Greg Wilsbach estimated that the borough will need to purchase 24 or more “arms” for the banners at $55 per arm, because many of the light poles throughout town are not equipped to handle the banners.

McGlone said that the banners program has been “very successful” and that veterans are being honored from those who served in World War I to present day.

She also said she has received “numerous calls” from people who did not know of the banner program and who want to order one, but cannot now because the first round of the program has closed.

“I would hope this council would support the program and once we have banners up for Memorial Day perhaps entertain another round of ordering” more banners, McGlone said.