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Kapenstein stepping down as Middletown council president but will remain on council; cops on bikes coming to the borough

By Dan Miller, danmiller@pressandjournal.com
Posted 3/21/17

Middletown Borough Council will soon have a new president.

Council President Ben Kapenstein announced toward the end of council’s March 20 meeting that he is resigning as council …

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Kapenstein stepping down as Middletown council president but will remain on council; cops on bikes coming to the borough

Middletown Borough Council President Ben Kapenstein talks to the media after a meeting about the future of the police department last month.
Middletown Borough Council President Ben Kapenstein talks to the media after a meeting about the future of the police department last month.
Staff photo by Dan Miller
Posted

Middletown Borough Council will soon have a new president.

Council President Ben Kapenstein announced toward the end of council’s March 20 meeting that he is resigning as council president.

Kapenstein said he is remaining on council. Kapenstein is running for re-election this year, and is unopposed on the Democratic ballot of the May 16 primary for a two-year seat. Kapenstein was first elected to council to a four-year term in 2013.

Kapenstein was made council president in January 2016, after new leadership was assured following the defeat of former council President Chris McNamara in his bid for re-election in 2015.

“It’s just become too much for me with my family and work. I’m taking on a lot more responsibility,” Kapenstein said in saying why he is stepping down. “It’s just time for me to take a step back. I think we have plenty of capable people on council to lead us. I want to thank council for their trust in me over the last year.”

Council did not act to accept Kapenstein’s resignation. Instead, council is looking to reorganize and elect a new president during its next meeting on April 4.

“We owe Ben a great deal of gratitude for leading us through the transition,” said Mayor James H. Curry III. “2016 was not an easy year.”

In other news from the council meeting, you may soon start seeing Middletown police officers patrolling on bicycles.

A community bicycle patrol is in the works, Interim Police Chief George Mouchette told the council.

The department is collecting donations toward purchasing two bicycles, Mouchette told the Press & Journal after the council meeting. So far the department has received enough donations to purchase one of the two bicycles. More donations are expected to come in very soon, Mouchette said.

Middletown police officers are to receive training in bicycle patrolling in May from the Derry Township Police Department, Mouchette said.

In other matters, council at Curry’s urging also took a step toward getting the borough’s Human Relations Commission up and running.

The commission, which is to investigate complaints of alleged discrimination in the borough, was kept alive through efforts by Curry and several councilors in September 2014. The previous council leadership had sought to get rid of the commission on the recommendation of Solicitor Adam Santucci, who said that the commission had been dormant for years and was no longer needed given the existence of anti-discrimination bodies at the state and federal government level.

But since then progress toward reviving the commission has been slow. In September 2016, Curry appointed with council approval the first two members of the five-member commission - borough residents Rachelle Reid and Mike Woolworth.

However, Curry has not been able to appoint a third member because to date no one from the borough’s Third Ward has come forward to serve on the commission.

Curry during the council meeting succeeded in getting council to approve advertising a change to the existing ordinance governing the commission, that would allow members to be appointed on an at-large basis instead of having to be appointed by wards.

The change would enable Curry to appoint a third member of the commission. Under the ordinance, the first three commission members are then to pick the last two members of the panel, subject to council approval.

Finally, the historic McNair House property on the northeast corner of North Union and East Emaus is to be listed for sale.

Council during the meeting ratified earlier action taken by the owner of the property, the Middletown Industrial and Commercial Development Authority, for the borough to hire a commercial realtor to handle listing of the property.

The McNair House property consists of three separate addresses under one tax parcel - the historic house itself, dating to at least 1894; the vacant greenspace in front of the house along North Union Street, and a small stand-alone building along East Emaus that the authority leases to David Craig for his computer repair shop, PC & Pro Audio Service Center.

A new appraisal has been done for the McNair House property, but details of the appraisal will not be made public until after the authority speaks with the commercial realtor who is to be hired, said Councilor Ian Reddinger, who also chairs the authority.

The authority has one new appraisal for the entire property, and a second new appraisal based on subdividing the building leased to Craig from the rest of the property, Reddinger said.

As things now stand the McNair House property is to be listed for sale as one property, Reddinger said.

Craig after getting an eviction notice in November presented an informal proposal to the authority to have the property he leases subdivided from the rest of the McNair House property, in order for him to buy the building from the authority.

But since then the authority has heard nothing more from Craig, Reddinger said. The authority is still willing to work out a deal with Craig, if Craig is still interested, Reddinger added.

The authority acquired the McNair House property from a private owner for $325,000 in 2014.