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Traffic issues, bad batch of drugs main topics at first council committee meetings

Posted 11/6/19

An especially bad batch of heroin in the Middletown area, and traffic issues raised by borough residents, were among the topics that came up during the first meeting of borough council’s new …

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Traffic issues, bad batch of drugs main topics at first council committee meetings

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An especially bad batch of heroin in the Middletown area, and traffic issues raised by borough residents, were among the topics that came up during the first meeting of borough council’s new public safety committee.

Council President Angela Lloyd and Vice President Dawn Knull presided over the Oct. 29 meeting, which followed by one day the first meeting of the other new council committee created at Lloyd’s direction, the community development committee. Its members are councilors Jenny Miller and Ellen Willenbecher.

Lloyd has said her goals in bringing back both committees — council committees were last used under former President Chris McNamara but done away with in 2016 by McNamara’s successor, Ben Kapenstein — are to increase communication and get borough residents more involved.

If getting more new faces in council chambers is a goal, the first meeting of both committees missed the mark. A handful of residents attended the meetings, all of whom are already familiar to council and borough officials.

Lloyd told the Press & Journal in a text message she felt both meetings were “well attended,” public safety slightly more so than community development.

“I was really pleased with the outcome” of both meetings, Lloyd said. “My hope is that the attendance for both will increase over time.”

Seven residents attended public safety, all but one of whom serve the borough in some official capacity. About half that number attended community development.

Mayor James H. Curry III also attended both meetings.

She said community development will not meet in November but possibly in December or January. Public safety will next meet Wednesday, Nov. 20.

North Pine and Oak Hill

During public safety, resident Lewis Whittle of the 1000 block of North Pine Street drew attention to the intersection of North Pine and Oak Hill Drive.

Oak Hill has stop signs on either side of the street, but there are none on North Pine.

“Three times in the past year, I have almost been t-boned there by cars running the stop sign” on Oak Hill, Whittle said, most recently within the last month. The situation also puts at risk children on bicycles coming down the hill on North Pine, he added.

He said the borough should make the intersection a four-way stop, by installing stop signs on both sides of North Pine.

Sgt. Tyler Zehring, representing Middletown police at the meeting, recalled “a pretty bad accident” not long ago at North Pine and Oak Hill where a vehicle flipped over.

“That’s a bad intersection,” said Middletown Fire Chief Kenton Whitebread Jr., adding he knew of three accidents at the intersection in the past five years, two involving entrapment.

A previous study found the intersection did not have enough traffic to warrant more stop signs, Public Works Director Greg Wilsbach said.

But Whitebread suggested the borough could satisfy state requirements for making the intersection a four-way stop, based on the number of accidents that have occurred in recent years.

“It makes no sense to me why that stop sign is not four-way,” said Lloyd, who lives at the intersection and who saw the near miss involving Whittle. Zehring said police would provide accident data on the intersection.

More traffic concerns

The committee heard Joanna Cain again call for action regarding traffic near her home at Spring Street and Wharton Avenue, which she said is heavily used by Penn State Harrisburg students.

Cain, who brought the issue up to council in 2016,  suggested council request Penn State pay for all or part of a traffic study, saying “they (Penn State) get all the benefits and we get all the problems.”

The committee also heard Rachelle Reid bring up a traffic problem on Mud Pike between State and Grant streets. She said the road is too narrow for two vehicles coming in the opposite direction, and the road should be restricted to one-way traffic.

Community development

During community development, residents heard Curry talk of plans for holiday lights and decorations in Hoffer Park, and the tree-lighting ceremony set for Nov. 30 at St. Peter’s Kierch.

The committee also discussed possibly bringing back the Hometown Heroes banners, which honor those who have served or are serving in the military.

The committee agreed to review a draft policy on the banners that Wilsbach has drawn up. An outside organization will have to be found to administer the program, as the borough does not have the staff to do so, Wilsbach said.

Heroin details

A bad batch of heroin believed to have been mixed with the mind-altering drug PCP was responsible for three overdoses in Middletown over the weekend of Oct. 25-27, borough police reported during the Oct. 29 public safety committee meeting.

Three overdoses occurred in Middletown within 12 hours from Friday night into Saturday, Fire Chief Kenton Whitebread Jr. told the committee.

None of the overdoses were fatal. Middletown police administered Narcan in two of the three cases, Sgt. Tyler Zehring told the Press & Journal after the meeting.

One person required three doses of Narcan and the other person two, Zehring said.

Zehring told the committee police throughout Dauphin County had received an email from authorities warning of a batch of heroin laced with PCP that was on the street.

According to the email, the bad batch was to blame for 11 confirmed overdoses countywide over the Oct. 25-27 weekend.

Zehring in a Nov. 4 email told the Press & Journal police do not know if the PCP-laced heroin is still on the street. However, no heroin overdoses have been reported to police in Middletown since that weekend, he added.