For the past year or so, the roar of construction equipment has become a familiar sound in Middletown. Our streets have been torn up and detours established.
Rest assured, inconvenience is temporary. The benefits of updated infrastructure, however, will be reaped far beyond our years. I fully support this aspect of our revitalization and redevelopment.
Despite the fact much work has already been completed, a “ground-breaking” ceremony has been scheduled mere days before the May 19 primary election. It is my understanding many distinguished guests have been invited, including Dauphin County commissioners and the governor himself. I, too, have been asked to attend. Please allow this letter to serve as my official RSVP and an explanation to you, the residents, as to why I must respectfully decline.
Many of you have contacted me to express frustration and confusion over the “downtown revitalization” project. In fact, many residents have confirmed they do not understand the interplay between the Middletown Industrial and Commercial Development Authority, (“ICDA”) and the borough. According to the borough Web site, the ICDA is “tasked with aiding and facilitating the redevelopment of older business areas in the borough, strengthening the downtown area as a commercial center, working to help attract new business development and expansion in appropriate areas, and encouraging the expansion of existing business.”
Make no mistake about it: The ICDA is a borough entity. In fact, at its inception, the ICDA was funded with seed money provided by the borough. While it is true the ICDA has received funding by way of grants, it is necessary for you to understand the very real fact that taxpayer money is intricately intertwined with the ICDA.
Allow me to provide a verifiable example: The Water/Sewer Authority commenced the infrastructure project in downtown Middletown. As reported in the press and discussed at numerous Middletown Borough Council meetings, that project was nearly $1 million over budget. As the Water/Sewer Authority was also an entity of the borough, guess who was forced to foot the bill? Middletown Borough. In other words, you, me, us. Were it not for the extra money acquired from the lease of the water/sewer system, which was utilized to cover the shortfall, we would be in a very tough spot.
I cannot promote aspects of the revitalization project I feel are not in the best interests of the citizenry and are not grounded in common sense. Nearly $350,000 was spent to acquire the property across from the Brownstone Café. Approximately $20,000 was spent to demolish three business sites in a town aching for business. Approximately $250,000 will be spent to build the trellis/gazebo. Another $75,000 is to be expended to refurbish the town clock, which is perfectly fine as it sits. Nearly $700,000 will be spent to “revitalize” two corners in downtown Middletown.
For a fraction of that amount, we could have refurbished three business sites and solidified future tax and utility revenue. Instead, those business locations have been eliminated. Instead, a structure will be erected which has a complete inability to bring tax or utility revenue. Instead, a liability has been created, which will need to be cared for and maintained.
Even if this entire project was funded with grant money, are we really to believe this is the best use of the funds? These decisions are poor.
Read the above mission statement of the ICDA again. Are these decisions in accordance with it or do they eliminate business in a town that is quickly becoming ghost-like?
Ultimately, as aforementioned, this project is your responsibility if it is over budget at completion. This time, however, we won’t have a piggy bank to bail us out.
Surprisingly, yet not surprisingly, the “ground-breaking” ceremony will occur on the very spot the trellis is to be built. It would be two-faced of me to vehemently oppose the project, only to smile as I dig a golden shovel into that symbolic ground. It would be duplicitous of me to utilize the ceremony as a photo opportunity to gain notoriety. It would be hypocritical to rub elbows with governmental elite when I believe in my heart of hearts the project runs contrary to the best interests of the borough and its residents.
I’m not a hypocrite. I’m your mayor. I stand by my decision and by you.
Mayor James H. Curry III