Written by Jim Lewis
Was that enough snow for you?
Winter Storm Jonas was the worst snowstorm in Middletown history, dumping 30.2 inches on nearby Harrisburg International Airport on Friday, Jan. 22 and Saturday, Jan. 23, according to the National Weather Service. That broke the record of 25 inches set in 1983 and shut down schools, businesses, streets, highways, airports and train service here, as well as along the rest of the East Coast.
It was a deadly storm, responsible for at least 25 deaths, according to news reports. One image that’s indelibly printed on our mind: A snow plow in West Virginia that overturned while clearing a road.
So we are grateful, now that the snow is melting, for those people who worked to dig us out. Municipal crews worked around-the-clock during the extraordinary storm.
We asked readers on our Facebook page to grade state and municipal workers in their efforts to clear roads, and a great majority had praise for their dedication and hard work. Not everyone was happy with the condition of their street – plowing is a service that the public expects its government to provide, as a previous Middletown Borough Council majority discovered in attempts to hand it off to PennDOT, a move that was pointedly criticized by many residents. But Jonas was a rare storm, indeed – and most of those who responded to our question realized that. “Being that this was the largest accumulated snowfall this area had experienced in decades, all road crews did a phenomenal job,’’ posted Dave Drake, a response that puts the issue in perfect perspective.
Dr. Lori Suski, superintendent of the Middletown Area School District, thanked municipal crews in Middletown and Lower Swatara Twp. for their help in clearing bus stops for students once schools reopened. “They did a phenomenal job,’’ she said.
What is especially pleasing is the number of instances where neighbors helped neighbors shovel out of the snow.
An example: David Kern, an Aspen Street resident, told us he and others helped dig out elderly neighbors. He is 73. He admitted he was “stiff and sore,’’ but was still in good spirits – and digging out a South Union Street property he owns – a week after the snow stopped. “You got to do it,’’ he said “The Lord knows what he’s doing. He brought it to us.’’
The experience has left us hoping we’ve seen the end of snow – at least for the winter, if not for a lifetime. Thanks to those who went beyond the norm to help.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 February 2016 15:42
Written by Jim Lewis
One of the last acts of the previous majority on Middletown Borough Council was to renew the town’s contract with Nixle Alert to provide emergency alerts and warnings to the public.
Perhaps the warning system’s biggest advocate is one of council’s new members, Dawn Knull, who took office this year. Her advocacy of the system led council to switch from a less effective CodeRED warning system, noted acting Manager Chris Courogen. “I think it’s been a very good tool,’’ Courogen said, and indeed it seems, judging from talk around town and online, that a number of Middletown residents are plugged in and pay heed to its alerts.
Residents can receive police department alerts and other warnings via text message, e-mail or phone call. It allows police to issue public alerts quickly. Signing up is easy – you can visit the borough Web site at www.middletownborough.com to do it.
What’s even better about Nixle is that the price of the service did not go up in 2016. Council approved a one-year contract renewal for $4,500, the same amount it paid for 2015.
It’s an excellent public service that’s worth every penny. If you haven't signed up for it, by all means, do it now.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 January 2016 16:32
The creation of a nonprofit foundation that would raise money for the Middletown Area School District is a great idea and a positive step for the future.
Previously, the idea failed – a foundation called the “Raider Foundation,’’ incorporated in 2000, ceased its efforts in 2006 and lost its tax-exempt status in 2010 because of inactivity. There seems to be a renewed desire by district administrators and Middletown Area School Board members to try again – and if there is a commitment by supporters to make it work, it could benefit Middletown’s schools.
The foundation could apply for grants beyond those available to school districts, and allow businesses to use their donations toward a tax credit through the Pennsylvania Educational Improvement Tax Credit program.
There seem to be three concerns raised regarding a foundation: 1. start-up costs; 2. administrative costs; and 3. its effect on the fund-raising efforts of other nonprofits that raise money for school district programs.
The district is willing to pay the start-up costs. Administrative costs would seem to be nominal – the Lower Dauphin Falcon Foundation, for example, raised $70,267 in revenue for 2014-15, not counting the nearly $276,000 it has raised through June 2014 toward the construction of a field house at one school's athletic fields, and paid administrative expenses totaling $6,900, according to an annual report posted on its Web site.
And we don’t think other groups that raise money for the district – the volunteer Blue & Gold Club, which supports athletics and arts, and the volunteer Alumni Association would suffer in its efforts. Nor would they be so territorial as to oppose the creation of a foundation, we suspect – after all, the goal is to raise funds to benefit our children. And we don’t believe a foundation would be competition; those groups would continue to get their support, if they chose to remain. Representatives from both groups could serve on a new foundation’s board of directors “to let them know we are enhancing their efforts,’’ suggested Superintendent Lori Suski.
There is no downside. We applaud the idea, and the effort.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 January 2016 16:19
Written by Jim Lewis
We shudder to think what might have happened had the Lower Swatara Twp. and Middletown police officers who raced to a one-car accident on New Year’s Day been ill-prepared to deal with what they discovered.
The car, which police said struck a utility pole on North Union Street, was on fire, and the driver and an infant were trapped inside.
It took the teamwork of Lower Swatara Police Officer Patrick Ribec, Middletown Police Officer Scott Yoder, Lower Swatara Police Sgt. David Frantz and Ribec’s twin brother, Christian, a Navy veteran of two tours of Afghanistan and a police academy student-to-be who was riding along with Patrick Ribec, to save the lives of the two people who were trapped.
Ribec cut the infant out of her car seat and the driver, trapped because his pants were caught on something, out of his seat, according to township police. Fortunately, Yoder had a knife, which he threw to Ribec, then used fire extinguishers to put out the blaze. Frantz held the car, turned onto one side, in place as it started to teeter. Christian Ribec helped drag the driver out of the vehicle, township police said.
The quick response of Lower Swatara and Middletown police – Yoder was the first to arrive at the scene – and their ability to deal with a heart-pounding scene efficiently and in concert with one another saved lives.
It’s reassuring to know we have such capable officers watching over us. We thank them for their service.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 January 2016 08:53