Written by Jim Lewis
Rain from Tropical Storm Lee pushed the Swatara Creek to historic and terrifying levels in 2011, flooding Middletown and damaging the borough’s electric substation nearby.
Thanks to a great effort by the borough’s electric department, the borough used its remaining substation on Spruce Street to preserve power throughout town, though the chances of it working were risky. Can you imagine if a section of the town went dark during the flood, much less the entire town? Thankfully, it didn’t happen.
Will the creek ever reach that height again? Who knows? Whether FEMA would fund future repairs is only part of the problem with which we’re left to grapple: If the substation was damaged by flooding in the future, could we again survive with electricity?
A developer has proposed to build Middletown a $11.5 substation out of harm’s way in the proposed Woodland Hills housing project on the north side of town if the borough would enter into a lease agreement that would provide the financing needed to build homes on the land. It could result in a profit for the borough – if the project is built as planned.
Instead of rolling the dice on Woodland Hills, however, there may be an option: Dauphin County is seeking a $197 million grant in a national competition judged by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to make communities more “resilient’’ after flooding and other natural disasters. How would the money be spent? There are no specific projects, a planning official told us. County representatives are holding a meeting at Middletown’s MCSO Building on Wednesday, Aug. 26 to glean information from local residents on the problems faced by past flooding.
So, we ask: Why not use some of the money, if it comes, for a Middletown substation? Certainly guaranteeing that a borough of more than 8,000 people would have electricity in the wake of a flood would make the county more “resilient.’’ And it’s a grant – it doesn’t have to be repaid by taxpayers or, in this case, electric customers in the borough (which is everyone).
If borough and county officials have already considered this, hooray! If not, we hope the possibility is raised by the borough at Wednesday’s meeting. It is a worthy project that would resolve a potentially frightening scenario in a future flood without burdening residents financially.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 August 2015 15:47
Written by Jim Lewis
The most striking thing about Middletown’s annual Night Out celebration on Tuesday, Aug. 4 was the size of the crowd that filled Hoffer Park.
Officer Gary Rux, the Middletown police officer who organizes the anti-crime event for the police department, estimated attendance to be in the thousands, and we wouldn’t dispute it.
Middletown Night Out has grown into a major community get-together, a small-town celebration that not only gives residents a chance to meet their police officers, firefighters and EMTs but also to meet their neighbors.
Much of it – food, games, face painting, among other things – is donated, and staged by volunteers. Everyone turns out for it – cheerleading squads, dance schools, veterans' groups, churches, youth sports teams, charities and police and fire squads from the region are on hand, talking to visitors, performing routines, shaking hands.
You leave it feeling good about Middletown, and this year’s event was no exception. In fact, many people marveled at the size of the crowd this time. It was packed.
There were countless Middletown residents strolling through the park, taking it all in. What is surprising is that Middletown Night Out is attracting people from other communities who checked it out.
They saw Middletown at its best – friendly, close-knit, a town that revels in its neighborly atmosphere.
It’s impossible to leave Middletown Night Out feeling down about the town. The afterglow is so warm that residents from nearby communities want to feel it, too.
Middletown Night Out is proof of what Middletown can do when it works together toward a common goal.
Congratulations to all involved – and, if you saw the throng at Hoffer Park, you know the list is long.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 August 2015 15:35
Written by Jim Lewis
Here’s how crucial the brew pub and distillery proposed for Middletown’s venerable, empty Elks Building – the 104-year-old anchor of its business district – is to the borough: Two epic governmental meetings that would determine the project’s fate drew a large crowd to the bleachers of the MCSO Building on Monday, Aug. 3.
Everyone – politicians, business leaders and the average Joe and Josephine – is eager to see a new, restored, reinvigorated Middletown emerge from the dust of a major water, sewer and street improvement project and years of economic stagnation – or decline, depending on the voracity of your cynicism.
So when Tattered Flag Brewery & Still Works was awarded a lease and $1.5 million loan on Monday by the Middletown Industrial and Commercial Development Authority (ICDA) to restore the Elks and move in – it could open as early as January, according to one of the company’s four partners – it seemed a crucial step toward improving the town.
“If you want to revitalize this place, this is a good start,’’ Tom Mehaffie, an ICDA member and president of the Lower Swatara Twp. Board of Commissioners, said of Tattered Flag’s plan to invest about $2.25 million – a combination of loan money and its own investment – to create the brew pub and distillery.
The lease deal is contingent on an opinion by a special counsel hired by the ICDA to determine the legality of giving Tattered Flag the loan from a pot of money transferred to the ICDA from the borough’s water and sewer authority earlier this year, when it seemed the water and sewer authority was dissolving itself in the wake of a concession agreement with United Water for Middletown’s water and sewer systems. Turns out the water and sewer authority didn’t disappear after all – it still exists, and it voted last week that the pot of money can only be used for infrastructure projects.
That, and Middletown Borough Council’s vote last week to have the final word on how the pot of money was spent by ICDA, seemed to tangle up the project. Strangely, council rescinded that decision, but voted to hire its own special counsel to examine the legal issue surrounding the expenditure of the money. After the ICDA approved the Tattered Flag lease, council voted on a resolution supporting the ICDA’s efforts to revitalize the business district, though it did not mention Tattered Flag specifically.
In the end, everyone seemed to be convinced that the brew pub project would become reality, and that attorneys would find a way to make it work.
Tattered Flag has endured these puzzling legal questions, and a cancelled ICDA meeting – the result of a missed deadline for publicly advertising it – to get to the finish line, if indeed the project has reached it. True, its partners stand to make a lot of money if their plan works. Their proposal is to restore the Elks, inside and out, making their project even more attractive to a town that is desperately looking for a spark for its economy and morale while preserving its past. Let’s hope this is indeed what Middletown needs.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 August 2015 17:28