Written by Dan Miller
Middletown has its first declared candidate for borough mayor — Robert Givler, who announced on Friday, Feb. 24, that he is running for the job a second time.
A 67-year old Republican and lifelong borough resident, Givler in 2013 ran for mayor against Democrat James H. Curry III. Both men sought to replace longtime Mayor Robert Reid, who had decided to step down.
Curry defeated Givler, 901 votes to 618.
Curry has not said if he is running again. March 7 is the last day to circulate and file nominating petitions to be on the ballot for the May 16 primary in Dauphin County.
Givler was a Middletown borough police officer for 40 years until 2012, when he retired. He works for the Royalton Police Department in a part-time capacity as the department administrator. Givler said he doesn’t hold the title of chief, but the duties are similar, including setting work schedules and doing all the paperwork.
Under the state borough code the mayor is responsible for the police department.
Asked why he is running again, Givler responded “Why not? I spent 40 years in Middletown,” referring to the police department. “I know the town, I know the people.”
Givler said he would like to bring “stability” back to the department.
He does not oppose the ongoing discussions that Curry and Borough Council President Ben Kapenstein have launched with Lower Swatara Township, aimed at the borough contracting with the township for police services or toward formation of a new regional police force.
“I think they are pursuing it correctly. They’re not jumping into it,” Givler said.
But he’s seen many such efforts come and go over the past 40 years.
“Do I think it’s going to happen? I don’t think it’s going to happen in my lifetime,” Givler said of Middletown becoming part of a regional force.
Last Updated on Friday, 24 February 2017 16:37
Written by Larry Etter
Without putting too much emphasis on the revenge factor, the Middletown boys basketball team got the retribution it wanted on Thursday night in a 73-63 victory over visiting Eastern York in a second-round District III-3A playoff game at home.
With last year’s controversial 45-44 loss at Eastern York still on their minds, the Blue Raiders got the rematch they craved last week. The loss last February knocked the Raiders out of the postseason picture and left them with a strong desire to face the Golden Knights again. Warmup shirts for the Blue Raiders read: “February 16, 2016 — 45 to 44 — We Remember.”
With the Raiders seeded fourth and the Knights fifth in the district standings, both teams earned a bye in the first round, setting up the rematch. This time, however, the game was played in Middletown’s new gym and the Raiders enjoyed the home court advantage.
In reality, the final score of 73-63 was deceiving, giving the impression of a close game. It was anything but that. The victors outscored their guests 35-16 in the middle two periods and ran out to leads as high as 28 points in the fourth quarter before Middletown coach Chris Sattele and his charges took their collective foot off the gas. With the Middletown subs playing the last couple minutes of the game, a late scoring surge by the Knights made it closer than it really was.
The Blue Raiders advance to the District III 4A semifinals against Berks Catholic at 8 p.m. Monday at Garden Spot High School in New Holland. Win that game, and they will play Thursday, March 2, at the Giant Center against the winner of No. 2 seed Lancaster Catholic and No. 3 Bishop McDevitt, who also play Monday at Garden Spot High School, at 6:30 p.m.
Although the first quarter ended with the Blue Raiders holding onto a slim, 15-14 lead, a 16-8 scoring advantage in the second put some distance between the two teams. With a 31-22 lead at the halftime break, the Raiders did even better in the third quarter. A 19-8 point differential pushed the Middletown side up to a commanding 50-30 lead entering the game’s final eight minutes. A triple by Chris Plummer gave the home team a 64-36 advantage with 4:52 left and proved to be too much for the Knights to overcome.
The Raiders gave themselves a tremendous lift in the early minutes of the game by way of a 7-0 run. Luke Mrakovich broke a scoreless deadlock with a Ryan Hughes-assisted bucket at the 6:55 mark. Tyreer Mills drilled a trey 43 seconds later and Tre Leach converted a Hughes steal into another basket at 5:44 to complete the run. But the Knights responded with an 8-point run of their own, keyed by a pair of triples from Stephen Wisler and Dom Petricelli off Middletown misses, to take the lead at 8-7.
The Knights hit two more 3-pointers in the late minutes and led 14-12 with 40 seconds left. Plummer’s trey with 30 seconds left and a late block by Michael Mattes let the Raiders finish the opening frame with a 15-14 lead.
During the timeout, Sattele encouraged his team to play better on the defensive end, and the players responded right from the start. After Hughes scored on the first possession of the second quarter, a forced turnover and assist by Plummer led to another bucket by Hughes and a 19-14 lead for the home side.
Following an Eastern York field goal, Mrakovich popped in his second trey of the game and Leach made one of two free throws off another Knight turnover to lift the Raiders to a 23-16 lead. With 4:55 left Eastern York had cut the lead to 23-20 but an 8-2 scoring advantage by the Raiders gave the home team a 31-22 upper hand heading into the halftime break. Another late block by Mattes kept the Knights from scoring in the closing seconds.
The Knights scored on the first possession of the second half but the Blue Raiders, fired up by the huge, supportive home crowd, ran off the game’s next 12 points that buried Eastern York in a 43-24 hole with 4:24 left in the third period.
A pair of Knight turnovers, another block by Mattes and a defensive rebound keyed the run. Hughes started it with a 3-pointer, Mills added two free throws, Mrakovich scored from the baseline, Mills converted his own steal into an easy layup and Mrakovich added another 3-pointer in the scoring streak.
Eastern York broke the string with a foul shot but Mattes hit a pullup jumper and Hughes converted yet another steal into a 47-25 Middletown lead. The third quarter ended with the Blue Raiders in control at 50-30.
The atmosphere became a bit heated in the fourth quarter and, because their frustrations grew, the Golden Knights were whistled for a pair of technical fouls in the final frame. Mrakovich made both free throws off the first technical and Plummer drilled another trey 48 seconds later to put the game away early with the Blue Raiders well in the lead at 64-36. Fifteen late points by the Knights were good for the visitors but were simply not nearly enough to overcome the big Middletown lead.
Hughes led four Middletown players in double scoring figures with 21 points, while Mrakovich added 18, Plummer had 14 and Mills chipped in 11.
Last Updated on Friday, 24 February 2017 15:58
Pennsylvania Turnpike Chairman Sean Logan announced Thursday that he is resigning from his position to pursue other public-service opportunities, effective immediately.
“It is with mixed emotions that I step down from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, as I have come to know and respect my fellow commissioners and the entire senior-staff team. I’ve also had the privilege of meeting many of the folks who make the turnpike run day in and day out: our toll collectors and maintenance workers,” Logan said in a press release. “Still, public service remains in my heart, and I am pursuing an amazing opportunity that allows me to continue to expand my involvement in this area.”
Logan, who is executive director and CEO of Visit Monroeville, was first appointed to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission in July 2013 and named chairman in January 2015.
During his chairmanship, Logan ensured that the commission remained focused on its core duties: operating more efficiently, investing in rebuilding and expanding its system and managing its Act 44 funding obligations to PennDOT, according to the release. He helped steer the turnpike through a pair of national-headline-grabbing events in 2016: a blizzard that stranded hundreds of motorists on the turnpike in the Allegheny Mountains in January followed by an armed-robbery attempt at the Fort Littleton Interchange in March that ended in the killing of a toll collector and a security contractor — as well as the death of the offender.
Several key milestones accomplished doing Logan’s chairmanship include, according to the release:
• Implementation of a 70-mph speed limit across much of the 552-mile toll-road system.
• Advancement of the Mon-Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway projects in southwestern Pennsylvania.
• A redoubled commitment to investing in Total Reconstruction and Six-Lane Widening projects across the aging turnpike system.
• The creation and kickoff of a statewide Work-Zone Safety Awareness Campaign called Orange Squeeze to protect turnpike workers.
“Early in my turnpike career, it became clear that we had to work to improve transparency and modernize the culture at the turnpike to regain public trust,” Logan said. “One the achievements of which I am proudest is that my fellow commissioners and I were able to implement a series of ethics-policy changes and amendments that largely accomplished what we set out to do. And I know the commissioners and senior staff will continue that important effort.”
Logan, who holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Pittsburgh, served three terms in the Pennsylvania Senate representing Allegheny and Westmoreland counties and held several leadership positions including appropriations-committee member. He was mayor of Monroeville and vice president of community relations for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
In the coming weeks, Gov. Tom Wolf expects to nominate a new turnpike commissioner to fill the vacancy on the five-member panel. That nominee must be confirmed by at least a two-thirds majority of the state Senate.
Last Updated on Thursday, 23 February 2017 16:17
Passenger traffic at Harrisburg International Airport for January totaled 91,709, which is an increase of 19.2 percent vs January 2016.
This change in percentage is due to the benefit from a calmer winter (the January 2016 blizzard shut down air travel for two days) and return charters from the Rose Bowl game in which Penn State played, according to a statement from HIA.
Overall, taking out the impact of the January 2016 blizzard and charter-related traffic, total passengers were up nearly 12 percent.
Enplanements for the month were 45,459, up 16.3 percent versus January 2016.
Individual airline passenger traffic includes: American Airlines up 22 percent, Air Canada up 28 percent, Delta Air Lines up 14.4 percent, Allegiant up 25.8 percent, and United was nearly even.
Last Updated on Thursday, 23 February 2017 10:24
Written by Dan Miller
Middletown will pursue talks toward creating a new regional police force with Lower Swatara Township, but the borough in the meantime must move forward with filling vacant positions within the department, borough council decided during its Tuesday, Feb. 21 meeting.
Council set a 90-day time limit on the talks with Lower Swatara, which were launched in December by Mayor James H. Curry III and Council President Ben Kapenstein.
The talks are aimed at seeing if the borough can save money on the cost of providing police services compared to now, either by the borough contracting with Lower Swatara for the township to provide police services to Middletown, or by combining the police departments of the two neighboring municipalities into a new regional force.
Besides saving money, any proposed deal that is reached through the talks must also provide Middletown residents with the same or better level of police services compared to now. Any deal would also have to “protect” the police officers who are currently employed on the Middletown force, Curry and Kapenstein have also said.
One added wrinkle that emerged during the council meeting is that the Borough of Steelton has expressed interest in becoming part of the talks, Curry told the council.
The Middletown police department currently has two full-time vacancies; one being a new position that council authorized as part of the 2017 budget. The other was created as a result of the recent retirement of Sgt. Richard Hiester, who was a detective.
Patrolman Adam Tankersley, a part-time officer, had been approved by the borough Civil Service Commission to fill the new full-time position that council created.
However, Curry has held off on promoting Tankersley to the full-time position, as well as filling the position vacated by Hiester, as filling these positions now would add “complexity” to the discussions underway with Lower Swatara.
Council Vice President Damon Suglia supported giving the talks another 90 days to see where they might lead, but he said it could be a year or more before an alternative policing arrangement is in place, if it happens at all. That is too long for the Middletown police department to remain understaffed, Suglia said.
While acknowledging Curry’s concern over the two full-time positions muddying the waters in the talks, Kapenstein agreed with Suglia that leaving the positions unfilled much longer could potentially put public safety at risk.
Following a closed-door executive session, council emerged to approve promoting Tankersley to the full-time position. Council also acted to move forward with filling the other vacant full-time position, and to hire a new part-time officer to replace Tankersley.
The department going into the Feb. 21 meeting had a force of 15 full and part-time officers, including interim Police Chief George Mouchette, whom Curry swore in on Jan. 5 to replace former Chief John Bey, who resigned effective Dec. 31 to accept a position with the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.
A number of residents spoke out against the borough getting rid of its own police force during a meeting that council held on the issue on Feb. 15.
Curry during the Feb. 21 meeting acknowledged that the idea may not be popular, but that borough officials have a responsibility to taxpayers to explore an alternative policing arrangement, if it can save money and meet the two other objectives regarding the level of police services and protecting the borough’s own officers.
Curry and Kapenstein both said during the meeting that fully staffing the department according to recommendations received from Mouchette will result in “a substantial tax increase,” as Kapenstein put it.
“We are talking several hundred dollars a year” in a property tax increase for a property assessed at $100,000 to fully staff the department, Curry said.
Earlier this week, Curry detailed for the Press And Journal recommendations from Mouchette for adding seven new full-time positions; including a newly-created executive officer lieutenant position, three new sergeants, a second detective, and two new full-time patrol officers.
Filling all those new positions would mean an estimated tax increase of $250 for a Middletown resident with property assessed at $100,000, based on preliminary figures Curry said have been provided to him by Kapenstein. The $250 could be less or it could be more, the mayor has indicated.
For example, eliminating part-time officers and fully staffing the department could all but eliminate overtime costs, which could potentially ease the burden on taxpayers somewhat.
Curry acknowledged that council could choose to phase in the new positions - and the tax increase - over a period of years, instead of all at once. But this would leave the department short-staffed at least to some extent over this period of time, the mayor has said.
Curry said that the staffing recommendations from Mouchette are in line with those included in a report done for the borough by outside consultants in 2015, as well as with the recommendations of former Chief Bey.
By pursuing the talks with Lower Swatara, Curry and Kapenstein hope to at least be able to bring to residents a viable alternative to the onerous tax increase needed to fully staff the department.
Friends of The Elks submits letter to buy Elks Theatre for $1
In other matters, the nonprofit organization Friends of the Elks Theatre has put in writing its intent to accept an offer from the borough to acquire the Elks Theatre for $1, in order to transform the historic 106-year old movie house into a regional center for the performing arts.
Friends, the successor group to the Greater Middletown Economic Development Corporation which once owned the Elks Building and operated the Elks Theatre, has submitted a letter of intent to the Middletown Industrial and Commercial Development Authority, which owns the theater. The ICDA acknowledged receipt of the letter during its own Feb. 21 meeting held just before the council meeting.
Details of the letter were not immediately available.
The Elks Theatre was closed by the authority for renovations in April 2015, and has not reopened.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 February 2017 13:33