Written by Dan Miller
Plans for putting a new face on the Middletown town square at Main and Union streets have been put on the back burner by borough council, at least for now.
Reversing a decision from just two weeks before, council on July 5 voted 5-0 to back out of a contract to pay consulting engineers $18,600 to come up with a design for how to make the square more attractive to motorists and the public.
At least 19,000 vehicles a day pass through the square, either on Main Street (Route 230) or north and south on Union Street (Route 441), according to traffic counts compiled by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Council took the action despite Solicitor Adam Santucci advising members there is no guarantee that the borough can get out of the contract with HRG that council had approved by 6-3 vote on June 21. There is also no guarantee that the borough can avoid paying the entire $18,600 to HRG, Santucci pointed out.
There was no word yet on whether HRG will allow the borough to get out of the contract. “This remains an open issue. It has not been resolved,” Santucci told the Press And Journal on Monday, July 11. HRG did not return a phone call from the Press And Journal seeking comment.
Voting to get out of the contract was Council President Ben Kapenstein and Vice President Damon Suglia, and members Anne Einhorn, Diana McGlone and Robert Reid. Members Dawn Knull, Ed Shull and Ian Reddinger were absent. First Ward Councilor Robert Louer Sr. resigned effective July 1.
HRG since getting the contract on June 21 had already come up with a conceptual drawing that the firm was supposed to present to council and to the public during the July 5 meeting.
But instead, Kapenstein started the discussion on July 5 by saying he had asked Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter to request that HRG not come to the meeting. HRG did not attend.
Since the June 21 vote “I’ve heard a lot of talk that people don’t want this done,” Kapenstein said, referring to improving the square. “I feel like people have changed their minds a little bit.”
That sentiment was evident in comments council heard from residents before the issue came up on the agenda.
“That square has been the way it is for as long as I can remember,” said Kay Wealand, who turns 63 in October.
She also spoke for several, including some on council, who have urged that instead of launching a new project on the square the borough bring closure regarding what is to be done about the Elks Theatre.
“This town is the oldest town in Dauphin County and we should be preserving the history of this town,” Wealand said, referring to the theater.
Council is holding a public meeting on the future of the Elks Theatre for Thursday, July 21.
Downtown businesses deserve a break after two and a-half years of almost nonstop road closures stemming from public improvement projects, said Robin Pellegrini, owner of the Alfred’s Victorian restaurant. “Now you want me to deal with more?”
HRG under the contract awarded June 21 was to have the drawing done by Aug. 1 so the borough can meet a deadline for applying for a Dauphin County gaming grant.
One of the three councilors who had voted against the contract on June 21, McGlone had contended the time frame was too tight to allow for sufficient public input regarding what people would like to see done at the square.
“I believe it (the square) needs redone,” McGlone said before the follow-up vote on July 5. “It’s the timing of” the project that is wrong. McGlone was also among those who said council should resolve the Elks Theatre issue first before tackling the square.
McGlone suggested the borough obtain the conceptual drawing that HRG has done, and turn the drawing over to the borough’s newly re-established planning commission.
The commission over a period of several months can continue working the concept, which should ensure adequate public input throughout the process, McGlone added.
The borough should be able to apply for the gaming grant next year, Klinepeter said.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 July 2016 15:26
Written by Dan Miller
If you live or run a business in downtown Middletown and want to have a say about parking, you should attend borough council's next meeting on Tuesday, July 19.
Chances are good that council will take some action on recommendations included in a study of parking in the downtown that was completed in May by the Middletown Police Department.
The study agreed with business owners who have been saying that a shortage of parking in the core downtown is caused by Amtrak commuters taking up key spots for hours and days at a time because the lot at the train station on Mill Street is full.
For example, the study found that 72 percent of vehicles parked during peak times in the core downtown area were registered to owners outside of the 17057 zip code.
Among recommendations in the study are higher parking fines, placing time limits on how long a vehicle can be parked in certain spots, and allowing downtown residents to apply for parking permits.
The core downtown zone includes the north and south sides of Brown Street between South Union and Pine Street; the north and south sides of Mill Street between South Union and Poplar streets; and the west and east sides of Poplar Street between Brown and Mill streets.
The study also looked at a broader area of the downtown, but found that the concentration of non-17057 vehicles was only evident in the core zone.
Council has had the study since June 7 when it was briefly presented by Mayor James H. Curry III. However, no action has been taken. Toward the end of council's July 5 meeting, a call for action came from Councilor Robert Reid, who has been the most vocal about doing something to address the downtown parking issue.
“I don't want to see that study put on the shelf and forgotten about,” Reid said.
But before council acts it needs to hear from downtown residents and business owners - who likely have their own opinion about how long a time limit is best, and other aspects of the recommendations, said Borough Solicitor Adam Santucci.
On a related note, Councilor Diana McGlone for several months has been trying to get the borough to put up signs that would direct people to the free parking that is available in the lot behind the Municipal Building off West Emaus Street.
Now is the time to act, while the downtown parking issue is still manageable, Reid told the Press And Journal afterward. "A community should always control downtown parking because you don't know what will happen from one day to the next," Reid said.
"Today it could be the train station, tomorrow it could be something else. Tattered Flag is going to bring a lot of people to town," Reid said, referring to the combined brewery/distillery brew pub that is to be fully open in the Elks Building by sometime this fall.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 July 2016 15:22
Written by Dan Miller
The tasting room on the first floor of the Tattered Flag Brewery & Still Works in the Elks Building in Middletown will be open to the public from 12 noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 9.
Beer brewed by Tattered Flag will be available for sale, and wine and ciders will be provided courtesy of the Vineyards of Hershey, said Pat Devlin, one of the Tattered Flag partners. The distillery part of Tattered Flag is not ready yet, Devlin said.
This is the beginning of the "soft opening" of the first floor that Tattered Flag referred to earlier this week, pending the outcome of a building codes inspection that was done by the borough on Thursday.
The first floor tap room is just inside the main entrance of the first floor to the left. The partners and contractors working for Tattered Flag could be seen putting in finishing touches to get the space ready for Saturday's big event.
After Saturday Tattered Flag will be closed again for about a week - in part to brew more beer, Devlin said. Tattered Flag will probably be open for about a day each week for the next several weeks, until it is ready to be open on a regular basis, Devlin said. Days and hours will be posted on Tattered Flag's Facebook page.
Meanwhile, work continues on the rest of the first floor and throughout Tattered Flag's space on the second floor. The partners have said they hope all of Tattered Flag can be ready and open to the public by sometime this fall.
Last Updated on Friday, 08 July 2016 15:43
Written by Eric Wise
A blue or purple Toyota Camry with a sun roof was seen driving southbound in the northbound lanes of I-83 near Harrisburg at 12:11 p.m. July 7, state police said. The vehicle collided with a tractor trailer, causing minor damage to the Toyota's bumper and headlight on the driver's side.
The driver of the Camry then turned around and promptly left the interstate using Exit 44A for 13th Street/Route 230.
Anyone with information about the crash or the Toyota is asked to call Trooper Martin at Pennsylvania State Police in Harrisburg at 717-671-7500.
Last Updated on Thursday, 07 July 2016 16:45
Written by Eric Wise
Drivers will encounter some minor inconveniences in the coming months as Londonderry Twp. recently began the first of three bridge culvert replacements.
Braeburn Road, from Deodate Road to Highland Road, closed June 27 and will remain closed through mid-August.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 July 2016 16:15