Written by Dan Miller
Council by 7-1 vote during its April 19 meeting approved hiring long-time former public works director Ken Klinepeter as the borough’s new manager.
Klinepeter would be paid $80,000 a year and start on May 4, should he accept the terms and conditions of council’s offer, Council President Ben Kapenstein said.
Klinepeter worked for the borough for more than 34 years before he retired in August 2014 to become superintendent of public works for Steelton Borough. Klinepeter was making $78, 852.80 a year when he retired from Middletown.
Klinepeter held the Steelton job for about a year before deciding to return to Middletown - this time working for Suez, formerly United Water, the company that in 2015 took over the running of Middletown’s public water and sewer systems as part of a 50-year lease approved by the borough council and borough authority in 2014.
Klinepeter was the last person standing in a process that began in January, when the new council majority that was elected in 2015 began advertising to seek applicants to replace the borough’s previous manager, Tim Konek, who resigned in late December 2015.
Klinepeter was one of 29 applicants for the borough manager position, Kapenstein said. Council’s administration and personnel committee screened the 29 down to eight, and the list was cut to four through phone interviews.
Then council as a whole, plus Mayor James H. Curry III, conducted in-person interviews with the four candidates during closed-door executive sessions, resulting in the emerging of Klinepeter and one other finalist, who were both brought in for a second in-person interview.
Council was also assisted throughout the process by Nancy Hess, a human relations consultant working for the borough as part of the Early Intervention Program, Kapenstein said.
“It came down to Ken’s experience with the borough, his leadership abilities that we had seen in the past,” Kapenstein said. “It was just his overall presence, his love for the community (that) I think is what really made him stick out. How he cares about the people here. You could see that, and anybody who knows him knows that. He’s a known commodity. We think the community will benefit from him being here.”
Kapenstein conceded that Klinepeter has never been a full-time permanent borough manager. However, Klinepeter was acting borough manager for a time during his career working in Middletown, Kapenstein said. Klinepeter also often filled the role of manager on an acting basis when the permanent manager was unavailable, Kapenstein added.
Councilor Diana McGlone voted against hiring Klinepeter. After the meeting, she said her no vote wasn’t about Klinepeter himself, but criticism of a process that she felt should have been more open.
“I would have liked to have seen the top two candidates presented before council and also the public, so that they had an opportunity to see who we were selecting, and then also provide any additional comments to the candidates that we had selected as the top two,” McGlone said.
Kapenstein declined to identify the other finalist.
He defended as “extremely strong” the process that resulted in Klinepeter being chosen.
“We did it the right way. We went through a competitive process,” he said.
While the previous council presented three finalists for police chief to the public before choosing John Bey in 2014, public interviews for top managers are “not common” in local government, Kapenstein said. He contended that public interviews can also become “unproductive” because of so many people getting involved.
“The people put us in office to make the decisions. We did our due diligence and we made the decision,” Kapenstein said. “We didn’t just pick somebody off the street. We went through the whole process and it was a hard process. Just because it came out that it was Kenny has nothing to do with that we all know Kenny. It was that Kenny was the best qualified candidate that we felt is going to do the best job, and that’s why Kenny was the ultimate choice.”
Council before voting to hire Klinepeter also approved advertising an ordinance change that would loosen the residency requirement for borough manager from having to live in Middletown, to living anywhere within Middletown Area School District.
The proposed change was approved by 7-1 vote, with Councilor Robert Louer dissenting.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 April 2016 10:35
Written by Eric Wise
Homeowners in Steelton and Highspire would see a tax increase in next year’s budget based on the draft budget shared by the Steelton-Highspire School Board on Thursday, April 14.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 April 2016 17:29
Written by Dan Miller
Careless smoking caused the April 3 fire that swept through Holly Hall in the Village of Pineford, displacing 60 residents, investigators said.
“The cause of the fire is accidental due to smoking,” said Steven Bartholomew, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, in an e-mail to the Press And Journal on Monday, April 18. “The investigation revealed it began in the roof above the fifth floor on the north side of the building.”
ATF led the investigation because of the size and scope of the fire, which engulfed the five-story, 80-unit apartment building.
Investigators believe the fire was started by someone who was smoking a cigarette while on a fifth-floor balcony, said Dennis Woodring, a detective with the Dauphin County District Attorney’s Criminal Investigation Division.
“Either a hot ash from a cigarette or the cigarette itself” made its way into a void just to the right of the balcony, Woodring said.
The person who was smoking the cigarette came forward to investigators on the same day as the fire, Woodring said. However, investigators had to eliminate all other possibilities before settling on a cause. For example, the fire could have been the result of an electrical malfunction that could have occurred in the same area, Woodring noted. The ATF team brought in electrical engineers to examine such a possibility.
“That (electrical) is a potential ignition source in that area as well,” Woodring said. “You have to be able to rule out all the potential ignition sources.”
No criminal charges are expected to be filed because the fire was accidental. At this point, the investigation into the fire is considered closed, Woodring said.
For days, the rumor on Facebook was that the fire started from an unattended grill that someone had been using for cooking. As recently as this past weekend, police were asking for witnesses to voluntarily provide photos and video of the fire to assist in pinpointing the cause.
“I can’t begin to tell you how helpful the response was from citizens who responded to the request for photographs. They were very helpful,” said Woodring.
One photo that was helpful was given to police by Lori Shetter. The photo shows the fire in its early stages above the balcony where investigators determined it started. The void to which Woodring referred is the burned-out black area below the vent and, as pictured, to the left of the balcony railing itself.
In the void, investigators found “a lot of dried debris from over the years” and the remains of some cigarette butts, Woodring said.
Evidence gathered by investigators during the probe shows that people smoked inside Holly Hall, Woodring said. Whether they were allowed to smoke in the building or not is a question for others, such as the management and owners of Pineford, Horst Realty of Lancaster.
Steve Horst of Horst Realty has not returned phone calls from the Press And Journal, although he did say during a public meeting in Middletown on April 6 that Holly Hall will be rebuilt “better than it was.” The fire caused an estimated $8 million damage.
Holly Hall had a “partial” sprinkler system at the time of the fire, Woodring said. The fire started below the sprinkler system, but “as the fire grew it got above” the sprinkler system “and was able to move through the void in the roof,” Woodring said.
“The problem with this fire on this particular day was the wind,” Woodring said.
The wind on April 3 was so strong that a wind advisory had been issued for the day.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 April 2016 16:18
Written by Dan Miller
Middletown Borough Council plans to hire a new borough manager during council's meeting on April 19, 2016.
The borough has been without a permanent manager since late December when Tim Konek resigned.
Since then, borough management duties have been performed on an interim basis by Bruce Hamer, a former Middletown borough manager whom council brought on board in January as a management consultant.
Council also delegated responsibility for borough operations to Police Chief John Bey, again on a temporary basis until a new manager is hired.
Council also plans to hire a borough secretary, according to the agenda. Hamer is to resign from that position.
Council's meeting is to begin at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers in the Municipal Building.
In addition, the Middletown Industrial and Commercial Development Authority has advertised a public meeting for 6:30 p.m. in Council Chambers on April 19, right before the council meeting.
The ICDA meeting is being held to review and authorize all scheduled project payments, according to a legal notice posted on Sunday.
Last Updated on Monday, 18 April 2016 12:21
Police detectives investigating the Sunday, April 3, fire in Middletown that seriously damaged the Holly Hall building in the Village of Pineford Apartment Complex are asking for the public's help with their investigation.
The fire, which began sometime before 11:30 a.m., seriously damaged the building and displaced dozens of residents. Police are seeking any information people may have about when the fire was first noticed and are asking for any photographs and/or video footage that members of the public may have that documents the fire.
Last Updated on Saturday, 16 April 2016 05:56