Written by Joe Sukle
New traffic signals were placed in downtown Middletown June 22, 2016 as part of the Borough's streetscape program. Workers labored over an hour to complete the task.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 June 2016 14:55
Written by Dan Miller
Greg Wilsbach was hired as Middletown’s new public works director at an annual salary of $70,000 following a closed-door executive session during borough council’s June 21 meeting.
The vote to hire Wilsbach was 6-3, with those in favor including Council President Ben Kapenstein, Vice President Damon Suglia, and councilors Anne Einhorn, Robert Reid, Ian Reddinger, and Ed Shull.
Voting no were councilors Dawn Knull, Robert Louer, and Diana McGlone.
Wilsbach was a borough public works employee for 26 years, rising to assistant public works director and being in charge of the town’s electrical system. He also served as borough manager for a time.
In July 2014, Wilsbach resigned in protest over what he described as an oppressive work environment under then-borough council President Chris McNamara.
In 2015, Wilsbach ran against and defeated McNamara in McNamara's bid for re-election to council.
However, Wilsbach in March 2016 gave up his council seat in order to apply for the public works position that had been vacated when Lester Lanman resigned in late December 2015.
Wilsbach was one of about 20 applicants for the public works post, Kapenstein said. Eight candidates were brought in for personal interviews by council, and three of those were brought in for second interviews. One of the three finalists dropped out, Kapenstein said.
“We took a rigorous approach to the interview process,” he said. “There were some good candidates but truthfully none of them matched up to Greg.”
Besides having a lot of experience with the borough, Wilsbach has a background in both public works and in running a municipal electrical system, Kapenstein noted.
“It’s very hard to find someone who has electrical experience and in public works. There are only 35 municipally-owned electrical systems (in Pennsylvania) and most of them have their own separate electric supervisor,” Kapenstein said. “In Middletown there is one supervisor for everything, so you have to find someone who knows electric and public works. It’s not easy to find and Greg has that.”
Wilsbach and all other new borough management hires will not be part of a traditional retirement pension system, due to changes that council has put in place since January. Instead, Wilsbach will be able to participate in a 401-K style plan. Except for police, all union employees with the borough also from now on will be participating in a 401-K style plan instead of a traditional retirement plan.
Divided council votes to draw up design plan for improving square at Main and Union
Council also during its June 21 meeting voted 6-3 to draw up a conceptual design for making improvements to the square at Main and Union streets.
Council approved paying consulting engineers HRG an estimated $18,600 to draw up the conceptual plan and then apply to Dauphin County for a gaming grant which could be used to help fund the project.
However, several councilors - and some members of the public - opposed the move, in part because HRG must have the plan done in time to meet an Aug. 1 deadline for the county grant.
The tight time schedule does not allow enough time for public input into designing the plan, said Councilor Diana McGlone, who voted no.
Also voting no was Anne Einhorn, who questioned what the borough will do if it spends the money to draw up a plan to improve the square and then is not able to get the county gaming grant.
“What’s our back up plan?” Einhorn said, adding while she favors doing something to make the square look nicer “I think we are rushing into something.”
The motion led into a heated discussion of the future of the Elks Theatre. McGlone contended that instead of starting a new project to revitalize the square, council should be making a decision on what to do with the theater, which has been closed since April 2015.
“I think it’s time this council does something with this theater. All it is doing is sitting there and adding to the blight,” McGlone said.
Council President Ben Kapenstein agreed council needs to do something about the theater, but he also favored moving forward with the conceptual design for the square.
Council should hold a special meeting devoted to just getting public input on what to do with the theater, Kapenstein urged.
Councilor Dawn Knull also voted against hiring HRG for the square conceptual design.
Besides Kapenstein, voting for moving forward with the square design was Vice President Damon Suglia and fellow councilors Robert Louer, Ian Reddinger, Robert Reid and Ed Shull.
Borough to look for new information technology provider
In other matters, council at McGlone’s urging voted 9-0 to seek proposals from other companies to perform information technology services for the borough.
McGlone called for firing 2K Networking, the company that has provided information technology services to the borough since mid-2012. Since then the borough has paid 2K Networking over $686,000 for work that McGlone contended is not meeting expectations.
For example, residents cannot send e-mails to councilors using the e-mail addresses listed on the borough web site, and security cameras that were installed in Hoffer Park “are not working,“ McGlone said.
However, it would be a bad idea for council to fire 2K Networking without having another company in place to provide information technology services, said Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter.
“We need to go out and get other proposals before you fire them,” Klinepeter said.
Council directed Solicitor Adam Santucci draw up a draft Request for Proposals that would come back for council review. If council approves, the request would be made public to solicit proposals from interested IT companies.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 June 2016 08:40
Written by Eric Wise
Water in a pond and a stream near the new Middletown Area High School turned green when an antifreeze solution was released into them on Wednesday, June 15, officials said.
About 1,000 gallons -- enough to fill a fish tank the size of a sofa -- of propylene glycol leaked from an air conditioning unit at the new building, said John Repetz, community relations coordinator for the state Department of Environmental Protection. The spill caused no environmental damage, officials added.
“The source of the chemical spill has not yet been determined,” said Dr. Lori Suski, superintendent of the Middletown Area School District. “The situation was fully remediated at Penn State Harrisburg on Wednesday evening, but the substance being disposed of was sent out for testing. The contractor on our job site is having the situation investigated since he is not convinced that they are the responsible party.”
“The chemical entered Lower Swatara Township’s stormwater system at the construction site and traveled through the system to a retention pond on Penn State Harrisburg’s campus,” DEP’s Repetz said. He added a contractor vacuumed the liquid from the retention pond. He added there was no evidence of the liquid downstream from the retention pond.
“It was contained,” Repetz said Monday, June 20. “No waterways were affected.”
“We were told there was green water in one of our streams,” said Anne Shambaugh, Lower Swatara Township manager. She confirmed that a public works crew responded to the spill along with the Lower Swatara Fire Department and the state Department of Environmental Protection.
“It was the school district’s responsibility, but it hit our stormwater system,” Shambaugh said.
“We had a full team on it all afternoon,” said Bob Greene, the township’s planning and zoning coordinator.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 June 2016 15:31
Written by Eric Wise
Middletown’s iconic clock, in place only three days after an extensive renovation, narrowly missed serious damage when the driver of a pickup truck struck two poles at the intersection of W. Emaus and S. Union streets.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 June 2016 14:43
Last Updated on Monday, 20 June 2016 12:44