Written by David Amerman
Middletown Borough’s solicitor will conduct an investigation into the conduct of a Middletown Borough Authority member who verbally berated a resident at an authority meeting on Thursday, April 3.
Borough Council voted 8-1 on Monday, April 7 to have its solicitor investigate the exchange between authority member Robert Louer Jr. and resident Dawn Knull.
At the meeting, Knull addressed concerns she had regarding the upcoming construction for Middletown’s downtown infrastructure project and proposed traffic detours down Wood and State streets. She asked what would be done to make sure children at play would be safe, and whether jake brakes from passing trucks would disturb homes in that neighborhood.
“You’re taking a state road and putting it down into a residential area with a lot of kids that are playing,” Knull explained to council. “I just wanted to make sure that, on this detour, there were going to be signs posted.”
Eventually, Louer snapped back at Knull and other residents in attendance who had similar concerns.
“Why are you’ns here doing this? Don’t you think we care about these kids in doing this stuff?” he asked. “You’re standing here giving us a ration of--’’
“I am not giving you a ration of shit,’’ Knull replied. “I’m asking you if you’re going to do it.’’
“Yes, you are,’’ Louer yelled. “You’re just a pain in the ass.’’
Knull told council that his response rattled her a bit. “Oh, bite me,’’ she told Louer.
“Yeah, figures,’’ he replied.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 April 2014 20:58
Written by Noelle Barrett
The Steelton Borough Water Authority was fined $55,200 as part of a consent order and agreement with the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to address drinking water violations that occurred last year, DEP announced on Wednesday, April 2.
There are no ongoing health risks as a result of the violations, according to a press release issued by DEP.
The following violations were discovered after DEP conducted an evaluation and sanitary inspection on Nov. 20:
• The water authority failed to provide adequate disinfection of Giardia lamblia, an organism commonly found in surface water that can cause disease, for at least 24 days in 2013, and didn't report the failure.
• The water authority failed to record filtered water turbidity levels, a measurement of the cloudiness of the water and indicates water quality, for 108 separate days in 2013
• The water authority's chief operator falsely reported to DEP in August, September and October 2013 that filtered water turbidity had been recorded and the readings were all acceptable
• The water authority operated several modifications to the facilities without a Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) permit.
“Upon discovery of these violations, DEP notified Steelton Borough Water Authority who responded promptly and appropriately,” said Lynn Langer, DEP South-central regional director, in a press release. “Since then, Steelton has been working with DEP on resolving the violations and has been carefully monitoring the situation to protect public health.”
During a press conference on Friday, April 4, Borough Manager Sara Gellatly said the borough is sorry for what happened, and that Steelton has taken the necessary steps to address the issues and prevent future problems – including terminating the water filtration plant chief operator.
Borough Council voted 6-0 to fire Dan Scheitrum, the borough's sole water filtration plant superintendent/chief operator, during a meeting on Monday, March 17 after a lengthy executive session. At the time, the borough would not give a reason for the vote.
Scheitrum was hired as a plant operator in 2001 and served as chief operator since 2005, and was earning a $61,000 salary at the time of his termination. Gellatly said council voted to terminate Scheitrum based on a recommendation by the water authority.
"The recording requirements were the responsibility of our chief operator," Gellatly said at the April 4 press conference. "The [borough water] authority and [Steelton Borough] council immediately retained a new chief operator in March."
Mark Handley, who worked for the borough prior to Scheitrum's termination, will be employed as the new chief operator.
Gellatly said Handley "has more than the necessary licenses and qualifications" for the position.
According to a press release by DEP, the water authority is required to implement several corrective actions to address the violations, including the following:
• submit all documentation necessary to obtain required operation permits
• create protocol for conducting a filter performance study
• revise its Emergency Response Plan and Operation and Maintenance Plan to include an updated procedure for issuing public notices
• use a method to accurately calculate the inactivation of Giardia
Gellatly said the water is safe to drink.
"Residents do not need to boil water or use bottled water now, because the problem has been corrected," she said.
The water authority is required to pay the $55,200 fine in four $13,800 quarterly payments, and has already submitted the first payment to DEP.
"While this will affect the authority financially, the authority would like residents to know that our customers will not receive an increase in their water bills,'' Gellatly said.
Instead, the authority has put other projects on hold for the next year in order to cover the cost of the fine.
If the borough fails to complete the corrective actions, it will incur additional civil penalties, according to DEP's press release.
DEP has conducted weekly inspections of the facilities since January, and will continue to do so until "the department is satisfied that Steelton Water Authority is providing adequate treatment," the release said.
Last Updated on Friday, 04 April 2014 16:19
Written by Jim Lewis
The last time he visited Middletown, Harold Denton wore a bulletproof vest.
It was during the 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, and Denton, President Jimmy Carter’s envoy in the crisis, was scheduled to hold a press conference at the MCSO Building in town. During a check of the building, the borough police chief discovered a bullet on the floor of the auditorium.
Fearing someone intended to literally shoot the messenger during the stressful crisis, the police chief asked Denton to don the vest. Denton agreed and, with the chief by his side, conducted the press conference while, he jokes, looking like “a Michelin tire.’’
Thirty-five years later, Denton returned to Middletown to deliver a speech at a conference on the TMI accident at Penn State Harrisburg, gray-haired, stoop-shouldered, his massive 1970s sideburns gone. Now a consultant on nuclear reactors, Denton returned a celebrity – to those who remember his calmness amid the chaos of the accident, his reassurances in his lugubrious North Carolina drawl.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 April 2014 22:32
Written by Jim Lewis
Middletown held a closed-door meeting with members of borough committees, boards and commissions on Thursday, March 27 to review requirements under the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act to publicly advertise their meetings.
Citizens who serve on those borough boards were given a directive on the borough’s policy to follow the Sunshine Act and asked to sign an acknowledgement that they had received the management directive.
Borough Council members were also invited to the meeting, though some said they couldn’t make it because it was too hastily scheduled.
The meeting, closed to the public, was legal under the Sunshine Act.
“There is no public meeting tonight of any sort,’’ confirmed Chris Courogen, the borough’s director of communications. “Not the council, not the [Middletown Borough] Authority, no agency is having a meeting that` falls under the Sunshine Act.’’
The meeting was held after Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico warned the borough that it must comply with the Sunshine Act and advertise committee meetings.
Marsico did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The borough and its solicitor, McNeese, Wallace and Nurick, also received a letter from the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association in October upon the urging of the Press And Journal concerning the advertisement of public committee meetings.
The Press And Journal found two incidents of council committee meetings that did not appear to be advertised in the fall. When the newspaper requested minutes of the meetings through a Right to Know request, the borough’s Right to Know officer responded that “no such records exist and the Borough is not required to create a record which does not exist.’’
Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 April 2014 21:09
Written by David Amerman
Middletown Borough Council’s Planning Committee voted on Wednesday, March 19 to recommend that council approve a land development plan for new student housing along Spring Street near the Middletown Cemetery.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 March 2014 20:29