Regionalization: It is an interesting word. It can be considered a good thing, a bad thing, a cost-efficient concept, a loss of control issue, and a service question all at the same time. To some it makes sense, to others it is about possible cost savings over quality of service. For me, it’s both.
In 2014, the Novak Consulting Group, on behalf of the Dauphin County Board of Commissioners, contracted with the Police Executive Research Forum to examine the police organizations currently operating in Dauphin County and to provide alternatives. The study was published in December 2015, and in its findings it recommended a Southern Dauphin Regional Police Department be formed, which would combine Highspire Borough, Lower Swatara Township, Middletown Borough, Royalton and Steelton Borough into a single department. This option could provide an approximate 9 percent cost savings.
With a single department, the total population served would be 26,465 residents, which would require 52 sworn officers for a combined cost saving of $675,457.
Under a single department, Middletown Borough future costs per resident would only see a $31.50 savings per year. Lower Swatara residents, on the other hand, would see an increase of $18.03. What is Lower Swatara’s benefit in paying more for possible less coverage and inadequate coverage and police protection?
Our police department patrols 2 square miles within borough boundaries and we have a population of almost 9,000 residents. Lower Swatara has 8,200 residents and police cover 15 square miles. Statistics have proved when the population is condensed like our borough, more crimes are committed. The 2015 study showed violent crimes per 1,000 residents for Lower Swatara at 0.8 and Middletown at 2.3. With the growth of Penn State University Harrisburg and the Woodland Hills development coming, our population will be sizably increasing in a few short years. Thus, even a greater condensed population will be upon the borough and we will need adequate coverage and police protection.
If my colleagues’ desire is to make our police department more robust and community centered, I suggest implementing the recommendations in the Independent Assessment and Directives Review of the Middletown Borough Police Department that was done by Transparency Matters, which was presented to now Council President Kapenstein and Mayor James H. Curry III back in 2015. It’s perplexing that upwards of $10,000 was spent on a worthwhile assessment and Curry, who heads the police department, has not put forth any recommendations in this proposal for council to consider.
One of the main key points of the assessment called for the creation of an executive officer management position (rank of lieutenant, nonbargaining unit member) that reports directly to the chief and assists with policy development. It also called for filling all approved vacant positions and any future vacant positions as soon as possible. Having our police properly staffed ensures our police department can properly provide top-level service and continue to maintain law and order in our community.
Currently, we have four strategic objectives on the horizon for our borough that I believe need council’s focus:
1: Improvement and Reinvestment Loan Program, which has the goal of creating economic activity within the borough and improving property values by value-added investments.
2: Residential Rental Inspection Program, which will improve our rental stock and bring blighted properties into compliance.
3: The Elks Theatre, which will transform our town with a multicultural entertainment complex in our downtown area.
4: Business Incentive Loan program, which will entice more businesses to relocate to our community.
Those objectives, among others, will enhance our town and bring economic growth. Discussing regionalizing our police takes the focus off of our objectives for the year and diverts our time, energy and personnel to something that is not justified from a cost perspective or economic growth potential.
The lack of any real cost savings combined with our current objectives for the year: simply put — now is not the time to discuss police regionalization. As an elected official and resident, I am not interested in furthering the discussions in an attempt to potentially save $30, which will be wiped out in a year or so when we see our population increase.
Diana McGlone is a member of the Middletown Borough Council. Reach her by email at dmcglone@middletown<br< a="">> borough.com
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 February 2017 11:14
Two years ago, the town we call home was in disarray. Middletown was often the brunt of many jokes. Spending was out of control. Government was utilized to implement personal agendas, not the will of the people. The collective voices of the residents were silenced by the sound of a gavel. That is not the case today.
That being said, while many positive changes have been implemented, the process is not over. It will be long, tedious and tiresome. It is physically impossible to set right what was made wrong over four long years. Communication from the elected officials and patience from the citizenry are undeniable necessities.
As you are aware, the borough is currently exploring the possibility of police regionalization or contracting services with Lower Swatara Township. The reason for the exploration is simple. Dauphin County has recommended some form of regionalization or contracting services for years. Unfortunately, very few developments are made, as the process is difficult to organize, complex to understand and, very often, too many municipalities are involved at once. Since Middletown borough already shares a school district with Lower Swatara Township, we believed it wise to consider that relationship when it comes to policing.
While Councilman Ben Kapenstein, Councilman Ian Reddinger and I met with representatives of Lower Swatara Township, no specific details of a deal were discussed. Rather, the meeting provided an opportunity to meet other representatives for the first time, determine if interest existed in even discussing the topic, and confirm priorities for each municipality.
As the head of the Middletown Police Department, I have made my priorities very clear with regard to this discussion, as has Middletown borough, itself. Any deal must accomplish three things. First, it must provide the same or better level of service to you, the residents of Middletown. Two, it must provide financial savings to you, the taxpayers. Three, it must protect the jobs of our police officers. I will go on record for the umpteenth time in saying I will not support any deal which does not put a check mark next to each aforementioned item.
As elected officials, it is our fiduciary responsibility to explore any idea that potentially benefits our constituents. In an effort to maintain transparency and community involvement, a borough council meeting was held Feb. 15 to discuss the possibility of police regionalization or contracting services. Few people understand the difference between the two models. Police regionalization involves two or more municipalities joining forces. A board of representatives from each municipality is created to oversee the combined police force. Contracting services involves one municipality contracting with other for police services in lieu of maintaining its own personal police force.
Unfortunately, 2017 is an election year. As a result, some chose to utilize the Feb. 15 venue as an opportunity to aim and fire. I have been asked to respond to the comments made by Councilwoman Diana McGlone at the conclusion of the meeting. In summary, Councilwoman McGlone criticized me for not implementing the recommendations made by Transparency Matters in 2015. She cited figures from a Dauphin County Regionalization Study, which are completely inapplicable to the current discussion, as that study involved multiple municipalities. She argued against continued discussion with Lower Swatara, noting Middletown will only succeed by accomplishing four primary goals, which just so happen to be four ideas she proposed and wishes to “champion,” none of which relate to policing.
The intention of Councilwoman McGlone’s comments was clear, considering she read from a document saved on her computer. She was going to fire her shot, regardless of the discussion at the Feb. 15 borough council meeting.
By way of background, in 2015, the Middletown Public Safety Committee, headed by Chris McNamara, contracted with Transparency Matters to conduct an internal assessment of the Middletown Borough Police Department. The resulting report is comprehensive and valuable. Unfortunately, the prior administration cared little about the actual results. While they often inquired as to the status of implementation, they were never willing to provide support, financial or otherwise, to aid in the same. In fact, on more than one occasion, Councilman Kapenstein, Councilwoman Einhorn, and I were forced to fight the majority in their wishes to disband the Middletown Police Department entirely and bring in the Pennsylvania State Police. This battle continued through December 2015, when the prior administration left office.
The year 2016 brought a new borough council and new challenges. As you will recall, the current governing body took office with no borough manager, public works director or secretary. Our town does not function without these positions. The past year has been utilized to hire administrative staff, regain the trust of the public, search for and hire an interim chief of police, and navigate a variety of lawsuits, contract negotiations, etc. It has not been an easy year.
Exploring possibilities relative to police services was a way to accomplish all recommendations of the Transparency Matters assessment without bearing a direct cost. If borough council wishes to cease any and all discussions in that regard, the majority will rule. I, however, believe such a decision to be irresponsible and foolish. It is impossible to be for or against something that doesn’t exist. With no proposal on the table, how can any councilmember or resident, for that matter, affirmatively announce his/her support or lack thereof?
Our police are to be admired. They protect. They serve. They were tossed around like a political football in the past and were, again, on Feb. 15. That is unfortunate and something I do not support.
The last administration utilized the needs of the police department against them. No elected official wants to have a tax rate increase on their record. Unfortunately, in order to fully implement all recommendations and staff the Middletown Police Department, a significant tax rate increase will be required. That is simply a reality.
We are a working class town. I remember how difficult it was for people to bear a water/sewer rate increase in 2014 and I fought, albeit unsuccessfully, to taper that increase throughout the year. A tax rate increase will hurt, but something has to give.
I disagree with ceasing a discussion that has yet to begin. As your mayor, I would prefer all options be on the table, rather than being left with the “What if?” question. The choice is yours.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 February 2017 11:13
By Nathan Benefield
Imagine if Stephen King had written “Green Eggs and Ham.” What if Dr. Seuss had penned “The Shining”?
Gov. Tom Wolf’s third budget address was an equally disorienting shift in tone and substance — almost as if the most liberal governor in the country were polishing his conservative credentials.
Record-setting income and sales tax increases? Gone. Partisan rhetoric? Mollified. Massive spending hikes? Absent.
Instead, Wolf targeted bureaucratic waste to close the ever-widening budget deficit, including consolidating agencies, reforming corrections programs, and streamlining government services. Laudably, he proposed reducing corporate welfare subsidies for politically connected businesses which have failed to encourage long-term job growth.
But Wolf hasn’t completely broken from the past. He still wants $1 billion in new taxes, amounting to $315 per family of four. But the fact is, there’s no reason to demand more from taxpayers.
The General Assembly should take this opportunity to double-down on Wolf’s reform mindset — but do it without tax hikes. Here are three ways to help end the cycle of budget deficits for years to come.
State public pensions are more than $60 billion in debt — about $5,000 for every Pennsylvania man, woman and child.
But for 10 years, government union leaders have denied the pension crisis and argued against reform. Meanwhile, state taxes and property taxes have ballooned to fund the ever-growing pension burden. School districts have laid off teachers and cut programs — even as education funding reached record high levels — as more education dollars are consumed by pension costs.
But major change could be just a few votes away. A proposal placing newly hired state workers into a new pension plan needed just three more votes to pass the House last year. The bill provided a 401(k)-type plan alongside a smaller traditional (defined benefit) plan for new hires.
Although this alone would provide little immediate savings, it would shift billions in future financial risk away from taxpayers.
More than 54 percent of Pennsylvania voters want this sort of pension reform, and Wolf, though not proactively pushing for change, has said he would sign it.
Full liquor privatization
On a recent trip to Giant, I witnessed a couple excited to finally buy wine with their groceries — a result of last year’s marginal liquor reform. But excitement turned to frustration as they ping-ponged across the store, barred from buying wine at the regular checkout and unable buy groceries at the wine register. Pennsylvania’s government liquor monopoly and archaic alcohol laws still make no sense.
Indeed, grocery stores can buy wine only from the government wholesale monopoly, in which a handful of bureaucrats determine what can and can’t be sold across the state.
Full liquor privatization, both retail and wholesale, could deliver Pennsylvanians the convenience they want and generate between $1.1 to $1.6 billion in immediate revenue.
Let’s face it: Medicaid doesn’t provide quality health care. Recipients experience more difficulty finding doctors and longer wait times than those with private insurance, thanks to low provider reimbursement and a maze of red tape.
Yet, more than one-third of Pennsylvania’s total operating budget goes to Medicaid programs, to the tune of $27.67 billion. That’s more than pre-K-to-12 education, higher education, transportation and debt service combined. These costs are rising faster than the state economy, making the program unsustainable.
With talk in Washington, D.C., of block granting Medicaid to the states, lawmakers have a new opportunity to reinvent Medicaid for truly those who need it. Florida, for example, improved the quality of Medicaid through a waiver that emphasized choice counseling, saving $161 million annually in the first five years. Other states have requested more robust Health Savings Accounts to ease the transition from Medicaid to private health insurance. Work requirements — which in other programs have helped individuals transition out of poverty into the work force — and sliding scale premiums are other worthwhile solutions that would concentrate resources on individuals most in need.
A one-year budget absent major reforms will simply kick budget-deficit can down the road. Lawmakers should view Wolf’s proposal not as a final product but as a starting point they can improve upon with reforms that will benefit all Pennsylvanians.
Nathan A. Benefield is vice president and COO for the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania’s free market think tank.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 February 2017 10:03
Written by Ed O'Connor
It has been awhile since my magic fingers have tapped the keyboard and much has occurred — the U.S. election, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, my birthday, we moved to a new apartment and the yearly meeting of my fan club in Middletown.
My fan club wanted to have its annual meeting on my birthday, but the one lady got sick and the other didn’t want to be the only member present — even though she had a quorum.
Hmmm. Where to start?
It was the day before Christmas and all through the spa, every creature was stirring, including Ol-ga.
Yes, it was Christmas Eve and we just returned from the pool — probably seems a bit different than with what you are accustomed. We spent Dec. 23 to Dec. 26 at an all-inclusive resort/spa in southern Ecuador, not too far from the Peruvian border.
We left Cuenca with a personal driver who said he knew exactly where we were going. It is a three- to four-hour trip from Cuenca to the resort. We left at 11 a.m. Eight and a half hours later we, by the grace of God, (sorry about that reference, libtards) arrived at the resort. In all that time, we were out of the car for 10 minutes. My kidneys thought that I had deserted them. Yet another adventure.
As I noted before, every day here is an adventure. We arrived in time for the buffet dinner, but at that point we were dern near fagged (sorry about that word, libtards. Fortunately, we don’t have to be concerned about the PC Nazis here).
When we came back to our room and went to bed around midnight, the noise started. In the adjoining room was a Chinese family of five who were whooping it up until after 1 a.m. and didn’t start again until 6:30 a.m. We went to reception and asked if we could get a different room and they accommodated us. We got an upgrade at no additional cost.
What a super place! If we could have gotten rid of the snot gobblers, it would have been dern near paradise. Don’t get me wrong. I love children. My favorite way is barbecued.
I know that this portion probably makes no sense to you teetotalers, but since the resort is an all-inclusive, we decided to check out one of the bars. We bellied up to the bar above one of the three swimming pools. I ordered a margarita and Olga ordered (what else) a White Russian … then the second round.
With Olga’s Spanish and my winning smile, we were able to converse with our “barman,” Marco. I told him that I had been a “barman” in the United States for 18 years.
There was a big slushee-type machine that had a light green drink. I asked him that I wanted to know the content. He tapped a glass for us. It was a grasshopper. (If you want to know — Google it). Then unbeknownst to us, he started making various drinks to impress this former “barman.”
His libations began with multicolored layered drinks using ingredients of different hues — starting with three different liqueurs and juices and ending at six. He even made a cocktail with the colors of the Ecuadorian flag. Marco was very impressive!
Of course, we did not want to create an international incident, so we downed each of his creations with a smile, which kept getting bigger with each new concoction. We bid adieu to Marco promising him we would see him manana, Christmas Day.
Oh, I forgot to tell you — we had no problem with “liar,” “dishonest,” “cheat,” “corrupt,” “crook,” “criminal,” “Marxist,” “anti-military,” et al. Why do I use these adjectives? The name of the resort at which we stayed? The Hillary Nature Resort Spa, www.hillaryresort.com, if interested.
Then it happened — Olga stepped in the pool on the top step and fell, bruising and skinning both legs and turning her ankle. She could not walk and had to lean on me just to walk. Hillary caught up with us. So, the rest of our Christmas getaway was very limited as to what we could do. At least the one open bar was accessible. The return trip was of the expected duration.
As for the election — what can I say? How about it is the first time in eight years I haven’t been ashamed or embarrassed to be an American?
We had Thanksgiving dinner at the church and New Year’s was spent at a friend’s apartment. We counted 35 different locations around the city that had fireworks displays and only had a 180-degree view. The spectacle went on for more than an hour.
My birthday was memorable — we moved. I shall always remember birthday No. 70.
Moving was another adventure. We moved from a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment to a smaller two-bedroom, two and a half-bath place.
We sold all of our living room and dining room furniture to Canadians with one ad. They wanted it right away so we had no place to sit or eat. We moved our one bed into the living room in front of the TV and that is what we used for two weeks.
We had no idea we accumulated so much “stuff” since we moved here. During the move the moving truck was involved in a chain reaction accident. It was not his fault but he had to go to the police station for four hours. We had to purchase new furniture for the new apartment, unpack boxes and find a home for the stuff and have the internet transferred to the new address, (not as easy as it sounds). Finally, with eight days of work, we had the task accomplished.
One final note for now: We had a weather anomaly — the highest temperature ever recorded in the city, 84 degrees, and the lowest temperature, 32 degrees, both in a 24-hour period!
I wish all of you a happy and prosperous New Year!
Until later from beautiful Cuenca ... Eddy the Expat
Ed O’Connor, a former resident of Middletown and Lower Swatara Township, is an expatriate living in Cuenca, Ecuador.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 February 2017 16:48
The annual state budget process got underway last week when Gov. Tom Wolf outlined his 2017-18 spending plan before a joint session of the General Assembly.
What the governor laid out is only the first step in the lengthy budget process. Months of public hearings, committee meetings and additional revenue forecasts will ultimately influence what the final budget document looks like.
The governor did, however, establish a realistic starting point. His $32.3 billion proposal is balanced without broad-based tax increases and includes several initiatives aimed at reducing spending and improving efficiencies by consolidating some state agencies. His administration estimates this could save the commonwealth about $2 billion.
As I take part in the budget process for the first time as a state representative, I’m focused on protecting the citizens and job creators in the 106th District from unnecessary government growth. After hearing the governor’s budget address, I’m cautiously optimistic that he is on the same page.
While his address offered few details, I’m glad the governor is interested in finding ways to reduce spending while providing efficient, effective and sustainable state services and systems.
I look forward to the upcoming House Appropriations Committee hearings that will unveil more details on his plan. Those hearings begin Tuesday, Feb. 21.
More information about the budget process can be found at www.PAHouseGOP.com. I also encourage you to stay tuned to my website, RepMehaffie.com, and my Facebook page, Facebook.com/RepMehaffie, for more information about the budget in the coming months.
As I begin my first term in office, I am excited to meet the people I represent so that we can all work together.
I hope you’ll join us for my Open House from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 7, at 250 W. Chocolate Ave., Suite 2, Hershey, to learn more about how we can help you with state government-related issues and concerns.
We share office space with Congressman Charlie Dent, and I’ve invited him to join us so you can learn about federal government-related issues and services as well.
No advance registration is required to attend my open house. Please feel free to just stop by and say hello! For more information, visit my website at RepMehaffie.com or contact my office by phone at 717-534-1323.
Trout season is just around the corner, and local anglers are now able to find out when their favorite fishing hole will be stocked with trout by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
The guides are available online and on the commission’s FishBoatPA mobile app.
The commission stocks approximately 3.15 million adult trout in more than 720 streams and 120 lakes open to public angling each year. These figures include approximately 2 million rainbow trout; 640,000 brown trout; and 500,000 brook trout.
The average size of the trout produced for stocking is 11 inches in length.
The statewide opening day for trout season is Saturday, April 15, but a regional opening day in 18 south-central and southeastern counties, including Dauphin County, is set for Saturday, April 1.
Additionally, the commission will host Mentored Youth Trout Days on Saturday, March 25, for those same 18 counties and Saturday, April 8, statewide. Youth younger than age 16 can join a mentor (adult) angler who has a current fishing license and trout permit to fish for trout the Saturday before the regular opening days. Youth anglers must obtain a mentored youth permit or voluntary youth fishing license as well.
Go to www.fishandboat.com for information.
Property tax, rent rebates
Applications for Pennsylvania’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate program are available online and in my office. Eligible participants can receive a rebate of up to $650 based on their rent or property taxes paid in 2016.
The program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians who are 65 years or older, widows and widowers 50 years or older, and those 18 years or older with permanent disabilities.
Applications for the program are due by June 30. Claim forms are available by contacting my Hershey office at 717-534-1323, or online at RepMehaffie.com.
I had a great time at the Hummelstown Community Foundation’s third annual Winter Fling in the square. Music, ice sculptures, food, wine tasting and children’s activities kept everyone’s mind off the chilly weather.
Our local first responders work tirelessly to protect our communities. In an effort to thank them for their service, I attended the Rutherford Fire Company’s annual firefighters’ appreciation dinner, where I ran into some familiar faces. Thank you to all of our first responders for everything you do!
Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 February 2017 16:46