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A wise choice for manager

Middletown’s newest borough manager is a familiar face. Ken Klinepeter worked for the borough for more than 34 years, including a stint as public works director. He is knowledgeable, not just about the duties of the job – he’s served as acting manager in the past – and the borough’s assets, but also the town and its people. He’s served Middletowners well in the past; he no doubt possesses the temperament and desire to again serve Middletowners well as its top administrator.

Middletown Borough Council hired him by a 7-1 vote on Tuesday, April 19, at a starting salary of $80,000 – slightly more than the $78,852.80 he was making when he retired in 2014. He starts the job on Wednesday, May 4.

Klinepeter was one of 29 applicants for the job. “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,’’ said Council President Ben Kapenstein. “You could see that, and anybody who knows him knows that. He’s a known commodity.’’

Kind of a hot commodity, too, since retiring from Middletown during an era of frugality ushered in by a previous council majority that seemed to consider long-time borough employees as more of a financial burden than an asset. He was hired by Steelton as its public works superintendent, and after a year left that job to work for Suez, the company that took over the operation of Middletown’s water and sewer systems as part of a 50-year lease that began in 2015.

The only objection raised about his hiring was by Councilor Diana McGlone, who voted against it – not because she didn’t think Klinepeter was a good choice, but because the hiring process was conducted without the public’s participation, she said.

Council’s administration and personnel committee screened the 29 applications down to eight, and the list was cut to four through phone interviews. Then council and Mayor James H. Curry III conducted in-person interviews with the four candidates during closed-door executive sessions, with Klinepeter and one other finalist, who Kapenstein would not name, brought in for a second face-to-face interview behind closed doors.

The majority of councilors now serving have criticized a lack of transparency in council’s dealings in recent past; presenting the two finalists to the public for questions and assessment would have been a good thing, a respectful show of transparency and respect towards residents and business owners, we believe.

Still, it’s difficult to imagine too many candidates with Klinepeter’s knowledge of Middletown and his passion for the borough.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 April 2016 16:53

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Exercise your right to vote

You’ve watched them on numerous TV debates. Loved them, hated them, defended them, bashed them – even jettisoned a few Facebook friends over them.

Now is the time to vote for them. Pennsylvania’s primary election will be held on Tuesday, April 26, your opportunity to choose your party’s nominee for president.

This election doesn’t provide you with as many decisions as races for municipal government and local school boards, but it’s vital, featuring a few races for state legislature and state government. In the Middletown area, there’s a race on the Republican ballot for a nominee for the state House of Representatives, someone who would replace retiring state Rep. John Payne in the 106th District – Middletown, Royalton, Lower Swatara Twp., Hummelstown, Derry Twp., Conewago Twp. and parts of Swatara Twp.

A great country like ours remains great when people exercise their right to vote. Don’t toss it aside. Make your voice heard. Make your opinion count on something other than social media. Enjoy your right to cast a ballot.

Those political memes you posted or shared may have been clever, but it’s what you do at the ballot box that could move a state, or a nation.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 April 2016 16:44

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We thank two Middletown officers for their bravery

It’s a credit to those first responders who rushed to the fire at Holly Hall, an 80-unit apartment building in the Village of Pineford, on Sunday, April 3 that no one was hurt. We’re thankful that we had so many dedicated firefighters, police officers and ambulance crew members, from Middletown and its neighbors, at the building within minutes of the frantic calls to Dauphin County 9-1-1.

Two Middletown police officers rushed in where perhaps we would fear to go. Det. Mark Hovan and Patrol Officer Scott Yoder, among the first to arrive at the smoky, burning building, ran inside to evacuate residents.

Their effort impressed Robert Then, a Penn State Harrisburg police officer who rushed to the scene when the call came over his radio.

Then, a 25-year police veteran, heard Hovan and Yoder radio that they had arrived, that they were entering the building and that they were going floor to floor to help residents evacuate even though they found significant smoke inside.

As Then arrived, he saw Yoder carrying an elderly woman out of Holly Hall.

It moved Then to write a letter to Middletown Police Chief John Bey commending the two borough officers.

“Despite the intense heat and toxic smoke, Detective Hovan and Patrolman Yoder, without hesitation and regard for their own safety, entered an extremely dangerous environment and saved lives,’’ Then wrote. “Without your officers’ performance, many residents would have lost their lives.’’

For a police officer with Then’s years of experience to be moved so powerfully by the acts of fellow officers is significant. “Performing our job today is arguably the most challenging it has ever been,’’ he wrote to Bey, and no doubt he’s witnessed many officers handling those challenges admirably. Still, “witnessing officers perform, as your officers did at this fire, renews my inspiration as to why I entered this profession,’’ he wrote.

Things like clothing and furniture, and even apartment buildings, can be replaced. The lives of those who found themselves in a traumatic fire were at stake, and two of Middletown’s police officers bravely did what they could to save them. We applaud their bravery and thank them for their service.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 April 2016 09:57

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Middletown's compassion is what defines our town

You know you’re a Middletowner if, during a crisis like the fire that swept through the Holly Hall apartment building in the Village of Pineford on Sunday, April 3, the first thing you think is, “How can I help?’’

News of the blaze spread on Facebook, and quickly residents posted plans for helping the victims of the fire. Soon the MCSO Building, a small gym with a stage, was filled with piles of donated clothing, blankets, soap, toys, jackets, toothpaste and toothbrushes, shoes, snacks – even hot pizza, sliced turkey, ham and mashed potatoes, to make sure that no one missed a hot meal amid the panic and sorrow.

“People came in droves,’’ said Dawn Knull, a Middletown Borough Council member and one of several local officials who stationed themselves at the MCSO Building.

The outpouring of concern even impressed the American Red Cross, which is used to seeing such things in countless crises. “Phenomenal,’’ said Dan Tobin, director of communications for the Red Cross’ Central Pennsylvania Chapter, as he surveyed the scene in the gym.

The rush to help didn’t end on Sunday; Middletowners kept offering whatever they could spare days later, from sneakers to toiletries to furniture. A fund has been established for monetary donations – they can be sent to the Middletown Interfaith Council, PO Box 207, Middletown, PA 17057.

Thankfully no one was injured. And everyone found a place to stay after the fire, with friends or relatives or in other apartments in Pineford, according to the Red Cross. Still, it is heartbreaking to see fellow townspeople suffer the loss of their possessions – no one was allowed back into Holly Hall as of Tuesday, April 5, and it’s likely no one will be allowed to enter the building for at least a week, Middletown police said.

It’s encouraging that those who were not directly affected by the blaze feel compassion for others, and are eager to help however they can.

Lately Middletown has been known for its political squabbles and extensive road construction – we’re undergoing a pervasive, though temporary, makeover that has left streets a little bumpy. Far more important is how compassionate Middletown is in such a significant time of need. "Familial,'' is how Mayor James H. Curry III described it in Facebook posts after witnessing the response to pleas for donations. Indeed, this is the true measure of the town.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 April 2016 11:40

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