Written by Jim Lewis
A small fire from an overheated motor that circulates water to cool equipment at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant was extinguished around 10 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 5 by a TMI on-site fire brigade, according to the plant's operator.
The Unit 1 reactor was not threatened by the fire, which was put out quickly, and the incident posed no threat to the public's safety, according to Exelon Corp.
At no time was there a danger of radiation being released, according to a Nixle alert issued at about 11 p.m. Monday by Middletown Borough.
TMI declared an alert, the second-lowest of four emergency classifications under the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and notified state and local officials, Exelon said in an e-mail sent to local media.
The plant generated enough electricity for about 800,000 homes, according to Exelon.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 October 2015 17:07
Written by Eric Wise
Londonderry Twp.’s initial inspections of Beech Island have found that some property owners are pushing forward with improvements to their summer getaway properties that could land them in more trouble.
Under mandates from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Londonderry Twp. is conducting an inspection of the township’s 500 island properties. Most of the properties, with the exception of some on Hill Island, fall within areas that are prone to flooding, and FEMA officials are compelling the township to get the summer cabins in line with FEMA regulations or the township will risk losing government-backed flood insurance for all of its residents.
Through newsletter articles and a public meeting, township officials have tried to reach out to owners of island retreats to let them know they must document the buildings on the islands and ensure they meet FEMA standards. The township made it clear that no additional building may occur without a permit – and none have been issued.
Still, “There’s new construction out on the islands,” said Jeff Burkhart, who heads the township’s planning and zoning department and has inspected nearly all the properties on Beech Island. “I don’t know what they think they are doing.”
Burkhart said he fears that anyone continuing without permits will invoke harsher punishments on the township.
“We have a problem with property owners who think, ‘Continue on, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than to stop,’ ” said Anna Dale, a township supervisor.
Permits ensure work is being done to the standards set by FEMA covering everything from anchoring, elevation and even the type of paint used.
The township is collecting data based on the location, elevation and sewage treatment for the properties. September inspections found that 53 of 71 properties had buildings presently in use. Many of these, Burkhardt said, were stick-built construction.
FEMA regulations require that buildings “substantially damaged” in floods should be addressed by elevating them, moving them to higher ground or demolition. All buildings below base flood elevation are grouped as “substantially damaged” by the flood in 2011, according to FEMA.
There were 23 buildings identified in September that sustained that type of damage. Of those, Burkhardt reported 10 were elevated as required. Flood insurance paid for 17 substantially damaged buildings with just six complying with the requirement to elevate. None were relocated or demolished.
The inspection and inventory of the buildings was initially estimated to cost more than $300,000. The township will save at least 50 percent of that cost as it inspects the properties internally, rather than contracting an outside firm, said Steve Letavic, township manager.
That cost could equate to a tax increase of up to 2 mills, but Letavic said he does not want to burden Londonderry residents for an issue on the islands where people “are not following the rules.” “Ninety percent of the people out there are not our residents,” Letavic said.
However, when the township held a stakeholders meeting, island property owners said it was unfair that they paid property taxes at the same rate as mainland residents while receiving no township services. Aside from township contributions to the Londonderry Fire Department, which will respond to the islands, the township does not provide any municipal services to the island cabins and retreats.
The issues with the islands will continue over the coming years, as the township will be forced to use its data to begin enforcing FEMA requirements on the islands. In about two years, the township will also begin enforcing its own ordinance for on-lot sewage systems for island properties.
Thanks to FEMA and requirements passed down from the state Department of Environmental Protection, Londonderry Twp. will be spending tax money to keep a close watch on the 500 properties in the river – island getaways whose owners say the township ignored for decades.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 October 2015 15:16
Written by Dan Miller
Main Street in Middletown will not be repaved until 2016, officials with both the borough and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation have confirmed.
The rough condition of the road going into winter has been a source of concern for borough residents and borough officials alike.
At this point, it appears that both the borough and PennDOT are looking to Doli Construction of Chalfont – the company that the borough hired to do the water and sewer line replacement project under the road – to come back and make Main Street passable for the winter, to the degree that is possible without repaving.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 October 2015 16:09
Written by Dan Miller
A two-car accident in front of the Middletown Home on Route 230 in Lower Swatara Twp. around 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 30 ripped one of the vehicles in half – but miraculously, no one was seriously injured, township police said.
A Mazda Protege pulled out of a Middletown Home driveway into the path of a Volkswagen Jetta that was heading west in the passing lane on 230, Lower Swatara Police Chief Richard Brandt told the Press And Journal.
The Jetta struck the rear of the Mazda behind the driver's side, and the impact sheared off the back half of the Mazda and sent it over the guardrail on the other side of Route 230, Brandt said.
Golf clubs that were in the trunk of the Mazda landed all over the road, and debris from the crash was scattered across all three railroad tracks on the Harrisburg International Airport side of the highway, he said.
The driver of the Mazda, 20-year-old Jayson Elhajj of Lower Swatara Twp., was taken by ambulance to the hospital but his injuries appeared to be minor, Brandt said.
The driver of the Jetta, 17-year-old Noah Zimmerman, and a 15-year-old passenger, both of Lower Swatara Twp., refused medical treatment, Brandt said. The Jetta was towed from the scene.
"This was a fraction of an inch away from (being) a fatal accident," Brandt said. Had anyone been in the back seat of the Mazda, they almost certainly would have been seriously injured or even killed, the chief said.
Moreover, things would have been much worse had there been other traffic on the road at the time, especially heading east on Route 230 into Middletown, but luckily there wasn't, Brandt said.
"It would have been a three or four-car accident," the chief said.
The crash is still under investigation. No drugs or alcohol were involved, Brandt said. It appears that Elhajj pulled out into the path of the Jetta, which did not have any chance to avoid the collision, Brandt said.
It's possible Elhajj did not see the Jetta coming, but it's still too early in the investigation to know, Brandt said. Brandt said he does not expect any criminal charges to be filed.
At least two fatal accidents have occurred in this same area over the last 20 to 30 years, Brandt said. In one case, an elderly resident of the home was killed after pulling out into the path of another vehicle in broad daylight, Brandt said.
Brandt advised that drivers use caution when exiting the Middletown Home onto Route 230.
Lower Swatara police were assisted at the scene by police from Highspire and Penn State Harrisburg. Amtrak police were also alerted to the crash.
Also assisting were fire departments from Highspire, Lower Swatara, and Londonderry Twp., and Lower Swatara public works employees.
Last Updated on Thursday, 01 October 2015 11:54
Written by Dan Miller
A new three-year contract has been approved for teachers in Middletown Area School District, according to a joint statement issued on Monday, Sept. 28, by the Middletown Area School Board and the teachers’ union, the Middletown Area Education Association.
The school board approved the contract by 9-0 vote on Monday, Sept. 28. The teachers have approved the contract, according to the joint statement.
The contract provides for average salary increases of 2.7 percent in each year of the agreement, which runs from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2018.
The average raise for district teachers in the first year is $1,386 (2.4 percent), followed by $1,597 (2.7 percent) in the second year and $1,639 in the third year (2.7 percent).
Hourly rates for extra-work assignments will gradually increase from the current $30.75 per hour to $35 per hour by the end of the agreement.
The new contract continues the qualified high deductible health plan that the school district put in place six years ago. The amount that teachers must pay toward their health care coverage will go up in each of the three years of the agreement, according to the joint statement.
The agreement also includes changed or added language pertaining to extended contract employees, supplemental contract timing, credit for teaching and evaluating exceptional children, induction program participation, personal leave and retirement notification.
The school board and the association entered into initial discussions toward a new contract in January. Both sides reached a tentative agreement in August.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 September 2015 16:26