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Middletown Borough Council to consider repeal of shade tree commission Monday night


Middletown Borough Council will consider adopting an ordinance on Monday, March 2 to get rid of the borough's Shade Tree Commission.


Council voted 6-3 during its Feb. 17 meeting to advertise repeal of Chapter 247, the 1961 borough ordinance that established the commission. Dissenting were Councilors Anne Einhorn, Ben Kapenstein, and Scott Sites. 


A legal notice placed by the borough, which ran in PennLive on Feb. 24, did not include the text of the ordinance that council is to consider Monday, Ordinance No. 1312. The published notice did not refer to Ordinance No. 1312 by name, only to Chapter 247.


Council President Chris McNamara proposed during a Feb. 4 meeting of council's public safety committee that council get rid of the commission in favor of a system where the borough would act directly as the permitting authority for the planting, removal and maintenance of trees under borough jurisdiction.


The state Borough Code gives council authority to "plant, transplant, remove, maintain and protect shade trees on the streets and highways in the borough." The code also gives council authority "to employ and pay persons and make and enforce regulations as may be necessary for the care and protection of the shade trees of the borough."


The code does not require the borough to have a Shade Tree Commission. The code references a shade tree commission as a mechanism by which a borough can carry out its responsibilities regarding shade trees.


As McNamara put it, having a Shade Tree Commission is "a may, not a shall," under state law.


In tandem with repeal of the Shade Tree Commission, McNamara has proposed the borough put out a request for proposals toward hiring one company that would be awarded the contract to maintain all shade trees that come under borough jurisdiction. A request for proposals, instead of a bid, would mean the borough would not be obligated to just go with the lowest bidder, but could consider other criteria besides price in deciding to whom to award the contract, McNamara said.


Besides trees that are in the public right-of-way – or overhang or otherwise impact the public right-of-way – the shade trees under borough jurisdiction also include those that impact electrical lines.


McNamara contends that having a fixed contract with one company to do all the tree work would save money compared to the practice that the borough currently follows.According to McNamara, that amounts to an unregulated process by which the borough goes out and hires any company it wants on an as-needed basis.


During council's Feb. 17 meeting, McNamara held up a thick pile of papers that he claimed was documentation of the borough having spent $700,000 on maintaining trees. He later told the Press And Journal that the $700,000 covered a 10-year period.


It appears under state law that even if council gets rid of Middletown's Shade Tree Commission, the borough must still publicly advertise in advance any actions the borough plans to take regarding shade trees.


According to Chapter 2720.3 of the state Borough Code, "If council proposes to plant, transplant or remove shade trees on any street, notice of the time and place of the meeting at which the work is to be considered shall be given in one newspaper of general circulation once a week for two weeks immediately preceding the time of the meeting. The notice shall specify in detail the streets or portions upon which trees are proposed to be planted, transplanted or removed."


"In the event that a shade tree commission is to undertake the work, the commission shall provide the notice."


Council Monday night may also discuss revised guidelines to the process by which residents apply for and receive a designated on-street handicapped parking place. Revised guidelines have been submitted to council's public safety committee by borough Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Miller.


Miler has also submitted proposals to the committee regarding storage tanks, and the temporary storage of materials on the public right-of-way.


The storage tank revision would add language that would require all property owners to remove any above- and below-ground petroleum or petroleum derivative storage tanks that are no longer in service.


"You are better off getting rid of stuff than trying to keep it in place or bury it," Miller said, explaining his reasoning behind seeking the requirement.





Ordinance 1312 - Repealing Chapter 247 of Borough Code of Ordinances (Shade Tree Commission)-1

Last Updated on Friday, 27 February 2015 17:48

Hits: 247

Trial set for township man charged with assault

A Lower Swatara Twp. man charged by police with the alleged aggravated assault of a 6-month-old boy is scheduled to stand trial on March 20.

Stephen M. Lehman Jr., 27, allegedly threw the infant into a playpen on July 20, township police charged. The child was under the care of Lehman and the baby’s older sister, who was Lehman’s girlfriend, while the mother was at work, police said.

The infant sustained injuries including a fractured skull, authorities said. The child was released from the hospital on July 23.

Besides felony aggravated assault; Lehman is also charged with simple assault, and endangering the welfare of children, both misdemeanors. Lehman remains in Dauphin County Prison.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 February 2015 15:32

Hits: 271

Sunoco seeks PUC ruling on stations along pipeline


Sunoco Logistics has not provided plans of the exact location and nature of the above-ground buildings and equipment needed in Lower Swatara Twp. for its Mariner 1 and Mariner 2 pipeline projects, said Bob Greene, planning and zoning coordinator.

Based on Sunoco’s filings with the state Public Utilities Commission, the company wants to avoid presenting local plans for pumping stations and valve control stations along the route, at least as it retrofits its old line. To accomplish this, Sunoco wants the commission to rule that the two types of stations are “reasonably necessary for the convenience and welfare of the public,” because such a ruling would eliminate the need to present its plans for approval in 31 municipalities.

Members of the public will be able to share their views about the attempt to skip local approvals if PUC hearings are scheduled. Residents with concerns about the Sunoco pipeline projects or any utility – from taxi service to sewage treatment - may contact PUC at 1-800-692-7380.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 February 2015 15:27

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WEATHER WATCH FRIDAY, FEB. 20: Extreme cold causes delays

Extreme cold temperatures have caused the following delays and postponements for Friday, Feb. 20:

Middletown Area School District has delayed the start of classes at its schools by two hours.


Last Updated on Thursday, 19 February 2015 17:56

Hits: 387

In 10 minutes, thief takes items from her parked car

She was quickly dropping off her child at a Lower Swatara Twp. daycare center - but in those few minutes someone grabbed her laptop computer and cell phone from her parked car and ran off.

The theft occurred between 8 and 8:10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 13, in the parking lot of the Discovery Kids Childcare Center in the 1000 block of Oberlin Road, according to Lower Swatara police.

The victim, a township resident, told police she spent no more than 10 minutes in the center.

Taken were a Dell laptop valued at $900 and a Samsung S4 phone valued at $600, police said.

Anyone with information about the theft is asked to call police at 717-939-0463.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 February 2015 16:01

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