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After almost 71 years, Steelton native and World War II pilot Capt. Arthur "Archie" Halfpapp is home for good

 Family, friends, members of the military and others wanting to pay their respects came to Middletown today for the funeral of Capt. Arthur "Archie" Halfpapp, a World War II pilot from Steelton whose P-47 Thunderbolt went down during a combat mission over Italy nearly 71 years ago.

    Among the 75 or so people attending the service at the Matinchek & Daughter Funeral Home were two Italian excavators who in October 2014 found Halfpapp's aircraft and his remains not far from the Po River near Guarda, Italy.

halfpappfuneral2Press And Journal Photo by Dan Miller -- The two Italian excavators who found Capt. Arthur Halfpapp's plane and remains pose just before the start of his funeral in Middletown today. On the right is archeologist Gianluca Mazzanti.

  

 The discovery by the men led to DNA testing that confirmed the identity of Halfpapp, a 1939 Steelton High School graduate who was 23 years old at the time of his death.

    Halfpapp's plane was brought down by anti-aircraft fire while he was on his  103rd combat mission on April 24, 1945, just 14 days before the war in Europe would end.

     Halfpapp had flown more than enough missions to earn his ticket home, but instead chose to fly in place of a rookie pilot, according to Halfpapp's nephew Rev. Jack Sipe, who lives in Londonderry Twp.

    Halfpapp worried that the inexperienced pilot would make a mistake and be killed in the waning days of the war in Europe, Sipe said. Halfpapp also wanted to go on to fight in Japan, according to letters he wrote home.

    Halfpapp's body, carried in a flag-draped coffin, arrived in a Delta aircraft that landed at Harrisburg International Airport shortly after 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12.

    During Thursday's funeral the two Italian men who found Halfpapp received a round of sustained applause after being introduced to those attending the service.

    The service included the presenting of Halfpapp's military decorations, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and others, to members of Halfpapp's family by Air Force Brig. Gen. Anthony J. Carrelli, the acting adjutant general of Pennsylvania.

    Carelli also presented a letter to the family from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, who called Halfpapp "a true role model for all Pennsylvanians."

    Sen. Mike Folmer, his voice breaking with emotion, presented a citation to the family on behalf of the state Senate.

    Halfpapp's coffin was carried with military precision into a waiting hearse by a uniformed honor guard. A Middletown police escort led the hearse and Halfpapp's funeral procession out of Matinchek and past a small group of people who were standing on the sidewalk and waving American flags.

    Halfpapp was then buried with full military honors at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery. About 100 people attended the ceremony at the Gap, said funeral director Zachary Matinchek.

Last Updated on Friday, 15 April 2016 09:19

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Council to seek replacement for Wilsbach

Middletown Borough Council voted to accept the resignation of Second Ward Councilor Greg Wilsbach on Tuesday, April 5.

Wilsbach, a Republican, was elected to a four-year term in November. He said in a resignation letter dated March 22 that he was leaving to apply for a job as the borough’s public works director.

The borough will now accept letters of interest and resumes from Second Ward residents who want to fill the council vacancy created by Wilsbach’s resignation.

Council plans to appoint a replacement at its May 3 meeting, said council President Ben Kapenstein.

The borough also is accepting applications from Middletown residents who are interested in serving on the town’s new five-member planning commission and the Olmsted Regional Recreation Board. One seat is open on the rec board. Applications will be accepted over the next 30 days.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 April 2016 16:23

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Feds say they are not forcing island cabin removal

cabinphoto4 13 16SLIDEPress and Journal Photo by Eric Wise -- A summer cabin on Shelley Island.

York Haven Power Company was granted a 40-year extension on its license to operate a hydroelectric generation station along the Susquehanna River in December under conditions established by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

 

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 April 2016 16:20

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Lower Swatara, police wrestle with hiring issue

Lower Swatara Twp. police officers and their supporters have quizzed the township’s commissioners several times this year about when a new officer will be hired to replace two cops who left the department in 2015. 

Following months of questions, the commissioners’ plans for the police force remain unclear – when, and if, an officer will be hired.

While “public safety is top priority’’ for the township, the commissioners first must “try to resolve the collective bargaining issues’’ involved in a new police contract reached through arbitration in 2015, and “objectively and deliberately determine when it is appropriate to hire a new officer,’’ said Commissioner Jon G. Wilt, who leads the commissioners’ police committee, in a statement he read at a recent township meeting.

“Unfortunately, these issues do take time to resolve in a matter that is best for our community,’’ Wilt said in his statement.

The new police contract resulted from binding arbitration in the spring of 2015. Michael Miller of Eckert Seamans, a law firm that represented the township in labor negotiations, said the police association had refused to negotiate with the township for negotiations, resulting in an impasse and a need for arbitration.

However, Lower Swatara Police Chief Richard Brandt said it was the township that refused to meet with the police association. Two other township sources familiar with the bargaining confirmed that the township was unwilling to hold any talks with the union, which led to the arbitration. 

“There was no negotiation involved,” said township police Sgt. Daniel Tingle, a police association leader. “They never spoke to us.”

The collective bargaining agreement that resulted from arbitration allowed Lower Swatara to stop paying for police officers’ health insurance after they retire – for any officer hired after the agreement was put in place in 2015. Because new officers would not receive this benefit, starting officers’ salaries were increased.

The new agreement resulted in four patrolmen who were already on the force, hired in June 2013, earning a base salary of $45,856 – lower than the new starting salary of $48,000 for a new hire.

The 2016 budget
Brandt submitted a 2016 budget to commissioners that added $4,000 to the base salary of the remaining officers hired in June 2013. His budget request included the same number of officers he started with in 2015, which meant replacing Stephen Sassani, who retired July 1, and Justin Dinger, who left the department Sept. 4 as he sought a career change. Two replacement police vehicles were also included in the budget requests.

Brandt submitted his budget to township manager Samuel Monticello, who is no longer employed by the township. Monitcello said the job of approving budget requests lies with the commissioners, so Brandt’s proposal in its entirety was given to the township’s finance committee, which includes Michael Davies, the commissioner who serves as the committee’s chairman, and Tom Mehaffie, the president of the commissioners. 

The budget presented to the full board of commissioners included money to replace just one of the two officers who had left, one of two police vehicles and none of the $4,000 to address the discrepancy in pay between 3-year veteran officers and new hires. Mehaffie said on April 6 that increases to the existing officers’ base pay were not considered during the budget process.

Following a budget session on Nov. 4, Brandt told the commissioners that he had the information ready if the commissioners intend to hire a new officer.

In 2016, questions begin
By Jan. 20, Commissioner Laddie Springer asked about hiring the new officer in the budget, and township manager Anne Shambaugh, who had started working for the township Dec. 1, said she needed information from Brandt to begin the process.

Residents asked the commissioners about the apparent delays in hiring a police officer during meetings on Feb. 3, 17 and March 2. On Feb. 17, Mehaffie said the police committee was working on it.

On March 2, Shambaugh said she was continuing to gather information, mentioning that she was looking at the township police needs for manpower. Mehaffie thanked Shambaugh for “expediting things.”

Commissioners offer their side
Wilt’s statement, which he read during a meeting on March 16, said the township was dealing with many increasing costs that forced it to eliminate post-retirement health insurance benefits for its employees, which included newly-hired police officers following an arbitration decision.

“Newly-hired officers will receive a $3,500 base salary increase over the current junior patrol officers, who will continue to receive post-retirement healthcare benefits,” Wilt said. “The post-retirement healthcare benefits enjoyed by these officers has a value of at least $200,000 per officer over the period between an officer’s retirement and his or her Medicare eligibility.”

Wilt’s statement did not say how the decision, which was in the township’s favor, had prevented the commissioners from hiring a police officer. However, prior to an April 6 township meeting, Shambaugh said Brandt “is waiting for some police officers to get back to us with a proposal made to them.”

Tingle said the police union has an issue with the pay increase to new officers only.

The Press And Journal has been unable to confirm that any offer has been made to the four officers hired in 2013, and the offer was not discussed April 6.

More explanation
In response to continuing questions about hiring a new police officer, the commissioners listened to a report April 6 from Miller as the township’s attorney during labor negotiations. 

Miller said he does not know why the pay difference has become an issue in hiring a new officer, but that it has. He defended the existing contract as a “hard fought” victory for the township and cautioned the commissioners against “blowing up” the decision.

“This was one of the big successes in the arbitration,” Miller said. He called the benefit “unsustainable” and said, “We can’t afford it,” although the township has fully funded its retirement benefits for all its employees.

The commissioners provided a list of salaries and overtime earning paid to each of their police officers. According to the list, Lower Swatara paid more than $80,000 to three officers, including the police chief in 2014. The township paid three officers $70,000 to $80,000, four officers $60,000 to $70,000 and five officers $40,000 to $60,000.

Based on information received through a Right to Know request, Steelton paid two officers more than $100,000 for the same year, four officers $90,000 to $100,000 and four officers $80,000 to $90,000 for that year. These figures, for both Lower Swatara and Steelton, indicate the gross wages that account for various times of overtime, shift differential pay, holiday pay and other payments reported on the officers’ W-2 tax statements. 

Commissioner Todd Truntz asked Miller about the pay of Lower Swatara’s police. “I keep hearing that our officers are the lowest paid,” Truntz told Miller.

“They start out at a little lower number, but they move up pretty quickly,” Miller said. “After three, four, five years, they are at the 50 , 60, 70 thousand-dollar range.”

Lower Swatara officers’ base salary is $48,000 at hire in the new contract. In comparison, police officers at nearby departments are paid $55,000 in Middletown, $57,560 in Highspire, $53,271 in Steelton, and $68,712 in Swatara Twp., according to figures provided by the neighboring municipalitieis.

In Derry Twp., a new hire is paid $43,923 while on probation, after which his salary increases to $66,000. It would take a Lower Swatara officer more than eight years to reach that $66,000 base pay under the current contract.

A new hire in Lower Swatara will receive $54,000 base pay after three years of service. Officers with three years of service will be paid $65,700 in Middletown, $69,191 in Highspire, $64,234 in Steelton, and $68,712 in Swatara Township, and $73,164 Derry Twp.

Will the township hire a police officer?
Lower Swatara has reduced its police force from 17 officers in 2012 to 16 from 2013 to 2015. The township budgeted for 15 in this year, but one position remains unfilled. Shambaugh said inclusion in the budget does not require the township to spend money on a line item of any kind.

“They have been reducing the force by attrition and leaving vacancies unfilled for some time before filling them,” Tingle said of the commissioners.

Miller made a case for not hiring a new officer during his appearance on April 6.

“To a certain degree, the statistics with regard to the police…raise a reasonable question whether the board wants to consider hiring an officer,” he said. He cited statistics from the Lower Swatara police, including a drop of calls for service in 2016 and a low use of the police overtime budget. He noted the cost of a decision to hire an officer, with a base salary of $48,000 and $27,000 in other costs. 

“I am not sure I see the math that requires a new officer,” Miller said.

No commissioners commented on whether a new officer should be hired.



Last Updated on Thursday, 14 April 2016 14:56

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Borough's largest employer threatens to stop buying electricity from Middletown

  

A company that described itself as the largest employer in Middletown threatened during

borough council’s April 5 meeting to stop buying electricity from the borough and purchase

it from Met-Ed instead.

Stephen Gardner, an attorney representing Librandi’s Machine Shop, said that the price

Librandi’s pays to Middletown for electricity is “significantly above the market price for power.”

That is at variance from what council had been hearing in late 2015 and earlier this year

from its financial consultant, Mark Morgan. Morgan told council several times during

deliberations toward the 2016 budget that the rate that Middletown charges its customers

for electricity was as much as two cents below that being charged by companies like

Met-Ed and PPL.

Council in February raised the electric rate by 1 cent to help balance the 2016 budget.

Gardner said that Librandi’s by exercising its “legal right” to stop buying power from

Middletown and by switching to Met-Ed “can save millions of dollars in the long run,

especially given that Middletown has just increased its rates when Met-Ed’s rates are down.”

Switching would also allow Librandi’s to exercise a “customer choice” option to purchase

generation from a third-party provider, something Gardner said that Librandi’s also cannot

do now under the current arrangement with Middletown.

Librandi’s is one of the largest consumers of electricity in Middletown, Gardner said, adding

“In the last seven years Librandi’s has paid the borough some $2.5 million for electricity.”

Librandi’s paid the borough more than $370,000 for electricity in 2015, and if the company

leaves this year the borough stands to lose an estimated $400,000 in revenue in 2016,

Gardner said.

At the same time, Gardner offered the council one last opportunity to keep Librandi’s as a

customer.

“It is possible that the borough and Librandi’s could reach an accord - a win win - where

Librandi’s will pay market rate and the borough will continue to receive revenue,” Gardner

said.

“But for the last seven years the borough has refused to even meet with Librandi’s to

discuss electricity rates. Overture after overture has been made to Middletown, time after time Middletown has ignored Librandi’s….make no mistake about it, the blame falls to the borough for refusing to ever return a phone call, to answer a letter and refusing to even have a discussion with Librandi’s.”

Council President Ben Kapenstein said “I’d be happy to meet with you. I’ve never had the

opportunity.”

He also noted that former Councilor Greg Wilsbach had met with Librandi’s recently during

a session that Kapenstein was also to attend, but was unable to.

“You name the day, we will be there,” said Tom Librandi, chief operating officer of Librandi’s,

who was also at the council meeting.

Librandi said that his company has put “about $15 to $20 million” a year into the borough’s

economy. “That’s nothing to sneeze at.”

In other developments from the April 5 council meeting, council voted 7-0 to accept

Wilsbach’s resignation as a Second Ward councilor effective immediately. Wilsbach is

resigning because he has applied for the position of the borough public works director.

The borough will now accept letters of interest and resumes from Second Ward residents

who want to fill the council vacancy created by Wilsbach’s resignation. Council must act to

fill the seat by May 5, and plans to do so at its May 3 meeting, Kapenstein said.

Council also gave final approval to an ordinance abolishing the planning committee, and

establishing a planning commission. Councilor Robert Louer was the only one of seven

councilors present to vote against the measure.

The borough will now accept applications from Middletown residents interested in serving

on the five-member planning commission. Applications will be accepted over the next 30

days.

Council for the next 30 days will also accept applications from residents interested in

serving on the Olmsted Regional Recreation Board. One seat is open to be filled on the

board.

In other actions, council:

- approved a contract with the Humane Society allowing for the police department to drop off stray dogs.

- Appointed John Hevel to serve as acting public works director until someone is hired to replace the previous acting director, Chris Burkholder, whose resignation is effective Thursday, April 7.

- Voted to advertise an ordinance that would replace the current pension system with a 401-K style defined contribution plan for all new hires. The ordinance is only binding upon management personnel, Kapenstein said.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 April 2016 11:08

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