Written by Press And Journal Staff
Video courtesy of the Pa. Internet News Service
Last Updated on Friday, 06 January 2017 10:41
Written by Press And Journal Staff
It will cost you more to travel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike starting Sunday.
At 12:01 a.m. Jan. 8, tolls will reflect a 6 percent increase for both cash and E-ZPass customers.
According to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, the toll increase — approved by commissioners last July — is needed to meet the PTC’s funding obligations. These include rebuilding and widening the turnpike, a 550-mile system that is, in part, more than 75 years old, as well as providing funding to support the commonwealth’s public transportation needs.
“We have a responsibility to continue to invest capital dollars to improve our aging system and make it safer for travelers; we’re also obliged to fund an operating budget that must cover such costs as unpredictable winter maintenance and an annual reimbursement to PA State Police for Troop T operations,” said Turnpike Chairman Sean Logan. “Furthermore, we are required by law to help fund our state’s infrastructure needs and have delivered $5.2 billion in toll-backed funding to PennDOT in nine years. Today, our annual payments of $450 million help PennDOT provide operating support to mass-transit authorities across the state to mitigate fare increases for transit riders.”
The most common toll for a passenger vehicle will increase from $1.16 to $1.23 for E-ZPass customers and from $1.80 to $1.95 for cash customers.
The most common toll for tractor-trailers will increase from $9.59 to $10.17 for E-ZPass customers and from $13.60 to $14.45 for cash customers.
Travelers can check and calculate fares by clicking https://www.paturnpike.com/toll/tollmileage.aspx. E-ZPass customers can learn where to purchase an E-ZPass GoPak at https://www.paturnpike.com/toll/gopak.aspx.
Last Updated on Friday, 06 January 2017 10:14
Written by Jason Maddux
As of Friday morning, the Middletown Police Department has a new interim chief.
Mayor James H. Curry III swore in George A. Mouchette on Thursday afternoon in the council chambers. Mouchette is a retired New York Police Department lead detective who retired from the force after more than 20 years when his wife took a job with The Hershey Co. several years ago.
READ MORE in Wednesday's Press And Journal about Mouchette's experiences with the NYPD.
On Dec. 6, Chief John Bey resigned effective Dec. 30. Curry has been in charge of the day-to-day operations of the department since then. The mayor can appoint an interim chief without council approval.
“I’m told that the borough has a bit of a narcotics problem. I’ll focus a little on that and see what can be done about that,” Mouchette said after being sworn in. “Like the mayor said, I’m just going to hold the fort down and make improvements where I can.”
Mouchette will be an interim chief until a final decision is made on regionalization of police forces with Lower Swatara Township or potentially a contract for services with that department. Curry said there was no time frame on that decision, but it is something he said the borough should not rush into.
“People have have been trying to do this for 25 years. I have no idea what the correct answer to that question is. All I can say is, if an agreement is reached that gives this community and the community we are hopefully partnering with the same or better level of service and it cuts costs, we’ll do it. If it’s not, then I’m not even touching it,” Curry said.
Mouchette was a first-grade detective for the NYPD. He said the department has about 8,500 detectives, and only about 300 make it up to first-grade detective.
He said he did not have supervisory authority in that job.
“But you don’t have to have the authority to be a leader. Detectives in my unit all followed me, and I was given a lot of latitude because of my leadership skills to design operations and assign people to what they should be doing,” he said.
Curry said he interviewed four internal candidates and three external candidates for the interim job. The position was offered to Sgt. Richard Hiester, a 26-year veteran of the force, Curry said, but an agreement could not be reached. Hiester last week officially notified the borough that he would be retiring — effective Friday, Dec. 30, the same day as Bey.
Mouchette said moving from the largest city in the United States to Middletown’s force will be a smooth transition.
“Being here two years, I’ve realized that everything that happens in New York happens in rural America. It just happens a lot more in New York. So if you have a population of 50,000, you might get one domestic dispute. In New York, there’s 8 million, so you’d get 20 of them. But it’s the same. A domestic dispute in New York is the same as a domestic dispute in Middletown. So I think my skill set is just having the volume of experience that some other officers in rural America might not,” he said.
The focus in his career has been Internal Affairs and narcotics, so he has done all types of investigations, including state and federal.
Curry said talks about regionalization will move forward with public meetings.
Council President Ben Kapenstein and Curry recently met with Lower Swatara Township officials, including Commission President Jon Wilt and Frank Williamson, the township’s public safety director/assistant manager. Kapenstein described the meeting as “positive” but that “nothing detailed” was discussed.
“Our goal was to pick the best candidate for what we need right now. We need an interim chief right now to man the ship as we look at the regionalization effort,” Curry said. “Do I think George would make a great full-time chief? Absolutely. But that’s not what we’re looking for right now. So if the regionalization efforts for some reason are not fruitful, then we would have to go through the proper process of hiring a full-time chief. That would include advertising, that would include the Civil Service Commission, that would include all those protocols that are necessary to make a permanent employment.”
Nothing of significant substance was discussed with Lower Swatara officials, Curry said, other than whether discussions should continue.
“For the public’s sake, there is nothing set in stone at all,” Curry said. “I know there’s been a lot of chatter about this. There has been one meeting where we said, ‘Hi, how are you. Would you be interested in talking about this.’ ‘Yes we are.’”
Mouchette will make $28.85 an hour, which would be $60,000 a year. He will not receive benefits or a pension or be eligible for 401(k). Curry said Bey made more than $80,000 at the time he left.
For now, Mouchette is ready to get started.
“I want to thank the mayor for giving me this opportunity,” he said. “I’ll do the best I can.”
Last Updated on Monday, 09 January 2017 14:11
Written by Press And Journal Staff
A sculpture paying tribute to the history of environmental stewardship by dairy farmers, and crafted from more than 1,000 pounds of butter, was unveiled today at the 101st Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.
The sculpture, sponsored by American Dairy Association North East, highlights practices to enrich the soil and reduce storm-water runoff, such as crop management, plants and groundcover near streams, streambank fencing, and manure storage facilities.
The 2017 sculpture showcases Pennsylvania dairy farmers and an agriculture industry that has high standards for conservation, with deep roots in a culture of stewardship.
“Many people care about the health of our local waters — none more so than farmers, who rely on our land and water to grow the food that we enjoy,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “Our farmers have long recognized the important link between healthy soils, sustainable farming practices, and the quality of our waterways. When we have healthy, viable farms, we have healthy, viable watersheds. You can’t have one without the other.”
Redding unveiled the sculpture with the help of dairy farmer Jim Harbach of Clinton County, Pennsylvania State Dairy Princess Halee Wasson of Centre County, and sculptors Jim Victor and Marie Pelton of Conshohocken, Montgomery County. The sculptors began working in mid-December to create the 2017 edition of a Farm Show tradition that dates back to 1991.
“The butter sculpture is a creative way to showcase the dairy industry and for dairy farmers to tell their story — about the nutritious products we produce, the practices we employ, and the standards we uphold,” said Harbach, of Schrack Dairy Farms in Loganton, Clinton County. “Caring for the land, air and water we share with our communities is important to us all, so I’m pleased to be representing my fellow Pennsylvania dairy farm families today.”
At the close of the show, the butter, which was donated by Land O’ Lakes in Carlisle, Cumberland County, will be transported to a Juniata County dairy farm where it will be run through a methane digester and converted into renewable energy for the farm.
ADANE is funded by dairy farmers to promote milk and dairy products. For more information, visit www.dairyspot.com.
The Pennsylvania Farm Show is the nation’s largest indoor agricultural event, featuring 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits, and 300 commercial exhibitors. According to a report issued by the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau, the 2015 show had an estimated economic impact of $95 million to the south-central Pennsylvania region, supporting more than 18,000 jobs over the course of the week-long event.
The show runs Jan. 7-13 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Jan. 14 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and parking is $15 in Farm Show lots. The Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center, along Cameron and Maclay streets in Harrisburg, is accessible from nearby Interstate 81.
Last Updated on Thursday, 05 January 2017 15:36
Written by Dan Miller
New downtown parking regulations that would include doubling the existing fines for parking violations in the downtown were approved for advertisement by Middletown Borough Council during its Tuesday Jan. 3 meeting.
The proposed change would increase from $15 to $30 the fine for a parking violation if paid within 48 hours.
The fine for after 48 hours but before a summons is issued would increase from $30 to $60.
The maximum fine for a parking violation in the downtown would go from the current $75 to $150.
The proposed ordinance must receive a second and final approval from council before it can go into effect. Council approving the ordinance for advertisement makes the proposal available for public inspection and comment, before council can consider final passage at an upcoming meeting. Council did not set a date for final passage.
The downtown parking district that is impacted by the proposed changes includes the south side of Brown Street east of the intersection with South Union Street to Pine Street, the north side of Brown Street from Pine to Union streets, both sides of Poplar Street from Brown to Mill streets, and both sides of Mill Street from Union to Poplar Street.
Changes in downtown parking regulations have been long sought by downtown businesses whose cause has been championed by Councilor Robert Reid.
The concerns of downtown businesses mostly focus upon on-street spaces that the businesses say are taken up for days at a time by people who use the nearby Amtrak train station. This makes the spots unavailable for customers of the businesses, downtown business owners say.
The proposed ordinance also sets time limits for a number of parking spaces and areas within the downtown parking district, and establishes several special purpose parking zones.
Proposed medical marijuana ordinance also approved for advertisement
Council during the meeting also approved for advertisement a proposed ordinance that would dictate where a medical marijuana dispensary can be located within Middletown.
A medical marijuana dispensary would be allowed as a use by right in commercial and manufacturing zoning districts within Middletown, according to the proposal. However, the ordinance does not supersede a provision in the state’s new medical marijuana law that a dispensary cannot be located within 1,000 feet of either a school or a day care facility, noted borough Solicitor Adam Santucci.
The proposed ordinance also means that a medical marijuana dispensary - or a medical marijuana grower/processor facility for which the proposed ordinance also provides - cannot be located in any residential district in Middletown, said Councilor Diana McGlone.
Carlisle and Steelton are among municipalities in the region that have already approved ordinances governing where a medical marijuana dispensary can locate. McGlone said having the ordinance in place is crucial for the borough to compete with other municipalities seeking to attract one of the limited number of medical marijuana dispensaries that will be permitted by the state under the new law.
Kapenstein confirms recent meeting with Lower Swatara officials on regional police; announces public meeting to be held
In other news, Council President Ben Kapenstein said that council plans to hold a public meeting on the subject of police regionalization sometime in January or February. A date for the meeting has not been set yet, Kapenstein said.
Kapenstein made the statement after being asked during the public comment period by resident Rachelle Reid about a recent meeting on police regionalization that was held between Kapenstein and Mayor James H. Curry III and with Lower Swatara Township officials, including Commission President Jon Wilt and Frank Williamson, the township’s public safety director/assistant manager.
Kapenstein described the meeting as “positive” but that “nothing detailed” was discussed.
“We’re keeping a dialogue open and seeing where things go” regarding the possibility of the borough and the township entering into some kind of shared or regional police arrangement, Kapenstein said.
Mayor - Interim chief has been selected but still going through background checks
On a related note, Curry said that he has made a job offer to an individual to serve as interim chief of the police department to replace John Bey, whose resignation as chief of the Middletown Police Department was effective on Friday, Dec. 30.
Curry said that the appointment is subject to the person successfully getting through background checks and all the other “red tape and hoops” that go with appointing someone as interim chief.
Curry declined to identify the person he has chosen as interim chief, until the candidate is able to successfully complete the background checks and other requirements. Curry also would not say whether the person he has picked is someone who is now with the Middletown Police Department, or whether it is someone whom the mayor is bringing in from outside the department.
Curry would not say how long he thinks it will be before the candidate gets through this process. However, the mayor said he expects the process to be completed for the interim chief to be in place “very shortly.”
The mayor noted that he made the job offer to the candidate before Bey departed on Dec. 30.
Curry said that he as mayor has been in charge of the police department since Bey left.
New full-time zoning and codes officer hired and on board
In other news, Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter announced that the borough has hired a new full-time codes and zoning officer, Mark Shipkowski, who was in the audience. Shipkowski's first day was Tuesday, Jan. 3. He replaces Jeff Miller, the borough's previous full-time codes and zoning officer, who resigned in December 2015.
Shipkowski is a life-long borough resident.
The council also issued a proclamation in honor of the late John Hoerner, the former mayor of Highspire, who died unexpectedly at age 62 overnight from Dec. 23 into Dec. 24.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 January 2017 22:52