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Middletown council votes 4-3 to get rid of economic development authority

Middletown Borough Council by 4-3 vote during its June 7 meeting voted to dissolve the Industrial and Commercial Development Authority.

 The dissolution cannot take place overnight, as borough Solicitor Adam Santucci noted. However, the authority will not be holding its regularly scheduled meeting which was to occur on Wednesday, June 8, said Mayor James H. Curry III. Curry is a member of the authority but has repeatedly spoken in favor of doing away with the body.

The motion to dissolve the authority was not on the agenda for the council meeting but was brought up by council’s newest member, Ian Reddinger.

 Reddinger was appointed to council in May to replace Greg Wilsbach, who had resigned. Reddinger was also then appointed to the authority to replace council Vice President Damon Suglia, who had resigned from the authority. The other members of the authority tapped Reddinger to be the authority’s new chairman to replace Suglia.

 The fate of the authority has been in limbo since the new council leadership took office in January. The new council in one of its first moves replaced nearly the entire membership of the authority. Several members of the new council were appointed to replace the former authority members. The stated intent was that the new council members would be temporary until new people from the community could be found to serve on the authority, however that never happened.

Reddinger said the authority should be dissolved because except for Curry, all current members of the authority are on the council.

 “Council is making all the decisions. Having the authority is just doing it twice,” he said.

Council members Ann Einhorn and Diana McGlone voted against doing away with the authority. McGlone is also currently a member of the authority.

The council should follow through with its plan to appoint “community members” to the authority, although council should still have some representation on the body, Einhorn said. 

McGlone said that the authority has the power to do things that the borough cannot do, especially when it comes to obtaining grants and loans that can help with business revitalization.

 Council President Ben Kapenstein disagreed, saying he is not aware of anything that the authority is able to do that the borough cannot also do.

Voting to dissolve the authority was Kapenstein and fellow members Reddinger, Ed Shull, and Dawn Knull. Knull is also currently on the authority.

Einhorn, McGlone, and Robert Reid voted in favor of keeping the authority.

The actual motion that passed was to terminate the authority following a process that will be outlined by Santucci. At a minimum, council needs to pass a resolution to dissolve the authority that would be filed with the Pennsylvania Department of State, Santucci said.

In addition, all projects that are currently associated with the authority, such as the downtown streetscape and the Tattered Flag combined craft brewery/distillery to be located in the Elks Building, would have to be completely turned over to the borough - along with any funding and contracts that are tied to those projects, Santucci pointed out.

Not mentioned but another unresolved issue that up until now has been handled by the authority is the fate of the Elks Theater, which has been closed since April 2015.

Borough web site

 Council also heard a presentation from Strawberry Box Media, a firm in Middletown that is interested in revamping and maintaining the borough web site. Council took no action on the proposal.

Parking study

 Council also heard Curry give an overview of a study with recommendations that was done of the downtown parking situation by Middletown Police Officer Gary Rux.

 Council earlier this year ordered the police department to undertake a study, to address concerns from downtown businesses that key parking spaces in the downtown are taken up for hours and even days at a time by commuters using the nearby Amtrak train station.

The study by Rux found that 72 percent of vehicles parked on streets during peak hours in the core downtown area were registered to people who live outside of Middletown, Curry said.

 The study focused on the area of South Union Street running from Emaus down to Brown Street, and on some of the related side streets. 

Among recommendations of the study are increasing fines for parking tickets, placing time limits on parking in designated areas, and establishing a placard system so residents who live downtown have access to parking spaces.

The study is to be distributed to all council members with the hope that further discussion and possibly action can be taken at an upcoming council meeting, Curry said. On a related note, McGlone called for the borough to place signs letting visitors know about the free parking that is available in the lot behind the Municipal Building.

Certificates of appreciation

During a ceremony before the meeting, council also presented certificates of appreciation to recognize a large number of first responders and volunteers for their actions related to the fire in the Pineford apartment complex in April.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 June 2016 06:31

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Stray dogs plague boro; cop bitten

A Lower Swatara Twp. police officer will be off the streets for at least a week after he was bitten by a dog in Middletown on Thursday, June 2. It’s the latest in a surge of incidents involving out-of-control dogs in Middletown – most of them pit bulls, borough police say. 

Police are asking the owners of stray dogs to take more responsibility. If they don’t, “I think you will see fewer warnings” and more citations handed out by police, “especially where the dog has shown aggressive tendencies,” said Middletown Police Sgt. Richard Hiester.

Since April 1, Middletown police have responded to 11 incidents involving a loose dog that either attacked a person or another dog, or was behaving in a threatening manner. That compares to just two such incidents for the same period in 2015, Hiester said. 

The 11 incidents are by no means the total regarding how many times  borough police have had to respond to some kind of call related to a dog problem in Middletown. For example, “we have (had) a whole bunch of running at large” calls, Hiester said.

He’s not sure what’s driving the disturbing trend. In some cases, big dogs that need room to run are kept in residences that do not have a large backyard, or any backyard at all. Or, where there is a yard, the fencing may not be adequate or there may be no enclosure at all.

Also, “some of (the owners) may be trying to use these dogs for home defense rather than as pets,’’ Hiester said. “Without the proper training, it’s an unwise practice.”

Hiester knows pit bulls get a bad rap. But unfortunately, nearly all of the recent incidents have involved the pit bull breed, he said.

In the latest incident, Middletown police responded to a a 911 call from a mail carrier who said a dog – described as a boxer/pit bull mix – chased him in the area of East Roosevelt Avenue and Vine Street just after noon on June 2.

The Middletown officer tried to get the dog under control using a catch pole, and requested assistance from Lower Swatara. Officers cornered the dog in the area of Oak Hill, where kids were playing in the park.

Lower Swatara Patrolman Randy Richards tried to grab the dog by the collar, but the dog bit him on his left hand over his left thumb. The dog got away and ran to a residence in the 300 block of Elm Court – where it lived with its owner, police learned afterward. Police finally subdued the dog using a Taser.

The animal was not hurt, but had to be quarantined at the Humane Society of the Harrisburg Area, Hiester said.

Richards was taken by ambulance to the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. He will be off duty for at least a week, said township Police Chief Richard Brandt.

“It is a fairly deep wound that went down to the tendon,” Brandt said.

Borough police said they plan to cite the owner for numerous dog law violations. No charges had been filed with District Justice David Judy as of Monday, June 6.

The June 2 incident is at least the second time this year that someone has been injured from a bite by an out-of-control dog in Middletown, according to borough police. On April 27, a postman was attacked by a pit bull and required medical attention, Hiester said.

Borough police recommend that owners install a micro-chip in their dog that makes it much easier to find the owner. Police have a device at the station that retrieves information from the chips, Hiester said.

But if incidents like the one on June 2 continue, police will not risk getting close enough to a dog to read the chip, Hiester added. Police will subdue the dog using any means necessary to protect themselves and the public, and the owner will then have to pay the cost to retrieve the dog from the Humane Society.

Police may also make more use of a state law on the books that allows the district judge to declare a dog as a “dangerous dog,” Hiester said. A dog being declared dangerous could lead to a long list of requirements imposed upon the dog’s owner. Among them: The owner could be required to pay an annual $500 registration fee, confine the dog in a “proper enclosure,” micro-chip the dog, spay or neuter the dog and comply with any court-ordered restitution for injuries or property damage, as well as post a surety bond of $50,000. 

A full list of the requirements can be found on the Dangerous Dogs section of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture web site.

The site also has a listing of all dangerous dogs in Pennsylvania by county and municipality. Currently there are three dangerous dogs with a Middletown address listed on the registry but just one located in the borough itself – a mixed breed German Shepherd/Rottweiler in the first block of State Street. Otherwise, there is a mixed breed in the 700 block of Fulling Mill Road in Lower Swatara Twp., and a German Shepherd in the 1100 block of Colebrook Road in Londonderry Twp., according to the registry.

A state dog law warden is assigned to Middletown and available to assist police with the follow-up involved in dog law cases. But when something happens, it’s borough police who are the first responders, Hiester said. 

Besides the potential for injury to a police officer, the Middletown police department is already short on manpower. The more time police have to spend responding to dog incidents, the less time police are available for other duties, Hiester said.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 June 2016 15:22

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HIA awarded $8.8 million for runway project

Harrisburg International Airport is getting an $8.8 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to rehabilitate and rebuild its main runway.

The money will pay for the first phase of a three-year rehabilitation project that will cost an estimated $24.5 million, according to a grant announcement from U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, who represents Lower Swatara Twp.

The grant is funded through HIA’s share of the Airport Improvement Program, a federal funding stream where each airport earns money based on the number of passengers and cargo using the airport.

HIA is “banking” its share of AIP funding to be applied to the multi-year runway project, said HIA spokesman Scott Miller.

Included in phase one this fall is clearing trees at Sunset Golf Course in Londonderry Twp. and in Middletown south of Susquehanna Street to the river. The trees are obstructing the runway, according to FAA.

The runway rehabilitation will be completed in 2018, with associated additional work to the taxiways stretching over into 2019. 

The last time the runway was rebuilt was in 1996 – it is recommended that such work be done about every 20 years, Miller said.  

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 June 2016 15:04

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Middletown man who died from heroin struggled with addiction



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Jack Tillitson was no angel.

He had been abusing heroin and other drugs and alcohol for 30 years. tillitsonphoto6 1 15WEBJack Tillotson

He was busted for marijuana in 2006 and pleaded guilty to a DUI in 2007. Last Halloween, Tillitson was charged with DUI again, this time in Derry Twp.

He was trying to turn it around, however, said Nancy Tillitson, Jack’s mom with whom Jack shared a residence in the 200 block of E. High St. in Middletown.


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Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 June 2016 14:43

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