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Police arrest man as suspect in wave of copper thefts from vacant homes in Middletown

A man believed responsible for "the vast majority" of copper theft burglaries from vacant homes in Middletown over the past several months has been arrested by borough police.

James J. Goodling, 43, of Caravan Court, was arrested Wednesday and charged with four of the 14 copper burglaries that have been reported. He was placed in Dauphin County Prison after being unable to post $10,000 bail. A preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 18 before District Judge David Judy.james goodlingJames J. Goodling

Police believe Goodling will eventually "be linked to the vast majority" of the 14 copper burglaries, Chief John Bey told the Press And Journal on Nov. 10.

The four burglaries Goodling is charged with occurred on Aug. 8, Sept. 5, Sept. 19, and Oct. 21, according to online court records. All four were vacant homes in the north side of Middletown, according to a press release put out by borough police on Nov. 9.

Goodling has not confessed to any of the copper burglaries involving homes south of Main Street in Middletown - including one at a home on Race Street just a few doors up from the police station at Race and Emaus streets.

The 14 copper burglaries are among more than 20 home burglaries throughout Middletown that have been reported since June. Police are investigating whether any of these other burglaries - beyond the 14 involving the theft of copper from vacant homes - can be linked to Goodling.

Goodling committed the thefts to support his heroin habit, Bey said. He would get about $80 by pawning the copper that he stole from each residence, police said.

The copper burglaries - most of which Goodling has yet to be charged for - were occurring about once a week. Police believe Goodling was stealing enough copper piping to support his heroin habit for a week, before needing to find another home to break into so he could buy more heroin, Bey said.

Goodling did not have a vehicle and committed the break-ins on foot. He would place the stolen copper and other items in a duffel bag that he carried around with him, Bey said.

Goodling's alleged crime wave shows how much cheaper it is to support a heroin habit today than in the past. In this area today a heroin habit can be supported by just $10 to $20 a day, compared to as much as $100 a day years ago before the current epidemic, according to Richard Brandt, who in July retired as police chief of Lower Swatara Township.

Goodling may only have been getting $80, but the 14 break-ins caused thousands of dollars in damage to the vacant homes, police said.

In just the four vacant properties that Goodling is charged with, the estimated damage from the break-ins totals more than $12,000, police said.

Police had been investigating the copper thefts for months. Many of the thefts were discovered by police checking utility records and then going to vacant properties where the water and electricity had been turned off.  In September police announced a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the copper culprit.

Police had several suspects, but the break leading to Goodling's arrest came after police got a report of a table saw being stolen from one of the vacant homes. The saw was pawned at an area pawn shop and records from the transaction led police to a woman who had driven Goodling to the pawn shop, Bey said.

With this information police got a warrant to search Goodling's residence, which uncovered evidence tying Goodling to the four break-ins. "More (of the break-ins) will be solved as detectives sort through the evidence collected" from Goodling's residence as a result of the search warrant, the press release said.

Police have not charged the woman, whom Bey said told police she did not know that the table saw had been stolen by Goodling. As of right now, police continue to believe that Goodling was acting alone in committing the thefts.

The $2,000 reward is still available and the investigation is continuing, Bey said. Anyone with information is asked to call Middletown police at (717) 902-0627 or (717) 558-6900.

Police are also advising residents "remain vigilant in reporting any suspicious activity in neighborhoods containing vacant houses."

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 November 2016 13:31

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For first-time voters, an Election Party at Penn State Harrisburg

electionpartyStudents living on Penn State Harrisburg watch the returns come in during an Election Party on campus.

A group of Penn State Harrisburg students spent this historic election night watching the returns come in during an election party on campus.

The party was held in a big room in the Community Center in the student housing complex. Staff members with the Residential Life Department, which hosted the party, quizzed the students' knowledge of U.S. election history with trivia questions as the returns came in on a big screen TV.

There was also free food, games, and maps of the United States with states to be colored in red or blue depending on the outcome.

The party was for students who live on campus, most of whom are first-year students and voting for the first time, said Amanda Katherine Blaugher of the Residential Life Department. "We wanted them to experience what could be a very influential election for them."

Judging from the responses from some of the students, nobody seemed overly enthusiastic about either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Caitlyn Hope of Shamokin didn't vote because she wasn't registered. But if she had voted, Hope said she would have gone for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate because she felt Stein is the only one who wasn't corrupt.

"I think the election is just a big mess because both candidates are not appropriate for our country," she said. "You have one candidate who leaks out information and who wants to go to war, and you have another candidate who doesn't know anything about politics. He just threw himself in there thinking he knows everything."

Jordan Jones of Williamsport said she planned to vote and had registered in her home county of Lycoming, but discovered too late she would have to cast an absentee ballot to vote here.

"I don't think that either candidate is very fit to be a president," she said. "Trump is racist and sexist and just a giant angry man who thinks he can use his power and his wealth that he gained over the years to try and become president. He's using fear to control his voters. Hillary should be in jail, she shouldn't even be running."

Yet she would have voted for Trump, because she thinks it is less likely he will get anything through Congress, "whereas Hillary would. I'd rather neither of them be able to pass anything."

Jacob Baumert of Augusta, Ga. voted for Clinton. He supported Bernie Sanders during the primaries but could not vote then.

If voters feel the choices are bad, they have no one to blame but themselves, Baumert said.

"Whether you hate them or love them or whatever, we allowed it to get this way through all our infighting. This election is a product of our hatred toward one another."

No matter who wins - Clinton or Trump - "I honestly think that neither of them will be able to get anything done because Congress will block them, unless they get their respective party to control" the House and Senate, Baumert said.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 November 2016 12:01

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Trump, Toomey win in Middletown, Lower Swatara

Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the borough of Middletown on Tuesday, according to final, unofficial results from Dauphin County.

Trump, the Republican, had 1,797 votes to the Democrat's 1,451.

In the race for U.S. Senate, incumbent Republican Pat Toomey won in Middletown. He had 2,253 votes to 1,484 for Democrat Katie McGinty. 

In Lower Swatara Township, Trump won 2,647 to 1,577. Toomey won 2,670 to 1,606.

Middletown — 1st Ward, 1st Precinct 

President

Donald Trump, Republican, 168

Hillary Clinton, Democrat, 154

U.S. Senator

Katie McGinty, Democrat, 155

Pat Toomey, Republican, 155

Congress, 15th District

Charles Dent, Republican, 164

Rick Daugherty, Democrat, 146

Attorney General 

John Rafferty, Republican, 160

Josh Shapiro, Democrat, 163

Auditor General

Eugene DePasquale, Democrat, 178

John Brown, Republican, 131

State Treasurer

Joe Torsella, Democrat, 166

Otto Voit, Republican, 137

State Representative, 106th District

Tom Mehaffie, Republican, 209

 

Middletown — 1st Ward, 2nd Precinct

President

Donald Trump, Republican, 309

Hillary Clinton, Democrat, 308

U.S. Senator

Katie McGinty, Democrat, 320

Pat Toomey, Republican, 300

Congress, 15th District

Charles Dent, Republican, 320

Rick Daugherty, Democrat, 299

Attorney General 

John Rafferty, Republican, 312

Josh Shapiro, Democrat, 334

Auditor General

Eugene DePasquale, Democrat, 325

John Brown, Republican, 279 

State Treasurer

Joe Torsella, Democrat, 310

Otto Voit, Republican, 276

State Representative, 106th District

Tom Mehaffie, Republican, 435

 

Middletown — 2nd Ward, 1st Precinct

President

Donald Trump, Republican, 393

Hillary Clinton, Democrat, 316

U.S. Senator

Katie McGinty, Democrat, 333

Pat Toomey, Republican, 394

Congress, 15th District

Charles Dent, Republican, 386

Rick Daugherty, Democrat, 311

Attorney General 

John Rafferty, Republican, 379

Josh Shapiro, Democrat, 347

Auditor General

Eugene DePasquale, Democrat, 363

John Brown, Republican, 336 

State Treasurer

Joe Torsella, Democrat, 345

Otto Voit, Republican, 342

State Representative, 106th District

Tom Mehaffie, Republican, 507

 

Middletown — 2nd Ward, 2nd Precinct

President

Donald Trump, Republican, 328

Hillary Clinton, Democrat, 325

U.S. Senator

Katie McGinty, Democrat, 331

Pat Toomey, Republican, 343

Congress, 15th District

Charles Dent, Republican, 348

Rick Daugherty, Democrat, 311 

Attorney General 

John Rafferty, Republican, 338

Josh Shapiro, Democrat, 339

Auditor General

Eugene DePasquale, Democrat, 364

John Brown, Republican, 291

State Treasurer

Joe Torsella, Democrat, 332

Otto Voit, Republican, 306

State Representative, 106th District

Tom Mehaffie, Republican, 475

 

Middletown — 3rd Ward, 1st Precinct

President

Donald Trump, Republican, 268

Hillary Clinton, Democrat, 154

U.S. Senator

Katie McGinty, Democrat, 149

Pat Toomey, Republican, 273

Congress, 15th District

Charles Dent, Republican, 291

Rick Daugherty, Democrat, 129

Attorney General 

John Rafferty, Republican, 273

Josh Shapiro, Democrat, 156

Auditor General

Eugene DePasquale, Democrat, 171

John Brown, Republican, 237

State Treasurer

Joe Torsella, Democrat, 152

Otto Voit, Republican, 256

State Representative, 106th District

Tom Mehaffie, Republican, 334

 

Middletown — 3rd Ward, 2nd Precinct

President

Donald Trump, Republican, 331

Hillary Clinton, Democrat, 194

U.S. Senator

Katie McGinty, Democrat, 196

Pat Toomey, Republican, 333

Congress, 15th District

Charles Dent, Republican, 345

Rick Daugherty, Democrat, 176

Attorney General 

John Rafferty, Republican, 322

Josh Shapiro, Democrat, 208

Auditor General

Eugene DePasquale, Democrat, 241

John Brown, Republican, 276

State Treasurer

Joe Torsella, Democrat, 218

Otto Voit, Republican, 289

State Representative, 106th District

Tom Mehaffie, Republican, 389

 

Lower Swatara Township — 1st Precinct

President

Donald Trump, Republican, 898

Hillary Clinton, Democrat, 441

U.S. Senator

Katie McGinty, Democrat, 431

Pat Toomey, Republican, 928

Congress, 11th District

Lou Barletta, Republican, 971

Mike Marsicano, Democrat, 372

Attorney General 

John Rafferty, Republican, 932

Josh Shapiro, Democrat, 430 

Auditor General

Eugene DePasquale, Democrat, 510

John Brown, Republican, 824

State Treasurer

Joe Torsella, Democrat, 454

Otto Voit, Republican, 853

State Representative, 106th District

Tom Mehaffie, Republican, 1,104

 

Lower Swatara Township — 2nd Precinct

President

Donald Trump, Republican, 611

Hillary Clinton, Democrat, 321

U.S. Senator

Katie McGinty, Democrat, 340

Pat Toomey, Republican, 616

Congress, 11th District

Lou Barletta, Republican, 643

Mike Marsicano, Democrat, 322

Attorney General 

John Rafferty, Republican, 604

Josh Shapiro, Democrat, 355

Auditor General

Eugene DePasquale, Democrat, 403

John Brown, Republican, 546

State Treasurer

Joe Torsella, Democrat, 361

Otto Voit, Republican, 568

State Representative, 106th District

Tom Mehaffie, Republican, 743

 

Lower Swatara Township — 3rd Precinct

President

Donald Trump, Republican, 641

Hillary Clinton, Democrat, 565

U.S. Senator

Katie McGinty, Democrat, 584

Pat Toomey, Republican, 621

Congress, 11th District

Lou Barletta, Republican, 653

Mike Marsicano, Democrat, 580

Attorney General 

John Rafferty, Republican, 635

Josh Shapiro, Democrat, 591

Auditor General

Eugene DePasquale, Democrat, 611

John Brown, Republican, 570

State Treasurer

Joe Torsella, Democrat, 579

Otto Voit, Republican, 596 

State Representative, 106th District

Tom Mehaffie, Republican, 845

 

Lower Swatara Township — 4th Precinct

President

Donald Trump, Republican, 497

Hillary Clinton, Democrat, 250

U.S. Senator

Katie McGinty, Democrat, 251

Pat Toomey, Republican, 505

Congress, 11th District

Lou Barletta, Republican, 532

Mike Marsicano, Democrat, 229

Attorney General 

John Rafferty, Republican, 511

Josh Shapiro, Democrat, 248

Auditor General

Eugene DePasquale, Democrat, 303

John Brown, Republican, 432

State Treasurer

Joe Torsella, Democrat, 266

Otto Voit, Republican, 466

State Representative, 106th District

Tom Mehaffie, Republican, 611

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 November 2016 00:04

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Borough keeps Nixle for emergency notification

Middletown will keep using Nixle to inform residents of emergencies for at least the next three years, borough council decided on Nov. 1.

Since 2013, the borough has been using Nixle to communicate information about emergencies to residents through text messages, email or telephone.

The borough’s contract with Nixle was to expire at the end of 2016. Councilor Dawn Knull — who three years ago as a private citizen championed the borough switching its emergency alert system to Nixle — had in recent weeks been investigating whether the borough should instead go with a crime watch alert system run by Dauphin County for $1,500 a year. 

However, Knull questioned if the county service would always be available at that price.

In addition, the county system could only be accessed by police, whereas any designated borough official can put out Nixle alerts, Knull said. The borough would also have to start from scratch in getting residents to sign up for the county alerts, whereas about 1,200 of the borough’s roughly 8,900 residents are already signed up for Nixle.

Nixle was looking to charge the borough $4,635 for a one-year deal in 2017. However, Knull said that when she told Nixle the borough was “looking elsewhere,” Nixle dropped the price to $3,000 and agreed to lock that in for each of the next three years. The deal council approved with Nixle will run from Jan. 1, 2017 through December 2019.

Council Vice President Damon Suglia was surprised that only about 1,200 residents are signed up for the free Nixle service. Knull intends to work to try and increase that number. 

All residents have to do to sign up for the service is enter their email and a phone number. The process takes about two minutes or less, Knull said. Residents can sign up for Nixle by going to the borough website, or they can register for the service on their cellphone, Knull added.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 November 2016 16:24

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Budget: no tax hikes, new police officer

Middletown residents don’t have to worry about borough taxes or the electric rate going up in 2017.

After two public meetings, borough council is set to tentatively adopt Nov. 15 the budgets for the general fund at $5.8 million and electric fund at $8.3 million that will add one new full-time police officer, and one new full-time position in public works.

The price borough residents pay for trash collection also will not go up in 2017, said Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter.

At this point, nothing residents pay when it comes to the borough and borough services is going up in 2017, although that could change even after final approval of the budget. 

How can it be done?

A number of factors go into explaining how the borough can add new positions without raising taxes or the electric rate, said Council President Ben Kapenstein.

It starts with the continuing impact of the borough’s 2014 decision to lease its water and sewer systems to Suez, Kapenstein said. The move still has its detractors, but the lease has “drastically changed our financial picture for the better” by paying off borough general obligation debt, and reducing how much money the borough has to pay out to cover its pension and health insurance obligations to retirees, Kapenstein said. The lease also provides for an annual payment of $725,000 from Suez into the general fund.

He also noted council’s decision to bring financial administration in house instead of having it done by outside consultants for about $202,000 a year. That move saves at least $100,000 in 2017, even with the hiring of the borough’s own new finance director, Bruce Hamer.

Other costs for outside consultants inherited from previous years were zeroed out, because no information was available regarding who these consultants are or what they were doing, Kapenstein said. 

Finally, the borough is looking to reduce its information technology costs by about $3,000 a month for 2017 by putting out for bid the contract the borough has with its current IT provider.

Waste fees

The borough’s new contract with its trash collector, Penn Waste, includes an increase charge to the borough for residents to use dumpsters provided in the south end of town near Susquehanna Street.

Right now borough residents can use this service for $30, but the borough might need to increase the rate to reflect the higher cost being charged by Penn Waste, Klinepeter said.

However, this is a voluntary service that residents can use which is not related to their weekly trash pickup, Klinepeter added.

In addition, council likely will continue discussing raising fees related to zoning hearing board submissions and for residents to use the Woody Waste brush disposal program. However it could be months before any such changes are made and no such increases are reflected in the 2017 budget.

The budget discussions began with the first public meeting on Nov. 3 with a roughly $335,100 deficit proposed by staff. 

However, this was based upon adding two full-time police officers requested by Chief John Bey, and two new full-time public works employees sought by department director Greg Wilsbach.

Instead, council decided to go with one new full-timer each for police and public works, which reduced the deficit considerably, said Hamer.

The starting salary for a police officer is about $55,000. However when benefits are added in, the total expenditure tops $100,000. A Public Works employee costs slightly less than a police officer.

No positions are being added to the codes department, which currently consists of one full-time position — unfilled for close to a year now — and two part-timers in property maintenance. The borough also contracts with a company in Manheim for building inspection services.

There are still changes and adjustments to be made before the budget goes before council for tentative adoption Nov. 15. 

For example, Wilsbach is asking for more seasonal labor from May to September to make up for not getting a second full-timer. The fire department has requested $145,000 for 2017, but Councilor Diana McGlone is pushing for $150,000.

Not final yet

Otherwise, council is looking to provide funds for the paving of Ann Street, which has been identified as a priority for 2017. Council is also putting funds in the budget to do two studies in 2017 to determine if the electric rates currently charged to all classes of customers — residents and businesses — are where they should be based upon actual costs.

While council in the past has transferred money from the electric trust to help balance the budget, no such transfer will be necessary in 2017, Hamer said.

Funds will be transferred from the electric fund itself to the general fund, but no more than the amount that was transferred in 2016, Hamer said.

The electric fund itself expects to run a surplus in 2017 as a result of significant savings obtained through the five-year contract with a wholesale electric generation provider that council recently approved, according to Hamer.

Finally, the 2017 budget earmarks $10,000 as the borough’s contribution to the Olmsted Regional Recreation Board, $50,000 to support Middletown Public Library, and $15,000 to put on fireworks.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 November 2016 15:28

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