Written by Dan Miller
Middletown Mayor James H. Curry III has again put the kibosh on plans by Middletown Borough Council to raise water and sewer rates.
Curry vetoed council’s 7-1 decision on Monday, July 21 to hike water and sewer rates, saying that the sewer increase should be phased in so the impact on residents is less onerous.
The proposal council approved would have increased sewer rates for the average resident from $43 to $68 per month. Water rates would have gone up, too, but by a smaller amount. The new rate structure would have eliminated a monthly 2,000-gallon minimum currently charged to water customers, so water bills would have been based on how much water they actually used.
If it seems like you’ve heard this before, you have.
Curry had vetoed a June 2 vote by council to approve the same rate increases.
However, Curry told the Press And Journal that council’s June 2 vote didn’t count because the period for advertising the ordinance had run out by the time council approved the measure.
Curry contends that made his veto void, as well.
“The veto was vetoing nothing, because they could not vote on it at that time,” Curry said. That led council to re-advertise the ordinance, and to vote a second time to adopt it on July 21.
Chris Courogen, the borough’s director of communications, doesn’t dispute the mayor’s contention that the first vote was invalid.
“We re-advertised it because there were questions all around about the procedure,” Courogen said. “This is is an extremely important matter in the borough. Without the needed revenue in the water and sewer fund there is a risk of default. The borough has enjoyed a very favorable credit rating and the last thing the borough wants is for the rating to go down, which would cost taxpayers more in higher interest. This is an important piece of legislation, and it has to be done right.”
Now that Curry has vetoed that measure, council must vote to override the mayor’s veto to implement the rate increases.
According to the Pennsylvania Borough Code, at least two-thirds of the nine council members would have to vote for the rate increases to override the mayor’s veto. If fewer than nine members are present, council would need a majority plus one for an override.
The rate increases are already behind schedule. Mark Morgan, the borough’s financial consultant, told council during the July 21 meeting that the increases were to have gone into effect on July 1 for the borough to stay on track with a plan recommended by consulting engineers for bringing water and sewer revenues in line with projected expenses.
Given that council’s last two votes for the rate increases were 7-1 and 8-1, Curry concedes his veto probably won’t stand.
Curry said he understands that water and sewer rates have to go up to keep pace with spending.
The mayor intends his veto as “a statement” that, had council acted back in January or February, the rate increase could have been phased in. Had council acted then, Curry said, the rates could have been increased by about $5 a month, so that by July 1 residents would be paying $30 more a month. This would have allowed residents to gradually adjust to the higher sewer rate instead of being hit with the full amount all at once, he said.
“Thirty dollars [a month] is a lot of money for the average household in Middletown,” the mayor said.
Courogen said the need for rate increases to close a gap between water and sewer revenue and expenses was identified back in 2009. He said little was done, and the gap kept growing until this year when the borough came up with a concrete plan. By then it was too late to avoid a large increase to make up for years of inaction.
“Now you are in this situation where you don’t have a choice. You have to do it or it threatens to harm the financial stability of the borough as far as the credit rating and bond rating” are concerned, Courogen said.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 July 2014 19:19
Written by Noelle Barrett
Times have changed since the first National Night Out event was held in 1984. Some fear their community is more dangerous. Parents fear for the safety of their children.
More than 16,000 communities across the country will host National Night Out events on Tuesday, Aug. 5 hoping to instill confidence in their community and promote crime prevention and safety.
Middletown, Highspire, Royalton, Steelton and Swatara Twp. will be among the communities hosting events.
While events across the area will focus on connecting residents with crime prevention services and making law enforcement and emergency personnel more accessible, there will also be an emphasis on neighborhood camaraderie.
“I hope the community shows support. This helps build the bridges between the community, the police department, and the [local] government,” said Gary Rux, a Middletown police officer leading the borough’s event. “This is our community. By showing support on these kinds of things, we’re showing our willingness to come together.”
In addition to police, fire departments and other emergency services, many local businesses and organizations also will be present at the events.
Here is a list of places where National Night Out will take place:
Naional Night Out will he held from 6 to 9 p.m. at two locations – Hoffer Park and Oak Hills Park. About 85 vendors will either be present or contribute to the event.
Among the participants will be local businesses, churches, veterans’ organizations and banks, as well as several police departments, including Middletown, Lower Swatara Twp., Penn State Harrisburg, Harrisburg International Airport, Capitol Police and Pennsylvania State Police.
Local fire companies and emergency medical services also will participate, as well as Dauphin County agencies, including the District Attorney’s Criminal Investigation Division, the Crisis Response Team, Children and Youth and Drug and Alcohol Services.
There will be an assortment of free food donated by local businesses, as well as cupcake decorating. Both sites will have many activities and games, including dunk tanks, bounce houses, mega-slides, DUI training and field sobriety tests, fingerprinting, face painting, skateboarding demonstrations and train rides by the Middletown and Hummelstown Railroad, Rux said.
Local Irish dance teams and the Raiders Extreme cheerleading team will perform, and Hersheypark’s ZooAmerica will have animals on-site.
The Middletown Community Pool will also be open for two free swim sessions from 4 to 5 p.m. and 5 to 6 p.m. before the event starts.
Additional parking will be available at Fink Elementary School.
Highspire will host its event from 6 to 9 p.m. at Memorial Park on Lumber Street. Highspire’s police and fire department will be available to meet with residents. There will be also be free hot dogs, chips and drinks, and games and activities, including a duck race. The fire department will demonstrate a car extraction.
Royalton will host its first National Night Out in several years from 5 to 8 p.m. at Kiwanis Park. The idea to host the event was Mayor Judy Oxenford’s, who decided “it would be a good idea to have the event to bring the community together,” according to borough secretary Amy Burrell.
Royalton police officers, Londonderry Volunteer Fire Department and South Central EMS will be present to meet with residents. There will be free hot dogs, chips and drinks, and numerous activities, including games, music and a bike rodeo. Children are encouraged to bring their bicycles and helmets to participate in the rodeo.
Steelton will host its event from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Steelton Fire Department on North Front Street. Representatives from the police department, fire department and 19 organizations, including the Capital Blue Cross CHIP program, Dauphin County’s human services agency and probation department, YWCA, Humane Society of Harrisburg, Community Life team and numerous church groups will participate. There will be games and activities, including a dunk tank, free hotdogs and drinks, and an appearance by the Elks Drill Team.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 July 2014 19:12
Written by Dan Miller
Last week it was a bird, this week it may have been a squirrel.
In any event, Middletown residents early this morning experienced the second power outage within nine days.
Borough Communications Director Chris Courogen said the outage occurred at about 6:40 a.m. today.
He did not immediately provide details concerning where the power loss occurred. However, a person in the borough office earlier today said the outage appeared to be concentrated in the areas of East Emaus, Race and Rupp streets.
Judging by posts to the Press and Journal Facebook page, the outage also impacted portions of East Main and Adelia streets, a portion of the 600 block of Vine Street; and parts of East Water, Spruce, and Maple streets.
The outage lasted close to an hour and a half, as power was restored by 8 a.m., according to the Facebook posts.
Courogen said he couldn't say for certain, but suspected that a wayward squirrel may have been the culprit. Public Works Director Ken Klinepeter could not be reached.
On Tuesday July 15 borough residents and businesses lost electricity for about 90 minutes. That outage was blamed on a bird that got into the electrical equipment and led to a number of fuses being tripped.
While Middletown isn't the only place where the electricity goes out on occasion, Courogen said it does seem to be happening with more regularity of late - and that critters like birds and squirrels are a major reason why.
"I suspect that the (Middletown Borough Council) Public Works Committee will start looking" at what can be done to solve the problem, Courogen said.
Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 17:08
Written by Dan Miller
Middletown residents will have the chance to see – and possibly meet – the two remaining finalists to become the borough's next police chief on Monday, July 21.
Middletown Borough Council's public safety committee will interview one of the two finalists behind closed doors at 4 p.m. in council chambers at the borough hall. The closed-door session will last about 30 minutes, after which the committee will present the candidate to the public and ask the candidate several questions in open session.
Then, starting at 5 p.m., the committee will repeat this same process for the other finalist.
If you cannot be at either the 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. session, your best shot to meet either or both of the two candidates could be at about 6 p.m.
By then, the committee expects to be done with its part of the process, said Councilor Scott Sites, public safety committee chairman. So from about 6 p.m. on, the candidates will be free to meet and mingle with residents, and answer their questions – if the candidates choose to do so.
Borough residents already have the scoop on one of the three finalists, John Bey of Susquehanna Twp. Bey could not make Monday's session, so the committee interviewed Bey and presented him to the public on Tuesday, July 15.
Bey took full opportunity of the chance to meet with borough residents in council chambers after the committee was done with him.
As for the other two finalists, who will be interviewed on Monday: One is from this area, while the other is from the Midwest.
The full council will meet during its monthly committee-of-the-whole session at 7 p.m. on Monday. However, council will not act on the top cop job at that meeting, Sites said.
The target date for council to choose the next chief is Monday, Aug. 4, Sites said.
Last Updated on Friday, 18 July 2014 19:46
Written by Dan Miller
Middletown Borough Council will discuss a proposed $3 million line of credit that would be used to help pay for various capital projects during a meeting on Monday, July 21.
The borough is exploring the line of credit jointly with the Middletown Borough Industrial and Commercial Development Authority. The authority acted in favor of securing the line of credit during its last meeting on Wednesday, July 9, during which the authority also approved a sales agreement to acquire the Elks Building from the Greater Middletown Economic Development Corp.
Authority Solicitor Salvatore Bauccio at the time said that the idea behind the line of credit is for the authority to have funds available while the borough waits to receive money from various government grants that are in the pipeline.
Essentially, the line of credit would serve as a "bridge" funding mechanism, allowing the authority to move forward on projects until the money from these grants becomes available to the borough.
According to language in a proposed ordinance before council, the $3 million line of credit would be issued through PNC Bank and would be backed by "the full faith and credit" of the Borough of Middletown. That means that if the authority spends any or all of the line of credit money and cannot repay the bank by any other means, the borough is on the hook.
Bauccio said earlier that the line of credit would enable the authority, should it ultimately acquire the Elks Building, to move faster with various improvements to the building, such as fixing portions of the ceiling and roof. The authority also hopes to refinance terms of the building's $500,000 mortgage which must be repaid to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.
The ordinance does not mention the Elks Building by name, but says that proceeds from the line of credit are to be used for unspecified capital improvement projects, as well as "alterations, restoration and repairs" within Middletown that have resulted from flood damage.
In a July 14 meeting during which council's finance committee discussed the line of credit, Borough Manager Tim Konek identified two government funding proposals now in the pipeline that could be used as repayments for the line of credit.
Konek described as "forthcoming" to the borough $1.2 million in flood reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"The stream is flowing," Konek said, referring to the FEMA funds.
Konek also noted that the borough has applied for a grant from the state's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program – officials call it "R-CAP" – to pay for streetscape and infrastructure improvements in town.
The borough has applied for $2 million. The state could decide to award the entire $2 million, or something less than that, or refuse to provide the grant at all.
Jay Pagni, a spokesman for Gov. Tom Corbett and the state's Office of the Budget, confirmed that the state has received the borough's R-CAP grant application and that it is still pending. He could not say when the administration will make a decision on the borough's application.
The authority could use other sources of funds to repay the line of credit. It is not restricted to repaying the money with grants that the borough may or may not receive.
Chris Courogen, the borough's director of communications, noted that one of the authority's goals in acquiring the Elks Building is to increase the cash flow that the building and its various tenants generate. That could also be a source that the authority could tap to repay the line of credit, Courogen said.
Read the proposed ordinance:
Last Updated on Friday, 18 July 2014 19:30