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County offers grace period on property taxes

Dauphin County Commissioners Jeff Haste, Mike Pries and George P. Hartwick III are offering an interest-free grace period to all property owners with 2016 delinquent property taxes. 

“In some cases, property owners misplace their tax bills or mistakenly assume their mortgage company already paid their taxes,” said Hartwick, who oversees the county Tax Claim Bureau. “This interest-free grace period gives property owners another chance to pay their taxes.”

Approximately 11,000 first-class letters, which include a breakdown of taxes owed and costs for properties, will be mailed mid-February to property owners with unpaid 2016 real property taxes.

“By waiving the interest period, we increase collections and reduce our mailing costs,” said Haste. “This is another way that we keep revenues coming in and costs from going up.”  

Property owners must pay their taxes in full by March 31 to take advantage of the program.

“This program not only quickly resolves many of our claims, but it also helps taxpayers,” said Pries. “Our goal is to make the tax-paying process easier for those who are trying to pay their bills and get back on their feet.”

For more information about the interest-free grace period or delinquent property taxes, contact the county’s Tax Claim Bureau at 717-780-6125 or visit www.DauphinCounty.org and enter “tax claim” in the search feature.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 February 2017 09:15

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Rep. Mehaffie learns committee assignments

Rep. Tom Mehaffie, R-Lower Swatara, has been named to serve on the Local Government, Gaming Oversight and Game and Fisheries committees during the 2017-18 legislative session.

The committees provide legislative oversight and help shape the language in bills that fall under their areas of responsibility.

 “My service on these three committees will allow me to voice the concerns of the people of the 106th District on a broad range of issues,” Mehaffie said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues and committee chairmen to advance legislation that will benefit our communities and the commonwealth as a whole.”

The House Local Government Committee addresses issues related to the municipal code, powers and duties of local officials, planning and zoning, intergovernmental cooperation, municipal authorities and police departments, and state technical and financial assistance to municipalities.

Mehaffie said he will draw on experiences in his prior local government role to aid his work in this committee.

“I expect that my experience as a Lower Swatara Township commissioner will serve me well on this committee,” Mehaffie said. “I look forward to delving deeper into issues affecting our state’s local governments and furthering legislation that will help them be more effective and efficient in providing services.”

The Game and Fisheries Committee reviews legislation that deals with laws, licensing and other matters related to hunting, trapping, fishing and boating.

The Gaming Oversight Committee oversees slot machine gaming, bingo, small games of chance, amusement laws and table games in Pennsylvania. In addition to its legislative responsibilities, the committee has oversight of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and aspects that deal with gaming within the Department of Revenue, the Office of Attorney General and the Pennsylvania State Police.

“It’s important we ensure this industry remains a competitive and thriving one for our community organizations, our local economy and for our residents,” Mehaffie said. “I’m eager to get to work with my colleagues to make sure this industry is held to the highest standards.”

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 January 2017 13:00

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The Greatest Generation: Second-oldest Pearl Harbor veteran shares memories

PearlHarbor2David Downing, standing on the left, holds his father's hat as an assistant helps get Lt. Jim Downing ready to give his presentation on Thursday, Jan. 19, at Elizabethtown College.

 

Lt. Jim Downing figured that the explosions he was hearing just before 8 a.m. that Sunday were from a British cruiser chasing down a German battleship that was rumored to be in the area.

That it could be a Japanese attack never entered his mind. Hadn’t the best military minds just determined a carrier-based attack on Pearl Harbor to be “impossible?” And weren’t the United States and Japan holding peace talks at this very moment?

No matter. The radio broadcaster said that the island of Oahu was under attack, but that the enemy had not been identified. Within minutes, the same broadcaster was back on the air saying that it was the Japanese attacking .

Downing put on his uniform, kissed his bride of five months Morena goodbye, and sped off with his Navy buddies in a car as fast as they could go toward Pearl Harbor.

It was Dec. 7, 1941. Downing’s life and the lives of everyone else in the United States were about to change, in a way not be seen again until the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Now 103 years old, Downing, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is the second oldest survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

He and Morena had seven children over their 68 years together — she died in 2010 — one of whom is an English professor at Elizabethtown College, David Downing.

On Thursday, Jan. 19, Jim Downing came to the college to talk about his Pearl Harbor experience with the students of today, as a guest of the college’s Center for Global Understanding and Peacemaking.

Living history

Dec. 7, 2016, was the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Time Magazine did a virtual-reality piece on Downing as part of its coverage of the anniversary.

In January 2015, Downing attended President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Message, and last Dec. 27 Obama mentioned Downing by name as the president hosted a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Pearl Harbor. In 2016, Downing’s own account about Pearl Harbor — “The Other Side of Infamy” — was published. 

Yet for most of his life, David Downing said he hardly ever heard his father even mention Pearl Harbor.

“My father didn’t talk about it much,” David Downing said to the students and others gathered to hear his father’s presentation on Jan. 19. “On one occasion he was having some corporate problems and some people were having to be laid off and they were very upset with him.”

“I said, ‘You seem awfully composed with these people so angry at you.’ My dad said ‘I made a decision once during the war that cost two men their lives, and no decision that I have made since then seemed all that important.”

The elder Downing said that for the first 50 years after the Pearl Harbor attack, “nobody paid attention to us. We threw our uniforms away.”

“I think the first generation, they were part of the war so it was old hat to them. The next (generation) knew a little less, the next a little less. But now we’ve got a patriotic generation that is thankful for their freedom. They want to thank somebody, so we’re getting more attention.”

Recalling the day

Downing appears in remarkably good health for a man of 103, and his recollections of that fateful day 75 years ago are clear. 

As he and the others were running from their car to the burning battleships, Downing spotted a Japanese plane coming in low and slow that had spotted him.

“The machine gunner cut loose but he didn’t bank far enough and the bullets went over my head and dug a trench in the dirt behind me,” Downing said. “I was afraid that the next aviator would be a little more accurate, so I was scared — (there was) no place to hide.”

Downing’s ship, the USS West Virginia, was among the battleships moored in Pearl Harbor that day. Downing had already been in the Navy nine years, and had spent all of those years on the West Virginia.

On the day of the attack he was a gunner’s mate first class and the ship’s postmaster. By the time Downing got to his ship, the Japanese had hit it with nine torpedoes. The West Virginia was sinking and on fire.

PearlHarbor1Elizabethtown English Professor David Downing (right, standing), watches his father Lt. Jim Downing (seated at table) sign copies of his book for students during Downing's visit to the college on Jan. 19.

Each of the battleships carried about a million gallons of fuel oil. As the tanks were being erupted and blown up by Japanese bombs, the oil spilled out on top of the water.

“The saddest thing was the sailors being blown off their ships,” Downing recalled. “They came to the surface with a thin coat of oil on them. The fire was so hot they just became human torches and burned to death right there as they came up out of the water.”

Downing grabbed a fire hose from the ship next to the West Virginia — the USS Tennessee, which was only moderately damaged — and tried to keep the flames away from exploding any more of the ammunition.

By the time Downing had a chance to check his watch it was five minutes to noon. The attack had ended shortly after 10 a.m. — roughly two hours after it began — but Downing and the rest of Pearl Harbor had no idea whether the Japanese would come in for another wave, or whether they would stage a land invasion that night.

 

TO LEARN MORE: You can read more of Lt. Jim Downing’s story by going to www.USSWestVirginia.org. Downing’s new book “The Other Side of Infamy” is also available on Amazon.com.

 

Downing went over to the hospital to visit a friend who had been burned. While there, Downing saw another 100 sailors or so, most of them blind and with their hair burned off. 

Downing wondered what he could do. He decided to get a notebook and go from sailor to sailor, getting each one of their home addresses and asking each of them to dictate a paragraph about what they had done that day. As a postmaster, Downing would see to it that the personalized letters were sent home to each of the sailors’ parents.

“They said, ‘I’m going to be all right, don’t worry about me, I’ll be home for Christmas, very cheerful.’ Most of them died that night,’” Downing said.

Downing spent that night along with about 2,000 other sailors in a sports arena, preparing for what they assumed would be the inevitable Japanese land invasion that never came. 

Morena came to see him the next day, but Downing and the rest stayed on alert for the rest of December and couldn’t come home. It took six weeks to get all the oil out of his hair. It took two years to clean up all the oil that had spilled into the waters of Pearl Harbor.

Downing stayed at Pearl Harbor working to salvage the West Virginia until 1943. He finished out the war in Washington, D.C., as a gunnery instructor at a school that was running 24 hours a day to keep up with demand. 

Downing went on to spend a career in the Navy, rising to captain of the USS Patapsco. He had another brush with history in 1954, when while “racing away” from Bikini Atoll Downing and his crew “were showered with radioactive ash from Castle Bravo, the most powerful nuclear bomb ever detonated by the United States and the largest U.S. nuclear contamination accident,” according to an account in Downing’s book.

 

Meeting the enemy

Downing also became involved with The Navigators, a Christian evangelical organization that Downing would end up working for full-time for 27 years. It was through The Navigators that Downing met Mitsuo Fuchida, the air group commander of the Pearl Harbor attack.

Downing admitted to not being “that warm” toward Fuchida in their first meeting, offering the former Japanese aviator “a very limp hand.” 

But in reading about Fuchida over the years, “I’m convinced his remorse was genuine, so I have no trouble forgiving him.”

Downing during his talk said that he “loved” the Japanese people but could not forgive “the leadership that poisoned their minds and caused all this.”

The empathy that he had for his peers in the Japanese military was evident early on, as noted by an anecdote passed on by his son David Downing.

“When we were children we used to like a documentary called ‘Victory At Sea,’” David Downing said. “It was all about the war in the Pacific. We used to cheer and clap when you would see a Japanese airplane catch on fire and go twirling and hit the ocean.”

“One time my father was walking through the room as we were watching the program and he said, ‘remember boys whenever one of those airplanes hits the ocean you’re watching a man die.’”

Lt. Downing said that the message of Pearl Harbor, and the message that he has for young people today, can be summarized in a phrase from a speech given by President Ronald Reagan — “weakness invites aggression.”

“You’re the leaders of tomorrow, you’re the voters of tomorrow, you’re the taxpayers of tomorrow,” Downing said. “Keep America strong. I want to see America so strong that in cyberspace, in the skies, on the sea, under the sea, on the ground, so strong that no foreign government will even think of attacking us. The only language that tyrants understand is force.”

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 January 2017 12:58

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You can take part in 24-hour swim-a-THON to fight cancer

1 25 psu swimathonThe Penn State Nittany Lion hangs out with Holly Maitland-McKenna during a previous swim-a-THON.

 

Holly Maitland-McKenna, a swim instructor at Penn State Harrisburg, is holding her fifth annual Swim for a Cure 24-hour swim-a-THON starting at 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, at the PSH Aquatics Center.

And you are invited to take part, even for a short time.

Maitland-McKenna teaches adult and youth swimming lesson, water fitness, college-level swimming, lifeguard training and water safety. For four years, she has completed a 15-hour marathon swim from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., at the PSH Aquatics Center to raise funds for PSH THON benefiting The Penn State Dance Marathon. 

This year, her fifth as an official third party fundraiser, will be 24 hours. She once before did a 24-hour swim to raise money for a different charity.

“I wanted to do something bigger and grander and hope to raise more money for our campus,” she said.

All the money she raises goes into Penn State Harrisburg benefitting THON. Each branch campus raises money for the event.

In previous years, her goal was 15 miles and $1,500 in the 15 hours. This year, it’s 24 miles and $2,400. Last year, she raised more than $1,600 and swam more than 16 miles.

“I’m not really fast for short distances, but I can swim long distances for a very long time,” she said.

She said training for the event involves some training for up to six hours, but she said she doesn’t really get tired. A bigger challenge is not getting too sleepy.

“Staying awake through the 24 hours is much harder than the physical aspects of swimming,” she said, adding that even though she will have on a neoprene suit, “when I get cold, I get tired.”

Members of the community can take part.

She said she would love to have members of the community take part to help fight childhood cancer.

The pool will be open for people to join Maitland-McKenna from 8 to 10 p.m. Thursday Jan. 26, and then from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27. She will be swimming alone from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., with lifeguards who are volunteering to watch. 

While the event is a 24-hour swim, she said it’s also a social event. She said she tries to thank everyone who comes in and will eat food occasionally at the edge of the pool. She will take restroom breaks as well.

She said she has a cowbell on hand and when someone puts a donation in the box, they ring the bell.

While fundraising is the main focus, she said there is another goal.

“Our pool has a community membership. 50 to 60 mostly Middletown residents come and swim at our pool. I would like more people to come,” she said, adding that she’s been trying to spread the word.

To donate, go to http://tinyurl.com/h83wtyt. The event is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SwimforaCure/.

There is no guest fee the days of the swim. Sign in at either Capitol Union Building entrance. Parking on campus is $1. Pay at a kiosk and put the pass on your dashboard.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 January 2017 12:29

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Sitting is the new smoking: Some ideas on how to get off your rear end in the new year

sitting

 

It’s the start of a new year, and millions of people across the country will join — or rejoin — gyms and health clubs in January. Unfortunately, there will be an estimated 80 percent drop off in gym attendance before the end of February, according to information provided by Lancaster Regional Medical Center and Heart of Lancaster Regional Medical Center.

Recent research brings good news about the most critical ways to stave off disease and early death, and it does not include spending hours each week in an aerobics class or on an exercise machine. Many of us, whether we engage in regular exercise or not, are spending more than equal parts of our days sitting on our rear ends — an average of nine hours a day for adults in the United States. Health risks from this trend are now considered by many experts to be as significant as smoking or obesity, the medical center reported.

“When we calculate hours spent in the car, at our desks and on the couch, studies show that people who exercise regularly spend just as much time sitting as those who are inactive,” said Mark Gottlieb, D.O., MBA, a family physician with Columbia Regional Health Center in Columbia. “And research shows that time spent sitting is clearly associated with an increased risk of mortality from heart disease, cancer and diabetes — regardless of whether you exercise regularly.”

Research also suggests it’s possible to counteract sitting disease. An extensive study of a million adults found that exercising one hour for every eight hours spent sitting results in a significant reduction in the risk of death from heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. And the even better news is, that hour can spread be across your day, any time and anywhere. 

Here are five tips to help you get moving:

• Avoid the exercise machines. The majority of fitness machines place you in a sitting position. Go for a free weight workout focused on movements like the squat, deadlift, lunge and overhead press.

• Take hourly mini-breaks. If you sit at a desk from 9 to 5, move at least once per hour throughout the day. Moving just two or three minutes each hour can get blood moving through your body. Try one of the many apps for your desktop or mobile device that remind you to take healthy breaks — Move, StandUp! and BreakTime are three to try.

• Watch your active minutes. If you use a fitness tracker, don’t focus just on number of steps and calories. Many trackers also record active minutes.

• Schedule walking meetings. Start by engaging co-workers most likely to be receptive to the idea. As others observe the benefits, the movement might catch on.

• Designate a standing task. Pick a task that you can do while standing and make it your get up cue, such as talking on the phone, checking email or reviewing documents. If possible, invest in standing desk equipment or a mini-stepper you can keep under your desk.

“The trick is to have it firmly fixed in our minds, that sitting is indeed the new smoking,” Gottlieb said. “It’s a phrase that was a little shocking at first, but it will stick with people and eventually embed the reality that extensive sitting is truly bad for you. That’s how behaviors start to change.”

The office isn’t the only danger zone. Studies show that each hour spent sitting in front of the TV means an 11 percent higher risk of premature death. If you can’t bear to give up your TV time, use it to move more — stretch or do squats, go through yoga transitions, lift hand weights or run in place on every commercial break.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 January 2017 19:21

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