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Borough offers secretary post

Middletown Borough Council is again trying to hire a new borough secretary, after the first person offered the job turned down the position.

The council, during a special meeting on Monday, Aug, 22, made a conditional offer of employment to Grace Miller. The offer is conditional upon Miller passing pre-employment testing and giving notice to her current employer, said Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter.

Council had voted on Aug. 16 to hire as borough secretary Tonya Condran. Shortly afterward Condran told the borough she would stay in her present position as an administrative assistant for Lower Swatara Township, Klinepeter said.

The borough secretary is to assist the borough manager with day-to-day administration and with borough government operations.

— Dan Miller

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 August 2016 16:38

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Area native one of ‘most talented young chefs in the country’

Bon Appetit magazine’s seventh best new restaurant in the United States might be more than 350 miles away, but its roots are pure Middletown.

sukle ben tonedWEBBenjamin Sukle

The renowned food and dining publication calls Oberlin, a restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island, “home to one of the most talented young chefs in the country, Benjamin Sukle.”

If that name sounds familiar … yes, he is the son of Press And Journal owners Louise and Joe Sukle.

Sukle, 31 and his wife, Heidi, opened a Providence restaurant called birch (with a lower-case “b,” named for birch beer) in June 2013. They opened Oberlin in January.

Oberlin is named for Oberlin Gardens, the small community where his father and grandparents grew up. It is located on Union Street in Providence … the same street name where the Press And Journal is located in Middletown.

In ranking it No. 7, Bon Appetit writer Andrew Knowlton heaped praise on Oberlin. Knowlton said Sukle is “a chef cooking with his gut, in a place I could come back to night after night” and that “Sukle has a sixth sense for surprising ingredients — sauerkraut, horseradish — that jibe with a fish’s texture and sweetness.”

More Knowlton praise included: “As masterful as Sukle is with the raw, his skills with the cooked — especially house-made pasta — may be more transcendent. Pillowy gnocchi with littlenecks in a chive-flecked broth (the only clam chowder I’ll ever crave) should be inducted into the better-than-the-original hall of fame.”

Sukle is no stranger to rave reviews.

He has been nominated twice by the famed James Beard Foundation for awards: semifinalist in 2014 for Best Chef: Northeast while at birch and 2012 semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year in the United States while at Dorrance, also in Providence.

Birch, too, was honored by Bon Appetit — in 2014 as one of its Top 50 new restaurants in the country.


Middletown roots

A 2004 graduate of Lower Dauphin High School, Sukle said he grew up around great food — especially made by his paternal grandmother. It was something he took for granted, he said. 

He said he knew the difference between a bad and a good tomato because of his grandfather’s garden.

“I’m 31 and that stuff is still vivid to me,” he said.

His mother started getting into cooking shows when he was a teen.

“I’d watch those with her and it was super-fun,” he said.

He thought he might make it a career. At age 16, he started loading buns into a toaster at Red Robin.

“It was a perfect job for a ding-dong 16-year-old,” he said.

Kuppy’s Diner was always one of his favorites in Middletown.

In 2008, Sukle graduated from Johnson and Wales University in Providence, which has one of the best culinary arts programs in the country. He later worked in a three-week internship at Noma in Copenhagen, which is considered one of the best restaurants in the world.

Nowadays, he doesn’t make much food for himself.

“Anytime anyone cooks for me it’s a big deal,” he said, adding “I’m ashamed of how much money I’ve put into Wendy’s by now.”

He does eat tomato sandwiches he makes for himself. 

“It’s easy and it’s truly one of the best things of all time, with mayo and potato bread,” he said, although now he’s using his own sourdough bread instead.

The idea for Oberlin was to use more pastas, raw fish and whole roasted fish. He saw how much locally sourced fish was available while operating birch, and he felt like he wasn’t using enough.

He’s still hands-on even though he’s very busy.

“I bake the bread and butcher all the fish myself. I do that for both restaurants,” he said.

At 5 p.m., when they open, he says he is constantly making the five-minute walk between the two restaurants.

He also spends his time developing new dishes, although birch is more of the place he does that.

“I’m like a mad scientist with a 99 percent failure rate,” he said.

He hasn’t lost any desire toward being a chef.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to say there were certain goals that were achieved,” he said.

Still celebrating the honor from Bon Appetit, he laughed when asked what’s next. 

“I’m trying to get a cup of coffee. That’s my next step right now,” he said.

Don’t expect a restaurant here in central Pennsylvania, though.

“There’s no beach around there, man,” he said. “The beach is a big, big draw.”


Last Updated on Thursday, 25 August 2016 11:39

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It’s not just the high school that’s upgraded — the way students learn is changing

If the new Middletown Area High School has the feel of a college campus, the feeling is intentional, says high school Principal Michael Carnes, who took the Press And Journal on a tour of the new $41 million high school on Aug. 19.


For the full story, CLICK HERE to subscribe to the Press And Journal.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 August 2016 15:35

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You will be caught ... I promise you that!” — it happened, and arsonist is now in prison

arsonsign8 26 15WEBEsmeralda Gonzalez stands outside her home in the 100 block of North Catherine Street in Middletown was targeted by an arsonist in August 2015.


At first Esmeralda Gonzalez could feel only raw anger toward the young man who on Aug. 18, 2015, set fire to her house in the 100 block of North Catherine Street in Middletown.

Her anger manifested itself in a sign she placed on her front porch, before an arrest was made — “You will be caught … I promise you that!”

But somewhere along the line that anger turned to sadness. 

Almost a year later to the day — Aug. 16, 2016 — 19-year old Carl E. Nelson III of Ann Street in Middletown pleaded guilty to arson in Dauphin County Court and was sentenced to two and one-half to 5 years in state prison. He has already served one year of his sentence in Dauphin County Prison.

According to police records, Nelson set fire to the residence after he and Gonzalez’ son had argued over a skateboard. Nelson and a friend drank some cough syrup, and Nelson came back to the residence with a bottle of Gatorade filled with kerosene.

Inside the house at the time was Gonzalez’ daughter, her boyfriend, and the couple’s 10-month old baby. The fire caused at least $8,000 in damages, mostly to vinyl siding on the front and side of the porch. 

Gonzalez knew from the start that Nelson had been behind the blaze, but the sentencing in the courtroom had been her first opportunity to confront him face to face.

“’I’m not even mad at you anymore. I feel bad for you,’” Gonzalez said she told Nelson. “’I have a son your age. I wouldn’t want my son to go where you are going.’”

She told Nelson that he had never apologized for what he had done, and if he would, “‘I would be the first to speak up for you at the parole hearing’” if Nelson would ever be considered for early release from prison.

Gonzalez then went over to Nelson in the courtroom and gave him a hug.

“’I cried. He cried, and he apologized to me,’” Gonzalez said. “He was just this big kid bent over crying. It just broke my heart.”

Nelson then apologized to the judge. 

He said he felt bad for what he did, and that every time Nelson sees his mother she is crying.

Nelson’s lawyer said that Nelson has been going to anger management classes and is doing “really good” in Dauphin County Prison.

“I don’t think you’re a bad guy, just that what you did was bad,” Gonzalez told Nelson. “I don’t think what you did you meant to do, but now you have to face the consequences. I could have lost my family in this, but now your mom is losing her son.”

It did not seem to Gonzalez that Nelson’s mother or father, or anyone else, was there in the courtroom for him. Gonzalez said it seemed like she was the only one there to support him.

That too seemed sad, Gonzalez said. But if Nelson can get his act together and do his time, Gonzalez said she will be there for him again.

“The county victim advocate said they will contact me when he is up for parole. I’ll be the first one to say, ‘Let him out,’” Gonzalez said.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 August 2016 15:33

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Heroin charges, alleged assault of pregnant woman among recent court cases

The following is a compilation of arrests based upon criminal complaints recently filed by police with the office of District Judge David Judy. Those arrested are presumed innocent until found guilty.


Guilty plea on drug charges

A Middletown man who was arrested in February for dealing heroin out of his residence on Keystone Avenue has pleaded guilty and been sentenced in Dauphin County Court.trochephoto3 2 16WEBTroche

Geraldo Troche, 43, on July 7 pleaded guilty to one count of manufacture, delivery, or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver. 

He was sentenced by Judge John F. Cherry to 24 months in the county’s Intermediate Punishment Program, with the first six months for work release. He was given credit for time served in Dauphin County Prison from Feb. 26 to March 14.

Borough police started investigating Troche after getting tips from nearby residents about the amount of “traffic” in and out of his home in the 100 block of Keystone Avenue at all hours of the day and night.

A search warrant led to police seizing 12 bags of heroin at Troche’s residence, according to court records.


Pregnant woman assaulted

A Middletown man is being held in Dauphin County Prison on $50,000 bail for allegedly assaulting his pregnant girlfriend.

Steven Dashawn Bundy, 19, of the 300 block of Market Street, was arrested by borough police July 8 and charged with aggravated assault, terroristic threats, and recklessly endangering another person. Bundy was ordered bound over for county court on all charges during a preliminary hearing on Aug. 1. He is to be arraigned in county court on Sept. 23.

Bundy’s girlfriend was five months pregnant July 4 when he allegedly started strangling her after seeing messages on Facebook between the victim and her ex-boyfriend, according to court records filed by borough police. Bundy then allegedly kicked the victim in the back four times.

Bundy allegedly assaulted the woman a second time two days later on July 6, according to court records.


Neighbor’s jewelry pawned

A Middletown man is in Dauphin County Prison for allegedly stealing jewelry from his next-door neighbor and selling it to buy heroin.

Borough police allege that Anthony Michael Valle, 25, of the first block of North Pine Street, stole at least $7,000 worth of jewelry from boxes that were in the victim’s bed room next door. The items included necklaces, rings, bracelets, and diamond earrings.

The woman had given Valle a key to her residence so he could let her dog out while she was away, according to court records filed by borough police. The thefts occurred between June 20 and July 9 and Valle was charged on July 21. Police were able to verify that Valle had sold some of the jewelry at two pawn shops in Harrisburg.

Valle was arraigned before District Judge Raymond F. Shugars and charged with burglary, theft by unlawful taking, and receiving stolen property. He was placed in county prison on $25,000 bail. 

A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Aug. 15 before District Judge David Judy.


Woman struck with car

A Middletown man is charged with aggravated assault after he allegedly hit a woman with his vehicle in the parking lot of the American Legion on East High Street on July 9.

Borough police in court records said that Robert Andrew Sheesley, 46, of the 100 block of North Pine Street, allegedly ran his vehicle into the sister of his estranged wife during a domestic disturbance. The woman received bruises to her right leg and knee area and required medical treatment at the scene, police said.

Sheesley is also charged with simple assault, disorderly conduct, and driving without a license. He was ordered bound over on all charges during a preliminary hearing and is to be arraigned in Dauphin County Court on Sept. 23.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 August 2016 15:38

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