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Korean TV crew visits Middletown

crewphoto9 2 15Press And Journal Photo by Julianna Sukle -- Visiting Middletown to do a series of stories on the Three Mile Island accident are, from left, Noh Jun-Chul, Sun Guy and Felix Kwon.



A crew of journalists from South Korea’s state-run television station visited Middletown on Wednesday, Aug. 26 to work on a series of stories about the lessons learned from the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island.


Reporter Felix Kwon, producer Noh Jun-Chul and cameraman Sun Guy of the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) spent the afternoon seeking townspeople for interviews, including some staffers at the Press And Journal.


South Korea is the world’s fifth-largest nuclear power generating country, behind the U.S. (No. 1), France, Japan and Germany. South Korea approved a $7 billion project in 2014 to build two more nuclear reactors by 2020.


The KBS story on TMI and Middletown will focus on “what has been changed in this town since the accident,’’ including emergency preparedness, Jun-Chul said through an interpreter. The journalists chose to focus on TMI because it is “the only big picture accident’’ in the U.S., he said.


After Japan’s Fukushima accident in 2011, South Korea moved to decrease reliance on nuclear power from 41 percent to 29 percent by 2030, according to the news site


The journalists flew directly from Seoul to New York City – about 14 hours – and drove to Middletown, Kwon said.


Their biggest surprise: The short distance between TMI’s reactors and Middletown Borough. “It was a lot closer than we expected,’’ Kwon said.


Jim Lewis: 717-944-4628, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 September 2015 16:14

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They offer ways to deal with floods


floodpic9 2 15WEBPress and Journal Photo by Dan Miller -- Leah Eppinger, right, Dauphin County planning coordinator, talks with Middletown residents Mark Shipkowski and his sister JoAnn Shipkowski.

Concerns about flooding and what to do about it are easy to find in Middletown.

So many people have their own unique flood story.

It isn’t just about 2011 and Tropical Storm Lee. For folks like Mark Shipkowski, flooding is far more routine.

But even after 30 years of living in the town, Shipkowski doesn’t accept that this is how it has to be just because it has always been this way.

So when officials from Dauphin County offered the possibility of change, Shipkowski happily took them up on their offer.
He and about 19 other borough residents attended a meeting that the county held in the MCSO Building on Wednesday, Aug. 26 to get ideas from citizens on how to combat flooding and make Dauphin County more “resilient” in preventing, and recovering from, a disaster.

Officials hope that the suggestions from Shipkowski and others can increase Dauphin County’s odds of getting up to $500 million in grant funds offered through the National Disaster Resilience Competition, a joint effort of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Rockefeller Foundation. The county application is among 40 that have made it through the first round of HUD scrutiny.

Flooding is the type of disaster to which Middletown and Dauphin County residents are most susceptible. But the national competition is much broader, as it seeks to assess how well a region can respond to disaster based upon a range of quality-of-life issues such as crime, housing, the environment and economic development and employment.

For Wednesday’s meeting, planners set up large easels with identical maps of the county around the baskektball court-sized room. Each easel represented a category for public input for the grant competition. For example, residents who wanted to talk about housing needs in Dauphin County went to the easel marked “housing.” The informal nature of the meeting allowed people to make suggestions at all of the easels if they wished.

Shipkowski headed right for the easel marked “infrastructure.” He and his wife, Kathy, live on Hoffer Street. They were joined by their next-door neighbor, JoAnn Shipkowski, who is Mark’s sister.

Mark pointed out that anytime a lot of rain falls in a short period, water backs up from the stormwater grates and turns his backyard into a pond deep enough to travel by canoe.

“Basically we are at the end of the line where all the water comes off Adelia Street, down Hoffer Street back to Few Avenue. We’re the last line of where the water would go, and it’s been a problem,” he said. He has seen improvement since the 2011 flooding. But Shipkowski believes more can be done, such as increasing capacity of the storm sewer system.
Another reoccurring issue is the Route 230 bridge passing over Swatara Creek on the east end of town. Debris and other obstructions – man-made and natural – get stuck under the bridge, impede the flow of water and make the flooding in town worse, Shipkowski said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation soon plans to replace the bridge. When it does, Shipkowski hopes the state will fix this problem.

Another issue he brought up is directly tied to the 2011 flooding: A large number of homes near where Shipkowski lives were bought out and removed. Nothing has been done with the land since, he said. He believes the empty ground would be great for athletic fields and a park.

“We need to revitalize the neighborhood so people want to come down our street again,” Shipkowski said. Tom Germak arrived carrying a yellow legal pad and a newspaper clipping, showing a photo from 2011 of Germak’s electrical business being flooded out. His business is also in the east end of town, a stone’s throw from the Route 230 bridge over Swatara Creek.
“We went to great pains to elevate everything about the 100-year flood plain, and we had a 500-year flood event,’’ Germak said. “Nobody saw it coming, from the local, the county, the state, the federal government. Never saw it coming.”
There are stream gauges along about every 10-mile increment of the Swatara Creek. However, most of them weren’t working during the 2011 flood because of budget cuts, Germak said.

Flood insurance premiums have skyrocketed since 2011 for businesses and residences throughout Dauphin County. Many of these properties are unsellable as a result of the high premium, Germak said.

“I’d like to see a subsidy on the flood insurance,’’ he said. “They subsidize everything else, send money to Iraq, Afghanistan, whatever. How about the people of this country?”

Another resident suggested the federal government allow property owners to make partial payments on their flood insurance premium instead of having to pay the entire premium at once as now.

Germak said the government needs to come up with better ways to provide residents and businesses with basic information on what to do about flooding – both on preventive measures and how to reduce the damage from flooding when it occurs.
“That would be a start,” Germak said. “I’d like to think I know where to go, but when you go to officials and they don’t know, there’s a breakdown somewhere.”

Dauphin County so far has identified $197 million in “unmet” needs through the HUD resiliency grant process, said George Connor, deputy director of the county Office of Community and Economic Development.

The county has not yet decided how much money it will apply for in the grant competition.

“We’ll know closer to the Oct. 27 deadline” for the county to submit its application to the National Disaster Resilience Competition, Connor said.

Here are some other suggestions that Middletown residents had for fighting flooding and for making the county more resilient to disaster during the meeting:
• Remove obstructions in the Swatara Creek and dredge the mouth of the creek.
• Reduce run-off from agricultural land.
• Keep stormwater sewer drains clear and improve stormwater sewer maintenance.
• Elevate properties in flood zones and encourage construction of “tiny houses” for people who are downsizing.
• Increase radio alerts during a flood.
• Reduce the impact of new development upon flooding and run-off.
• Plant trees in areas where properties have been demolished due to flooding.
• Encourage rainwater harvesting on roads.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 September 2015 15:30

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My first day of school: These kids fearlessly face first grade

hofferphoto8 26 15WEBPress And Journal Photos by Dan Miller -- New first-grader Henry Hoffer, right, with older brother Landon Kelly and mother Katie Hoffer, wait at a school bus stop in Middletown.

The first day of school means different things to different people.

Nicholas Oberto and his mom Chrissy were the first to arrive at the school bus stop at Vine and Ridge streets shortly before 8 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 24 – the opening day of classes in the Middletown Area School District.

Nicholas was all ready to embark on his first day of school as a first grader at Reid Elementary School.

He’s excited about going on field trips. Any field trip.

littleboyphoto8 26 15Nicholas Oberto is the first to arrive at his bus stop to embark on his first day of school - ever.

Mom has “mixed emotions” about Nicholas being away all day. But she said she is glad that Nicholas likes going to school, and that he “loves” learning.

It was also young Henry Hoffer’s first day of first grade at Reid Elementary. He rubbed sleep from his eyes as he waited at the bus stop along with older brother Landon Kelly and mom Katie Hoffer.

“They are really excited,” Katie Hoffer said. “They didn’t want to go to bed last night. I’m sure that will wear off by the end of the week.”

Landon is going into the third grade at Reid. He’s sorry to see a good summer come to an end. He and his brother went to the pool, to Knoebels amusement park twice, to Gettysburg for the day, to a coal mine and to Jim Thorpe in Carbon County, where they walked around the town and visited the old jail. They also spent some time at the family cabin.

Their mother admits she was looking forward to the first day of school.

“I get a couple hours of quiet today,” Katie Hoffer said. “They go back to school and I get some quiet time to get the house cleaned."

Henry sat in the grass at his mother’s feet. But he perked up as the big yellow bus approached. As he stood in line just before boarding, Henry turned to give his mother a goodbye wave.

video screenshot

Henry, Landon and Nicholas are among 470 students enrolled at Reid this year, up from 447 in 2014. More Blue Raiders Middletown enrollment district-wide is up slightly, to 2,319 students this year compared to 2,280 in 2014-15, according to district spokeswoman Jody Zorbaugh.

The enrollment figures are considered preliminary, Superintendent Lori Suski said during a meeting Monday night of the Middletown Area School Board. There are still a lot of “move ins and move outs” going on, even throughout the first week of school, Suski said.

The district will have more solid enrollment numbers to report in September. Suski expects the September figures to still reflect an enrollment increase over 2014-15.
An early start One thing different this year is that Middletown is starting classes earlier than some other area school districts. Parents can get an early start on summer vacation, as Middletown’s last day of school will be May 27, 2016.

Middletown always starts the last full week of August, so in that sense students really aren’t going to school any earlier than in past years, Zorbaugh said. However, the district is taking advantage of Labor Day being late this year.

Middletown can get two full weeks of school in before Labor Day – allowing the district to end school before Memorial Day. That means Middletown can get in the required 180 days of student instruction and still meet the construction timetable to demolish the existing high school.

The new high school, under construction near the old one, is to open in September 2016. 


Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 August 2015 14:10

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AFTER THE FLOOD: Public's ideas sought to make Dauphin County more resilient when natural disasters strike

floodphoto8 19 15Press And Journal File Photo -- Flood waters from the Swatara Creek, swollen by rain from Tropical Storm Lee, engulf a portion of East Main Street in Middletown on Sept. 8, 2011.



You can help Dauphin County win – and spend – $197 million it’s seeking in a national grant competition to combat flooding and make local communities more resilient when disasters strike.


County and regional planners are holding three public meetings – one in Middletown – to collect suggestions from county residents on the most pressing problems that occur during floods and other disasters, and how local communities can remain resilient even when disasters strike.


Middletown, Lower Swatara Twp., Highspire and other neighboring communities suffered damage from flood waters from the swollen Swatara Creek during Tropical Storm Lee in 2011.


The Dauphin County commissioners and the county’s Office of Community and Economic Development are holding the public meeting – at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 26 at Middletown’s MCSO Building – to get a better understanding of flooding problems in county communities.


Public input, as well as opinions on unemployment, crime, economic development and other things that have an impact on a community’s ability to rebound from disasters, will help planners determine what specifically is needed to make Dauphin County more resilient.


The county has applied for a $197 million grant from the National Disaster Resilience Competition, a joint effort of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Rockefeller Foundation.


The competition has a pot of $500 million to spend on as many projects as HUD deems worthy, said Craig Layne, a spokesman for the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, which is partnering with Dauphin County, a consultant called Tetra Tech and the county’s engineering firm Herbert, Rowland and Grubic to come up with a plan for potential grant money.


The county’s application was one of 40 that made it through the first round of HUD scrutiny. The public meetings – there are meetings scheduled for Halifax and Swatara Twp. as well – are part of the next phase, which will determine more specifically what is needed.


While the county’s initial application did not specifically say how it would spend the $197 million that is being sought, it said it was generally asking for grant money for mitigating flooding in the county – to build levees, retention basins and other things to prevent future flooding, Layne said.


“We do need to hear from the people about what they think is needed in their areas,’’ he said. “The key is for people to get involved – maybe they have an idea we haven’t thought of.’’


Each public meeting will focus on the greatest risks that the county faces. Residents can also go to a Web site created to collect opinions and ideas,, that offers a series of questions to readers about natural disasters, unemployment, crime and other things that can impact communities, including:


• What types of jobs and businesses should Dauphin County work to attract?

• Do you feel safe in your community?

• What are the greatest risks to your community?


Readers who have questions about the public meeting may contact Leah Eppinger at the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, located in Harrisburg, at 717-234-2639 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Jim Lewis: 717-944-4628, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 August 2015 10:20

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TO-DO: Water line replacement on Ann Street and Oak Hill

ToDoList hed

annstreet8 19 15WEBPress And Journal Photo by Dan Miller -- United Water, which leases Middletown’s water system, will replace water mains on Ann Street beginning sometime this year.


Work is to get underway soon on replacing water mains under Ann Street and under a portion of Oak Hill Drive. United Water is doing the work as part of the company’s commitment to replace an average of 2,500 linear feet of water main in Middletown every year.

The Ann Street project involves replacing water mains from the intersection of Ann and Union streets west to the end of Ann Street in the borough. The Oak Hill Drive project is much smaller and only involves replacing water mains from Spruce to Briarcliff streets. This section is currently served by a 2-inch diameter water main that is not adequate for fire protection. The 2-inch main will be replaced with 8-inch pipe.

When will it begin? Sometime this year.

Click to return to TO-DO LIST Main Page


Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 August 2015 17:26

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