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Lower Swatara officials: Early talks are about contracting for police by Middletown

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Talks between Lower Swatara Township and Middletown about combining their police forces are still in the “preliminary stages”, according to Lower Swatara Board of Commissioners President Jon Wilt.

Wilt said that there have been no discussions on regionalizing the two forces, only talks about contract services have occurred. He added that there has only been “one real serious discussion” and “everything is yet to be determined.”

 

CLICK HERE FOR MORE: Interim police chief was NYPD detective, was at Ground Zero on 9/11

CLICK HERE FOR MORE: Level of service regional police would provide questioned at meeting

 

“There’s nothing really to say,” Wilt said.

WilliamsonFrankJrFrank WilliamsonPublic Safety Director Frank Williamson compared talks to sticking a toe in the water, saying that both sides have been “just getting a feel” for the option.

“It’s been nothing more than, ‘Hey would you like to have some meetings on this?” Williamson said.

Williamson added that if talks were to escalate and plans were to start coming together, it would be a year at least until everything was finalized, and if a plan was struck, it would be a five-year agreement. Due to the length of the contract, both sides don’t want to rush into anything.

Williamson said he supports the idea of buying the amount of police coverage for the time a community wants it, but he worries about the effect such a move would have on Lower Swatara should something arise, as he doesn’t want to take away from the current services Lower Swatara offers its residents.

As of now, Lower Swatara has 14 sworn officers on the force, with three sergeants. Each sergeant has two officers under them and once the two criminal investigators are promoted, there will be three officers for each of the three sergeants.

Some of the positives that could come from a combined department would be a larger agency, which would allow for more promotional opportunities and more training, which would allow for a better-trained agency. All of that would result in more consistent policing policies, which according to Williamson, is “a big positive for our residents.”

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 January 2017 14:34

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Council member: ‘Anybody who has a blighted property in this borough ... we will be coming’

Codes.Bunkys copyThis property on South Union Street that includes the former Bunky's restaurant has for years been held up as an example of blight by Middletown officials, past and present.

It took more than a year, but Middletown finally has a full-time codes and zoning officer to replace Jeff Miller, who resigned in December 2015.

Toward the end of borough council’s Jan. 3 meeting, Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter introduced Mark Shipkowski, a lifelong borough resident who was nearing the end of his first day on the job.

With Shipkowski on board and borough council a few months back having approved revisions to the code ordinance to create a board to hear appeals of code violations, the town is positioned to start going after blighted properties in Middletown, Councilor Diana McGlone told the Press And Journal afterward.

Codes.MarkShipkowskiMark ShipkowskiThe borough up until now has not been able to do effective code enforcement, because no mechanism was provided under the law for a property owner to appeal a violation, McGlone said. Council has remedied that with passage of the codes update that was enacted in late 2016, she said.

“We now have the legal capabilities for meaningful and forceful code enforcement,” McGlone said.

Borough council is to serve as the appeals board under the code revision, Klinepeter told the Press And Journal.

As envisioned by McGlone, the appeals board was not set up to hear appeals of relatively minor violations such as tall grass or weeds. Someone receiving one of these violations can file an appeal through the district judge, she said.

The appeals board is meant to consider a more significant violation, or violations, that could ultimately be used by the borough as the basis to seize a property that is considered blighted, or to place a lien on such a property, she said. In such a case, the property owner could appeal the violation or violations to the appeals board.

The code update that created the appeals board also allows the borough to access the powers of Act 90, a state law that gives municipalities the “right” to determine that a property is blighted, and to then go after the assets of the property owner to compensate the borough for any expense involved in cleaning up or even razing the property, McGlone said.

McGlone made no secret that she has three specific properties in mind for the new powers that the borough has — with help from Shipkowski to carry them out. These include the property that included the former Bunky’s restaurant in the first block of South Union Street, the so-called “leaning house” on Mattis Avenue, and a dilapidated yellow residential property at the square.

“Those are the top three properties in the borough that are extremely blighted and will be addressed immediately,” McGlone said.

Furthermore, “anybody who has a blighted property in this borough is now put on notice — we will be coming,” she continued. “I would advise blighted property owners in the borough to clean up your properties or reach out to borough staff for assistance, because we will be knocking on your door soon.”

McGlone, who is a landlord, said that she hopes by spring to introduce a proposal that would provide “probably two options” for borough council to create a residential rental inspection program. McGlone held three hearings in early 2016 to gather public input toward launching such a program.

Highspire and Royalton are among municipalities near Middletown that have their own residential rental inspection program, McGlone said.

Codes.houseonthesquareA dilapidated yellow residential property at the square.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 January 2017 11:23

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Loss of electric and tax revenue was key in borough nixing Harborton Place buyout

DS Caravan Court Flood Sept 7 2011 5

Loss of electric and tax revenue was a key factor in the borough of Middletown rejecting a state buyout of the Harborton Place mobile home park.

Borough council on Jan. 3 voted 5-1 to make it official — the borough is not interested in accepting a buyout “at this time.”

Council Vice President Damon Suglia opposed the move. He expressed concerns that residents of Harborton Place could lose their eligibility for funds to help them move out of the mobile home park in case of another flood, as a result of council rejecting the buyout offer from Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

In September, DCED approached council with an offer to use federal funds to purchase Harborton Place — formerly known as Caravan Court.

The objective was to move all the residents out of the mobile home park, raze any remaining structures and preserve the land as undeveloped open green space, due to the property being in a flood plain and being at risk of flooding, according to DCED.

On Nov. 8, DCED received an email from Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter informing the state that council was not interested in accepting the buyout.

“Council expressed a lack of interest in entering into the buyout program because they are extremely concerned about the resulting loss of electric and tax revenue that would result if the state were to acquire and demolish the more than 100 residential units in Harborton Place,” Klinepeter wrote in the email, a copy of which was provided to the Press And Journal by DCED.

Klinepeter during council’s Jan. 3 meeting said he thought it best that council take a vote to make the decision a matter of public record.

Klinepeter during the Jan. 3 meeting provided some more specific numbers regarding the amount of revenue that would be lost to the borough if Harborton Place was razed.

In 2016, the borough received more than $168,000 in electric revenue from Harborton Place, Klinepeter told council. 

The amount of property tax for 2016 included $8,400 due to the borough and over $10,000 due to the county, Klinepeter reported.

Middletown Area School District would also lose almost $31,000 in annual property tax revenue, according to Dauphin County tax assessment figures.

Klinepeter also noted that the borough expects to spend more than $100,000 in upgrades to electrical equipment at Harborton Place, as the result of a court settlement reached stemming from a lawsuit that was brought against the borough by the owners of Harborton Place after the September 2011 flooding.

That work started in 2016 and is “90 percent complete,” said Greg Wilsbach, borough public works director.

The razing of Harborton Place would also lead to a loss of water and sewer revenue to Suez, the company that runs the borough’s water and sewer systems under a 50-year lease that became effective on Jan. 1, 2015. 

The lease — or “concession” as it is formally known — includes a clause that any shortfall in water and sewer revenue over the life of the lease would have to be made up by the rest of ratepayers paying into the system, Klinepeter said.

On top of all the lost revenue, Klinepeter estimated that it would cost the borough $12,000 to $15,000 each year to maintain the former Harborton Place as green space in perpetuity, just for mowing for example.

Suglia said he had talked to residents of Harborton Place, who shared concerns about losing assistance to move out in case of another flood if council rejected the buyout.

Klinepeter referred to a letter from DCED saying that if the borough does not participate in the buyout that “assistance would not be available to those residents that may want to relocate and avoid future losses due to flooding. Because this area is in a special floodway, it is prone to flooding and these residents are at risk for future loss due to flooding.”

Borough Solicitor Adam Santucci told council it was his understanding that residents “may not” be eligible for such assistance in the future — meaning that there is still a possibility that they could be eligible.

Santucci also said he did not believe that the borough rejecting the buyout would make the residents ineligible to receive flood insurance.

“I don’t see anything that would be a flat-out prohibition on them receiving grants in the future. It’s just that it’s possible,” Santucci said. 

He further noted that “I couldn’t find any regulation that said if you don’t do this now, you are never eligible for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) money again.”

Suglia asked if the borough could choose to participate in the buyout at a later date — for example if the owner of Harborton Place makes it known that he or she wants to be bought out.

In response Santucci said that “the only moving factor” would be whether the money DCED is offering now would be available in the future. 

The borough did not contact the owners of Harborton Place about the state buyout because it was clear that council was not interested in accepting the DCED offer, Klinepeter said.

Nor had the borough heard from the owners, Klinepeter added, despite news articles about the DCED offer that were published in the Press And Journal.

Harborton Place has been in mortgage foreclosure proceedings since 2012. The property is listed on the Jan. 19 Dauphin County sheriff’s sale, with the amount owed to Wells Fargo bank reported to be just under $5.3 million, according to the county.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 January 2017 10:52

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Five nutrition trends to help you and your family eat healthier in 2017

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Are you seeking solutions for your New Year’s resolutions? According to the nutritionists at Giant Food Stores and Martin’s Food Markets, here are the top five food trends to help make better choices for you and your family.   

• Fermented foods can have benefits beyond basic nutrition. Foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir (drinkable yogurt), kombucha (lightly effervescent tea), tempeh (pressed patty made from fermented soy and sometimes grains) and kimchi (Korean side dish of pickled vegetables) contain probiotics which are excellent for gut health. These good bacteria may improve digestion and possibly immunity.

• Diets lower in carbs and higher in protein and fats might be for you if you are looking to lose weight or manage a health condition. While not the right fit for everyone, many people report success with a diet that moves them towards vegetables, fruit, lean meat, fish and nuts. Foods like “zoodles” (zucchini noodles) and beets or black bean pasta, cauliflower “rice,” meat-based snacks like turkey or beef jerky without preservatives, organic, grass-fed, or no hormone added meat and poultry have become popular.

• Meal “reconstruction” is an increasingly popular concept for the adventurous palate. Texture and depth of flavor are at the forefront of this movement. Smooth and sweet is now being replaced by crunchy and spicy at breakfast with various proteins like chicken or chorizo topped chimichurri. Lunch and dinner are also changing as vegetables become the main entrée.

• Ethnic cuisines and flavors like sushi, Thai, Indian or Cuban are trending and becoming a more regular part of many shoppers’ diets and meals eaten at home. Being more adventurous with food provides the opportunity to experience new spices (and their benefits) as well as vegetarian meals with plant-based proteins like beans or tofu. 

• Eating sustainably. U.S. food waste is a major concern and eating sustainably can help. Plan ahead, make a grocery list, eat seasonally, learn how to freeze and can food, and find ways to use food from “root to stem” like adding carrot tops to salad. Try making veggie stock from scraps like broccoli stalks or apple peels, or creating delicious infused water with cucumber peels and strawberry tops.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 January 2017 10:41

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Tony’s Beverage moves — not far — to a larger downtown location

The new location of Tony’s Beverage — 40 E. Emaus St. — is almost three times the size of the former location on Brown Street. The business completed its move last month.The new location of Tony’s Beverage — 40 E. Emaus St. — is almost three times the size of the former location on Brown Street. The business completed its move last month.

Ilesh Patel has been in business for more than 25 years, and now he’s established in a new location.

Patel has been the owner of Tony’s Beer Distributor since the 1990s and three weeks ago, he oversaw the transition of Tony’s from Brown Street to 40 E. Emaus St.

The new location of Tony’s allows for more room and has more square footage than the previous location, 100 Brown St., which is something Patel said is vital in the distribution business. 

The Brown Street building had 2,500 square feet but the Emaus Street location has 6,500 square feet. 

 

web0105171028Ilesh Patel reflects on the move of his business in downtown Middletown.

 

Patel described the Emaus Street building as a “better location” for the business.

Not only does Patel have more room in the Emaus Street building, he now has more help, as he has two part-time workers assisting him. That is a far cry from where Patel and his wife, Harshika, were when they first came to the country.

They were running a gas station and convenience store by themselves from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. 365 days a year for three years straight. From there, they aquired Tony’s and were running it by themselves and are still involved in it today.

Patel said they had been planning to move for some time, but they weren’t looking for any specific place, just somewhere in the Middletown area, because they like the area and the people. 

The process of finding and moving to the location took 12 to 14 months and even with the location being almost across the street, it wasn’t easy to move everything.

The move took place in December and Patel said he and his wife plan to keep running the store for many more years. In addition to alcohol, the store also offers soft drinks, soda, water, tobacco, cigarettes and lottery tickets.

“Hard work pays off,” Patel said. “I’m glad I did it.”

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 January 2017 16:59

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