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Timeline in place for Amtrak station

StationThroughPedestrianBridgeWEBThis artist’s conception shows a walking bridge over West Main Street from Penn State Harrisburg to a new Amtrak station.

 

The all-important work of relocating railroad track for the new Amtrak station in Middletown is expected to start in the last three months of 2016, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick told the Press And Journal.

PennDOT, which is in charge of the train station project, has said that work on the station itself cannot begin until after crews with Amtrak and Norfolk Southern railroad complete the necessary track relocation near West Main Street.

PennDOT anticipates Amtrak workers to be on site to do their track relocation work sometime in the fourth quarter of 2016, Kirkpatrick said. 

Norfolk Southern is scheduled to do its track relocation work in the third quarter of 2017. 

PennDOT hopes to start work on the train station platform and on the station itself in the third quarter of 2018, Kirkpatrick said.

The project also includes extending West Emaus Street to West Main Street for better access to downtown Middletown.

Two other components of the train station project — a pedestrian bridge over West Main Street to Penn State Harrisburg, and a possible parking garage — are to be built by a private company under PennDOT’s public private partnership (P3) program.

However, PennDOT has not yet awarded a contract for the P3 part of the project. Kirkpatrick could not say when it will be awarded.

PennDOT in early summer awarded a $2.6 million contract to Horst Excavating to prepare for construction the train station site just west of Westporte Centre shopping center. That work is ongoing, Kirkpatrick said. 

The station is currently on Mill Street.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 August 2016 14:54

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Boy Scouts take part in coral reef sailing adventure

Seabase fixedSubmitted Photo -- Londonderry Township’s Boy Scouts Troop 97 took part in the National Sea Base Coral Reef High Adventure Sailing program based out of Islamorada, which is located in Key West, Florida. Seated: Scout Master Kevin Little, First Class Scout Ian Mills, Eagle Scout Garrett Little, Star Scout Jason O’Donnell. Standing: First Mate Victor, Scout Leader Don Stiffler, Life Scout Colby Stiffler, Life Scout Jake O’Donnell and Life Scout Justin Mills.

Tropical paradise, sailing, swimming around sunken Spanish artifacts, large game fishing and snorkeling with sea turtles. Londonderry Township’s Boy Scout Troop 97 recently traveled to Islamorada in Key West, Florida, for a sailing adventure.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 August 2016 14:05

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Meeting on regionalization of police will be held Friday: Middletown, Lower Swatara, Dauphin County to take part

Officials from Lower Swatara, Middletown and Dauphin County will meet Friday, Aug. 12, to discuss a possible merger of the police from the two municipalities.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 August 2016 13:20

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At-large elections common throughout county

If Middletown votes to change to an at-large council, it will bring it in line with almost all the other boroughs and townships in Dauphin County.

Jerry Feaser Jr., director of Dauphin County Elections and Voter Registration, told the Press And Journal that only five of the 16 boroughs use wards. Lykens has two wards, Penbrook has four wards, and Royalton and Williamstown have two wards, in addition to Middletown, which has three.

Berrysburg, Dauphin, Elizabethville, Gratz, Halifax, Highspire, Hummelstown, Millersburg, Paxtang, Pillow and Steelton elect at-large council members, as does Dauphin County’s only city, Harrisburg.

Of Dauphin County’s 23 townships, only two — Susquehanna and Swatara — elect representatives by ward. 

Of the 12 school districts that are in or partly in Dauphin County, seven elect members at-large: Derry, Halifax, Harrisburg, Middletown, Millersburg, Susquehanna and Steelton-Highspire. Five elect by region: Central Dauphin, Lower Dauphin, Susquenita, Upper Dauphin and Williams Valley.

Millersburg is the most recent Dauphin County borough to change from wards to at-large, doing so in 2013. It had two wards and six council members before voting to change to seven at-large council members.

In the ordinance that its council approved, it said it sought the change because “the Millersburg Borough Council has concluded that the ward system is archaic and serves no legitimate purpose” and council “has experienced difficulty in filling vacancies due to the ward system.” 

Those points echo the arguments made by Middletown Mayor James H. Curry III, a leading proponent of the council change here.

Chris McGann is the borough manager of Millersburg, which has about 2,500 people — less than a third of Middletown’s approximately 8,900 as of the 2010 census.

 “We were getting all these vacancies on council. We were having trouble filling those seats,” he told the Press And Journal as to the reason for the change. “Several times, we had one person interested, but they lived in the wrong ward,” 

That led borough officials to arrive at the conclusion that “this ward thing just isn’t working out here.”

After the change, he said he doesn’t think anyone in the borough noticed, and there was very little comment or controversy when the change was made or since.

“It’s a small enough town. It doesn’t really matter,” he said.

Now, they have “usually just enough people running.” There are few contested races, he said, but there have been enough candidates.

“We haven’t had any trouble filling the seats anymore. Can I directly attribute it to the change in seats? I don’t know,” he said.

McGann said he can’t think of any unintended consequences from the new way residents elect their borough council.

“We’ve been doing just fine ever since,” he said.

Christopher Dietz was the council president in Millersburg when the change was made, a seat he still holds. He agreed that the new setup appears to be working well.

“I’ve not received any negative comments from council people or the public,” he said, adding: “I haven’t noticed an impact and no one has said anything to me positively or negatively about it.”

He said there was once council resignation, a letter was put in the paper to seek candidates, and there were multiple people who showed interest, so they filled the seat.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 August 2016 15:28

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Current councilors probably won't be affected much

So what would happen to its current members if Middletown Borough Council changes to seven at-large representatives instead of nine elected from wards?

Not much. According to Jerry Feaser Jr., director of Dauphin County Elections and Voter Registration, if the ordinance is worded properly, the seven current members of the council would become at-large council members when the ordinance is passed.

It also would not change the current terms of the council members. Of the current seven (remember, there are two vacancies — that’s one of the reasons why this change is being undertaken in the first place), three would run for four-year terms in 2017, when their current term is up. That would be Dawn Knull, Ben Kapenstein and Anne Einhorn. Three would run in 2019, when their terms end — Robert Reid, Damon Suglia and Diana McGlone. 

That accounts for only six members, and now it gets a little complicated. What about the seventh member, Ian Reddinger? The 2nd Ward Council member was appointed this year to replace Greg Wilsbach, who resigned to become the public works director for the borough. 

If the structure of the council did not change from nine to seven and from wards to at-large, he would be required to run in 2017 for a two-year term to fill out the rest of the four-year term to which Wilsbach was elected.

Confused yet? There’s more.

Council could write the ordinance so it states that all four members running in 2017 are running for four-year terms, eliminating the need for Reddinger to run for a two-year term. Or they could simply leave things as-is in regard to Reddinger, meaning he would have to run for a two-year term to finish up for Wilsbach and then he would have to run for a four-year term in 2019.

Either way, the council terms will remain staggered — four in an odd year, then three in the next odd year — so that the entire council is not up for re-election all at once. It just is a question of in which odd year there will be four voted in and which odd year there will be three on the ballot.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 August 2016 15:18

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