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Editor's Voice: Pending Lamp Post sale a sign of our rebirth

 

Location, location, location? The Lamp Post Inn always had that going for it, sitting on busy East Main Street in Middletown since its days as a tavern in the 1800s.

It’s been a popular spot for locals, so it was a bit of a surprise that it closed on April 19 when its current owner, Elizabeth Heddy, wished to retire. She had hoped to sell it to someone who would reopen the restaurant – and apparently that is what is going to happen.

A partnership that includes Peter Zoumas Jr., the executive chef at The Manor Restaurant & Lounge in West Hanover Twp. – the old Pavone’s Restaurant transformed – intends to purchase the Lamp Post once it obtains a liquor license, for which it has applied.

The prospective new owners intend to remodel it and turn it into a “middle upper class’’ family restaurant, said Peter Zoumas Sr., one of three partners hoping to purchase the property.

They plan to invest $250,000 into renovations, he said, restoring the outside to its 1800s look. Its new name will actually be its old name: The Black Horse Tavern, the name of the tavern that occupied the building back to the 1800s.

Still, with all the renovations that are planned, “We are going to have a brand new building when we are done with it,’’ said Zoumas Sr.

The Lamp Post Inn didn’t stay on the real-estate market very long. It would seem that Middletown’s rebirth – or is it a re-branding? – as a town that can be a venerable host to the growing population of students at neighboring Penn State Harrisburg, and its Victorian quaintness and history as the oldest borough in Dauphin County are beginning to show results. Though “we’re not going to have $40 steaks’’ at the new restaurant, according to Zoumas Sr., the opening of such an eatery certainly is proof that Middletown has something going for it in the eyes of entrepreneurs and developers.

“I think the place has a lot of potential, if you run it right,’’ Zoumas Sr. told us in a story on A1. The same can be said of Middletown in more general terms.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 October 2014 21:02

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Let's show them our stuff

If there's any borough in Dauphin County that could fill a museum with artifacts from its past, it's Middletown. The oldest borough in the county has plenty of stuff collected throughout its history, stuff that until a couple years ago was kept on the second floor of the Middletown Public Library, displayed to the public by appointment.

It's exciting, and a bit daunting, that Middletown's artifacts could soon be on display in a town museum. Middletown Borough Council voted to transfer the Grosh building on the square, a property it bought about a year ago for $90,000, to the Middletown Area Historical Society, the keepers of the artifacts. The society plans to turn the old two-story house into a museum.

Such a museum not only would be an attraction to borough residents, particularly long-time residents who would remember Middletown's recent past, but also visitors, such as the parents of Penn State Harrisburg students who are visiting their sons and daughters. With hundreds of college students now living in the borough, and just beyond the borough limits in neighboring Lower Swatara Twp., a museum has the potential to attract plenty of guests, and become an even more vital part of the community.

Undertaking such an enterprise provides additional challenges to the society that it previously did not face. Money will be needed to pay for the lights and heat, for example. But volunteers at the society have seemed active and invested in the town, staging several community fund-raisers recently. Undoubtedly they are eager to accept the challenge and willing to be more than just caretakers of the town's history.

Here's hoping it is a resounding success.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 October 2014 17:21

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Time will tell if water, sewer lease is good call

Middletown certainly won’t be the first central Pennsylvania municipality that would depend on a private company to provide water service if Borough Council signs a 50-year lease with United Water of New Jersey and its financial partner, KKR & Co. L.P. of New York. A lease was approved by council and the Middletown Borough Authority during a special meeting on Monday, Sept. 29.

 

Other municipalities live with water service provided by private utilities whose rates are monitored by the Public Utility Commission.

 

But the decision to lease the water and wastewater systems was a difficult call, for borough leaders as well as residents. The borough has had absolute power over the rates charged to water and sewer customers; giving up that power, to any degree, is a monumental step.

 

And a risky step, opponents would argue. Sure, the borough stands to gain money up front in the lease deal with United Water – about $43 million to pay off roughly $37 million in borough debts and pension benefits, plus annual payments negotiated with United Water, officials say.

 

And, true, the lease agreement freezes rates until 2019 – assuming the lease begins on Jan. 1 – while capping future annual rate hikes at 2.5 percent above the Consumer Price Index, but it also allows United Water to raise rates higher than that for what Councilor Ben Kapenstein calls “big projects’’ with council’s approval.

 

The water system is a profit-turning enterprise, an asset with which the borough should not part, opponents said during a special joint meeting of council and the borough authority on Monday, Sept. 29 at the MCSO Building.

 

And while it's nice to be debt-free, we suspect that can't last for 50 years. Middletown will incur debt when it needs to, just as common folk incur debts – a mortgage and car payment, for example – as life unfolds. There will be debt – it's how the borough manages its debts that counts.

 

Kapenstein was one of seven councilors who voted in favor of the lease. He lauded the deal. Councilors Tom Handley and Anne Einhorn voted no.

 

Four of five borough authority members also approved the lease deal. Member AB Shafaye was the lone no vote.

 

Mayor James H. Curry III said he favored the lease deal over raising real-estate taxes or rates on electricity sold by the borough to town customers.

 

It certainly is a tricky issue, with good arguments on both sides. Monday’s meeting reflected that: While the lease agreement had proponents and opponents stating their case with civility, many who attended still seemed to have questions about the lease arrangement rather than a position for or against it.

 

It will provide immediate benefits. Whether it works in the long-run or not, only time will tell.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 September 2014 21:10

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Yes, Dorothy, there is no place like home

Highspire reveled in its small town warmth, relived its small-town memories, and celebrated its small-town joys to mark its 200th birthday on Saturday, Sept. 20. Too often we lose a sense of community, and of home, in a society nowadays that seems busier, more transient and less concerned about its roots. In Highspire, residents past and present realized the value of place, of home – and some even looked forward to a similar celebration 50 years from now, God willing.

 

There was a parade down Second Street – Route 230 to those of us who are not locals from the borough – which is a great feat considering how busy the artery gets. There was the opening of a time capsule, buried in Memorial Park in 1964, which revealed nifty mementoes from the past. A 45 rpm record – vinyl discs that played music, for those of you too young to know – of the Beatles’ “I Should Have Known Better,’’ released in the summer of 1964, was among the items in the metal capsule. And a copy of the Press And Journal – the hits just kept coming! – in surprisingly good condition for a 50-year-old paper. A baseball signed by three friends who played for the local youth baseball team 50 years ago – and all three were present on Saturday to see it.

 

That is perhaps the most impressive thing about the Highspire celebration. It drew a number of people who had left, but returned for the festivities – because their hearts remain with the town.

 

Take Polly Shepler Barlow, for example. She was crowned the Sesquicentennial Queen in 1964, and rode on a float in a similar parade 50 years ago. She returned all the way from Woodstock, Ga., on Saturday to participate in the Bicentennial Parade. “I was just honored to be invited,’’ she said, “and I really, really enjoyed it.’’

 

Residents reminisced about streetcars and neighbors, about the now-defunct Highspire High School. There were members of the first graduating class of Steelton-Highspire High School, the Class of 1959, a merger formed with neighboring Steelton long ago.

 

Parade-goers even chanted the name of former mayor Wayne Shank as he rode down the street in the procession. The love of hometown made Shank a rock star.

 

The celebration was the result of hard work by a dedicated group of volunteers who make up the Highspire Bicentennial Committee, and Highspire Borough Council. Their hard work evoked the love Highspire natives have, and still have, for their town. It was a tremendous success, and left many who attended hoping they are around for the town’s 250th anniversary.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 September 2014 19:30

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Editor's Voice: Christmas arrived early for the Elks and Middletown

By Jim Lewis

Perhaps it was the Christmas spirit that moved a record number of people – 200! –  to buy tickets for the Middletown Holiday Candlelight Tour of Homes on Dec. 8 and 9. And maybe the 224 people who paid to see the

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 22:53

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