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From the Vault: News from the Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010 edition of the Press & Journal

Posted 1/3/18

School construction in 1962 to highlight borough improvements

The Press & Journal’s annual forecast of the year ahead portends major improvements in physical facilities of the Middletown Area …

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From the Vault: News from the Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010 edition of the Press & Journal

Posted

New Year’s Eve drop draws a small but determined crowd

The cold, rainy weather may have kept some, but not all from coming to the square in Middletown to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve.

“The rain isn’t that bad, and it’s not that cold,” said Janice Aichner who attended the event with her family.

Aichner said she wanted her grandchildren, Cameron, Kinnedi, and Carleigh Welsh to experience the New Year by bringing them to the celebration.

Aichner said she enjoyed the music of the Harrisburg-based band Just Us that performed on a covered stage.

But Middletown Mayor Robert Reid, who came out for the event, said he was disappointed by the turnout.

“In past years we have had a few hundred people. This year is bad, because of the weather,” he said.

The event was previously held in the area of North Union and Emaus streets and the borough building at Emaus and Catherine streets.

But borough officials decided to move the celebration to Union and Main streets to encourage more people to attend. The feeling was that the old location was hidden and many residents didn’t know about it, Reid said.

Patrons from local bars, including Guido McNeal’s and The Lamp Post Inn, came out around 11 p.m. to join the celebration.

In addition to the band, there was a bouncy ball ring for kids, a first this year, said Reid.

Members of Middletown First Church of God sold hot chocolate and other sweets during the celebration.

Proceeds were donated to the Young Adult Coffee House. The coffee house, which opens Sunday nights at 8 p.m. at 245 W. High St., was started by a group of college students who were looking for a place to hang out.

They meet in the house below the church.

The Middletown Area Arts Collective also held a New Year’s Eve dinner and featured artists from the Union Street Blues, a jazz club that offers musicians a place to jam.

Shari Brandt, director of MAAC, was happy with the turnout of more than 20 people to the event, but hopes that in the future, more will attend.

“This was our second year and I think we can do better next year,” said Brandt.

The money raised from the event will go to benefit MAAC, Brandt said.

Needed: Just one vote to break a tie for council president position

If you’ve ever doubted that one vote can make a difference in politics, just look at what happened in Middletown on Monday night.

The Middletown Borough Council held its annual election for council president, choosing between two members who were nominated for the position. One councilman was absent, leaving eight members to choose their leader.

When the “ayes” and “nays” were tallied, the vote was tied. Councilmen Joseph Dailey and Robert Louer had split the votes, 4-4.

Borough officials sat silently as the crowd that filled the meeting room, eager to watch the swearing-in of the winners of November’s municipal election, murmured.

No one knew what to do.

If it were an ordinance up for vote, the mayor would have, by law, broken the tie.

But Mayor Robert Reid was hesitant to decide for council who would be its leader.

“I don’t think it’s right for me to break the tie,’’ he announced.

“Do we have a phone number for the (borough) solicitor?’’ asked District Judge David Judy, invited to administer the oath of office to officials who had won in November.

So Reid called the solicitor on a cellphone, as the audience listened.

“I vote? I vote in case of a tie?’’ he demanded, the phone pressed to his ear. “You’re sure? You’re sure I can vote?’’

He paused, waiting for the answer from the other end of the call.

“Oh,’’ he said finally. “You’re not sure.’’

The crowd murmured again.

“Wow. I’m not sure. I’m not sure,’’ said Reid. “But you’re not sure also.’’

He hung up, and announced to the audience, “I don’t think it’s right for me to select one. We just won’t organize.’’

Instead, the council postponed the remainder of its agenda for the first meeting of 2010 — including an acceptance speech by the new president, the election of a vice president and the naming of a borough manager and secretary/treasurer — until its next meeting, scheduled for Jan. 12.

It seemed like a sensible decision. Until the borough’s finance director, Richard Grove, rose from his seat in the audience.

Who will sign checks to pay for borough expenses for the next eight days if no officers or managers are chosen? he asked. Who would sign paychecks for the police, and highway workers who plow snowy streets, and other borough employees?

Hmmm.

So council took a second vote for president.

It ended in a 4-4 tie.

Silence.

Reid sat at the head of council’s table, his elbows on the surface, his fingers intertwined. Suddenly, he had an idea.

What if they skipped the election of a president, and voted for a vice president instead?

“If we do get a vice president, then he’ll serve as the president, in this chair,’’ said Reid, indicating the chair in which he sat.

He paused. “I think he will,’’ he said hesitantly.

The crowd murmured again.

“Bad idea, mayor,’’ yelled a man in the audience.

“What if the vice president was going to run for president?’’ asked another in the crowd.

Hmmm.

“Mayor, I suggest you call the solicitor,’’ suggested Judge Judy.

Reid pulled out his cellphone and dialed.

“It’s the mayor again,’’ he said into the phone.

Foster becomes assistant borough manager for Elizabethtown

One week after Middletown Borough Council fired Cindy Foster as their acting borough manager, she informed council that she was hired as assistant borough manager for Elizabethtown Borough.

“I had been talking to them for a long time, and we just finalized things,” said Foster, whose salary will decrease from $80,000 to $61,000.

Foster sent an email to borough council members the week of Dec. 21, informing them she was hired in Elizabethtown and thanking them for their patience, she said.

“It is a fresh start,” said Foster. “I loved that community and it was a hard decision.”

Bob Louer, incoming council member, said that he was happy to hear Foster obtained a job, but said he was sad to not be working with her.

“It is a loss to us [borough council],” he said.

Louer also questioned the decision by the previous council to fire Foster and offer her a severance package if they were aware that she was looking to Elizabethtown for employment.

But Rodney Horton, former council president, said that he didn’t find out about the move until Foster’s e-mail.

“Municipal managers don’t usually tip their hand about interviews,” said Horton, adding that Foster may have been applying to other municipalities, but she didn’t inform borough council until she was hired.

Foster was “terminated without prejudice” in December, along with acting borough secretary Marcia Cleland, and Middletown Public Library Director Stephanie Liva.

The term means the three did nothing wrong. The firings were a technical move designed to ensure the employees, who planned to leave anyway, would receive a severance package, officials said.

Under the termination agreements Foster will receive four-months pay plus unused vacation and sick pay.

Cleland will receive three months salary plus vacation and sick time.

“It is no secret,” said Foster, about being hired in Elizabethtown.

She was offered the position about a year ago, but turned it down, she said.

“The timing wasn’t right, I just was not ready to leave Middletown then,” she said.

Foster found out about the job opening after receiving a courtesy telephone call from Elizabethtown officials informing her that three council-elects – Louer, David Rhen and Mary Hiester – had visited the Lancaster County borough office, she said.

During the telephone conversation, Foster learned that the position she turned down a year ago was still open.

“I guess I should thank Mr. Louer – if he, Dave Rhen, and Mary Hiester had not visited Elizabethtown, I would not have known the job was still available,” said Foster.

Roni Ryan, Elizabethtown’s assistant borough manager, was named manager to replace Peter Whipple who retired.

Ryan said Foster was hired in mid-December.

Headlines from the edition

• Highspire gets helping hand with Burd Run cleanup

• TMI donates coats to Bethesda Mission

• Boys Basketball: Lions caged by Raiders

Hot buys

• Smoked chops, $3.99 a pound. 2-pound shrimp, $11.98. Groff’s Meats, 33 N. Market St., Elizabethtown.

• Real estate: 1355 Butterchurn Road, Old Reliance Farm, Middletown. 3,900 total square feet, 2,300 finished square feet. Three bedrooms with first-floor master suite. $295,000.