Saturday, March 28, 2009

Status update on West College Avenue project

For the past year or so, Elizabethtown has been working on a project to extend College Avenue west and connect with Bainbridge Street. This project was made possible in large part because of Mars Inc., and specifically its snack food division, which constructed five new production lines for Dove Chocolate at its plant that bordered Bainbridge Street. To build the plant, Mars needed to build over the existing street.

The first phase of the road construction project, from the railroad underpass to the creek, was started last year and completed by early fall. I think I can speak for all of Borough Council and the administration and say that Mars has been an incredible corporate citizen through this entire project, and especially during the past six months as it has allowed traffic to use a portion of its parking lot so vehicles can connect to the newly constructed road. This has gotten traffic flow back to relatively normal conditions, alleviating the congestion on West High Street where traffic was detoured.

The second phase of the project, which requires the construction of a bridge, is slated to go out for bids in July, according to Borough Manager Pete Whipple. He said the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which is funding the project, asked the borough specifically to wait until July to put the project to bid because of the current economic climate. July 1 is the start of the state's new fiscal year. If the project remains on this timeline, work on the project should begin later this summer, with an anticipated year of construction.

In the meantime, the borough is working on obtaining small easements for the installation of electric and other utility poles.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

$8M in federal stimulus money to pay for borough's train station

Elizabethtown Borough is in line to receive $8 million in federal economic stimulus money to pay for renovations to the Amtrak Elizabethtown Train Station.

Borough Manager Pete Whipple said at Borough Council's March 19 meeting that borough and Amtrak officials will be meeting in two weeks finalize the details of the project. He indicated that there will be a "flurry of activity" in the next 45 to 60 days to get everything in place so the project can go to bid.

A project that has been in the works for at least 10 years, the renovations to the train station will be a boon to Elizabethtown. Ridership at the station has increased by leaps and bounds for many years, and the improvements will bring much nicer facilities to those who use the station.

The renovated station also will be a centerpiece of Elizabethtown's mixed-use zoning in the area between Market Street and the train station. Once the project is complete, Borough Council hopes that it will spark interest in new business development in this area. And it also will attract businesses to Sycamore Square.

Good things definitely are happening in Elizabethtown.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

As I contemplate what to write for this first post, I am realizing that this is a difficult task. I am starting this blog, called Chronicling Elizabethtown, for a couple of reasons. First, this small community in south-central Pennsylvania lost its weekly newspaper, the Elizabetown Chronicle, a few weeks ago. So in an effort to fill the gap, I am going to present the news in this space from the perspective of a member of Borough Council.

Because of Elizabethtown's geographic location, midway between Lancaster and Harrisburg, the newspapers in those respective cities sometimes overlook our fine community. While reporters from the Lancaster Newspapers (publishers of the Intelligencer-Journal and the New Era) do a good job covering us, they are stretched thin and can't cover the nitty-gritty details of life here. And The Patriot-News in Harrisburg tends to overlook us at times because we are in Lancaster County and a bit beyond its coverage area (though I have been a long-time subscriber).

Last year, a project at Elizabethtown College called We-Town was intended have college students and eventually community members become citizen journalists and post news and events from town. However, it has not taken off as I thought it might.

So, here we are, a fabulous community with tons of potential without a newspaper of record, and me, an elected official and a former newspaper reporter (and, for the record, one-time editor of the Elizabethtown Chronicle) and now a public relations professional, wanting to get the news out about my community. I look forward to letting you know what's going on from this side as an elected official -- and the dialog that can take place online via a blog. Indeed, I think we can all be Chronicling Elizabethtown for a long time.