Sunday, August 22, 2010

E-town American Legion donation helps police department

Front row: Mayor Chuck Mummert, Chief Jack Mentzer, American Legion Post 329 Commander – Ken Stark, Tara Heisey, Danielle Clough

Back row: Tony Frey, Gerald Freeman, Chad Enck, Andy Shank, Barry Cover
The Elizabethtown American Legion Post No. 329 donated nearly $5,000 to the Elizabethtown Police Department to buy a "speed trailer." The trailer contains radar and a sign that posts a car's speed as it drives past the trailer.

Police Chief Jack Mentzer said officers won't use the trailer for enforcement but rather to inform and educate drivers "about how easy it is to go above the speed limit and not notice it."

"It's a fabulous tool to have," he said.

Ken Stark, commander of Post No. 329, said once someone brought up the idea of purchasing the trailer, everyone at the Legion contributed.

"We all worked together to make it work," he said.

I join Mentzer in thanking the American Legion for its contribution. Municipal budgets are traditionally lean, and for a small police department such as Elizabethtown's a speed trailer traditionally falls onto a wish list. Mentzer said it's something the department has wanted for years but wasn't a priority. Now the Legion's support is helping to make driving in Elizabethtown a little safer.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Borough library to close next week thanks to state budget cuts

The Elizabethtown Public Library will close its doors for one week, from Aug. 23 to 30, because of severe cuts in state funding, according to a report in the Aug. 12 edition of the Elizabethtown Advocate (that's the best link -- the paper's not online yet).

The newspaper reported that Pennsylvania state government will cut funding to libraries statewide by 9.1 percent. Last year, the state cut funding by 27 percent. So we're looking at libraries taking a hit of one-third of their funding, basically because the economy is in the most severe recession in my lifetime.

On the one hand, it's understandable. Cuts in the state budget have to come from somewhere, and no program is immune -- especially since the Commonwealth will receive $250 million less in federal money than expected.

The problem with not just cutting -- but slashing to the bone -- library funding is well documented. In testimony Aug. 11 before the state House's Majority Policy Committee, Glenn R. Miller, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Library Association testified:

"... during this horrible recession, more and more Pennsylvanians rely on free services at their local public library. Families who cannot afford to buy books or DVDs turn to the library for summer reading and viewing. Unemployed workers who lost Internet access at home—or never had it at all—turn to the library to find and apply for jobs. Seniors who want to learn the basics of computers and emailing their grandkids turn to the library for instruction and access."

You see, this is personal for me. In 2003, I lost my job and was unemployed for six months. Because I didn't have an adequate Internet connection, I became a regular at the Elizabethtown Public Library precisely because of the free high-speed connection it offered. I used the computers there to search for jobs, e-mail my contacts, send resumes and fill out online applications. I know what it's like to rely on the library, and I am grateful that the library was there to provide a resource I didn't have at the time.

Now, seven years later, with unemployment in Lancaster County at about 8 percent, many people need the services a community library provides more than ever.

From a public financing perspective, it is the push and pull of priorities. In his testimony, Miller also noted that 60 percent of funding for libraries across Pennsylvania comes from local sources (municipalities, counties and school districts). The state provides 25 percent, with the balance coming from other sources such as grants and fundraising.

In 1999, he said, the Legislature put in place budgetary incentives for local governments to fund libraries, but those incentives have been stripped away. I agree with his assessment that if those incentives are put in place, adequately funded and made a priority, it would go a long way in alleviating the library funding crisis.

It might even keep our own Elizabethtown Public Library, which has become an anchor for our downtown, from closing for a week.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Nonprofit group to trap, spay/neuter and release feral cats

A nonprofit organization called The Merrick Fund is planning to trap 35 feral cats in an unidentified neighborhood in Elizabethtown after a resident contacted the group recently. Amy Wimmersberger, a representative from the group, briefed Borough Council on the efforts at council's meeting last week.

She said her organization traps feral cats systematically in one area of a town over one week, has them spayed or neutered and then releases them back into the area from which they were trapped. This approach is different from other trap/neuter/release programs, she said, because the organization is the one doing the trapping and not lending traps to residents.

At no cost to the borough, volunteers will spend a week trapping cats in one area and transport them to a veterinarian to be spayed/neutered. The cats will be kept for about three days so they can recover and then will be released to the same area from which they were trapped. If there are other colonies of feral cats, the organization will move on to another area and carry out the same procedure.

Wimmersberger said she and volunteers have been working on a similar program in Steelton this year and have trapped, treated and released 190 cats. She called the program a real success.

Borough Council members all  have had constituents contact them about feral cats at one time or another. In fact, when I posted something about the matter on Facebook, a West High Street resident posted a photo he took of kittens from feral cats, and a somewhat heated discussion ensued. Here's a link -- I'm not sure what the privacy settings are, so you might not be able to see it.

Given the success of the program in Steelton, and that there is no cost to Elizabethtown, this seems like a great approach to a problem that touches many borough residents.