Saturday, December 31, 2011

Why is the Chestnut Street bridge still closed?

This has become a familiar sight for motorists and nearby residents: The bridge on South Chestnut Street has been closed to traffic since the flooding in September.

So why hasn't it been repaired? And what is taking so long? Chalk it up to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The borough needs a permit to do the work because the bridge crosses a stream. The borough administration took care of the design and applied to DEP. In October, Borough Council voted to approve a contractor to do the work on the bridge for $70,728 (along with the South Poplar and West Bainbridge street bridges -- total work for all three, a little more than $110,000).

Despite the borough's having declared an emergency during the flood, and despite the state's being at the highest level of disaster response during the flooding, DEP only notified the borough last week that the design for the Chestnut Street bridge is inadequate.


When the borough's administration reported this to members of Borough Council after a meeting last week, my colleagues were incredulous. One of the reasons municipalities and states declare emergencies and disasters is to expedite repairs.

But that doesn't seem to have filtered down to the bureaucrats at DEP.

Yes, we recognize that the flooding was epic not just here in Elizabethtown. Our neighbors in Manheim, Hershey, Hummelstown, Middletown and elsewhere had significant and serious problems. But to take more than 3 months to tell us the design is inadequate is irresponsible. Our engineers could have been working on this redesign and perhaps even submitted it for approval.

This means taking even more time to go back to the drawing board and design according to DEP's comments. Let's fix the target and keep it there and keep in mind that your decisions continue to impact and inconvenience residents in our fair town.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No tax increase for 2012

Earlier this month, Elizabethtown Borough Council approved a $5.37 million budget for 2012 that contains no tax increase. This will keep the millage rate at 5.0.

A windfall of unexpected revenues this fall, about $240,000 worth plus deferring $172,000 in expenses in the police department, helped to balance the budget.

The windfall came in the form of a about $130,000 in a one-time payment from the Commonwealth to assist with the borough's pension payment requirements, about $102,000 in unanticipated earned income tax revenues. Likewise, the borough was expecting an additional $9,000 in real estate tax revenues.

In a letter the borough received from state Auditor General Jack Wagner, he was explicit that the borough "should view this increased state aid award for 2011 as nothing more than an isolated or limited event that will serve to help to secure your pension plans."

For 2012, the borough was required to budget $285,832 to cover the police pension fund and $77,441 for the non-uniformed pension fund.

The budget will continue to fund services at the levels borough residents have been accustomed to. While residents will see the completion of the bridge and intersection at Market Street and West College Avenue, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is reimbursing the cost of that project.

Other major capital expenditures planned for in 2012 include the following:
  • $21,000 for a new phone system for borough offices and police department. The current system is 18 years old and frequently cuts out on employees. Its voice mail feature also does not answer calls at times.
  • $10,000 for a new HVAC unit at Borough Hall. This is part of a schedule to replace the units that have exceeded their life span; the new unit will be energy efficient. Another unit is scheduled for replacement in 2013.
  • $86,900 to replace police radios when Lancaster County upgrades to a modern emergency radio system.
  • $299,711 to pave certain streets. This is funded through the Liquid Fuels Tax revenue the borough receives from the state.
  • $71,000 for a new backhoe to replace one that is showing its age and has hydraulic issues and repair costs.
  • $42,000 to repair and rehab the bridge on West Bainbridge Street. PennDOT has identified this as needing repairs. 





Monday, November 21, 2011

EASD dedicates new Bear Creek School

In my official capacity as the parent of a student at the new Bear Creek School, I attended the dedication ceremony for the $18 million building held yesterday. Originally scheduled for Oct. 30, it was delayed because of that day's freak snowstorm.

The dedication was a nice event, with all the typical dignitaries speaking and thanking the appropriate individuals.

Two details stood out to me during the ceremony:

  • In 2009, the Pennsylvania Department of Education said the Bear Creek School construction project was the cheapest of all school construction in the Commonwealth, according to school Director Terry Seiders, who is chairman of the school board's Facilities Committee. He said the project cost $115 per square foot; in 2009, the average cost for school construction was $183 per square foot.
  • School Board President Jamie Rowley said Bear Creek is the first brand new school, on a new footprint, that the Elizabethtown Area School District has built in 50 years.
Those are notable details, to be sure. 

In the program handed out yesterday, the district noted some other details:

  • The district originally estimated construction at about $23 million, but a favorable construction climate saved nearly $5 million.
  • The project is funded through general obligation bonds. The debt, according to the program, has no impact on the district's tax rate because the district has paid off some debt, the difference between construction estimates and actual costs as noted above and favorable interest rates.
  • The 153,000-square-foot school has 48 classrooms housing fourth, fifth and sixth graders. It has five science labs, nine small group instruction spaces, two art rooms, a full-sized gym and an auxiliary gym, a food court and cafeteria and an outdoor play area.
  • The school has 940 students, 61 teachers, two administrators and 28 support staff.
Bear Creek School certainly is a state-of-the-art facility, with technology such as wireless internet throughout and smart boards in every classroom. I certainly am pleased that my 11-year-old is in a brand new school and can take advantage of new technologies that were only a dream when I was his age.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Borough police celebrate 100 years of service to community

On Nov. 17, 1911, Elizabethtown Borough Council authorized the first municipal police department for the community. Last week, the department celebrated by issuing a new patch to commemorate a century of service to the borough.

After Borough Council's meeting Thursday, Police Chief Jack Mentzer and invited guests, including former police chiefs and mayors, and other invited guests, gathered for a brief ceremony during which the chief unveiled the patch.

Mentzer said the idea for the patch originated with an officer in the department after he took over as police chief about five years ago. When it dawned on him that he might be in charge of the department during its centennial, he agreed to designing a new patch.

Mentzer worked with the local design firm Rice & Rice to develop and design the patch.

In remarks, Mentzer said, "In my 30 years with Elizabethtown Borough and the police department I have had the privilege of working with dozens of people. Many of them are in this room tonight. ... You have laid the foundation of excellence and service that continues within the department today.

Mentzer with Mayor Chuck Mummert
"But let us not forget, the 'thing' that is more important than any ne of us in this room tonight, this 'thing' was an idea that was forged 100 years ago by Borough Council. It promoted the ideals of service to our community and the noble concepts of 'service before self' and 'service with integrity.' This 'thing,' we call the Elizabethtown Police department' will continue to serve the community, long after we in the room are gone. May it always be the epitome of professionalism and an example to all through service and integrity."

Former Mayor Ken Reighard, circa 1970s
Mike Rice, left, of Rice & Rice designed the patch.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Crime Stoppers offers reward to help nab vandals

Lancaster County Crime Stoppers has offered a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of someone who is spraying graffiti in Elizabethtown. Borough Police Chief Jack Mentzer issued this flyer earlier today.

Elizabethtown Police are investigating incidents of graffiti at the Elizabethtown Borough Park in the area of the basketball court, the public restroom, the park wall and the Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren sign. There have been several other incidents around the Elizabethtown area with the tag, "LOUD" used, and the name Seville spray painted.

If anyone has information regarding these incidents contact Detective John Emrick, Elizabethtown Police, at 717-367-6540, or Lancaster City/County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-322-1913. Callers may remain anonymous and do not have to give their names.

Monday, November 7, 2011

American Legion Donation helps police purchase equipment

For the second time in a little over a year, the American Legion Post No. 329 in Elizabethtown has made a significant contribution to the Elizabethtown Police Department.

Last month, the post donated $5,700 for the department to purchase a thermal imaging device from FLIR (Forward Looking Infra-Red). This hand-held device allows users to see heat or temperature signatures against a contrasting background. It is the same technology used in helicopters and aircrafts for spotting people and vehicles from the air during hours of darkness.

The police department's primary use of the device will be during hours of darkness and will be extremely helpful in searching for lost people such as children or Alzheimer patients who may wonder away from their care provider. It can also be used to assist in the search for discarded property from a crime scene, such as items from a robbery or burglary. The device does NOT have the capability of seeing heat signatures through walls or other solid objects. The video below is from FLIR's website.

In August 2010, the American Legion donated $5,000 for the police department to purchase a speed trailer. The Legion's latest donation came on the heels of the news that the Elizabethtown Rotary Club had donated funds to set up a program for Elizabethtown High Schools students to anonymously text tips to police.

It's fantastic to see community organizations stepping forward and making significant contributions that enhance public safety in Elizabethtown. These are items that are on the police department's wish list -- but are not priority items when it comes to budgeting. For the American Legion and the Rotary Club to raise the funds is a testament to their concern for the borough -- and I think I can say on behalf of Borough Council as a whole, "Thank you!"

Pictured above are: Front row, from left: Police Chief Jack Mentzer; Commander Jerry Freeman, Sons of the American Legion; Commander Earl Shearer, American Legion Post 329; President Tara Heisey, American Legion Ladies Auxiliary. Back row, from left: Mayor Chuck Mummert, Director Paul Rettew, American Legion Post No. 329); President Chad Enck, American Legion Home Association; Chaplain Jessica Klepping, Ladies Auxiliary; and Second Vice President Mark Klepping, Home Association.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Flooding damage to borough infrastructure estimated at $350K

Elizabethtown's infrastructure, including bridges and its wastewater treatment plant, sustained $350,000 in damage from the flooding in early September, according to estimates from the borough administration.

One bridge, on Chestnut Street behind the community park's softball field, remains closed because the sidewalk and road collapsed. Estimates for its repair are $70,728. The other bridges are open for traffic, but the South Poplar Street bridge has erosion  under the roadbed, curb and sidewalk on the southeast side (damage estimates, $27,514); the West Bainbridge Street bridge is unsafe for pedestrians because of a major washout on the southwest and southeast corners (damage estimates, $11,800).

The borough has awarded a contract to do the bridge repairs to B R Kreider.

Other major damage came at the sewage treatment plant. The lower buildings – the maintenance building/garage, the blower building and digester received heavy flooding. The basement of the maintenance building was flooded and a couple of inches of water on the first floor.  This impacted electrical panels, pumps, our potable water system, lighting, and left a lot of mud to be shoveled out. Estimates for the damage at the plant are $117,562.

Other damage that borough staff reported included:

  • A bank washed away at East Willow and North Mount Joy streets, exposing sewer line. Estimated damage: $75,000.
  • A major washout at the end of Holly Street: About $2,100 in direct damage, plus $27,000 in remediation to prevent problems in the future.
  • Major stream bank erosion in the parking lot behind Groff's Meats. Damage estimated at $5,000.
The borough administration reported that insurance will cover about $95,000 at the sewage treatment plant. Meanwhile, borough staff have been attending and participating in meetings with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and going through the process to ensure the borough will receive 100  percent reimbursement for damages.

The administration emphasized to me that this is initial assessment of the damages and helps with planning to keep track of the damages and the work borough crews and/or contractors will do. This is not a final report, and the dollar figure could rise.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

High school students can text anonymous tips to cops

An anonymous tip texted via cellphone to Elizabethtown School Resource Officer Rick Farnsler earlier this school year might have saved a life.

Through a program Farnsler set up, an Elizabethtown High School student texted that another student might be suicidal. Upon receiving the text, Farnsler communicated anonymously with the first student and was able to get the name of the second student. He then contacted school officials, who set in motion crisis intervention to help the second student.

Farnsler is a borough police officer assigned to the Elizabethtown Area High School full time for several years. Since working at the school, he told Borough Council earlier this month, he has tried various ways to encourage students to provide tips. They have included a hotline and a "suggestion" box -- but he said he "never once" got a tip through either.

Knowing that teenagers text as a primary way of communciating, Farnsler researched how he could use texting to receive anonymous tips. He found a program that is entirely anonymous, with no way for him to find out who texted him because the servers are located in Canada. That, he said, is key because students don't want want to develop a reputation as a "snitch." All students have to do is text to the number 27637 and include "etown" in the body of the message, and he and several school officials receive a text.

The program cost $1,600 per year. Farnsler approached the Elizabethtown Rotary Club, which is sponsoring the program for this school year.

"It's a great partnership between the school, the police, the borough and the Rotary," he said.

"If we saved that life," Police Chief Jack Mentzer said, referring to the suicide intervention, "this program has already paid for itself a thousand times over."

Farnsler said this is the only program of its type -- completely anonymous texting -- for high school students in Lancaster County.

I echo what my fellow Councilman Tom Shaud told Farnsler: "You've done something to make the borough proud."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Left turn lanes installed at High and Market

In the past several weeks, left turn lanes were installed on East and West High Street at Market Street as part of a synchronization project and other improvements to all the signaled intersections in the Elizabethtown area.

As anyone who navigated the intersection can attest, drivers had been making their own through and left turn lanes for years. This created hazardous and dangerous situations at times.

With the turn lanes, drivers now know exactly where to go. The project did require Borough Council to eliminate parking on High Street so the lanes could be painted,  but it was a decision that creates a safer community.

When I drove through the intersection with the marked turn lanes the first time, I thought that it would eventually need left-turn arrows for High Street drivers. During the Elizabethtown Area Regional Authority's meeting this morning, West Donegal Township Supervisor Chairman Ralph Horne brought up that point.

However, Steve Gault, a traffic engineer for Mount Joy Township, said the synchronization of all the traffic signals complicates adding the arrows. While they could be installed, he noted that the time it would take for the arrows to cycle through would have to be taken from the cycle on Market Street. And if you adjust the timing at that intersection, all of the other intersections through town would need adjusting to accommodate the change.

"It's sort of a balancing act," Gault said, adding that the negatives of adding the arrows outweigh the positives.

Gault also noted while the synchronization project will help with traffic flow through Elizabethtown, Maytown Avenue at Market Street will continue to be a congested intersection. He said "the only way" to eliminate that is to "build more capacity or reduce (the) volume" of traffic.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

It's been a tough week for all of us

As I look out my window this morning, I actually see some sun and a little blue sky! It's notable after the past few days that saw the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dump 15 inches of rain on Elizabethtown and the surrounding area.

That caused lots of problems, including flooded streets, some people's evacuating homes on Poplar Street, manholes that bubbled up with excess water and basements with a little to a lot of water. And I think these issues might just scratch the surface.

Personally, my house had water in the finished basement that required tearing out carpet and the padding (see the picture at left). I still have three fans and a dehumidifier running constantly. I talked to the previous owner of the house, who was surprised because he grew up here and raised his own family in these walls and never had water in the basement in 50 years. That includes Hurricane Agnes in June 1972 that devastated parts of Central Pennsylvania, including Harrisburg.

Clearly, the storm this week was an extraordinary event.

So when I talked to someone at the borough office yesterday afternoon, he mentioned that people called to report problems with sewer backing up into their basements. And they blamed the borough, or they blamed neighbors. As the borough said in its news release yesterday, those problems are not the borough's responsibility.

Besides, when your community gets 15 inches of rain in a few days -- in a month when the average rainfall is typically less than 1 inch -- all bets off in my opinion.

From the perspective of this borough councilman, this isn't a time to pit neighbor against neighbor and play a blame game. This should be a time for us as a community to come together and help each other.

Kudos go to the borough staff, the Elizabethtown Police Department, the Elizabethtown Fire Department and emergency management for an outstanding response. As my fellow Councilman Meade Bierly said, it makes our jobs as elected officials easier.

Friday, September 9, 2011

State of emergency remains in effect

Officials in Elizabethtown Borough issued the following news release this morning:

A state of emergency remains in effect for Elizabethtown Borough. Flood waters have receded, but residual damages have presented hazards.  These include some sidewalk areas. Residents are urged to use caution in their travel and other activities. South Chestnut Street between Park Street and East Bainbridge Street sustained flood damage and remains closed. All other streets are open to traffic at this time. During the peak of the flooding, the borough’s sanitary sewer collection system experienced significant impact in flow by flood waters, causing sewer backup at some residences. Residents should take care to thoroughly clean residue in all impacted areas. The Borough is not responsible for this cleanup. Residents should check with their homeowners insurance policies to see if assistance may be available. There are no plans for a borough-wide power outage at this time. Residents should call 367-1700 for emergency dumpster permits should they be required for cleanup.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Elizabethtown declares state of emergency

Officials in Elizabethtown have declared a state of emergency after constant heavy rain all day today caused flooding on Market Street. Some residents on Poplar Street had to be rescued from their  homes, according to Borough Council President Phil Clark.

Those residents who were rescued were taken to the Elizabethtown Fire Department and later bused to the Elizabethtown Area High School. If you need to evacuate your home, please go to the Daubert Gymanisum at the high school.

The only passable north-south street in town that is open is Mount Joy Street. Officials are advising to preserve drinking water for the time being.

Clark, who was at the fire department, called the town "a mess" at about 3:15 p.m. Some manholes throughout town were bubbling up with water because of the intense flow of stormwater,  and residents had called the borough office to report sewer backing up into their basements. One official said there's nothing to do but ride out the storm.

Clark praised emergency officials and the borough administration for doing a fantastic job. During his phone call, sirens could be heard in the background as personnel were responding to calls.

Market Street at College Avenue was closed because of flooding, and the owners of Folklore Coffee and Co. posted on Facebook that they were closing early because of flooding down the hill toward Rita's Italian Ice.

Elizabethtown College sent an email to students and staff, saying College Avenue at the college was closed because Lake Placida had overflowed its banks.

I'll report more information as I receive it.

Updated, 3:35 p.m.:
  • 25 kids are still at the Elizabethtown Child Care Center because parents can't get there. The center closed at 3 p.m.
  • Here are some photos posted on Folklore Coffee & Co.'s Facebook page for that end of town.
Updated, 4:32 p.m.
Update 5:40 p.m.

  • For people in Elizabethtown Borough who need to evacuate, please go to the Elizabethtown Fire Department on Mount Joy Street starting at 6 p.m. If you need to be evacuated, call 367-5300.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

West College Avenue construction continues with demo of service station

Demolition of a former service station at College Avenue and Market Street began this week and should be completed by the end of the week.

The work is part of the extension of West College Avenue, which includes the construction of a bridge, that will elminate the dog leg maneuvering for motorists using Bainbridge Street to head past the Dove Chocolate factory.

On Elizabethtown's Facebook page, the borough indicated the project is continuing with the construction of a retaining wall, relocation of sanitary sewer lines, stabilization of the culvert running under the building and footing for a pier.

If all goes well, traffic could be using the bridge late this fall. Final paving is likely to occur next year. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pa. Department of Health offers free potassium iodide pills

I just learned this morning that the Pennsylvania Department of Health is offering free potassium iodide (KI) pills to people who live, work or attend schoolin a 10-mile radius of the state's nuclear power plants. That includes those of us who live in Elizabethtown thanks to our proximity to Three Mile Island.

Distribution is scheduled for one day -- from 3 to 7 p.m. this Thursday, Aug. 11. Four 65-milligram tablets will be provided to each person.

Two locations that are most accessible to E-town residents are the Londonderry Township Building, 783 S. Geyers Church Road, Middletown, and the Hummelstown Fire Hall, 249 E. Main St., Hummelstown. Other locations are listed below.

As I think we all know, TMI is the site of the worst nuclear accident in the United States on March 28, 1979.

According to a state Department of Health news release:

When taken as directed, KI helps protect the thyroid gland against harmful radioactive iodine that may be released during a radiological emergency. Because not all radiological releases involve radioactive iodine, no one should take KI tablets unless directed to do so by state health officials or the governor.

This distribution is intended for people who were unable to take advantage of past KI offerings, have recently moved near nuclear power facilities, or are unaware that free KI tablets are regularly available through county and municipal health departments and state health centers.

The tablets will be offered at 12 locations across the state on Aug. 11. Individuals can pick up KI tablets for other family members or those who are unable to pick them up on their own.

Directions on how to store the tablets and when to take them will also be provided at each location.

Anyone can take the tablets unless they are allergic to KI. They are safe for pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding, people on thyroid medicine, children and infants. Individuals who are unsure if they should take KI should ask a health care provider.

Individuals who are unable to get tablets during the Aug. 11 distribution can pick them up at any time at county and municipal health departments or state health centers.

Pennsylvania’s five nuclear power plants are closely regulated, secure and well maintained. In addition to TMI, they are Beaver Valley Power Station, Limerick Generating Station, Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station and Susquehanna Steam Electric Station.

Following are other distribution sites for KI pills :

  • Butler Township Community Center, 411 W. Butler Drive, Drums, PA 18222
  • Luzerne County Community College (Public Safety Institute), 1333 S. Prospect St., Nanticoke, PA 18634
  • Beaver County State Health Center, 300 S. Walnut Lane, Beaver, PA 15009
  • Columbia County State Health Center, 1000 S. Market St., Suite 5, Bloomsburg, PA 17815
  • Keystone Fire Company, 240 N. Walnut St., Boyertown, PA 19512
  • Solanco High School, 585 Solanco Road, Quarryville, PA 17566
  • Fairview Township Fire Department, 340 Lewisberry Road, New Cumberland, PA 17070
  • Manchester Township Municipal Building, 3200 Farmtrail Road, York, PA 17406
  • Peach Bottom Township Community Center, 5 Pendyrus St., Delta, PA 17314
KI tablets will also be available at the following locations and times on Aug. 11:
  • Montgomery County Health Department, Pottstown Health Center, 364 King St., Pottstown, PA 19464 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Chester County Health Department, Kimberton Fire Company, 762 Pike Springs Road, Phoenixville, PA 19460 between 2 and 7 p.m.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Council puts brakes on Maytown Road-South Market Street proposal

At its workshop meeting last night, Elizabethtown Borough Council put the brakes on a proposal to create a series of one-way streets at and around the intersection of Maytown Road and South Market Street.

The Elizabethtown Area Regional Authority (EARA), formed to help implement a regional comprehensive plan approved by the borough and Conoy, Mount Joy and West Donegal townships, discussed the plan at its meeting last month. Traffic engineer Steve Gault presented the plan as an option that would keep traffic flowing at the intersection by using existing streets and doing limited construction.

Last night, Council President Phil Clark and I, both of whom represent the borough on the EARA board along with Councilman Dale Treese (who was absent from last night's meeting), briefed Borough Council on the plans. It was the first time that other members had heard details about it.

After listening to the details and examining a drawing of the plan, Councilman Meade Bierly said he didn't think it would be an improvement to the intersection. He said there are other projects in the community -- such as a bridge in the Conoy Crossing development that will extend Masonic Drive through to Maytown Road -- that ultimately will have an impact on traffic.

Bierly also said this proposed project would not be a good first one for EARA. He thinks -- and it's a good thought -- that EARA's first project needs to be something that garners widespread community support. The intersection changes would cause more consternation and get EARA off to a bad start.

Others councilmen said the proposal raised some safety issues, particularly because northbound traffic would be directed onto Spruce Street. A resident who lives at the corner has addressed Borough Council in the past year because drivers that turn right onto Spruce Street often take the corner too fast. If the proposed plan were implemented, some councilman feel it would not alleviate that problem.

After I blogged about the plan the other week, I heard from some residents, who weren't happy with the proposal. They said it would create an unsafe condition for drivers on Maytown Road that wanted to head into downtown because it would force them to turn right onto Market Street and cross traffic to make an immediate left onto Lemon Street.

EARA had authorized Gault to proceed with exploring grant funding for the project, but consensus among Borough Council last night was not to proceed with that. 

While at first glance, I felt this plan was an innovative approach to the intersection, I join my council colleagues in wanting to put the brakes on the plan. I do think it might be worthwhile considering at some point -- but not without careful and deliberate consideration of the issues that we talked about last night and that residents have raised with me.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Verizon Wireless store to move into former Blockbuster site

The Verizon Wireless store located next to Rita's Italian Ice on North Market Street is moving to the former Blockbuster Video site on South Market Street, according to a Verizon Wireless spokesman.

Responding to questions emailed to the company's corporate public relations office, Sheldon Jones said the store will open no later than July 18 and will expand from one employee to five. The store is owned by John Forsythe and is one of 235 independently owned "premium retailers" in the Philadelphia region that includes central and eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware. The company also has 90 corporate-owned locations.

"We are strategically seeking out pockets of our market that need a larger Verizon Wireless presence and looking for the prime real estate in that market," Jones said in his email. "We feel that this strategy is the right thing to do to serve our customer base and future Verizon Wireless customers."

Forsythe operates the Elizabethtown store  through a partnership with The Cellular Connection, which operates over 400 Verizon Wireless stores nationwide, according to Jones.

Verizon has eyed prime real estate locations in local markets because they are visible to customers, Jones said. Recently, the York Daily Record reported on a similar move just outside York.

Former Blockbuster stores give Verizon Wireless more room to display smartphones, tablets and other mobile internet devices in an industry that is changing rapidly.

"This larger location will allow a more interactive feel in his store and allow the customers to experience the latest technology offered by Verizon Wireless," Jones said.

It's great to see a local business expanding, and it's fantastic to see reuse of a commercial space.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Left turn lanes to be added on High Street at Center Square

During July, motorists in downtown Elizabethtown will see improvements in Center Square that will include the addition of left turn lanes in both directions on High Street. The work is part of a regional traffic signal synchronization project in which signals from Route 283 at Cloverleaf Road through the borough to the five-point intersection at Route 743/Mount Gretna Road/Holly Street are being improved. 

At the square, parking will be eliminated to make room for left turn lanes on High Street. This will formalize and make legal the left turn lanes that drivers created on their own. These self-created lanes are clearly unsafe -- especially for drivers attempting to pass vehicles on the right. With the creation of formal lanes, drivers will have clearly defined lanes and will have safer conditions.

Because of the changes, signs as pictured above will be installed on High Street at the square to keep traffic moving. As you can imagine, someone that stops to let a passenger out or parks for a minute with four-way flashers on could prevent traffic from flowing and cause congestion.

In preparation for the work, Borough Council removed 15-mintue parking spots on East and West High Street and has added two spots each to the public parking lots (next to Highlander Cleaners and across from P&J Pizza).

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

School board approves redistricting plan

This morning, I happened to see on Facebook that the Elizabethtown Area School District posted its redistricting plan that will move a number of elementary students into different schools. This is the result of the opening Bear Creek Intermediate School, which all fourth, fifth and sixth graders in the district will attend next year, and the closing of Fairview Elementary School.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One way to keep traffic moving

At the Elizabethtown Area Regional Authority's meeting Tuesday morning, traffic engineer Steve Gault, who works for Mount Joy Township, presented a plan that would create a series of one-way streets around the Maytown Road-Market Street intersection and eliminate the traffic signal there.

And the EARA board voted unanimously to authorize Gault to apply for a grant that could fund the project.

Gault presented the proposal to EARA, which was formed last year to help implement a regional comprehensive plan that all four municipalities in the greater Elizabethtown area -- the borough and Conoy, Mount Joy and West Donegal townships -- approved last year.

In meetings this year, EARA members made traffic issues identified in the comprehensive plan a priority. And specifically, they want to focus on the area from Maytown Avenue to Kmart.

Gault has been working with EARA on traffic issues and brought his proposal to the board, saying it is one that is probably the most cost effective to complete. He compared the proposal to a roundabout that uses the existing streets.

If approved as presented, the traffic light at the Maytown Road-Market Street intersection would disappear. Instead, traffic would flow one way south on Market, with drivers entering from Maytown only able to turn right with a yield sign. If they want to head north on Market, they will make a left onto Lemon Street, a left onto Spruce Street and a left onto Cherry, all of which also would be one way, and then turn right onto Market. Northbound drivers on Market coming from the Kmart and Giant areas would have to make that same maneuver.

This idea is just a proposal right now. In fact, it is preliminary enough that Gault did not have cost estimates at the meeting this week. However, he said there is grant money available for which the project might be eligible -- and the EARA board voted to approve an application since it is due at the end of July.

For the project to move forward, Borough Council would need to approve the concept and plans, and it would need approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Dr. Dale Treese, who is chairman of the EAWA board and a member of Borough Council, said he he liked the plan.

Likewise, I think this has some potential as well. On paper, it appears that it might work by keeping traffic flowing -- especially on Market Street during times of high volume. Any other improvements to the intersection, such as a new traffic light or reconfiguring it, would involve tearing down existing buildings. Treese said estimates for that kind of work and constructing a new intersection were at least $1.5 million several years ago.

Assuming the project received approval from Borough Council, and the grant application is approved, Gault estimated that this would be two years before the project would be done.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Borough Council approves MOU to move old freight station

Last week, Elizabethtown Borough Council unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with the Federal Transit Administration, the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to move an old freight station.

The station, which was at the center of some acrimonious discussions with local historical society officials, will be moved from near the newly renovated Elizabethtown Train Station to 340 W. High St. (across from White Oak Mills), a few hundred yards away. That location was the site of a former warehouse that the borough bought and demolished because of its dilapidated condition.

As of today, the borough does not have an estimate on the cost of moving the station. We also do not know what the schedule is for moving the building. 

Speaking as one member of Borough Council, I will note that the members of the local historical society initially opposed moving the freight station. Although I firmly believe they could have approached the issue with more tact and grace, I -- and other members of Borough Council -- give them credit because the MOU that council approved says the Federal Transit Administration will pay for moving the station. Had we gone forward without that involvement and decided to move it, the chances were greater that we would have used local tax dollars. So kudos to the local residents concerned about preserving history.

The issue with the freight station arose during the renovations of the Elizabethtown Amtrak station. The plans call for additional parking to be constructed where the freight station stands now. The station, apparently constructed in the late 19th century, has been empty since the mid-1970s. Before tearing it down, the borough notified the Elizabethtown Historical Society as required under a borough ordinance.

The borough does not have a planned use for the freight station -- but we are open to any proposals or ideas for someone to turn it into a business or some use appropriate for that area of town.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Defending E-town's honor takes on a life of its own

Last year, I made an appearance on the Lancaster-based podcast called The Lancast to defend Elizabethtown's honor as a town that can hold its own as a business friendly community. This came after co-host Daniel Klotz made an off-the-cuff remark in a previous podcast that businesses could find their legs in Elizabethtown and then move to the big leagues in Lancaster City.

That, obviously, didn't sit well with me. So I called out Daniel on his comments.

Now, it turns out that Daniel is leaving his duties as a co-host of The Lancast, and in his final episode this week there are some references to his comments and my confrontation. In particular, check out the last few minutes of the podcast in which Matt Wheeler does a parody song and incorporates the matter into the lyrics.

Indeed, defending Elizabethtown's honor in the county seat has taken on a life of its own.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Outdoor seating coming to downtown

Patrons of Folklore Coffee & Co. on the square in downtown Elizabethtown soon will be able to eat at tables outside.

Owner Ryan Bracken came to last night's Borough Council meeting with a request to place four tables with two or three chairs each under the awning of the coffee shop. He said Folklore won't offer service at the tables but that patrons will order their food and drinks inside and bring them outside.

Under the borough's zoning ordinance, outdoor seating is permitted in the Central Business District -- essentially the downtown area -- as a conditional use. It requires a hearing before Borough Council and a $500 application fee.

However, borough officials have been reviewing and working on amending sections of the zoning ordinance, including the section regulating outdoor seating. Given that the ordinance is under review, Borough Council authorized the borough to waive the application fee and enter a temporary agreement with Bracken for Folklore to have the seating through the end of this year. By then, council and borough staff hope to have the updated zoning ordinance in place.

Zanzibar, a previous coffee shop in the same location as Folklore, also had a similar agreement with the borough for outdoor seating.

Other establishments downtown are encouraged to request similar permission for outdoor seating, but borough staff will review the requests on a case-by-case basis. This is because some sidewalk areas might not have adequate area to accommodate four tables -- and pedestrians do need clearance to walk without endangering themselves by stepping off the curb and into the street.

By allowing outdoor seating, Borough Council is hopeful this is a step in the right direction to encourage more people to visit downtown Elizabethtown.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New Elizabethtown Events calendar

After talking to someone after my son's baseball game yesterday afternoon, I realized that some people are searching for Chronicling Elizabethtown in search of dates and times of events in the community. So I've created an Elizabethtown Events calendar and plugged in borough-related meetings. I've embedded it below.

Obviously, the townships and the Elizabethtown Area School District all have have standing public meetings that can be incorporated -- and I'll be happy to add them. I'd be happy to add any other events, from pancake breakfasts and spaghetti dinners to car washes and more formal events. I just need to know the details so I can post them here -- please just send them my way.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Power to the people who vote

Imagine a community of roughly 11,000 that has a local government consisting of six elected officials who make all the decisions about taxes that pay for police, roads, parks and more. And then imagine that three of those officials all were up for reelection, without oppostition.

Now, take this leap with me: Imagine that all three of those incumbent members of Elizabethtown Borough Council were reelected in the primary election by a total of 359 votes.

Yes, out of 11,000 people in Elizabethtown, a sheer 359 voted for half of Borough Council in yesterday's primary election. According to unofficial results posted on the Lancaster County Board of Elections' website, I received 94 votes from approximately 1,500 eligible voters in Ward 2. Tom Shaud from Ward 1 received 91 votes, and Phil Clark in Ward 3 got 174.

Earlier this spring, the Elizabethtown Advocate did a story about unopposed candidates and later editorialized about the lack of opposition. The paper made excellent, salient points about the issue. If this year's primary is any indication, the lack of interest in local government now extends to those who vote.

And indeed, it is power to the people who vote.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

It's done! E-town's Amtrak station dedicated

 After at least 13 years of debate, discussion, design, redesign and more discussion and debate, the Elizabethtown Train Station was rededicated Wednesday, May 5.

The station received a $9.3 million facelift thanks to funding from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) and planning from borough officials since the late 1990s.

Because the station had already been designed, it was considered "shovel ready" when President Barack Obama signed ARRA, commonly known as the federal stimulus.

Wednesday's ribbon cutting brought borough officials, including all members of Elizabethtown Borough Council, a deputy secretary from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, an executive from Amtrak and the regional director for the Federal Transit Administration, along with dozens of community members.

All gave high praise for the station, which now services 95,000 trips compared with 37,000 trips in the early 2000s.

The weather on Wednesday did not cooperate for an outdoor ceremony, but the driving rain did allow for an adequate demonstration of how the awnings over the platform do protect passengers waiting for trains to arrive.

Before the event started, a renovated historic Pullman train pulled into the station, allowing those gathered to peer into the windows.

After the train pulled out, everyone moved inside the old train station, where the waiting room has been renovated to a period look. In time, train riders will be able to purchase tickets from two ticket kiosks in the station. The station will also receive  an LED message board that will show how many minutes a train is from arriving, allowing riders to wait inside in cold or inclement weather until literally the last minute before a train arrives. Elizabethtown will be the first stop along the route from Philadelphia to Harrisburg that will have the message board. 

The station is truly a gem for  our community and will be a huge boost in the arm for economic development for Elizabethtown. Much credit goes to members of Borough Council from the last 15 years whose leadership helped make the station a reality. In addition, Borough Manager Roni Ryan oversaw the construction that started 1.5 years ago -- right after she was promoted to the job upon the retirement of long time Borough Manger Pete Whipple.

In many people's eyes, Whipple is the real leader of the project, who continued to make it a priority despite many challenges and setbacks. It was through his efforts working with PennDOT that the borough was able to secure the stimulus funding.

Continue to scroll down to see other photos from the ceremony.

Mayor Chuck Mummert checks out the Pullman train.

Borough Council President Phil Clark welcomes the crowd.

A poster showing the renovated station.

Clark with all who played a part in making the station a reality.

Toby Fauvre, PennDOT Deputy Secretary for Local and Area Transportation

Amtrak Vice President Drew Galloway

Letitia Thompson, regional administrator for the Federal Transit Administration

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Merger talks progress for water companies

In a special public meeting this morning, members of the Elizabethtown Area Water Authority (EAWA), Mount Joy Township Authority (MJTA) and Mount Joy Township supervisors agreed to develop a memorandum of understanding for EAWA to absorb the MJTA water company.

During the next couple of weeks, Mike Skelly, interim manager of EAWA, and Casey Kraus, township and MJTA manager, will work with their attorneys to draft the MOU.

Board members and township supervisors authorized the action to formalize all of the issues that need to be addressed as EAWA looks to bring the township water company into its fold. The consenus among all attendees at the meeting today is that the merger is a positive step for the greater Elizabethtown community, and they want to make sure that of the details and issues are considered.

Among those are what MJTA's assets are, the development of new bylaws and adding Mount Joy Township representation to the EAWA board.

The MOU should be ready for the boards to review in about two weeks.

Full disclosure: I am a member of the EAWA board.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Community honors Betty Long

Over the weekend, about 75 members of the Elizabethtown community gathered at Lynden Gallery downtown for a great event that had a dual purpose: It was a fundraiser for Elizabethtown Area Communities that Care and the Elizabethtown Public Library, and it was an evening to honor Betty Long, wife of Ted Long, the retiring president of Elizabethtown College.

Full disclosure: My wife is employed at the college and recently joined the board of directors for EACTC.

In the 15 years that the Longs have lived in Elizabethtown, Betty has left an indelible mark on the community, said those who have worked with her. Gail Viscome, executive director of EACTC, District Justice Jayne Duncan and Betty collaborated to get that organization up and running. Thanks to Betty's focus on obtaining data, Duncan said, these women became more than "meddlesome do-gooders."

The result: Over the past 15 years EACTC has brought in more than $2 million in grants to help people in need -- and especially young people.

Betty has also been a friend and mentor to students at the college, providing a shoulder to cry on and no-nonsense advice about everything from classes, careers, life in general and even boys.

In remarks to the crowd, Betty said that Elizabethtown has become her hometown and that she believes it is "a gem in south central Pennsylvania."

As for the fundraiser part of the evening, credit goes to Koser Jewelers in Mount Joy for donating four jewels. Everyone who attended had one chance to win, with the opportunity to buy additional chances for $5 each. The sales of additional chances during the evening brought in at least $2,500, which will be split evenly between EACTC and the library.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Businesspeople and college president receive awards at gala

Epic Photopgraphy, Dan Robrish of the Elizabethtown Advocate and Elizabethtown College President Theodore Long received awards last night at the Elizabethtown Chamber of Commerce's annual gala. The dinner was held in the Susquehanna Room at Elizabethtown College.

Epic Photography, owned by Jamie and Andrew Schoenberger, received the 2011 Chamber Appreciation Award for their dedication to the community and their volunteering time and services to a wide range of community events.

In remarks after receiving the award, Andrew Schoenberger, an Elizabethtown native, urged gala attendees to get involved in the community and volunteer. He said he is a big fan of events such as the holiday parade and the town's New Year's celebration Let E-town Ring, but he said "these events don't happen by themselves."

The chamber honored Robrish, owner and publisher of the Elizabethtown Advocate, with the 2011 Rising Star Award. Robrish quit his job with the Associated Press in Philadelphia to start the weekly newspaper from scratch at the beginning of 2009.  A recent article in the journalism trade journal Editor & Publisher reported that Robrish is close to making a profit on the venture.

Elizabethtown Borough Council President Phil Clark presented Long with the Vincent O'Connor Public Service Award. The award, named after a former borough councilman with a lifelong devotion of service to others, is presented annually to an individual who has selflessly devoted tme to the public good of residents in Elizabethtown through community and civic endeavors.

Long, who is retiring from his post this summer after 15 years, "has exemplified the spirit of the late Vincent O'Connor," according to the program for the award. In addition to leading the college and being active in academia and higher education, Long has served the Elizabethtown community as a board member of the former Elizabethtown Economic Development Corp. and helping to integrate the college into the community.

Speaking briefly after receiving the award, Long said that he and his wife, Betty, have come to call Elizabethtown their home. He noted that one of the reasons that students choose to attend college here is because Elizabethtown is a special community.

(Let me offer full disclosure: My wife is employed at Elizabethtown College.)

I'd like to offer my congratulations to all of the recipients. For years, I've said that Elizabethtown is a great town with a tremendous amount potential -- and it's great to see others who don't just recognize it but are living out the potential in real ways.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Borough opens Facebook page

Elizabethtown Borough now has a Facebook page. If you haven't checked it out and "liked" it, I recommend that you head there now. It's another tool for the borough to use to communicate with the public -- and in my mind, there's nothing but good that can come of it. You can click on the link at the beginning of this post or type into your browser.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Work on $3.14M West College Avenue project to begin soon

The excitement among members of Elizabethtown Borough Council was palpable tonight after a unanimous vote to approve Pennsy Supply, doing business as McMinn's Asphalt, as the low bidder for the construction of West College Avenue.

"It's a red letter day for Elizabethtown!" said Mayor Chuck Mummert.

The bid came in at $3.14 million for a project that borough officials have discussed for the past five or six years. The project, to be funded with federal highway dollars, has seen delays thanks to environmental concerns at an old service station and because the economic climate held up the start of the bidding process. But with the bid now awarded, a pre-construction meeting with Pennsy and other contractors will be held in the next week. Residents will see action this spring.

"It hardly seems possible we're ready to do work on West College Avenue," said Borough Council President Phil Clark. "Actually, we're very happy it's here."

 "You'll see a lot of smiling faces in Elizabethtown," added Councilman Tom Shaud. "It's been a long wait."

The first phase of West College Avenue was completed about three years ago at about the time that an expansion of the Mars chocolate plant. At the time, the plan was to start the second phase, which includes the construction of a bridge and creating a new signaled intersection at Market Street and College Avenue, soon after the first phase.

As my fellow councilmen said tonight, much credit goes to the borough staff who shepherded the project through approval processes with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. PennDOT is administering the federal grant money.

There's not a specific time frame for completion of the project. Optimistically, if everything goes smoothly, it could be done this year. Realistically, I'm thinking the road will see traffic on it sometime next year.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Council set to approve low bidder for West College Avenue project

Elizabethtown Borough officials received word this week that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has approved the low bidder for the construction of West College Avenue at Market Street. I don't have all of the details right now, but Borough Council will vote to approve the low bid at its meeting tomorrow night.

This means that the project is just weeks away from starting. It's likely residents will see construction activity early next month.

I'll post more details as I get them.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Incumbent councilmen running unopposed for re-election

Three members of Elizabethtown Borough Council are up for re-election this year, including the author of this blog, and all three are running unopposed, according to the Lancaster County Board of Elections.

Phil Clark, who is currently president of council and represents Ward 3; and Tom Shaud, who is vice president and represents Ward 1; and Jeff McCloud representing Ward 2, all filed petitions to be placed on the May 17 primary ballot.

All three were elected in 2007. At the time, then-Borough Manager Pete Whipple said there had never been such a large turnover of council members.

I can only speak for myself as to why I am running for another term. It has been a privilege to serve Elizabethtown as a member of Borough Council. I continue to believe that Elizabethtown is a great community, and I want to ensure that it is an even better place for the next generation.

Even as the country has faced a dire recession, we on Borough Council have worked hard to keep the town moving forward. Among the things I'm proudest of, we secured $9 million in funding from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to improve the Elizabethtown Train Station -- a project that by all accounts has been great for town. The entire project should be completed this spring.

We have overseen a smooth transition in our administration from a long-time borough manager by promoting our assistant. She has done a great job assembling a new team and working with the staff to ensure that the borough's business continues without interruption.

Over the last few years, we have met with our counterparts in West Donegal and Mount Joy townships to discuss issues that impact everyone in the Elizabethtown area. In fact, Conoy Township has joined the Elizabethtown Area Regional Authority with the other municipalities so all of us can work on implementing recommendations from a regional comprehensive plan approved last year. Working together is an important step for the entire community because what happens in one area has an impact on other areas -- and it's important for us to discuss issues openly and come to consensus on the solutions.

As I complete the fourth year of my first term on Borough Council, I am excited about the possibilities for Elizabethtown. There's more work to do, and I plan to do my best to ensure that we do it responsibly, cost effectively and keep the long-term interests the borough and the region in mind.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

E-town Area Water Authority moves to merge with Mount Joy Township Authority

In a move that many local people have discussed for years, the Elizabethtown Area Water Authority (EAWA) board voted unanimously last night to continue merger negotiations with the Mount Joy Township Authority (MJTA). Full disclosure: I am a member of the EAWA board.

Discussions started informally last week -- but the issue gained momentum Tuesday when Mount Joy Township Manager Casey Kraus met with four members of MJTA. At last night's EAWA meeting, he said there was a "unanimous consensus" from the members to look at regionalization. And he noted that township supervisors "absolutely" agree.

John Buch, a former borough councilman for 24 years and a member of the EAWA board, said: "I think it's long overdue that we have some cooperative arrangement. We should take a step toward some form of consolidation."

Both authorities provide water to residents in the Elizabethtown region. EAWA was formed about six years ago when Elizabethtown Borough and West Donegal Township merged their water system. At the time, Mount Joy Township was part of the discussions, but some officials there didn't agree and shot down the township's participation.

Kraus said last night there's been a shift, particularly since there's been some staff and board turnover at MJTA this year. In January, its manager resigned unexpectedly, and the board's chairman resigned. That left the authority with three "field employees" and Kraus appointed as  interim manager. And then one of the field employees recently took a job elsewhere.

The vote last night was only to proceed with negotiations; many details remain unresolved. Among issues that will be finalized are establishing water rates for MJTA customers that come into the EAWA fold and changing EAWA's bylaws to add new board members from the township. Currently, EAWA's board consists of three residents of Elizabethtown Borough and two from West Donegal Township. What the makeup will be when a merger is finalized will be part of the negotiations.

No specific time line has been established, although EAWA board Vice Chairman Keith Murphy said, "I'd like to see this done by the end of the year." Kraus said he thinks "that's doable."

Among the EAWA board, there was a sense of excitement about merging because the issue has been discussed and broached for years. Speaking as one board member, it certainly makes sense. In recent months, elected officials from all the local municipalities have gathered to discuss tackling some issues on a regional basis.

This development with the water authorities, while not expected even a month ago, certainly builds on the idea that township supervisors and Borough Council discussed at a joint meeting earlier this year. In my mind, it would be a setback to those discussions and for Elizabethtown and Mount Joy Township if this merger doesn't happen.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

State House Majority Whip 'giddy' with GOP majority

State Rep. Stan Saylor of York County, who serves as the Majority Whip in the state House of Representatives, said he is "giddy" that the GOP now has a lock on the governor's office, the Senate and the House.

His remarks came as the keynote speaker at the Lincoln Day Dinner, an annual event held by the Elizabethtown Area Republican Committee. This year's event was held Saturday, Feb. 5, in the Susquehanna Room of Elizabethtown College.

In November, the GOP reclaimed majorities in the state legislature and won the governor's office. Thanks to the win, Saylor said, the party is going "to turn Pennsylvania upside down" by reforming government.

"We have the guts, and we have the courage, to change what Pennsylvania is all about," Saylor said.

One of the specifics he mentioned was welfare reform, explaining that Republicans plan to require anyone convicted of a felony who is receiving welfare to be tested for drugs. If a test comes back positive, that person will automatically lose 25 percent of his welfare, Saylor said. A second positive test would mean the loss of 50 percent of welfare benefits.

Saylor also said the GOP wants to institute "performance budgeting," meaning that state agencies would have goals to achieve. If they they meet the goals, they might get more than "2 or 3 percent increase," Saylor said.

"There's a new day in Harrisburg," he said. "There's a new sheriff, and it's the Republican party."

The Lincoln Day Dinner was a who's who of Lancaster County Republican candidates, all of whom are seeking re-election or are running for office: incumbent Commissioners Scott Martin and Dennis Stuckey, District Attorney Craig Stedman, Acting Sheriff Mark Reese, Clerk of Courts candidate Joshua Parsons and judicial candidates Leonard G. Brown III and Merrill Spahn Jr.

Personally, I had a chance to meet and talk to Parsons, Brown and Spahn. And I met Martin in person for the first time after following him on Twitter for several months. Here's his Twitter profile, and here's a link to mine

In addition, a number of Elizabethtown Area School Board members attended the dinner, as did Borough Council President Phil Clark and West Donegal Township Supervisor Roger Snyder.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Here's an economic development angle

If you didn't know, Philadelphia-based Reinhold Residential recently sold Peach Alley Court along Poplar Street and Peach Alley to AGM Management, owned by Allen and Gary Segal, also of the Philadelphia area.

The Central Penn Business Journal reported on the transaction in this week's issue. I'd post a link, but you have to be a paid subscriber. I will, however, report on one aspect of the article:

"Elizabethtown's stability also helped persuade the pair to buy the property, Allen Segal said.

"'You got (Elizabethtown College) and good industry there. There is a stable population there. It's not real transient,' he said."

Segal goes on to lavish praise about the historic nature of Peach Alley Court and what makes it stand out as an apartment building. But I'm hung up -- in a good way -- on the comments above.

Here we have a businessman from well outside the community and Lancaster County who recognizes one of the things that makes our town so valuable: We have a stable population that's not transient.

This, in my mind, is a built-in economic development angle that local entrepreneurs need to exploit and take advantage of now. We do an awful lot of teeth gnashing about empty storefronts and a lack of business downtown -- and here's one more way we can find creative ways for economic development.

So let's get some solid business plans written and the investment capital flowing!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Incident on East High Street gives residents a scare

Residents in the 500 block of East High Street near C.R.'s Friendly Market were on edge last night after the Elizabethtown Police Department called in the Lancaster County Special Emergency Response Team.

At about 8 p.m., police had received a report of a male entering an apartment with a shotgun and loading it as he approached the entrance to the apartment, according to a news release from the police department.

Officers tried to contact the resident of the apartment by phone but were unsuccessful and requested assistance from SERT.

While preparing to enter the apartment, the suspect exited the apartment and was taken into custody. The male was a friend of the apartment's resident. There was also another female in the apartment.

Police interviewed both individuals and determined that the male had taken a shotgun, which he owned, into the apartment but it was not loaded in the parking lot area.

No charges were filed and the police and SERT cleared the scene at about 11 p.m.

Elizabethtown Police were also assisted by officers from Mount Joy, Northwest Regional Police Department and Pennsylvania State Police.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Changes coming to Elizabethtown in 2011

With the start of 2011, it's been a relatively quiet time for Elizabethtown Borough Council. That said, the borough has a number of projects in the works (all of them funded through grants and not your local property taxes) for the year.

The most visible ones are the Elizabethtown Train Station, left, which is on schedule to be completed this month. Some before and after pictures of the interior of the historic train station and some exterior views are below. It really is a stunning difference and a huge improvement for Elizabethtown.

Other projects that will get started this year include the extension of West College Avenue. Bids for the project have been forwarded to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for review, and last Thursday Borough Council  authorized the borough manager to file and execute documents with PennDOT for the project. The goal is for the construction to begin in March for the 18-month project.

Interior of the train station before renovations.
In addition, Center Square is going to see nearly $220,000 in improvements, such as new trash and recycling receptacles, benches, stone planters, umbrellas and bike racks.

Center Square also will see some other significant changes. As part of a traffic signal improvement project, left-turn lanes on High Street will be added. To accommodate the lanes, and to meet PennDOT requirements, Borough Council voted to eliminate parking on East and West High Street beyond Peach and Cherry allies, respectively. Although motorists now create turn lanes there, it is a dangerous -- and illegal -- maneuver.

In response to comments from the owner of Highlander Cleaners, which has 10-minute parking spots in front of the business that have been eliminated, Borough Council has created two 10-minute parking spots in the municipal parking lot next to the dry cleaner and also in the municipal parking lot on East High Street.

These changes and improvements are part of a signal synchronization project with Mount Joy and West Donegal townships to install new traffic signals at all intersections in the region, from Cloverleaf Road at Route 283 all the way through the borough and up to the intersection at Route 743, Holly Street and Mount Gretna Road.