Monday, May 20, 2013

Do your civic duty and vote tomorrow

Sample ballot for Ward 2 in Elizabethtown
Tomorrow is Election Day for local and county offices and some judges. If history repeats itself, turnout for the election will be, in the words of pollster Dr. Terry Madonna, "anemic." It's troubling because these are the levels of government that have the most impact on people's daily lives.

But rather than get on a soap box, let's recap the election:

For better or worse, three people are running unopposed for Borough Council. They are incumbents J. Neil Ketchum and Dr. C. Dale Treese and newcomer Marc Hershey, treasurer of the Elizabethtown Fire Department. Hershey is running to fill the seat of Meade Bierly, who earlier this month was recognized by the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs for 40 years of service.

As a side note, I spent seven years as a newspaper reporter covering municipal meetings every Thursday night. When I left newspapers, I didn't know what to do on Thursday evenings. I wonder if Bierly will have similar thoughts.

In addition, Mayor Chuck Mummert is running unopposed for his second term.

The Lancaster County Board of Elections has a really cool sample ballot viewer on its website. If you're interested in seeing it before walking into the voting booth tomorrow, check it out. Simply click through to get to the right municipality and ward, if you live in the borough.

According to that ballot, just three people are running for four open seats on the Elizabethtown Area School Board. They are Jeffrey Phillips, Michelle J. Pelna and Robert S. Cronin Jr.

To reiterate: Don't forget to vote tomorrow. Voting is the cornerstone of our democratic republic.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Benefit planned for E-town mom with colon cancer

When I think about it, cancer has been around me almost all my life. But it wasn't until recent years that it really hit home: my father-in-law had lung cancer and a childhood friend had a malignant brain tumor removed (his blog Thinking Clearly is a must read). And then in the space of a week this winter, a good friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, a college roommate's dad died of pancreatic cancer and a local mom was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer.

The news about the last person, the mom -- her name is Jessica Range -- hit a little harder because our kids are the same ages and have been in day care, school and sports together. They have attended each others birthday parties over the years. 

Jessica has not been able to work since her diagnosis last fall. So this weekend, friends and family are gathering from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Elizabethtown VFW Post 5667 on Maytown Road for a benefit to help offset expenses of medical bills.

A Facebook group about the benefit has lots of photos of baskets that will be part of a silent auction. In addition, the benefit will feature raffles and a 50/50 drawing.

If you can't make it to the benefit and wish to make a monetary donation it can be made payable to:

Jessica Range Benefit Fund c/o Fulton Bank

1641 S. Market Street
Elizabethtown, PA 17022

For any additional information please contact Tanya Pickel at 717-689-0092 or by e-mail

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A look at rental properties in Elizabethtown

Whistlestop View Apartments on West High Street
When I worked for the former Elizabethtown Chronicle about 13 years ago, borough officials told me that Elizabethtown had the most rentals units in Lancaster County outside the City of Lancaster. I never delved into it, but in 2006 the borough enacted a rental property licensing and inspection program.

It's a great idea, and it's one that is working effectively, according to Denny Landvater, former borough police chief who now oversees the inspection program. He provided an overview to Borough Council. He said the borough started the inspection and licensing of rental units to improve the health of safety of people who live in the units -- and those who live around rental units.

The borough has 1,850 rental units, Landvater said. That represents 400 different owners, some of whom live right across the street from the borough office and some who live as far away as Japan. According to the U.S. Census, Elizabethtown has the highest number of units in the county outside of the city, which has 4,842 rental units. Lititz has 1,554, and Millersville has 1,041. To be fair, one probably ought to take into account the ZIP code, which gives Lititz the edge with 3,986 to E-town's 3,537.

Here in Elizabethtown, Landvater inspects each of the units, doing about 850 inspections a year. That means every apartment or house that is rented is inspected every 2 to 2.5 years. He goes into each inspection with a checklistof several dozen items that includes making sure all fixtures have hot and cold water, there's no mold in the bathroom and exterior doors have proper hardware and are lockable.

Units get a score of pass, pass with comments or fail. Depending on the severity of the issues, Landvater gives property owners 10, 30 or 90 days to fix and correct the problems. He said owners have been responsive when they have had comments or failed inspections.

Landvater emphasized that he can't say unequivocally that all rental units in the borough are fine because they're "constantly evolving."