Tuesday, December 16, 2014

One of E-town Borough Council's most important meetings on Thursday

Photo courtesy of the Ephrata Review
This Thursday night, Elizabethtown Borough Council will approve the borough's 2015 budget. Council meets every third Thursday, but I consider this meeting in December to be one of the most important of the year because of the budget. We also vote on the millage rate to establish what property owners will pay in property taxes.

Unfortunately, this week a family responsibility conflicts with the meeting, and I will not be able to attend. It's disappointing because my fellow council members and I have spent hours in many meetings combing through the budget to find savings and figure out how best to fund Elizabethtown for next year and into the future. Part of this will most likely include a tax increase of two-tenths of a mill (raising the rate from 5 to 5.2).

Thursday, December 11, 2014

16 charged after yearlong undercover drug investigation

Law enforcement cracked down on alleged drug dealers yesterday in a sweep that netted 16 arrests of Elizabethtown and other area residents after a joint one-year undercover operation by Pennsylvania State Police and the Elizabethtown, Mount Joy Borough and Northwest Regionaal police departments.

Borough police joined the PSP Fugitive Task Force, the PSP K-9 unit, Northwest Lancaster County Regional Police and Mount Joy Borough Police to serve arrest warrants. They were assisted by Columbia Borough Police and the York County Sheriff's Office.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The new Elizabethtown Running Club at GEARS

I've made no secret over the last three years about my hobby of running. It has been a great way for me to stay fit and keep off 35 pounds that I lost about four years ago. And it has felt good to find the motivation that I lost at the end of the 1988 high school track season. Without a coach requiring me to be at a practice for track or cross country, I simply fell into the lethargic lifestyle that many of us Americans do.

After losing weight, I started running again to add some variety to my fitness routine. Now, four half marathons and a bunch of other races later, I love to share my love of running with others. Inevitably, when the topic of running comes up with some people, they often say, "Oh, I wish I could run" or "I've thought about running, but I can't run more than a mile."

Monday, November 24, 2014

Borough announces holiday parade winners

The weather cooperated, and Saturday evening was a great night for a parade in downtown Elizabethtown. With 52 entries, judges had their work cut out for them, but they sorted through all of them and awarded the following prizes. Winners will be  recognized Dec. 18 at the Borough Council meeting.

Judges Choice Award Winner (Presented by Union Community Bank)
Elizabethtown Community Nursery School

Commercial Category 1st/2nd Place Winners (Presented by Union Community Bank)
First place – ReMax Associates of Lancaster – Elizabethtown Office
Second place – Masonic Villages at Elizabethtown

Non Profit Category – 1st/2nd Place Winners (Presented by the Moose Lodge #596)
First place – Cub Scout Pack 68
Second place (TIE) – 2nd Chance 4 Life and Boy Scout Troop 71455

Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to everyone who participated in the parade and those of you who came out to watch. It was a great start to the holiday season!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Elizabethtown is prepared to kick off the holiday season in style

Santa Claus will arrive in downtown Elizabethtown once again this year as part of the annual holiday parade at 6 p.m. this coming Saturday. The theme is "A Storybook Holiday." Unlike last year, the weather forecast looks to be clear, albeit a little cold with temperatures in the 30s. But it's a holiday parade, and it's supposed to be cold, right?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

13 reasons to participate in the Lancaster Extraordinary Give

UPDATED 11/20 to add information about Leg Up Farm being at the Elizabethtown Library.

If you haven't heard, tomorrow is the Extraordinary Give 2014, the largest day of giving in Lancaster County.

It is a 24-hour giving marathon that benefits more than 300 local organizations -- including a number right here in Elizabethtown. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

E-town area's elected officials work together to find common ground

Ever since I was elected to Elizabethtown Borough Council, the elected officials from the municipalities in the Elizabethtown area -- Conoy Township, Elizabethtown Borough, Mount Joy Township and West Donegal Township -- have tried to get together to discuss and solve issues that affect the region.

So a few years ago, when all of the municipalities approved a comprehensive plan for the region, we decided to establish the Elizabethtown Area Regional Authority (EARA) as a way to implement the plan. And that worked pretty well, fostering discussions about traffic, economic development and land use in the area and how they impact all the municipalities.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What a taste test of Elizabethtown's water reveals

Earlier this year, the Elizabethtown Area Water Authority conducted a survey of its customers, with a vast majority (83 percent) of the 373 respondents reporting that they buy bottled water or filter the water that comes from the tap. Furthermore, 62 percent had concerns about the taste, smell and hardness of EAWA's water.
Because EAWA's water comes from five wells located throughout the Elizabethtown area and surface water treated at the water treatment plant, staff did some additional research into the location of the concerns. It turns out that the concerns are systemwide. 

So this month, the EAWA board (of which I am a member, representing the borough) decided to do a blind taste test of the water from the wells and the treatment plant. We did the test on Monday, Oct. 13, during our public board meeting.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What happens when you pit a middle-aged man against his teenage son in a 5K

My 13-year-old son, right, finished the Arm of Hope 5K in 20:15.
It was a personal record for him.
(Photo courtesey of Hope Community Church)
This is a story that starts a couple of years back, when my son expressed interest in running one of the Frozen Foot 5K races here in Elizabethtown.

Nat and I lined up together that March afternoon, and I coached him through the 3.1 miles. At times, he complained that "it hurts," but he kept running. And as much as I had wanted to run my own race (Nat had even said I didn't have to run with him), it was one of the most rewarding experiences to run with him.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What has happened in four months?

First, let me apologize for the lengthy delay in writing about our great community. My last post was in May, and the former newspaper reporter in me feels irresponsible for not keeping up. As I write this post, I realize that it contains some borough-related news and some personal stuff. Initially, I intended Chronicling Elizabethtown to be a replacement for the disappearance of the Elizabethtown Chronicle weekly newspaper. Given that the Elizabethtown Advocate has opened and is covering news, the blog has evolved over time to include posts about things over than Borough Council.

Noteworthy borough news

That's not to say nothing has happened in Elizabethtown. In fact, my last post was about the downtown Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance program that the Elizabethtown Chamber of Commerce proposed. In July, the school board approved the LERTA program. The Lancaster County Commissioners followed suit in August.

This means three iconic properties in the downtown -- the Moose Lodge, the Elizabethtown Hotel, the former Roth's Furniture (now home of the Shoppes on Market) -- can undergo renovations without bearing the entire weight of taxes on the improvements over 10 years. I'm excited to see how property owners take advantage of the opportunity that can help the business district for many years to come.

Borough Council has also discussed feral cats and skunks. In fact, an episode of the PBS program Nature on skunks makes the argument that there's a connection between skunks and feral cats. It says that people who feed cats could inadvertently be feeding skunks and making the skunk problem worse. The Pennsylvania Game Commission reports residents are able to trap animals on their own property and transport them for release on game lands.

Obviously, that's not something many of us might want to try, in which case the only other option is to hire a licensed/permitted contractor. The costs to set up the trap and for one follow-up visit range from $200 to $400. The Game Commission reports it would be difficult to contract for these services now as it is a very busy time for these professionals.

On the feral cat front, Susan Martin, executive director of the Lancaster County SPCA did a presentation and said wherever there's a problem with feral cats someone is feeding them. And she said unequivocally that "if you feed it, you own it. You're responsible now." The only option for controlling the feral cat population is trapping them and euthanizing or trapping and spaying or neutering and returning the cats to the wild. The SPCA charges $30 to euthanize or sterilize one cat.

About all that running ...

As I've mentioned before, I make no secret about my hobby as a runner. After completing three half marathons and a number of other races, I applied for the job as the cross country coach at the Elizabethtown Area Middle School. I was hired in July. It has been a great experience to pass on my love of running to the next generation. If all goes according to plan -- and we are half way through the XC season -- both the boys and girls will have winning seasons.

Warning: Gratuitous Self Promotion

Finally, in July I started working from home after I launched my own public relations company called McCloud Strategic Communications, LLC. If your organization or business is in need of public relations strategy, planning and execution, I can help.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A unique program that could save iconic E-town properties

Former E-town Hotel
(photo courtesy of LancasterOnline.com)
In March, the news about a brewery opening in Elizabethtown made for an exciting development about business in the borough. And then, the new owner of MoviE-town announced upgrades to the theaters. These two posts were the top posts in the past month.

As exciting as both of these are, I would submit that soemthing Borough Council approved last week is even more important to the long-term health of the community: a Local Economic Revitalization Tax Abatement (LERTA) program.

Ramon Escudero, executive director of the Elizabethtown Chamber of Commerce, laid out a proposal to create the LERTA at council's meeting in early March. Basically, it works like this: Borough Council identifies properties that are deteriorated and makes them eligible to participate in the LERTA program. Property owners then can make improvements without taxes skyrocketing because of the improvements. The program sets up a schedule of paying 10 percent of the new tax rate for 10 years, so that by year 10 a property owner is paying 100 percent of the taxes owed.

The beauty of the program is that the borough, the Elizabethtown Area School District and Lancaster County don't lose any of their current revenue because the program requires property owners continue to pay their current taxes. They only get a break on how much the improvements would be taxed. From government's perspective, this is great because we continue at our same revenue levels. For the business owner, he or she can do better planning for cash flow.

On Escudero's recommendation, Borough Council identified three iconic properties as eligible for the LERTA in E-town:
  • The Elizabethtown Hotel,
  • The Elizabethtown Moose building 
  • The former Roth's Furniture store, now the location of Shoppes on Market 
Before any of these properties will see improvements as part of the LERTA, the school board has to approve it, after which the county commissioners will consider it. Borough staff indicated that it might be the fall before the LERTA makes it to the school board's agenda. After they have approved it, the property owners will have 5 years to make improvements unless council decides to extend that time. Council could also expand the program for other properties or areas of the borough.

Escudero told Borough Council that the chamber worked on a LERTA program in West Donegal Township to sweeten the pot for Nordstrom's to build a fulfillment center at the Conewago Industrial Park.

In a borough like Elizabethtown, which doesn't have open space for new buildings, the need it to revitalize buildings that are in poor condition. Consider the Elizabethtown Hotel, which has been vacant for many years. Or Roth's Furniture, which sat empty until a shop called Bad Boys Toys selling drug paraphernalia opened (and was shut down shortly thereafter in a drug raid).

The LERTA gives property owners a creative way to finance improvments, which will go a long way toward improving -- and preserving -- iconic downtown buildings. It's an idea that keeps the long-term health and vitality of the community in mind. For that, I give kudos to Escudero and the chamber of commerce.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Two upcoming 5K races: Running for more than fitness

In the running community, you can find people who are running just to stay fit, and they enter races to challenge themselves. Others enter because they can raise funds for worthy organizations. Next month, you have the chance to combine fitness and benevolence and help the Elizabethtown Rotary Club and Hope Community Church's Arm of Hope that helps youths living in the slums in Ghana.

E-town Rotary Club's Mother's Day Run

Course for Mother's Day Run
The Rotary Club is holding its Mother's Day Run at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 11 (Mother's Day, if you hadn't figured that out!). The race will be held on the roads of Masonic Village, where I personally enjoy running because of the limited traffic and the great scenery. By the way, some races market themselves as "fast and flat." Having run many miles at Masonic Village, I can assure you it's not flat, but that should not deter you from running. Take on the hills for the challenge. Use them as a metaphor -- by contributing to the Rotary and running the race, you are helping to others in the community up and over their own hills.

Information is available at the link above, or you can register (online or by downloading a paper application) through Applied Race Management's race page.

Arm of Hope 5K

Hope Community Church in Rheems is holding its inaugural Arm of Hope 5K run at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 24. The proceeds of this race benefit the Arm of Hope Ministry. According to race information, "this ministry provides education to the children of the slums of Ghana West Africa and introduces them to the love of Jesus."

I haven't found a map for this race, but organizers say it's run on a flat course. If you're not up for the hills at Masonic Village, or if you're looking to clock a fast time in a 5K, this might be your race.

You can register for this race online through Applied Race Management's race page.


As I've mentioned before, I've used Elizabethtown's streets and sidewalks to run for the past two years. It seems that the training has caught up with me recently -- I have a pinched sciatic nerve, so as much as I want to run in both of these races I'm not sure I'll be able to. We'll have to see what another visit or two to the chirpractor does.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Artist looks forward to first time at Arts in the Park

Photo courtesy of Arts in the Park
As I noted recently, Arts in the Park is coming up May 10. Rather than just write about the event itself again, I contacted one of the artists to get his perspective.

After having worked in the corporate world for 35 years, Bob Cappelluti now owns and operates Riverbottom Pottery in Harrisburg.

In an email, he said this will be his first year exhibiting at Arts in the Park. Although he's heard that it's a small event, he's also heard that it's it has "folks that really appreciate original artwork from local artists."

From my perspective, that's a really nice compliment about us here in Elizabethtown.

He said he sees regular customers as part of the art show circuit, and he's hoping to add Arts in the Park to that circuit.

Bob Cappelluti
of Riverbottom  Pottery
Cappelluti's calls Riverbottom "a multifunctional pottery studio. We teach classes in wheel throwing, hand building and sculpture. We lease studio space to pottery artists that are looking for a studio to continue their work, we are also the only central PA distributor of all pottery supplies and equipment and we also feature a gallery/gift shop with original artwork and crafts from local artists."

On his website, he says he has "dabbled in charcoals, oils, sculpture and various other media. But it wasn’t until I started working with clay that I found a deep sense of satisfaction. Once you master the fundamentals, the rhythm of the wheel, the transformation of the clay from a nondescript hump, into a piece of art or functional pottery, you develop a sense of pride that cannot be measured. When you understand the clay enough to make it do what you want, rather than letting the clay drive the day, you can express yourself in your pieces, which makes it truly unique and personal."

Cappelluti describes his work as "simple, functional and reasonably priced so that everyone can enjoy. The real sense of accomplishment comes when someone admires your work enough to bring it into their home or share it with a friend or relative as a one of a kind gift."

If you make it to Arts in the Park, make sure to visit Riverbottom, or any of the other artists. A complete list of exhibitors on the Arts in the Park website.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Millstones unearthed, and Elizabethtown turns them into a plaza

A few years ago, when the borough was building the new bridge and the new section of Bainbridge Street, the excavation turned up some millstones at the site.

Rather than discard them, the borough decided to incorporate them into the design of the intersection. It really turned into a nice spot for downtown.

Because they were an unexpected discovery, the borough didn't have any money  budgeted to add any historical information about the millstones. This year, that finally happened -- along with the borough's receiving a Lancaster County Urban Enhancement Fund grant awarded by the Lancaster County Commissioners and Lancaster County Planning Commission. The plaza was designed by Derck & Edson Associates.

And thanks to Jeff Kinsey, who is the borough's assistant director of public works, and his dad, Robert, historical markers have been prepared.

The Kinseys spent their free time researching the millstones and the mill that was on the site. They worked with local historians Patsy and Lloyd Reed and Nancy Groff to research and compile the history of the grist mill that once stood there. Patsy Kline also provided a graphic depiction of a typical grist mill of the era.

At 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 17, the borough will hold a ceremony to acknowledge the completion of Millstone Plaza, including the construction of decorative walls and pavers, display of unearthed mill stones, and most recently, the installation of interpretive history signage. The public is invited to attend the ceremony. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

MoviE-town's new owner makes significant upgrades in theaters, property

Photo courtesy of LancasterOnline.com
Last December, Room One Corp., which owns the Cocoaplex Cinemas in Hershey, placed the winning bid in an auction for MoviE-town. For $1.325 million, Room One bought a seven screen theater that was sorely in need of maintenance and upgrades. This included interior and exterior painting, paving the parking lot, repairs to light poles and upgrading the projection of movies to all digital.

It was a year before that one of my Twitter followers tipped me off that MoviE-town was for sale for $2.2 million.

In coverage of the auction, LancasterOnline reported that Room One bought MoviE-town from Metro Bank, which had foreclosed on the theater in 2013.

Just last week, I saw an announcement on the marquee that all of the screens have been upgraded to digital projection. So I contacted Heather Sweeney, the operations manager for The Town's Theaters, which is the management subsidiary for Room One. She agreed that the digital upgrades, and other investments, ensure movies will be shown at MoviE-town for a long time. There will be a grand reopening for VIPs by invitation only on May 10. 

Sweeney graciously answered some questions about the upgrades.

Chronicling Elizabethtown: What are your plans for showing movies in Elizabethtown?
Heather Sweeney: We plan to continue to show the most recent films available to the market. With an additional 7 screens added to our family, hopefully we will be able to see more film that is sometimes released on a limited basis or only to megaplexes of 14 or more screens. All screens are now in a crisp, defining digital HD presentation.

Why make the commitment to theaters that in some cases compete with Cocoaplex?
The Town’s Theatres is committed to the family based community. Elizabethtown is a small family based town that doesn’t currently offer too much recreationally and we are dedicated to keep their current movie theater alive and ready to serve the public.

I know there's a move in the industry to switch to digital projection at theaters. What are the benefits? Any downsides (except for the investment to switch)?
Some benefits include less maintenance, lower electric costs, lower payroll costs, lower shipping costs and a clear, crisp picture every show. 35mm film would often have issues that may have decreased the presentation quality for the rest of the film's run. Downsides, in my opinion, would be that managers like myself that projected 35mm film for 18 years miss the interaction with the booth equipment. The cost is extremely high to convert to digital as well. When you require parts for digital they often need to be made to order and are more expensive than 35mm parts. Projector bulbs need to be changed more frequently and cost $800 each.

What differences will movie audiences notice with digital projection?
Clear, crisp, defined presentation every time. Digital sound that utilizes every speaker in the auditorium, every show.

Have all of Movi-E-town's theaters been upgraded to digital projection?
Yes. Even the pre-show intermission ads are a digital presentation.

What other upgrades are you making in Elizabethtown? (Personally, I hope you pave the parking lot.)
Renovation items include: parking lot paved and lined, interior and exterior paint, roof repairs, seat and carpet cleaning, concession stand upgrades, additional games in the arcade, a new digital marquee.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Craft brewery set to open near train station

NOTE: Edited on March 21 to correct information about the license information Brubaker needs.

We hear a common refrain about businesses in Elizabethtown that it is home to an abundance of pizza shops and hair salons.

Soon, it will be home to its own craft brewery.

Local hopheads, you read that right.

E-town resident Mike Brubaker will open Moo-Duck Brewery this fall, pending approvals for a federal brewery number and brewery and brewpub license from the state. It will be located at 79 S. Wilson Ave., right across from the Elizabethtown Train Station.

To say that I am excited is an understatement. First, I am a fan of craft beer and trying different kinds of brews.

Second, and more important, new businesses in the area of the train station are a positive sign of economic development. And that means the vision that Borough Council had 10 years ago for that side of town is becoming a reality. 

"The train station location offered us a building that had the best balance between being functional for brewing and front of house for tasting," Brubaker told me in an email. "Plus we felt that it was in the up and coming part of town and we would have a built in customer base with the train commuters."

Brubaker grew up  in Ephrata and was a naturalist and director of education for a nonprofit environmental center in the Poconos where he met his wife, Kristen. In 2007, they moved back to Lancaster County to be closer to my family and bought a home in E-town. He's been brewing his own beer for a little over five years. 

"It started out as a fun hobby, but quickly grew into more," he told me in an email. "I got hooked on the process and it became a creative outlet that I could share with others."

The process of opening the brewery began about a year ago in looking for a possible location after doing research and business planning "way before that." He and his wife, who on the brewery website is described as "bartending and food safety coordinator," knew from the start they wanted the business to be located in E-town. 

"We felt there was a need we could fill here and felt E-town was ready for such a business," he said. "We want to be a place the community can be proud of and plan on partnering with other local businesses."

Moo-Duck will have a tasting room with six beers on tap to start, with two more available if the need arises. Brubaker said there also will be "charity beer" on on tap at all times, with 50 cents from each beer served donated to a local non-profit.

As for the beer itself, the website says Moo-Duck "handcrafts our beer in small batches, creating the freshest beer possible. We use the highest quality ingredients and buy locally whenever possible." From the list of beers, you can tell there's a creativity with HONEY! Basil Blonde, a "nice, light, refreshing blonde ale ... further enhanced by the addition of honey and fresh basil leaves." Mistopheles Chocolate Stout starts "with a nice roasted, dark caramel, and dark chocolate stout base and then further enhance the chocolate flavor by aging the beer over cocoa nibs."

By the way, the Mistopholes won the best beverage award at the recent Taste of Western Lancaster County.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Elizabethtown says, "Walk this way!"

A few months ago, some borough staff members saw a presentation of a walkability audit of another Lancaster County community. Upon asking about it, they soon had an offer to do a walkability audit here in Elizabethtown. It's scheduled for 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Friday, March 28. Participants -- and anyone in the community is invited to participate -- are meeting in the Free Parking Lot on Cherry Alley behind Groff's Meats.

An email invitation to attend the walk says the audit will focus on assessing how friendly parts of Elizabethtown are for physical activity and healthy living with the ultimate goal of providing education, inspiration and practical planning tools.

I wanted to find out a little more about what that means and what a walkability audit is. So I got in touch with Ben Craddock, an engineer with C.S. Davidson, who will be doing the audit.

First things first, Ben said: "It would be great to get some residents to partcipate…sometimes they’ll pick up on things that we 'experts' overlook." I read that to mean, "If you have the time and interest, tag along on this and let your voice be heard."

With that, let's find out more about the audit.

Jeff McCloud: What is a walkablity audit? 
Ben Craddock: The Federal Highway Administration says that a walkability audit is “an evaluation of the walking environment, used to identify concerns for pedestrians related to safety, access, comfort, and convenience.” That might sound like a lot but really?...we just go for a walk and ask ourselves a few simple questions. Questions like: “did we have room to walk?” or “was it easy to cross streets?” Based on our answers to those questions, we then rate the specific route that we walked in order to get an answer to the big question of “how walkable is our community?”

Why do a walkability audit?
Even though we’re just sampling a small portion of the community, participating in a walk audit gives the participants first-hand knowledge of what features make a community walkable or not. Many of us think we have a decent idea of how walkable our community is…until we actually try to walk somewhere. Or we try to get there with four kids in tow. Or we try to do it with piles of snow in our way. A walk audit gives us a much different experience than you would get from driving on the exact same streets every day.

What will we in Elizabethtown get from the audit?
First, it will raise awareness of just how important walkability is to your residents and the community. Some folks will already be very aware, but sharing the experience with your neighbors helps to get people on the same page. It can actually be a fun community building event. Second, you’ll get a report with a summary of the ratings and some recommendations for improving the walkability of that route. Recommendations often will range from short term easy fixes to long range planning solutions. Hopefully the recommendations generate ideas for improving other walking routes within the Borough as well. We’ll also try to identify some resources for the Borough for funding improvements and for providing ongoing education, assistance, and support.

What would you say to someone who says, "A walkability audit? Why? I can walk anywhere in town just fine."
If someone asked me that question, I’d say, “Well then come on out and share your insights with those who might not walk as much as you! You might be just the expert that we need to help us understand how important walkability is to you and your community.” It is quite possible that the audit will show that your community is very walkable and that you just need to keep up the great work. It’s sometimes nice to hear that you’re doing a great job and have reason to celebrate.

Will the audit look at existing infrastructure or things like the planned walking pathways
We’ll be nailing down the exact walking route (borough staff) soon (this week, I think.). We typically look at existing infrastructure since we’re trying to see how walkable the community is in its current state. But the Elizabethtown's future plans will certainly factor into the type of recommendations we make. For example, we probably wouldn’t recommend major upgrades to a poor walking route if we know that a new path will connect people to the same destinations as that poor route.

As a frequent runner, I am curious to see the results of the audit. Based on my experiences, I'd offer this feedback: There are a few sidewalks that are barely wide enough for two people. Some are on busy streets, and find myself forced into the street to pass someone.

If you can participate in the audit, please contact the borough office at 717-367-1700.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Six reasons why runners need to come to Elizabethtown

In the past two years, I have used the streets, sidewalks, paths and roads in and around Elizabethtown as my training grounds for three half marathons. I have run often enough to establish short routes of 4 miles that get me home in about 30 minutes and long runs of 12 miles that take me from one end of Elizabethtown to another (literally from Darrenkamps to the Masonic Village Farmers Market).

When 500 people show up for a race in the dead of winter, you know there's a community of runners. With that in mind, here are six reasons why you should run in Elizabethtown:
  • Elizabethtown's walking and biking paths -- The borough has been working on walking and biking paths in town for a number of years. This winter, construction started on connecting a path from the community center on Poplar Street with a new path that will end at the Elizabethtown Train Station. The borough has also received grants to build a path on the other side of Market Street that will use existing alleys and go through Community Park and connect to the Elizabethtown Area School District property. Soon, you'll be able to run all the way through town on a dedicated pedestrian path and encounter little to no traffic.
  • Masonic Villages -- I have run countless miles at Masonic Villages and am grateful for it. From my house, it's about a mile to the apartment buildings on Sycamore Drive. Once I get there, I can head in a number of directions on walking paths or on roads that don't have that much traffic. As any runner will tell you, that is a blessing.
  • Hills -- As a cross country runner in high school, my coach told us to "attack the hills." Ever since then, I've never shied away from the challenge of a steep incline. Here in Elizabethtown, there are many, many challenges: Campus Road from College Avenue to Groff Avenue, Buckingham Boulevard, my own 5 Miles of Hills route and more. If you train in Elizabethtown, you will fear no hills in a race.
  • Great local races -- I've been running in the Frozen Foot Race Series, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Here's a list of other races in no particular order (these are the ones I know about in the Elizabethtown area; I did not include any that are outside of the school district):
    • Run for Peace, held every September and sponsored by the Elizabethtown Brethren Church.
    • Elizabethtown Color Classic -- will be held Sunday, April 6, on and around the campus of Elizabethtown College. This is a first-time color run the college's Class of 2016 is sponsoring to support the Arc of Lancaster County. As a side note, the borough's staff held up this student-run event as an example of planning and organization for submitting a special events application with all requirements months ahead of the event.
    • Cornerstone Ministries held an inaugural 5K last fall at Masonic Villages.
    • Twilight Trot, a 10K in August on the Masonic Villages grounds sponsored by the Greater Elizabethtown Recreation and Community Services.
    • An inaugural Mother's Day Run 5K this year, sponsored by the Elizabethtown Rotary Club.
  • Conewago Rail Trail -- Technically, this isn't in the borough, but it's part of the community. I had ridden my bike on it, but until last fall had never run there. It's nice to have a flat, straight path with no vehicle traffic, except for crossing Route 743 and some other roads. And that's not to mention the beautiful south central Pennsylvania farmland and scenery.
  • Elizabethtown College -- Like Masonic Village, the college provides a great space for running without traffic. I realized last fall that I could run across campus two or three times and get a 5-mile run in without ever being more than 1 mile away from home. And if I want to do speedwork on the track, it's a perfect warm up distance of six-tenths of a mile from home.
What did I miss? What reasons do you have for running in Elizabethtown?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

E-town man, a former air traffic controller, recounts events of 9/11

Flight path of Flight 93 (Photo courtesey of Wikipedia)
Like most of us, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, are seared into my memory. Even after 12 years, the emotions are raw as I remember the horror of that day.

You might ask, since this is a blog that is chronicling Elizabethtown, what does this have to do with the borough and its business?

It turns out that Mal Fuller, who lives near Bear Creek School in Mount Joy Township, was the watch supervisor of the Pittsburgh International Airport air traffic facilities on 9/11. I met Mal the other year at a summer picnic, and he told me briefly about that day when, shortly after the Pentagon was attacked, the radar in Pittsburgh showed Flight 93 headed directly for the airport. As the supervisor, he evacuated the control tower and radar room.

At 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 25, Mal will tell his story at Gibble Auditorium in Esbenshade Hall on the campus of Elizabethtown College. He will review the events of 9/11/01 as seen through the eyes of an air traffic watch supervisor who helped shut down the nation's airspace and who dealt with United 93 prior to its crash near Shanksville, Somerset County. 

I didn't hear Mal's entire story at that picnic, but like everything with 9/11, his story is compelling, and I hope to make it to his talk at the college.

For more background information, check out his appearance on "Conversations," a program produced at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Borough wins planning award for parking lot design

The Lancaster County Planning Commission awarded Elizabethtown's new long-term parking lot at the Amtrak Train Station with one of its Envision Lancaster County Leadership Awards on Feb. 25.

The lot, located at the end of Wilson Avenue, received an Achievement Award and was cited for a compact
design combined with park-like open space, porous asphalt to let stormwater to seep through and
the use of high-efficiency LED lighting. Working with the borough on the design of the lot were C.S. Davidson, Horst Excavating, Hanover Engineering Associates Inc. and Derck and Edson Associates.

The Envision Leadership Awards program recognizes the actions of municipalities, developers, consultants and community groups that embrace smart growth concepts and highlights the advantages of good planning. The county planning commission's website says the program "is intended to raise design and planning awareness in our community, while encouraging the support of planning activities and projects that foster smart growth. By recognizing the actions of municipalities, developers, consultants and/or others who embrace smart growth concepts, this awards program highlights the advantages of good planning."

I have to give credit to the borough's staff, all of whom had the vision and worked hard to make the parking lot a reality. It's great to have that work recognized on a professional level, and I am proud that Elizabethtown has a committed staff that is implementing a plan that will stimulate economic development for the borough and make it an even better place to live.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A winter to remember, and another snow emergency

It's been a winter to remember, hasn't it? As best I can remember, it's been 20 years since we've had snow on the ground for so long and temperatures so bitter cold.

With yet another winter storm bearing down on Central Pennsylvania, Elizabethtown has again declared a snow emergency:

Based on the extended forecast, Elizabethtown Borough has declared a snow emergency 
effective at 3 pm. on Sunday, March 2. 

ln order to facilitate the movement of traffic and to combat the hazards of snow and ice on the 
snow emergency routes, Elizabethtown Borough has declared a snow emergency. 

During a snow emergency the following applies: 

  1. Parking is prohibited on a snow emergency route
  2. The Elizabethtown Borough Police Department is hereby authorized to remove any vehicle parked along the snow emergency route and to transport the same to an impound facility designated by the Borough at the Vehicle owner’s expense.
  3. Penalties apply for violations. 

The following are designated as snow emergency routes:
  • College Avenue * between Market Street and Spruce Street
  • High Street- entire length
  • Market Street- entire length
  • Spruce Street- between College Avenue and Willow Street
  • Willow Street- between Spruce Street and Market Street
The borough also noted on its Facebook page that, "because of the potential for heavy accumulations, it is possible that we will need to plow several times. If possible, wait to shovel the last 6 feet of your driveway until we have completed curb to curb plowing on your street. This will help prevent our plows from pushing snow back into your driveway."

"Please keep in mind that Borough ordinance requires that snow and ice be removed from sidewalks within 12 hours after the end of any fall of snow, sleet, or freezing rain.

"For more information regarding a snow emergency, visit the Borough’s website. Thank you for your cooperation."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

5 reasons why Movoto missed the mark about retiring in Elizabethtown

Maybe you saw the story on the real estate website movoto.com that Elizabethtown is the best place to retire in Pennsylvania. Aside from picking this picture as representative of the community as a whole (I mean, come on, seriously?), I was excited. I'm not sure how Movoto reached its conclusion by assessing that weather, standard of living, amenities, proximity to an airport, crime rate and cost of living all translate into an awesome retirement community because I live here in part because of those things. And truth be told, I am many years away from retirement.

If you want a nice analysis of why Movoto's assessment is off base, I strongly recommend picking up the Feb. 20 edition of the Elizabethtown Advocate. Editor and publisher Dan Robrish does an excellent job of picking apart the website's analysis.

Ordinarily, I'd promote the list and write about it here because it puts Elizabethtown in the spotlight. The problem is that I see the community not just as a retirement destination. It's just a great place to live. Period. Whether you're retired or not.


  1. Geography -- I remember being at an Elizabethtown Chamber of Commerce banquet six or seven years ago, and the president of the chamber got a chuckle from the crowd by saying that Elizabethtown is 20 minutes from everywhere. It's true. I work in Harrisburg, and on a good day with little traffic, you can get to Second Street in downtown Harrisburg and the Capitol in 20 minutes (now, I know that during rush hour that's a whole lot different, but work with me, folks!). We are also 20 t0 25 minutes from downtown Lancaster (where I also used to work). And you can get to the east side of York and to Lebanon in about the same amount of time, not to mention Hershey's being 10 miles away.
  2. Local institutions -- Movoto used amenities as one of its criteria in developing its list, but there was no real presentation into what those amenities are. So let me do that:
    • Elizabethtown College (full disclosure: my wife works for the college): higher education, concerts, speakers, events, Division III sports (though no football, which is not a complaint, just an observation) and a campus that is open to the public. I've taken advantage of all of these, and I regularly go to the track to run.
    • Masonic Villages: I understand that you're a real estate website, and you're interest is in selling houses. So you won't mention the retirement community that 1. is a major employer in the community and 2. is an organization that does great things in the community and the world.
    • MARS Chocolate: A Fortunte 500 company has a major production facility in the borough, which makes Dove Chocolate Bars. A factory equals jobs. And it smells like chocolate when you're out and about in town. That's reason enough to live here. Plus, it's less expensive to live here than Hershey.
  3. Borough government -- I've written about this before, but it bears saying again: I was a newspaper reporter and had the privilege of covering other boroughs over the years. Very few of them were able to take a vision and turn it into reality. Prior to my being elected, Elizabethtown Borough Council approved a master plan for the downtown area. In the past eight or nine years, the borough has been following that plan and bringing to fruition much of that, including complete renovations of the Elizabethtown train station (using $9 million in federal stimulus money) and constructing walking/bicycling paths to make the community more walkable. Because previous council members had the vision, the borough has been able to secure grant funding for projects by showing that it has specific plans and not just good ideas.
  4. A vibrant downtown -- The business atmosphere downtown has gone through cycles since I moved to Elizabethtown. Right now, it's on the positive side. New businesses have opened in recent years, such as Rooster St. Provisions, Folklore Coffee, Center Square Bakery, the Pita Pit and Andrew Douglas Jewelers, among others. The merchants also promote Second Fridays every month, staying open late on the second Friday and offering specials and deals. It's been great to head downtown and see people wandering in and out of businesses and spending money. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Elizabethtown Public Library, which is an anchor for the downtown and has become a community center.
  5. Ease of travel -- I mentioned the renovations of the train station above. The Amtrak stop is on the Keystone line, which runs between Harrisburg and Philadelphia. Elizabethtown sees tens of thousands of riders every year, and the numbers keep increasing. Hop on a train here, and you can be in Philadelphia in two hours, to catch a train to New York. Or you can commute to work in Harrisburg. Of course, being 10 miles away from Harrisburg International Airport makes air travel easier and more convenient (even if it can be more expensive than flying from Baltimore or Philadelphia).

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Property owners notified about clearing snow from sidewalks

I am a runner, and I run in all seasons. The other week, I bundled up for a nice 12-mile run in 20-degree weather. And last Sunday several hundred runners and I braved the freezing temperatures and cautiously navigated slushy and icy roads near Elizabethtown College and Bear Creek School for the second race in the 25th annual Frozen Foot Race series.

It goes without saying that if we runners run in weather like we've had this year, we expect to encounter snow and ice on sidewalks.

But days and weeks after the precipitation ends?

Here in Elizabethtown, borough officials sent notices and $25 inspection fees this week to 165 property owners across the borough for failing to clear snow from their sidewalks. Many of those notices went to people who clearly had not made any effort to clear snow and ice after any of the storms we've had.

Until you are out and about on the sidewalks, you don't realize how many people do not clear them. While I don't hit all of the streets in town when I run, I have encountered snow and ice all across the borough: Spruce Street near College Avenue, along College Avenue toward Market Street, on East and West High Street, Buckingham Boulevard, Hillside Avenue, Willow Street and others.

For the record, the borough ordinance requires that property owners clear their walks of snow and ice within 12 hours after the precipitation ends.

I know it's difficult to get the work done when we have busy schedules, especially when the snow never seems to fall at a convenient time. That's why on Valentine's Day, I fired up the snowblower at 5:30 a.m. to clear my driveway (so I could get to work) and sidewalk. You have to do what you have to do.

So please, not just for sake of us runners, but for the sake of your neighbors, the kids in your neighborhood who walk to school and anyone else out for some fresh air, please clear your sidewalks.

Borough man charged after allegedly assaulting baby

Borough police charged a 25-year-old Elizabethtown man with numerous counts after he allegedly assaulted his 4-month-old son.

The suspect is charged with two counts of felony aggravated assault, one count of felony endangering welfare of children, one count of misdemeanor endangering welfare of children and one count of misdemeanor recklessly endangering another person,

Police said that the baby was taken to Hershey Medical Center on Feb. 4 for a skull injury. While being examined at the hospital, medical personnel discovered additional healing injuries, including two fractured ribs and a fracture of the left distal medial tibia within the weeks prior to the medical examination.

During the police investigation, officers learned that the father allegedly caused the injuries while his son was in his care in the 600 block of Groff Avenue between Jan. 14 and Feb. 4.

Lancaster County Children and Youth Services are involved with the case and certain restrictions have been put into place prohibiting the father from contact with the child.

A preliminary arraignment was held on Feb. 19 before District Justice Jayne Duncan, and the father was released on $25,000 cash bail.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Census data: Hundreds of E-town area children live in poverty

Does anyone else find this troubling? The U.S. Census, as reported by LancasterOnline, shows that 408 children ages 5 to 17 live in poverty in the Elizabethtown Area School District. That's 8 percent of the students in the school district (not just those attending public schools). According to the newspaper website, the numbers are "noticably higher than they were in 2009." And the numbers are likely even higher when you consider they don't include younger children who aren't in school yet.

Here's a chart from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that shows how much income families must have to be considered in poverty:

Persons in family/householdPoverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,060 for each additional person.

You also have to consider a family of four that brings in $27,000 a year. They aren't in poverty, according to the federal rules, but they certainly aren't making ends meet easily.

Through my church, Christ Church United Church of Christ, I learned that many families with students in the schools can't afford meals during the weekends. Members of Christ Church are helping the school district to distribute backpacks full of food to help those families through the weekend.

It's easy to overlook the issue of poverty in a community like Elizabethtown because the concentration isn't as great and noticeable as it is in an urban environment. LancasterOnline reported that nearly one-third of children in the Lancaster City School District are in poverty. But the issues are real here in rural parts of the county, and we all as a community need to be aware and step up to help when we can.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Stray dogs to be taken to Lancaster County SPCA

Every year, Elizabethtown police officers find as many as 18 dogs whose owners they can't identify. For the past few years, a local organization called 2nd Chance 4 Life has been taking those dogs and keeping them. While it has been convenient, that contract has come to an end, and by April police will take dogs to the Lancaster County SPCA.

This isn't like the stray dogs in Sochi, Russia, site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. The number of strays has gotten so bad that authorities have been using exterminators to kill dogs, using poison darts in some case, according to the Washington Post.

Whether it's a local organization or the SPCA, the borough has to pay for police officers to take the dogs there. The borough will pay the SPCA $2,000 a year for up to 10 dogs and $200 for every dog after that.

The challenge is that the borough, to recoup costs, has charged residents $200 to pick up the dogs from 2nd Chance. But since the SPCA will charge residents $100, Borough Council decided on recommendation from police Chief Jack Mentzer to lower the borough's fee to $100. That way, residents would still pay just $200 to pick up their dog. Otherwise, it would be a 50 percent increase, to $300, and Mentzer said he was worried about the "sticker shock."

The new arrangement means the borough will lose money, but council is committed to evaluating it to determine if the fee should be increased.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Borough declares a snow emergency

Elizabethtown Borough has declared a snow emergency effective 10 tonight Wednesday, Feb. 12. To facilitate the movement of traffic and combat the hazards of snow and ice, parking is prohibited on the snow emergency routes in accordance with borough ordinance. The Elizabethtown Police Department is authorized to have vehicles that are parked on snow emergency routes towed to Cocker’s Towing at the owner’s expense. To assist with snow removal efforts, residents are encouraged to remove vehicles from all public streets during winter weather conditions. 

Because of the expected severity of this storm, it is probable the borough will need to plow several times. If possible, wait to shovel the last 6 feet of your driveway until we have completed curb to curb plowing on your street. This will help prevent our plows from pushing snow back into your driveway.

Please keep in mind that borough ordinance requires that snow and ice be removed from sidewalks within 12 hours after the end of any fall of snow, sleet, or freezing rain.

The trash pick-up for Thursday will be changed to this Saturday, Feb. 15. Friday’s collection will not be affected.

The office will be closed on Monday, February 17th for the holiday and reopen Tuesday, Feb. 18.

For more information regarding a snow emergency, visit the Borough’s website. Thank you for your cooperation.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Police charge two for selling prescription drugs

Elizabethtown police and troopers from the Pennsylvania State Police arrested a man and a woman for allegedly delivering prescription drugs illegally in late January. During the incident, the suspects allegedly sold OxyContin.

A 41-year-old Mount Joy man and a 42-year-old Middletown woman were arrested Jan. 29 on North Market Street and were within 1,000 feet of Mill Road Elementary School during school hours.

The male suspect was charged with delivery of a controlled substance, conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance and possession of prescription pills without a prescription. Police said he had active warrants on other charges and was taken to Lancaster County Prison.

The woman was charged with with delivery of a controlled substance, conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance and possession of prescription pills without a prescription, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. She was released, police said.

The arrests are part of an ongoing relationship the borough police department has forged with the state police to fight drugs in Elizabethtown. In 2012, officers from both agencies conducted an undercover investigation that led to 17 arrests and the seizure of heroin.

In December, state police arrested three borough residents and charged them with felony possession with intent to deliver heroin after another undercover investigation, according to media reports. In that case, troopers seized hundreds of bags of heroin and hundreds of dollars in cash at homes on North Market Street and the first block of East Park Street. Police began monitoring the homes in October.

Despite what many consider to be grim news, I stand by the comments I made about What Elizabethtown Is and What Elizabethtown Isn't in September 2012. Every community has its problems, but the true test is how it responds to the problems. Our police department is to be commended for forging the relationship with state police to do outstanding undercover work. And groups like Elizabethtown Area Communities That Care are working on fighting the underlying causes of substance abuse. (Full disclosure: My wife is a member of the board of directors for EACTC.)

Thankfully, this community has people actively working to make it a better place and not just being arm-chair critics or wringing their hands that it's not the way it used to be.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New councilor sworn in

Marc Hershey, left, is sworn in as the newest member of Elizabethtown
Borough Council on Monday, Jan. 6, by Mayor Chuck Mummert.
The newest member of Elizabethtown Borough Council was sworn in at the biannual reorganization meeting on Monday, Jan. 6. Marc Hershey was elected without opposition last November. He replaces long-time Counclor Meade Bierly, who retired from office after serving for 40 years. 

Hershey is the treasurer for the Elizabethtown Fire Department and is the finance director for The Hershey Company.

At the meeting, Councilor J. Neil Ketchum was also was sworn in for a second term on council. He has served as council president for the past two years and was elected to serve another two years on Monday. Phil Clark was reelected to another two years as vice president.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Police arrest suspect in Craigslist robbery/assault

Elizabethtown police arrested a 19-year-old Elizabethtown woman yesterday in connection with an alleged robbery and assault at MoviE-town in November. Police had previously issued an arrest warrant last Friday.

Amber Consylman was arrested without incident after police received information at about 6:30 p.m. that she had returned to her residence in the 400 block of Aberdeen Road. Officers from Northwest Regional Police assisted borough officers. Consylman was charged with robbery, criminal conspiracy to commit robbery, aggravated assault and theft from a motor vehicle. She was arraigned at night duty court and committed to Lancaster County Prison in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Police said Consylman allegedly met a man on Nov. 5 at MoviE-town who had responded to an advertisment on Craigslist about buying a television. According to the police report, she led the man toward the rear west side of the building. As they passed a blind corner, an unknown male attacked the victim with a baseball bat, hitting  him in the head and arm. The victim was able to escape. According to media reports, he was treated at a local hospital for traumatic injuries to his head and arm.

I asked borough police Chief Jack Mentzer about the male suspect, who had not been identified or arrested as of about 7:45 p.m. yesterday.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact the Elizabethtown Police Department at 717-367-1835.