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 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.