Living in Hanover

Living in Hanover

'Apparently a blog about living in Hanover'

What’s Your Weekend Plan?

This isn’t the busiest weekend in Hanover, but there are a few special events going on. There are also lots of great local businesses to support – get on out and see what Hanover ha sto offer!

  • The Winner’s Circle will host Steph Stewart and The Boyfriends from Chapel Hill, NC, tonight at 9 p.m.
  • “Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings” has two more shows at Hanover Little Theatre, tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. Tickets are $14 for adults and $13 for students and seniors for this musical comedy.
  • Catch pro and amateur boxing at the Hanover National Guard Armory tonight at 7 p.m. There will be about eight bouts, including Gettysburg High School grad Terrance Williams.
  • The Hanover Area Arts Guild still has their $99 and Under show going on.
  • Catch the return of the Lyric Band to the Codorus State Park Summer Concert series on Sunday. The 7 p.m. concert at the bandshell will feature soloist Dr. Galen Leitzel on the Alto Saxophone. Bring your own lawn chair.

Brian July 18, 2014 1 Comment Permalink

Game Over or Free Life?

I noticed something interesting when I looked at the agenda for tonight’s borough Finance and Personnel Committee meeting – a discussion on amendments to the Amusement Tax. So I Googled what that tax covered and saw that the owners of a “coin-operated amusement device” were to pay a $50 yearly tax. (Jukeboxes are a steal at $10 per year.) I immediately thought of Timeline Arcade and the newly-opened Bentzel Amusements. My worries were confirmed when Timeline owner Brandon Spencer chimed in on Facebook

The town wants to change the coin operated amusement device tax law. This would mean that any video or pinball game would be taxed even if it dosnt take money. This would also hurt gamestop and other video games stores. Any game would have to be taxed, even if you play on your cell phone

The wide-ranging ramifications never dawned on me, and I doubt the borough would ever even try to enforce it to that letter, but the reality is that the borough needs money, sees a successful business (or two) and wants to get that money from them.

Now, to be fair, the law was already on the books, and a place like Timeline (where you pay for how long you play and don’t actually put coins in the machine) is in kind of an unintentional grey area because their business model didn’t completely exist when the ordinance was created. I would hope that the amendment would be to create some wide-ranging look at how to assess some sort of tax without being onerous. I sincerely doubt it though.

We know the borough has fiscal issues, but this is not the way to go about trying to solve them. Changing a law and then going to someone who is trying to revitalize downtown and asking for money – if that is the case – really looks crappy. But then what doesn’t from council?

At the same time, they are looking at financing options for a ladder truck which will cost way more than the borough will ever get from Timeline. And let’s not even get into the boondoggle to buy the Tanger Building so that James Holmes Richard Lopez Fire Chief Jan Cromer can have a new office using funds the borough hopes to raise from the sale of other properties.

All this is piled on top of the absurd medical plan for staff that costs taxpayers untold sums and the addition of a Council Treasurer to take over work the old Council Treasurer apparently couldn’t handle (although the salary there hasn’t changed, has it?).

But, by all means, take the money from a local business instead of getting your own house in order. I can’t make it tonight most likely, but please go if you can and ask the borough to focus on bigger issues first. Of course, you won’t get much chance to speak because John Gerken and Brab Krebs really don’t care what we think.

Brian July 16, 2014 3 Comments Permalink

Pick Your Poison This Saturday

The newspaper had a Facebook post yesterday that invited readers to finish the sentence “I wish Hanover and Adams County had (blank).”

I found some of the comments amusing – especially the ones calling for a daily newspaper again – but some fell into a category that just made me roll my eyes. Some people either wanted things that just aren’t going to happen, at least anytime soon, like Wegman’s or asked for things that already existed.

I briefly fell into my default mode of complaining about the complainers (and may do more on that later), but then realized that I could put my time to better use. If you are sitting around wondering what Hanover doesn’t have, you are missing all the great things that Hanover does have. This Saturday is an amazing example. (And if I forgot anything, please let me know – I looked around to try and find everything.)

Main Street Hanover will have its annual Chalk It Up event on Center Square beginning at 10 a.m. If you’re not familiar with this, Chalk It Up provides folks with the chance to spruce up a piece of sidewalk around Center Square. This is for adults and kids alike, a simple activity that brings people downtown. There are roaming mascots and other activities, but the main purpose is just to come downtown and have fun.

William Michael Kirby, a Baltimore-based street painter, will join in the fun and provide an educational program at Guthrie Memorial Library-Hanover’s Public Library later in the day TODAY (Thursday) from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

If you’re hungry at anytime, just slip down Frederick Street a little bit where the Hanover Lions Club will hold its annual Chicken BBQ. For $8, you get half a chicken, a baked potato, a roll and applesauce. The money goes to support local charities and vision programs. If you can’t make it downtown, there will be meals available at the south end of town by Auchey’s Greenhouse. We’ll be selling from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

After you check out the chalk art and grab a bite to eat, head on over to Hanover Middle School where the Hanover Rhinos football team will close out the regular season with a 2 p.m. game. It’s Kids Day for the Rhinos so there will be mascots and other fun surrounding the game. Admission is $5 for adults – kids 14 and under are free.

If you have already registered, the Hanover Athletic Boosters have their golf tournament at Hanover Country Club on Saturday as well.

Then you can rest up for the evening activities. You have two choices, just a stone’s throw from each other. Hanover Valley Presbyterian Church will have its first Open Mic night from 8-11pm at 133 Carlisle Street. They will have coffee and music for anyone interested in joining the fun. They plan on continuing Open Mic nights on the second Saturdays of the month.

Just an aside here, but there is a cool Open Mic culture seeming to grow downtown. Reader’s Café has one tomorrow night (Friday, May 9) and the Hanover Hub has had a bunch, but is on an events hiatus this summer. I haven’t been to any, but I know that they do well, especially with the younger crowd (who apparently has nothing to do if you read the people in the comments on the Facebook post which inspired this post, but I digress).

If an Open Mic is too quiet for your tastes, just head up the street to Timeline Arcade for their Back to the 80s event, which also begins at 8 p.m., but runs until 2 a.m. They will have a DJ and Taco Camino will have food for sale so you can eat, play games and dance all in one place. Tickets are $20, but get you unlimited gaming as well as all the entertainment. There is a discount if you were 80s clothes (oh, I wish I could still fit in my 80s clothes, but that’s another story for another day).

EDIT: There is also a Cabaret at Virgilio’s (on Elm Avenue) on Saturday starting at 8:30! A bunch of talented teens will perform. Tickets are  $5 and there is a $10 food cover. Call the restaurant at 630-9600 for reservations and ask for the cabaret.

And none of this even begins to discuss all the regular things available downtown – the Ron Schloyer Art Show at the Hanover Area Arts Guild, sales downtown for Second Saturday, including the Clark’s Shoe Warehouse Sale, and food at the Hub, the Famous, the Lucky Spot, Reader’s, Warehouse,  Texas Hot Lunch, etc., etc., etc. Plus South Western has its Prom on Saturday.

So my answer to the question the newspaper posed is the same here as it was there – for more people to take advantage of the things that already exist in Hanover and spend less time worrying about what we don’t have.

Sure, there is always room for more (except a bank – God forbid another bank open because that is apparently the worst thing ever, another story for another day again), but let’s not pretend that there is nothing to do. This Saturday is particularly packed, but if you look around hard enough, you will realize that you can easily complain about not being able to do everything instead of finding nothing to do.

Brian May 8, 2014 4 Comments Permalink

Woerner’s Folly

The race for the 169th District State House has started to heat up. We answered four phone surveys last week and a couple of mailers. One of the mailers made me chuckle.

I questioned Marc Woerner’s candidacy from the start. Then I read his flyer and just had to laugh. He claims he’ll make the hard choices. He claims he shows leadership by making unpopular decisions (a concept which just flummoxes me – leadership isn’t about pissing people off to stand for what you believe in). He promises not to take all kinds of perks available to lawmakers.

Considering he was only one of two West Manheim Township supervisors to have the township keep paying for his health insurance, I guess he doesn’t need any more freebies. I mean, it’s pretty comical to say you won’t take a taxpayer funded pension when you are taking a taxpayer funded healthcare plan. I am pretty sure he still takes it, but correct me if I am wrong. Of course, he loses it if he wins this election, but it’s still kind of bizarre to have such inconsistency. Supervisor isn’t a full time job. You shouldn’t get benefits for it.

It’s unconscionable to me to consider this guy for state House. Not only is he directly contradicting what he claims in all his campaign stuff, but he pretends that voting to take the health insurance that the other supervisors realized was a bad policy is some sort of courageous moral stand. I wasn’t thinking about voting for him in the first place, but wanted to look this stuff up when I saw the flyer because I was pretty sure he was one of the ones taking it. At one point, he was the only surpervisor who voted against getting rid of the benefit Despite drafting an ordinance to do so, the move ended up failing.

I can’t believe he would do all this stuff when all it takes is a memory of the insurance issue in West Manny and access to Google to find this stuff out. But if you call dibs on being the most conservative and say the right buzzwords, I guess actual votes and actions from the past don’t count, right?

Odds and Ends

Things I have noticed around town over the past few weeks that bear mentioning. What do you see happening in Hanover?

  • The work in front of the Giant on Baltimore Street is an Advance Auto Parts. A little sign went up the other day. So they will go head-to-head with Auto Zone just a couple of doors down
  • Baltimore Street Family Restaurant, right next door, seems to be closing. There is a For Lease sign up that says the owner is retiring. Since that location has been one diner/restaurant or another for a long time now, I wouldn’t be surprised if a new one sprouted up.
  • A friend told me that a local microbrewery had moved into the old Moose building on Frederick Street right by the Clark’s store. Anyone have more info on that?
  • Speaking of Clark’s, the spring warehouse sale starts Thursday.
  • I saw a sign for a new Mexican market along High Street, near the Merchandiser building.

 

Brian April 29, 2014 5 Comments Permalink

Facts About Meetings and Comments

This is a modified version of a comment I posted on the Living in Hanover Facebook page.

Rules for public comment need to be in place. But where do those rules come from and why are they enacted? That’s the crux of this discussion. And, as a data-driven guy, I took a look at the numbers, based on council minutes.

The average council meeting from January 2013 to March 2014 lasted 52 minutes. Less than an hour! The median is 49 minutes. And that includes the full meeting time for the four joint-bid meetings, which are by each over an hour. So they skew the number a bit.

The meetings around the library controversy are the longest so any complaint by borough council that the meetings are too long because of public comment is undone by their own decision-making. Maybe if it had been handled differently, the discussion would have flowed differently and they wouldn’t have had to “endure” two hours of listening to people share their opinions.

Only one meeting exceeded two hours. One more exceeded 90 minutes. Eleven meetings went over an hour and half of those were joint bid events so seven of 28 meetings went over an hour solely because of borough business.

So we have established that the average council meeting takes less than an hour and only exceeds that hour about 25 percent of time time with a couple of exceptions. Since they have reduced official meetings to once a month, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Now let’s look at the issue of who is commenting since that has come up with council. Apparently, business owners who pay business taxes are not the audience they want to hear from. You could extrapolate that into saying that they have a problem with the opinion of these folks because they think they represent an oversized number of the speakers.

As Lee Corso would say, “not so fast, my friend.” By my count, there were 68 instances of public comment in the same period I described above. With 28 meetings in the data set, that’s a little more than two people per meeting. That shouldn’t be a burden, in my opinion.

Of these speakers, 39 (57 percent) were borough residents as identified by their address. That may be higher because some business owners do not have their home address listed so I may be under counting. Another seven were what I will call “presenters.” These are official representatives of organizations like Main Street or the county redevelopment authority or state Rep. Will Tallman. That’s a shade over 10 percent of the speakers.

So non-residents or non-resident business owners account for 33 percent of the speakers in front of a body that averages less than an hour per meeting. Is that a burden that requires new rules to restrict their involvement? When answering that, folks need to remember that direct actions (or inaction) by council are the main reason these folks come to speak.

If they were more pro-active with keeping Pru Keffer up-to-date on what is happening at 217 Baltimore Street, she wouldn’t be “bothering” them. If they had thought through the library plans, Kathy Hoar wouldn’t take up their precious time.

This is an issue that municipalities have a right to set the guidelines, but I come back to my question from the beginning – do we need new guidelines? Is there a crisis in Hanover or does council just want to shut up a few select people because they find them to be an irritant?

I know what I think. And I think the numbers show a pretty clear picture too.

Brian April 18, 2014 5 Comments Permalink

We’re Not Dumb, Council

Hanover Borough Council has spoken: they don’t want you to speak.

That’s the gist of the news from last night’s committee meeting as reported by Lauren Linhard from The Evening Sun.

(C)ouncil discussed the possibility of creating a Sunshine Act policy that would limit speakers during public comment sessions or meetings.

Yep, council wants to make sure they hear less feedback. They seem to be particularly worried that they will have to sit through the concerns of people who own a business in the borough, but live elsewhere. Gee, I wonder what precipitated that? Besides, it’s pretty funny (some might say deliberate) that this policy comes up at the first meeting after the borough started putting agendas online in advance of a meeting. What a coincidence that they decide they want to limit public comment right after they give people an opportunity to be prepared to give public comments.

UPDATE: The item was not on the draft agenda released Monday – I couldn’t remember, but someone just confirmed that. So it all of a sudden became a big deal …. or was not put on there on purpose so as to not arouse suspicion. Oh, and the borough website has been down for more than an hour as I post this shortly after 3:30 p.m.

Let’s recap what has happened recently:

  1. Council complains that people who complain don’t come to meetings to learn the real story
  2. People come to meetings to learn the real story
  3. People complain and demand accountability from council
  4. Council is forced to reverse course on the library plan and the nature trail debacle
  5. Council moves to limit the number of people and amount of time for complaining and demanding accountability

We don’t have enough time or enough numbers to outline why this plan stinks, but let’s give a few of them a shot. First of all, the Sunshine Act does allow for some restrictions on public comment, but I really don’t think the borough can really provide any justification for why they need to take this step.

Are there numbers justifying the amount of time wasted on excessive public comments? (I would give a run down on the length of some of the council meetings during the past six months or so, but the borough’s web site is down so I can’t get to the info.) Have they tracked the trends of public comment? Do they have details on the length of speaking by those commenting? Have they mapped this out for residents vs. non-residents to see where the “problem” is happening? Besides, as council member Sonny Eline has told us so many times (even though he was proven so, so, so, so, so so, so, so, so, so so, so, so, so, so so, so, so, so, so so, so, so, so, so so, so, so, so, so so, so, so, so, so wrong at the nature trail public hearing) the group of those complaining is just a small number of folks who have axes to grind. So if it’s just a few of us, why worry about limiting comments (unless you really do know that it’s a lot of people with smart, well-reasoned arguments that undercut everything you say).

And while the law does specify that residents and taxpayers are the primary audience for comments, it doesn’t say what kind of tax defines this group. Business owners pay taxes. People who work in the borough also do (at least I think they still have an occupational “privilege” tax). So it’s not just residents who fund the government that so desperately wants us to just sit down and shut up. Plus, do residents of other municipalities who are customers of Hanover’s water and sewer system have a claim as a “taxpayer?”

So it’s not as clear cut as council wants it to be. They may think that excluding a few people means nothing in the big picture, but it really just shows their pettiness. They may worry that people from all over may come and share an unpopular opinion about their decisions, but that’s just tough. That’s what happens when you sign up for this gig. If the borough really got a seasoned administrator back in 2011 when they elevated Barb Krebs to the top position, she would be telling them that public comment is part of the job and limiting it really just opens up a can of worms. Instead, she’s leading this charge because the plan she and council president John Gerken hatched to put her into power and execute their plans through secrecy and intimidation has started to hit some roadblocks. This is the borough manager who promised increased communication was a pivotal part of her plans when she got the job.

Council was wrong on the library modifications. Council was wrong on the nature trail. Now council is wrong on public comment. Hopefully they start to see the pattern here and realize they need more information, not less because they are working from a tremendous position of weakness which is fueled by hubris, denial and immaturity.

 

Brian April 17, 2014 1 Comment Permalink

Overwhelming Evidence

I originally planned to write a post about the nature trail meeting and how I’m sad borough council/administration sat there and threw the poor engineering assistant (and who is he an assistant to since they no longer have a borough engineer?) under the bus and how I’m happy that lots of people are seeing the things I have been talking about for a couple of years now and how I’m proud to see the engagement and thoughtfulness of the community.

But on the way to putting that post together, I did a quick Google search for something and found another item that points to the cluelessness of the people running the borough. I simply Googled the phrase “Hanover Borough.” In the results, I saw a curious entry – a site that looked like it was about the borough police department. I know sometimes spammers will gobble up domains and make sites that look official so I figured that would be the case here.

Nope. You can go to http://hanover-police.org/ and see a site run by the police department, seemingly independent of the borough web site, much more attractive that the borough web site and at a domain not owned by the borough government. The domain has been alive for more almost seven years. The borough main site does link to it, but they in no way promote that the police has their own site with their own tips and expertise.

Once again, we find an example of how hollow the promise of better communication Barb Krebs made when she was promoted to borough manager really is. And once again, we see that there are examples of outstanding work being done behind the scenes in the borough. They just don’t always get a chance to see the light when big egos block the view.

Kudos to Chief Smith and his department.

Brian February 28, 2014 2 Comments Permalink

Seeking Common Sense

I sat in a borough council meeting last year when folks were urging council to do the right thing and reverse the decision to move the children’s library. At one point, some members of council – I specifically remember Tom Hufnagle, who did not run for re-election last year – saying that the borough didn’t want to be in the library business and wanted to get out of the library business.

This was the crux of last year’s debate. The library, particularly the debt from the renovations and expansion, served as a drag on the borough budget for a number of reasons. Riding into the picture in recent weeks was the York County Library System (YCLS), who promised to alleviate some of the pressure. The proposed three-year deal would cost nothing to the borough in the first year and focus on ways to “maximize cost savings, increase volunteers, review programs and services for efficiency and customer satisfaction, assess the improvement of technology and coordinate fundraising.”

The second and third years would include a $30,000 “management fee” each year, which seems like a bargain to me if they can put the library on a stronger path and provide hope for the future. Besides, there doesn’t seem to be anyone else waiting in the wings to take over this project and, as I pointed out, the borough wants to be out of the library business.

So why does there seem to be any question on this? Last night, Evening Sun reporter Laura Linhard who tweeted “Members of Borough Council remain unconvinced that the library agreement is worth it.” She quoted council member Kim Griffin as saying she would not vote for it, the same Kim Griffin who lectured me on Facebook about how the borough can’t take on any special events because they already have their hands full. Well, wouldn’t this help lighten that load some? The Library Board unanimously recommended this. What could be giving people second thoughts?

Thankfully, the fuller report this morning shows that council member Sonny Eline and borough manager Barb Krebs have a more open mind on this. That’s one sure sign of the apocalypse. I have ranted and raved less about the borough these past few months for a few reasons. Some of them I outlined in an earlier post, but it bogs down to my complete lack of faith that this group will do the right thing and my continued intention to rid my life of the things that cause me undue stress. I don’t want to be negative all the time, and that’s what the borough council and administration do to me.

But this can’t go unchallenged. Neither can the public hearing next week on the “nature trail.” They should have learned to listen to the public when they had to backtrack on the library decision and have seemingly re-trenched and become more obstinate.

The circle is drawing closer. Henry McLin stood up to the leadership and now has been stripped of his vice presidency and of his finance committee chairmanship even though he has extensive finance and budget experience. That’s the Gerken/Krebs way – isolate and diminish those who disagree. It isn’t unexpected, but it’s still disheartening that the finance committee no longer has the leadership of someone with budgetary acumen at a time when it is needed most. I love Jim Roth, the former Fire Commissioner turned council member who now heads the committee, but is it really prudent to appoint a recently retired borough employee to head the finance and personnel committee? Isn’t that a horrific conflict of interest?

I guess not, but it seems weird considering that Gerry Funke lost his planning committee chairmanship right around the same time he voted against John Gerken as council president. I have heard that the reason is that he shouldn’t be in that position since he is a principal with a local engineering firm, and that could be a conflict of interest. Now I worried about that kind of conflict when he came on council, but I have heard nothing but good things about how he has handled the situation. He has the expertise in the field, like Henry, yet is kicked to the curb? Makes no sense, especially since the borough is climbing into bed more and more often for engineering services with Gannett Flemming.

The comments of Krebs and Eline help me think that the library plan will move forward, but I don’t fully trust leadership. Experience is trumped by coziness. John Gerken laughably said he didn’t hold grudges when Funke voted against him, yet almost every single action taken by this council is grudge-driven (going back to the curious professional disappearance of the one employee who really challenged Barb Krebs for the job of borough manager). The county won’t solve all the problems, but this is one step. That step, however, involves giving up control, something this council and administration has seemed incapable of doing in the past.

So what do we want – chasing our tail and retaining control or letting someone who knows better step in and lend a hand?

Brian February 20, 2014 5 Comments Permalink

Downtown Friday Night

The whole plan looks modest, but it meant a lot to me. My wide had other plans in mind so I struck out on my own last Friday night.

20140203-082921.jpgFirst, I hit up the Hanover Hub to see the Steel City Improv troupe perform. The back room in the McAlister Hotel was the perfect size for an event like this, and the $5 admission made it a no brainer.

They drew a pretty decent crowd, including a lot of high school and college age folks. The show ran a little more than an hour, and the folks from Pittsburgh put on a fun show working just off one suggestion from the audience.

After the comedy ended, I walked down to the K of C to enjoy an adult beverage or two. Then I headed back toward the square for some late- night gaming at Timeline Arcade.

That ended up being a fun way to cap off the night. There was a small crowd in there when I left after 11. I really enjoyed seeing folks come in for a little DDR or pinball.

20140203-082938.jpg

Hopefully things like this get some more activity downtown. I never felt unsafe and had a few options besides the ones I chose. I could have headed to the Winner’s Circle for a nightcap, but was wiped.

With a few more options – say a pizza place that serves beer in the old Alex’s or a coffee shop that stays open late near the square – and downtown could thrive.

So give it a shot when you see an event advertised downtown. Don’t skip it or head there and go right home. Good things come in threes, especially downtown.

 

Brian February 3, 2014 1 Comment Permalink