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Primary Election, Possible Closing of Nuclear Plant Were Big News in May

Editor’s note: This is the second installment of the Advocate’s look back at local news of 2017. The period of January through April was in the Dec. 28 issue.


The month of May began with Elizabethtown College announcing that its new wellness center would be named in honor of Kenneth L. and Rosalie E. Bowers, alumni who have agreed to donate $5 million to the college’s capital campaign. The announcement about the Bowers Center for Sports, Fitness and Well-Being, which is scheduled to open in 2019, was made on May 1. The wellness center is not the first thing on campus named for the couple; the Bowers Writers House is also named in their honor.

Work on Market Street continued in May. Wayne DeVan, the borough’s public works director, said on May 2 that sewer replacement near Center Square was scheduled to be done by May 19 to ensure that it would be finished before the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s work on repaving the street got to that section. PennDOT’s work was starting at the south end of town and moving north.

The Elizabethtown Area School District accepted the resignation of music teacher Cody L. Floyd in May. Floyd’s resignation came abruptly; former orchestra director Richard Winey was brought out of retirement to lead a May 15 concert. At the time, Superintendent Michele Balliet said she could not explain the departure because it was a personnel matter.

The school board of the Elizabethtown Area School District voted to advertise a budget that contained a 4.75 percent property tax increase in May. Superintendent Michele Balliet said at the May 9 board meeting that the school district has serious financial problems caused in part by unfunded state mandates and in part by the fact that so much of the real estate in the school district is owned by tax-exempt nonprofits. “We have not cut teachers. And we have not cut programs. And I’m going to use the three-letter word: yet,” Balliet said.

On May 16, it became clear that Republicans were not going to let the First Ward seat on the Elizabethtown Borough Council go uncontested. Nobody filed the required 10 signatures from registered Republicans to get on the ballot for the May 16 primary, but Christine Seitz stood outside the polling place and asked Republicans to write in her name. Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Bill Troutman tried to get the Republican nomination as well. Seitz got her party’s nomination with 35 write-in votes; Troutman got 23. Green Party candidate Timothy Runkle was also at the polling place, getting signatures he needed to get on the general election ballot for the First Ward Borough Council race.

On May 18, the Elizabethtown Borough Council heard a presentation about plans for improving the free parking lot at the corner of Mechanics Alley and Cherry Alley. Chris Brown, a project manager with the landscape architecture firm Derck & Edson, showed plans that included porous pavers where the cars park to improve drainage. The plans also included a decorative corner similar to the ones at Center Square welcoming people, along with 8-foot-tall signs that Brown said should be visible from Market Street even when there are cars on Mechanics Alley.

Also at the May 18 Borough Council meeting, 9-year-old East High Elementary student Dharma Hain asked councilors to remove a homemade memorial that had been set up on the street shortly after the 2015 crash that killed middle school student David Weiser. She told councilors that it was painful to be reminded of a child’s death as she walked past the memorial every day. Councilors took no action at the meeting, but the memorial was removed a short time later.

On May 20, a flag football tournament was held at Donegal High School as a tribute to student Ethan Van Aulen, who died of suicide the previous December at the age of 16. But not all the reaction at the school was positive. An inflammatory post on social media about the death caused more than 50 students to hold a sit-in protest in reaction.

Elizabethtown held its annual Memorial Day events on Monday, May 29, with a parade followed by a gathering in Community Park. Army Col. Alan J. Quattrin Jr. from the Army War College in Carlisle was the guest speaker. Quattrin said many of those being honored did not seek out heroism. “They didn’t go to war because they loved fighting,” Quattrin said. “They were called to be part of something bigger than themselves. They were ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways in extreme times.”

On May 30, the owners of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant near Elizabethtown notified the plant’s 675 employees that they planned to close the plant at the end of September 2019 unless the state or federal government steps in to bail out nuclear power. Plant owner Exelon wants Pennsylvania’s requirements that utilities use “clean” power sources such as solar, wind and hydroelectric generation to include nuclear power as a clean power source.

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