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Sword Slaying of 2010 EAHS Graduate, Barn Fire, Government Actions Were Big News in January

This Jan. 16 chicken house fire in West Donegal Township killed about 3,600 chicks inside. Damage was estimated at $16,000. (LNP photo by Blaine Shahan)

Editor’s note: This is the first installment of the Advocate’s look back at local news of 2017.

The year 2017 began with progress made on Mount Joy Township’s new park and its connection to the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail.

At the reorganizational meeting of township supervisors held on Jan. 3, supervisors voted to approve an easement agreement with Lancaster County to build a path over county-owned land connecting Old Trolley Line Park to the trail along the Conewago Creek. Work continued throughout 2017 on the new park along Beverly Road. The park’s trail system is to be available for use once construction is finished, which is scheduled for mid-November of 2018. The park also has two softball/baseball fields and a multi-purpose field; those fields are not to open for use until at least the spring of 2019 so grass can get established.

Also at the beginning of January, a Mount Joy man accused of stabbing a bank employee during a robbery in downtown Elizabethtown in December of 2016 waived his right to a preliminary hearing. Charges against Harvey Cyrus Fitz III, now 74, were transferred from magisterial district court to the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas on Jan. 4. Court records show Fitz entered a non-negotiated guilty plea on Nov. 3, 2017, and remains in the Lancaster County Prison while awaiting a sentencing hearing scheduled for Jan. 24, 2018.

On Jan. 5, the Elizabethtown Borough Council heard a presentation about plans for improvements to the free downtown parking lot at the corner of Mechanics Alley and Cherry Alley. Christopher J. Brown of the landscape architecture firm Derck & Edson told councilors that the parking area should have better drainage and look more attractive after renovations are completed there.

On Jan. 16, a chicken house caught fire in West Donegal Township, killing about 3,600 chicks inside. Damage to the building at the farm on Bossler Road near Garber Road was estimated at $16,000.

The Elizabethtown Area School District dealt with two big signs of the times at its meeting on Jan. 17: plans in the state Legislature to take public school finance away from local property taxes and the opioid crisis. To deal with opioids, the board voted unanimously to approve a plan to stock a drug called Naloxone at Bear Creek School, the middle school and the high school. The drug is given to people overdosing on heroin or other opioids and can prevent death by overdose. In school finance, board members heard about a plan to replace locally collected school property taxes with state-collected income and sales taxes. One concern was what would happen if the state fails to keep its promise to make up for the money now raised locally. “I see the potential for this to end public education as we know it today,” school board President Terry Seiders said.

The Elizabethtown Fair took the top “Best of Show” honor at the state convention of the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs held from Jan. 18 to Jan. 21 at the Hershey Lodge. There are 109 fairs from across the state represented in the association.

At the Elizabethtown Borough Council meeting on Jan. 19, Elizabethtown Police Officer Dustin H. Ryan was honored as officer of the year after being selected for the title by his peers. Ryan, who joined the police force in 2011, has conducted undercover drug operations and worked as a field training officer, which means he runs a 16-week course teaching newly hired officers about all aspects of police work. At the same meeting, recently retired Officer Rick A. Farnsler was also honored. Farnsler joined the police force in 1991 and was made the first school resource officer assigned to Elizabethtown Area High School in 2007. After retiring from police work, Farnsler started a new role with the Elizabethtown Area School District as its transportation coordinator.

On Jan. 24, the Northwest Lancaster County Regional Police Commission voted to assign an officer to the Lancaster County Drug Task Force. Elizabethtown Borough had decided to do the same thing in December. Under the program, the officer remains an employee of the local police department, but the county pays for the officer’s salary and overtime. Benefits remain the local police department’s responsibility for the first two years; after that, the county task force pays $10,000 toward benefits.

The borough of Elizabethtown announced on Jan. 25 that Police Chief Jack Mentzer was planning to retire at the end of the year. Mentzer started work at the Elizabethtown Police Department as a part-time officer in 1981 and had served as chief for 12 years. The borough said the long notice would allow for plenty of time to hire a new chief and plan for a smooth transition.

On Jan. 27, Diana Meredith Zeigler, a 2010 graduate of Elizabethtown Area High School, was killed by her husband in their York County home with what investigators described as a “scimitar-type” sword, police said. She was pregnant with her second child at the time of the killing. Their 2-year-old son was in the home at the time of the killing and was taken from the scene by child welfare officials. Her husband, John D. Ziegler III, now 32, is awaiting a pretrial conference scheduled for Jan. 29, 2018, on charges of first- and third-degree murder and first- and third-degree murder of an unborn child, court records show. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.


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