Officials in Mount Holly Springs recently debated the merits of using money from the general fund to reimburse borough departments the costs of providing lunches to prison inmates.
The borough sometimes uses inmates from the Cumberland County prison as a labor force for projects involving the public works department and water/sewer authority.
In the past, borough employees have provided the inmates with hot food prepared in crockpots or with drinks and subs purchased from a local store or eatery.
The food provided is in addition to a bagged lunch prepared and issued to each inmate by Aramark, the food service contractor hired by the county.
Council members in mid-November voted 5-2 in favor of reimbursing the departments, but agreed to have Borough Manager Tom Day set a dollar limit. Councilmen Edgar Kendall and Matthew Hockley voted against the motion.
Aramark has a dietician on duty that makes sure each prison inmate receives a set count of 3,000 calories daily, Kendall said. He said each bagged lunch totals 895 calories and consists of two meat and cheese sandwiches and a piece of fruit.
“That’s about what I take for my lunch,” Kendall said. “I honestly think that’s adequate. A lot of the inmates have families that bring money in.
“What about the victims?” he said. “Some of these guys created harm and destruction. They’re supposed to be in punishment because of what they did and now we are trying to accommodate them. The way I see it you are rewarding them.”
When asked about his vote following the meeting, Hockley said he once served in the military. “I was told when to eat and what to eat,” he said. “I didn’t get any special treatment or something extra. They are in prison for a reason. They are filling their debt to society.”
Those voting in favor of the motion were council president James Collins II, vice president Leroy Shildt and members Pamela Still, Lois Stoner and Deborah Halpin-Brophy.
“Last year we had a big snow,” Shildt said of the inmates. “Some of those guys were working their tails off when it was cold.” He said it would be “on the rough side” not to provide them with a warm sandwich or a cup of coffee.
Mayor P. Scott Boise said four slices of bread and some lunch meat would not cut it for him if he was standing out on borough streets clearing snow and “freezing my butt off.”
Day, who also works as the borough police chief, said the inmates sent to the borough are mostly those serving time for minor offenses including DUI, driving while under suspension and failing to pay child support.
“We are not getting murderers or major criminals,” Shildt said.
“I am not saying you are,” Kendall responded.
Shildt said the inmates do not have to come to the borough to work off their obligations to society. “If they don’t come here, we are going to have to hire someone else and that is a lot more expensive than a couple of prisoners coming out here and working,” Shildt said.
Day said he once saw a group of inmates shovel and dig out rocks and boulders from inside a 92-foot-long trench. “To buy them a sub and a drink for lunch ... something that fills them up ... is the least we can do,” Day said.
Hope Station entered a new era this summer.
After serving as interim executive director since the late Jim Washington stepped down due to health issues, Safronia Perry was named the executive director in August. At the same time, the board hired Jessica Miller to fill the newly created role of CEO in a move that restructured the leadership of the nonprofit organization.
Together Miller and Perry are working to expand the scope of Hope Station’s work in the community.
“It’s a transition, and we’re starting to get used to the new Hope Station and what we’re doing,” Perry said.
Hope Station is working toward becoming a hub where the community is empowered to solve its own issues and people can find the resources to address their problems.
“We might not be able to answer their questions or solve their problems, but we can provide them with the resources that they need to solve those problems,” Miller said.
For example, Hope Station started hosting staffing agencies in a minijob fair setting each month. The agencies offer both permanent placements and temporary positions that could lead to permanent placement.
“It’s important that our adults know that we’re here for them too, and that our doors are open for them if they need things,” Perry said.
Miller brings experience with Dress for Success to her new role at Hope Station, and knows how important it is for people to have the proper clothing for a job interview. In the future, they will be able to provide that thanks to a connection to a tuxedo store in Reading that was closing and Classic Drycleaners, which donated 10 bags of clothing that had been left behind by customers who failed to pick it up.
Other workforce development initiatives are on the horizon, but this new focus on adult programming and services doesn’t mean there will be changes to the children’s programming that has become a staple of Hope Station since its founding.
“The kids’ programs are great and we love doing those, but we want to do more adult programs as well,” Perry said.
The challenge for the agency is to find the funding to support such initiatives. That’s why they recently launched the Give Hope campaign with the goal to raise $25,000 by the end of the year.
Miller said Hope Station receives program-specific funding, but that sometimes results in one program being fully funded while another comes up short. The Give Hope campaign is an effort to bring in unrestricted funds to help the organization “redevelop, redesign and create more programs,” she said.
If the campaign reaches its goal, children in Hope Station’s programs will have the chance to throw a pie in the face of Miller as well as other staff members and volunteers.
Taytum Robinson-Covert, a 10th-grader at Carlisle High School, shared her thoughts about participating in Hope Station’s programs as part of the campaign. She has most recently participated in the organization’s youth leadership program, which has taught her to advocate for equal rights, accomplish goals, offer community service and learn about Carlisle’s social and racial history.
“I feel like the work and love put into Hope station makes a safer and closer community. This program has given me so many more connections and exposure to the inner workings of what goes on in Carlisle, something I never would have had if Hope Station wasn’t a part of this town. To me it is, as to many others, a second home where no one is judged and all are welcome. I am so proud to be a part of the role that Hope Station plays in our community,” she wrote in Hope Station’s fundraising letter.
The Give Hope campaign continues through Dec. 31, and more information can be found at www.hopestationcarlisle.org.
One person is in critical condition after a four-vehicle crash shut down Interstate 81 north in Dickinson Township Tuesday for more than two hours.
Crews were called to the highway near mile marker 39.5 around 12:04 p.m. for a crash involving four vehicles, including two tractor-trailers. Both lanes of I-81 north as well as one lane of I-81 south were closed between Exit 37 (Newville) and Exit 44 (Allen Road) until after 2 p.m.
Northbound traffic back-logged to near Shippensburg, and southbound traffic back-logged to the College Street exit in Carlisle during that time frame, with heavy traffic reported on local roads — Route 11 and Centerville Road — in Penn Township.
All lanes opened for the interstate after 3 p.m.
In a news release issued from State Police at 4:30 p.m., police said two people were injured in the crash, with one person inc critical condition.
State police said more details about the crash would be released at a later date.
A fellow educator is urging the South Middleton School Board to press forward with negotiations and settle on a new contract with its teachers union.
Carol Yanity, a reading teacher with the Cumberland Valley School District, lives in the Boiling Springs area and has children who attend South Middleton schools.
“In the last three to four years, we have had an influx of teachers from this district to Cumberland Valley,” Yanity said at a school board meeting Monday. She did not elaborate on how many and at what grade levels.
Yanity has asked the former South Middleton teachers why they have changed jobs to work for Cumberland Valley, which has a longer school year.
“The answer has been because of the contract,” Yanity said. “This is the second time in four years that they do not have a contract.”
The South Middleton Education Association has been working without a contract since a two-year extension on the previous contract expired on June 30. Negotiations for a new pact started in January.
In a show of solidarity, a standing room only crowd of mostly teachers attended the South Middleton School Board meeting. While none of them spoke during the meeting, their presence was felt as the new board president, Randy Varner, took over the helm from Michael Berk.
“We have some pretty big challenges coming up,” Varner said during a brief recess between the board reorganization meeting and the regular meeting. He mentioned the search for a new superintendent and the need to make sure that acting Superintendent Bruce Deveney has the support he needs.
“While we are looking for that superintendent, we need to finalize our contract with the teachers,” Varner said. “The good thing is through all of this we have an exceptional backstop in our professional staff. While we are working on these issues, we know we have excellent teachers in the classroom everyday with our students doing what needs to be done.”
In comments made during the regular meeting, Yanity said South Middleton school teachers have the lowest compensation of any school teachers in Cumberland County. No salary information was provided to support that claim.
Yanity said the school board is costing taxpayers money. “These teachers come into South Middleton,” she said. “They get training and professional development and tuition [reimbursement] and then they take that [expertise] with them when they leave. It is disruptive to students in regards to consistency in curriculum and delivery of instruction.
“We are very fortunate with the teachers we have,” Yanity said of South Middleton faculty members. Yanity said she and her husband chose to settle in South Middleton because of the quality of the community and the reputation of its school district.
“The school board has been busy trying to hire a superintendent and got a little held up with the sale of the hospital,” said Mike Freese, a social studies teacher at Boiling Springs High School who is also president of the local union representing about 172 teachers.
Freese was referring to a recently approved five-year education contribution agreement between South Middleton School District and UPMC Pinnacle. Under the agreement, the health care system has agreed to make voluntary contributions in lieu of property tax payments on its UPMC Pinnacle Health Carlisle Regional Medical Center property in South Middleton Township.
The medical center was sold this year and Pinnacle applied for nonprofit status for the facility. The district negotiated the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement to make up for some of the revenue that would be lost with that change in status.
By “new board,” Freese was referring to board members John Greenbaum, Jon Still and Denise MacIvor who were sworn in Monday by outgoing board president Michael Berk. The three take over from Tom Merlie, Scott Witwer and Robert Winters, who opted not to run for reelection. Incumbent Stacey Knavel was reelected.
The board Monday voted unanimously to elect Varner its president and Steven Bear its vice-president. As one of his first official actions, Varner publicly thanked Berk and welcomed the three new board members.
“Through the last two years, this board has dealt with many difficult and challenging issues and, through it all, Mike has led us as president and exhibited to us patience, respect and a solid work ethic,” Varner said. “He did all of that with his good nature.
“To the new directors, we are going to need your talent right away,” Varner said. “We are thrilled that you are joining us and look forward to working with you.”