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Jason Malmont, The Sentinel 

Big Spring’s Ian Lay swims the backstroke as he competes in the Boy’s 200 Yard Medley Relay during the Big Spring Bulldog Bash Thursday morning.

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Where It Stands: Hook & Irons Distillery aims for summer 2019 opening in Carlisle

Where It Stands is a weekly story that takes a look at what has happened with a news story since it was last reported on by The Sentinel.

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Hook & Irons Distillery aims for summer opening

Last June, longtime volunteer firefighters Mark Farrell and Devin Flickinger announced their plan to open the firehouse-themed Hook & Irons Distillery in the former Printed Image building at 137 N. Hanover St.

Since then, they have worked through the permitting and the financing, and they settled on the property a few weeks ago. That allowed them to order the still and begin the licensing process in anticipation of a 2019 opening.

Creative Building Concepts came on board for the design and remodeling work.

The front of the former print shop will be remodeled to look like an old firehouse. All of the windows will be removed and replaced with an overhead door that can be opened during business hours when the weather cooperates.

“It will look like a firehouse garage door,” Farrell said.

Brick infill will be installed on the north side of the store front to provide symmetry, and openings will be installed to mimic second floor windows. Reclaimed firetruck lamps will be used as wall lamps above the ground floor windows. Inside, the firehouse theme continues around a main bar area with table seating and raised floors to each side. The distillery area is located to the middle of the building behind the main bar

“We hope to eventually do a rooftop deck in a couple of years,” Farrell said.

In June, Farrell said the distillery will start with a smaller still and some assistance from another distillery to get the operation off the ground. They will also focus on using local grains as much as possible.

The addition of the distillery would build on the borough’s growing profile as a destination point for restaurants and craft beverages, and Farrell said they are excited to be part of the redevelopment effort in Carlisle that includes projects at the former Masland/IAC site as well as a renewed focus by the borough on North Hanover Street as a connector between the downtown and those new developments.

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Hampden Township
Quaker Steak & Lube restaurant closes in Hampden Township

The Quaker Steak & Lube in Hampden Township closed its doors Wednesday with an official announcement on its Facebook page.

The restaurant, at 165 Gateway Drive in the township near Duke’s Bar & Grille, Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba’s Italian Grill, posted the following message on its Facebook page:

“To all of our valued guests over these past five years, we regret to inform you that the rumors are true. We are indeed shut down, effective today. It has been our pleasure to serve you all, and if you wish to continue to dine with us, be sure to come out and visit us at our location in York: 1411 Kenneth Rd, York, PA 17404. Thank you all.”

The restaurant, which specialized in wings, burgers, wraps and entrees, opened in 2013 in Hampden Township at the site of the former Old Country Buffet.

Quaker Steak & Lube was founded and based in Sharon, about 60 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, in 1974. The chain grew to more than 50 locations in 16 states and is known for its automotive-themed decor.

But the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2015 and TravelCenters, based in Westlake, Ohio, purchased the chain in 2016.

New Cumberland
Public fundraiser planned for West Shore Theatre

For many area moviegoers, it was a sad day when the West Shore Theatre in New Cumberland screened its final showing nearly a year ago.

But today a grassroots organization is working to reopen the historic venue with a kickoff fundraiser scheduled for Jan. 10.

In February 2018, the West Shore Theatre closed its doors after more than 75 years of entertaining local audiences. Attendance had steadily declined as movie streaming services, low-cost DVD rental kiosks and other digital-age innovations became readily accessible to the viewing public.

“No one wanted to see it go away,” lifelong New Cumberland resident David Stone said earlier this month. “They used to have a theater in Lemoyne, there was one in Mechanicsburg, there was one in Camp Hill. Everyone had a theater around here. We were the only one left.”

That’s why Stone and other area residents formed Friends of the West Shore Theatre, a Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation working to preserve and reopen the venue at 317 Bridge St. in New Cumberland. The Friends of the West Shore Theatre is a project of the Foundation for Enhancing Communities, a nonprofit organization serving Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lebanon, and Perry counties, along with the Dillsburg area.

Fundraiser planned

“It is important to preserve the West Shore Theatre. New Cumberland has its own little downtown area, but it’s also important to preserve the theater for the whole area,” said Stone, the organization’s treasurer.

“The theater is an integral part of New Cumberland,” said Christine Leukus, Friends of the West Shore Theatre director.

The Friends of West Shore Theatre is hosting its first public fundraiser, “Encore, Encore,” from 6 to 8 p.m. on Jan. 10 at the theater. The public is invited to tour the building, chat with neighbors, and check out a rendered display of the nonprofit organization’s plans for the 1939 building that opened as the community’s theater in 1940.

Also that evening, the theater will screen a continuous loop of two vintage silent movies, “A Trip to The Moon” from 1902 and “The Great Train Robbery” from 1903. Popcorn, 1940s movie candy and other light refreshments will be on hand. Organizers also plan to film a special video of the event comprising the public’s personal memories of the West Shore Theatre.

Tickets for “Encore, Encore” are available for purchase at The Friends of the West Shore Theatre also is on Facebook.

Future plans

In 2015, then-owner Fred Bollen put the West Shore Theatre up for sale due to reported financial difficulties, a direct result of the venue’s dwindling audiences. In February 2018, a “private individual” purchased the theater and is leasing it to Friends of West Shore Theatre, Leukus said. Several area publications identified the buyers earlier this year as Joseph Kowalcyk and son Ben Kowalcyk.

Stone said that Friends of the West Shore Theatre is leasing the building from the new owners with an option to buy. The nonprofit organization started up last summer with “seed money” raised from “generous donors” at a small fundraiser held at a private home in the community, Stone said.

On its website, the Friends of the West Shore Theatre lists the organization’s mission as being “to reopen the theatre as a multipurpose venue to serve the community by featuring movies, independent movie festivals, jazz and folk music, speaker series, and more.”

The “Encore, Encore” fundraiser on Jan. 10 is the kickoff of a large-scale capital campaign to “renovate, revitalize and reopen (the theater) as a cultural center, as well as a movie theater,” Leukus said. For now, organizers hope to raise around $1 million for the project, but figures remain tentative.

Although the theater has aged walls and acoustic walls need repairs, Leukus said her group doesn’t want the theater to “lose the integrity of what it is now.” Irreplaceable hand-painted designs that grace much of the theater’s existing walls and ceilings will be cleaned and restored to a sparkling luster, according to plans, while the lobby will be expanded and renovated for group events. The concession stand also will be modernized.

For now, organizers have no timeline for when the theater might reopen.

“We’re still in a research stage right now (for theater renovations) and working with architects. We also need to get a sound engineer lined up,” Leukus said.

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Pennsylvania lawmakers report $43M increase in unspent cash reserves

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania legislative branch saw its budget reserve jump by nearly $43 million last year, with most of the additional surplus attributed to House and Senate accounts.

The Legislative Audit Advisory Commission voted unanimously Thursday to approve the annual financial report for the legislative branch.

The commission said the legislative surplus was $138 million when the year ended in June. A year ago, the commission pegged the surplus at $95 million.

Details on the $355 million in total spending were posted online after the meeting. Payroll, at $286 million, is far and away the largest single cost.

“I think that instead of condemning us, you should praise us for not spending all the dollars,” the commission’s chairman, Rep. Mark Keller, told reporters.

The reserve, which reached $215 million in 2006, has been defended by lawmakers as a way to counteract executive branch power when budget stalemates occur.

Keller, R-Perry, said he would favor drawing it down.

“My way would be, spend all the dollars,” Keller said. “Let’s get rid of it.”

But he also said it was prudent to have some cash on hand to fund operations if needed.

Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, a commission member, said the report was “nothing to be ashamed of as far as I can see.”

Eric Epstein, a Democrat and longtime government reform advocate who lost a state House election in November for a Harrisburg area seat, called the audit’s approval “the same farcical dance we do every year.”

“It would be a better thing if the surplus ceased to exist,” said Epstein, who heckled the commission during the meeting about changes to the process he supports.

The surplus for the House grew from $36 million to $53 million, the Senate from $11 million to $27 million, and Legislative Data Processing from $24 million to $29 million.

Sen. Pat Browne, R- Lehigh, a certified public accountant and commission member, attributed more than half of the $43 million surplus to changed accounting rules that no longer require the General Assembly to factor in the cost of retirement benefits on an annual basis. Instead, he said, they have to be reported as an aggregate total.

The report said legislative pension obligations are currently $390 million, along with $1 billion in other post-employment benefits, nearly all of it health care. Legislative employees are currently sitting on $22.6 million in unused vacation, sick and personal leave.