Thursday, July 31, 2008

Authority Not Pursuing Revenue from Naming Rights; Board Members Say Booking Pace on Target

At their board meeting, Thursday night, NewsLanc again raised concerns about contracts between the Convention Center Authority and Penn Square Partners - issues with which the Authority has seemingly refused to deal.

Past contracts between the developer of the hotel and the public authority stated that S. Dale High shall have the right of first offer with respect to naming rights, and that proceeds from the sale of naming rights would be shared 50/50 between the authority and Penn Square Partners (PSP).

Confronted with the issue, Chairman of the Board Art Morris declared Thursday night that the board is "not pursuing, actively, naming rights as a revenue source."

Morris has previously said that the board does not expect naming rights revenue to be substantial for the first year or two of operation.

Confronted with further contractual provisions stating that future state grants shall be shared 50/50 between the authority and PSP, Morris said that this issue is "not off the table," that the discussion would be better raised with the Finance Committee, and that negotiations will continue to take place between the Authority and PSP as part of discussions with State Senator Gib Armstrong about state grants.

The Authority is expecting to receive $3.2 million as part of the recently-passed state budget. That money may not be available until later in the year.

When the reporter asked how many opening-year events have been booked so far, no one on the board had the figures at hand.

In his last report to the Public Relations, Marketing, & Hospitality Committee of the LCCCA, Josh Nowak of Interstate Hotels & Resorts (who was not present at Thursday night's meeting) had said that no new bookings were confirmed during the month of June.

Also, according to Nowak's July 17 report, 13 events have been booked for 2009, reflecting $183,600 in revenue. This amount is 36.3% of the $506,077 Interstate Hotels & Resorts anticipates the Center will generate in 2o09.

Nevertheless, Kevin Fry, who chairs that committee, and LCCCA Executive Director Kevin Molloy remain optimistic.

The reporter asked whether the booking pace so far has been disappointing or in line with expectations. Fry replied, "The progress has so far has been what we expected" even though "some of the smaller events are booking more slowly."

"The effort of the sales team has been excellent," said Fry.

He went on to say that the marketing team has a lot of prospects and repeated, "we're very close to where they expected us to be, percentagewise."

Molloy shared that, in his experience, many meeting planners, particularly nonprofits, become more confident about booking once drywall is installed.

"Those nonprofits cannot risk their financial viability by booking a convention center before it has drywall," Molloy said.

NewsLanc will, of course, continue to pursue and seek further clarification on these issues, and we will continue to file timely reports.

Planners Suggest Harrisburg Pike Improvements

County planners and their consultant, KCI, held a public presentation, Wednesday night, to present the preliminary findings of their Harrisburg Pike Land Use Study and to solicit public feedback.

The stated purpose of the study is to: improve the overall carrying capacity of the Harrisburg Pike Corridor and enhance the safety for all users, incorporate alternative modes of transportation in new development and redevelopment along the Harrisburg Pike corridor, and to preserve the unique qualities of the urban and suburban land patterns and the community values and environmental resources of the project area.

How exactly do they propose to do this?

Among the 'higher priority' recommendations: coordinating and re-timing traffic signals between Rohrerstown Road and Prince Street, adding traffic signals between Rohrerstown Rd. and State Road, extending sidewalk all the way from Prince Street to State Road, adding turning lanes and/or through lanes at most of the busiest intersections, extending and increasing the frequency of bus service along the route, installing Park-and-Ride facilities at Park City Center and Lancaster General Hospital Health Campus, improving signage, and installing sidewalk pedestrian access between Dillerville Road West and Long's Park.

A full draft report from the steering committee with their recommendations is available here, along with a number of maps.

The study indicates that Harrisburg Pike carries as many as 28,000 vehicles into and out of downtown Lancaster every day. Many areas of the corridor currently see as many as 600 vehicles per hour and that number is expected to at least double by 2030, according to KCI.

Hence the need to address such issues as congestion and pedestrian safety with the recommended measures.

Another recommendation is the implementation of "access management" techniques designed to limit access to the major corridor to improve traffic flow and the promote the safety of both motorists and pedestrians.

One controversial access management technique, which the study group recommends, involves the installation of non-traversable medians. The study group writes:

"Medians can reduce the likelihood of head-on crashes, provide traffic calming benefits, promote pedestrian safety and can aid in prohibiting left-turn movements. The recently installed median between College Avenue and Race Street is a good example of this application. Other areas along Harrisburg Pike where this type of treatment may be warranted would be in select areas from Prince Street to College Avenue where left-turn access is not needed, from Good Drive to Rohrerstown Road where an existing 5-lane section exists but left-turns are not needed at all locations, and in the future from Rohrerstown Road to State Road depending on how land development occurs."

Literature made available from the Federal Highway Administration cites various reports, concluding, "According an analysis of crash data in seven states, raised medians reduce crashes by over 40 percent in urban areas and over 60 percent in rural areas."

It is important to note, however, that these recommended changes are neither immediate nor necessarily binding. The study is attempting to contemplate growth needs as many as 30 years out. Moreover, it is the County, the relevant municipalities, and private developers who will be encouraged to undertake these projects. The County Planning Commission's role is strictly advisory. This plan will serve to set the tone and strongly influence which development plans, for example, the County and City Planning Commissions are likely to give approval to.

The next step in the process comes in September when the steering committee will adopt the final Harrisburg Pike long-range transportation plan. The plan would then be adopted by the County and municipalities in October-November.

As for Wednesday night's meeting, some 40 persons were in attendance. The crowd was generally receptive, with a few expressing concern about impacts to their property or a desire to see further provisions for cyclists and pedestrians.

Dave Royer, the Director of Transportation Planning for the County Planning Commission, told NewsLanc that the study cost $150,000, 80% of which came from federal funding, 10% came from the County, and 10% came from business interests along Harrisburg Pike.

The NewsLanc reporter noted that insiders Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster General Hospital, and the High Real Estate Group are represented on the 29-member steering committee while other local businesses and developers seemingly were not extended such an invitation.

Of course, each of those entities has or is developing property along the corridor, but that raises an interesting chicken-and-egg question. Is High given a seat at the table because of its status as a real estate developer? Or do opportunities to develop real estate fall into High's lap due to its insider's seat at the table? Clearly, being a member of the inner elite opens many doors.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Report #1: Reasons for LGH's exceptional profits

NewsLanc borrowed the services of Douglas McVay, Director of Research with an affiliated non-profit organization, to determine what circumstances have enabled Lancaster General Hospital (LGH) to earn the second highest profits in the State, amounting to $136 million in fiscal year 2007. Findings are not meant to detract from the efficiency and competence of LGH and the high quality service they provide.

McVay has examined and correlated information provided from Federal and State sources, LGH itself, and other publications deemed reliable. The research indicates special circumstances that are unique to our region plus LGH’s strong market position contribute substantially to LGH’s remarkable profitability.

Though LGH’s representative was cooperative at the outset, he became less forthcoming and then ceased to respond to inquiries as McVay’s inquiries became more knowledgeable and pertinent.

Therefore, the following factors for profitability are not a definitive list, but only those supported by current data on hand.

1) Proportion of LGH’s revenues from Medicare is 30%. For the region of which LGH is a part, 34%. For the state, 37%. Medicare pays a set fee which is considerably lower than private insurers and may not always cover the full costs of services. By law, Medicare rates are the lowest which hospitals are allowed to charge. The fewer Medicare patients, the greater profitability.

2) Proportion of LGH’s revenue from Medicaid is: 5%. For the region, 7%. For the State, 11%. Reports suggest that reimbursement for Medicaid is similar to Medicare. The fewer Medicaid patients, the greater profitability.

3) Uncompensated Care (bad debt + charity) for LGH is 1.5% of Net Patient Revenue. For the Region, 2.8%. For the State, 2.3%. The less bad debt, the greater profitability.

4) LGH’s Charitable Care in 2007 amounted to 0.5% of Net Patient Revenue. The State was 0.9% (Regional data was unavailable.) Note that LGH only provides about half as much charitable care as do hospitals throughout the state. The less Charitable Care, the greater profitability.

5) Percentage of “Charges” collected for LGH is: 50%; for the Region, 46%; for the State, 27%. Although available information is limited in this area, a comparison of LGH charges for ten medical procedures with a sample of hospitals from across the state indicated that LGH charges were about average. (Note: The "Charge" is a virtually mythical figure from which there are various discounts depending upon who is the payer.) The higher the proportion of Charges collected, the greater the profitability.

6) LGH’s program provides Amish and other cash payers with a standard 25% discount. According to the Wall Street Journal, Heart of Lancaster "agreed to discounts of up to 40% off its top rates" for the Amish. Lancaster County’s population is approximately 5% Amish. The less the discount to the Amish and cash paying patients, the greater the profitability.

This is the first of a series of articles that will delve into issues of profitability, fairness, and how earnings are utilized by Lancaster General Hospital. Greater transparency will influence LGH, a Public Corporation, to use its remarkable profitability in the best interests of the community.

County Admin. Building Renovations on Target for July 2009 Completion

Mike Myers, the Operations Manager for KCI - the construction firm managing the renovations to the County's 150 N. Queen St. administrative building - gave the County Commissioners a brief update on the project's progress, Wednesday morning.

The project is roughly 65% complete, Myers reported. The targeted completion date for the renovations is still July 2009.

Recent progress includes demolition of the fourth floor, which will be reconstructed entirely. After which, the third floor will also be demolished and reconstructed.

Myers assured that a project manager and quality manager are both on-site full time.

The Commissioners also approved $127,000 in change orders related to the project. $70,952 of that value is for fireproofing in the second floor tower area.

The total cost of the renovations to the building is roughly $48 million.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What's Happening Around Lancaster This Week?

Lancaster City's "Dinner and a Movie" series continues this week with the film" Singin' In the Rain." It's showing Thursday, July 31 at 9:00 p.m. in Binns Park. Admission is free.

Friday, August 1st is First Friday in downtown Lancaster.
Over 60 galleries, museums, shops, and restaurants extend their hours. First Friday runs from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. For more information, visit

The Lancaster Barnstormers play evening games against the Somerset Patriots on Friday, and the York Revolution on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. All games start at 7:05 p.m., except for Sunday's game, which starts at 6:05 p.m. Saturday night's game features a baseball cap giveaway. For more information, including tickets, visit

On Friday (Aug 1) at the Giant Center in Hershey, the bands Live, Collective Soul, and Blues Traveler will be performing. The concert begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets, depending on seating, are
$45, $39.50, or $29.50. Visit for further information.

On Saturday, August 2, at 10:15 p.m., there will be a fireworks display at Hershey Park.

On Sunday, August 2nd, the 28th Annual Old Fiddlers Picnic comes to Lancaster County Central Park. It's "[a] live bluegrass music festival where bands are welcome to take the stage." Concessions will also be available. It runs from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and admission is $5 per vehicle. For more information, contact Ron McVey at 687-0265.

Also on Sunday, August 2, at 7:30 p.m., the Long's Park Summer Music Series continues with the Lovell Sisters - described on the website as, "[t]he innovative country, folk and contemporary acoustics trio that captured Garrison Keillor’s heart." Admission is free.

Commissioner Supports Bill to Shift Healthcare Costs of the Accused

With the renovations to 150 N. Queen Street, the Amtrak Station makeover, the need to construct a new county morgue and, quite possibly, a new county prison, the new County Commissioners are really starting to feel the squeeze.

Having ridden into office on a wave of anti-incumbent sentiment and promises of fiscal responsibility, they are now searching for ways to cut costs.

It is in this spirit that Commissioner Scott Martin, a Republican, has proposed a resolution urging Congress to support a federal bill that would "clarify the status of people in custody pending disposition of charges so that otherwise eligible inmates may continue to receive Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and SCHIP benefits until such time that they are duly tried and convicted."

The bill would extend such federal benefits to previously-eligible inmates whose cases are awaiting disposition.

Martin estimated that the County would save as much as $1 million per year by no longer having to provide health benefits to these individuals.

The federal bill Martin wants the County to support is H.R. 5698 - the "Restoring the Partnership for County Health Care Costs Act." It was introduced by Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.), Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas).

You can read more about the pending legislation on the National Association of Counties' website at

The Commissioners are expected to vote on Martin's resolution on Wednesday, July 30.

At their weekly meeting, Wednesday, the Commissioners are also expected to receive an update on the progress of the renovations to 150 N. Queen St. from the construction manager.

COMMENTARY: "Nice guy" SD of L superintendent interview raises concerns

As reported in the July 29 Intelligencer Journal, comments by Pedro Rivera who assumed the position of Superintendent of the School District of Lancaster earlier this month evince both naivety and a misguided attempt to build good will.

For example Rivera states: "The school district also is blessed with an experienced, well-trained staff of administrators, teachers and support workers, Rivera said... The problem is not with teaching; the problem is with leadership"

A more experienced leader would have stated "The system has many extraordinary teachers" thus leaving latitude for making a number of changes if necessary and not dissipating his or her influence. How much can Rivera know about the competence of personnel in just four weeks on the job? Instead of squandering his authority, Rivera should be studying what top staff members should be retained and who should go.

Not once in the long interview is the deplorable state of the sports program at McCaskey mentioned. And yet a good physical education and competitive sports program can provide much of the solution to drop out rates, obesity, gangs, cultural friction, student and faculty morale, and respect for authority...and even scholastic performance! As NewsLanc has reported, the win / loss records of most of McCaskey teams are a disgrace, which is a direct reflection on the leadership of Assistant Superintendent Drue Miles and Athletic Director Allen Mccloud and the failure of coaches to conduct effective team practices and teach strategy. Teams don't learn to win by simply scrimmaging!

In defense of Rivera, this mistake of trying to be a nice guy is almost always made by individuals moving from staff to CEO positions. They naively want to be perceived as a well meaning peer. And it takes months and perhaps a year before they are able to understand that they have the responsibility for sorting out the bad from the good, and making difficult but essential decisions that inevitably bring about pain and criticism.

Whether a president, a governor, a mayor or a school district head, the first few months are a "honeymoon" in which that person can push through the type of initiatives and changes that will later be blocked by politics. The school district cannot afford to wait months and perhaps a year for Rivera to grow into the job.

Rivera is only 35 years of age. Perhaps he should show up at a team practice and lead students around the track a couple of times. That would build morale and demonstrate his commitment to revitalizing the sports program. Is he up to it?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

New Jersey Court Bars Towns from Moving Sex Offenders

(Editor's note: The following is from a bulletin from the National Apartment Association.)

New Jersey towns cannot prohibit convicted sex offenders from living near places such as schools, playgrounds and day care centers, a state appeals court ruled recently. In a unanimous decision, the three-judge panel said Megan's Law is the exclusive law governing the treatment of sex offenders.

The court further stated municipal ordinances restricting where they can live "interfere with and frustrate" statewide efforts to monitor offenders and reintegrate them into society.

Revised Amtrak Plan still inadequate

The recently announced design for parking to the west side of the Amtrak Station tends to maximize the space at hand, but the treatment in front of and to the east of the station is disappointing, only accommodating 28 vehicles, far less than currently exists.

Unlike the existing condition, there is no parallel or perpendicular parking off the wide drives and emphasis is put on creating loading zones for multiple buses. Yet who has seen more than one bus at the station at a time?

Is there really a need for super-wide drives and a separate canopy and a dedicated bus loading area?

NewsLanc recommends that bus service be de-emphasized and yet another 35 parking spaces be added. Commuters could use over a hundred.

Friday, July 25, 2008

SD of L's Sports Program in Disarray

Editor's note: The following is a reprint of an April article:

Many of us can recall times when McCaskey High School was a strong contender in county and state-wide sports. But not now.

On the positive side, McCaskey youths continue to excel in boys' and girls' basketball with 22 and 5 and 17 and 11 win / loss records respectively during the winter of 2008. Students also compete well in boys' track with a record of 8 and 1 and in cross country with boys 13 and 8 and girls 10 and 11.

Football was 3 and 7, off from past years. Boys' wrestling was 5 and 8.

But, deplorably, the boys' soccer team went 1 and 17 while the girls' were 6 and 10 with 2 ties.

Girls' volleyball was 3 and 14. Girls' tennis 1 and 13. Girls' field hockey 2 and 16.

Boys' baseball 4 and 16. Girls' softball 5 and 14.

Boys' swimming was 1 and 10; girls', 0 and 11.

When it comes to soccer, observers have noted the lack of drills and lessons at the middle school level and the sole reliance on scrimmaging. Spectators at practices fretted that the kids were learning no skills and simply practicing their mistakes.

Moreover, a failure to post the starting date for soccer practice on the McCaskey web site prevented most of the youngsters from attending practice until school started.

It is not enough for coaches to be well-meaning and good players. They need to be versed in teaching skills and team play.

To this end, several soccer coaches from the School District of Lancaster attended a training clinic by ONE on ONE Soccer. McCaskey boosters funded the session. However, an offer by the boosters for additional training and coaching assistance was declined.

Inner-city youngsters have enough problems with self-esteem without belonging to teams that continuously lose. The school district owes more to its youngsters than 1 and 17 and 1 and 13 records. It isn't the kids. It's the athletic program!

NewsLanc will continue to explore the issue of the breakdown of the SD of L sports program. We are not suggesting lack of zeal or commitment; rather a failure to teach the teachers and possible reluctance of coaches to learn.

EDITORIAL: Did SD of L School Board make the wrong choice?

NewsLanc has been sitting on evidence of bungling, ineptitude and total failure to properly administer the School District of Lancaster's athletic program. Our preference was for behind the scenes discussions that would spare public criticism and discord.

Meetings were held last spring with Athletic Director Allen McCloud and later Assistant Superintendant Drue Miles with McCloud in attendance. It was pointed out that McCloud had failed for four years to file the hitherto requisite annual reports. The approximately twenty page reports explained in detail how each team had performed in the prior year and set forth plans for improving performances in the coming year.

Instead McCloud simply provided his boss with team scores!

Miles, to whom McCloud reports, was totally unaware that he was to receive an annual report and, from appearances, patently oblivious and neglectful of his sports oversight responsibilities. Promises were made to accept an offer, without cost, for outside sports experts to help better train the coaches; none was carried out. The excuse was that coaches with abysmal team records felt they didn't need any training on how to conduct drills and teach skills! What more can be said about a lack of leadership?

Due to failure to discharge routine duties, McCaskey continued its descent from sports power house to sports weak sister over the last decade and morale among staff and players plummeted.

Much information was reported by e-mail to incoming superintendent Pedro Rivera last spring and NewsLanc asked for an opportunity to meet with Rivera to brief him in confidence as well as for an interview. There was no response.

Since Rivera took office in July, NewsLanc has made repeated efforts to obtain a meeting. None has been scheduled.

In a brief encounter after the recent school board meeting, Rivera assured NewsLanc's publisher that he knew about the athletic programs problems and was eager to meet with him. Still no meeting was scheduled despite requests.

Do we in Rivera have another public official who hides and obfuscates? Why is he unwilling to meet with concerned citizens, let alone one who has long been a benefactor of inner city youth? Why does he turn his back on legitimate requests from media?

Because of the sports program's dysfunction, kids have missed the opportunity to participate on competitive teams. Because of a failed sports program, many have been discouraged and have dropped out of school. How long will this sorry condition be allowed to continue?

NewsLanc will be reporting further on the athletic department's dysfunction and will likely begin investigating reports of other school district problems with the hope that public attention will lead to transparency and improvements.

Rivera needs to do some 'house cleaning' immediately if he hopes to earn the confidence of the public. And if he doesn't, then the public should insist that the school board reflect on whether they made the right choice.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

EDITORIAL: Strange proposal from a Democrat

According a July 22 editorial in the New Era, Commissioner Craig Lehman, a Democrat, has proposed a 1% county sales tax with the funds to be applied to reducing county real estate taxes.

Traditionally, the more affluent Republicans favor such a regressive tax because, proportionate to incomes, it falls far heavier on the poor and lower middle class than on the more affluent. Democrats prefer a property tax because, although everyone pays it either directly as an owner or indirectly as a renter, it is progressive in that those who are more affluent tend to live in more expensive residences.

(Economics 1A: Items subject to sales taxes take a much smaller percentage of the revenue of the better off than the worse off.)

But apart from the issue of social equity, there is a huge practical reason not to adopt a sales tax. When New Jersey sought to assist blighted areas, it lowered its state sales tax to induce retailers to set up stores in the targeted area. By the same logic, raising Lancaster taxes above surrounding counties would discourage both retailers and shoppers.

And it certainly would be an impediment to attracting conventions and hotel guests for the $200 million convention center project!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ron Harper challenges Verizon's explanation

NewsLanc forwarded a copy of "Verizon's explanation for removal of Lancaster Post Box" to Ron Harper, Co-Publisher of the Lancaster Post and asked if he cared to comment. Below is his response:

The Verizon manager, Lance Dunlop did indeed call me the first time to tell me about the box. I accused him of being a pawn of F&M and Lance claimed that he didn't know of any of the controversy regarding the box and the location. When I told him of the problem, he said that we could leave the box attached to their pole and that all we had to do was fill out paperwork - which he said he would email to me.

I specifically asked him if I could keep the box there while the paperwork was being processed. He assured me that would be fine and that he'd get the paperwork to me. (As I had been assaulted a few feet from the corner, I was not exactly anxious to return and move the box.)

The day the box was missing, Lance, who assured me that the box could stay while the paperwork was being processed, emailed the promised one page form which I completed and returned in five minutes of receiving.

Days later, I discovered the missing box a mile and half away from it's location on the sidewalk in front of our office. (after I replaced the box and reported it missing to the police). I put the long-awaited email from Lance and the discovery of the box together and confronted Lance who admitted that HE took my box. I asked him, "After you cut the chain and detached my box, what right did you have to put my box into your truck and move it away?" "Why didn't you tell me that you took my box? You had my cell number and my email address." Lance had no answers for why he took my box or why he didn't tell me.

Remember how Lance assured me that they were not part of some grand conspiracy and that we could get permission to attach our box to the pole without any problem? The next day after filling out Verizon's paperwork, I received a call from Verizon telling me that they rejected my application to attach to their box because of concern that someone would slip and fall on the grass!!

The United States Constitution protects the rights of the Lancaster Post to publish and distribute their paper in a newspaper box in the public right-of-way. Since we placed our box in the 80 foot right-of-way on Marietta Avenue, it's been taken twice (once by F&M police and once by Verizon), vandalized and we've had our papers stolen. When Chris and I merely placing our box on the public right-of-way, I was assaulted by F&M employees. (minutes after the F&M gardener warned us that "we'll see about that" when told him of our right to place the box - talk about a conspiracy!) Next, Chris and I were held against our will for 2 and half hours during which they continually denied my right to speak to an attorney.

It's important to note that Verizon came out to our box because F&M called to have Verizon and other utilities show where their underground utilities are located. Amazingly, Verizon's Lance Dunlop manage to get my cell number when he called to tell me to remove the box but couldn't find my number when he took my box. The Verizon official now says that Lance called me and told me the box was removed. That's an absolute lie and makes me think question every other assertion they now make.

What's Happening Around Lancaster This Week?

The City of Lancaster's Dinner and a Movie series continues this week with Harold & Maude (1971). The film shows at 9:00 p.m. on Thrusday, July 24 in Binns Park. Admission is free.

The Lancaster Barnstormers play home games against the Newark Bears, Thursday the 24th, Friday, the 25th, and Saturday the 26th at 7 p.m., and Sunday the 27th at 6 p.m. Thursday night, there will be a waffle bat & ball giveaway for the first 1,500 fans, Friday night's game will include fireworks, and Saturday's game will include a frisbee giveaway (first 2,000 fans), and Sunday's game will include a tote bag giveaway. Visit for more information.

The Wine & Cheese Train continues at the Strasburg Railroad this weekend. On Friday (25th) and Saturday (26th) at 7:00 p.m., riders can sample wines and cheeses. "The $30 fare includes First-Class accommodations on the Parlor Car and complimentary wine, cheese and crackers. Beer, mixed drinks, premium wines, non-alcoholic hot and cold beverages are also available for purchase." Visit for more information and to purchase tickets in advance.

There will be a buffet-style breakfast and yard sale in Terre Hill Community Memorial Park on Saturday, July 26 from 7:00 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. The buffet includes ham, bacon, pancakes, country fried potatoes, sausage, coffee, orange juice, toast, milk, fresh fruit, and more. The cost is $6.50 for adults and $3 for kids under 12. The yard sales run during the same period. Spaces are available in the yard sale for a cost of $10. Bring your own table and chairs. Terre Hill Community Memorial Park is located at 210 Lancaster Ave. in Terre Hill.

Lititz Springs Park will hold its 42nd Annual Outdoor Art Show on Saturday, July 26 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Hosted by the Village Art Association of Lititz, local artists will showcase and sell their work. Admission is free and the event will be held rain or shine. Lititz Springs Park is located at 7 South Broad Street in Lititz. For additional information, visit

The bands 3 Doors Down, Staind, and Hinder will be performing at Hershey Park Stadium this Sunday, July 27th at 6:30 p.m. Tickets range from $25 to $75. For additional information, and to buy tickets, visit or call 717-534-3911.

Also on Sunday the 27th, there is a Rubber Duckie Race & Festival at Lancaster County Central Park. There will be a chicken barbecue, games, and prizes, and at 5:00 p.m., 25,000 "ducks" will "race" down a portion of the Conestoga River. The event takes place from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in Lancaster County Central Park and benefits the Schreiber Pediatric Rehab Center.

This is the final week of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar at the Ephrata Performing Arts Center. Showtimes July 23rd, 24th, 25th, and 26th are at 8:00 p.m. There is also a 2:00 p.m. matinee on Saturday, July 26th. Tickets are $20, but matinee tickets sold after 1:45 p.m. on Saturday will be offered at any price. The Ephrata Performing Arts Center is located at 320 Cocalico Street in Ephrata. For more information, visit

Verizon's explanation for removal of Lancaster Post box

The following was the response from Sharon Shaffer, Verizon Media Relations representative, concerning the reason for the removal of the Lancaster Post circulation box two weeks ago from the corner of Marietta Avenue and School Lane. The box had been chained to a Verizon pole in the street right-of-way in front of the residence provided by Franklin & Marshall College for its president, John Fry:

1]There is no outside party involved in this situation; Verizon's local manager saw the box attached to the pole, contacted the owner, Ron Harper, and explained that in order to attach the box, it would be necessary for him to fill out a pole attachment form that would be reviewed by Verizon's engineering group to determine if there was enough room on the pole and if the attachment was in compliance with safety standards. Our local manager asked Mr. Harper to remove the box, while he moved through the application process.

2] Mr. Harper was given one week to remove the box; Verizon manager actually gave him two weeks, then returned to the location and found that the newspaper box was still attached to our pole.

3] Verizon's local manager removed the box and returned it to the newspaper's headquarters address listed on its Web site. The manager followed up with a phone call to Mr. Harper that same afternoon and told him he had removed the box and returned it to the newspaper.

4] Mr. Harper brought up the subject of the location of the pole -- in Twp. or public right-of-way? Mr. Harper was told that when it comes to pole attachments, it doesn't matter -- the pole owner has the authority to charge for attachments or deem whether or not they're safe.

5] In summary, the pole attachment form was reviewed by a Verizon engineer, who denied the request to attach the newspaper box , citing safety concerns.
As I stated up front, there was no outside involvement in Verizon's action to remove the newspaper box.

County Decides to Hire Firm Instead of Individual as County Engineer

At their weekly meeting, Wednesday, the County Commissioners announced that the engineering firm Herbert, Rowland, & Grubic, Inc. (HRG) has been hired effective July 23, 2008 to serve as the County Engineer.

Headquartered in Harrisburg, HRG has a lancaster branch office in operation since 1989 in the Greenfield Corporate Center with approximately 30 employees.

HRG was selected out of 4 other applicants for the position, the others being C.S. Davidson of York, Rettew of Lancaster, and McCormick Taylor of Philadelphia.

Commissioner Chairman Dennis Stuckey said that HRG was not the lowest bidder, but that he and his fellow Commissioners felt that they were the "best qualified" for the job.

Commissioner Scott Martin explained that the Board is attempting to save money and "eliminate the middle man" by hiring a firm instead of an individual, since often the County engineer would often "outsource" responsibility anyway.

Stuckey said that David McCudden, the former County Engineer who retired at the end of last year, had received about $175,000 a year in salary and benefits, and that the County wants to keep a tighter lid on expenditures in this area.

Martin said the County wants to "untangle the engineering services from facilities management."
The County Engineer is responsible for the management, operation and maintenance of County-owned buildings and facilities.

City Amtrak Station Planners Accounting for Lititz Pike Bridge Plans

NewsLanc readers have asked whether the plans for the Lititz Pike Bridge, scheduled for construction in 2012, align with the plans for the Lancaster City Amtrak Station renovations.

So we asked James Cowhey, the Executive Director of the Lancaster County Planning Commission at Wednesday morning's Commissioners meeting.

His response was as follows:

"The bridge will just touch the Amtrak property where Duke street ends. The property line between Amtrak and the Brubaker lot is probably right around the center line of Duke Street. And that's where the bridge is going to line up. So it'll just touch the Amtrak station property a little bit. But what PENNDOT has told us is just plan ahead and we'll deal with that as they do the final design of the bridge, so the final impact will be minimal."

City Debuts Online Bill Payment

The City of Lancaster is now offering the option of paying bills online with a credit or debit card, the City's Director of Administrative Services, Patrick Hopkins, announced Tuesday night.

Parking tickets, utility bills, trash bills, and property taxes can be paid through an online portal accessible on the city's web page,

In order to pay a parking ticket, one needs to enter either the ticket number or a license plate number.

Hopkins brushed off concerns that anyone with knowledge of a plate number could view someone else's ticket record, saying that the information is a matter of public record and that such snooping would probably be rare and inconsequential.

A convenience fee of 3.34% is assessed for all online transactions.

Those wishing to use the service should go to and click on the "Pay My City Bills" button in the center pane.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

City Council Defends, Passes Franchise Agreement with Comcast

Lancaster City Council unanimously passed a cable franchise agreement with Comcast that awards the city 5% of annual gross revenues, despite concerns that the city could have negotiated a better deal.

Mayor Rick Gray believes there was some public misunderstanding about the agreement.

"No one is being granted a monopoly," he said at Tuesday night's City Council meeting. "This isn't even really a franchise."

He asserted that Comast essentially has a legal right to such an agreement.

"Our options are very limited," the Mayor said. Gray said he had been advised that if the City denied the franchise agreement, Comcast could go to federal court and easily have an arrangement set up on their own terms.

Councilman Tim Roschel also defended the agreement, pointing out that "Under federal law, municipalities are allowed to assess a franchise fee of up to 5%. You can't - five percent is the max."

In response to concerns about Comcast's regulation of certain kinds of internet traffic, Gray responded that the agreement does not extend to internet service.

Gray suggested that competition is what will do more than anything else to alleviate concerns about cable television price and content.

He said, "If Verizon made an application to also become a cable TV provider, it would be granted."

Mayor Gray and Councilman Roschel also praised the agreement, saying it gives Lancaster residents additional rights as consumers. It strengthens the complaint process, requires Comcast to submit a customer complaint report to the city, and strengthens the enforcement mechanisms the city has at its disposal to deal with infringements on the part of Comcast.

Additional information about the Franchise agreement is available in the minutes of City Council's July 8th meeting at

Commissioners Expected to Approve $9.6M in Federal Grants for Amtrak Renovations

At their weekly public meeting, Wednesday, the County Commissioners are expected to approve a grant application with the the U.S. Department of Transportation towards the renovations to the Lancaster City Amtrak Station.

Additional state funding in the amount of $2 million will match roughly 17% of the total funding amount, which is $12 million. Federal grants will provide $9,600,000. Lancaster County taxpayers will chip in $400,000.

Assistant Transportation Planner Chris Neumann said Tuesday that a construction groundbreaking will likely not occur until December.

County to Hold Public Auction September 27

The County will be holding an auction on Saturday, September 27, 2008 to dispose of unwanted items.

The Pennsylvania Code states that the County must hold an auction if the value of the material it wishes to discard exceeds $1,000.

The Auction will be held in the Maintenance Area of Lancaster County Central Park at 950 Eshelman Mill Road at 9:00 a.m.

The County's director of purchasing, Barry Hitchcock, is expected to announce the auction and offer additional details at Wednesday's Commissioners meeting.

Study: Newspapers need to enhance web presence

An article appearing at is headed "Study: Shrinking newsrooms hurt quality; Stories are shorter overall, the survey finds, and coverage tends to be local."

The report describes "The many and deepening cuts at newspapers across the country" and says this is "starting to take a toll on their content."

The article goes on to state "The reasons for the newsroom cutbacks are well known: Newsprint costs have jumped, and advertising and circulation revenue have quickened their descent this year as advertisers follow readers online. Newspaper Web sites capture only a small faction of the revenue lost as they sell fewer print ads, which fetch more money."

The study suggests that newspapers need to enhance their web counterparts to generate more revenues.

The article is acessible at

Monday, July 21, 2008

Amtrak Reveals Plans for Expanded Parking

Approved site plans for future parking at the Lancaster Amtrak Station will provide for 89 more parking spaces. The plan also allows for a local bus canopy, taxi drop off area and a Trailways Bus canopy.

The prior proposed plan, criticized by NewsLanc, only added 36 spaces, and those spaces were remote from the train station.

According to plans provided by Rettew Engineers, the construction will take place in four stages to avoid undue hardship on travelers. Where possible, new spaces will be in place before existing places are removed or taken temporarily out of service.

The new plans call for: Amtrak Vehicle/Employee parking - 79; Short Term Parking - 25; and Long Term Parking - 211, for a total of 315 vehicle parking spaces.

The plans can be viewed at: Site Plan, Stage One, Stage Two, Stage Three, and Stage Four.

"Not just around Christmastime": Local Salvation Army Lives the Gospel

You've seen them in front of stores around the holidays - all bundled up, ringing those bells.

Maybe you've even tossed in some spare change. Among all the extravagance and commercialism, they serve as a stark reminder that there are many people who can barely even afford to eat.

They are the Salvation Army. And if there's one thing Major B. Bryan Smith wants people to know, it's that they're not just around at Christmastime.

He, along with his wife, Major Beverly Smith, direct the 117 year-old Lancaster County chapter, headquartered on South Queen Street.

NewsLanc visited their impressive facility, Monday, as part of its ongoing effort to uncover the inner workings of Lancaster - in this case, Lancaster's hidden treasures.

Fundraising and food collection continue year-round, Smith points out. Private donations constitute virtually all of the local chapter's $1.9 million annual budget.

This charity enables such services as the food assistance program, the clothes bank, the Latchkey children's daycare program, the New Beginnings adult rehabilitation program, a kids summer camp, social services referral, and chapel.

Like Water Street Rescue Mission, the Salvation Army is a religious, not-for-profit organization associated with evangelical, Protestant Christianity.

Unlike Water Street Rescue Mission, however, the Salvation Army is does not require chapel attendance for almost any of its services.

"There is no compulsion for you to receive services based on any kind of profession of faith," Smith said. "We feel that the giving of food or the giving of time - that that is in and of itself a ministry."

He said that William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, used to say, "You can't preach to a person while their stomach is growling."

Nevertheless, the Army - and Smith himself - feels very strongly that their activities are commanded and sustained by God.

So how busy are they down on South Queen Street? Christy Salkeld, the Lancaster Salvation Army's Family Services Coordinator, says that they see at least 150 people a week.

In the Latchkey daycare program, the Salvation Army partners with a number of nearby elementary schools to provide before and after-school care for children whose parents are unable to immediately pick them up. They participate in recreational activities, get help with homework, learn how to help their parents or guardians with cooking and house chores, and even get breakfast and snacks. And not just any breakfast, says Melissa Schload, who directs the program. Good breakfasts. Pancakes, waffles, and donuts.

And the children have access to superb facilities including a recently-completed gymnasium, modern classrooms, and a computer lab. The 15 Dell computers were purchased with a $25,000 grant from the Ronald McDonald Foundation in 2001.

The Salvation Army also has a spiritual support group called New Beginnings for adults recovering from addictions. Right now, the program has 15 men, who live in on-campus housing and pay a modest rent. Clients are often recruited to the program after graduating from other, more physically-palliative, rehabilitation programs. This is the only program for which chapel attendance is mandatory.

The Salvation Army does not provide emergency shelter or ready-made meals. For those services, clients are referred to organizations like Water Street, the Community Homeless Outreach Center, and the Council of Churches.

Its canned goods and clothing drives are aimed towards alleviating the plight of struggling low-income families.

Smith explained that while the army does attempt to determine an individual's level of need, they certainly don't interrogate someone asking for the basic necessities.

Not all of the Salvation Army's services are on-site either. They are quick to mobilize field units when disaster strikes.

Indeed, the Salvation Army was one of the first relief organizations on the scene during both the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina's landfall near New Orleans in August 2005.

Locally, Smith says, they have provided supplies to emergency personnel responding to such events as missing person searches in the Susquehanna River, and the Nickel Mines Amish schoolhouse shooting of 2006.

The Lancaster Salvation Army raised roughly $535,000 in its Christmas fundraising drive last year. Smith thinks the need will be even greater this winter season with recent increases in the price of oil.

The Lancaster Salvation Army employs about 33 staff. Major Smith is a graduate of a two-year seminary program all Salvation Army officers must complete in order to be commissioned. He also holds a degree in social work - as do many of his staff.

LETTER: Comcast franchise contract with City

The City votes on the cable franchise proposal from Comcast on Tuesday. According to Lancaster Newspapers, they've worked out a deal that includes $470,000 and a channel to be used by SDL and SACA. Comcast, however, values the Lancaster cable TV market at between $60 million and $90 million, with annual cable TV revenues of about $12 million. I don't have the numbers on their internet and phone revenue, but it's substantial

The City should take a percentage of revenue for access to this market, closer to 10% of annual gross revenues. Comcast would gladly pay it as the price of admission to this lucrative market. Further, the City residents are entitled by law to a fully free, public access channel provided by Comcast, unrestricted by any gating institutions like SDL and SACA. I think it's great that these institutions will have a channel to work with, but the public deserves its own channel, and this is the time to secure it.

Finally, Comcast has not been a positive player for its customers, forcing unwanted, expensive packages instead of giving customers choice of individual channels and billing a la carte. Worse, Comcast has interfered with its customers internet use by tracking and interrupting downloads that exceed a certain size or bandwidth usage, in violation of net neutrality. Comcast has thus limited free speech instead of remaining neutral.

Customers should have a choice of cable provider. But the City is giving Comcast a monopoly deal for 10 years over this market. The only alternatives are Satellite and Internet TV, but Comcast deliberately interrupts Internet TV streams. That's why we cancelled our Comcast subscription to TV and the Internet last November, and switched to D&E, Netflix, Internet TV, and a nice little antennae.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

PSP vs PKF projections of occupancy

In a July 20th article entitled "Marriott Lancaster on schedule for March", the Sunday News reports: "Developers have said the 14-story hotel needs to maintain a 68 percent occupancy rate to meet fiscal projections."

The 2006 PKF Feasibility Study reports on Page ll-10, "Our stabilized year projection assumes an annual occupancy rate of 53.0 percent at an average daily rate of $105.00 (in current value dollars)." As pointed out elsewhere, it usually takes two or three years for occupancy to reach the "stabilized year projection."

15% less occupancy for a 300 room facility = 45 room nights x $105 per day = $4,725 per day x 365 days in a year = $1,7224,625 less 10% for variable cost savings = $1,552,162.

Thus Penn Square Partners' projections are $1,552,162 higher than PKF's. If PKF proves correct, it is unlikely that the hotel will generate sufficient funds to cover operations and debt service.

A drop of 15% in occupancy would also impact the sales of food and beverage for hotel guests, which would be an additional drag on revenue and profits.

Time will tell who was right.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

EDITORIAL: "Lifting up the fallen."

It saddens us to see pictures on the front page of the July 18th Intelligencer Journal of people protesting in front of the home of former state Representative Tom Armstrong because he has given sanctuary to individuals who have paid their debt to society and who now seek to get on with life.

Of the people who oppose providing housing in their community for former sex offenders, we wonder how many have religious affiliations and attend houses of worship?

A Jewish morning prayer includes "Blessed is God for lifting up the fallen." The same sentiment is expressed by other faiths. And if we bless God for "Lifting up the fallen", shouldn't we endeavor to emulate God?

Isn't that thought also expressed by secular ethicists?

Apart from religious and ethical concerns, how can we subscribe to the logic that it is okay for offenders who have murdered and assaulted to live next door in anonymity, but sex offenders must be identified, stigmatized, and obstructed from living a life?

A measure of the moral fiber of a community is what steps it takes to protect the least popular, the most vulnerable.

How many sermons this weekend will be about "Lifting up the fallen?" If you hear one, please let NewsLanc know.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Possibilitly looms for jump in interest rates on CC Project bonds

A subsidiary of Wachovia Corporation, Wachovia Securities Trust, is being inspected "as part of part of a broad probe into questionable practices involving auction-rate securities" accoding to the Associated Press.

The release goes on to explain: "Auction-rate securities had been seen by many as a safe investment. They were used, among other things, to fund municipal projects and agencies. They were promoted by brokers as liquid investments because customers could get out of them quickly.

"The interest rates on such securities were reset at regular auctions, but the market fell apart during the credit crisis when investment banks stopped buying because the paper was seen as too risky. The market's failure left many issuers, including local governments, unable to fund projects or daily operations unless they borrowed at much higher rates. That left investors unable to access their cash."

The bonds referred to above are often called "low floaters" because they only carry a term of one or two weeks (as is the case with the Convention Center Project), thus earning a very low interest rate. A financial institution considered highly solvent guarantees to buy the bonds if there ceases to be a market for them. And often that institution further guarantees to the issuer of the bonds that interest rates will not go above (or below) a certain level which is often referred to as "wraps."

Like other financial institutions that were aggresive in their banking practices (the Convention Center Project being a case in point), Wachovia Bank may be under financial pressures.

As was pointed out by in a letter to NewsLanc, the time may come when Wachovia may make use of certain contractural rights to disengage from its contract with the Convention Center Authority to guarantee that interests rates will not go above a certain level. Of course high interest costs would add to the cost of both the convention center's and the hotel's expenses.

Few if any really know the condition of large financial institutions in these tumultous times. What we do know is that the Federal Government will not allow any major bank such as Wachovia to fail. But this does not mean that the Feds would necessarily step in to protect low interest rates on bonds.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

No New Convention Center Bookings During June; Authority's $25 million investment with MBIA safe

No new opening-year Convention Center bookings were made during the month of June, its Director of Sales & Marketing said Thursday.

Nevertheless, Josh Nowak remains optimistic that the Center will be able to meet its goals for 2009.

13 events have been booked for 2009, reflecting $183,600 in revenue. This amount is 36.3% of the $506,077 Interstate Hotels & Resorts anticipates the Center will generate in 2o09.

Nowak said that when prospective bookings are added to the definite ones, the likely revenue generated so far is more like $312,000.

In other business, finance committee chair Laura Douglas confirmed that MBIA, Inc. did indeed collateralize on the Authority's $25 million investment by the July 7th deadline. So the Authority did not have to withdraw its money. More details will be reported at LCCCA's Finance & Audit Committee meeting on Monday, July 28th.

Millersville Tuition to Rise 3.5% for 2008-2009

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg reported, late Thursday morning, that the Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) has approved a 3.5% tuition hike for the commonwealth's 14 state-owned universities.

"The yearly [undergraduate] tuition will rise to $5,358, an increase of $181," writes reporter Jan Murphy.

She goes on to report that tuition hikes in the past three years have all been under three percent.

The report indicates that the mandatory technology fee is also being increased from $175 to $181.

In a press release, PASSHE states that "for the fourth year in a row, the increase will be below the rate of inflation."

The release also notes, "The resident graduate tuition rate in 2008-09 will be $6,430, an increase of $216. Nonresident graduate tuition will increase by $344, to $10,288."

Despite rising cost pressures, PASSHE has been able to hold tuition increases to about half the average imposed by public universities and university systems across the United States over each of the last five years," the release states.

“PASSHE has been able to keep tuition increases to a minimum while continuing to enhance the quality of education our students receive,” said Chancellor John C. Cavanaugh.

The Board of Governors also finalized PASSHE’s nearly $1.4 billion 2008-09 operating budget. PASSHE will receive $498.5 million from the Commonwealth to support its basic operations this year, an increase of $14.5 million, or 3 percent more than it received in 2007-08. The State System also will receive an additional nearly $21 million in separate funding to help support a variety of special programs, including performance funding, diversity initiatives and teacher excellence."

The state-owned universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania. The system also operates a number of other regional centers and branch campuses.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

NewsLanc challenges Newspapers to split cost of trolley poll

In one minute radio spots on three local stations, challenges the Lancaster Newspapers to split the cost of a professional poll to determine whether residents of Lancaster City want trolley cars on their main streets.

The challenge can be heard as part of the third of three radio spots dated July 14th and posted in the right hand column of this web page.

NewsLanc would be willing to pay for the entire poll but, as was the case with the PKF Convention Center Project Feasibilty Study, the newspapers would probably arbitrarily not accept the findings as valid. And they certainly are not going, on their own, to sponsor and report about a legitimate poll that likely would demonstrate public apathy towards the project.

Press release: James Street Improvement District and Barnstormers pair up

The Lancaster Barnstormers are teaming up with the James Street Improvement District (JSID) to promote kindness in the community.

The JSID bike patrol has been issued parking ticket-style vouchers designed not to punish bad behavior but reward random acts of kindness.

"Our squad witnesses kind gestures by residents—young and old—every day, reflecting the great sense of community that exists in many neighborhoods," said David Aichele, Operations Manager of the James Street Improvement District. "Thanks to the Barnstormers, we now have a great tool to reward people, especially young people, in a way that also helps promote the stadium and the team."

Any individual spotted doing something nice for their neighbor or neighborhood will be able to redeem one of these tickets at the stadium box office for a free game or winter activity ticket, according to Barnstormers General Manager Kevin Cummings. A Grand Prize winner will also be selected from the group of Good Deed Ticket recipients. The Grand Prize will consist of eight tickets to the final home game of the Barnstormers regular season – September 21 – as well as the opportunity to throw out the ceremonial last first pitch of the 2008 season.

"We work, live and play in this part of town too," Cummings said, "so whether it be picking up litter, shoveling your neighbor’s walkway in the winter time or any other small way that you can make our area better, we want to say 'thank you' the best way we know how."

The ‘Good Deed Coupons’ will be distributed by the JSID Bike Patrol during their normal patrol routes. The JSID Bike Patrol can be seen dressed in their well-known bright red uniforms patrolling throughout the Downtown and Northwest areas of Lancaster city.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

SDL Board Pleased with State Budget Allocations

At their Tuesday July 15th meeting, the members of the SDL School Board listened to a brief presentation by the district's Business Manager, Matthew Przywara, on the impact of the recently-passed state budget on the district's budget for the upcoming year.

Przywara reported that, while special education programs saw cuts totaling nearly $180,000, basic educational funding increased by 16.9%, or an additional $109,000.

The total net revenue variation from the previous year's state grants was $47,000 in the negative, Przywara reported.

But overall, the state provided almost everything the board had been expecting.

"This is a happy board," said Board President Patrick Snyder.

"We had a backup plan... but it really came out in our favor," Przywara said.

The only drawback, he joked is that "in September, we have to start the budgeting process all over again."

In other business, a public meeting has been scheduled for August 14, 2008 at 7:00 p.m. in the Auditorium of Washington Elementary School at 545 S. Ann Street for the purpose of providing an update on the capital improvement project in store for the school.

Snyder reported that the district plans to spend $20.1 million on the re-design and improvements.

What's Happening Around Lancaster This Week?

July 15th is "National Ice Cream Day." When you play a round of golf at Village Greens in Strasburg, you get a free "golf ball sundae." Located at 1444 Village Road, it is open from 10:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. A round of golf costs $8 for the Gold Course or $6.25 for the Orange. For more information or directions, call 717-687-6933.

On July 17th, Lancaster City's "Dinner and a Movie" series continues with The Natural. Robert Redford stars in the film as an unknown baseball player who takes his team to the top. The film is showing at 9 p.m. in Binns Park. Admission is free.

The Lancaster Barnstormers play home games at Clipper Stadium on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (July 18-20) against the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. The first 2,000 fans to the game Friday, July 18th will receive a free Mr. Potato Head figure. Saturday, July 19th's game will feature fireworks, and the first 2,500 fans to arrive at Sunday, July 20th's game will receive a free Turkey Hill ice cream cup. Friday and Saturday's games begin at 7:05 p.m. Sunday's begins at 6:05 p.m. For more information, including ticket sales, visit or call 717-509-4487.

Starting July 17th, Gretna Theatre in Mount Gretna presents, The King and I. Matinee tickets are $22 and evening tickets are $32. Matinee shows are performed Thursday and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Evening performances are given Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m. The show continues through July 27th.
The historic Mount Gretna theatre is located at Pennsylvania and Carnegie Avenues, off Route 117 in Mount Gretna. For more information, including ticket sales, visit or call 717-964-3627.

Performances of the hit musical Jesus Christ Superstar continue this weekend (July 17th-19th) at the Ephrata Performing Arts Center. Showtimes are at 8 p.m. and tickets range from $20-$24. For more information, visit or call 717-733-7966.

Every third Friday of the month is Music Friday in the 200 & 300 blocks of North Queen Street in downtown Lancaster. According to the city's events calendar,

"Performances will abound on sidewalks and inside stores. Committed performances include belly dancing, a jazz quintet, solo acoustic, rock and Americana groups. Each month will bring new performers to music Friday. Festivities begin at 5 p.m. and many shops will be open to 9 p.m. There is free parking available at BUiLDiNG CHARACTER, behind Onions Café. Many shops will offer alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages."

For more specific information about which shops are participating and which local artists will be performing, visit

At the Strasburg Railroad, you can enjoy Wine & Cheese Tasting aboard a 45-minute train ride through the scenic countryside on Friday, July 18th. Tickets are $30 and Photo ID will be required to board the train. There are 30 seats available and it is recommended that customers purchase tickets in advance. Other beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic will also be available for purchase aboard the train. For more information, visit

Monday, July 14, 2008

Lancaster Post circulation box not stolen after all

In response to its inquiries, NewsLanc has learned both from the Lancaster Police Department and from the Lancaster Post that last week the Post's circulation box at School Lane and Marietta Avenue had been properly unchained from the telephone pole by Verizon, but mistakenly removed.

The box has now been chained to a non-Verizon pole.

While the Post was quick to alert NewsLanc to the missing box, it apparently did not occur to the publishers to advise NewsLanc that it was recovered and, in fact, had not been "stolen." NewsLanc apologizes to our readers for not having followed up on the story earlier.

And NewsLanc reminds the Post about the little boy who called "wolf".

Mental Health Court by late 2009

In response to an inquiry from NewsLanc, Mark Wilson, Director Adult Probation & Parole Services, confirmed that the $88,665 added by the Commissioners to the county budget for "Adult Probation and Parole Services" was the result of a state grant that "supports the planning, development, and training activities for the implementation of a Mental Health Court here."

Wilson further advised that "Late 2009 is the target start date."

German Exchange Students Enjoying Local Hospitality

As part of an exchange program between Lancaster County and Kaiserslautern, Germany, 19 exchange students are staying with a host in Lititz this week.

When a national American soccer team played in Germany in 2006, former Lancaster County Commissioner Dick Shellenberger, among many others, was invited to attend. While there, Shellenberger made provisions with the local governmental leaders in Kaiserslautern to establish an exchange between youth groups in Lancaster County and the small German city.

The 19 youth - 12 boys and seven girls, ranging in age from 14-18, - and their three adult leaders, are part of an alliance of youth groups including boy scouts, sports teams, and a red cross group from around Kaiserslautern.

Having arrived on July 7th, they have already visited Lancaster City, Philadelphia, and Hershey Park. They also plan to visit Washington, D.C. and New York City before they leave on Friday, July 17.

They are all staying at the home of Michael Thompson of Lititz, whom they praised for his hospitality. Thompson's children attend Manheim Township High School, which has been involved in arranging soccer matches for the visiting youth.

One girl, Julia, said the house is "so cozy and unique" and that she was overwhelmed.

Meggi Weichlar, one of the adults traveling with the group, explained that most German homes are smaller and the area much more densely developed.

But the landscape rings familiar to her and she thinks that's why a lot of Germans settled in Pennsylvania.

"When we first came to Pennsylvania, we thought 'it looks like home,'" she said.

The boys played a soccer game last Wednesday (July 9th) against a local soccer team called Pennsylvania Classics. Although they did not win that game, they put up a good fight in the first half and a good time was had by all, Thompson explained.

Asked how they got along with the American players, Thompson said, "They [the Americans] play hard, but if someone knocks someone down, they pick them up."

They were also planning to play Manheim Township High School's soccer team, Sunday evening (July 13th), but the game was postponed due to thunderstorms.

On Saturday night (July 12th), the girls of the group performed German folk dance at an event in Reading, Pa. One of their chaperones, Ludwig Welker, plays guitar.

The boys and girls, who seemed somewhat shy, murmured in agreement that one of their favorite parts of the trip so far was when they visited Hershey Park.

One of the girls was overheard to say that she enjoyed shopping.

Asked whether they speak very fluent English, Weichlar replied, "More or less - sometimes they are a little shy to talk, but they understand."

She went on to explain that English is one of the primary languages that they learn in school and that most German students learn two other languages (often English and French) as part of their elementary school education.

Weichlar shared that the weather here is a bit warmer than in Germany, and that "the humidity here is much higher," which took some getting used to.

The group also shared that they attended a church service at Bethel A.M.E Church on East Strawberry Street in Lancaster on Sunday morning, since Welker had an interest in learning about gospel music.

"We were in a church with black gospel. It's really different than our church in Germany. Church in Germany is very conservative. In America, everything is totally cool," said Anne Engel, one of the girls.

With a laugh, Welker said that the "preacher was very loud and had much passion, and all the people would say, 'Yeah!'"

A group of youth from Lancaster County plans to visit Klaiserslautern, Germany, next year.

Reprint of McCaskey Food Article of May 1

McCaskey High Feeds Teenagers at Remarkably Low Cost

Even major fast food chains are hard pressed to sell a full lunch for under $4, so the challenge to McCaskey High School to provide a nourishing midday meal to about 70% of its teenagers for $1.25 is daunting.

For restaurants, food cost as a percentage of price usually ranges from 30% to 35%. So a restaurant charging $4 would be spending as much just for the raw food as McCaskey has to spend for handling, preparing, serving, cleaning up and managing!

On April 29, NewsLanc's publisher (who has experience in the restaurant business) observed the following at the tidy and clean kitchen, the cafeteria, and the dining room at J. P. McCaskey:

The hot meal of the day consisted of a brownish concoction described as Asian Chicken, with beans on the side, a choice of string beans or raw carrots or a piece of fruit or 6 ounce juice, plus milk.

A gal was heard to say "The chicken looks good" and a guy retorted "The chicken looks like sh--." The daily hot special, if not necessarily appetizing, was wholesome and nourishing, the portion sizes ample for most girls if marginal for many boys.

Under a federal government subsidy program, over 70% of the McCaskey students qualify for reduced-price meals and pay only $.40 for the $1.25 fixed price lunch, with some qualifying to receive it free. As an alternative to the meal, they could have chosen a hot dog on a bun or a Rib-B-Que, for which there seemed to be little demand. (To look at it was to understand why.)

According to Donna Perry, Cafeteria Manager, instead of the subsidized hot meal the students could choose from four cold sandwiches, an alternative hot sandwich, or hot dogs which are popular.

Non-subsidized food includes a salad bar that looked reasonably good charging $2.50 for a plate or $1.25 for a bowl. (Later, a student warned that the salad bar was not properly replenished and students with a later lunch period did not find it appetizing.)

Also there are sandwiches and wraps comparable to what is offered daily on the shelves of convenient food stores priced as follows: Tuna fish, egg and cheese on English muffin - $1.25; turkey and cheese - $1.15; peanut gutter and jelly - $1.00; and a variety of wraps - $1.75.

Hot fixed price $1.25 lunches for the week of May 5th consist of: Monday - Chicken Rondolet on roll, sandwich fixings, baby carrots, fresh fruit; Tuesday - "Breakfast for lunch," home fries, scrambled eggs, sausage, bread, fruit; Wednesday - Hot ham & cheese on roll, baby carrots w / dip, fresh fruit; Thursday - "stir fry bar," chicken or beef stir fry, rice, roll & butter, fruit; Friday - Pizza, vegetables w / dip, fresh fruit.

The menu for the fixed price hot $1.25 feature for each day in May can be found here.

According to Matt Przywara, CPA, Business Manager of the SD of L, "The food service operation is self-supporting. The income taken in supports the cost of all meals (subsidies & monies received by students.)" Grades 9-12 pay $1.25 for a full paid lunch; $.40 for a reduced lunch; $.80 for full paid breakfasts and $.30 for reduced breakfasts.

The marvel is what meals SDL provides on paltry budget

The Intelligencer Journal of July 14 reports "Consultants recommend improved breakfast, lunch menus" at McCaskey. This certainly would be desirable and the various suggestions listed are laudable.

But what is apparently missing from the study and certainly from the article is mention that McCaskey is producing these meals on a budget so skimpy as to awe the NewsLanc reporter experienced in restaurant management who toured their facilities and published a report here several months ago.

The assignment was triggered by the unfavorable comparison by a recent transferee of McCaskey food with that of a school outside the school district serving an affluent student body.

What became apparent was McCaskey was feeding their youngsters at a small fraction of the cost of the other school. The bulk of the McCaskey student body receives free or deeply subsidized food through federal programs, but the amount the School District of Lancaster receives from the government is hardly enough to pay for the food itself, let alone the other 60% of the cost associated with restaurant operations.

Filling the stomachs of the children on the paltry funds provided (and to keep prices down for those who are paying) requires minimizing labor and food handling. To the trained eye, the short cuts were obvious, but essential. And if the kitchen appeared "chaotic" (and when has a busy kitchen ever seemed otherwise?), food handling was designed to avoid the possibility of spoilage and food poisoning while minimizing labor costs. Yes, taste of food was subordinated to cost.

NewsLanc also pointed out that certain offerings, explicitly referring to the "rib-b-que" were so unappetizing as to be ignored. Yet it may have been thought necessary to provide this cheap meat item to meet federal guidelines and thus enable the rest of the feeding program. We just don't know and apparently neither Nutri-Tech or the Intell tried to find out.

NewsLanc takes no issue with what the consultant Nutri-Tech proposes. However, if blame for the unappetizing, albeit minimally adequate, food is to be placed, it should not be on recently retired food-service and transportation coordinator Gene Miller, but on officials and tax payers who have not been prepared to provide sufficient subsidies for a largely inner city student body whose live at below poverty or only slightly above poverty level.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Little Rock trolley experience belies Lancaster projections

In response to inquiries from NewsLanc, we received report from Virginia Fry, River Rail Streetcar, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Note that almost 75% of their cost are subsidized by federal and local tax payer dollars, despite the average charge of $1.00 per rider!

Despite the huge subsidy and five street cars clogging busy streets, they only transport an average of 32 persons per hour during operations, perhaps 8 passengers per street car ride. That isn't even enough to begin to pay the wage of the operator!

The following, without deletions, is what Ms. Fry wrote:

"We have a fleet of 5 vintage Birney streetcars that run on a 3.5 mile track connecting the two cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock. We have no dedicated track except for over the Main Street Bridge (.4 miles).

" We travel in mixed traffic along a single directional track except for the Phase II portion of the system which consists of one mile of double track down to the Clinton Presidential Center. Our average speed is around 10 miles per hour.

"We have no dedicated funding and are 80 percent funded by federal funds.

"There are 3 entities that pick up the other 20 percent divided between the cities of Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County. Our operating budget for 2008 is around 778,000. We are only expected to cover 25 percent of costs through ridership which we have exceeded.

"Our system began in November of 2004 and we have carried over 500,000 passengers in that time. [390 per day.)"

Based upon the Little Rock's experience, the idea of spending over $14 million to bring back street cars to Lancaster on the supposition that it will only require a subsidy of $300,000 is untenable.

What is it about the benighted establishment in Lancaster that it never undertakes conscientious feasibility studies but rather rams half baked ideas down the throats of the taxpayers?

"This is not some harebrained idea," said Jack Howell of the Lancaster Alliance. Seems so to us!

River Rail Electric Streetcar Facts
The streetcars hold 44 people sitting down or 80 people sitting and standing.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 8:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Thursday, Friday, Saturday 8:30 a.m. - Midnight
Sunday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Adults 1.00 cents per boarding
Children Under 4 Free
Children 5 - 11 .50 cents per boarding
Seniors (65+) .50 cents per boarding
Disabled .50 cents per boarding
Day Pass $2

Philadelphia CC $100 million over budget

According to the July 12 Philadelphia Inquirer, Governor Edward Rendell says that expansion of the city's downtown convention center is "getting to the point where the cost will outweigh the benefit."

The article goes on to state "Officials now acknowledge that projections show the rapidly surging prices of those commodities, as well as copper and aluminum, may push construction costs considerably higher than the budgeted $700 million."

The $700 million is being funded from State proceeds from slot-machine parlors.

Friday, July 11, 2008

LGH not ranked on magazine's list of 170 hospitals

Lancaster General Hospital was not ranked among the "170 hospitals" by U.S. News & World Report, in their recently-released 2008 report on "America's Best Hospitals." Nineteen of the 170 hospitals were named to its Honor Roll.

Although the publication offered no overall ranking of many of the 170 hospitals, including LGH, it did score LGH in 11 specialty areas.

The U.S. News Score ranges from 0 to 100. The score is a measure of total quality based on "reputation, death rate, and care-related factors such as nursing and patient services." LGH scored higher in geriatric care (21.9), cancer (20.4), and urology (20.2), and lower in neurology & neurosurgery (10.5), and ear, nose, & throat (16.1).

For comparison, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center received scores of 16.9 in geriatric care, 21.1 in cancer care, 10.9 in urology, and 9.9 in neurology & neurosurgery.

Lancaster General Hospital achieved perfect scores for advanced technologies in endocrinology (7/7), advanced technologies for gastrointestinal disorders (4/4), advanced technologies in geriatric care (2/2), advanced technologies in gynecology (5/5), advanced technologies for ear, nose, & throat, advanced technologies for respiratory disorders, and patient services in orthopedics (7/7),

Lancaster General received 5/8 for advanced technology in urology and a particularly low score for advanced technologies in orthopedics (0/1) for not having computer-assisted orthopedic surgery.

A score was also given for actual vs. expected deaths in various practice areas. Scores below 1 mean fewer deaths than expected. Scores above 1 mean more deaths than predicted. LGH had lower-than-expected mortality rates in the areas of cancer(0.88), endocrinology (0.8), gastrointestinal disorders (0.92), geriatric care (0.86), gynecology (0.87), ear, nose & throat (0.67), and urology (0.6), and greater than expected mortality rates in the areas of kidney disease (1.09), neurology & neurosurgery (1.13), and respiratory disorders (1.03).

Overall, however, Lancaster General had substantially similar mortality rates as nearby Hershey Medical Center.

The #1 ranked hospital was Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. It achieved U.S. News Scores of 66.6 for cancer treatment, 65.5 for endocrinology, 62.6 for gastrointestinal disorders, 90.6 for geriatric care, 77.9 in gynecology, 83.5 in kidney disease, 97.4 in neurology & neurosurgery, 38.8 in orthopedics, 100 in ear, nose & throat, 71.4 for respiratory disorders, and 100 for urology.

Lancaster General Hospital's rankings can be found online at

Thursday, July 10, 2008

June Progress On Target, Convention Center & Hotel 53% complete

Construction at the Convention Center & Marriott Hotel is now 53% complete, Lee Wolniak of Capital Construction Management told the Convention Center Authority Thursday evening.

This represents a total expenditure to date of $55,927,021.

Progress proceeded on schedule for the month of June. Construction progress remains 31 days behind schedule for the year.

Recent progress includes the installation of additional plumbing and boiler pipes, light fixtures at the convention entry level and exhibit hall, hanging of drywall at the convention entry level, further removal of the Watt & Shand facade supports, and the last Concrete pours for the Convention Center.

March 2009 remains the targeted opening of the nearly $200 million facility.

Presentation of Harrisburg Pike Study on July 30

A formal presentation will take place by the Steering Committee for the Harrisburg Pike Transportation & Land Use Study on July 30, 2008, at 313 W. Liberty Street, Lancaster, PA 17603, according to an announcement by the Lancaster County Planning Commission.

An open house will commence at 6:30 PM.

The invitation states "for additional information contact Danny Whittle or Dave Royer at LCPC at 717-299-8333."

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

City & Township now have dual police forces

According to an Opinion Letter prepared by a prominent law firm, Franklin & Marshall special police may well have police standing within 500 yards of the campus and any other property owned by the College. Since the residence provided to its president John Fry is situated in the middle of School Lane Hills, that sedate community as well as the western part of the City now fall largely under twin police jurisdictions.

The briefing concludes: "We believe a court would conclude that Fry’s residence is part of the campus property and that campus police may exercise their authority up to at least 500 yards from campus property. The most effective way to challenge this expansion of power would be through the legislature. Private colleges are subject to no oversight or pecuniary constraints as state-funded universities are. The legislature can modify the behavior of a state university by threatening or cutting off its funding. It should follow that private colleges are entitled to less police authority because they are not as accountable to the people from which they ultimately derive such authority."

Of course the Lancaster Police are highly trained and report to city and township officials who in turn must answer to the electorate. The F & M police force only answers to John Fry.

Theoretically, F & M can indefinitely expands its sphere of police jurisdiction by purchasing additional real estate. May we suggest a row house for sale near the State Capitol?

The Orwellian "double speak" of F & M

In response to an inquiry of Franklin & Marshall if there were plans to tear down the Harrisburg Pike pedestrian overpass, NewsLanc received the following response from Dulcey Antonucci, Director of Media Relations:

"To answer your question, our long term master plan that was approved in February of this year does include removal of the bridge. However, there is no timetable or active discussions about the removal. Since the bookstore moved to the center of campus, the bridge is used by very few people. We want to keep pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk to calm and tame traffic and make the road safer: there is the perception by drivers that if pedestrians are around, they slow down."

First, F & M insisted on replacing the middle lane of Harrisburg Pike with a grass island because somehow this was to deter students from crossing in the middle of the block (which makes no sense to us). Now we are told that students are to be put at risk in order to encourage drivers to slow down!

Does anything that happens or comes from F & M make any sense any more?

The imprimatur on all of these series of incredible happenings seems to be that of one John Fry.