- RSS Channel Showcase 9928784
- RSS Channel Showcase 7182653
- RSS Channel Showcase 8425233
- RSS Channel Showcase 1438237
Articles on this Page
- 05/21/18--21:00: _$107M Owen J. Rober...
- 05/22/18--21:00: _Attorney General's ...
- 05/23/18--21:00: _Regional Recreation...
- 05/24/18--21:00: _Coventry Christian ...
- 05/27/18--21:00: _Pondering the Futur...
- 05/28/18--21:00: _Barth First Graders...
- 05/29/18--21:00: _$164M Spring-Ford B...
- 05/30/18--21:00: _STEM Learning Reall...
- 05/31/18--21:00: _Boyertown Crowd Fau...
- 06/02/18--21:00: _Are You Ready for a...
- 06/03/18--21:00: _Community Fair Set ...
- 06/05/18--21:00: _30-Acre Development...
- 06/06/18--21:00: _Candidates Advocate...
- 06/07/18--21:00: _Landfill Expansion ...
- 06/08/18--21:00: _19 Graduate from MC...
- 06/09/18--21:00: _Pottstown to Host E...
- 06/10/18--21:00: _Let Pottsgrove Mano...
- 06/11/18--21:00: _Appointments Galore...
- 06/12/18--21:00: _Boyertown Board Mee...
- 06/13/18--21:00: _Hill Hosting Weeke...
- 06/14/18--21:00: _$62.7M Pottstown Bu...
- 06/15/18--21:00: _Hopewell Furnace Na...
- 06/16/18--21:00: _King, Perez Named B...
- 06/17/18--21:00: _The Failure of Amer...
- 06/18/18--21:00: _Are TWP/Fire Compan...
- 05/21/18--21:00: $107M Owen J. Roberts Budget Hikes Taxes 2.4%
- 05/22/18--21:00: Attorney General's Help Sought in YMCA Fight
- 05/23/18--21:00: Regional Recreation and Sustainability Planning
- 05/24/18--21:00: Coventry Christian Senior Earns Bronze Award
- 05/27/18--21:00: Pondering the Future of Our Local Newspaper
- 05/28/18--21:00: Barth First Graders Take a 'Field' Trip, Literally
- 05/29/18--21:00: $164M Spring-Ford Budget Will Raise Taxes 2.35%
- 05/30/18--21:00: STEM Learning Really Gets Around in Pottstown
- 05/31/18--21:00: Boyertown Crowd Faults School's Threat Response
- 06/02/18--21:00: Are You Ready for a Mercury Without Walls?
- 06/03/18--21:00: Community Fair Set for June 10, Smith Family Plaza
- 06/05/18--21:00: 30-Acre Development Inches Forward in Limerick
- 06/06/18--21:00: Candidates Advocate and 143% Parking Fee Hike
- 06/07/18--21:00: Landfill Expansion Hearing Draws Berks Co. Crowd
- 06/08/18--21:00: 19 Graduate from MCCC Gateway to College Program
- 06/09/18--21:00: Pottstown to Host Electronics Recycling June 16
- Computer -- PCs/laptops and servers;
- Monitors -- CRT/LCD
- TVs -- CRT/Console/Projection/Flat panel;
- Networking devices -- servers, routers, switches, hubs, arrays
- Printers, fax machines, scanners, copiers, plotters, typewriters (who still has those?)
- Audio/video devices, CD, DCD,VHS,Blue Ray players, MP3s, iPods, stereos, projectors, video game consoles
- Cell phones, PDAs, telephones, pagers, telecommunication devices
- Surge protectors, power supplies
- All cables, wires, power cords
- All items used in the function of these devices, such as keyboards, mice, speakers, etc.
- $20 for all flat screens
- $25 for TVS and monitors up to 29 inches
- $45 for TVs and monitors from 30 to 55 inches
- $70 for TVs and monitors of 56 inches or larger.
- Fossil fuels
- Media contaminated with oil
- Equipment containing asbestos
- Equipment containing chemicals
- Equipment containing freon
- Infectious/biological waste or equipment contaminated by it
- Equipment that contains radioactive components, such as smoke detectors
- Materials that would adversely impact operations or result in environment/health problems
- 06/10/18--21:00: Let Pottsgrove Manor Make Dad A Gentleman
- 06/11/18--21:00: Appointments Galore at Pottstown Council
- 06/12/18--21:00: Boyertown Board Meeting is All About the Money
- The $118 million budget that raises taxes 5.4 percent;
- Tearing down Memorial Stadium and building a new one;
- Lowering the student activity fee;
- Preserving the per capita tax;
- A one-year teacher contract;
- Spending more than $300,000 on upgrading school security;
- The extension of the interim superintendent's contract;
- Extending the contract for the district's public relations firm.
- 06/13/18--21:00: Hill Hosting Weekend Lacrosse, Basketball Events
- 06/14/18--21:00: $62.7M Pottstown Budget To Bring 3.5% Tax Hike
- 06/16/18--21:00: King, Perez Named Barth Elementary's Peacemakers
- 06/17/18--21:00: The Failure of American Fathers
- Our (love for/fear of) guns is so great that we cannot even talk about controlling them to protect our children from being shot in school without being shouted down, so our solution is to help them get used to it;
- We have allowed hate to once again carve a foot-hold in discussions of public policy which now carry increasingly disturbing echoes of a fascist state, much like the ones our fathers once defeated in war;
- It is the policy of the fathers who lead this nation to intentionally inflict pain on helpless children who come to a land once defined by hope and which for them will now and forever be defined by cruelty and pain;
- We allow more children to starve and be sick than any other developed nation on Earth, all so we can remain in a state of perpetual war with an idea which few of us could ever define;
- Hell, we cannot even act to preserve the planet our children will inherit.
- 06/18/18--21:00: Are TWP/Fire Company Disagreements Brewing?
Photos by Evan Brandt
A LINE OF CHAMPIONS: Members of the Owen J. Roberts High School Track and Field Team, this year's PAC-10 Champions, were recognized by the school board at Monday night's meeting.
The Owen J. Roberts School Board unanimously approved a $107 million budget for the 2018-2019 school year Monday night that will raise property taxes by 2.4 percent.
The exact amount budgeted for spending is $106,878,490 and includes a $10 million capital budget and $7.1 million of debt.
TOPS IN BUSINESS: Some of the 26 Owen J. Roberts
students who qualified/competed in the DECA
International Career Development Conference who were
recognized by the school board Monday night.
Chief Financial Officer Jaclin Krumrine said the tax hike is "at the index," or the maximum allowed by the state's inflation-based tax cap.
She also said the district did make use of any of the "exceptions" which state law allows districts to exceed their index, for things like construction costs of special education.
The board also unanimously adopted the millage rate of 31.2366 mills.
Those who pay their full tax bill by Aug. 31, are entitled to a 2 percent discount on the amount. Those who don't pay by Oct. 31, face a 10 percent penalty.
No one from the public spoke either for or against the budget.
However, there was one speaker of note -- Lucas Gray.
Gray is the student government executive council president. This was his last meeting as he is graduating and the school board presented him with a small gift.
He presented them with a appeal to stop behaving badly.
While thanking them for the opportunity, he confessed that he left almost every meeting feeling "frustrated and embarrassed."
Not because of anything he had done, but because of the board's behavior toward each other.
Lucas said he was disappointed "by the undertone of mistrust, the mudslinging" and the "petty jibes."
This behavior, he said, embarrasses a district "that deserves better."
Click this link to read more about the school's board's dysfunction.
And now, the Tweets. Amid them, you will find speeches by the high school valedictorian and two (? must have been a tie) salutatorians.
They're worth a look, successful scholars talking about the teachers who inspired them.
OJR Adopts $107M Budget, 2.4% Tax Hike
Photos by Evan Brandt
About 40 people showed up for Tuesday's meeting called to find ways to prevent the closure of the Pottstown YMCA branch.
The fight to prevent the closure of the Pottstown YMCA branch soon may be taken up in Harrisburg.
At least two Pottstown Borough officials -- Mayor Stephanie Henrick and Deputy Police Chief Michael Markovich -- have contacted the office of Attorney General Josh Shapiro asking for help to prevent the closure.
Specifically, Henrick, an attorney, said she spoke with the office of the senior deputy attorney general for charitable organizations, which outlined the process for filing a formal complaint.
She said it has to be made in writing, and evidence provided, before they will investigate, something she hopes to organize shortly.
The Rev. Vernon Ross, pastor of Bethel Community Church,
said he once served on the board of the Philadelphia-Freedom
Valley YMCA and he is glad he no longer does given the
actions that board has endorsed.
In a letter to Shapiro read aloud at the meeting by Invictus Ministries Inc. Pastor Bishop Everett Debnam, Markovich wrote "I have seen Pottstown get left behind when it comes to the rest of Montgomery County."
"Everything Pottstown offered its youth, seems to be closed," said Markovich, who was joined by Upper Pottsgrove Police Chief Francis Wheatley and Lower Pottsgrove Police Chief Michael Foltz in expressing concern that crime among juveniles my go up this summer if the YMCA closes.
"One thing that doesn't close, is the streets and the corners," Markovich wrote. "Once the children end up there, it is usually no turning back."
"It's a cycle," he wrote, "that we are trying to break. That's why we need to put the brakes on the YMCA closing. We're reaching out to you for help."
Further, Bob Stauffer, who was on the Pottstown YMCA Board of Directors in the 1990s, offered up a formal resolution calling for Shapiro's office to investigate what he says is behavior at variance with the YMCA mission.
Those were just a few of the more serious actions discussed during last night's second meeting of the coalition of activists and groups -- led by the Pottstown chapter of the NAACP -- working to reverse the decision by the Philadelphia-Freedom Valley YMCA to close the Pottstown branch on North Adams Street.
The meeting was held at the YWCA Tri-County Area on King Street.
Local attorney Bob Stauffer
holds a resolution calling
for an investigation by PA
Attorney General Josh Shapiro
These include the Mary Porter Foundation, the Christina and Lawrence Smith Foundation, Cigna Foundation, Comcast, Wawa Foundation BB & T Bank and Pew Charitable Trust to name a few.
And Shona Williams is in charge of writing letters to donors who have given $25,000 or less to the Philadelphia-Freedom Valley YMCA.
"We're raising our voices, and we have so many voices, so we can offer so many perspectives," she said.
One perspective the group hopes to harness are those of two members of the World Champion Philadelphia Eagles -- Chris Long and Malcolm Jenkins.
A letter from NAACP branch President Johnny Corson to the Chris Long Foundation begins with an important caveat: "We aren't asking for money."
Rather, Corson's letter is instead asking for Long to add his voice to the call for the Y to remain open. "We can't let this happen to our young people -- they need and deserve their Y -- for sports, mentoring, community, stability and opportunity," according to the letter.
From left Lawrence Cohen, Johnny Corson
and Everett Debnam.
Instead of serving communities where the need for YMCA services is greatest, the Association is choosing to build 'county club' fitness centers serving wealthy suburbanites."
Despite the united voice of the community and its officials and remaining institutions, "YMCA management is ignoring the needs of our youth," read Corson's letter. "We need the power of your voice to help us stop this unnecessary closure that will devastate our community's young people."
Whether or not the star power of Chris Long or Jenkins can help reverse this course or not, there are also efforts underway to organize a march on the Philadelphia-Freedom Valley YMCA headquarters in Conshohocken in the hopes that the power of people can get the job done.
A date for the march has not yet been set, although Flag Day was mentioned as one possibility, so keep your calendars as open as you can folks. A date will likely be announced on the new Save the Pottstown YMCA Facebook page, which you can join by clicking here.
The march would be the perfect opportunity to deliver the petition calling for the Y to remain open, which now making the rounds and has already collected more than 1,200 signatures. You can sign that petition by clicking here.
The date of the next meeting has not yet been set.
Here are the Tweets from the meeting:
Rising Resistance to Closure of Pottstown YMCA
When I headed out to last night's Pottstown Metropolitan Area Regional Planning Committee meeting, I glanced at the agenda and figured the big story would be Sanatoga Green.
Boy was I wrong.
It was on the agenda, but there was not much to say. It has been tinkered with, but remains the same basic plan.
More interesting was the presentation by John Lesher, chief environmental planner for the Montgomery County Planning Commission, who talked about Pottstown's sustainability plan.
It's the only one in the state, to his knowledge anyway, that includes both a borough and a school district, so let's polish our buttons on that one.
One of the more interesting snippets to come out of Lesher's talk -- we covered the plan fairly extensively back in January when it was adopted -- was how much the environment in which we live affects our health.
|Here is the graphic.|
He showed a graphic from a study that showed how much more important environment, lifestyle and special factors determine our lifespans -- more than genetics or infectious agents.
We spend 90 percent of our health money on medical care, but it is only response for 10 to 20 percent of how long we live or how healthy we are.
Here's the sound bite, "zip codes are more important than genetic codes" in determining our lifespan and over health, he said. Meaning that effort put into things like making Pottstown a nicer place to live actually help us to live longer.
Along those lines, the regional planners took an important vote and agreed to once again be the umbrella organization for the Pottstown Area Regional Recreation Committee and, hopefully, the retaining of director Michael Lane.
Upper Pottsgrove Township Manager Carol Lewis outlined that Lane and his predecessor, Justin Keller, had collectively obtained about $300,000 for each of the six towns that participate in in paying for his services.
Each town currently pays about $5,000, this due to a $100,000 grant from the state which expires next year, and a matching grant from the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation.
Next year, without the state grant, the price may rise to about $8,000 unless New Hanover and East Coventry -- the two towns which do not participate -- decide to jump into the pool with the other towns.
"Pottstown has definitely benefited from this," said Councilman Ryan Procsal.
The planners voted unanimously to continue to be the umbrella organization. Lewis said the recreation committee will make presentations over the next few months to the boards of the participating municipalities -- and the non-participating ones if they want to consider it -- to get their approval for the funding.
And now, here are the Tweets from the meeting:
|Christian Molfetto, left, receives his Bronze Award from Congressman Ryan Costello.|
Blogger's Note:The following was provided by Congressman Ryan Costello's office.
A Coventry Christian Schools senior has earned the Congressional Award Bronze Medal for logging more than 100 hours of volunteer service and achieving several challenging personal development goals.
Christian Molfetto of Perkiomen Township,received the Bronze Medal from Congressman Ryan Costello during a ceremony on May 21.
To qualify for the Congressional Award Bronze Medal, Molfetto completed a minimum of 100 hours of public service. He also spent an additional 100 hours and at least seven months working toward the goals set in the areas of personal development, physical fitness and expedition.
Costello commended Molfetto for taking the initiative to find organizations and projects in need of volunteers and thanked Molfetto’s parents, teachers and advisors who supported him as Molfetto worked on completing the requirements for earning the Congressional Award Bronze Medal.
“Public service and helping our neighbors builds a true sense of community,” Costello said. “Even during times when our country experiences a toxic political environment, volunteerism and community engagement reminds us that we all share common ideals, including a genuine desire to come together and make the places we live better. By recognizing the accomplishments of Christian and other students who have earned this distinguished award we are congratulating them on a job well-done and hopefully inspiring others to give back to their community and commit to setting and achieving their own goals.”
Molfetto met his public service goal by getting involved his Lower Pottsgrove Township school’s annual charity auction, traveling to West Virginia for an Appalachian service project, and assisting with an event center expansion project.
He also achieved a personal development goal by enrolling in summer classes to expand his math skills and a physical fitness goal of improving his free throw percentage and ball-handling skills in basketball. To meet the Congressional Award expedition requirement, Molfetto took a trip to San Antonio, Texas where he gained an appreciation for the cultural significance of Mexican-American relations by visiting the Alamo, sampling local cuisine and observing the region’s unique architecture.
Molfetto said that working toward the Congressional Award taught him the importance of time management, especially making time after school and on weekends for his volunteer work.
“It was definitely challenging at times, but it was really rewarding being able to help my community and achieve something that's recognized by Congress,” Molfetto said.
Congress established The Congressional Award in 1979 to recognize initiative, service, and achievement in young people age 14 to 23.
The program is funded primarily by charitable contributions. Congress provides in-kind support by authorizing the U.S. Mint to produce the medals provided to recipients as well as allowing the use of office space in the Capitol.
Approximately 48,000 youth participate in the program across the country. To learn more about The Congressional Award or enroll in the program visit http://congressionalaward.org/.
Photo by Lorraine Dusky
Me, my protest t-shirt and my protest sign outside the Montauk, Long Island vacation home of Heath Freeman, president of Alden Global Capital.
Redford's character, the naive political novice Bill McKay, has won the unwinnable race against entrenched incumbent Republican Crocker Jarmon.
McKay is about to give his victory speech and, looking a bit dazed, he turns to his campaign manager Marvin Lucas, played in a brilliant low-key performance by Peter Boyle, and says "now what?"
Throughout the film, the McKay and his team give increasing focus to a single goal, winning the race, and less and less time and thought to what they would like to accomplish should they win.
As I stood Friday outside Heath Freeman's vacation home, a $4.8 million, five-
Screenshot from Zillow.com.Heath Freeman's vacation mansion property
is outlined in white.
I looked at my sign and thought, "now what?"
Not that we're at the point that we've prevailed against the cartoonishly capitalist corporate raider who is stripping the meat and bones off local journalism only to invest the salaries of laid off journalists into spectacularly failed investments.
Far from it.
Screenshot from The Nation.Here's a closer look at the Montauk house before Freeman
began expanding it.
The picture of the private equity hedge fund company Freeman and his mentor Randall Smith run, as painted in such publications as The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Times, and The Nation is "a caricature of capitalism at its most greedy and amoral," as reporter Julie Reynolds wrote.
Salaries of reporters, editors and photographers who once held our local governments accountable, chronicled the highs and lows of our student athletes and undertook civic campaigns to better our communities are now literally paying instead for some of the most incredibly questionable investments in the history of Wall Street.
One included investing in one of Russia's worst polluters, with connections to President Vladmir Putin; another, in a Brazilian company that became the target of that nation's largest political scandal; and a third, a U.S. drug store chain named Fred's that, as of 2017, had lost $112 million since Freeman took the reins, according to reporting by Reynolds:
"To put that in human terms: at a cost of less than Alden’s gamble on Fred’s stock, the 350-plus news workers lost in the past two years could have kept working — and keeping their communities informed — for at least another five years."Finally, the editorial page staff at The Denver Post, which Freeman's Digital First Media is currently strangling, along with its much smaller sibling, The Pottstown Mercury, had had enough and staged the kind of revolt that would only happen in a newsroom.
They wrote about it.
You can find links to The Denver Post's single act of defiance (subsequent attempts were censored, followed by resignations in protest) by clicking onto this article on the web page run by The News Guild.
That's the union, part of the Communication Workers of America, representing many of the papers owned by Alden's Digital First Media company and for which Reynolds writes most of her spectacularly researched articles.
That's the same union that was meeting with Digital First officials to negotiate a new contract, including a request for our first raise in three years, while I was standing outside Heath Freeman's house holding a sign.
He concluded by adding a phrase I have heard many times at the negotiating table, “there is no wage proposal at this time.”
I suppose I'll have to take that as also being the answer I would have gotten from Mr. Freeman had he come to the door after I knocked Friday.
Although a woman I presume to be his wife told me he wasn't home when she pulled out of the driveway, the Dave Matthews Band music blaring from the outdoor speakers suggested otherwise.
So I walked to the front door and knocked.
A housekeeper answered and I asked to see Mr. Freeman. I stepped into the foyer at her invitation and I followed her eyes up as she looked to the second floor balcony and said "someone is here to see you" to the man I recognized as Mr. Freeman who was looking back at me and my "#NewsMatters" T-shirt.
He did not come down.
The housekeeper asked if he was expecting me.
Definitely not, I said.
So she asked me to wait outside and he would speak to me there.
Subsequently, she came out and asked how I knew where he lived. "It was published in The Nationa," I replied.
So she said, "it would be best if you call him."
So I asked for the phone number and she said she did not have one. I replied that seemed highly unlikely.
Then I left.
My trusty reporter's notebook in my pocket, I had decided ahead of time that given the opportunity to speak face-to-face to the man who will eventually eliminate my job (perhaps sooner now that I've published this account) I would ask one question: "Mr. Freeman, what value do you place on local news?"
That is, after all, our product.
But that does not seem to be the view of Mr. Freeman and company.
“The traditional chains had to downsize, but they still thought like newspaper people — what sustains the product and the community. “With private equity, it’s about squeezing out the 20 percent and anything goes. Use it up, sell it, or just kill it. The profit is the product.”It seems like there is little future in ownership by a company that considers its
only product to be profit.
Hence, the Guild's new mantra, "Invest or Sell."
Which brings us back to a young Robert Redford and Bill McKay.
Sell us to whom? Buyers are not exactly lining up for companies that produce singe-digit profits these days.
In some ways, the Trump era is a kind of warped golden age of journalism, at least for the big boys. Subscriptions, digital and otherwise, are soaring at The New York Times and The Washington Post as people look for a place where sanity and reality have some kind of foot-hold.
But the Post is thriving mostly because it is owned by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, who seems to like having newspaper in his portfolio and is satisfied with much smaller profit margins.
In Minneapolis, Glen Taylor, the billionaire owner of the Timberwolves basketball team, purchased the Minneapolis Star-Tribune out of bankruptcy four years ago.
The newspaper makes a profit -- not vulture hedge fund-level profit -- but enough to keep it sustainable without cutting staff. So he doesn't.
By contrast, next door in the newsroom of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press, owned by Digital First Media, the newsroom hemorrhaging continues.
But is that the only way local journalism can survive? Getting purchased by a well-meaning billionaire? There are only so many of them around and I'm not aware that any of them live in Pottstown, PA.
Although I certainly wouldn't mind if that happened to The Mercury, it's not exactly a fool-proof plan for sustaining local journalism.
Photo by Karen MaxfieldIf you're going to carry a protest sign to a corporate mogul's vacation home
in Montauk, what better place to make your point than it's iconic lighthouse
and to ponder the question, "Now What?"
But I have yet to see one that can be duplicated elsewhere.
Consider that Peter Barbey, the wealthy owner of The Reading Eagle, recently announced lay-offs in that newsroom, once considered impregnable to such things.
Locally, former Mercury publisher Joe Zlomek produces The Sanatoga Post, a digital hyper-local news site that is sustainable, but not for a large staff.
And, I don't think its giving away any secrets to point out that Joe also has a full-time job.
He has several other local sites as well and frankly I'm not quite sure when he sleeps, but as sustainable models for moderate-scale 24/7 news gathering goes, it lacks the 24/7 part.
So I hope that my fellow journalists, union members and non-union members alike, will begin to turn their considerable talents and attention to that vital question, all at the same time we are fighting for our publication's lives with owners who have no interest in keeping them alive, only in bleeding them for cash.
Otherwise, if we focus only on that fight, and we actually get what we asked for -- a sale to another owner who is not an altruistic billionaire -- we may find ourselves like Bill McKay asking "now what?"
Photos Courtesy of the Pottstown School District|
From left, Alonna Kacanda, Rashawn Ward, Morgan Gastonguay, check out some of the meadow's natural wonders as highlighted by teacher Connie Nye
Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the Pottstown School District.
Barth Elementary first graders recently took a field to, where else?
|Connie Nye and Barth first graders Deandre James, |
Zzahmyeir Reid-Anderson, Ashonti Stillman and
Ja'Nahla Wilson explore the meadow behind Barth
Thanks to a donation from Patient First, located at King Street and Shoemaker Road, Connie Nye, the creator of Sweet Water Education, was able to visit and present her program to the students.
The three-day program is called "Sweet Dream" and is looks at habitat, focused on the subject of animal habitats.
|Isaiah Moser releases dandelion seeds to the wind|
As one of the most under-funded school districts in Pennsylvania, Pottstown Schools reach out and take advantage of community partnerships to create learning opportunities for students.
Another reason to say Proud to be from Pottstown.
Photos by Evan Brandt
CHAMPIONS ALL: Undefeated 7th, 8th, 9th, 10, 11th and 12th grade Spring-Ford student athletes recognized at Tuesday night's Spring-Ford Area School Board meeting.
Spring-Ford board member Mark Dehnert cast the only vote against the proposed final $164,444,651 proposed final budget for the 2018-2019 school year Tuesday night.
Said said his vote was because "we're not addressing security in the whole district."
He was likely referring to a previous matter on which he had also disagreed with the majority of the board -- the creation of a new position, coordinator of safety and emergency preparedness.
Dehnert said the job, meant to address safety concerns in an era of school shootings, was a waste of resources and that the money should instead be spent on having armed guards in every building.
Superintendent David Goodin had explained the budget called not only for the new position -- which would include patrol as well as administrative duties, but a second employee who would "make the circuit" among the district's many school buildings.
Dehnert was unconvinced.
James Fink, CFO of the district, said the budget carries a 2.35 percent tax hike, below the maximum 2.4 percent allowed by the state-set maximum.
The new millage rate will be 26.8599 mills, which represents an increase of $61.57 for every $1,000 of assessed value.
School Board President Thomas DiBello said one of the big items this year was the new teacher contract which, Fink said, adds up to a collective 5 percent increase when raises and benefits are considered together.
The other big cost is special education, costs which the state mandates but pays only a small portion.
No member of the public spoke either for or against the budget.
The vote Tuesday night technically advertises the proposed final budget for 30 days and the board will have to vote again at the June 28 meeting to make the budget final.
Here are the Tweets from the meeting:
Champions, Budgets and School Security
Pottstown High School students in Andrew Bachman's engineering class check out the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle built by Montgomery County Community College students.
Franklin fourth grader Luke Grace with
his solar-powered car.
Photos by Evan Brandt
Despite only three hours notice, more than 200 people showed up for a Town Hall meeting about school security held Thursday at Boyertown High School.
Faced with continuing rumors about threats at Boyertown High School, the administration called a town hall meeting Thursday which, despite only three hours notice, attracted hundreds of worried parents and students.
Assistant Superintendent Marybeth Torcia made what School Board President Donna Usavage called "the command decision" to call the meeting largely "to make sure everyone has the same information" and in an attempt the stem the rumor mill rampaging on social media, texts and phone calls.
And she took her lumps, with parent after parent telling her that the district's response to a recent threat had been inadequate, particularly in the communication department.
Boyertown Police Chief Barry Leatherman addresses|
last night's meeting about what his department can and
can't do in such situations.
It began before the Memorial Day weekend on Thursday, May 24, when a
student was overheard by several others to have made a threat against ninth grade students, calling them "snitches."
Principal Brett Cooper said in the information that his team received, no specific threat was issued, and there was no mention of a gun or shooting. They deemed it to be not a viable threat after interviewing the student involved.
"At no point did anyone provide information to the administration that anyone was going to shoot the entire class," Torcia said. "What we knew was student said there were snitches and he would take care of them."
However, over the weekend, rumors of an attack spread, students expressed fear about returning to school on Tuesday and parents began comparing notes.
"We were caught off-guard by information that was going around on social media," said Torcia. "If there would have been a threat made that involved a gun, that information would have gone out that day."
|Boyertown junior Lindsey Scott told Torcia that|
it felt like the district only communicated with
students and parents because of the rumors.
Subsequent rumors about the student's girlfriend opening up a door at the high school to let him in for a June 1 ninth grade assembly finally triggered Torcia to hold the meeting in an attempt to put the matter to a rest -- a delay she said, in hindsight, was a mistake.
She said the two students involved have not been expelled, but are no longer in the district and will not be returning next year.
She and Cooper also said the student who made the threat was no under the care of a "certified counselor."
Donald Fry said the high school should have|
"Not to be mean, but these people don't trust you," said parent Jon Emeigh.
"This isn't the first time Boyertown has held back information," said another speaker.
Torcia confessed, repeatedly, that the administration had made mistakes and was learning from the meeting what parents, students and staff need in terms of information.
There was no shortage of suggestions.
Donald Fry said the school should have armed guards, dismissing concerns about cost by adding, to applause, "come one, the price of a bullet is 26 cents, and how to you compare that to the price of a life?"
But parent Stephanie Dietrich and Emeigh warned overreacting.
|Colebrookdale Police Sgt. Amy Babb listens to a speaker.|
Noting that she has a "law enforcement background" and has interviewed shooters, Deitrich said metal detectors and an enhanced police presence will not stop a determined shooter.
"If they are bound and determined to kill you, they don't care if the whole SWAT team is in front of them," she said.
Emeigh said while he favors armed guards "I don't favor turning the school into a fortress." He said it may make students feel safe at first, but that studies have show it ultimately increases their stress level and is detrimental to education."
But parent Joe Fava said he had been able to enter the ninth grade section of the
This speaker said she is a survivor of a school
shooting at Upper Perkiomen High School.
"I don't want anyone else to go through what I did."
"You have a problem," he said, calling for an expert to help make the district's new security plan. "I trust you to educate my kids, not to secure them.
But Torcia said the district had engaged an expert, a former employee of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, who had helped craft the plan which, she said, will be put into place in three phases.
She said on Tuesday, the school board approved spending more than $300,000 on the plan, which includes "physical plant upgrades" like cameras and other items she did not think it prudent to detail.
Torcia also said the doors at the high school will be fitted with alarms, to prevent students opening them at inappropriate times to let people into the building.
There will also be education for students and staff about a new reporting matrix, and better education, she said.
Here are the Tweets from the meeting:
School Security in Boyertown
It was just two weeks ago or so, that Pottstown community leaders were scoffing at the idea of a "YMCA without walls."
That was the drab alternative executives at the Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA were peddling to compensate Pottstown for the planned closure of the Pottstown branch on North Adams Street at the end of June.
Well as most of you know, that story had a happy ending when local businessman Charles Gulati agreed to buy the building and lease much of the space to the Y so it could remain.
(See Sunday's edition for an interview with Gulati about his plans and motivations.)
Now the executives at Digital First Media, which owns The Mercury and is itself owned by Alden Global Capital, a New York City based hedge fund now weathering world-wide condemnation for its unrelenting strangulation of the majority of the nation's newspapers, will give you "the newspaper without walls."
It was announced to a handful of the remaining employees at The Mercury Friday that "to save on overhead," the landmark home of the newspaper for more than 80 years will be shuttered.
The paper will continue to publish and be delivered to your door as well as maintain its irksome web site.
Office operations will be moved to Digital First Media's printing plant in Exton, where the remaining staff of our sister paper, The Daily Local News -- or at least those who don't work at home -- also work since the closing of their office in West Chester.
The Mercury building is an old one and, since our excellent maintenance man Bob Morris was down-sized, its problems have multiplied.
Some of you may have seen in a recent story in The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, detailing some of those problems. The most severe of these is a severely leaking roof.
Saving on overhead at The Mercury building will
help DFM President Heath Freeman's expand
his already expansive vacation home in Montauk, N.Y.
And let's not forget using those profits -- as high as 30 percent among the newspapers it owns around Philadelphia -- to pay for lavish homes like nine, yes count them NINE mansions in Palm Beach for fund founder Randall Smith and a growing vacation manse in The Hamptons for DFM President Heath Freeman.
Your friendly neighborhood Pottstown reporter
takes his message to the boss in The Hamptons.
So after The Newspaper Guild union, which represents some of the employees at The Mercury (including myself) complained about the mold conditions in the building, the owners pledged to fix the roof.
Which, to their credit, they are doing.
But the beneficiaries of that repair will be the new occupants, if they can find a buyer or tenants, not the employees who have worked beneath that roof for decades.
This is nothing new. As our co-publisher Ed Condra told us, "unfortunately, we've become very good at this."
Image courtesy of Darren CarrollHeath Freeman
What he means is Pottstown is not the first of Digital First Media's newspaper properties to abandon the downtowns they once helped to anchor.
Locally, The Times-Herald building in Norristown has been closed for nearly two years and was almost sold to become an auto parts store until the deal fell through.
In Delaware County, the building once occupied by the Delaware County Daily Times was sold and they were moved into a former CVS.
The Main Line Times building in Ardmore was demolished several years ago and in West Chester, the Daily Local News building was closed and that property will become upscale apartments, we're told. The staff there was given the choice to work from home or work at the plant in Exton which prints all of the Philadelphia-area papers.
|The current air conditioning system in my attic office.|
For my part, I intend to stay right here in Pottstown and work from my home office in the attic, although I think it's finally time to invest in an air conditioner for up there.
So understand what this means dear reader.
The closure of the building does not mean The Mercury is going away -- yet.
It will continue to publish every day with the same local content you have always enjoyed.
What's changed is that the building itself will be shuttered, sold or leased.
Lost will be the personal connection the staff had with the community, except for the lucky few like me whose job is to make connections with the community.
Dave Levengood, who works in
is also the president
Newspaper Guild Local.
Also lost will be the economic impact the 30-or-so workers had on Pottstown and the surrounding region.
Gained, will be more cash for Randall Smith and Heath Freeman, given that at the most recent negotiation session, the lawyer for DFM said there was no intention of offering any kind of raise for Guild employees out of that 30 percent profit margin.
But while it does not signal the immediate death of the paper, don't be fooled. It is just a step closer to closure on the path Alden has chosen and the paper will only last so long as it is producing enough cash for Smith and Freeman to siphon off.
After that, all bets are off and The Mercury will either become a memory, or be purchased by someone with enough money who wants to try to revive it; or reborn as some flavor of digital news source, hopefully to continue the vital public mission journalism undertakes every day to engender an informed citizenry.
That has happened elsewhere, in Minneapolis and in Pittsfield, Mass. But it is far from a sure thing.
Only one thing is sure, come July 1, 86 years of history goes out the window and Pottstown's hometown newspaper will be "The Mercury without walls."
Last night's Limerick Supervisors meeting had everything you expect from a local government meeting.
We began by honoring emergency medical personnel; then honored a graduating Spring-Ford High School senior who earned his Eagle rank as a Scout and will be joining the Marines; followed by a major discussion about a giant development project in the middle of town, and wrapped it up with news about the purchase of a historic toll house at a Schuylkill River crossing that will give the township access to 18 acres of parkland.
Limerick Supervisors Chairwoman Elaine DeWan, left,
congratulates Jackson Dukes on earning the rank of Eagle.
You won't read about any of that stuff in the Philadelphia Inquirer or PATCH (at least until we report it).
So the scout's name is Jackson Dukes and he is part of Crew 623 that meets at the Crossland Church. In addition to leading the meeting in the Pledge of Allegiance, Dukes was also recognized by an official township resolution.
Also on the brighter side of last night's meeting was the news that in the wake of the township's $225,000 purchase last month of the historic 169-year-old toll house at 1310 Main St. in Linfield, township crews have begun clearing out the property and making it safe for its vehicles.
Limerick Township crews have since cleared
some of the closer vegetation from the house.
In addition to its historic value, the house, provide access to 18 acres of parkland the township already owns along the Schuylkill. Soon the public will have access to that land, said Township Manager Dan Kerr.
There are no specific plans for the structure, but Kerr said he would first like to discuss the matter with the Limerick Historical Society to see if they have any interest.
All of this is well and good, but perhaps the matter discussed that has the greatest potential to have impact on the larger township occupied center stage for much of the evening.
Ridge Swamp Associates L.L.P has proposed a major project at one of the busiest intersections of the township -- Ridge Pike and Swamp Pike.
Located on just over 30 acres, the plan calls for a senior housing building housing 308 units, comprised of a mixture of independent living, assisted living and "memory care" units.
Additionally, although 186 townhouse units of three-or-more bedrooms had initially been planned, engineering requirements reduced that number to 160, the minimum number the developers say are needed to make the project financially feasible.
|This map shows the full scope of the project.|
The project has already received conditional use and zoning approval, but has yet to receive a recommendation for preliminary site plan approval from the planning commission.
The business of last night's meeting was a number of changes being sought by the developers. They primarily had to do with landscape buffers, with width of roads and other details.
Their greatest concern was that some of the landscape buffers required by the township ordinances would force the reduction of the number of townhouses which would make the project unsustainable financially.
They before the supervisors seeking "guidance," Brant said.
What they finally got from the supervisors was unofficial support for four or five of the six changes they were seeking, but not without some grousing and at the end of the discussion, Brant quipped "I know when it's time to leave."
Here are the Tweets from the meeting:
Scouts, Developments and Toll Houses
Photos by Evan Brandt
Although four people applied to be appointed to the Fourth Ward seat vacated last week by Dennis Arms, only two of them accepted council's invitation to appear at Wednesday's work session and introduce themselves.
Trenita Lindsay of Oak Street and Philip Smock of North Hanover Street both attended Wednesday's meeting and spoke up for why they would make a good Fourth Ward Councilperson.
Councilman Joe Kirkland offered the only question to the candidates; a question that got to the heart of the matter -- How would they deal with voting for something they know is good for the borough, but is unpopular?
Both offered a similar answer, but used different language.
Smock, who works for Vanguard and said he would bring financial expertise to the post, said he would try to educate the public about why its a good thing.
The vote on which of the four candidates will be chosen -- the other two are Angela Kearney and Ken Supinski Jr. -- will occur at Monday's council meeting.
In other news, and there was quite a bit of "other news," the meeting was surprisingly newsy.
Among the news items was a letter from Phillies fire Company President Charles Pierce thanking council for supporting Fire Chief Michael Lessar Jr.'s volunteer incentive, but saying the money would be better spent on increasing the allocation to the four fire companies.
A public hearing cleared the way for an increase in fares on the Pottstown Arera Rapid Transit bus system. I don't have all the figures, but I can tell you the adult fare for a ride is increasing from $2 to $2.25.
Depending on Monday's vote, this long-vacant building
may soon be home to 27 market-range apartments.
The Hanover Square Warehouse project, or the shirt factory, or whatever you want to call the brick building at the intersection of Cherry and South charlotte streets, seems poised for approval.
To their credit, the planning commission stepped up after failing to muster a quorum for the final meeting with the developers and held a special meeting on May 31. There they recommended preliminary and final site plan approval for a project everyone seems to want accomplished.
That saved the developers, who are running out of time on a historic architecture tax credit, a month of building season and puts the matter on the agenda for a final vote on Monday.
|You may see one of these soon in Maple Street Park.|
Greater Pottstown Tennis and Learning surprised council a bit with the news that the second phase of the their court rehabilitation project in the Maple Street Park may include an inflatable enclosure to allow tennis to go on all year and make the project financially self-sustaining.
Council will vote Monday on a request to waive the land development process for the project which will, in the first phase, rehabilitate two existing courts, add a third and install a modular classroom adjacent to the courts.
But in keeping with the unprofessional tendency of this blog to save the best for last, Monday's meeting will include a vote that could revolutionize parking downtown.
Some may recall that in January that council considered voting on some of the parking rules for High Street and the borough lots but held off while the staff explored more about the ParkMobile phone app that may be the new way we pay for parking.
|The parking drop box at the Trinity Lot on King Street.|
That exploration done, Interim Borough Manager Justin Keller outlined last night that parking is about to get more expensive. While you can now park for free for three hours in the down section of High Street, that will be reduced to one hour under this proposal.
The idea, he said, is to drive more turnover with parking as many business owners take up their own parking by staying in one spot for three hours or more.
The pay kiosks and drop boxes in borough parking lots will stay for the foreseeable future.
Further, the use of the phone app, or phoning in to pay by credit card, will carry a 35 cent charge. Keller said the borough is trying to negotiate that fee, charged by the credit card companies, down somewhat.
The hourly fee in for parking in borough lots is currently 35 cents per hour. Keller said that will be increased to 50 cents. Add on the service charge and parking has just jumped from 35 cents to 85 cents per hour.
That's a 143 percent increase for customers and, thanks to the wonders of technology, no increase in borough costs.
I'll just let that sink in for a moment.
By the way, did I mention that public comment will be taken on this plan and anything else that strikes your fancy, at Monday's meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in the third floor council room of borough hall?
And with that, here are the Tweets from the meeting ...
Approvals, Rejections, Vacancies and Parking, Always With the Parking
Photos by Evan Brandt
A near-capacity crowd showed up at Earl Elementary School Thursday for the public hearing on the proposed expansion of the Rolling Hills Landfill.
Of the 18 people who spoke at Thursday night's public hearing on the proposed vertical expansion of the Rolling Hills Landfill in Earl Township, only five spoke either in favor of the proposal, or defended the landfill's operations.
Most who spoke talked about the negative impact years of heavy truck traffic have had on downtown Boyertown's historic buildings, and its current efforts to revitalize the downtown by emphasizing its historic aspects and its walkability.
Berks County Commissioner Mark Scott came out swinging, arguing that
He told DEP officials, "I suggest you reject the plan until such time as consent is obtained from the Berks County Commissioners," adding with a look at the audience, "don't hold your breath."
He said the "hams/benefits" analysis by Delaware County Solid Waste Authority, which owns and operates the landfill is a "status quo" analysis which assumes nothing has changed since its last expansion "but that's false. The Boyertown community is far more vibrant than the last time harms and benefits were evaluated."
He notes that the analysis by the authority only looks at Earl Township. "Nothing is said about Boyertown and its long trevails with excess traffic. Nothing," said Scott. "It also fails to mention traffic impacts on Gilbertsville, Colebrookdale or Boyertown along Route 73."
He noted that the Rolling Hills Landfill does not pay property taxes, wile the privately owned Conestoga Landfill, which is about the same size, "pays about $250,000 to the Twin Valley School District, the county and the township."
He said the $60 million Earl has collected in tipping fees -- which makes township property taxes unnecessary -- "is supposed to be a public benefit. I ask you, how does stuffing more cash into Earl Township's bloated mattress benefit the impacted area?"
group received a $1 million grant in December to drive revitalization efforts based on historic tourism and a walkable downtown, and what former BBB President Jake Lea referred to as "the endless caravan of trucks" down East Philadelphia Avenue threatens that effort.
John Sartor, an engineer with Gilmore Associates, said a study by his firm also found that the vibrations from trucks can damage "fragile historic structures."
That study, and one by ClimeCo, was paid for by Building a Better Boyertown. Zachary Palm, from ClimeCo, said his firm's environmental study showed air quality in downtown Boyertown is harmed by the particulate matter the ash that escapes from the trucks on their way to the landfill.
Crystal Seitz, executive director of Pennsylvania's Americana Region, said feeling safe while walking through downtown Boyertown, being able to have outdoor dining, are crucial to Boyertown's revitalization effort.
Boyertown Borough Manager Patricia Loder said a recent analysis found that 30 percent of the truck traffic through Boyertown is connected to the landfill.
She said if the trucks cannot be re-routed, and an option of shipping the ash by rail won't work, the borough would request a "traffic mitigation fee" based on the tons of ash hauled through the borough.
That money could pay for new traffic signals and a new parking garage to make up for parking lost should parking on East Philadelphia Avenue be reduced to one side to accommodate the trucks.
Most said the preferred solution was to re-route the trucks from downtown Boyertown.
Joe Paschall, who said the landfill provides many benefits, including jobs and $60 million in tipping fees to Earl Township -- and who said "you can't blame the landfill for all the truck traffic through Boyertown" -- said he likes the idea of transporting the remains of the waste burned in Delaware County's Chester incinerator by rail.
And Nathaniel Guest, the executive director of the Colebrookdale Railroad Preservation Trust, said a recent study showed the rail option is viable, although it would take investment in a new transfer station, for trucks to take the ash for the final few miles to the landfill, as well as a shoring up of some of its bridges to carry the weight.
Joseph Vasturia, CEO of the Delware County Solid Waste Authority, said he has
been with the organization since the 1980s and that the route the trucks take to the landfill is dictated by the DEP permit.
In the last year, the landfill has contributed more than $4.5 million to the county, the state and Earl Township.
Under the expansion request, the average daily tonnage will remain at 3,200 tons and the height of the landfill will not exceed 884 feet.
But it's already too high, said Oley Township Supervisor James Coker. All of Oley township is designated an historic place, and it has had to endure the landfill's assault on its aesthetics "with no benefit whatsoever" to his township.
The hearing broke up after 90 minutes and the comments made, as well as those submitted to DEP by Friday, June 15, will be part of the record and be considered in DEP's decision.
Here are the Tweets from the hearing.
To Keep on Trucking, Or Not
Photo by Matthew Wright
Nineteen area high school students received their diplomas through Montgomery County Community College’s award-winning Gateway to College program.
Blogger's Note:The following was provided by Montgomery County Community College
During this time of year, many high school seniors and their families are attending graduation ceremonies and celebrating the accomplishment of this education milestone. At Montgomery County Community College, 19 high school students recently received their high school diplomas, too, through the Gateway to College program.
Since MCCC launched the program in 2013 at its campuses in Blue Bell and Pottstown, 135 students have earned their high school diplomas. Because of its success, the Gateway program at MCCC is one of 10 community college programs nationwide to be named a finalist for the prestigious 2018 Bellwether Award in the Instructional Programs & Services Category.
“Only 30 schools in the nation are named as finalists, and Montgomery County Community College was recognized for this program. This is the premier Gateway to College program in the country,” said MCCC President Kevin Pollock.
“When we talk about student success, we’re talking about you,” he told the graduates. “You should be proud of what you accomplished because it is remarkable.”
The graduates are Giana Berrios, Upper Perkiomen School District; James Breinig, Jenkintown School District; Dominick Clark, Cheltenham School District; Camiyyah Cousins, Pottsgrove School District; Samantha DeJoseph, Boyertown Area School District; Aspen Fiorentino-Alberto, Upper Merion School District; Janeth Galeana-Bruno and Tierra Green, Wissahickon School District; Kristian Heard and Dennis Knox, Pottsgrove School District; Stephanie Marburger, Commonwealth Diploma; Zachary Myers, Phoenixville; Aliyah Rocco, Wissahickon; John Everett Seavy, Souderton School District; Nathan Schultz, Phoenixville School District; Toné Thompson, Wissahickon; Carlos Vieyra, Upper Moreland School District; Karl Vondra and Jada Young, Upper Merion.
“It’s not going to get easier; it will be harder,” Gateway Director Keima Sheriff told the graduates as they received their diplomas. “But, you have the tools you need and the support system. Most importantly, you believe in yourselves now, and that’s what you need to keep going.”
Thirteen graduates will continue their education at MCCC in the fall. The other graduates will be entering the workforce or continuing their education at another institution.
MCCC collaborates with 18 school districts, who refer students to the program. Additionally, partners Waste Management, PECO, Wells Fargo, Univest, TD Bank, the Kahn family, Maguire Foundation, Malik family, Ambler Savings, Thompkins VIST Bank, First Priority Bank and the Gateway to College National Network have provided financial support for the program and student scholarships.
“I believe the true success of the program is the tireless dedication of the entire Gateway team, and I cannot thank them enough for their work in supporting our students,” said Sheriff. “We work together to make the goal of student completion the primary focus of the program.”
The team includes Dean of Student Affairs Dr. Nicole Henderson, Program Director Keima Sheriff, Resource Specialist Jezerey Weiderman, Resource Specialist Esau Collins, Administrator Michelle Kulla, English Assistant Professor Diane McDonald, Reading Senior Lecturer Karen Harding-Tasca, Math Senior Lecturer Tracy Halsey and Math Senior Lecturer Donald Slaughter.
Pottstown will host an e-waste recycling program for borough residents on Saturday, June 16 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Reading parking lot off South Hanover Street.
The following items will be accepted for recycling:
There is no fee for most electronics, but there is one for televisions
Here is a list of things that will NOT be accepted:
Questions should be addressed to the Pottstown Licensing and Inspections Department at 610-970-6520.
Blogger's Note: The following was provided by Pottsgrove Manor
Discover the trades and skills of 18th century men and gentlemen at Pottsgrove Manor on Saturday, June 16th, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Celebrate the history of fatherhood at Pottsgrove Manor and learn about our colonial ancestors and the skills needed by men in the 18th century.
Tours of the manor will also be available throughout the day.
Tours last between 45 to 60 minutes. The museum shop will also be open, full of unique reproduction items, books, and toys for all to enjoy. Find pint glasses, history books, tavern puzzles, and more to make your Father’s Day gift truly historic.
This program welcomes all ages and is rain or shine. There is a suggested $2 donation for the event.
Pottsgrove Manor is located at 100 West King Street near the intersection of King Street and Route 100, just off Route 422 near the Carousel at Pottsgrove and Manatawny Green Miniature Golf Course, in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Pottsgrove Manor is operated by the Montgomery County Division of Parks, Trails, and Historic Sites.
For more information, please call 610-326-4014, or visit the website at www.montcopa.org/pottsgrovemanor. Like Pottsgrove Manor on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pottsgrovemanor.
It was hard to take a breath at last night's borough council meeting without someone getting appointed to some board of commission.
Trenita Lindsay is Pottstown Council's
The vote was not unanimous.
Councilman Ryan Procsal said while he thought Lindsay was a fine candidate, that the financial background of Philip Smock -- the other applicant who showed up at last week's council meeting to be interviewed -- might better the serve the borough as it tries to figure out how to deal with the spiraling property assessment challenges eroding the tax base -- and Pottstown's primary revenue stream.
He and Weand voted against Lindsay's appointment, which was made by Councilman Joe Kirkland and seconded by Councilwoman Rita Paez.
The next appointment was to the single vacancy on the newly formed Land Bank Board.
In April, when the rest of the appointments were made, the board had voted unanimously to reject the appointment of Twila Fisher to the the Land Bank board.
The director of economic development for The Hill School who head's up the schools Hobart's Run initiative, Fisher was among those consulted on the formation of the board.
However, twice former council member Sheryl Miller, who was also involved in the formation of the board, spoke out against Fisher's appointment, saying it is a conflict of interest for Fisher to serve because Hobart's Run is involved in the purchase and renovation of property, the Land Bank could be used for its benefit.
However Councilman Ryan Procsal said he had spoken with Fisher and was convinced it would not be a problem. Council President Dan Weand noted she had served on a previous land bank board in Berks County.
The 4-2 vote to appoint here came only after Councilman Joe Kirkland had proposed the appointment of Madison Morton to the board, a motion that was defeated by the same 4-2 vote margin.
Then it was time to decide on two open seats on the board of the Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority.
The board followed the request of Executive Director Sheila Dugan and appointed Pamela Gormesh to one of the seats. Gormesh had been previously interviewed by the board and recommended for appointment.
Three others applied for the second seat -- Gabrielle Davidheiser -- who also has already been interviewed, and Thomas Hylton and Steve Everett, who have not been interviewed.
That vote will occur in July.
Next, we move on to the planning commission where two applicants -- Hylton and Andrew Monastra -- were up for consideration for a single vacancy.
Procsal said he knew the planning commission members, and several members of council, were leaning toward Monastra for the appointment. But he noted that Monastra is already serving on the Land Bank Board and the Historic Architecture Review Board.
He also noted that Hylton came to last night's meeting to speak, reminding council that he had previously served for 12 years, many as chairman, and that he and Solicitor Charles D. Garner Jr. had penned the borough's zoning ordinance which "favors traditional towns."
Only Councilwoman Rita Paez ended up voting against Hylton's appointment. But the choice may have been moot. After borough council went into an executive session, Deb Penrod, planning commission chairperson, said she had that night submitted her resignation.
Penrod, who is on the Land Bank board as well as the Pottstown Regional Public Library Board of Trustees, said she has too many responsibilities and does not know as much about planning as Hylton and suggested Monastra would work well with Hylton.
When council came out of that executive session it laid the groundwork for one more appointment.
Council voted to change the provision of the borough manager's ordinance that requires the manager to live in the borough, leaving the matter "the discretion of council," as Garner described it.
Council also voted to extend Interim Borough Manager Justin Keller's contract, which expires at the end of the month, by another 30 days.
Expect to see Keller provided with a full contract to borough manager at the July meeting.
In non-appointment matters, council adopted the changes to the downtown parking scheme, introducing paying by smart phone.
The changes will also increase rates from 35 cents per hour to $50 cents per hour. However, Keller reported that the staff hopes to route payments through its own credit card processor, thus eliminating the potential for additional parking charges between five and 35 cents per transaction.
Also approved was the Hanover Square project that will convert the long-vacant former shirt factory at Cherry and South Charlotte streets into 27 market-rate apartments. (Yay!)
Council also approved a waiver of the land development ordinance for the first phase of a project at Maple Street Park that will rehabilitate the two tennis courts there, add a third and put up a new fence, stoage shed and modular classroom.
A second phase, which would encase the courts in an inflatable structure, cannot proceed without council approval.
Also approved were the changes Fire Chief Michael Lessar Jr. suggested to the fire code, absent the more strict requirements for sprinkler systems that had raised concerns of slowing rehabilitation of older downtown buildings and which council had removed from consideration.
And last, but definitely not least, council agreed unanimously to send a letter to this reporter's employer -- Digital First Media -- opposing the decision to close The Mercury building, which has stood at the corner of King and North Hanover Streets, since the 1920s.
The Mercury will continue to publish, but yours truly will likely be working from home, like so many other Digital First journalists must these days.
To learn more about why, read this and this.
Here are the Tweets from the meeting:
Appointments Galore in Pottstown
It's hard to keep track of all the major issues with which the Boyertown School Board dealt last night, but nearly all of them had one thing in common -- spending public money.
Let's take a survey of all the issues on which they voted:
Let's walk through them one by one, starting with the big one -- the budget.
Surprisingly, there was less board comment on spending $118,669,893, then there was about lowering the activity fee from $200 to $100 -- with a $300 cap per family instead of $400 -- a teacher contract that will cost an additional $1.2 million; or even spending $6,000 more on public relations.
It will raise the millage by 1.35 mills and taxes by $136 for owners of a property assessed at $100,000.
What comment there was on the budget came from board member Clay Breece who, as he has done before, referring to public schools as "a government monopoly."
"The plan of some board directors is to simply raise taxes," said Breece, arguing the board had not done enough work on the budget to reduce costs.
I think that's everything. I have faith if I've missed something, you folks will let me know. Otherwise, here are the Tweets from the meeting:
All About the Money in Boyertown School District
Blogger's Note:The following was provided by The Hill School.
The Hill School will host two major athletic events over Friday, Saturday and Sunday which could cause increased traffic and parking scarcity in the area around the campus, the school announced Wednesday.
The events are expected to bring a large number of visitors and consumers to town from other cities and states, according to school spokesperson Cathy Skitko.
The Big 4 Lacrosse Tournament will be utilizing The Hill School Far Fields Friday from 5 to 8 p.m., Saturday from 8 to 5:30 p.m., and Sunday from 8:50 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Crossover Hoops will be conducting a basketball camp in Hill’s Field House Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. to about 6 p.m.
To address issues related to parking, informational flyers are being distributed to homes located on streets adjacent to Hill’s campus; the flyers include phone numbers that residents may call with concerns should they arise.
Hill personnel have been in communication with the borough police department, and two patrolmen will assist with traffic and parking issues so that the event is as welcoming and well-coordinated as possible.
Parking will be available at Hill’s athletics fields; the grass lot at the corner of Beech and Edgewood streets; and the former Edgewood Elementary School lot.
In addition, the Olivet Boys’ and Girls’ Club/Ricketts Center have approved use of their parking lot.
Downtown Pottstown restaurants (including Sunnybrook) have been notified about this event so that they are aware of a potential increase in customers.
At the school board's Facilities/Finance committee meeting Thursday night -- a cacophonous affair if ever I covered one -- the message was pretty simple.
Nothing has changed.
Business Manager Maureen Jampo told the committee members that revenues from the previous year remained flat -- due largely to challenges to property assessments which reduced revenues -- while expenses had gone up due primarily to the increase in teacher salaries and increased pension costs.
Use of reserve funds set aside for the pension hikes covered about $432,000 of the $1.4 million budget gap for the coming year. The other $1 million will be covered by the 3.5 percent tax hike called for in the budget.
(In fact, had Pottstown Hospital not been pulled from the tax rolls as a result of being sold to Tower Health, the school budget would be balanced for the coming year except for $36,000.)
Instread, the need to make up the $1 million shortfall hike will add $98.56 to the annual tax bill for a home assessed at $78,890, the borough median.
School Board member John Armato pointed out that during the previous three years, when no tax hike was imposed, property owners experienced more than $1,600 in savings from the homestead tax break, "much less than the increase they will see this year."
At his prompting, Jampo also agreed with his assessment that the only way to achieve a fourth year with no tax hike would be to "cut a whole lot of programs that people do not want to see cut."
As evidence that the district is doing everything it can to cut costs, Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez said the decision on outsourcing transportation department will become final on June 18, producing an expected savings of $78,000.
But, as Rodriguez said Jampo outlined to him, "one student who needs special transportation will eat that in a few months."
Aramto confirmed that the district has one bus run, for two students, that costs the district $98,000 a year.
Despite the budget constrictions, Rodriguez confirmed that the dean of students, security guard and mental health professional provided in partnership with Creative Health would remain at Pottstown Middle School where bullying and violence problems have recently made headlines.
The school board will meet next week to finalize the budget picture, but given that next week does not leave enough time to publish any changes to the budget, you can rest assured that the tax hike will likely remain at 3.5 percent.
The finance committee also engaged in some brainstorming about coming problems, including the pending collapse of the 40-year-old heating system at the administration building and over-crowding at the middle school.
Rodriguez said the issues on the table "have many moving parts," with each potential solution or change incurring costs and setting off a ripple of secondary effects that have to be considered.
None of the things discussed in the Tweets below, he said, are even close to a decision point and none would be implemented in the coming school year.
The committee then adjourned to allow the policy committee to begin discussions of the dress code that must be implemented in the wake of the board decision to do away with school uniforms.
But you must excuse me, dear reader. Having lived through those first initial discussions when the uniforms were implemented, I did not have the core strength to sit through another.
Rest assured, once the board settles on a new dress code, it will be conveyed to you either here or in the pages of The Mercury. But have mercy and spare me the reporting of yet another discussion of what students should wear to school.
So with that, here are the Tweets from last night's meeting:
Show Me the Money
|The cast house at Hopewell Furnace.|
Blogger's Note:The following was provided by Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site
This years year marks the 80th year of Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site as a unit of the National Park Service.
|Stoking the furnace at Hopewell.|
A wide variety of programs are offered this summer: molding and casting demonstrations on weekends, exploring the goods for sale in the Village Store, hikes and walks to lesser known areas of Hopewell Furnace, evening programs on Fridays at French Creek State Park amphitheater, cast iron cooking demonstrations, charcoal making, fiber arts, autumn apple picking and much more. Special events include our annual Independence Day commemoration, StarFest (Aug. 11) and Life on the Civil War Homefront (Sept. 15 and 16).
All activities are free and will be posted on the web events calendar for Hopewell Furnace: https://www.nps.gov/hofu/planyourvisit/calendar.htm.
|From left, First Presbyterian Co-Pastor Kerry Pidcock-Lester, Kendyll King, Isiah Perez and former Barth teacher Sharon Holloway|
Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the Pottstown School District
At Barth Elementary School they practice the intent of the John Lennon song "All We Are Saying Is Give Peace A Chance."
Sunday marked the day a grateful daughter held the first Father's Day celebration at a YMCA in Spokane, Washington 108 long years ago.
Sonora Smart Dodd wanted to honor of her father, Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, a single parent who raised his six children. And so we have Father's Day.
For them, it's routine, and they drill for it three times a year.
They drill like they would for a fire which, Lower Pottsgrove Police Chief Mike Foltz sadly noted, is now statistically less likely than an armed intruder shooting them in school.
I have not been to the Upper Pottsgrove Township Commissioners in several months, mostly because their agendas look like nothing is going on and others seemed more newsworthy.
But I evidently missed something at the May 21 meeting because for what may be the first time in more than 30 years of community journalism, Monday night's meeting saw a disagreement about adopting the minutes of that meeting.
Commissioners Elwood Taylor, Martin Schreiber and France Krazalkovich went back and forth about how much of any of their comments were included in the draft minutes of the May 21 that were presented last night for approval.
Schreiber and Taylor voted against their approval.Copmpany
I did not understand everything that was talked about and the commissioners went into executive session immediately after the meeting, so I could not delve further.
What I did determine is that at some point, a vote was taken to have the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development undertake a study of the township fire company's effectiveness.
What was also evident was that a motion was made to have a "letter of no confidence" in the leadership of the fire company drafted.
What I don't know, other than the decision months ago by the board not to move forward with the purchase of a new fire truck, is what the hell this is all about.
But I will.
And when I do, you will too.
In the meantime, say farewell to Police Officer Steve Sigoda next time you see him. After 30 years with the township, he has announced his retirement.
The board will vote at the July 16 meeting whether to replace him, as Chief Fran Wheatley has requested.
Here are the Tweets from the meeting:
Is Something Go0ing on With the Fire Company?