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All the news that doesn't fit in print
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    Photos by Evan Brandt
    The lifespan of the invasive spotted lanternfly is laid out on a slide from last night's presentation on how bad the problem is and how to combat the pest.
    The map on the left shows the first five Berks County
    townships where quarantine efforts began. At right is the
    counties where a quarantine is now in place.




    The fight against a pervasive alien insect was laid out in stark terms last night, as well as strategies for fighting them.

    First spotted in western Berks County in 2014, authorities have worked to contain the invasion of the spotted lanternfly, an insect native to China and Vietnam, but apparently jumped the Pacific on a pallet of stone delivered to Berks county at some point.

    Since its arrival, it has spread from one to 13 counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania and is making inroads into Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.

    But things could be worse, said Evan Corondi, an insect expert with the Berks County Conservation District who gave a presentation on the invader at Pottstown Borough Hall Thursday night.

    The cluster of red dots show the only places in the state
    where spotted lanternfly have been found.
    In four years, it has spread to only seven additional counties. When the spotted lanternfly arrived in Korea, it had spread across the entire country in three years, he said.

    "So I know it can seem like the effort's not worth it. But it's working. The things we're doing to control it are working," he said to the group of about 90 people who all expressed exasperation with their efforts to eradicate the pest.

    One woman, who said she is having eight tree of heaven trees in her yard taken down next week, said the stink from the insects excrement is terrible. "We haven't used my back yard all summer. It smells like a urinal."

    The "tree of heaven," which scientists call ailanthus altissima, is itself an invasive  species, which is very hard to kill. It also is from Asia and is the spotted lanternfly's favorite food, although the bug is quickly developing a taste for native North American trees, including fruit trees, valuable hardwoods and grapevines.
    This photo shows a backyard tree, at right, covered with
    adult spotted lanternfly. At left, the bottom step has been
    power-washed, while the ones above remain coated with
    the "sooty mold" they excrete.

    When they feed, the lanternfly harms trees in two ways. The first is when it pierces the bark to feed on the nutrients in the layer beneath, robbing the tree of nutrients as well as leaving a hole for other insects or disease access to the tree's interior.

    The second way is what the insect excretes. Called "honeydew," it is sweet and stickly, but which turns black into what Corondi called "sooty mold," which coats leaves and impedes photosynthesis, as well as emitting the odor referred to above.

    Here is video of spotted lanterfly on grape vines, excreting the "honeydew" that can impede photosynthesis:



    Egg mass.
    The spotted lanternfly has five stages of life, beginning with the gray egg masses, which look like a mass of mud, usually vertically oriented on trees, rocks or even the siding of your house.

    The adults are current mating and laying those eggs. Each egg mass contains between 30 to 50 eggs.

    They can be hard to spot because when fresh, they are a gray mass, usually laid on an equally gray surface and, as they dry out, turn a dull gray," said Corondi.

    Although he said "now is a perfect time to kill the adults," as they are just starting to lay eggs and fewer adults means fewer egg masses.

    However, in a few weeks, the masses will mostly be laid and efforts to combat the pest should turn to scraping them off any surface they are seen.

    A credit card works best and experts advise having some kind of container or plastic bad to scrape the egg mass into. Once contained, rubbing alcohol will kill the eggs.

    An alternative is to crush them," said Corondi, an exercise he admitted he finds particularly satisfying. "They make this kind of popping sound," he said with a smile.

    Here is some video of Corondi talking about ways to control the spotted lanternfly, including proper egg-scraping technique:



    This exhibit 
    shows the spotted lanternfly life cycle.
    As the temperature drops, the adults get more lethargic and are easier to kill, but the first or second frost will kill them anyway.

    Sadly, the cold does not kill the eggs, which will be mostly laid by late November and will hatch in the spring into small nymphs about the size of a tick.

    They grow to about the size of a dime and take on the striking red and black coloring with white spots.

    In this state, the lanternfly is actually susceptible to being sprayed with soapy water as the film from the soap can keep the bugs from breathing through their skin. But once they grow wings, this method seems to work less well.

    "I've killed hundreds of them with a plan old flyswatter," bragged one member of the audience.

    Spotted lanternfly do not pose a risk to human health, but can affect forest hardwood products worth $16.7 billion in in Pennsylvania. 

    They like oak, maple and walnut and also affect apple and peach trees, an industry worth more than $119 million. In particular they pose a risk to Pennsylvania's $944 million nursery and landscape industry.
    Here is some video of Corondi offering some general information about the spotted lanternfly invasion:



    Several kinds of tape, including duct tape with the sticky side facing out, can capture spotted lanternfly at different times of the year because as it turns out, although they are called fly, "they're not very good flyers," said Corondi.
    Early stages are most susceptible to being caught on taped trees.

    They belong to a group of insects called "leaf hoppers" and spread by climbing tall trees or tall buildings and then leap into the wind to travel a long distance.

    Of course they travel the longest distances by hitching rides on our cars, trains and freighters.

    A variety of chemical weapons can be used. Several pesticides work, providing you can get close enough to use them.

    But one ingenious strategy Corondi outlined is to use one invasive against the other.

    A pesticide method calls "systemics" has the lanternfly warrior use a downward stroke to cut some holes in a tree infested with lanternfly and into these holes apply specific pesticides designed for this function.

    The tree with take up the pesticide, which the lanternfly will ingest as it feeds on the tree.

    Here is video of Corodni talking about how controlling the Tree of Heaven can also help to control and contain the invasive spotted lanternfly:



    Corondi with a tree of heaven branch he displayed to familiarize
    the audience with the species.
    As Corondi said in the video, eliminating all but one or two tree of heaven in a wooded area will
    force the lanternfly to focus on the remaining trees.

    Using the systemic method then allows you to poison many more lanternfly with less poison, as well as eliminating more of the invasive trees.

    Unfortunately, because the trees are going dormant for the winter, this kind of assault must wait for spring.

    It's a lot of information to absorb at once. But if you need more, Corondi recommended this link to Penn State Extension's page on the subject.

    And here are the Tweets from last night's presentation:



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    Photos Courtesy of Pottstown School District
    The Pottstown Trojan Cheerleading Squad




    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the Pottstown School District.
    Jailym Davis


    Congratulations to the Pottstown High School Varsity Cheer Squad and Coach Megan Miller for showing their Trojan Pride at the Pine Forest Cheerleading Camp. 

    The girls worked very hard each day earning superior gold ribbons at the end of each day. 

    On the final day they competed against 15 other schools and placed 4th. 

    Coach Miller said "the girls were amazing and proved that hard work does pay off. This opportunity for the girls to attend cheer camp is one they will always remember and a wonderful team bonding experience." 

    Jailyn Davis, a dedicated senior took home some individual honors. 

    She participated in the UCA All American Cheerleader Try-Out and was selected to attend the UCA Christmas Parade in Philadelphia.



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    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the YWCA Tri-County Area.

    Young artists in grades 6-12 are invited to create original artwork for YWCA Tri-County Area’s second annual Week Without Violence Art Contest.

    Week Without Violence, October 15-19, is a national YWCA movement raising awareness of the devastating effects of domestic violence. YWCA Tri-County Area works to bring communities together to combat all forms of violence and injustice in society.

    All youth in grades 6-12 are invited to submit original art celebrating YWCA’s mission of promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. Deadline for submission of original art is Friday, Oct. 12. 
    Artwork will be displayed at YWCA Tri-County Area’s 110th Anniversary Celebration on Tuesday, Oct. 16, where people attending will vote for their favorite pieces of art. Voting also will take place on YW’s Facebook page.

    First, second and third prizes will be awarded in two age categories: grades 6-8, and grades 9-12. 

    Winners also will have their artwork reproduced and included in a custom stationary gift set. Winners will receive their prizes during a reception for the young artists on Monday, Nov. 19. All participants and their families are invited to attend the reception.

    Contest rules are:
    • Open to 6 th -12 th grade students in the Tri-County Area.
    • All artwork must be drawn horizontally (landscape) on plain white 8.5”x11” paper.
    • Students may use crayon, watercolor, poster paint, colored pencils, markers or ink; please do not attach or glue materials that may smear, crack or chip.
    • Students must submit individual, independent work.
    • Students must submit a 3-4 sentence statement describing their work and why they chose to create the piece they did.
    • Only original artwork will be accepted. Computer-generated drawings or reproductions of popular cartoon characters or three-dimensional work will not be considered.
    • Art work will not be returned.
    Artwork will be judged based on theme, creativity, originality, visual effectiveness, and neatness.

    Art may be mailed to or dropped off at YWCA Tri-County Area, 315 King St., Pottstown, Pa., 19464, Attn: Kristie Piacine. 

    For an entry form, or for more information about the contest, contact Kristie Piacine at kpiacine@ywcatricountyarea.org, or 610-323-1888, ext. 230.

    YWCA Tri-County Area is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. YWCA Tri-County Area is a leader in advocating for women and girls, and provides direct service and issue education impacting 1,500 people annually through early childhood education, empowerment of women, girls, and families, and adult education and training.

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    Choosing which meeting to cover last night was like choosing which bowl of vanilla ice cream you want to eat.

    Between the Spring-Ford and Owen J. Roberts school boards and the New Hanover Township Supervisors, there wasn't much chocolate fudge worth picking one over the other.

    The plan had been to go to New Hanover because a vote on the Gibraltar Rock Quarry loomed, but that vote has been delayed. Given that the rest of the meeting was a budget workshop for a town that hasn't raised taxes in 12 years that didn't lean much to chew on newswise.

    When stringer extraordinaire Laura Catalano confirmed she would be covering the OJR meeting, it was off to Royersford I went.

    Speaking of Royersford, Spring-Ford Superintendent David Goodin showed a slick student-made video of the district's participation in the borough's community day.

    Here it is:



    Other than that, the meeting was fairly routine with one exception. Three mothers of Pope John Paul II students, Melissa Dougherty, Lisa DiRico and Colleen O'Brien, were on hand to complain about the lengthy bus rides their children must endure in the morning.

    Dougherty said her son spends nearly an hour on the bus each morning when he lives just two miles from Pope John Paul II.

    Superintendent David Goodin said it is unavoidable because of the different start times and the need to make bus routes efficient.

    We'll have more on this topic in a future article in The Mercury.

    In the meantime, here are the Tweets from the meeting:


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    Corrosion was evident beneath the Pottsgrove Middle School pedestrian bridge even before further investigation found the problems are much worse than initially feared.
    Remember when the repairs to the Pottsgrove Middle School pedestrian bridge were supposed to cost $35,000?

    Yeah forget that.

    Try as much as $350,000 instead.

    Tuesday night, Pottsgrove School Board Robert Lindgren said "the damage was much more extensive than we first thought."

    Last month, Pottsgrove Facilities Director Jeffrey Cardwell told the board that the bridge failed an inspection in January and at least two blocks of concrete need to be removed in order to replace the steel waffling underneath.

    He said the investigation by a contractor found that three drains in the bridge had allowed water to penetrate and rust the bridge’s steel decking.
    The concrete and decking need to be removed and replaced, and the drainage system re-designed to prevent the problem from occurring again, he said.

    Engineers also examined steel support girders for signs of rust and once a soffit was removed, the damage was revealed to be much more extensive, said Lindgren.

    That said, Cardwell said he believes the $350,000 cost estimate to be a "worse case scenario," and he hopes to lower the cost to between $150,000 to $200,000.

    One way that can be done, he said, is to change the work times. The estimate was based on starting work after school let out. But starting in the morning and moving students who would be disturbed by the noise would allow the project to be done more quickly and more cheaply.

    Business Manager Dave Nester said the project, when combined with the $2.4 million roof replacement at the building and some changes to the HVAC system put a pretty big bite into Pottsgrove's capital budget reserve.

    The capital reserve budget has been reduced by about $5 million, reducing by about a third from $15 million, he said.

    Another item of note to taxpayers is the sudden jump in the district's special education budget.

    Since July 1, the first day of the fiscal year, Pottsgrove has seen 45 new special education students, at lease seven of whom require enough special assistance that seven new one-on-one aides need to be hired to meet their IEP's, or individual education programs as set out in special education laws.

    "We're going to have to hire some people we had not planned on hiring," said Superintendent William Shirk.

    Kathryn Pacitto, director of pupil services, said the number is not unusual as much as the severity of the issues which need to be addressed among this particular group of special education students.

    Although no cost to the special education budget was made available to the public Tuesday night, Nester said it is over the special education budget, but can be absorbed by the budget's fund balance, an example of why such funds are built into every year's budget, he added.

    But a taste of special education costs came a few moments later in the meeting when the board unanimously approved a contract for a two students at Cottage Seven that will cost $140,140 per year.

    And with that, here are the Tweets from the meeting:


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    Pottsgrove High School







    The Pottsgrove School District is pleased to announce that the High School renovation project, completed in 2017, has achieved gold certification under the LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) 2009 Schools rating system. 

    The only higher level is platinum .

    LEED certification identifies Pottsgrove High School as a showcase example of sustainability and demonstrates leadership in transforming the building industry, according to a release from the district. 

    While it will not only save the district (and therefore taxpayers) money in energy costs it's also worth $1 million.

    In $2014, the district received a $2 million grant from the Pennsylvania Alternative and Clean Energy
    program in anticipation of achieving the standard.

    Achieving that standard on the $32 million high school expansion and renovation project, completed last year, meant spending about $1 million in energy efficient equipment like solar panels and water conserving bathroom fixtures and tests, certifications and paperwork.

    Had the building not achieved the certification, the district would have had to return the $2 million, as well as being stuck with the additional $1 million of buying the equipment.

    According to The Sanatoga Post's coverage Sept. 11 Pottsgrove School Board meeting, the building needed to earn a total of 60 points on the LEED scoring sheet to cross the finish line. 

    It received 65.

    Mahesh Ramanujam, the President and CEO or the U.S. Green Building Council and Green Business Certification, recently presented the certificate to the district.

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    James Bush.
    Blogger's Note:On Friday Oct.19, 2018, the Pottstown School District Alumni Honor Roll Committee will induct four alumni in to the District’s Alumni Honor Roll at the 33rd annual event. In preparation, The Digital Notebook will present profiles of all four inductees as provided and prepared by the Foundation for Pottstown Education.

    Today we present James Bush, Class of 1962.


    Representing the Pottstown High School Class of 1962 is James R. Bush. After graduation in 1962, Jim served in the U.S. Army Reserves and attended Peirce Junior College earning his Associates Degree in Accounting in 1970. Jim then earned his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Ursinus College. From May of 1964 through September 1968, he worked as a Commercial Loan Officer and Assistant Branch Manager for the Philadelphia National Bank in Pottstown. Then in 1980, Jim returned to his Alma Mater becoming the Supervisor of Accounting/Assistant Business Administrator before being hired as the Business Administrator/Board Secretary in 1968 until his retirement in June of 2006.

    When asked about what the phrase “Proud to be from Pottstown “ mean to him, Jim responded
    “I have been involved with the Pottstown School District for fifty ( 50 ) Years of my life ( 12 years as a student, 38 years as an employee 1968-2006). The Pottstown School has been and continues to be a leader in education in the area".

    He lists several examples:

    -- The establishment of a Foundation for Pottstown Education ( 1985 ) to help raise private funds for student scholarships and some programs unable to be funded through the school district

    -- Early Childhood Education: The school district started a Four Year Kindergarten program in the early “90’s “and a full day kindergarten program in the early 2000’s. Today the Pottstown School through its Early Childhood program (PEAK) is a statewide model.

    -- Senior Citizen Program: In 1995 the school district started the Golden Sage Program which allows senior citizens to volunteer at the school district and receive a credit up to $500 on their property taxes.

    -- Dual Enrollment Program: In the early 2000’s, the school district and the Montgomery County Community College established a program to allow students to attend the college during their high school years and receive College credit. Initially this was funded with local and state funds. The Foundation for Pottstown Education now funds the Dual Enrollment Program.

    The school district provides excellent education and co-curricular programs staffed by excellent teachers that provide opportunities for students to be successful. Pottstown School District students excel in academics and receive recognition for their accomplishments. Pottstown students receive accolades for their involvement in community service programs.

    “YES! I am proud to be a graduate of the Pottstown School District,” he said.

    This recognition has special meaning to Bush.

    “ I am honored to be recognized by the School District as a member of the Alumni Honor Roll. Since its establishment in 1986, there have been 125 graduates who have been inducted to the Alumni Honor Roll. When I look at accomplishments of those previous and current inductees, I am proud to be included as a member of the Alumni Honor Roll."

    When asked what one piece of advice that he would give to the current students of the Pottstown High School, Jim responded “Set Your Goals. Challenge yourself to meet those goals. Whatever career path you decide to follow, always give maximum effort.”

    The Alumni Honor Roll was established in 1986 as a way to recognize outstanding Pottstown High School Alumni who has made significant contributions to their community and profession. With the addition of this year’s honorees, 129 alumni will have been recognized with this honor.

    The four 2018 honorees represent Pottstown High School Classes of 1962, 1979, 1982 and 1991. Aram Ecker, chair of the Alumni Honor Roll Committee placed the names of James R. Bush, Theresa Rinaldi, Jonathan C. Corson and Heather M. Thiret as the nominees for this year’s class to the Pottstown School Board on Thursday April 19, 2018.

    They will be recognized at the Annual Alumni Honor Roll event on Friday Oct. 19, 2018. The event will begin with a continental breakfast at the Pottstown High School followed by a tour of the Alumni Gallery. The recognition ceremony will be held during an assembly in the High School’s Stanley Davenport Auditorium. The induction ceremony will be followed by a luncheon at the Brookside Country Club. Members of the community as well as all Pottstown High School Alumni are welcome to the event and can purchase tickets for $50 per person which includes admission to all of the events listed above. A portion of the ticket price is tax deductible. Tickets for the luncheon are on sale and can be reserved by contacting Diane Nash in the Superintendent’s Office 610-970-6601.

    Members of the community as well as all Pottstown High School Alumni are welcome to the event and can purchase tickets for $50 per person which includes admission to all of the day’s events. A portion of the ticket price is tax deductible. Tickets for the luncheon are on sale and can be reserved by contacting Diane Nash in the Superintendent’s Office 610-970-6601.

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    Therese Rinaldi
    Blogger's Note: On Friday Oct.19, 2018, the Pottstown School District Alumni Honor Roll Committee will induct four alumni in to the District’s Alumni Honor Roll at the 33rd annual event. In preparation, The Digital Notebook will present profiles of all four inductees as provided and prepared by the Foundation for Pottstown Education.

    Today we present 
    Dr. Therese Rinaldi, DPM, Class of 1979.

    After high school, Therese earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Widener University. In 1989 she earned her Degree of Doctor of Podiatric Medicine from the Pennsylvania College of Podiatric Medicine.

    Therese began her medical career as a Staff Registered Nurse at Pennsylvania Hospital before moving to the Skilled Nursing Inc. as a Critical Care Nursing Contractor. After earning her Doctorate, she became a Podiatric Surgical Resident at what is now known as Washington Hospital Center. In 1990, she returned to Pottstown as a Director and Surgeon for the Pottstown Foot and Ankle Center before becoming a Partner and Practitioner at the Foot and Ankle Health Group, PC in Pottstown, Royersford and Boyertown.

    When asked what graduating from Pottstown High School means to her, Therese responded “Graduating from the same high school as both of my parents was a grand tribute to their faith in the quality of the education they received. I know Pottstown High School equipped me with the necessary knowledge, experience, confidence and skills to go anywhere and do anything I dreamed- for that I am thankful.”

    Therese responded that Proud to be from Pottstown means that “ I am proud to have grown up in Pottstown, a diverse community of art, industry, beauty and history. Nestled along the Schuylkill River in the corner of three counties, we locals have easy access to both rural and urban experiences. After podiatric medical school and surgery residency, there was no question as to where I wanted to set up my practice and raise a family. Some of my first patients came because they either knew me or my family, and that continues to this day, 28 years later.”

    Being named to PHS Alumni Honor Roll is a wonderful distinction. To be recognized, as many others before me, for my accomplishments helps current PHS students realize that they have all the tools and opportunities here, one just needs to find what makes them happy then work hard to pursue it. Success will surely follow.

    My advice to Pottstown High School students is simple. Get out there, experience life, find your passion and do not stop until you achieve your goals--and enjoy life along the way.

    The four honorees will be recognized at the Annual Alumni Honor Roll event on Friday October 19, 2018. The event will begin with a continental breakfast at the Pottstown High School followed by a tour of the Alumni Gallery. The recognition ceremony will be held during an assembly in the High School’s Stanley Davenport Auditorium. The induction ceremony will be followed by a luncheon at the Brookside Country Club. Members of the community as well as all Pottstown High School Alumni are welcome to the event and can purchase tickets for $50 per person which includes admission to all of the events listed above. A portion of the ticket price is tax deductible. Tickets for the luncheon are on sale and can be reserved by contacting Diane Nash in the Superintendent’s Office 610-970-6601.

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    Jonathan Corson
    Blogger's Note:On Friday Oct.19, 2018, the Pottstown School District Alumni Honor Roll Committee will induct four alumni in to the District’s Alumni Honor Roll at the 33rd annual event. In preparation, The Digital Notebook will present profiles of all four inductees as provided and prepared by the Foundation for Pottstown Education.

    Today we present Jonathan Corson, Class of 1982.

    Representing the Pottstown High School Class of 1982 is Jonathan C. Corson. 

    He is currently a Reactor Operator for Arkema Chemicals. 

     Jonathan is extremely active in the Pottstown Community. He is currently serving as the President of the Pottstown NAACP, a position that he has held for the past two years. He is also a Pennsylvania State Constable serving since 2013 and serving on the Pottstown Human Relations Commission. 

    From 1980 through 2000, Jonathan served as a Trustee for the Church of the Living God where he played the organ and was a drummer. Other community activities include serving on the Grants Committee for the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation, Co-Captain for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, a Board Member for the Ricketts Community Center and participated in the Foundation for Pottstown Education’s Dancing with the Stars.

    "Graduating from Pottstown High means TROJAN PRIDE!!!! To me it is a part of a proud and rich history which going back to the Chestmont League, watching Pottstown High School’s finest playing in those Friday night Football games. It seemed like the whole town shutdown to come out and watch," Corson said.

    "It was also the Pottstown/OJR Thanksgiving Day football games, seeing some of those local heroes come back home. It was also the basketball games where if you did not get there before half time of the JV game you did not get a seat. The baseball games, track meets and wrestling matches, and being mentored by those local hero’s at the Ricketts Center and to have some of my friends grow up to become some of Pottstown Finest," Corson said.

    When Johnny was asked what being Proud to be from Pottstown means to him, he replied “At one time Pottstown was known for being an industrial giant, and it has gone through some hard times. But to see your former teachers, fellow students before and after you come together as community, to believe and give back. See people who were born and raised in Pottstown, go off to a successful career; retire back where it all started. Also to see alumni as professional athletes, famous musicians/actors, writers, Pulitzer Prize winners, doctors, lawyers, to serve our country, etc. That is Proud to be from Pottstown.”

    “I’m HUMBLED by this honor, and also at the same time grateful that the Pottstown High School Alumni Community recognizes my efforts to ensure that Pottstown is and always will be a community where we all can be proud," he said.

    "My advice to the students of Pottstown: I read somewhere that 'the content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think and what you do is who you become.'.How you treat people will be your whole story. "

    The four honorees will be recognized at the Annual Alumni Honor Roll event on Friday Oct. 19, 2018. The event will begin with a continental breakfast at the Pottstown High School followed by a tour of the Alumni Gallery. The recognition ceremony will be held during an assembly in the High School’s Stanley Davenport Auditorium. 

     The induction ceremony will be followed by a luncheon at the Brookside Country Club. Members of the community as well as all Pottstown High School Alumni are welcome to the event and can purchase tickets for $50 per person which includes admission to all of the events listed above. A portion of the ticket price is tax deductible. 

     Tickets for the luncheon are on sale and can be reserved by contacting Diane Nash in the Superintendent’s Office 610-970-6601.

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    Major Heather M. Thiret
    Blogger's Note: On Friday Oct.19, 2018, the Pottstown School District Alumni Honor Roll Committee will induct four alumni in to the District’s Alumni Honor Roll at the 33rd annual event. In preparation, The Digital Notebook will present profiles of all four inductees as provided and prepared by the Foundation for Pottstown Education.

    Today we present Heather Thiret, representing the Class of 1991.

    Representing the Pottstown High School Class of 1991 is Heather M. Thiret. 

    Heather earned her Bachelor of Science degree from West Chester University and holds a PA Teaching Certificate. She is currently working on her Master’s Degree in Leadership through Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. 

    She entered the service in 1992 and has spent 25 years, 10 as enlisted and 15 as an officer. Heather holds a ranking of Major in the US Army and has received several honors including a Bronze Star Medal. 

    She has also served as a TAC Officer/Instructor at the OCS Officer Candidate School Academy from 2010-2013. She is currently the Officer In Charge of Military Ascensions Vital to National Interest Program in Fort Belvoir, VA. Heather has been active in the Veterans Outreach Program/Homeless Vets and the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America.

    In response to the question, what has graduating from Pottstown High School meant to you? Heather responded that "graduation from PSHS itself is an accomplishment and benchmark in life. However, graduating from Pottstown High School was bittersweet in the fact that it was "sweet" to be graduating and equipped with the skills and knowledge bestowed upon me from my teachers and coaches at PSHS, and "bitter" to say goodbye to the same mentorship, guidance and trusting relationships I had to rely on while attending PSHS. I felt confident in my capabilities and self-worth I developed from my four years at PSHS."

    When asked about what the phrase “Proud to be from Pottstown “mean to her, Heather stated, “I am proud to be from Pottstown, because these are my roots. The familiar places and faces that continue to be part of my life even today, almost 25 years after I left. It is always still good to come 'home.' Hometown, isn't just a place, it is a feeling...from Ice House Deli, Manatawny Park, Brunish's, Frankie and Johnny's, the Elks, the Carousel, Pottstown Trojans, The Mercury, High St, Waterfront Park, Sunnybrook Ballroom, the community people(alumni) and feeling etc...it's the familiar places and faces that continue to make me proud to come home and call Pottstown home.”

    In receiving this honor, Heather stated “I am truly blessed and honored to been chosen to represent what thousands of Pottstown alumni who came before me had done. We all attended PSHS, graduated and went on to do great things in this world, change the world and make it a better place. I accept this award on behalf of all those who came before me with the same drive and motivation that PSHS became the catalyst for and ensured they were ready to take on the world. Graduates did not need to be doctors, lawyers, politicians, CEO's, nor famous to be successful alumni...they are also mothers, fathers, coaches, teachers, mentors, community advocates, military, police officers, fire fighters, EMS, nurses, factory workers, secretaries, borough service workers, reporters, writers, artists, and thousands of unmentioned professions and occupations that whether nominated for this honor or not, are success stories of PSHS and are just as proud to be from Pottstown and a product of PSHS as me.”

    One piece of advice that Heather would give to high school students, is "ask and listen. Lead and follow. Take advantage of all the education, mentorship and advice you can receive while at PSHS. This is only the beginning of you becoming the type of person you want to be in life. Make mistakes, and learn from them. Don't be afraid to learn from other people’s mistakes, they have less pain and anguish than our own, but the same lesson is learned. If you don't already, thank your parents, coaches, teachers and mentors...come back and visit. I didn't thank them enough while I was there and truly did not appreciate them until after I left. Walking across the stage and accepting that diploma, is also an acceptance of your future and life, for it will be whatever you put into it, and whatever you choose to make it. Make it yours, and make it the best life as the best person you can be. You are a Pottstown Trojan, even after you leave, that will never leave you."

    The four honorees will be recognized at the Annual Alumni Honor Roll event on Friday Oct. 19, 2018. The event will begin with a continental breakfast at the Pottstown High School followed by a tour of the Alumni Gallery. The recognition ceremony will be held during an assembly in the High School’s Stanley Davenport Auditorium. 

     The induction ceremony will be followed by a luncheon at the Brookside Country Club. Members of the community as well as all Pottstown High School Alumni are welcome to the event and can purchase tickets for $50 per person which includes admission to all of the events listed above. A portion of the ticket price is tax deductible. Tickets for the luncheon are on sale and can be reserved by contacting Diane Nash in the Superintendent’s Office 610-970-6601.

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    Photos by Evan Brandt
    Dennis Fletcher, Owen J. Roberts High School math teacher, talks to the school board Monday night about the district's Keystone scores in algebra.


    Headed to the Owen J. Roberts workshop meeting Monday because, sadly, it was the most interesting agenda out there.

    And considering how uninteresting the meeting was, that's saying something.

    Perhaps the most significant item had to do with the new $28 million East Coventry Elementary School, or perhaps more importantly, what comes next.

    As it turns out, that building is the last item on a capital improvements plan from several years ago, and that means its time for a new one, and a feasibility study to help determine costs.

    Although a committee has already been formed -- comprised of staff, school board members, parents and administrators -- the meetings are not open to the public.

    But one meeting is, and it will be a Town Hall meeting held Nov. 1 at Owen J. Roberts High School. Other public meetings may be scheduled, but as of now, this will be the general public's only chance to have input.

    Other than that, the bulk of the meeting was consumed by talking about the district's standardized test scores -- the PSSA, the Keystone and Advance Placement. They're all awfully good, but of course, they would like to make them better.

    You can read all about that in the Tweets below:


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    Submitted Photo
    From left, Pottsgrove Schools Superintendent William Shirk, state Sen. Bob Mensch, Brenna Mayberry, student representative on the Pottsgrove School Board, and Joshua Ross, president of the Pottsgrove High School Student Government.


    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the Pottsgrove School District.

    The Pottsgrove School District recently attended a Senate Majority Policy Committee forum on school safety at Quakertown Area School District.

    Superintendent William Shirk, Superintendent and Maggie Scott, teacher and student governement advisor, attended the forum , along with Pottsgrove Student Government President Joshua Ross and Brenna Mayberry, student board representative.

    The purpose of the Sept. 21 forum was to discuss student safety and exchange information about the challenges districts across the Commonwealth are now experiencing. 

    The Senate Majority Policy Committee plans a number of these discussions as they discuss additional school safety legislation.

    Senator David Argall, Chairman of the Senate Majority Policy Committee, was joined by Senator Bob Mensch, Senator Mike Regan and State Representative Craig Staats at the forum.

    A number of Senate Bills, including Act 39 and Act 44 were discussed as additional legislative measures are still being considered. 

    Students from Quakertown Community and Pottsgrove High School were each asked questions by members of the Senate panel. Both Mayberry and Ross articulated an increase in school safety preparations, training and the anxiety associated with school safety.

    "In today's society, kids who are not 18 feel like they have no say because they are not at the legal age to vote. Being provided this opportunity to express my view to State Senators about an issue that pertains to many who cannot vote was a great experience," said Ross.

    "At the safety conference we discussed mental health and discussed legislation pertaining to hiring social workers and trained security for schools. Students should get more opportunities like this to show the world what we are going through," he said.

    "I was honored to attend Senator Mensch’s Public Roundtable on School Safety in Quakertown. The topics discussed included student opinion on school safety, budgets for school safety programs, the role mental health plays in discovering and preventing threats to school safety, along with many other important issues," said Mayberry. 

    "It was incredible to see public officials so devoted to making children feel safer in schools. Some solutions suggested at the conference included hiring an SRO (student resource officer) at every school, requiring mental health evaluations at sixth and eleventh grade physicals, and putting more money towards training teachers and SROs in overall school safety precautions. It was a fascinating experience, and I look forward to seeing these leaders pass policies to make schools safer for everyone," she said.

    Lawmakers passed school safety legislation, which includes a $60 million grant program to give school districts flexible options to improve school safety, including hiring school security personnel and counselors, purchasing safety equipment like metal detectors, and implementing special programs to reduce violence in schools.

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    Photos by Evan Brandt
    The bottom line for the general fund, from last night's budget presentation.
    So let's get right to the heart of the matter.

    In it's first budget presentation of the season, the administration has dropped a $48.9 million draft budget proposal in front of borough council that, if adopted unchanged, would hike property taxes by just under 12 percent -- 11.97 percent for the sticklers out there.

    This comes on top of the 12 percent tax hike adopted in December for the current year.

    The primary culprits for this unpleasant state of affairs, according to Borough Manager Justin Keller are:

    Flat spending thanks to cost savings.
    • The $779,000 hike in pension obligations to both police and non-uniform plans; 
    • the $1 million increase for post-retirement health care;
    • The $360,000 the borough has to pay back to the owners of the moribund Pottstown Center shopping center at 799 State St. after the court decision on an assessment challenge;
    • Contractual pay increases to the  borough police and employees;
    • Not to mention the annual absence of $263,000 in tax revenue from Pottstown Hospital being off the tax rolls.

    The removal of Pottstown Hospital from the tax rolls

    last year only capped off a continuing trend.
    Keller and Finance Director Janice Lee, under a heading they appropriately titled "Revenue
    Headwinds," pointed out that since 2016, including what's proposed for 2019, spending has actually dropped.

    But even though taxes have been raised, thanks to an unending stream of property value assessment losses, revenue has dropped faster.

    Although the general fund holds the largest deficit, almost $700,000, there are also deficits in the parks and recreation fund ($114,246) and in the fire fund ($216,798).

    Millage for the Parks and Recreation Department, which cares for 15 parks totalling approximately 100 acres at a cost of just under $1 million, has not been increased seven years.

    Millage supporting the fire fund -- which covers the $275,000 payment made to each of the borough's
    The bottom line.
    four fire companies annually, as well as the $246,739 fire chief/fire marshal's office and functions -- has only been raised once since 2011.

    In the meantime, fire calls since 2014 through 2017 are up 6 percent.

    Taken together, the total budget deficit at this early stage stands at $1,029,674 according to the presentation.

    To close it, the current recommendation calls for raising the total tax millage from the current rate of 11.58 to a 2019 rate of 12.966.

    For a home assessed at $85,000, that translates into an annual tax hike of $117.79

    Keller said although this preliminary news seems dire, "it's not all doom and gloom."

    Overall, Pottstown property values are up 11 percent; properties for sale are spending less time on the market and the march of assessment challenges seems to be leveling off, with the results of challenging being not much less than the current assessment, making the challenge less attractive.

    That said, here are the Tweets from the meeting:


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    West-Mont Christian Academy students during the Amazing Service Race event.


    Blogger's Note: The following was provided by West-Mont Christian Academy

    Sixteen groups of West-Mont Christian Academy students were sent into the Pottstown community and completed the exciting challenge of “The Amazing Service Race” on Sept. 26

    Middle and high school students from West-Mont Christian Academy eagerly participated in 6 service opportunities. 

    The first stop was In Ian’s Boots where shoes were unpackaged, labeled, and organized. Later, the students headed to the Coventry Mall to help with cleaning and other tasks.

    One favorite activity among students was going to the store and purchasing food for Operation Backpack. The students then dropped the items off at the Operation Backpack headquarters where it will be distributed to children in Pottstown. 

    Another part of The Amazing Service Race was a challenge to initiate a random act of kindness. For this, students picked up trash, washed car windows, and helped patrons at the grocery store.

    Teachers described The Amazing Service Race as “a major success.” Kelly Estes, a high school English teacher at West-Mont said, “My students had a chance to see many ways to serve; from providing food, to cleaning up a park, to helping out at the mall, as well as local churches.” 

    The event was a success among students as well.

    Many wanted to continue serving and requested to have another service race in the future.

    For more information about West-Mont, call 610-326-7690 or visit www.west-mont.org.

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    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by Hobart's Run

    On Saturday, Oct. 20, Edgewood Historic Cemetery will hold a community-wide “Stop Complaining, Start Caring for Edgewood Cemetery Day” beginning at 9 a.m. and running until about 3 p.m.

    This event is being planned with Hobart’s Run and Pottstown CARES organizers. The rain date will be Saturday, Oct. 27.

    Pottstown citizens are encouraged to volunteer at the 12-acre cemetery for a few hours or the whole day, by raking, weed-whacking, mowing, planting flowers, and participating in other improvement projects while learning about the cemetery and its fascinating background from local historians.

    Unfortunately, the cemetery, created in 1862, has not had an official individual owner since the 1930s. The individual who had been serving as caretaker essentially abandoned the cemetery around 2012. Since then, a volunteer nonprofit board has attempted to raise funds, keep the grass mowed, and conduct other maintenance, but there is no doubt that increased and sustained efforts must continue to achieve restoration ranging from resetting tombstones to clearing debris and maintaining pathways.

    Hobart’s Run and CARES are assisting Edgewood Historic Cemetery, Inc. volunteers with ongoing planning for this “bring your own tools” grounds improvement effort on Oct.20. Hobart’s Run recently made a $5,000 donation toward Edgewood grounds maintenance – one of several contributions Hill has made since the cemetery’s abandonment -- but, to sustain this community resting place, there is a tremendous, ongoing need for volunteers and financial contributions from throughout Pottstown.

    Although plans still are being finalized, organizers expect to have a “bucket brigade” of volunteers collecting essential donations from passing vehicles and pedestrians. There also will be an opportunity to share ideas for physical improvements, financial sustainability and fundraisers, and volunteer coordination.

    Refreshments will be available; the committee also invites participants to bring food donations to share in fellowship with other concerned citizens. Also, volunteers should bring a lawn chair or picnic blanket if desired.

    All are welcome to participate on Oct. 20, from creative master gardeners to weekend warrior weed-whackers and friends who can rake, sweep, or dig.

    Andrew Monastra and his wife, Sue, have been doing the lion’s share of physical work at the
    cemetery, with help from a landscaping company hired through the Hobart’s Run donation and other contributions.

    “As a community, we need to come together on this issue,” Monastra said at a recent presentation at the Pottstown Historical Society, where local historian Michael Snyder shared a fascinating illustrated lecture about the cemetery and the people buried there. 

    “This is a shared, Pottstown community-wide concern. The cemetery belongs to all of us who care about how we are treating the people who are interred there as well as those who care about what the condition of Edgewood says about Pottstown as a whole. Eventually, we need a long-term plan for Edgewood to be self-sustaining, but in the meantime, we need volunteers who consistently help with maintenance; we also need lawn mowing equipment, and money that can be used to provide the means to care for the grounds,” Monastra added. 

    “We’d like to not only keep the grass mowed; we’d like to create beautiful garden spaces for meditation. But a few volunteers cannot do it all. We greatly appreciate the help we are receiving from The Hill School and Hobart’s Run, and we also know this cemetery belongs to all of Pottstown, and all of Pottstown should be stepping up,” he said.

    Cathy Skitko, senior director of institutional public relations and Hobart’s Run communications, notes that Hobart’s Run is enthusiastically helping with the event on Oct. 20 as well as ongoing Edgewood improvement efforts. She agrees that care for Edgewood must be shared by the Pottstown community. Skitko recently joined the Board of Edgewood Historic Cemetery.

    “The cemetery falls within the boundaries of our Hobart’s Run neighborhood improvement area,” she said, “and Hobart’s Run and The Hill School want to see it restored and maintained, as demonstrated through our financial gifts and other support to date.

    “However, The Hill’s resources must be committed, first and foremost, to its educational mission,” she continued. “The School is willing to be involved with the cemetery as a member of the Pottstown community, but serving as the sole caretaker of a cemetery in perpetuity, as some residents have suggested, is outside our mission and not the reason the School receives funds from students’ parents and alumni,” she explained.

    “Nonetheless, we are committed to helping Edgewood Historic Cemetery as a community partner, and we look forward to seeing Edgewood gain support for their excellent efforts,” she added. “Hobart’s Run is addressing a range of priorities that include fostering a clean, safe, and inclusive neighborhood and encouraging positive residential and commercial improvements. We are investing significant efforts toward assisting Edgewood, raising awareness of this community issue, and embracing this collaboration with Andrew and other caring Pottstown citizens, much as we do through a variety of other Hobart’s Run partnerships.”

    Friends who would like to search a list to see if loved ones might be buried in Edgewood can do so through the inventory provided at this link

    Tax-deductible contributions to the maintenance fund are greatly needed and appreciated (information below). Individuals who would like to volunteer for this community engagement endeavor, engage in regular caretaking, and/or make a tax-deductible gift should contact Andrew Monastra at amonastra@wolfbaldwin.com or 610-323-7436. 

    Financial contributions can be made to Edgewood Historic Cemetery, Inc. and mailed to 740 E. High Street, Pottstown, PA 19464.

    The organization also would welcome donations of working equipment such as lawn tractors, mowers, and weed-whackers, as well as hand tools. They would especially welcome donation of a 360-degree turning mower as well as funds toward purchasing such equipment. Please contact Andrew at the above address to inquire about making such donations.

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    State Sen. Andrew Dinniman (left) presents a special 
    Senate citation to Bill McAdoo (right), 
    President of Concordia Choral Arts, at the
    International Day of Peace 
    concert in Phoenixville.
    Blogger's Note:The following was submitted by the office of state Sen. Andrew Dinniman.

    State Senator Andy Dinniman, D-19th Dist., recently presented members of Concordia Choral Arts with a special Senate citation in honor of their performance at the recent International Day of Peace Concert.

    Dinniman presented the citation to Bill McAdoo, President of Concordia Choral Arts, following its performance at the free concert at the First Presbyterian Church in Phoenixville.

    The International Day of Peace, established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1981, is observed around the world each year on Sept. 21. 

    This year’s celebration featured works of classic and contemporary choral music along with performances by Phoenixville singer/songwriters Anna Spackman and Shawn Cephas, story-telling artist Celeste Montgomery, and local students.

    Concordia Choral Arts (CCA) is a non-profit choral organization dedicated to providing an environment that culturally enriches the community through exposure to the performing arts. CCA’s choirs rehearse continually and perform a concert series every year along with outreach performances and hired gigs.

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    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the Friends of Hopewell Furnace.

    The Friends of Hopewell Furnace invite the public to meet Terry Brown, superintendent of Fort Monroe National Monument who will provide an overview of this 21st century park on Sunday, Oct. 14. 

    Terry Brown
    The free program will begin at 2 p.m. in the Hopewell Furnace Conference Center.

    Designated a unit of the National Park System in 2011, Fort Monroe National Monument is a decommissioned military installation in Hampton, VA—at Old Point Comfort, the southern tip of the Virginia Peninsula. 

    Along with Fort Wool, Fort Monroe guarded the navigation channel between the Chesapeake Bay and Hampton Roads—the natural roadstead at the confluence of the Elizabeth, the Nansemond and the James rivers. 

    Surrounded by a moat, the seven-sided star fort is the largest stone fort ever built in the continental United States. While Hopewell Furnace was known for its production of iron for the Civil War, Fort Monroe remained a bastion of defense for the Union.

    A 26-year veteran of the National Park Service, Brown has served at several national parks in Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and Massachusetts. 
    Fort Monroe today.
    Raised in a military family, he spent a good portion of his childhood overseas. He graduated from AFCENT Brunssum International High School in the Netherlands in 1987 and returned to the United States to further his education at Grambling State University in Louisiana. He graduated from the University in 1992 with a degree in Criminal Justice.

    Established in 1994, the Friends of Hopewell Furnace is the official non-profit fundraising arm of Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. A 501(c)3 citizen organization, its mission is to support the preservation, maintenance and programs of Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. Donations to the Friends may be tax deductible according to the rules set by the Internal Revenue Service.

    While at the park, visitors are encouraged to explore the landscape, go into the village, tour the buildings, and learn about iron making and why Hopewell Furnace is important to our nation’s history. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday thru Sunday, the park is located five miles south of Birdsboro, PA, off Route 345. For more information visit www.friendsofhopewellfurn.org.

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    Photo by Evan Brandt
    Surrounded by their families, newly promoted Pottstown Police Sgt. Thomas Leahan, third from left, and newly promoted Pottstown Police Cpl. Michael Breslin, read their promotion certificates along with Mayor Stephanie Henrick, right, during last night's Pottstown Borough Council meeting.


    If you had fallen asleep for a few moments Tuesday evening, you might have missed the Pottstown Borough Council meeting.

    And council did little to help keep the audience awake.

    But there was a bright spot.

    As is traditional in Pottstown, when two police officers were promoted at the start of the meeting, their families and fellow officers packed the room for the promotion ceremony.

    Mayor Stephanie Henrick read a proclamation, framed promotion certificates were presented and cameras clicked as spouses pinned the new stripes to the shirts of the promoted officers.

    Corporal Thomas Leahan is now Sergeant Thomas Leahan; while officer Michael Breslin is now Corporal Michael Breslin.

    Congratulations to both.

    Also of interest was a fire safety talk by longtime Pottstown Fire Chief Richard Lengel, appropriate given that October is Fire Prevention Month.

    Here is the video:




    Missing completely from last night's meeting was any talk of the looming 12 percent property tax hike unveiled with the $48.9 million draft budget last week, either from council, the staff or the public.

    Guess everybody's OK with it.

    Here are the Tweets from the meeting:


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    Photos and video by Evan Brandt
    Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan gave a presentation at Owen J. Roberts High School Wednesday night on school shootings, how to identify a shooter and what can be done to prevent them.


    Many in the sparsely populated audience had never held a gun.

    Many had never heard an AR-15 fired.

    The guns were heavy, and the rifle crack was loud in the acoustically focused auditorium.

    Take a listen on this video:



    The occasion was a presentation on school shootings and how parents, teachers and even students can best protect themselves during a school shooting.

    The presenters were Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan and Downingtown Police Detective Andy Trautmann.

    They outlined what they have learned over the years, Hogan as an agent fighting terrorism before being elected district attorney and Trautmann as both a SWAT team commander and former School Resource Officer.
    OJR parents hold a variety of deadly objects including guns, 
    a hammer,and a bottle of prescription drugs during Wednesday's
    presentation at Owen J. Roberts High School.

    There are 360 million guns in the United States and only 325 million people so, as Hogan put it, "guns aren't going anywhere."

    Guns are also simple and hardy tools, said Hogan, holding up a revolver and saying he could bury it in the ground for 70 years, dig it up, clean it off "and it would work fine."

    School shooters are most often males, between the ages of 15 to 19, or 35 to 44.

    Teen shooters usually have a grudge against a school and older men who become school shooters face pressures from work, family failed marriages, know they will not be a major league pitcher for the Phillies.

    "This is the age when they realize, this is their life," said Hogan., adding that "once we reach 50, we are either more likely to be past those pressures, or learned to live with them."

    Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan holds up a handgun.
    An "active shooter," is someone who "wants to run the numbers up, get as high a body count as they possibly can," said Trautmann.

    "A targeted shooter has a target in mind. Although they can turn into active shooters and they will shoot someone whop gets in their way," he said.

    Many focus on high schools as targets, but when a shooter is not a student, the targets are usually "softer" targets like middle or elementary schools, said Hogan.

    "High schools are full of teenage knuckleheads with hormones raging through their bodies who take big risks and are easily triggered," making them less attractive to an active shooter who does not have a grudge against a particular school, he said.

    Police generally plan to face a single shooter when responding to a school shooting. Those involving more than one, tend to be stopped before they occur. "Give me five guys going to attack a school, and I guarantee you one of them will screw up," he said.

    Hogan points to the parent holding a bottle of oxycodone and says
    far more children will die from drug use than being shot in school.
    Hogan noted that a year later, and the expending of no small amount of effort and resources, ""the FBI still have no idea why the shooter in Las Vegas did what he did."

    Why Does it Happen?


    School shootings have many causes, including copy cats and a desensitization to violence.

    That happens most commonly in recent times as the result of "first-person shooter" games, said Hogan.

    He described a murder case in which two men were fighting over a gun and a third man who was friends with one of the men carefully shot the one fighting with his friend.

    "He drew his gun, aimed carefully and waited until he had his shot and hit his target, he waited and did it again, and again. He didn't have SWAT training, he was not in the military, he had learned it from playing video games," Hogan said.

    "We've trained up a whole generation of trained shooters," he said.

    Trautmann said he was amazed while serving as a School Resource Officer, how often teens came up to him to ask him about specific guns "and if I had ever shot one. They knew them all from their games," he said.

    He said the games desensitize people to violence the same way military and police training does.

    Downington Police Det. Andy Trautmann brought several guns
    to Wednesday night's demonstration.
    "They found in World War I that most soldiers just fired their guns, they didn't fire at or hit their
    targets," he said.

    By World War II and Korea, the military was training with more life-like targets "to desensitize them," said Trautmann. "It's the same thing we do in SWAT training."

    Another factor is social media, said Hogan.

    "Back when I was in school, two guys wanted to call each other names you know what happened. They had a fist fight and then they were done," Hogan said.

    Now, however, social media abuse taunts teens in from of the whole school and can drag on for months.

    (On the plus side, it does allow the authorities to intervene more quickly if its more visible.)

    Another factor is that "kids are under more pressure than we were in school, they do more homework than we did in school" said Hogan. "When my daughter was in second grade, she was already talking about what college she was going to go to and she was not alone."

    Trautmann said "it takes less than a second to shoot someone."
    He said with a gun like the AR-15 he is holding,
    he can fire 8 shots a second
    .

    Most important to understand is there is no one single cause, said Hogan.

    How Does a Shooter Become a Shooter?


    The first phase of becoming a school shooter is the fantasy stage, Hogan said.

    "They fantasize about the shooting and, if they post about it on social media, we can find out about it and stop it. Ninety-nine percent of them are stopped before they happen," he said.

    The second stage if planning: the shooter thinks about how to sneak materials into school ahead of time, researching how you build a bomb.

    The third stage is preparation. They may, for example, start shooting in the woods to improve their aim.

    "When it's not hunting season, if you're hearing shots in the woods, you should absolutely call us and let us check it out," said Trautmann. "We would rather investigate 100 incidents that turn out to be nothing, than miss an opportunity to stop a school shooting."

    "We had an eighth grader in Downingtown with floor plans of every school. He tried to buy ingredients for a thermite bomb, and he had Hitler's book Mein Kampf on his computer," said Trautmann. "He was stopped.Any time they have blue prints, you're in trouble."

    The fourth phase is the approach stage, driving to school or hiding something in school during evening sports events.

    Trautmann displays a handgun so small it can be fit into a belt buckle.
    The fifth and final phase is once the shooting starts. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, it's stopped ahead of time and you never hear about," Hogan said.

    What Can You Do?


    The most important resource law enforcement has are the parents and members of the community, said Hogan. He urged parents to monitor their children's social media accounts, look at their phones at texts, emails and more, to search their rooms.

    Very important is to lock up household guns. "We often find shooters get guns from homes, or friend's home, where guns are not locked up," hogan said.

    Schools must train staff continuously and drill regularly so that, like fire drills, children will be safer. "The last time someone died in a school fire was the 1950s," Trautmann said.

    Because police now train to enter as soon as possible, not to wait for the SWAT team, and to shoot anyone with a gun, Hogan said Chester County officials do not support arming teachers.

    Trautmann said they are unlikely to train regularly enough to hit where they're aiming and are more likely to be shot by police.

    Both said Owen J. Roberts has made one of the most important investments, in a school district police force and a head of security, and said schools must work to keep a balance between turning a school into a prison, and making it "a totally open campus."

    You can learn more below in the Tweets from the presentation:




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    The Fabulous Greaseband will perform at Sunnybrook Ballroom Oct. 20 for the annual Meals on Wheels Fundraising Event.









    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by Family Services.

    The Fabulous Greaseband, a seven-member nostalgic dance-party band and concert attraction, will bring their rock ‘n’ roll party to Pottstown this fall for the Seventh Annual Meals on Wheels Fundraising Event.

    The Fabulous Greaseband features outstanding male and female vocal leads in a front trio, backed by a gifted group of instrumentalists. Their highly entertaining and energetic delivery of some of the greatest songs ever written has kept the group on top for well over 35 years.

    The show will be held on Saturday, October 20 at SunnyBrook Ballroom, 50 Sunnybrook Road, Pottstown. Doors open at 7 p.m. Show begins at 8 p.m. Show tickets are $25 (general admission). A limited number of reserved tables are available (minimum of eight seats per table). A cash bar will be available during the show.

    An optional, all-inclusive buffet dinner will be served at 6 p.m. The buffet features mesclun greens, penne primavera, chicken francaise, sliced shoulder filet with demi-glace, garlic mashed potatoes, green bean almondine, bread, beverage, and assorted mini desserts. Tickets for the buffet dinner and show are $60 per person. Advance dinner tickets are required.

    For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Ruth Hood, program director, Meals on Wheels, at 610-326-1610 ext. 336 or rhood@fsmontco.org or visit www.fsmontco.org/events. Tickets may be purchased weekdays between 9 a.m.–4 p.m. at Family Services’ Pottstown Office, 1976 East High Street, Pottstown. Cash, checks and credit cards are accepted.

    Funds raised during this event benefit Family Services’ Meals on Wheels program. Each weekday, Meals on Wheels provides two meals, a hot lunch and a cold supper to refrigerate, to an average of 150 homebound elderly and disabled individuals in Pottstown, Royersford and the Lower Perkiomen Valley. Community volunteers personally deliver more than 80,000 meals a year, bringing nourishment, friendship and a brief safety check to those most in need.





    Generous sponsors of this event include Exelon/Limerick Generating Station, BTC Foods and Pottstown Hospital – Tower Health.

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    Photos by Evan Brandt
    Gene Dugan, namesake of Grumpy's Handcarved Sandwiches, won the whole ball of wax (or should we say cheese?) Saturday when he won both the judge's and People's Choice trophy's at Pottstown's first-ever Cheesetoberfest event in Memorial Park, which paired two things I dearly love, grilled cheese sandwiches and beer. At left is Brian Parkes, executive director of TriCounty Active Adult Center, which both sponsored and benefited from the event.


    There was beer.

    There were grilled cheese sandwiches of multiple varieties.

    There was even a "Beeramid," a pyramid of 15 cases of beer, chances for which were to be had for just $5.

    I don't remember the name of the man who won the Beeramid.
    What's important to remember here folks is that it wasn't me.

    Let's face it folks, there was no mold growing on theTriCounty Active Adult Center's first-ever Cheesetoberfest.

    Sure, the event was a fund-raiser for a worthy cause. But it was also a "fun-raiser" .... yeah, I went there.

    Seven local eateries (two never showed up, no doubt cowed by the competition), offered up their unique visions for the perfect grilled cheese sandwich and those of us lucky enough to be there, got to sample all seven.

    There wasn't a single bad sandwich.

    I tried to write them all down, but I fear the list of ingredients for each offering is incomplete. Nevertheless, here is a partial list of the offerings as best I could decipher my hand-writing:

    Pottstown Mayor Stephanie Henrick may have
    been a judge. But there is only on Mayor of
    Cheesteroberfest and his name is Ron Barrett
    Lily's Grill -- Candied jalepeno cheese, I don't remember what kind, on a uniquely crispy bread,
    made so by the fact that the griddle Chef Adam Burke used was rippled.

    Pottstown United Brewing -- This was also a Burke special since he does the food for Pottstown's newest pub as well. This one was pumpkin-spiced gouda, with apple, onion and Swiss. (This was the one that won my red People's Choice ticket).

    Brookside Country Club -- Crab and bacon mac and cheese with muenster and white cheddar, with a tomato jam dipping sauce. (Chef Peter Fizz was working overtime to fill these orders and there was a very long line.)

    Railroad St. Bar & Grill -- Chef Mike McCloskey said his recipe for "Octoberfest Grilled Cheese" included bratwurst, white cheddar, onions and peppers. Railroad Street also provided the beer, which was an excellent selection. I chose Victory Brewing Company's Hip Czech Lager.

    Bause Catered Events -- Smoked gouda, muenster with carmelized onion, garlec-onion butter and crushed salt & vinegar potato chips. Chef Erin Bause also offered up some delicious tomato soup to dip your sandwich in. Quite good.

    Pottstown Hospital -- Yes, you read that right. And I must say, Chef Stewart Sherk makes a great grilled cheese. His recipe had arugula, tomato, pesto with asiago and provolone cheese on sourdough bread.

    Grumpy's Handcarved Sanwiches -- For this winning combination, Chef Gene Dugan blended chedar, muenster, havarti and goat cheese with crushed figs on potatoe bread. He also provided tomato soup for those who feel it is a crime to eat any grilled sandwich without tomato soup.

    Also on hand was The Daisy Jug Band, which played in the beer tent. Here's a sample:



    About 200 people came out under the cloudy skies, perfect weather for grilled cheese sandwiches.

    They ate, they drank, some played the cornhole game set up for those who enjoy such things, and then came the big reveal.




    Here come da judges...
    The judges for Cheesetoberfest were the Honorable Stephanie Henrick, the mayor of Pottstown; the equally honorable Scott Bentley, renown local businessman and the decidedly less honorable Evan Brandt, Mercury reporter and renown quaffer of beer.

    Brian Parkes, executive director of the TriCounty Active Adult Center, seen in the photo above with the judges, sad the event raised about $4,000 for the center.

    And don't forget folks. Today is the 15th Annual Carousel of Flavor restaurant festival which, I hasten to mention, also has beer. This year it will be held at the actual Carousel location, on King Street, across from Memorial Park.

    An now, here are the Cheesetoberfest Tweets I managed when I wasn't doing official judge stuff ....


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    Photos by Emily Overdorf

    Pottstown High School's Homecoming Court took the field of Grigg Memorial Stadium Friday Night for the Homecoming game against Pope John Paul II High School.

    The king and queen were Nehemiah Figueroa and London Aquino, pictured at right.

    The full court, pictured above from left to right, is comprised of Destyn Snyder, Johnay Cranford, Donnie Marte, Dazah Ragusters, Nehemiah Figueroa, London Aquino, Jaylss Agosto, Mitchell Aquino, Arianna Garcia and Adrian Sibilly.

    Click here for more photos.

    Congratulations to all. You are now Pottstown Royalty.

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    A half-million-dollar sewer project in the Regal Oaks neighborhood was given the green light by the township commissioners Monday night.

    Former Commissioner John Bealer, and sewer committee chairman, said the project to connect 25 homes on Rose Valley Road and Holly Berry Court to the sewer system will cost $494,076.

    Happily, Upper Pottsgrove received a $200,000 grant from the Commonwealth Financing Authority through the Small Water and Sewer Grant Program to help cover some of the cost.

    Bealer said the township had applied for a larger grant, but Commissioner Elwood Taylor reminded the commissioners that this was the largest state grant the township has received for such a project.

    Also last night: Marc Debnam, center,  took the oath as
    Upper Pottsgrove's 
    newest fire police officer.
    The sewer budget has enough in its capital budget -- barely -- to cover the remainder although Township Manager Carol Lewis pointed out that the tap-in fees those being connected will have to pay will put $136,000 back into the capital fund.

    Each of the homes being connected will have to pay a $5,447 tap-in fee in addition to paying a plumber to run a line from the curb to their house.

    As a result, this project will not result in an increase in sewer rates, Bealer said.

    The septic systems at these homes are failing, largely due to the geology of the area, and Bealer said some people can't sell their homes because the cannot pass a health inspection with a failing septic system.

    Over time, Bealer said the township will need to connect 75 homes in Regal Oaks to the system, which is now pumped up hill and into the Pottstown sewer treatment plant on Industrial Highway.

    The project is not expected to begin construction until the spring, said Bealer.

    Last night, the board also decided to reject all bids for a new salt shed, and will try to muddle through the winter with the one now on its last legs at the township facility on Heather Place.

    They will re-bid the project in the spring in hopes of getting a better price.

    Here are the Tweets from the meeting.


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    Customers of the Pottstown public water system will shoulder rate increases of about 5 percent each year for the next three years according to borough officials.

    For the average customer, the rate hikes will result in more than $56 in increased annual costs for the average customer by 2021

    With a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the Pottstown Borough Authority Board raised the 2019 quarterly base rate for borough customers by $2, from $41 to $43 for the majority of customers -- about 7,500 accounts.

    That represents an increase of 4.87 percent.

    Customers in the outlying Montgomery County townships on the system also will see their base rate increase by $2, from $43 to $45 per quarter.

    That represents an increase of 4.65 percent and will affect just under 3,700 customers in Lower Pottsgrove, West Pottsgrove and Upper Pottsgrove.

    The base rate is the fee you pay for water service no matter how much water you use. An additional usage rate is applied to the readings on water meters which measure how much water is used at a property.

    Finance Director Janice Lee said the usage or consumption fee will be raised by 15 cents, an increase of 4.9 percent.

    That brings the usage rate from $3.05 to $3.20 for every 748 gallons of water used.

    Further, Lee and Budget Analyst Gerald Keszczyk both said the authority will impose identical increases to the water rates, both base and usage, for 2020 and 2021 as well, a motion which was adopted by the authority board at its Sept. 18 meeting.

    Keszczyk said the increases will result in about $4.72 more per quarter for most customers or $18.88 more in water costs in 2019 and a total hike of $56.64 by 2021.

    Over the course of the next three years, the base rate increase represents a 14.6 percent increase for the average Pottstown customer over the current rate and a 14 percent hike for water customers in the three Pottsgroves.

    There will also be a 12 cent-per-gallon increase in the bulk water rate, from $3.96 per thousand  gallons to $4.08 -- an increase of 3 percent -- as the result of a second authority board vote.

    For the North Coventry Township's water system, which buys its water in bulk from Pottstown, that increase will not go into affect until April as the agreement between the two requires six month's notice of a rate change.

    The revenues from the increased rates -- about $94,000 -- will go directly into improving the water system by bolstering the capital fund, said Authority member David Renn.

    "All that money goes right back into the ground," he said Monday.

    The authority’s capital budget, for both the water and sewer systems, is being used according to a regularly updated five-year plan to repair and replace aging infrastructure in a water and sewer system now roughly 100 years old.

    Putting money into the capital budget ahead of projects has eliminated the need for the authority to borrow to pay for needed upgrades and repairs — ultimately a cost savings as interest does not have to be paid out on bonds, but is rather earned on the money being saved.
    The authority last raised rates in May of 2017 when it increased the water usage rate by 9.7 percent, from $2.78 to $3.05 per 748 gallons; and the base rate by 17 percent, from $35 to $41 per quarter.

    There is no increase in sewer rates planned for 2019.

    The water rate increases are part of the $6.8 million water budget and the $1.9 million water capital budget unanimously adopted last month by the borough authority board.

    The water budget, as well as the $9.3 million sewer fund; the $4.5 million sewer capital fund and the $611,000 sewer lines fund are all part and parcel of the $49 million budget proposal presented to Pottstown Borough Council earlier this month, which calls for a 12 percent property tax hike.

    According to the minutes from the Sept. 18 authority meeting, the water and sewer budget includes the addition "of an in-house utilities inspector position, with a civil engineering degree, as recommended by the Financial Sustainability Oversight Committee."

    And with that, here are the Tweets from the meeting:


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    Most of the news from Wednesday night's 20-minute commissioners meeting had to do with Murgia Park, the slowly developing piece of paradise along Manatawny Creek.

    Township Manager Craig Lloyd said the Stowe Lions Club recently planted 20 trees along the bank of the stream. The trees were provided by Montgomery County and more will be planted in the spring, he said.

    The township is also pursuing a grant to help pay to put a pavilion at the park.

    Regional Recreation Coordinator Michael Lane said he is nearly finished with the application and said by pairing the grant application with the park's connection to the trail planned to run along the Manatawny from Pottstown's Memorial Park and up into Upper Pottsgrove will help its chances.

    Lloyd said the township crew will excavate the site and pour the concrete to cut the costs.

    Murgia Park in West Pottsgrove.
    Lane said the township won't find out about the grant until January at the earliest, so it will be some months before the project can get underway.

    This spring, a $168,658 improvement project was completed. The most visible feature of the improvement is a new bridge over Goose Run, which separates the two halves of the park, which lies along Manatawny Creek.

    According to Lloyd, in addition to supplying and installing the bridge, the contractor extended the paved trail from the existing trail to the bridge and installed a paved landing area on the other side of the bridge and installed an ADA-compliant concrete pad for a picnic table and an ADA-compliant section of paving streamside.

    The improvements also include an accessible pathway and a fishing platform.
    In other news, Lloyd reported that a two-phase sewer project on School Lane, between Race and Vine streets, will get underway soon. The first phase will be mostly storm sewer and drainage, while the second phase will also add a sanitary sewer pipe element.

    Here are the Tweets from the meeting, few as they are: