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All the news that doesn't fit in print
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    The Pottstown YMCA on North Adams Street is supposed to close in June, but an increasing cry in the community is calling for it to remain open. Wednesday night, the Pottstown Metropolitan Area Regional Planning Committee joined that chorus.

    One of the responsibilities of the Pottstown Metropolitan Area Regional Planning Committee is to comment on "developments of regional significance."

    Usually, that charge is interpreted literally and "developments" on which they comment are the kind that come with new houses or shops, roads, storm water systems and zoning variances.

    But the members of the committee, which represents Pottstown and the seven communities around it in two counties, had something to say about a developing situation in the borough for which they had no approval -- the decision by the Freedom Valley YMCA to close the local facility on North Adams Street in June.

    "The closing of YMCA is absolutely an issue of regional significance," said Upper Pottsgrove Commissioner Elwood Taylor after the issue was raised by Pottstown Councilman Ryan Procsal. "It should be in Pottstown." Freedom Valley YMCA is "taking their money and not putting it where the people need it," Taylor said.

    Membership in the Pottstown Metropolitan Area Regional 

    Planning Committee includes officials from  eight towns.
    "It's like having a centralized public library in Pottstown, it's necessary and so is the YMCA," Taylor said.

    Peggy Lee-Clark, the executive director of the Pottstown Area Industrial Development Inc., or PAID, said she is on the committee formed by the YMCA to come up with recommendations for ways to continue services after the building is shuttered.

    "There is some discomfort" on that committee "that the (Freedom Valley) YMCA is not really fulfilling their mission" by closing the building," Lee-Clark said.

    At the suggestion of John Cover, a chief community planner with the Montgomery County Planning Commission, the local officials voted unanimously Wednesday night to issue a statement and send a letter opposing the closure and calling for the improvement or upgrading of the current facility.

    Both will be written and sent by the planning commission so as not to delay the delivery of the message.

    The letter will join the resolution passed by the Pottstown School Board strongly opposing the closure, a similar call by State Representatives Thomas Quigley and Tim Hennessey, as well as a similar effort, possibly pending from the Pottsgrove School Board, according to reporting in The Sanatoga Post on the meeting there Tuesday night.

    Lee-Clark said the committee has been told it will cost $11 million over the next few years to bring the building up to snuff, and that $3 million is needed almost immediately to deal with issues of "deferred maintenance."

    "That's about half the cost of a new building," Cover observed.

    The voting concluded, Lee-Clark then said she wants to "change the narrative" that has been "appearing in the press" about the issue.

    "Poverty does not define Pottstown," she said. "Albeit this is a loss, and I understand anger about how it has been handled, but it is not a crushing to the borough and I think I have to change that narrative. I don't look at it as one more blow to Pottstown," she said.

    Noting that it is her responsibility to try to expand Pottstown's property tax base, Lee-Clark said "from my perspective, I have to go forward as if the building is vacant. I'm not interested in filling it with another non-profit."

    While I understand that perspective, I'm afraid I am going to have to call "hogwash."

    How can the person who touts Pottstown's "diversity" in PAID's marketing materials, try to minimize what the loss of the YMCA will mean to its low-income community? Maybe because it's the same person who oversaw the production of the first "I Pick Pottstown" video, which touts our "diversity," but neglects to show a single person of color.

    As someone who was once a member of the YMCA; whose son learned to swim there; to play basketball there (and learned he would never be a basketball player there); who learned karate there; who met his very best friend there, I can tell you it wouldn't have happened in a "Y Without Walls," which is the snappy sounding but meaningless alternative the Freedom Valley Y is peddling here in Pottstown, all while if builds glass and steel castles in affluent Main Line suburbs.

    Perhaps if Lee-Clark lived in the borough she is charged with improving, instead of going home every night a Chester County farm house, she would have a more organic understand of why closing the Y is a "crushing blow," why it is so important for families struggling to keep their kids off the streets to have a place to go, where they can be safe and have mentors.

    It's not just the "low-income" community that is affected by this closure. 

    The advantage of "diversity" is that it brings people of different financial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds together in shared experiences and foments understanding across financial and social divides. So if it is hurtful to the "low-income" folks in a diverse community, that means it is hurtful to the ENTIRE COMMUNITY.

    It doesn't make it less important if the low-income community is disproportionately affected, it makes it MORE important because those folks are the ones already struggling under the heaviest burdens.

    Pottstown's low-income community is not something to be ashamed of; not something that needs to be downplayed. They are proud hard-working people who may need some help to get by, or have fallen on hard times, or are struggling to overcome a fractured home life. They are the heart and soul of Pottstown just as much as Weitzenkorn's, Brunish's or Sunnybrook Ballroom. 

    That's what "diversity" means, embracing the differences and making the most of what it has to offer, not dismissing the impact on the poor and lamenting it being showcased in the local newspaper like a community's dirty laundry.

    Look, we all understand it might make marketing Pottstown to investors harder if the newspaper has a string of headlines blaring about the community being up in arms because the YMCA is abandoning its mission to help low-income communities. But that's the job Lee-Clark signed up for. It's a hard job, that's why it pays $86,000 a year, and we'll be damned if we're going to lay down and lose a vital and historic community resource just to pretty up the marketing brochure.

    Maybe we should start marketing Pottstown as a place that stands up and fights for its due.

    Anyhoo, enough speechifying.

    In point of fact, most of the regional planning meeting was taken up with discussion of the regional trail system being planned, and the most likely portions of it to be developed first.

    Also discussed was a housing development project in New Hanover near Swamp Pike and New Hanover Square Road.

    You can find all of that in the Tweets below and in subsequent articles in The Mercury.

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    Photos by Evan Brandt
    As the result of a unanimous zoning hearing board decision, this "sober living" home at 306 N. Charlotte St. will soon be a home to eight recovering male addicts.
    A unanimous vote by the borough's zoning hearing board Thursday night cleared the way for a six-bedroom house in the 300 block of North Charlotte Street to house eight recovering male addicts.

    The building is already home to four recovering addicts, said Jacob Ballou, himself a recovering addict who testified about the program at the house.

    Although Pottstown Borough Council had opposed the application on the basis of the parking variance being sought -- the code requires four spaces for eight residents -- that opposition became moot.
    Jacob Ballou testifies in last night's zoning hearing.

    As the hearing got underway Thursday night, attorney Joseph McGrory informed the board that his
    client had obtained a lease at a neighboring property for additional parking and thus the application complied with the zoning code.

    Without the need for a variance, that left McGrory with only the requirement of proving the home met all of the conditions for the "special exception" by which the zoning code allows group homes.

    Ballou and his mother, Kerry Ballou, who owns the house, explained the rules the residents must follow.

    Unlike many group homes in the borough, which are sponsored by a non-profit or government agency, this home is entirely the construct of the Ballou family and all residents are voluntary. None are there as the result of a court-ordered recovery.

    Despite the rental of the extra spaces, some residents said they still believe parking will be a problem, and at least one said she shares the opinion posted on Facebook by a resident who said living next to a sober home on York Street is unpleasant and loud.

    Two speakers, one a resident of the North Charlotte Street home, one not, spoke in favor of sober homes and said since the people who live there "are trying to get their lives back together," they often cannot afford a car.

    Here are the Tweets from the meeting:

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    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the Pottstown GoFourth organization

    After an overwhelmingly successful inaugural Pottstown GoFourth! Festival last year, a reorganized committee is dedicated to providing a fireworks finale for area families attending the holiday celebration on Wednesday, July 4.

    The festival will begin around noon, immediately after the Pottstown Fourth of July parade.

    To officially kick off fundraising efforts, Pottstown GoFourth! is hosting an event on Wednesday, April 4 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at 140 College Drive, Floor 2R, Montgomery County Community College Innovation Hub.

    A $10 suggested donation will provide admission to a fun gathering with food, beverages, raffles, and live music by area favorite Rebecca Shoemaker, accompanied on piano by her son, Sam Pattine.

    The Pottstown GoFourth! organization now is an official Pennsylvania 501c3 non-profit corporation, operating under the TriCounty Community Network, which manages all GoFourth! finances and reporting.

    Co-Chairpersons Amy Francis and Amy Wolf emphasize that not a penny of taxpayer money supports the July 4 festivities, which is why fundraising is so essential.

    The Whiskeyhickon Boys performed last year
    “No Pottstown Borough funds help to pay for this celebration,” Wolf says. “It is completely funded by sponsorships and donations made by businesses and individuals who want to offer our greater Pottstown community a fun, family-oriented event -- a happening that showcases all the positive community spirit and amenities that Pottstown has to offer.”

    Last year’s GoFourth! featured a laser and music show. “People were open-minded about seeing the laser show as an alternative to fireworks,” Francis says, “but we also heard a clear preference for traditional fireworks. As a result, the committee has dedicated itself to raising the funds to make fireworks happen as part of this free, true community event. However, folks should know that fireworks cost about $1,000 per minute in addition to ancillary costs such as fire department fees.”

    “We cannot begin to fund this festival through bucket collections alone,” Wolf says, adding that the
    volunteers are seeking two headlining fireworks sponsors of $10,000 each (or one official and extraordinarily generous sponsor at $20,000).

    The co-chairs note that last year’s attendees loved the variety of professional live music that was performed all day, in addition to the food trucks, arts and crafts vendors, and the Sly Fox beer tent -- all of which will return this year – as well as hot air balloon rides by the U.S. Hot Air Balloon Team. 

    The festival also will include activities geared toward children, ranging from face painting to the appearance of “Grandpop Bubbles,” a performance artist who creates enormous bubbles much to delight of young and old alike. Grandpop Bubbles’ performance and all of the children’s activities for the day are being generously sponsored by ROG Orthodontics.

    Also new this year will be a “Royal Court” competition: Area school districts will be asked to encourage their Homecoming Kings and Queens to compete through fundraising to be named King and Queen of the Pottstown GoFourth! Royal Court – and runners up will be named Prince and Princess of the Court. All Royal Court selections will appear in the Rotary Club-sponsored July 4th parade and will be officially honored at the GoFourth! festival.

    Other activities that will complement the GoFourth! events at the park will include, confirmed to date, opportunities to play miniature golf at Manatawny Green and board the Colebrookdale Railroad which will conduct short runs to and from the park to the Boyertown station.

    The Rotary Club parade will take place again, as noted. Interested parties should contact as soon as possible to register. (There is a modest registration fee that will cover traffic control and other related expenses.) 

    The giant duck means the annual duck race is on.
    The parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. at High and Adams Streets and continue west to Manatawny Street – and participants as well as spectators will be encouraged to continue on to the King Street entrance of Memorial Park to participate in the GoFourth! Festival!

    The Rotary Club also will hold its 26th Annual Duck Race on Manatawny Creek the afternoon of July 4. By selling duck sponsorships, the Rotary will benefit charities in the greater Pottstown area – including PottstownGoFourth! 

     To sponsor a Rotary duck, go to (or purchase a duck at the GoFourth festival on July 4); to make a parade contribution, please send a tax-deductible donation to the Pottstown Rotary Community Endowment Fund (PRCEF) via P.O. Box 227, Pottstown, PA. 19464.

    “When you look at photos from last year’s GoFourth! Festival, it’s striking to see the beautiful cross-section of Pottstown people – diverse smiling faces, young to old,” says Wolf. “The volunteers want to build on 2017’s wonderful event and provide an even better experience for our hometown.”

    While last year’s festival was a two-day event, this year’s GoFourth! will be limited to July 4 only, which will help save costs on items ranging from parking lot rental fees to portable restroom facilities. Carnival rides will not be offered this year, notes Francis, citing not only the prohibitive costs but difficulty in finding vendors who will set up rides for a one-day-only event.

    Help Bring Back the Fireworks and Support PottstownGoFourth!

    Area businesses and citizens can play a vital role in ensuring the success of this year’s all- volunteer led effort to throw a successful July 4 event for the community and guests. In addition to supporting the April 4th benefit event:
    • Tax-deductible donations can be made by donating online at, or by sending a check made payable to the TriCounty Community Network (TCN) and noting “Attention: GoFourth” in the memo line on the check. Checks may be sent to Pottstown GoFourth! Festival, PO Box 1362, Pottstown, PA 19464. 
    • Businesses or individuals may sponsor various entertainment providers and activities – and in exchange they will receive outstanding publicity and other benefits including (for upper level sponsors) preferred seating during the fireworks display. To learn more about becoming a sponsor, go to or email To date, in addition to those sponsorships already noted, the Pottstown Mercury is a generous GoFourth! supporter. 
    • Roughly 20 food vendors are expected at the festival, additional culinary offerings are welcome. Vendor applications can be found at:
    • Similarly, quality arts and crafts vendors will be featuring their wares, but additional artisans are encouraged to participate. Again, the website provides relevant information. Vendor applications can be found at:
    • Friends of PottstownGoFourth! Festival can purchase GoFourth! merchandise, including the popular hats, which always sell out quickly. GoFourth! Merchandise can be purchased at when available and while supplies last. 
    Please look for updates about Pottstown GoFourth! at or and at and .

    (While there is not a rain date for the entire festival, the rain date for fireworks only will be July 13.) 

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    A collier at work.

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

    What is a Collier? In recognition of the 80th Anniversary of Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, the Friends of Hopewell Furnace will host storyteller, collier and author Susannah Brody’s exploration of the Colliers of Hopewell Furnace. 

    The free program will begin at 2 p.m. in the Hopewell Furnace Conference Center on Sunday, April 8.

    The Colliers of Hopewell Furnace supplied charcoal, a key ingredient in making iron. Their contribution was deemed so important that during the establishment of the park, the WPA/Civilian Conservation Corps demonstrated the art of charcoal making as the park’s first formal interpretive program. 

    Brody will discuss the amazing process that still continues. Twice a year, volunteers gather for a week long demonstration of the art and craft of charcoal making.

    Brody, a retired teacher, has a Master of Arts degree in oral traditions from the Graduate Institute of Connecticut and is a member of Patchwork, a storytelling guild, and the National Storytelling Network. 

    In addition to her definitive work on charcoal making, Brody’s publications include: “Uwchlan Township: 300 Years Above the Valley”, “Remembering Chester County: Stories from Valley Forge to Coatesville”, a three volume set of Chester County Biographies and “The History of Dowlin Forge.”

    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. For more information visit the Friends web site at

    While at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site visitors are encouraged to 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 of Route 345. For more information stop by the park's visitor center, call 610-582-8773, visit the park's web site at, or contact the park by e-mail at

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    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by Brookside's new golf pro, Brian Farrell.

    Brookside Country Club is very excited to offer a fun day of golf, free instruction, and contests to the local community.

    Having lived in the Pottstown area for the past 16 years, I’m excited to have the opportunity to give back my passion and love for the game to the community.

    I will bring my knowledge in Junior Golf, Women’s golf and Player Development Programming (PDP) to Brookside Country Club. 

    In 2018, we will be offering something for everyone. From toddler to the most experienced golfer, there will be activities and learning for all. Brookside will have a full complement of junior golf programming starting in April and running through September. 

    We begin with an orientation night to outline the entire junior schedule. From there, the schedule moves on to junior clinics and a new hybrid junior development program called “Fire 36”. “Fire 36” is designed to allow playable course conditions for juniors of any age. 

    Lastly, for those juniors who are looking for a team atmosphere and a little more competitive golf experience, we have our first ever PGA Junior League Team here at Brookside.

    In addition, we are also offering a “Women’s Get Golf Ready” program for those wanting to learn how to play golf for the first time.

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    I would like to tell that a big news story came out of last night's Lower Pottsgrove Township Commissioners meeting, because that would be exciting.

    It would also be a lie.

    The agenda item which had excited my attention and, I presumed, would generate some news -- an update on the infrastructure committee's consideration of a new township building -- fizzled.

    Not much new to report it turns out.

    I did find out about some month-old news that I missed during one of our late season snowstorms.

    Evidently during the nor'easter on March 1, an equipment failure at the sewage pumping station on Porter Road shut down the whole system and filled the station with several feet of raw sewage.

    It took hours and the heroic efforts of personnel from the township and Sanatoga Fire Company to get it out without polluting Sprogel's Run and get it repaired.

    Those repairs are temporary and the insurance company is still figuring out how much it will have to pay out, said Township Manager Ed Wagner.

    Cost estimates are "into the six figures," he said.

    So that's something, but sort of fails in the N-E-W department of N-E-W-S.

    So, here are the Tweets, such as they are. Hey folks, municipal reporting is not always the rip-snorting adrenaline-jacked thrill ride you imagine it to be.

    Sometimes, things are just routine.

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    Photo by Evan Brandt

    Current concept for the master plan for Limerick Community Park, as discussed by the supervisors last night.

    Name a kind of park, chances are Limerick Township Supervisors talked about it last night.

    Mobile home park? Check.

    Community park? Check.

    Parking in the community park? Check again.

    It was indeed a night to park it and considering the two combined meetings were more than four hours long, we were parked in our chairs for an awfully long time.

    At 6 p.m., a hearing on "alleged violations" at the Ridgeview Terrace mobile home park on Ridge Pike were held, complete with lawyers and court stenographers, testimony and code citations.

    Too bad it was all a big misunderstanding. Never underestimate the damage bad writing can do.

    As the two-hour hearing wound down Code Enforcement Office Director Robert Loeper Jr. indicated that the letter he had sent to Morgantown-based GSP Management had been intended merely to alert him to problems on the property Loeper thought should be discussed.

    But since the letter also said something about "could lead to violation notices," the lawyers got unsheathed and we had a little circus about long-standing problems.

    Perhaps the best outcome of the time spent was the nearly 50 residents who attended the hearing. Many of them got to "have their say" about conditions which had been eating at them for years. In fact, at one point, Township solicitor Joe McGrory joked the crowd was there "to beat up on" owner Frank Perano, who said he manages at least 70 other mobile home parks.

    It is probably a good thing Perano's lawyer agreed to withdraw the formal objection, thus rendering the hearing unofficial, otherwise Perano might have faced a charge of lying under oath.

    At one point McGrory asked him if any of the mobile home parks he manages had ever been fined or subject of criminal charges and he said "not to my knowledge."

    Perhaps he forgot about the $1.3 million the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined him and his company in 2012 for violating state and federal laws at 73 facilities in three states, according to this report from WFMZ.

    But enough of that ugly business. Let's move on to more bucolic pursuits.

    The partial loop was the supervisors preferred option.
    Toward the end of this marathon of a meeting, Sarah Leeper and William Collins of the landscape architecture firm Simone Collins walked the board through improvement plans for the township's Community Park as they now stand.

    The park is already home to the Manderach Playground, a popular community funded park with its signature two-story tube slide, enjoyed by residents (and non-residents) for years.

    After meeting with residents and staff, the firm began, Collins said, with the road that bisects the park currently -- Ziegler Road.

    Some wanted it to no longer bisect the park, others wanted access on both sides, so the firm came up with four alternatives, the second of which was the one favored by the supervisors.

    Called the "partial loop" option, it allows traffic to pass through the park, but loops it down around the parameter and, with proper traffic control devices, should keep it from becoming "a speedway" as Supervisor Ken Sperring said he fears.

    Supervisor Kara Shuler made some suggestions about locating parking closer to fields, for older residents who want to watch their grandchildren play soccer, lacrosse, football ....

    Collins said the team had received enough input to move forward.

    Current conceptual plans, which have not yet been engineered, call for a long list of amenities including baseball and softball fields, tennis courts, bocce courts, three different kinds of plagrounds, a natural amphitheater and a community center.

    You can learn more about it amid the plentiful, plentiful Tweets below:

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    Photos by Evan Brandt

    Pottstown Police Chief Rick Drumheller was all smiles after announcing that he will retire in July, 18 months earlier than expected.
    Drumheller got the best kind of goodbye from
    Pottstown Mayor Stephanie Henrick last night.
    In case you weren't online last night, or checking my Twitter feed on your phone (and why not?!?), you may not know why this man is smiling.

    Police Chief Rick Drumheller announced he is retiring 18 months sooner than everyone expected. His last day will be on July 6.

    I will miss him.

    From what I could see, he was a gentle soul for a police chief and truly cared about the community where he worked for 30 years.

    And he had the nicest way of telling you he wasn't going to tell you anything whenever I asked him about a crime investigation he wasn't ready to talk about.

    He doesn't have a new job lined up, or a problem at work. He said "I just know in my heart its time."

    Click here to read the Mercury story I wrote last night.

    The other significant news event from last night's meeting is the consideration of a resolution from Pottstown Borough Council opposing the planned YMCA closure in June.

    Council will join a number of government and community organizations opposing the closure, including Pottstown School Board, the Pottstown Metropolitan Area Regional Planning Committee, the Pottstown chapter of the NAACP and, perhaps as soon as next week, the Pottsgrove School Board.

    Also weighing in was Don Smale, a member of the task force Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA put together to make recommendations for easing the closure and finding new homes for the programs -- but specifically instructed NOT to recommend keeping it open.

    Here is video of what he had to tell council:

    Council President Dan Weand said he went through a similar experience when an Ohio-based company bought Stanley Flagg Brass in West Pottsgrove.

    "They mismanaged it, ran it into the ground but kept taking the money out of it and sending it back to Ohio. Then, when they had failed to invest in any upgrades at the plant, they said 'well, you don't make money anymore, so we're closing you down,'" said Weand.

    "We called it mining for gold by the executives. This is the same scenario I'm seeing out of Y," he said.

    Council will vote on the resolution Monday.

    Of less immediate, but perhaps no-less--important significance was the naming of four people to to the board of the newly created Pottstown Land Bank.

    They are Cheryl Chiarello, who also serves on the Pottstown Blighted Property Review Committee; Twila Fisher, who head's The Hill School's Hobart's Run initiative; Deb Penrod, a member of the Pottstown Planning Commission and the board of the Pottstown Regional Public Library and Andrew Monastra, a local attorney and member of the Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority.

    And with that, I'm headed to bed.

    Here are the Tweets and videos from the meeting:

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    Area high school students participate in the Pottstown Rotary Club's 4-Way Contest at Brookside Country Club

    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the Pottstown Rotary Club.

    One of the worlds’ most widely printed and quoted statements of ethics is The 4 Way Test, which was created in 1932 by Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor.

    Adopted by Rotary in 1943, The 4 Way Test has been translated into more than a hundred languages and published in thousands of ways. 

    It asks the following four questions of the things we think, say and do:

    1. Is it the TRUTH?
    2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
    3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
    4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

    The Pottstown Rotary's 4-Way Test speech competition began on Saturday, March 24 at Brookside Country Club and culminates on April 28th at the Rotary District 7340 Conference which will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Reading.
    The winners were, from right, Logan Ruyack, 1st place; 

    Chloe Sullivan, 3rd place; and Barry Wang, 2nd place.

    The conference is attended by 300-500 Rotarians from district 7340. This year the conference will also include Interact clubs from the area.

    This event has proven to be a tremendous learning and confidence building experience for the students in the past. The results of the competition are:
    • First Place: Logan Ruyack of Pottstown High School
    • Second Place: Barry Wang of The Hill School 
    • Third Place: Chloe Sullivan of Pottstgrove High School
    Also Competing:
    • Melissa Xu of The Hill School 
    • Frazier Thomas of Pottsgrove High School
    • Abigail Richter of Pottstown High School 
    • Courtney Parry of Pottstown High School

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    Photos by Evan Brandt

    Volunteers Terry Fetterman, left, and Darlene Bainbridge man the Pottstown GoFourth gear table during the kick-off fundraiser Wednesday to raise money for fireworks at this year's Fourth of July celebration in Memorial Park.

    The effort to raise money for fireworks kicked-eff Wednesday with a mixer at Montgomery County Community College's Innovation Hub on College Drive.

    Several dozen folks listened to jazz, bought 50/50 tickets, ate finger food donated by local eateries
    The food table was a popular stop Wednesday.
    and quaffed beverages -- all for a good cause: Bringing fireworks back to Pottstown for Fourth of July.

    In yet another attempt to squash a myth that will not die, let us say again that NO TAX MONEY IS USED FOR FIREWORKS!

    That means, those who want them have to help pay for them and Wednesday's kick-off offered a way to do just that in a pleasantly sociable way.

    But if you missed it, don't fret. There are still plenty of ways you can help bring back the fireworks.

    Tax-deductible donations can be made by donating online at, or by sending a check made payable to the TriCounty Community Network (TCN) and noting “Attention: GoFourth” in the memo line on the check.
    Pottstown GoFourth Co-Chair Amy Wolf thanks the crowd.
    Checks may be sent to Pottstown GoFourth! Festival, PO Box 1362, Pottstown, PA 19464.

    Here are some other ways to help support the effort:
    • Businesses or individuals may sponsor various entertainment providers and activities – and in exchange they will receive outstanding publicity and other benefits including (for upper level sponsors) preferred seating during the fireworks display. To learn more about becoming a sponsor, go to or email To date, in addition to those sponsorships already noted, the Pottstown Mercury is a generous GoFourth! supporter.
    • Roughly 20 food vendors are expected at the festival, additional culinary offerings are
      welcome. Vendor applications can be found at: 
    • Similarly, quality arts and crafts vendors will be featuring their wares, but additional artisans are encouraged to participate. Again, the website provides relevant information. Vendor applications can be found at:
    • Friends of PottstownGoFourth! Festival can purchase GoFourth! merchandise, including the popular hats, which always sell out quickly. GoFourth! Merchandise can be purchased at when available and while supplies last.

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    The Coventry Singers

    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the Coventry Singers.

    The Coventry Singers present their spring concert “Promise and Hope”, April 14th in Boyertown and April 15th in Pottstown. 

    The concert is comprised of music of historical significance and emotional impact. Pieces include Mozart’s “Ave Verum”, Handel’s “Hallelujah Amen”, and more contemporary pieces such as Stroope’s “Lamentations of Jeremiah” and Horvit’s “Even When God is Silent”, in honor of the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, The Night of Broken Glass. 

    The concert concludes with traditional spiritual music including “There is a Balm in Gilead” and “I Hear a Voice A-Prayin”.

    The Coventry Singers, a choir of about 40 voices, have been performing in the Pottstown area since 1972. They have performed with the Pottstown Symphony, the Lehigh Valley Chamber Orchestra, and at Longwood Gardens Christmas Concert Series. 

    More recently they have performed Handel’s Messiah with the Reading Choral Society, the National Anthem at the Reading Royals hockey games and participated in the Pottstown Relay for Life luminaria lighting ceremony. 
    Dan Kershetsky is returning as director in his second season with the Coventry Singers. Dan, a 1981 graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, with a Bachelor of Science in Music Education, and a 1993 graduate of West Chester University, with a Master of Music Degree in Music Education, has spent 33 years in public education, most recently teaching in the Boyertown Area School District for 26 years. 

    Nadine Lydic returns as piano accompanist. Nadine holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Her master’s degree in music is from West Chester University. She also is a retired teacher from the Boyertown School District and has been a member of the Coventry Singers for many years.

    Featured musicians for this concert include Violinist Christopher Cinquini, orchestra director for the Reading Symphony Youth Orchestra and Boyertown Area Senior High School; Cellist Daniel Bishop of Exeter Senior High School; Clarinetist Robert Schwanger, a private woodwind teacher from Boyertown; and organist Matthew Wary, music director at Good Shepherd UCC.

    Performances take place Saturday April 14th at 7 p.m. at Good Shepherd UCC, 35 W. Philadelphia Ave. Boyertown, and Sunday April 15th at 3 p.m. at St. James Lutheran Church, 1101 E. High St. Pottstown. 

     The concerts are free and open to the public. A freewill offering will be accepted. For more information about the Coventry Singers, visit their website or find them on Facebook at Coventry Singers-Pottstown, Pa.

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    After being passed over last year from one of the two medical marijuana permits Pennsylvania issued for the five-county region around Philadelphia, a company that wants to site a facility in Pottstown is trying again.

    Jon Cohn, from Agronomed, appeared before Pottstown Borough Council Monday night and said not only is his company still interested in establishing a medical marijuana grow/processing facility in the borough, but they are also interested in establishing hemp-growing site as well.

    Hemp is a cousin to cannabis, but does not have any of the psycho-active
    Agronomed wants to grow both hemp and 

    cannabis in Pottstown.
    properties that have made marijuana so controversial. It also does not have any of the medicinal properties.

    But, wonder plant that it apparently is, it has many uses, such as conducting electricity, housing insulation and more, said Cohn. "William Penn and George Washington grew hemp," he said.

    The U.S. also imports lots of hemp from China, so growing it here would also help the local economy he said.

    He didn't have to work too hard to convince council. Councilman Dennis Arms made a motion on the spot to issue a letter of support to allow Cohn to make his May application deadline. It was adopted unanimously.

    Also adopted unanimously was a resolution opposing the closure of the YMCA in Pottstown that we have been doing just a bit of reporting on lately.

    The other item of relative interest was council's unanimous decision to reject Twila fisher, the director of The Hill School's Hobart's run from the board of directors for the newly established land bank.

    They apparently agreed with the concerns raised by former councilwoman Sheryl Miller that Fisher's position encouraging property purchases around The Hill School campus might create a conflict of interest.

    They unanimously approved Cheryl Chiarello, who is on the blighted property committee; Andrew Monastra, who is on the Historic Architecture Review Board; Deb Penrod who is on the planning commission and Council Vice President Carol Kulp.

    Whomever is chosen instead of Fisher cannot be any kind of borough officials, like the others, according to the by-laws set up in the ordinance creating the land bank.

    Here are the Tweets from the meeting:

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    The stadium at Boyertown Area Senior High School is currently closed to the public
    It's probably safe to say that both the school board and parents who attended Tuesday's meeting hoping to get some glimpse of how long the district will have to go without the use of its structurally-challenged stadium left the meeting disappointed.

    Tom Slowik, from the firm of Barry Isett & Assoc. outlined some proposed fixes for the stadium -- specifically a steel "exo-skeleton" as one board member put it, for the underside of the stadium and brick fixes and extra fasteners for the brick facade.

    But the unanswered question is how bad are the pre-stressed concrete forms that hold up the seats and the riders?

    The problem, said Slowik, is that the condition of the cables in the interior of the concrete is unknown and requires special testing from a special lab that could take several weeks. The absence of that information prevented him from giving either the school board or the anxious parents in the audience the two answers they crave -- how much? and how long?

    Some of the parents conceded that with the timeline expanding the way it seems to be, it would be unlikely the stadium would be ready by the fall athletic season and alternative plans -- like using the stadium at Ursinus College, which plays on Saturdays -- should be explored.

    Several board members spent some time explaining why the problems at the stadium -- stewing for as long as 10 years -- are not their fault.

    Also of interest was the announcement by School Board President Donna Usavage that Juniata School District Superintendent Keith Yarger is the leading contender to be Boyertown's new superintendent. Richard Faidley resigned last year.

    Yarger will visit on April 23 and the public will be invited to meet him, details to follow.

    And in the guess-what-else department, Usavage also allowed the board to propose and pass a resolution not on the agenda and suggested by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association in opposition to proposed Senate Bill 2.

    The bill would allow students in failing districts to take their state subsidy and go elsewhere, including a private school. The resolution passed 6-3, but not without some spirited opposition from board member Clay Breece.

    Here are the Tweets from the meeting:

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    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by Pottstrove Manor.

    Celebrate the arrival of spring and dig into history with Pottsgrove Manor at the opening of the 18th century kitchen garden on Saturday, April 14, from 11 a.m. to 3p.m.

    Pull out the roots of the past and learn about the central role of gardens in Colonial America. Discover the many uses of plants, from food to medicine, with Thankful Sage Farm School. 

    Get your hands dirty and help the colonial gardener plant and dig in the garden. Smell the different herbs and discover if you can match familiar scents to the right plant. 

    At 1 p.m., join historian Clarissa Dillon to find out the important role of kitchen gardens in the 18th
    The garden at Pottsgrove Manor
    century. Visitors can also plant seeds and take them home to start their own kitchen garden. Rows of herbs, vegetables, and even flowers will soon be blooming at Pottsgrove Manor, make sure be there at the beginning to help all these plants take root in history.

    Tours of the manor will also be available throughout the day. Explore Pottsgrove Manor’s new exhibit, “Good Night at the Manor,” to uncover the evening routines of the Potts family as well as their household staff. 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 handmade soaps and recipe books to inspire you to find all the uses for the plants in your garden

    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, near the Carousel at Pottsgrove and Manatawny Green Miniature Golf Course, in Pottstown. 

    Pottsgrove Manor is operated by the Montgomery County Division of Parks, Trails, and Historic Sites.

    For more information, call 610-326-4014, or visit the website at

    Like Pottsgrove Manor on Facebook at

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

    Students in Deb Macllvain’s class entered the Opioid Video Contest Program that is currently being sponsored in the PA Senate.

    The group of students from Pottsgrove Middle School participated and submitted videos into this scholarship contest aimed at educating and bringing awareness to drug addiction. 

    The students are: Yomary Villagomez, MaryKate Kaiser, Julia Walton, Alyssa Confino

    The group of students that submitted a video from Pottsgrove are going on to the semi-finalists in the next round of statewide judging. 

    Senator John Rafferty, R-44th Dist. visited Pottsgrove Middle School on March 23, to present students with certificates for their achievements. 

    The winners of the contest, sponsored by Commonwealth Crisis, will received a $10,000 scholarship check, according to information Rafferty on his Facebook account.

    The final video’s will be judged during the month of April and the state's First place winner wuill be announced within the next weeks.

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

    Lace up your sneakers for the 2nd annual Race Against Racism, a 5K color run and walk to raise awareness and support for racial justice programming and events by the YWCA Tri-County Area, on Saturday, June 23, at Riverfront Park in Pottstown.

    This event has been re-scheduled from the original date of April 28.

    Registration fees are:  
    Adult: (18+): $30 before 4/20, $40 after; 
    Student: (grades K-12): $15 before 4/20, $20 after; 
    Family (up to 5 participants/2 adults maximum): $60 before 4/20, $70 after.

    Registration is available online at www.

    Runners begin the paved, mostly flat 5K (3.1 miles) course at 8:30 a.m.; walkers begin at 9 a.m. Packet pickup begins at 7:30 a.m. at Pottstown’s Riverfront Park Trailhead, adjacent to Schuylkill River Heritage Area offices, 140 College Drive, Pottstown. 

    All participants will receive a T-shirt, a color packet, and finisher’s medal.

    Race Against Racism is a family-friendly event with a fun color-powder twist that celebrates health, happiness, and inclusion. 

    The event is held as a part of YWCA USA’s national Stand Against Racism, a signature campaign to build community among those who work for racial justice and to raise awareness about the negative impact of institutional and structural racism in our communities. 

    Local sponsors include Wawa and Herr’s.

    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 women and girls’ advocacy and works to eliminate racism and empower women through quality affordable early education, adult literacy, youth development, and a host of programs to support the health and vitality of women, girls, and families.

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    Ebony Reddick, in center with flowers, has scored 200 points for the Pottstown High School Girls Lacrosse Team.

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

    Pottstown High Senior Ebony Reddick proves she is a triple threat,on the court,the field and in the classroom.

    Ebony just scored her 200th goal on way to helping the Trojan Lacrosse team kick off the Spring season. 

    During the winter she was a standout member of the basketball team and achieved the 1,000 points milestone.

    Her star shines bright in the classroom as well with a 91 percent GPA she will be attending Notre Dame College of Ohio.

    Student of the Month
    She was selected the Pottstown High School Co-Curricular Student of the 2nd Quarter. 

    "Being involved has helped me  make more friends and understand the concept of teamwork," said Ebony. 

    "It has also made me pay more attention to my grades and taught me how to be a leader in the classroom," she said. 

    "Being enrolled in our Early Childhood Education program has helped me understand and develop a strong sense of responsibility," Ebony said. 

    "I feel my experiences in the classroom and as a member of our athletic teams has helped prepare me for future success," said Ebony. 

    Ebony Reddick, one more reason to say Proud to be from Pottstown.

    Earlier this year, Ebony Reddick scored her 1,000th basket.

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    There is lots of dancing at the annual Pottstown Celebrates Young Children and Health Kids Day.

    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by Pottstown Early Action for Kindergarten Readiness.

    Spring has arrived and so has the time for the 12th Annual Pottstown Celebrates Young Children and Pottstown YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day which will be held on Saturday, April 21, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Pottstown High School, 750 N. Washington St.

    The FREE community event is designed for families with young children. Pottstown Early Action for Kindergarten Readiness or PEAK, Pottstown School District’s school readiness initiative, is partnering once again with Pottstown YMCA and the Pottstown Parks and Recreation Department to offer fun, family-friendly activities and resources from more than 85 community organizations.
    There will be a petting zoo again this year.

    The YMCA will be providing an obstacle course and other fun fitness activities.

    This year, PEAK is partnering with the Pottstown 7-Eleven as the main sponsor for the April 21 children’s celebration.

    Valerie Jackson, the PEAK Coordinator said, “the generous donations such as those of 7-Eleven and our other sponsors make this day a success.” 
    The YMCA will provide an obstacle course.

    Other sponsors for this event include Pottstown Hospital Tower Health, Wawa store No. 8040, Costco, Giant and Wegmans of Collegeville. Jackson stated, “PEAK is about partnerships and this event is truly a partnership venture to bring the community together for the benefit of our families and children”

    The Week of April 16 through April 20, 2018 is the Week of the Young Child, a children’s celebration organized by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The national event focuses on young children and their families by informing the public about early childhood programs and services.

    Last year’s event drew thousands of individuals and organizers are hoping for an even larger crowd this year. FREE food and beverages will be available to keep families cool as they visit the various tables of organizations that connect families to resources. 

    In addition to providing information about their organization, the tables will be filled with fun
    Pottstown FARM will be among the many organizations
    participating on Saturday.
    activities and giveaways for both children and families to enjoy. Organizations in attendance will include Coventry Mall, Olivet Boys and Girls Club, ACLAMO, Pottstown Family Center, Pottstown FARM, Pottstown Police Athletic League (PAL), 422 SportsPlex, Health Partners Plans, Steel River Playhouse, Montgomery County Intermediate Unit and many more.

    FREE gift bags filled with school readiness information and activity sets will be provided by Uniting Communities for Kids, a joint school transitions venture between West Pottsgrove Elementary School and PEAK.
    For more information, contact Miica Patterson at or call 484-987-5553.

    For more information about PEAK, visit the website at or contact Valerie Jackson, PEAK Coordinator, at or 610-970-6655.

    PEAK (Pottstown Early Action for Kindergarten Readiness) is a collaboration of Pottstown School District and community organizations that are working together to design and implement strategies that enable children to enter kindergarten ready to learn, and to engage Pottstown’s families. 

    PEAK focuses its work in five interrelated areas: community outreach, family engagement, quality improvement, kindergarten transition, and health/wellness. PEAK’s overarching goal is to build an infrastructure that ensures all children in Pottstown enter kindergarten ready to learn.

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    Photo by Evan Brandt
    It was probably appropriate that lifesaving awards were given out during Monday's Upper Providence Supervisors Meeting, this one for a heart attack at Pope John Paul II High School, given that the board adopted a new strategic plan for fire and emergency medical services later in the meeting.
    The future of fire and emergency medical services in the township were decided Monday night.

    The township supervisors adopted two resolutions, one for fire services and another for emergency medical services, which will set the stage for future growth and expansion.

    The key points of the fire services resolution are:

    A. Phase 1 Milestones: – (0 - 6 months):

    1. Form a joint Township – Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company steering committee to address the integration of career and volunteer firefighters who shall operate as one combination fire department.
    2. Identify space at the Oaks Station and relocate daytime career staff to the Oaks station. 
    3. Consider supporting a volunteer stipend program or volunteer live-in program to bolster the volunteer response. 

    B. Phase 2 Milestones: – (6 - 36 months) 
    1. On or before October 1, 2018 finalize the design, bid specifications and cost scope for a new emergency services facility. 
    2. Transition career firefighter/EMTs to twelve-hour shifts (6:00am to 6:00pm) seven days per week beginning January 1, 2019 
    3. Fund the hiring of two full-time career firefighter/EMTs and the transition of existing career firefighters to 12-hour shifts as part of the 2019 budget. 
    4. On or before January 1, 2019 advertise and award bids for a new emergency services facility. April 16, 2018 BOS Meeting Page 148 of 162 
    5. Relocate career firefighters to the new emergency services facility upon completion of the facility which shall act as the main hub of fire service delivery to Upper Providence Township. 
    6. Develop a plan for the disposition of the Mont Clare Fire Station and support Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company in evaluating and making needed upgrades to the Oaks Fire Station.
    C. Phase 3 Milestones: – (3 – 5 years)

    1. Consider forming a committee of elected and appointed officials from Upper Providence Township, Trappe, Collegeville and Royersford Boroughs to explore ways to improve cost efficiencies and to develop a regional solution for providing fire services. 
    2. Seek regional grant support and professional consulting assistance from Harrisburg to help forge a realistic, regional fire services blueprint by 2025. 
    3. Explore the formation of a Council of Governments to maintain a regular dialogue among area elected officials, not only on fire-related issues but all areas of municipal service.

    This resolution was adopted unanimously by the board.

    However the second resolution, regarding emergency medical services, has a more contentious history, with two board members, Albert Vagnozzi and Phillip Barker voting no.

    Some of you may recall Vagnozzi was vocal about the plan by the previous board to buy a new ambulance, and he said he agreed with everything about the resolution, except the step to delay the purchase of a new ambulance and instead institute 24/7 paramedic coverage and purchase a vehicle for that purpose.

    Aside from the $250,000 cost for coverage, Vagnozzi also said "there is no doubt in my mind that the staff was bullied by people on this board to come up with this matrix and I'm shocked."

    Supervisors Chairman John Pearson said he wanted to pursue the option that is most helpful to the two out-of-town ambulance services that provide service to Upper Providence, saying "I am not going to tell Trappe and Friendship how to run their business."

    Supervisors Laurie Higgins and Helen Calci read from written statements about their reasons for supporting the move.

    The emergency medical plan is as follows:

    A. Phase 1 Milestones: 
    1. On or before June 1, 2018 prepare and circulate a competitive request for proposal (RFP) for staffing an ALS medic responder twenty-four (24) hours per day, seven (7) days per week. 
    2. On or before August 1, 2018, present for the Board of Supervisors’ consideration a written agreement with the contracted agency. 
    3. On or before August 15, 2018, and in compliance with Commonwealth bidding laws, procure and upfit a vehicle to provide an ALS medic responder capability for use by the contracted agency utilizing proceeds from the DOW grant. 
    4. On or before September 15, 2018 formally deploy the ALS medic responder at an interim, centralized location within the Township. 

    B. Phase 2 Milestones: 
    1. On or before October 1, 2018 finalize the design, bid specifications and cost scope for a new emergency services facility, which will include a dual design for a future full-service ALS ambulance. 
    2. In preparing the 2019 operating and capital budget, increase the EMS portion of the public safety levy to fund the ALS medic responder. 
    3. On or before January 1, 2019 advertise and award bids for a new emergency services facility. 
    4. Maintain current QRS capability through January 1, 2019 and expand QRS capability after January 1, 2019 to coincide with expanded firefighter/EMT shifts. 
    5. Relocate the ALS medic responder to the new emergency services facility upon its completion. 
    6. Annually evaluate EMS call volume and response statistics beginning in February of 2019 for the prior year to determine when it may be appropriate to deploy an ALS ambulance. 

    C. Phase 3 Milestones:– Over the next 3-5 years and before deploying an ALS ambulance: 
    1. Consider forming a committee of elected and appointed officials from Upper Providence Township, Trappe, Collegeville and Royersford Boroughs to explore ways to improve cost efficiencies and to develop a regional solution for providing emergency medical services. 
    2. Seek regional grant support and professional consulting assistance from Harrisburg to help forge a realistic, regional EMS blueprint by 2025. 
    3. Explore the formation of a Council of Governments to maintain a regular dialogue among area elected officials, not only on EMS-related issues but all areas of municipal service. 

    Here are the Tweets from the meeting:

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    Pottstown Borough Authority officials insist this new Gryphon Environmental dryer system will be most cost efficient and be easier and cheaper to repair and maintain that the maintenance-plagued dryer now in operation at the Pottstown Wastewater Treatment Plant.
    There isn't even a shovel in the ground.

    In fact, the unit hasn't even been built yet.

    But the project to replace the 10-year-old maintenance-plagued sewer sludge dryer at the Pottstown Wastewater Treatment Plant is already over budget -- by $1.3 million.

    What was supposed to cost $3.7 million will now cost at least $5 million.

    According to Authority Manager Justin Keller and Authority Engineer Tom Weld, the primary reason is the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

    Not only did it take the DEP seven whole months to approve the air emissions permit, but because "the technology is new and DEP doesn't know how to regulate it, so they were very conservative," said Keller.

    The Gryphon system is in place working in Kentucky, where it processes chicken waste at a Tyson plant said Weld, adding "but this is the first time it is being used to process municipal waste."

    As a result, a number of upgrades were required by DEP that not only accounted for more expensive equipment -- like a "bio-filter" instead of an "air scrubber" -- but also required a bigger footprint to accommodate the new equipment.

    The new equipment and larger footprint also made some of the contractors conservative with their bidding as well, so the bids came in higher, said Weld.

    Lower Pottsgrove Township Manager Ed Wagner and West Pottsgrove Township Manager Craig Lloyd were both at the meeting concerned about the price jump.

    Wagner said Lower Pottsgrove ratepayers face an increase of $357,000, a 27 percent increase in the amount the township budgeted for its share of dryer costs. The township's share jumped from $959,746 to $1,317,153, he said.

    "My ratepayers can't afford that," he said, asking the authority to delay accepting the bids top give Lower Pottsgrove time to absorb the additional costs into its budget.

    But the authority board voted unanimously to accept the bids, in large part because the current dryer is no longer worth fixing and the longer they wait, the more into the winter they get hauling untreated sludge to the landfill.

    "Once we get into February, you're looking at another $350,000," warned Utilities Manager Brent Wagner.

    Keller said there are several ways the cost could be brought down. One is a "fine screen" project at the sewer plant which was slated to cost $1 million has been "re-engineered" to reduce the cost to $500,000. Another $500,000 grant for which the authority has applied would, if awarded, free up $1 million to cover much of the cost over-run.

    He said the media coverage over the "flushable wipes" issue had been included in the grant materials and may help its chances.

    Additionally, the project is expected to take more than a year, even though the authority hopes to have the dryer online and running again by December or January.

    Keller said much of the additional cost "an be pushed off to 2019, which would give the townships time to adjust their budgets for 2019."

    Lloyd said as much of those additional costs that can be pushed into next year, the better for his township's budget.

    Here are the Tweets from the meeting:

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    Photo by Evan Brandt
    Chuck and Ruth Yeiser made a presentation to the West Pottsgrove Commissioners Wednesday night on behalf of Fair Districts PAon the need for a Constitutional amendment to take the drawing of Congressional and state House and Senate district lines out of the hands of the politicians who benefit from their gerrymandering and put it into the hands of a non-partisan citizens commission. 

    When the founders wrote the U.S. Constitution, they envisioned voters picking their elected representatives, not the other way around.

    But as the recent lawsuit over the drawing of Congressional district lines in Pennsylvania, and the subsequent re-drawing of the map by the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court have show, it's a problem.

    And while that court decision, and its political ramifications, have grabbed headlines for the past two
    months, it does not solve the problem, said Chuck Yeiser, who spokle to the West Pottsgrove Township Commissioners Wednesday on behalf of the organization Fair Districts PA.

    When the 2020 Census rolls around, the process will remain the same, except instead of the Republicans controlling the process and drawing districts that help keep Republicans in office, it will be the Democrats turn, thanks to the new majority on the Supreme Court, Yeiser said.

    What would be better, he said, noting that former President Ronald Reagan agrees with him, would be a system by which the districts are drawn by those who do not have a stake in the outcome -- a non-partisan citizens commission that is representative of the state, rather than the five middle-aged white guys who did it last time.

    This map shows how Democrat-leaning areas of West Pottsgrove and
    Pottstown have been divided among three separate state House
    thus "diluting your voices with more rural areas."
    Yeiser explained to the commissioners that West Pottsgrove and the neighboring Pottstown
    community had been "cracked" by gerrymandering in order to split and diminish their influence.

    (Historical trivia: "Gerrymandering" comes from the 1800s when Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry, a signatory to the Constitution, allowed a district to his benefit that many said looked like a salamander -- thus Gerry-mander. And now back to our regularly scheduled program.)

    As if our elected ethically-challenged leaders in Harrisburg were not already tempted enough to design districts that best fit their needs -- now easier than ever with hair-splitting computer efficiency -- there is a lot of big money involved, Yeiser explained.

    Both Republicans and Democrats have formed political action committees raising obscene amounts of cash to try to get control of the process in Pennsylvania for two reasons; one, to try to get (or keep) control of Congress and two, because its so damn easy in Pennsylvania.

    Yeiser said the Center for Public Integrity gives Pennsylvania an F when it comes to campaign finance law. "If you want to spend money to influence an election, Pennsylvania is the place to do it," Yeiser said.
    This is how gerrymandering districts can produce winners for one party, even when they are in the minority.

    "Many of the things we care about cannot be accomplished without a functioning democracy," said Yeiser. "Until we fix a gridlocked system, we cannot make progress on things that matter."

    To make matters more difficult, it takes bills passed in two consecutive sessions of the Legislature, and a state-wide vote, to change the state Constitution. And while a bill that would do what Fair Districts has proposed, and has a majority of co-sponsors in the House has sat in the State Government Committee without a hearing for months, it was recently acted upon -- badly.

    That's when the chairman, Darryl Metcalfe, a Republican from the western part of the state, not only moved it, but gutted it, giving the legislature even more power to draw district lines because, you know, that worked out so well the last time.

    Yeiser said State Rep. Marcy Toepel, R-147th Dist., who represents West Pottsgrove, had wanted hearings on the bill and although she has not said she opposes it, she has also not co-sponsored it.

    They were scheduled to meet with Toepel and state Sen. Robert Mensch, R-24th Dist., who also represents West Pottsgrove, today to discuss the problem. Yeiser said it would be helpful to attend that meeting with a resolution from West Pottsgrove, supporting the citizens commission amendment to show both officials their constituents support this bill.

    They got what they asked for. With Commissioner Mark Green absent, the board voted 3-1 to adopt the resolution, joining more than 200 others across the state.

    Commissioners Chairman Steve Miller cast the dissenting vote, "based just on your presentation," but said he might support it later.

    Here are the Tweets from the meeting:

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    Photo by Evan Brandt
    A TALL 'TAIL' INDEED: Pottstown Schools Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez, right, presented Superintendent's Awards to Robert Decker and Christopher Sperat Thursday for their efforts in helping to state The Little Mermaid, this year's all-district musical which, according to Decker, entertained 2,674 audience members, involved 165 in each performance and 212 overall,  and required 10,095.5 man-hours of effort before the curtain rose for the first time.

    The Pottstown School Board voted 6-2 Thursday night to appoint former board member Kim Stilwell to fill the board vacancy left by last month’s resignation of Ron Williams.

    In doing so, the board by-passed two candidates who ran for the post and were the collective choice of nearly 2,000 voters, and instead chose someone who had been on the board, but chose not to run again.

    Stilwell, whose term expired in December, will serve until the end of Williams’ term in December of 2019.
    Kim Stilwell

    Also under consideration were unsuccessful candidates Thomas Hylton, who had collected 1,107 votes in his reelection bid in November; David Miller, who had earned 838 votes in the November election; and Madison Morton, who was seeking a board seat for the first time with this application.

    The board interviewed all four candidates publicly last week.

    When it came time for nominations, only Stilwell, Morton and Hylton were nominated. Five votes were necessary to be named to the board.

    The board then voted by name for the candidate of their preference. In the first round, Stilwell won four votes from Bonita Barnhill, School Board President Amy Francis, Susan Lawrence and Kurt Heidel.

    Morton was supported by votes from Emanuel Wilkerson and Raymond Rose, while Hylton won votes from Vice President Katina Bearden and John Armato.

    With no candidate receiving five votes, Bearden said that the best board is one which is diverse with different members with different expertise. She said given the financial challenges that the district faces, someone with Hylton's demonstrated mastery of detail, research and independent thinking was the right person to fill this interim post.

    No other board members spoke, they voted again and reached the same result 4-2-2.

    At a bit of an impasse, there was discussion of either soliciting other candidates, or voting again at a workshop meeting later this month.

    That was when Rose asked for another vote, saying he wanted the matter settled Thursday night.

    In that round, Rose and Wilkerson both switched their vote to Stilwell, giving her six votes, while Armato and Bearden again voiced their support for Hylton.

    Ironically, when Stilwell was elected school board president in 2015, it was Hylton, then also a board member, who spoke on her behalf, saying her experiences as a parent with a child at each level of Pottstown schools, as well as her long record of activism, qualified her to be the board president.

    Here are the Tweets from the meeting:

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

    Members of Pottstown Middle School Environmental Science Club along with their sponsor Ginger Angelo are spending after school
    hours learning how to find their way in the outdoors.
    Recently they participated in an orienteering activity on the school campus. 

    The activity was led by Mary Frank from the Delaware Valley Orienteering Association. 

    Orienteering is an outdoor navigation sport using a map and compass with a goal of completing a course in point-to-point order. 

    The challenge is to complete the course by visiting all control points in the shortest possible time, aided only by the map and a compass. 

    Angelo said the students had a lot of fun and learned the skills needed to use a compass. 

    Orienteering is an excellent activity that promotes many of the objectives of our STEAM education efforts and has the added benefit of being good healthy outdoor exercise. 

    These are just some of the good things happening at Pottstown Middle School that give reason to say Proud to be from Pottstown

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    Pottstown High School Jazz Band at Methacton.

    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the Pottstown School District.
    If it is Spring time you can count on the birds and flowers coming out and in Pottstown you can count on the sweet sounds of Jazz music from the Middle and High School 

    Jazz Bands. Directors Katie German and Mike Vought took the Pottstown Sound on the road. 

    The Pottstown Middle School 7/8 Jazz Band at Wilson.
    The Middle School band traveled to Wilson High School, where they received a rating of Superior. 

    High School Jazz Band Director Mike Vought,
    and soloist winner Chloe Hebert.
    The Best Trumpet Section award went to Trojans (Akira Love, Gabe Roseo, Colin Dellaquila, Gabe Hicks, Fredy Rodriguez). 

    In a section or solo Middle School students show their talent,with Best Trumpet Solo (Akira Love), and Best Piano Solo (Allison Ormston). 

    The High School band also made a road trip to the Methacton School District to compete in the Woody Herman Division of the Cavalcade Of Bands 30th Annual Jazz Championships. 

    After 11 bands performed 3 selections each, Pottstown received a "Superior" rating (highest possible). Garry Oberholtzer and Chloe Hebert each received honorable mention soloist awards. 

    Soloist winner Gary Olberholtzer
    The High School band includes;

    Julianna Roseo – Alto 1, Hannah Shankle – Alto 2, Kishan Patel – Alto 2, Chloe Hebert – Tenor 1, London Aquino – Tenor 2, Avery Heverly – Bari

    Nick Wilson – Trumpet 1, Will Minnick – Trumpet 1, Abby Welder – Trumpet 2, Mitchell Aquino – Trumpet 3, Donny Marte – Trumpet 4

    David Hicks – Trombone 1, Caitlin McLaughlin – Trombone 2, Darion Miller – Trombone 3, John Stilwell – Trombone 4

    Garry Oberholtzer – Guitar, Alyssa Rulli – Vibes, Julian Weber – Piano, Anthony Russo – Bass, Emily Weber – Bass, Gabe Francis – Drums, Dylan Thorne – Drums, Terrell Taylor-Williams - Percussion

    The Pottstown Middle School 7/8 Jazz Band performs in Emmaus.

    Earlier this month, playing jazz classics like "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" and "Footprints," the Pottstown Middle School Jazz Band continued to build it's reputation of excellence.
    The Best Trumpet Section award winners.

    Under the direction of Katie German the 7/8 Jazz Band performed at the Emmaus High School Jazz Festival along with six other middle school bands. 

    The Trojan band was awarded the highest rating of "Superior". The Trumpet section of Akira Love, Gabe Roseo, Colin Dellaquila, Gabe Hicks and Fredy Rodriguez received the Best Trumpet Section Award and 8th grade member, Akira Love, was named the best soloist. 

    German said "I am very proud of our students. They are learning that their hard work and dedication is paying off and will lead to future success." 

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    Submitted Photos
    Members of the Pottstown Rotary Club who recently joined volunteers from Habitat for Humanity to rehabilitate a home on Walnut Street in Pottstown.

    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the Pottstown Rotary Club.

    Members of the Pottstown Rotary Club assisted Habitat for Humanity at a home rebuild project on
    Walnut Street in Pottstown recently. 

    Habitat’s vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live aligned well with the Rotary’s goal of improving the lives of people here in our community. 

    Habitat works toward this vision by building and improving homes in partnership with individuals and families in need of a decent and affordable place to live.

    Rotary is a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves. 

    The Pottstown Rotary Club has been making that effort for our community since it’s beginning in 1918 – 100 years of service to Pottstown.

    The members of Rotary were glad to have assisted in a small way to make Walnut Street a better neighborhood for everyone.