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All the news that doesn't fit in print
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    Photos by Evan Brandt
    A LINE OF CHAMPIONS: Members of the Owen J. Roberts High School Track and Field Team, this year's PAC-10 Champions, were recognized by the school board at Monday night's meeting.


    The Owen J. Roberts School Board unanimously approved a $107 million budget for the 2018-2019 school year Monday night that will raise property taxes by 2.4 percent.

    The exact amount budgeted for spending is $106,878,490 and includes a $10 million capital budget and $7.1 million of debt.
    TOPS IN BUSINESS: Some of the 26 Owen J. Roberts 

    students who qualified/competed in the DECA
    International Career Development Conference who were
    recognized by the school board Monday night.

    Chief Financial Officer Jaclin Krumrine said the tax hike is "at the index," or the maximum allowed by the state's inflation-based tax cap.

    She also said the district did make use of any of the "exceptions" which state law allows districts to exceed their index, for things like construction costs of special education.

    The board also unanimously adopted the millage rate of 31.2366 mills.

    Those who pay their full tax bill by Aug. 31, are entitled to a 2 percent discount on the amount. Those who don't pay by Oct. 31, face a 10 percent penalty.

    No one from the public spoke either for or against the budget.

    However, there was one speaker of note -- Lucas Gray.

    Gray is the student government executive council president. This was his last meeting as he is graduating and the school board presented him with a small gift.

    He presented them with a appeal to stop behaving badly.

    While thanking them for the opportunity, he confessed that he left almost every meeting feeling "frustrated and embarrassed."

    Not because of anything he had done, but because of the board's behavior toward each other.

    Lucas said he was disappointed "by the undertone of mistrust, the mudslinging" and the "petty jibes."

    This behavior, he said, embarrasses a district "that deserves better."

    Click this link to read more about the school's board's dysfunction.

    And now, the Tweets. Amid them, you will find speeches by the high school valedictorian and two (? must have been a tie) salutatorians.

    They're worth a look, successful scholars talking about the teachers who inspired them.


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    Photos by Evan Brandt
    About 40 people showed up for Tuesday's meeting called to find ways to prevent the closure of the Pottstown YMCA branch.



    The fight to prevent the closure of the Pottstown YMCA branch soon may be taken up in Harrisburg.

    At least two Pottstown Borough officials -- Mayor Stephanie Henrick and Deputy Police Chief Michael Markovich -- have contacted the office of Attorney General Josh Shapiro asking for help to prevent the closure.

    Specifically, Henrick, an attorney, said she spoke with the office of the senior deputy attorney general for charitable organizations, which outlined the process for filing a formal complaint.

    She said it has to be made in writing, and evidence provided, before they will investigate, something she hopes to organize shortly.

    The Rev. Vernon Ross, pastor of Bethel Community Church,
    said he once served on the board of the Philadelphia-Freedom
    Valley YMCA and he is glad he no longer does given the
    actions that board has endorsed.
    Markovich, on the other hand, went straight to the top.

    In a letter to Shapiro read aloud at the meeting by Invictus Ministries Inc. Pastor Bishop Everett Debnam, Markovich wrote "I have seen Pottstown get left behind when it comes to the rest of Montgomery County."

    "Everything Pottstown offered its youth, seems to be closed," said Markovich, who was joined by Upper Pottsgrove Police Chief Francis Wheatley and Lower Pottsgrove Police Chief Michael Foltz in expressing concern that crime among juveniles my go up this summer if the YMCA closes.

    "One thing that doesn't close, is the streets and the corners," Markovich wrote. "Once the children end up there, it is usually no turning back."

    "It's a cycle," he wrote, "that we are trying to break. That's why we need to put the brakes on the YMCA closing. We're reaching out to you for help."

    Further, Bob Stauffer, who was on the Pottstown YMCA Board of Directors in the 1990s, offered up a formal resolution calling for Shapiro's office to investigate what he says is behavior at variance with the YMCA mission.

    Those were just a few of the more serious actions discussed during last night's second meeting of the coalition of activists and groups -- led by the Pottstown chapter of the NAACP -- working to reverse the decision by the Philadelphia-Freedom Valley YMCA to close the Pottstown branch on North Adams Street.

    The meeting was held at the YWCA Tri-County Area on King Street.

    Local attorney Bob Stauffer
    holds a resolution calling
    for an investigation by PA
    Attorney General Josh Shapiro
    Lawrence Cohen, who is both a member of the NAACP and the task force put together by the Y which defied instructions and argued to keep the branch open, has been penning letters to large donors of the Conshohocken-based organization to let them know how their money is being used.

    These include the Mary Porter Foundation, the Christina and Lawrence Smith Foundation, Cigna Foundation, Comcast, Wawa Foundation BB & T Bank and Pew Charitable Trust to name a few.

    And Shona Williams is in charge of writing letters to donors who have given $25,000 or less to the Philadelphia-Freedom Valley YMCA.

    "We're raising our voices, and we have so many voices, so we can offer so many perspectives," she said.

    One perspective the group hopes to harness are those of two members of the World Champion Philadelphia Eagles -- Chris Long and Malcolm Jenkins.

    A letter from NAACP branch President Johnny Corson to the Chris Long Foundation begins with an important caveat: "We aren't asking for money."

    Rather, Corson's letter is instead asking for Long to add his voice to the call for the Y to remain open. "We can't let this happen to our young people -- they need and deserve their Y -- for sports, mentoring, community, stability and opportunity," according to the letter.

    From left Lawrence Cohen, Johnny Corson 
    and Everett Debnam.
    It also notes "the association recently closed an in-town YMCA in Norristown, leaving young people with a local Y.

    Instead of serving communities where the need for  YMCA services is greatest, the Association is choosing to build 'county club' fitness centers serving wealthy suburbanites."

    Despite the united voice of the community and its officials and remaining institutions, "YMCA management is ignoring the needs of our youth," read Corson's letter. "We need the power of your voice to help us stop this unnecessary closure that will devastate our community's young people."

    Whether or not the star power of Chris Long or Jenkins can help reverse this course or not, there are also efforts underway to organize a march on the Philadelphia-Freedom Valley YMCA headquarters in Conshohocken in the hopes that the power of people can get the job done.

    A date for the march has not yet been set, although Flag Day was mentioned as one possibility, so keep your calendars as open as you can folks. A date will likely be announced on the new Save the Pottstown YMCA Facebook page, which you can join by clicking here.

    The march would be the perfect opportunity to deliver the petition calling for the Y to remain open, which now making the rounds and has already collected more than 1,200 signatures. You can sign that petition by clicking here.

    The date of the next meeting has not yet been set.

    Here are the Tweets from the meeting:


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    When I headed out to last night's Pottstown Metropolitan Area Regional Planning Committee meeting, I glanced at the agenda and figured the big story would be Sanatoga Green.

    Yawn.

    Boy was I wrong.

    It was on the agenda, but there was not much to say. It has been tinkered with, but remains the same basic plan.

    More interesting was the presentation by John Lesher, chief environmental planner for the Montgomery County Planning Commission, who talked about Pottstown's sustainability plan.

    It's the only one in the state, to his knowledge anyway, that includes both a borough and a school district, so let's polish our buttons on that one.

    One of the more interesting snippets to come out of Lesher's talk -- we covered the plan fairly extensively back in January when it was adopted -- was how much the environment in which we live affects our health.
    Here is the graphic.

    He showed a graphic from a study that showed how much more important environment, lifestyle and special factors determine our lifespans -- more than genetics or infectious agents.

    We spend 90 percent of our health money on medical care, but it is only response for 10 to 20 percent of how long we live or how healthy we are.

    Here's the sound bite, "zip codes are more important than genetic codes" in determining our lifespan and over health, he said. Meaning that effort put into things like making Pottstown a nicer place to live actually help us to live longer.

    Along those lines, the regional planners took an important vote and agreed to once again be the umbrella organization for the Pottstown Area Regional Recreation Committee and, hopefully, the retaining of director Michael Lane.

    Upper Pottsgrove Township Manager Carol Lewis outlined that Lane and his predecessor, Justin Keller, had collectively obtained about $300,000 for each of the six towns that participate in in paying for his services.

    Each town currently pays about $5,000, this due to a $100,000 grant from the state which expires next year, and a matching grant from the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation.

    Next year, without the state grant, the price may rise to about $8,000 unless New Hanover and East Coventry -- the two towns which do not participate -- decide to jump into the pool with the other towns.

    "Pottstown has definitely benefited from this," said Councilman Ryan Procsal.

    The planners voted unanimously to continue to be the umbrella organization. Lewis said the recreation committee will make presentations over the next few months to the boards of the participating municipalities -- and the non-participating ones if they want to consider it -- to get their approval for the funding.

    And now, here are the Tweets from the meeting:


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    Christian Molfetto, left, receives his Bronze Award from Congressman Ryan Costello.











    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by Congressman Ryan Costello's office.

    A Coventry Christian Schools senior has earned the Congressional Award Bronze Medal for logging more than 100 hours of volunteer service and achieving several challenging personal development goals.

    Christian Molfetto of Perkiomen Township,received the Bronze Medal from Congressman Ryan Costello during a ceremony on May 21.

    To qualify for the Congressional Award Bronze Medal, Molfetto completed a minimum of 100 hours of public service. He also spent an additional 100 hours and at least seven months working toward the goals set in the areas of personal development, physical fitness and expedition.

    Costello commended Molfetto for taking the initiative to find organizations and projects in need of volunteers and thanked Molfetto’s parents, teachers and advisors who supported him as Molfetto worked on completing the requirements for earning the Congressional Award Bronze Medal.

    “Public service and helping our neighbors builds a true sense of community,” Costello said. “Even during times when our country experiences a toxic political environment, volunteerism and community engagement reminds us that we all share common ideals, including a genuine desire to come together and make the places we live better. By recognizing the accomplishments of Christian and other students who have earned this distinguished award we are congratulating them on a job well-done and hopefully inspiring others to give back to their community and commit to setting and achieving their own goals.”

    Molfetto met his public service goal by getting involved his Lower Pottsgrove Township school’s annual charity auction, traveling to West Virginia for an Appalachian service project, and assisting with an event center expansion project.

    He also achieved a personal development goal by enrolling in summer classes to expand his math skills and a physical fitness goal of improving his free throw percentage and ball-handling skills in basketball. To meet the Congressional Award expedition requirement, Molfetto took a trip to San Antonio, Texas where he gained an appreciation for the cultural significance of Mexican-American relations by visiting the Alamo, sampling local cuisine and observing the region’s unique architecture.

    Molfetto said that working toward the Congressional Award taught him the importance of time management, especially making time after school and on weekends for his volunteer work.

    “It was definitely challenging at times, but it was really rewarding being able to help my community and achieve something that's recognized by Congress,” Molfetto said.

    Congress established The Congressional Award in 1979 to recognize initiative, service, and achievement in young people age 14 to 23.

    The program is funded primarily by charitable contributions. Congress provides in-kind support by authorizing the U.S. Mint to produce the medals provided to recipients as well as allowing the use of office space in the Capitol.

    Approximately 48,000 youth participate in the program across the country. To learn more about The Congressional Award or enroll in the program visit http://congressionalaward.org/.

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    Photo by Lorraine Dusky
    Me, my protest t-shirt and my protest sign outside the Montauk, Long Island vacation home of Heath Freeman, president of Alden Global Capital.
    There is a scene I love at the end of the 1972 Robert Redford film "The Candidate."

    Redford's character, the naive political novice Bill McKay, has won the unwinnable race against entrenched incumbent Republican Crocker Jarmon.

    McKay is about to give his victory speech and, looking a bit dazed, he turns to his campaign manager Marvin Lucas, played in a brilliant low-key performance by Peter Boyle, and says "now what?"

    Throughout the film, the McKay and his team give increasing focus to a single goal, winning the race, and less and less time and thought to what they would like to accomplish should they win.

    As I stood Friday outside Heath Freeman's vacation home, a $4.8 million, five-
    Screenshot from Zillow.com.
    Heath Freeman's vacation mansion property
    is outlined in white.
    bedroom, five-bath mansion overlooking Lake Montauk at the tip of Long Island, holding a sign that read "Invest in us or sell us" -- I felt a little bit like Bill McKay (but much less handsome).

    I looked at my sign and thought, "now what?"

    Not that we're at the point that we've prevailed against the cartoonishly capitalist corporate raider who is stripping the meat and bones off local journalism only to invest the salaries of laid off journalists into spectacularly failed investments.

    Far from it.
    Screenshot from The Nation.
    Here's a closer look at the Montauk house before Freeman
    began expanding it.

    The picture of the private equity hedge fund company Freeman and his mentor Randall Smith run, as painted in such publications as The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Times, and The Nation is "a caricature of capitalism at its most greedy and amoral," as reporter Julie Reynolds wrote.

    Salaries of reporters, editors and photographers who once held our local governments accountable, chronicled the highs and lows of our student athletes and undertook civic campaigns to better our communities are now literally paying instead for some of the most incredibly questionable investments in the history of Wall Street.

    One included investing in one of Russia's worst polluters, with connections to President Vladmir Putin; another, in a Brazilian company that became the target of that nation's largest political scandal; and a third, a U.S. drug store chain named Fred's that, as of 2017, had lost $112 million since Freeman took the reins, according to reporting by Reynolds:
    "To put that in human terms: at a cost of less than Alden’s gamble on Fred’s stock, the 350-plus news workers lost in the past two years could have kept working — and keeping their communities informed — for at least another five years."
    Finally, the editorial page staff at The Denver Post, which Freeman's Digital First Media is currently strangling, along with its much smaller sibling, The Pottstown Mercury, had had enough and staged the kind of revolt that would only happen in a newsroom.

    They wrote about it.

    A lot.

    You can find links to The Denver Post's single act of defiance (subsequent attempts were censored, followed by resignations in protest) by clicking onto this article on the web page run by The News Guild.

    That's the union, part of the Communication Workers of America, representing many of the papers owned by Alden's Digital First Media company and for which Reynolds writes most of her spectacularly researched articles.

    That's the same union that was meeting with Digital First officials to negotiate a new contract, including a request for our first raise in three years, while I was standing outside Heath Freeman's house holding a sign.

    Having served on negotiating committees, my hopes and sympathies are with those Guild negotiators. Their job is not an easy one.

    Industry analysts say the company earned nearly $160 million last year, while DFM’s own executives have said the company is solidly profitable. In fact, according to information published May 5 by newspaper analyst Ken Doctor, Digital First Media earned $18 million among the newspapers it owns around Philadelphia, which includes The Mercury, The Reporter, The Times-Herald, The Delaware County Daily Times, The Daily Local News and a fistful of weeklies. 

    The 30 percent profit margin earned in "the Philadelphia cluster," is the largest in the company, which is one of the largest newspaper owners in the nation.

    That should worry people beyond Pottstown, because the strategy of strip-mining newspaper jobs to generate cash for more bad investments is the same everywhere Digital First owns a newspaper. And they are certainly not interested in investing any of that profit back into the newspapers which are producing it.

    According to a May 24 negotiating bulletin from The News Guild, "DFM attorney Marshall Anstandig sat at the negotiating table and said “I can’t sit here and apologize for the fact that we are profitable and our owners want us to be as profitable as possible. We have owners who are very concerned about staying in the black and quite frankly that is their prerogative.”

    He concluded by adding a phrase I have heard many times at the negotiating table, “there is no wage proposal at this time.”

    I suppose I'll have to take that as also being the answer I would have gotten from Mr. Freeman had he come to the door after I knocked Friday.

    Although a woman I presume to be his wife told me he wasn't home when she pulled out of the driveway, the Dave Matthews Band music blaring from the outdoor speakers suggested otherwise.

    So I walked to the front door and knocked.

    A housekeeper answered and I asked to see Mr. Freeman. I stepped into the foyer at her invitation and I followed her eyes up as she looked to the second floor balcony and said "someone is here to see you" to the man I recognized as Mr. Freeman who was looking back at me and my "#NewsMatters" T-shirt.

    He did not come down.

    The housekeeper asked if he was expecting me.

    Definitely not, I said.

    So she asked me to wait outside and he would speak to me there.

    Subsequently, she came out and asked how I knew where he lived. "It was published in The Nationa," I replied.

    So she said, "it would be best if you call him."

    So I asked for the phone number and she said she did not have one. I replied that seemed highly unlikely.

    Then I left.

    My trusty reporter's notebook in my pocket, I had decided ahead of time that given the opportunity to speak face-to-face to the man who will eventually eliminate my job (perhaps sooner now that I've published this account) I would ask one question: "Mr. Freeman, what value do you place on local news?"

    That is, after all, our product.

    But that does not seem to be the view of Mr. Freeman and company.

    Bernie Lunzer, the president of my union, put his finger on it I think when he spoke to The American Prospect last December:
    “The traditional chains had to downsize, but they still thought like newspaper people — what sustains the product and the community. “With private equity, it’s about squeezing out the 20 percent and anything goes. Use it up, sell it, or just kill it. The profit is the product.”
    It seems like there is little future in ownership by a company that considers its
    only product to be profit.

    Hence, the Guild's new mantra, "Invest or Sell."

    Which brings us back to a young Robert Redford and Bill McKay.

    Sell us to whom? Buyers are not exactly lining up for companies that produce singe-digit profits these days.

    In some ways, the Trump era is a kind of warped golden age of journalism, at least for the big boys. Subscriptions, digital and otherwise, are soaring at The New York Times and The Washington Post as people look for a place where sanity and reality have some kind of foot-hold.

    But the Post is thriving mostly because it is owned by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, who seems to like having newspaper in his portfolio and is satisfied with much smaller profit margins.

    In Minneapolis, Glen Taylor, the billionaire owner of the Timberwolves basketball team, purchased the Minneapolis Star-Tribune out of bankruptcy four years ago.

    The newspaper makes a profit -- not vulture hedge fund-level profit -- but enough to keep it sustainable without cutting staff. So he doesn't.

    By contrast, next door in the newsroom of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press, owned by Digital First Media, the newsroom hemorrhaging  continues.

    But is that the only way local journalism can survive? Getting purchased by a well-meaning billionaire? There are only so many of them around and I'm not aware that any of them live in Pottstown, PA.

    Although I certainly wouldn't mind if that happened to The Mercury, it's not exactly a fool-proof plan for sustaining local journalism.

    Photo by Karen Maxfield
    If you're going to carry a protest sign to a corporate mogul's vacation home
    in Montauk, what better place to make your point than it's iconic lighthouse
    and to ponder the question, "Now What?"
    Lots of people smarter than me, and with way more money than me, have made plenty of attempts to find a sustainable model that ensures the function of local journalism survives.

    But I have yet to see one that can be duplicated elsewhere.

    Consider that Peter Barbey, the wealthy owner of The Reading Eagle, recently announced lay-offs in that newsroom, once considered impregnable to such things.

    Locally, former Mercury publisher Joe Zlomek produces The Sanatoga Post, a digital hyper-local news site that is sustainable, but not for a large staff.

    And, I don't think its giving away any secrets to point out that Joe also has a full-time job.

    He has several other local sites as well and frankly I'm not quite sure when he sleeps, but as sustainable models for moderate-scale 24/7 news gathering goes, it lacks the 24/7 part.

    So I hope that my fellow journalists, union members and non-union members alike, will begin to turn their considerable talents and attention to that vital question, all at the same time we are fighting for our publication's lives with owners who have no interest in keeping them alive, only in bleeding them for cash.

    Otherwise, if we focus only on that fight, and we actually get what we asked for -- a sale to another owner who is not an altruistic billionaire -- we may find ourselves like Bill McKay asking "now what?"

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    Photos Courtesy of the Pottstown School District
    From left, Alonna Kacanda, Rashawn Ward, Morgan Gastonguay, check out some of the meadow's natural wonders as highlighted by teacher Connie Nye



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

    Barth Elementary first graders recently took a field to, where else?
    Connie Nye and Barth first graders Deandre James,
    Zzahmyeir Reid-Anderson, Ashonti Stillman and
    Ja'Nahla Wilson explore the meadow behind Barth

    A field!

    Thanks to a donation from Patient First, located at King Street and Shoemaker Road, Connie Nye, the creator of Sweet Water Education, was able to visit and present her program to the students.

    The three-day program is called "Sweet Dream" and is looks at habitat, focused on the subject of animal habitats.

    Isaiah Moser releases dandelion seeds to the wind
    As part of the school's STEAM curriculum, it includes hands-on interactive activities such as field exploration, outdoor lessons, habitat songs and team scavenger hunts.


    As one of the most under-funded school districts in Pennsylvania, Pottstown Schools reach out and take advantage of community partnerships to create learning opportunities for students.

    Another reason to say Proud to be from Pottstown.

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    Photos by Evan Brandt
    CHAMPIONS ALL: Undefeated 7th, 8th, 9th, 10, 11th and 12th grade Spring-Ford student athletes recognized at Tuesday night's Spring-Ford Area School Board meeting.


    Spring-Ford board member Mark Dehnert cast the only vote against the proposed final $164,444,651 proposed final budget for the 2018-2019 school year Tuesday night.

    Said said his vote was because "we're not addressing security in the whole district."

    He was likely referring to a previous matter on which he had also disagreed with the majority of the board -- the creation of a new position, coordinator of safety and emergency preparedness.

    Dehnert said the job, meant to address safety concerns in an era of school shootings, was a waste of resources and that the money should instead be spent on having armed guards in every building.

    Superintendent David Goodin had explained the budget called not only for the new position -- which would include patrol as well as administrative duties, but a second employee who would "make the circuit" among the district's many school buildings.

    Dehnert was unconvinced.

    James Fink, CFO of the district, said the budget carries a 2.35 percent tax hike, below the maximum 2.4 percent allowed by the state-set maximum.

    The new millage rate will be 26.8599 mills, which represents an increase of $61.57 for every $1,000 of assessed value.

    School Board President Thomas DiBello said one of the big items this year was the new teacher contract which, Fink said, adds up to a collective 5 percent increase when raises and benefits are considered together.

    The other big cost is special education, costs which the state mandates but pays only a small portion.

    No member of the public spoke either for or against the budget.

    The vote Tuesday night technically advertises the proposed final budget for 30 days and the board will have to vote again at the June 28 meeting to make the budget final.

    Here are the Tweets from the meeting:


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    Submitted Photos
    Pottstown High School students in Andrew Bachman's engineering class check out the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle built by Montgomery County Community College students.










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

    Students in the Pottstown School District from elementary to high school know that we need to protect our environment and not waste our energy. 

    And so teachers in the school district focused students attention on cleaner ways to get around.

    Jennifer McGraw, a fourth grade teacher at Franklin Elementary organized a school-wide solar car project that had students designing and building solar powered model cars which they raced at a school wide assembly held on the school playground. 
    Franklin fourth grader Luke Grace with 
    his solar-powered car.

    The race was held on National Day of STEM. 

    As an introduction to solar energy Pre-K through second grade students used a basic kit to build their entry.

     More sophisticated models that required design planing were build by third and fourth graders. 

    "This was a great hands on learning experience for our students that included learning about,solar energy, renewable vs nonrenewable resources, aerodynamics and streamlining," said McGraw. 

    Going from hand size solar cars to a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Powered Urban Concept Vehicle was just a matter of going to Pottstown High and Mr. Andy Bachman's Engineering class.

    There, the students enjoyed a demonstration by Montgomery County Community College professor William Brownlowe and students of Team INNOVA who built the Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicle to compete in the Shell Eco-marathon competition for alternative fuel concepts. 

     The team, which has won a number of awards for the design and operation of their vehicles, were on hand to give a demonstration in the school parking lot. 

    "This is a unique experience for our students to not only see the vehicle in operation but to be able to talk to and ask questions of the designers and builder," said Bachman. 

    His students are no strangers to design and building. Last year they designed and build an operational hovercraft. 

    Energy was well spend by students as they renewed a valuable resource, their knowledge. 

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    Photos by Evan Brandt
    Despite only three hours notice, more than 200 people showed up for a Town Hall meeting about school security held Thursday at Boyertown High School.



    Faced with continuing rumors about threats at Boyertown High School, the administration called a town hall meeting Thursday which, despite only three hours notice, attracted hundreds of worried parents and students.

    Assistant Superintendent Marybeth Torcia made what School Board President Donna Usavage called "the command decision" to call the meeting largely "to make sure everyone has the same information" and in an attempt the stem the rumor mill rampaging on social media, texts and phone calls.

    And she took her lumps, with parent after parent telling her that the district's response to a recent threat had been inadequate, particularly in the communication department.
    Boyertown Police Chief Barry Leatherman addresses
    last night's meeting about what his department can and
    can't do in such situations.

    It began before the Memorial Day weekend on Thursday, May 24, when a
    student was overheard by several others to have made a threat against ninth grade students, calling them "snitches."

    Principal Brett Cooper said in the information that his team received, no specific threat was issued, and there was no mention of a gun or shooting. They deemed it to be not a viable threat after interviewing the student involved.

    "At no point did anyone provide information to the administration that anyone was going to shoot the entire class," Torcia said. "What we knew was student said there were snitches and he would take care of them."

    However, over the weekend, rumors of an attack spread, students expressed fear about returning to school on Tuesday and parents began comparing notes.

    "We were caught off-guard by information that was going around on social media," said Torcia. "If there would have been a threat made that involved a gun, that information would have gone out that day."
    Boyertown junior Lindsey Scott told Torcia that
    it felt like the district only communicated with
    students and parents because of the rumors.
    By Monday, it had become obvious to the administration that some kind of communication was necessary, but the vaguely worded, non-specific email did little to allay fears and only allowed room for more speculation, parents said last night.

    Subsequent rumors about the student's girlfriend opening up a door at the high school to let him in for a June 1 ninth grade assembly finally triggered Torcia to hold the meeting in an attempt to put the matter to a rest -- a delay she said, in hindsight, was a mistake.

    She said the two students involved have not been expelled, but are no longer in the district and will not be returning next year.

    She and Cooper also said the student who made the threat was no under the care of a "certified counselor."
    Donald Fry said the high school should have
    armed guards.

    "Not to be mean, but these people don't trust you," said parent Jon Emeigh.

    "This isn't the first time Boyertown has held back information," said another speaker.

    Torcia confessed, repeatedly, that the administration had made mistakes and was learning from the meeting what parents, students and staff need in terms of information.

    There was no shortage of suggestions.

    Donald Fry said the school should have armed guards, dismissing concerns about cost by adding, to applause, "come one, the price of a bullet is 26 cents, and how to you compare that to the price of a life?"

    But parent Stephanie Dietrich and Emeigh warned overreacting.
    Colebrookdale Police Sgt. Amy Babb listens to a speaker.

    Noting that she has a "law enforcement background" and has interviewed shooters, Deitrich said metal detectors and an enhanced police presence will not stop a determined shooter.

    "If they are bound and determined to kill you, they don't care if the whole SWAT team is in front of them," she said.

    Emeigh said while he favors armed guards "I don't favor turning the school into a fortress." He said it may make students feel safe at first, but that studies have show it ultimately increases their stress level and is detrimental to education."

    But parent Joe Fava said he had been able to enter the ninth grade section of the
    This speaker said she is a survivor of a school
    shooting at Upper Perkiomen High School. 
    "I don't want anyone else to go through what I did."
    school that night without having to identify himself and without being challenged at any point.

    "You have a problem," he said, calling for an expert to help make the district's new security plan. "I trust you to educate my kids, not to secure them.

    But Torcia said the district had engaged an expert, a former employee of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, who had helped craft the plan which, she said, will be put into place in three phases.

    She said on Tuesday, the school board approved spending more than $300,000 on the plan, which includes "physical plant upgrades" like cameras and other items she did not think it prudent to detail.

    Torcia also said the doors at the high school will be fitted with alarms, to prevent students opening them at inappropriate times to let people into the building.

    There will also be education for students and staff about a new reporting matrix, and better education, she said.

    Here are the Tweets from the meeting:




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    Shortly after The Mercury's founding in 1931, this building became its home and has been ever since. That all ends June 30, when the newspaper's vulture hedge fund owners will close the landmark building at the corner of King and North Hanover streets to save on overhead. Operations will be moved to the printing plant in Exton.


    It was just two weeks ago or so, that Pottstown community leaders were scoffing at the idea of a "YMCA without walls."

    That was the drab alternative executives at the Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA were peddling to compensate Pottstown for the planned closure of the Pottstown branch on North Adams Street at the end of June.

    Well as most of you know, that story had a happy ending when local businessman Charles Gulati agreed to buy the building and lease much of the space to the Y so it could remain.

    (See Sunday's edition for an interview with Gulati about his plans and motivations.)

    Now the executives at Digital First Media, which owns The Mercury and is itself owned by Alden Global Capital, a New York City based hedge fund now weathering world-wide condemnation for its unrelenting strangulation of the majority of the nation's newspapers, will give you "the newspaper without walls."

    It was announced to a handful of the remaining employees at The Mercury Friday that "to save on overhead," the landmark home of the newspaper for more than 80 years will be shuttered.

    The paper will continue to publish and be delivered to your door as well as maintain its irksome web site.

    Office operations will be moved to Digital First Media's printing plant in Exton, where the remaining staff of our sister paper, The Daily Local News -- or at least those who don't work at home -- also work since the closing of their office in West Chester.

    The Mercury building is an old one and, since our excellent maintenance man Bob Morris was down-sized, its problems have multiplied.

    Some of you may have seen in a recent story in The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, detailing some of those problems. The most severe of these is a severely leaking roof.

    Saving on overhead at The Mercury building will

    help DFM President Heath Freeman's expand

    his already expansive vacation home in Montauk, N.Y.
    That may well be one of the major factors which has prevented the building from being sold, which is the pattern Alden follows; selling off its newspaper properties' assets, cutting the staff and reducing its overhead to snatch that cash and plow it into investments which, for most part, seem to fail spectacularly.

    And let's not forget using those profits -- as high as 30 percent among the newspapers it owns around Philadelphia -- to pay for lavish homes like nine, yes count them NINE mansions in Palm Beach for fund founder Randall Smith and a growing vacation manse in The Hamptons for DFM President Heath Freeman.

    Your friendly neighborhood Pottstown reporter 

    takes his message to the boss in The Hamptons.
    (I stopped by that home recently to try to talk to Mr. Freeman face-to-face, but he declined to come to the door.)

    So after The Newspaper Guild union, which represents some of the employees at The Mercury (including myself) complained about the mold conditions in the building, the owners pledged to fix the roof.

    Which, to their credit, they are doing.

    But the beneficiaries of that repair will be the new occupants, if they can find a buyer or tenants, not the employees who have worked beneath that roof for decades.

    This is nothing new. As our co-publisher Ed Condra told us, "unfortunately, we've become very good at this."
    Image courtesy of Darren Carroll
    Heath Freeman

    What he means is Pottstown is not the first of Digital First Media's newspaper properties to abandon the downtowns they once helped to anchor.

    Locally, The Times-Herald building in Norristown has been closed for nearly two years and was almost sold to become an auto parts store until the deal fell through.

    In Delaware County, the building once occupied by the Delaware County Daily Times was sold and they were moved into a former CVS.

    The Main Line Times building in Ardmore was demolished several years ago and in West Chester, the Daily Local News building was closed and that property will become upscale apartments, we're told. The staff there was given the choice to work from home or work at the plant in Exton which prints all of the Philadelphia-area papers.

    The current air conditioning system in my attic office.
    That is the choice The Mercury staff now faces as well.

    For my part, I intend to stay right here in Pottstown and work from my home office in the attic, although I think it's finally time to invest in an air conditioner for up there.

    So understand what this means dear reader.

    The closure of the building does not mean The Mercury is going away -- yet.

    It will continue to publish every day with the same local content you have always enjoyed.

    What's changed is that the building itself will be shuttered, sold or leased.

    Lost will be the personal connection the staff had with the community, except for the lucky few like me whose job is to make connections with the community.
    Dave Levengood, who works in
    The Mercury's 

    circulation department,
    is also the president 

    of our
    Newspaper Guild Local.

    Also lost will be the economic impact the 30-or-so workers had on Pottstown and the surrounding region.

    Gained, will be more cash for Randall Smith and Heath Freeman, given that at the most recent negotiation session, the lawyer for DFM said there was no intention of offering any kind of raise for Guild employees out of that 30 percent profit margin.

    But while it does not signal the immediate death of the paper, don't be fooled. It is just a step closer to closure on the path Alden has chosen and the paper will only last so long as it is producing enough cash for Smith and Freeman to siphon off.

    After that, all bets are off and The Mercury will either become a memory, or be purchased by someone with enough money who wants to try to revive it; or reborn as some flavor of digital news source, hopefully to continue the vital public mission journalism undertakes every day to engender an informed citizenry.

    That has happened elsewhere, in Minneapolis and in Pittsfield, Mass. But it is far from a sure thing.

    Only one thing is sure, come July 1, 86 years of history goes out the window and Pottstown's hometown newspaper will be "The Mercury without walls."


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    Photos by Evan Brandt
    This map shows much of the proposed Limerick Town Center project, proposed for 30.5 acres at the intersection of Swamp Pike and Ridge Pike.  It calls for 308 units in a senior living facility, as well as 160 townhouses, each of which will have at least three bedrooms, and 32,000 square feet of retail space long Ridge Pike.



    Last night's Limerick Supervisors meeting had everything you expect from a local government meeting.

    We began by honoring emergency medical personnel; then honored a graduating Spring-Ford High School senior who earned his Eagle rank as a Scout and will be joining the Marines; followed by a major discussion about a giant development project in the middle of town, and wrapped it up with news about the purchase of a historic toll house at a Schuylkill River crossing that will give the township access to 18 acres of parkland.
    Limerick Supervisors Chairwoman Elaine DeWan, left,
    congratulates Jackson Dukes on earning the rank of Eagle.

    You won't read about any of that stuff in the Philadelphia Inquirer or PATCH (at least until we report it).

    So the scout's name is Jackson Dukes and he is part of Crew 623 that meets at the Crossland Church. In addition to leading the meeting in the Pledge of Allegiance, Dukes was also recognized by an official township resolution.

    Also on the brighter side of last night's meeting was the news that in the wake of the township's $225,000 purchase last month of the historic 169-year-old toll house at 1310 Main St. in Linfield, township crews have begun clearing out the property and making it safe for its vehicles.
    Limerick Township crews have since cleared
    some of the closer vegetation from the house.

    In addition to its historic value, the house, provide access to 18 acres of parkland the township already owns along the Schuylkill. Soon the public will have access to that land, said Township Manager Dan Kerr.

    There are no specific plans for the structure, but Kerr said he would first like to discuss the matter with the Limerick Historical Society to see if they have any interest.

    All of this is well and good, but perhaps the matter discussed that has the greatest potential to have impact on the larger township occupied center stage for much of the evening.

    Ridge Swamp Associates L.L.P has proposed a major project at one of the busiest intersections of the township -- Ridge Pike and Swamp Pike.

    Located on just over 30 acres, the plan calls for a senior housing building housing 308 units, comprised of a mixture of independent living, assisted living and "memory care" units.

    Additionally, although 186 townhouse units of three-or-more bedrooms had initially been planned, engineering requirements reduced that number to 160, the minimum number the developers say are needed to make the project financially feasible.

    This map shows the full scope of the project.
    The project also calls for at least three commercial, retail buildings along Ridge Pike totaling 52,296 square feet, according to local attorney Robert Brant, who is representing the developers.

    The project has already received conditional use and zoning approval, but has yet to receive a recommendation for preliminary site plan approval from the planning commission.

    The business of last night's meeting was a number of changes being sought by the developers. They primarily had to do with landscape buffers, with width of roads and other details.

    Their greatest concern was that some of the landscape buffers required by the township ordinances would force the reduction of the number of townhouses which would make the project unsustainable financially.

    They before the supervisors seeking "guidance," Brant said.

    What they finally got from the supervisors was unofficial support for four or five of the six changes they were seeking, but not without some grousing and at the end of the discussion, Brant quipped "I know when it's time to leave."

    Here are the Tweets from the meeting:


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    Photos by Evan Brandt


    Although four people applied to be appointed to the Fourth Ward seat vacated last week by Dennis Arms, only two of them accepted council's invitation to appear at Wednesday's work session and introduce themselves.
    Trenita Lindsay

    Trenita Lindsay of Oak Street and Philip Smock of North Hanover Street both attended Wednesday's meeting and spoke up for why they would make a good Fourth Ward Councilperson.

    Councilman Joe Kirkland offered the only question to the candidates; a question that got to the heart of the matter -- How would they deal with voting for something they know is good for the borough, but is unpopular?

    Both offered a similar answer, but used different language.

    Smock, who works for Vanguard and said he would bring financial expertise to the post, said he would try to educate the public about why its a good thing.

    Philip Smock
    Lindsay, who is a manager for Iron Mountain, said she would try to "sell it." Using the Safe Route to School initiative as an example, she said loves the program and would counter objections by residents by noting "don't you want your kids to be safe on the way to school?

    The vote on which of the four candidates will be chosen -- the other two are Angela Kearney and Ken Supinski Jr. -- will occur at Monday's council meeting.

    In other news, and there was quite a bit of "other news," the meeting was surprisingly newsy.

    Among the news items was a letter from Phillies fire Company President Charles Pierce thanking council for supporting Fire Chief Michael Lessar Jr.'s volunteer incentive, but saying the money would be better spent on increasing the allocation to the four fire companies.

    A public hearing cleared the way for an increase in fares on the Pottstown Arera Rapid Transit bus system. I don't have all the figures, but I can tell you the adult fare for a ride is increasing from $2 to $2.25.
    Depending on Monday's vote, this long-vacant building
    may soon be home to 27 market-range apartments.

    The Hanover Square Warehouse project, or the shirt factory, or whatever you want to call the brick building at the intersection of Cherry and South charlotte streets, seems poised for approval.

    To their credit, the planning commission stepped up after failing to muster a quorum for the final meeting with the developers and held a special meeting on May 31. There they recommended preliminary and final site plan approval for a project everyone seems to want accomplished.

    That saved the developers, who are running out of time on a historic architecture tax credit, a month of building season and puts the matter on the agenda for a final vote on Monday.
    You may see one of these soon in Maple Street Park.

    Greater Pottstown Tennis and Learning surprised council a bit with the news that the second phase of the their court rehabilitation project in the Maple Street Park may include an inflatable enclosure to allow tennis to go on all year and make the project financially self-sustaining.

    Council will vote Monday on a request to waive the land development process for the project which will, in the first phase, rehabilitate two existing courts, add a third and install a modular classroom adjacent to the courts.

    But in keeping with the unprofessional tendency of this blog to save the best for last, Monday's meeting will include a vote that could revolutionize parking downtown.

    Some may recall that in January that council considered voting on some of the parking rules for High Street and the borough lots but held off while the staff explored more about the ParkMobile phone app that may be the new way we pay for parking.
    The parking drop box at the Trinity Lot on King Street.

    That exploration done, Interim Borough Manager Justin Keller outlined last night that parking is about to get more expensive. While you can now park for free for three hours in the down section of High Street, that will be reduced to one hour under this proposal.

    The idea, he said, is to drive more turnover with parking as many business owners take up their own parking by staying in one spot for three hours or more.

    The pay kiosks and drop boxes in borough parking lots will stay for the foreseeable future.

    Further, the use of the phone app, or phoning in to pay by credit card, will carry a 35 cent charge. Keller said the borough is trying to negotiate that fee, charged by the credit card companies, down somewhat.

    The hourly fee in for parking in borough lots is currently 35 cents per hour. Keller said that will be increased to 50 cents. Add on the service charge and parking has just jumped from 35 cents to 85 cents per hour.

    That's a 143 percent increase for customers and, thanks to the wonders of technology, no increase in borough costs.

    I'll just let that sink in for a moment.

    By the way, did I mention that public comment will be taken on this plan and anything else that strikes your fancy, at Monday's meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in the third floor council room of borough hall?

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


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    Photos by Evan Brandt
    A near-capacity crowd showed up at Earl Elementary School Thursday for the public hearing on the proposed expansion of the Rolling Hills Landfill.


    Of the 18 people who spoke at Thursday night's public hearing on the proposed vertical expansion of the Rolling Hills Landfill in Earl Township, only five spoke either in favor of the proposal, or defended the landfill's operations.

    Most who spoke talked about the negative impact years of heavy truck traffic have had on downtown Boyertown's historic buildings, and its current efforts to revitalize the downtown by emphasizing its historic aspects and its walkability.

    Berks County Commissioner Mark Scott came out swinging, arguing that
    Mark Scott
    because the commissioners had not consented to the to the expansion, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's consideration of the expansion is "illegal."

    He told DEP officials, "I suggest you reject the plan until such time as consent is obtained from the Berks County Commissioners," adding with a look at the audience, "don't hold your breath."

    He said the "hams/benefits" analysis by Delaware County Solid Waste Authority, which owns and operates the landfill is a "status quo" analysis which assumes nothing has changed since its last expansion "but that's false. The Boyertown community is far more vibrant than the last time harms and benefits were evaluated."

    He notes that the analysis by the authority only looks at Earl Township. "Nothing is said about Boyertown and its long trevails with excess traffic. Nothing," said Scott. "It also fails to mention traffic impacts on Gilbertsville, Colebrookdale or Boyertown along Route 73."

    He noted that the Rolling Hills Landfill does not pay property taxes, wile the privately owned Conestoga Landfill, which is about the same size, "pays about $250,000 to the Twin Valley School District, the county and the township."

    He said the $60 million Earl has collected in tipping fees -- which makes township property taxes unnecessary -- "is supposed to be a public benefit. I ask you, how does stuffing more cash into Earl Township's bloated mattress benefit the impacted area?"

    Adrienne Blank
    Adrienne Blank, executive director of Building a Better Boyertown, said the
    group received a $1 million grant in December to drive revitalization efforts based on historic tourism and a walkable downtown, and what former BBB President Jake Lea referred to as "the endless caravan of trucks" down East Philadelphia Avenue threatens that effort.

    John Sartor, an engineer with Gilmore Associates, said a study by his firm also found that the vibrations from trucks can damage "fragile historic structures."

    That study, and one by ClimeCo, was paid for by Building a Better Boyertown. Zachary Palm, from ClimeCo, said his firm's environmental study showed air quality in downtown Boyertown is harmed by the particulate matter the ash that escapes from the trucks on their way to the landfill.

    Crystal Seitz, executive director of Pennsylvania's Americana Region, said feeling safe while walking through downtown Boyertown, being able to have outdoor dining, are crucial to Boyertown's revitalization effort.

    Patricia Loder
    She said $857 million is spent every year by tourists in Berks County and most of that happens in downtowns, the soot, noise and danger from the trucks impedes that revitalization, she said.

    Boyertown Borough Manager Patricia Loder said a recent analysis found that 30 percent of the truck traffic through Boyertown is connected to the landfill.

    She said if the trucks cannot be re-routed, and an option of shipping the ash by rail won't work, the borough would request a "traffic mitigation fee" based on the tons of ash hauled through the borough.

    That money could pay for new traffic signals and a new parking garage to make up for parking lost should parking on East Philadelphia Avenue be reduced to one side to accommodate the trucks.

    Most said the preferred solution was to re-route the trucks from downtown Boyertown.

    Joe Paschall
    Even several of those who supported the project, said they were not opposed to the suggestion made by many that the option of transporting the incinerator ash from Delaware County to the landfill via rail be more fully explored.

    Joe Paschall, who said the landfill provides many benefits, including jobs and $60 million in tipping fees to Earl Township -- and who said "you can't blame the landfill for all the truck traffic through Boyertown" -- said he likes the idea of transporting the remains of the waste burned in Delaware County's Chester incinerator by rail.

    And Nathaniel Guest, the executive director of the Colebrookdale Railroad Preservation Trust, said a recent study showed the rail option is viable, although it would take investment in a new transfer station, for trucks to take the ash for the final few miles to the landfill, as well as a shoring up of some of its bridges to carry the weight.
    Joseph Vasturia

    Joseph Vasturia, CEO of the Delware County Solid Waste Authority, said he has
    been with the organization since the 1980s and that the route the trucks take to the landfill is dictated by the DEP permit.

    In the last year, the landfill has contributed more than $4.5 million to the county, the state and Earl Township.

    Under the expansion request, the average daily tonnage will remain at 3,200 tons and the height of the landfill will not exceed 884 feet.

    But it's already too high, said Oley Township Supervisor James Coker. All of Oley township is designated an historic place, and it has had to endure the landfill's assault on its aesthetics "with no benefit whatsoever" to his township.

    The hearing broke up after 90 minutes and the comments made, as well as those submitted to DEP by Friday, June 15, will be part of the record and be considered in DEP's decision.

    Here are the Tweets from the hearing.


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    Photo by Matthew Wright
    Nineteen area high school students received their diplomas through Montgomery County Community College’s award-winning Gateway to College program. 











    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by Montgomery County Community College

    During this time of year, many high school seniors and their families are attending graduation ceremonies and celebrating the accomplishment of this education milestone. At Montgomery County Community College, 19 high school students recently received their high school diplomas, too, through the Gateway to College program.

    Only a year ago, these students were not on track to graduate, but MCCC’s Gateway to College program changed their future. Part of a national network, Gateway to College enabled them to complete their high school requirements, receive their diplomas and continue taking college courses, all with the guidance and support of MCCC’s dedicated faculty and staff.

    Since MCCC launched the program in 2013 at its campuses in Blue Bell and Pottstown, 135 students have earned their high school diplomas. Because of its success, the Gateway program at MCCC is one of 10 community college programs nationwide to be named a finalist for the prestigious 2018 Bellwether Award in the Instructional Programs & Services Category.

    “Only 30 schools in the nation are named as finalists, and Montgomery County Community College was recognized for this program. This is the premier Gateway to College program in the country,” said MCCC President Kevin Pollock.

    “When we talk about student success, we’re talking about you,” he told the graduates. “You should be proud of what you accomplished because it is remarkable.”

    The graduates are Giana Berrios, Upper Perkiomen School District; James Breinig, Jenkintown School District; Dominick Clark, Cheltenham School District; Camiyyah Cousins, Pottsgrove School District; Samantha DeJoseph, Boyertown Area School District; Aspen Fiorentino-Alberto, Upper Merion School District; Janeth Galeana-Bruno and Tierra Green, Wissahickon School District; Kristian Heard and Dennis Knox, Pottsgrove School District; Stephanie Marburger, Commonwealth Diploma; Zachary Myers, Phoenixville; Aliyah Rocco, Wissahickon; John Everett Seavy, Souderton School District; Nathan Schultz, Phoenixville School District; Toné Thompson, Wissahickon; Carlos Vieyra, Upper Moreland School District; Karl Vondra and Jada Young, Upper Merion.

    “It’s not going to get easier; it will be harder,” Gateway Director Keima Sheriff told the graduates as they received their diplomas. “But, you have the tools you need and the support system. Most importantly, you believe in yourselves now, and that’s what you need to keep going.”

    Thirteen graduates will continue their education at MCCC in the fall. The other graduates will be entering the workforce or continuing their education at another institution.

    MCCC collaborates with 18 school districts, who refer students to the program. Additionally, partners Waste Management, PECO, Wells Fargo, Univest, TD Bank, the Kahn family, Maguire Foundation, Malik family, Ambler Savings, Thompkins VIST Bank, First Priority Bank and the Gateway to College National Network have provided financial support for the program and student scholarships.

    “I believe the true success of the program is the tireless dedication of the entire Gateway team, and I cannot thank them enough for their work in supporting our students,” said Sheriff. “We work together to make the goal of student completion the primary focus of the program.”

    The team includes Dean of Student Affairs Dr. Nicole Henderson, Program Director Keima Sheriff, Resource Specialist Jezerey Weiderman, Resource Specialist Esau Collins, Administrator Michelle Kulla, English Assistant Professor Diane McDonald, Reading Senior Lecturer Karen Harding-Tasca, Math Senior Lecturer Tracy Halsey and Math Senior Lecturer Donald Slaughter.

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    Pottstown will host an e-waste recycling program for borough residents on Saturday, June 16 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Reading parking lot off South Hanover Street.

    The following items will be accepted for recycling:

    • Computer -- PCs/laptops and servers;
    • Monitors -- CRT/LCD
    • TVs -- CRT/Console/Projection/Flat panel;
    • Networking devices -- servers, routers, switches, hubs, arrays
    • Printers, fax machines, scanners, copiers, plotters, typewriters (who still has those?)
    • Audio/video devices, CD, DCD,VHS,Blue Ray players, MP3s, iPods, stereos, projectors, video game consoles
    • Cell phones, PDAs, telephones, pagers, telecommunication devices
    • Surge protectors, power supplies
    • All cables, wires, power cords
    • All items used in the function of these devices, such as keyboards, mice, speakers, etc.

    There is no fee for most electronics, but there is one for televisions

    • $20 for all flat screens
    • $25 for TVS and monitors up to 29 inches
    • $45 for TVs and monitors from 30 to 55 inches
    • $70 for TVs and monitors of 56 inches or larger.

    Here is a list of things that will NOT be accepted:

    • Fossil fuels
    • Media contaminated with oil
    • Liquids
    • Chemicals/oils/powders
    • Equipment containing asbestos
    • Equipment containing chemicals
    • Equipment containing freon
    • Infectious/biological waste or equipment contaminated by it
    • Equipment that contains radioactive components, such as smoke detectors
    • Materials that would adversely impact operations or result in environment/health problems


    Questions should be addressed to the Pottstown Licensing and Inspections Department at  610-970-6520.



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    Blogger's Note: The following was provided by Pottsgrove Manor

    Discover the trades and skills of 18th century men and gentlemen at Pottsgrove Manor on Saturday, June 16th, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

    Celebrate the history of fatherhood at Pottsgrove Manor and learn about our colonial ancestors and the skills needed by men in the 18th century.

    Did you know that in Colonial America, men did jobs that people today might not always associate with masculinity? 

    Uncover how the cook would prepare complex Georgian meals for the Potts family in the reconstructed kitchen. Get your hands dirty with the gardener to tend the many plants for food and medicine in the kitchen garden. Join the tailor to construct finely fitted and flattering clothing for the gentlemen in your life. 

    Historic interpreters will be demonstrating their skills and offering hands-on learning all day. Complete your day by enjoying 18th century lawn games that the whole family can appreciate. Let Pottsgrove Manor’s staff and volunteers help transform your modern man into a colonial gentleman.

    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 pint glasses, history books, tavern puzzles, and more to make your Father’s Day gift truly historic.

    This program welcomes all ages and is rain or shine. There is a suggested $2 donation for the event.

    Pottsgrove Manor is located at 100 West King Street near the intersection of King Street and Route 100, just off Route 422 near the Carousel at Pottsgrove and Manatawny Green Miniature Golf Course, in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Pottsgrove Manor is operated by the Montgomery County Division of Parks, Trails, and Historic Sites.

    For more information, please call 610-326-4014, or visit the website at www.montcopa.org/pottsgrovemanor. Like Pottsgrove Manor on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pottsgrovemanor.

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    Photos by Evan Brandt
    A WALL WE CAN ALL GET BEHIND: From left, Lynn Bialek, from the Birdsboro American Legion Post's auxiliary, Pottstown Council Vice President  Carol Kulp and Vietnam veteran Richard Herter with a display advertising The Wall that Heals, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Replica and Mobile Education Center. The wall will make a slow procession from Sunnybrook Ballroom to Daniel Boone High School on July 5, and will be on display there round the clock until July 8.


    It was hard to take a breath at last night's borough council meeting without someone getting appointed to some board of commission.

    Trenita Lindsay is Pottstown Council's
    newest member.
    First and foremost of those was the appointment of Trenita Lindsay to the Fifth Ward council seat vacated last month by Dennis Arms.

    The vote was not unanimous.

    Councilman Ryan Procsal said while he thought Lindsay was a fine candidate, that the financial background of Philip Smock -- the other applicant who showed up at last week's council meeting to be interviewed -- might better the serve the borough as it tries to figure out how to deal with the spiraling property assessment challenges eroding the tax base -- and Pottstown's primary revenue stream.

    He and Weand voted against Lindsay's appointment, which was made by Councilman Joe Kirkland and seconded by Councilwoman Rita Paez.

    The next appointment was to the single vacancy on the newly formed Land Bank Board.

    In April, when the rest of the appointments were made, the board had voted unanimously to reject the appointment of Twila Fisher to the the Land Bank board.

    The director of economic development for The Hill School who head's up the schools Hobart's Run initiative, Fisher was among those consulted on the formation of the board.

    However, twice former council member Sheryl Miller, who was also involved in the formation of the board, spoke out against Fisher's appointment, saying it is a conflict of interest for Fisher to serve because Hobart's Run is involved in the purchase and renovation of property, the Land Bank could be used for its benefit.

    However Councilman Ryan Procsal said he had spoken with Fisher and was convinced it would not be a problem. Council President Dan Weand noted she had served on a previous land bank board in Berks County.

    The 4-2 vote to appoint here came only after Councilman Joe Kirkland had proposed the appointment of Madison Morton to the board, a motion that was defeated by the same 4-2 vote margin.

    Then it was time to decide on two open seats on the board of the Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority.

    The board followed the request of Executive Director Sheila Dugan and appointed Pamela Gormesh to one of the seats. Gormesh had been previously interviewed by the board and recommended for appointment.

    Three others applied for the second seat -- Gabrielle Davidheiser -- who also has already been interviewed, and Thomas Hylton and Steve Everett, who have not been interviewed.

    That vote will occur in July.

    Next, we move on to the planning commission where two applicants -- Hylton and Andrew Monastra -- were up for consideration for a single vacancy.

    Procsal said he knew the planning commission members, and several members of council, were leaning toward Monastra for the appointment. But he noted that Monastra is already serving on the Land Bank Board and the Historic Architecture Review Board.

    He also noted that Hylton came to last night's meeting to speak, reminding council that he had previously served for 12 years, many as chairman, and that he and Solicitor Charles D. Garner Jr. had penned the borough's zoning ordinance which "favors traditional towns."

    Only Councilwoman Rita Paez ended up voting against Hylton's appointment. But the choice may have been moot. After borough council went into an executive session, Deb Penrod, planning commission chairperson, said she had that night submitted her resignation.

    Penrod, who is on the Land Bank board as well as the Pottstown Regional Public Library Board of Trustees, said she has too many responsibilities and does not know as much about planning as Hylton and suggested Monastra would work well with Hylton.

    When council came out of that executive session it laid the groundwork for one more appointment.

    Council voted to change the provision of the borough manager's ordinance that requires the manager to live in the borough, leaving the matter "the discretion of council," as Garner described it.

    Council also voted to extend Interim Borough Manager Justin Keller's contract, which expires at the end of the month, by another 30 days.

    Expect to see Keller provided with a full contract to borough manager at the July meeting.

    In non-appointment matters, council adopted the changes to the downtown parking scheme, introducing paying by smart phone.

    The changes will also increase  rates from 35 cents per hour to $50 cents per hour. However, Keller reported that the staff hopes to route payments through its own credit card processor, thus eliminating the potential for additional parking charges between five and 35 cents per transaction.

    Also approved was the Hanover Square project that will convert the long-vacant former shirt factory at Cherry and South Charlotte streets into 27 market-rate apartments. (Yay!)

    Council also approved a waiver of the land development ordinance for the first phase of a project at Maple Street Park that will rehabilitate the two tennis courts there, add a third and put up a new fence, stoage shed and modular classroom.

    A second phase, which would encase the courts in an inflatable structure, cannot proceed without council approval.

    Also approved were the changes Fire Chief Michael Lessar Jr. suggested to the fire code, absent the more strict requirements for sprinkler systems that had raised concerns of slowing rehabilitation of older downtown buildings and which council had removed from consideration.

    And last, but definitely not least, council agreed unanimously to send a letter to this reporter's employer -- Digital First Media -- opposing the decision to close The Mercury building, which has stood at the corner of King and North Hanover Streets, since the 1920s.

    The Mercury will continue to publish, but yours truly will likely be working from home, like so many other Digital First journalists must these days.

    To learn more about why, read this and this.

    Here are the Tweets from the meeting:


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    It's hard to keep track of all the major issues with which the Boyertown School Board dealt last night, but nearly all of them had one thing in common -- spending public money.

    Let's take a survey of all the issues on which they voted:
    • The $118 million budget that raises taxes 5.4 percent;
    • Tearing down Memorial Stadium and building a new one;
    • Lowering the student activity fee;
    • Preserving the per capita tax;
    • A one-year teacher contract;
    • Spending more than $300,000 on upgrading school security;
    • The extension of the interim superintendent's contract;
    • Extending the contract for the district's public relations firm.
    Here's the short version, they were all approved, some unanimously, some by 6-3 vote and one by a 7-2 vote.

    Let's walk through them one by one, starting with the big one -- the budget.

    Surprisingly, there was less board comment on spending $118,669,893, then there was about lowering the activity fee from $200 to $100 -- with a $300 cap per family instead of $400 -- a teacher contract that will cost an additional $1.2 million; or even spending $6,000 more on public relations.

    It will raise the millage by 1.35 mills and taxes by $136 for owners of a property assessed at $100,000.

    What comment there was on the budget came from board member Clay Breece who, as he has done before, referring to public schools as "a government monopoly."

    "The plan of some board directors is to simply raise taxes," said Breece, arguing the board had not done enough work on the budget to reduce costs. 

    "We don't have anybody who wants to make tough decisions. I don't think most of the people here wouldn't know a tough decision if it was staring them in the face," Breece said of his fellow board members, warning "they will raise taxes again if we keep electing the same people."

    Breece, was joined by board members Ruth Dierolf and Christine Neiman in casting the three votes against the budget.

    No one voted against, or spoke about, a one-year contract with the teachers union, the Boyertown Education Association, which will add $1.2 million in costs to the budget the board adopted the same night.

    The contract makes no changes to benefits, increases by 1 percent pay for co-curricular salaries and adds $1,500 to each step on the salary schedule effective the fourth pay in the 2019-2019 school year which begins July 1.

    But there will be no step movement in that year. The contract has already been approved by the union.

    Similarly, the vote to spend $355,649 on security upgrades at all the district's buildings -- the first of several phases -- received unanimous support from the board.

    Breece said he looks forward to the policy discussions over the summer for the coming phases of the security upgrade, saying he favors inviting armed veterans and off-duty police officers to patrol the halls.

    Those people "will squash the threat in seconds, not in minutes," he said.

    In terms of cost, the next most costly item would probably be the tearing down of 32-year-old stadium and replacing it. They have tentatively been estimated between $1.5 million to $2 million, but, as Neiman noted before the vote, the motion the board was asked to approve -- and did unanimously -- contained no cost estimates whatsoever.

    Not to worry, said Solicitor Jeffrey Sultanik, the motion is more of a "directive" for the administration to get started, and no bids or plans could be set into motion without further approval from the board.

    The board also voted 7-2 on a last-minute motion to save the per capita tax of about $14 on every resident of the district over 18. In 2013, the board voted to phase out the tax on July 1 of 2018, but Dierolf said she had continually asked to revisit the issue.

    If the board did not reverse the 2013 resolution before July 1, the only way to get it back would be by a district-wide referendum which, said Breece, is what the board should do.

    "Let the people vote on it and board will get a lesson in civics," said Breece. "This thing will go down like a Japanese zero into one of those aircraft carriers during World War II."

    But in the end despite the fact that in previous years it has cost 40 percent of the revenue it generates to collect it, only Breece and School Board President Donna Usavage voted to let the tax expire.

    After expenses, it will net about $160,000 for the district.

    It was not immediately known how much extending interim superintendent David Krem's contract for another year will cost. With the withdrawal of its top candidate this spring, the board, while hoping to have another candidate by the start of school, seems to be covering all possibilities.

    Krem's contract, by which he is paid $800 per day, was unanimously extended to June 30, 2019.

    Krem noted the fact that he is not paid for days he does not work and said the total days he did not work this year will cover the increased cost of renewing the communications contract with Kultivate, a Gilbertsville firm that has one employee -- Kristine Parkes.

    He was strongly defending the recommendation to renew that contract for another three years, saying the $6,000 increase in cost was more than covered by the money he was not paid on the days he did not work.

    Neiman questioned whether any other firm had been contacted for a price, and even made a motion -- which received no second -- to cancel the contract. And Krem's response was forceful, to say the least.

    "In all my years, I have not sat in any meeting where you have degraded any professional contractor they way you have degraded Kultivate, just because its a one-man operation," said Krem. "I don't want to have this conversation with you again," he said, noting he does not "have the time to keep up with what's on Facebook and Twitter," adding mostly every statement that appears over his name was written by Parkes.

    The contract, which costs $3,600 per month, was approved by a 6-3 vote, with Neiman, Dierolf and Breece voting no.

    The item generating the most discussion Tuesday night was the vote to reduce the activity fee paid by students who participate in extra-curricular activities.

    As a result of the 6-3 vote, the fee will be reduced from $200 to $100 per student and a cap of $300 per family, down from a cap of $400 per family.

    Dierolf, Neiman and Breece all voted against the reduction, asking where the revenue lost would be made up.

    "Where will that  $100,000 come from?" asked Dierolf. "We're buying Underarmor socks, getting laundry done, paying insurance. Soon enough we'll be paying students to play," she said.

    "If I thought for one moment that $100 was keeping anyone from participating in an activity I would change my vote," said Dierolf.

    "This is more of a political payback, inside joke with a pinch of contempt for the public. It's fake virtue," said Breece.

    Brandon Foose said the money represents "one-tenth of 1 percent of our budget. It was a mistake when it was instituted and when it was increased it was a mistake. We must find ways to generate revenue in ways that do not create barriers to kids getting involved."

    "When students connect with their school and activities, they are less likely to have animosity toward that institution," said Foose. "Activities helps develop the whole student. The community benefits from us having well-rounded students."

    I think that's everything. I have faith if I've missed something, you folks will let me know. Otherwise, here are the Tweets from the meeting:


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

    The Hill School will host two major athletic events over Friday, Saturday and Sunday which could cause increased traffic and parking scarcity in the area around the campus, the school announced Wednesday.

    The events are expected to bring a large number of visitors and consumers to town from other cities and states, according to school spokesperson Cathy Skitko.

    The Big 4 Lacrosse Tournament will be utilizing The Hill School Far Fields Friday from 5 to 8 p.m., Saturday from 8 to 5:30 p.m., and Sunday from 8:50 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

    This is a privately sponsored and produced event that allows high school lacrosse players from schools throughout North America to showcase their skills to college coaches.

    Crossover Hoops will be conducting a basketball camp in Hill’s Field House Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. to about 6 p.m.

    To address issues related to parking, informational flyers are being distributed to homes located on streets adjacent to Hill’s campus; the flyers include phone numbers that residents may call with concerns should they arise.

    Hill personnel have been in communication with the borough police department, and two patrolmen will assist with traffic and parking issues so that the event is as welcoming and well-coordinated as possible.

    The Hill School is paying the cost of employing those two police officers.

    Parking will be available at Hill’s athletics fields; the grass lot at the corner of Beech and Edgewood streets; and the former Edgewood Elementary School lot. 

    "The Hill School is renting the former Edgewood School parking lot from the Pottstown School District and greatly appreciates the District’s collaboration in making this possible," according to Skitko.

    In addition, the Olivet Boys’ and Girls’ Club/Ricketts Center have approved use of their parking lot. 

    Parking also will be provided at Sunnybrook, with a shuttle being provided for guests travelling to and from the lacrosse fields.

    Downtown Pottstown restaurants (including Sunnybrook) have been notified about this event so that they are aware of a potential increase in customers.

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    The three-year-long no-tax-hike streak for the Pottstown School District has just about run its course.

    At the school board's Facilities/Finance committee meeting Thursday night -- a cacophonous affair if ever I covered one -- the message was pretty simple.

    Nothing has changed.

    Business Manager Maureen Jampo told the committee members that revenues from the previous year remained flat -- due largely to challenges to property assessments which reduced revenues -- while expenses had gone up due primarily to the increase in teacher salaries and increased pension costs.

    Use of reserve funds set aside for the pension hikes covered about $432,000 of the $1.4 million budget gap for the coming year. The other $1 million will be covered by the 3.5 percent tax hike called for in the budget.

    (In fact, had Pottstown Hospital not been pulled from the tax rolls as a result of being sold to Tower Health, the school budget would be balanced for the coming year except for $36,000.)

    Instread, the need to make up the $1 million shortfall hike will add $98.56 to the annual tax bill for a home assessed at $78,890, the borough median.

    School Board member John Armato pointed out that during the previous three years, when no tax hike was imposed, property owners experienced more than $1,600 in savings from the homestead tax break, "much less than the increase they will see this year."

    At his prompting, Jampo also agreed with his assessment that the only way to achieve a fourth year with no tax hike would be to "cut a whole lot of programs that people do not want to see cut."

    As evidence that the district is doing everything it can to cut costs, Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez said the decision on outsourcing transportation department will become final on June 18, producing an expected savings of $78,000.

    But, as Rodriguez said Jampo outlined to him, "one student who needs special transportation will eat that in a few months."

    Aramto confirmed that the district has one bus run, for two students, that costs the district $98,000 a year.

    Despite the budget constrictions, Rodriguez confirmed that the dean of students, security guard and mental health professional provided in partnership with Creative Health would remain at Pottstown Middle School where bullying and violence problems have recently made headlines.

    The school board will meet next week to finalize the budget picture, but given that next week does not leave enough time to publish any changes to the budget, you can rest assured that the tax hike will likely remain at 3.5 percent.

    The finance committee also engaged in some brainstorming about coming problems, including the pending collapse of the 40-year-old heating system at the administration building and over-crowding at the middle school.

    Rodriguez said the issues on the table "have many moving parts," with each potential solution or change incurring costs and setting off a ripple of secondary effects that have to be considered.

    None of the things discussed in the Tweets below, he said, are even close to a decision point and none would be implemented in the coming school year.

    The committee then adjourned to allow the policy committee to begin discussions of the dress code that must be implemented in the wake of the board decision to do away with school uniforms.

    But you must excuse me, dear reader. Having lived through those first initial discussions when the uniforms were implemented, I did not have the core strength to sit through another.

    Rest assured, once the board settles on a new dress code, it will be conveyed to you either here or in the pages of The Mercury. But have mercy and spare me the reporting of yet another discussion of what students should wear to school.

    So with that, here are the Tweets from last night's meeting:


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    The cast house at Hopewell Furnace.










    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

    This years year marks the 80th year of Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site as a unit of the National Park Service. 
    Stoking the furnace at Hopewell.

    To celebrate, the site will be offering programs and activities throughout the summer and fall to honor 80 years of preservation and service to the American people. 

    The celebration will culminate on Saturday, Aug. 4 with the celebration of Establishment Day. A day full of family activities, it will culminate with a special program and birthday cake.

    A wide variety of programs are offered this summer: molding and casting demonstrations on weekends, exploring the goods for sale in the Village Store, hikes and walks to lesser known areas of Hopewell Furnace, evening programs on Fridays at French Creek State Park amphitheater, cast iron cooking demonstrations, charcoal making, fiber arts, autumn apple picking and much more. Special events include our annual Independence Day commemoration, StarFest (Aug. 11) and Life on the Civil War Homefront (Sept. 15 and 16). 

    Finally, the park has two new stamps for the National Park Service passport program, one for its birthday, the other for the Village Store.

    All activities are free and will be posted on the web events calendar for Hopewell Furnace: https://www.nps.gov/hofu/planyourvisit/calendar.htm

    Staff can be reached during business hours at (610) 582-8773. The park is open seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Sunday, Oct. 14. 

    Winter hours are Wednesday through Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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    From left, First Presbyterian Co-Pastor Kerry Pidcock-Lester, Kendyll King, Isiah Perez and former Barth teacher Sharon Holloway



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

    At Barth Elementary School they practice the intent of the John Lennon song "All We Are Saying Is Give Peace A Chance." 

    The annual "Peacemaker of the Year" program which was developed through the joint efforts of Barth Elementary School and the First Presbyterian Church of Pottstown, recognizes two students for the qualities of kindness, respect, courage, and the willingness to solve problems in a peaceful way.

    The school‑wide program includes written student nominations. 

    Recently at a school assembly, students read their nominating speeches which describe the qualities that the nominee has to qualify them to be "Peacemaker of the Year'. Pastor Kerry Pidcock-Lester was on hand to present plaques and a $100 award to this year's Peacemakers Kendyll King and Isiah Perez. 

    Classmates described Kendyll as someone who listens to everyone's side of a story and tries to be a problem solver. 

    "She cheers you up by making jokes:she is very funny. She helps us when we do not understand something in class. She does her best to be positive and cheer people up. Once when I was sad about something that happened she talked with me till I felt better," read some of the comments. 

    One of Isiah's classmate wrote; "he helped me pick up my papers when I fell. He also made me feel welcomed and helped me when I first moved here. He included me in games at recess if he saw I was not involved. I was shy about singing in the chorus concert and he made me feel that it would be alright. Once I got mad because I tripped and he came to make sure I was OK and gave me a way to stay calm. 

    Barth Principal Ryan Oxenford, Barth said "thanks to First Presbyterian for supporting this program for the last 19 years. It is a powerful learning lesson for our students and a stepping stone to becoming positive productive citizens."

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    Sunday marked the day a grateful daughter held the first Father's Day celebration at a YMCA in Spokane, Washington 108 long years ago.

    Sonora Smart Dodd wanted to honor of her father, Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, a single parent who raised his six children. And so we have Father's Day.

    Sadly, we fathers are not so smart these days and our failures make headlines nearly every day.

    I look at the cards we send, the phone calls we make, and the sentiments we share and I shake my head in disbelief.

    I consider all of the things dads are supposed to be to our families and, by extension, our greater world-wide family of humanity -- protector, provider, teacher, comforter-in-chief, fair-minded, selfless, generous, providing a good example -- and I find us failing miserably, particularly here in America.

    Consider, the majority of our elected officials are men, and most of them are fathers as well, so it is on we fathers that the weight of this nation's failures rest.

    Hopefully, the wave of women running for office in these mid-term elections will tip that balance and help to make this nation a kinder, more nurturing place. It cannot come soon enough.

    But in the meantime, look around at the country we fathers have built.


    I knew when the fathers of this country failed to take any action on gun control after the massacre of Sandy Hook Elementary School children in Newtown, CT that nothing would change; that if image of slaughtered children, of parents grieving could not motivate our nation's fathers, nothing would. 

    And nothing has, despite shooting after shooting after shooting. We throw up our hands and say "what can we do?"

    We're fathers. We're the ones who are supposed to do something.

    But as I looked into those devilish details of what the alternative to taking action means, our failure became more painfully apparent.

    Because American fathers love their guns more than their children, kindergarten students at Lincoln Elementary School are no longer surprised (or terrified) when they hear there is an armed intruder prowling the halls who wants to shoot them. 

    Rather than running screaming through the halls, like any normal person might, they calmly barricade themselves in a classroom, or silently slip through the halls when their teacher gives them the signal.



    For them, it's routine, and they drill for it three times a year.

    Think about that for a minute, our children practice dealing with a gun-toting murderer in their school; the place they are supposed to feel safe, cherished.

    They drill like they would for a fire which, Lower Pottsgrove Police Chief Mike Foltz sadly noted, is now statistically less likely than an armed intruder shooting them in school. 

    How can we have normalized that? As fathers, how can we have accepted that our kids have to drill to keep from being shot in school? Because we have failed them as fathers, that's why.

    Some believe the answer is more guns in schools. If the answer to any problem is "more guns in schools" we have failed as fathers.

    We are, depending upon our politics, watching, allowing or actively encouraging hate to once again take a place as a legitimate reason for policy. 

    That unthinking hatred drives the headlines I read about children being separated at the borders from their fathers and mothers, who committed the crime of seeking a better, safer life for their families -- like so many of our fathers and grandfathers did before us. 

    I cannot begin to imagine what that would do to me, to be separated from my son when he was young as we undertook an act of desperation in search of a better life. He clung to us when we tried to leave after dropping him off for a three-day stay at karate camp. To be a parent and live through what they're doing at the border?

    It's unthinkable.

    But American fathers are doing it every day, and we don't give it much thought because they're not our children.

    And the people who have decided that is the appropriate policy for our country are fathers as well. They are fathers in a country whose creed was once "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore; send these, the homeless, the tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

    I can imagine a father writing that, although the poet who wrote it was neither a father nor a parent. All the more ironic that Emma Lazarus could so clearly define a promise that we fathers, who seem to have lost all empathy, can no longer claim to keep.

    Now, because their parents violated old and unreformed immigration laws (an area of policy in which the United States has a decidedly tarnished reputation) we punish the children.

    If that inhumanity is truly the policy of this nation, the fathers who run it have failed.

    I see the selfishness of the fathers who worship money and accumulate more of it than they could reasonably spend in a lifetime. And to preserve it, these fathers act to enforce a wage gap that keeps the children of other families living on the edge -- one major illness away from financial ruin.

    The richest country in the world has the second highest child poverty rate. How can you call yourself a father and a leader of this country and allow this statistic to stand; to say without irony that such a country is in the midst of being made great again?

    Keeping children safe, fed and under roof is job one for a father, a job at which the nation's fathers have undeniably failed. 

    I look at the melting ice caps, the seas rising in Miami, an increasing frequency of severe storms; all the result of the climate change widely accepted throughout the scientific world as fact.

    And I see the fathers who lead this nation living in denial of the truth, ignoring what is literally a world-wide threat that much of the rest of the world recognizes and is taking action, however timidly, to address.

    Because, for the fathers who run this country, money is more important than providing breathable air, clean water and a livable climate to the next generation of our children. 

    In April, French President Michel Macron spoke to Congress like a father is supposed to speak to a child, trying to make them aware of a reality they cannot avoid as adults.


    That the people who embrace the denial of this looming global disaster represent the nation that has done the most to bring it about is truly to shower shame on a nation that is supposed to be "the shining city on a hill."

    My son, now 19 and a member of his college debate team, has initiated this conversation with me several times with increasing effectiveness, particularly when anyone mistakenly refers to him as a "millennial," that supposedly pampered generation of "everyone's-a-winner" fame.

    He points out, with painful precision, that in fact it is my generation of fathers who have cocked things up so badly in this world:
    • Our (love for/fear of) guns is so great that we cannot even talk about controlling them to protect our children from being shot in school without being shouted down, so our solution is to help them get used to it; 
    • We have allowed hate to once again carve a foot-hold in discussions of public policy which now carry increasingly disturbing echoes of a fascist state, much like the ones our fathers once defeated in war;
    • It is the policy of the fathers who lead this nation to intentionally inflict pain on helpless children who come to a land once defined by hope and which for them will now and forever be defined by cruelty and pain; 
    • We allow more children to starve and be sick than any other developed nation on Earth, all so we can remain in a state of perpetual war with an idea which few of us could ever define; 
    • Hell, we cannot even act to preserve the planet our children will inherit.
    By nearly any measure you chose, the leaders of this nation have failed as fathers and as leaders and I am ashamed for all of us.

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    So one of the problems with having five meetings to cover on any particular Monday is that you miss things.

    I have not been to the Upper Pottsgrove Township Commissioners in several months, mostly because their agendas look like nothing is going on and others seemed more newsworthy.

    But I evidently missed something at the May 21 meeting because for what may be the first time in more than 30 years of community journalism, Monday night's meeting saw a disagreement about adopting the minutes of that meeting.

    Commissioners Elwood Taylor, Martin Schreiber and France Krazalkovich went back and forth about how much of any of their comments were included in the draft minutes of the May 21 that were presented last night for approval.

    Schreiber and Taylor voted against their approval.Copmpany

    I did not understand everything that was talked about and the commissioners went into executive session immediately after the meeting, so I could not delve further.

    What I did determine is that at some point, a vote was taken to have the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development undertake a study of the township fire company's effectiveness.

    What was also evident was that a motion was made to have a "letter of no confidence" in the leadership of the fire company drafted.

    What I don't know, other than the decision months ago by the board not to move forward with the purchase of a new fire truck, is what the hell this is all about.

    But I will.

    And when I do, you will too.

    In the meantime, say farewell to Police Officer Steve Sigoda next time you see him. After 30 years with the township, he has announced his retirement.

    The board will vote at the July 16 meeting whether to replace him, as Chief Fran Wheatley has requested.

    Here are the Tweets from the meeting: