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Articles on this Page
- 04/23/18--21:00: _Montco Commissioner...
- 04/24/18--21:00: _$67.5M Budget Hikes...
- 04/25/18--21:00: _Regional Planners H...
- 04/26/18--21:00: _Lower Pottsgrove Co...
- 04/27/18--21:00: _Celtic Concert Toni...
- 04/28/18--21:00: _Pottstown Middle Sc...
- 04/29/18--21:00: _Annual Pottsgrove M...
- 04/30/18--21:00: _Pottstown High Scho...
- 05/01/18--21:00: _Pottstown Sophomore...
- 05/02/18--21:00: _Will YMCA Take Over...
- 05/05/18--21:00: _First-Ever Pottstow...
- 05/06/18--21:00: _Morlatton Village t...
- 05/07/18--21:00: _NAACP Assails YMCA ...
- 05/08/18--21:00: _Boyertown Stadium, ...
- 05/09/18--21:00: _Recognitions, Incen...
- 05/10/18--21:00: _$92M Phoenixville S...
- 05/12/18--21:00: _YWCA to Hold Tribut...
- 05/13/18--21:00: _Love Thy Neighbor 5...
- 05/14/18--21:00: _Hey 4th Ward, Here'...
- 05/15/18--21:00: _Pottstown Pride Get...
- 05/16/18--21:00: _Perkiomen Creek Soj...
- 05/17/18--21:00: _Pottstown School Bo...
- 05/18/18--21:00: _Barth's Kelli Wolfe...
- 05/19/18--21:00: _Rupert Students Get...
- 05/20/18--21:00: _$10K Donations Keep...
- 04/23/18--21:00: Montco Commissioners Get Earful About Y Closure
- 04/24/18--21:00: $67.5M Budget Hikes Taxes 1%, 0% Tax Hike Looms
- Do nothing
- Expand on the existing building
- Buy an additional building of similar size and split the administration and police department
- Buy a building large enough to accommodate the expansion of both
- Build a building large enough to accommodate the expansion of both
- 04/27/18--21:00: Celtic Concert Tonight to Benefit Pottstown Library
- 04/29/18--21:00: Annual Pottsgrove Manor May Fair Set for May 5
- 04/30/18--21:00: Pottstown High School Alumni Honor Roll Named
- 05/01/18--21:00: Pottstown Sophomore Takes 1st in Speech Contest
- 05/02/18--21:00: Will YMCA Take Over West Pottsgrove Pool? Maybe
- 05/05/18--21:00: First-Ever Pottstown Eco/Vegan Fest Set for May 12
- Dance to live music by Julia Othmer, Caitlin Jaene and Rick Denzien
- Hear a talk by Christina Pirello, cancer survivor turned Emmy-award- winning chef and host of Christina Cooks
- Get nutrition advice from Angel Santos, body-builder and organic farmer
- Enjoy delicious earth-friendly entrees, desserts, and smoothies from nine local businesses.
- Shop for Mother’s Day (locally-made chocolate, organic flowers, native plants, and more)
- Make Mom a gift with with Pottstown Art Center’s kids activities
- Choose from a variety of free saplings courtesy of Bartlett Tree Service
- Get faces painted for free by Kiwanis Club
- Earn a cookie from Crust Bakery by watching a video
- Create a menu of favorite foods from 90 vegan options at the Vegan Challenge
- Bring pets to a Blessing of the Animals
- 05/06/18--21:00: Morlatton Village to Host Living History Event
- The Chapter 21 Archaeologists, a volunteer group, will present new archaeological findings at the 1716 Mouns Jones House, including the newly uncovered root cellar.
- Volunteer Ken Biles’ Native American Artifact Collection will be on display as well near the Mouns Jones House.
- Trust volunteers will be offering guided tours of the White Horse Tavern, George Douglass House, Michael Fulp House, and the Mouns Jones House.
- At 10:30am, Trust volunteers Courtney Stevens and Susan Speros will give their program “Roots, Fruits, and Vegetables: Eighteenth Century Food Storage” in the White Horse Tavern. Visitors will have the opportunity to hear all about colonial foodways, including the use and purpose of a root cellar, and eighteenth century food preparation and storage.
- At 12 p.m. and 2 p.m., there will be a presentation of the new play “Searching for Betsy Ross” sponsored by the Chapter 21 Archaeologists on the grounds of the Mouns Jones House.
- 05/07/18--21:00: NAACP Assails YMCA Decision to Close Pottstown Y
- 05/08/18--21:00: Boyertown Stadium, Tax Hike, Superintendent News
- 05/09/18--21:00: Recognitions, Incentives and a Surprise Resignation
- 05/10/18--21:00: $92M Phoenixville School Budget Hikes Taxes 3.18%
- 05/12/18--21:00: YWCA to Hold Tribute to Exceptional Girls May 19
- Arts– honors girls in grades 4 through 12 who have a love for art and the ability to express self-truth through artistic expression.
- Health and Wellness– honors girls in grades 4 through 12 who promote, demonstrate, and encourage the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
- STEM– honors girls in grades 6 through 12 who have a passion and who take initiative in science, technology, engineering and/or math.
- The Coretta Scott King Award for Social Justice -- honors girls in grades 6 through 12 who are an agent of change by advocating, influencing and making an impact among her peers in the areas of social justice, peace, equality, and human rights.
- Rising Star Award -- for girls who exhibit leadership qualities, and who are role models or mentors to her peers.
- Sydney Benkler-Iglewicz, a fourth-grader at Westtown School
- Leah Blackwell, a fourth-grader at Lincoln Elementary School, Pottstown
- Saniyah Fox, a fourth-grader at Lincoln Elementary School, Pottstown
- Lily Garber, a fourth-grader at Lincoln Elementary School, Pottstown
- Madeleine Heidel, a fourth-grader at Rupert Elementary School in Pottstown
- Ciara Rios, a fourth-grader at Lincoln Elementary School, Pottstown
- Maya Evans, a sixth-grader at North Coventry Elementary School
- Bryn Hannah, a freshman at Coventry Christian School
- Emmerson Piacine, a freshman at Wyomissing Area High School
- Emme Wolfel, a sophomore at Pottstown High School
- Taylor Gilbert-Fisher, a junior at North Penn High School
- Emily Hart, a junior at Pottstown High School
- Keirsten Hickey, a junior at Pottstown High School
- Kasey Roberts, a junior at Boyertown High School
- Julianna Roseo, a junior at Pottstown High School
- Courtney Burns, a senior at Spring-Ford High School
- Alyssa Dlutz, a senior at Pottstown High School
- 05/13/18--21:00: Love Thy Neighbor 5K Set for May 19
- 05/14/18--21:00: Hey 4th Ward, Here's Your Chance to Be on Council
- 05/15/18--21:00: Pottstown Pride Gets You Free Baseball Tickets
- 05/16/18--21:00: Perkiomen Creek Sojourn On Tap for June 2
- 05/17/18--21:00: Pottstown School Board Nixes Uniform Policy
- 05/18/18--21:00: Barth's Kelli Wolfel is Pottstown Teacher of the Year
- 05/19/18--21:00: Rupert Students Get Early Look at Possible Futures
- 05/20/18--21:00: $10K Donations Keeps In Ian's Boots on Track
Photos by Evan Brandt
Vice Chairman of the Montgomery County Commissioner Ken Lawrence, standing, talks about improvements to the Schuylkill River Trail in Pottstown. At center is Chairwoman Valier Arkoosh and at left is Commissioner Joe Gale.
One, they expected: "when will the Keim Street Bridge be re-built?" (Work still set to begin in 2020).
The other is a new development, the decision by the Philadelphia-Freedom Valley YMCA to close the Pottstown branch on North Adams Street in June.
Montgomery County Commissioners Vice Chairman Ken Lawrence
signs the petition opposing the closure of the Pottstown YMCA.
The latter consumed the vast majority of audience comments and the commissioners were urged to exercise any influence they can to keep the facility open.
For those of you sleeping through the last two months, here's the quick recap: After merging with the larger YMCA organization in 2012, the Pottstown branch has seen few benefits.
After closing the warm-water pool last year, the larger organization announced in November, with no warning and no consultation with the community it insists it serves, that the facility loses too much money and will close in June.
It then put together a task force to forge solutions with only one rule, you cannot recommend that the building remain open. The task force recommended exactly that, and the Philadelphia-Freedom Valley YMCA rejected that recommendation.
Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale signed the
petition opposing the closure of the Pottstown YMCA as well.
"This seems like a pattern," said NAACP President Johnny Corson. "They closed the Aubudon facility with three months notice. Does it seem to you like they are closing YMCA's on low-income people? Their mission statement said they will help people who- are at a disadvantage, but they are pouring resources into high-income communities. Doesn't that concern you?" he asked.
Commissioners Chairwoman Valerie Arkoosh said Pottstown is a "community the county is deeply invested in," and that she is trying to serve as an "honest broker," to bring the Conshohocken-based non-profit to the table to talk.
"But I don't want to over-promise. They are a private entity, we have zero- authority over them," she said.
Montgomery County Commissioners Chairwoman Val Arkoosh,
addresses the crowd of about 60 at the Pottstown meeting.
"I have no desire to hear about the Willow Grove project," he said of the $30 million facility the organization is building in Upper Moreland. "I want to know what is going on in Pottstown. I don't understand having a task force and then disregarding what that task force says."
"This June 29 deadline is a gun to our heads," said one resident. "What we really need is more time and perhaps the commissioners can help with that."
One woman said she has collected more than 1,000 signatures on an on-line petition opposing the
She said the YMCA was where all fourth graders in Pottstown were taught to swim for free, that they could walk to the facility from nearby school campuses.
Joe Ciresi, a former Spring-Ford School Board member running against Republican Tom Quigley for the 146th District House seat, advised the community to seek out the Philadelphia-Freedom Valley YMCA's donors and make them aware of the situation.
"These are people who made large donations to help the under-priviledge in the community, get in touch with them and say 'are you aware of what is going on here in Pottstown?' That will get their attention," Ciresi said.
"I've been so impressed by all the people in community who are working to try to resolve this, I think the task force did a great job. I hear clearly having child care two miles away is really not a solution at all," Arkoosh said of the often-touted 10-year lease the YMCA has signed with a facility in Lower Pottsgrove Township.
For a home assessed at $120,000, the district average, that works out to another $45 in taxes.
But even that amount may not be levied. Superintendent William Shirk and Business Manager David Nester both said the administration has "a plan to get to zero."
"We do have a plan to get to zero, but there are still some big questions out there," such as tuition to charter schools and state budget numbers, Nester told the school board.
In other business, the board also passed a resolution opposing the closure of the Pottstown YMCA, as well as appointing Athletic Director Gary DeRenzo as the new director of community relations and extra-curricular activities with no change in salary, although a new athletic director will be hired.
(Everyone needs their own John Armato ...)
Here are the Tweets from the meeting:
A proposal to build an auction facility for used vehicles and heavy equipment near the intersection of Route 724 and Fricks Lock Road in East Coventry consumed most of the attention of the regional planners Wednesday night.
J.J. Kane Auctioneers, Inc., which has a facility on Conshohocken Road in Plymouth Meeting, are looking to open another location on 48 acres in East Coventry.
|Screen shot from J.J. Kane Auctioneers web site.|
The company has approached the township about building a small 4,800 square-foot office and 700,000 square-foot gravel inventory parking area where it will conduct its auctions.
Walt Woessner, who serves on East Coventry's Planning Commission and is one of two township representatives on the regional planning committee is not a fan.
"Our planning commission has had one session with this and I'm not sure how everyone else feels about it, but I think it's a disaster," said Woessner.
Tours of Frick's Lock Village are offered by the East Coventry
After telling the owner of a cell phone tower company that they had no problem with a plan to erect a temporary 100-foot cell tower at the highway department property on N. Pleasantview Road, followed by a permanent 150-foot pole, Lower Pottsgrove Commissioners got down to the issue on everyone's mind -- a new township building.
Commissioner Ray Lopez, speaking on behalf of the Infrastructure Committee, read from a report put together on the subject.
He said Lower Pottsgrove has five options:
All things considered, Lopez said, the committee's recommendation is to build a new building on the property the township has purchased at the corner of East High Street and South Pleasantview Road.
Lopez said expanding the current building would cost as much as $4 million, lose scant parking spaces, and it would only be a few years before even that space was too small.
Splitting the administration and police would make things difficult for the public and reduce efficiencies achieved by having both in the same building, Lopez said.
Twice before the township looked at buying a larger building, including a look at the former Lower Pottsgrove Elementary School, but the cost of renovation "exceeded the cost of erecting a new building," he said.
That leaves the recommended option, a new building at the newly purchased property.
Lopez said there is still a lot of information to gather and process before a cost estimate or timeline can be established. Commissioners Chairman Bruce Foltz said the Infrastructure Committee "tooko this very seriously."
There was no vote on the recommendation, but the path appears to be set.
Here are the Tweets from the meeting:
Charlie Zahm, also known as the Celtic Balladeer, will perform the Jacobite Risings in song and story tonight, Saturday, April 28 at 7 p.m. at the Pottstown Regional Public Library at 500 E. High St. in Pottstown.
|The Pottstown Middle School Reading Olympics team won a Green Ribbon in district competition.|
Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the Pottstown School District.
7th GradeMoniyah Person
8th GradeAlexis Watkins
Blogger's Note:The following was provided by Pottsgrove Manor.
Laugh and dance around the Maypole on Saturday, May 5th, to kick off the Annual Colonial Mayfair at Pottsgrove Manor.
The first floor of the Potts family 1752 manor house will be open for visitors to tour. Learn about the nighttime routines of the Potts family and compare a quiet evening at home to a dinner party scenario.
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 Pottstown and Manatawny Green Miniature Golf Course.
What do the Pottstown High School Classes of 1962, 1979, 1982 and 1991 have in common?
The four honorees will be recognized at the Annual Alumni Honor Roll event on Friday Oct. 19, 2018.
The event will begin with a continental breakfast at the Pottstown High School followed by a tour of the Alumni Gallery.
Therese Rinaldi, DPM, graduated from Pottstown High School in 1979. After high school, Therese earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Widener University.
Jonathan CorsonJonathan C. Corson graduated from Pottstown High School in 1982. He is currently a Reactor Operator for Arkema Chemicals.
Logan Ruyak, at right, beat these four competitors at the
Rotary Club district 4-Way Test Speech contest in Reading.
Logan Ruyak, a sophomore at Pottstown High School, placed first in the 4-Way Test speech contest on April 28, at the 2018 Rotary District-7430 Conference in Reading.
Logan’s first insight just seconds into her speech was that for all of the existing rules and explanation of the 4-Way test, it simply comes down to “how to separate right from wrong”.
Under contest rules, contestants are free to select any topic upon which to base their five- to seven-minute speech. Logan selected the divisiveness of political parties, which she took on with the focus and wisdom in an analysis well beyond her years.
Logan’s competed against juniors and seniors on Saturday, with their topics as varied as climate change and educational inequality.
Logan and Pottstown Rotary member Mike Sloane,
who coordinated the contest.
While awaiting results after the presentation, Logan publicly thanked her home room teacher in Pottstown, Diane Fox, for encouraging her participation in the contest.
In addition to sponsoring the winning student, Mike Bright, President of the local Pottstown Rotary Club noted that the Pottstown Club stands out among the other 26 participating clubs “as the only local club sponsoring competitors from three high schools with Pottstown, Pottsgrove, and the Hill School.”
The Rotary International ethics test, characterized as “the 4-Way Test” asks four questions of everything we think, say or do:
-is it fair?
-does it develop goodwill and better friendships?
-is it beneficial to all concerned?
|Logan with family members, and Bright, Fox and Sloane.|
The Pottstown Rotary Club is an active service club providing support by way of volunteers and financial donation for many activities in the area, including the Halloween and Fourth of July parades, scholarships, the Rotary Pavilion at Riverfront Park, Habitat for Humanity, the Pottstown Regional Public Library, and the Pottstown School District Walking School Bus, as well as its well-known international programs to ensure access to clean water and the elimination of polio.
|It's been more than a year since anyone swam in the West Pottsgrove Community Pool.|
It's that time of the year when the perennial West Pottsgrove question -- "will anyone run the township's community pool?" -- is asked.
And, as usual, the answer is: "maybe."
In attempt to make something good out of something bad, Permanent Pool Promoter (and township commissioner) Pete LaRosa, saw something good coming out of the pending closure of the Pottstown YMCA next month.
Although there are many in the community not ready to give up that ghost, LaRosa realized the YMCA could burnish its image by offering up a pool experience given that the two pools inside the North Adams building will soon be closed up inside.
But the deal is not done yet.
Township Manager Craig Lloyd told the commissioners last night that folks from the YMCA visited the pool this week and want some time to consider taking over its operation during the summer season.
Chairman Steve Miller hoped to force the issue a bit by asking for a decision by the end of the month, but the other commissioners said there is no point in rushing it since, in the past, the pool has opened late and could again.
On a technical note, this month we say goodbye to the extraordinarily useful program, Storify, which I used to gather the Tweets from meetings, as well as links to stories and videos.
Unwilling to give up and deprive you, dear reader, of the invaluable experience of reading a bunch of Tweets in order, I slaved through the night, working feverishly until figured out a way to create something similar -- and something I can embed here in the blog -- on Twitter itself.
It's a function called "Twitter Moments" (not that you care.)
But after some weeping and gnashing of teeth, I think I have the swing of things now, and the mighty Digital Notebook blog can continue rolling along as before without a single's day's loss of service.
All of which is by way of long-winded introduction to be able to once again say -- "here are the Tweets from the meeting:"
West Pottsgrove Commissioners Meeting
Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the organizers of EcoFest.
Three out of every four Americans are looking to help the environment as they go about their daily lives, according to a 2016 Pew survey.
Prospective vendors and non-profits can register at www.mobilizationforanimals.org. For more information or to volunteer, call: 267-647-4961 or email email@example.com.
There will be several presentations going on throughout the Village:
The HPTBC is a non-profit organization that acquires, preserves, and maintains historically and architecturally significant properties in Berks County, Pennsylvania and educates Berks County and its’ visitors about the role these sites played in Pennsylvania and American history.
Members of the Pottstown Chapter of the NAACP have left little doubt with officials from the Philadelphia-Freedom Valley YMCA about their feelings about the decision to close the Pottstown YMCA branch next month.
Monday evening, CEO Shaun Elliott and several members of the Philadelphia-Freedom Valley YMCA board of directors, accepted the invitation from Johnny Corson, president of the Pottstown Chapter of the NAACP, to hear more community input and answer questions.
The meeting began with an attempt by Elliott, who no longer responds to email queries from The Mercury, to close the meeting to the press and evict yours truly.
Here's a little of what that looked like:
But Corson said "it's our meeting," and that when he had first proposed it, he had said it would be open to the public and the press.
"Our meetings are open to the public and we have to be transparent. If there's anything you don't want the media to report, don't bring it up," said Corson.
And with that, NAACP members proceeded to demonstrate that whatever Elliott may not want to say, they had a lot to say.
"We will be left with nothing when you walk out of here," said Clifton Bradshaw, who repeatedly chided the YMCA officials for not understanding Pottstown's unique circumstances and comparing the Y's history of closing facilities in poor communities and building news ones in wealthy communities to the past practice of real estate "red lining" that segregated communities.
"I don't think you realize what you've done," said NAACP member Bobby Watson. "when you were racking up those
"The community was brought in AFTER you had a vote" to close the branch, said Bishop Everett Debnam of Invictus Ministries.
"Can I tell you what it looks like from 100 miles up?" said Bob Bauers. "In this country today, the 'have-nots' keep giving up more and more and you now look like an agent in that trend. From an airplane view, it looks racist. What else could we conclude?"
Corson said the NAACP believes that, whether the YMCA officials meant it or not, that the YMCA's action looks like discrimination, when low-income high-minority YMCAs are closed or marginalized while huge steel and glass structures are built in wealthier communities like Spring-Ford, Phoenixville and Upper Moreland.
Elliott, who did most of the speaking for the YMCA side of the discussion, argued that the organization also maintains facilities in Camden, and West Philadelphia.
"But those communities are already segregated," said Bradshaw. "What you are missing about Pottstown, which is a gem, is that its integrated."
Elliott said that operating deficits experienced by the Pottstown branch resulted in the larger organization spending $5 million at the Pottstown site in the last five years.
"As deficits were accumulating, who was responsible?" asked Watson.
"I think real costs come from corporate overhead," said James Konnick, a former president of the Pottstown YMCA board when it merged with Phoenixville in 2007 and a member of the task force formed last year and charged with making suggestions on how to continue services without maintaining the building.
Konnick and several other speakers said despite Elliott's assertions that annual fund drives benefitted Pottstown, that it seemed no effort had been made either to secure grants to pay for repairs with the building or local fundraising events.
"I've spoken with donors who said they haven't heard from the Y in 10 years," said Konnick.
"We don't get money from the government," said Elliott. (Last month The Mercury reported that Philadelphia-Freedom Valley YMCAs received $8 million in state grants since 2000.)
After explaining that the site's operating deficits prevented investment in the building's infrastructure, Elliott said "the operating deficit is not the issue, it's the building. What we can't afford is the building itself that requires so much money. We think it's better to spend money on people."
Senior Courteney Parry said the YMCA is a "safe place" for teens to go during the summer, a place where they can keep out of trouble.
"This is going to put kids on the street, this is their place to be, so they can be safe" said senior David Van Wallace Jr.
Here is some video of him speaking at the meeting:
"First Pottstown lost its community pool," said Corson. "They let the pool run down and then they said the same thing you're saying, that it cost too much. Then before we could propose a solution, they filled it in with dirt."
Then, said Corson, Pottstown lost the Ricketts Community Center when it was leased out to the Boys and Girls club whose rules were so restrictive of adult use "that I couldn't even work out with my son."
"This is the last place we have," said Corson.
"We respect your opinion and we've heard you loud and clear," said Elliott.
Technical note: I discovered today that Twitter Moments has a 50-Tweet max, so some of the Tweets from the beginning of the meeting, while still on Twitter, are not part of the round-up embedded below. Live and learn.
NAACP Questions YMCA Officials About Closure of Pottstown branch
There are three major news stories to come out of last night's Boyertown School Board meeting, but let's cue up to the one everyone really cares about -- the stadium.
Those of you interested in your tax bill and who will lead the district in coming years, will just have to wait and skip down a bit.
The StadiumLast night the school board voted unanimously for the option most favored by parents of student athletes -- to conduct the fall sports season in the high school's Memorial Stadium using temporary stands and temporary sheds, rather than rent outside facilities or hold them "at a neutral location."
The cost of that decision to taxpayers is $112,233.
The district will buy the sheds and some mobile bleachers to be given other uses once the stadium is repaired.
Some bleachers will be rented and set up on the track on the home side and Facilities Director William Gasper said the company that installed the track said the district's plan for a tarp, then plywood, then 2 X 6 board to distribute the weight of the temporary bleachers and the people sitting on them, should be enough to protect the track.
Parent Elyse Watts thanked the board for the decision, which will allow seniors in fall sports to play in the stadium they have known growing up as the home for Boyertown athletics.
She also noted that the timeline as it stands now looks like it could come awfully close to affecting the fall 2019 season and urged the board to move forward with all deliberate speed and efficiency.
Toward's that end, the school board's facilities committee will conduct a special meeting on Monday, May 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the high school cafeteria devoted entirely to one subject -- the stadium.
The public is encouraged to attend as the format will allow a break-out session that allows the public to speak directly to board members on a less formal face-to-face basis, said Interim Superintendent David Krem.
A New Superintendent?Not much to report on this one.
After the leading candidate for the job, Juniata County School District Superintendent Keith Yarger, backed out of the job, the school board has gone "back to the drawing board," said Board President Donna Usavage.
She said since that happened, the board met at least four times in closed-door executive session to discuss the continued superintendent search.
Despite the fact that interim schools superintendent David Krem's term expires in June, the board intends to press forward and decide on a replacement for Richard Faidley, who left last year for a job in Wilson School District, before school starts up again in the fall.
"The board will do everything within our power to get that done," she said.
A Tax Hike ComethWith the expected 6-3 vote, the school board adopted a preliminary final budget last night that calls for spending more than $119 million and would raise taxes by 5.4 percent.
The millage would increase by 1.35 mills under the proposed budget, leading to a tax rate in both the Montgomery and Berks county portions of the district of 25.37 mills.
For a home assessed at $100,000, that represents an increase of $136, which school board member Jill Dennin called "as pretty good deal" for a home with three children on which the district will spend thousands of dollars each year.
She and board member Brandon Foose both noted that the Boyertown district has see-sawed between low tax hikes and higher ones to then make up the difference.
"You can't have it all, a nice stadium, nice fields, nice music programs and have zero tax hikes," said Dennin. "You can have less staff, larger classrooms, or raise taxes to the inflation rate."
Here are a few more comments he offered:
"I know there are constituents who can't afford this," said Neiman.
Board member Steve Elisier, who chairs the finance committee, said the district saved $208,000 by re-financing some bonds, and that there were also significant savings earned through retirements and lower health insurance costs.
The final budget will be adopted and June, and can be reduced between now and then, but not increased.
Also, while we're talking about money, the board voted unanimously to spend up to $250,000 on five new trucks for the district. The average age of a district truck is 17 years.
And now, without further ado, are the many misspelled Tweets from the meeting.
A budget, a stadium and no superintendent
Don't worry, I won't keep you waiting.
If by chance you are one of the unfortunate few not to follow my live, typo-ridden Tweets on Twitter, then you may wonder what I'm talking about. Here it is straight.
Councilman Dennis Arms Resigned
At the end of the meeting, when council members offer comments, Arms uncharacteristically asked to go last.
First the good stuff, he said. Arms recent married and took great pride in having the entire affair taken care of by businesses inside the borough. He thanked them, and said they had all done a superb job.
Then, and this is always a bad sign, he started reading from a prepared statement and I fumbled to get my live video up and running, only catching the last part's of his comments.
Here's what I got in video:
Thankfully, Arms was considerate enough to have copies of his comments prepared ahead of time to hand out to the press. Here is everything he said:
I have lived in Pottstown my entire life and imagined living, working and retiring in this borough. I started my term in 2016 under the impression I might be able to make a difference in my hometown. Unfortunately the last two years have been more than
frustrating. On numerous occasions I have had someone on council ask what we are voting on the night of the vote, blatantly admit they do not understand the financial reports provided, and as a council, vote on items without seeking the information necessary to make a decision.
Dennis Arms, right, on the night he was sworn-in.
I want to thank the residents of Pottstown, especially those in Ward 4, for trusting me to make the right decisions. I hope that our local media and most important, residents, hold their local government accountable for their actions. Please accept this letter as my resignation as Councilor, Ward 4 for the borough of Pottstown, as well as all other committees/commissions I have been appointed to effective this evening as I will be moving out of the borough.Best of luck Mr. Arms.
Because council did not vote to accept his resignation, which may happen on Monday, the clock has not yet started on choosing his replacement.
Although Borough Solicitor Charles D. Garner Jr. did not weigh in last night, I suspect he will tell council the law gives them 30 days to make a replacement once they do accept the resignation.
The statue and proclamation prepared for
Det. Michael Glauner, Officer of the Year.
They may follow whatever process they wish to choose a replacement -- solicit applicants, conduct public interviews as they have in the past, or just pick someone out of thin air. The only requirement is that the person chosen lives in the Fourth Ward.
Should they fail to make a selection, a petition can be filed with a judge and the judge can make the appointment, but it is unlikely it will come to that.
Police Officer and Employee of the Year
The meeting started out on a higher note with the awarding of certificates, pins, resolutions, statues and plaques to two exemplary borough employees.
The first and more familiar was the presentation of the Police Officer of the Year to Det. Michael Glauner.
Here is the video of the presentation by Mayor Stephanie Henrick:
Afterward, he received a plaque with the proclamation, a statue, a pin and the warm congratulations of co-workers, family and members of borough council.
This was preceded by the Exceptional Employee of the Year award, which was presented to Laura E. Kline, who works at the wastewater treatment plant and was only hired in 2016.
Interim Borough Manager Justin Keller, left,
congratulates Laura Kline, the Employee of the Year
"She will take overtime if no one else signs up for it just to be sure the plant operations are covered and to avoid others being mandated. Her knowledge of plant operations has been an asset in her troubleshooting ability. Laura is a valued and integral part of our Plant staff. She is respectful to her co-workers and can be found covering odd shifts as needed," he said in a release from the borough.
"Laura takes additional classes to uphold her wastewater license. She is responsible and accountable for her actions to ensure the wastewater is being treated efficiently and within the discharge limits. Laura is a great team player and all around employee. She goes above and beyond her job description and will go out of her way to help others. She is a great operator and takes initiative to learn new things to help her excel at her job,” he said.
Firefighter Incentives and New Fire Codes
Not to be left out, Fire Chief Michael Lessar Jr. was also in a position to make some news Wednesday night.
He first laid out a set of new requirements he would like council to adopt, including sprinkler systems and fire alarms for smaller new construction and for older buildings that experience a change of use.
Peggy Lee-Clark, executive director of the Pottstown Area Industrial Development Inc., the
|Fire Chief Michael Lessar talks about his volunteer incentive plan.|
"Those buildings need a lot of love," she said, meaning it is very expensive to renovate the interiors up to code, and the additional cost of a sprinkler and fire alarm system may scare investors away from downtown Pottstown.
Lessar also asked council to implement an incentive system for the volunteer fighters. He laid out a point system, indicating that the borough has more volunteers than most, but he wants to incentive those who answer more calls, do more fundraising and get more training and certifications.
The maximum cost to the borough if all firefighters took full advantage of the program would be $45,000, but he said it is more likely to be $10,000 to $15,000.
Lessar said grants will be sought to cover the cost but, failing that, it would have to come out of the fire fund, which, he acknowledged, is pretty low on surplus funds.
There were some other interesting items, but you'll have to read the Tweets to find them.
Recognition, Incentives and Resignation
With an 8-1 vote, and a dizzying array of failed amendments, the Phoenixville School Board adopted its final 2018-2019 $91.7 million budget Thursday that will raises property taxes by 3.18 percent.
For the average taxpayer, the budget will cost an additional $127 per year, said Chris Gehris, the district's manager of financial reporting.
Board member Lori Broker cast the only vote against adoption.
A total of eight amendments to adjust the budget were proposed, all but one of which would have added additional spending to the budget, but they all failed, half of them on close 5-4 votes.
But when the smoke cleared, nothing had changed. The final budget, and tax hike. remained the same as what was brought before the board in the first place.
The final budget was a reduction from the preliminary budget, adopted in February, that called for spending $94 million and would have raised taxes by 4 percent.
In the end, although some positions were eliminated, no teacher or administrator was laid off, said Superintendent Alan Fegley.
Also, rather than take money out of reserves as some school boards to do reduce budget gaps, this budget puts an additional $300,000 into the healthcare cost reserve fund and another $100,000 into the general budget reserve account, Fegley said.
But many things within the structure of the district changed, not the least of which was an administrative re-organization that lowered those costs by 14 percent and saved the district about $300,000, said Fegley.
Those cuts include the elimination of the assistant principal post at the high school, and a savings of $127,000 through the reorganization of the director of facilities position, made vacant by a retirement, said Fegley.
Gehris also helped cut the budget by re-negotiating the contract with the Phoenixville YMCA for after school care -- allowing costs to be allocated simply on how many days a week were used instead of a flat rate -- which reduced a looming 3.41 percent tax hike down to the 3.18 percent ultimately adopted.
Still, this budget does increase spending over the current year, which budgeted $89,894,409 in expenses. Next year's budget calls for spending $1.8 million more, or an increase of almost 2 percent.
In addition to the new administrative structure, the school board undertook a more extensive outreach to the community this year, said School Board President Lisa Longo.
In February, the school board's Community Budget Advisory Committee held a public meeting looking for input on the budget which was attended by about 50 people, she said.
In addition to ideas for budget reduction, such a ways to save on supplies, the community also spoke out against possible reduction in maintenance of athletic facilities and increasing class size, both of which would have saved money.
In addition to getting input, the meeting also helped the public understand the process and issues involved in putting the budget together.
"One of our goals was increased community awareness and it was really a great experiment," said Longo, who said she hopes it will be repeated.
That said, here are the Tweets from the meeting:
Final Phoenixville Budget Hikes Taxes 3.18%
|Art work is by Keirsten Hickey, a junior at Pottstown High School and nominee for an Exceptional Girl Award|
Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the YWCA Tri-County Area
YWCA Tri-County Area will honor 17 girls at its annual Tribute to Exceptional Girls at a brunch Saturday, May 19 at the Hill School in Pottstown.
The public is invited to attend; tickets are available online at ywcatricountyarea.org.
Modeled after YWCA Tri-County Area’s long-running and successful Tribute to Exceptional Women, Tribute to Exceptional Girls honors the achievements and accomplishments of girls who have an impact on their peers, in their schools, and in their communities.
Community members nominated girls in the following categories:
Art work by Lily Garber, a 4th grader at Lincoln Elementary
School who is a nominee for an Exceptional Girl Award.
The Tribute to Exceptional Girls brunch will be from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 19, at the Hill School, 860 Beech St., Pottstown.
Nominees for the 2018 Tribute to Exceptional Girls are:
As you have no doubt already feverishly read the Mercury account of council surprising us all and listening to its constituents about the new sprinkler system requirements, I won't bore you with the details here.
If you want to be bored with the details, click here!
Instead let's move on to the council vacancy -- the one made official last night when council unanimously and with very little comment (Councilman Ryan Procsal had the decency to thank Dennis Arms for his service) accepted the resignation of Arms, now a "former" Fourth Ward Councilman.
As many of you know, Arms surprised the crap out of everyone at the May 9 meeting by announcing his immediate resignation, and right after his wedding too. He must be serious about being happy.
|Dennis Arms back when he actually wanted to be on council.|
With the vote Monday, "the clock starts ticking," as Council President Dan Weand put it.
And as Solicitor Charles D. Garner Jr. then explained it, council now has 30 days to pick a replacement.
Should council fail to do so, presumably because of a tie vote, the borough's rarely invoked Vacancy Board -- comprised of council and one other person, has another 15 days to act, said Garner.
Currently, the vacancy board consists of borough council plus Environmental Advisory Council Chairman Jim Derr, according to the borough web site.
Weand asked Interim Borough Manager Justin Keller to post the vacancy on said web site asking that any eligible Fourth Ward candidates apply for the post.
So here it is big-time Facebook talkers, your big chance.
All you holier-than-thou-know-it-alls carping about it being time to clean house, about how we need new faces, about how putting together a borough budget is no different than a household budget -- this is your moment.
Step up to the plate and take your shot.
Because remember what dear old Teddy Roosevelt said:
Oh, word of caution: No matter how you vote, you will piss someone off, someone will call you an idiot, and your phone messages and email will soon be clogged with complaints from your loving constituents.
And after 18 months, if you still haven't had enough, you'll have to win a popularity contest among your neighbors.
So hurry up and apply!
And with that, here are the Tweets from the meeting:
May Pottstown Borough Council Meeting
Blogger's Note:The following was provided by a coalition of Pottstown non-profit organizations.
The event, dubbed Pottstown Proud Night, is sponsored by four local non-profits to promote the value of working together for the Pottstown Area community.
Three hundred FREE tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Each ticket will come with $2 in food vouchers to be used at the game. Transportation is available for those who need it. However, bus seats are limited and may fill up quickly with requests.
Special events at the game will include Ceremonial First Pitch by a Pottstown Teacher of the Year, Community Champion honors for student Citizenship Award winners, and local participants in the holding of the American flag for the playing of the national anthem.
Other festivities at the game include a pre-game concert by Downingtown School of Rock and post-game fireworks in the stadium, along with appearances by Fightin mascots.
The event is being sponsored by the Foundation for Pottstown Education, Pottstown Works at The Salvation Army of Pottstown, Pottstown Early Action Kindergarten, and TriCounty Community Network.
Ticket printing and food vouchers were donated by Complete Graphics Inc., 38 E. High St.
“Our goal in planning this event was to demonstrate that local nonprofits working together not only can benefit the people we serve, but also can display the pride of this town,” said Nancy March, director of Pottstown Works. “We want to offer families a night of fun to start the summer, while proving the value of teamwork among non-profit organizations.”
“We often see non-profit organizations working for the same goals but not necessarily working together,” said Holly Parker, executive director of TCN. “This project gave us a chance to plan one event that we could share in and practice collaboration.”
“This is a good opportunity for our school families,” said Joe Rusiewicz, executive director of the Foundation for Pottstown Education. “It’s also giving us an opportunity to honor Teacher of the Year winners and our outstanding student citizens.”
“We saw this as a great opportunity for our PEAK families to connect with each other and hope they will come out,” added Valerie Jackson, PEAK coordinator. “We urge everyone coming to the game to wear blue and white or their Trojan gear to show the world what Pottstown pride looks like.”
To get tickets, come to the Pottstown School District administration building, 230 Beech St. (use front entrance) from 3 to 5:30 p.m. on May 30 to June 1, or June 4-6. Ticket and food vouchers will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no limit to the number of tickets per family.
Game time is 7:15 p.m. against the Akron Rubber Ducks. The FirstEnergy Stadium plaza opens at 5 p.m. There is ample, free parking at the stadium, 1900 Centre Ave., Reading.
A bus donated by the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation will provide transportation for families in need who sign up early.
Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the law firm of Keenan, Ciccitto & Assoc. LLP.
The Perkiomen Creek Sojourn will be held Saturday, June 2, 2018, at 9 a.m.
The Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy has again teamed up with the law firm
of Keenan, Ciccitto & Associates, LLP, located at 376 East Main Street in Collegeville, to conduct the canoeing and kayaking adventure down the Perkiomen.
Andy Curtis, a Conservancy Board Member and expert canoeist, brings along a few friends and ensures that there are no disastrous consequences of tipping over in the river.
The scenery on this trip is spectacular. Each year an eagle or two is spotted, a mink is looking hungrily at some chickens, and herons are watching us as we pass by.
As the trip has grown in size, so has it become not just a pleasant ride, but an educational one.
Free transportation is provided from Hoy Park, our take out site, to the Conservancy before the Sojourn, prior to launch.
Registration for members of the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy is $35 and $55 for non-members.
Kayak and canoe rentals are $35. For further information and to register please visit www.perkiomenwatershed.org or call 610-287- 9383. See you on the river!
I would like to pretend that the news readers care the most about from last night's budget was the adoption of a budget that hikes taxes 3.5 percent; or the naming of the Teacher of the Year for the Pottstown School District, but I would only be fooling myself.
The big news was not even on the agenda.
After more than 90 minutes of the usual school board antics, Emanuel Wilkerson brought up his favorite subject; the one that got him elected to the school board when he was still a high school senior and the subject, if last night was any indication, on which can wax on for quite some time.
Yep, you guessed right folks, it's school uniforms.
But here's the news part.
They made a decision.
Two of them.
Both of them unanimous.
Are we done with subject?
Please, please please?
Board unanimity on the matter made Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez happy. Before the vote, he said the administration would carry out whatever policy the board decided best, but he implored them to be decisive.
"If you do this with a 5-4 vote now and then change your mind in June, you're really going to knee-jerk the district," he said.
Wilkerson's first motion was was take the dress code now in place at the high school -- which is technically "temporary" -- and make it permanent.
That passed unanimously.
The second motion, which was a bit trickier, would remove the school uniform requirements in the middle and elementary schools. It also charged the board's policy committee to come up with a comprehensive, "professional" dress code in time for the start of school in August.
Raymond Rose and Bonita Barnhill were the only board members to express a fondness for the uniforms, but Barnhill said she recognized it could be a financial burden and given the board had passed a tax hike earlier in the evening, decided to try to lessen the financial burden on parents.
Both Wilkerson and Vice President Katina Bearden said the issue had been discussed to death.
"It's been on the agenda ad nauseum," said Bearden, perhaps riffing on the irony that a matter of this magnitude was in fact, not on that night's board agenda.
"Our concern should be that the students are properly clothed, not what color shirts they wear. Our job is to give them the education that they need," Bearden said.
Parent Clinton Bradshaw told the board that the school uniform "carries a stigma. It is not very empowering for students when the neighboring school districts don't have them."
David Miller, who ran for the board and applied for the board seat made open by the resignation of Ron Williams, had the opposite view. He said the uniforms kept bullying down and instilled a sense of pride in the district.
Board President Amy Francis, who spearheaded the effort to establish the uniform policy in 2008, said she had done so with a desire to improve the district. At the time, she also touted the ability of uniforms to cut down on school violence.
However, she said, the issue had also dogged her through her many years on the board. "Different times," she said, adding "I'll be happy to have this issue decided."
And so it was.
We'll have coverage of the budget adoption and Teachers of the Year either in The Mercury or later here as neither topic deserves to be overshadowed by this silliness.
Here are the Tweets from the meeting.
A Uniform Decision
“Enthusiasm and pride” are the words Barth Elementary School teacher Kelli Wolfel’s peers use to describe her work ethic, and they are just a few of the many things which helped her on the way to being named Pottstown School District’s Teacher of the Year Thursday.
Wolfel with School President Amy Francis
and Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez
Wolfel was one of seven teachers, each elected by teachers in their own school, who were recognized as part of the annual Teacher of the Year ceremony held by the school board.
“In the classroom, she works tirelessly to identify and meet the needs of each child under her care,” according to the narrative written about Wolfel for the ceremony.
“As a proud alum and Pottstown parent, her own children, both inside and outside of school, are a reflection of her core values,” according to the narrative, read aloud by Human Resources Director Deena Cellini.
“In addition to volunteering to serve on nearly every district-wide committee during her tenure at Pottstown, she is currently involved in Family Literacy Nights, the STEAM committee, Wellness/SEL programming, and the math curriculum adoption.”
|Franklin's Susan Hallman|
“Arriving early and leaving late gives this teacher an opportunity to ensure that each of her students’ needs are met and it also gives the rest of the staff ample time to reach out to her for collaborative efforts,” is what was written about Susan Hallman.
“Her professionalism and positive energy go a great distance in making her colleagues see her as a perpetual “go to” person in the building, whether it is for brainstorming new strategies to use with students or best practices and data mining,” it was said of Hallman.
|Lincoln's Jill Bolonski|
Jill Bolonski “does not work in isolation. She recognizes the value in the idiom of ‘it takes a village.’ Whether it is the principal, intervention team, speech, occupational, or physical therapists, or the rest of the faculty and staff, this teacher recognizes the importance of each area in taking an initiative off the page and making it a living, breathing, dynamic program to benefit students’ academic and personal growth,” read the description of Lincoln’s nominee.
“She is regularly improving instruction and intervention by using data to establish high but obtainable goals for her students,” Cellini read, adding, “. The positive rapport she creates with students and parents alike is a constant in her career.”
|Rupert's Britney Oxenford|
“Any good teacher will tell you that routines are crucial to a successful classroom. The routines and environment created in this teacher’s classroom are critical to having early elementary students grow and feel successful and cared for as they continue to challenge themselves to meet the expectations she establishes for each student, individual to their needs,” Cellini read about Rupert nominee Britney Oxenford.
“Her knowledge of strategies to help meet students’ needs is a resource utilized by many staff members who seek her expertise when they are seeking the right strategy for a particular student or just a better, more engaging way of doing things in their own classroom,” she said.
|Pottstown Middle School's Dana DiDonato|
“Returning from a maternity leave to a team with two new members was not enough to shake this teacher from doing what she does best. With students and colleagues, she sets high expectations and commands respect,” is what Cellini had to say about Dana DiDonato.
“Regardless of the venue, 6th grade team meeting, math department meeting, or Sunshine committee; this teacher identifies the needs, the most efficient way to accomplish those tasks, and goes about doing it with a smile on her face.”
|Pottstown Middle School Jason Bergey|
“For this teacher, excellence comes as a quiet force; a force that sees what needs doing and does it…without complaint or want of recognition,” Cellini said about Jason Bergey.
“New special education teachers utilize this teacher as a resource for academic as well as behavioral advice. His presence in a co-taught classroom ensures that not only special education students will gain extra support but that also regular education students who need extra support will have access to his instruction and attention. “
|Pottstown High School's Kristen Ellis|
“This teacher has worked at all three levels throughout the district, starting as a third grade teacher, earning multiple teaching certificates, and moving into family and consumer sciences and most recently to the library,” Cellini read about high school nominee and 26-year veteran Kristen Ellis.
“With experience at all three academic levels, she is comfortable serving on committees that service our K-12 population including our Wellness program, participating in Healthy Bodies Healthy Minds; as a Family Literacy Night teacher, a Reading Olympics advisor, and even serves her fellow teachers as Treasurer for the Federation of Pottstown Teachers.”
|This Rupert student learns about being a firefighter.|
Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the Pottstown School District.
|Student's learn about the dental health profession.|
We have all faced the question of what we want to be when you grow up.
Father and son lawyers Levi and Jack Wolf were
on hand to talk about the legal profession.
|Maybe this Rupert student will be your X-Ray Tech some day.|
|Last year, In Ian's Boots provided Sneakers, flip-flops and croc-style shoes are most in need in flood-ravaged Texas.|
Blogger's Note: The following was provided by In Ian's Boots.
We are blessed and so grateful to announce that In Ian's Boots has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the Altria Companies Employee Community Fund.
This grant will allow us to pay our warehouse rent throughout the remainder of 2018 - which will allow us to continue to serve our community and the world.
And thanks to the Altria Companies Employee Community Fund (ACECF) it is funded throughout 2018!
ACECF was established to provide employees from the Altria family of companies an opportunity to be more actively involved in serving their communities. Employee volunteers make all ACECF funding decisions, and every employee dollar raised goes directly to support area nonprofits.