Boyertown, PA – Stepping through a rock-strewn railyard in Boyertown, families lined up to board the historic train that made its unofficial debut on the Colebrookdale line Saturday.
Beginning with a 10:30 a.m. departure for the first train, hayrides on the “Secret Valley Line” offered by the Colebrookdale Railroad drew in patrons of all kinds.
They were treated to a two-hour ride in a train used in 1869 through a valley of scenic fall foliage and other natural and historic attractions, travelling from Boyertown to Pottstown through Colebrookdale and Douglass (Berks) townships. Throughout the ride, historical narration was provided by train workers to give context to the sights along the way.
The line follows the Ironstone and Manatawny creeks and passes by the village of Pine Forge.
Washington Township, PA – State police are investigating the deaths of two young men whose bodies were found early Friday in the front seat of a car parked in an isolated wooded area near Barto.
Both appear to have died of gunshot wounds, police said.
One of the men found, Stephen Mixon, 27, of Walnut Ridge in Lower Pottsgrove, was a volunteer coach with the Pottsgrove High School football team and the retail manager of the Schuylkill Valley Sports store in Audubon.
The other man in the car was Joseph McCullough, 20, of Eighth Street in Pottstown.
But the combined South Central Transit Authority will be indistinguishable from the present RRTA and BARTA.
“We’ll form a new authority and nobody will know the difference,” RRTA Executive Director David Kilmer said.
The single authority will operate RRTA and BARTA buses in their respective counties. The names on the buses will not change, nor will their colors.
Blue Bell, Pa.— Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) and Kutztown University (KU) signed a “reverse transfer” agreement on Aug. 20—the first agreement of its kind between a community college and a Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (State System) university.
Under the new agreement, students who complete at least 15 credits at MCCC now have the opportunity to transfer credits they earn at Kutztown back to Montgomery in order to earn an associate’s degree in a parallel field en route to earning a bachelor’s degree.
According to MCCC President Dr. Karen A. Stout, the agreement builds on Montgomery’s strategic efforts to increase student access, progression and completion rates, and on work being done nationally to support community college degree completion.
“The associate’s degree has value and is an important credential for community college students,” said Dr. Stout. “By earning an associate’s degree, students demonstrate their ability to complete an area of study, which can help them in the job market or with career advancement while pursing their baccalaureate degree. While we encourage our students to earn their degree before transferring, it’s important for us to understand that our students take multiple pathways to complete their education.”
Close to 70 percent of MCCC students enter the College each year with the intention to transfer to a four-year institution, and Kutztown is a popular choice. In fact, last year, 182 of the College’s students transferred an average 44 credits to KU.
The institutions’ leaders envision that the new agreement will serve as a model partnership for Pennsylvania community colleges and State System institutions. MCCC and KU are not strangers to such innovation; in 2007, Montgomery became the first community college with which Kutztown signed a dual-admissions and core-to-core transfer agreement.
“Kutztown University is excited to once again partner with Montgomery County Community College in developing another program to benefit students of our region,” said Dr. Carlos Vargas-Aburto, KU’s acting president. “Serving students is at the core of all that we do, and this is truly a student-centric program.”
BIRDSBORO, PA — Two new bridges carrying Route 345 over the Schuylkill River and the Norfolk Southern railroad are now open to traffic.
According to a press release from Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s District 5, traffic was directed over the two new bridges for the first time on Thursday. There is no weight restriction on the new bridges, which daily carry 6,189 vehicles, PennDOT said.
BOYERTOWN, PA — Progress on the revitalization of the Colebrookdale Railroad these days means more than pulling refurbished passenger cars along the picturesque 9-mile track on the shores of Manatawny Creek.
These days progress is being measured in cars and engines acquired, being fixed up and put into service.
And Wednesday marked another milestone on the railroad’s journey to full service when Executive Director Nathaniel Guest announced last week’s awarding of a $200,000 grant to begin construction of “railroad station infrastructure right here in Boyertown.”
The announcement came after the train — pulling cars packed with more than 70 federal and state legislators, county commissioners and municipal officials of all stripes — arrived at the downtown yard to the applause of a crowd that had gathered to welcome it.
HARRISBURG, PA — A joint investigation between state and local officials uncovered a large-scale drug ring that spanned three counties.
The results of the year-long “Operation Tourniquet” lead to the arrests of “48 mid- and street-level drug dealers,” a press release from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office said.
The dealers, the release said, “were part of two organizations, who were loosely tied and responsible for distributing drugs throughout at least three counties including Berks, Lancaster, and Schuylkill.”
Three Birdsboro residents where among the alleged “street-level” dealers who were arrested.
NORRISTOWN, PA — A former Berks County police officer finds himself on the other side of the law now that he is a convicted shoplifter.
Former Amity Township Police Officer Glenn James Oesterling, 36, has been sentenced in Montgomery County Court to two years’ probation after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of retail theft in connection with a June 2013 incident that occurred at the Upland Square Giant store in West Pottsgrove. Judge William R. Carpenter, who accepted a plea agreement in the case, also ordered Oesterling to complete 36 hours of community service.
Specifically, Oesterling admitted that he stole items valued at $296.35 from the store on June 18. Authorities said Oesterling passed the store checkout area without paying for merchandise he placed into blue, reusable shopping bags in the shopping cart he was pushing.
Oesterling did not offer an explanation for his conduct.
Rain that pounded the Philadelphia region last night and into this morning left widespread flooding that stranded motorists and caused the shutdown of major routes from the western suburbs to South Jersey.
The National Weather Service said around 5 inches fell in most parts of the area, with some places seeing a bit more, such as the 6.56 inches recorded in Spring City, Chester County.
A weather service flood warning is in effect until 12:45 p.m. Authorities are warning that the flood situation is dangerous in many areas as motorists continued to underestimate the severity. Rescue crews were busy throughout the night rescuing stranded drivers.
Even though the flooding had started to recede, crews were still busy rescuing people this morning.
The rains came heavy Tuesday into Wednesday as if all those metaphorical April showers waited until the last day of the month to show up.
It all started when a low-pressure front slinked into the region Tuesday and started dumping rain into the area to the point that by 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, a United States Geological Survey rain gauge along the Schuylkill River had recorded nearly 5 inches of rain in a 24-hour period.
And, as you might expect, the result was creeks bursting their banks — along with the Schuylkill River they ultimately feed — and flooded roads, and then trapping some motorists on those roads after they tried to drive through the water.
One of at least four “water rescues” in the area occurred on Bethel Church Road in East Coventry when a small blue sedan stalled in a deep swell of water on the road.
NORRISTOWN, PA — Calling it a “significant” crackdown against child exploitation, authorities have charged six men, including two from Birdsboro and another from Upper Providence, with having inappropriate contact with a teenage boy from Limerick.
Mark David “Wilco” Wilczopolski, 22, of the 500 block of East Second Street, Birdsboro, was indicted by federal authorities on Thursday for allegedly using the Internet to entice a teenage boy to engage in sexual conduct and receiving and possessing child pornography, according to U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger.
Montgomery County authorities previously charged Wilczopolski with unlawful contact or communications with a minor and related offenses in connection with incidents that occurred between May and October 2013 with the 14-year-old Limerick boy, according to court documents. Wilczopolski is already awaiting trial on those charges in county court.
The federal indictment against Wilczopolski was announced by Memeger at a joint news conference Friday with county District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, Limerick Police Chief William Albany and other federal officials. Wilczopolski was scheduled to be arraigned in federal court Friday afternoon.
NORRISTOWN, PA — A former Berks County police officer accused of shoplifting more than $300 in groceries from a West Pottsgrove store has withdrawn his request for a judicial review and dismissal of the charges.
“At this stage, it is being withdrawn without prejudice,” Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill said Tuesday, referring to the previous request for dismissal made by former Amity Township Police Officer Glenn James Oesterling, who faces charges of retail theft and receiving stolen property in connection with alleged shoplifting incidents at the Upland Square Giant store in June 2013.
In a habeas corpus petition filed late last year, defense lawyer Adam Sager, on behalf of Oesterling, asked a judge to dismiss the charges and to re-examine the previous decision by a district court judge, who found prosecutors presented sufficient evidence, or “a prima facie case,” at a preliminary hearing to move the case to trial. Judge O’Neill was slated to hold a hearing on that request on Tuesday but Oesterling, a 12-year veteran corporal of the police force who was fired by Amity Township supervisors last year, left the courthouse without a resolution to his case.
“After a discussion with my client, while we think that we have very good defenses, we do concede that the court would probably find that there was a prima facie case established by the commonwealth if we went through with the habeas corpus petition. Therefore, we voluntarily, and without prejudice, withdrew the habeas petition,” Sager explained.
Editor’s note: Lancaster, PA ranked 21st on the list :) The happiest of any Pennsylvania Metropolitan Area. Hey now!
People in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metropolitan area are among the most miserable in the nation, according to a report that ranks the area 177th out of 189 it surveyed to gauge residents’ sense of well-being.
Their continuing economic downslide, bad memories, misperceptions and even a lack of sunlight may play a part in Northeast Pennsylvanians’ gloomy outlook, some local experts say in commenting on the State of American Well-Being, the report released last week by Gallup and Healthways.
The highest-ranked area was Provo-Orem, Utah, and the lowest-ranked was the Huntington, W.Va.-Ashland, Ky. area. More than 178,000 people across the country were interviewed last year, including a sample size of 1,092 from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.
The survey asked people to rate their life evaluation – a combination of current situation evaluation and the anticipated situation in five years – emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors and basic access to health care and other necessities.
AMITY TOWNSHIP, PA — Daniel Boone Area School Board members responded to the voices of a community, canceling the hearing to close the Birdsboro Elementary Center and unanimously tabling a vote to realign students.
It also tabled the vote to replace two failing boilers at Birdsboro Elementary School.
Concerned residents, many of whom brought their children to the meeting — some with signs to “save our school” — filled the auditorium of the Daniel Boone Area Middle School and described to the board the love they have for their community’s school.
The crowd’s applause was deafening at times as residents said Birdsboro Elementary School has been a pivotal part of their upbringing, and one they want for their children and their small town’s future.
It’s now officially spring, but more snow is on its way to the Philadelphia region.
The National Weather Service says a few inches of snow are expected to fall between Tuesday morning and early Wednesday, with most of the Philadelphia area seeing between 1.5 and 3.5 inches.
The Colebrookdale Railroad will benefit from $1.4 million in funding made possible by a PennDOT grant aimed at repairing and upgrading the line’s rails, equipment and infrastructure.
“Seventy percent of the funding was provided by the state and we had to raise the other 30 percent,” said Nathaniel Guest, president of the non-profit Colebrookdale Railroad Restoration Trust, which oversees the line.
The non-profit group has a for-profit subsidiary, Eastern Berks Gateway Railroad, which oversees the freight traffic and was the recipient of the grant.
The Reading Royals will be sold to Berks County businessman Jack D. Gulati, officials involved in the deal announced today.
Gulati said he plans to keep the Kelly Cup winners in Reading and based out of the Santander Arena.
He has agreed to buy 100 percent of the team shares. Ownership had been split between the Berks County Convention Center Authority and SMG, the company that operates the arena.
The sale is contingent on EHCL, formerly East Coast Hockey League, approval.