Pottstown School District Adopts Proposed $60M Budget That Raises Taxes 2.9 Percent

POTTSTOWN — With a 7-2 vote at its May 15 meeting, the Pottstown School Board adopted a $59.9 million proposed budget that would raise taxes by 2.9 percent if it is adopted unchanged as a final budget in June.

Board members Ron Williams and Thomas Hylton cast the only two votes against the proposed budget, which increases spending 5.6 percent and would increase the annual tax bill by $81.91 for the owner of a property assessed at $73,670 — the borough’s median assessment.

Board member Amy Francis said, “This is a very difficult decision for me because, like every other taxpayer, I am at the end of my rope, but I also feel we have a responsibility to get the job done that we started with the renovations at the elementary schools. We can’t do one without the other.”

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140521/pottstown-adopts-proposed-60m-budget-that-raises-taxes-29

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Pottstown Elementary Costs Rising By $2M, $10M Borrowing Set For Monday

POTTSTOWN — As the Pottstown school board prepares to borrow the second $10 million needed for the renovation and expansion of its elementary schools, it is doing so in the face of $2 million or more in change orders and additional costs.

As The Mercury reported in May, the renovation work on Barth Elementary School was well underway when the school board was told the cost of a new roof was not included in the project — an additional cost estimated at another $665,000.

In August, The Mercury reported that wiring for new computer and data systems were not included in the bid for the renovation of Franklin, Lincoln and Rupert elementary schools — an additional cost of an estimated $375,000.

On Thursday night the full board was informed that the cost for additional electrical outlets, boxes, panel boards and the replacement of old wiring at the three schools has added another $388,601 to the price of the projects.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/social-affairs/20131020/pottstown-elementary-costs-rising-by-2m-10m-borrowing-set-for-monday

Pottstown Planners Approve Family Dollar Project

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

POTTSTOWN — With a 4-0 vote, the borough planning commission Thursday night gave unanimous approval to a plan to redevelop the former Rosenberry’s Grocery store at the corner of Eighth Street and Farmington Avenue into a Family Dollar Store.

Planning commission member Deb Penrod was absent and did not vote.

The approved plan calls for demolishing the 23,299-square-foot building that stands at the 1.7-acre site now, and was most recently occupied by McCabe’s Auto Supply. The building is now empty.

In its place, the company has proposed an 8,240-square-foot Family Dollar store which would be “much smaller and much closer to being in conformity with the zoning,” said lawyer John Ryan, who spoke on behalf of the developer.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20130927/pottstown-planners-approve-family-dollar-project

Pottstown School Board Seeks Input On Stadium Lighting

POTTSTOWN — The school board has deciding against using as much as $225,000 in money it had not expected to receive from the state to replace the football stadium’s aging light poles.

Instead, the board agreed to reach out to the community to solicit ideas for how to raise the money.

“I’ve had a lot of feedback from the community about this,” said board member Amy Francis.  “And we’re really between a rock and a hard place.”

 “I think we need to find a way to make it happen, but we need to find a more creative way,” she said.

Pottstown School Board Rejects Second Look At School Project Plans

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

POTTSTOWN — With a 7-3 vote Thursday night, the school board rejected a proposal to suspend work on designing additions to three elementary schools to allow the potential to save as much as $6.5 million to be explored.

The proposal, made by school board member Thomas Hylton, sought to take advantage of a recent change in long-standing state policy that was made with the passage of the most recent budget in Harrisburg.

Throughout the many years of discussion on the elementary school project, it has been state policy that it will not provide reimbursement to any school construction project that does not eliminate the use of modular classrooms.

The need to meet this requirement is among those driving the decision to add between 12 to 14 classrooms in additions to Rupert, Lincoln and Franklin elementary schools, which is where the $24 million project now stands.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20120803/NEWS01/120809803/pottstown-school-board-rejects-second-look-at-school-project-plans&pager=full_story

Friends Of Pottstown Public Education Candidates Win School Director Seats

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

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We would like to extend our most sincere congratulations to Judyth Zahora, Andrew Kefer and Mary-Beth Lydon for each winning a seat on the Pottstown School Board!  The Friends of Pottstown Public Education candidates ran as a block and they will help return the voice of reason to the Pottstown School Board.  

Judy, Mary-Beth and Andrew will join Robert Hartman and Polly Weand in keeping Mr. Hylton’s ego and spending in check!  Had Mr. Hylton’s hand-picked candidates won, it would have given Mr. Hylton carte blanche on the renovations, which Pottstown taxpayers cannot afford!

Many thanks to the Pottstown voters who turned out today and exercised their right to vote in a free election, as guaranteed by our constitution.

Pottstown School Board Director Election Results

It appears congratulations are in order for Mary-Beth Lydon, Andrew Kefer and Judyth Zahora for winning spots on the November Democratic Ballot for Pottstown School Director.  Sadly, Amy Francis and Michele Pargeon will not be joining their running mates from the Friends Of Pottstown Public Education.  Code Blue will now have two candidates on the November ballot.

Voter turn out was pathetically low.  I suppose people do not think Primary Elections are important and make no effort to vote.  However, by not voting in the Primary Election you are allowing others to dictate your choices in November.  This is how good candidates are removed from voter consideration while others creep in by default.

Glossy smear-tactic postcards evidently did the trick for the five candidates Mr. Hylton supported via his Pottstown Citizens For Responsible Government political action committee.  Hopefully in November voters will turn out in greater numbers and do more research before voting.  Otherwise the Pottstown School Board will become a one-way voting block.

In other election news, Roy’s Rants congratulates Sixth Ward Councilor and “man of the people” Jody Rhoads for his re-election victory.  Jody handily defeated his opponent and will be running unopposed in November!  “Fight When You’re Right”

We thank everyone who voted today and exercised their constitutional right to take part in a free election.  Your vote does make a difference.

Power to the Pottstown People!

Pennsylvania Primary Election, Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

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Tomorrow’s election is crucial to the progress of Pottstown.  Everyone needs to get out and vote!

The Pottstown School Board race will decide how well the school district and the borough continue to work together.  If we are going to move forward as a community, cooperation between these two bodies is essential.  We can continue to work together or go back to infighting and agendas, which have gotten us exactly nowhere.   The choice is yours, but at least make a choice and vote!

If you truly want “citizens for responsible government” running Pottstown, then Friends of Pottstown Public Education and Sixth Ward Councilor Jody Rhoads need your vote tomorrow and NOT the people on the glossy postcards from 222 Chestnut Street (that have flooded our mailboxes in the last several days).

Friends Of Pottstown Public Education Seek Your Vote On May 17th

A group of five dedicated people are seeking your vote in the Pennsylvania Primary Election next Tuesday, May 17th.  Michele Pargeon, Amy Bathurst Francis, Mary-Beth Lydon, Andrew Kefer and Judyth Zahora are running as a team for election to the Pottstown School Board.

Their motto, “A New Perspective Built On Experience” means this group of candidates supports public education aka the Pottstown School District.  Listening, making children the first priority, making sure good teachers are fairly paid, ensuring our schools are safe, ensuring the school district has the tools it needs to get the job done, understanding education and giving taxpayers, parents and children a strong voice are what this group will bring to the table.

These people recognize that the Pottstown School District and the Borough of Pottstown are linked and must work together for economic development and the betterment of our community.  If one sneezes the other caches cold.  The borough and school district must work together if Pottstown is to turn the corner.  This group will ensure that the forward momentum in an era of new found cooperation between the borough and school district continues.

The right team for Pottstown School Board!

A New Perspective Built On Experience: An Interview With Pottstown School Board Candidates

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

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I had the pleasure to sit down with four of five Pottstown School Board candidates running as a group.  Their slogan is “A new perspective built on experience.”  We had a spirited discussion about the issues facing Pottstown School District, Pottstown Borough and where we need to head.

Andrew Kefer (Pottstown Planning Commission, Pottstown Community Land Trust)

Amy Francis (former Pottstown School Board member and Code Blue cofounder)

Michele Pargeon (current Pottstown School Board member and a volunteer with many community activities)

Mary-Beth Lydon (Community Land Trust, Code Blue)

Judyth Zahora (former Pottstown School Board member and Pottstown School District Treasurer) are running as a block of concerned citizens who support “public education in Pottstown” and are not looking to “save buildings”.

Our conversation touched on many subjects facing PSD.  The school district’s financial sustainability is a core issue for the group.  Pottstown has long relied on state and federal government funding.  Those days are coming to an end.  PSD needs to find more private funding and be open to new ideas in these trying economic times.  Before these people would take office, if elected, the Task Force will have already made recommendations that will shape the school district’s future.  This group will need to carry out the recommendations of the Task Force.  Finding ways to increase efficiencies and working with the Borough of Pottstown to increase property values are key goals.  Pottstown School District and Pottstown Borough share the same space and are thereby linked together.  If one sneezes, the other catches cold.

Andrew Kefer, Mary-Beth Lydon and Michele Pargeon have lived in Pottstown for between 6 – 10 years.  Amy Francis grew up in Pottstown and graduated from Pottstown High School.  Judyth Zahora was unable to join us due to previously scheduled commitment, but her bio states she has lived in Pottstown for about 25 years and has been very involved with the PSD.  Four of the five candidates have children in PSD.  All are homeowners and have invested in Pottstown.  These candidates want to improve the quality of life and educational opportunities for all residents of Pottstown.

Working for the common good, exploring possibilities and belief in Pottstown are qualities these five people have.  This group wants to build up leaders for tomorrow.  Today’s children are the future and will one day be running Pottstown.  We need to create opportunities to keep our young people here and stop the brain drain.  In order to accomplish this arduous task, people need to “leave their egos and politics at the door” and work for the betterment of the community.   Being respectful, agreeing to disagree, civility, and being open to new ideas and different perspectives is the group’s strength.

A crucial issue is Pottstown’s eroding tax base and the already high taxes.  PSD needs to work hand in hand with the borough to attract middle class residents, business and industry to Pottstown to stabilize neighborhoods, cut taxes and provide gainful employment for residents.  The school district and the borough have started working more closely together and we hope this continues!  These candidates would make sure this new-found cooperation does continue.

The group feels PSD needs to market itself better and emphasis its strengths, like PSD’s nationally recognized PEAK program.  The district’s high transient rate creates extra challenges and cost.  With a more stable population of homeowners, the transient rate would naturally decline.  Economic development, revitalization, blight eradication and a vibrant downtown are needed to stabilize the tax base and the school district.

Many thanks to these candidates for taking time out of their Saturday morning to discuss the issues with Roy’s Rants.  The primary is May 17, 2011.  Educate yourselves on the issues and make sure to vote!

For more information about the candidates and their campaign you can check out their website at http://votefppe.org/

Pottstown Planning Commission To Get Another New Member

Long-time Pottstown political figure, Karen Weil has resigned her seat on the Pottstown Planning Commission effective March 1st.  Karen felt it was time to step down after many years of service.

It appears this newest vacancy will be filled by one of the four remaining applicants who submitted resumes when Thomas Hylton was up for reappointment last month.  Technically, Mr. Hylton would be included in the four remaining applicants for Ms. Weil’s seat.

Last month, Andrew Kefer was unanimously appointed to the Planning Commission to fill Mr. Hylton’s seat when Mr. Hylton was not reappointed by Borough Council.  Mr. Kefer is a Chestnut Street resident and neighbor of Thomas Hylton.

Pottstown’s Community Land Trust And Community Garden

Community gardens often have several horticult...

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On December 20, 2010, the Community Land Trust (CLT) gave a presentation before a Pottstown Borough Council and Pottstown School Board joint meeting at the Pottstown Middle School.  The presentation included a PowerPoint document called “A Community Land Trust for Pottstown”, which explained what a CLT is and highlighted the many benefits it can bring to a community.  

Since December, Preservation Pottstown’s leadership has been replaced by the CLT leadership and is pursuing a Community Garden project with the Pottstown School District and Genesis Housing. The CLT received a grant commitment for capacity-building support from National Penn Bank.  Preservation Pottstown’s original mission and by-laws dovetail with the  CLT’s mission, to increase homeownership stabilize neighborhoods and engage in economic development. 

The new leadership is committed to the principles of a CLT and will be focusing on organizational issues over the next few months, including making a name change that reflects the specific vision of a land trust.  CLT founding members are Dave Garner, David Jackson, Chris Huff and Sue Repko.  The CLT is proud to have two members (Chris Huff and Andrew Kefer) serving on the Pottstown Planning Commission. 

The CLT will be assisted in its capacity-building efforts through the support of National Penn Bank. Following the December 20th presentation, the CLT was contacted by National Penn Bank, which has representation on the boards of the Lehigh Valley and State College CLTs. In addition to offering its expertise based on that experience, National Penn has given the Pottstown CLT a grant commitment so that it can hire a nationally renowned CLT consultant to jump-start the organization. The CLT is extremely grateful for their support. 

The CLT has been pursuing a Community Garden project for a vacant parcel in the 400 block of Chestnut Street. The Pottstown School District (PSD) owns the property.  The CLT will be partnering with PSD and Genesis Housing on the Community Garden project.  Genesis Housing’s landscape architect has developed the site plan.   

Community gardens involve residents in growing their own healthy food, help families cut down on grocery bills, and beautify neighborhoods. This project will also provide community service and educational opportunities for PSD students.  

The PSD Facilities Committee recommended that Dr. Reed Lindley, Superintendent of Schools, work with the PSD Solicitor to prepare an agreement for PSD School Board approval that transfers 423 Chestnut Street to the CLT for the purpose of developing a Community Garden.  The agreement is to stipulate that the property return to the PSD should it no longer be used as a Community Garden.  The vote was unanimous.

The CLT will be promoting and creating opportunities for arts/culture, green technologies, access to fresh food, healthy lifestyles and sustainability through affordable efficient housing, work spaces, and connections with neighborhood and community.

The CLT’s Community Garden Committee is headed by Washington Street Corridor resident Katy Jackson. Other members include: Judy Memberg, Andrew Monastra, Andrew Kefer, Mary-Beth Lydon, Joanne Waddell (president of the Pottstown Garden Club), and Eric Schmidt of Colonial Nurseries.

The CLT is looking for community support from Pottstown area businesses, churches and other organizations who are involved in community service.  They ask that you please consider donating, sponsorships or volunteering in-kind services. To get involved or make donations:  pottstownclt@gmail.com

Donations are tax deductible

This will be Pottstown’s first official community garden.   To learn about the benefits of a community garden:  http://www.communitygarden.org/learn/

The CLT’s website is: http://pottstownclt.wordpress.com/

Roy’s Rants fully supports the CLT and the Community Garden project as a way to revitalize the core neighborhood and improve the quality of life for all Pottstown residents.  We urge residents, businesses and organizations to get involved with the CLT, the Community Garden project and any future projects as they develop. 

Andrew Kefer: Pottstown Planning Commission’s Newest Member

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

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A Roy’s Rants Exclusive Interview

I had the opportunity to interview our newly elected Planning Commission Member this evening.  I was anxious to interview Andrew in light of some recent comments on local blogs.  I think it is important to get to know someone before jumping to conclusions based on supposition or fear of the unknown.

Andrew was raised in Caln Township, near Coatesville.  He was brought up to appreciate cities and urban areas by his parents, who were from Philadelphia.  As a child, he was often taken to Philadelphia where he was exposed to the many things Pennsylvania’s largest city has to offer. 

Andrew majored in Philosophy at Fordham University in NYC from 1992 to 1996.  Andrew made a conscious decision to attend college in a big city so he could have that experience.  Living in NYC allowed Andrew to visit neighborhoods, in places like Brooklyn, that were revitalized during his college years.  Andrew agrees with gentrification but he draws the line at the displacement of the original residents.  There should be a balance struck between the new and the old.

In 2003, Andrew and his wife decided to buy a home on Chestnut Street and renovate it.  They were attracted to Pottstown initially because of the reasonable rents and stayed because of the affordability of owning a home.  They were encouraged by the talk of downtown revitalization and the centralized elementary center project that was proposed for the core neighborhood.

The Kefer’s moved into their Chestnut Street home in April of 2004.  They did most of the renovation themselves.  After settling in they began to notice the level of crime in their neighborhood.  They have two children, ages 5 & 6, and the crime in their neighborhood is a concern.

The core neighborhood has a higher than usual percentage of rental properties (even for Pottstown).  People like the Kefer’s are needed to buy and renovate the existing housing stock in the core neighborhood to stabilize it.  

Andrew enjoys reading Sue Repko’s blog, Positively!Pottstown, and has since gotten to know her.  He is working with her on the Community Land Trust.  He attended the Code Blue sponsored meeting with Attorney Adam Sager at the Pottstown Diner and the summit at Invictus Ministries.  By attending these events, Andrew got to know more people in Pottstown who are making a difference.  

I asked Andrew what, if any, affiliation he has with Thomas Hylton.  Some comments were posted on SavePottstown that questioned whether he is Hyltonite.  The Kefer’s are neighbors of the Hyltons but Andrew only met Mr. Hylton one time.  He recognizes the contributions Mr. Hylton made to Pottstown; however Andrew’s approach is far different than the man he is replacing on the Planning Commission.  Andrew’s approach is:  engage in a dialogue, build a consensus and a resolution will emerge.

Andrew likes the rich architecture of Pottstown, the walkable community aspect and the adaptive reuse of buildings.  Pottstown is built-out and should take advantage of existing buildings and transform them, rather than demolish them.

Andrew would like to make the Planning Commission friendlier and cut some red tape.  We need economic development to help lower taxes, lower crime and revitalize Pottstown.  For example, there are industrial parcels all over Pottstown that would be lend themselves to things such as the manufacturing of wind turbines, solar panels and other green technologies.

Key ingredients to our revitalization will be the arts, green business and things like heritage tourism.  Andrew feels a sense of urgency that Pottstown needs to develop a vision, based on the ULI recommendations and see it come to fruition.  Pottstown can go either way.  The longer we delay moving forward the more difficult that task will become.

We wish Andrew well in his endeavors to help move Pottstown forward.  It would seem a new day is dawning in Pottstown and we finally have a critical mass of “doers” who can make the revitalization I have waited for, since 1983, actually happen.