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.
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.
Plans to spend more than $500 million in the next 10 years on transportation projects in the Chester and Montgomery county areas around Pottstown will move forward thanks to the approval of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.
The planning agency for the nine-county region around Philadelphia announced Thursday that it has added an additional $10.5 billion worth of work to its list of projects through 2040 as the result of the passage of last year’s transportation bill.
Locally, the list of projects includes the replacement of the Keim Street Bridge, major repairs and bridge replacements on Route 422 from Royersford to the Berks County line, as well as connections on the Schuylkill River Trail between Pottstown and Parker Ford.
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 — 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.
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.
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.
The heaviest precipitation that will hit Berks County today is over, but the storm has toppled numerous trees in the area, blocking roadways and causing power outages.
Nearly 9,000 customers are without power in the Met-Ed and PPL service areas in Berks.
As of 10 a.m., Met-Ed reported there were 5,500 outages in Reading and eastern and northern Berks, while PPL reported 3,200 customers were without power in Wyomissing, western Berks and the Morgantown area in southern Berks.
PPL reported 60,679 of its customers in a 16-county area of the state were affected by outages, while Met-Ed’s parent company, FirstEnergy, said there were 78,000 Pennsylvania customers affected.
That darn groundhog.
Within 24 hours of forecasting six more weeks of winter, large dense snowflakes began falling in Berks County early Monday, and the storm continued to drop about an inch an hour before tapering off to flurries about 2:30 p.m.
Blame Phil if you were stuck in traffic behind one of the numerous crashes that occurred through the day or lost power from outages, but remember he wasn’t the only messenger.
Forecasters at AccuWeather, near State college, predicted this storm would bring wet, heavy snow that would affect the morning commute, and did it ever. By 11 a.m., with temperatures hovering around 32 degrees, at least a half a foot of snow had fallen in Berks County.
AMITY TOWNSHIP, PA — More than a dozen fire companies responded to a fire that destroyed much of Friendship Farm Market on Route 662 Sunday night.
Firefighters responded quickly after those living near the restaurant heard a loud “boom,” saw a wall of flames and called 911 around 7:45 p.m.
“We heard a big boom. It sounded like a car backfiring,” said Jared Martz, who lives diagonally across the street from the restaurant. “It sounded like glass breaking.”
Going to the windows with his family, Martz said he saw an entire wall of the restaurant on the 700 block of Route 662 engulfed by flames which went about “20 feet in the air.”
They then called 911.
(UPDATED 10:45 a.m.) An Atlantic Clipper snowstorm traveling across the East Coast Tuesday could drop up to 9 inches of snow in some areas, causing some schools to close and others to institute early dismissal.
Pottstown, Phoenixville, Upper Perkiomen, and the Pottsgrove school districts were all dismissing students early as the snowstorm was expected to worsen in the afternoon.
Collegeville, East Greenville, Spring City Borough, Lower Pottsgrove, and Upper Pottsgrove townships declared snow emergencies Tuesday morning. The snow emergency in Spring City was declared for 9 a.m. and will be in place until noon Wednesday.
Berks County‘s next industrial park sits in an area ripe for development. It’s 155 acres close to Route 222 and surrounded by many potential workers.
Now that Berks Park 78 has opened, this industrial site near Reading Regional Airport is the next big economic development project community leaders hope will attract jobs, tax revenue and business investment.
First, though, this underdeveloped area in Bern Township needs more electricity and gas to become shovel-ready.
“You need to have an adequate amount of electric and gas for the prospects that might be coming to your industrial park,” said Thomas C. McKeon, executive director of the Berks County Industrial Development Authority. “It’s essential to have the infrastructure, to have an adequate amount of it in the ground and readily available so that there’s no questions for anybody when they come.”
The brick-red caboose rolled into town, the relic greeting its new home as its wheels ground to a halt on the rails.
“Welcome to Boyertown!” announced Nathaniel Guest, president of the Colebrookdale Preservation Trust, who was decked out in a traditional railroad conductor’s uniform.
The 20 or so passengers who took the hourlong scenic excursion Friday afternoon applauded and then gathered their things.
The recently renovated caboose had just completed its inaugural run from Pottstown to Boyertown on the Colebrookdale Railroad, an almost 9-mile stretch of track that connects the two communities.