Montgomery County Commissioners Happy With Progress Of Norristown’s Lafayette Street Extension

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NORRISTOWN, PA — The Montgomery County commissioners took a tour Thursday to see the progress of what county officials are calling “the largest local infrastructure project in Pennsylvania” and found they were pleased with it.

Leading the tour was Leo Bagely, a transportation planner at the Montgomery County Planning Commission, who has helped to oversee the first phase of the construction project.

“We’ve been at this for a long time,” said Bagely. “What this is going to look like, with the landscaping we’re doing, is we’re going to change the look of how people come out of Norristown.”

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20140731/montgomery-county-commissioners-happy-with-progress-of-norristowns-lafayette-street-extension

Armand Hammer Boulevard Bridge Over Route 422 Opens, More Work Coming

Location of Lower Pottsgrove Township in Montg...

Location of Lower Pottsgrove Township in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LOWER POTTSGROVE TOWNSHIP, PA— Long-suffering Route 422 drivers may take heart in knowing that one phase of the work at the Armand Hammer Boulevard interchange is completed with the opening today of the bridge over Route 422, providing improved access into the former Firestone complex.

But more work is on the way, including the closure of the on-ramps and off-ramps on the eastbound portion of the highway.

As anyone who drives the highway regularly knows, for the past 16 months, PennDOT contractors have been working to replace the Route 422 bridge over the Schuylkill River between Lower Pottsgrove and North Coventry.

At the same time, they have been working on reconfiguring the Route 422 interchange with Armand Hammer Boulevard, located on the east side of the bridge replacement project.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140731/armand-hammer-blvd-bridge-over-rt-422-opens-more-work-coming

Failed Norristown Condos Still A Burden To Buyers

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Terry Derby had to surf on seven different couches. Ellen Frank was turned down for credit cards and had trouble leasing a car. Ryan Schofield figures he might never again be able to buy a house.

Home ownership was not supposed to be like this. Instead of buying a haven, five Norristown condominium owners say they wound up with a horror.

The residents are left fighting for their credit ratings and some sort of compensation.

It’s a years-long saga – one yet to end – that spurred changes in the way the seat of Montgomery County monitors construction projects. But that offers little help to the people caught in a financial and legal tangle not of their own making.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20140728_Failed_Norristown_condos_still_a_burden_to_buyers.html#sRoLYajfK86r2qPy.99

Treetop Adventure Debuts At Elmwood Park Zoo, Norristown

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NORRISTOWN, PA— Has it been a while since you’ve swung through the trees like Tarzan?

Do you harbor a burning hunger to break free from your civilized cage and bond with nature in a fundamental way, even though your primal survival skills are a little rusty?

Designed for thrill-seekers of all ages, Treetop Adventure Park Philadelphia at Elmwood Park Zoo — created by Treetop Concept LLC — puts kids and adults through their aerial paces with multiple obstacle courses that are marked by challenging games and zip lines to satisfy the average athletic extremist.

For those not familiar with the exploit, a zip line is formed by a pulley suspended way up in the air on a cable, with the suspended adventure-seeker holding onto or being attached to a free-moving pulley by a harness.

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20140718/treetop-adventure-debuts-at-elmwood-park-zoo-norristown

Greater Norristown PAL To Hold First Job Fair June 24

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NORRISTOWN, PA — It’s not every job fair organizer that offers to hook up applicants with a necktie if he needs one, but Ken Fennal is passionate about making Greater Norristown PAL’s first open job fair a success for all concerned.

And that extends to making sure every male applicant who shows up is dressed to impress.

“If someone needs a tie they should contact me and I’ll provide them with a tie myself,” said Fennal, PAL’s program director. “Men should at least wear a tie, if not a suit or sport jacket. First impressions can make the difference in getting a second interview or being hired on the spot, versus another candidate who may have the same level of skills but may not be dressed appropriately. We know the difference in going to an interview dressed well or wearing something casual, but a young person may not know that. We want to emphasize that they should be prepared properly when they come in the door, so I think not only is it appropriate to have a dress code, social standards dictate that you should be dressed a certain way for certain professions.”

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/business/20140623/greater-norristown-pal-to-hold-first-job-fair-june-24

45 Graduates Complete MCCC’s Accelerated GED Program

Pottstown, Pa.— Forty-five students earned their General Education Diplomas (GED) during Montgomery County Community College’s annual graduation ceremony on June 5 at the West Campus in Pottstown.

The graduates were part of MCCC’s rigorous five-week program that is among the most accelerated in the state. According to GED Program Coordinator/Instructor Raymond Ricketts, 860 students have completed the program since its inception in 2006–an 84 percent graduation rate.

The Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board (WIB) funds the program, which is free to Montgomery County residents. The fee for out-of-county students is $100 and includes the course and GED exam.

John Vestri, vice president of operations and finance for Video Ray in Pottstown, provided the keynote address. He commended graduates for taking ownership of their education, and encouraged them to take advantage of all future educational opportunities that arise.

“Every single you chance you have to improve yourself through education, please take advantage of it. It will pay off in some way in the long run,” said Vestri. He added that there is “no such thing as a traditional education,” sharing “we all pursue what works for us; everyone is on some non-traditional path.”

Providing the student address, graduate Jamie Gehman, Lower Pottsgrove, said the program “allowed me to focus on my problem area—math—and pass the GED with flying colors.”

Gehman described how it became more and more difficult to return to school as time passed. However, as her youngest of four children started kindergarten this year, she realized it was time to continue her own education as well.

“It’s never too late to give yourself or your loved ones a brighter future through education,” she shared.

Gehman recently completed her first semester at the College, during which she earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average (GPA). She ultimately hopes to work with children who have learning challenges and brain trauma.

Marisol Lezcano, executive director of the Montgomery County WIB and deputy director of commerce, presented the graduates with their diplomas, and Peggy Schmidt, chair, WIB Youth Council, provided closing remarks.

“I’m sure, as you have gone through this journey, people told you that you couldn’t do it. But your hard work paid off,”  she said, just before asking attendees to join her in reciting the lyrics to “High Hopes.”

To learn more about the GED program or GED testing services, visit http://www.mc3.edu/adm-fin-aid/ged.

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Drug Ring Out Of Pottstown’s Bright Hope Knocked Out

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NORRISTOWN — Juvenile burglars who tipped off police on the alleged drug runners they robbed led to the complete shutdown of a drug ring which once operated out of Bright Hope Village in Pottstown and had been investigated for more than a year.

Five people were arrested for allegedly trafficking heroin, cocaine and crystal methamphetamine in both Montgomery and Philadelphia counties since at least 2013, according to a release from Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele.

Edward Tillman was arrested and accused of being the ring-leader. Anisha Harris, 31, Johnathan Jackson, 24, Melvin Hampton, 44, and Teresa Hiller, age not given, were all arrested and accused of being his associates in the organization.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140521/drug-ring-out-of-pottstowns-bright-hope-knocked-out

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Pottstown Schools Propose 2.9% Tax Hike This Year, 0% Next Year

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

POTTSTOWN, PA — School taxes may not rise next year if the school board approves a budget that raises them 2.9 percent this year, Superintendent Jeff Sparagana said Thursday night.

That was when the proposed $56.4 million Pottstown Schools budget got its first public airing — although few members of the public were in attendance — before the school board’s finance committee.

“This is not the year to tie our hands,” Sparagana told the finance committee.

Pointing to the $1.5 million in additional debt payments that begin this year to pay for the elementary school renovations; the additional $1.1 in retirement/pension payments and the $625,000 the district needs to start setting aside annually for roof replacements, Sparagana said the administration can balance the budget “without cutting programs and hurting students” with the additional $856,000 a 2.9 percent tax hike generates.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140509/pottstown-schools-propose-29-tax-hike-this-year-0-next-year

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Deal For Music Venue In Pottstown’s Old Eagles Building Falls Through

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  More bad news for Pottstown.  Very sad.

POTTSTOWN, PA — Plans to move an established music venue in Philadelphia to the former Eagles building at 310 High St. have fallen through, the plan’s prime mover announced on his web page and Facebook this week.

In January, Jamey Reilly announced plans to purchase the building and to establish a place for live music performances in addition to an Asian/fusion restaurant operated by his wife.

His longtime venue in his home on Overbrook Avenue in Philadelphia had been shut down as an “illegal nightclub” and he was seeking a new venue and had settled on Pottstown as the place.

Not any more.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140508/deal-for-music-venue-in-pottstowns-old-eagles-building-falls-through

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Tragedy And Danger Discovered In Pottstown’s Mining Heritage

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jefferson M. Rightnour left his wife and six children at their home in Fruitville, a small collection of houses in Limerick Township, Montgomery County, on Sept. 1, 1880, and walked to his job in what is now Pottstown.

The 6-mile trek must have been a hardship, but it was nothing compared to what was waiting for him. Rightnour was the boss of a copper mine; he worked underground with a pick, shovel, and wheelbarrow, busting through sandstone to get to copper ore.

The mine was located on a 40-acre farm owned by James Gilbert in what was then Pottsgrove Township. An 1877 atlas of Montgomery County shows that Gilbert’s farmhouse was probably what is now the business office for Highland Memorial Park at 701 Farmington Ave. The precise location of the mine isn’t known, but it was probably somewhere along the slope of the hill in that area.

Copper had been mined there in the mid-1850s, but the endeavor was unprofitable and was soon abandoned. In July of 1874, a group of investors from Phoenixville took a crack it. The Daily Pottstown Ledger reported that excavators reopening the shaft found, at a depth of 18 feet, a wheelbarrow and box of potatoes — reportedly still “in good condition” — relics entombed in the 1850s workings.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/lifestyle/20140504/tragedy-and-danger-discovered-in-pottstowns-mining-heritage

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MCCC Builds Financial Literacy Model With ‘Next Generation Learning Challenges’ Grant

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blue Bell/Pottstown, Pa.— Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) has received a $100,000 grant to build on the success of a financial literacy prototype, developed as part of the inaugural Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) Breakthrough Models Incubator (BMI) cohort.

Last May, MCCC was one of seven institutions selected for the inaugural cohort. Each institution received $50,000 to design and launch a technology-based support program, specifically created to improve completion rates, the quality of student learning and the time it takes for degree completion. Last week, each of the seven institutions from the initial cohort received the next phase of funding, $100,000, made possible by a grant from EDUCAUSE through Next Generation Learning Challenges.

After participating in NGLC’s three-day workshop in July, MCCC’s team of eight faculty and staff was given three months to develop a prototype based on the College’s initial proposal to improve first-time students’ understanding of financial, civic, and digital literacies through the creation of a “New Literacy” Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).

“Students cite ‘financial concerns’ as the top reason for dropping out of courses, especially during the first two weeks of a semester. Therefore, in order to make significant gains in student retention and completion, we must first improve our students’ understanding of financial literacy,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, president, MCCC.  “Our team has done outstanding work in building a pilot that has already helped hundreds of students strengthen their understand the financial aid process.”

After engaging students through focus groups and surveys, MCCC developed “Montco Money Matters,” a module that introduces students to the concept of paying for college. By working with content, media, technology and design experts from across MCCC, the team produced a multi-channel module that includes video displays, social media and face-to-face engagement, along with an online course-like experience.

The 30-minute, self-guided program introduces students to concepts of financial aid, loans and grants; highlights the long-term implications of loans and future debt; and makes them aware of other resources, like scholarships, to help pay for college. The program incorporates open-source and original content, including a computer-generated tour guide, short video clips featuring actual MCCC students, and links to off-campus resources that allow students to delve further into topics of interest.

A total of 425 students actively engaged in the pilot program during a seven-week period during the fall 2013 semester. Of those, 95 percent of students who provided feedback indicated they will recommend the online resources to others, and 80 percent said the course will influence future academic decisions. In addition, feedback revealed that student loans and scholarship information were the most valuable topics covered, and money management is a topic on which many students would like more information.

With the prototype completed and funding secured, MCCC’s next step is to build out additional modules under the umbrella of financial literacy. These modules could address topics such as cash management, budgeting, shopping for textbooks, transportation, loans and debt, among others. The College also hopes to make “Montco Money Matters” accessible to school districts within Montgomery County and to the general population at large.

In addition to Montgomery, six other selected schools are part of the inaugural NGLC BMI cohort, including Austin Peay State University, Ball State University, Charter Oak State College, SUNY-Empire State College, Harper College and the University of Maryland-University College.

About Montgomery County Community College

Since its founding in 1964, Montgomery County Community College has grown with the community to meet the evolving educational and workforce development needs of Montgomery County. The College’s comprehensive curriculum includes 100+ associate degree/certificate programs, as well as specialized workforce development training and certifications. Students enjoy the flexibility of learning at the College’s thriving campuses in Blue Bell and Pottstown, online through an extensive array of e-Learning options, or at the new Culinary Arts Institute in Lansdale. The College also offers first-responder training programs at the Public Safety Training Campus in Conshohocken. Supporting its mission to offer high-quality, affordable and accessible educational opportunities, the College is funded by the County, the State, student tuition and private contributions. Governed by a 15-person Board of Trustees appointed by the Montgomery County Commissioners, the College is fully accredited by the Commission of Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

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Woman Shot In Pottstown; Police Investigating

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  With the warm weather comes increased crime in this neighborhood.  I think it’s time for a plan instead of a band-aid.

POTTSTOWN — A young woman was shot Sunday afternoon, causing Buttonwood Alley between Washington and Warren streets to be closed for several hours due to the police investigation.

Pottstown Police and Goodwill Ambulance responded at around 5:15 p.m. to the home fronting the 500 block of East High Street.

It’s unclear who or where the alleged shooter is.

Patrol officers were unable to comment on the case and deferred questions to Pottstown Police detectives. They did not return calls as of press time.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140413/woman-shot-in-pottstown-police-investigating

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Montco Commissioners Sponsor Paper Shredding Event In Collegeville

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Norristown, PA – The Montgomery County Commissioners and the Waste System
Authority of Eastern Montgomery County in conjunction with Shred One Security Corp. are
sponsoring a community paper shredding event on Saturday, April 12 from 9 a.m. to noon at
Perkiomen Valley Middle School East, 100 Kagey Road (entrance on Campus Drive) in Collegeville.

Future shredding events are scheduled for Saturday, June 21 at Copper Beach Elementary School in
Glenside, and on Saturday, October 18 at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore.

Montgomery County residents who have paper and documents that should be shredded are
encouraged to take advantage of this free event. No businesses are permitted. Residents are urged to
make sure that the materials they present for shredding do not include plastic, cardboard, or metal.
However, there is no need to remove staples, paper clips, hanging folders, etc.

“Shredding of documents has become important in our lives today for several reasons, not the least of
which is the threat of identity theft,” said Josh Shapiro, chairman of the Montgomery County
Commissioners. “We believe this service is useful, necessary, and will be appreciated by our residents,
and we are very grateful to Shred One and the Waste Authority for their assistance.”

Shred One regularly participates in community shredding events. The company’s mobile trucks
perform all of the paper shredding as you watch. All shredded paper is recycled by Shred One and the
company is currently recycling paper at a rate that saves over 70,000 trees annually.

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Montco Official Says Keim Street Bridge Project Moving Forward

Location of Lower Pottsgrove Township in Montg...

Location of Lower Pottsgrove Township in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LOWER POTTSGROVE TOWNSHIP, PA — Not that she needed a reminder that all politics are local, but Montgomery County Commissioner Leslie Richards still remembers one of the first calls she got on the historic night she and Commissioners Chairman Josh Shapiro made history by being the first Democrats to take the majority in 100 years.

“I’ll never forget one of the first calls I got on election night,” she said March 24 as she, Shapiro and Commissioner Bruce Castor conducted the last of their roundtable meetings around the county, this one at the Lower Pottsgrove Township Building.

“I said ‘hello’ and the voice on the other end said ‘so when is the new Keim Street Bridge going to be finished?’”

The answer, she gave Monday, is that the project is “moving forward.”

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140331/montco-official-says-keim-street-bridge-project-moving-forward

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Cost Overruns, New Roof Costs, Plague Pottstown Elementary Projects

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

POTTSTOWN, PA — A $1.2 million price tag seems to be a little too high for school officials to bear and the school board is being asked Monday to reject the bid to replace the roof at Rupert Elementary School along with some masonry work.

The concern about costs comes as the board is poised to approved more than $225,000 in unbudgeted expense for the construction work at Lincoln, Franklin and Rupert elementary schools.

Instead of accepting the $1.2 million roof bid, the administration is urging that other ways of getting the work done be pursued.

“It’s not that we’re not going to do it,” said Business Manager Linda Adams, “it’s just that we think that price is too high.”

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140321/cost-overruns-new-roof-costs-plague-pottstown-elementary-projects

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Pottstown Area Seniors Center Gets New Director

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

POTTSTOWN, PA — The changes underway at the Pottstown Area Seniors’ Center now also include a change in leadership.

After 19 years with the center, Executive Director Brad Fuller is joining the legions of the retired and is currently training his replacement — Brian Parkes of Gilbertsville.

Parkes, 43, was most recently self-employed for nine years with Krisp Communications, a firm which worked exclusively with non-profit organizations and specializing in communications, grant-writing and fundraising.

Among his clients were six senior centers in Chester County and one in Montgomery County.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140302/pottstown-area-seniors-center-gets-new-director

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Layoffs At Aetna

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An undisclosed number of Aetna Inc. employees, including case managers, received layoff notices Wednesday at the health insurer’s Blue Bell office. One employee said that seven out of 18 supervisors lost their jobs, and each supervisor oversaw a staff of 15 to 20.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20140227_Layoffs_at_Aetna.html#CJofKpH9CJpMxLSP.99

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Failed Movie Studio In Montco Cost Taxpayers Millions

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NORRISTOWN, PA — The project to transform an old Norristown shopping center into a movie studio was supposed to bring the glitz and fortune of Hollywood to the sagging seat of Montgomery County.

Build it and filmmakers will come. Build it and jobs will come and lift Norristown to prosperity.

That dream fizzled like a box-office bomb last May, when the project’s investor filed for foreclosure against the developer.

The forlorn shopping center, Logan Square, sits half-empty, its fate likely to be announced in the coming weeks. The county is grappling with how to recoup the $25 million it sank into the project — including $10 million in federal funds it must repay — and its lawyers are preparing a lawsuit against the developer. And prosecutors are scrutinizing the deal to see if more than bad luck and poor judgment were to blame.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140218/failed-movie-studio-in-montco-cost-taxpayers-millions

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Bridgeport Addresses Issue Of ‘Amateur Landlords’

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BRIDGEPORT, PA — Over the past year, many residents and landlords have complained at borough council meetings about overcrowding of and conditions at rental properties.

In response to these complaints, borough council has provided funds in the 2014 budget for a program to help resolve the issue of amateur landlords.

At its Feb. 11 meeting, council discussed hiring a third-party inspector to handle rental properties in the borough.

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20140214/bridgeport-addresses-issue-of-amateur-landlords

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Senior Housing Plan Presented In Norristown For Vacant Montgomery Hospital Building

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NORRISTOWN, PA — The consensus of public opinion Tuesday night about a proposal to build 100 independent-living apartments for seniors and a senior support building at the former Montgomery Hospital site on Powell Street was largely positive.

More than 25 Norristown residents heard the first public presentation of the plans by the Elon Group of Fort Washington at the Montgomery County Human Services Center from Francis Vargas, vice president of the Elon Group, and several executives from Einstein Healthcare Network (EHN), which owns the 365,000-square-foot, seven-story building and 3.7-acre parcel.

“The proposal is not much different from last year as far as the senior housing,” said Norristown Councilwoman Linda Christian. “Last year the proposal was for the overall, same amount of units that was denied by the funders.”

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20140213/senior-housing-plan-presented-in-norristown-for-vacant-montgomery-hospital-building

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