Harrisburg Mayor And City Council At War Over Budget

Streetscape of 1400 block of 2nd street in Har...

Image via Wikipedia

Controversial Harrisburg Mayor, Linda Thompson, is refusing to sign Harrisburg City Council’s proposed 2011 budget.  Mayor Thompson thinks the proposed $56 million dollar budget is deeply flawed because it underfunds the police and fire budgets.

According to Thompson, she found $4 million dollars worth of errors in the budget and she asserts this budget does not even provide for sufficient fuel to power the city’s emergency vehicles.  Thompson was quoted as comparing the proposed budget to throwing spaghetti against a wall to see if it sticks.

Mayor Thompson can veto the budget, use as line-item veto or let it pass but refuse to sign.  She has until Tuesday to make a decision.

Harrisburg was accepted into the Act 47 program in December, thereby officially making our state capital a financially distressed municipality.

Pittsburgh WOW!

The title pretty much says it all.  If you don’t know much about Pittsburgh other than it used to be a dirty steel town, this video montage certainly gives you a sense of what Pittsburgh is like now.  If you live in Pittsburgh or used to live in Pittsburgh this video is certainly fun to watch.  It made me homesick!

390px; width: 640px”>

Chester’s $500 Million Dollar “Renaissance On The River”

PPL Park during the inaugural match between Ph...

Image via Wikipedia

It all began when PECO Energy closed its inefficient Delaware County Power Plant along the banks of the Delaware River in Chester.  The 400,000 square foot structure and the surrounding site needed some serious clean up.  After all, for most of the last century the 100 acre site was home to a huge coal to steam to electric power plant!  PECO sold 63 acres to Preferred Real Estate Investments (PREI).  They gave the City of Chester seven acres and PECO operates some small peak generating units and a substation on 20 acres.

PECO and PREI spent 1½ years and $10 million dollars on environmental clean up and demolition so that this structure could be turned into a mixed-use Class A office and retail space.  The Wharf at Rivertown is also located in a Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) which gives amazing tax incentives to companies who open a business within its borders. (Pottstown has a KOZ off College Drive).  This project is an example of adaptive reuse.  From 10,000 tons of scrap metal to 20,000 tons of bricks (and everything in between) were recycled in this project.

This $60 million dollar project has 1.4 million square feet of space, two marinas, restaurants and a river walk.  Tenants include Wells Fargo, Synergy, AdminServer, Achristavest and the Power Home Remodeling Group

Also included within the larger Rivertown complex is the $120 million dollar, 18,500-seat, PPL Park.  PPL Park is the home of the Philadelphia Union, a Major League Soccer team, and was financed in part by a $25 million dollar economic revitalization package given by the state of Pennsylvania.  Chester also received another $7 million dollars from the state to be used towards a two-phase project in the Rivertown complex which includes 186 townhouses, 25 apartments, 335,000 square feet of office space, a 200,000 square-foot convention center, 20,000 square feet of retail space and a parking structure for 1,350 cars.  The second half of the project will include 200 apartments, 100,000 square feet of office space and 22,000 square feet of retail space.

The Pennsylvania State Corrections Institution Chester and the 100,000 square-foot Harrah’s Casino and Racetrack are also located within Rivertown.  Originally, this land was part of the Sun Shipbuilding Complex that at one time employed 40,000 people!

The Wharf at Rivertown has added 1,200 jobs to Chester.  It is expected to eventually add 2,500 jobs.  Other projects such as PPL Park, the prison and Harrah’s significantly add to that total.  PPL Park, which opened June 27, 2010, is seen as “the spark” that will ignite a full-scale renaissance of Pennsylvania’s first city, Chester.

Another benefit of this project is that a half mile of riverfront was opened back up to the community after nearly 100 years.

Sounds better than senior rental apartments, now doesn’t it!

Hat tip to Jeff Leflar for suggesting I write about this.

Another Iconic Company Leaves Philly

Map of Philadelphia County highlighting Center...

Image via Wikipedia

The economy is the culprit behind Robbins Diamonds leaving Pennsylvania.  We all remember those silly commercials with Jerry Robbins having a diamond in his beard, I’m sure.

Robbins Diamonds had three locations.  They closed their 8th and Walnut Street store in Center City, Philadelphia along with their store in Allentown.  Robbins blames the horrible economy.  Interestingly, they are keeping their large Newark, Delaware store open.  It has tons of free parking, access to Interstate 95 and Delaware has no sales tax.  (aha!)

Robbins stated he is glad to still be in business considering big names like Jack Kellmer, Bailey, Banks & Biddle and Caldwell’s have closed.  There are still 37 stores left on Jewelers Row in Philadelphia.

Another one bites the dust!

Company Relocating National Headquarters To Chester Riverfront

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Delaware County

Image via Wikipedia

This is great news for Chester!  Power Home Remodeling Group, the nations fourth-largest home-remodeling company, is relocating their corporate headquarters to Chester’s riverfront.  (Sounds like a ULI recommendation to me) 

The Wharf at Rivertown is a mixed-use office and retail project along the Chester riverfront.  Governor Rendell, when he’s not busy yelling at Leslie Stahl, said “This project will continue the impressive development of the city’s waterfront area and build upon its growing reputation as a great location for businesses looking to relocate or expand.”

The Governor’s Action Team (GAT) coordinated the project.  GAT is made up of economic development professionals who work with businesses that are interested in expanding in or relocating to Pennsylvania.

A $300,000 grant was obtained with the help of the Delaware County Commerce Center.  The entire Power Home Remodeling Group project will cost $1 million dollars.  It will create 270 new jobs within three years and keep the 278 jobs already in Chester.

Sounds like Chester, PA is open for business!

Michael Douglas May Have Beaten The Odds!!

Michael Douglas '63, Oscar-winning actor, play...

Image via Wikipedia

Finally, some good news to report!  66-year-old actor Michael Douglas has announced that his tumor is gone.  Douglas has been battling throat cancer and had lost 32 pounds in the process.  His gaunt pictures have been seen on tabloid magazines and television.  Many have speculated the worst.

Douglas has started an exercise regimen and has gained 12 pounds back!  He is set to start filming in May or June.  The new film will be a biopic about flamboyant pianist Liberace and Douglas will play the title role.

We wish Michael Douglas a full recovery and many years of good health!

Education Week Releases Annual State Report Cards

Bookstand with large textbook

Image via Wikipedia

Education Week has released the results of their grading of all 50 states’ educational systems. Pennsylvania scored a B-.  Maryland had the highest score with a B+ followed by New York’s B rating.  The Dakotas and the District of Columbia scored a D+.

Click the link below to view the interactive map.  Click on each state to see details on who made the grade and how they did it.

Pennsylvania did well compared to the rest of the United States however; a B- certainly leaves room for improvement.

http://www.edweek.org/ew/qc/2011/16src.h30.html

Pottstown Borough Council Meeting, January 10, 2011

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Image via Wikipedia

Call To Order – President Toroney.

Invocation – given by Mayor Heath.

Pledge of Allegiance

Roll Call – all Councilors present.

Approval of minutes was given.

Comments from Citizens Present

Bob Leaming – spoke against parking restrictions on S. Hanover St. that are being proposed as a way to combat increased traffic due to the Keim St. bridge closure.  Bob did an impromptu traffic study on the proposed parking restricted area.  Approximately 20 cars went through each green light.  12 went straight, 7 turned left and 1 turned right, on average.  Banning or restricting parking will not solve the traffic problem.  A longer green light is needed at Hanover and High so more northbound traffic can get through that light. (This plan should also include the light at King and High)

(Jason said a traffic count is being proposed by PennDot to get an accurate handle on the situation.  Jason recommended the motion be tabled to give PennDot sufficient time to conduct a study.)

Nancy Leaming – is the owner of AVJ Natural Cat at 6 S. Hanover St.  Nancy stated a large percentage of her customers come into the store between 4 – 6 p.m. (when the proposed restriction would be in place) and customers can not be lugging huge bags of cat food and litter across the street or around the corner.  Such a parking restriction would kill her business.

Burt Meyers – spoke against the proposed parking restriction as well.  Burt owns Meyers Automotive Repair at 8 S. Hanover.  He stated the four businesses on that side of the street already have a huge parking problem.  The light is also a problem at High and Hanover.  It only stays green approximately 35 seconds.  The restriction would be a great hardship on Burt’s business.

Melissa Braunsberg – is an AVJ Natural Cat customer who also echoed the sentiments of the other speakers and was not in favor of parking restrictions on S. Hanover St.  Parking is already a huge problem and she does not want anything to jeopardize this store because she gets a lot of products from there.  She normally comes into the store between 5 – 6 p.m. (after work) and would have no where to park.  She also feels the light and High and Hanover is a problem.

Don Read – made an impassioned plea to Council to give him another term on the Borough Authority.  He said he realizes many people do not like his personality and that he “speaks about issues” which some do not appreciate.  He feels personality should be removed from the decision-making process and that he has done a good job on the Authority if you look at is record.  Don stated he enjoys being on the Authority.

Mayor’s Report – Bonnie thanked the S. Hanover St. business owners for addressing Council.  She also read part of an email sent out from Anna Johnson of Citizen’s For Pottstown’s Revitalization extolling recent successes and stating that despite our differences, we all share the same goal for a safer Pottstown and encouraged people to stay involved! (You can read that entire email right here on Roy’s Rants).  Bonnie also thanked the Police Department for doing a good job last year.

Manager’s Report – Jason talked about the Community Development Block Grant and a project for Washington Street. 

Jason is working with FEMA regarding data on Pottstown’s flood plain.

The Pottstown Traffic Group is discussing following items: the new signal at Industrial Hwy. and Moser Rd., the Route 100 construction (lane reductions) that will last for 12 – 18 months, the Hanover Street parking and signals, the High Street Bridge closure and rebuilding, the Keim Street bridge project will take 3 – 4 years to get through the design stage, the Armand Hammer Boulevard Interchange on 422 is slated for construction and the Industrial Hwy sewer line replacements and paving needs to be coordinated.

On 01/20/2011 there will be an overview meeting about Pottstown’s Code Enforcement software.

Jason talked about the 22 East Second Street project.  Students from the Votech will be rehabbing that property for resale.  The cost of the project will be recouped from the sale of the property.

Montgomery Planning Commission’s northwest transit plan will involve Pottstown Area Rapid Transit (PART) for 3 of 7 new routes they are recommending be established to service this part of the county, in places where access to mass transit does not currently exist.

The 2010 audit will be completed by May.

Jason talked about Pottstown’s drastic improvement with its finances.  Our cash flow as of 12/31/10 was $1.7 million, compared to 2008 when it was -$136,000!  Liabilities as of 11/31/2010 were $72,000, compared to 2008 where they were $740,000!  We should give Jason, Janice and the Finance Committee a medal!

New Business

Mayor Heath presented a civilian service award to a borough resident who helped Pottstown Police apprehend a drug dealer!  The gentleman got a standing ovation from all present!

Council authorized the application to the 2010 PECO Green Region Space Program for Memorial Park Phase II projects.

Council approved the submission to the Montgomery County Revitalization Board for the following projects: Skyline Lighting, Gallery on High and the Western Gateway.

Council approved an Agreement of Cooperation between the Borough of Pottstown and the Redevelopment Authority of Montgomery County for support of the Village Productions/TRIPAC application to the Department of Community and Economic Development.

Council approved a motion to grant the YWCA of Pottstown a reduced rate on 15 parking spaces in the King Street Lot and to provide 5 spaces at the regular rate.

The motion to prepare an ordinance restricting parking on S. Hanover Street was tabled. (Council is concerned about impacting our downtown businesses)

Don Read was not reappointed to the Borough Authority.  Councilor Kirkland spoke on his behalf.  However, when a roll call vote was taken, only Councilor Kirkland voted to reappoint Mr. Read.  Someone felt the need to clap after the vote was taken.  David Wren was then appointed to serve on the Borough Authority to replace Mr. Read.

Sheila Dugan and Mr. Heisey were appointed to PDIDA.

Council voted to reappoint the four existing members of the Blighted Property Review Committee.

Mark Patrizi was reappointed to the Zoning Hearing Board.

Gail Yoder was appointed to serve on the Vacancy Board.

Council endorsed the concept of the Citizen Education Program, the Pottstown Academy, and the Citizen Codes Inspector Program.  Jason has been given the green light to implement these programs.

Council approved the demolition of the former Frederick Mill Building at 527 N. Hanover St.  Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A few contracts were awarded for Public Works, Streets Division.  Some certificates of appropriates were approved from HARB and the bills were paid.

Councilor Weand commended the Finance Staff for their fantastic work on getting our financial house in order.  Councilor Weand is head of the Finance Committee and should get a shout-out for all his hard work as well!

Meeting was adjourned so Council could go into Executive Session.

Citizen’s For Pottstown’s Revitalization (CPR) – Thoughts For The New Year And Upcoming Events

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Image via Wikipedia

I am pleased to pass on this important information from CPR!

Happy New Year All!!

The start of a new year brings the promise of renewed hope and energy into revitalizing Pottstown.  This momentum  is pushing us towards new possibilities and uncharted territory of growth and progress.  The winter’s festivities brought in an unprecedented number of revelers, proving that Pottstown still has heart and promise.  Despite our many differences of opinion and spirited discourses we ultimately share the same goal; to live in a safe environment.  The way we achieve this goal is to stay involved!  You can now stay in touch with the Pottstown Neighborhood Watch through Facebook- search Citizens for Pottstown’s Revitalization (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Citizens-For-Pottstowns-Revitilization/143692659014127?v=wall). Please join us at the following events listed below.

January 16, 2011 @ 1PM : Female Safety Clinic (PKC-21 North Hanover St.) Space is limited so please RSPV to  610 327 1321 and leave a message.

February 18, 2011 @ 7PM : Neighborhood Watch Meeting (146 King St. PAL Bldg.) 

March 2011 (Date to be determined) Witness Training by Pottstown Police.      

I hope this new year brings each of you happiness, health and the energy to take back our town!! 
  
Anna Johnson 
 
 
 
 

 

The Mercury Leaves Out Important Details On Lebanon Crash Involving Pottstown Woman

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lebanon County

Image via Wikipedia

I suppose this should not really be a great surprise for anyone but the Mercury’s condensed version of the Lebanon Daily News coverage of an accident on Route 322 in South Annville Township, that involved a Pottstown woman, has some key facts missing.

What the Mercury fails to point out is:

“Burton’s vehicle was pushed into the eastbound lane when it was struck from the rear by a Chevy Equinox driven by Amber Dumond, 32, of 117 E. Cherry St., Palmyra, he said.”  The quote is from South Annville Township Police Chief Ben Sutcliffe

The Mercury tells us Burton’s children were in the car at the time of the accident.  According to the Lebanon Daily News “Burton’s front-seat passenger was Elizabeth Hain, 36, also of Pottstown, Sutcliffe said. She was released after treatment at the hospital. In the back seat were Hain’s children, Dharia, 13, and Delanie, 7. Both were listed in fair condition at HMC, a hospital spokesman said.”

Here is the entire Lebanon Daily News article for you to read and get the correct information.  A friend of Faith Burton’s brought this to my attention so we here in Pottstown have the correct information regarding this tragic event.

 http://www.ldnews.com/ci_17038737

Philadelphia’s Chinatown Cleans Up Blight – Neighborhood Expands North Past Vine Street Expressway

Chinatown district of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Image via Wikipedia

Philadelphia’s Chinatown is one of the largest in the United States and a must see for visitors to Philadelphia, residents of the city and suburbanites alike.  For that matter, anyone who loves Asian cuisine and culture should explore Philadelphia’s Chinatown.

In recent years Chinatown was threatened and some area was lost due to the construction of the Vine Street Expressway, the Gallery mall, Market Street East train station and the Convention Center.  It was also the proposed location for a prison and a new ball park for the Phillies.  45 years ago, the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation was formed to keep Chinatown alive and well in Philadelphia.

Chinatown’s borders are Arch Street on the south, Vine Street on the north, 11th Street on the west and 8th Street on the east.  Recently Chinatown has expanded across Vine Street into what has become known as Chinatown North.

The area where 10th Street crosses the Vine Street Expressway had become a garbage dump and a sleeping area for the homeless.  10th Street is a vital link from Chinatown to Chinatown North.  The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Hahnemann University Hospital cosponsored a new gateway area for Chinatown. The $300,000 project was recently completed and has transformed an undesirable area into a beautiful public space called 10th Street Plaza.

A seven ton foo dog, hand carved from granite in the Fujian Province, stands guard at each end of the newly formed plaza.  One is male, the other female.  An Asian-style pergola was constructed, which during the warmer months will provide shade from climbing vines.  Tables, benches and lighting were also added transforming the area into an outdoor gathering place.  An eight-foot-tall statue of Lin Zexu will also join the foo dogs in the plaza.

The area north of Vine Street was formerly a warehouse/industrial district but has now become a haven for businesses who want to be near Chinatown.  Restaurant suppliers, travel agencies and construction firms for starters.  This northerly migration has created much needed room for Chinatown to expand, thus making the 10th Street crossing a pivotal component for neighborhood revitalization and stabilization.  Many people who live and work in Chinatown must use the 10th Street overpass every day.

A formal dedication of 10th Street Plaza is scheduled for spring.

Detroit Looks To Pittsburgh On How To Revitalize Their City

The Detroit City Council paid a visit to Pittsburgh, PA to see first-hand what transformation looks like and to learn from Pittsburgh’s successes.  Unlike Pittsburgh, Detroit is at the beginning of their process.  Pittsburgh is not sitting back on their laurels as city leaders are continuously making positive changes that have made Pittsburgh the poster child for economic revitalization.  Watch a cool video about this tale of two cities.

Gulf Oil Spill Panel Findings Leaked!

GULF OF MEXICO (May 16, 2010) An oil containme...

Image via Wikipedia

Here is an article about the leaked findings from the presidential panel on the BP Oil Spill Disaster:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40956664/40777506

Animal “Mass Die-Offs” Nothing To Panic Over

A flock of Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius pho...

Image via Wikipedia

Evidently, according to AP Writer Seth Borenstein, the recent conspiracy theories about the blackbirds in Arkansas, crabs in the Chesapeake and red tilapia in Vietnam are internet hype and to be taken with a grain of salt.  These “die-offs” happen in nature all the time. 

With the advent of the internet age and instant access to information, people are more aware now of what happens across the globe at any given moment of the day.  This “access” to information leads some people to speculate outrageous things.  According to scientist and the Federal government, these die-offs are nothing to be alarmed over.

To read the entire article  click here:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40961721/ns/us_news-environment/?gt1=43001

Even Limerick Township Is Not Recession Proof

Location of Limerick Township in Montgomery County

Image via Wikipedia

When one thinks of communities that would have budget woes, Limerick Township is not normally a place that would pop into your head. 

The 22.6 square mile township has 13,534 inhabitants (2000 census).  85% of Limerick’s residents own a home.  The estimated median house/condo value in 2008 was $271,583.  The estimated median income in 2008 was $81,877.  Only 1.9% of its residents live below the poverty level.  These numbers are well above the state averages.

Somehow, the township found themselves with an $850,000 deficit going into their 2011 budget process.  Declines in land development and permits (recession) were blamed.   The end result was making some hard decisions about purchases and facility upgrades along with the elimination of two staff positions.

Bottom line here is that taxes will not increase for 2011 and the budget trimming will not reduce services for residents.

Demographic information is from City-data.com

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Metropolitan Area Ranks Second Highest In Nation For Smokers

Lit cigarette

Image via Wikipedia

According to The Daily Beast, a news website, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Metro Area has the second highest percentage of smokers in the United States.  23.5% of area residents smoke 16.8 cigarettes a day.  One pack contains twenty cigarettes. 

Only Tulsa, Oklahoma has a higher percentage of smokers than Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.  Memphis, Tennessee ranked third.  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ranked 14th.  No other Pennsylvania metropolitan areas made the top 30.

To see the full story and the Top 30 list, click here:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-01-03/30-cities-with-worst-smoking-problems-from-memphis-to-honolulu/

Airline Malfunction Causes Unscheduled Landing At Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport

The Airbus A380 at takeoff. The main and nose ...

Image via Wikipedia

Delta Airlines Flight 4061 took off from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport at 5:48 p.m. this evening.  The 40 passenger regional jet was bound for Detroit. 

Shortly after takeoff the pilot realized the nose gear failed to retract so he was forced to return to Avoca and circle the airport until landing clearance was given.  The plane safely landed at 6:41 p.m. 

Airport officials took every precaution and deployed over two dozen emergency vehicles to the runway in case of any further malfunctions when the aircraft touched down.

Passenger reactions ranged from crying and praying to one individual sleeping through the entire ordeal.

The plane was towed to the terminal for inspection.  This was a connecting flight so many passengers were left scrambling to find other connections.

Limerick Acme To Close In February

Acme closed their Collegeville Shopping Center store and moved it to 31 W. Ridge Pike, next to the new Court At Upper Providence Shopping Center, a few years ago.  Now it would seem the “new store” is under performing due to competition from Giant, Target and Wegman’s and will close by the end of February.

With the departure of Acme from Ridge Pike, the closest Acme stores within a 20 mile radius of zip code 19468 are Phoenixville, Norristown, Lansdale and King of Prussia.

The Wayne Acme is also on the chopping block along with three stores in New Jersey and one in Maryland.

Another big empty building!  Ironically, the old store in Collegeville was doing much better!  Just proves the grass is not always greener!

Lansdale Slated For Downtown Makeover

Location of Lansdale in Montgomery County

Image via Wikipedia

Downtown Lansdale is getting “spruced up” soon thanks to a $500,000 federal grant procured by U.S. Representative Allyson Schwartz and an additional $1.8 million dollars in funding from the Transportation Equity Act of 2005.

A ceremonial groundbreaking is scheduled for January 24th at Railroad Plaza, on the corner of Main and Madison Streets.  The construction will take place on several streets in downtown Lansdale.

New sidewalks, streetlights and (dare I say) shade trees are being added to bring curb appeal to the downtown shopping district.  Wonder if Mr. Hylton was consulted about this???  

The contractor, Wexcon Inc., will be establishing a construction headquarters in Lansdale, which is expected to cut costs.  Wexcon is trying to make the project minimally invasive to downtown merchants by doing construction in one block increments and on one side of the street at a time.  Sounds better than ripping up the entire downtown all at once!

A webcam installation is being considered so residents can watch the progress on the borough website.

Tasty Baking Company Having Financial Problems

Oh no!  Will Tastykakes become a recession casualty!  Philadelphia’s Tasty Baking Company is having serious financial difficulty, even after moving to the Navy Yard and into a state of the art, energy-saving new facility.

Read a humorous Daily News editorial on how to save Tasty Baking Company:

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/our-money/How_to_save_Tastykake.html