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 Borough Council Meeting: April 11, 2011

Many thanks to Chris Huff for being Roy’s Rants eyes and ears at tonight’s Council meeting and writing up such a thorough report!

Roll Call – All Councilors present

Approval of minutes from last meeting passed.

Newstell Marable was the only public speaker. He urged Council to keep focus on the Ricketts Center. He also reiterated his wish to see Armand Hammer Blvd. change names.

Mayor’s Report – None

Manager’s Report – The Regional Traffic Committee is looking into the timing of the lights at S. Hanover & Industrial Hwy and will be conducting traffic counts along Hanover to judge the traffic impact of the area construction projects. A traffic light will be installed in May for 724 at the 422 ramps. With College Dr. being used at the PennDOT detour for the High St. bridge project, there may be a problem with shutting down College Dr. during the Schuylkill River Festival in October. This is being investigated.

The official FEMA flood plain maps for Pottstown have been changed as part of a major update to the maps. Many parcels are affected, some being removed from the flood zone, others being added. All affected property owners are in the process of being notified. An upcoming public meeting will be held to review and discuss the maps changes with the public.

The First Suburbs meeting is Thursday, April 14th in Audubon. Buses will depart from Borough Hall at 6:30. Anyone wishing to sign-up for a bus seat, contact Borough Hall. Currently, there are 30 people signed up. They would like to have at least 75. They are hoping for a total attendance of 500 at the meeting. Jason said the major push will be for HUD to look at the voucher numbers per specific area and making HUD adopt the same inspection procedure as municipalities follow. (Currently, HUD’s inspection process is sub par to what municipalities have to follow.)

PAID will hold its first public meeting on April 28th at 6:00 p.m. at the Hill School. Everyone is encouraged to attend.

Jason stated one of his goals is to bring the Codes department up to the 21st century in regards to technology. They had explored equipping all Codes vehicles will laptops that interface with the Permit-N-Force software to help them write and track violations right from their vehicles. The quote was roughly $40,000, a large part of that cost being the laptops. Apparently, Goodwill Fire Co. has received a grant to replace all of the mobile laptops in their emergency vehicles. The current laptops are in great shape and are 2 to 3 years old. They are offering to sell what the Borough needs for a nominal fee of $6500. Jason would like this moved to the Finance Committee for discussion.

The County Storm Water Coalition is still moving forward. There is a meeting with DEP this month and they hope to have a final set of rules in place. These new storm water rules will be a tremendous burden for municipalities. The coalition has been successful in holding off the implementation of these rules, but DEP is ready to push back again. There will probably be a public meeting in May to discuss the final changes and timeline regarding this.

Recycling grants have finally been received for 2007, 2008 and 2009. These monies were awarded based on the amount of recycling the Borough does each year. The money will go to the trash fund and will partly be used to restock some recycling bins. The grant amounts were $39,770 for 2007, $49,082 for 2008 and $105,794 for 2009.

They are looking into a joint bid for street sweeping services with West Pottsgrove. They are interested in pricing for a 1x, 2x, 3x and 4x a year service.

Finally, a meeting with PECO was recently held regarding the electrical service issues with the downtown. PECO has identified some problems with 2 of the 3 major feeds into the downtown. They have an action plan in place and will be addressing infrastructure upgrades.

Committee Reports – All were accepted for ones they had, none were read. Two noted items were that an opening exists on PDIDA due to the resignation of Matt Crouse. Blighted Property made mention that there will be a public bus tour of the next set of blighted properties on April 28th at 3:30 from Borough Hall.

Agenda Items – Voted 7-0 to adopt resolution honoring retiree Andrew Madonna

Voted 7-0 to endorse the concept of the Rutgers Urban Planning Design Course for the riverfront area

Voted 7-0 to approve and accept the bid of Lointerhomes, LLC for 426 King and 467 Farmington

Voted 6-0 to adopt a resolution authorizing Goodwill Ambulance as the primary ALS and BLS provider in Pottstown. Councilor Gibson abstained due to being a life member of Goodwill.

Voted 7-0 to increase the review fees for commercial building projects

Voted 7-0 to waive the fees and costs associated with the Memorial Day parade. A very long and ridiculous conversation surrounded this. Same stuff as last year’s conversation. I’m sure it will be the same conversation we’ll endure when the 4th of July committee makes this request in 2 months.

Voted 7-0 to have the Solicitor draft an amendment to the litter ordinance. Councilor Allen spoke up that she thought this could unfairly harm property owners. She requested that the amendment also state that the businesses will held to this same rules and she would like a warning system so property owners aren’t fined right away. Jason said they could write it so that an owner would have 3 to 5 days to correct the issue before the fine applied.

Voted 7-0 to reappoint Rita Paez to the Human Relations Commission for a three year term.

Voted 7-0 to appoint Andrew Monastra to HARB for a five year term

Voted 7-0 to accept the resignation of Dan Schmoyer from Planning Commission

A motion to appoint a new member to the Planning Commission was tabled.

Council took no action (meaning they will not officially endorse or oppose) the zoning appeal for the proposed car wash at 616 King St.

Council voted 7-0 to approve the HARB certificates for the month

Voted 7-0 to pay the monthly bills totaling $2,606,016.34

Announcements – reminder that Community Clean-Up Day is Saturday, April 30th from 8 til noon. Start at Borough Hall or Empire Fire Co.

Meeting adjourned.