University Of Scranton Refuses To Pay New City Parking Tax

The University of Scranton is suing the city over a new tax city officials enacted this year on parking garages and parking lots and is refusing to pay it until a judge weighs in.

The university filed suit in Lackawanna County Court on Friday, asking a judge to declare the university – a nonprofit – exempt from the city’s 15 percent tax on parking facilities where patrons pay to park.

City officials have said the tax is critical to bringing in more revenue for the financially distressed city.  Council’s 2012 budget estimates the tax will bring in $500,000.

If a judge ruled in the university’s favor, city Business Administrator Ryan McGowan said the city would lose out on a “substantial amount” of revenue from the tax.  He could not immediately provide specific numbers when contacted about the suit Friday afternoon.

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St. Joseph’s University Buying Philadelphia Cardinal’s Mansion For $10 Million

St. Joseph’s University announced Friday that it would acquire the cardinal’s residence on City Avenue from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for $10 million.

The stone mansion, on 8.9 acres, has served as the home of the archbishops of Philadelphia since 1935, when the church bought it for Cardinal Dennis Dougherty for $115,000.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who assumed leadership of the archdiocese one year ago, put the 16-room residence on the market in January. In June, he reported that the archdiocese faced a $17.5 million operating debt.

Sources said Chaput, a Franciscan Capuchin friar, was not comfortable living in a baronial-style mansion as he was preparing his flock for school and parish closings to trim the deficit.  He has also put the retired priests’ summer home in Ventnor, N.J., up for sale, with an estimated value of $6 million.

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Pennsylvania Makes Magazine’s Top 10 As Tax-Friendly To Retirees

Map of Pennsylvania, showing major cities and ...

Map of Pennsylvania, showing major cities and roads (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allegheny County residents smarting from the sting of new property assessments may not agree, but Pennsylvania was just picked as one of the 10 most tax-friendly states for retirees.

The rankings by Kiplinger magazinecompared a variety of taxes including sales, income, retirement and inheritance taxes.

Local taxes were not a factor.

Pennsylvania ranked high overall primarily because the state largely avoids dipping into retirees’ nest eggs by not taxing Social Security benefits, public and private pensions, or distributions from IRAs and 401(k)s, said Rachel Sheedy, retirement editor for the personal finance publication.

The state’s high ranking from Kiplinger follows several other recent surveys that have pointed to the Pittsburgh region in particular as one of the most livable places for retirees.

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Einstein Medical Center Montgomery Ready For Sept. 29 Debut

Location of East Norriton Township in Montgome...

Location of East Norriton Township in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

EAST NORRITON — The clock is ticking down with last-minute installation work, a required state Department of Health inspection and final cleaning before the doors open Sept. 29 on the $350 million, 146-bed Einstein Medical Center Montgomery (EMCM) hospital on Germantown Pike.

A recent press tour of the five-story facility included working journalists and four aspiring journalists from Gotwals Elementary School. Third-fourth grade teacher Katie Sortino accompanied Yazzmin Hernandez, Amayrami Lopez, Derrick Honeycutt and Zavier Wedderburn as they took notes for a late October edition of the “Healthy Press.”

A crowd of 5,000 to 10,000 local residents are expected at a Sept. 22 “Community Day and Open House,” from noon to 6 p.m., to tour the facility before an official 6 a.m., Sept. 29, hospital opening. Forty to 50 patients at Montgomery Hospital in Norristown will be transferred with six ambulances to EMCM on Sept. 29, starting at 7 a.m., said Beth Duffy, the chief operating officer of EMCM.

Montgomery Hospital had 87 patients on Sept. 5. Hospital administrators will not accept elective procedure patients at Montgomery Hospital close to the closing date to reduce the number of patients requiring transfers.

Journal Register Co., Parent Company Of The Mercury, Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Digital First Media, which operates MediaNews Group, Journal Register Co. and Digital First Ventures, on Wednesday announced that JRC filed voluntary petitions for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York and will seek to implement a prompt sale.

“We expect the auction and sale process to take about 90 days, and we are pleased to announce the company has a signed stalking horse bid for Journal Register Company from 21st CMH Acquisition Co., an affiliate of funds managed by Alden Global Capital LLC,” said John Paton, CEO of Digital First Media.

The filing enables JRC to continue normal business operations during the sale process.

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Pottstown Gallery On High Becomes Art Fusion 19464

Editor’s note:  Congratulations to our friends at Art Fusion 19464.  Arts revitalization is a key piece of Pottstown’s ability to reinvent itself and transform the borough into a once again thriving community!

POTTSTOWN, PA — As of this week, the Gallery on High is no more.

But don’t worry. You’re not going to miss any of the art exhibits, sales of local artists’ works or art classes offered there.

That’s because the nonprofit that offers appealing exhibits as well as engaging programming through its educational arm, the Gallery School of Pottstown, still exists at 254 E. High St. It just has a new name — Art Fusion 19464 — to go with a renewed and more acutely focused mission.

The name signifies the coming together — the fusion, if you will — of the gallery and educational portions of the organization, which launched in Pottstown in 2005, according to Erika Hornburg-Cooper, executive director and co-founder of Art Fusion 19464.

“We are evolving … again,” said Hornburg-Cooper. “We have so many arts and cultural amenities in Pottstown. This new name positions us as a destination.”

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Fulton Bank’s Expansion Grows By 75 Percent

Plans for Fulton Bank‘s expansion near Lancaster‘s Penn Square may have been delayed by two years, but those plans have also increased in size by 75 percent.

The county’s largest bank now plans an eight-story office building, with a two-level underground parking garage at 23 E. King St.

Project planners on Tuesday provided no cost estimate for the 159.000-square-foot building which will replace the former Sovereign Bank building now on the site.

The building was originally slated for completion in 2013.  In May, Fulton announced it would be begin construction next spring of a 91,000-square-foot, six story building that was due to be completed in spring 2015.

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$52 Million To Fix Worst Building Problems In Reading School District

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Years of neglect have left the Reading School District with a host of buildings in desperate need of repairs.

Upgrades are needed to heating systems, windows, fire safety systems, roofs and a number of other areas.

Reading has about $56 million available in bond funds for construction, and officials are in the process of figuring out how to spend it.

Michael Kautter of Kautter & Kelley Architects, who was hired to do a feasibility study, recently updated the school board on the status of the enormous project. In all, the feasibility study found nearly $83 million in needed repairs throughout the district.

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’44 Plays For 44 Presidents’ Opens Discussion Of Who Will Be No. 45

Muhlenberg College‘s production, running Sept. 29 – Oct. 3, celebrates democracy in conjunction with the first Plays for Presidents Festival

Allentown, Pa (Sept. 7, 2012) – As the 2012 presidential election approaches, Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance Department prepares to celebrate with a production of the Neo-Futurists‘ “44 Plays for 44 Presidents,” opening Sept. 29. Director Troy Dwyer leads the way as one of the founding fathers in the inauguration of the first Plays for Presidents Festival.

“People should expect to have fun, to laugh, and to be inspired to think about the world outside of the theatre,” Dwyer says.

Dwyer serves as artistic director for the production, as well as co-directing the plays with Lily Dwoskin, Jerald Kaplan and Judith Mandel, and choreographers Allison Berger and Nina Pongratz.  The play runs Sept. 29 through Oct. 3 in the college’s 100-seat Studio Theatre, in the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance.

The play highlights the lives of all 44 presidents in short, often comedic, quasi-biographical scenes.  The plays vary in style from a sepia-washed cowboy movie homage to a modern game show.

“You think you are going to see a play that will essentially be a history lesson–you’re not,” Dwoskin says.  “All of the facts in the show are historically accurate, but it is NOT a historical play.  It’s really uniquely vaudeville.  It’s crazy, a lot of things are going on.”

Muhlenberg’s production is presented as part of the Plays for Presidents Festival 2012, in which 44 theater groups from all over the country will produce “44 Plays for 44 Presidents.”  The festival is closely tied with the Rock the Vote campaign to inspire people to both register and vote.  The festival culminates in shows all around the nation in the months leading up to the presidential election, as well as an online video production of the show, including one scene from each of the 44 productions. Muhlenberg College’s scene for the collaborative film will be James Buchanan, the 15th and only Pennsylvania-born president.

“The presidential election will be less than 80 days away during show week,” Kaplan says.  “With the election quickly approaching, ’44 Plays for 44 Presidents’ really puts into perspective what we are voting this person to do.  It promotes the actual weight of being a president and reminds the audience that they have this incredible right to choose our next leader.”

Like Rock the Vote, the Plays for Presidents Festival is an entirely non-partisan movement, intended to inspire all eligible voters to hit the polls, regardless of party affiliation.

“This show puts political options in different terms, making us think more about the historical moment of now,” Dwyer says.  “It helps us imagine what the 45th play might be.”

The four directors will each be working on 11 of the scenes, working with an ensemble of 20 actors.  By incorporating multimedia, dance and music, “44 Plays for 44 Presidents” showcases a diverse group of performers.

“We’re not trying to have the actors embody each president,” Mandel says.  “The audience will and should know that they are actors; at times they even speak as themselves.  By integrating dance and song alongside the acting, the show manages to really highlight so many kinds of talent in a short amount of time.”

The show is interactive in a “super flavorful and playful way,” says Dwyer. “’44 Plays for 44 Presidents’ incites people to talk about politics by showcasing politics in a fun light.  There’s a narrative momentum to the piece that makes the audience anxious to see how the modern presidents are depicted.”

Dwyer says that — with four directors, two choreographers, five designers, four stage managers, and 20 actors — the theatre production is itself a model of the democratic process in action.

“I have been working with the other directors to ensure that this project is a democracy and not a dictatorship,” Dwyer says.  “I want to help them notice both the pitfalls and potential of their ideas.  It’s difficult to do a project of this scale, but democracy is always a challenge, because you’re catering to more than one person’s vision.  We will hopefully become a chorus of voices which will strike a harmonious final chord.”

“We are the people and we are shaping the play,” Mandel says.  “Much like ‘we the people’ are shaping the future of America with our right to vote.”

Muhlenberg College is a liberal arts college of 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa.  The college offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance.  The Princeton Review consistently ranks Muhlenberg’s production program in the top ten in the nation, and the Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States.

Performances of “44 Plays for 44 Presidents” are Sept. 29 through Oct. 3: Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Monday through Wednesday at 8 p.m.  Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for LVAIC students, faculty and staff and for patrons 17 and under.  Performances are in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.  Performance information and tickets are available at 484-664-3333 or