Saint Vincent Reaches Final Agreement With Highmark

Headquarters of the insurance company in Pitts...

Headquarters of the insurance company in Pittsburgh, , . Address 120 Fifth Ave., Downtown. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  Those folks at Highmark are gobbling up anything that’s not nailed down!

Erie, PA – The future of Saint Vincent Health System is now in the hands of Erie County Orphans’ Court.

Saint Vincent and Highmark Inc. have reached a definitive agreement for the Erie hospital to join Highmark’s integrated delivery system — the newly named Allegheny Health Network.

Saint Vincent would join Jefferson Regional Medical Center and West Penn Allegheny Health System in the network.  The Pennsylvania Insurance Department announced its approval Monday of Highmark’s takeover of West Penn.

“We look forward to joining the Highmark (network) in the very near future, along with Jefferson Regional Medical Center and West Penn Allegheny Health System, as we work to preserve health-care choice and ensure access to the highest level of quality care for residents throughout all of western Pennsylvania,” Saint Vincent Chief Executive Scott Whalen said in a statement.

Read more:

http://goerie.com/article/20130430/NEWS02/304309961/Saint-Vincent-reaches-final-agreement-with-Highmark

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Harrisburg Neighborhood Safety Zone Program Nabs 16 Guns, Cites Over 150 Code Violations

HARRISBURG — Police confiscated a gun, wrote nine traffic tickets and issued 100 citations for property code violations during the third phase of the capital city’s Neighborhood Safe Zone initiative.

The eight-day crackdown on crime targeted North Sixth Street between Radnor and Woodbine streets, and along North Fourth Street from Radnor to Jefferson streets, Mayor Linda Thompson said.

Thompson spoke during a news conference Tuesday to provide an update on the NSZ program launched two months ago.

Modeled after initiatives in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., the program increases enforcement in specific areas for a brief duration: police crack down on crime, then code enforcement officers survey properties for violations — resulting in everything from littering citations to deeming structures unfit for human habitation — and illegal dumping.

Read more:  http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/04/harrisburg_neighborhood_safety.html#incart_m-rpt-2

Will Dauphin County Create The State’s First Land Bank To Fight Blight?

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Dauphin County

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

The Dauphin County Commissioners will begin discussing legislation Wednesday to become the first municipality in the state to create a land bank authority to clean up vacant and blighted properties.

A land bank allows a government agency — in this case as part of the Dauphin County Redevelopment Authority — to acquire properties that are abandoned, run down and whose owners are delinquent on property tax payments.  The land bank could then rehabilitate the property and resell it or demolish the building for some kind of green space.

Land banks have been used to revitalize communities in Michigan, the Cleveland area and around Atlanta, among other places.  In year, Gov. Tom Corbett signed the Land Bank Act, hoping that municipalities here would have similar success.  City councils in Reading and Philadelphia have discussed creating land banks, as have several counties, but so far none have.

The county commissioners will discuss the measure at their weekly 10 a.m. meeting, and are expected to hold a vote next week.

Read more:  http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/04/will_dauphin_county_create_the.html#incart_river_default

Harrisburg Mayoral Race: The Bottom Line On Bankruptcy

Harrisburg mayoral candidate Eric Papenfuse has suggested entering bankruptcy would hand control of the city over to an unelected federal judge, but that’s just not true.

Even in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy for businesses, the judge does not take over operation of the company, notes Widener law professor Juliet Moringiello. In a Chapter 9 filing for municipalities, the powers of the judge are even more limited.

Separating fact from fiction is not always easy as bankruptcy becomes a talking point in the Harrisburg mayoral election.

The Patriot-News has talked to a number of bankruptcy experts, including people involved with the Harrisburg Receiver’s negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on the record about the process.

Read more:  http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/04/harrisburg_mayoral_race_the_bo.html

Pittsburgh City Council Approves Security Cameras For Homewood

Locator map with the Homewood West neighborhoo...

Locator map with the Homewood West neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania highlighted. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After heated discussion, Pittsburgh City Council passed two bills to install surveillance cameras and a gunshot detection system in a three square mile area in Homewood at a cost of $1.15 million.

The bills were sponsored by Councilman Ricky Burgess, who said recent violence in the East End underscores the need for the surveillance cameras and the gunshot detection system, which has the ability to pinpoint the location of gunshots and notify authorities.

Councilman Patrick Dowd and Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak opposed the package of bills.  Ms. Rudiak said she was concerned about how the project was proposed and funded.  The money for the project will come from the 2014 capital budget, banking on the fact the city will likely run a surplus this year.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/pittsburgh-city-council-approves-security-cameras-for-homewood-685652/#ixzz2Rz6U5M4S

U.S. Steel CEO Surma Says Company Studying Ways To Cut Costs

U.S. Steel Tower in downtown Pittsburgh, Penns...

U.S. Steel Tower in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The same day his company reported a worse-then-expected quarterly loss, U.S. Steel chairman and CEO John P. Surma told shareholders the Pittsburgh steel producer is undertaking a thorough study of how to reduce costs and is considering an iron-related joint venture with Republic Steel‘s plant in Lorain, Ohio.

Lower sales and shipments brought about the loss, Mr. Surma said.

U.S. Steel reported it lost $73 million, or 51 cents per share, versus a loss of $219 million, or $1.52 per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Sales fell 11 percent to $4.6 billion while shipments declined 3 percent to 5.5 million tons.  Pricing was flat compared to fourth quarter levels but below prices in last year’s first quarter.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/us-steel-reports-larger-than-expected-quarterly-loss-685642/#ixzz2Rz4SE7hE

Allentown Hockey Arena Zone Businesses Putting Up Money For Downtown Improvements, Facades

The PPL Building (seen here in the distance) i...

The PPL Building (seen here in the distance) is the tallest building in Allentown, Pennsylvania. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Conscious that the borders of Allentown’s new arena district could become a visible dividing line between the haves and have nots, two downtown businesses are pumping $300,000 into the neighborhood just outside the arena zone.

City Center Investment Corp. will donate $200,000 and PPL will kick in $100,000 to help as many as 30 businesses along Hamilton Street remake their storefronts.

The deal comes as city and community leaders have spent months considering how to help the massive tax incentives undergirding the $272 million arena, hotel and office complex spill into the struggling communities just outside the Neighborhood Improvement Zone.

Under the program, businesses along Hamilton Street, between 10th and 12th streets — the first two blocks outside the NIZ — can get grants of roughly $15,000 to reface their shops.  By the time city officials finished their 20-minute news conference Monday to announce the program, six eligible businesses had already expressed interest in the free money.

Read more:  http://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-allentown-hockey-arena-facades-20130429-55,0,6163711.story

State Legislators Respond To ACLU Lawsuit Against Norristown

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NORRISTOWN — Rep. Mike Vereb (R-150th Dist.) and Rep. Todd Stephens (R-151st Dist.), along with Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman urged Norristown officials to repeal or modify its controversial nuisance ordinance to protect victims of domestic abuse and discussed possible legislation to ensure that those victims would be protected statewide at a press conference on Tuesday morning.

The ordinance, which is currently being challenged in federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union, was adopted in 2008 and permitted the suspension or revocation of a rental license if the police are called to the property three times for disorderly behavior.

“For me, the most important part of today is speaking directly to the victims of domestic violence who are in the community,” said Ferman.  “I think it’s so important that they know that they can call the police.  They should call the police.  They should call for help.  We will not allow anything to stand in their way and we will be here to support them.”

“We’re here for victims, to let them know that we’re not going to allow any borough, municipal, or city ordinance get in the way of their access to help,” said Vereb.  “We should focus on the goal here.  The goal is to get the thugs off of the streets and out of the rental properties.”

Read more:  http://www.timesherald.com/article/20130430/NEWS01/130439974/state-legislators-respond-to-aclu-lawsuit-against-norristown#full_story

Manhunt For Alleged Pottstown Killer Ends; Maurice Andrews Apprehended

NORRISTOWN – A Pottstown man, the subject of a police manhunt for his alleged role in a plot to execute another man in a hail of bullets outside a borough bar, is no longer on the run.

Maurice Laverne “Reece” Andrews Jr., 19, whose last known address was in the first block of North Charlotte Street, has been apprehended by Montgomery County detectives in connection with the 2:17 a.m. March 22 gunshot slaying of Victor Enrique Bonilla Baez outside Brian’s Café in the 300 block of Jefferson Avenue.

“We never stopped looking for Mr. Andrews.  It was a 24 hour, seven-day-a-week pursuit of Mr. Andrews and ultimately we were able to apprehend him due to the great work of our detectives and law enforcement agencies,” Assistant District Attorney Nathan Schadler said on Tuesday.  “This was a full court press.  We used every means available. It ended successfully.”

Andrews is charged with first-, second- and third-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and firearms violations in connection with the alleged shooting death of Baez, who authorities said was unarmed. Authorities alleged Andrews was involved in an ongoing feud with Baez at the time of the fatal shooting.

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20130430/NEWS01/130439953/manhunt-for-alleged-pottstown-killer-ends-maurice-andrews-apprehended#full_story

Cindy Conard For Pottstown Council In The 7th Ward

255662_235030059971035_2078731079_nRevitalization in our community will require partnerships between local, county and state governments as well as local grassroots leaders.  Council representatives not only represent their constituents, they represent the community.  By nurturing relationships with decision makers at every level we can bring focus to our goals and objectives.

 

Lancaster Bible College Investing Its Trust In Downtown Lancaster

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

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

The Trust Performing Arts Center has been open less than a month, but it’s fitting quite nicely into the downtown arts scene.

During its first First Friday, April 5, more than 600 people came to check out the place.  And that makes the folks at the Lancaster Bible College, which runs the Trust, quite happy.

“There’s something very vibrant about downtown Lancaster, and we want our students to be a part of that,” says Robert Bigley, head of the music performance program at Lancaster Bible College.  “We want them to get out of the church bubble, to get out in the real world.”

Like Millersville University, which runs The Ware Center, located across a parking lot from the Trust, LBC wanted a satellite location that would engage students and audiences apart from the campus.

Coming downtown was the goal.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/842459_LBC-investing-its-Trust-in-downtown-Lancaster.html#ixzz2Rri6xzvW

Pennsylvania Approves Highmark-West Penn Allegheny Health System Merger

Headquarters of the insurance company in Pitts...

Headquarters of the insurance company in Pittsburgh, , . Address 120 Fifth Ave., Downtown. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department today gave conditional approval for insurer Highmark Inc. to affiliate with the financially ailing West Penn Allegheny Health System, laying the foundation for Highmark’s plans to establish an integrated health care delivery system to compete with UPMC.

Insurance commissioner Michael Consedine, in a release announcing the decision, said, “Our goal from the outset was to have a comprehensive, transparent review in order to make a fully informed and well-founded determination.  We have met that goal.”

In statement, Gov. Tom Corbett said “the goals for the commonwealth are to improve health care access, quality and affordability.  Today’s decision is an important step toward making these goals a reality in Western Pennsylvania.”

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/state-approves-highmark-west-penn-allegheny-health-system-merger-685517/#ixzz2RreWfl90

Conshohocken Retains Its Sense Of Community

Location of Conshohocken in Montgomery County

Location of Conshohocken in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Forty-nine years ago, Conshohocken leaders began crafting a comprehensive plan to transform the grimy old mill town into a modern, livable municipality, albeit a small one.

At just over one square mile, Conshohocken is shoehorned into a bend of the Schuylkill River, but is within earshot of I-476 and the Schuylkill Expressway, two of the region’s major arteries.

It took several decades, but between the vision of past leaders and the impact of that pair of highways, Conshohocken has become one of the region’s hottest neighborhoods, with sleek condo towers, destination restaurants and corporate headquarters along the waterfront, and a locally owned, family-friendly strip of restaurants, bars, and stores along Fayette Street.

Over the last decade, Conshohocken’s population has grown younger, wealthier and whiter, according to U.S. Census data.

Read more:  http://www.philly.com/philly/neighbors/main_line/20130429_Conshohocken_retains_its_sense_of_community.html

Philly-Area Gas Prices Dropping, Could Fall Below $3.00

Gas prices in the Philadelphia region are falling — and if that trend continues, the price could soon dip below $3 a gallon at some stations.

GasBuddy is reporting prices as low as $3.05 this morning in Woodbury, Gloucester County.  Gas can be found for $3.11 at other stations in South Jersey, and as low as $3.28 in the Pennsylvania suburbs and $3.29 in Northeast Philadelphia.

The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in the Philadelphia area is $3.46 in Pennsylvania and $3.24 in New Jersey, according to AAA.

Read more:  http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Philly-area_gas_prices_dropping_could_fall_below_3.html

Multiple Bridge Construction Projects Impact Businesses, School Bus Routes

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

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BIRDSBORO — Over the past year, residents of Birdsboro have been forced to use detours and circuitous routes to get around the borough due to two bridges under construction.

But that’s about to get easier.  Well, for some people.

For their neighbors in Union and Amity townships, it might get harder.

Construction on the Hay Creek Bridge and a new bridge over the Schuylkill River on Route 345 both started in August 2012.

Because of the construction, tractor trailers traveling on Route 724 had to start their detour for Route 345 as far east as Route 100 in North Coventry.

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20130429/NEWS01/130429354/multiple-bridge-construction-projects-impact-businesses-school-bus-routes#full_story

Pottsgrove Parent: French Teacher Can’t Speak French

Location of Lower Pottsgrove Township in Montg...

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

LOWER POTTSGROVE TOWNSHIP – The Pennsylvania Department of Education has rejected a complaint filed against district administrators by the parent of a Pottsgrove High School student who argued the district has been negligent in ensuring that the school’s French teacher knows the language well enough to teach it.

In the complaint and in conversations with a reporter, Tony DiPaolo said he had tried for five months to work with the district’s administrators to resolve the issue, particularly when the teacher in question went on leave and the opportunity to find a native language speaker presented itself, but he met resistance and bureaucracy every step of the way.

In the end, “I had no choice,” he said.  “This not only affects my son, but all the other students who think they are being taught proper French.”

DiPaolo is multi-lingual.  His parents are Italian and spoke Italian in the home.  That home was in Montreal and Dipaolo attended a private school there staffed by instructors from France.

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20130429/NEWS01/130429239/pottsgrove-parent-french-teacher-can-t-speak-french#full_story

Why The School District Of Lancaster Is Financially Thriving When Similar Districts In Pennsylvania Are Failing

Times are tough for urban school districts in central Pennsylvania.

Saddled with stagnant tax bases and serving large numbers of low-income and special-needs students, they’re struggling to stay afloat in the face of steep cuts in state and federal education funding.

But School District of Lancaster isn’t experiencing the economic woes of its neighbors.

The school districts in York city and Harrisburg have been declared “financially distressed” by the state, which appointed financial recovery committees to develop radical plans to keep them solvent.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/842996_Why-the-School-District-of-Lancaster-is-financially-thriving-when-similar-districts-in-Pennsylvania-are-failing.html#ixzz2RoBpQLeT

Hazleton Mayor: Graffiti-Marred Trestle Sending Wrong Message

Downtown Hazleton, PA

Downtown Hazleton, PA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hazleton Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi believes a railroad trestle that greets motorists who enter the city from South Church Street should serve as a welcome sign that leaves a lasting impression with people who pass beneath it.

But in its graffiti-covered state, the bridge is sending the wrong message, the mayor contends.

A racial slur that was spray painted on the bridge years ago greets northbound motorists shortly after they cross into city limits.  A pedestrian walkway beneath the trestle is deteriorated to the point where people must walk on the street.

“It’s like the welcoming sign to Hazleton and it’s got a nasty message beneath it,” Yannuzzi said.  “I don’t think it should be there.”

Read more:  http://standardspeaker.com/news/mayor-graffiti-marred-trestle-sending-wrong-message-1.1480501

Downtown Wilkes-Barre Putting On A New Face

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

The loud purple facade of the former Flaming Star Tattoos shop will soon be toned down to fit in with the downtown Wilkes-Barre neighborhood’s historical character — a subtle yet significant sign of once-shuttered storefronts being renovated or reopened around the theater complex.

It wasn’t just the color that unsettled city officials who saw the potential for the shop’s row of old architecture on South Main Street. It was the way the vibrant hue stopped midway up the building in an uneven line, accentuating the unfinished progress of the paint job and much of the neighborhood.

“One of the first things the new owners will do is repaint that facade,” said attorney William Vinsko, who bought the building at a Luzerne County back-tax auction for $33,000 last week on behalf of private clients who will be identified when the deed is recorded.  The buyers plan to renovate the property at 86 S. Main St. to attract tenants, Vinsko said.

Next door, Joseph and Pamela Masi are redoing the facade and interior of their property, which previously housed Topper’s topless bar, Vinsko said.  The Masis, who purchased the property for $85,000 in 2010, have added an ice cream shop at the rear of the property.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/462842/Putting-on-a-new-face

Norristown Arts Hill Festival Set For May 4

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NORRISTOWN ­­— The fourth annual Norristown Arts Hill Festival on May 4 will have more than 30 music, theater, dance and spoken word acts on DeKalb Street from Lafayette Street to Penn Street.

The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the street will be closed to traffic from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Traffic on Main Street will continue throughout the festival day.  The Showcase Stage on DeKalb Street, across from the Centre Theater, will start with children’s acts from 10 a.m. to noon.

The festival will feature “Kids Corner,” a family-friendly, child-friendly performance, vending and activity area located in the 200 block of DeKalb Street.  Other musical acts are scheduled for later in the day on the Showcase stage.

The Festival Stage, on DeKalb Street above Penn, will feature 30-minute musical acts that will begin on the hour, said Richard Rogers Jr., the president of the Norristown Arts Council.

Read more:  http://www.timesherald.com/article/20130427/NEWS01/130429586/norristown-arts-hill-festival-set-for-may-4