Berks Commissioners Expand Hotel Tax To Include Entire County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

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

All hotels and motels in Berks County must begin collecting a 5 percent room tax starting Oct. 1.

The county commissioners in a 2-1 vote Thursday extended the tax to facilities beyond the 15-mile radius of the Sovereign Center established when the tax went into effect March 1, 1997.

The tax currently produces about $1.7 million annually, with 80 percent going to the Berks County Convention Center Authority to repay money borrowed to build the center and 20 percent going to the Greater Reading Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The expansion is expected to bring in an additional $310,000 in 2014.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=488474

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Crews Prepare Berks County Courthouse, Services Center For Renovations

English: Downtown Reading, Pennsylvania; with ...

English: Downtown Reading, Pennsylvania; with Berks County courthouse on left; July 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The crew of five men put one piece of pipe after another into fittings on other pipes, building a framework of heavy duty steel on a parapet 19 stories above ground level.

They have been working on it since Monday. By the end of next week, steel I-beams will be attached securely to the framework, known as swing-stage scaffolding.  The I-beams will jut horizontally from the very top of the Berks County Courthouse.

Soon afterward workers will begin descending in baskets attached to the I-beams to give the building a $6.9 million face-lift.

The courthouse was completed in 1932. Parts of the exterior were refurbished in the 1970s and in 1992.  But this is believed to be the first total overhaul of the building’s skin.

Read more:   http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=474864

Reading Mayor’s Campaign Finances Being Probed

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer’s 2011 mayoral campaign committee – and its $10,000 gifts to each of two Philadelphia City Council candidates – is the focus of the Berks County Election Board’s probe begun in August, the board chairman confirmed Friday.

The chairman, Commissioner Mark C. Scott, also confirmed that he is the one who sought approval for the probe after studying the campaign finance reports of the Friends for Vaughn Spencer committee.

He said the Philadelphia questions are one aspect of the probe, but there are others.  He did not elaborate.

Scott said the election board has taken testimony from a number of witnesses and is reviewing the evidence.  He said the board has not yet adopted any final recommendations, but likely will issue its report in about a month.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=457692

When The Bough Breaks: Berks County Commissioners Initiate Study Of Park Trees

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

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

Most people walk through a park looking at what nature offers at eye level or lower to avoid tripping over roots or other natural features of the land.

But not Berks County Parks Director Clare W. Adams, a landscape architect.

She tends to see the beauty in the leaf canopy above her and wonder about the health of the trees.

She wants park visitors to be able to enjoy the view without having to worry about falling branches or trees.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=438817

Reading Crime Summit Objectives Outlined

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

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

Momentum toward creating a new, multijurisdiction approach to attacking crime in Reading and Berks County gathered quickly at a Thursday meeting called by county officials to plan next month’s crime summit.

The summit is set for Jan. 18, but District Attorney John T. Adams, county commissioners and others made it clear that a push to redeploy area law enforcement assets would start before then.

Their main reason was that, summit or not, there appears to be little hope of getting significant help from the financially strapped state and federal governments to deal with city and county crime.

“It is using our existing resources and redeploying them more effectively than we have in the past,” said state Sen. Judy Schwank, a Ruscombmanor Township Democrat. “I don’t see a cavalry coming.”

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=435148

Reading Crime Summit Set For Jan. 18; Corbett Commits

Editor’s note:  This is great news!  We think Mark Flanders needs to be there too since Pottstown’s problems are a result of drugs and crime moving between Reading and Philadelphia.

Months of talk about scheduling a crime summit in Reading culminated Monday afternoon when staffers of Gov. Tom Corbett said he would be available to attend Jan. 18, and local officials immediately set about planning the summit.

Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer said the inability to pin down a date with Corbett had slowed planning.  The original call for the summit was issued in May in a front-page editorial in the Reading Eagle.

“We finally got a date,” Spencer said.

Invitees will include all federal and state lawmakers who represent Berks, county commissioners, city Police Chief William M. Heim, representatives of federal agencies like the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=434351

Proposed Budget Hikes Berks Property Taxes For 1st Time In 8 Years

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

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

Berks County property taxes would increase for the first time in eight years under a proposed $462 million budget for 2013 presented to the Berks County commissioners Thursday.

If the budget would be adopted as it stands, annual taxes would rise by 6.3 percent to 7.372 mills from 6.935 mills, or $43.70 annually on a property assessed at $100,000.

The spending plan represents a $2.8 million decrease from the current year’s budget.

The tax increase would raise about $7.7 million, Budget Director Robert J. Patrizio Jr. said.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=428418

Berks County Takes No Delight In Exide Workers’ Plight

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

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

In two years, the Berks County commissioners have positioned themselves squarely against Exide Technologies lead smelting plant in Laureldale.

But a day after Exide announced plans to idle the plant and lay off 150 employees by March 31, the commissioners said Friday that they were not celebrating the news.

“We take no joy in the loss of jobs in Berks County,” Commissioner Mark C. Scott said, “but I don’t think we’re willing to trade public health for jobs.”

In the past two years, the county has appealed two separate permits issued to Exide.  According to the commissioners, the permits fell short of what is needed to comply with national air standards and do not require the company to continue operating a network of air monitors around the plant.

Read more:   http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=426525

Passenger Rail Excursions Planned For Historic Short Line In Boyertown

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

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

The sound of the whistle echoed through Boyertown Saturday as the diesel engine left a rail yard near Third and Chestnut streets pulling two hoppers loaded with scrapped steel.

The 8.2-mile downhill trip to Pottstown had begun.

Engineer Fitzhugh “Beanie” Clark said Eastern Berks Gateway Railroad is running one or two trips a week on the historic short line known as the Colebrookdale Spur.  It first became operational in 1869.

The Berks County commissioners bought the line for $1.35 million in March 2009 to save it from abandonment by a former owner, and contracted with Eastern Berks to operate it.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=401732