Lansdale Mayor Blasts Council/Manager Over Reprimand

Location of Lansdale in Montgomery County

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The Mayor of Lansdale, Andy Szekely, has published a lengthy letter in today’s Lansdale Reporter outlining what he is claiming to be an improper reprimand given to him by Lansdale Borough Council and Lansdale’s Borough Manager.

The crux of the disagreement is over the Lansdale Performing Arts Center which the mayor feels should be funded privately and the Council is funding with taxpayer money.  The mayor made public some details about coding for the performing arts center that were discussed in Executive Session.  According to the mayor, this discussion violated the Sunshine Law plus there is no code on the borough books authorizing Lansdale Borough Council to reprimand the mayor.

When presented with the written reprimand, the mayor was told there would be “consequences” if he failed to sign the document.  Whoo! 

You can read the mayor’s letter here:

Pottstown Borough Council Meeting, January 10, 2011

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

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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.

Brick House Owner Dave Walsh Seeks Funding To Buy Building

Kudos to Dave Walsh for stepping up to the plate and once again trying to do a great thing for Pottstown.  The Brick House has been wildly successful and a huge benefit to downtown Pottstown.  Walsh runs a first class operation at the Brick House along with several other companies he owns.  Dave embodies the entrepreneurial spirit as well as being someone who cares about Pottstown!

I had the honor of interviewing Dave a couple of years ago and got to know him.  I can think of no better person to buy the most significant piece of real estate in our downtown because I know Dave will make sure it prospers for years to come.

It sounds as though Borough Council is behind Dave’s plan to seek funding to buy the building.  I can only say I 110% support this venture and am glad to see that Borough Council and Jason appear willing to issue a letter of support.  Assisting Dave in securing the necessary financing would be one of the best investments this council could make for Pottstown’s revitalization!

Two Roy’s Rants thumbs up for Dave Walsh and Borough Council!

Pottstown Borough Council Meeting 11/8/10 7:00 p.m.

The meeting was called to order by President Toroney.

Invocation – given by the Mayor.

Pledge of Allegiance

Roll Call – all present except Councilor Gibson who had battled fire all day.  (That is certainly a good reason to be absent and we thank Councilor Gibson for his dedication to the safety of our citizens).

Approval of Minutes – approved

Comments from citizens – we had a small but lively group of residents who had some things on their mind.

James Stewart – questioned how one would go about getting a house from Sheriff Sale or the Free and Clear Sale as they were poorly advertised and it seems as though we find out what was available after the fact.  Mr. Stewart said Pottstown usually does a good job of advertising their events so he was surprised this was handled so poorly.  Jason said he had his name and number and would call him when the next batch of homes comes up for sale.  Jason informed Mr. Stewart that the borough is not in charge of the poor advertising, it is the county.

Terry Sellers – is an 8 year N. York Street resident who is scared and very concerned about the recent shooting on N. Hanover St., along with the other recent incidents.  She has children and is expecting so this has traumatized her (she was visibly shaken).  She expressed concern that residents feel unsafe, abandoned by the police and the borough.  She did have a conversation with Chief Flanders prior to the meeting and felt somewhat better but in addition to being frightened, she expressed concern that this random violence will impede Pottstown’s revitalization process. (yes, it will)

Arlene Bullman – age 72 and life-long borough resident was quite perturbed that she received a notice stating her property on N. Adams street has been classified as a rental and would be subject to the new ordinance.  Mrs. Bullman stated the property was her deceased relatives and she is now the owner.  Her nephew is living in the property to keep it from being empty and subject to vandalism.  He does NOT pay rent, and this is NOT a rental property.  She asked Council how they arrived at their decision to reclassify the property.  She pays all the bills, on time.  Arlene went on to make some other comments about Pottstown and her displeasure with recent events and borough services (not a happy camper)

Julian Francis of Chestnut St. (husband of Amy Francis, Code Blue) addressed Council in a most respectful but frank way about the escalating violence in his neighborhood.  The recent shootings have been too close for comfort.   There have been three incidents of gunfire in 4 months!  Amy and Julian have children and are restricting their activities outside in light of the recent events!  They are concerned about their safety and the safety of their neighbors.  We need more police protection in the central Pottstown neighborhoods where this violence is occurring.  The family has lived in this neighborhood since 1996.

Katy Jackson, civic activist and King St. resident also addressed Council about the escalating violence in central Pottstown.  She supports Council’s recent rental ordinance changes and the things they are doing to try to correct this problem.  However, crime and violence are systemic.  It will take some time for these changes to help rid Pottstown of criminals.  Until then, we need immediate action in light of the recent shootings.  Residents are afraid and feel unsafe!  Katy again made an emotionally charged plea for Council to form a Task Force made up of civic leaders, residents, the police department and other stakeholders.  This was the fourth time in a year that Katy has asked for a Task Force. (Can we please address this problem in a meaningful and immediate way!!!)

Art Green, a 38-year Hanover St. resident and PSD teacher addressed Council and the audience.  He believes in Pottstown, he commended the police for their quick action with the last shooting and their thoroughness in investigating this most recent incident.  Mr. Green said there is one property in the neighborhood that contributes to most of the problems.  He wants his neighborhood back and is willing to take his neighborhood back.  Mr. Green feels Pottstown is not down and out.  He feels we can overcome these problems and Pottstown is still a great place to live and raise a family.  (Several people said he should consider running for Council.  Mr. Green is a charismatic speaker.)

Don Reed addressed Council with a few budget questions.  He wondered with the enhanced collection efforts recently put into place, if 92% – 94% might be on the low side and we could realistically aim higher?  He also addressed the earlier staff cuts and the option to make the 12 borough fire department drivers borough employees.  He also made some comments about the Fire Study.

Mayor’s Report – Less puppies and sunshine this month.  Bonnie spent some time talking about pulling together as a community to stop the violence through citizen involvement and promoting the Hometown Holiday events in December.

Manager’s Report – PAID was back in the news this month.  Bylaws are almost done, the Executive’s job description is being worked on, they are working toward identifying the new board of directors structure and hopefully they will be up and running January 1 with the new Executive in place shortly thereafter.  PAID will be focusing on Economic Development.  (This won’t be too soon!)

A joint meeting between the PSD BOE and Borough Council is in the works for December.  PSD has already committed and Council did last night.  It was brought up that all stakeholders should be invited to attend as well.  They will work toward a date and time that works for everyone.  On the agenda will be the Community Land Trust, Tax assessments and PAID.

Jason said he would like to move the properties Pottstown gets through Sheriff Sale through the system within 30-60 days.  Hopefully the profits from sales can be used toward filling budget gaps. 

Jason talked about his Quality of Life Budget.  He is excited about the Citizen Code Inspection Program that Reading has up and running.  He thinks this is something Pottstown can implement to involve the community and assist the Codes Department.  The citizens would supplement the Codes Department staff and although there are some safety concerns, training is provided and it has worked in Reading.  There is also a Court Watch Team that is part of the program.  Residents who are affected by bad tenants go to court as a show of support which has been effective with Judges and their rulings. (Put a face on the problem!)

Senate Bill 900, the Blight Bill, passed and will be an important tool for municipalities to use in fighting blighted and abandoned properties.  It gives municipalities far more power to seize blighted and abandoned properties and go after negligent owners for compensation to aid with clean up or demolition of the property.

Parks and Recreation got a $250K grant from Conservation and Natural Resources for phase two of the Memorial Park improvements.  A skateboard park will be built (thank God) as well as some fields will be realigned.

Keim Street Bridge – Jason keeps in touch with Penn Dot on the status of the bridge via conference call.  The inspection should be done this month and we should have results in December.  However, at this juncture, they continue to find new structural deficiencies as the inspection progresses.  The bridge will be closed for at least one year.  If it cannot be fixed then we go from there.  Jason is trying to get some temporary signals put in place to ease the traffic congestion caused by the closure.  (Residents should write their elected officials to pressure the county, state and federal government to make the replacement of the Keim Street Bridge a priority and obtain funding!)

Committee Reports

New Business

Berkheimer has been authorized by Council to serve as Pottstown Borough’s Earned Income Tax and Local Services Tax Collector.

A motion to delete sections of the Code of Ordinances relating to the Shade Tree Commission, establishing a new Pottstown Tree Ordinance and a resolution establishing approved tree species and establishing a policy for rules and regulations for sidewalk maintenance associated with tree planting were unanimously approved!  (Mr. Hylton has been pruned)

Council approved an easement for PECO Energy to remove and replace poles and trees to accommodate the High Street Bridge over the Manatawny Construction Project.  There was some Council discussion about our payment from PECO.  Evidently, PECO won’t negotiate so it is hoped that in the future they will remember our cooperation (goodwill) if we need something in return.

The Police Pension motion was tabled until December.

Council approved a motion to allow the Civil Service Commission to begin the process of developing a new eligibility list for new hires and promotions with the Pottstown Police Department.  This costs the borough nothing but is necessary as the old list expired.

Council approved the motion for Pottstown Classics Car Club to hold Nostalgia Nights downtown for the 2011 season.  This involves the closure of High and Hanover Sts. for several blocks.  This is subject to approval from the Police and Fire departments.

Budget Review

Parks and Recreation, Ricketts Community Center, Fire Fund and PCTV. 

Parks and Recreation has a deficit.  They maintain 16 parks in Pottstown, the Spray Park and hold Summer Camp.  There is nothing left to cut in the budget that will not affect programs. 

Ricketts is in the third year of being run by Olivet Boys and Girls Clubs of Reading.  It was hoped that by year three, they would be more self-sufficient and Pottstown’s contribution could be lowered.  Ricketts currently receives 100% of its funding from the borough.  It was hoped that eventually Ricketts could become a partner with Pottstown and be able to supply at least half of their budget through other funding sources.  Finance is recommending that the borough’s contribution be reduced 25% this year, 25% for year four and 25% for year five.

The Fire Fund provides working capital for Pottstown’s four fire companies.  Currently, the borough gives each company funding annually plus pays the health costs for the paid drivers.  The fire companies asked for an increase this year which Council cannot offer, however, Council will pay the increased healthcare costs of the drivers because their salaries are not high enough to absorb the increased employee contributions necessary to bridge the gap.  Insurance costs are increasing approximately $64,000 for the coming year.  The Fire Study recommended merging companies and making the paid drivers borough employees.  There will also be a need to build a new station in the not too distant future as several of the stations are barely large enough to house the equipment.

PCTV, once a money-maker and contributor to the General Fund has fallen victim to the recession and is losing money.  Pottstown owns PCTV and pays a management fee to have it run.  There are three stations.  PCTV is unique in that as a public access channel, they are allowed to collect advertising revenue.  However, advertising revenue has fallen off to almost nothing.  PCTV pays rent to the school district for their space and has an equipment lease payment to make each month.  They are not bringing in sufficient revenue to cover their expenses.  Finance is recommending a reevaluation of the management agreement for next year based on the performance of the last several years.

Report of Bills – paid!


Meeting was adjourned by President Toroney.

Pottstown’s 2011 Budget

Not that we can jump for joy just yet, but it sounds like better days are ahead on Pottstown’s financial front.  Barring any unforseen hiccups, or any contract arbitrations that run awry, we could be looking at no tax increase for next year.

First, we should thank Jason Bobst, Borough Manager, Janice Lee, Finance Director and Councilor Weand and his Finance Committee for their hard work and financial stewardship.  Everyone is working hard trying to get Pottstown’s financial house in order.  This is a rather daunting task as things have not been property attended in the past thereby making this a herculean task for the above named people.

I ran into Councilor Weand at the polls yesterday and we had a nice conversation about finances.  

Accounting is boring and most of us don’t understand much about it.  It isn’t an exciting topic of conversation and most people end up in “deer in the headlights” mode if discussed for too long. 

Our financial practices as a borough were a hideous.  Dan and his committee are trying to shore up the foundation so our house doesn’t collapse.  This is also necessary if we want to get grants and funding for projects.  Nobody wants to throw money at an organization that can’t keep track of their books!

The work accomplished this year has been tedious and rather complicated.  However, we are starting to see results that you and I can appreciate and understand.  We have a handle on the check book, we can pay our bills, we are returning Pottstown to standard accounting practices that will make our finances transparent, understandable and make us eligible for grants and such as we have a paper trail aka back-up documentation to prove what we say.  You may have noticed that lenders usually don’t just take your word for stuff.  They want proof!  Same way with municipalities folks!

Bottom line – Because of all this behind-the-scenes work, we might not have to increase taxes and maybe we can get some free money to do some awesome projects to help Pottstown become all it can be!

Keep in mind that Rome, or Pottstown for that matter, wasn’t built in a day.  This is an ongoing process.  There is more progress to be made and no one is resting on their laurels.  Keep up the good work!  We look forward to more positive results.

Treevenge, Hylton Style

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

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Yes folks, another paid utterance from our favorite Shade Tree Czar, Thomas Hylton, appears in today’s Pottstown Mercury.  This pearl of wisdom drips of acid after the last Pottstown Borough Council meeting rendered Mr. Hylton’s precious commission irrelevant with the passage of a new Shade Tree Ordinance that shifts authority for street trees to the Borough Manager.  

We are treated to another Jody Rhoads bashing and the same old tripe that Mr. Hylton bloviates time and again (see also hand waving).   

This will be short and sweet as I have exhausted myself on this subject.  

Tom, you lost.  Go away gracefully and stop making a colossal fool out of yourself.  You aren’t going to change anyone’s mind with your infomercials.  The deed is done dude.  You had your ten minutes before Council.  Obviously they don’t believe your hype either.  

Hopefully Pottstown will become a Tree City, USA and benefit from association with the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters.  I think they are qualified to assist us so we can manage without your “expertise” from here on.  

Pottstown Shade Tree Commission

An Amy Wolf of Pottstown wrote a letter to the Editor, which appeared in Thursday’s Pottstown Mercury, castigating Councilman Jody Rhoads for bringing discord to Pottstown.

Well Amy…did you bother to attend the last farce of a meeting that 15 of us sat through?  If so, Mr. Rhoads explained what he is trying to do.  He is trying to get accountability from the Commission and trying to keep homeowners with tree problems from having to decide between paying their taxes and having a tree removed when Trees Inc. has $91.000.00 in their bank account that Mr. Hylton is holding on to for a rainy day.

Replacing a roof or hotwater heater is at least a capital improvement to someone’s home.  Being forced to remove a tree you didn’t plant and that was planted in an inappropriate location should not be the homeowners reponsibility.  Then being forced to replant a tree in the same ridiculous place or be fined is futher insult to injury.

To the homeowner who can’t afford tree removal, this is a big Pottstown issue.  Everbody may not have the funds available.  Also, Mr. Rhoads stated at the poorly attended STC meeting that he had at least tried to get money but had so far been unsuccessful.  The rest of the members had done NOTHING!  One STC member said she raises money for all kinds of causes but trees aren’t her thing…out loud even!!!

Maybe you should attend the meetings or pay closer attention!