Streetlights Proposal A Nonstarter For Reading City Council

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

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

City residents have been taxed to the hilt and need help from the state to help fix Reading’s financial woes, council members said at a finance, audit and budget committee meeting Monday.

A passionate discussion about the state of the city developed during the meeting, spurred by talk of a proposal to start charging residents for streetlights.

The administration has floated the idea of charging residents for streetlights that provide light to their properties.  Carole B. Snyder, managing director, earlier presented the proposal to council, saying it would free money to pave streets.

The city currently uses money from the state liquid-fuels fund to help pay for electricity for streetlights.

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Reading Administration Revives Proposal For Streetlight Assessments

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 administration is reviving a proposal to impose a streetlight assessment that might cost a row home owner $16 a year, but larger property owners several thousand dollars.

Managing Director Carole B. Snyder asked City Council on Monday to consider introducing the enabling ordinance this month, to get some benefit from it this year.

“We don’t want to put any more burden on anyone, but we’re limited on options,” Snyder said.

The fee is being considered because it’s one of the few ways to get the 32 percent of city properties exempt from property taxes to pay for city services, she said.

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Motor City Lessons For Reading

City officials were shocked, saddened, thankful and relieved by their three-day bus trip to Detroit that began Nov. 13.

The fast-paced tour, paid for entirely by two local foundations, was to see what progress the Motor City has made in its own painful recovery, and what efforts there might work in Reading.

As Detroit’s Big Three automakers declined, tax revenues dropped and more than half its 1.8 million residents moved out. The city had to cut services such as fire suppression and police from large sections of the city.

But now, with help from foundations and businesses, it’s making numerous coordinated moves to rebuild.

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Reading City Council Closer To 2013 Budget, Size Of Tax Hikes

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

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

The city on Wednesday inched closer to a 2013 budget that would raise earned income and commuter taxes and reduce a property tax hike.

However, officials are facing critical deadlines this month to finish the deal.

“We’re close,” said Councilman Jeffrey S. Waltman Sr., who added that the budget could be wrapped up with a few more sessions. “We can’t miss those deadlines.”

Not so fast, said Council President Francis G. Acosta and Councilwoman Donna Reed, chairwoman of the Finance Committee.

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Penn Square Consultants Get An Earful

Editor’s note:  Taking care of the root problem needs happen…crime and blight need to be addressed before cosmetics can lure people downtown.  Cleaning up the downtown is necessary but business owners and shoppers need to feel safe above all else.  Without the root problem being addressed, it’s another case of putting lipstick on a pig.

The consultants designing Downtown 20/20 – what Penn Square should look like to attract more out-of-towners – say they’ve gotten an earful of criticism and suggestions at three recent public hearings, and have tweaked the plans to accommodate some comments.

But they also got an earful this week from City Council members, who said that although they liked the ideas, nothing will happen until the city begins resolving Penn Square’s larger issues.

“Nobody wants to go downtown with all the drunks sitting around,” Councilwoman Donna Reed said at a work session with the 20/20 steering committee and the consultants. “It’s just an uncomfortable, disgusting place to walk.”

She said the Downtown Improvement District said its biggest challenge is dealing with public drunkenness, and the city needs to start enforcing its loitering laws and getting rid of the reeking trash containers on North Fourth Street.

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