Officials Announce Plans To Apply For Redevelopment Runding For Reading

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

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

The city’s plans to apply for a major revitalization zone went public this morning, as the effort won approval from local business and community groups, county officials and even colleges and state legislators that will collaborate on the effort.

“We’re a team,” said state Sen. Judy Schwank, a Ruscombmanor Township Democrat.

“We’re totally committed to work on a united effort to get a proposal in place,” Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer said.

Council and the local businesses clearly are in on the effort, Council President Francis G. Acosta said.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=515531

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Poverty In Reading Worsens, Census Says

English: Downtown Reading, Pennsylvania; with ...

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

Reading’s poverty rate worsened in 2012, making it the second most impoverished city in the country behind Detroit.

The percent of city residents in poverty increased from 40.1 to 40.5, according to statistics released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

That’s less than the 41.3 percent of Reading residents who were in poverty in 2010 when Reading had a higher percentage of residents in poverty than any other U.S. city with 65,000 or more people.

But hope for Reading still exists, said Jane Palmer, principal author and coordinator of the 65-page 2011 report of the Rebuilding Reading Poverty Commission.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=512690

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

Slice Of Shale Pie Feeds Projects

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

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

Soon the playground at Gring’s Mill Recreation Area will be out of the woods, literally and figuratively.

Credit goes to an issue not likely to hit Berks County directly: drilling for natural gas.

County officials recently were told they could expect a check any day for $345,000 from the impact fees gas producers pay the state. That’s on top of the $349,068 they received last year.  The money must be spent for parks and recreation projects.

The money enables the county to bump up the timetable for projects identified in the parks department’s five-year plan, and avoid spending taxpayer money on them, county Commissioner Kevin S. Barnhardt said.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=486931

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

Crime Is Focus Of Community Forum

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

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

With quality of life one of the top factors businesses consider in deciding to move into a community, the Greater Berks Chamber of Commerce & Industry focused on one local quality-of-life issue at its “State of the Community” breakfast Friday: crime.

Panel members, chief among them Berks County District Attorney John T. Adams, said crime is not as bad as it might seem.

“There’s a misperception of the rate of crime in the city,” Adams told more than 100 Chamber members gathered at the Crowne Plaza Reading, Wyomissing.

He noted that, comparing the local rates of murders, robberies and assaults with comparable cities and counties in the region, Reading and Berks are in the middle of the pack, not worst of the pack.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=463136

Route 222 Plans Accelerating

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

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

It’s the snippet of Berks County where time appears to stop, and progress means inching forward in a line of brake lights that doesn’t seem to end.

Drivers and public officials in Berks have complained for years that the northern part of Route 222 – particularly the 7-mile stretch between the so-called Road to Nowhere expressway in Ontelaunee Township and the start of the Kutztown bypass in Richmond Township – is a commuting nightmare.  It’s also a safety hazard and a roadblock to economic growth.

But that could all change if Pennsylvania’s coffers for road projects get a little fill-up, PennDOT says.

The agency has committed to making Route 222 a four-lane highway from Reading to Kutztown if legislators adopt Gov. Tom Corbett’s plan to boost transportation funds through increases in wholesale gasoline taxes and structural changes to PennDOT.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=452737

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

Berks County Commissioners Approve Budget

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

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

Berks County property taxes will increase by 6.3 percent to 7.372 mills under the $463.6 million 2013 budget the commissioners adopted today in a 2-1 vote.

That amounts to $43.70 annually for a property assessed at $100,000.

The tax hike, which is expected to raise about $7.7 million, is the first in eight years.

Commissioner Mark C. Scott voted against the spending plan.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=435024

Chamber Of Commerce President Joins Call For Reading Crime Summit

English: Downtown Reading, Pennsylvania; with ...

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

While multiple independent efforts push toward scheduling a crime summit for Reading – including a pre-summit planning session set for Monday in the offices of state Sen. Judy Schwank – business executives are casting votes on the city’s tarnished image with their feet.

New executives hired by Berks companies are choosing to live in Chester or Montgomery counties, preferring greater proximity to Philadelphia, according to Ellen T. Horan, president and CEO of the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry.  Horan, citing conversations with officials at Berks companies, said the perception of the city as crime-infested is repelling executive talent.

“The summit is a great idea,” Horan said. “I would like to see a little more urgency.”

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=434050