Plotting And Planning And Digging..Oh My! MOSAIC Community Gardens Prepared For Planting Season

photoOn Saturday, April 5, the MOSAIC CLT spent a day in community preparing our gardens for the coming growing season! Neighbors and friends swept, dug, and spread compost and smiles at our two gardens at 423 and 615 Chestnut Street. We’ll have another Garden Day on April 12 from Noon to 3 PM, and again on Wednesday, April 23 from 2 – 3 PM.

Come grow with the MOSAIC Community Land Trust!

Saturday, April 12 – Volunteer Day at the Gardens (423 and 615 Chestnut Street) from 12 – 3PM

Please plan on meeting at the 423 Chestnut Street location prior to start

Wednesday, April 23 – Volunteer Day at the Gardens (423 and 615 Chestnut Street) from 2 – 3PM

Please plan on meeting at the 423 Chestnut Street location prior to start.

COMING SOON: MOSAIC’s 2nd Beautification Contest-Prizes Awarded! Keep checking our website for more details!

Upcoming Events

Would You Love to Teach a Workshop or Attend a Table Event? Let us know! Review the dates below and send an email to wash5000@msn.com to learn more about workshop and table event activities!

Saturday, April 12, 2014 – Year of the Young Child 9AM – 11AM happening at the YMCA located at 724 N. Adams Street, Pottstown

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 – Organic Gardening Workshop from 6 – 7PM at the Pottstown Library located at 500 E High Street, Pottstown

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Pottstown School Board/Administration Speak Out Against Thomas Hylton’s Propaganda Blitz

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County
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One can hardly pick up a print edition of the Pottstown Quicksilver these days without seeing some sort of advertorial from Pottstown Citizens For Responsible Government Treasurer and School Board Director Thomas Hylton.  Mr. Hylton has tried to sway public opinion about all things Pottstown School District for some time.

Recently, Mr. Hylton went on the attack against Pottstown Superintendent of Schools Dr. Reed Lindley, current school board directors, school board candidates and the Task Force.  Things came to a head at last Thursday’s school board meeting when Dr. Lindley, Director Polly Weand and Director Robert Hartman called Mr. Hylton on the carpet for his campaign of misinformation directed toward Dr. Lindley, fellow school board members and the Task Force.

Evan Brandt’s coverage of the meeting and the background information leading up to Mr. Hylton’s tongue-lashing by Lindley, Weand and Hartman was well documented and unbiased.  I am glad to see that Mr. Hylton’s monetary contributions to the local print newspaper are not buying him “protection” from scrutiny.  Frankly, I think today’s front page article portrays Mr. Hylton in an unfavorable yet realistic light.  It’s about time!

We still think Mr. Hylton should turn over the money from Trees Inc. to the borough. 

If Mr. Hylton truly cared about Pottstown, he would stop wasting money on ridiculous advertorials, supplements and glossy post cards and use that money for something constructive.  The tens of thousands of dollars wasted could have been used for the Community Land Trust, the PDIDA Main Street Manager program, to fund a downtown ambassador program, the Pottstown Cluster or any number of projects that would benefit the citizens of Pottstown.  Instead, this money was squandered to feed Tom’s massive ego and to advance one man’s agenda.  It was not used to make a positive difference in the community he supposedly cares so much about. 

Maybe voters should think about that when election time rolls around!

Pottstown’s Community Land Trust – Urban Agriculture On The Rise

Logo of The New York Times.

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Here is an excellent article from the New York Times about farming, fresh food, health, sustainable land management, farmer’s markets, urban farming etc…  The point of Pottstown’s Community Garden, which is the Community Land Trust‘s first project, is all the above!  Click on the link below for the full story!

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/food-six-things-to-feel-good-about/?scp=1&sq=Philly&st=Search

Pottstown’s Community Land Trust And Community Garden

Community gardens often have several horticult...

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On December 20, 2010, the Community Land Trust (CLT) gave a presentation before a Pottstown Borough Council and Pottstown School Board joint meeting at the Pottstown Middle School.  The presentation included a PowerPoint document called “A Community Land Trust for Pottstown”, which explained what a CLT is and highlighted the many benefits it can bring to a community.  

Since December, Preservation Pottstown’s leadership has been replaced by the CLT leadership and is pursuing a Community Garden project with the Pottstown School District and Genesis Housing. The CLT received a grant commitment for capacity-building support from National Penn Bank.  Preservation Pottstown’s original mission and by-laws dovetail with the  CLT’s mission, to increase homeownership stabilize neighborhoods and engage in economic development. 

The new leadership is committed to the principles of a CLT and will be focusing on organizational issues over the next few months, including making a name change that reflects the specific vision of a land trust.  CLT founding members are Dave Garner, David Jackson, Chris Huff and Sue Repko.  The CLT is proud to have two members (Chris Huff and Andrew Kefer) serving on the Pottstown Planning Commission. 

The CLT will be assisted in its capacity-building efforts through the support of National Penn Bank. Following the December 20th presentation, the CLT was contacted by National Penn Bank, which has representation on the boards of the Lehigh Valley and State College CLTs. In addition to offering its expertise based on that experience, National Penn has given the Pottstown CLT a grant commitment so that it can hire a nationally renowned CLT consultant to jump-start the organization. The CLT is extremely grateful for their support. 

The CLT has been pursuing a Community Garden project for a vacant parcel in the 400 block of Chestnut Street. The Pottstown School District (PSD) owns the property.  The CLT will be partnering with PSD and Genesis Housing on the Community Garden project.  Genesis Housing’s landscape architect has developed the site plan.   

Community gardens involve residents in growing their own healthy food, help families cut down on grocery bills, and beautify neighborhoods. This project will also provide community service and educational opportunities for PSD students.  

The PSD Facilities Committee recommended that Dr. Reed Lindley, Superintendent of Schools, work with the PSD Solicitor to prepare an agreement for PSD School Board approval that transfers 423 Chestnut Street to the CLT for the purpose of developing a Community Garden.  The agreement is to stipulate that the property return to the PSD should it no longer be used as a Community Garden.  The vote was unanimous.

The CLT will be promoting and creating opportunities for arts/culture, green technologies, access to fresh food, healthy lifestyles and sustainability through affordable efficient housing, work spaces, and connections with neighborhood and community.

The CLT’s Community Garden Committee is headed by Washington Street Corridor resident Katy Jackson. Other members include: Judy Memberg, Andrew Monastra, Andrew Kefer, Mary-Beth Lydon, Joanne Waddell (president of the Pottstown Garden Club), and Eric Schmidt of Colonial Nurseries.

The CLT is looking for community support from Pottstown area businesses, churches and other organizations who are involved in community service.  They ask that you please consider donating, sponsorships or volunteering in-kind services. To get involved or make donations:  pottstownclt@gmail.com

Donations are tax deductible

This will be Pottstown’s first official community garden.   To learn about the benefits of a community garden:  http://www.communitygarden.org/learn/

The CLT’s website is: http://pottstownclt.wordpress.com/

Roy’s Rants fully supports the CLT and the Community Garden project as a way to revitalize the core neighborhood and improve the quality of life for all Pottstown residents.  We urge residents, businesses and organizations to get involved with the CLT, the Community Garden project and any future projects as they develop. 

Andrew Kefer: Pottstown Planning Commission’s Newest Member

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

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A Roy’s Rants Exclusive Interview

I had the opportunity to interview our newly elected Planning Commission Member this evening.  I was anxious to interview Andrew in light of some recent comments on local blogs.  I think it is important to get to know someone before jumping to conclusions based on supposition or fear of the unknown.

Andrew was raised in Caln Township, near Coatesville.  He was brought up to appreciate cities and urban areas by his parents, who were from Philadelphia.  As a child, he was often taken to Philadelphia where he was exposed to the many things Pennsylvania’s largest city has to offer. 

Andrew majored in Philosophy at Fordham University in NYC from 1992 to 1996.  Andrew made a conscious decision to attend college in a big city so he could have that experience.  Living in NYC allowed Andrew to visit neighborhoods, in places like Brooklyn, that were revitalized during his college years.  Andrew agrees with gentrification but he draws the line at the displacement of the original residents.  There should be a balance struck between the new and the old.

In 2003, Andrew and his wife decided to buy a home on Chestnut Street and renovate it.  They were attracted to Pottstown initially because of the reasonable rents and stayed because of the affordability of owning a home.  They were encouraged by the talk of downtown revitalization and the centralized elementary center project that was proposed for the core neighborhood.

The Kefer’s moved into their Chestnut Street home in April of 2004.  They did most of the renovation themselves.  After settling in they began to notice the level of crime in their neighborhood.  They have two children, ages 5 & 6, and the crime in their neighborhood is a concern.

The core neighborhood has a higher than usual percentage of rental properties (even for Pottstown).  People like the Kefer’s are needed to buy and renovate the existing housing stock in the core neighborhood to stabilize it.  

Andrew enjoys reading Sue Repko’s blog, Positively!Pottstown, and has since gotten to know her.  He is working with her on the Community Land Trust.  He attended the Code Blue sponsored meeting with Attorney Adam Sager at the Pottstown Diner and the summit at Invictus Ministries.  By attending these events, Andrew got to know more people in Pottstown who are making a difference.  

I asked Andrew what, if any, affiliation he has with Thomas Hylton.  Some comments were posted on SavePottstown that questioned whether he is Hyltonite.  The Kefer’s are neighbors of the Hyltons but Andrew only met Mr. Hylton one time.  He recognizes the contributions Mr. Hylton made to Pottstown; however Andrew’s approach is far different than the man he is replacing on the Planning Commission.  Andrew’s approach is:  engage in a dialogue, build a consensus and a resolution will emerge.

Andrew likes the rich architecture of Pottstown, the walkable community aspect and the adaptive reuse of buildings.  Pottstown is built-out and should take advantage of existing buildings and transform them, rather than demolish them.

Andrew would like to make the Planning Commission friendlier and cut some red tape.  We need economic development to help lower taxes, lower crime and revitalize Pottstown.  For example, there are industrial parcels all over Pottstown that would be lend themselves to things such as the manufacturing of wind turbines, solar panels and other green technologies.

Key ingredients to our revitalization will be the arts, green business and things like heritage tourism.  Andrew feels a sense of urgency that Pottstown needs to develop a vision, based on the ULI recommendations and see it come to fruition.  Pottstown can go either way.  The longer we delay moving forward the more difficult that task will become.

We wish Andrew well in his endeavors to help move Pottstown forward.  It would seem a new day is dawning in Pottstown and we finally have a critical mass of “doers” who can make the revitalization I have waited for, since 1983, actually happen.

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!

Announcements

Meeting was adjourned by President Toroney.