After Brief Uncertainty, Reading Pagoda Fireworks Will Happen On New Year’s Eve

Picture 511A little more than a week after City Council finalized a deal with the Pagoda Foundation to run the Reading landmark, Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer on Thursday afternoon vetoed the agreement.

His move involves money transfers to the foundation, and the move temporarily put the Pagoda’s New Year’s Eve fireworks show into question over liability issues. But after a meeting of foundation members Thursday evening, Chairman Lee C. Olsen said the fireworks will go on.

The foundation has been running the programs at the Pagoda the last two years without an agreement. The group had been asking the city to approve the pact before the New Year’s Eve fireworks celebration, in which the foundation has a part.

Meanwhile, City Council President Francis C. Acosta said he has called for a special meeting of council early next week to override the mayor’s veto.

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Reading Worries About Crumbling Retaining Wall, Stability Of Pagoda

Picture 511Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer said he doesn’t want to be remembered as the man who was mayor when the Pagoda tumbled down Mount Penn into City Park.

But among the myriad financial problems the city faces is the fact that a section of the retaining wall supporting the foundation of the city landmark has collapsed, and more of the wall is in danger of crumbling.

If the wall goes, the Pagoda could be next.

“It’s a serious problem because that is the foundation wall and a large piece of it is gone,” Spencer said. “Once you get that kind of erosion going it’s hard to stop.”

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Soon-To-Be-Restored Penn Street Bridge Is Turning 100 . . . And Looks It

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

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

It’s seen a century of Reading — the good and the bad, the highs and the lows.

It’s served as the entrance and the exit to the city, the first thing people see when they come and go.

But most of all, the Penn Street Viaduct — the formal name for the 1,337 feet of concrete arches that span the Schuylkill River to connect the main thoroughfares of Reading and West Reading — has become an icon.

“When you think of the city, the first things that come to mind are the Penn Street Viaduct and the Pagoda,” said George M. Meiser IX, Berks County historian.

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Plan For Takeover Of Reading Pagoda Advances

Picture 511The new nonprofit that plans to take over the city-owned Pagoda says it’s ready to rock, but agrees with the city there are too many outstanding issues, as well as confusion over board membership, to get the 99-year lease it wants.

In the meantime, both sides are considering a temporary agreement allowing the Reading Pagoda Foundation to take over operations while the other issues are resolved.

The first of them: The year-old Foundation for the Reading Public Museum has a board, but none of its members were nominated by Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer nor approved by City Council as required, member Lee C. Olsen told City Council last week.

Rather, they were members of the task force set up by former Mayor Tom McMahon and, when the foundation recommended by the task force was created, sort of morphed into the foundation board, he said.

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Foundation To Run Reading-Owned Pagoda

When Francis G. Acosta came to Reading from Puerto Rico, he went to the Pagoda, looked out over the city and proclaimed, “The sky’s the limit.”

Fifteen years later, as president of City Council, Acosta returned to the Pagoda on Thursday night and declared it a beacon of hope for a city in need of an uplift.

“Reading can use the Pagoda as inspiration for the great things we can achieve,” Acosta said.

His vision captured the spirit of “Sunset At The Pagoda,” an event that drew about 100 civic leaders to the distinctive landmark atop Mount Penn.

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