Reading Gets State Designation As Keystone Community

Picture 533Editor’s note:  We are very pleased to see that the leadership is trying to move Reading forward and improve the city.

Led by two dozen chanting cheerleaders from Reading High School, a procession of city and state officials this morning marched down Penn Street to a Penn Square news conference to excitedly announce the city has gotten what it began seeking a year ago:

That’s state designation as a Keystone Community, which approves its inclusion in the Main Street program and its right to seek state economic development help and millions in potential grants.

“You’re taking the challenges you face head on . . . you’re thinking strategically,” C. Alan Walker, secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, told the crowd as he announced the designation.

“One of the best things we can do to preserve our downtowns.  They’re worth preserving,” he said.

Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer said it’s always good to see something come to fruition.

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State Auditor General Rips Reading School District

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

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They very well may be the worst accounting practices in the state.

That was Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale‘s assessment of the financial situation in the Reading School District, which he shared during a press conference Friday in Reading.

“To be direct,” he said, “the Reading School District has failed its students, failed the children of Reading.  It has failed the taxpayers.”

DePasquale was in the city to release the findings of a major audit his department did on the school district.  The audit was the result of requests by local legislators to investigate the district following the discovery of a more than $15 million accounting error in December.

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Fee For Pennsylvania State Troopers On The Radar

English: Pennsylvania county map

English: Pennsylvania county map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A crash occurs on Route 183 in Penn Township.  State troopers who usually respond in that area are tied up elsewhere.

What’s a police chief in the small neighboring borough of Bernville going to do?

“As soon as I hear about an incident I’m going to respond,” Chief Brian Thumm said.

He won’t ignore a call nearby just because it’s outside his borough in state police territory.

While that’s the right thing to do, Thumm said, Bernville taxpayers are picking up the cost.

He’d like to see neighboring municipalities join with Bernville in providing local police coverage.  If that’s not an option, he’d at least like to see municipalities that rely only on state police pay for the service.

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Reading School District Short Millions; Lawmakers Want Audit

Officials in the Reading School District announced the discovery of an accounting error that has left the district short more than $15 million.

Board President Robert F. Heebner Jr. said revenues for the 2010-11 school year were overstated by about $15.6 million. Heebner said it is still unclear which revenues were misstated.

That number could change, he said, as the district is still working on digging up all the facts about the incident.

The mistake was missed in audits of the district last year but popped onto the radar during an audit of the 2011-12 school year, which is taking place now.

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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.”

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Constables Fight To Keep Share Of Parking Ticket Fines

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

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

Berks County state constables make hundreds of thousands of dollars each year serving warrants for unpaid citations issued by the Reading Parking Authority.

Last year, the authority helped draft a state bill that would allow it to handle its own delinquent parking tickets and collect an estimated $500,000 lost to what city officials call inefficiencies in the city’s constable and district court system. The measure, House Bill 1803, cleared the state House in June and was referred to the Senate.

Last month, fearing for their livelihoods, the constables launched a lobbying effort to kill the bill.

Led by Thomas Impink, elected state constable for Wernersville and president of the Pennsylvania State Constables Association, the constables pressured state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, a Delaware County Republican, to send the bill to committee, stalling its progress.

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