Pottstown Poised To Loosen Tree Rules

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note: What’s that I hear?  Is it the sound of wailing coming from the 200 block of Chestnut Street?  To say the tree ordinance was “a little bit extreme” is the understatement of the decade.

POTTSTOWN — Borough council is expected to vote Monday on a proposal to lessen the requirements for plantingtrees when a property is developed or re-developed.

Specifically, the vote would authorize Borough Solicitor Charles D. Garner Jr. to advertise an amendment to the borough’s sub-division and land development ordinance, known as a SLDO, and would apply to “open space trees” and to “parking lot trees.”

“This is the result of an ongoing theme at the planning commission,” Garner told council during the Wednesday work session.

“We were calculating a large number of trees and then granting waivers and it was becoming problematic,” he said.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20130906/NEWS01/130909576/pottstown-poised-to-loosen-tree-rules

Hylton’s Crash And Burn At School Board Meeting

Pottstown School Board Meeting

March 18, 2010

7:30 pm

Pottstown Middle School

Large Group Instruction Room

2nd Floor

I am going to try and streamline this report. 

The Meeting was called to order.

Matthew Moyer, Principal of Rupert Elementary School did a very nice Power Point presentation, set to music, of events at Rupert for the 2009/2010 school year.  One child from each grade, K – 5, read a paper they had written and received an award.  There was much applause! 

District Solicitor Kalis gave his interpretation of the Sunshine Law and then stated that the Neighborhood Schools Committee members did give the appearance and created a public perception of impropriety.  He also stated that in the future these types of meetings should not take place. 

A letter was then read from a retired borough resident in support of Mr. Hylton’s plan to made capital improvements to all 5 elementary schools and move the 5th grade into the middle school.

Rick Huss, Board President then came to the microphone and addressed the board and patrons aka taxpayers.  He stated that his vision for a way forward is to create a task force of board members, administrators, teachers, federation members, taxpayers and business people.  This task force would take the next several years to hammer out a plan and then start construction in 2 – 3 years.  Mr. Huss asked Mr. Hylton to pull his motion off the table and also asked Mrs. Weand to take her motion off the table in light of forming a task force.  Mrs. Weand agreed but Mr. Hylton was not at all agreeable to pull his motion off the table.  Mr. Hylton stated he wished Mr. Huss would have notified him prior to the meeting.  Mr. Huss replied he didn’t make up his mind until the meeting started.  The room was FULL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  That probably helped some!  That and the Code Blue protest in front of his house yesterday.

Nat White, Chairman of the Policy Committee stressed that remarks from patrons be kept to 3 minutes, be civil, respectful and not be repetitive.  Comments were to be addressed to the President, Mr. Huss, only.

Mrs. Zahora asked about the Superintendent Search.  Mr. Krem has not officially resigned but it is common knowledge he is leaving Pottstown over the summer.  An Executive session was going to be held to discuss that per Mr. Huss.

Mr. Thees asked if a newer boiler was taken from the administration building and placed in Franklin School.  The answer was yes.  Franklin has two boilers; one came from the administration building.

Maureen Allen, Second Ward Councilor, addressed the board stating no schools should be closed.  Barth School was particularly mentioned and she presented an email from someone to Mr. Huss.  I was confused exactly what that was all about. 

Mr. Morgan gave a brief talk about the pension crisis that will impact all school districts in Pennsylvania.  The contributions for teacher pensions by PSD will go from $500,000.00 a year to $3.3 million a year in five years.  The cost per year for homeowners will go from $54.00 per household to $358.90 per household in five years.  OUCH! 

Mr. Marable wanted to know who will be on the task force and would it be a committee within a committee.  Mr. Huss has a person in mind to head the committee who has no association with PSD. (Good idea).  Mr. Marable also had comments about 5th graders in the Middle School and closing the administration building. 

David Krem gave his Superintendent’s report.

The main event of the night was as follows:

Mr. Hartman explained the Reynold’s contract.  Do we want to spend $20,000 to have a local King of Prussia firm do an efficiency study on the district and show ways to save money?  This includes behavior modification (turning off lights etc….) as well as other efficiency suggestions that could be implemented as policy for the district.  After some questions and discussion the motion carried that the district will spend the money. 

Next Mr. Hylton made one last plea for us to adopt his big-ticket recommendation to upgrade all five elementary schools, move the 5th grade into the middle school and move the administration functions into the high school and close the annex.  Mr. Hylton skillfully maneuvered through why certain people were no longer on the school board, how he was doing what the people voted him in to do and also managed to slam Code Blue as well.  Those pesky Code Blue hate mongers were blamed for everything (wink). 

Mr. Hartman basically stated that Crabtree, Rohrbaugh gave us what we asked for.  We didn’t actually listen to their suggestions about the elementary schools.  Hartman asked that we put a hold on Hylton’s big-ticket plan because of the economy and the district’s financial situation while we wait to see if the economy improves.  This task force gives us two years planning time to get ready to move forward when it is more economically feasible.  The 15 year repayment period is too short.  It should be 30 years so we can have payment terms that are affordable to the district.  We also have $28 million dollars available to use that we were previously approved for so this stimulus money doesn’t really make sense.

Board member, Valerie Harris stood by her man Hylton and stated that the cost this plan was only $108.00 a year per taxpayer.  However, that is $108.00 per year for every $80,000 dollars worth of property value.

Mr. Morgan presented a plan he came up with as another option for a way forward.    He also was happy with the task force idea.  Morgan stated geothermal is a luxury we can’t afford at this time. 

Jeff Leflar of Code Blue talked about the fiscal folly of this catastrophic plan and that we need to focus on education that we can afford.  He brought up the point that once we present this plan for the stimulus loan we can’t go back and change the plan after it is approved.  He stated he is not anti-Hylton, but he is Pro-Pottstown.

Ed (didn’t catch a last name) stood up and said he sends his children to parochial school because he didn’t want his kids to go to Franklin because of the modulars.  He is an educator.  He wants to see the district take action and move forward.

Tamara Chomnuk stated that the neighborhood schools aren’t bringing families into Pottstown.  Instead they are locating in suburban areas with perceived better schools and perceived safer environments.  She advocated working with the new partnership being created from the ULI Study.  We need to wait before making any decision to spend a lot of money at this time. 

Phil Thees is concerned about the uncovering of asbestos during construction, safety issues in general and doesn’t want money from the bankrupt federal government.

Newstell Marable commended the board and administration for providing PSD students with an excellent education.  He cautioned being in a rush to apply for this money.  It will around after April 1st.

Amy Francis cleared the air about Code Blue after Mr. Hylton’s attacks earlier in the meeting and in the Pottstown Mercury in the form of a paid advertisement where he went as far as to name names of people who disagree with him and called them cyber-bullies and hate mongers.  Amy is looking at the ULI Study and the new partnership being formed as a way forward and the school district needs to be part of that partnership.  She commended Mr. Huss for forming a task force.

Judyth Zahora stated that her children had a great education at Franklin School and that the gentleman who put his children in parochial school should put his kids in Franklin.  She said that bricks and mortar are not more important than education.  Mr. Hylton’s proposal only addressed bricks and mortar.

There were other people who talked as well but you get the idea.

So after much talking the roll call vote was taken to move Mr. Hylton’s proposal forward.  A yes vote would have advanced the Neighborhood Schools Committee recommendation.

Hartman  – no, Huss – no, Hylton – yes, Pargeon – no, Wausnock – yes, Weand – no, White – yes, Wilson – no, Harris – yes. 

Neighborhood Schools Committee recommendation is DOA 5 – 4!

Mrs. Weand made a motion to allow the patrons to speak at both the committee of the whole and the regular voting meeting.  There was discussion between board members and patrons were allowed to speak.  A roll call vote was taken:

Hylton – no, Pargeon – yes, Wausnock – no, Weand – yes, White – no, Wilson – yes, Harris – yes, Hartman – yes, Huss, yes.

Taxpayers will be allowed to speak at both meetings each month!

Mrs. Weand made a motion that the Neighborhood Schools Committee should become a data collection only sub-committee and supply that information to the Facilities Committee who will present information to the full board.  Facilities is chaired by Robert Hartman. There was a motion to table.  A roll call vote was taken.  A yes vote would have tabled the motion to make NSC a sub-committee, and a no would clear the way. 

Harris – yes, Hartman – no, Huss – no, Hylton – yes, Pargeon – no, Wausnock – yes, Weand – no, White – yes, Wilson – no.

Motion not tabled – More discussion ensued.

A roll call vote was taken to pass the motion. 

Hartman – yes, Huss – yes, Hylton – no, Pargeon – yes, Wausnock – no, Weand – yes, White – no, Wilson – yes, Harris – no.

The Neighborhood Schools Committee is now a sub-committee that will report in a data collection function only to the Facilities Committee.

Board members and administrators gave final comments except Mr. Hylton. 

Meeting was adjourned at 10:05! (Mr. Wausnock was walking out the door before the meeting was actually adjourned looking grumpy).

Mrs. Weand had a great night!  Mr. Hylton, not so good.  Mr. Huss played his cards right.  The meeting was a great success, very productive, cordial and the ground work was laid to move forward.  It’s very late and I am very tired.

Borough Council Moves Closer To Approving Grant Application To Aid Pottstown Homeowners With Tree Problems

Well slap me silly and call me a monkey’s uncle.  It looks like we might have found some grant money to help with tree problems. WOW!  How the heck did that happen? You mean somebody on the Shade Tree Commission actually found some money?

Thanks be to God Council is handling this themselves.  $200K might be more than Trees, Inc. needs to add to their whopping $92,000 kitty.

Council will vote to approve the application at the April meeting. This money would provide for asphalt sidewalk repairs cased by curb trees.

Hylton Gets A Green Light For More Secret Meetings

So it seems the PSD solicitor, Stephen Kalis, feels hush-hush Hylton didn’t do anything wrong when he excluded the majority of the school board from his Neighborhood Schools Committee recommendations.  The details were sprung on the the majority of the school board and the community last Monday night.

Great, let’s encourage this stealthy behavior.  Evidently the Sunshine Law doesn’t have any teeth.  Maybe some super Polygrip is in order?  Where is Martha Raye when we need her?

I have “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad” running through my head.  All aboard, the PSD train has been hijacked and is headed toward financial ruin.

And who really uses words like salubrious in conversation?  Was that in the Reader’s Digest?

The Hater-Aid Continues Against Councilman Rhoads

I read, with much disgust, a letter to the editor in today’s Pottstown Mercury lambasting Jody Rhoads.

This is getting old folks. 

1.  Jody does not hate trees.  He wants us to be responsible with trees.  Trees have their place but not at the expense of taxpayers in this borough.  Sorry if this does not compute.

2.  Mr. Hylton, rules the Shade Tree Commission with an iron fist and is arbitrary in his treatment of taxpayers with tree problems.   Trees are NOT more important than people.  They are wonderful and I am glad we have so many BUT they should not present a hardship to homeowners.  Trees do NOT pay taxes!!!!!!!!!

3.  The Shade Tree Commission has entirely too much money and too much power to be controlled by Mr. Hylton.  Until Jody came along, the rest of you were like bobble-head dolls and went along with whatever the Shade Tree Czar commanded from on high. 

4.  I believe this letter was “encouraged” as it smacks of a paid political announcement during campaign time.  Frankly, I dislike paid political announcements.

A new day is dawning in Pottstown.  Let the elected officials run this town and shut down these agenda lobbyists while there is still time!

Pottstown Shade Tree Commission

An Amy Wolf of Pottstown wrote a letter to the Editor, which appeared in Thursday’s Pottstown Mercury, castigating Councilman Jody Rhoads for bringing discord to Pottstown.

Well Amy…did you bother to attend the last farce of a meeting that 15 of us sat through?  If so, Mr. Rhoads explained what he is trying to do.  He is trying to get accountability from the Commission and trying to keep homeowners with tree problems from having to decide between paying their taxes and having a tree removed when Trees Inc. has $91.000.00 in their bank account that Mr. Hylton is holding on to for a rainy day.

Replacing a roof or hotwater heater is at least a capital improvement to someone’s home.  Being forced to remove a tree you didn’t plant and that was planted in an inappropriate location should not be the homeowners reponsibility.  Then being forced to replant a tree in the same ridiculous place or be fined is futher insult to injury.

To the homeowner who can’t afford tree removal, this is a big Pottstown issue.  Everbody may not have the funds available.  Also, Mr. Rhoads stated at the poorly attended STC meeting that he had at least tried to get money but had so far been unsuccessful.  The rest of the members had done NOTHING!  One STC member said she raises money for all kinds of causes but trees aren’t her thing…out loud even!!!

Maybe you should attend the meetings or pay closer attention!

Pottstown Shade Tree Commission Update

In my Pottstown Herald article covering the last Shade Tree Commission meeting I reported that a property owner on Keim Street was having a major tree problem.  

The property owner was told by the Shade Tree Commission that he would have to foot the bill to have a tree removed from his property.  The offending tree was ready to fall onto Keim St. and had been hit twice by vehicles.  The property owner is retired and did not have the funds to pay for a tree removal.  He asked for assistance and was turned down by Mr. Hylton.  The property owned said he could either pay his taxes or cut down the tree, but he could not do both.

Now the tree has been cut down and mysteriously paid for by an unknown source.  I find that very interesting.  Don’t you????