Monday, January 22, 2018

Forget the Super Bowl, Go to the Soup Bowl

ArtFusion 19464's annual Soup Bowl fundraiser is almost here.

The event, which features gourmet soups served in hand-made bowls in the ArtFusion studios, will be held on  on Jan. 27 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The snow date is Feb. 3

Advance tickets are $20 and include unlimited soup, bread, beverages and homemade desserts. 

(Plan ahead and save $5. If any are available, tickets at the door will be $25.)

Although this fundraiser has been held before, it will be the first time it is held at the studio's new location, 341 Beech St. in the former Fecera's Furniture building.

Panera Bread has once again donated baguettes. Lily's Grill and Grumpy's have again donated soup.

If you too would like to make some soup to donation, email ArtFusion 19464, or at 610-326-2506 to get all the details.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Phoenixville Board Member Resigns, $10M Borrowed

Photo by Evan Brandt

MIGHTY MATHEMATICIAN: Leah Kerry, an eighth grader at Phoenixville Area Middle School, not only earned the best score in the school on the AMC Grade 8 Math Competition, she also was named to the contest's honor roll, meaning she scored among the top 5 percent nationwide, her principal, Frank Garritano, right, told the Phoenixville School Board Thursday night.

The Phoenixville Area School Board unanimously accepted the resignation of board member Michael Ellis at last night's school board meeting.

Ellis was a board member since 2015.

A press release issued by the school district gave no reason for the resignation, but noted "the Board of School Directors sincerely appreciates Mr. Ellis’ dedication to all of the stakeholders of the Phoenixville Area School District, and wishes him the very best in his future endeavors."

School Board President Lisa Longo said she would like the vacant seat to be filled by Feb. 15.

Toward that end, those interested in applying for the seat should have a letter of interest at the office of Superintendent Alan Fegley by Monday, Feb. 5.

To apply, you need only be 18 years old, of good moral character and a resident of the school district for at least one year.

The board will conduct public interviews of the applicants at its Feb. 8 meeting and a vote on a replacement for Ellis will take place that night after the interviews are concluded.

Whomever is chosen will serve into December of 2019.

The other major event that occurred Thursday night was a vote to sell bonds worth $9,950,000 that had been put up to auction online earlier in the day. The auction was won by Janney Montgomery Scott, which will earn an interest rate of 3.15 percent.

That rate is lower than the one predicted in October when the measure was reviewed by the school board, said Jaimie Doyle from Public Finance Management.

There were a total of 29 bids on the bond attracted, perhaps, by the district's AA2 rating financial rating which is good enough to not require bond insurance, Doyle said.

Stanley Johnson, the district's director of operations, said the bond is essentially paying the district back for money it lent itself from its general fund, about $6 million of which was used in the construction of the new Manavon Elementary School, and the other $4 million for the expansion and security project at the high school.

The bonds can be paid back no- sooner than May 15, 2023.

Here are the Tweets from the meeting:

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

UP Fire Truck Purchase Delayed, Tax Break Mulled

Photo by Evan Brandt

THE PASSING OF THE GAVEL: Newly installed Upper Pottsgrove Township Commissioners President Trace Slinkerd, left, presents Elwood Taylor, who served as commissioners president for 12 years, with a person gavel to thank him for his years of service.

Few enterprises stir more passion, or require more dedication, than volunteer fire service.

In Upper Pottsgrove, where the township's administrative offices are in the basement of the firehouse, the relationship between township and fire company officials is better than it once was.

But that doesn't mean everything always goes smoothly.

Case in point: armed with a price that would increase by $7,000 with the coming of the new year, members of the Upper Pottsgrove Fire Company appeared before the township commissioners Tuesday night with the hope of getting approval for the purchase of a $331,000 fire truck.

It would replace a 1983 pumper the fire company purchased from the North End Fire Company whose parts now qualify as nearly impossible to find.

With the payments on the most recently purchased truck running out in December, and money saved to make the down payment, the fire company hoped the board would agree to the purchase of a smaller, more-versatile pumper that could be had without an increase in spending or taxes.

ROAD WARRIORS: Also recognized Tuesday night was
Upper Pottsgrove's  

road crew, Justin Bean, Joe Alessi
and Jeff Imbody.
The fact that the purchase price was included in the budget just made it seem that much more likely.

But they had not counted on the changing of the guard, the fact that two new commissioners had come on board and had no knowledge of the issue, or that they would be asked to vote on spending that much money the same night they were hearing about it for the first time.

Commissioner Elwood Taylor said it was unfortunate timing, given that it had been discussed at length with the previous board, he had seen a demonstration of the truck and believed the purchase to be a good idea.

But Commissioners President Trace Slinkerd and newly elected commissioner Renee Spaide balked and Commissioner France Krazalkovich was lured by the siren song of a federal grant program the fire company has twice failed to obtain.

The township will have to apply for the grant by next month, but must wait until autumn to find out about the grant, which the fire company gives a slim change of success. Since it will take another year from the time the truck is ordered for it to be delivered, it means another two years of sighting fires with a truck from 1983.

Better news for the fire company and its approximately 20 volunteers is the commissioners seeming willingness to enact an earned income tax break for volunteers who meet certain criteria that could be worth as much as $1,000.

Given that only about six of the company's 20 volunteers actively live in Upper Pottsgrove limits the benefit, but the ordinance the commissioners asked solicitor Matthew Hovey to draft would have a reciprocity clause.

For example, fire volunteers who live in Upper Pottsgrove but run with a different fire company, in Pottstown say, would only get the benefit if the municipality where they volunteer also has a similar tax incentive, as authorized under Act 172 of 2016.

It starts to get a little complicated and the commissioners may abandon that clause after further examination, but that's how it stands now.

In the meantime, here are the Tweets from last night's meeting:

Monday, January 15, 2018

Gala Fundraiser Features a 'Little Mermaid'

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Foundation for Pottstown Education.

The Foundation for Pottstown Education in conjunction with the Pottstown School District Musical announces the 2018 Gala to be held on Saturday March 3, 2018.

This is the third annual event which raises financial support benefiting the students of the Pottstown School District.

The highlight of the event is this year’s District Wide Musical, The Little Mermaid. Beside the musical, there will be a dinner catered by Booster’s BBQ, a silent auction and pre-dinner social time with “mocktails”. Visits from the cast also highlight the dinner along with socializing and networking throughout the evening.

A silent auction will be held during the social hour and dinner. Various local businesses and community members have donated special items for this auction. All proceeds raised from the gala and auction benefit the Foundation’s grant programs which help it promote opportunities for the children of the Pottstown School District. 

A portion of the gala ticket price also benefits the District wide Musical.

Tickets for the Gala are $60 per person and include the dinner and tickets for the musical. 

To purchase tickets, please contact the Foundation Office at 610-970- 6616 or email to

Event sponsorships are also still available.

About FPE: The Foundation for Pottstown Education’s (FPE) mission is to support, promote, sponsor and carry out educational, scientific or charitable activities and objectives within or related to the Pottstown School District. Visit for more information about the Foundation for Pottstown Education. You can also follow FPE on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Special Pottsgrove Manor Workshop on January 20 Will Teach Colonial Pocket-Making

Blogger's Note: Today is the last day to register for this workshop.

Ever wondered how colonial women carried around the items they might need throughout their day? 

They used their pockets! However, these pockets look a lot different from modern ones. They were worn around the waist and were not attached to any gowns or petticoats.

Find out more about the history and use of pockets while constructing your own hand-sewn pocket with Pottsgrove Manor on Saturday, Jan. 20 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

This workshop is perfect for beginners learning about historic clothing and those interested in women’s history. Master your basic sewing skills and understand how useful pockets can be.

Class size is limited, so register by today, Jan.13, to secure your spot. 

Registration information can be found on the website, and by calling or visiting the site during normal museum hours. 

Ages 10 and up; workshop cost $20 per person, which covers the cost of all materials. In case of winter weather, staff will cancel 24 hours ahead of program and alert participants by phone. If canceled, participants will receive a full refund.

Pottsgrove Manor is located at 100 West King Street near the intersection of King Street and Route 100, just off Route 422 near the Carousel at Pottstown and Manatawny Green Miniature Golf Course. Pottsgrove Manor is operated by the Montgomery County Division of Parks, Trails, and Historic Sites.

For more information, please call 610-326-4014, or visit the website at Like Pottsgrove Manor on Facebook at

Friday, January 12, 2018

No Rest for the Weary, Phoenixville School Board Talks Teen Sleep, Start Times and Homework Load

The Phoenixville Area School Board agreed informally Thursday night to begin exploring in earnest the idea of start middle and high school classes later in the day to accommodate teen sleep patterns.

Astute Phoenixville area readers of The Mercury, The Phoenix and other Digital First Media products may have noticed a distinct paucity of news of their community in recent months.

That's because the company did not replace Phoenixville beat reporter Eric Devlin when he left for greener pastures and have shown no inclination to do so any time soon.

So I am trying to pick up some of that slack and as a result, attended a Phoenixville Area School Board meeting last night.

Before we get into the particulars, newly elected Upper Pottsgrove Commissioners President Trace
Slinkerd and I have had a few discussions about the way different boards operate. And although I have covered the Phoenixville school board once or twice before, it was always as a fill in.

So given the likelihood that I will attend many of their meetings in the future, let me just observe that one of the things I find interesting about how they run things is that they talk a lot about how they are going to talk about issues.

And while that sounds a little silly on the face of it, I actually think its quite smart; this given that I have seen more than one public discussion in any number of places wander off into the weeds because no one set the parameters of the discussion ahead of time.

Also, the board allows for public comment throughout the meeting, or at least the work session I attended last night, which is always helpful for fully exploring topics.

So good-on-ya Phoenixville. As Doonesbury once said, "you give good meeting."

As for the content of the meeting, there was some interesting stuff.

Despite having just built a large new school building, Phoenixville Schools will run at or near, or even slightly over capacity, for the next 10 years or so according to the latest demographic figures.

The student population is being driven almost entirely by growth in Schuylkill and East Pikeland Townships, as well as Phoenixville Borough itself.

Also of interest was a discussion about the amount of homework Phoenixville students, particularly in the upper grades, have to complete. A parent complained about it earlier to the curriculum committee and Committee Chairman Kevin Pattinson brought it to the full board.

So too did parents Mark Gerner and David Goldberg, who told the board that within 24 hours of starting a Facebook group called Phoenixville Homework Reform, he had 14 members and as many emails wanting to know more.

To their credit, both the board and the administration welcomed the discussion and pledged to undertake a study of the issue to try to find the right balance.

And, now, if you will permit me the pun, we come to the "sleeper issue" of the night -- teen sleep.

Superintendent Alan Fegley has been tasked with setting up a time frame and an orderly way to look at the issue of teen sleep patterns, and how that relates to school hours -- an increasingly popular subject in schools throughout the country.

Both Fegley and Policy Committee Chairman Eric Daughtery have attended seminars on the issue and said they are behind on the timeline Fegley created to move the issue closer to a decision.

With the assent of the other board members, Fegley will now -- while also working to educate the board, the staff and the public about the matter -- begin to put together the particulars of what an 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. start for the middle and high school would look like.

No decision has yet been made, but he warned the board that changing the times will have ripple effects throughout the district, particularly if, in the interest of sleep, school activities are also curtailed on the evening side of the equation as well.

Consider double bus runs, earlier starts and finishes for school plays, athletics, how those things will affect the schedule in the lower grades and the conflicts that it will inevitably create with parent schedules and preferences, he said.

No matter what change, if any, comes about, it would not be for the current or the coming school year, but the 2019-2020 school year at the earliest.

And now, here are the Tweets from last night's meeting in case you weren't following along.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Pottsgrove School Board Off to a Slow Start

This is going to be a hard blog to write.

I covered the Pottsgrove School Board meeting last night.

It lasted for 2.5 hours and guess what?

Nothing happened.

OK, that's not entirely true. Stuff happened, but it wasn't exactly news.

The high point was second graders from West Pottsgrove Elementary School, where the meeting was held, who made a presentation about a STEM activity they had undertaken.

And, with a little help from their teachers, they had the board members undertake it as well.

It was quite charming, but not exactly headline news.

Board President Matt Alexander made some appointments, they paid the bills, but really; it was pretty routine.

If I haven't made you stop reading yet, you can always read the Tweets from the meeting here below: