Saturday, February 25, 2017

Pottsgrove Teen Crowned Crowned 2017 Pennsylvania USA Ambassador Miss

Faith Drumheller
Blogger's Note: The following was provided by USA Ambassador

Lower Pottsgrove resident Faith Drumheller, 16, has been named as the 2017 Pennsylvania USA Ambassador Teen by the Tampa based USA Ambassador Pageant.

She will travel in July to Innisbrook Resort in Tampa, Florida to represent the Keystone State and compete in the 2017 national pageant where the contestants will be scored in four categories.

During the national competition, individual interview with judges comprises 35 percent of the score, onstage chat 15 percent, with evening gown 25 percent and fashion wear 25 percent as the remaining categories scored to detennine the winner.

In addition to the overall compulsory competitions, delegates may enter optional competition categories of Natural and Glamour Photogenic, Fit and Fabulous, Runway Modeling, Community Service, Academic
Achievement/Resume, and Spokesmodel.

"The USA Ambassador system is a charity driven organization with a mission to promote success through leadership, integrity, character and confidence," Drumheller said, "and pageantry is a great opportunity to gain valuable experience in important life skills such as being interviewed and presenting yourself with poise and confidence in a business setting."

Exemplifying the mission of the USA Ambassador system, charity and service are a part of Faith's everyday
life. She's an active volunteer at the Keystone Villa Retirement Community, as well as a dedicated and committed tutor for elementary students through a program known as Project Purpose.

The charity she holds closest to her heart is "In Ian's Boots," a charity that collects and provides shoes and winter boots to those in need.

Faith is a 10th grade student at West-Mont Christian Academy and a year-round volleyball junkie.

Her journey in pageantry got off to a super start in 2016, as she competed for the first time, winning both an Overall Beauty title as well as Most Photogenic competitions.

Faith is thrilled to be a part of the 2017 USA Ambassador "BeTheGood" family, and will compete at nationals to win a prize package that includes a cash award, and three exciting national trips that include a cruise, a trip to Washington, DC and a holiday trip to New England.

Additionally, the prize package contains a national photo session and the opportunity to appear as a national titleholder in the prestigious Pageantry Magazine.

Ben Franklin Helps Pottsgrove Manor Rise and Shine

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by Pottsgrove Manor

Pottsgrove Manor's new exhibit, "Rise and Shine at the Manor," opens on Saturday, March 4 at 1 p.m. with a visit from Benjamin Franklin.

At 1 p.m. visitors will have a chance to meet founding father Benjamin Franklin, as portrayed by Bill Ochester.

Learn about Franklin’s contributions to everyday life, including the idea of Daylight Savings time!

After the lecture, visitors can take a guided tour of Pottsgrove Manor and the new exhibit.

As the first rays of the morning’s sun streamed through the windows of Pottsgrove Manor, the house would already be busy with a myriad of early morning household tasks and the rituals of starting another day.

See how the humble activities of daily life differed from- or were often remarkably similar to- the activities we are familiar with today.

There is a suggested donation of $2 per person for the lecture and tour.

Visitors can also take a guided tour of Pottsgrove Manor and the “Rise and Shine at the Manor” exhibit during regular museum hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Tours begin on the hour. The last tour of the day begins at 3 p.m.

Pottsgrove Manor is located at 100 West King Street near the intersection of King Street and Route 100, just off Route 422 and is  is operated by Montgomery County under the direction of the Parks, Trails, and Historic Sites Division of the Assets and Infrastructure Department.

For more information, please call 610-326-4014, or visit the website at www.montcopa.org/pottsgrovemanor.

Like Pottsgrove Manor on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pottsgrovemanor.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Pennsylvania-based Medical Marijuana Grow Facility Hopes to Take Root in Lower Pottsgrove Bunker

Photos by Evan Brandt
Bunker Botanicals wants to establish a medical marijuana grow facility 20 feet underground in this Cold War bunker off Porter Road.



The latest medical marijuana grow facility to make headlines this week wants to truly be an underground operation.

Last night, the Lower Pottsgrove Township Commissioners voted 3-1 to send a letter of support to the state for a proposal to establish a facility in a Cold War-era bunker 20 feet beneath the surface of the ground.

Originally built by the phone company to withstand a nuclear attack, the bunker was once full of what is now vintage equipment that would have allowed vital communications to continue after a nuclear attack.

It has since become an "attractive nuisance," a place for teens to hang out and a canvas for local graffiti artists, said Commissioner Ray Lopez.
Geoff Whaling address the Lower Pottsgrove Commissioners

But Robert Basile and Geoff Whaling would like to transform it into a 50,000 square-foot underground grow facility for Pennsylvania's newly legalized medical marijuana.

Basile, who owns at least one nursing home, said he became interested in medical marijuana because of the relief it offers several senior-related ailments, such as dementia.

Geoff Whaling, who would managed the facility, has spent much of his energy in previous years advocating for the passage of a medical cannabis law in Pennsylvania and said he is pleased that the 17 medical conditions it is authorized to treat is the largest number of any state that has legalized marijuana.

"One of the things you have to remember is we're making medicine," Whaling told the commissioners. "There is a great demand for this in Pennsylvania."

But its unclear how great the demand will be since patients will have to be "qualified" to receive a prescription from doctors, who are also just getting up to speed on the use of the cannabis products as medicine.

Whaling's initial estimate is between 65,000 to 120,000 patients statewide as things get up and running.

Pennsylvania's law allows no plant material to be distributed under its law "so you won't see bags of marijuana like you do in Colorado," said Whaling.

Rather, all Pennsylvania's products will be in the form of pills, ointments,
Whaling outlines the specifics of the proposed underground 
medical marijuana grow facility for the commissioners.
tinctures and other medicinal products. That's what will leave the grow facility in an unmarked black van less than once a day, Whaling told the commissioners.

As for security, being underground certainly limits access, but there will also be a fence and two full-time security guards, said Whaling.

The facility will initially employ six people at first and eventually employ up to 15 when the space in the bunkers is fully utilized, he said.

"When I first heard about it, I thought it was going to be like a smoky opium den," said Lopez, who said he has since visited the facility and been educated about the operation.

"It's more like if Merck was making an application," he said mentioning the Montgomery County-based pharmaceutical giant.

The facility "would be a real win-win for the township's tax base and for the company," Lopez said.

But not everyone was convinced.

Fire Marshal Lew Babel noted there is only one fire exit.
The commissioners accept a $2,500 donation from
the Pottsgrove Soccer Association for a new lawn mower.

That, plus not having enough information about security, convinced Commissioners Vice Chairman Stephen Klotz.

"I'm not going to debate medical marijuana," said Klotz. "I don't agree with it, but that's not why I'm voting no on this motion."

That issue, plus a $2,500 donation from the Pottsgrove Soccer Association to help with the purchase of a new lawn mower for the township, were the primary issues of the night.

So here are the Tweets:

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Is the Pottstown Metropolitan Region Going to Pot?

Photo by Evan Brandt

Montgomery County Planner Donna Fabry explains how Pennsylvania has been divided into six zones to ensure that the first state licenses for growing medical marijuana are distributed evenly across the commonwealth during a presentation Wednesday night to the Pottstown Metropolitan Area Regional Planning Committee.



I literally cannot throw a stone in any direction this week without stumbling across a story about medical marijuana.

It was discussed Tuesday night at the Upper Pottsgrove Commissioners meeting AND at the Limerick Supervisors meeting, and again last night at the regional planning committee.

A bad picture of the inside of a grow facility from Fabry's

presentation to the regional planners.
It will be discussed tomorrow night at the Lower Pottsgrove Commissioners meeting, according to this post in the Sanatoga Post.

I hope I'm not getting paranoid. I hear that can happen sometimes.

Anyway, given that this is the open period for applying for the two state permits that will be awarded in the seven-county southeast region, I guess it makes sense.

But they sure do seem to want to be located in the greater Pottstown area.

The discussion last night centered around zoning and whether the eight
Pennsylvania will not allow dispensaries here to have

cute pot-related names like this one in Montclair, N.J
No sense of humor. Darn Quakers.
municipalities that comprise the regional planning committee want to zone for both the grow facilities and state-licensed dispensaries individually or on a regional basis.

No consensus was reached other than to go back to their respective boards and get their input before making a decision.

Also on the docket was discussion of building proposals made in Montgomery County in the past year.

Long story short? They are up from the low around 2010 during the housing crisis.

Lower Pottsgrove and New Hanover had the most housing units proposed in the region, thanks to Sanatoga Green, Spring Valley Farms and the Town Center plan in New Hanover.

The market for age-restricted housing seems to have collapsed, Realtors can't sell the units. Most seem to prefer age-targeted, which lacks the legal restrictions to keep the young-uns out, according to Montgomery County Planner Donna Fabry.

And the group also discussed the idea of having a regional code of appeals board. The Universal Building Code requires townships to have them, but many don't.

And, when the Owen J. Roberts School District briefly challenged a decision by East Coventry Township for the construction of a new elementary school, the township had to scramble to put one together.

Douglass (Mont.) has one and has used it several times, said Township Manager Pete Hiryak, but most other towns don't and are interested in the idea.

Berks County maintains one that local municipalities can join if they wish, said Montgomery County John Cover, who promised to draft a proposal for one the Pottstow-area municipalities can look over.

Other than that, it's time to scroll through those world-famous Tweets!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Pot Zoning, Boy Scout Bridges and Animal Laws

Photo by Evan Brandt
Members of Boy Scout Troop 129 are honored by the Upper Pottsgrove Township Commissioners in recognition of the scout's construction of a second bridge over Fox Run in Hollenbach Park.



There were a total of four different meetings I could have attended last night.

I chose Upper Pottsgrove Commissioners over Douglass (Mont.), Lower Pottsgrove Planning and a joint meeting between Pottstown Borough Council and the school board -- all because of one word.

That word is Marijuana.

Not that I wanted some, but because a commissioners discussion about zoning for it was on the agenda.

It is a hot topic these days. In fact while I was listening to the commissioners talk about whether they wanted to zone for it locally, or through the Pottstown Metropolitan Area Regional Planning Committee -- which meets tomorrow -- an entrepreneur was proposing a grow facility in Limerick Township.

You can see some of that discussion in the Tweets below thanks to my colleague Eric Devlin, who was covering that meeting.

The Upper Pottsgrove discussion was fairly brief and inconclusive, but that fact that there is also a a grow facility being proposed in West Pottsgrove, makes it all part of a larger discussion on the issue.

Look to future issues of The Mercury for that.

In the meantime, the Upper Pottsgrove Commissioners were plenty busy in their own.

They approved an easement for a property no one owns to allow for the proposed Mattress Factory on Commerce Drive so the business can go to closing on the building ... I know, don't ask.

Commissioners also discussed tax breaks for volunteer firefighters, a discussion that is also underway in Pottstown.

They also added $15,000 to the price ceiling for engineering work on the proposed new public works building and discussed sewer work and paving in the Regal Oaks subdivision and whether to require residents to connect to the system. No decision yet on that one.

Discussion was also had over forming a regional code of appeals with other municipalities and how the township gets revenue from a billboard located on township property. They didn't like the latest proposal.

And then there was adoption of a new noise ordinance in the township -- a long-time coming -- as well as the draft for a new animal nuisance ordinance, which is not yet ready for adoption.

You can read all about it in the Tweets below.

Now, can someone tell me what happened at the other three meetings?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Hate Crimes on the Docket in Steel River Show, Talk

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by Steel River Playhouse.

Steel River Playhouse will be presenting "The Laramie Project" opening March 10, 2017.

This production is about a young gay man who was beaten and tied to a fence and left for dead for 18 hours in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998.

Matthew Shepard was barely alive when he was found tied to the fence and taken to the hospital where he died just a few days later. 

His life and death became a national story and the work that the Matthew Shepard Foundation has done since his death has been instrumental in strengthening hate crime laws and raising awareness of the violence that the LBGTQ+ community faces.

The cast and crew of this production had the opportunity to meet with Jason Marsden, the Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. 

Jason was a friend of Matthew's and could talk directly to the person Matthew was as well as the amazing work that has happened in his name since 1998.

It was an incredibly moving experience and discussion. Steel River wants very much to share that experience with as many in the community as possible.

Steel River is excited to welcome Marsden to Pottstown for the opening weekend of "The Laramie Project."

Opening weekend events

Jason will be joining us for an opening night reception on Friday, March 10 at 6:30 pm. All who have a ticket for that night’s performance are invited.

Jason Marsden
On Saturday, March 11, SRP is pleased to welcome the LGBT Equality Alliance of Chester County. 

Members will enjoy a wine and cheese reception before the show. A 50/50 raffle will be held at each show; proceeds benefit the Alliance’s mission.

Mr. Marsden will lead community discussions after the play on both nights to discuss with the audiences their reactions to the production and issues directly affecting the LGBT community, including hate crimes, discrimination, and the effect on LGBT youth, among other topics.

LGBT Equality Alliance Board President, Rachel Stevenson will also help facilitate on March 11.

Here is how the community can help

To facilitate the visit and community talk-backs, SRP must raise between $1,000 and $1,500 to cover travel expenses for Marsden. SRP is asking for donations from the community to help.

Donations may be made by (1) visiting the SRP website at www.steelriver.org, (2) by contacting Lauren Pierson-Swanson, Development Director, at lauren@steelriver.org, or (3) by mailing checks directly to Steel River Playhouse at 245 East High St. Pottstown, PA, 19464.

All donations received will fund Marsden’s visit and the production of The Laramie Project.

Leena Devlin, managing artistic director for Steel River Playhouse, noted that “The Laramie Project” was the first show the theater selected for its 2016-17 season. “It was a non-negotiable for us,” Devlin said.

“We built our season around this powerful piece. Unfortunately, hate crimes against LGBT have not been declining at rates that anyone would want,” as noted in numerous reports published after the terrible nightclub shooting in Orlando last year.

There is still so much work to be done, and this production – as well as the visit from Jason Marsden – will help Steel River to advance awareness and engage the community, which is a key part of their mission as a theater. If this play, and these talks by Jason, can change just one person’s mind about how they feel about LGBT individuals, or encourage one young person to feel safe coming out, we will have helped to effect positive change.

The mission of the Matthew Shepard Foundation (www.matthewshepard.org) is "to erase hate by replacing it with understanding, compassion, and acceptance." Jason Marsden has served in his role as Executive Director of the Foundation since July of 2009. During his time as a reporter with the Casper, WY Star-Tribune prior to joining the Foundation, he became friends with Matthew Shepard, and in the aftermath of Shepard's murder he came out publicly in this newspaper's pages. He speaks frequently to schools and organizations about issues of importance to the LGBT community.

“The Laramie Project” opens Friday, March 10 and runs through Sunday, March 26 with 11 performances, including four matinees. Showtime is 8 pm (Thu/Fri/Sat) and 2 pm (Sat/Sun). Tickets are $29 for Adult, $24 for Senior (65+) and $17 for Student. Tickets can be ordered online at www.steelriver.org. Discounts available for groups of 10 or more.

About The Matthew Shepard Foundation

Through local, regional and national outreach, Matthew Shepard Foundation empowers individuals to find their voice to create change and challenge communities to identify and address hate that lives within their schools, neighborhoods and homes. Their work is an extension of Matt’s passion to foster a more caring and just world. They share his story and embody his vigor for civil rights to change the hearts and minds of others to accept everyone as they are.


About Steel River Playhouse

Steel River Playhouse is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable education and performance facility that seeks to strengthen community, inspire creative exploration, educate, and entertain, through the presentation of quality performing arts events and education for diverse audiences. Designated as a “gateway” performing arts center, Steel River provides affordable, high quality performances, comprehensive educational offerings, and enriching volunteer opportunities in all aspects of theatre arts.

The organization embraces emerging and established artists, and supports community by serving as a magnet destination for economic development and a platform for shared experiences by diverse audiences. Students and volunteers of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to explore and grow their skills by working side-by-side with professional instructors, performers, directors, and designers.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Still Time to Get Tickets for the Golden Apple Gala

Photo Courtesy of TriCounty Active Adult Center.

The 2016 Golden Apple Gala









Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the TriCounty Active Adult Center.

The fourth annual Golden Apple Gala is less than one month away. This event raises money for the TriCounty Active Adult Center as they work to support older adults in the greater Pottstown region.

“We are planning another exciting event,” said Brian Parkes, executive director of the center. “Attendees will be treated to some great music, and we have a local award-winning couple demonstrating ballroom dancing.”

This year the event will honor Peggy Whittaker and the memory of Dr. Richard Whittaker.

 “The Whittakers have been incredible supporters of our center, and of our community, and we are excited to be able to honor them in this way,” said Parkes. “We will be making a very special announcement at the Gala that will cement their legacy of generosity and positivity in Pottstown.”

This year’s event will be held on Saturday, March 4 at Brookside Country Club in Pottstown. Betsy Chapman will be featured on the harp, and the West Chester Swing Kings will provide entertainment after dinner. 

Bill and Patti Underwood have been

dancing together for 25 years.
A ballroom dancing demonstration will be presented by Patti and Bill Underwood, who have been dancing together for 25 years. The Underwoods are competitors in American Smooth and American Rhythm. 

They recently won the Amateur American Smooth Championship at the Ohio Star Ball., and they have also been the National Senior lll American 9-Dance Champions in 2007-08, 2010 & 2013.

Beer and wine, hors d’oeuvres, and a choice of entrees are included in the $130 per person ticket price. 

 Reservations and sponsorships can be purchased at www.GoldenAppleGala.org, or by calling the center at 610-323-5009 x101.

The silent auction features original artwork, gift certificates, and many other valuable items.

All profits from the event will support services for older adults in the tri-county area, including a free daily lunch, professional assistance from trained staff, and exercise and social programs that help keep seniors active and independent.

Major supporters of the Golden Apple Gala include Joe & Linda Voytilla, Patient First, Thrivent Financial, BB&T, Pottstown Memorial Medical Center, Kreibel Security, David G. Garner, Esq., kultivate, Knies Insurance Group, State Representative Tim Hennessey, Lawrence J. Gribb, D.M.D., Keller Williams Realty Group, Edwards Business Systems, and O'Donnell, Weiss & Mattei, PC.

The TriCounty Active Adult Center serves adults age 50 and better with programs and services including information and referral assistance, a daily lunch, exercise programs, social activities, and much more. The Mission of the TriCounty Active Adult Center is to enhance the well-being of older adults by providing services and activities that promote an independent and healthy life style. 

The TriCounty Active Adult Center has nearly 2,500 members residing in the tri-county area. Anyone living in the tri-county area (Berks, Chester and Montgomery Counties) who is 50+ years of age is welcome to join the center. Learn more at www.TriCountyAAC.org.