Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Traffic Talk and An Absent Supervisor/Defendant

Seriously? More traffic coming?

The frustration caused by the traffic -- and potential increase in traffic -- in the Boyertown/Gilbertsville area was front and center once again during Monday's Douglass (Mont.) Township Board of Supervisor's meeting.

But before we get to what was at the meeting, let us take a moment to mention what, or rather who, wasn't.

Monday was the first day of the theft trial by judge of Fred Ziegler, former police chief and current vice chairman of the board of supervisors.

This case having dragged on for more than two years, curiosity required coming to Monday night's meeting to see if he would.

He didn't.

Other than that, the subject that attracted the most interest was the last -- a move for a regional traffic study among the eight municipalities that comprise the Pottstown Metropolitan Area Regional Planning Committee.

Regular readers of this blog will know the subject was covered pretty extensively in Friday's post, as well as two subsequent Mercury stories which have been posted on the web site, but have set to see any ink.

(Links to those and more are include in the Tweets below).

What Monday's discussion offered was an opportunity to hear what non-professionals think about the current traffic situation.

In short, they hate it.

The often-outspoken Alex Brumwell said "I didn't move here to be stuck in traffic all the time."

Another resident said that Hoffmansville Road has become a speedway during rush hour, and now even Middle Creek Road is suffering the same fate.

Supervisors Chairman Anthony Kuklinski said he hopes that not only will a regional traffic study get a handle on the big picture, but that hopefully it will help convince PnnDOT and even the state legislature that it is time to update how Pennsylvania deals with traffic costs.

And now here, without further ado, are last night's Tweets.

Monday, December 5, 2016

'Theoria,' a Capella Vocalists, Offier Free Eastern European Christmas Concert at St. John's Dec. 18

Andrew Skitko III, baritone
Theoria, a quartet of four professional vocalists, will return to Pottstown to perform an a capella concert of Slavic and other Eastern European Christmas music and Western carols on Sunday, Dec. 18 at 3 p.m. at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church, 301 Cherry Street, Pottstown.

This concert is free and open to the public. A free will offering will be accepted.

Theoria was founded by Andrew Skitko III, of Pottstown, who also directs the ensemble and sings baritone. Skitko performs with the Opera Philadelphia chorus, as well as the Philadelphia Symphonic Choir and The Same Stream Choir, which recently recorded a second album of new choral music.

He is the cantor at the Assumption Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic Church in Trenton, where Theoria frequently performs, and he has served as a cantor at St. John’s Church and St. Michael’s Church in Mont Clare.

Lauren Delfing, alto
In addition, Skitko performed in the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival production of “Les Miserables” and appeared as Captain Von Trapp in Pottstown’s Steel River Playhouse’s sold-out 2015 production of “The Sound of Music.” He also is a private voice instructor.

“We are very excited to return to Pottstown to share this unique music with my hometown community, support Pottstown’s growing arts presence, and again sing in the beautiful setting of St. John’s Church,” Skitko said.

“This will be our first Christmas concert in Pottstown. This space is perfect for a performance of this Slavic music, as St. John’s is known in this area for its distinctive ‘onion dome’ roof, stunning stained glass, and traditional iconography," he said.

“Theoria was so well received during our previous two concerts, both of which occurred in the spring,” Skitko continued. “We were asked to return to Pottstown after both concerts -- as many of the audience members said they had never before heard traditional Slavic choral music and they were impressed by its beauty. Now we can introduce people to Slavic Christmas music as part of our concert.”

The program will feature Carpatho-Rusyn, Ukrainian, and Russian works of composers such as Leontovych, Tchaikovsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov.
Brett Avery Lawyer, tenor

Skitko, a Hill School graduate, earned both his bachelor’s degree in vocal performance and his master’s degree in vocal performance and voice pedagogy from Westminster Choir College, Princeton, N.J.

He will be joined by vocalists and fellow Westminster Choir College graduates Lauren Delfing, alto; Brett Avery-Lawyer, tenor; and Audra Casebier, soprano.

Delfing, of Columbus, N.J., earned her bachelor’s degree in music education. An original member of Theoria, she is the music and theater arts teacher at First Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School and the associate director of Sister Cities Girlchoir.

Avery-Lawyer, also a founding Theoria member, received his degree in music education. While embracing his lifelong love for classical music, Avery-Lawyer currently works as an agent for Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty.

Casebier earned her master’s in vocal performance and pedagogy at Westminster after attaining her bachelor’s degree in performance from Kent State University.

Audra Casebier, soprano
A semi-finalist in the 2013 Classical Singer National Competition, she has performed with Opera North, Opera on The James, the New York Opera Program, and the CoOPERAtive Program at Westminster Choir College.

Westminster is a four-year music college and graduate school that prepares men and women for careers as vocalists as well as music leaders in professional music organizations, schools and universities, and churches.

Westminster choirs routinely perform in venues including the Kimmel Center, Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall, and various groups are professionally recorded with world-renowned symphonies and ensembles.

Convenient, free parking is available in the lot behind the church, which can be accessed via South Street.

Handicapped access to the church is available via the South Street entrance.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

House Decoration Contest Aids July 4th Funding

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by Independence Day Ltd.

Independence Day Ltd. is sponsoring a Holiday Home Decorating Extravaganza.

This contest is open to residents residing within the boundaries of the following School Districts:
  • Boyertown,
  • Daniel Boone,
  • Owen J. Roberts,
  • Pottsgrove,
  • Pottstown,
  • SpringFord
Category Selections include:
  1. Lighting Patriotic (Red, White and Blue Lights only)
  2. Lighting (White Lights only)
  3. Lighting (All colors)
  4. Inflatables and Yard D├ęcor
  5. In-ground Trees and Bushes
  6. Front Entrance, Front Door and/or walkway/driveway
  7. Whole House 
Complete the form online at pottstown4thofjuly.org.

Payment of $25 fee is thru PayPal.

Should you prefer a paper copy of the entry form, it is available at Pottstown Regional Public Library, 500 E High St., Pottstown (or you can click the link and download and print it right here).

All mailed entry forms with payment must be received at Independence Day Ltd., PO Box 199, Pottstown PA 19464 before Dec. 15 to be eligible for judging.

Like us at: www.facebook.com/PottstownJulyfourthcelebration
Follow us on twitter: @pottstown4th
Visit us at: http://pottstown4thofjuly.org
Email us: pottstown4thofjuly@gmail.com

Friday, December 2, 2016

Regional Traffic/School Impacts are Cumulative

Photos by Evan Brandt
Montgomery County Planner Donna Fabry outlines aspects of the New Hanover Town Center proposal, involving more than 200 acres and more than 750 homes, during Thursday's meeting of the Pottstown Metropolitan Area Regional Planning Committee. 

Whether its the number of children packing a classroom or the number of cars jamming Route 73, the cumulative impact of impending residential development is something planners should examine regionally, not on a town by town basis.

That was the apparent consensus among regional planners Thursday as they considered not only the traffic impact of a proposal to build more than 750 new homes in New Hanover Township, but also the cumulative effect when combined with projects in neighboring towns.

A proposal to have the Montgomery County Planning Commission contact the Delaware Valley Planning Commission and consider the implementation of a regional traffic study -- as a way to gain leverage to force intersection and road improvements -- passed unanimously.
New Hanover Township Supervisors Chairman Phil Agliano
outlines the specifics of the proposed Town Center plan.

And although no vote was taken Thursday night, two members of the Boyertown Area School Board -- John Landino and Clay Breece -- said the building projects proposed in New Hanover and Douglass (Mont.) townships will have an impact on the school system as well.

"Nobody wants to build a new school," Landino told this blogger. "And every parent wants their child to go to the local school."

Boyertown has held off on a re-districting proposal for elementary schools, Landinso said, but noted that all of the growth in the district -- which incorporates part of two counties -- is on the Montgomery County side.

"The Berks side is not growing," Landino said. "So we keep pushing everybody (students) west."

In addition to the impact of Boyertown schools, the traffic these new residential projects in Lower Pottsgrove, New Hanover and Douglass, "will all be funneled ultimately to Route 100 and Route 422, after turning Route 73 into more of a parking lot than it already is, the planners observed.

Which is why they agreed, once again, to pursue the idea of a regional traffic study as a way to measure and hopefully, mitigate the impact of all the residential development.

And here are the Tweets from the meeting.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Cluster Raises $36K at Sunnybrook Dinner Concert

The Cluster Outreach Center at the intersection of King and Franklin streets in Pottstown.
Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Pottstown Cluster.

The Fifth Annual Open Your Heart Fundraising Dinner and Concert for the Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities raised $36,000.

According to a release from the cluster, a non-profit organization that provides for the basic food, clothing, personal care and housing needs for residents living in poverty, the event held at Sunnybrook Ballroom in September featured local artists Maggie Riker, Davie Heffner, Jason Switzer and Myra Forrest.

Through the generosity of the event sponsors: Video Ray, Cody Systems and Richard and Paula Dhein, along with many other sponsors and guests that made direct donations, bid on auction items and purchased raffle tickets, $36,000 was raised.

These funds will allow PCRC to assist Pottstown residents struggling financially to maintain adequate food and clothing for their families, receive educational services to gain greater stability, as well as providing home heating oil when the cost is more than a family can afford.

PCRC wishes to thank all those that made the event a great success. To see photos of the event please visit PCRC’s website at www.pottstowncluster.org.

PCRC’s 50th anniversary is in 2017 and the 50th Gala will be held on October 7, 2017 at Sunnybrook Ballroom.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Pottstown Library Gears Up for Grand Re-Opening

Access to the front of the library was improved under the renovation project.

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Pottstown Regional Public Library.

Just in time for the holiday season, the greater Pottstown area is receiving a gift of a renovated library.

To celebrate the renovation, a ribbon cutting ceremony will occur on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 11 a.m.

A public open house will be held on Saturday, December 3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the library will return to full public access on Monday, Dec. 5.

This renovation was made possible by a $300,000 matching grant from The Keystone Recreation Park, and Conservation Fund.

Portions of this project were funded by Pottstown Health and Wellness Foundation, the Arcadia Foundation and private donations.

In January 2015 the Borough of Pottstown was awarded a $300,000 matching grant through the Keystone Fund to complete the following renovations at the Pottstown Regional Public Library:

The project provides:
  1. Redesigned and repaired front entrance to address accessibility issues and resolve water issues and structural deterioration.
  2. Reconfiguration of existing space for better management of programs, increased accessibility, and improved services to the children, families, adults, and disabled in our community
    Much of the library's interior was gutted.
  3. Upgrading of library engineering systems (lighting, electric, cabling, phone, security) to meet current standards and provide a safe environment for staff and patrons.
The Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund was established by an act of the General Assembly in 1993. The Department of Education, through the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, Bureau of Library Development, administers the public library portion of this program which is funded from a portion of the realty transfer tax.

A competitive grant application process is used to award matching facilities grants to municipalities that sponsor state-aided public libraries. To be eligible, the sponsoring municipality and the board of the state-aided library must jointly submit an application developed cooperatively by both entities and signed by their governing bodies. The Keystone grant requires a dollar-for-dollar match.

The completion of this project will have the following impacts on the library and the community that it serves:
  • Improved access, both outside and inside the building
  • Improved energy efficiency and the cost savings that result
  • Expanded, multipurpose, attractive and comfortable public spaces.
  • Improved customer service.
  • Improved safety for patrons and staff.
  • Improved security of the buildings and grounds.
The Library is a 501(c)(3) non-profit receiving public funds from Pennsylvania, Pottstown, Lower Pottsgrove Township, Upper Pottsgrove Township and West Pottsgrove Township.

he Pottstown Regional Public Library serves a population of 43,625 from four municipalities in Montgomery County. A sizeable number of patrons are from Berks and Chester Counties.

The building houses a collection of more than 70,000 cataloged items.

In 2015 the library offered 748 programs with an attendance of over 20,000. The library offers many online resources including homework help, online job search resources, e-books, e-magazines, streaming music, and is a Funding Information Network Partner of the Foundation Center of New York.

The Pottstown Regional Public Library owns and occupies a former post office built in 1915 and converted to a library in 1961.

It consists of a main floor, mezzanine, basement and upper floor, each roughly 6,000 square feet in size.

The upper floor has not been used since the post office occupied the building.

In the early 1980s a set of major renovations made the basement level public space, replaced the south facing windows, added a wheelchair ramp, added an external stair tower, and replaced the existing elevator.

To celebrate the renewal, the Library will offer new services and programs starting in December 2016 including ROKU streaming devices and wireless hotspots for loan.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Community College Hub Wins Sustainability Award

The sustainability and Innovation Hub of Montgomery County Community College was awarded the Montgomery County Planning Commission's 2016 Montgomery County Award for Sustainable Design.

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Montgomery County Planning Commission.

The Sustainability and Innovation Hub of Montgomery  County Community College (MCCC), located in Pottstown  Borough, received a 2016 Montgomery Award for sustainable design, successful restoration, vision, and collaborative efforts. 

This unique adaptive reuse project transformed a former PECO energy substation and brownfield site into a state-of-the-art center for education, innovation, and conservation.


Pottstown Borough has always had a redevelopment vision for its riverfront. 

Located in Riverfront Park, this building was once a PECO sub-station.
Located adjacent to the borough’s 30-acre Riverfront Park and the Schuylkill River Trail, this property has long been a focus for revitalization and is highlighted in Pottstown’s redevelopment plan and the 2003 Riverfront and Memorial Parks Master Plan. 

This former three-acre brownfield site contained a PECO energy substation, built in 1911, which remained vacant for much of the 1990s until it was purchased by the borough in 1997. 

The borough began renovations to convert the north side of the building into offices with the assistance of state, county, and local governments and the Montgomery County Lands Trust. 

The Schuylkill River Heritage Area (SRHA) relocated its offices to the site in 2002. 

In 2007, the MCCC took ownership and began planning for the rehabilitation of the property and expansion of its west campus.


Phase I

MCCC developed the site in three phases. Phase I began in 2010 with the construction of a 202-space green parking lot. 

The parking lot is designed to retain storm water.
The development involved site remediation and the installation of a rainwater collection system that prevents contaminants from leaching into the groundwater. 

The innovative design of this green parking lot utilized bioretention and involved the planting of over 130 native trees, shrubs, and perennials, providing an attractive and well-shaded parking area. LED lighting was also installed throughout the parking lot using an EPA grant. 

The Hub's green roof.
This well-designed parking lot, which is shared with visitors to the adjacent Riverfront Park and Schuylkill River Trail, was a major element in the transformation of the property. 

Phase II

Completed in January 2012, Phase II involved the removal of mold, lead, and asbestos from the building and the demolition and remediation of the building’s south side. 

The old roof was replaced with an eco-friendly green roof, a new entrance and handicap-accessible ramp were constructed, energy-efficient windows were installed, and water and sewer services were
The turbines generate enough electricity to run the LED lights in the lot.
Between Phases II and III, MCCC installed four wind turbines on the property. 

The turbines produce a collective 4,000 watts of energy—enough to power the LED lighting throughout the parking lot. The turbines were designed as a demonstration project to teach students and the community about energy production.

Phase III

The final phase was completed in March 2016 and involved the construction of the Sustainability and Innovation Hub in the building’s south side. 

The hub enables MCCC to bring specialized education and workforce training to the Pottstown area. 

The aquaponics/hydroponics lab. 
The first floor features an innovative Aquaponics/Hydroponics teaching laboratory, which supports the interdisciplinary environmental studies program. 

The second floor is the Engineering Design Center, which supports the engineering technology program, bringing the degree to Pottstown for the first time. 

The third floor provides flexible innovation space for mentorship, learning, and collaboration.
The grand opening of the hub took place on April 18, 2016.


This project is a result of extensive collaboration involving years of planning and successful partnerships with many private and public organizations including Pottstown Borough, the Montgomery County Community College, and the Schuylkill River Heritage Area. 

The engineering lab
The college partnered with the SRHA to develop the River of Revolutions Interpretive Center, which
serves as a visitor center for the Schuylkill River region and focuses on the history of the river. 

Many partners worked together to create the Pottstown RiverWalk, a 1-mile scenic trail located in Riverfront Park that meanders through the woods and along the banks of the Manatawny Creek and connects to the Schuylkill River Trail. 

It features a series of interpretive signs highlighting the ecosystem surrounding the river.

The Sustainability and Innovation Hub is an outstanding example of how vision, creative planning and design, and collaboration brought exciting new life to an existing building and created an asset for the college and community. 

The hub, an innovative and collaborative space, offers opportunities for faculty, students, and the community to learn, share information, and work together to create a healthy and sustainable environment.