Sunday, April 7, 2013

Council News and Notes

Photo by Evan Brandt
The site of the future borough garage at 10 Rice St.

Blogger's Note: Lots of things happen at borough council meetings, not all of them are big and we don't always have room for all of them in The Mercury -- hence the function of this blog.

Here are a couple of items of interest from Wednesday night's work session.

New Borough Garage

The borough is getting closer to having a new municipal garage, a long-overdue effort.

The location is at 10 Rice St., just inside the borough border on the west end of town and it is an empty lot.

Borough Manager Mark Flanders said the lot is 2.1 acres and will pay $186,000 for the lot.

On Friday, the borough issues "request for qualification" documents which will be used to develop a short-list of architects for the building.

"Request for proposal" documents will then be issued to the short list and a council committee will chose the architect.

The project is being funded through a capital projects loan the borough took, which also paid off the bond that paid for borough hall and allows the borough to pay a lower interest rate on servicing the debt.

The project is long over-due. Some of us may recall that in 2006, part of the facade of the current garage facing Beech Street, across from the Ricketts Community Center, fell down.

New Fire Truck

In addition to serving borough building debt at a lower rate, the borough's plan to buy a new fire truck will also have taxpayers paying a lower rate.

Flanders told council Wednesday that the plan to buy a new KME "quint" ladder truck may also save some money.

Finance Director Janice Lee said the financing method chosen will have an interest rate of 2.29 percent over the next 10 years. 

Pottstown purchased this "Quint" ladder truck for
Empire Hook & Ladder Co. about five years ago.
It will also allow the existing loan for the last fire truck the borough purchased five years ago, on which taxpayers are paying 4.17 percent, to pay paid off out of the existing loan. 

The new truck is estimated to cost $669,100 and by paying 90 percent of the cost up front, the borough will receive a $23,000 discount, Lee said.

As a result, the borough's debt payments will be $2,000 less than currently and will allow for these capital projects and purchases to move forward, Flanders said.

"This is a recognized need of the borough," said Councilman Dan Weand.

Fire Chief Richard Lengel said the maintenance by fire companies allows trucks to be used for about 30 years.

He said the truck being replaced is similar to the truck run by Empire Hook and Ladder, which is currently housed at Goodwill Fire Company on High Street, since the two companies merged.

The plan is for the new truck to replace the ladder truck now at the Phillies fire house on Chestnut Street.

Road Sign Roulette

Many people may not know this, but High Street was the original Route 422.

As often happens when by-passes are built, traffic moves faster, but also moves around the businesses that once lined the main drag, hoping to capture the interest, and consumer dollar, of passing motorists.

Sometimes, some of that potential business can be recaptured with a sign on the
road that designates the old route as the "business route."

And that is exactly what state Rep. Mark Painter, D-146th Dist., hopes to do.

Borough Manager Mark Flanders told council Wednesday night that Painter has proposed "labeling the stretch of High Street as 'Business Route 422' from the Sanatoga interchange to Stowe. It can be done at minimal cost and it would be paid by PennDOT," Flanders said.

"I think this is a great idea," said Councilman Joe Kirkland. "People will often take the detour just to see what's there."

Flanders also noted that no where on southbound Route 100 does it indicate which exit to take to reach downtown Pottstown.

"We're working on it," he told council.

What You See on TV

Photo by Evan Brandt
Gus Tellis at work, recording Wednesday night's borough 
council workshop session.
Those of you addicted to watching borough council meetings on PCTV will be relieved to know that council is preparing to extend for three years its contract with the new operators of the service -- Tellisvision.

Run by former PCTV employee Gus Tellis, Council President Stephen Toroney said "there is an air of excitement under Mr. Tellis that has not bee a part of PCTV in a long time."

The stability of a three-year extension would help make the company more solvent.

Finance Committee Chairman Dan Weand said the committee is "impressed with the operation so far" and has recommended the contract extension.

Pre-School Expansion

Grace Lutheran Church
Council may likely vote Monday to approve a conditional use permit which would allow the expansion of the pre-school housed at Grace Lutheran Church on North Charlotte Street.

In existence for 44 years, director Stephanie Houck said the idea is to expand from a half-day program that runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; to a full-day that runs from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

"Nothing will change, there will just be more time in the building," she said.

The expansion, which is dependent on the center getting licensed to operate as a full-day service, will allow about 50 children to be educated there.

She predicted the traffic in and out of the center would actually be less, because parents would drop-off and pick-up their children at different times.

The school does plan to add a new playground to the grounds.

A New Look

Photo by Evan Brandt
And now for perhaps the most ground-breaking item on our round-up.

Borough Manager Mark Flanders, who recently returned from a southern vacation we are told, looks a little more relaxed these days.

Perhaps that's because he seems to have expanded his trademark mustache and left part of his "vacation beard" in place.

As a fellow supporter of facial hair, the Digital Notebook staff wishes him an itch-free experience.

(We can't help but notice the preponderance of gray in that new beard, but then, who are we to talk....)

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