Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Appointments Galore at Pottstown Council

Photos by Evan Brandt
A WALL WE CAN ALL GET BEHIND: From left, Lynn Bialek, from the Birdsboro American Legion Post's auxiliary, Pottstown Council Vice President  Carol Kulp and Vietnam veteran Richard Herter with a display advertising The Wall that Heals, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Replica and Mobile Education Center. The wall will make a slow procession from Sunnybrook Ballroom to Daniel Boone High School on July 5, and will be on display there round the clock until July 8.

It was hard to take a breath at last night's borough council meeting without someone getting appointed to some board of commission.

Trenita Lindsay is Pottstown Council's
newest member.
First and foremost of those was the appointment of Trenita Lindsay to the Fifth Ward council seat vacated last month by Dennis Arms.

The vote was not unanimous.

Councilman Ryan Procsal said while he thought Lindsay was a fine candidate, that the financial background of Philip Smock -- the other applicant who showed up at last week's council meeting to be interviewed -- might better the serve the borough as it tries to figure out how to deal with the spiraling property assessment challenges eroding the tax base -- and Pottstown's primary revenue stream.

He and Weand voted against Lindsay's appointment, which was made by Councilman Joe Kirkland and seconded by Councilwoman Rita Paez.

The next appointment was to the single vacancy on the newly formed Land Bank Board.

In April, when the rest of the appointments were made, the board had voted unanimously to reject the appointment of Twila Fisher to the the Land Bank board.

The director of economic development for The Hill School who head's up the schools Hobart's Run initiative, Fisher was among those consulted on the formation of the board.

However, twice former council member Sheryl Miller, who was also involved in the formation of the board, spoke out against Fisher's appointment, saying it is a conflict of interest for Fisher to serve because Hobart's Run is involved in the purchase and renovation of property, the Land Bank could be used for its benefit.

However Councilman Ryan Procsal said he had spoken with Fisher and was convinced it would not be a problem. Council President Dan Weand noted she had served on a previous land bank board in Berks County.

The 4-2 vote to appoint here came only after Councilman Joe Kirkland had proposed the appointment of Madison Morton to the board, a motion that was defeated by the same 4-2 vote margin.

Then it was time to decide on two open seats on the board of the Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority.

The board followed the request of Executive Director Sheila Dugan and appointed Pamela Gormesh to one of the seats. Gormesh had been previously interviewed by the board and recommended for appointment.

Three others applied for the second seat -- Gabrielle Davidheiser -- who also has already been interviewed, and Thomas Hylton and Steve Everett, who have not been interviewed.

That vote will occur in July.

Next, we move on to the planning commission where two applicants -- Hylton and Andrew Monastra -- were up for consideration for a single vacancy.

Procsal said he knew the planning commission members, and several members of council, were leaning toward Monastra for the appointment. But he noted that Monastra is already serving on the Land Bank Board and the Historic Architecture Review Board.

He also noted that Hylton came to last night's meeting to speak, reminding council that he had previously served for 12 years, many as chairman, and that he and Solicitor Charles D. Garner Jr. had penned the borough's zoning ordinance which "favors traditional towns."

Only Councilwoman Rita Paez ended up voting against Hylton's appointment. But the choice may have been moot. After borough council went into an executive session, Deb Penrod, planning commission chairperson, said she had that night submitted her resignation.

Penrod, who is on the Land Bank board as well as the Pottstown Regional Public Library Board of Trustees, said she has too many responsibilities and does not know as much about planning as Hylton and suggested Monastra would work well with Hylton.

When council came out of that executive session it laid the groundwork for one more appointment.

Council voted to change the provision of the borough manager's ordinance that requires the manager to live in the borough, leaving the matter "the discretion of council," as Garner described it.

Council also voted to extend Interim Borough Manager Justin Keller's contract, which expires at the end of the month, by another 30 days.

Expect to see Keller provided with a full contract to borough manager at the July meeting.

In non-appointment matters, council adopted the changes to the downtown parking scheme, introducing paying by smart phone.

The changes will also increase  rates from 35 cents per hour to $50 cents per hour. However, Keller reported that the staff hopes to route payments through its own credit card processor, thus eliminating the potential for additional parking charges between five and 35 cents per transaction.

Also approved was the Hanover Square project that will convert the long-vacant former shirt factory at Cherry and South Charlotte streets into 27 market-rate apartments. (Yay!)

Council also approved a waiver of the land development ordinance for the first phase of a project at Maple Street Park that will rehabilitate the two tennis courts there, add a third and put up a new fence, stoage shed and modular classroom.

A second phase, which would encase the courts in an inflatable structure, cannot proceed without council approval.

Also approved were the changes Fire Chief Michael Lessar Jr. suggested to the fire code, absent the more strict requirements for sprinkler systems that had raised concerns of slowing rehabilitation of older downtown buildings and which council had removed from consideration.

And last, but definitely not least, council agreed unanimously to send a letter to this reporter's employer -- Digital First Media -- opposing the decision to close The Mercury building, which has stood at the corner of King and North Hanover Streets, since the 1920s.

The Mercury will continue to publish, but yours truly will likely be working from home, like so many other Digital First journalists must these days.

To learn more about why, read this and this.

Here are the Tweets from the meeting:

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