Monday, June 17, 2019

Hopewell Furnace Hosts Talk on 19th Century Diary

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site will host a presentation by local historian Robert Wood on Saturday, June 22 titled "The Diaries of Daniel Royer." 

The program is free and will be in the Visitor Center’s auditorium located at 2 Mark Bird Lane, Elverson. 

Discover what daily life was like the year operations ceased at Hopewell Furnace. Between the years of 1883 and 1911 Daniel Royer recorded a myriad of local and regional events in his personal diaries.

From these diaries we can get a feel for local nineteenth century village life around the village of Sumneytown, located 28 miles northwest of Hopewell Furnace. 

After the presentation, visitors will have access to Daniel Royer’s 1883 entries through Town and Country newspaper’s "A Glimpse of the Past" excerpts.
“From the diaries comes a picture of Daniel Royer as an avid reader of books and newspapers, a lifelong Democrat, and a man fully involved in church and community. The diaries also give a fascinating look at the texture of everyday life--weather, farm prices, working conditions, illness and death in a small rural town.”Spring 1995 Journal of the Montgomery County Historical Society."
[NOTE: Excerpted from the Historian, produced by the New Hanover Township Historical Society]. 

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site preserves and interprets an early American industrial landscape and community. 

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.
Showcasing an iron making community and its surrounding countryside, Hopewell Furnace was active from 1771 to 1883. 

The park’s facilities are currently open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. 

Hopewell Furnace is located five miles south of Birdsboro, PA, off of Route 345. Admission to the park is free. 

 For more information, stop by the park's visitor center, call 610-582-8773, or visit the park's web site at www.nps.gov/hofu

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Summer 'Scholarships' Offered for North End Pool

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by Hobart's Run.

Hobart's Run is proud to partner with Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation and the North End Swimming Club to provide swim club “scholarships” to Hobart’s Run and Borough of Pottstown families with financial need.

The swim membership grants can be used for single parent families, families, individuals, or day rate passes.

Interested individuals should fill out the application which includes a short statement explaining their need and community involvement, and email the information to tfisher@thehill.org or mail it to Fisher's attention at the Hobart's Run office at 701 E. High St., Pottstown, PA 19464.

Hobart’s Run is contributing $3,000 in funds, and the foundation is generously matching that amount and will provide up to $10,000 total for families in the borough.

Hobart's Run thanks the PAHWF and North End Swimming Club management for their support of this endeavor to help provide local kids with safe and healthy fun this summer!

Here's the application:


Saturday, June 15, 2019

Montgomery County Studio Tour is Today, Sunday














Blogger's Note: The following was provided by Jeff Schaller.

Work of Lisa Applegate
Starting today, art collectors, enthusiasts and novices will have two full days this weekend to meet some of the best artists in their Montgomery County studios, observe the creative process and to purchase their distinctive creations.

“Arts Montco is again proud to partner with the Montgomery County Studio Tour,” said Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board Director of Arts and Culture, Jessica Willingham.

“We support the mission of County Studio Tour to promote local and regional artists and contribute to the economic and cultural vitality of the area by presenting original artwork.”

The Gail Fox studio
This year 47 artists in 20 studios will exhibit different mediums such as painting, sculpture, jewelry, photography, clay, glass, paper and fiber.

All the artists will be on hand to talk about their work and meet buyers and browsers alike.

“The County Studio Tour grows in popularity each year and this year will be no different in Montgomery County,” said Jeff Schaller, artist and show coordinator.

The Dale Roberts studio
“The public will have a unique opportunity to see the creative process as many studios on the tour will feature works-in-progress and artist demonstrations. The tour has something for everyone, from the first-time art buyer to the seasoned collector, in a wide range of mediums and prices.”

The 2019 Montgomery County Studio Tour is free and open to the public on Saturday June 15, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Sunday, June 16, from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Visit www.montgomerycountystudiotour.com for a map, artists and studio listings and a new feature to map your own itinerary. 

Handicapped accessible studios are marked on the studio pages in the catalogue and on the website.

Email info@countystudiotour.com or call 610.942.9629 for further information.
Carl Cellini in his studio.

Visitors are encouraged to design their own self-guided tour with the catalogue and map, which can be downloaded from www.montgomerycountystudiotour.com.

Members of the public can start with a nearby studio, or anywhere they like, by using a convenient map sponsored by MONTCO ARTS. 

In addition, Manatawny Still Works allows you to design routes with an itinerary button that will guide attendees across the county using Google maps.

The Barbara Handler studio.
The County Collector Series, sponsored by Merion Art, will be offered again in 2019. 

The public can collect an original framed 6” x 6” piece of art for the special price of $75. 

Two-dimensional artists have created original works of art in a simple and elegant 6” x 6” frame, and three-dimensional artists have created special pieces for the County Collector Series. 

A photo of each work in this series is included in the catalogue and displayed on the website.

The Montgomery County Studio Tour was created by Jeff Schaller, painter and tour organizer.

Friday, June 14, 2019

West-Mont Christian Academy Feeds-the-Need

Photo by Rebecca Redding
Students in Pre-K 3 all the way up to grade 12 aided in packaging 10,000 meals. Half of the meals will go the the Salvation Army Pottstown, and the other half to Haiti.















Blogger's Note: Written by West-Mont Senior and Advancement Intern, Rachel Hetrick

On Thursday, June 6, students, parents, friends, and neighbors impacted thousands of people in Pottstown and Haiti. West-Mont wrapped up their month-long Feed the Need fundraiser with an energetic, all-hands-on-deck day of service.

Starting at 9 a.m., approximately 200 staff and students packaged 10,000 meals that will benefit hungry families locally and around the world. 

This meal-packing day was a fantastic opportunity for students to celebrate the end of the school year while enjoying serving others. From the youngest preschoolers to the soon-to-be-graduating seniors, the entire school community lent a hand by feeding the need! Staff and students also had a celebratory Chick-Fil-A lunch and a special visit from the Chick-Fil-A cow mascot.

This meal-packing day was the grand finale of a month-long process of fundraising and acquiring sponsorships. 

West-Mont Christian Academy is excited to serve the community and inspire students of all ages to do so. Thank you to the Corporate sponsors for Feed the Need: Jiffy Lube, Mishock Physical Therapy & Associates, Sanatoga Corporation, Grace Covenant Church, Hand & Stone Massage & Facial Spa - Oaks, Heritage Bible Church, LaFayette Welding Inc, Penny's Pizza, and Restoring Hope, Child and Community.

West-Mont strives to equip students to find their place in God’s story. An important part of this is giving students opportunities to become leaders and Godly examples through community service like Feed the Need.

For more information about West-Mont Mont Christian Academy, visit www.west-mont.org or call 610.326.7690.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Pottstown Packs a Punch at Fair Funding Rally

Photo by Evan Brandt

Many of those who packed three buses from Pottstown for yesterday's Fair Funding rally met out front of the capitol building first. They were welcomed by state Rep. Joe Ciresi, D-146th Dist.



One might be forgiven if, while strolling the halls of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Wednesday, you mistook it for downtown Pottstown.

After all, there were so many Pottstown people there, three buses worth in fact, that it may well have been the single largest contingent from any school district to show up to fight for fair educating funding.
Photo by Evan Brandt

Why do these Pottstown students (and one teacher) who took time 

out of their summer to fight for what's right deserve less of an
education 
than those in a wealthier district? Answer: They don't.
They are, 
from left, early education teacher Naimah Rhodes,
Trinity Rhodes-Fisher, 
Jesus Charriez, Grace Bainbridge,
Kyleaf July, Isabelle Dupon and

Heaven Charriez.

I mean Philadelphia is a bigger school district, but as I understand it, they only filled one bus. Not that we're bragging, but it's safe to say that while Pottstown may be one of the smallest of Pennsylvania's 500 school districts, its voice could be heard from one end of the capitol to the other Wednesday.

That may well be because Pottstown is the sixth most-underfunded school districts in Pennsylvania.

Were the "fair funding formula" adopted in 2016 to be applied to all state education funding, Pottstown would have $13 million more every single year to pay teachers, implement programs and (gasp!) LOWER its ridiculously high property taxes.

To be sure, Pottstown's was not the only voice ringing through the rotunda Wednesday.

Don't believe me? Look and listen for yourself:



And if you're wondering what "Whose side are you on?" refers to, consider that research by POWER Interfaith, the state-wide activists who organized the rally, has shown that the whiter a school district is, the more money it gets per-student under the current funding mechanism.

"How can that be?" you ask. "What about the fair funding formula?" A good question, but the answer
Photo by Evan Brandt
It was not hard to spot "We Are Pottstown" shirts in yesterday's crowd.
is a sad one. Due to politics in Harrisburg, home the second largest and second most expensive state legislature in the nation, only 10 percent of state education funding is distributed through that wonderful formula.

As for the rest of it? "The way we've always done it," which is to say unfairly and the exact thing the formula was adopted to eliminate.

I would say more, but advocate and School Board candidate Laura Johnson, who was the only Pottstown person to make it to the microphone, spoke for us all. Here's what she said:
Like so many here today I have some heros.
One of those heroes is an author named Rachel Held Evans.
I found Rachel so inspiring because she was persistently honest in matters of both faith and justice.
Tragically, Rachel passed away last month.
After her death someone shared a handwritten reminder that Rachel had made for herself and posted above her desk:
It said TELL THE TRUTH.
I’m here today because I need to tell the truth.
Photo by Evan Brandt

Laura Johnson of Pottstown speaks at Wednesday's
fair funding rally.
I live in Pottstown Pennsylvania with my husband and our three children.
Our children go to Pottstown School District.
I’ve had the privilege to volunteer and become involved in our schools.
I’ve been able to see that Pottstown’s schools are really something to be quite proud of.
Because, the truth is, we have caring and committed teachers, many of whom stand with us today.
The truth is, we have a wonderfully diverse student population.
The truth is, we have some truly excellent programs.
But since I’m telling the truth,
I need to tell you the whole truth:
As I’ve become involved in our schools, I've learned some troubling news.
The truth is, that the current education funding in Pennsylvania is racially biased.
The truth is, that students in diverse districts like Pottstown are consistently underfunded.
Pottstown’s schools are underfunded by over 13 million dollars every year.
Pottstown teachers and students deserve a fair shake.
That is almost 4,000 dollars per student.
The results are severe.
Our caring and committed teachers are underpaid.
Programs have been cut.
Our students lack the supports and opportunities they need.
Additionally, our economically hurting town has one of the highest tax burdens in the entire state.
Let’s tell the truth:
The lawmakers know there is racial bias in the current funding.
They know we are desperately hurting.
Many of them have some underfunded schools in their own districts.
Some of them, like our own Joe Ciresi, are champions in this fight against injustice.
The Pottstown NAACP visited legislators Wednesday.
Yet for many others, their approach is to be indifferent to it.
They allow the damage to keep compounding year after year because they say it’s not politically possible to fix it.

Let’s tell the truth:
If you are a lawmaker, your job is to ask what is morally and ethically right and use your power to help make it a reality.
To hide from what you know is right in the name of political impossibility is to fail to do your job.
It is time for our political leaders to find the will and the courage to correct this injustice.

It is time to end the racial bias in education funding.
POWER Organizer Nicholas O'Rourke
It is time to pass HB961 to bring 100 percent fair funding to Pennsylvania schools.

And it is time to make clear that children in districts like Pottstown are every bit as deserving of a great education as their peers across the state.
THAT is the truth.
Frankly, I couldn't improve on that.

We'll have more coverage in The Mercury, but for now, here are some more Pottstown voices via video:

Here's what state Rep. Joe Ciresi, D-146th Dist., had to say on the matter:



And members of the Pottstown chapter of the NAACP agree that with $13 million more in state funding the fair funding formula would provide, that Pottstown would be well set to revitalize by saying that the schools had been improved and the taxes lowered.



Here's what Pottstown School Board President Amy Francis had to say on the matter:



"I am so proud of our community," said Marlene Armato, who helped organize Pottstown's passage to the rally. "We came together like nothing I've ever seen before, we had churches, the teachers federation, students, the YWCA, the NAACP, this is something that has really united Pottstown because it's something that would help all of Pottstown."

Estimates calculated that last year's rally brought 600 people to the rotunda. This year, it was 1,000.

The difference, said Pottstown Schools Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez, who spoke at last year's rally "is the difference between throwing a bullet, and shooting one."

Here are the Tweets from the day's events:

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Cost of Boyertown Athletic Project Jumps by $1M

Photos by Evan Brandt
Boyertown Area Senior High School's former Memorial Stadium bleachers have already been  and the footers for the new home bleachers are already in place.


The cost of the $5.7 million project at Boyertown High School to replace Memorial Stadium, upgrade the softball field, build a concession and team room there and to construct a new maintenance building has increased by $1 million.

Tuesday night the school board voted 5-2 to make changes to the plans for the project in order to ensure it complies with federal Americans with Disabilities Act and Title IX regulations.

Board members Ruth Dierolf and Christine Neiman voted against the changes. Board members Jill Dennin and Donna Usavage were absent.

Images from Pesentation
According to a 44-page presentation by the project planners -- KCBA Architects; Barry Isett & Assoc. engineers; Fidevia construction management and Stadium Solutions, which is undertaking the grandstand design -- changes include: 

  • Move Softball Varsity Field to area adjacent to Bear Stadium (current Junior Varsity Baseball Field)
  • Relocate Junior Varsity Baseball Field to current Junior Varsity Softball Field 
  • Relocate Junior Varsity Softball Field to current Varsity Softball Field 
  • Perform some field maintenance work with BASD Staff
  • Add 92-seat grandstand and pressbox to softball field and scoreboard
  • ADA accessible ramp and a press box that accommodates two individuals
  • Add support facilities that include: Concession (no food preparation); team room; toilets; utility/storage room
  • Two free-standing dug-outs, each with storage

The presentation warned that the school district could be sued for violating either Title IX or ADA rules if the changes were not made.

Title IX requires schools to maintain policies, practices and programs that do not discriminate against anyone based on sex and the varsity softball facility needs to be made "comparable" with the boys baseball facility to comply with Title IX, Superintendent Dana Bedden said Tuesday night.

In addition to a lawsuit, the district could also be disciplined by the U.S. Dept. of Education's Office of Civil Rights for title IX violations, which could even result in the loss of federal funding for the district, according to the presentation.

Neiman demanded to know why none of the Title IX requirements were identified in the original plan. "We hire all these people, we give them titles, they should know what they're doing," she said. "We run into this constantly."

Bedden said he could not speak to what went on before he arrived, but said he is Title IX certified and can help advise the district how to steer clear of violating the rules.

"It's better to catch these errors now, while the contractors are here," said Board President Steve Elsier.

Neiman also objects to the maintenance garage which is to be built as part of the project, saying she believes it will cost too much. But board member Clay Breece said providing a space for vehicle maintenance to be done will save money because it will allow district employees to do the work rather than having it outsourced to outside contractors.

Other factors increasing the cost of the project, according to the presentation, include a sharp increase in construction costs since the original scope was approved and stormwater issues such as:

  • Poor on-site soils and NPDES permit process that will force force spray irrigation 
  • Triggers upfront construction for all future items 
  • Dramatically increases initial costs 
  • Downsizing of project permits a single, cost-effective rain garden
To deal with the stormwater issues, the board unanimously approved a further erosion study by Barry Isset & Associations not to exceed $13,000.

To pay for all this additional cost, the project will be downsized and some other plans for other improved fields, which were to be designed and approved by the township but not yet built, will not be drawn up.
Footers and infrastructure for the new Memorial Stadium 
grandstands as they appeared Tuesday evening.

Other aspects of the project will be reduced, such as building a second ticket booth, omitting work to improve the Berks Street entrance to the stadium and reducing the size of the maintenance building, all of which will save more than $854,000, the consultants calculated.

The board also voted 6-1 Tuesday night on a resolution which allows funds remaining from a 2015 borrowing  to pay the additional $1,025,437 cost.

Several other things of interest happened during the meeting, but its too late to write them up now, although you can get a sense of them from the Tweets from the meeting below:


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Several Residents Tell Pottstown Borough Council Where There's Smoke, There's a Problem




Two years ago, borough council loosened the regulations regarding open burning, most specifically as it relates to the fire pits many were already using in their backyards.

But several residents told borough council Monday night that some of their neighbors are abusing the privilege and causing problems.

One Second Street resident said neighbors have a property that is frequently disheveled and that the residents there is now using a fire pit and the smoke gets into her home. "I have to close my windows," she said.

Another resident said his neighbors has a fire "day and night to smoke his food," while another neighbor is burning construction debris in the backyard, "which is illegal."

He even showed a video of the debris being burned, (although it projected sideways on the screen, and so is presented that way here because I am not tech savvy enough to fix those things.)



A third resident, this one from the North End, said she opposed rescinding the burning ban when council approved it two years ago and her fears have only been confirmed.

Noting that parts of the North End are in a valley or depression, the many fire pits burning there results in the smoke hanging in the stagnant air.

"I can't enjoy my patio. I either have to close all my windows or even drive away from my own house, and I shouldn't have to do that with the amount of taxes I pay," she said.

Council thanked them all for their comments.

Two other residents spoke, both of whom spoke about council's pending decision about who should run the Ricketts Community Center.

Jonathan Corson, who said he is speaking as a taxpayer, urged the two agencies contending to run the Ricketts Center -- the STRIVE Initiative and the Olivet Boys & Girls Club -- to find a way to work together.

If not, council should award the contract to neither and "take it back," and run it out of the Parks and Recreation Department, as occurs in most other municipalities and as used to be done there.

He said both the borough and school district have "washed their hands" of being concerned about the center.

Another speaker, Elaine Waltmate, said she volunteers there teaching American sign language and urged council to keep Olivet in charge.

Council did vote to send a new contract to Olivet with new provisions, but Council President Dan Weand stressed council was merely taking the opportunity to make changes to the contract and that their vote was unrelated to their final decision.

And with that, here are the Tweets from the meeting: