Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Limerick Supervisors Issue Statement on George Floyd's Death, Threats at Premium Outlet Center

Blogger's Note:
The following statement was posted on the Limerick Township website.

Dear Limerick Community,

The Board of Supervisors stand united in condemning the actions of the Minneapolis Police officers that caused the tragic death of George Floyd. In a single instance, these rogue officers have diminished the positive police reforms arising from similar tragic incidents that have occurred across this nation over the past several years. Equal and unbiased protection for all is not an issue that needs to be debated. The Board works closely with the entire Township Police Department to ensure this basic constitutional right is demonstrated at all times, as they work to protect our Limerick community. Limerick is proud of our team of highly trained and professional officers who demonstrate on a daily basis, and under increasingly difficult situations, that equal protection under the law is a mantra embedded in the fabric of the entire department.

Peaceful protests that have taken place since Mr. Floyd’s death properly reflect the outrage of so many, and put all on notice that so much still needs to be done. But the message of those who chose to protest in a peaceful way is now lost by those who now take to the streets to riot, damage property, loot, and cause civil unrest. 

These law breakers arrived in Limerick on Saturday night on the grounds of the Philadelphia Premium Outlet Mall. Not content with the damage they inflicted throughout the day in Philadelphia, they felt the need to expand their crime wave. Thanks to a sufficient show of force by Limerick and surrounding police departments, these criminals were thwarted in their efforts. On Sunday evening, FBI reports noted that social media posts were encouraging their members to take to the streets and Limerick was noted again as a potential target. In cooperation with county and regional police departments, a force of over 40 officers were on patrol within our community to answer any criminal activity that may have occurred.

The Limerick Board thanks all our men and women in blue who helped protect our community, homes, businesses and lives not only over the past few days but each and every day. We will stay diligent in our efforts to protect Limerick and pledge to help our neighbors as well who may need similar support. In doing so, as one united voice, we will stand up to the criminals who wish to destroy and divide, and support all others who peacefully seek to bring us all together.


Limerick Township Board of Supervisors

Thomas J. Neafcy, Jr., Chairman
Kara Shuler, Vice-Chair
Michael J. McCloskey, III, Supervisor
Patrick M. Morroney, Supervisor
Kenneth W. Sperring, Jr., Supervisor

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Edgewood Cemetery Fundraiser Will Really Grab Ya

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

A new initiative of the Hobart’s Run neighborhood improvement initiative is designed to be a win-win that addresses two eyesore issues affecting Pottstown’s ongoing revitalization efforts: trash on the streets, and maintenance of the Historic Edgewood Cemetery, located at 989 E. High Street.

Hobart’s Run and Edgewood Cemetery volunteers are partnering to sell trash “grabber” tools to raise funds toward the daunting annual $20,000 cost to keep the Cemetery mowed. At the same time, they hope to inspire Pottstown residents to do more to pick up litter on their blocks.

The cemetery was abandoned in 2012 and became overgrown and unsightly. A small group of citizens now work year-round to ensure basic care through grassroots fundraising, clean-up days, and other events. Unfortunately Covid-19 and related prohibitions on large group gatherings forced the group to cancel a big spring 2020 clean-up and fundraising event.

The grabbers will be provided for donations of $15 or more per tool,* and all proceeds will go to the cemetery’s mowing fund. The tools also are handy in the home for picking up hard-to-reach items.

“In addition to helping Edgewood pay to mow the grass on this 12-acre site, we hope families and
friends will use the tools to safely pick up litter while out walking in their neighborhoods,” says Cathy Skitko, director of communications for Hobart’s Run and an Edgewood Cemetery board member.

“We would love for families, civic organizations such as scout troops, business owners, and neighborhood groups to make this a win-win by purchasing the grabbers and taking on ‘socially distanced’ community litter walks,” she adds.

“Edgewood Cemetery has made great progress in terms of keeping the grounds groomed,” notes Andrew Monastra, president of the Edgewood Cemetery board.

“We know many businesses and individuals have lost income during the pandemic, but we hope many people can make a donation to help us pay respect to the people resting at the Cemetery and keep it from slipping back into its previously overgrown condition,” he says.

“At the same time, this campaign will allow Pottstown citizens to demonstrate pride in their hometown and make sure it’s in great shape as people return to its businesses and other venues.”

There are two ways to order your grabber:
  • Write a check for a minimum of $15 to Edgewood Historic Cemetery, and mail it to 740 E. High St., Pottstown, PA 19464. If you would like to receive a grabber for your contribution, please make a note in the memo field of the check. Please also include your phone number and email with your contribution, as volunteers will be in touch about distribution of the grabbers after they arrive. Naturally, larger contributions will be greatly welcomed, and all donations are tax-deductible.
  • Use PayPal! Edgewood Cemetery now has a PayPal account. You can indicate if you want a grabber in the drop-down menu.
Citizens interested in contributing to Edgewood’s efforts in any way, including planning a fundraising event for a future date, can contact Andrew Monastra at amonastra@themglaw.com or 484-644-3830.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Pottsgrove Grad's Video Part of Nationwide Commencement That Will Include Obamas Speeches

When Pottsgrove senior Ryan Romig heard in March for the first time that schools would be closed through the end of the year, his first response was to shoot a video.

Romig, who has made "over a thousand videos" on the YouTube platform, but has "deleted about 900 of them," took to his computer to vent his frustration at the turn of events.

"I fully and totally understand that coronavirus is a serious, serious thing, but dude, what the ..." he says in the beginning of an eight minute video that makes plain his disappointment.

"This was my senior year. This was all I had left, I had four more months left. That's it," he said.

"Now, senior prom, my graduation, everything, is just gone," Romig lamented.

He was perhaps speaking for all students across Pennsylvania when he said "all of us high school seniors, we are never getting any of this back. Nobody told me that something I've been working toward for 13 years is going to be stripped away."

As a "YouTuber," Romig of course hopes his video will find an audience.

What he hadn't counted on was that audience might include former President Barack Obama.

On June 6, Barrack and Michelle Obama will take part in YouTube's "Dear Class of 2020," which will stream live starting at 3 p.m. Both Obamas "will deliver separate commencement addresses" and "a joint message to students," according to ABC News.

That event will feature global leaders, celebrities, creators and more, including Malala Yousafzai, Sundar Pichai, former Defense Secretary Bob Gates, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys and Kerry Washington.

A video has been created promote that event and that promotion includes footage from Romig's rant, which is titled "Goodbye Class of 2020."

"I heard about the closure when I was at work and I just came home and started working on it," Romig told The Mercury Friday.

Ironically, he said he spent less time on the video, about 90 minutes, than the usual three hours he puts into other, more complicated features.

But what "Goodbye Class of 2020," may have lacked in sophistication, it had plenty of emotion.

"I got an email asking about licensing and then I had a call with a woman who explained why they wanted it," said Romig.

Now, he is pretty excited.

"I've been doing this since I was a freshman and frankly, I was devoting so much time to it, I almost didn't graduate this year," he said with a laugh.

While he says its "awesome" that his video is part of a nationwide effort to recognize the special status of the Class of 2020, he is even more excited about what the exposure may bring.

"I'm hoping this is my big break," Romig said.In the meantime, Romig, who completed three semesters at Montgomery County Community College while in high school, plans to complete his last in the fall and then consider his options.

Friday, May 29, 2020

YWCA Empowering Youth in Online Program

Blogger's Note:
The following was submitted by YWCA Tri-County Area.

One by one, Kristie Piacine prompted the 11 girls watching her and one another on a computer screen: What are you grateful for? Will you name a stretch or yoga pose?

One by one, the girls answered: family, health, everything, taco shells; tree pose, warrior pose, side stretches. Some piped right up, some hesitated, some giggled as they talked. Another session of Great Girls Today was underway.

Piacine – known as Miss Kristie to the girls – is a manager of Youth Empowerment Programs at YWCA Tri-County Area. YW’s youth programs for girls combine group mentoring in social/emotional learning with fitness and nutrition practice, career exploration, and leadership development to nurture the “whole girl”. Youth empowerment leaders engage girls in grades 4-12 in a variety of activities designed to help them build healthy habits, resist risky behaviors, and contribute to their communities. Girls meet in school or after school, varying with age group.

Usually meeting in the evenings at YW’s offices on King Street, the groups are now meeting via teleconferencing, joining either on computers or by phone. When YWCA Tri-County Area closed on March 13 because of COVID-19, the youth empowerment staff went right to work, designing program activities that could be done virtually.

The meetings start off with an icebreaker activity, and a physical fitness activity. While the program progresses, the girls use the chat feature of the meeting platform to say hello to one another. Family members and pets wander in and out of the camera view.

To keep the girls engaged between activities, staff will place polls on the screen for them to answer. A poll will ask them questions about the day’s topic. They’re asked what they miss about school, how they’re doing at home, what they’re doing to relieve stress, what they liked or didn’t like about the day’s program. Staff uses the results to lead into a discussion or activity, or to design future programming.

Results from a recent poll showed that a large percentage of the girls believe they are able to recognize when they’re getting stressed, and are able to pause to help reduce their stress. They named the times when they’re most likely to feel stressed at home: when their siblings hurt their feelings or vice versa, when they’re overwhelmed, when they feel unsafe. The girls said in the past week they learned something new, spent time outside, played music, spent time with the family. They also voted sausage as the best pizza topping.

Staff also uses direct feedback from the girls to design future programming; poll results give staff a glimpse into what’s going on in the girls’ lives while they’re at home. The virtual programs have given youth empowerment staff new insight into the girls’ lives beyond what they see at school or at YW.

“(The virtual meetings) give us a view of the whole girl,” said Kelly Grosser, director of Youth Empowerment Programs. “Not just as school, but now we’re seeing them at home, too.”

The 11 girls in Great Girls Today are in grades 4-6; their focus is on healthy habits and healthy relationships. They also meet monthly with volunteers in the community, who expose the girls to various careers.

In observance of Earth Day, and for April’s career exploration program, the girls met recently with Sarah Crothers, education director for Schuylkill River Greenways. The Schuylkill River is the main source of drinking water throughout the area, Crothers told the girls; she shared a video that helped the girls understand the role rivers and streams play in their lives. Crothers also talked about water pollution, using a large display board to demonstrate to the girls how pollutants and litter are washed by rain into river.

Crothers and Piacine led discussions about water use and waste, closing the Earth Day discussion by asking the girls to be mindful of their water use, to avoid using disposable water bottles whenever possible, and to be leaders among their family and friends by setting examples of stewardship of the planet.

Youth empowerment staff – Kelly Grosser, Kelly Earnshaw, Kristie Piacine, and Dionna Webster – are considering how to continue to use the virtual connections,e ven after traditional programming resumes, to interact with girls who cannot attend the in-person groups . Five new girls have joined Great Girls Today since the program moved online, inspired by their friends or sisters to join. Grosser, director of the Youth Empowerment Programs, said the new participants are girls who have scheduling conflicts that prevents them from attending in person.

Virtual programs are offered at the same times as the in-person programs. All girls are welcome to join the appropriate age group:
  • Girls In Charge/Pottstown Middle School (grades 6-8): 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Mondays
  • Girls In Charge/Pottsgrove Middle School (grades 6-8): 2:45 – 3:45 p.m. Tuesdays
  • Great Girls Today/all schools: 6-7 p.m. Wednesdays
  • Girls Take the Lead/Owen J. Roberts High School (grades 9-12): 1-2 p.m. Thursdays
  • Girls In Charge/Owen J. Roberts Middle School (grades 6-8): 2:30-3:30 p.m. Thursdays
Girls and their parents can learn more about YW’s Youth Empowerment Programs at https://zcu.io/o0U0. In addition, YW CHAMPS fitness programming for preschool children and their families is available on YW’s YouTube channel: tinyurl.com/YWYoutube

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Only One Intersection Fix Comes Out of Traffic Study

Nearly a year after a study of 18 troubled intersections in the greater Pottstown area was completed, the number of intersections likely to be upgraded is one.

The study was conducted by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission with an eye toward identifying some of the smaller-scale projects that could be undertaken by the participating municipalities for minimal cost.

During a review in February, regional planners selected two intersections from among the 18 selected as being worthy of further scrutiny in terms of implementing the recommended fixes.

During Wednesday night's meeting of the Pottstown Metropolitan Regional Planning Committee Montgomery County and PennDOT officials discussed proposed improvements to two intersections. 

But the complicated nature of the problems at the corner of Moser Road and East High Street proved to be too much for an easy fix.

Instead, the regional planners were told by county and PennDOT transportation officials that the transformation of the intersection of Middle Creek Road and Congo Road in Douglass (Mont.) Township would be the easiest to accomplish.

The intersection is expected to see a 20 percent increase in traffic by 2025, but that's not enough to warrant a traffic signal, said 

There have been three accidents at that corner between 2012 and 2017 and the study recommended the addition of a street light and a four-way stop there.

Because both roads are owned by the township, it would be easy to upgrade the intersection and would probably not cost more than $10,000, said David Adams, PennDOT District 6's traffic signals section manager.

"In fact that intersection is probably the easiest of all of them to upgrade," he said. Whether or not it will happen, is unclear. No Douglass township officials were on the virtual meeting. 

However, Matt Edmond, transportation planning section chief for the Montgomery County Planning Commission, said one third of the county fund created by implementing a $5 fee on all vehicle registrations has been set aside entirely for municipalities and could probably cover 80 percent of the cost of the upgrade.

As for the intersection of Moser Road and East High Street in Pottstown, that's a bit more complicated.

First off, East High Street is a state road, so PennDOT would be more involved. 

Secondly, most of the eight crashes that occurred there between 2012 and 2017 occurred in the westbound lane just past the intersection with Highland Avenue.

The best way to improve that intersection would be to have all traffic into and out of the Sunoco station located on the north side of East High Street be controlled by the traffic signal there.

But that is impractical for the business, given the amount of space available, and is nothing the government could require, Edmonds said.

While the prospect of a fix there is dimming, Marley Bice, the community planner from Montgomery County Planning Commission who works with the regional planners, reminded them that the DVRPC study now underway looks at the High Street corridor from the Berks County line to Lower Pottsgrove's border with Limerick.

"So perhaps we could revisit this as part of that study," Bice said.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Math Error Means School Tax Bills May Jump $150

Despite the fact that the Pottsgrove School Board has adopted a budget that doesn't raise taxes, property taxes may go up anyway due to a screw-up in Harrisburg.

If the error turns out to be confirmed, it will affect all school property tax bills in Pennsylvania, not just in Pottsgrove.

Business Manager David Nester informed the board that he is hearing there is an error made by the Pennsylvania Budget Secretary in calculating casino revenues. That funding provides tax relief by cutting the tax bill of every registered homestead and farmstead in the district by about $299, Nester said.

Since the homestead exemption was first created as part of the Act 1 tax reform in 2006, the district has received a constant amount of $1.5 million.

As happens every year, Nester said his office was notified May 1 that the revenues from casino gambling had been certified at $621 million.

"Last week we were notified that the Pennsylvania Budget Secretary was going to re-certify the amount," Nester told the Pottsgrove School Board last night.

"Now I'm hearing that it may be reduced by $300 million, which would mean we would lose about $770,000 and that works out to about $150 per house," Nester said.

None of this has been confirmed yet, said Nester, observing, "I'm having a hard time believing they made a $300 million calculation error."

"This information is moving fast and I think I'll be getting a day-by-day or even hour-by-hour update, he said.

Unlike property taxes, the homestead exemption doles out tax relief equally among homesteads and farmsteads, no matter what the property assessment is. Thus a shortfall would hit all equally.

"Every time I hear it, it makes more sense and I get even angrier," said Pottsgrove Superintendent William Shirk, mentioning the many sacrifices that had been made to deliver a budget that does not raise taxes in the coming school year.

The only way to ensure Pottsgrove taxpayers get the tax bill they were expecting, Nester said, "would be for us to lower taxes and then we would incur the loss instead of the taxpayer."

School Board President Robert Lindgren offered up the opinion that "I don't think that's the end of the bad news."

He said the state budget is likely to be as deeply affected by the statewide three-month shut down of businesses in order to stem the growth of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I know the governor opened up middle part of the state with his code yellow, but we don't make money in the middle of the state," Lindgren said.

"We make money in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and until we open up those areas, the budget hole for this year will continue to grow and continue to be a disaster," he said.

Nester said he is hearing that state subsidies for school districts will be the same as last year, and that district's would be able to keep money obtained through the federal CARES act.

"I hope you are right and I am wrong, I really do," Lindgren replied.

The news followed comments by Shirk, and Nester's news provided ample evidence, of the difficulties school districts are having planning for the coming school year.

The rules, and information, change almost daily "and there are a lot of different moving pieces," he said.

That includes whether the school district will continue to provide food over the summer as it has since March. Shirk said there will be at least two more weeks of meals, but beyond that remains an open question.

His office plans to issue a district-wide survey to parents next week trying to get a sense of how, or if, they want to see schools open in the fall.

What would the community be willing to accept regarding buses, virtual learning versus face-to-face learning, special education. "We want to get a sense of what they're comfortable with."

Rather than wait until mid-July when discussion of plans for the coming school year are often begun, Shirk said some decisions will have to start being made as soon as two weeks from now.

Shirk noted that there is some talk of re-opening schools "with social distancing," which Lindgren called "the worst kind of possible answer."

That would mean classes with 10 students, not 30, which could only be obtained with multiple bus trips every day, or a combination of virtual and actual classroom experience.

"How do you maintain social distancing in the halls when you have 1,000 kids in the high school trying to get from one of the building to the other in four minutes?"

"Maybe that sounds good in Harrisburg, but it doesn't work," Lindgren said.

"The money needed to match this model doesn't exist," said Shirk. "We have to work within the confines of what we have."

Lindgren said he believes schools should open in the fall as normal, "with no social distancing."

He holds this belief, he said, because of the example of the USS Roosevelt, the aircraft carrier that came back to port because so many of its sailors had contracted coronavirus.

"There are about 4,800 sailors on an aircraft carrier at sea," said Lindgren, who is an officer in the naval reserves and served in Afghanistan.

"When all was said and done, 23 percent of those sailors had the disease, which is 1,123. Of those, seven were actually hospitalized and of those, one died. That's what happens with this age group of 24 and younger," Lindgren said.

"Generally, they are not at risk and then everyone says they don't want to put people at higher risk exposed, well that's who should have been quarantined in the first place," he said.

"That is what the science tells us to do," Lindgren said. "That's the conclusion you reach when you think logically and don't let fear guide your decisions."

Monday, May 25, 2020

PHS Early College Grads Have 3.48 Average GPA

This year's Early College Program graduates from Pottstown High School.

Blogger's Note: The following was submitted by the Foundation for Pottstown Education.

Fifteen Pottstown High School seniors were recognized at the May 21, school board meeting for successfully completing the Dual Enrollment, Early College Program. These fourteen students were accepted in to the program in the fall of their junior year.

The Foundation began this program in the fall of 2014 with 68 students completing the program which provides the funding covering the tuition for up to 30 credits at Montgomery County Community College West Campus. Throughout the past six years the Foundation has provided more than $415,000 in tuition.

In his presentation to the school board, Foundation Executive Director Joe Rusiewicz praised the students for their accomplishments over the past two academic years. “The Class of 2020 earned more than 250 credits with an average grade point average of 3.48.”

“If these students took the same classes at their chosen colleges, they would have spent $379,620 as opposed to the tuition paid by the Foundation of $48.705 at MCCC.” Rusiewicz shared.

All 15 of the students have been accepted into an institution of higher learning. The 2020 Early College Program Class participants are:
  • Ka’Wanza Tori Barksdale Hodges who will attend MCCC majoring in Biomedical Life Sciences
  • Nayali Cruz enrolled at New York University studying Neuroscience
  • Daniel Darden attending Widener University for Psychology
  • Dereck Darden also attending Widener University and majoring in Pre-Athletic Training
  • Madison Friedman enrolling at Temple University to study Psychology
  • Emma Gawles has enrolled at Lycoming College studying Child and Adolescent Psychology
  • Andrew Green attending Temple University to study Political Sciences
  • Adriana Hayward will attend Gwynedd Mercy University to study Nursing
  • Paige Aaliyah Jones plans to attend Temple University for Early Education
  • Jorge Mundo will attend Alfred University majoring in Athletic Training
  • Crystal Riveria enrolled at Florida Institute of Technology to study Marine Biology
  • Megan Robie will attend Ursinus College and plans to study Biology
  • Tanner Price Scott enrolled at Dickinson College where he will major in Computer Science and Archeology
  • Winni Weng enrolled at Emory University and will major in Biochemistry/Health Administration
  • Destiny Williams enrolled at Howard University majoring in International Business
Rusiewicz also indicated that 100 percent of the previous students enrolled in the Early College Program have all enrolled in a college/university with the first two classes achieving their bachelor’s degree. Sixteen current sophomores have been selected for the Cohort VIII class that will begin in the fall of 2020.

About FPE: The mission of the Foundation for Pottstown Education is to raise funds for and support life-changing educational opportunities for the students and teachers in the Pottstown School District promoting the enhancement of our community.