Reading Area Water Authority will resume charging recycling fee

Now that a federal judge has voided a state court ruling that the city’s recycling fee is illegal, the Reading Area Water Authority said Tuesday that it will resume charging the fee for the city.

The fee, retroactive to October, will appear in the bills that customers get in early April.

Also on Tuesday, state Sen. Judy Schwank, a Ruscombmanor Township Democrat, said she will introduce legislation allowing municipalities to collect a recycling fee.

Read more at The Reading Eagle →

Corbett’s agriculture budget: More of this, less of that

Gov. Tom Corbett proposed new spending for food safety inspections and Penn State’s Agricultural Extension program, but cut other programs local officials say could hurt Berks County farmers.

Those cuts included agricultural research programs, the Keystone International Livestock Exposition and All-American Dairy Show.

“All these livestock shows help put Pennsylvania on the map,” said Berks County Agricultural Coordinator Sheila Miller. “Especially here in Berks County. One of our own helps run the All American Dairy Show. … We wouldn’t want to see that not continue.”

Read more at The Reading Eagle →

Organization salutes key figure in farmland preservation in Berks County

Adopt An Acre Inc., an educational nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing the loss of farmland in Berks County, has honored Robert C. Ziegenfus of Kutztown University, a central figure in the county’s agricultural preservation work for the past 25 years.

State Sen. Judy Schwank, a Ruscombmanor Township Democrat who sits on the state agricultural preservation board, said Ziegenfus led the creation of the Berks County Agricultural Preservation Board in 1989. Read more –

Reading Eagle

New laws, more funding for mental health services seen likely

A new state report on mental illness, firearms regulations and violence prevention will result in new laws and possibly more funding for mental health services, predicted several of those involved with the effort.

The state Advisory Committee on Violence Prevention was formed by a state Senate resolution in early 2013 in the aftermath of the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.   Read more –

Reading Eagle

Group in Berks County works on how to get jobs for ex-inmates

A group of Berks County citizens, public officials, business leaders and nonprofit representatives explored ways Thursday to overcome societal obstacles to hiring people with criminal records.

Called the Berks County Criminal Justice Employment Council, the group of about a dozen people met at Elsayed Elmarzouky’s Queen City Restaurant on Lancaster Avenue.

It has been meeting for more than a year, grappling with the issue of finding jobs for ex-inmates and those on parole or probation. Read more –

Reading Eagle

Grading the crime summit


A year ago, more than 100 public, private and law enforcement leaders got together to talk about ways to reduce Reading-Berks crime. The gathering produced a plan to focus on five areas. The Reading Eagle asked people to assess progress in those five areas using letter grades, and to issue a letter grade for overall progress since the crime summit


NA = Grade-giver did not have enough information or felt progress was too incomplete to grade.

Read more –

Reading Eagle

Birdsboro learns Route 345 to be repaved

Birdsboro Borough Manager Aaron Durso told borough council Monday that Route 345 in the borough is to be repaved in 2015.

The state plans to bid the project this fall, according to Durso, who credited the decision to efforts by borough officials; state Sen. Judy Schwank, a Ruscombmanor Township Democrat; and state Rep. David Maloney, a Pike Township Republican.  Read more –

Reading Eagle

State Senator Judy Schwank, Oley veterans make lunches for the homeless

While John Heywood may have been credited with the phrase ‘many hands make light work,’ it has been co-opted by countless others throughout the years, most notably the Amish. 

But the phrase proved to be particularly apt on a recent cold and rainy Saturday morning when many hands turned out to make sandwiches and pack lunches for the homeless.  Read more –

By Lynn A. Gladieux, For 21st Century Media

Fightin Phils figure to firm up friendship with farming

Heads turned as the ostrich carrying the Fightin Phils Crazy Hot Dog Vendor made his way through the Pennsylvania Farm Show complex on Tuesday. Many Farm Show visitors stopped to stare at the costumed man or ask for a photo.

The Crazy Hot Dog Vendor walked the Farm Show halls with an entourage that included State Sen. Judith L. Schwank, a Ruscombmanor Township Democrat; and Reading Fightin Phils General Manager Scott Hunsicker. Read more –

By Jamie Klein
Reading Eagle

Beyond the Farm Show glow, agriculture support tough to cultivate

The butter sculpture is ready, milk shakes are being prepared, animals are being transported and snow is on the ground – it must be Farm Show time.

Agriculture is in the air as the 2014 Pennsylvania Farm Show kicked off Saturday. It’s much the same each January, as the commonwealth’s agriculture community gathers in Harrisburg for a week dedicated to farming.   Read more –

By David Mekeel

Allentown Morning Call

Lawmakers glad Pennsylvania Lottery privatization plan fizzled

Early this year legislators representing Berks County had a long list of concerns and questions when Gov. Tom Corbett accepted a proposal to privatize the state lottery.

Among them were potential harm to senior citizen programs funded with lottery proceeds, potential job losses and signing a contract with an overseas company. Read more –

By Mary Young

Allentown Morning Call

Reading loses out on CRIZ program as Bethlehem, Lancaster receive designation

Lancaster and Bethlehem on Monday won much-coveted CRIZ state economic development designations, leaving officials in Reading disappointed but preparing to fight for a designation in the future.

Only two City Revitalization and Improvement Zone designations were immediately available under the law signed this year by Gov. Tom Corbett, modeled after a Neighborhood Improvement Zone program that has sparked a building boom in downtown Allentown. Read more –

By Ford Turner

Allentown Morning Call

Revenge porn should be a crime, lawmaker says

While breaking up is hard to do, eventually you move on.

But the heartache doesn’t end for jilted lovers who find their ex has posted naked or sexually explicit photos or videos of them online as a parting shot. Their pain may only worsen as word of the images spreads and their friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers view them or even have them sent directly to them by the spiteful ex. Read more —

By Paul Muschick

Allentown Morning Call

BCIU to review Reading School District’s administrative capabilities

While it may have been drowned out by the bickering of board members, the Reading School Board approved a major move Monday night.

The board voted to have the Berks County Intermediate Unit perform an assessment of the district administration, reporting back on what the district needs to do to improve its academic and financial performance. Read more

By David Mekeel

The Reading Eagle

Reading fighting hard for redevelopment designation

Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer said his staff knew they were in for a fight if they were going to beat out other Pennsylvania cities for two City Revitalization and Improvement Zone designations.

Today, Spencer said an application for the designation had been submitted and it was time to take the gloves off.

“It was a Herculean task from the start,” Spencer told a gathering in the former Citizens Bank building near the corner of Fifth and Penn streets.  Read More →

Dan Kelly
Reading Eagle

Lawmakers target revenge porn

An 18-year-old Schuylkill County girl shared some intimate photos of herself with a slightly older man she’d been dating.

And during their romance, the pair made a video of themselves having sex.

When the boyfriend became physically abusive, the young woman broke off the relationship and sought a protection from abuse order. Read More →

Dan Kelly
Reading Eagle

Fire companies, state bridge gap over permits

It may not be perfect, but bureaucracy worked Thursday night.

Berks County fire company officials, at a forum hosted by state Sen. Judy Schwank, learned how new and lowered weight limits on bridges across the state would impact emergency vehicles.

In short, it means paperwork for fire companies, lots of paperwork.

Kamlesh A. Ashar, PennDOT District 5 bridge engineer, told the firefighters that their companies would have to apply for permits to cross bridges if their vehicles exceed posted weight limits. Read More →

David Mekeel
Reading Eagle

Scams everywhere, so beware, Fleetwood area audience told

Scams are everywhere, David Shallcross told 35 residents at Fleetwood Area High School on Thursday.

There are people preying on residents confused by the Affordable Care Act or pretending to represent fake charities. Others scheme to discover credit card numbers, steal identities or get paid for construction work that will never be done.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it is,” said Shallcross, community liaison for the state Attorney General’s office. “Never give out information for an incoming request.”

Shallcross was one of three law enforcement officials who spoke during a town hall meeting focused on crime prevention. The event was hosted by state Sen. Judy Schwank, a Ruscombmanor Township Democrat, and is part of her ongoing series of community forums in her district. Read More →

Matthew Nojiri
Reading Eagle

On some Pa. highways, 70 could be the new 65

Drivers looking to pick up speed on Pennsylvania highways without getting ticketed could have some good news rolling their way.

The highest-ranking member of the state Senate announced plans Friday to introduce legislation that would allow, but not mandate, higher maximum speeds on portions of interstates, including the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, a Jefferson County Republican, proposes raising the maximum speed limit to 70 mph from the 65 mph limit that some portions of interstates now have. He said increasing the speed limit would help traffic move better and make the delivery of goods more efficient. Read More →

Becdca Y. Gregg
Reading Eagle

Students take on role of state leaders in Model Senate session at Albright College

If he is ever elected Pennsylvania’s governor, Fleetwood High School senior Andrew Schwartz said he’ll reform education in the state by getting rid of standardized tests and improving schools through a steeper tax on natural gas drilling.

Schwartz got to act out that dream of being the commonwealth’s top official Wednesday as one of about 65 students who took part in a Model Senate program at Albright College.

The students, who came from 15 Berks County high schools, got a taste of what being a state official is like through realistic exercises.  Read More →

Mark Urban
Reading Eagle

Officials announce plans to apply for redevelopment funding for Reading

The city’s plans to apply for a major revitalization zone designation went public Thursday, as the effort won approval from local business and community groups, county officials and even colleges and state legislators that will collaborate on the effort.

“We’re a team,” said state Sen. Judy Schwank, a Ruscombmanor Township Democrat.

“We’re totally committed to work on a united effort to get a proposal in place,” Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer said.

Council and the local businesses clearly are in on the effort, Council President Francis G. Acosta said.  Read More →

Don Spatz
Reading Eagle

Legislators ready to debate prescription drug database

When Dr. William Santoro sees a patient, he wants to know exactly what prescriptions that patient is taking, and a prescription drug registry would ensure that he could do that.

Santoro, an addiction specialist with the Reading Health System, said patients who “doctor shop” to stock up on prescription drugs cannot be trusted to disclose their prescription histories.

“If you come to me as a patient, I should have access,” he said.  Read More →

Ford Turner
Reading Eagle

School property tax a big issue at Caernarvon meeting

State Sen. Judy Schwank was pretty sure the crowd wanted to talk about property taxes. So before anyone said anything on the topic, she broached it herself.

“Is that an issue?” the Ruscombmanor Township Democrat asked the group of about 35 residents who were at the Caernarvon Township municipal building Thursday for a town hall meeting.

“Yes!” the crowd groaned in unison. Read More →

By Beth Anne Heesen
Reading Eagle

Local Senator Says Cyber Charters Cost Too Much

Cyber schooling can cause a lot of arguments. There are issues that the cyber-school proponents and their challengers disagree on, and some of these even get decided on by the Pennsylvania State Legislature.

Funding is one issue related to cyber-schooling that often comes up. Senate Bill 335 is causing many cyber schools to fight for their lives.

According to Sen. Judy Schwank, a Ruscombmanor Township Democrat and main sponsor of Senate Bill 335, the law was proposed to alleviate money issues in school districts. It would change the rules for cyber charter schools. Basically, a student in a school district that has its own cyber program, such as Conrad Weiser, would be expected to use that instead of a cyber charter. The student could still attend a cyber charter, but he or she would have to find their own way to pay for it, according to published reports. Read More →

By Emily Foote
Junior, Agora Cyber Charter
Reading Eagle

Berks County Commission for Women celebrates 20 years of pursuing equal opportunity and treatment

The year the Berks County Commission for Women was founded, four women held U.S. Senate seats.

That was in 1993. The number of female U.S. senators has since grown to 20, Berks County Senior Judge Linda K.M. Ludgate said at the commission’s 20th anniversary luncheon on Sunday afternoon.

But, she stressed, much still needs to be done to advance women’s role in society. Read More →

By Laura Newberry
Reading Eagle