Proposed law would prohibit private ownership of exotic pets like Earl Township couple’s black bear

Barry Hoch stood close to the cage, holding a bunch of green grapes with one hand and poking a piece of the fruit through the chain links with the other.

The bear stuck out its tongue, greedily accepted the food, and grunted for more.

“Here you go. Here you go,” the 65-year-old Hoch cooed to the hulking mammal.

For Hoch, it’s just an everyday task. He and his wife, Barbara, have kept Jakie, a 350-pound female American black bear, in their Earl Township backyard for 25 years. Read More →

By Laura Newberry
Reading Eagle

Programs to Benefit Commuters Announced

Advocates of using different modes of getting to work other than driving alone and a few elected officials were at the BARTA Transportation Center on Tuesday morning to talk up programs they offer commuters.

Representatives of Commuter Services of Pennsylvania, a grant-funded partnership of nine counties including Berks, were at the downtown Reading station between 5 and 9 a.m. taking applications from bus passengers to enroll in the group’s database of commuters.

“They benefit from things like emergency ride home (one of the programs for people who enroll),” said Matthew G. Boyer, group executive director. “The people in our database benefit because there’s additional people they can get matched up with someone for a carpool or van pool.” Read More →

Reading Eagle

Heroin epidemic spreads to rural areas, official says

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s top narcotics investigator identified cheap, potent Mexican heroin as the state’s No. 1 drug problem at a forum with Berks County municipal officials Monday at Penn State Berks.

Jonathan A. Duecker, special agent for narcotics control, said the heroin epidemic has spread from cities into rural areas and is challenging law enforcement agencies throughout the state. Read More →

Ron Devlin 
Reading Eagle


Proposal gains momentum in Senate

A plan to eliminate school property taxes has stalled in the House of Representatives, but the proposal is gaining momentum in the Senate.

Sen. David G. Argall, a Schuylkill County Republican who represents part of Berks County and is prime sponsor of the Senate version, said he has 21 co-sponsors and expects to have more than the 26 votes he needs to pass the plan by the time the Senate returns in September. Read more →

Ag extension, fairs, farm preservation winners in state budget

Gov. Tom Corbett approved a $28.4 billion spending plan in June that includes more money for Penn State’s agricultural research and extension program, county fairs, farmland preservation and the Farm Show Complex & Expo Center.

“This budget is an investment in agriculture, which is the cornerstone of Pennsylvania’s economy and future,” Corbett said in a press release. Read more →

By Jamie Klein
Reading Eagle

Good news on crime-fighting front is always welcome

The Issue: City bike patrols are expanded, and lawmakers approve funds aimed at taking on drug trafficking.

Our Opinion: Such developments are heartening as our community works to reduce the impact of drugs and gangs.

We’re happy to see some positive developments concerning efforts to tackle crime in Berks County.

For one thing, the Reading Police Department has expanded its bicycle patrols. With eight officers certified for duty in May, there are 30 people available to do the work. Read more →

Lawmakers listen at hearing on Reading’s plight

Expanding a neighborhood improvement program that has proven to be successful in Allentown and eliminating school property taxes were among the suggestions gathered Friday during a state hearing on improving the future of the state’s cities.

Sen. David G. Argall, a Schuylkill County Republican who represents part of Berks County and serves as chairman of the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, and Rep. Keith Gillespie, a York County Republican and chairman of the House Urban Affairs Committee, convened the hearing to listen to local representatives talk about what they need from the Legislature to help Reading. Read more →

Mary Young
Reading Eagle

Schwank covers it all at town hall

From pension reform to privatizing wine and liquor stores and the governor’s proposed $1.8 billion transportation plan, there’s a lot happening in state government.

On Thursday, state Sen. Judy Schwank met with 25 constituents in Bern Township for a town hall meeting at which she talked about the issues facing the state and answered audience questions.

The 80-minute town hall session at the township municipal building was the latest in a series of meetings the Ruscombmanor Township Democrat has hosted in communities in her district. Read more →

Contact Matthew Nojiri: 610-371-5062 or

Pa. Senate panel hears about broader school safety concerns

HARRISBURG — As public school safety has been a concern, a state Senate committee Wednesday shifted the magnifying glass onto colleges, parochial schools and preschools.

The comments and testimony came one month after several public school and law enforcement officials from across the state told the same Senate panel that armed officers in public K-12 schools are an unfortunate necessity. While the arming of officers was raised once again,testimony focused on emergency evacuation plans, the need for additional funding to offset security upgrade costs and the idea that more and more schools and day care centers need to be more vigilant. >>Read more

Schwank, ag secretary address farmers, Rotarians at Kutztown Grange Hall

State Sen. Judy Schwank greeted state Agriculture Secretary George Greig with a big smile and a handshake Wednesday night.

“Welcome back,” she said. “We’re glad to have you.”

The two met at the Kutztown Rotary Club’s annual Rural-Urban Night at the Kutztown Grange Hall. After their handshake, they spent the evening talking to Rotarians and farmers. >> Read more

Where lawmakers stand

Gov. Tom Corbett’s plan to turn management of the state lottery over to Camelot Global Services, operators of the British national lottery, took some state legislators who represent Berks County by surprise. They said they’re asking lots of questions and learning more about the pros and cons.

Sen. Judy Schwank, Ruscombmanor Township Democrat: “I’m convinced Pennsylvania isn’t necessarily getting the best deal. We could do a better job with the system if we were given the opportunity to do it.” >>Read more…

Crime summit set for Jan. 18; Corbett commits

Months of talk about scheduling a crime summit in Reading culminated Monday afternoon when staffers of Gov. Tom Corbett said he would be available to attend Jan. 18, and local officials immediately set about planning the summit.

Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer said the inability to pin down a date with Corbett had slowed planning. The original call for the summit was issued in May in a front-page editorial in the Reading Eagle.

“We finally got a date,” Spencer said. >>Read more…

Chamber president joins call for crime summit

While multiple independent efforts push toward scheduling a crime summit for Reading – including a pre-summit planning session set for Monday in the offices of state Sen. Judy Schwank – business executives are casting votes on the city’s tarnished image with their feet.

New executives hired by Berks companies are choosing to live in Chester or Montgomery counties, preferring greater proximity to Philadelphia, according to Ellen T. Horan, president and CEO of the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Horan, citing conversations with officials at Berks companies, said the perception of the city as crime-infested is repelling executive talent. >>Read more…

Dozens honor group Hadassah as it turns 100

About 75 people turned out to the Stirling Guest Hotel in Reading on Saturday for a cocktail party to honor the 100th anniversary of Hadassah, a national Jewish women’s organization.

The Reading Chapter of Hadassah hosted the party, which featured hors d’oeuvers and live music. State Sen. Judy Schwank, a Ruscombmanor Township Democrat and member of Hadassah, paid tribute to the organization at the event. >>Read more…

New state law ramps up penalties for underage drinking

(Harrisburg) — A new state law aimed to reduce underage drinking and public drunkenness goes into effect next month.

The bill was developed in close consultation with law enforcement in college towns across Pennsylvania.

Senator Judy Schwank represents Berks County, which is home to five colleges. The Democrat says the new law will send a message to students with heavy fines. >>Read more…

State Senate passes bill on gang activity that could affect Reading

As concerns of gang violence and gang recruitment grow in Reading, this week’s Senate passage of anti-gang legislation [45-3 on Oct. 3] offers a step toward deterring this disturbing activity that plagues neighborhoods and recruits children, state Sen. Judy Schwank said.

House Bill 1121 would make recruiting criminal street gang members a crime and would increase sentences for crimes committed in association with a criminal street gang. >>Read more…

Schwank: Voter ID ruling resolves confusion over the law for now

The Commonwealth Court ruling Tuesday, Oct. 2, on the state’s voter ID law will give voters more time to prepare for future elections while ensuring their right to vote this November, state Sen. Judy Schwank said in a news release.

“There have been many questions from voters all across the state on whether they had the right form of photo ID and how to obtain it,” said Schwank, a Democrat who represents part of Berks County.

“Today’s ruling resolves those questions for now, and voters need not worry about whether their vote will be counted in this November’s General Election.” >>Read more…

243 acres of farmland preserved in county

The state Agricultural Land Preservation Board has preserved another 243 acres of Berks County farmland, state Sen. Judy Schwank announced Thursday.

Farms owners received $607,000 in exchange for giving up their development rights. Helen Kosmerl preserved 177 acres in Maidencreek Township. Kervin and Mary Jane Weaver preserved 66 acres in Richmond Township. >>Read more…

Student lauds county truancy intervention program


That’s how many days Chris Castro missed at Gov. Mifflin High School last year before a truancy intervention program helped him turn his life around.

He told his story to about 60 people attending a breakfast Friday in The Inn at Reading, Wyomissing, to update the community on the Berks County Truancy Reduction Initiative. >>Read more…

Oley Fire Company fundraiser draws a crowd

About 4,000 people came out to the Oley Fairgrounds on Saturday to support the Oley Fire Company by chowing down on peaches and ice cream.

This is the 10th year for the Peaches and Ice Cream Festival, which morphed from an idea for a fundraiser for the fire company to a huge community event, said Kevin D. Bieber, a trustee with the fire company. >>Read more…

Celebrity showmanship contest steals show

Morgan Kunkel has three tips to keep in mind when showing calves in competition: Always try to keep your eyes on the judge, walk slowly and have fun.

Kunkel, 11, a Kutztown sixth-grader, tried to pass on her wisdom to Berks County Commissioner Christian Y. Leinbach before the Reading Fair Celebrity Showmanship competition Monday.

Read Entire Article →

Reading Fair opens with salute to veterans

A woman turned her stroller to the right, so the young boy inside could face the uniformed color guard.

“Where’s daddy,” she whispered to him. “Find daddy.”

The boy looked forward, watching the Wilson High School JROTC and Berks County Jail System Color Guard present colors Sunday at the Reading Fair.

Read Entire Article →

Lyons Fire Company celebrates 100th

To celebrate its 100th anniversary, the Lyons Fire Company threw itself the biggest party in company history.

The festivities kicked off Saturday afternoon with a parade featuring trucks from several neighboring fire companies.

Lyons Chief Nathan Keller said more than 500 people attended the event, which started at East Penn Manufacturing Co. Inc., wound through Rockland Township and then returned to Lyons to end on Park Avenue.

Read Entire Article →

Farmers breathe a sigh of relief

The Hartman family has thrived as farmers in Berks County for seven generations.

With five farms covering more than 1,100 acres in Berks and Lancaster counties, the family focused on feeding its animals, especially dairy cows, by producing corn, soybeans and hay.

But the operation could have come to a screeching halt in 2007 with the death of the patriarchal head of the farm, Edward G. Hartman, if his sons had not planned properly. Chris Hartman, a Wyomissing lawyer, helped his brothers, who are farming the land, prepare for their parents’ passing, knowing they would face a 4.5 percent state inheritance tax. → Read more…