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It’s hard to believe but it’s almost Thanksgiving! Where has the time gone?

Senator Judy SchwankWell, for one thing, a lot of the time has been devoted to a full schedule in Harrisburg and in our 11th Senatorial District. One of the biggest issues – transportation investment – remains an unfinished item, but we need this critical underwriting of our roads, bridges, and mass transit systems to keep Pennsylvania moving, working and competitive with neighboring states that don’t have the miles of transportation infrastructure – or the needs – that we have. It is estimated that 60,000 good paying jobs could result from the transportation funding; jobs that we desperately need throughout the commonwealth.

I am still hoping we will soon see action on transportation funding in the coming weeks. Just about every newspaper in Pennsylvania has endorsed the initiative. Most people think it’s a good idea that is long overdue, as well.

I hope you were able to vote in the General Election on Nov. 5 and took at least a moment to pay tribute during Veterans Day to the men and women who have fought – and are fighting – to keep us free.

Until my December newsletter arrives, may your Thanksgiving be a blessed and peaceful time.

Sen. Judy Schwank

Safe Schools Grants

ClassroomI often advocate for our public schools. Rarely a day goes by when I am not talking to someone about education. My newsletters, as you know, are often heavy with information about our work to improve life in the classroom.

This time, I think it’s very important for schools in Berks County to apply for a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to help improve the safety of students, teachers and administrators.

The “Safe Schools” grants, through the department’s Office for Safe Schools, can be for as much as $25,000. If obtained, that money could go a long way to making sure the emphasis remains on learning.

Schools that have yet to apply for the grants will have to hurry as the deadline for submission of the requests is Dec. 6.

We live every day hoping nothing as tragic as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting will ever be repeated. But the thing that’s better to do than just hope is to plan and take steps to prevent a nightmare from happening in our schools.

Route 662 – The Jarrett M. Yoder Highway

Jarrett M. YoderIt was quite nice to finally see the governor approve my proposal to rename Route 662 in Ruscombmanor Township, Berks County, as the “Chief Warrant Officer-2 Jarett M. Yoder Highway.”

The 26-year-old officer died this past April in Afghanistan when his Apache helicopter crashed in Nangarhar Province.

When Officer Yoder died, he was serving his second deployment since enlisting in the National Guard in 2005, which is the year he graduated from Oley Valley High School.

Since his tragic passing, he has been bestowed, posthumously, with the Bronze Star, Air Medal, and NATO Medal for his service in Afghanistan. He also received the Combat Infantryman Badge, Combat Action Badge, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one bronze star, and the Iraq Campaign Medal with one bronze star.

Watch for an announcement on a dedication ceremony for the installation of signs designating 662 as the “Chief Warrant Officer-2 Jarett M. Yoder Highway.” It will be a worthy – and permanent – tribute to a deserving young hero who left us too soon.

LIHEAP Opportunity Returns

LIHEAP LIHEAP We are seeing our first snowflakes in Berks County, which means heat is important to keep away the chill. If you’re struggling to come up with the dollars to pay to heat your home, please apply for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program assistance.

The program is more commonly called LIHEAP, but its purpose is to help you pay your heating and electricity bills during the cold winter months.

The application window opened on Nov. 4. The income guidelines for LIHEAP are unchanged from last year: 150 percent of the federal poverty level. In dollars that means the maximum income level to qualify for heating assistance for one person is $17,235. For two people, $23,265; three people, $29,295; four people, $35,325; and five people, $41,355.

If you fall into one of these income categories, apply now and get the help you need to get you safely and comfortably through the winter.

We will help you fill out the LIHEAP application, if you need our assistance.

Fruits of Firefighter Forum

Fire TruckI like to meet with neighborhood residents and targeted groups during town hall meetings and other public forums because it’s a good place to get everyone – including me – in touch with issues and concerns. Ideas can be generated during these times.

During my volunteer firefighters forum on Nov. 7, not only did we get to hear the thoughts and concerns of our first responders, we worked together with PennDOT to solve one a new and pressing problem: getting heavy emergency vehicles over weight-restricted bridges.

While new bridge weight restrictions mean some vehicles will no longer be able to cross those spans, emergency vehicles, if properly permitted, may cross. But, the permitting process had been too cumbersome, until that Nov. 7 forum.

PennDOT District 5 Engineer Kamlesh Ashar listened as firefighters explained the problem. They then came up with the idea to deliver special permits for each emergency vehicle. That permit will list the bridges each vehicle can and cannot cross. And, it will eliminate the need for a department to apply for a permit for each vehicle and each bridge.

Needless to say, that was a good bureaucratic fire to put out on the spot. My thanks to Mr. Ashar for his patience and good work!

Also a big thank you to state Fire Commissioner Ed Mann for delivering an informative talk on grant and other funding resources for volunteer fire companies.

Farmland Preservation 25 Years Old in PA

FarmlandAgriculture continues to be big business in Berks County. And, it promises to be big business for many years to come. I say this confidently because three more local farms were approved for farmland preservation during the Pennsylvania Agricultural Land Preservation Board’s October meeting.

The farms totaled 170 acres and included the 74.8-acre Leroy & Lisa Hoover farm in Marion Township, the 12.8-acre Mark & Maryann Martin farm in Maxatawny Township, and the 85.6-acre John & Alma Weaver farm in Richmond Township.

What’s even cooler about the preservation of these three farms is their protection happened during PA’s silver anniversary for farmland protection.

Twenty-five years ago, then-Gov. Robert P. Casey signed the bill into law creating the farmland preservation program. Since then, 4,491 farms totaling more than 480,089 acres have been removed from possible redevelopment statewide. Berks County has placed 655 farms and 65,809 acres in the statewide total. The county also remains the leading county in the number of acres of farmland that have been preserved.

Being Social

Twitter/Facebook Facebook Twitter It’s a privilege to be your state senator, so it is important to me to be in touch with you.

I really like face-to-face meetings but understand that in this busy world, sometimes that isn’t possible. Feel free to call my office to ask questions or make suggestions. Also, you may connect with me through my pages on Facebook and Twitter. Please follow me for regular updates and comments about what’s happening in the district and in Harrisburg.

Offices to Serve You

  District Office
210 George Street
Suite 201
Reading, PA 19605
Phone: (610) 929-2151
Fax: (610) 929-2576
Harrisburg Office
457 Main Capitol Building
Senate Box 203011
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3011
Phone: (717) 787-8925
Fax: (717) 772-0578