Executive Office of the Mayor
Vaughn D. Spencer
October 27. 2014
- The City of Reading’s credit rating on its long-term debt has been upgraded to Baa1 from Baa2. The upgrade to Baa1 reflects improvements that the City has made to its financial reporting and recordkeeping, as well as recent gains in the City’s financial position.
Moody’s has noted, “Since entering into the Act 47 distressed cities program, the City’s finances have stabilized, resulting in a return to structural balance and growing reserve levels, with an operating surplus expected in fiscal 2014. While the City is still faced with challenges...the City’s improved flexibility helps to mitigate these risks.”
The net result of the credit upgrade is that it reflects the confidence of the investment community that the City of Reading is moving in the right direction. The credit upgrade will reduce the City’s borrowing costs and will ensure greater access to capital for growth and development in the City of Reading.
- Digester Rehabilitation Project
The secondary digester rehabilitation project is proceeding. Mobilization of the Construction Manager and General Contractor (International and Eastern Environmental respectively) occurred in early October with setup of two office trailers and a storage trailer. Electrical hook up of office trailers is delayed due to issues with permitting/licensing that the City is addressing. Sludge removal and disposal from Digester #4 is projected to be completed by October 24th. Lead abatement in the digester attic space is starting the week of October 27th
- Penn Street Lighting Project
The winning bid was submitted by MBR Construction on October 3rd. A copy of the winning bid submission has been forwarded to PennDot and is currently under review to ensure that the contractor meets PennDot qualifications.
The City is in the process of selecting the design consultant for the River Road extension. We had a design scoping meeting with PennDOT and reviewed the progression with this project over the years as it has gone from conceptual to this point. To expedite the design and construction timelines, we have requested PennDOT assistance with project administration and management.
- All suppression activity at the 8th and Oley incident was completed by late in the day on Sunday. The structure is under the control of the Fire Marshall’s Office as the investigation will continue for the next 7 – 10 days, after which the structure will be turned back to the owner. At the request of the Fire Department, the ATF has brought in a National Response Team to assist in the investigation. This request was made due to the size and complexity of the incident, not to mention the large dollar loss. The Response team (20-30 agents) hit the ground running as of 0800 on Tuesday morning. There is no cost to the city for the agents or for the resources they require, however they do not cover the personnel costs for the city police and fire personnel that are assigned to the investigation.
- So far during the month of October there have been a total 18 fire prevention and safety demonstrations that were given either in the Fire Stations or at other locations. Most of the other locations have been at a school campus or civic organization. These demonstrations were conducted by members from the different divisions of the department that included firefighters and officers assigned to apparatus in the suppression division, the officers assigned to the Office of the Fire Marshall, and the Department’s Training Officer.
- The Fire Marshall’s Office as well as the Suppression forces participated in joint evacuation exercise/drill with the County on Oct. 21st that entailed a simulated fire in the County Services Center that involved several agencies and a mass evacuation.
- The Fire Marshall’s Office was represented at the Red Cross Smoke Detector Installation project last Saturday Oct. 11th. They installed smoke detectors in tenant-occupied homes in the 19601 zip code.
- Graffiti Abatement Program – So far in 2014, the Graffiti Abatement Program has completed 555 projects, 103 were responses to calls to the Citizen Service Center. Most were responded to within 24 hours of the call being made with a few exceptions for weather, vehicles blocking access etc.
- Since Mayor Spencer took office in 2012, and implemented the “24 Up/24 Down” anti-graffiti plan as part of the “Clean City Initiative” a total of 1,913 graffiti abatement projects on private residences, businesses, in our alleyways, parks and playgrounds and along our roads and under our bridges have been completed.
- Of the 1,913 work orders completed, 397 of them were from citizens reporting vandalism to the Citizen Service Center and were expedited, and completed under the “24Up/24Down” commitment.
- With the average cost of a private contractor remediating damage from graffiti vandalism at $200.00 for an average graffiti “tag” of 3’x4’, the Graffiti Abatement Program has realized the City of Reading and victimized homeowners a potential cost avoidance of $382,600.00.
- Graffiti vandalism is, and has long been, the scourge of any urban environment and we still have far too much of it and much to do, but we can say with extreme confidence that we have done something about it, and you will see far less graffiti vandalism in the City of Reading than in other cities throughout the country.
- A student from Penn State University traveled to Reading two weeks ago to interview Ernie Schlegel and myself about water privatization for a radio news show on Keystone Crossroads, a collaboration of four public media newsrooms (WHYY, WITF,WESA, WPSU) who report on the root causes of our state’s urban crisis and on possible solutions. The broadcast can be found on the Keystone Crossroads website. The broadcast is entitled “PA Cities to consider leasing out water system to balance budget.”
- I met with Santander Management including new their new General Manager, David Farrar.
Community Events Attended over the Last Two Weeks
- The Center for Excellence’s 20th Year CELG Event at Albright College.
- The Berks Delegation Committee’s monthly meeting with Senator Schwank.
- The Berks Visiting Nurses Home Health Care Update for Government Officials
- GREP Board Meeting
- YMCA Board Meeting
Upcoming Community Events
- NE Springboard Coalition to have Town Hall Meeting on October 30 to address K2’s prevalence in Reading at RACC at 6:00 PM. Panelists include myself, Senator Schwank, Chief Heim and Captain Winchester, as well as representatives from the Council on Chemical Abuse, the Reading Hospital, the Juvenile Probation Office, the District Attorney’s Office, and the DEA. All are encouraged to attend.
- The Municipal Law Forum is taking place at the Inn at Reading on October 29 from 5:30 – 8:30. Presentations include: Volunteer fire companies, the Affordable Care Act, Annual case law and legislative update, Basics of zoning, municipal documents and record keeping, and Municipal collections.
- The Mission Leadership Task Force of the Reading Health System and the O'Pake Institute for Ethics, Leadership and Public Service are hosting a Community Leaders Forum on October 29th. The program will be held in the Auditorium of the Reading Health System Health Sciences Building from 4 to 6 PM. The program will feature presentations by Rita Axelroth Hodges, Assistant Director of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania, and David Zuckerman from the Democracy Collaborative at the University of Maryland.
- Community First Friends of the Fund Luncheon will be held on November 6 at the Lancaster Mariott at 11AM.