Credit Rating Reaffirmed
Moody’s Investors Service assigned a Baa1 rating to the City of Reading’s $15.3 million General Obligation Bonds, Series A of 2015 and $36.8 million Federally Taxable General Obligation Bonds, Series B of 2015. Concurrently, Moody’s affirms the Baa1 rating on the City’s outstanding debt. Post-sale, the city will have $178.5 million of GO debt.
The Baa1 rating reflects the city’s recently improved financial position. Since entering into Act 47 distressed cities program in 2009, the City’s finances have stabilized, resulting in a return to structural balance with another operating surplus expected in fiscal 2014.
Ban the Box
Starting today, the City’s new job application has gone into effect. It has recently been modified and no longer includes the question “Have you ever been convicted of any criminal offense other than minor traffic violations?”
On Friday 2/20 a man sustained serious, but non-life threatening burns in a vehicle fire at Kutztown Rd. and Heisters Lane. He was taken to RHMC and then later transported to the Lehigh burn unit.
On Saturday morning 2/28, units responded to 255 S 17th. They arrived on the scene with fire on the 2nd and 3rd floors, the 2nd alarm was struck shortly after arrival. The fire was placed under control in just under an hour, and there were no injuries. The occupant was not home at the time of the fire, and the cause is undetermined. There was also damage to the south exposure building. Occupants were being assisted by the Red Cross.
On Tuesday 2/24, units responded to 1139 N 11th for a fire in the walls caused by a heating issue. The fire caused damage to the 2nd and 3rd floors of that structure and to the adjacent building at 1137. The fire was brought under control in 47 mins and there were no injuries. Occupants were assisted by the Red Cross.
On Wednesday 3/4, units were sent to the 400 Block of Orange St. to assist UGI on a gas leak. The leak was in the street, but due to high readings in several structures, the entire block was evacuated along with several homes on Cotton St. Met Ed shut down power to the area to eliminate any ignition sources. A shelter was opened at Amanda Stout Elementary school and remained open until shortly after midnight. Again, the Red Cross was there and the Animal Rescue League stopped by to tend to the animals.
On Sunday 3/8, units responded to a fire in the 3rd floor rear of a 2 ½ story vacant property at 824 Locust St. There were minor injuries to 2 firefighters, the fire was under control in 20 mins. The Fire Marshal’s office is investigating the cause.
On Monday 3/9, companies responded to 1224 Perkiomen Ave. Upon arrival, there was a heavy fire from the 2nd floor rear with some extension to the adjacent building at 1226. The 2nd Alarm was struck and the fire was placed under control at within 3.5 hrs. This property and the adjacent building were both vacant. There were no injuries, and the Fire Marshal’s office is investigating this one as well.
The Officers in the Office of the Fire Marshal attended the Albright Community event at 13th and Union elementary school on Wednesday 2/25, also that same day they attended and presented at the Fair Housing event at Pendora Park for rental property owners
During the next month suppression units will be undergoing training on building construction that will include a walkthrough tour of the new Double Tree Hotel.
So far this year, we’ve received about 2,800 tons of rock salt. The City’s bin has an 800 ton capacity. The salt has cost the City approximately $260,000 this winter. That includes an initial stocking order placed in October 2014 and an order placed in December to resupply the bin for what was used prior to the new year.
Wyomissing Park Street Light Update
- All of the underground work on the lights north of Museum Road (Circuit #1) is complete. This includes the new foundations; directional borings and installation of conduits (inner ducts); bypassing of residential natural gas lines; underground street crossings; minor trench excavations and backfills; and certification of usefulness of abandoned Met Ed conduits.
- 50% of the underground work for the lights south of Museum road has been completed. This has occurred despite difficult weather conditions.
- The delivery of the 39 new poles and 50 new LED lighting fixtures has been again delayed by the manufacturer but is due in early March. This has not caused a delay in the project.
- 11 Poles designated for reuse have been refurbished and are awaiting installation.
- Final legal agreements for land use at the new meters have been received from the Villa St Elizabeth and the Kumpf’s on Farr Place. These are generous and necessary parts of the project.
- When the poles and lights are received, and when all underground work is completed, the new cables will be pulled and connected to the systems.
- All work is expected to be complete by the end of April. The City is starting to plan a lighting ceremony around this time.
Rehabilitation Plan for the sanitary sewer collection system
As required by the Consent Decree with the Department of Justice, US Environmental Protection Agency, and the PA Department of Environmental Protection, the City of Reading has submitted the Rehabilitation Plan for the sanitary sewer collection system on Monday, March 2nd.
Using US EPA guidance, standards, and criteria, the City’s engineering consultant, Hazen & Sawyer, determined the key areas of the gravity collection system requiring further investigation based upon flow monitoring and modeling. Subcontractors performed smoke testing of the underground pipes to show areas where excess flows may be getting into the system, and closed-circuit televisual inspection of the inside of the sewer pipes underground as well as inspection of the condition of manholes provided assessment of structural issues, maintenance issues, and potential places where groundwater may be entering the system. Hazen & Sawyer has reviewed the investigative data collected on the condition of the key areas and provided recommendations on the type of rehabilitative methods to be employed based upon the specific issues encountered.
This Rehabilitation Plan serves as a road map as the City endeavors to improve the wastewater collection system’s condition as a critical working City asset.
We would like to thank the residents for their understanding and patience as the contractors performed this investigative work as there were times with altered traffic patterns and restricted parking so the work could be accomplished.
We have reached our 3-star level submission goal. Thanks to everyone’s assistance, we have successfully documented enough of our community actions and outcomes to submit our application for verification.
Our application will now go through a rigorous, third-party verification process over the next 2-3 months. We anticipate knowing the status of our application by the end of May at the latest.
In the meantime, we have begun work on a gap analysis to identify what types of things are we doing well in our community, what are we not doing well, and where there are opportunities to help improve our local quality of life. Many of you are already involved in some of the initiatives that have sprung up through this process.
We have appreciated everyone's support during this extensive community effort to document our progress meeting key sustainability criteria! A special thank you to Redesign Reading for their invaluable support rallying hundreds of community supporters to become the first municipality in Pennsylvania to submit their application.
The Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness meeting was held in City Hall on February 25. Over fifty people attended from a variety of organizations including Lebanon VA Medical Center, the Berks Coalition to End Homelessness, the YMCA, BCAP, and representatives from Senator Schwank’s and Senator Toomey’s office. A smaller task force is being formed to address the issue.
We hosted a Dominican Republic Independence Day Celebration in City Hall on February 28. The event honored Dominican pioneers in the City, featured music and dancing, a showcase by Reading High School Students, and included the raising of the Dominican flag outside City Hall. Students presented an exhibition of Dominican sports, cuisine, influential individuals and other topics to bring more awareness of Dominican culture and its contributions.
The next fair housing meeting is March 11 at 1:00 at Schlegel Park for all landlords and property managers. Topics include an overview of the Fair Housing Act and how to avoid potential violations, a walkthrough of the process of becoming a landlord or property manager, and a discussion on landlord/tenant relationships and community development opportunities. The Reading Police Department will also be there to discuss the city’s improved crime statistics.
I will be speaking on a panel at Kutztown University celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Moniyhan Report. The forum is all day on March 18, but I am participating in Panel Discussion Five and will be discussing the significance of the report over the past fifty years and how various political perspectives have used the report in political discourse. I will also discuss modern political and policy initiatives to address the issues in the Moynihan Report including the proposals made by Congressman Ryan in his report Expanding Opportunity in America: A Discussion Draft from the House Budget Committee. This event is free and open to the public. Information can be found on Kutztown University’s web site.
Berks Encore is having a March for Meals, Celebrity Day event on March 18. They are participating in the Meals on Wheels Association of America’s March for Meals event to raise awareness about the Meals on Wheels program. As part of that, they have asked local celebrities to join forces on March 18 to deliver meals throughout the county. Doing so will help them raise awareness about this important program. It also allows them to apply for a $10,000 grant.
Reading Recreation Commission
The Reading Recreation Commission has, once again, been chosen as the recipient for two state Excellence in Recreation and Parks awards. The two winning programs are Chef Sprout! and The Wright Build Design Competition. The awards will be presented at the PRPS Awards Banquet at the PRPS Annual Conference in Lancaster on March 24th.
There were only ten Excellence in Recreation and Parks awarded statewide and for the Commission to win two of them, is quite an honor.
In addition to the above, they were just notified that they have been selected 2015 Middle States Premier Provider – CTA. They were selected for our outstanding efforts in promoting community tennis for a spectrum of ages. We will be featured on USTA’s website, given promotional materials, and will be recognized at a banquet in 2016.
Finally, congratulations to RRC’s Tennis Director Larry Zerbe for being named the 2014 USTA Middle States EPD Pro of the Year. Coach Zerbe will be honored on Sunday, March 15th at Moravian College during the EPD Awards Luncheon.
The Reading Recreation Commission is making great strides towards improving the quality of life for Reading residents with expanded program offerings and improved parks and facilities.