The Phoenix Files

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Good Way to Waste Time

This week’s waste of time is, yet again, another example of an episodic video blog done by professionals in the entertainment industry who understand just how much creative freedom they have with the Internet.
Two such individuals are Michael Cera (Super-Bad, Juno) and Clark Duke (Geeks) who have their own video blog that chronicles fictional versions of the actors as they pitch a script for a pilot to different networks.
The whole thing has a very Extras or Flight of The Condors feel (which I find to be the most entertaining shows on television). The concept works when you have a close-knit crew who has an improve chemistry together, and enough resources available to make it not look like a video on
Also on the site are the two actors, written blogs, which are a really intriguing look at the entertainment industry from within. You can find all this and more at Enjoy.

Posted by
Matthew Byrd

The Teddy Bear Picinic at The Kindergarten Center

Council OKs parking authority

Posted to the Phoenix Files for your comments and question:

By G.E. Lawrence

Special to The Phoenix

PHOENIXVILLE — Following a twice-scheduled public hearing, Council voted 5-3 Monday evening to establish a new Borough Parking Authority.

In a roll call vote, Mike Handwerk (D-Middle), Mike Speck (D-East), David Gill (D-West), Carlos Ciruelos (D-East), and Council President Henry Wagner (D-Middle) voted “yes,” with Kendrick Buckwalter (R-West), Jeff Senley (R-North) and Richard Mark Kirkner (D-North) voting “no.”

The opposition was centered on alternative strategies, the establishment of a “Parking Committee” and a Borough “Parking Department,” without recourse to a separate governing body.

“The debate over semantics, whether we have a ‘parking problem’ or a ‘parking inconvenience’ is irrelevant,” said Kirkner. “The issue is how we fix it.” He considered an Authority’s lack of accountability, its costs and Council’s loss of control over parking matters sufficient argu

ments to kill the proposal. “We’ve taken on a significant expense in a bad economy,” he concluded.

Buckwalter looked to the examples of other communities with internal parking departments to underline the point that revenues from parking meters, fees and fines, some substantial, would not flow back to the Borough’s General Fund but to the Authority. He cited also a memorandum to Council of April 5, 2007, from former Borough manager Anthony DiGirolomo making a case for a department rather than an Authority.

Senley, in agreement with Kirkner on the establishment in an Authority of another layer of government, focused on anticipated Authority start-up costs, costs that had neither been budgeted, nor indeed requested.

Acting Borough Manager Brian Watson said that if managed internally, parking matters would be assigned to the Codes Department, and that “Codes is understaffed as it is.” What time was devoted to new issues “we’d be losing out on codes enforcement,” he said.

“The long and short of it is,” said Ciruelos, “that none of us is expert on these issues. We [Council members] have a lot on our plate, to keep the economic engine running. The best way to take care of such an issue is to grant trust in a group… and say, ‘we trust you to make [solutions] happen.”

Council’s resolution enacted both an enabling ordinance and articles of incorporation for the Authority. The articles establish a five-member Board of Directors that includes Adam Deveney, Phoenixville; James Lolli, Phoenixville; David Friday, Phoenixville; Jeff Abbot, Phoenixville; and Conner Cummins, Chester Springs.

In other business:

Mark Connolly, president of the Phoenixville Iron Canal and Trails Association, presented Council with copies of the 2005 master plan for the Schuylkill River Trail, to re-engage Council in discussions on completion of segments of the trail through the Borough.

The Parks, Property and Recreation Committee voted unanimously to recommend that Council approve the name “Veterans Memorial Park,” suggested by mayor Leo Scoda, for the North Side park in development commonly known as Melchiorre Park.

A proposal from High Street resident Kurt Kaminsky for the installation of a residential wind turbine generating electricity for his own use was sent to the Planning Commission for its review and recommendation.

Your Thoughts

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Planning for rising prices

It seems like every time I pass a gas station that prices continually creep upward. At first it was a few pennies here and there, but then it's gone up by nickels and dimes.

Along with that, there are some food prices that are slowly rising as well. Considering the economy these days, everyone is feeling the pinch in the wallet pocket. With gas and food as a priority to most people, what they choose to spend the remainder of their money is well thought out and planned accordingly.

With the busy month of May approaching, there are a plethora of events in the borough that will attract its fair share of attendees. However, event organizers should brace themselves as they will discover that last year's attendance was a bit more than this year's will be.

With so many events to choose from, people will have tough decisions to make as to where they will be spending their extra money. So if Moe and Martha go to Event A and not Event B, it isn't because they didn't want to, it is due to the economy.

Normally Moe and Martha would attend both, but they had to choose between two and chose to attend Event A. There will be a lot of similar decisions being made like this in plenty of households over the next few months. It will continue this way until the proverbial ship is put back on course.

Council: In Brief

• Following a twice-scheduled public hearing, Borough Council Monday evening voted 5-3 to establish a new Borough Parking Authority.

Voting yes in a roll call vote: Mike Handwerk (D-Middle); Mike Speck (D-East); David Gill (D-West); Carlos Ciruelos (D-East); Council President Henry Wagner (D-Middle).

Voting no: Kendrick Buckwalter (R-West); Jeff Senley (R-North); Richard Mark Kirkner (D-North).

Objections centered on the alternative of a “Parking Committee” and a Borough “Parking Department.” Acting Borough Manager Brian Watson said, however, that if managed internally, parking matters would be assigned to the Codes Department, and that “Codes is understaffed as it is.” What time was devoted to new issues “we’d be losing out on codes enforcement.”

• Father James Evans addressed in public participation the accusations heard on Council floor April 15 and again in the Planning Commission meeting April 24 from Commission member George Martynick that Evans had violated state and Borough ethics rules.

Evans presented material on both the ethics rules and the issues of amended Downtown Commercial zoning district provisions around which the accusations centered, all of which, he said, demonstrated that the charges had no substance. “I don’t know what Mr. Martynick’s motivation was,” Evans said, “but I’m certain that he did not research them. I hope that I retain the confidence of Council.”

He was assured that he did; Council President Henry Wagner said he “valued the time and energy” Evans devoted to the Commission and the community, and that he was “embarrassed that a body like the Commission” would have such charges discussed “on the Planning Commission floor” as “inappropriate.”

Other Council highlights:

• Mark Connolly, president of the Phoenixville Iron Canal and Trails Association, presented Council with copies of the 2005 master plan for the Schuylkill River Trail, to re-engage Council in discussions on completion of segments of the trail through the Borough.

• The Parks, Property and Recreation Committee voted unanimously to recommend that Council approve the name “Veterans Memorial Park,” suggested by Mayor Leo Scoda, for the North Side park in development commonly known as Melchiorre Park.

• A proposal from High Street resident Kurt Kaminsky for the installation of a residential wind turbine generating electricity for his own use was sent to the Planning Commission for its review and recommendation.

Posted by
G.E. Lawrence

Monday, April 28, 2008

Your Thoughts

A “Corny Idea” Raises Big Bucks for Relay For Life

By Karin Williams, Special to the Phoenix

PHOENIXVILLE – How much would you pay to watch your teacher kiss a cow?
So far, the students at the Center For Arts and Technology-Pickering Campus (CAT-Pickering) have paid almost $900 for the chance to see their favorite teacher lock lips with Buttercup, a cow who resides in the school’s Animal Science Center. All proceeds will support Relay For Life of Phoenixville scheduled to begin on May 2 at 6 p.m. on the Phoenixville Area School District’s Washington Field.
Buttercup, a purebred Polled Hereford just under a year old, is being raised at the Animal Science Center as part of student Brooke Himes’s 4-H project.
Miss Himes and fellow Animal Science student Christine Custer put their heads together to brainstorm fundraising ideas for their 2008 CAT-Pickering Relay For Life Team, of which they are co-captains.
What they came up with was a “corny” idea that took on a mind of its own, Miss Custer said.
“We were trying to think of fundraising ideas and we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if one of the teachers kissed a cow?’” Miss Himes said.
And so the Kiss-A-Cow project began.
The girls approached their Animal Science teacher, Stephen Fecick, with the idea. From there, they went to Principal Debbie Noel, who gave the final go ahead.
“It’s really increased school spirit with both the kids and the faculty,” said Mr. Fecick. “There’s been a lot of trash talking!”
Each day at lunch, the students place money in jars beneath photos of teachers who are puckered up and ready to smooch! The teacher with the most money on Friday, May 2, will be the lucky winner. The entire school will be dismissed at 2 p.m. to the Animal Science barn, where the teacher will plant a big smack on Buttercup’s lips.
Did the girls expect to raise so much money?
“Everyone really got into it. It’s a little surprising, but we’re happy it’s going as good as it is,” said Miss Custer.
In fact, there is a lot of good-natured ribbing going on, and e-mail challenges between the faculty are circulating. And Buttercup herself is enjoying a bit of fame. A tee-shirt bearing her image, painted with a gigantic set of red lips, will be worn by the members of the faculty who are participating.
When the girls approached Mrs. Noel with their idea, Mrs. Noel said they could probably raise about $500. Thrilled, that’s where they set their goal.
Now, as they near $1,000, the girls are a little speechless.
"It’s just… Wow!” Miss Custer said.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Radiation Therapy at Phoenixville Hospital


Good thing Deb Johnston gaveled the Planning Commission’s Thursday evening meeting to a close when she did. About the only thing left unheard by that time was the “liar, liar, pants on fire” defense.

Consider this exchange between George Martynick and Father James Evans, in regard to Evans’s participation in discussion and votes in Commission sessions on changes the Downtown Commercial District zoning provisions, when his $10 million HUD-financed elderly housing project was in the works but not yet publicly so.

GM: “You broke the [State] Ethics Act.”

JE: “In what way?”

GM: [to the Chair] “The issue is he voted for the D-COMM District changes. He had a conflict of interest. [To Evans] You had a conflict of interest.”

JE: “I don’t think I did.”

GM: “You gotta be kidding me!”

JE: “We had two votes. There was [in January] the proposal for the extension on the District on the West End. I voted ‘no.’” Then the other [in March] I considered to be about density and side yard setbacks.”

GM: “It was also about building coverage and impervious coverage, and your proposal….”

JE: “The parcel would have required a zoning change….It was totally in an office building district…”

GM: “No! No! NO!...”

DJ: [Chair’s gavel: slam, slam, slam, slam.] “I’ll will get in touch with Council, then we can move on. We’re finished with that subject.”

JE: “Some serious accusations have been made. Personal privilege and I have a right to respond…. [If the Ethics Act applies] why were we not given this? All of should have it. How long has it existed?”

Solicitor Kim Venzie: “…I don’t know the date, but for decades…."

JE: “Then I ask at the same time that you [Johnston] talk to council you talk also about the neighbors group you were part of in relation to the Hospital…”

DJ: “I was not a part of that. I never attended a meeting. On purpose. You can ask Bill….”

JE: “That’s not what the community believes….”

GM: “You can’t claim ignorance [of the law]. It’s like telling a police officer that you didn’t know the red light was there. You’re a public official. You can’t claim ignorance.”

Well, that should give you the flavor of it, though any written report just cannot do justice to the odd shouts, the three – and at one time four – Commission members talking over each other’s sentences, the gavel that rarely, in fact, interrupted anything.

And if you liked this from last night, I should tell you some time what it’s taken at some sessions just to get the minutes passed.

Last evening was new appointee Marcia Eldred’s first. What a welcome.

Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

Acoustic Open Mic at Steel City

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Fisher King at The Colonial Theater

The Colonial Theater is showing The Fisher King this weekend and I recommend giving it a watch. The Fisher King is a film from acclaimed filmmaker and founding member of Monty Python, Terry Gilliam (Seven Monkeys, Brazil, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail). This film was a bit of departure for Gilliam; his previous work was The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and was a difficult film to make (check Wikipedia for the full story) and was considered by the studio to be a commercial flop. By the time he began work on The Fisher King, Gilliam had not directed a movie in close to five years.
Starring Jeff Bridges, Mercedes Ruehl and Robin Williams, the film is not as explicitly post-modern as many of the director’s other films, nor does it have any midgets (if you have seen a lot of his work, you understand how unusual a little person free Gilliam flick is). I feel Terry Gilliam’s greatest achievement with this work is the performance he is able to solicit from Robin Williams. Very few directors are able to guide Williams’ energy and not allow his presents to dominate the piece. Gilliam manages to use Williams’ energy to support and enrich Bridges part.
While the Fisher King is not my favorite of Terry Gilliam’s work, I do think it is a career redefining work that is more enjoyable upon each viewing.

Posted by
Matthew Byrd

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Charlestown referendum: a resounding YES

Charlestown’s ballot question on the application to open space and farmland preservation efforts of a one-half of one percent increase in residents’ earned income tax passed handily, by a margin of over three to one.

An unofficial tally reported late Tuesday evening recorded 1185 votes in favor of the measure, or 78.2% of total votes cast, with 259 against.
As of this posting, however, those figures had not yet been confirmed by Chester County Voter Services.

David Greer, chair of the volunteer group Charlestown Citizens for Open Space, considered the vote “a real testimony to the Township’s voters. They’re telling the Board of Supervisors that they like the Board’s balanced approach to development, that they like living here and want to preserve what we have.”

Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

Your Thoughts

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Den Around Town : Run For a Dana Marie

Don’t waste opportunity to make your voice heard

Our View

Pennsylvania’s Primary Election Day is today.

It would be hard indeed for anyone to be unaware of that fact, given the blanket coverage across the state by the media and the presidential candidates for the past six weeks.

Most years, Pennsylvania’s presidential primary falls far too late to make any real difference in who wins each party’s nomination. That’s still true this year for the Republicans, but the closeness of the Democratic contest means that the Pennsylvania results may determine who represents the party in the general election.

If Sen. Barack Obama wins the Democratic primary, that will probably mean an end for Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign. If she wins by a large margin, that will strengthen her argument that, although behind in the delegate count, she is better at winning the big states necessary for a general election victory.

Republicans who are not fully behind Sen. John McCain, the GOP nominee, can still cast protest votes for social conservative Gov. Mike Huckabee or small-government, anti-war Ron Paul.

In addition to voting directly for the nominees, citizens will also be electing delegates to send to the party conventions. That may be especially important for Democrats, who may see a brokered convention with multiple votes if the nomination race continues that long.

State offices

Although most of the attention this year has focused on the presidential race, other contests are going on that should not be forgotten.

None of the U.S. or state legislative seats in the Phoenixville area are contested in the primary election, but the Pennsylvania Treasurer’s office is up for grabs among four Democrats: Dennis Morrison-Wesley, John F. Cordisco, Jennifer L. Mann and Robert McCord.

Local decision

Finally, Charlestown Township is asking residents whether they favor using a 0.5 percent earned-income tax hike (raising the total to one percent) to preserve, conserve and acquire open-space property interests, open-space uses and farmland. The tax hike is already planned, but a “yes” vote will dedicate it to open space, rather than allowing it to be used in other ways.

So there are some very important reasons to vote today. Important choices are being made on national, state and local levels.

The first and most important choice to be made is whether you will participate in the process. Polls open at 7 p.m.; you have until 8 p.m. tonight to make your voice heard.

Get Out & Vote

Today is the Pennsylvania Primary, and from what you
hear from both camps, our beloved state will decide
who'll represent the Democrats in the November

Our area's had the luxury of hearing from both Barack
Obama and Bill Clinton (Hilary's husband), and they
each had their fair share of topics and issues to
discuss. Each brought their A games with them, and
made a good point for their candidacy.

So they've done their part, and now it is up to us to
do ours. Don't believe that "my vote won't make a
difference." Just knowing that you have an opportunity
to express yourself and give your "say-so" in this
important decision is crucial.

If you don't think your vote matters, then you haven't
been buying gas lately, or notice how every little
thing has gone up in price over the past several

So weigh your options and get out and vote. Having
peace of mind in knowing you voted today is one small
step to a world of change, and a change in the world.

Posted by
Dennis J. Wright

Monday, April 21, 2008

Chamber of Commerce Charity Ball

Your Thoughts

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bill Clinton Speaks at Phoenixville High School

Friday, April 18, 2008

Summary of Barry Cassidy's remarks to Council

I am here tonight to represent the residents who complained to the housing authority concerning the conditions of their housing units. I wanted to go on the record as saying that we hope there will be not be any problems of reprisal for these people who came forward as their complaints. Ms. Thomas’s problems started with a complaint of mold.

Serafine Thomas from Fairview and Penny Washington from King Terrace are two different people with two different life styles and values. They do have one common desire, to have a comfortable, safe, and well functioning housing unit. These housing units are owned and sponsored by the United States of America, through the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the County of Chester, through the Chester County Housing Authority.

Searfine Thomas’s problem is simple. She has a bag of human waste blocking access to her cabinets and providing an unsanitary food preparation area. On a recent visit I can confirm that the bag is filling up slowly, has an odor, and has a brownish color liquid retained in the bag. The Housing Authority in response to complaints about mold installed this improvement. There is a letter sent by congressman Jim Gerlock saying that the problem would be addressed. In addition there are follow up letters by the Congressman. The problem is long standing and with merit.

Penny Washington’s problem is also well documented as she has stood before this Council and provided information. She is concerned about the ongoing plumbing problems that must be fixed, with numerous backups and poor drainage living in the units is difficult. She has observed numerous fire safety problems that plague the building. She also points out that absence of proper cleaning in the common areas gives King Terrance a run down appearance.

Penny Washington’s documentation shows that problems have existed since at the minimum 2003 as it seems the sewer and water, general issues relating to trash and cleanliness as well as fire safety issues were never resolved properly.

The issues In King Terrace are perpetual. There is a need for a more comprehensive management approach by the Chester County Housing Authority in dealing with the issues of this building. It has become apparent to me, as housing and economic development professional that there is an immediate need for a cash infusion into the maintenance fund dealing with King Terrace. The CDC is advising the Council to ask the Chester County Commissioners to allot whatever HOME money may be available to the Housing Authority to immediately fix the plumbing problems in King Terrace, fix up the 14 un-rented units in Fairview Village and of course remove the bag of human waste and repair the leak.

The basic issue is really not related strictly to these two individuals but the population that resides in both of the structured housing units as well as the scattered site housing administered by the Chester County Housing Authority. I ask you to remember back a year or so when a teen was murdered in one of the Housing Authority units, which later was classified as a crack house.

As a Borough we are charged with looking out for the health safety and welfare of our citizens. Conditions that border squalor in the units under the control of the Housing Authority must be looked at with a discerning eye. The Chester County Housing Authority is an organization that is charged with providing housing to our population of poor, disadvantaged, handicapped and elderly. These are the people we must protect for they are at the highest risk of being plagued by health and safety problems as a result of lack of decent, clean and functional housing.

We have held meetings and then written letters to get to the bottom of this issue and provide relief to the constituents. I was asked to be the liaison to the Housing Authority because of my knowledge of the programs and ability to analyze the reality of the situation. I have reported back on a couple of occasions to the Council that there needs to be more improvements and better control by the Housing Authority to make their efforts fruitful. We need permits to be taken out for work done to measure the progress the Authority makes in resolving the issues.

Even though we delineated our concerns in writing to the Housing Authority they have chosen to respond inappropriately to the council by saying that they have given us all the information that they are going to give us. As a political subdivision we have much more influence that a typical tenant. If we cannot receive a straight answer from the Housing Authority, you can imagine how these two ladies feel.

It would be my hope that all the repairs can be done soon and these deplorable conditions that have arisen can be rectified quickly. Years and years of neglect and decay need to be tackled in a systematic manner. I am not sure that we will ever be able to count on the housing authority as a partner in the future unless significant adjustments in attitude and competency take place. Our Code Office has sent a letter to the Housing Authority asking them to secure permits for the work they are doing to enable us to track their progress.

In closing Penny Wahington, Searfine Thomas and I all question the ability of the housing authority to maintain, rent and provide safe and adequate housing for those they are charged to serve. In my view there should be no further action taken on any additional housing to be constructed in the Borough until we are clear that the Housing Authority of Chester County is unmistakably able to maintain and utilize in a manner consistent with law and common decency, the housing they already own and manage.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


“Around Phoenixville’s” Jim Northcott asked the following:

With construction of the Gay St. Bridge right around the corner, I was wondering if there are any official designs/renderings of what the new bridge will look like?

Jim, there are, and they can be seen up close and personal at Borough Hall. But, while for the longest time they had been on display there in the entrance lobby, they were more recently and summarily cast aside and a little harder to notice. Easier, therefore, to see them here, thanks to Barry Taglieber’s camera magic:

(P.S.: Jim Northcott has been asked by Borough Council to serve as a member of an information technology subcommittee. That subcommittee will be tackling some very important and pressing issues for Borough administration, and we wish Jim and his colleagues well in pursuing them.)

Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Good Way to Waste Time

This week’s Web site recommendation is a bit more fun than last week’s utilitarian choice, but should be very useful to some of you fine readers. I am a very big fan of copyright-free media, which I feel is the future of how we acquire information. Which brings me to
I find this Web site exceptionally useful, especially when doing video editing and looking at public domain footage to use as a green screen background or inter-cut with my own footage. The Web site creed reads “Universal access to human knowledge”, which is really what the Internet supposed to be about.
The site’s achieves media in virtually every form, with its live action video, to music by people who understand the importance of exposure today rather than royalties tomorrow. Even books and text files can be found and downloaded for later use.
Much like, the site encourages the user to upload his or her own public domain material to add to the collective. I feel that this site represents the future of information exchange and will only grow stronger as more and more people join the revolution.

Posted by
Matthew Byrd

Council highlights

Among the highlights of last evening’s regular business meeting of Borough Council:

• By a 5-3 vote Council appointed Marcia Eldred to fill the Planning Commission seat formerly held by Michael Hott. Eldred, a former Haverford Township Planning Board member, was selected from a field of four candidates that had also included William McCarron, Michelle Beaver, and John Messina.

• Father James Evans, on behalf of Episcopal Community Services, presented sketch plans for a proposed 80-unit, $10 million HUD-financed elderly housing project, seeking Council support. The project was to be located at Starr and Church Streets, on a portion of property now owned by Holy Ghost Orthodox Church. However, in the face of strenuous opposition to the sale of the property from members of the church congregation, Evans withdrew the proposal.

• CDC director Barry Cassidy spoke on behalf of Penny Washington, King Terrace, and Seraphine Thomas, Fairview Village, and presented documentation, on the condition of their housing facilities owned and operated by the Chester County Housing Authority. “[We]” question the ability of the Housing Authority to maintain, rent and provide safe and adequate housing for those they are charged to serve,” he said. “

• A full recodification of Borough ordinances – a project underway for three years – was approved unanimously.

• Proposed changes to zoning ordinance parking requirements infill development requirements were both approved unanimously. An ordinance revising area and design requirements in the Downtown Commercial (D-COMM) district was sent back to the Planning Commission for reconsideration of its original 6-0 vote to approve, on the grounds that PC member Fr. James Evans may have had an undisclosed conflict of interest.

• Borough staff members were directed to work with PennDOT officials to revise again the traffic pattern for the southbound lanes of Main Street at Bridge. The Borough had made the left lane a left-turn only lane, but, presumably under the authority of original PennDOT bridge reconstruction plans, PennDOT crews had painted it out.

• Discussion and action on a Borough Parking Authority was postponed – and the meeting for business formally continued to April 28 to accommodate it and other business. The public meeting scheduled on the Authority ordinance and articles of incorporation had not been properly advertised in The Phoenix.

Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

Your Thoughts

Monday, April 14, 2008

Your Thoughts

Friday, April 11, 2008

Rock band Negative Space launches online video contest

Lancaster, PA (April 10, 2008) Rock band, Negative Space launches an online video contest to promote their new album, Storylines, and connect with their fans. The contest is hosted on Youtube, one of the most popular entertainment websites online. Fans are able to post performances of Negative Space’s first single “Honestly” in any fashion they would like, from lip synching, dancing, singing, playing it on guitar, or any other creative performance to the music. Fans can post the videos at HYPERLINK "" and the one that has the most plays to their video performance will win $500. The winner will be announced on April 25, 2008.

Negative Space has reached the pinnacle in their songwriting with songs that deliver guitar-driven rock with the lyrics of maturity that reach fans young and old. Their intense blend of mainstream rock and indie-pop hooks are delivered with raw punk energy. Their style unites the mature driven rock songs of the likes of Foo Fighters with the energy and stage show of Green Day. Storylines is available in stores and online April 22nd. For rules and more information on the contest, please go to

For more information, contact:
Ignition/Wavelength Entertainment
Mark Zuppe/ 781.789.1832/ HYPERLINK "
Beth Bogdan/ 646.239.1278/

Your Thoughts

Entrée nous

The Chicken Cacciatore Project struck again Wednesday, in a smug response to a
Phoenix Files post — after what had been such a happy month or so without a
peep. And here we’d thought we’d slammed the coop door hard enough on him in

Trouble is, when that rooster crows, he’s either 1) announcing that against his
better judgment and sage advice, some other chicken let the sun up; 2)
announcing that the coop stinks and just which other chickens are to blame for
it; or 3) announcing that he’s pecking a fight with some other chicken who’s
turned out to be, he’ll tell you plainly, just a dumb cluck who shouldn’t have
been allowed in the coop at all.

That Chicken’s a barnyard bully.

What we say and do at 225 Bridge is said and done publicly, and any public act
is bound to have someone disagree, to even take some hard shots at what you’ve
said. Every staff writer and editor is prepared for that, expects that, indeed
invites that; what we invite you to do in return, in letters, calls, blog posts,
presumes that you are prepared for that, too.

But just as every staff writer and every editor takes care to write responsibly
and with due respect not only to the other members of the public but also to the
very weight of the serious issues addressed, our invitation to respond presumes
that you will do likewise.

In that regard, the Chicken hasn’t yet demonstrated that he can work and
play well with others.

About the only truth, whole truth and nothing but we’ve heard from the Chicken
was his opening gambit: to make chicken cacciatore you must first have a

That was such a promising beginning. It’s no accident, though, that the Project
has yet to release a good, complete recipe, of either the culinary or political

It’s been just plain saddening to see how such promise could be so quickly
squandered in the hands of a petty, petulant, puffed-up poulterer.

Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Christian College Students Make Phoenixville a Better Place to Live

Frog Holler performing "Blue Billy County" at Steel City

Spring is here!

Today is it _gorgeous_ outside! One of the best parts about this lovely weather is the abundance of motorcyclists out enjoying the day. I hope Sunday doesn't rain like it's supposed to because I want to go out for a ride with my dad (one of our favorite activities in the warm weather). For me, seeing all the bikes out is a sure sign of spring arriving (though I did see some bikes out braving the colder weather as of a few weeks ago). What are your favorite signs of spring?

Posted by
Laurie Perini

Citzens for the Train Meeting

Dogwood Pageant

Patricia Hurter and Donna Viscuso have come full circle from their days as Dogwood Pageant contestants. Each was crowned Dogwood Queen, and for the past two years, the women have been working together as directors of the Phoenixville Jaycees Dogwood Pageant.
Both Hurter and Viscuso have worked many hours on many aspects of the pageant, including setting the stage and working out behind-the-scenes logistics of the April 12, 2008 event.
Though vitally important to a performance, scenography, the art of creating the set for a stage, is simply one part of the pageant. This is only the creative part of our involvement. Productions are costly undertakings that require the work of numerous people behind the scenes, substantial funding and a strong commitment from all involved in order to be successful.
“Our approach to directing the contestants was to bring out the best of their talents, values, and personalities. We hope to help them make a memory that will always be an important part of who they are, where they came from and where they want to go on their journey through life” said Viscuso. “We also have returning contestants who want to continue to be a part of the production.”
“Each one of these contestants brings something special to the performance which promises to be a great evening of entertainment,” said Hurter.
Viscuso and Hurter hope that as we watch the physical revitalization of Phoenixville and come out to support community events, we also include the Dogwood Pageant, held Saturday April 12th at 7pm in Samuel K. Barkley Elementary School auditorium, Second Ave. Phoenixville. Tickets can be purchased from the contestants or at Ultimate Hair Salon, 365 Nutt Road, Phoenixville, 610-933-8302 at a cost of $10.00 for general admission.
This year’s Dogwood Ball is being held at the Club at Shannondell on Egypt Road in Audubon on Friday evening May 9th. The public is cordially invited to attend. The cost is $36.00 per person. Cash bar begins at 6:30 pm and dinner is served at 7:00 pm. DJ and Live music from 7:30 until 10:30 pm
Full course dinner includes a Tossed Garden Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing and a choice of three entrees.

Chicken Marsala with Mushrooms and Fresh Herbs
Top Sirloin with Merlot Wine Demi Glaze
Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with Champagne Mustard Sauce
all with Herb roasted potatoes and seasoned green beans with thyme butter

Warm Apple Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream
Dinners include soda, ice tea, fresh brewed coffee and hot tea, rolls and butter.
Advanced Tickets only are on sale at the Ultimate Hair Salon, Nutt Road and Second Ave. Phoenixville, or call Donna at 610-948-7066 by April 29th
There will be no tickets sold at the Door.

Pay It Forward Judging

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Frog Holler performing "Stray" @ Steel City

Phoenixville deprived again

No, this is not Talk Like a Pirate Day.
I am frustrated that Phoenixville is having another brush with presidential politics that is ending up with, again, a candidate ALMOST coming to Phoenixville.
Okay, it was great that there was a ticket giveaway Tuesday in Phoenixville for Barack Obama’s appearance today in Malvern.
But he should have come here! He almost did!
What stopped him?
PARKING! Or, rather, reportedly, Phoenixville’s lack thereof.
Morning Star proprietor Rebekah Ray, whose shop was the site for the ticket line, says that “campaign volunteers had told her that Obama was originally scheduled to speak at Phoenixville Area High School, and believed the location was changed to Great Valley High School due to parking and capacity,” according to Brian’s story on the line for tickets.
Now, I’m not saying that PAHS should expand its parking lot just for potential, occasional town hall meetings. Maybe if the weather had been a little nicer earlier this week, organizers might have planned an open-air meeting at Reeves Park, where 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards gave a speech. Maybe not, though, since parking was difficult then, too.
Parking in Phoenixville can be an EXTREME “inconvenience.”
Phoenixville can always use more good publicity, and it’s sad that another chance of hosting a presidential candidate is gone, perhaps forever.
But the parking problem is more enduring and has broader implications than the occasional loss of bright opportunities like these.
It’s impossible to measure just how many people stay away from its eateries and entertainment venues because they fear that they’ll have trouble finding a spot. But it’s known that some people do, because they tell us so.
That means lost business, sometimes not just for a day, but permanently. That means lost potential business tax revenues, which means fewer services from the borough, or higher taxes for other residents. So the parking crunch hurts everyone.
I don’t know whether Phoenixville should establish a 50-year Parking Authority to handle the problem, or just set up a Parking Department along with other borough offices. I’ve heard arguments on both sides.
But SOMEBODY needs to start building a parking garage downtown, or close to it, and soon. For special events at the high school or Reeves Park, organizers could set up a shuttle service, which is way easier to do from one central location like a parking garage.
For Phoenixville pride, and for Phoenixville pocketbooks: Push Parking!

Posted by
--Patricia Matson
Editor, The Phoenix

Your Thoughts

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

We talk with people waiting on line for tickets to see Obama speak

Bridge Dismantling

The War and Moral Considerations

Moral considerations always hover within all of our conversations about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but unhappily, rarely, only rarely, do they make explicit appearance for attention.

Unless those conversations occur in places where moral considerations are privileged, they are more often minor elements, or assumed, implied parts of political calculations, or economic ones, or even theological ones.

Last September, however, Fordham University convened a conference “Exit or No Exit? Morality and the Withdrawal from Iraq,” taking up those moral considerations head-on in relation to just one aspect of the war: its end.

Participants included Michael Walzer, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Sohail Hashmi, and Gerard Powers. The moderator was this region’s own Trudy Rubin, foreign affairs columnist for a metropolitan newspaper of some note.

Rubin allowed a comment from Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies stand as the session’s theme:

“The U.S. will ultimately be judged far more by how it leaves Iraq and what it leaves behind than how it entered.”

The transcript of the seminar has only recently been released, but you can find it here:

Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

Laurie gives us a tour of The Franklin Commons


PHOENIXVILLE – Steve Forbes Jr. will be the featured speaker at the 2008 Phoenixville Regional Chamber of Commerce annual awards dinner.

The editor-in-chief of Forbes Magazine, the nation’s leading business publication, Mr. Forbes will be speaking on his economic outlook in the coming year.

Mr. Forbes is the Chief Executive Officer of Forbes, Inc., and was a Republican presidential candidate in both 1996 and 2000. In 1985, he was appointed to the bi-partisan Board for International Broadcasting, where he oversaw the operation of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.

Mr. Forbes has also published several books on economic issues.

The Chamber will also be presenting its annual awards, including the Merit, Business Development, Community Betterment and Outstanding Citizen of the Year awards.

The Kiwanis Club of Phoenixville will also be presenting its annual Youth In Service Award.

The dinner will be held on Monday, May 5, at RiverCrest Golf Club & Preserve, 100 Golf Club Drive, Phoenixville. The VIP reception will be held from 5 – 6 p.m. The general reception will be held from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m., and dinner will be at 6:30 p.m.

Mr. Forbes will begin speaking following dinner.

Tickets for the general reception and dinner are $80 for Chamber members and $200 for not-yet-members.

Tickets for the VIP reception and dinner are $180 for Chamber members and $300 for not-yet-members.

For more information on the event, ticket sales or sponsorship opportunities, please contact the Phoenixville Regional Chamber of Commerce at 610.933.3070.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Your Thoughts

Friday, April 4, 2008

Your Thoughts

In memoriam

It is difficult forty years on to find language adequate to that occasion, that April 4.

We’ll spend this weekend hearing the attempts. We’ll be knitting nouns together as if in repeating them we could ever be reconciled to forty-year-old facts, that the nouns can settle us, make us at home, among the furnishings of persons, places and things. We’ll be knitting together proper nouns: Martin, Ralph, Memphis. We’ll be knitting together plain, ordinary ones: gun, blood, balcony. We’ll even try knitting in some abstract ones, less sure of their footing: violence, loss, martyrdom.

That April 4, in Ithaca, New York, it was a scream that spoke the whole truth, the contralto scream of the woman right in front of me, played out against the silence of the crowd as she fled. It was a tangled knot, that scream, a knot of disbelief, anger, rage, fear, worse. You heard it all in that scream.

At the same moment, as it turned out, in Indianapolis, Indiana, another scream, played out against a crowd less silent, a chorus: a basso groan, deep-throated, uttered under the weight of the same tangled knot. You heard it all, too, in that groan.

The whole truth and nothing but may not be in the words at all; it may be between them, behind them, under them. The whole truth and nothing but is work best given to poets.

In matters of race and class in America, we have so subjected the poet Langston Hughes’s phrase “a dream deferred” to historical and political analysis that we risk not coming to know the full truth of it, the full weight of it, the full meaning of it. Hughes wanted us to know where the dream lived, and listen, listen to its "rumble" there, "underneath":

Good morning, daddy!
Ain't you heard
The boogie-woogie rumble
Of a dream deferred?

Listen closely:
You'll hear their feet
Beating out and beating out a --

You think
It's a happy beat?

Listen to it closely:
Ain't you heard
something underneath
like a --

What did I say?

I'm happy!
Take it away!

Hey, pop!


-- Langston Hughes, Dream Boogie (1951)

Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

An open invitation for walking companions

“Too many times I’ve seen

The rose die on the vine

Somebody’s heart gets broken

Usually it’s mine

I don’t want to take the chance

Of being hurt again

And you and I can’t say good-bye

So if you wake and find me gone

Oh baby carry on

You see I need my fantasy

I still believe it’s best to leave

While I’m in love”

“I’d Rather Leave While I’m In Love”

~ Rita Coolidge ~

Saints and sinners, since I’ve been doing a lot of walking around Phoenixville lately, there are two things that I hear every time I plan a stroll.

“Would you like someone to go walking with?” and “Give me a call when you’re ready to go walking.”

Mind you, I think that’s absolutely awesome, and after talking with a prudish friend, I’ve come up with an idea of sorts.

Since there are so many organizations in this town that get together for the good of the world (or borough), I wonder if there is one that actually does some good for oneself.

So I’m thinking of coming up with a walking club, where members could contact each other to see if and when they are walking, and if they’d like someone to walk with.

While I’m at the gym, I prefer to walk on my own because I have music in my ears and completely get into a zone. However, when I’m doing my trek around the borough, it is always nice to share that experience with other people.

Now this isn’t anything beyond walking. It’s not a hook-up situation or anything of that nature. No stalkers or naughty agenda-minded individuals need apply. It’s about people getting together and sharing a walk, or the experience of walking.

It’s about getting up and out of the house, exercising, and seeing parts of the town that they’d usually driven past.

I know there are several areas I’ve never walked in this borough, and am slowly branching out beyond the normal routes I partake.

Not only is this good exercise, but it builds camaraderie among people. Just think of the conversations that could happen while walking and talking.

Since I’ve started walking in February, yours truly has walked with close to ten people, and have found out just as much about them as they did about me.

It’s nice to have a selection of people to go walking with, and it does the soul and spirit good for some personal interaction.

I’ve walked with people that I haven’t seen or spoken to in a while, and managed to get caught up in their lives. Normally people would make a phone call or meet for lunch, but taking a walk is more personal and beneficial.

It’s about taking the time to spend with someone who normally wouldn’t go out walking on their own. People can help motivate each other to continue walking, or to meet other people to walk with.

Again, this is something that’s been bouncing around in my noggin, while walking, of course.

So if there is enough interest, then we’ll see what we can do to get the proverbial ball rolling.

I figured it wouldn’t hurt to throw this out there to see if people would actually care or find it fascinating.

If no one really cares, or think that I’m a goof for coming up with such a concept, then I’ll simply take a hike, or walk, if you will.

I can honestly say that walking has been very beneficial in my recent transformation, and it showed quite noticeably last Saturday night at the Phoenixville Regional Chamber of Commerce Charity Ball. I want to thank everyone for the kind remarks and compliments I received. Hearing those words only motivates me even more. Plus the additional stamina worked wonders on the dance floor, as I was definitely able to keep up with someone awesome.

April not only brings rain showers and May flowers, but a host of birthdays and acknowledgments. I have to acknowledge those in the mood to celebrate like supersweet Samantha Mannion, soon-to-be mommy Jen Knapp, second-timers David Michael Meadows and Thomas Green; the annual celebration of marriage by Sherry and Rich Sweeney & Dotti and Skip Clark, Danielle D’Elia; Karl Rahmer; Helen and Gary Carns’ twin 12-year-old terrors, Nick & Josh Carns; Uncle Barry Taglieber’s niece, Taylor Long, who is now 14, Nikki Roxx; Bryan Meadows; Jonnie Bamberger; Alice Snyder, and Chloe Goebel. Let’s not forget my good buddy Walt Bohn, who is celebrating another thirty-something year on this earth, along with another year of wedded bliss with his wife Dawn (the woman is a saint for being with him for this long). I hope everyone enjoys their special days in their own special ways.

Posted by
Dennis J. Wright

Individual Pay It Forward Entries

Entry 1

I recently returned from a vacation in beautiful Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. While on vacation, I had the chance to take a guided tour through the city of Punta Cana. We stopped to take a picture on a side road. A girl around the age of six ducked under a barbed wire fence to greet us. She stood by our four wheelers smiling politely and said “Hola.” We stopped to say hello to her and my husband pulled out a dollar and handed it to her. With that, five more children gathered around us all smiling. We gave them each a dollar. They waved their dollars excitedly and said “Thank you!” I couldn’t believe how appreciative these children were of $1. As we drove through the city it was apparent how poor these families were. Many didn’t have adequate housing and were in need of basic items. Our tour guide shared with us that the local school is always seeking donations of basic supplies. He shared with us that he too had grown up in that area and was very much into giving back to the community.

I am an elementary counselor at Renaissance Academy here in Phoenixville. I have created three “Be the Change” groups with some fifth-grade students. These groups focus on being positive and doing kind things for others. If I won the [contest], I would work with the fifth-graders to run a school supply drive for the children of the Dominican Republic. I would use some of the money to purchase items for a lemonade stand. I would like to hold the lemonade stand during our Spanish festival which occurs in early June. I would allow the children to sell the lemonade and then we would use the profits to buy school supplies. This would give the students the opportunity to raise the money themselves.

I would also use some of the money to buy supplies to create cards for the children of the Dominican Republic. I would have the students work with the Spanish teachers here at school to create cards in Spanish for the children. I believe that this would benefit many individuals and communities! It would help the students of Renaissance Academy understand the importance of “paying it forward” and making a difference. It would also greatly help the underprivileged children of the Dominican Republic [to] have the chance to learn just as our students do here in America.

Entry 2

Deterioration comes fast and keeps getting worst on painted surfaces of our property. With rising costs all around us often going to the dentist, stretching the food budget are more important than buying paint.

The Pay It Forward $1000 would give a maximum of $100 for paint brushes to paint facades (front) of properties. Work will be done by the owner, family member or friend. The money will stretch to cover as many properties possible.

This is a small but important step in keeping up property value and keeps the town spruced up. If we need more than the $1,000 we will try and get merchants to help with additional paint and supplies.

A few regulations and guidelines will need to be worked out to put this proposal in place.

Thank You!

Entry 3

A diversified intergenerational group, led by Phoenixville Area School District Students working on their senior project, and beautifying the Phoenixville landscape by painting a historical map mural on the wall of the Master Granite and Tile Building next to Petrucci’s Water Ice and Ice Cream Store.

First, the students researched the project by visiting the Phoenixville Historical Society and other mural designs in the local area. Then they plastered and painted a base coat on the wall that was to receive the mural. All this was done and funded by private donations.

Second, a senior student is currently designing the mural by locating current buildings of interest. In addition, a component of the mural will contain buildings of historical interest to the community. The ceremonial “Phoenix” bird will also be located on the mural.

The group is now looking for community funds and donations to purchase additional paint and supplies to complete the mural. The Phoenix’s contest “Pay It Forward” would be valuable source of funds to enable the project to continue.

This mural demonstrates the creative interest of both individuals and the community-at-large to preserve, beautify, and enhance the Community of Phoenixville.

Entry 4

I would kindly donate the money to the spayed club — they do “wonderful things.” It would help to spay/neuter many cats and dogs, so unwanted kittens or puppies are not born. Phoenixville definitely would benefit from this problem; many people cannot afford to have their pets spayed and neutered therefore, resulting in unwanted litters of kittens or puppies.

The spayed club sets-up clinics, educates the public and has a mobile unit for spayed and neutered cats.

The $1,000 would surely go to perform a good deed, if the spayed club were selected.

Entry 5

I would love to suggest giving this pay it forward help to the Phoenixville Clinic on Church Street in Phoenixville, PA.

I know they collect funds in many ways, but, compared to the many people that are helped, there is no comparison.

There was a time in my life that my husband and I needed help. This was the first time in our lives that our health was bad and we were without medical insurance.

I was surprisingly happy to find such a caring wonderful doctor as Dr. Stuart and all the great staff and volunteers. We were treated with great respect and comfort. Money or lack there of, never dictated the type of service we received. During my visits I received care for many areas of ailment including my eyes, acupuncture, blood tests, mammogram, gynecologist, massage, medicine, financial counseling for additional medicine and many other health issues and areas.

Words cannot express the gratitude of thankfulness I would like to impart to The Clinic. Not only were we helped, but it was great to see so many people in many different walks of life being taken care of with such dignity from those that were helping them.

I think it would be great if that $1,000.00 would be given to The Clinic to treat all the doctors and staff to a party or cash in their pockets, or even help with the annual expenses that are needed to keep The Clinic up and running.

No matter how the money is used I would just like to present a check to Dr. Stuart as a way to say “Thank You All” for your unselfish acts of kindness. I truly am blessed to sing the praises of our Phoenixville Clinic.

Entry 6

It costs $180 to provide care for a child at the Phoenixville Children’s Learning Center. No child has ever been turned away because of an inability to pay. I think this is incredible. Every child, no matter what their economic situation, needs a safe and loving environment to flourish. I know the Learning Center provides that. Their teachers go beyond teaching. They inspire. They protect. They guide. They play. They love.

I would give my $1,000 to the Learning Center so that 6 children can benefit from one more week of this experience. Talk about Paying It Forward! Those 6 kids could some day find the cure for cancer, teach other children, invent alternative power sources, gift the world music or art, reverse global warming or lead our country. It’s an investment as close to guaranteed as one can make. And I’m ready to make it.

John F. Kennedy said, “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” It’s our responsibility to teach, nurture and set a good example for our children. Giving, be it time, money or talent, is a great way to teach, nurture and set that example.

Entry 7

I think the key to this great contest is maximizing impact — how many people you can touch, and how happy you can make someone.

There are many great non-profits in our area that would love a $1,000 donation — PACS, the Clinic, the Senior Center, Good Samaritan Shelter, so many more... but then the donation just gets lost in their budget, and you can’t measure specific impact that $1,000 made. My idea: Create the Flower Fund. Use the $1,000 to buy fresh flowers for residents at the Manor — let them know someone cares enough about their happiness to send flowers for no reason. Or for a birthday, anniversary, whatever. Here’s an example of how it could work: Every week, buy 5 arrangements for $25.00 each. The staff at the Manor could choose the week’s recipients, based on a variety of factors: Who needs a smile? Who is having a birthday? Who has no family visiting? Who is Irish and wants to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? You get the idea...

I would be happy to take care of the logisitics, meaning that I could drop off the arrangements every Monday morning. (Or perhaps a local florist would like to sponsor the idea, and create the weekly arrangements for a discount, handle the delivery, etc.) All the staff would need to do is pass out the happiness.

I love flowers myself and know how they can brighten a day. The average arrangement might last a week, plus there are usually 2-3 occupants per room at the Manor, so it can touch a lot of people. People who may have a pretty bleak existence otherwise.

Entry 8

My idea in your Pay It Forward contest is to give it to The Senior Adult Activity Center on Church St. in Phoenixville. State and local funds are less this year and the $1,000 could be used to give them lunch every day (an average of 54 are served). Or possibly to use on transporting them to the center via The Rover. It would be a big benefit for the people who use the center as their only social experience during the day.

Thank you for the opportunity to help the seniors of the surrounding areas.

Entry 9

I’d like to nominate the baseball fields at PECO, as a recipient for $1,000.00. The parking lot desperately needs to be paved. It is currently gravel and every time it rains, it washes some away and creates deep ruts. I don’t know what the cost would be, but if this were not enough, it would be a start.

Entry 10

What I would do if I was the winner of the $1,000 Pay It Forward is to purchase an industrial stove/oven for St Peter and Paul’s Ukrainian Catholic church in Phoenixville. They currently do not have one and they need one by law to be able to cook their ethnic foods and to be able to sell them. They would then be able to cook food and also make food and package it up for the Aids for Friends that is an organization that takes food donations from other churches and feeds the elderly with it. This would be a win-win situation for the church as well as the elderly in Phoenixville that depend on the food from Aids for Friends.

Entry 11

When in need of medical care, when we did not have coverage, my husband went to the Clinic, on Church Street. As being a nurse we would give it “back” to Dr. L. Stuart & The Clinic. They are awesome and give medical care of the needed people of Phoenixville…my home town!

Entry 12

To buy gifts for children in the hospital at Christmas. Bryn Mawr has a program like this in the children’s ward.

Entry 13

Clear the sidewalks of bumps, cracks, and loose gravel. Choose the worst part of Morris Cemetery... [Part of the] walk is smooth — the other part is corrugated! People fall.

Entry 14

There is a young physician named Dan Kelly who has a noble purpose for his skills. Instead of establishing a safe and lucrative practice here at home, he is working with amputee victims in the poorest part of Africa. I can’t think of anything more noble than that and he desperately needs help. His ... family resides [in] Phoenixville... A performer of such good deeds deserves one himself. My prize would go to him.

Entry 15

It would be with pride and pleasure that my wife and I would take up the challenge of The Phoenix’s Pay It Forward campaign. My wife, Barbara, and I are by today’s standards not rich, but certainly we are not poor. Our intent is to receive $1,000 and to increase the number to $1,500. The additional money would be from our won pocket. We have taken projects in the past, situations that we felt would make our community a better place to live (see attached). We are now able to extend ourselves some what further. We have some resources but we need the sources out. Our preference would be the Holiday Season in December. There are kids (young adults), adults (older kids) that are up against it dollar wise around the holidays. We also are flexible to do acts of kindness at another time in the calender year. If you would, please note our saying at the bottom of this page.

We would like to take the $1,500 and divide it by five and distribute it through five individuals to make five individual stories. We have chosen these individuals who are “pillars of the community.” They have worked well together and worked individually. We will call on them not to work by themselves, but each one working together with five separate situations. FIVE GOOD DEEDS, not one. We will call upon these people to work with other community people to draw on their resources to further, “feather the DEED.” The folks we have chosen are people who have “been taught by experience and polished by time.” Five individuals with five different backgrounds working in complete harmony. No one will outdo another; they will have five different challenges to work on. They will and must work to the best of their ability. We suggest you take the knowledge, the commitment, the many years of loving-caring-sharing and the passion of Donald Coppedge, Robb Frees, Patricia Tindell, Louis Beccaria and Santa himself, Tom Mitchell. WE would accept anyone’s challenge to take the Phoenixville area phone book and find five different people that will work as well as the ones, that we have chosen. These people, whom we have contacted, thanked us for our thinking of them. Their participation is thank you enough.

$1000.00 + $500.00 = $1500.00 divided by 5 = $300.00 = 5 good deeds, for five situations, by five real good people.

We have taken up the challenge of The Phoenix. We have raised the mythical bar by 50%. We hope and pray you and your committee will allow all of us to proceed.

Entry 16

I would give $2000 to Renaissance Academy, for text books and gym supplies. $200 to cancer research, $200 to help save the Rain Forest, $200 to the Phoenixville Public Library, $100 to ASPCA, $100 for the Kitty College.

Editor’s Note: Some entries have been edited for spelling or grammar or to preserve anonymity. Although the original Pay It Forward contest had a $1,000 prize, donations totaled $3,500, so that total will be divided between the winners of the individual and school categories.

You can summit your vote to

Thursday, April 3, 2008

New Business: Spiedie Bistro

Pa. is popular

I was reading an article on Obama campaigning in Pennsylvania and learned Pa. is the 6th most populus state in the country. I hadn't realized this. Here's the breakdown of which states beat Pa. (as of July 1, 2007):

1. California
2. Texas
3. New York
4. Florida
5. Illinois
6. Pennsylvania

I never would have expected Ill. to be more populated than Pa. It's not by much, it seems, but a few hundred thousand is still a significant number. Interesting, nevertheless.

Posted by
Laurie Perini

Your Thoughts

HACC should fulfill its mission

While covering the issue of St. John’s United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden and Labyrinth back in February, I attended a meeting of the Housing Authority of Chester County’s Board of Directors at King Terrace, during which representatives of the garden met with the directors to seek a compromise.

That compromise was whether the garden would be allowed to remain on its property, which is owned by the HACC, after its lease expires in 2010. The HACC had previously announced plans for expanding the number of units in Fairview Village, and potentially those units could be built on the garden’s site.

While the garden didn’t get its lease expanded, the HACC directors announced that they would work to ensure that the garden remains throughout the expansion project. As far as I know, that situation remains the same. It’s great on the HACC’s part to allow the garden to remain, even though they didn’t have to. And I don’t mean that flippantly or diplomatically either, but whole-heartedly.

I include that little addendum, because given my recent stories you may have read over the past couple of days, you can probably predict what direction this column is headed.

Before I get into that, I need to say that what also happened during that meeting is that numerous King Terrace residents spoke out about their gratitude to the Housing Authority for giving them a place to live. Others praised their conditions and stated they were pleased with how they live.

So the two residents featured in Tuesday and Wednesday’s stories on Fairview Village and King Terrace, respectively, may not speak for everyone.

But the photos, interviews, numbers and documents used for and included in both stories cannot be ignored as it seems Serephine Thomas and her family have been. Or as the woman, called Rosa Carey in my story, on King Terrace was ignored when numerous work orders she had submitted often resulted in no action taken. These two women were extremely brave in coming forward about the conditions they live in, placing their trust in a complete stranger to share this information with, in order to see some action taken.

A member of the HACC board commented during a past meeting that it was a “God-given mission” to provide affordable housing, and that if you see a homeless person on the street, “you house ’em.”

Both a noble and necessary mission, because as much as some may hate to admit it, there really is need for affordable public housing, especially given the state of housing in today’s day and age.

HACC Executive Director Tonya K. Mitchell-Weston — who, it should be noted, was extremely polite and helpful in my interviews with her (and patient as well, for enduring an hour and 20 minute interview via phone on one occasion) — described opposition to public housing as a “not in my backyard” mentality. I’d say that sounds about right. Like it or not, there are people need help, who need this mission fulfilled.

But shouldn’t there be an asterisk understood to exist at the end of that mission statement stating that the housing will be of acceptable quality?

Shouldn’t the second part of that mission be to not only provide housing, but to maintain it? So a family can cook in their kitchen without worrying about human waste contaminating their food? So that food can even be cooked to begin with if the water isn’t shut off all day long in the entire building throughout a year-long repair project just starting now, due to inaction over the course of years on a water infrastructure known to have problems?

So that it doesn’t take an arson, of all things, to result in repairs to a faulty fire alarm system that now goes off so often due to a poor ventilation system that people don’t even leave their apartments when it goes off? Will it take another tragedy to repair the ventilation system like it did for the alarms?

I don’t know if morality, duty, ethics or simple common sense dictates answering “yes” to any of the above questions, but something certainly has to. If it was my mission to provide affordable housing to those in need, and I slapped together a group of quonset huts with no plumbing, labeled it “affordable” and walked away to never look at how the residents lived ever again, I’d hope somebody would fault me for that (and no, I’m not calling either facility in Phoenixville a group of slapped together quonset huts — just making an analogy).

There’s a lot of things that happened over the course of developing these stories that didn’t make it to print. Such as when I was speaking with Serephine Thomas in her kitchen, and I couldn’t tear my eyes away from that sinister plastic tarp. She made a comment to the extent of “it’s hard to look away from, isn’t it?”

Or interviewing Carey in her unit at King Terrace, and she lies down on her kitchen floor and demonstrates how someone in a wheelchair would go about opening their oven when it is so low to the floor. She should know, as she said she had used one herself for a long time due to her disability.

At the end of that interview, Carey walked me out of her unit, shortly after commenting that she knew of other residents in the past who did not have working locks and deadbolts on their door, and was grateful that her’s worked fine.

Following three failed attempts of getting the lock to catch, we were on our way out after the fourth was successful.

I’m not making out the HACC to be a villainous entity — nothing of the sort. They’re here to help people.

I’m simply reporting what I saw first-hand, what others have collaborated, and I simply have to ask myself why? Why, with funding at their disposal, are they constructing more units when many of the ones they have are either vacant or lacking suitable conditions? Why not use the money towards repairing what you have before building anything new? I’m not the only one who has asked this, and I don’t think I’ve found a suitable answer yet.

The HACC has taken steps to improve the conditions of King Terrace and Fairview. But numerous people I’ve spoken with have said those conditions “didn’t get like that overnight.”

Well they can’t be fixed overnight, either. The band-aid approach does not work.

Take that money. Use it towards improving what you have, and soon. Then worry about new housing.

On a final note, on April 11, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act, an article of the Civil Rights Act. As such, the government now designates the month of April with a special label in honor of the act.

Happy Fair Housing Month.

To contact Brian about his column, email

Posted by
Brian McCarthy

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Bridge Raising

Your Thoughts

Terrace unfit for a King?

Story is being posted to The Phoenix Files for your thoughts, reacts, and comments.

HACC says King Terrace not a problem like Fairview Village; code inspector rates some areas OK; but residents, fire chief still have complaints about facility

Editor’s Note: On Tuesday, The Phoenix examined ongoing maintenance and health issues at Fairview Village. Today, similar issues are explored at King Terrace, the Housing Authority of Chester County’s other facility in Phoenixville.

By Brian McCarthy

PHOENIXVILLE — Today, April 2, borough Code Enforcement will conduct a re-inspection of King Terrace and Fairview Village following a previous inspection on February 28.

The facilities, owned and operated by the Housing Authority of Chester County, offer housing to low-income families (Fairview Village) and the elderly and disabled (King Terrace).

Located at 300 High Street, King Terrace has existed since the 1970s, consisting of 50 units spread out over three floors. The inspection on February 28 was conducted by rental inspector Rick Harris with borough Code Enforcement.

In his report of the inspection, Harris notes that eight of the units were vacant, three had bathroom vent fans that were inoperable, and two had ground fault interrupters, or GFIs (safety devices located by sources of water that help prevent electrocution) that “meant that one wasn’t there or needs to be replaced,” he said.

Harris also recorded two units lacking smoke detectors in bedrooms, which Harris has said is a common problem he finds in his inspections due to a recent code change requiring the devices in every bedroom, one unit lacking a light bulb cover, one bathroom floor creating a tripping hazard, and another bathroom containing mold and falling ceiling tiles.

He explained that the note of the tripping hazard refers to the linoleum floor in the bathroom that was “ripped up or torn,” creating an uneven floor.

“[People] could trip up and fall, and there’s a lot of things [they] could hit [their] head on,” Harris explained.

As for the issues with the other bathroom, “If there’s no fans or ventilation you get mold,” Harris said.

“It could be a housekeeping issue as well. I can’t tell them how to live.” He added that it could be a “deeper issue,” such as problems with the building’s water system.

“When I see those kind of things, it raises a red flag,” Harris said.

Harris classified the majority of the units, 32 out of 50, as “OK.”

“King Terrace has not been a problem like Fairview [Village] has,” HACC Executive Director Tonya K. Mitchell-Weston said when reached for comment. When asked of the state of HACC’s properties in Chester County, she said, “[Our property in] Oxford is good. Fairview, of course, by design, needs help. King Terrace is probably in better shape.” The HACC also owns property in West Chester and others “through limited partnership,” Mitchell-Weston said.

In his inspection, Harris also classified the “common areas,” including the first floor common area in addition to hallways and stairwells, as “OK.”

At least one resident of King Terrace, however, would not characterize her building as “OK,” as she has witnessed and recorded numerous incidents throughout her years there.

Speaking Up

Rosa Carey, a resident of King Terrace since 2003, speaks in her bathroom with the fan on, she says, because she does not want her conversation overheard through the thin walls in her unit.

She is not afraid, exactly, but

worried that if she is heard speaking negatively of the conditions of her building, she could face repercussions from the HACC.

Carey — which is not her real name, but one chosen at her request to protect her privacy — says that she is not the only resident unhappy with the conditions of King Terrace. However, she believes many residents do not speak out because of possible repercussions or because they are illiterate.

“There is a problem of literacy in here,” Carey said. “Many people may not be putting in work orders because of [that]. Most people are afraid of reprisals. People feel if they raise an issue they’ll be put out.”

Carey invited The Phoenix to King Terrace as her guest in March to view the conditions of her building. Photographs were taken of numerous stains on the walls of both stairwells and hallways. She said she had submitted work orders to the HACC to clean many of them months ago and that never occurred. She said previous stains appeared to have been blood and excrement with noticeable odors emitting from them.

Photos were also taken of loose tiles on the floors of the stairwell, exposed wiring and holes in the ceiling, as well as numerous covers missing from overhead lights. One cover to a wall light appeared to have previously fallen off and cracked in two, and was then placed back on the wall with the cover held together by cellophane tape.

On a hallway window, a Post-It note was placed reading “top window broken.” The window had previously fallen and allegedly cut a resident’s hand in 2007 when the resident attempted to open the window due to a strong odor of gas in the building. Litigation between the resident and the HACC in regards to the incident is ongoing.

Carey also pointed out a guide-rail along the wall, which she said a fellow resident was holding onto in late February when the rail broke, causing the resident to fall. She said the rail had since been fixed.

“It’s ridiculous,” Carey said of the conditions in her building. “That incident upset me very much. We’re not in the backwoods of Mississippi of 1908. We’re not in a war zone ... in 2008. These are the kinds of things we have to deal with. These conditions are affecting everybody.”

Carey has kept several calendars and notebooks since she has lived at King Terrace, in which she has recorded every incident of damage or poor conditions she has witnessed, as well as every work order she has submitted for these damages.

Many of the work orders, Carey says, were not responded to, while others were handled promptly. One of the more recent incidents occurred on March 3, when the building’s main elevator was stuck on the third floor and unable to be used by residents. Carey said the elevator was fixed the next day.

Carey added that many times she and other residents have attempted to bring maintenance issues to the attention of the site manager, but many times the manager was not present in their office. Since she has lived at King Terrace, Carey said three different site managers worked at the building.

“They’re supposed to come up [on a regular basis],” Carey said. “They would if they have regular posted office hours like they’re supposed to have.”

Carey says that on two separate occasions, residents grew so frustrated that they personally helped paint the walls of the first floor hallway and paid for carpets to be cleaned after no action was taken in response to submitted work orders.

She added that throughout her time at King Terrace, there have been problems with rodents, including mice, bats and squirrels, in the building, and in 2006 squirrels had entered the building and taken up residence in the ceilings and walls of one unit for several weeks until they were abated on October 6 of that year.

Carey also has notes and photos of the unit of another resident, who for 14 months had to place a bucket on his floor as ceiling tiles fell. The photos were taken in 2006, and the resident has since moved out.

This is the same unit Harris recorded as having bathroom ceiling and mold issues in his inspection conducted this February.

“He shouldn’t have been living like that,” Carey said.

Carey said she has contacted numerous people about the conditions at King Terrace besides the HACC, including members of Borough Council, Senator Andy Dinniman, D-19th, and Congressman Jim Gerlach, R-6th. She said that these communications have been helpful, but yielded few permanent results.

“This is a violation of civil rights,” she said, referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Carey continued that she is grateful for not being homeless, but added “a home should not have to be a place where you endure. It is unfair, unjust to have people being held hostage to a morally unjust system.”

Mitchell-Weston said she believes there are systems in place by the HACC for both proper communication and handling issues. She said that the HACC normally conducts three different kinds of inspections; annual housekeeping inspections, HUD inspections and follow-ups to work orders.

“I believe there is the opportunity for proper communication,” Mitchell-Weston said. She personally oversees quarterly tenants meetings held at King Terrace for residents of both that facility and Fairview Village, which are announced on tenants’ rent notices.

“I always end every meeting with ‘questions? comments? concerns?’ Fairview residents rarely attend these meetings, even when they’re in the evening. I have no idea why someone would be afraid to report anything. They need to report that to me, as supervisor.”

“Do I go through the stairwells every time I’m there? No. If there’s a problem, report it.”

Fire and Water

On November 21, 2003, HACC personnel circulated a memo to King Terrace residents about disposing grease and food after cooking.

“Over the years, the building has experienced various types of sewer backup on the first floor,” the memo states. “We have discovered that cooking grease is being discarded from your units, by way of kitchen sinks or toilet, on the upper floors of the building. This will create over time blockages in the sewer system that will cause back-ups ... creating hostile tenants in first floor apartment units and those who use the first floor hallways.”

“This memo [is] an effort to get your understanding to the problem that is being created. Yes, it is the HACC responsibility to assure that every tenant has a safe and decent unit as well as community space to enjoy. When the tenants, through bad decisions, add to the complexity of doing so (pouring cooking grease and food in the sinks and toilets), it makes a very difficult job much more difficult.”

Issues with water in the building did not end there. In 2006, a memo was posted notifying residents that on April 24 “the water for the entire building will be shut off so plumbers can make repairs.”

The memo states that the water would be shut off at 7 a.m., and could remain off possibly all day until repairs were completed. It includes advice to residents notifying them to make sure they had water to drink and cook with set aside before the repairs, that they could not use any drains while the water is off, and could not flush toilets.

On June 18, 2007, the borough of Phoenixville then posted memos in the building, stating “the Water Distribution Department of the Borough of Phoenixville has scheduled water shutdown for a repair on on Tuesday, 6/19/07.” The memo continued that the shutoff would last approximately six hours.

Carey says that these three notifications were not isolated incidents, and that there have been continuous water shutoffs throughout the five years she has lived at King Terrace. Many are announced, she says, though some are not. She has also experienced numerous problems with the plumbing in her unit, specifically her sink.

“These conditions didn’t get like this overnight,” Carey said. In reference to the 2003 memo on grease disposal, she added “some of these people have life challenges. Give them education in a respectful way.”

Throughout the month of this March alone, Carey recorded three separate instances of water shutoffs, which she believes were announced. On September 21, 2007, Carey met with building inspector Frank J. Tallarico Jr. of Code Enforcement to submit a complaint about the frequent water shutoffs.

“Water shut off all the time, sometimes notice [given], sometimes no notice,” Tallarico recorded in his report of his meeting with Carey. “Codes has contacted HACC several times in the last two years with same [issues]. [They] answer they are taking care of it.”

Mitchell-Weston says that the HACC is indeed taking care of it, and have recently hired an outside firm to conduct an energy audit on HACC properties. Following the audit, work will commence on repairing and replacing the galvanized steel pipes in the building, a procedure which Mitchell-Weston told residents in previous tenant meetings should take over a year to be completed.

“We are aware of significant issues with the pipes in King Terrace,” Mitchell-Weston said. She noted that a primary source of these issues were problems with water pressure and the age of the structure, adding “as the building shifts, pipes shift too. It has to be a major undertaking.”

“Last year they said every pipe in the building would have to be replaced,” Carey said. “How are you going to do that with people in the building, tearing up their floors?”

The water infrastructure of King Terrace is not the only ongoing issue in the building. In August of 2006, Carey filled out a Phoenixville Community Watchband Problem Report stating that in the late afternoon of August 4 she “saw fire trucks in parking lot but no alarm [sounded].” She says that this is not the only time this has happened, and on at least one other occasion woke up in the middle of the night to find fire trucks in the parking lot, with no alarm being sounded.

In a handwritten statement dated September 28, 2006, another resident, whose name is being withheld by The Phoenix, wrote that “on September 6, 2006 the fire alarm did not go off in my apartment ... when there was a fire incident.”

Phoenixville Fire Department Chief Jim Gable said that in 2006 his apartment responded to 37 fire alarms at King Terrace. He noted “serious problems” between 2006 and 2007 with malfunctioning alarms.

“The whole third floor would have no activation whatsoever,” Gable said. “The second floor would have no strobes. Only audible [alarms].”

He added that the issues with alarms have since gotten better, when in 2007 the building was briefly shut down, which Gable said “gave us the opportunity to correct [the alarm] system once and for all.”

The reason? On May 10, 2007, a fire, which fire officials labeled as arson, blazed throughout the building, causing over $200,000 worth of damages. There were no injuries caused by the fire.

“It’s probably the only reason that alarm system got fixed,” Gable said.

He also said that in the past his department has found one exit way that was blocked, but he added that those issues have been addressed.

In 2007, the fire department responded to 32 calls at King Terrace, including the above incident. So far this year, the department has responded to 10 alarms at the building, two of which occurred this past weekend.

On January 1 this year there was a fire alarm at approximately 6 p.m., and when Carey heard it, she used a stairwell to evacuate the building, but found that a light in the stairwell was out.

“I had to walk down a dark stairwell. This is unsafe and needs to be fixed,” Carey wrote in a work order request she filled out that day. She noted in her records that the light was not fixed 24 hours later, and a maintenance worker informed her that he had not fixed it yet as he could not find a replacement bulb. She said that the light was fixed by January 3.

Gable said that the majority of alarms at King Terrace are caused by smoke created by food cooked by residents.

“Anything greasy sets off the fire alarm,” Gable said. “The [kitchen exhaust] fan is not exhausting the smoke correctly.”

He described the kitchen ventilation system as “inadequate,” saying it has “no filters, no nothing. I have no idea where it goes in the building.”

Gable added that “from time to time” burnt food will be discovered in the unit that set off the alarm. But more often than not, these calls are due to poorly ventilated smoke.

“It’s not good,” Gable said. “It needs to be well ventilated.”

The problem is bigger than just unventilated smoke, however, Gable says.

“Less and less [residents] evacuate their apartments,” he said, due to the frequency of alarms. “When the alarm goes off [some] don’t even leave their apartment anymore. We have to physically evacuate apartments now.”

When the fire department responds to calls at King Terrace now, Gable says he can see “dozens of people” still in the building looking out through their windows, and has to send a firefighter in to physically check each apartment for residents.

The need for change

Pa. Sen. Dinniman said he is familiar with King Terrace through his previous work as a Chester County Commissioner ever since he was first elected to that office in 1992.

“The problems that King Terrace has are ones that have been ongoing,” Dinniman said. He explained that while he was still a commissioner, his office spent money to solve safety issues, such as the poorly secured doors and entrances as mentioned above.

Dinniman acknowledges that “there is a real need for public housing.” However, he adds that there are “options” besides the proposed expansion of Fairview Village, which Mitchell-Weston has said there are no definite plans for yet.

“[HACC] ... and the Chester County Commissioners ... should consider whether [it] would be better for a private sector to operate these facilities, [or] perhaps a public private partnership,” Dinniman said. “If you have this many vacancies there must be a lot of people who don’t want to move in. It may be true [that] King Terrace’s life span as a building has come to an end. Perhaps some new sort of facility could take place on that property, [or HACC] could use the new housing for both [low-income families and the elderly and disabled]. The Housing Authority and Chester County Commissioners need to take the lead in creative approaches ... think outside the box.”

Regardless of whether any of those ideas come to fruition, Dinniman strongly believes something first needs to change.

“Enough’s enough,” Dinniman said. “[King Terrace] could conceivably be a very nice place to live. The Housing Authority is trying, but that doesn’t mean they’re always succeeding. Before you plan to build more, ask why no one wants to live in what [you] have.”

“[The HACC] deny, dismiss and delay,” Carey said. “They cannot dismiss [residents] as just elderly and disabled. They cannot deny there’s serious problems in here. They can’t keep delaying any substantive action. These conditions are bad.”

“They’ve delivered promises for a long time and we’ve received next to nothing,” she continued. “[Residents] just have to accept living up here like this.”

“Disabled doesn’t mean dumb.”

Editor’s Note: The Phoenix will continue to follow issues at King Terrace and Fairview Village as they develop.

Posted by

Brian McCarthy


They're teasing us.

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and their relatives and other supporters are making appearances in West Chester, Pottstown, King of Prussia and all around the Philadelphia suburban counties, but when will they actually make it HERE?

Actually, I heard a rumor Tuesday that Barack Obama (or at least his entourage) might swing through Phoenixville either before or after his taping of "Hardball" this afternoon. We're keeping alert to the chance of coverage, while trying not to get our hopes up too much.

But it's not hoping too much to expect that one or maybe all of the candidates, including John McCain, may make it here eventually. After all, they have three weeks left until the primary, and this borough is well worth a visit.
John Edwards thought so when he was running for vice president in the last election cycle; he made a speech at Reeves Park.

Also, it's easy to think of one particular candidate who might love to latch onto Phoenixville's namesake icon of rebirth, but really, who couldn't make a nice connection with an image like that?

Patricia Matson
Editor, The Phoenix
Phoenixville Newspapers, Inc.

A Good Way to (NOT) Waste Time

I thought for a change this week's waste of time would be a couple of very helpful websites that will hopefully save you some time. Many times your best link for resources and information will be your county's website. You can find Montgomery County's website at and Chester County's at
These sites include contact phone numbers for county officials and offices, as well as listings and press releases for upcoming events. These websites are excellent portals for other government websites and contact phones, both have quick links for webs that people are looking for most often.
Often our reporters here at The Phoenix use these sites extensively when looking for information like meeting schedules, budgets, and minutes of meeting. With the upcoming elections these sites are very useful to find your voting location and information on current events.
So you may not find these website overly entertaining, but at least you won't have to take the time looking for your phone book (by the way it's in that drawer in your kitchen that you keep stuff that you don't know where to keep it).

Posted by
Matthew Byrd

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Fairview tenant seeks help

Story is being posted to The Phoenix Files for your thoughts, reacts, and comments.

By Brian McCarthy

PHOENIXVILLE — A large plastic tarp covers a portion of the ceiling over Serephine Thomas’ kitchen counter in her family’s unit at Fairview Village, with notes reading “do not open” taped onto her kitchen cabinets.

The counter is bare, with all of Thomas’s cooking supplies and plastic containers moved onto her table on the other side of the room. She says she cannot use her kitchen, due to a leak concealed beneath the tarp.

The leak, Thomas says, is human waste from a sewage pipe connected to her bathroom.

“Sometimes it drips down, I have to keep the cabinets closed,” Thomas said. “I don’t like messing with it. One day I cooked and had to throw everything away.”

Thomas estimates she’s had to clean leaks in her kitchen at least 30 separate times since she first moved into unit 413 of Fairview Village in December of 2005 with her husband and son, who lives with his family when not pursuing his education. Thomas uses Lysol and bleach to clean the leaks because “that’s all I have,” she said.

Fairview Village is owned and operated by the Housing Authority of Chester County as a public housing facility on Fairview Street for low-income families. In Phoenixville, HACC also owns King Terrace, a public housing facility for the elderly and disabled, on 300 High Street.

Thomas said she had contacted the HACC about the leak, and over a year ago maintenance crews placed the tarp

over the leak, but have not done anything since.

Thomas’ inability to use her kitchen is not the only problem she deals with on a regular basis in her apartment. When Thomas moved in, she says, she saw what appeared to be mold on multiple windowsills throughout her apartment, adding that, when it rains, the smell of the mold becomes overwhelming. Over the years Thomas has developed allergies and breathing issues, and has been prescribed Singulair, Advair, Flonase and Nasonex. She says she did not have any of these conditions before moving into Fairview.

She added that under her lease she was entitled to a pre-inspection of the unit before moving in, but was not notified of this beforehand.

Underneath her kitchen window, outside the apartment, there is additional mold and rotted wood in the exterior framing, as well as cracks in the mortar between the bricks. There are also cracks and holes in the drywall along her front living room window, and Thomas says a bat once flew into the apartment through such a hole.

Thomas avoids opening the windows in her apartment whenever possible, she says, as many of them are off of their tracks. Outside her bedroom window, a loose cable dangles.

Thomas says another reason she avoids her windows is because in October of 2006 her living room window fell on her. She says she was hospitalized and placed on pain medication, along with several months of physical therapy.

Finally, when Thomas first moved into her apartment, there was no covering over her upstairs light switch, no fire extinguisher in her unit nor a working smoke detector, she says. Since then, the HACC has placed a covering on the light switch, as well as installing smoke detectors and an extinguisher. The detectors and extinguisher were not installed until last week; Thomas said that her neighbors in Fairview had these features installed following a fire at King Terrace in May 2007. She says her unit was the only one that did not receive them.

“See how we live here?” Thomas said.

“[The conditions here] are not good at all,” Thomas’s son, who’s name is being withheld by request, said. “Whenever I call home, there’s always a problem.”

“He doesn’t like it up here,” Thomas said. “Can you blame him?”

Thomas also has a four-year-old granddaughter, but does not like bringing the child to the unit because that would expose her to the living conditions there.

Seeking Action

HACC policy is to send maintenance employees to inspect damages in its units once a tenant files a work order. Thomas said that she had brought the above issues to the HACC’s attention through this process, but has not seen the repairs done. She has also requested to live in another unit while these repairs are being conducted, which she may be entitled to under her lease — the reason she has not moved despite these conditions — but that has not happened as well.

Tonya K. Mitchell-Weston, Executive Director of the HACC, says she was “shocked” when she learned of the conditions of Thomas’ unit.

“It’s important to know she never reported that,” Mitchell-Weston said, referring specifically to the leak above Thomas’ kitchen counter. “We are very quick to respond. Why not call someone and have it taken care of?”

The Thomases are currently involved in litigation with the HACC.

Thomas submitted a complaint to the Borough of Phoenixville’s Code Enforcement Department on October 27, 2006. Building inspector Frank J. Tallarico Jr. visited the unit and took pictures of the conditions, including the apparent mold on the window and the rotted wood on the outside framing.

In his written report of the complaint, Tallarico included the pictures of the windows, writing underneath one that his department “contacted HACC... they stated they would fix ASAP.” According to code enforcement procedure, the property owner typically has 30 days to respond to conduct the repairs.

Mitchell-Weston said that a mold remediation specialist was sent to unit 413 to inspect the windows and conduct testing that month. She said that the specialist was “denied access” to the unit by Thomas, and “honestly [doesn’t] know” why he would have been denied entry. Thomas said such an incident never occurred.

Thomas contacted Tallarico again with another complaint on July 17, 2007. In his record of the complaint, Tallarico notes that the rotted wood still existed and had not been fixed, as well as the incident of “storm windows falling on people,” referring to the incident when Thomas was injured when her living room fell on her. In the report, Tallarico underlines “no corrective measures” that were taken by the HACC. He also includes a call log between himself and Mitchell-Weston; according to the call log, Tallarico left at least three voicemails for her over a 10-day period, with no response.

Thomas met with Tallarico again on September 5, 2007. Tallarico noted in his report that he spoke to HACC “over a year ago... they agreed to repair damages. Repairs were never made.” The report also includes photos taken again of the damages in Thomas’ unit, and notes that the last photos taken are over a year old and on file.

On September 21, 2007, Thomas met with Tallarico at his office to discuss health issues related to the mold.

“I would recommend she and or [HACC] have a mold specialist test her unit... for air quality and health safety,” Tallarico wrote in his report. “This was also recommended as far back as 2006 when HACC was to repair issues.”

When reached for comment, Tallarico said “we came out, documented everything as we saw it, [and] turned it over to the Housing Authority.”

When asked about Thomas’ complaints with Code Enforcement, Mitchell-Weston said that she did not have the records of meetings between Thomas and Tallarico on file.

Tallarico said that the HACC “were made aware of everything” and in the report of the September 21 meeting wrote “copy faxed to HACC 9/21/07.”

“If there’s a situation of mold remediation, we can’t make them do it,” Tallarico said.

A mold remediation expert did visit Thomas’ unit last week to inspect the windows, with no further action taken yet.

“Specifically, sewage inside of a house is not a good thing,” he added. He explained that he has been to both Fairview and King Terrace to respond to tenants’ complaints, but that rental inspector Rick Harris is the Code Enforcement officer who has conducted inspections of both facilities.

“I feel that we [Phoenixville Code Enforcement] have fulfilled all of our responsibilities at this point,” Tallarico said.

The future of Fairview

Harris conducted inspections of both HACC facilities on February 28 this year for safety and health issues. Of the 26 units, at least 12 units were either missing smoke detectors in the second-floor bedrooms or the detectors needed batteries, according to Harris’ inspection report. Harris explained that this was most likely due to a codes change in 2006 requiring smoke detectors in every bedroom of a unit, and that Fairview was not the only facility he has been to that has had this problem.

In the inspection, Harris also notes that ground fault interrupters, or GFIs, need replacing or repair in four units. GFIs are safety devices that are located by areas with running water such as kitchen sinks and laundry rooms that intercepts electrical currents to prevent electrocution while water is running. He said that they are easily fixed or replaced. He also recorded one unit lacking a cover plate on an electrical outlet and covers on light bulbs, another having a “rear door not secure,” three others with missing light bulb covers and another missing an outdoor light.

As for Thomas’ unit, Harris recorded the need for bedroom smoke detectors and a missing fire extinguisher, which the HACC has since placed there. He said he did not make a note of the mold issues or kitchen leak because he “didn’t put anything down that wasn’t in process already.” He said he did know that the HACC was aware of those issues through Thomas’ previous interactions with Code Enforcement.

“If I don’t see the leak, I can’t take the tenant’s word, I need to see it,” Harris said. He added that such a leak would be “no good.”

Harris is conducting a re-inspection of both Fairview and King Terrace this Wednesday, April 2.

Today, April 1, marks the deadline for a letter from HACC requested by the Borough of Phoenixville explaining that the HACC has the capacity to fill and maintain its units. The reason for the letter lies in the proposed expansion of Fairview Village, which would see HACC funds used to construct additional units on Fairview Street. The St. John’s United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden and Labyrinth, located adjacent to Fairview Village, is located on a HACC parcel of land where the units could be constructed. The HACC Board of Directors announced during their February meeting at King Terrace that the garden would remain on the parcel while the units are constructed.

Mitchell-Weston said that there are still no detailed plans for the expansion or an idea of how many units would be constructed, and that previous plans had been dropped. She said that requests for quotes, or RFQs, from developers should be finished by Thursday, and expects to have preliminary plans submitted to the borough planning commission this month.

The letter, Mitchell-Weston says, states that “we’re aware of the current zoning and we have every intention of following [the proper] procedures [for the expansion plans].” Mitchell-Weston said that the letter does not address capacity or maintenance issues due to comments on them in prior public meetings.

“Issues with vacancies have been responded to numerous times,” Mitchell-Weston said. Eight units at Fairview are currently vacant. She said this is due to a screening process for residents and there are prospective tenants on waiting lists for these units.

As for the conditions of Fairview as a whole, Mitchell-Weston acknowledges there have been problems with the area.

“When I first started [with HACC] it was horrible in that neighborhood,” Mitchell-Weston said. “We have an opportunity to change the face of public housing. We want, we need to change that image.”

Barry Cassidy, Executive Director of Main Street Community Development Corporation, has acted as a liason between the HACC and the borough in regards to the proposed expansion of Fairview. He has sat in on several meetings between Mitchell-Weston and other HACC officials and representatives of the borough.

“If they can’t maintain what they’ve got, I will be opposed to building anything new,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy has visited Thomas and observed the conditions of her unit, and informed Borough Council of what he saw during public meetings. Council President Henry Wagner, D-Middle, said that when Cassidy informed him of the state of the Thomas’ unit, he thought the conditions were “deplorable.”

“Nobody should have to live like that, it’s outrageous,” Wagner said. “It’s outrageous. Common sense says that if you have the money to build new facilities, you should use to improve [existing facilities].”

Wagner added that he would like to take a look at creating an ordinance that “doesn’t allow a permit to be given” if existing facilities are not up to standards and codes.

Council Vice President Richard Kirkner, D-North, represents the ward in which Fairview and King Terrace are located. While he has not been to Thomas’ unit, Kirkner drove through Fairview Village three weeks ago.

“I think on some level [the expansion] is necessary,” Kirkner said. “[There is] a need for quality low-income housing.”

He added that while there is a need for low-income housing in Phoenixville, there are other portions of Chester County in need as well.

“Ten to 12 years ago [HACC] spent money rehabbing the units in Fairview,” Kirkner said. “A lot of money they spent up there. I’ve walked a few times out there since then... a renovation of that magnitude had a very short life. Based on what I have seen, they’ve not proven [they] had capacity. Maybe that’s changed in recent years. This has been a long-standing issue.”

Thomas certainly feels it has been long-standing; besides Code Enforcement and Cassidy, she has also contacted other officials and politicians, including Congressman Jim Gerlach, R-6th, last December and Senator Andy Dinniman, D-19th last September,

In his response letter to Thomas, Gerlach told Thomas “HUD has already been working with the housing authority to address issues at Fairview Village and will continue to do so in order to improve the property.”

In a letter to Mitchell-Weston he copied Thomas on, Dinniman writes, “[Thomas] said that she has not been able to get any help with this matter and feels that there needs to be better communication with managment. She says that the meetings are not always announced at each living facility and would appreciate a chance to attend meetings if they are announced at each building.”

In the end, Thomas hopes that the issues with her unit, including the mold, rotted wood and the leak, are all permanently resolved.

“These conditions didn’t get like this overnight,” Thomas said. “In a way, we’re stuck. It’s like, ‘what can you do?’”

“We try so many things,” she added. “I shouldn’t have to live like that.”

Editor’s Note:

Future stories in The Phoenix will provide an in-depth examination of the situation at King Terrace and further coverage of these issues.

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Brian McCarthy

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