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In this Email Update:
Can Tamaqua “take off” with their revitalization efforts? I think so
On Wednesday, the Tamaqua Chamber of Commerce and the Tamaqua Rotary hosted me to provide an update on the state budget and other state-related issues.
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s John Baer put the governor’s budget address succinctly when he said, “It’s a cosmic fiscal flip-flop; a leap, if you will, to a parallel universe,” regarding the governor’s efforts to find savings instead of jumping to tax increases immediately (as he did in his prior two state budget proposals). Baer pointed out that “it reflects reality: revenue reality, legislative political reality and, not insignificantly, Wolf’s reelection reality as he seeks a second term next year.”
(Read my reaction to the governor’s budget proposal here)
However, the parallel universe is an interesting theme when we look at more than just the budget and look at Tamaqua. I asked the audience to imagine what Tamaqua looked like 24 years ago… we had an empty train station in the center of town, the Salvation Army building where our meeting was on Wednesday was once an abandoned lot full of weeds, and the buildings at the “five points intersection” had boarded up windows and doors.
The region was hit hard when the coal industry faded. Between the railroads and coal mines, we lost tens of thousands of employees. I found it was as high as 27 percent unemployment in the local area just as my dad finished high school and college in the 1950s!
My great-grandfather, Roger Howells, had his world turned upside-down in the third year of the Great Depression on February 29, 1932. The Silver Creek Colliery suspended him and abolished his position. They gave him a pink slip (right). He never worked again.
Think about it – more than one out of every four people was unemployed! When you’re in that deep of an economic hole, it takes a very long time to recover… but recover we have!
Efforts in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s to revitalize the community between the local chamber and the Tamaqua Industrial Development Enterprises were met with some successes and failures.
In 1993, we created the Tamaqua Area Community Partnership, which is dedicated to improving the Tamaqua Area, including the borough, Rush Township, Schuylkill Township, Walker Township and West Penn Township.
We’ve had many successes in the community to be proud of:
One of the key things we had to remember: You cannot take a very depressed economy and turn it around overnight – it takes time and you build on successes, you preserve history and once you hit a certain stage, you take off! We have utilized every public and private dollar possible to improve the region.
KOZs, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, PennDOT grants for old train stations, the Department of Community and Economic Development downtown and demolition programs, Owl Creek dam rebuilding funds, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources trail and park programs; we even hit up the Department of Corrections to make all those local historical markers throughout the borough and the four townships, and yes, the CRIZ program.
I believe the City Revitalization Improvement Zone (CRIZ) is the “Take off” stage of the revitalization efforts of our region.
Right now, there are only three CRIZs in Pennsylvania – Bethlehem, Lancaster and Tamaqua. Tamaqua is the only small-town CRIZ in the state!
I believe that Tamaqua’s unique role as the only small-town CRIZ will play an ever-increasing role in our continuing TAKE OFF.
The Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs recently highlighted Tamaqua’s CRIZ program in their recent edition of Borough News. Please take a moment to read “On the Rebound: Tamaqua Borough Building a Strong Comeback” here.
Reforms discussed at manufacturers association breakfast
Last Friday, I joined my colleagues from the Senate and House of Representatives at the Northeast Pennsylvania Manufacturers and Employers Association legislative breakfast.
We discussed several key issues, including school property tax elimination, pension reform, the state budget and many other major reform proposals currently being debated in Harrisburg.
I told attendees that we are trying to find a better way to fund the public schools. The way we do it now is rotten to the core, dating back to the 1830s. There has to be a better way to fund the public schools than the way we do it today.
Read more about the breakfast discussion here.
Informational program on the VA in Schuylkill Haven this Saturday
Healthy Haven in conjunction with the Schuylkill Haven American Legion is hosting a program featuring the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Lebanon on Saturday, February 18 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
The event will take place at the Schuylkill Haven American Legion, 229 Parkway, Schuylkill Haven, PA 17972.
The program will cover benefits for veterans and spouses, eligibility requirements, when to apply and how the application process works. You will also be able to ask any questions at the event as well.
Please RSVP to Schuylkill County VISION at 570-622-6097.
Intersection of Routes 209 and 901 to be safer thanks to Act 89
On Wednesday, I joined Reps. Neal Goodman and Mike Tobash, along with Norwegian Township officials Stanley Petchulis, Leo Grace and Tom Dallago to see the new traffic light installed at the intersection of Routes 209 and 901 in Norwegian Township.
The light will provide a safer intersection for motorists approaching from all directions. The project was funded through Act 89, the comprehensive transportation funding package passed in 2013.
Read more about this exciting news here.
2017 tax season deadline extended
April 15 falls on a Saturday in 2017 and is followed by Emancipation Day on Monday, April 17, thereby pushing the deadline to file tax returns and submit payments to Tuesday, April 18, 2017.
Don’t let the extension delay your refund. The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue provides a list of frequently asked questions and direct links to answers to your questions for tax year 2016.
Drought watch still in effect for Berks and Schuylkill counties
Earlier this week, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) provided an update to the drought declarations for several counties across the state. Based on information from the Commonwealth Drought Task Force, DEP placed Berks and Schuylkill counties along with 13 others as counties with a drought watch.
Although drought watch and warning declarations in winter aren’t common, they have occurred several times in the past decade, in 2011, 2010, and 2008.
DEP bases its declarations on four indicators: precipitation deficits (averaged from numerous gauges), stream flows, groundwater levels, and soil moisture.
Public water systems in affected counties continue to implement voluntary and mandatory water reductions in response to reduced supplies. DEP suggests several steps citizens can take to voluntarily reduce their water use:
DEP also offers other water conservation recommendations and water audit procedures for commercial and industrial users, such as food processors, hotels and educational institutions.
These recommendations and additional drought monitoring information are available on the DEP Drought Information website.
PA Liquor Control Board accepting applications for grants to reduce underage drinking
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) is now accepting applications from schools, community organizations, municipalities, law enforcement organizations, nonprofit organizations, institutions of higher education, and for-profit institutions for two-year grants aimed at reducing underage and dangerous drinking.
Grants are intended to fund programs that focus on proven strategies to discourage and reduce both underage and dangerous drinking. The grant cycle is for up to two years, from July 2017 through June 2019, with a maximum award of $20,000 per year and $40,000 over two years.
Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis and are subject to the availability of funds, and grant amounts will be determined by the Bureau of Alcohol Education.
This year, grant applications must be submitted through PLCB+, an online system developed to streamline licensing and alcohol education functions.
The deadline to apply is 4 p.m. Friday, March 31, 2017. Detailed information – including a Grant Application Instruction Guide, answers to frequently asked questions, and access to PLCB+ – is available on the grants page of the PLCB website.
The Senate Appropriations Committee will convene on Tuesday, February 21 at 10 a.m. for their first of three weeks of state budget hearings. The committee will conduct an in-depth review of the governor’s proposed budget.
Stay tuned for more information from these hearings. I’ve posted information, including the schedule of the upcoming state budget hearings, to my website: www.SenatorArgall.com/Budget