2012 ... the year in review

More than 3,000 flags were retired in a ceremony hosted by the Berks County Office of Veterans Affairs. The flags were disposed of in the traditional manner - by burning them. As residents offered flags for retirement, they were asked to say something about a relative or friend who had served the country.

So much happened in the southern Berks region during 2012! We looked through the archives and found some of the good and not so good news from what was a very busy year!

JANUARY

Exeter Twp. considers use for biosolids from WWTP

The Exeter Township Waste Water Treatment Plant began providing biosolids to an area farmer for use as fertilizer in his fields. Allowing the farmer to take the biosolids was expected to save the township $7,500 per month in landfill costs.

ETVFD makes case for new township firehouse

The Exeter Township Board of Supervisors gave the go-ahead for the township’s fire department to begin looking “more seriously” at the feasibility of a new fire house to serve township residents.

Unique reading practice at Cumru Elementary

The students came into the library at Cumru Elementary School one at a time on Jan. 20, waiting for their turn in the beanbag chairs with a special guest. The students are part of a new program at Cumru Elementary that features a certified therapy dog visiting the school once a week to have students read to her.

FEBRUARY

Public input wanted on proposed fire house

Exeter Township Volunteer Fire Department Deputy Chief Christopher Jordan made another appearance before the township board of supervisors to provide additional information about the department’s proposed new fire house. As part of the process, officials are also looking for township residents to review the information, ask questions and provide feedback as due diligence moves forward.

Update given on Lorane School sidewalk project

The Exeter Township School Board and Board of Supervisors got together for a rate joint meeting to discuss a proposed sidewalk and crosswalk project for Lorane Elementary School. The meeting provided residents of the Lorane neighborhoods an opportunity to hear updated information about the project and to voice their concerns.

Local teens recognized for heroics

Two Daniel Boone High School students were recognized by Birdsboro Mayor Robert Myers and Borough Council. Tyler Bynes and Danny Reightneour were honored with a resolution signed by the council for their citizenship in alerting fire officials to a residential blaze on East Fifth Street. The two were walking home from school when they realized something wasn’t right. The residents were able to escape, uninjured, along with one of the two dogs in the house.

MARCH

Threats, graffiti bring changes

Pennsylvania state police are continuing their investigation into a series of incidents at Daniel Boone High School last week that resulted in some changes for students at the school for the immediate future. Students are now subject to daily searches as they enter the building in the morning, and can only bring clear or mesh book bags to school. Access to certain lavatories in the building is also being restricted.

Tiny-THON raises funds for kids with cancer

Sixty-five fifth and sixth grade Governor Mifflin students met at the Intermediate School March 10 for the district’s first Tiny-THON. Tiny-THON is one of several preliminary fundraisers planned this year to help raise money for the Mini-THON, a Governor Mifflin Student Government Association event that raises money for the Four Diamonds Fund. Participants of the Tiny-THON raised more than $1,900.

APRIL

Charges filed in ‘neighborhood justice’ assault

Charges were filed Friday against two Exeter Township men in connection with the “neighborhood justice” assault on a 58-year-old township man. The man was walking in his neighborhood on Gunpowder Lane at the time of the assault and suffered three broken ribs, as well as bruising to his shoulder wrist and head. The attack may have been the result of unfounded rumors about an alleged child predator.

Gov. Mifflin community comes together for a cause

Months of hard work paid off for Gov. Mifflin High School students who participated in the fourth annyal Muni-THON. The group exceeded their $25,000 goal and raised $25,546.61, bringing the total raised in four years to more than $100,000.

BEC students show their love of Diamond

A story with a sad beginning will have a happier ending, thanks to the compassion and generosity of students at Birdsboro Elementary Center. Over the course of two weeks, students at the school raised more than $1,000 toward the care of Diamond, a puppy treated for injuries at the Berks Animal Rescue League. The photo of Diamond went viral in February.

Wildfire scorches more than 600 acres

Wildland firefighters remain on the scene of a wildfire in the woods of French Creek State Park, as they continue to work to extinguish and monitor a fire that has burned more than 600 acres since April 9. Command of the effort has been turned over to the Forest District from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Winds April 9 blew trees into power lines, sparking the blaze.

AIC team headed to ‘Odyssey’ World Finals

A team of Daniel Boone fifth graders from Amity Intermediate Center is heading to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals next month after placing first in the state finals April 14.

The team – AIC Team A “Weird Science,” Division 1 – includes Hannah Brown, Taylor Eisenhuth, David Eurillo, Emma Hartman, Christ Surkosky, Soe Thompson and Rachel Woomer. The team has worked together for three years.

Mifflin 4th grade students take first in zoo contest

The fourth grade class from Cumru Elementary School accepted the $1,000 first prize in the K-5 division of the UNLESS contest at the Philadelphia Zoo on Monday, April 16. More than 3,000 students from across the region participated in the contest. Students created artwork that showed the connection between the orangutan and palm oil production.

MAY

Pair of bomb threats at Exeter HS

A pair of messages threatening explosive devices at the high school prompted Exeter School District officials to take extra security precautions. Township police canine units searched the building after the first message was received. A second search was required following the discovery of a copycat threat.

Students face bomb threat charges

Three Exeter students were expected to be charged Tuesday in connection with several bomb threats at the junior and senior high schools in the past week. Exeter Township police made the announcement. Township Police Chief Christopher Neidert said two 15-year-old high school students will be charged in connection with the threats at the high school. A 14-year-old junior high school student will be charged in connection with a threat at the junior high.

Boone budget balanced with tax increase

The Daniel Boone School Board agreed to a preliminary budget with a 0.385 mill tax increase and to use $1.2 million of the district’s fund balance to reduce the district’s $1.5 million deficit and balance the 2012-13 budget.

Exeter firehouse proposal gathers support

The cafeteria at the Reiffton School was full as community members turned out for a public meeting about a proposed third firehouse in Exeter Township. In addition to hearing about the need for the new firehouse, residents also learned about space needs for the police department. They then had a chance to voice their opinions.

Exeter Superintendent: ‘I don’t want them back’

As police work to identify a fifth suspect in a series of bomb threats at two Exeter schools, life at the high school is settling down a bit. Six threats were made against the high school and junior high between April 25 and May 3 – four at the high school and two at the junior high.

“These students have no idea about the consequences and what ir will mean to them. We are looking at expulsion of the students ,” said Exeter Superintendent Dr. Beverly Martin.

Governor presents $100,000 fitness center to Owatin Creek Elementary

Owatin Creek has been named a National Champion School by the National Foundation for Governor’s Fitness Councils, and is one of three Pennsylvania schools that will receive a state of the art fitness center. Fitness guru Jake Steinfeld and Governor Tom Corbett visited the school to make the presentation of the fitness center, values at $100,000. Owatin Creek was one of 100 schools that applied for the designation.

Boone mock accident sends sober message

The senior class at Daniel Boone High School got a very graphic and powerful reminder of the dangers of drinking and driving just hours before their Junior/Senior prom. For the fifth year, students staged a mock accident scene at the school, to illustrate what can happen if students choose to drink and drive and to improve student awareness.

Boone budget revised with zero tax increase

In a surprise move, the Daniel Boone School Board eliminated the 0.3168 mill tax increase from its preliminary budget. Board members said they will instead balance the total $1.5 million deficit with the district’s $4 million fund balance.

JUNE

Exeter students expelled for bomb threats

The Exeter Township School Board voted unanimously to expel four district students implicated in a series of bomb threat hoaxes made against the junior and senior high schools. Three 15-year-old high school students and one 14-year-old junior high student were already suspended from school after being implicated in the threats.

Boone Odyssey team places 12th in World Finals

The Odyssey of the Mind team from Amity Intermediate Center placed 12th in the World finals in Iowa. The fifth graders met people from all around the world, participated in NASA sponsored events and watched other teams perform.

Birdsboro man charged in murder for hire plot

The charges against 42-year-old Christopher Yingling continue to mount. Yingling, who is already being held in the Berks County Jail, was charged with criminal solicitation to commit first degree murder. Yingling is already charged with shooting his girlfriend’s ex-husband and sexual assault of a 14-year-old.

‘Modest’ tax hike for Exeter residents

Exeter Township‘s School Board has given final approval to a budget for the 2013-13 school year that will increase taxes for residents by 0.40 percent. The board approved a $3.05 million budget. The vote was 6 to 3. The budget will increase property taxes for residents to 30.1031 mills, up from the current 29.982 mills. That translates to about $13 per year, or an annual tax rate of $3,214 for every $106,771 of assessed valuation.

JULY

Saturday’s temperatures shattered record

It’s summer, so it should not come as a surprise to see the temperatures climb into the 90s. But when they stay in the 90s and start to flirt with triple digits, that when we seem to take note. As the area approached the weekend, there were excessive heat warnings in place as temperatures were forecast to reach 100 degrees. Saturday’s temperatures actually surpassed the forecasted peak, reaching a record 103 degrees at about 4 p.m.

Historic Exeter corner is ‘back in business’

The southwest corner of 47th Street and Perkiomen Avenue in Exeter Township is open for business once again. After more than three years of planning and construction, Rite Aid has opened a stand-alone store at the site that once housed the historic Fegley’s Reading Diner.

Getting new ‘leash’ on life

They huddled together in their kennels – unsure of what was coming next. The 30 Chihuahuas came in to the Animal Rescue League of Berks County on Friday, part of a group of nearly 200 Chihuahuas rescued from an animal hoarder in Columbia County, Pa.

AUGUST

No warning as operators close Exeter plant

Exeter Township officials say they will continue to try to recover money owed to the township by MVP Kosher Foods, which unexpectedly closed its poultry plant in the township. “They just took their chickens and left,” said Supervisor Dona L. Starr of the company at 1100 Lincoln Road.

Teacher charged for improper student relationship

An Exeter High School art teacher, who was also the coach of the boys’ water polo team at Governor Mifflin High School has been charged with having a sexual relationship with a female student. Jonathan Bell, 31, of Wyomissing, has been a teacher in the Exeter School District since 2007. A 1999 graduate of Governor Mifflin High School, he had been the water polo coach there since 2003.

DUI memorial brings ‘sobering’ message

The Pennsylvania DUI Association brought its mobile memorial trailer to Berks County to help warn people about the dangers of driving while impaired. Adams commented on the job done by the Pennsylvania DUI Association, PennDOT and police officers around the county to curb the tragic effects of drinking and driving.

Gov. Mifflin offers new life skills classroom

It looks like a house, but it is really a classroom. The portable classroom on the campus of Governor Mifflin High School has been set up with everything needed to provide transition skills – within the district – for those students that require them. Over the summer, the classroom was transformed to resemble a house – totally renovated by the district’s maintenance staff, including siding on the outside, new flooring, kitchen cabinetry and furniture.

The idea is to provide transitional services to students within the home district, as part of the district’s STEP program – Student Transition Educational Program.

Hearing focuses on challenges facing job creators

Exeter Community Library was the site for a Pennsylvania House Committee public hearing. The House Republican Policy Committee hearing focused on jobs, the economy and what state government can do to help foster job creation in the private sector.

SEPTEMBER

Grant will help BUFD fight wildland fires

More than $540,000 in grants is being awarded to help Pennsylvania’s rural and smaller communities guard against the threat of fires in forests and other undeveloped areas. Among the departments receiving funds from this year’s grant program through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry is Birdsboro-Union Fire Department, which was awarded $6,496.

“This funding will go towards new wildland personal protective equipment, which includes wildland shirts, pants, boots, equipment back packs, etc. These are all things that we found to be outdated for the Hopewell Wildland fire earlier this year,” said BUFD Chief Christopher Bickings.

Bridge closes for long-term construction

Construction begins this week on the Hay Creek Bridge on Main Street in Birdsboro. The project is expected to last through May 2013, bringing detours and possible traffic delays for motorists. The message from borough officials is: slow down and obey posted signs.

$100,000 fitness center unveiled at Owatin

Fitness guru Jake Steinfeld paid a return visit to Owatin Creek Elementary School last Thursday. Steinfeld returned to the school to dedicate Owatin’s $100,000 Live Positively Fitness Center. Owatin was one of three schools selected to receive the fitness centers.

District-owned buses keep rolling

The Exeter Township School Board has decided to hold on to control of the district’s school bus service, rather than outsource. The board voted to reject submitted proposals, deciding to maintain ownership of the district’s fleet of 50 buses and 10 vans.

OCTOBER

Teacher facing additional charges

Former Exeter Township teacher and Mifflin water polo coach Jonathan Bell is facing additional charges as part of an ongoing investigation into alleged inappropriate contact with underage girls. Additional criminal charges were filed against Bell last week.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly said the latest charges are the result of new information uncovered by investigators involving allegations that Bell had inappropriate sexual contact with a 15-year-old female student while she was in one of his high school art classes, as well as inappropriate sexual contact with a 17-year-old female student who he was coaching.

Walking to school for health, wellness and FUN!

The students, teachers and families at Birdsboro Elementary Center – and some dignitaries – marked International Walk to School Day by donning specially made t-shirts and walking from Cocalico Road and Jefferson Street to the school on West Second Street. The group easily topped 100 participants and stretched across several blocks as they made the trip to school.

Keystone Villa to expand

Developers of the Keystone Villa at Douglassville Personal Care Facility announced plans for a third expansion by building a 38,000 square-foot, three-story building just west of the current facilities.

The Keystone Villa is located on land owned by Two Douglassville Properties, LP, which began in the 1980s; members of the adjoining St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church purchased land to build a senior retirement community for their aging members and aging residents in Douglassville.

School district selling former administration building

The Exeter Township School Board has voted to approve the sale of the school district’s former administration building at 3650 Perkiomen Avenue for $300,000. The sale, to East Reading Dental Associates, would put the building back on the township tax rolls.

NOVEMBER

Cleaning up after Sandy batters Berks

Superstorm Sandy barreled ashore in New Jersey before moving inland last week – dropping rain, bringing storm surge and leaving millions in the dark for days.

Berks County did not suffer damage along the same magnitude of portions of New Jersey, but downed trees, power outages and school and business closures were common across the county. Area schools closed for part of the week and school bus routes were adjusted.

In Berks, the predicted 8-inches of rain did not fall, but high winds did come. Area officials agree this was a wind driven event, rather than rain driven.

Students give their Halloween booty to the troops

Students at Owatin Creek Elementary School in Exeter Township collected Halloween candy to send overseas to members of the armed forces. The students took their candy to school, where it was weighed and then packed up for shipping. In total, Owatin Creek students had donated 1,071 pounds of candy!

A new name for the Reading Hospital

The Reading Hospital announced a name change, they say “better reflects who we are as we continue to shape and innovate healthcare.”

The Reading Hospital is now Reading Health System.

DECEMBER

Boone HS musician is an All-American

Representatives from the US Army paid a visit to Daniel Boone High School. They were here to honor junior Daniel Higgins, who has been selected as a member of the US Army All-American Marching Band. The 125-member band is comprised of high school students from across the county, and will play at half-time of the All-American Bowl in San Antonio Jan. 5.

Council updated on progress of bridge construction

Birdsboro Borough Manager Aaron Durso provided an update to Borough Council on the ongoing construction of the new Route 345 bridge over Hay Creek. According to Durso, the banks along Hay Creek have been experiencing erosion, which has led to the loss of a portion of two parking spaces in the Borough Hall parking lot. In addition, contractors were forced to demolish the “Welcome to Birdsboro” sign in front of Borough Hall, after it had been undermined by collapsing banks. The contractor, Clearwater Construction, agreed to replace the sign and the two parking spaces.

Exeter deficit swells – tax hike may be necessary

The Grinch paid a holiday visit to Exeter Township last week. Just when the Board of Supervisors was ready to vote to adopt a budget for 2013 – came some news that might change everything. Township Manager Troy Bingaman informed the board Dec. 17 that the budget shortfall on which they had based their decisions had nearly doubled. Bingaman said the Earned Income Tax Revenues for Exeter are $210,000 under budget.

Hundreds turn out for annual Boone blood drive

Daniel Boone Area High School hosted its 10th annual Angela Hohl Memorial Blood Drive with more than 500 members of the community donating blood in honor of the fallen Blazer. The event was first held in November 2003, in honor of would-be senior Angela Hoh who was diagnosed with leukemia in August of that year.

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