West Reading's Business Improvement District (BID) street cleaning and trash collection contract has yet to be renewed.On Aug.19, borough council postponed its vote on the agreement to examine additional proposals for trash collection and cleaning services on the borough's Penn Avenue commercial district, said councilman Kevin Conrad in a later interview.

He said council rejected the four original bids because they were either incomplete or in noncompliance with the original agreement according to Elm Street Authority Solicitor Daniel Becker.

One of the bids was submitted by a borough employee who also owns a cleaning services company, Conrad said.

The main difference between the first BID five-year contract and the new one is council added a trash collection component.

Any further delay, however, could mean the BID's contract would be dissolve by January 2009. Some officials doubt this would happen, however, because the Main Street Authority could re-establish the district at beginning of next year.

To provide some background, in 2003 West Reading Borough Council established the BID to provide cleaning services and to pay the debt interest for the Main and Elm Street Revitalization Project loan.

The clean up services are currently being provided by Threshold Organization, based in the Greater-Reading area.

BID has been principally financed by a 1.6 mill tax assessed to the 120 plus business owners, on or near the Penn Avenue Corridor, officials said earlier.

The 2008 operating budget is $34,000, but Conrad said, the amount of new assessment cannot be determined until the service contractor is selected. "It will probably have to be more than before, just given the fact of inflation."

"Since most of the original service proposals did not included garbage hauling, the bidding process will start all over again. If the specs are met by some of the same contractors, I assume they will be considered again and we will entertain completely new bids, as well," he said.

Even when the council accepts the best assessment proposal, the business owners have 45 days to the OK the agreement, council said last month.

Conrad could not make a prediction as to when the assessment would be finalized for an official vote.

Additionally, he strongly disagreed with fellow councilman James J.Gallen Jr.'s statement last month referring to the taxpayers assuming too much of the cost of maintaining the Elm and Main Street Revitalization Project, charging that the business owners should assume more of the burden for BID's services.

"If you examine the budget records, you'll notice it is pretty even (between grant money and tax payers funds used)," Conrad said emphatically.

"For anyone to single out any segment of the community, such as district property owners, is irresponsible. Our businesses are very important to the borough and its residents. Council needs to work with everybody, equally. That's what makes a strong community," he added.

In other business, Director of the Western Berks Ambulance Association, Anne E. Deiterich asked for council's support in implementing a proposal to recruit 100 percent of the residents to join the municipal membership.

Later, Deiterich said this "cost saving" measure has also been proposed to other municipalities in Western Berks jurisdiction: Wyomissing, Wernersville, Robesonia, Sinking Spring and Heidelberg, Spring, Bern and Lower and South Heidelberg Townships.

Currently, the number of subscribers is at 29 percent and falling each year, with a family membership of $60 and a senior citizen's fee of $ 45 annually.

Deiterich said she authored the proposal to cope with rising costs of providing emergency services and the state mandate, last May 17, directing each municipality to provide fire and emergency services to all its citizens.

"If West Reading and the others decide to take full participation, the cost per household could be reduced to only $30 a year," she said, adding each community could either assess the residents a set fee through a special tax or pay a budgeted amount out of the general fund.

"I understand these are tough economic times, but it's an opportunity to provide valuable services for less," Deiterich said finally.

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