Reading Mayor Eddie Morán gave his annual State of the City address Friday morning at the DoubleTree Hotel. During the address, Morán laid out the city’s accomplishments over the past year as well as his vision for the city moving forward. The following are highlights from his speech:
2020 Census Report
Reading is now the fourth largest City in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 95,112 residents strong! As a result, the City of Reading will receive the necessary resources from the federal an estate governments, such as Head Start, Medicaid, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Public Works Projects
Public Works paved nearly six miles of streets including the complete reconstruction of the 200 and 300 blocks of Penn Street, McClellan Street, River Road, Spring Street and Bridge Street. Completion on the Lincoln Street extension is also slated for a few, short weeks from now in March. RAWA, UGI, MetEd and six telecom companies assisted.
Six more miles of construction and 300 fixed curbs is scheduled for 2022 at an investment of $6 million. Public Works collaborated with the Reading Police Department, Gannet Fleming and McCormick and Taylor to complete traffic studies at five intersections. As a result, there will be new stop signs and other modifications that will improve pedestrian and vehicle traffic safety at the intersections of 2nd and Buttonwood – which is heavy with children walking to and from school – and 13th and Perry Streets.
As a quality of life issue, the City installed traffic control islands and gates at the Pagoda that will restrict traffic and parking, especially during afterhours that will eliminate safety and noise concerns. Public Works also provided safety improvements at the Pagoda surrounding its foundational wall. Last year, Public Works also completed the 5th Street Pruning Project from Canal to Spring Streets and replaced 760 streetlights with energy efficient LED illumination.
The 18th Ward Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Trail project is under construction as a contractor replaced a curb with nearly 7,000 feet of new materials. The existing traffic islands along East Wyomissing and Hancock Boulevards were widened. In addition, the 18th Ward Liggett Avenue Intersection design phase has been 90 percent completed and will be finished this spring. These improvements include significant stormwater and road realignments.
A medical marijuana growing facility located on Centre Ave, known as Franklin Lab, also commenced the second phase expansion of its facility. Upon the completion of construction activities, it is anticipated to add 30 full-time employees with benefits and a competitive hourly rate.
The City has several ongoing projects, beginning with the Berks County Trust Building at 35 N. 6th St. that includes a food court at the main level, professional offices and market-rate residential apartments.
The Medical Arts Building, located at 230 N. 5th St. is also being repurposed for market rate and luxury apartments while the Trexler Mansion-Elks Lodge at 46 S. Fifth St. will be renovated as a center for entertainment and social activities. The Shuman Development Group’s acquisition of the Wells Fargo Building on 600 Penn St. will continue with professional office use.
The Scharf Group continues to repurpose the Madison Building which will have 83 market rate apartments along with a fine dining restaurant and anticipates the completion of the Berkshire Building for students in late 2022 to early 2023. Heights Advisors, which purchased several properties for repurposing residential units is also adding to market rate housing in the City at Turner and Franklin.
In December, Cindy Caster was announced as the City’s full-time downtown coordinator. Through major partners, the City will begin First Fridays, once again, and look forward to the continuation of National Night Out, our holiday. parade – which brought more than 17,000 to the downtown corridor – along with Halloween events and a successful job fair.
County Passenger Rail
The City looks forward to making passenger rail a reality with service to Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C. The Mayor thanked County Commissoner Christian Leinbach for making the City an integral part of the discussion with updates, briefings, meetings.
Police Crime Statistics
Overall crime was reduced last year by 3.1% compared to 2020. This includes nearly a 4% reduction in violent crime with a 2.9% drop in property crimes. In a 20-year assessment, UCR Part 1 Crimes dropped by 68% since 2001, driven by a 72% reduction in property crimes along with a 51% drop in violent crimes during that period. To put the crime statistics in perspective, Allentown had a crime rate of 2,670 Part 1 Crimes per 100,000 residents in 2020.
Reading Part 1 Crime rate per 100,000 residents was 1,895 in 2021.…which is 29% lower. The Mayor said these accomplishments are the direct result of the hard work performed by the dedicated men and women of the Reading Police Department on a daily basis. He also also applaud the efforts of the Reading School District and faith-based community leaders and concerned residents that assisted with crime reduction.
Reading Fire Department
The City’s Fire and Emergency Services Department’s biggest accomplishment was the official groundbreaking of the New 9th and Marion Station on November 5th. In August, the Department was awarded a FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Regional Grant for EMS equipment totaling over $980,000 of which $480,000 was for the upgrade of Reading’s EMS equipment.
In July, the 2021 Firefighter Recruit Class of 12 Firefighters graduated from the Academy and were assigned to their Platoons. On November 19th the Paramedic Recruit Class of 3 Paramedics graduated from the Department’s st Ever Paramedic Academy and have been assigned to their respective platoons.
The Emergency Management Team consisting of Fire Marshal Jeremy Searfoss, Lt. Kirk Litzenberger, and EMS Deputy Chief Michael Sninsky have continued throughout 2021 to provide the Administration assistance in addressing the guidelines being provided by the CDC.
In addition, they have been very diligent in their efforts to ensure there is adequate stock of Personnel Protective Equipment and clothing for all City Departments as well as cleaning and decontamination supplies.
In addition, Mayor Morán announced that effective the end of April, Chief William Stout will be retiring.