same idea, different location. please check out chrisreber.net.

Upper Saucon could lift building ban

By Chris Reber

Of The Morning Call

June 22, 2008

Since 1996, the Upper Saucon Township supervisors have enforced a moratorium on development in the area west of Coopersburg, claiming the borough has overloaded the township’s sewer lines.

That could end Tuesday, when the supervisors — spurred by an order from the state Department of Environmental Protection — are expected to pass an ordinance essentially lifting the moratorium, a move that would pave the way for hundreds of new homes.

”They’re waking up to the fact that they can’t use public sewer to prevent development,” said John Fenningham, a lawyer for McGrath Homes, which is in litigation with the township.

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I had the pleasure of contributing to two A1 stories this week. One of them I wrote most of while the other was more of a contribution. It’s weird because it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference. -CR

MONEY SAVING ADVICE: Coping With Gas Prices
Get it fixed, don’t throw it out

By Matt Assad and Chris Reber

Of The Morning Call

June 20, 2008

Ever taken that used tea bag and dunked it into a second cup of hot water? As the down economy drags on, the idea of making good with what you’ve got has folks squeezing more use out of their cars, shoes and even golf clubs.

While retail stores report drooping sales, repair shops are being flooded with people looking to extend the life of their old stuff because they’re too worried to buy new.

Sure, the housing market is in free fall, gas is $4 a gallon and the likes of Ford and Sears are complaining about declining sales.

But at Rick Tilton’s shoe repair shop in Palmer Township, so many people are getting shoes resoled or new zippers on their coats or straps on their purses that Tilton barely has time to sleep.

”Most days, I’m starting at 7 a.m. and staying after closing until 10 or 11 p.m. just to keep up,” Tilton said, noting he has little time to be interviewed because the line in his shop is growing. ”In the 27 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve learned that when the economy goes down, I go up.”

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Will AutoZone wreck 19th Street chic?
Neighbors say car-parts store will ruin the area’s character.

By Chris Reber and Brian Callaway
Of The Morning Call
       June 17, 2008

West Enders would have been angry anyway when they heard someone wanted to stick a car-parts store on Allentown’s 19th Street, home to an eclectic mix of eateries and boutiques and the Civic Theatre.

AutoZone isn’t just looking to redevelop any building, though. It’s eyeing The Shanty, a longtime social hub famous for its cream puffs, salad bar and crystal chandeliers.

Now folks are downright furious.

”Anything else,” said Nancy Bernstein, who owns a neighboring jewelry store and lives nearby. ”It’s just a shame. It’s going to change the whole face of the area.”

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A prom to call their own
Event gave homeschooled students, cyberschoolers a way to take part in a tradition.

By Chris Reber |  Of The Morning Call
June 9, 2008

Tamara Kells has always tried to give her students everything.

But for a homeschool teacher, some things may be out of reach, like a prom.

”It’s one of those things that every year the kids at public school would talk about,” Kells said. ”My daughter Aubrie is in 12th grade, and I wanted to give her a prom.”

On Friday at the Comfort Suites of Allentown on Hamilton Boulevard, over 70 homeschoolers and cyberschoolers from as far away as Harrisburg arrived for the Valley’s first-ever homeschool prom. The event had all the trappings of a typical high school prom. There were parent chaperones, food, pictures taken. The teens were dressed to impress, with some boys wearing rented tuxedos, and the girls wearing typical prom dresses in a wide variety of colors. The teens packed the dance floor and several girls shrieked and jumped around when their request was played by the band Soulja Boy.

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EASTER SEALS SOCIETY: Consistency in care
As patients, times change, the organization’s mission remains the same.

By Chris Reber Of The Morning Call

June 14, 2008

Before her daughter was born, Kelly Shubert of Fleetwood knew little about the Easter Seals Society except that it held a yearly radio-thon.

But when her daughter Emma, now 9, was diagnosed with Rett syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that primarily affects girls, Shubert quickly learned what the agency is all about.

Throughout its 89-year history, Easter Seals established itself as a support, aid and advocacy group for children with physical disabilities caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy and spina bifida.

In recent years, its mission expanded to help children with mental and developmental disorders such as Rett syndrome, which causes seemingly normal young girls to regress mentally and physically.

”It’s not uncommon to see a kid who receives services, who looks just like any other kid,” said Nancy Teichman, CEO of Easter Seals Eastern Pennsylvania. ”It may not be physically apparent, but the child has a disability and needs that must be fulfilled.”

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For context, Catasauqua is a small school district on the Lehigh/Northampton border which some believe could be consolidated with the Northampton School District. They built a palatial high school in 2005, the location of this meeting.

Soaring gas prices fuel Catasauqua Area budget hike; property tax to rise 4.28%

By Chris Reber Of The Morning Call
June 13, 2008

The Catasauqua Area School Board on Wednesday adopted the 2008-09 budget that includes a 4.28 percent property tax increase.

The new spending plan passed by 6-2 vote. Board members Sally J. Reiss and Treasurer Robert M. Levine voted in dissent. Board member Patricia J. Snyder was absent.

The $25.2 million budget includes about $1.75 million in new spending and a property tax increase of 1.99 mills, raising the district’s millage rate to 48.56 mills. The tax bill on a home assessed at $50,000 would rise $99.50 to $2,428.

Board member Mary Alice Hartranft voted to adopt the budget, but not without voicing her concerns. She said the district’s financial woes were the result of the district’s new high school building in Allen Township, which opened in 2005.

”It’s here, and we have to take care of it,” Hartranft said, ”so I’m voting yes.”

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“I learned that it was kill or be killed”

By Chris Reber
Of The Morning Call

Dr. Elwood ”Woody” Kolb can still remember his first brush with combat. Sixty years later, he can recount the incident in detail.

Serving with the 63rd Infantry Division somewhere in Bavaria, Germany, Kolb had gone to fetch some hot food for his battle buddy.

”When that first sniper bullet went by my ear, I thought I knew what war was like,” said Kolb, of Macungie, ”But in that moment I learned that it was kill or be killed.”

With an estimated 1,000 World War II veterans dying every week, these vivid, first-person accounts of battle are in danger of being lost forever. But a seven-month exhibit at the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum in Allentown sought to preserve these stories. The exhibit, titled ”WWII: Together in Victory,” included memorabilia, archival film, photos and other items related to the war.

Wilmes interviewed Kolb and Navy vet Bill Hacker of Allentown at the museum Saturday as part of the series, which concludes today.

”Most of these men and women have never spoken about their experiences in great detail,” said David Wilmes, a WWII historian. ”Their memories are bottled up, and they’re willing to let them go after decades of silence.”

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I’ve been sitting on this story for about 2 weeks. Glad to finally have it in the paper. The Quinones family was extremely accomodating and friendly.

This was my attempt at putting a harder edge on what has become a cushy story for me. This time I’ll try the Chris Wink thing, full text posted below. Published in the Morning Call 5/27/08.

High attendance rewards Mayfair officials’ high hopes

But some fear arts festival is pushing arts into the background 

 The warm weather continued at Cedar Beach for the Mayfair Festival of the Arts’ final day, closing a long weekend in which turnout — and with it success or failure — often hinges on the forecast.

Attendance was ”way up,” according to Executive Director Terry Glennon, although official attendance figures won’t be available for several days. Last year, as in other previous years, deluges drove away both patrons and some artists.

On Monday, the clear weather continued, drawing large crowds on what is historically Mayfair’s least popular day. While many visitors chose the Artists Market over the main stages, fans crowded into the Cabaret Courtyard stage for the return of the Allentown Band, ending a one-year absence.

”The weather had everything to do with it,” Susan Blair of Allentown said of the fair’s large attendance.

 Blair had just tried Wii Fit, a video game that was the surprising hit of the festival. But for her and many other visitors, Mayfair is first and foremost an art show.

Some artists fear that the Artists Market, Mayfair’s first attraction, is taking a back seat to music and entertainment. Charging general admission and unpredictable weather may have driven away fine artists and patrons in the last few years.

”Originally, it was all about the art,” said Peg Miller, an artist who’s been showing her handmade jewelry at Mayfair for 15 years. ”When it started, there were, like, 130 artists. Strictly fine art.”

The theme of this year’s festival was ”Art & Soul.”

But its soul, the artists, were not as prevalent as last year.The number of craft vendors was down to 79 from 90 last year, according to festival listings. ”If nobody’s buying,” Blair said, ”they probably won’t come back.”

Miller said her clients are dismayed by the selection at Mayfair.

”I do a lot of fine art shows,” Miller said. ”I’ve heard clients say that they’re upset with the number and quality of artists this year.”

Vendors have remained opposed to the fair charging general admission, Glennon said. While a $5 pass was good for admission all weekend, up until 2005, it was free to enter Mayfair.

”Ever since we put the gate up [in 2005] the artists haven’t liked it,” Glennon said. ”But we try to boost attendance and hopefully more people will stop by when they’re walking through.”

In spite of the decline, artists and other vendors benefited from favorable weather this year. While last year’s showers may have driven patrons away, warm weather kept them coming back all weekend.

Paul Grecian, a nature photographer doing the show for the first time, said he was pleasantly surprised by the weather and turnout.

”The crowds have been great,” Grecian said. ”I think the weather helped that.”

Glennon said his priority as executive director is to increase attendance. Through new programs such as the German-themed Sommerfest, and free admission for military personnel, he hopes to draw more attention to what has historically been a hometown affair.

”No matter how it happens, we’re trying to build new things,” Glennon said. ”I hope the artists are seeing results. I hope they do better.”

But Miller said that artists and craftsmen will need more accommodation to keep the soul of this arts festival alive.

”I would like to come back,” Miller said. ”Hopefully the quality of art will remain high.”

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