Reading moves forward with fire station, puts other on hold

READING, Pa. - After months of sometimes contentious debate with the city administration, Reading City Council voted unanimously, without discussion, to purchase two new fire trucks for $1.1 million and postpone plans to build a new fire station on Penn Street.

The proposed fire station at North Ninth and Marion streets was a completely different story. The council again voted unanimously, but this time in favor of that project moving forward.

"It's about time," Councilman Stratton Marmarou said during the meeting Monday night. "We need to get this fire station up and moving."

Council members Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz and Brian Twyman also applauded the move.

Goodman-Hinnershitz said the deteriorated condition of the existing fire station "was a health hazard to firefighters who worked there."

"The main issues are they're outdated and need to be updated to accommodate modern apparatus and personnel," said fire Chief William Stoudt.

Acting City Manager Osmer Deming said the city is not forgetting about the Penn Street project.

"Again, I don't think there's been a postponement," Deming said. "All I can say is that the mayor was looking for council-driven initiatives with respect to both fire stations. It looks like tonight they have done it on one. I don't think that they're foreclosing the possibility on the other one."

Twyman had a good night. He was unanimously approved as the new vice president of City Council, replacing John Slifko, who died in January. Twyman briefly addressed his fellow council members, saying that "I intend to work with all of you to do my best."

Other actions

The council approved setting the salary of the new administrative services director at $96,900 per year. Jamar Kelly has been appointed to the position, effective March 18. Kelly is a former district representative with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

Councilwoman Lucine Sihelnik noted that Kelly's hiring is an important step for the city to take to bring it out of Act 47 status.

Prior to the meeting, the four female council members read a proclamation recognizing March as Women's History Month. Roses were distributed to the council members and all supervisors present to be given to their female staff members.

Paramedic/Firefighter Craig Sweigart was promoted to emergency medical services lieutenant. Terry Withers was reappointed to the Electrical Examining Board; and Robert Hospidor was reappointed to the Board of Health.

Also, Donna Reed was appointed to the RATS (Reading Area Transportation Study) steering committee, with Twyman as the alternate. Twyman was appointed council liaison to the Shade Tree Commission, with Reed as the alternate. Goodman-Hinnershitz was appointed to the Environmental Advisory Council, with Sihelnik as the alternate.

In addition, Sihelnik was appointed council liaison to the Reading Downtown Improvement District (DID) Authority, with Councilwoman Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz as the alternate. Reed was appointed to the Conversion Therapy Board, with Goodman- Hinnershitz as the alternate. Cepeda-Freytiz was appointed council liaison to the Human Relations Commission.

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