A community effort to relight the top of the Berks County Courthouse in downtown Reading got a boost Wednesday.
Pennsylvania Representatives Tom Caltagirone and Mark Rozzi joined Sime Bertolet, executive director of the Berks History Center, and Russ Cambria, the man who has been spearheading the effort, in announcing a campaign to raise money to restore the courthouse lights.
Tax-deductible donations to the fund, which would help pay for upgrading the lighting to a high-efficiency LED system, can be sent to The Berks County History Center, c/o Russ Cambria, 924 Hamilton Place, Wyomissing PA 19610. Make checks payable to Berks History Center/Courthouse Lights.
Caltagirone and Rozzi got the fund started by each handing over a personal check of $250. Pennsylvania Senator Judy Schwank has also expressed her support for the campaign.
The top of the courthouse had been illuminated since shortly after the building opened in 1932, but the lights were removed last spring as part of an ongoing renovation project, and the county commissioners, receiving an initial bid of $122,000 to replace and upgrade the lighting system, decided the cost was more than they were willing to bear on the taxpayers' behalf.
Upon learning of the commissioners' decision, Cambria launched a Facebook page to drum up support for illuminating the building once again, sharing his childhood memories of the colored lights being used to forecast the next day's weather.
"Really, what we found is that it's not just a few citizens that want to see the lights back on. Our local politicians are born and raised here and this is just as important to them, and they're willing to do whatever they need to do to help us raise that money," Cambria said.
Cambria's effort led Commissioner Christian Leinbach to invite local contractors to tour the top of the courthouse and submit cost estimates for restoring the lights by upgrading to a white or multicolor LED system. Those estimates have not yet been submitted.