Berks County Commissioners meeting

Wyomissing Borough Second Vice President John Woodward welcomes the Berks County Commissioners for their first 'on-the-road' meeting Thursday night.

WYOMISSING, Pa. — The Berks County commissioners did something new Thursday night. Instead of their usual 10 a.m. meeting in the county's services center, the commissioners took their meeting on the road to Wyomissing, where the borough and the Wyomissing Public Library hosted the first "Commissioners on the Road" meeting.

To kick off the meeting, Wyomissing Borough Council Second Vice President John C. Woodward welcomed county officials and spoke about the economic development that has occurred in the borough.

"This borough of 11,000 residents has seen over a quarter of a billion dollars in private investments over the last few years," Woodward said. "Commercial areas pay more taxes and keep taxes down for our residents."

Woodward specifically cited the Newtown Square-based Equus Capital Partners Ltd., which converted the former VF Outlet complex to a successful mix of retail, restaurant and office spaces.

Commissioner Christian Y. Leinbach said Wyomissing was very fortunate to have a developer such as Equus.

"I have never seen a developer come in and present a vision and then go out and do it amazingly consistent with what they told the borough they were going to do," Leinbach said.

Wyomissing Mayor Frederick C. Levering also addressed the commissioners and noted the importance of the opening of the Drexel University College of Medicine at Tower Health. He added that it is critical to link the school with the Philadelphia campus with the return of passenger rail.

Amtrak recently announced a proposal to restore passenger rail service between Reading and 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, which is across the street from Drexel University.

"I think the opportunities to take advantage of train service is blatantly obvious," Levering said. "A key to this train is that it must come to the borough of Wyomissing. I encourage the commissioners to get that service in place and make sure it comes to Wyomissing, as well as downtown Reading."

Leinbach said the best advice he could offer is to continue to advocate for the community at both the state and federal levels.

"The borough has done an amazing job advocating for itself," Leinbach said, "and the region has benefitted from much of the development we've seen in the Wyomissing area."

Leinbach also said the plans for train service are too preliminary at this time to determine where the stations would be located.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, two frequent commenters — Adrian Jadic, Wyomissing, and Jess Royer, Spring Township — told the commissioners they should consider additional drop boxes for mail-in ballots for future elections.

Last week, the Berks County Board of Elections determined that the county will not look at the possibility of adding drop boxes until the Pennsylvania Legislature addresses the issue.

For the 2020 presidential election, the county allowed two drop boxes, with one in the lobby of the Berks County Services Center in downtown Reading and the other at the Berks County Agricultural Center in Bern Township.

Leinbach said he wants the legislature to address the rules of election.

"It's frustrating to me that there are no rules around drop boxes," Leinbach said. "Until the legislature steps up and does that, I am not willing to move ahead to do anything about it."

Commissioner Kevin S. Barnhardt said the county would be remiss if it does not support additional drop boxes for the gubernatorial primary in the spring of 2022, but Barnhart also said that in last year's election, Chester County had 13 drop boxes, three of which were 24-hours a day, seven-days a week with only cameras in place to monitor activity.

Citing the numerous costs involved with monitoring 13 drop boxes, Barnhardt said it cost Chester County about $10 a ballot to collect a total of 9,000 ballots.

"I do believe we need to expand for next year," Barnhardt said, "but there's a reason why they call it a mail-in ballot. I take pride in the fact that you can drop it in the mail and, ironically, it gets to the destination."

The commissioners plan to hold four evening meetings each year in different municipalities. The next "on the road" meeting will be held in Muhlenberg Township on Dec. 16.

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