I had a surprise visit yesterday from my friend, Jeff Leflar. He stopped in to say, “so long.” Running a few last minute errands while his household was being loaded into a moving van, by early afternoon, he and his wife would be saying adios to Pottstown from the rear view mirror of their family car.
The end of their story in Pottstown.
Jeff and his wife bought their home on Queen St. back in 1987. They raised their family in Pottstown, they added tasteful additions to their home and remodeled it over the years. They took a lot of pride in the work they did and their home was neat as a pin, welcoming and very comfortable.
1388 Queen St.
The Leflar’s made many long-term friendships here. Jeff sat on the Historic Architecture Review Board and, at times, he was an outspoken advocate for reform for local taxpayers and some regarded him as a thorn in the side of the school district and local government. In many ways, Jeff was my mentor, although we hadn’t talked or spent much time together for the past year or so.
Jeff and his wife were struggling with the decision to put their home on the market – should they try to sell, in a down market, when they could see that their quiet, family oriented neighborhood, in the Sixth Ward, was eeeking toward the kind of destruction and mayhem that slumlords have contributed to other parts of town?
High taxes and up hill battles to accomplish the simplest of things, like room additions and home improvements, no longer made sense to them, and their decision was made.
Twenty Five years was enough. They listed their home, it sat…and sat…six months or more, no buyers. Obviously Jeff had hoped that for all the beautiful upgrades and love that had gone into the place…
Someone would be interested enough to make them an offer that would reflect even a fraction of their costs and efforts…but no.
No offers, very few showings. Sure the down market had a lot to do with that but when the market began to show an up tick for housing, still no interest.
Working people, families are buying existing homes again and getting remarkable deals everywhere, but Pottstown.
Why would that be?
In this instance, the taxes on 1388 Queen St. are $4,534.00. That’s a lot of money. For that money it would seem that Pottstown would have some of the best schools, in terms of structures and educational opportunity, it would seem that a homeowner could reasonably expect the conveniences of smooth, dependable municipal services, like yard waste pick up and disposal. Municipal management that knows how to craft and implement contracted services to the best advantage of the taxpayers.
Where are the competent, motivated municipal employees that regard homeowner/residents for the fact that they cause the fewest problems, take pride in their properties and, for most, pay their taxes and municipal fees on time – every time?
That’s the profile of good homeowners that the borough seems determined to chase out of town.
Jeff was mindful of the ordinance that states that grass clippings should not be disposed of with the garbage, nor should they be added to the paper leaf and yard bags in the fall.
What, then, does a homeowner do with grass clippings?
Well, Jeff thought it responsible and reasonable to create a grass clipping compost pile at the back of his garage, on his own property. Seems logical, but logic doesn’t fly here, in Pottstown. Instead, the borough issued Jeff a code violation – not a friendly heads up – the courtesy of a phone call – as a parting “gift” they violated him.
Jeff’s grass pile at the back of the garage.
**A new homeowner recently commented that by way of saying **Welcome to Pottstown** they were given a sidewalk violation. Now that’s a downright mean spirited and unfriendly way to say, “happy you chose Pottstown to buy a home and spend your hard earned money.”
What are you supposed to do with your grass clippings in Pottstown? Nobody knows.
Jeff called Public Works and the voice on the other end of the phone said, “I don’t know what you do.” Jeff sent an email, but he didn’t get a response at all from Travis Gery, his ward representative, he didn’t hear from anyone except Steve Toroney, council prez.
I guess Steve phoned him and said, “chop your clippings and leave them on the grass.” FOR REAL? Here are the emails:
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Jeff Leflar
Date: Fri, Oct 5, 2012 at 6:06 PM
Subject: Fwd: grass clippings
Attached is the code violation, the original email that I sent in response to the violation, and 2 pictures of the grass pile.
1388 Queen St.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Jeff Leflar
Date: Thu, Oct 4, 2012 at 1:08 PM
Subject: grass clippings
To: stephen toroney <email@example.com
>, Chuck Garner <firstname.lastname@example.org
>, Maria Bleile <email@example.com
According to Boro ordinance, I cannot put grass clippings in with the regular trash stream. I cannot put them in the brown bags that are part of the yard debris program. So I have no choice but to keep them on my property.
I put them behind my garage on a strip of ground that parallels the garage and the alley. I have been piling them there for a few years now.
Today I received a violation. Someone called and complained about the pile of grass clippings that are on my property.
By following the law, I have broken the law. I called public works and asked where should I put my grass clippings and they told that they didn’t know.
I have no intention of removing the grass clippings from my property, since I have no place to put them. Can someone explain to me how a pile of grass clippings are a health hazard and if so is the Boro responsible for creating a health hazard by not allowing me to dispose of the clippings? That’s what I was told was the basis for the complaint-a pile of grass clippings is a health hazard.
1388 Queen St
Pottstown, Pa. 19464
Sadly, for real….now, I have learned of a couple employees in the codes department who behave with spite when their actions are called into question. I’ve learned that I’m on their “hit” list, because I’ve called attention to someone in that department who abuses their position, (spiting homeowners, maybe Jeff too, who knows).
I digress….But there’ll be more to follow on that subject.
It is a fact that some rental investors are treated with “customer friendly” service from some employees in the codes department, while homeowners and conscientious investors chew dust.
218 Oak St. Any reasonable person would have to ask themselves why? Why are rental property owners given a break when they choose to defy the rental ordinances?
Any reasonable person would ask why? Why are rental owners given a break on fees/fines when they violate code?
Why is the rental housing in such deplorable, unsafe, unhealthy conditions in this borough?
Why are our streets and alley ways treated like toxic dump sites and borough employees can just walk/drive by like they don’t exist?
Why are unsafe conditions, like the ones below, ignored by the borough government? (grass clippings, now there’s a dangerous violation).
And why do officials sit by while these conditions spread to other, formerly nice, parts of town?
There are, increasingly obvious, answers to those and many other burning questions of impropriety in this local government.
For the first two years, after we bought our home in Pottstown, the trash and recycle bins were kept in front of the slum properties owned by Andrew Soule.
They were filled to the brim with indescribable filth that had accumulated for at least 2 years. Dirty baby diapers, steeping in rain water and liquor from the bottles dumped inside, rotting food, rats and other vermin. Finally, we called codes:
“Please, can you remove these garbage cans? Apparently the trash service chooses not to touch them.” ”No, maam, we can’t. They are allowed to have the cans on the sidewalk.” REALLY?
The Health Department, (silly me, thinking human excrement might be a health issue), no – not their problem either. Finally, on the morning of Thanksgiving, 2010, we could take no more of the odor and the unsightly mess.
Recycle bin filled with excrement, trash and vermin.
My husband and I donned our work clothes, face masks and gloves and WE removed the trash cans. WE moved them to the alley, after dumping as much water off as we could, so we could even move them.
WE asked the tenants to keep their garbage around back, and from that point on, they did.
Never in our life times had we encountered such flat disregard or concern from any municipality we’d ever lived in or visited before, never.
Many times I’ve heard elected officials tell me that they are busy with their jobs and their lives, by way of excusing the fact that they don’t often return phone calls, (Mark Gibson answers his phone and returns calls). Rarely, to never, do they return emails, but when they do…the answers are never cohesive or in line with expectation or oridnances.
And, you know taxpayer/homeowners are busy too, they pay for the opportunity to be ignored, disregarded and disrespected. When they take their time to do the right thing, time to correspond with their council people, time to clean up their blocks and alleys, I think the courtesy of an expedient, knowledgeable reply is the very least they should expect from their representatives.
If there is nobody who works for the borough who knows what to do with grass clippings, then take the time to find out and implement a “one-size-fits-all” solution. In other words, know your jobs and do your jobs. Treat conscientious property owners with the respect and service they deserve.
I am sorry to see Jeff go, sorry to see the circumstances that chase people away or prevent them from moving to Pottstown.
Losing people like Jeff and his family is really everybody’s loss.
Farewell Friend and greener pastures to you!!!
Does rental owener,Ken Kaufman get a violation for this parking lot mess?
440 Chestnut St. Owner: Deb and Doug Campbell
361 Jefferson St. Owner:
503 King St. Owner: Kenneth Kaufman
Andrew Soule slums on 400 blk. of King St.
347 Union. Have they got a building permit? They dump heating oil on the ground and cover it with dirt.
This Section 8 dump in the 400 blk. of King. Tenants moved out this morning. They couldn’t leave fast enough.