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A man was found dead inside a burning apartment building in south Allentown on Thursday.Flames broke out around 3:30 a.m. at 2427 S. 4th St.The fire was contained to the attic and roof of the building, which was badly damaged in the fire, officials said.When fire crews reached the top floor, they found the body of Richard Chaparro, 46, in the living room of an apartment."We believe it's not related to the fire itself," said Asst. Chief Lee Laubach, Allentown Fire Dept.An autopsy Thursday was inconclusive, the coroner said.No one was injured in the fire, but five families have to find somewhere else to stay. In the meantime, the Red Cross is providing them with food and temporary lodging. Construction crews said it could be six months before the families can move back into the damaged building."There is no roof whatsoever, and the water introduced by the fire companies is now coming in throughout the remaining four apartments," said Greg Brey, of Moyer Services Group, the company fixing the building.For neighbor Margaret Baatz, it's a chilling reminder that life can change in the blink of an eye."It's so close. As a child, I lost everything in a fire and I know what people can go through," she said. The fire may have been sparked by an electrical short in a bathroom fan, but investigators said they still aren't certain. The fire was placed under control in about 30 minutes.
A Lehigh County jury has found a Na Cola Franklin guilty of first degree murder in the killing of her husband-to-be, Billy Brewster, on their wedding day.The jurors got the case late Wednesday morning, the third day of the trial, and deliberated for only a few hours before reaching their verdict.Franklin fatally stabbed Brewster, her fiancé, inside their apartment on Olympic Circle in Whitehall Township on Aug. 11, 2012, just hours before they were due to take their vows.Franklin's trial began Tuesday with the jury hearing the recording of a 911 call in which Franklin said Brewster was drunk and was going to steal their baby.Brewster's cousin and his wife, who were staying with the couple for the wedding, testified Wednesday, telling the jury what they saw that fateful day.Franklin will be sentenced on July 16. She's facing life in prison.
A college student from Montgomery County who was reported missing last week was found safe Thursday.Matthew Royer, a 21-year-old student at the University of Rhode Island, had texted his family last Thursday night, saying he was on the way home.Surveillance cameras saw the Collegeville native at the Sunoco gas station on Route 100 in the Breinigsville area of Lehigh County, near Allentown, around 2 a.m. Friday, but he never showed up at home.Royer's mother came forward on Monday asking that her son call the family, no questions asked.State police said Royer was found unharmed in North Carolina. They have not said what led to his disappearance.
Two men were injured when three vehicles collided in Berks County on Thursday.The accident happened around 11:15 a.m. in front of the Walmart in the 5300 block of Allentown Pike -- Route 222 Business -- in Muhlenberg Township.The impact of the crash pushed one of the vehicles onto its side.Two men who were trapped inside the vehicle had to be freed by emergency crews, said police, adding that the victims were rushed to a hospital with what appeared to be non-life-threatening injuries.Police have not said what caused the accident.
One local truck crew was a little late on their delivery in Northampton County on Thursday.A sinkhole opened beneath a Lowe's truck in front of 2342 Northwood Ave. in Palmer Township. No one was hurt.Northwood Avenue, between Van Buren and Tatamy roads, is expected to remain closed for the next few days, PennDOT said.In the meantime, traffic is being detoured onto Tatamy Road, Park Avenue, Route 248 and Van Buren Road.The area has been plagued by sinkholes in the past.
This week's devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma hit close to home for Reading Fightin Phils first basemen Tyler Henson.Henson, who grew up in the town of Tuttle, Okla., about 20 minutes from the hardest-hit town of Moore, is leading a team effort to raise money for a pair of families that lost everything they own."My wife came to me with the whole idea,” said Henson. "We’re going to try to raise as much money for these two families that we both know and see what we can do to give back to them whether it be gift cards, clothes, or anything that we can do to help them get back on their feet."The Fightins players have donated items for a raffle to be held at their game on May 31. Autographed items will include cleats, gloves, bats, and apparel.Proceeds from the raffle will directly benefit the families that the Hensons are close with."These people have lost homes, cars, and family pictures that they’ll never see again. All of that stuff is gone," said Henson, a 5th round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 2006.In addition to donating items, Fightin Phils players Jesse Biddle (@JesseBiddle_54), Cameron Rupp (@CameronRupp), Jim Murphy (@JimPMurphy), David Buchanan (@davidb413), Jay Johnson (@jayjohnr), and Seth Rosin (@SethDanielRosin) will be donating 10 cents for each re-tweet they receive on their respective Twitter accounts between May 22 and May 25."It shows character," Henson said of his teammates' support for the tornado victims. "It’s huge because not everyone is going to experience a tornado, not everyone is going to experience a hurricane, and not everyone is going to experience losing stuff. It shows a lot of character of what we got on this team."Henson, who was born in Oklahoma City in 1987, is no stranger to the devastation caused by a tornado."I experienced the tornado on May 3, 1999,” said Henson. "From what my family tells me, it's worse than that. The city hasn't been the same since and now, it happening again."The Fightin Phils' May 31 game against the Akron Aeros is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at FirstEnergy Stadium. Henson's wife, Ashley, and the Fightins staff will be manning the raffle table in the VIST Bank Plaza during the game.
State Police say a missing Montgomery County college student has been found.On Thursday, police said Matthew Royer of Collegeville was found unharmed.WPVI-TV is reporting that he was found in North Carolina. No other details were available.He was on his way home from college. Royer, 21, was last een at a gas station near Allentown early Friday morning as he was driving home from school at the University of Rhode Island."Matthew's a great son," said his mother, Janet. "He played soccer, tennis."And Royer's mother said he's also responsible, so when he didn't arrive home from college, and missed work Friday morning, his family knew something was very wrong."He never, never misses -- and if he's going to be late, he would call," said Royer's brother, Ryan. "He never skips."Hours before he disappeared, Royer sent his mom a text message saying he was driving home from the University of Rhode Island.We know he made it as far as Lehigh Co., to a Sunoco station at Route 100 and I-78 in Fogelsville. Surveillance cameras captured him there after 1 a.m."They have video of him stopping for gas, purchasing a bottle of water," said Janet Royer.She said the footage shows Royer wearing a beige ball cap with the word "Biltmore" on it, a dark green golf shirt, khaki pants, and sandals."He wanted to use the bathroom, but there was a line, so he got in his car, opened his water, took a drink, and then left," she said.A cell phone tower also pinged Royer's phone at I-78 and Route 145, according to his mother.Royer was driving a 2008 silver Chevrolet Cobalt with Pennsylvania plates "GZR 9059."Family, friends, and State Police spent the weekend distributing missing posters and asking businesses south of Allentown if they have any surveillance video.Royer's mother urged the public to be on the lookout too."If there's a vehicle sitting on your block that you know shouldn't be there or it's in a parking lot or something," she said.The family is still in shock."I just can't believe it's happening," said Ryan Royer. "You never think it's going to happen to you.""This is like the worst nightmare dream," added Janet. "I keep thinking I'm going to wake up, that I'm dreaming, that this couldn't have happened."Royer's family hopes to obtain that gas station surveillance video Monday and get it out to the public. If you have any information, call the Pennsylvania State Police in Skippack at 610-584-1250.
One of two people charged in connection with a double homicide in Allentown says he's guilty.Tykweis Wade pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of third degree murder for the deaths of Steven Santiago and Adrian Ramirez.The other defendant in the case -- John Boyd -- is scheduled to appear in court Thursday afternoon.Police say Boyd and Wade shot the victims to death in front of their home on Hall Street in December of 2011.Police say a dispute over an affair led to the shooting.
Former Penn State President Graham Spanier has asked a county judge to throw out charges accusing him of helping cover up abuse allegations against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.Spanier's lawyers filed the motion last week, citing his allegation that the university's former top lawyer, Cynthia Baldwin, violated attorney-client confidentiality when she gave prosecutors information about him. He also argued that some of the charges were filed after the statute of limitations had run out.His attorney, Elizabeth Ainslie, said Wednesday the criminal case remains on hold while Spanier's co-defendants, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, ask the state Supreme Court to review a recent decision by the grand jury judge that he did not have jurisdiction to throw out their charges."We're waiting for the Supreme Court to decide the issues that are very similar to our issues,'' she said.Spanier, she said, also has raised "legal issues relating to statutory interpretation. For instance, whether Dr. Spanier could conceivably be considered a supervisor of any of the children who were victims of Mr. Sandusky.''Sandusky, 69, is serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence after being convicted last year of 45 counts for the sexual abuse of 10 boys. He maintains his innocence and is pursuing appeals.Spanier was forced out as president after Sandusky's arrest but remains a faculty member while fighting the accusations that he and other administrators committed crimes as they responded to complaints about the former defensive coach.Spanier was charged in November along with Curley, the school's former athletic director, and Schultz, a retired vice president.The three men face charges of perjury, obstruction, endangering the welfare of children, failure to properly report suspected abuse and conspiracy.
Bethlehem Police are looking for a car that's involved in a recent hit-and-run crash.The accident happened overnight between May 18 and 19, in the 1800 block of Center Street in the city.The car in question is white, possibly a newer model mercedes Benz E class.The car should have significant right side damage with a possibility of blue transfer paint on it.Anyone who may have seen this car is asked to call officer Hackett at 610-0997-7641.
The stage is set for the biggest night of the year for local high school performers.The 11th annual Freddy Awards will be on stage, and on the air Thursday night. But before the curtain goes up, the students had one last run through Wednesday night.For the last two weeks hundreds of students have been rehearsing. They know their steps, their costumes are ready and their performances are perfected. "It's very exciting," said State Theatre president and CEO Shelley Brown with a smile. "And everything is pretty much fever pitch."Behind every performance is a team of people making sure the video, lights and audio are spot on. There's just two weeks to get everything just right and ready for all 30 schools involved. Wednesday night's dress rehearsal is a critical part of that."What we run through really is the technicality of the kids performances, we try very hard to have the Freddy Awards be mostly performance," explained Brown.While these positions don't take center stage, it's one of the most important jobs at the Freddy's.Thirty schools are involved with the Freddy's this year. For many freshmen, this is their first experience with the show and some say they're feeling the pressure."I'm excited and I'm anxious to see the results and stuff, and I'm excited to perform in front of everyone," smiled Parkland High freshman Abby Kern."There's a lot of pressure to do well," added Chris Smith, a freshman at Southern Lehigh. "We're up against some really big players."Freedom and Parkland High Schools both topped the charts with 15 nominations each. But win or lose, most performers say it's an honor just be part of the annual theater celebration."The schools are really good," shared Parkland freshman Megan Schmidt. "Everyone has a lot of awesome talent and it's going to be a lot of fun tomorrow night.""It's magical," explained Greg Adams, a senior at Freedom High School. "It's really really great just to see everybody in the community come together for the sake of theater and appreciate what each other has worked really hard for over the course of the year.""It's a thrill ride all the way, it's exciting, it's nerve wracking and we're all really happy at 10:01 p.m.," Brown said.The Freddys kick off here at the State Theatre at 7 p.m. Thursday night.Watch it live on WFMZ Channel 69 or livestreamed on wfmz.com.Watch videos of high school performances and see a list of the nominees.
It'll soon be lights, camera, action as lovers of the arts, near and far, turn their eyes to the State Theatre stage for 11th annual Freddy Awards TONIGHT!WFMZ's Eve Tannery chatted with Ed Hanna and Shelley Brown, the co-hosts of tonight's show, to get a preview of what Freddy fans can expect!www.statetheatre.org
A contentious area businessman bluntly warned Easton officials that an outdoor sign company is bullying them into an agreement with tactics he himself regularly uses to get his way."You're being blackmailed," developer Abe Atiyeh told Easton City Council Wednesday night. "I do it all the time. … It's Land Development 101."Atiyeh told council he was speaking "neutrally" in trying to expose the alleged tactics used by Adams Outdoor Advertising in negotiating a proposed 20-year lease with for a one- or two-sided electronic sign in Hackett Park. "You're being threatened," Atiyeh said.City administrator Glenn Steckman refuted Atiyeh's characterization of the lease negotiations, saying Adams acted with "the highest ethical business standards."Atiyeh was not above making a threat of his own. He forthrightly declared what he would do if council decided to approve the agreement -- "It's illegal what you're doing. I'm going to sue the city," said Atiyeh.Atiyeh owns a sign company, Palmer L.P., of Whitehall Township, Lehigh Co., that recently was sued for beginning operation of an electronic billboard along the eastbound lanes of Route 22 in Palmer Township, Northampton Co., between the Route 33 and 25th Street exits, without having all the proper permits. That suit filed by Palmer Township was dropped after Atiyeh obtained the missing permit late last month.Two lawyers -- Atty. Mark Monsour of Wyomissing, Berks Co., speaking for Lamar Advertising of Allentown, and Atty. Mark Malkames, representing Pennsylvania Media -- also criticized the lease with Adams, though none with Atiyeh's outspokenness.Atty. Victor Cavacini of Allentown, representing Adams, called the complaints about the lease "sour grapes," noting that there is no requirement for competitive bidding for council to enter into such an agreement.Council eventually voted 7-0 to table the proposed lease.Adams wants to place the sign in a remote wooded area of Hackett Park, where it would be seen by motorists traveling along Route 22 near 13th Street.Over the next two decades, the lease with Adams could earn Easton $491,000 if a one-sided electronic billboard is installed after zoning and planning requirements are met, and $765,000 if a two-sided sign is erected. The money would pay for park improvements.Atiyeh claimed that Adams offer was low, considering the company would earn $1 million a year in "gross revenue" for the sign. "I might give you $100,000 a year," Atiyeh said. "Why would you [settle] for $50,000?"The lease with Adams also could help resolve a legal problem for the city. The assistant city solicitor told council two weeks ago that Adams might consider withdrawing a lawsuit filed last year against the city for not having zoned areas where billboards are permitted. (The city amended the zoning ordinance to create areas where billboards are allowed after Adams filed its lawsuit.)Atiyeh was incredulous that council would consider the lease with Adams. "You're being sued," Atiyeh jeered. "They are not your friend."Mayor Sal Panto replied, "There's no friendship here. It [is] a business decision."Council member Elinor Warner asked the solicitor William Murphy to make sure the lease agreement does not violate the city's parks ordinance, while council member Michael Fleck said, "We should see if we can get more money."Council member Roger Ruggles, who spoke against the lease two weeks ago, said, he was concerned that even though the sign might affect people living within the city limits would be unaffected by the sign, "There is no question in my mind that people living [in the 1600 and 1700 blocks of Spring Garden Street in neighboring Wilson borough] will be impacted."
Easton City Council member Michael Fleck announced Wednesday night that he will resign on July 9, and that he and his young family are moving to Allentown."I will be gone by July, unless you want to get rid of me quicker," Fleck joked to his colleagues. "Our [political and government consulting] business is in Allentown and we're spending more and more time there."Fleck Consulting, which operates at 1322 Hamilton St., Allentown, managed former Northampton County executive Glenn Reibman's recent comeback campaign. Reibman lost in Tuesday's primary to term-limited Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan for the Democratic county executive nomination.Fleck, who announced early this year that he would not be seeking re-election, has represented Easton's West Ward since 2009. He also represented the ward from 2001 to 2005, and twice ran unsuccessfully for mayor.He is best known for helping enact an amusement tax and an ordinance giving health benefits to domestic partners of city workers.Fleck is a lifelong Easton resident, and he choked up a bit talking about the city after Wednesday night's council meeting. "We'll miss it [Easton]," said Fleck. "I was born in Allentown and moved here when I was 3 months old. I've spent 37 years here, except for one year in South Africa and one year in Cleveland."Mayor Sal Panto told Fleck he "appreciated the three-and-a-half years I've spent working with you … but I wish you would have waited until the end of the year to move," alluding to the fact that Fleck's term ends in December.Any West Ward resident interested in finishing Fleck's term can file a request to be considered with council, Panto noted, adding that it has been council's informal policy not to appoint anyone who will be a candidate for a full four-year term.
You've seen the movie, but are you daring enough to wear the clothes? Retailers say retro "flapper" fashions are back, all thanks to "The Great Gatsby."The film may be fantastic, but in "Gatsby," the fashions are front and center."The Roaring 20s were the Roaring 20s," said Rose Ellen Moore, owner of Allentown's RCMoore for the Unique Individual. "They were fabulous."At Moore's store, sales of 1920s looks are "roaring" back, thanks in part to the Fitzgerald classic."Women wanted to be a little bit bad, you know?", said Moore. "Everybody wants to have a headband like Daisy and everybody wants to be flapper-eqse."We asked Moore to give us a crash course on "Flapper Fashion.""Everything was very blousey or boxy, and the bottom was very flowy," she said. "Pearls, long pearls. Rhinestones for evening."And what about those hats?"They were like a bucket that sat on your head," said Moore. "Your head went very deep into the hat."It's not just the women who can get in on this. Men can throw on their best zoot suits too.Brooks Brothers' new Gatsby line for men is seeing strong sales, and the HBO hit "Boardwalk Empire" made Prohibition-era suits trendy again two years ago.The looks even made an appearance in the 1990s, during the decade's swing dancing craze."Things just keep going round and round; they just remake themselves," said Moore.So if you feel like doing a "jump, jive, and wail," you can find just the threads to do it in style.
Candidates hoping to serve as Lehigh County executive for the rest of this year will be interviewed in public on June 10 by county commissioners.Anyone wishing to be appointed executive must submit an application by 4 p.m. Tuesday to Lisa Scheller, chairwoman of the nine commissioners.The man or woman appointed county executive will serve until an elected executive takes office in early January.In November, county voters will elect Republican Scott Ott or Democrat Thomas Muller as executive. Ott is vice chairman of the commissioners. Muller is the county's director of administration.On Friday, Muller was named acting county executive by William Hansell, who resigned as executive that day because of failing health.“Our thoughts, our hopes and our prayers go out to Bill Hansell and his family,” said Lisa Scheller, chairwoman of the commissioners, at their Wednesday night meeting. “He is facing serious health issues with the support of his family.”The 76-year-old Hansell is undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma.At the suggestion of Ott, everyone at the meeting observed a moment of silence so people could pray for Hansell and his wife Connie.Commissioners have to fill the county executive vacancy with an appointee by July 2. Their intergovernmental & appointments committee must make a recommendation to the full board of commissioners by June 17.“Certainly we can move faster because this is a very important position,” said Scheller. “It would be my personal recommendation that we do so.”The appointee must be a Democrat, because Hansell is a Democrat. He or she also must be a resident of the county and registered to vote for at least one year.The interviews are expected to begin at 6 p.m. June 10. Unless there is a scheduling conflict, they will take place in the commissioners’ meeting room on the first floor of the county government center, just off Center Square in Allentown.Each candidate will be interviewed by the commissioners’ intergovernmental & appointments committee, chaired by Brad Osborne. Also on that committee are Ott, Daniel McCarthy and Vic Mazziotti.Osborne explained members of the committee first will ask the candidates questions, then other commissioners attending that meeting also will be able to ask questions.Immediately after the candidates are interviewed, the four members of the committee will vote to recommend one or more for final approval by the full board.Osborne said the full board could appoint a new county executive just two nights later, at its June 12 meeting. If it takes no action that night, he anticipates it will act at its June 26 meeting.The commissioners are not required to accept the recommendation of Osborne’s committee.The commissioners just went through this process last summer, when they appointed Hansell to complete the term of Don Cunningham, who resigned as the elected executive.Immediately after doing 20-minute interviews with four candidates for the $75,000-a-year position, the appointments committee recommended all four to the full board of commissioners.A week later, on Aug. 8, commissioners selected Hansell in their first round of voting.
A rail-thin Brenda Heist, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, opened up to Dr. Phil on WFMZ-TV for the first time since vanishing 11 years ago.The "runaway mom" dropped her children off at school in Lititz, Lancaster Co., in 2002 and never looked back."I'm not proud of what I did. I'm ashamed of what I did, and I have a lot of guilt and it's something I'm never going to get over," said an emotional Heist, during the exclusive interview from a Florida jail.That is the first time Morgan Heist heard her mother's voice since she was a little girl 11 years ago. Her mom missed every birthday, every Christmas and every special occasion.Morgan spoke exclusively with 69 News after the interview aired Tuesday night."I don't want an emotional reunion. I'm not going to go down memory lane with her. I want straight answers. I don't want lies anymore. I just want all answers," said Morgan, who is now 19.Morgan watched the emotional interview. She said it wiped away some of her anger, and she wants to forgive her mom eventually, but now is not the time. Too much damage has been done, and now her reappearance has stirred up new emotions, said Morgan."What do you say to her? She's watching you right now?" asked Dr. Phil during the interview."If you can just forgive me for what I've done to you," answered Heist."I hope she respects the fact me and my brother aren't ready to talk to her, and we both need to accept this and let time go on," said Morgan, who has been infiltrated with comments and friend requests on social media since her mother resurfaced last month.At one point, Heist was declared dead after she abandoned her family in 2002 in Lititz. Heist told police she hitchhiked to Florida with a group of homeless people, overwhelmed with a pending divorce and financial problems."Did you ever think about the children?" asked Dr. Phil."Yes, I did, but I just thought it would be better if I wasn't there," answered Heist."I always wonder what it would have been like growing up with her, but at the same time, I think it's a good thing that it did happen because I know I'm stronger because of it," said Morgan.Morgan has since grown closer with her stepmom. She said her mom can cry and say sorry all she wants, but it won't change what she did.
How could a wedding day go so horribly wrong? The groom, Billy Brewster, was stabbed to death in Whitehall Twp., Lehigh Co.; his wife-to-be, Na Cola Franklin, stands accused of the crime.Franklin was on trial for the second day Wednesday, with the jury hearing about the day it went down last year.The jury on Tuesday heard a 911 call in which Franklin said Brewster, her fiancé, was drunk and was going to steal their baby.The jury Wednesday heard from the two people who were inside the apartment the morning of the homicide.Shortly after Franklin walked into the courtroom, she heard from the two people who were inside her apartment the morning she allegedly stabbed Brewster to death.Brewster's cousin and his wife flew in from Chicago to testify about how the three visited a strip club on Aug. 10.Brewster and Franklin got into a heated argument, with Franklin pulling a knife and stabbing Brewster three times in the couple's living room.Nakia Kali testified he saw his cousin put his hands up in the air, asking Franklin, "is this really what you want to do?"Kali's wife, Monique, testified that, after Franklin stabbed Brewster, she tackled the woman until Kali could take away the knife.The mayhem happened around 3 a.m. and with three small children and an infant inside the room. The couple was supposed to be married several hours later.The defense questioned how much the pair had to drink at the strip club and asked the two if they knew of the two 911 calls made and why Brewster's statement wasn't picked up in the 911 call, which did get Franklin telling Brewster he was drunk, accusing him of wanting to drive off with the couple's baby, and threatening him.In a second call, Franklin told the operator Brewster had just beaten her up and stole her baby.A forensic pathologist testified Brewster was stabbed twice. A Lehigh County investigator said, when interviewed after the scene, Franklin broke down crying, saying she didn't mean it and still wanted to marry Brewster.
Lehigh County commissioners will wait until they hear from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission before deciding the fate of tax increment financing for the Hamilton Crossings shopping center in Lower Macungie.Acting on an appeal from a local carpenter, they also will ask developers of Hamilton Crossings to hire local labor to build the $140-million shopping center.On Wednesday night, commissioners unanimously agreed to defer voting on the TIF plan until their June 12 meeting. They will invite an LVPC transportation expert to that meeting to explain the regional planning agency’s position on Hamilton Crossings.A lawyer representing two Trexlertown shopping centers maintained commissioners unfairly will be subsidizing “a shiny new shopping center” and helping Hamilton Crossings “cannibalize the local retail economy” if they approve the TIF plan.Atty. Jonathan Hugg said the commissioners’ proposed TIF ordinance is illegal because the state’s TIF law was written to address urban blight. Hugg argued the site of the proposed shopping center, where iron ore mining was done in the 19th and early 20th centuries, “is not urban and it’s not blight. It may be unattractive, but it is not a north Philadelphia ghetto. This is a field that used to be a mine.”Hugg represents Cedar Realty Trust, Inc., owner of the nearby Trexler Mall and Trexlertown Plaza shopping centers along Hamilton Boulevard.He told commissioners his client has invested $30 million in those two shopping centers in the last three years. “That’s been a great boon to the community in this down economy,” said Hugg. “What you would be doing by passing this bill is nullifying our investment.”Hugg also said Hamilton Crossings’ developers already are trying to “entice away” tenants of his client’s two shopping centers. “We can’t compete with that,” he said. “That’s not economic development. That’s just cannibalizing the local retail economy.”Hugg said his client’s shopping centers are not fully occupied now and will have even fewer businesses if its tenants are lured away to Hamilton Crossings.He repeatedly said the county, East Penn School District and Lower Macungie unfairly will be picking the winner and the losers in the local economy if they adopt the TIF to help Hamilton Crossings, which will have a Costco and Target as its anchor stores. He claimed many other members of the local retail community feel the same way.“If this is such a great development why do you need to help it?” asked Hugg. “Why isn’t it just built?”Commissioner Percy Dougherty said he was worried about the impact on existing retail businesses, but was assured Hamilton Crossings will be such a large regional shopping center that other retail outlets also will benefit from all the people it will draw. Hugg said that’s unlikely.Hugg made many of the same comments to East Penn School Board on May 13. He threatened East Penn with a lawsuit. But he was unable to stop the school board from voting 6-2, with one abstention, in support of the TIF plan that night.Commissioner Michael Schware said he agreed with most of what Hugg said.“It’s our duty to make sure there is a level playing field in the county,” said Schware.“Competition is great. That’s the way America was built. And if they build a new shopping center with their own money, without a dollar of government funding, and they put you out of business, that’s on you to compete. But when we put tax dollars into it, we’re really skewing that and I think it’s wrong.”Waiting for LVPC recommendation Commissioners were scheduled to vote on the TIF plan Wednesday night, but were asked to defer action by Cindy Feinberg, the county’s community and economic development director, so they could learn the LVPC’s position on Hamilton Crossings before voting.Feinberg told commissioners LVPC’s comprehensive planning committee will discuss the project on Tuesday and it will go before the full LVPC board for a decision two days later: on Thursday, May 30.At their May 8 meeting, some county commissioners said they wanted to hear LVPC’s recommendation on the proposed development before they vote on the TIF plan.That plan will divert 50 percent of real estate taxes that normally would go from the new shopping center to the county and East Penn School District for up to 20 years.Lower Macungie currently does not collect real estates taxes, but may do so in the future.That diverted money would help pay debt on multi-million-dollar infrastructure improvements around the 63-acre shopping center, which will be built on both sides of Krocks Road between Hamilton Boulevard and Route 222.Dougherty said Hamilton Crossings’ developers also support the county commissioners delaying action, because the developers want to meet with LVPC to explain how their proposed improvements will address “many of the problems with traffic on the so-called bypass.” He said most of the TIF money will be used for road improvements.Dougherty, who also serves on LVPC’s board, has predicted LVPC will make a recommendation against Hamilton Crossings, because the Route 222 bypass was not designed by the state Department of Transportation to handle the additional traffic.LVPC was prepared to recommend against Hamilton Crossings in April, but decided to first get more information from the developers. LVPC’s comprehensive planning committee had recommended to the full LVPC board that the plan not be approved.LVPC’s recommendation on the proposed development is primarily being done for Lower Macungie officials.Lower Macungie commissioners were scheduled to vote on the TIF plan on June 6, but Dougherty said the county commissioners’ deferral until June 12 will delay that Lower Macungie vote because the township is required by law to vote last.Minority opinion?Schware said he’s probably in a minority, but maintained that 50 percent financial participation is way too high for Lehigh County and the county’s share “should probably be zero.”“No county issue is being addressed here,” said Schware. “There’s no county road, there’s no county bridge, there’s no county drainage problem and there’s no county utility lines. So why should county taxpayers have to pay part of this bill?”“Our financial participation in the TIF should be proportional to the true county issue that’s being addressed. I don’t think there is a county issue that’s being addressed. Just because the problem is in the county doesn’t mean county taxpayers have to pay for it.”Dougherty recommended Joseph Gurinko, LVPC’s chief transportation planner, be asked to attend the June 12 commissioners meeting to explain LVPC’s recommendation before commissioners vote on the TIF plan.Local construction jobs?Lower Macungie resident Kevin Lewis, a carpenter for 13 years, asked how commissioners can guarantee local labor will be used to build Hamilton Crossings “if we’re giving up local tax dollars?”Lewis wanted such a guarantee in the TIF agreement, but Dougherty explained that agreement was developed by the Lehigh County Industrial Development Authority and commissioners can only vote for or against it, not change it.Lewis pushed for commissioners to make a recommendation to the LCIDA, but Dougherty indicated it may be too late to do that.Commissioner Scott Ott recommended talking to the shopping center’s developers to determine their willingness to voluntarily hire local labor, “rather than as an external burden that we apply.” Dougherty moved that commissioners empower Lisa Scheller, their chairwoman, to send a letter to the developers encouraging local labor be used. That motion was passed unanimously.Scheller stressed the commissioners’ action cannot require the developers to hire local labor “but it is showing our support that local labor be used.”Developers have promised their project will create 495 construction jobs when work begins before the end of summer and 920 permanent jobs when Hamilton Crossings is completed in the autumn of 2014.
Some of the most talented young performers in Berks County dazzled the crowd Wednesday night. The ninth annual Y-NOT Awards were held at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center. Theater students from nine different schools performed numbers from this year's musicals. Judges check out all of the shows and give out awards in 16 different categories. But students say it's not all about winning. "It showcases everyone, and gives everyone a chance to be recognized for all of their hard work," said Daniel Boone High School John Williams. Y-NOT is Tony, as in the Tony Awards, spelled backward.
It may be your natural impulse to want to help the people in Oklahoma, but the Pennsylvania attorney general warned about who you're giving money to. You want to be generous and not a scam victim.Many people in Moore, Okla., are without everything because of the two-mile wide tornado. The images of devastation instantly inspire many far away to want to do something, and unfortunately, the police said some people prey on that generosity."Just because somebody calls and solicits some type of donation from you, you can take that information and follow up on it to make sure it's a legitimate organization that's soliciting the money," said Tpr. David Beohm, Pa. State Police.If someone is contacting you by phone, email or social media, Beohm said the best thing you can do is ask questions."If you start asking a bunch of questions, if they're not legit, they're probably going to hang up on you," said Beohm.If you're online, there is a way you can check if a charity is legitimate. If the charity is local in Pennsylvania, you can go to charities.pa.gov or call 800-441-2555. Or, if you are checking an Oklahoma-based charity, the secretary of state registry is at sos.ok.gov/charity or call 405-521-3912."I'm sure there's people out there looking to scam people for any reason, any excuse to scam them," said Beohm. "I'm sure it's just a matter of time until it starts hitting around here."When you give, Beohm said you may need to give your credit card information but nothing else."Some of the clues would be if they want your bank account number, your social security number or your name and date of birth," said Beohm. "I don't know anybody really needs that to take a donation."
The primary election may be over in Pennsylvania but voters in New Jersey are two weeks away from heading to the polls for their primary on June 4th.This time around, incumbent Governor Chris Christie is trying something new with a $275,000 ad buy in a commercial titled, “Orgullo de New Jersey.""Orgullo de New Jersey" is styled after Christie's 30-second "Jersey Proud" ad and is his first attempt to make his position known entirely in Spanish.“Beyond just the words of talking the talk, we're trying to walk the walk when it comes to outreach in these communities....to try and make sure that they're aware of what the governor is doing. Some things that are well known and some things that folks just need to be reminded of,” said campaign press secretary Kevin Roberts.However it's a move Republicans aren't usually known for: singling out a particular voting bloc to gain their support.“In that sense, it is part of a broader strategy of the governor trying to be very open, available and certainly talk to the communities that are typically viewed as getting ignored by the Republican party,” said Roberts.Communications Director for Christie's Democratic challenger, Senator Barbara Buono said in a statement, "The Buono campaign is running a robust, grassroots outreach program to talk about the most important issues affecting the Hispanic community, including in-state tuition for children and diversifying the highest levels of our government. It's clear in our conversations that New Jersey's Hispanic communities want a change from Governor Christie, who has called undocumented residents criminals and failed to create jobs while more than 400,000 people look for work."
Police say one Reading teenager's way of making money left him in handcuffs and facing criminal charges.Jacques Hutchinson, 18, was breaking into vacant homes around the area, stealing copper, and then selling the stolen material at area scrap yards, police said.When Hutchinson broke into several homes in the 300 block of Weiser Street in Reading, he damaged the drywall and the drop ceilings in order to get at the valuable copper, investigators said.He also targeted a home in the 800 block of Ritter in Reading, leaving some neighbors frightened."If anybody's doing that, especially in our neighborhood, it's really dangerous, because you don't know if you come in and you catch them. Who knows what they might do to you," Hutchinson said.On Tuesday, Hutchinson was finally arrested, in the 1400 block of Hampden Boulevard after he was spotted breaking into a home.Neighbors helped police in any way they could."We had everybody out," said Leslie McCormack, neighbor. "All the neighborhood was out keeping watch."Hutchinson confessed to the crimes and even took officers around to all the homes he allegedly targeted, police said.The teen faces a long list of charges, including burglary, theft and criminal mischief, according to court documents.
A Lehigh County man says his family will finally be at peace now that his uncle's remains are back on American soil.Private William Yawney died in 1944 in combat in the Pacific.And his remains weren't found until six months ago on the island of Saipan.Army Private William Yawney, from Freemansburg, fought in the battle of Saipan in 1944.Once the Army confirmed the death, there were still questions.The main one: where was his body?"In '49 they wanted to remove all the graves from Saipan and put them in Hawaii," said John Yawney, William's nephew. "Well there was nothing in his grave. So the search began, where is he."For years, the family looked for him."Where's our brother? Why haven't you found him?" said John, as he was talking about how his father communicated with the Army.Then John Yawney says in October of 2012 his uncle got a call after construction workers in Saipan found skeletal remains and the Army confirmed a DNA match."There was a DNA match and they want to bring him home," added John Yawney.It's taken six months but Wednesday afternoon William Yawney returned to the Lehigh Valley.John Yawney says he is overjoyed."I was really just so happy to be able to be able to touch his remains and say okay, you're home. We're going to take care of you now," said John.For a long time, the family had only pictures of William, as well as his Purple Heart medal and his Bronze Star.Now his nephew says he will get to fulfill his grandmother's wish and have her son buried right next to her at St. John the Baptist Ukraine Cemetery in Northampton."My grandmother, she cried for years over him. She wanted to be with him."William Yawney will be buried with full military honors on Saturday May 25 at St. John the Baptist Ukraine cemetery in Northampton. The public is invited to attend.
Police said Yang Li, a 16-year-old student who went missing from the Solebury Private School in Bucks County on Wednesday was found in the evening.Li, who also goes by the name of Max Li, had last been seen at 9:30 a.m. in the student living quarters of the school on Phillips Mill Road in Solebury Township.Li, a native of Qingdao, China, stands 5 feet, 5 inches tall, weighs 115 pounds and always wears glasses, said police, adding that he's known to frequent the area of downtown New Hope.