Tuesday, October 21, 2014

SBAC This Morning; Council Tonight

Tonight is the Council meeting and the agenda's been posted, but I'll get to that in a minute. There's one other event this morning that residents ought to know about. Not that I'm encouraging anyone to go. I won't be going.

This morning at 10 am, the Norristown Small Business Assistance Center invites everyone to their grand re-opening at their new office. N-town SBAC is a joint venture between the Municipality of Norristown and Enterprise Center Capital Corporation. The Enterprise Center is based in Philadelphia and their purpose is to provide access to financing for small businesses. Many of their clients are businesses owned by minorities, women and veterans, though they'll work with any small businesses that seek help.

The old office of N-town SBAC was at 208 Dekalb, which most of us know as The Centre Theater. I don't think it was well-known that SBAC was located on an upper floor of the theater. I remembered seeing their address, but it only sunk in exactly where they were when I went to that floor for an Arts Council meeting last January and saw SBAC's name on a door. SBAC needed a street-level sign and needed to put the floor any place they listed their address. But I liked the fact that there was a mutual benefit for both entities--office space for SBAC and an income for Centre (I'm assuming SBAC paid rent--don't know for sure).

I don't know what prompted the move--possibly SBAC needed more room, or better access--whatever. The new office is at 266 E Main Street, a building not only owned by JAR Investments, but JAR's headquarters. Who is JAR Investments? It's the real estate company owned by the Gallo brothers. 266 E. Main is Gallo-Central in Norristown.

JAR Investments owns 81 properties under that name in Norristown, including most of the 200 block of East Main, so it's a bit hard to avoid them, but honestly, a municipal office right in the headquarters of the biggest owner/manager of rental properties in town? What kind of message does that send?

I could go on and on, but I'll just leave the topic with my opinion that this was not a wise choice.

As for the meeting tonight, first, 900 Sandy Street goes before Council. That's the proposed luxury apartment building I talked about last week. I heard from 2 sources that there were tax credits involved and/or that they were asking for public funds from Norristown. I don't know if this is true. If it is, I guess we know where the money we SHOULD be spending on fixing the roads is going.

There are 2 seemingly related items on the agenda to improve lighting on Main and Marshall Streets, and a West Marshall Business District lighting proposal. I've heard people all over town the last year saying we need better lighting for safety in our business districts, so on the surface, this seems like a good plan.

Under Public Works, an RFP (Request for Proposal) is listed for "Trash/recycling collection and disposal", plus a separate item regarding Snow Emergency Routes. Not sure what each entails, but now is definitely the time to talk about the latter.

While I appreciate that the agendas are now appearing more or less on time, there's still very little detail in them, and "Public Comment" is allowed only at the beginning of each meeting, before the topics are discussed. As a resident, I often don't know I'll have a comment until AFTER the topic is explained. I ask Council to either put more of an explanation on the agendas, or allow public comment later in the meeting, after the topic is explained but before you vote. Please consider it.

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