Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt Experience Matters Mon, 04 Nov 2019 18:58:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt 32 32 Elect Kevin Barnhardt for Berks County Commissioner Mon, 04 Nov 2019 18:55:23 +0000 Hello, I’m County Commissioner Kevin Barnhart running for re-election.

I was raised in the city of Reading, graduated from the Reading School District, and I’m happily married for the last 38 years to Pamela Rivers with an adopted son and two grandchildren.

As a teenager I became an active volunteer firefighter in the City of Reading where I served for a number of years and later at the age of 23, I became the youngest council person in West Reading, where I served for 15 years and then for 9 years as the Mayor of West Reading, instrumental in the formation of the first Main Street and Elm Street Districts in Berks County.

As your County Commissioner, I’ve made it a priority to work with the Chamber of Commerce and local elected officials to work with our local business owners to recruit and retain and expand the work force here in Berks County, to make this an even better place to live, work, and raise a family.

By being active in the community, I hear from you, how your hard-earned tax dollars should be prioritized. I know the value of your tax dollar. By consolidating Red Rose and Barta into one transportation agency, we improved service, restored Sunday service, and saved you two and a half million dollars.

Every person in our community matters to me. As co-chair of SOS Berks the opioids coalition, we must continue our efforts to stamp out the stigma of substance use disorder because there is hope in recovery.

To continue these good works I ask for your support. Together we’ve done great things in the past and we can do even better things in the future.

So this election day, I ask for your vote because Experience Matters.

General Election 2019: Berks County Commissioners Tue, 29 Oct 2019 18:00:08 +0000 Faced with a crowded primary ballot, Berks County voters decided to overhaul the board of commissioners that has managed the county since 2008 by nominating new leaders to run this fall.

Voters will have a chance to take to the polls on Nov. 5 to choose which two of the four candidates they feel can best fill those leadership roles. The top three vote-getters will win seats on the board.

We asked the candidates to respond to four questions:

Question 1: The Berks County Residential Center is an immigration processing facility created in an arrangement between Berks County and ICE. Berks manages and pays for the operation and is reimbursed by the federal government. In return, ICE pays the county about $1 million to lease office space. Would you support keeping this arrangement? Why or why not?

The services historically provided by this facility are essential and provided by County personnel with the greatest degree of professionalism and compassion. The national discussion on the immigration issue, and possible changes in use of the facility, as enunciated by ICE, have changed my view about whether our ongoing involvement is in the community’s best interest. I am committed to working with my counterparts at the county, state and federal levels in finding a use for the facility that maintains the revenue stream and protects the interests of the employees but allows the County to separate itself from the immigration issue.

Question 2: What one area of county services do you feel most needs additional resources and how would those additional resources be spent?

The cost of incarcerating repeat offenders is astronomical.  With proper support and resources, the Adult Probation and Parole Office could replicate the successes of the juvenile justice system by employing evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral practices. Under this model, juvenile residential commitments have decreased by 80% since 2007.  This has saved $9 million/year.  Presently, juvenile offenders in Berks reoffend at a rate of approximately 13%, down from 20% before this model was put in place.  Throughout PA, the rate remains at 19.2%.  We need to replicate this model and do better for both adult offenders and the taxpayer.

Question 3: As of right now there is no train or air service to Reading, a few bus trips each day to and from New York and minimal access to and from Philadelphia other than by car. What would you do to improve transportation to and from other cities?

Our long-term economic, cultural and community success depends on removing the transportation isolation under which Berks County currently suffers.  The commuter community and the private sector must engage and support these efforts with active advocacy to federal and state lawmakers along with county leadership.  Daily ridership and subsidies from the state and federal governments are critical to solving this isolation issue.  I will continue to advocate for rail service from Philadelphia along with the revitalization of air and bus service. A regional effort is required and my existing relationships with leadership in surrounding counties is of vital importance.

Questions 4: Voters will select three of you to serve as commissioners. If elected, which of the two candidates in the race would you most want to serve with and why?

The most important attribute of any good elected official is the ability to work closely with others and find compromise in complex issues about which all parties may not agree. I have a proven track record in the area. The voters decide which individuals constitute the Commission and I respect their authority to do so. While I certainly hope to be a part of the democratic party retaking the majority, I am prepared to work with any of the candidates for this office and see unique and valuable skills and abilities in each one of them.

Read the full Reading Eagle article here.

Berks County Commissioner Candidates Tested by Berks Patriots Sat, 19 Oct 2019 17:17:28 +0000 Four candidates competing for three Berks County commissioner spots touted their qualifications for a position on the board and outlined their top priorities for the future Thursday evening during a Berks County Patriots forum.

Incumbent Commissioners Christian Y. Leinbach and Kevin S. Barnhardt focused on their experience and accomplishments in office, while challengers Michael Rivera and Donna Reed highlighted what they could bring to the table.

In elections for county commissioner, voters choose two candidates, but the top three vote-getters take office. Commissioners serve four-year terms and have annual salaries of $90,260.

The candidates weighed in on issues from economic development to infrastructure concerns during the roughly hourlong forum at the Leesport Farmers Market. The event gave those in attendance an opportunity to get acquainted with the candidates — particularly the newcomers — and ask questions that focused on their goals for the next four years.

Barnhardt, who is also seeking a fourth term, said he believes he has done his best to balance those needs with the cost to taxpayers. Among those are cutting the number of bridges in county hands by transferring them to municipalities after restoration; keeping Berks Heim, the county-owned nursing home, under local control; and attracting businesses to the county.

“I have the compassion and passion to continue to be your Berks County commissioner,” the 60-year-old said. “The things I have been able to achieve over the last 12 years have saved the county millions of dollars. And I truly believe experience matters.”

Barnhardt also said he has been working hard to attract new business.

He noted his involvement in the discussions that led to the decision by a bottle recycling company to open $80 million facility in Muhlenberg Township. CarbonLITE, which recycles used plastic bottles into material that can be used to make new ones, will open the 270,000-square-foot processing facility that will employ more than 100 people by early 2020.

“We continue to progress mightily on this issue,” he said. “As a county commissioner, I’m often asked to meet and facilitate site selectors coming from other states and other countries. I was proud to be involved in these projects.”

Read the full Reading Eagle article here.

Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt on the Berks County Opioids Coalition Tue, 15 Oct 2019 15:06:49 +0000 We have a diverse group of people and at least three of the members are survivors – their sons died of overdoses of opioids.

One was actually in the military, was injured in the military, received surgery and then was released from the military. Of course once the pain medication stopped, and because he was addicted to opioids, resorted to heroin and passed away.

You wonder sometimes why you do what you do, and when you go to those meetings and you hear stories like that and you say WOW.

Often times people come up and say, “Look, I’m in active recovery and here’s what my story is, here’s my life, and but for certain people in the community, treatment, recovery, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Everyone’s life matters.

It’s so important to keep people alive. Some of the most productive and greatest people in this community are in recovery from opioids. You may not know that but there are estimates of about 30,000 people in our county that are in some form of recovery, whether it’s drugs, alcohol, or the like and it’s very important to keep these people motivated and stimulated to continue to be great people in our community. That creates an environment for me to be really passionate about it because they have suffered, they have seen loved ones die, and they are here in the community trying to help the community save lives.

When someone is revived with Narcan, within a few days a police officer and a treatment specialist go out to the home and talk to that person in about getting them into treatment, and it’s been highly successful. In both Tower Health and St. Joe’s, we have the warm hand off which is when someone comes in with an overdose they are immediately connected with a treatment counselor 24/7 at the Reading Health System and an on-call basis at St. Joe’s Penn State. We have a 70% success rate of getting these folks into treatment.

We are doing many, many drug take back programs.

We’re going into many of the municipal police departments where you can drop off unused medication. We are doing Narcan training where you have at least some basic knowledge on how Narcan works. We distribute Narcan free of charge to family members no questions asked. The state has a standing order, anyone can go to any pharmacy without a prescription and request Narcan for them or their family members. So it’s really an outreach to keep people alive until we get them into treatment.

The other big component is the stigma reduction where too often people will say he can simply get off of that substance, whatever it might be, if he just wants to stop, he needs to get into his head. Problem is, this is a brain disorder this is a substance use disorder, it’s a brain chemistry issue with people and you simply can’t say well he’s an alcoholic he can stop drinking tomorrow if he wants to, he can stop smoking tomorrow if he wants to, he can stop taking painkillers if he wants to, he can stop shooting heroin if he wants to, it’s deeper than that. So it’s really getting out there into the community for people to understand that these folks are valuable members of our community and they need our help and support.

I’m County Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt, this election day I ask for your vote because Experience Matters.

Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt on Creating Walk to Work Jobs Mon, 07 Oct 2019 11:59:05 +0000 Government doesn’t create jobs government creates the environment for private sector to create jobs.

It’s very important for me that we create jobs in the urban core and the suburban area where there’s already infrastructure in place. There are certain brownfield sites like Glidden and NGK Metals and places that were industrial sites. That’s where we need to focus to create the walk to work jobs because we have a very, very good bus route system for people who don’t have a car that can get to work either by walking or taking public transit.

We need to focus on basically the city and five miles outside of the city to build our industrial base.

Recently we had a firm come in that’s based in California that recycles plastic water bottles and creates new plastic water bottles. They’re locating to Muhlenberg township which will create 120 new jobs in Berks County. We were able to successfully compete with Lehigh County to bring them to Berks County. We have to be smart about industrial growth, we have to make sure they’re along major arteries interstates, turnpike, 61, 222, 422, and we have to build where there is the infrastructure, where there’s the water, the electric, the gas and those sorts of resources.

I’m a big advocate of AG preservation, so we have to be able to blend AG preservation and development so that we can continue to grow the tax base.

Here’s a perfect example of walk to work, again it’s not in Reading but it’s right near Reading as Wyomissing in the Equus property of the old Vanity Fair site and the new medical center. You’re recreating the communities of a hundred years ago when people got their lunch pail and walk down the street to the factory.

They’re recreating that in West Reading and Wyomissing, we hope that that also spills over into Reading and other areas that people don’t have to rely on their car, they may not necessarily have to have a car, but they can walk to the grocery store, walk to shops, kids walk to school, so we don’t all just have to pile in the car and go somewhere.

I’m County Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt this election day I asked for your vote because Experience Matters.

Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt on the Creation of West Reading Main St. Tue, 01 Oct 2019 00:09:35 +0000 Prior to the designation of West Reading as a Main Street, businesses were leaving, they were not coming in. Now there’s a waiting list of people wanting to open their business on Penn Avenue.

One of my proudest accomplishments in my political history was when I was mayor of West Reading and being very instrumental in the creation of the West Reading Main Street and Elm Street programs. We were the first in Berks County. We put together a 10-point program for the entire community called the 2020 plan and one of those was the designated Main Street.

Over the last almost 20 years it’s really proven to be a very great investment. It has improved property values, created numerous jobs, created so many new business startups, and it’s really the go-to place in Berks County for events and activities.

Whenever somebody comes to town they say, “What is there to do?” and it’s “Let’s go to downtown West Reading!” Elm Street was basically an offshoot of Elm Street, the same kind of program with the state where you could designate a neighborhood. So we took what was the oldest neighborhood in West Reading that was built at the turn of the century 1900s and designated it as an Elm Street district.

A lot of facade improvements, a lot of streetlights, sidewalks, curbs, things that may not seem too sexy to people, but really has invigorated that area of the community as well as Main Street. The Fall Festival, the Arts on the Avenue, were just in their formative stages. The West Reading Farmers Market that’s on Sunday I was instrumental in creating that.

Why we did that on a Sunday was because many of the merchants were closed on a Sunday and we wanted to try to induce them to stay open to attract visitors and new people to downtown West Reading. Now quite honestly they’re all open on Sunday because there’s business to be done.

There’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears by a lot of people. Elected officials, appointed officials, merchants especially, and the residents of West Reading all came together in a real cooperative fashion. That was really kind of the highlight of my 24 years in West Reading was to see how, today, West Reading has flourished under the new Main Street program.

I’m County Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt this election day I asked for your vote because Experience Matters.

Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt on Berks County Taxes Mon, 23 Sep 2019 16:44:43 +0000 People assume like we don’t pay taxes. Believe me, I pay taxes.

To me, the major objective of being Berks County Commissioner is being a good steward of people’s tax dollars because they’re critically important not only to the taxpayer, but to the proper function of county government. With that being said, those tax dollars have to stretch a lot further because I’m very mindful of how it’s being spent.

Unfortunately, almost all the money that the county takes in is property tax, that’s how the county government functions. Until the state government gives us a different way to fund county government, we’re stuck with asking the property owners for money. Not through sales tax, not through income tax, but through property tax. That makes a lot onerous on people, especially seniors who are being taxed out of their homes.

We look at that very, very hard and make sure that we’re keeping our spending in check. We try to stay at or below inflationary rates because people aren’t getting increases in the community. Whether it’s fixed income, social security, or in some cases, community members who have gone without wage increases for many years, we have to understand that it’s impactful to people when you just haphazardly raise taxes because you’re not watching the store.

The most important thing we do is watch the money and make sure it’s being used in the most effective way possible. I treat the community’s tax dollars as if it’s my own because I am a taxpayer, so when I look at things, I look at it from the perspective of the taxpayer.

I’m County Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt, and this election day I ask for your vote because experience matters.

Future of Epler School Still Clouded Fri, 06 Sep 2019 21:46:42 +0000 Concerned residents who worked to delay demolition of Epler School are looking for ways to permanently spare the building.

A grassroots movement led by a retired Hamburg school teacher delayed — at least temporarily — the demolition of a one-room schoolhouse in Bern Township.

Now, they are trying to figure out their next move.

Meeting hosted by Kevin Barnhardt and Jane Goetz: Sept. 16th at 7 pm at the Berks County Heritage Center.

Please click here for the full story.

Berks County Recognized for Criminal Justice Programs Thu, 13 Jun 2019 21:40:50 +0000 The County Commissioner’s Association of Pennsylvania presented local leaders with two awards.

Steps taken by Berks County leaders to improve its criminal justice system are being recognized.

The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania presented local leaders with awards at the weekly commissioners meeting Thursday highlighting the successes of two programs.

Please click here for the full story.

Los Angeles Based CarbonLITE Holdings Slated to Build Processing Facility in Berks Tue, 14 May 2019 21:30:21 +0000 Bottle recycler to open $80 million facility in Muhlenberg Township, bringing more than 100 jobs

CarbonLITE Holdings LLC, a Los Angeles-based company that recycles used plastic bottles into material that can be used to make new ones, will open an $80 million facility in Muhlenberg Township that will employ over 100 people.

“Berks County Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt was engaged with the company from the beginning of the process, ensuring them that Berks County would welcome them to locate here. “Muhlenberg Township, Berks County and the GRCA pulled together to attract CarbonLITE and worked jointly for the betterment of the community and job creation for our residents.” — From 2019 Press Release

Please click here for the full story.