With so much going on around town. Catch up on what you may have missed.
It’s Friday, April 17. Coronavirus has not hit its peak, the Borough of West Chester is nearly out of money, and I am nearly out of my COVID-19 wine stash, but we say hello to a new chief of police, furloughed employees get their benefits back and good news for the Everhart Park playground project. This week has some good to go with your bad as self-isolation rages on.
“We are not at the peak yet.”
-Jeanne Casner, Director Chester County Health Department
Just keep your distance. New this week, the state has made wearing face masks mandatory to conduct any essential business including going to the grocery store or pharmacy. On the plus side, the Governor also gave the okay to open 106 state stores to online sales.
Locally cases of the coronavirus continue to grow. The Chester County Health Department reported this week that in their estimation the county has not yet reached peak cases. To date, Chester County has 722 confirmed cases of the virus and 26 deaths. This includes 20 cases and one death reported in the Borough.
Curious what COVID-19 is like? Read the experience of one West Chester family.
“I think we have caused a lot of stress for those people who were laid off and now have spent some time thinking they didn’t have access to affordable healthcare.”
–Nick Allen, Borough Council Member
It’s a troubled time for the Borough. In March the Borough of West Chester quietly laid off 32 employees and furloughed eight others. The 32 employees that were laid off were left without health insurance. Then the Borough realized that was a pretty heartless thing to do in the middle of the health crisis.
At Wednesday’s Borough Council Meeting by a vote of 6 to 1 abstained, they voted to restore health benefits to those workers. Under the new agreement, the Borough will pay the premiums for those employees at a cost of $800 a month. This will be re-evaluated on a monthly basis. Also, should someone decide not to take their job back if offered it by the Borough, they would be responsible for reimbursing the Borough for that $25.
Not to say the Borough’s money troubles aren’t real. According to an article this week in the Daily Local, the Borough is running seriously low on cash, so low, they may not be able to pay police officers’ salaries through the end of the month. The Borough generates nearly $400,000 a month in parking fees and nearly all of that income has dried up.
To help free up cash and lower financial obligations, the Borough Council discussed implementing an Emergency Resolution that would call for the halting of all non-essential purchases including purchases of new equipment, deferring of payment on capital projects until 2021 and freezing the hiring of any new employees.
“While many of us expected this decision…, it’s not what we’d hope to hear.”
-James Scanlon, WCASD Superintendent
School’s out for summer. While, not actually a surprise, it still hit parents like a ton of bricks. Last week it was made official. Pennsylvania schools will be closed for the remainder of the year.
Emergency online remote learning will continue. Nothing much else (prom, graduation, left belongings) has been decided. The school district has followed up with a survey to parents hoping to get some guidance on how best to proceed from here. The survey is live through the end of day today if you are a parent and wish to weigh in.
Let me give you a hand. Benchmark Federal Credit Union announced last week it will be expanding on the federal small business loan program offering one million in interest-free loans to Chester County business owners. The West Chester-based credit union is offering the loans in addition or as an alternative to the federal government’s SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). One thing to note, the loans require a lien to be put on the business owner’s primary residence, and the applicant(s) must qualify for the loan. This is to protect Credit Union members from undue risk. If you’re interested in learning more, complete the short loan application or give them a call at: (610) 429‐1600.
The show must go on. This week West Chester University students kept the 24-year old tradition, Banana Day, going, from a distance of course…
Have mask, will travel. The Mayor’s Office has launched a grocery shopping service for elderly and high risk residents. Volunteers are heading to Giant or Acme and picking up and delivering much needed supplies for the homebound. The new West Chester Shopping Service successfully logged their first trip last Friday. If you would like to help out, shoot an email to Emily Pisano at EPisano@west-chester.com. (If you need help, I would reach out to that same address). The service is especially needed now as online ordering and store pickup is overwhelmed and currently at least a two week wait.
Don’t forget to support your local papers. Yes, the Daily Local has made its online COVID-19 coverage available to all residents, but that doesn’t mean its writers don’t need a paycheck.
This week you could find stories on how to make your own mask, the Borough budget crisis, and the challenges for local food pantries.
The warnings. Fire does not respect social distancing mandates. The West Chester Fire Department reported to a building fire this week at the Burger King located on the 400 block of S. High Street.
Watch your step. A damaged manhole was recently discovered in John O. Green Park. Borough Council voted this week to fund the repair. In the meantime, be careful when visiting the park.
Alone time can be stressful. If you are feeling sad or anxious right now, the Chester County Department of Mental Health wants to remind you there is always someone at the Chester County Warm Line ready to listen. Call for 1-800-846-2722 if you want to talk.
Need a little good news for a change? Check out all these cool ways people are giving back!
Chester County Masketeers. This Facebook group, with hands down, the best name out there, was started by local residents who wanted to do their part by sewing face masks and distributing to essential county employees.If you’re handy with the needle and thread, they are looking for more members.
Restaurant worker Go Fund Me closing in on $4000! Borough resident Mike Schuster started and seeded a Go Fund Me campaign to help support local restaurant workers. The money will be dispersed on a bi-weekly basis to workers who have lost their job due businesses being closed in response to the coronavirus. If you would like to be the one to push them over the 4K mark, here is the link to contribute. If you are a restaurant worker who relies on tips who has been laid off as a result of the pandemic, email Mr. Schuster to get your name added to the list of recipients.
See all of this week’s Good News.
“Thank you to the Morehead family for sharing Jim, because he is going to be very busy as the chief of police.”
–Bernie Flynn, Borough Council Member
Accolades. Congratulations (and thank you) to James Morehead who was sworn in as West Chester Borough’s new Chief of the Police at Wednesday’s Borough Council meeting.
Also, high-fives to the Friends of Everhart Park who was recently awarded a grant up to $90,000 in support of the new Everhart Park playground improvement project. Zipline here we come! They are still accepting donations, big and small, go to their website if you’d like to contribute.
Hello. To earth week. April 22 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. In honor of the milestone, Mayor Dianne Herrin has declared April 20 to 26 Earth week in West Chester.
To professional haircuts for your dog. Champions barber shop is expanding to offer hair care services for your furry companions (co-workers, classmates, dinner dates…) Cuts coming summer 2020 (fingers-crossed.)
Goodbye. To parking fees – The Borough Parking Services has announced it is allowing any monthly parkers to suspend their parking during this time of need. If you would like to suspend your account, notify the Borough and they will stop payments until you decide to reinstate your parking. Know you will not lose your space, as the Borough will hold all spaces during this time.
The freakin’ weekend. What are you up to this weekend? We are going to celebrate the return of our go-to sushi place. Then on Saturday, we are going to don our masks and head out to the farm to grab some milk, eggs, and reinforcements on ice cream. (I am beginning to notice my quarantine life centers a lot around food…)
Whatever you do, I hope you stay safe and distanced. If self-isolation is getting you down, this week I gathered all the Good News stories I could find from around the Borough. Writing it made me smile, hopefully, reading it will do the same. If you have a story, please send it my way. I would love to keep sharing.
Finally, if you are new here, follow along. We’d love to have you join us.