West Chester Weekly News Roundup

With so much going on around town, catch up on what you may have missed.

It’s a beautiful fall in the neighborhood.

Editor’s note: Apologies for the typos and copy errors in the original version of this post. I rushed this one out without a proper proof and it showed. Also, thanks to all who noticed and refrained from calling out publicly. 🙂

It’s Friday, October 2.  Another unexpected expense hits West Chester’s fragile budget plan. Plus, a false letter distributed under the cover of night in the Mayor’s name, how West Chester University counts COVID-19 cases and could the Borough finally be getting its own grocery store? Want just the facts (ok, and maybe, a snarky comment or two)? Stay off the Facebook groups and get your news here. 

Malfunctioning lights are causing another headache for the borough.

Lights out (and on again) in the Borough.  Is West Chester getting hit by Y2K – two decades too late? First the parking meters and now the lights are being beseeched by software issues. Recently street lights in the Borough have been reported to be flickering, changing intensity and turning on when they are supposed to be off, off when they should be on. Well, it turns out another software issue is now affecting the individual light poles (not the light bulbs so swapping them out will not solve the problem). 

According to a statement posted on the Borough website, “Neither the Public Works Department nor our electrical contractor can take immediate corrective measures, as the system requires a new software platform, therefore there is no quick fix.” 

So that’s the current situation. Now you want the good news or the bad news? Let’s start with the good news, as we can probably all guess the bad. 

Good news: West Chester Public Works Department thinks they have found a solution to the problem and they are testing that solution now. 

Bad news: Installation could take into spring and the cost of upgrading the over 1000 light posts in the Borough will not be cheap — and not currently accounted for in the Borough’s already fragile 2021 budget. Maybe it’s time to revisit that dark skies initiative?  

Speaking of things we need in the budget and those we don’t. The Financial Advisory Committee, a resident-run advisory group to West Chester Borough Council, would like to know what you like about living in the Borough, which services you use and which you could do without. Seeing the group is facing the difficult task of making recommendations to Borough Council on how to address the still sizable budget deficit, taking a few minutes to fill out their survey could be well worth your time. The survey is being distributed throughout the Borough by Borough Council members, park groups and neighborhood organizations or you can find it here. No matter how it finds its way to you, just make sure to complete the survey only once. 

Announced this week, West Chester University will remain virtual through the spring semester.

Can I check your math? As you are likely aware by now there has been a spike in COVID-19 cases reported among Borough of West Chester residents ages 18-22. West Chester University students you presume? Well, WCU is saying not so fast. West Chester University recently changed how it’s reporting COVID-19 cases. Under the revised calculations the university is now reporting only 22 confirmed cases between August 17 and October 4. This is in comparison to the 79 cases originally reported between August 17 and September 18 when the reporting system was revised. The new counting methodology no longer breaks students out by on-campus and off-campus but only as students and faculty. Students are defined as having been on the WCU campus within the past 14 days. The original numbers included “off-campus” students, defined as any students enrolled in the University whether or not they had contact with the University campus.

The new reporting criteria seems to be distancing the University from the growing COVID outbreak among college-aged adults in the Borough. The University is currently hosting about 700 inperson students on campus however, common areas such as the library, student center and cafeterias remain open to all students as long as COVID-19 requirements are followed. That said, with the majority of classes virtual there is not much need for most students to physically be on campus.

While you can’t conclusively tie West Chester’s COVID infections to WCU students, spread of the virus among 18-22 has been especially concerning since classes resumed in August. The numbers have been so troubling, last Friday West Chester Mayor Dianne Herrin issued a State of Emergency limiting gatherings at private residences to 10 people; and mandating the wearing of masks whenever you are within six feet of someone who is not a member of your household. Each violation can be met by a $300 fine issued by Borough Police. 

In her explanation for the need for the new safety mandates Mayor Herrin pointed to COVID-19 infection rates recorded by Chester County during the months of August and September. From August to September cases rose among 18-22 nearly 240 percent – ballooning from 88 cases in August to 299 reported cases in September. The near 300 cases represents just under 70 percent of all cases reported in the Borough. Another interesting fact, only 24 cases were reported among 23 to 29 year olds, a mere fraction of their younger cohorts. 

The emergency order will remain in effect until the Mayor removes it, amends it, or Borough Council takes further action. There is currently a group attempting to mount a legal challenge to the order but at last check it had not gained a lot of traction. Love it or hate it, a  less expensive course of action is probably to reach out to your local Councilman or woman or the mayor directly to discuss concerns.

Update: In a revised policy issued on Monday, Mayor Herrin outlined a process for getting a private event of over 10-people held at a private residence exempt from the order.   

Will this never end? This week, citing spikes of COVID-19 cases in many states and the seasonal onset of the flu, West Chester University president Christopher Fiorentino said the University would remain virtual with some hybrid classes through the spring semester. The University also took, perhaps, the more surprising step of cancelling all sports for the year. “No one is playing. Everything is shut down,” Daily Local reporter Neil Geoghegan quoted WCU men’s basketball coach Damien Blair as saying.  

“Given that the infection rate remains relatively isolated… I support the West Chester Area School District’s current plan to move to hybrid instruction.”

West Chester Mayor Dianne Herrin
Buses will be back in near full force one week from Monday.

Thankfully not everyone is waiting until spring to make their return. (Late) last Tuesday the West Chester Area School Board voted 6 to 3 in favor of moving forward with the hybrid instructional plan put forth by the school district. As you’ll recall under the hybrid plan students will begin returning for two days a week in person starting on October 19 for the elementary students; and November 5 for secondary students. Then on Friday, the West Chester Mayor enacted her State of Emergency limiting residential gathering to 10 people or fewer. 

Clearly a school would require more than 10 people to gather together, however earlier this week Mayor Herrin issued a second letter, clarifying the effect of the State of Emergency on the reopening of schools, which is to say, there would be none. “Given that the infection rate remains relatively isolated, and the WCPD and I are taking measures to contain viral spread and protect public health, I support the West Chester Area School District’s current plan to move to hybrid instruction,” the letter stated. 

“I would rather lose by the truth than win by deceit.” 

Len Iacono, Dianne Herrin’s opponent for PA State Representative
Split decision: passions are running high this election season but remember you’ll still be neighbors on Nov. 4, so keep it civil.

The warnings. Don’t believe everything you read. This week the misinformation campaign went local and old school when a printed letter attributed to Mayor Dianne Herrin was distributed to residents and businesses in the Borough. The fake letter claims a whole manner of errors including the Mayor’s executive COVID-19 order came at the behest of Governor Wolf, masks mandates are political gold mines and purview is spelled pervue. 

The West Chester Police Department is currently investigating the matter. 

The letter was also strongly condemned by Len Iacono, Dianne Herrin’s opponent for PA State Representative. In a comment posted to the West Chester Police Department Facebook page, Mr. Iacono stated: “Two things are upsetting regarding this election- the loss of truth and integrity, mainly through the use of outrage and misleading techniques. These types of deplorable tactics do not bode well for the future of our district. Elections should be based upon informed decisions, not lies and mistruths.”

Well said, sir.

If you received a copy of the letter or have any information about the sender please, contact Detective Billie at 610-436-1337 or at sbillie@west-chester.com

Your account is overdue. Reminder your Q3 Stream Protection Fee payments were due last week. Not sure if you’re up to date? Mail spf@west-chester.com to check your balance. Curious where these fees are going? Borough Council has promised an update on Stormwater Management projects shortly. I’m pretty interested myself. 

Friends of Everhart Park got a jump start on the natural component of the new playground when a large tree fell in the park this spring.

Accolades. High fives to the Friends of Everhart Park (FOEP) who recently learned they received an $183,000(!!!) grant from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “That is something to celebrate as it puts us that much closer to realizing our dream of our new amazing playground,” Susan Frens said in a letter to the group’s membership. 

If all goes as planned (a big if these days), FOEP will break ground on the new playground in spring 2021. If you would to add your support to the project, visit the FOEP website for details. If you would like to see the proposed design, you can find it here.

Finally, “salud” to Beiler’s Bakery at the Amish Market and Yori’s Bakery on Church Street both which were selected as among the best places to get donuts in the Philly Suburbs by Main Line Today. May have to help them celebrate with a homemade boston cream. Yum. 

Hello. To your very own community-owned, full-service grocery store! Ok, not exactly yet but West Chester Cooperative has some good news. The member-owned group recently signed a lease on its future home: 142 E. Market Street! While they are not ready to stock the shelves yet, the new location will serve as the pick up location for Go Box, CSA, Local Food Program and other Co-op initiatives.   

QQ – Who’s the West Chester Cooperative again? West Chester Co-op is a group of 300 member-owners trying to bring a full service grocery store to downtown West Chester. The need was increased last year with the closing of the Great Pumpkin health food store. Now they are just 300 members and some supplies short of making it happen. Interested in joining the team? They are always looking for new members. Have questions? Email them here

Say ‘“hi” to Classic Kitchen’s at their new Market Street location. After issues with flooding, the premier kitchen and bath remodelers (their words) are leaving Gay Street and heading to higher ground. The new showroom is located at 622 E. Market Street right next to Sterling Pig Brewery. The showroom is still being finalized but their knowledgeable staff has moved in and is ready to take appointments. Fun fact: Classic Kitchens has been serving West Chester residents since 1981.

Finally, curious what’s going up on the corner of Market and Bolmar? Sorry, it’s not a Chick-fil-A. It’s a new drive thru bank. Just what you always wanted.

Goodbye. To Imperio Mayo. The Mexican grocery store and taqueria on Market Street is closed, a “For Rent” sign visible in the window.

To Bob St. Clair, father of West Chester Rustin football coach Mike St. Clair. As Rustin football fans and players know, the elder St. Clair was a sideline regular, assisting his son since 2006. Our condolences to Coach St. Clair and his family. 

Finally say goodbye to the West Chester PD’s National Night Out Against Crime. The event was supposed to take place this past Tuesday but updated COVID-19 regulations led to a last minute cancellation. Plan for it to return in 2021.

Pay it forward. Last week the Westminster Presbyterian Church in West Chester got together and donated 441.5 pounds of personal care items to the West Chester Food Cupboard. While that’s a lot, I am sure they can always use more. Want to donate? Go here

Curious on how to raise more for your nonprofit? The Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce is hosting a panel series to help nonprofits thrive or at least survive during COVID. Topics covered include: generating revenue in the virtual world of COVID-19 and spending wisely in a time of uncertainty.

First session takes place Monday at 12 p.m. To sign up, visit greaterwestchester.com or click here.

Have you checked out the new fountain outside 44 West? It’s on the corner of Church and Gay Street and it’s now the place to be on a Saturday morning.

The freakin’ weekend. What are you up to this weekend? We are meeting some friends in the park and heading to Highland Orchards to pick out our pumpkins. I’m also trying to convince Chris to run out and pick me up one of these – and these look delicious as well. I love fall foods.

Mark your calendars

This Thursday evening West Chester University is hosting a virtual symphony orchestra event. Listen live for free. The event is part of an effort by West Chester University to bring virtual concerts to residents and audiences around the world. 

Plus, planning to go for dinner this weekend? Check this list of Open and Certified West Chester restaurants first.

Stay safe. Stay healthy and I’ll see you next week. 

New to the blog? Follow along for a (mostly) commentary free review of everything happening in West Chester.

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