With so much going on around town, catch up on what you may have missed.
It’s Friday, October 16. Good news, West Chester! It looks like the proposed tax increase will go down again. Borough finance teams have been hard at work, and they have a new number for you. See where we are now. Plus, the Business Improvement District is looking for another five years, we get an update on the Borough’s parking situation – and there’s a new pizza place for you to try! Let’s get started.
Fightin’ for the right to party. This week Mayor Dianne Herrin released a small amendment to her state of emergency declaration that originally went into effect of October 2. No, she didn’t change the gathering requirements (still limited to 10 at private residences) nor did she change the mask requirement – must be worn if you can’t maintain six feet of distance from your neighbor, but she did add room for exceptions. Under the revised order, residents can now register and receive approval to host an event up to 25 people. To do so, you will need to complete a request form and submit it to the Mayor’s office a minimum of 48-hours in advance of the event. West Chester Police Department will be notified of all approved functions (so you don’t get fined.) Forms can be obtained from Emily Pisano at the Mayor’s office.
Check the couch cushions. Borough management, the Finance committee and the Financial Advisory Committee have all been hard at work all month on the Borough budget. As you’ll recall, when we last left it was still $669,875 short. You’ll also recall, Borough Management was able to reduce the original 32 percent tax increase to 13 percent by mostly readjusting some of their calculations, which were found by Borough Council to be a bit over conservative in some places. This time the cutting got much harder, but using a combination of cuts and expense adjustments, they were able to close the gap even further. If the proposed changes are accepted next week by Borough Council, the overages will stand at half and the proposed tax increase is now at 6 percent.
Some of the proposed cuts/reallocations include:
- Elimination of two police cars for a savings for $120,000
- Letting go four part-time dispatch for a savings of $35,360
- Reallocation of a Public Works salary to the Stream Protection Fee for a savings of $95,000
Can’t get enough of all this budget talk? Borough Council meets next week and rest assured all the latest details will be on the agenda. Working Session is Tuesday at 7 p.m. Voting session is Wednesday at 7 p.m. All meetings are virtual and you can find all the login details on the Borough website.
Parking revenue. When it was initially proposed that Gay Street be closed for the summer to allow for additional outdoor restaurant seating and shopping, there were concerns about parking, namely there would not be enough of it. This month we get a look at the downtown parking situation, two months into the Gay Street experiment and let’s just say it has not been an issue. According to the monthly Parking Garage Performance report, the average occupancy at the Bicentennial Garage was 50 percent for September; while the Chestnut Street Garage only saw 30 percent of its spaces filled. In both cases, occupancy levels were up slightly from August.
While the vacancies are not good for the Borough budget – parking garage revenues remain down $343,000 year to date, although up slightly against the reforecasted figures – it is certainly good news for those worried they’d be circling Borough streets looking for a spot should they come to town. So spread the word to your out-of-town friends, West Chester has a beautiful wide-open air market and plenty of parking to spare.
Also, on the parking committee agenda this week – consider allowing those with out-of-state registrations to apply for parking permits – but before you shoot off a hasty letter to your councilman or woman on the sanctity of maintaining parking levels know this item was quickly dropped. The brevity of the discussion is thanks, at least in part, to some thorough background provided by Ward 4 resident, Anne Carroll. Which can quickly be summarized as this: only residents of the Borough of West Chester qualify for West Chester parking permits and guest passes – and since the Borough is in Pennsylvania, you need a valid Pennsylvania registration and plates.
Fun fact: There are 2000 permit parking spaces in the Borough, for which over 5000 permits and guest passes are issued. (Figures from 2017)
Where do you see yourself in five years? West Chester’s Business Improvement District or simply BID as it is commonly known, is looking for five more years to keep doing what it’s doing. The BID whose mission is to “enhance the economic vitality of downtown” operates on a five-year term and that term is up at the end of the year unless it is renewed by Borough Council.
There is a public hearing next week to discuss all the details, but here are some of the highlights of their five-year plan:
- Engage in the redevelopment of the Pfizer property
- Preserve at risk historic buildings such as the Post Office and 100 block W. Market Street.
- Look into creating an active transportation plan, and continue to support and grow ride-sharing services, bike trails and restored rail to Philadelphia.
- Build on the burgeoning public arts program. Develop a public mural program and explore ideas for an alley beautification program.
- Develop a business recruitment strategy to help fill in some of the retail holes downtown- a nice independent bookstore anyone?
- Continue to build on the Clean and Green program.
Oh, and they are going to do a better job communicating. So when this conversation happens five years from now, we won’t be saying, “now what do they do, again?”
Hearing is scheduled for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. Detail available on the Borough website.
The warnings. Keep an eye on the pole position. This week Peco began removing and replacing over 100 power poles throughout the Borough. The work should take 4 to 6 weeks – and delay traffic everywhere.
Watch where you’re flying that thing. Late last week a drone was spotted flying low over The Learning Experience daycare center on Old Fern Hill Road. The drone was reported to be more sophisticated than your average hobbyist purchase and caught the attention of students and staff. The police were called to investigate.
Accolades. Congratulations to the Melton Center on their $95,000 grant from the John Humanick Family Foundation. The money will go towards supporting the community center’s programs such as its adult sports leagues and popular STEAM and leadership programs for students.
Also, Bravo to Andiario which was one of only three restaurants out of the city to make it onto Philadelphia Magazine’s list of 50 Best Restaurants 2020. And rank it did, coming in at number 12 among some high-profile company. For those of you still waiting to sample their much praised pasta dishes, hurry and get those reservations in now. Less than half of the restaurants on the best of list are currently open, so it won’t be long until desperate Philadelphians come flocking to the burbs.
Goodbye. To Library key cards. Now you can use the West Chester Public Library app to self-check out your books. Not only is the app easy to use but provides a contactless checkout option. A pandemic win- win for you and the public library staff. Want the app? Get it here.
To LaForno pizza at Bradford Avenue and Nields Street… I guess our pizza nights were not enough to keep you in business.
Hello. The Jack Loew Memorial Fountain at Marshall Square Park. After getting fairly seriously damaged in a spring storm, the fountain is now back up and running again. Take some time to enjoy its soothing sprays before it is turned off for the winter.
To West Chester Pizza, a new pizza option at a familiar location. New owners purchased the LaForno just last week and are changing the name as we speak. We’ve eaten at both and honestly I couldn’t tell a huge difference, but the eggplant and spinach pie from West Chester Pizza was good and extra-eggplant-y.
To Wrong Crowd Brewing. The nano-brewers are going micro with a permanent place to hang their hat and their sign, which is now hung at their new West Chester location. Opening is planned for the last week in October. Hoping to have more details on this exciting new development for you next week.
Pay it forward. This Saturday get supper settled while helping honor the memory of an amazing young woman with your purchase from America’s Pie. To celebrate what should have been Bianca Nikol’s 22nd birthday, the pizza place located in the Cambridge Square Shopping Center is donating 50 percent of the day’s profits to the Bianca Nikol Merge with Mercy Foundation.
Got a little Martha Stewart in ya just waiting to get out? In anticipation of all the holiday events that won’t be this year, West Chester Public Library is looking to add a new one. Keep your eye out for the first ever West Chester Holiday Door tour. So far they have around 40 participants signed up but they are looking for a few more doors (and porches) to round out their festive walk through town. If you’d like to be a stop on the tour, contact Library Development Manager, Clare Quinn, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The “Door Tour” will run for eight days from Saturday, December 5 to Saturday, December 12, 2020. (All religious/ethnic traditions welcome!)
The freakin’ weekend. What are you up to this weekend? Boys are getting a jump on the pumpkin carving and if the weather stays nice we are finally getting out to complete the Library’s story walk.
Mark your calendars
Looking for a safe way to celebrate Halloween? West Chester Railroad is hosting its annual Halloween train ride this weekend. As always the family friendly event encourages costumes and kiddos can even collect a few treats when you disembark for a brief 20 minute stop at the Glen Mills station. However now you can also expect a few COVID-19 modifications. Tickets must be purchased ahead of time and check in will be paperless – have your ticket handy on your smartphone. Trains will run at 50 percent capacity and masks will be required at all times. Tickets are available at wcrailroad.com.
Also this is the final weekend in the West Goshen Park and Rec drive in movie series in the old KMart parking lot. This week they are showing Frozen 2. Movie starts at 7:30. The event is free but you must register in advance. Word to the wise: bring the popcorn but hold the soda – there are no bathrooms available onsite.
Stay safe. Stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
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P.S. Looking for a dinner reservation? Here is your guide.