With so much going on around town, catch up on what you may have missed.
It’s Friday, October 23. A popular downtown restaurant is forced to close after a COVID positive, the Mayor’s state of emergency order stands but is modified, and we get a look at policing in the Borough. Plus, elementary students finally see their classrooms and it’s WCU homecoming. Whatever that means this year. Grab your purple and gold and avoid Walnut Street. Who’s ready? Let’s go.
Sorry, Aunt Lucy, maybe next year. In case you missed it, earlier this week Borough Council held a public hearing on Mayor Dianne Herrin’s State of Emergency Order. Up for debate: extend the order or end it now. A measured defense was presented by the mayor and the Borough’s solicitor including witness testimony from local doctors, West Chester Chief of Police, representatives from the local senior living centers and the presentation of a resident petition that had at last count garnered over 400 residents. A less organized rebuttal was then presented by a few passionate residents in attendance and perhaps, several more offline. In the end, Borough Council narrowly voted to uphold the ordinance 4 to 3.
Details of the NEW State of Emergency Order
- The ordinance now allows gatherings of up to 15 people at residences but there will be no exceptions.
- The ordinance will last for 60 days, but will be reviewed by Council at their November meeting at which time it could be repealed should numbers improved.
- Mask ordinance stands as originally outlined; if you are within 6 feet of another individual you don’t live with you must wear your mask. However, there are exemptions for recreational physical activities, as long as they involve 10 people or fewer, as well as for voting.
Do note that Thanksgiving falls within the first 30 days, so plan accordingly.
Sorry we’re closed. SideBar announced yesterday it was closing through 5 p.m. today after an employee there tested positive for COVID-19. The employee was always masked and showing no symptoms while working. The closure is being taken out of an abundance of caution.
A very un-homecoming weekend. In another year, this weekend would have marked the return of the West Chester Football team. This year however, the football team, like most of us, has been nowhere but home. That said the question remains, will the students and their unaffiliated roommates pick up the mantle and continue homecoming traditions? Namely descending on town pretty drunk around 4 p.m.? The university has planned a variety of events including a virtual comedy show, a Zoom street fest, a Coaches roundtable and a virtual parade on Saturday.
There is also evidence that students are starting to get the message or at least tire of the fines. According to reports from the Chief of Police and the Mayor last week, calls to the police department and cases of COVID-19 have both been down among 18 to 22 year olds over the last two weeks. The University for their part has been active in their outreach encouraging all students to follow CDC regulations, switching to tele-health services and instituting a case management approach should a student test positive.
“Communication has been key,” said Dr. Julie Dietrich, Executive Director for external relations at West Chester University.
In defense of the police. West Chief of Police James Morehead took to Borough Council this week to defend the size of his force and advocate its return to pre-2020 levels which he explained was already reduced by national standards. He also shared the department’s cost cutting measures in 2020 including $457,901 in reductions in salaries and cuts of $225,500. While impressive, it seems most of the savings will not continue over to 2021.
A quick recap – police staffing levels by the numbers:
- In 2019 the West Chester Police department had 44 officers. According to a national formula to determine staffing levels, this is 2 officers below recommended levels.
- At the beginning of 2020 WCPD temporarily lost 2 additional officers to injury and deployment and another to retirement. Leaving the force down 3 officers.
- Recently WCPD announced the retirement of 3 additional officers and another in January.
- By the end of 2020, the WCPD will be down 7 officers.
Chief Moorehead shared the reduced staffing levels are not sustainable long term and continuing to run at reduced levels will have tradeoffs. Below are the chief’s staffing recommendations and realities.
- Recommended: Return West Chester Police Department to 2019 levels, or 44 officers. Allow for more proactive policing.
- A loss of one officer: Services could continue as is, as long as call volumes remain low.
- A loss of two officers: Services could continue as is for a short period of time.
- A loss of three officers: services to the Borough would need to be adjusted. A cut would likely occur in the areas of traffic patrol or Vice.
Police funding is just one more tough discussion Borough Council will likely have to make as the deadline to a final budget ticks nearer. And speaking of…
A tale of two residential price increases. Last week the Finance Committee was presented a revised version of the 2021 Borough budget. After using a combination of cuts, expense adjustments and project deferrals, Borough staff was able to cut the deficit in half. As it stands now, the budget remains over by slightly more than $330,000. This would require a 6 percent property tax increase to cover (down significantly from the 32 percent we were initially given).
However, part of the revenue needed to close the budget gap is coming from an increase in the sewer rate. According to a presentation by the Borough Finance committee, a 15.8% increase in sewer rates is needed to cover capital costs and maintain infrastructure. This translates to a roughly $50/year increase for regular sewer users a $62/year increase for power users.
This week the proposed changes were accepted by Borough Council and the revised budget will be advertised in the Daily Local in preparation for a public hearing to be held in December. Next month look for a continued discussion around whether both price increases should be enacted in the same year or if one should potentially be delayed until next budget season.
Five more 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 it 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.
This week the Borough Council reviewed the plan and gave it their 6-0 endorsement. They also commended Executive Director John O’Brien on the job he has done leading the downtown district through the pandemic. The plan has a little something for everyone including a mix of redevelopment, preservation, business recruitment, transportation development, public arts and green infrastructure.
Intrigued? You can find the full plan here.
Note: while Borough Council approval is an important next step, it does not mean the reauthorization plan is final. The plan is now open for a 45-day public comment period. After which the final approval will be voted on.
The warnings. Drive carefully. Multiple mornings of fog, rain, and mist have left roads especially slippery in the morning. West Chester Police Department have already responded to two overturned vehicles this week – one on East Marshall Street and one on Lenape Road – don’t be the next one.
Accolades. Congratulations to West Chester Area School District on ranking in the top 50 school districts in the state. Of the 500 districts, WCASD ranks 27th according to the latest rankings from Niche.com. West Chester was applauded for its academics, teachers, clubs, college prep and health and safety. The only knock came on diversity.
Also, congratulations on getting through the first week of hybrid instruction. I know my little learners were excited to be back in the classroom. It’s been a tough year for teachers and administrators so happy to bring some good news.
High fives to the electrophysiology team at Chester County Hospital. This week they implemented the hospital’s first Medtronic MICRA AV Leadless Pacemaker. Now I don’t know exactly what that means, but I know it’s good news for those with heart concerns!
Finally, a hearty pat on the back to Officer Long who taught us all a little something about policing last week.
Goodbye. To Lulu’s Casita. A fave among the toddler set, the indoor play area/party destination/parent sanity break, has not been able to make a post COVID-19 return. While I could not get confirmation the close is permanent, their Ardmore location has been open since July and a customer facing business that doesn’t return calls or messages from their target demographic, isn’t a good sign.
To 2020 – with a Collective Reflective retrospective from the Public Arts Commission. The first installment aired last week. If you missed or can’t get enough, a second edition is being broadcast Saturday at the square at 44 West (corner of Gay and Church Streets). So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, 2020.
to Level 13 gaming. Word is West Chester’s first and only egaming destination is no more. I guess everyone’s back to their basements.
Hello. To a new place to drop those old prescriptions. West Chester Police Department has a new Medication Drop-Off Box located in the lobby of the Borough Building on Gay Street. Prescription and over-the-counter pills, liquids (in a sealed container), patches and creams are all accepted. It’s been a trying year for a lot of people. Get rid of old prescriptions now, so you or someone you love isn’t tempted to numb the pain with a trip to the medicine cabinet later.
Hiya to Buy Nothing East Bradford Township. Our neighbors to the west now have their own Buy Nothing Group. If you live in between 322 bypass to the north, Creek Road to the west, Brinton’s Bridge Road to the south and Bradford Avenue to the east, just answer a few questions and join this fun, neighborly group.
Not familiar with Buy Nothing groups? You can learn more about West Chester’s very own here.
Finally, say hello to the holiday catalogue. We got ours from Monkey Fish Toys this week. Only 63 days of magic to go.
Pay it forward. In your dose of feel good news for the week: Benchmark Federal Credit Union ponied up $10,000 to pay the Chamber of Commerce membership dues for 34 small businesses and nonprofits in Chester County that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. “We want to be sure that our neighboring businesses can continue to rely on the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce as a valuable resource,” Benchmark Federal Credit Union President and CEO Daniel J. Machon, Jr. said in a statement.
Want to do your own good deed and look good doing it? Jake’s is offering its iconic t-shirt in poppin’ pink for a limited time. $15 and all proceeds go to Unite for Her in West Chester. Follow the Insta post above for details.
The freakin’ weekend. What are you up to this weekend? This Saturday we’ll be heading to Everhart Park with our rakes to help with the annual fall clean up. If you have a fave park, with perhaps not as much organized support, may I suggest heading over for an impromptu clean up of your own? I don’t know about the park’s by you but I’ve noticed all the added outdoor activities has led to a lot of additional trash.
Mark your calendars:
Mae’s is hosting a Funk and Farm Friday event tonight. All you need is a reservation. They provide the funk by way of the Philadelphia power funk trio, “Package.”
Looking for safer Halloween options:
This Sunday Aventura at Pembrooke in partnership with the West Goshen Police is hosting a drive-through trick-or-treat event through their parking lot. Event runs from 1 to 4 p.m. Registration is required.
West Chester library is hosting a spooky read aloud book club. The club is geared towards readers 9 to 14 and promises to be scary. There are two sessions left before Halloween.
And for those of you with fur babies, Three Dog Bakery on West Chester Pike is hosting an Ice Scream Social this Sunday from 11 to 4 p.m.. Costumes encouraged. Pup treats provided. Cost $5 per dog.
Stay safe. Stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
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