With so much going on around town, catch up on what you may have missed.
It’s Friday, December 18. Protect the streets or pay the bills? Borough Council was faced with some tough choices this week as budgetary woes came into direct conflict with police needs. Plus, a bunch of ways to pay it forward this holiday season and Saloon 151 aims to make you merry with their new cocktails in a can. Grab your drink of choice and let’s say goodbye to 2020.
The police chief versus the Borough budget. This week the need to protect and serve came in direct conflict with West Chester’s budgetary woes caused by the pandemic. Over the course of the year between a combination of retirement (7) and leave (3), the West Chester Police Department is now down 10 officers or nearly 25 percent of its force. The Police Chief is asking for five of the officers to be replaced as soon as possible.
“I can not run a police force down 25 percent,” Chief Moorehead told the Council Members, in an at times tense Borough Council meeting this week.
At the same time Borough Council is facing its own problems with a revenue stream (parking) that is down significantly for the year, so much so, the Borough will need to borrow against the pending tax increase just to pay its bills.
“We will have a nearly $600,000 deficit by December 31,” Councilman Bernie Flynn informed his colleagues at Tuesday’s Working Session.
To cover existing expenses and pay for the needed police officers until tax revenues kick in, the Borough will need to obtain a tax anticipation note (TAN), or a short term note a municipality issues against future revenue. The need for some sort of TAN was undisputed, the amount however was. The more officers approved the more the Borough would need to borrow.
In the end, Borough Council settled on a compromise. Four officers will be hired immediately, a fifth sometime after revenues start coming in again probably sometime this spring, and the anticipated loan amount will increase from $2.2 million to $2.5 million. This note will need to paid back in full by the end of 2021, so let’s all hope for a change in fortunes next year.
You got this? West Chester Borough is looking at moving away from a professionally managed pension fund. In a proposal brought to Council this week, management would be turned over to a mostly volunteer team made up of borough residents, borough personnel and union members. The switch could net as much as $300,000 a year in savings for the pension fund, or the amount of the annual fee paid to Public Financial Management to manage the fund. It would also allow the Borough more flexibility in how they invested their funds. “Cookie cutter” was how Councilman Bernie Flynn described PFM’s approach.
While it might sound like a bit of a leap, there is evidence of other municipalities having success with this model, Lower Merion township, for one, has used this approach for decades, and while who’s in charge would change, the approach would likely stay the same: a diversified mix of mutual funds, stocks, bonds and index funds. The plan could provide a win-win opportunity assuming the Borough has a group of residents on hand with experience managing funds. “As long as we have borough residents with expertise in investing pensions, it’s a great way to move nimbly, and react to changing market conditions,” Borough Manager Mike Perrone told the Daily Local.
This week Borough Council gave their ok to explore the matter further. Look for a full proposal sometime next year and Bernie warned, don’t expect any changes before Q4 2021. So, no financial savings until 2022.
Spreading the love around. Fortunately not all fee and tax increases are targeting residents, Public Works is also looking at a series of modest increases to its fee schedule for 2021. These increases will mainly affect developers and utility companies. Among the fee increases Borough Council approved are: street opening permits; curb cutting permits, and dumpster permits. There is also a new fine for operating without a proper permit.
Shine bright, West Chester. Ok, so maybe borough financials aren’t looking great, but the downtown sure is. In place of the Christmas parade, QVC has partnered with the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce to make sure West Chester really sparkles this year. The new initiative which is called, QVC Lights Up West Chester, includes special lighting, bows on lampposts, and an FM radio loop complete with classic Christmas tunes. In addition to the decorations, Santa has been making a stop every Saturday at 2:30 p.m. chauffeured by the West Chester Fire Department. The hope is the additional decorations and festivities will draw visitors and shoppers downtown. If you would like to check it out for yourself, Lights Up West Chester is up now until New Year’s on Gay Street from Matlack to Darlington Streets. Santa, however, makes his last visit on Saturday.
The warnings. Slippery when wet. This week’s Nor’easter left the roads dangerously slick. West Chester Borough Police and Fire responded to at least one incident of a flipped car but countless reports of slick roads came through on social media and they are likely to continue while temps stay cold. And speaking of snow etiquette…
Watch where you park that car. West Chester Police Department issued a reminder to motorists this week, “Vehicles can not be parked more than 12” from the curb… The curb not the snow bank.” While it can sometimes be difficult to find the curb on snowy days like these, this is important to make sure you do so fire trucks and EMS can sneak through West Chester’s already narrow streets.
Don’t stop watering that tree. Also a warning this week from the West Chester Borough Fire Department. If you have a once-live Christmas drive keep giving it water. Hundreds of fires are started each year by dry and flammable trees. A well-watered tree, on the other hand, is not a problem.
Watch those packages. Finally this week West Chester police are investigating another incident of stolen packages from the porch of a West Chester residence — this time on the 200 block of Dana Drive. A male suspect was spotted in a dark colored PT Cruiser with loud exhaust and graphics on the side of the car. Sounds like he was really lying low.
A round of applause to West Chester-based Center for Performing and Fine Arts student Wallis Schriver on her surprise Christmas hit seen above.
Accolades. Bravo to Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center. The West Chester theater company has received a generous $50,000 grant from the Chester County Community Foundation (CCCF) and Chester County Commissioners (CCC) in support of the venue’s ongoing “Raise Up The Curtain” initiative. It’s been a tough year for live performance, so Uptown is doing all the can to make sure the show goes on (next year). If you’d like to help out, you can donate here.
Also congratulations to Two Birds Cafe, who has just celebrated their one-year anniversary. Two Birds Cafe is a seasonal scratch kitchen offering breakfast and lunch on Downingtown Pike (where Mrs. Mike’s used to be). If you haven’t been yet, this is the perfect time to pick something up and congratulate them on a most unusual first year.
Goodbye. To boring Stream Protection Fee envelopes. This year the Borough invested in branded envelopes in hopes the fee statements will get noticed. The statements, which are set to be mailed this week, end up hitting households during the height of holiday mail and have had a tendency to get lost in the shuffle. Public Works is hoping with the new flashy envelopes that will not happen this year. Also, new this year, the statements will let you know if you have an outstanding balance from previous years (when you misplaced the envelope amid the holiday chaos.) And just because it is still not entirely clear what projects this fee is funding, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay it. Unpaid balances will lead to late fees and eventually collections.
Hello. To some fresh faces at Borough commission meetings. This week Borough Council appointed eight new members to a variety of West Chester commissions including Public Arts, Library Board, Historical and Human Relations. It is nice to see so many people stepping up to help out the community, but more help is needed. If you are interested in lending a hand, email Dana DiDomenico, Assistant to the Borough Manager, to see what is still available.
To cocktails-to-go 2.0. Sure cocktails-to-go have been a thing since this summer, but now Saloon 151 is upping the mobile cocktail game and offering your favorite combinations canned for your transporting and consumption ease. Enjoy straight from the can or over ice.
Pay it forward. In light of the new lockdown orders, downtown businesses were made to close their (indoor) dining rooms and in doing so forced to lay off many service workers just before the holiday. To help offset some of the lost wages and just lend support and goodwill during this challenging time, the Classic Diner in partnership with Feed Us West Chester has created a holiday tip jar where you can leave a tip in support of your favorite server or bartender. The tips will be dispersed equally among the furloughed staff of participating restaurants.
You can give through the link here or there are collections sites at various businesses downtown. Donations are being collected through 12/25.
Another option is to give food – Church Street Gallery is hosting a food drive to benefit Chester County Food Bank. You can drop off your canned goods at 12 S. Church Street.
Or socks – The Shop on Market Street is filling a large bin with “Socks for the Season”. Socks it turns out are the most requested items at homeless shelters. So the girl barbers are collecting new socks that will be donated first to a domestic violence shelter then to Safe Harbor. They have set a goal of 3000 socks but could still use a few (hundred) more. Help them out. You can go big (The Dollar Store has cheap socks.) or go bold (Kaly has statement socks. As does Green Eyed Lady.) without leaving West Chester. Socks are being collected through Saturday.
Or maybe you’re handy with a hammer and a paintbrush? The Sunrise Rotary Club of Greater West Chester is looking for help completing a project of 35 colorful desks. The desks are being delivered to the Melton Center. Ten will stay for in center use while the other 25 will go to students for use at home. So far the rotary club has completed and delivered ten desks. If you’d like in on the remaining fun, email Bob Eaves.
Finally, a shout out to Ace Hardware of West Chester on Strasburg Road who has offered to fill the propane tanks of Borough restaurants for free. Maybe with enough propane we can squeeze a few more outdoor dining days out of the season?
The freakin’ weekend. What are you up to this weekend? We going to get into the holiday spirit with some cookie decorating and a Christmas pajama party. Last weekend we introduced the kids to Home Alone. For this weekend, I’ve pitched a Christmas Story and Mickey’s A Christmas Carol but so far my choices are not getting much love.
Mark your calendars:
Library trivia tonight. COVID fatigue getting to you? Why not mix up your Friday night with a friendly trivia challenge from the library? The West Chester Public Library is hosting an hour of online trivia beginning at 7 p.m. tonight. You will need two devices to play – one to view the questions on Zoom and the second to input your answers in the Kahoot! app, which you can download for free. Feeling competitive? Click here to register for tonight’s action.
Christmas Eve Jingle – have you heard of this event? They are asking that on Christmas Eve at 6 p.m. everyone come outside onto their doorsteps and ring a bell for 2 minutes to spread Christmas spirit and to help Santa fly his sleigh. It’s an online event open to everyone but it has already garnered some interest among residents of the Borough. It could be pretty cool if everyone participated. Besides, it’s a pandemic. What else are you doing?
Want some more good cheer? Word on the street is Santa can be spotted for the last time riding around downtown on a fire engine. You’ll want to be there at 2:30 p.m. to assure your sighting.
Ring in the New Year with Uptown. Pandemic shmandemic, Uptown is back with their year end celebration and sure this year will be virtual but you can still expect a star-studded event and entertainment-packed livestream. There will be jazz and classical guitar, dueling pianos, broadway cabaret and a raffle. So break out your sequins and confetti and give your living room a pizzazz this year – all while supporting a great cause. Get your tickets here.
Since this will be the last Roundup of 2020, I just want to wish everyone a healthy and happy holiday. Let’s hope 2021 is nothing like this.
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