West Chester Weekly News Roundup: Mar. 12, 2021

Don’t forget, times they are a changin’. Clocks spring forward Sunday morning.

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

It’s Friday, March 12. We got updates this week on the plan to close Gay Street for open air dining including when it will start and what you can expect. The Everhart Park playground has been delayed but when it does happen it will be “grandest endeavor” undertaken by a West Chester park. And fans of Mexican food rejoice – the Borough is getting two, yes two, new taquerias. This week marks one year of pandemic living. Let that sink in and let’s begin.

Weekday work around: Gay Street closed for PECO work Monday through Friday.

I’m sorry, you’re going to have to go around

This week the Borough Council Public Safety committee reviewed the Borough’s application to close Gay Street for the spring and summer dining seasons. According to the paperwork, the Borough will request Gay Street remain closed to traffic from May 1 through August 31. Similar to last year, the closure will run from Matlack to Darlington Streets with traffic being detoured down Chestnut Street.  

The street is again being closed to offer additional support to Gay Street businesses amid COVID-19 restrictions and as such, you can expect COVID-19 mitigation efforts to be in effect as well. These include:

  • Social distancing protocols 
  • No gathering as large groups say, on the sidewalk
  • Provided hand sanitizer
  • And masks required of employees. There is, however, no mention in the plan of mask requirements for individuals.

Last year the closure was deemed a success by residents and businesses and credited with keeping West Chester businesses going during a particularly difficult time. We’ll see if the second go-round is as good as the first. Once approved by Council the paperwork will go to PennDot for final signoff and processing. 

Traffic panics setting in again? Don’t worry, you can practicing for the closure now, thanks to some PECO working being done on Gay Street. Starting this week Gay Street will be closed to traffic from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The closure is part of a PECO project to replace 1.3 miles of underground cable and conduit with a goal to improve the local electric distribution in the area. Wonder if this will help with the frequent power outages? 

The work on Gay Street is expected to last for three weeks. Just in time for it to be shut down for the summer. Better get your alternate routes down now. 

About face.

Not three weeks after declaring he would not seek the position of mayor in the upcoming election, Jordan Norley has announced he is running for mayor. In an interview with The Daily Local, Mr. Norley told the paper he was swayed by “tremendous” support for his campaign. 

However, during the interview process for interim mayor he currently holds it was made clear favor would be given to candidates not seeking the full-term as to avoid having Borough Council garner favor in the election. So as you may imagine, Mr. Norley’s competitors are less than thrilled with this change of plans.  As Borough Councilman Don Braceland told the paper, “I will be unable to trust the veracity of anything Mr. Norley says and my support for him has been reduced considerably.”

In the spirit of equal coverage, here are the other candidates you will see on the ballot come May and their social handles should you want to follow along.

 “Once complete, this project will be the grandest endeavor for a Borough-owned park in West Chester.” 

West Chester Park and Rec Department
Enjoying the sunshine this week at the natural playground “installed” last year in Everhart Park.

A change of plans on the much-anticipated, new Everhart park playground. After initially hoping to break ground this spring when the weather warmed, the Park & Rec department notified members of Borough Council this week the project would be delayed until at least the fall. The delay is being caused by the distribution of grant funds the project received which have been held up due to COVID-19.

Everhart Park Playground Budget

  • $90,000 grant from Chester County Preservation Partnership Program (secured)
  • $183,000 grant from Dept. of Conservation & Natural Resources (secured)
  • $215,000 grant from Dept. of Community & Economic Development (pending)

So far Friends of Everhart Park have secured $273,000 in grant money with another potential $215,000 outstanding. If the Friends are successful in their bid for Dept. of Community & Economic Development funds this will put them over their estimated project budget of $425,000-$450,000. All very exciting, however without the money in hand to buy equipment and hire staff, the project will have to wait. Under the new timeline demo, site prep and install will begin fall 2021.  

The warnings. 

Check your (fake) I.D.s at the door. The West Chester Police Department recently announced it received a grant from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to help combat underage drinking in town. As part of the grant award, several officers recently underwent extensive forgery training so they can quickly identify a fake I.D. Share with your University neighbors.

I always feel like somebody’s watching me. Early 2021 crime reports are in from the West Chester Police Department and incident reports are down overall and in most categories for the same period last year. The only areas seeing a slight increase over last year are forgery fraud and sexual offenses. On the hand offenses often tied to late nights out (DUI, Public drunkenness and disorderly conduct) are all down significantly (83%, 66%, and 83% respectively.) Theft also was a down more than 50 percent. It should probably also be noted that after a year at reduced capacity, West Chester Police Department is back to, if not optimal, adequate operation levels. 

Accolades.

Henderson High School

High fives to West Chester High Schools. After what can only be described as a rough year, West Chester high schools still managed to rank among the top 50 in the state according to Niche.com. The site ranks schools based on test scores, graduation rates, college readiness, teacher quality and high school rating.  

Here’s how West Chester High Schools ranked: 

  • 26. Bayard Rustin High School with a grade of A+
  • 42. East High School with a grade of A
  • 44. Henderson High School with a grade of A

All three schools received their lowest marks for diversity.

While we are talking schools, congrats to Dr. Stephen Brown. East’s assistant principal has accepted the school’s head role after current principal Kevin Fagan left to open Greystone elementary. Dr. Brown is a West Chester native and dedicated servant to the West Chester community. Prior to accepting the position at East, the 1989 Warrior grad worked at both Henderson and Fugett. 

Finally, congratulations to West Chester-based Molecular Targeting Technologies on the FDA approval of their treatment for neuroendocrine cancer tumors. The approval allows the biotech firm to move forward with a Phase I clinical study of the safety and dosing requirements of the product.

Goodbye. 

Adios to Imperio Maya after trying the relocate to W. Gay Street the downtown taqueria has called it quits. However, don’t worry west end Mexican food lovers, the corner of Gay and Wayne will soon have tacos again. Word is El Limon Taqueria is coming soon. 

Also, parents and students, say goodbye to hybrid learning. Next week will be the last week of two-day in, three-days out, hybrid instruction for all West Chester Area School District Students. After next week, the District will begin returning students full time starting with the elementary students.

Hello. 

Say hello to a new way to collect Easter Eggs. Since COVID-19 is still a thing, West Chester will not being holding its annual Easter egg hunt in Everhart park this year. But that doesn’t mean the Easter Bunny won’t be making an appearance, building on the success of their Drive Thru Trunk-n-Treat, West Chester Park and Rec is introducing a “Drive Thru Egg Scramble”. According to the event announcement, more than a dozen local organizations and businesses have signed on to participate. No specifics available at this time, but keep the morning of Saturday, April 3rd open. (If you are local entity and would like to pitch in, send an email to parksandrecreation@west-chester.com.

To a creative parking solution at Hoopes Park. The Park and Rec department is proposing redeploying the barriers used to close Gay Street last year to Hoopes park where they will be used to keep vehicles from parking in the grass near the ballfield while showcasing the artistic endeavors that went into to beautifying the barriers last summer. 

To Twisted Taco. West Chester University students will soon have another option for late night (or mid-day) eats. University-based taco-chain Twisted Taco is headed to 701 S. High Street making this its second location north of the Mason-Dixon line. (There is currently a location at Temple if you want an early taste.) No word yet on when the West Chester location will open.

Pay it forward. 

Members of the West Chester Co-op will be out again this weekend as part of a new campaign to raise support for (food) shopping local.

Feeling civic minded and want first dibs on the latest West Chester developments? The Planning Commission is looking for a new member. If you are interested in being considered for the position, submit your resume and cover letter to Dana DiMonenico no later than April 2 and if you get the position, remember who tipped you off to this vacancy in the first place.

The West Chester Co-op will be back out this weekend hanging flyers on doors in the hopes of attracting a few new members to their cause. Their goal is to bring West Chester a community-owned grocery that’s accessible on foot, but in the meantime they are offering online, contactless shopping. A Borough grocery store has been a pipe dream since I’ve been here, see just how close we are to making that dream a reality.

The freakin’ weekend. 

Oh, what a year. Throwback to this time last year: Testing out our new face masks. We may need some practice before we are allowed in public.

What are you up to this weekend? For most people, this week marks a year from the start of COVID-19 restrictions. We have a family birthday party on Sunday. The same celebration that a year ago would become the last somewhat normal event we would attend. 

So in honor of surviving a year, here are three ways you could celebrate. (Yes, they are all food related.) 

Mark your calendars:

  • March 20: CRC Watershed Association is holding its 23rd annual streams clean up. 
  • March 24 – March 27: 31st Annual WCU Jazz Festival (Virtual). See the line up here
  • April 3 – Drive thru egg scramble from the West Chester Park and Rec. Details to come.

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

New to the blog? Follow along for the latest from West Chester.

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