West Chester Weekly News Roundup

Everhart park cherry blossoms in full bloom.

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

It’s Friday, April 23. A 4/20 win for High Street, West Chester mayoral candidates share their visions for the future and Everhart park gets party-worthy news. Plus a West Chester super-group collaboration, the town-wide clean up and the Borough is doubling its road paving efforts. Will your street be affected? I have the list. Whew. It’s been a big week, let’s unpack it.

“Chauvin verdict only addresses a symptom of the problem. We can not look away now. Too often our neighbors face discrimination. It’s too easy to just say ,’this does not happen in West Chester.'”

Jordan Norley, West Chester Interim Mayor

The (Future) State of Policing in the Borough: West Chester Mayor Candidate Forum

Black Lives Matter sign spotted in a West Chester window.

As the world awaited the verdict in the Derek Chauvin case, West Chester took its own look at the future of policing in the borough. Namely how it would look under the various candidates running for mayor. On Sunday the West Chester Alliance for Social Justice held a candidate form on policing. This was the first opportunity, we have had to see the candidates for mayor on equal footing and get a sense how each would shape his or her term in office. 

Remind me again who is running? 

Sure, there are currently four candidates for mayor. Interim West Chester mayor Jordan Norley, Lillian DeBaptiste, and Kyle Hudson are all running on the Democratic ticket. Eric Lorgus is running as an independent. 

What was this forum exactly? 

This event was hosted by the West Chester Alliance for Social Justice along with Adbul Mughees Chandhri, board member of the Islamic Society of Chester County, Gillian Fitzpatrick Alicea, Chair of the West Chester Sustainability Advisory Committee and Melton Center Board Member Jennifer Johnson and moderated by attorney and West Chester community member Kelly Jurs. During the round-table forum candidates were asked to answer community-submitted questions on policing. 

What was said? A lot really but here is my synopsis – and remember this forum was on policing. So while candidates may have grand plans outside their role as head of the WCPD, they were not discussed at this event. 

Eric Lorgus: His top 3 priorities as mayor would be: increasing diversity while maintaining strict hiring standards, continued focus on officer training and improved data collection to better understand. He believes his strength is his background and would improve the marketing of open officer positions to reach more candidates of color, but admits he still has work to do to educate himself on diversity issues. “I am attending today’s forum learning and listening. I am still learning a lot.”   

Kyle Hudson: He believes his background in marketing and communications make him the right candidate at the right time. He would like to increase the number of officers that can speak Spanish on force, introduce a 3-1-1 line residents can use to leave messages with Borough staff and council members and get a meeting of the Opioid Task Force on the books. He worked with former mayor Dianne Herrin to launch it and think it’s been far too long since they’ve held a meeting – September 2020, if you were wondering. 

Lillian DeBapitste: If your priority is a diverse police force, she is a part of that community. “I am the diverse community,” she said when asked about how she would educate on diversity issues. “I am with the diverse community every single day. I don’t need to read about diversity and bias, I live it.” She would also work to build trust between the community and the police and the police and the community and champion the completion of the state accreditation process for law enforcement programs.

Jordan Norley: He wants you to know he started the Diversity Task Force and has already secured $20K from West Chester Borough Council to use on recruiting for open officer roles. His priorities for the West Chester police force include finalizing the department’s five year strategic plan and improving community policing efforts. He would also like to review the Civil Service process giving additional credits to officers that can speak a second language or are a member of the West Chester Community. 

Wonder why the issue of diversity keeps coming up? For your reference, of the 40 officers currently employed by the Borough, three are women and one is a minority. 

High Street Funding Consented to on 4/20 (Sorry, had to)

A proposed new traffic light at University Avenue should help traffic flow and improve pedestrian safety.

This week Borough Council approved $80,000 to begin preliminary design and engineering drawings for the High Street corridor improvement plan. This is just the first step of many in making this, as Borough Manager Mike Perrone described it, “the safest route through the Borough.”  

As you’ll recall (and if not, I’ll refresh your memory), last fall Borough Council approved a series of improvements to the corridor as outlined by Traffic Planning and Design consultants. 

These were to include: 

  • Add traffic signals at Sharpless Street and University Avenue 
  • Add a southbound turn lane at Nields Street and a northbound turn lane at Sharpless Street
  • Remove the crosswalk at Lacey Street

Since High Street is a state road PennDOT will assume the bulk of the costs contributing $1.8 million to cover the traffic signals and curb bump outs. Chester County will chip in $400,000 to cover sidewalk additions and stormwater infrastructure. While the Borough is planning to add $100,000 toward remaining costs. However, even with these revenue sources in place it will be a process to get the full plan complete. “This a huge project,” said Mr. Perrone. “We’ll need to tackle it little by little.” 

The warnings. 

Mind your J-A-C-K-S. Concerns were raised this week over the size of the letters on the 44 West fountain meant to commemorate late West Chester developer and philanthropist Jack Loew. Dissent erupted when developer Eli Kahn failed to follow proper procedure and installed the letters before bringing the design before the Historical & Architecture Review Board (HARB), whose job it is to review all architectural elements to maintain a certain look and historical relevance to the Borough’s historic district, which downtown falls under. While it was generally accepted the mistake was an honest one and the sign was approved post installation by the HARB board, members felt that in all honesty the letters were a little too big and they would have sent the design back for a re-do had they had an opportunity. 

Some members of Borough Council felt HARB should have the opportunity to have their say and asked that the design be resubmitted and the letters be stripped at a cost of several thousands in labor and material. Much was made of the financial sacrifices already made Mr. Kahn in revising the design to allow for the plaza commemorating his late partner (rather than using the space for more rentable real estate). In the end practicality ruled over principle and the letters were allowed to stay. 

Keep an eye out for more road closures. After hitting pause on repaving projects for a year, West Chester has built up both budget and potholes. Each year the borough receives funds from Pennsylvania’s liquid fuels tax to apply toward paving projects. Since this money was not spent last year it was rolled over to the 2021 budget allowing the Borough nearly two years of paving in one year. 

Looks like we made the list. Did you? 

Don’t put your yard waste in the trash. Reminder from April through November, the Borough picks up yard waste twice a month. Just grab some of those biodegradable brown paper yard waste bags from your local hardware store and fill them with leaves, grass clippings, etc. and leave it at your normal trash collection spot. Sticks and branches should be tied into manageable bundles no longer than four feet. More details and the quadrant by quadrant schedule here.   

Accolades.

Congrat’s to West Chester U on 25 years of banana throwing. I am not a Golden Ram, so I will leave this one to the insiders.

Also congratulations to Frank Nefos, Social Studies teacher at Fugett Middle School. Mr. Nefos is this year’s winner of the Citadel Heart of Learning Award for the West Chester Area School District. Mr. Nefos was recognized for going above and beyond to reach out to students during the sometimes difficult transition to the virtual classroom. Congratulations to, as one parent put it, the “king of remote learning!”

Also a round of applause to our neighbors to the west and the WCPD that protects them. East Bradford was recently named one of the 10 safest communities in Pennsylvania. 

Finally, big high fives to Friends of Everhart Park who learned this week they have secured the rest of the grant money needed to bring the full Everhart Park playground, zip line and all, to completion. “The children designed the playground and now we are able to make that design happen for them. This is just the coolest thing.” Michael Galey, West Chester Council President said at Wednesday’s meeting.

See the park design and learn more about the process here. Construction will begin on the new playground this fall.   

Goodbye.

Flag corps practices outside of Henderson High School.

To the ninth grade class at Henderson High School. The entire freshman class was sent home this week after more than 50 percent were already quarantining due to COVID-19 exposure. Unfortunately, Henderson isn’t the only school facing COVID exposure issues. Fugett is also reportedly facing a large quarantine list. On the upside, the West Chester Area School district announced this week it is working with Chester County Hospital to begin vaccinating high school students that meet the age requirements to receive the vaccine – currently 16 and older in Pennsylvania. 

To 80 bags of debris from Kathy McBratnie park. After being shut down last year due to COVID-19 restrictions, the community service program run through Judge Marian Vito’s court has resumed with the clean up of Kathy McBratnie park. To protect the health and safety of participants the program is being limited for now to service projects that can be performed outdoors. The additional manpower is being used to clean up trash around the borough and beautify parks, like McBratnie, that don’t have “Friends of” associations to support them.

Also say farewell to more taxable Borough real estate. It was announced last week tax-exempt Chester County has decided to make their home at 313 W. Market Street permanent for a mere $42.6M. Not that the revenue loss will be felt. The county has been leasing the building for the last 10 years. 

Hello. 

Say hello, to Borough Bound and being in with the in crowd. Borough Bound is a West Chester-inspired lifestyle collaboration from, what can only be considered a West Chester super group, street photographer West Chester Views, anonymous “stickeraffiti” artist Cassius King and local printers Northbrook Press. Choose from t-shirts, hats and, of course, stickers. 

Also, say hi to Kate Chick at Oz Bridal, the new bridal boutique on 124 W. Market Street. If you are looking for that one-of-a-kind look, Kate carries dresses from designers Olia Zavozina and Kelly Faetanini. The only boutique on the east coast to get a Zavozina gown. Shopping available by appointment only and one bride at a time, so get in early. One more boutique and West Chester may be the next bridal destination. 

And if you are a student at West Chester U., say hello to a little more cash on hand. West Chester University announced this week it would not be raising tuition for the 2021-2022 school year. This will mark the third year in a row without an increase. 

Pay it forward. 

Earth Day was celebrated in town this week with a series of chalk drawing around the Borough. Follow West Chester’s Green Team for more ways to conserve throughout the year.

CCC is back and better than ever.  The Campus Community Coalition, a collaboration project between the West Chester University community and the West Chester Borough community is being restarted after a several year hiatus. The CCC will seek to schedule public discussions with all stakeholder including, students, WCU administration, Borough officials, and West Chester residents to tackle issues relevant to all stakeholders. While previous discussions focused on alcohol related issues, new leadership would like to expand talks to include parking and housing issues as well. With students back in full force this fall, now is the perfect time to lay some ground rules. Let the dialogues begin.

Eat up for a good cause. Grab a pay-what-you-want seafood dinner from Gadaleto’s on April 28 and all proceeds will go directly to supporting St. Agnes Day Room. Each 3-course, fish-rich meal will serve 4 to 5 people. The total cost of the meal is approximately $80. That’s a win-win for seafood lovers. Orders are being accepted now.

Last chance! West Chester Community Cleanup, April 24 and April 25. Last chance to claim a block in the Borough wide clean up. Each individual or single household team will sign up to claim a 2-3 block clean up perimeter. Register here if you are interested in participating, but hurry, 119 blocks have already been claimed.

Take it to go, but hold the plastic. These downtown businesses are doing their part to curb single-use plastic consumption.

The freakin’ weekend. 

Spring day on campus.

What are you up to this weekend? We got our West Chester Community clean up kit dropped off yesterday morning. So the boys’ and their Boy Scout Troop will be dutifully out cleaning up a local park while I attempt sourdough bread (and hope the weather warms up again.) 

If you are heading downtown, Side Bar has tapped new kegs of Tired Hands and Russian River, Blink has the cutest new spring top and ladybug cupcakes from Yori’s can brighten even gloomy days.

Plus, cherry blossoms are in bloom at Everhart park, but you hurry or you’ll miss your photo.

Mark your calendars:

Well, if COVID-19 has been good for anything, it’s kicking up the creativity. How’s this for a cool idea? Next weekend West Chester University is hosting a drive-in opera. Students from the University’s Wells School of Music will perform Gaetano Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love live in the parking lot of the Madeleine Wing Adler Theater (817 S. High Street). Viewing pleasure will be aided by accompanying FM broadcast audio and a large screen projection. Tickets are free but reservations are required as space is limited.  

“As singers, we are compelled to perform, and I want my students to learn from a live performance experience. I hope this production brings the joy of music making to both the students and audiences from the surrounding community,” the opera director (and Director of Opera) Nicholas Provenzale said in a press release.

Performances are scheduled for Friday and Saturday night, 8:30 p.m. For more information or to reserve a parking spot visit www.wcupatix.com.

Healthy Kids Day, YMCA, April 24, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

The Borough wide + All Parks Cleanup, April 24 and 25

Improv for Kids, April 26, 5 p.m. open to kids 5 to 10. Virtual. Registration required.

Chester County History Center Spring Festival, May 1, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Chester County History Center

Mom, this runs for you, May 9, 9 a.m., Rustin High School

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

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