With so much going on around town, catch up on what you may have missed.
It’s Friday, June. Big news coming out of the east end of town. Sounds like residents there will be getting an extremely wealthy new neighbor, hopefully one that can pay high six-figures in taxes. Plus, approvals came through on the Gay Street closure, West Chester is facing a firefighter crisis, what it means and how you can help, and a big meeting on the railroad expected next week. If this is your jam, you’ll want to be there. It’s unofficial. Summer is here. Grab yourself something cold and let’s catch up.
Get ready for a front row seat for 2-day shipping
It was unofficially confirmed last week, the Borough’s getting a big, new, blue and gold southeast end neighbor. It was shared by Borough Councilman Don Braceland on the West Chester Community Facebook page that the Planning Commission received a detailed presentation of the plans for the former Wyeth property on the corner of S. Adams and E. Nields Streets. The plans which were presented by Developer Eli Kahn and his partner Matt Adams call for a 142,000 square foot fully-automated warehouse with 600-spot parking lot to be built on the site. The exterior of the facility would be fenced and landscaped to limit exposure to neighbors and most of the trees on the property will be retained. The facility would run 24/7 and a total of 21 tractor-trailers could be expected each day, however traffic would be directed via 202 and Westtown Road and would not go through the borough (except, perhaps, when GPS goes awry.)
The 30-acre plot which once housed a penicillin plant has sat vacant for nearly a decade after being deemed a Brownfield site well, no more. The project is said to have met all zoning requirements and will likely be fast tracked. Expect a full Council vote on the plan at the August meeting and if all goes well, a January 2022 ground breaking.
While there is still much to learn about this project, there is seemingly some good news here for the Borough. According to an article in the Daily Local, the project is expected to bring:
- Jobs – the tenant is expected to hire between 150-175 direct employees
- Tax relief – having a tenant on the land could reap the Borough as much as $700,000 in much needed tax relief.
And note, while the owner of the future warehouse could not officially be named, there is a lot of speculation on who it might be. To quote Mr. Braceland, “It’s most likely Amazon, but shhh… It’s a secret!”
The cost of education: School budget approved at nearly 10 million over last year
At their May meeting, the West Chester Area School Board approved the final budget for the 2021-22 school year which is slightly less than the preliminary budget approved last month. The final budget which is approximately $9.7 million more than 2020-21 includes a roughly $3.6 million increase in state mandated expenditures – such as pensions, special education and transportation, a $3.1 million in additional staffing and costs associated with opening Greystone elementary and $3 million plus in non-Greystone related salary and benefit increases.
But of course these additions don’t come without a cost to residents, under the revised figures expect a 1.8 percent tax increase for Chester County property owners (about $76 per average household).
In a release, School Board President Chris McCune defended the increase, “The board worked extremely hard to provide the needed resources for our students while maintaining one of the lowest tax rates in Chester County. It is a difficult balance to meet the needs of our 12,000 students with the taxpayers in our community. I believe this budget accomplishes that goal.”
The firefighter shortage
In a recent interview with Fox29, West Chester Fire Chief Steve Pelna shared the department is in near crisis mode. “We’re on life support when it comes to finding volunteers,” Chief Pelna said during the interview.
What’s the problem?
West Chester’s three fire companies are currently sharing 150 volunteers. Fire departments across the country have been seeing declining numbers for years and skyrocketing housing and rental prices in the borough are not helping matters locally. Many young West Chester University recruits are reportedly unable to stay on after graduation due to lack housing options. To help combat this problem, West Chester has recently begun allow volunteers to live at the station in exchange for their time.
I practice fire safety, why should I care?
Not only do firefighters fight fires, they are also often the first on the scene in times of emergency. Lower numbers can lead to delayed response times. And if that’s not enough reason for you, if volunteers don’t start stepping forward, it could fall to the taxpayers to pick up the costs for a paid department.
How can I help?
Any way you can. To be a firefighter you must be 14 years of age but no prior experience is necessary. The respective fire companies will take care of 100 percent of the training. And know, to help you don’t have to charge Backdraft style into a burning building. The firehouses can use hands on deck for a whole manner of activities from administration to lawn care. Sound like it could be for you? You can sign up here.
How much is being mayor worth to you?
The Daily Local recently took a look at the finances behind the race for West Chester mayor and it’s eye opening to say the least. According to Campaign Finance Report data through May 3, the leading candidates raised in the $10,000s from donors and spent on average more than four times the position’s annual salary of $4,000 on the primary contest. Below is the minimum each candidate spent per vote:
- Jordan Norley – $38/per vote*
- Lilian DeBaptiste – $16.50/per vote*
- Kyle Hudson – $22.50/per vote*
*These numbers are based on data through May 3. It is likely additional money was spent in the run up to the primary on May 18.
Not exactly an impressive ROI. To put this in context these figures are actually higher than was spent per vote in the last eight presidential elections – including President Biden’s chart topping $14.85 per vote in the 2020 election.
And it’s not over yet. This fall Lilian DeBaptiste will face independent businessman Eric Lorgus. Currently no one is running on the Republican ticket after Jordan Norley decided not to accept his victory as the Republican write-in candidate. Really? Who saw that coming?
You can run, but you can’t evade video evidence forever. West Chester Police have identified a suspect in two recent assault incidents that took place during the early morning hours of April 29. The incidents happened in the area of S. Matlack and E. Nields Street. An arrest warrant has been obtained for Uriel Angeles-Hernandez. However, Uriel himself is not yet in custody. If you have any information about his whereabouts or the incidents of the night in question, give the West Chester PD a call at 610-436-1335.
Stop gritting your teeth. Two West Chester dentists are out with a warning – bruxism, or the involuntary habitual grinding of the teeth, typically during sleep, is on the rise. Severe cases can manifest themselves in chipped and broken teeth, jaw and neck pain or worse. “We’re seeing a lot a teeth that are totally shot – beyond repair,” Dr. Rohini Bhata of West Chester-based Chester County Prosthodontics told the Main Line Today. Not surprisingly, the increase is being linked to sustained heightened stress levels caused by the pandemic.
Congratulations to Chester County and all of those who braved those possible side-effects to get pricked. After a slow start, Chester County now leads the state in percentage of residents vaccinated. Currently 74 percent of the population 12 and over is at least partially vaccinated and it is estimated 70 percent of the population will be fully vaccinated by July 1.
Which will hopefully be just in time to enjoy year two of West Chester’s Open Air Market, aka Gay Street closure. If you have not heard, the Borough has now received state and Federal approval to close Gay Street for the summer. Latest updates suggest the closure will begin on Wednesday, June 16.
Also, high fives to the West Chester Area School District on consistently delivering some quality education. According to an analysis of standardized test scores by the Pittsburgh Business Times, West Chester ranked as the 29th best performing district in the state over the past decade. You can learn more about the ranking including which overachieving Chester County district ranked number one, here.
Finally, congratulations to Jennifer Southmayd, the former Instructional Technology Coordinator, was recently appointed the new principal of Fern Hill Elementary school.
To the Media-West Chester rail line. Just kidding. That’s still a ways off, but we could get a better understanding of just how far off early next week. On Monday West Chester Borough Council is holding a special meeting with SEPTA to discuss the potential of returning rail to West Chester. Also included on the invite to this very special meeting are U.S. Congressional Rep. Chrissy Houlihan, State Senator Carolyn Comitta, and State Rep Dianne Herrin – TBD who will be able to make it but it could be a good indication of the support for this project outside of the borough.
Interested in learning more? The meeting is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. in Borough Council Chambers, 401 E. Gay Street. The meeting will take place in person and unfortunately, as of now, there is no option to attend virtually.
Also say hello to mosquito season. Yes, it is that time of year again, and while it’s still early days all it takes is a couple of periods of rain to send populations soaring. One of the best ways to limit population growth is to eliminate or treat as many areas of standing water as possible. This means dumping or draining water from flower pots, trash cans, gutters or anywhere else water can collect. If you have standing water you can’t eliminate, the Borough is providing non-toxic Bti dunks to kill off those mosquito babies. Simply drop the floating tablet into the water, and as it slowly dissolves, it releases a bacterium that is toxic to all species of mosquito larvae—and harmless to other living things. Dunks are available free to Borough property owners. Get yours here.
Lastly, a hearty welcome back to the WC Press. After sitting out most of the last year, the “voice of the borough” is planning to return with a print issue in July. “We’re very excited to be back!” Publisher Dan Mathers said in a message. And we can’t wait to see what they come up with next!
“It is impossible to put in a post what my life has meant for 10 years. I was present for each day. The studio saved my life.”Susan Sluk, owner of eat. drink. Om…yoga cafe via Instagram
To the purple Mitch’s balloons at each and every West Chester festival. I don’t know about your house but ours was always marked with withering Mitch’s Gym purple balloons graciously handed out at every event, even though one of the reasons our membership lapsed was because they couldn’t compete with the child watch program at the Y. Well, no more. Mitch’s Market Street Gym closed its doors on Sunday after 22 years serving the West Chester community. In a message to members the gym said, “COVID-19 has decimated our business and left us with no other options at this time.”
And it turns out Mitch’s is not the only fitness outlet in the borough to announce it’s closing for good. Eat. Drink. Om. Yoga Cafe also announced it would be closing its doors after 10 years providing serenity and balance to the West Chester community.
While we’ve been watching the restaurant industry, it seems the fitness industry has been fighting a losing battle with at home, online, and outdoor classes. You still have a few more chances to try aerial yoga or squeeze in a Barre class. Eat. Drink. Om. will be offering classes through the end of the month.
Pay it forward.
Since I last posted Downingtown West suffered a heartbreaking tragedy and a hard earned reminder that the last year has not been easy on anyone – big or small. On Saturday, the West Chester Area School District along with the Downingtown and Coatesville communities would like to put that reminder in lights. Join the district and the community for a Lights of Hope Night in West Goshen Park. The event will take place at 8 p.m. in support of our teens in the fight for mental health services and suicide prevention.
Ok, here’s one more and this is an easy one. If I can’t convince you to become a firefighter or to teach kids to garden or hold a candle for tomorrow, the least you can do is head downtown and take your picture in front of the gorgeous Pride butterfly painted on Balance Hair Studio – then tag them (and tag me, too).
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? The in-laws have volunteered to take the kiddos and we are heading out of town for a quick getaway. I’m hoping for hiking, a glass of wine and an uninterrupted dinner.
If you’re staying in town, West Chester Park & Rec in collaboration with the Gary Mercer team is hosting a free movie in Everhart Park. Bring a blanket. Snacks will be provided. If you are attending, pre-register here.
Can’t make it to Saturday? Well, good news Friday is national donut day and Yori’s would like to help you celebrate.
Finally, here’s my swim guide. Know, there are still pool spots available should you get desperate.
Mark your calendars:
June 12 – I love workouts that end with rewards and next Saturday Barre3 is hosting a free 45-minute barre3 class followed by a flight of discounted Wrong Crowd brews. Sounds like a win-win to me. Class takes place at 9:30 a.m. at Wrong Crowd’s Hannam Ave. location. Spots are limited. So register now.
June 4 – First Friday, downtown, Event is free. Metered parking is free after 5 p.m..
June 5 – Movie in the Park: Soul, Everhart Park, 7:30 p.m. Event is free.
June 5 – For the Union: A Guided Walking Tour Along the Abolition Trail of West Chester, Chester County History Center, 10 a.m. Event is free. Registration required.
June 12 –West Chester Library Summer Reading Kickoff, Barclay Park, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Event is free and open to all families.
June 14 – Bohemian Rhapsody Sing-Along, Uptown Knaur Performing arts center, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10/each.
June 19 – Juneteenth Festival, Melton Center, 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.
June 19 – Underground Railroad Walking Tour, Chester County History Center, 11 a.m. This is a pay-as-you-wish event but registration is required.
June 24, Dueling Pianos, Uptown!, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $17/each.
Stay safe. Stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
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