West Chester Weekly News Roundup

Planters stocked outside Mediterranean Wednesday morning waiting for the closure of Gay Street.

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

It’s Friday, June 18.  It is done by Facebook, Google, and Amazon – and now, West Chester? Borough Council explores a new electricity purchasing strategy that could put us on a path to meeting our renewable energy goals and save us some money – if – we can get some help from our friends. Plus, West Chester PD is looking to catalogue all the security camera’s in the borough, what to get for Father’s Day and Square Bar is back. Grab yourself a cheap pint and let’s get started.

“We could be the first in the nation and cut our energy costs.”

Will Williams, West Chester Director of Sustainability

First in line

West Chester’s new energy strategy puts it at a table with some big names. Philadelphia announced its own Power Purchase Agreement last year.

It is done by big cities. It is done by Facebook, Google, and Amazon. West Chester’s own Climate Action Plan highlights it as one of the most feasible and impactful strategies there is. Yet, as far as we know, the joint procurement of clean energy has not been attempted by a small municipality like West Chester – until now (maybe).

Huh?

This week Borough Council reviewed and approved a new strategy for purchasing energy. A strategy that relies on scale to secure lower prices on clean energy. A strategy deployed to their advantage by large companies and even larger cities and one that West Chester would need buy in from its fellow cohorts in the West Chester Area Council of Governments (East Bradford, East Goshen, West Goshen, Westtown, West Whiteland and of course, us) to be able to implement. Thus, the maybe.

Ok, so how does this work? 

The municipalities will pool their buying power then working with a third party to find a new clean energy source to fund. The third party broker works to identify the build opportunities (could be a solar farm, a wind farm, a hydroelectric power plant) then works with the team to negotiate a price for the energy. The environment is very competitive with multiple entities often vying for the same project. So, much like the residential real estate market, the process moves very fast. To this end the Borough is working to get it’s approvals up front. 

How is this different from how we currently purchase energy? 

In his presentation to the Administration, Communication and Technology committee, Sustainability Director Will Williams shared a helpful chart that compared and contrasted the two solutions. While similar, the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) eliminates some of the unknowns. “We don’t know where our energy is coming from but we know it’s coming from the grid. Coming from existing power plants,” Will told the committee.

Sounds good but will this cost us more? 

Not necessarily. It could actually be an opportunity to lower costs. “We could be the first in the nation and cut our energy costs,” Will said. What he was looking for this week from Borough Council was a ceiling on what the Borough would be willing to spend on its electricity per megawatt-hour (MWh) per year. While the team would work to negotiate the lowest price possible, hopefully under the cap, having the cap agreed upon ahead of time would allow the team to move quickly once a project is identified by the energy broker. 

For point of reference the Borough currently is paying $48/MWh through 2024. A ceiling of $51/MWh was approved this week by Borough Council. This would represent a max increase of 6 percent increase over current prices and the same amount we paid for electricity from 2017 through 2020. 

When would this go into effect? 

With Borough Council’s approval this week Will will take his show on the road. He will make the same presentation to the other members of the WCACOG. Once all approvals are in place and the caps agreed upon the team will engage with a third party and begin negotiations. A secured deal would not take effect until after the current supply contract expires in 2024. 

What happens if the other governments don’t agree?

“Then we are back to square one,” Will told the Committee. 

Not only is this an opportunity to be a leader in the green energy space it could be a critical next step in the Borough hitting its energy goals. The first hurdle was crossed this week, now we wait and see what the other governments think. 

“Installing video surveillance is a great example of community‐police partnerships and is something we highly value as a police agency serving our community.”

West Chester Police Department

Why does it always feel like somebody’s watching me? 

West Chester police on low-tech patrol.

This week the West Chester Police Department introduced its new Civilian Camera Program. According to the borough website, the new program is essentially a voluntary registry of home and business security cameras. The program will then note the camera’s location on a map allowing police to quickly identify potential sources for evidence during an investigation. 

How would this work exactly? 

According to the example given in the statement, if the police identify a camera in the area where a crime was committed, they would use the information provided through the registry to email the owner of the camera and ask them to review the footage for possible evidence. The email would include a specific date and time and any details they may be looking for – suspect, getaway car, crime in process. 

The police would then work with the owners to review and retrieve any relevant footage. 

If I participate, would officers have continuous access to my video feed?  

No,  the registry would not allow officers to tap into private cameras. It would only show where cameras may be available in case of an investigation.

Why are we doing this now? 

The West Chester Police Department believes this is yet another powerful solution in fighting crime. If you are interested in participating you can fill out a brief camera registration form

The warnings. 

Keep an eye on the pot(s). West Chester Police are seeking resident help identifying two unknown men wanted in connection with breaking three large potted plants on the porch of a residence of the 100 block of W. Union Street. Both are described as white men with dark hair and wearing clothes. The incident was caught on tape if you’d like a closer look.  

Beware, criminal mischief is in the air. West Chester police are seeking another two males, this time they appear to be black with dark hair, in another investigation of “criminal mischief.” This incident apparently took place in the early morning hours of June 5 at a property located at S. High and W. Miner Street. No word on what the mischief may have been but if you have information, call Officer Donkin at 610-696-2700.

We gotcha ya. West Chester Police got their man this week, picking up David Wade, 34 of West Chester on an arrest warrant. Mr. Wade was wanted on two counts of breaking and entering both of which took place on the 300 block of W. Washington last month.

Accolades.

High fives to Chester County Hospital on high marks in patient safety. Part of the Penn Medicine group, the West Chester-based hospital was recently awarded an ‘A’ in hospital safety by Leapfrog Group, an independent organization committed to ensuring healthcare quality and safety. The hospital scored well in areas of infection management, prevention of bedsores and not accidentally leaving objects in surgical patients (I’m not kidding this is on the scorecard.)  

“This award represents the hard work our frontline staff do each day. They dedicate their lives to their patients and make safety a No. 1 priority,” said Michael Duncan, president and CEO of Chester County Hospital in Vista.Today

And don’t think quality healthcare is a given, two other Chester County hospitals didn’t nearly so well, scoring just above failing. 

Hello. 

Summer outside: Music returns to Marshall Square Park on July 1, 6:30 p.m. Bring a blanket and a snack.

This summer say hello to experiential living. Two new businesses focused on helping you experience life recently opened in West Chester. The first Sleuthound is a West Chester walkabout mystery tour. You travel around the borough looking for clues and attempting to “find the dastardly villain and turn him into the authorities.” Teams of four or more are suggested. Mysteries take no more than one and a half hours to solve after which, I am assuming, a friendly inspector rounds you up and fires you. Mysteries take place Friday and Saturday evenings. 

The second, Wandering Picnics helps you set the perfect picnic in the park or private residence. They provide everything you need (and then some) to have a perfect picnic. Think blankets, pillows, tables, rugs, dishes, glasses, napkins, bug spray, sunscreen, even a record player with a selection of vinyl. They provide everything except the food and wine to fill those “elegant” glasses.  

Also say yippee to new playground equipment at Marshall Square park. This October-November, Friends of Marshall Square Park will be installing a new swing set and a playset for kids ages 2 to 5. “It’s going to match what’s there but make it for all ages.” says Chantale Fieldhouse who is coordinating the project. The current equipment is designed for kids six and older. Of course, that has never stopped a toddler from trying.

Friends of Marshall Square Park are still fundraising. If you would like to donate to the playground or get yourself a little bench with your name on it, there is still time to do so. 

Finally say hello to a Pride flag at borough hall. Council voted this week to fly a rainbow flag in honor of the Borough’s LGBTQ community for the remainder of the month. 

Goodbye.

Goodbye, my sweet friends.

To Gay Street traffic. That is right, after significant delays, the Gay Street Open Market place is open once again and Gay Street closed to through traffic. Stop by to lounge under umbrella covered tables, catch a popup concert on the sidewalk and just enjoy those summer nights.

Also say adios to the Fauci Pouchy and other cocktails to go, for now. With the end of Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 disaster status this week also comes the end of the to-go cocktail, a pandemic provision designed to help restaurants weather the shut downs. There is bipartisan support for making the measure permanent but like with most things political, someone had to go in and muck it up. TBD if a permanent measure will make it to law.  

Pay it forward. 

Administrators behind West Chester Area School District Jump Start summer program are jumping for joy after receiving a $10,000 donation from the Believe and Achieve Foundation, the Chester County children’s foundation led in partnership by Philanthropist Fred Gunther and Exton-native NFL quarterback Matt Ryan. The Jump Start summer program helps the district’s English Learner students get a head start on the new school year by working to close educational gaps while collecting a summer full of experiences. 

“We want them to have the same level of experience that their non-EL peers are getting. We’ve had EL students break into tears when their teacher asks, ‘What did you do over the summer?’ because they had nothing to talk about,” said Steve Werner, West Chester Area School District’s Assistant Director of Pupil Services in a statement put out by the district..  

The donation will help cover the costs of field trips, STEM activities, and summer supplies. In addition the donation will help cover the costs of a produce stand at Hillsdale Elementary Schools. Jumpstart students will be able to “shop” once a week and bring home fresh fruits and vegetables.

The freakin’ weekend. 

Gay Street Open Air Market, walking tours, lots of ways to get out and explore this weekend.

What are you up to this weekend? I think we are going to wander down to the Gay Street Open Air Market. It is nice having blocks at a time I can take a watchful eye off the kids. Also, it’s Father’s Day and Juneteenth. 

Here’s a little Juneteenth background and a list of recommended events. I think the Underground Railroad Walking sounds very interesting. 

Still looking for a Father’s Day gift? The Bryn Mawr Running Company of West Chester has a fresh stock of cool shades or if dad’s more of a tie guy, check out Phineas Gage – they were just featured on Fox29. Finally swing by Yori’s for beer and mustache cookies

Finally, after a rough year, a deep clean and some new owners, to quote our friends the Drunks of West Chester, “Square Bar is back baby.” Meet you there for a pint? 

Mark your calendars:

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 23 – Bayard Rustin: An Agitator for Justice, Chester County History Center, 7 p.m., this virtual event is free but registration is required..

June 24, Dueling Pianos, Uptown!, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $17/each. 

July 1, Music at Marshall Square Park, July 1, 6:30 p.m. Free. Just bring a blanket and a snack. 

Stay safe. Stay healthy and I’ll see you in July. Don’t worry, that’s not nearly as long as it sounds.  

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

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