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It’s Friday, September 17. Happy Friday! West Chester University is celebrating 150 years with a massive fundraising plan, the borough wants your help to manage its pension fund and could we finally be getting a curbside compost program? Spoiler – there’s compost in it for you. Plus, Turks Head Music Festival unofficially celebrates 50 years this Sunday. Who’s going? Ready? Let’s catch up.
Curbside compost coming to you
Brace yourself. You ready? – West Chester is moving forward with its long awaited community composting option.
“We’ve tried to do this a couple of different times,” said West Chester Sustainability Director William Williams at this month’s Borough Council working session. “We’ve gotten grant funds. We’ve built these programs. The grant goes away. The program goes away.” Well, not this time.
After reviewing four different options from purely educational to 100% borough run, Will and West Chester’s Sustainability Advisory Committee think they have come up with a solution that just may stick. One that puts a little bit of the onerous on each of the stakeholders – Borough, resident, private sector.
The plan? partner with a private curbside collection service, in this case, WasteWell.
How it works:
All members of the program get a big 5-gallon bucket at sign up. You fill it with fruit, vegetable scraps, eggshells, cut flowers, shredded newspaper, etc. (don’t worry, they’ll give you a list). Then every two weeks you put it outside and WasteWell comes to collect it, but that’s not it…
“I almost forgot the best part,” Will said. Every spring you can get 40lbs of compost delivered for free.
The service normally costs $18/mo but will be offered to borough residents at $15/mo or a 17 percent discount. WasteWell is also offering to collect from one low-income resident for only $1/mo for every ten West Chester residents that sign up.
In terms of immediate savings, it won’t mean much for the borough. Once they subsidize the savings, they are looking to net a whopping $3/year per participating customer. Should they hit their year-one goal that would mean $300 in savings but this isn’t about the short game. It’s the long-term impact and the right thing to do environmentally, that make it compelling. According to Will, the Chester County landfill currently has less than 15-year capacity. When it’s full we’ll have to start shipping our waste to distant locales at a cost, of course.
“We should do everything in our capacity to extend the capacity of the landfill,” said Will Williams and this would definitely be a step in the right direction.
The Borough’s DIY Pension Plan
Also this week the borough took its first step away from a third-party managed portfolio for its pension funds. The borough maintains two funds one for its uniform police force and another for its non-uniform, AFSCME union members. For the last several years the Borough has employed Public Financial Management (PFM), a professional asset management group, to manage this fund. Three years ago, Borough Council and the mayor approached PFM, and asked the company to review the borough’s investment portfolio and remove stocks associated with the tobacco or fossil fuel industries. The company said they could do that, but it would cost.
“We were one of 100 clients having almost the same portfolio,” said Borough Councilman Bernie Flynn in a discussion about the new plan.
Since then the borough, with help from its newly formed Financial Advisory Committee, has been researching other fund management options. Earlier this year FAC member Eric Wilcomes presented the details of a new idea to the Finance Committee: what if the borough formed a Pension Board – or committee of various stakeholders (in this case, borough personnel, union reps and local residents) that would assume the duties of a professional asset management group? It is a route several local municipalities, including Lower Merion, have taken in recent years. By bringing these services in-house, so to speak, the borough stands to save hundreds of thousands in consulting fees and add flexibility to how it manages its portfolio.
Sounds interesting, but I have a few questions. First, how much money are we talking about? The police pension fund holds about $43 million; the non-uniform pension fund, $25 million. The cost for PFM to manage these funds, without the custom the requests, is between $300-$350K/year.
Ok, so who’s going to sit on this committee? The committee will be made up of a mix of residents, Borough personnel and union representatives. It will be led by a Pension Fund Manager, a professional fiduciary hired by the borough.
I love saving money, but are residents really qualified to manage that amount of money? “This is not a group of residents sitting around a table in the kitchen practicing day trading,” said Bernie. “This is a formal committee with bylaws and operating procedures.” Yes, it will be made up partly of residents but that doesn’t mean any resident can serve. Residents that wish to serve on the Pension Board will need to submit their relevant qualifications (read financial background) and experience to Borough Council. They will then undergo a formal interview process with council members.
In addition to a thorough vetting process, there is that professional fund manager I mentioned. He or she will be tasked with leading the committee and overseeing the entirety of the portfolio. With an eight-member committee, a pension manager and a detailed series of bylaws, there are lots of checks to ensure no one person can influence the direction of the investment.
And just a note on the savings. The cost of managing the pension is paid by the pension fund. So technically this would save the pension members, not the residents, money. That said, if the pension falls short of its annual funding goals, the difference has to be made up by the borough’s general fund.
To recap, can you give me a quick cost/benefit analysis?
- Savings from not paying a professional firm $300-350K/yr
- Quickly react to market changes
- Create a customized portfolio reflective of the borough’s values
- Cost to hire a Pension Manager, trading fees, etc. Est. at $100K/yr
- Loss of security of a professional third party firm
What’s the worst that can happen, right? Right. The committee will report quarterly to Borough Council, if management of the funds doesn’t go as planned, borough council always has the ability to disband the committee and return to a firm, but Councilman Flynn isn’t worried. “We have a lot of smart people in this town,” he said.
With changes to the pension plan structure and the go-ahead to advertise approved this week, the borough can now begin outreach to residents with the hope of holding member interviews next month. After the four resident members are selected they will meet with the borough and union reps and together the committee will begin their search for a Pension Manager. If the search goes well, it is possible the full committee could be in place by end of year.
“Sesquicentennial: one of the funniest words to say out loud.”West Chester University
150 years and going strong
West Chester University will formally kickoff its 150th anniversary today with an address by President Christopher Fiorentino. The speech will be followed by an afternoon jammed with parties, presentations and ribbon cuttings culminating in a free concert from Nashville soul singer-songwriter and WCU alumnus Devon Gilifillian at 8 p.m., but while the day is packed the celebration goes much deeper. Think, decades, upon decades (upon decades) of educating the nation’s teachers, composers, coaches, and mayors.
Although its roots date back to the West Chester Academy, founded in 1812, the institution that became West Chester University was chartered as West Chester Normal School in 1870 and opened for its first classes in September 1871. West Chester served as a teachers’ college from 1871-1960. Then in 1960 it became a state college and in 1983, a state university.
If you would like to dig deeper into the university’s history – in an easy, photo-led overview – I found this an interesting timeline presentation.
The next 150
It is also expected President Fiorentino will announce the launch of a $65 million comprehensive campaign that is his vision for the next sesquicentennial. The campaign being called “150 Forward” features three main components:
- Investing in the students (aka improving financial access for all students)
- Leading with technology (investing in state-of-the-art learning spaces) and
- Creating opportunity (supporting students beyond the financial)
While the campaign is officially being “announced” today the university already has $40 million of their $65 million goal accounted for.
You must stop for the school bus. Just a reminder school is back in session and all motorists must stop at least 10 feet away from school buses that have their red lights flashing and stop arm extended. You must stop if you are behind, meeting or approaching an intersection where the bus is stopped. The number of traffic violations issued involving school buses dropped significantly in 2020, but expect it to rebound now that school is in-person full time. Don’t believe me? There are eyes everywhere.
All violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Speaking of prosecution, this week WCPD reported they have in custody Jayronn Harris of Brookhaven. Mr. Harris is wanted in connection with the gunfire incident outside of Kildares. Also this week, thanks to your strong social sharing ability, another suspected porch bandit has been identified as was the man wanted for the theft of a $600 Stihl auger from Ace Hardware on Strasburg Road.
Good work, deputy crime fighters. Looking for another case to crack? Here you go.
Don’t race a cop. Never race a cop.
High fives to the “Incomparable” Golden Rams Marching band which has been selected to participate in the halftime show of the Eagles home opener this weekend. Those at the game can expect to hear Ram favorite – Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” and of course, the Eagles fight song in a new arrangement by WCU Director of Bands Andy Yoziviak. The last time the band performed at Lincoln Financial Field was January 5, 2020 for the NFC Wildcard Playoff game. Let’s hope this performance leads to a better outcome. Go Eagles!
And finally, congratulations to Dia Doce Cupcakes which celebrates eight years in the borough this week. Sure it’s their birthday, but not sure why we can’t all eat cake?
Ok, you’re not going to like this one but get ready to say hello to commercial vehicles on Bradford Avenue. If you’ve never noticed, the Borough has a law that prohibits commercial vehicles from using the portion of Bradford Avenue from Everhart Park to Hannum Avenue. Why? I’m not sure, but it does. However, since Ida damaged the bridge over the Brandywine on 162 and PennDot doesn’t know when they will be able to repair it, they’ve asked the borough to stop enforcing its commercial vehicle ban while the road is used as a detour. A fairly lengthy way of saying an already tight Bradford Avenue is about to get tighter.
Also, happy returns to West Chester Library’s Holiday Door Tour. Last year’s COVID-inspired replacement to the traditional home tour is back by popular demand. Starting December 4 you will be able to grab a map of participating homes from the library and go on your self-guided holiday tour of the borough. If you would like your door to be listed as a tour stop, you’ll need to let the library know by October 1. You can reach out to library development manager Claire Quinn for details.
Finally say hello to new native pollinator plantings in front of the Chester County History Center. Thanks to support from the West Chester Green Team this garden will work in conjunction with the plantings planned behind the Chestnut Street Garage to keep our local ecosystem strong.
Looking for that native look in your own lawn, here’s a link to this week’s presentation by bestselling author and entomologist Doug Tallamy, in case you missed it.
Say goodbye to speeding down W. Miner, not that you ever did that. Stop signs have now been added to W. Minder at Darlington and New Streets. The suggestion came earlier this summer after a PennDot-commissioned traffic study concluded the intersections could benefit from a little caution. The study’s researchers observed driver confusion, moderate-to-high pedestrian crossings and limited sight distance. A fairly accurate description, I’d say.
Hey, renters get ready to say goodbye to your spending money. Stacker, a data journalism site, crunched the numbers behind the Zillow listings and found West Chester has some of the fastest growing rents in the Philadelphia area. Rents in the 19380 zip code rose 2.9 percent last year and 15.5 percent in the last five years.
Now here’s your trivia question, what’s the average rent in West Chester? You’ll have to read to the end for the answer.
Pay it forward.
Planning on putting in an Amazon order today or tomorrow? Why not help the library out and add an item from their Amazon wish list? For $15 you can help them check the much needed book tape off their list, for $10 you can make sure they are well stocked with yellow sticky notes, or for $8, red pens. All the things you’d expect on a library wish list.
Also, if you were affected by the recent flooding or no anyone that was, Federal aid is on the way. Here’s the info you need to begin filling out those claims.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? We are back to the old normal with a packed sports schedule but we are also planning to squeeze in some time for the Turks Head Music Festival. It’s supposed to be gorgeous on Sunday. I hope it’s a success. I like that we have our own music fest.
Want an indoor musical option with no bugs and a comfy chair? Uptown kicks off a series of September tributes with Frankie Valli this weekend. Not your thing? You can also grab tickets for Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison and later the Doors and Queen.
And of course, the Eagles are back in action on Sunday. Looking for more Philly-inspired beer to accompany you while you watch? Check out the latest from Levante. Finally, friendly reminder this is family weekend at West Chester. So expect longer lines at downtown restaurants.
Mark your calendars:
Sept. 17 – Concert: Devon Gilfillian, 8 p.m., Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, the concert is free but advanced ticket registration is required – as are masks in all WCU facilities.
Sept. 17-19: WCU Family weekend, a variety of events have been planned on and around campus.
Sept. 18 – Fame Housing and Dedication Ceremony, Fame Fire Co., 3 p.m. open to the public
Sept. 18 – Let’s Hang on America’s #1 Frankie Valli Tribute Show, Uptown, 8:00 p.m. Tickets $40 + fees in advance: $45+ fees at the door.
Sept. 19 – Turks Head Music Festival, Everhart Park
Sept. 20 – WCU Faculty Recital: Gloria Galante, harp, 8 p.m., Ware Family Recital Hall, Swope Music Building, tickets are not required for this free event, but masks are in all WCU buildings.
Sept. 24 – Kashmir Tribute to Led Zeppelin, Uptown!, 8 p.m. Tickets $40 + fees in advance: $45+ fees at the door.
Sept. 24, Criterions Jazz Ensemble Concert, 7:30 p.m., Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, Philips Memorial Building, tickets not required for this free event, but masks are in all WCU buildings. Fun fact: Started in the 1920s, the Criterions is the longest running university/college jazz band in the U.S
Sept. 25 – Up On the Roof, Chestnut Street Garage, Tickets $75, proceeds go toward the beautification of downtown West Chester.
Sept. 29 – Chilling West Chester II, Chester County History Center, 6:30 p.m. – These are not ghost stories; these are true tales of terror pulled from the CCHC archives. Tickets $16. Note: Due to the graphic nature of the material, this event is not suitable for children.
Sept. 30 – Into the Mystic: Tribute to Van Morrison. Uptown, 8:00 p.m. Tickets $40 + fees in advance: $45+ fees at the door.
Oct. 1 – Gallery Walk, Downtown, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. open to the public, free metered parking downtown.
Trivia answer: Did you guess nearly $1800/mo? That’s right, $1795/mo – and we’re a college town.
Stay safe. Stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
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