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It’s Friday, October 15. What would you do with $75K? West Chester has found itself in possession of some unexpected savings so now Borough Council gets a chance to add a project back in for 2022. See their options. Plus, Borough Council passes a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all employees despite (some) resident pushback and can the borough get West Chester University to pick up the tab for Homecoming? Well, they can try. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.
What would you do with $75K?
This week Borough Council voted to adopt the preliminary budget and while there’s nothing too jaw dropping about the final numbers – we are looking at a 4 percent tax increase – there had been little to get excited about either. The events that once drew residents downtown or to the parks have been slashed. Revenues are also down. From recreation to housing to parking, all have revenues projected below pre-pandemic levels for 2022. Parking, the cash juggernaut that props up the borough budget, is still projected $1 million below 2019 levels. The Wastewater plants continue to struggle to stay ahead of costly upgrades and unless something changes, we are probably looking at a future of modest annual tax and sewer rate increases. But despite blah larger picture, there was a sliver of good news tucked between all those sad-looking line items. The borough finance team found $75K, I can’t tell you exactly how that came about – something to do with renegotiated health care costs, I believe, but, it means one or more of the cut capital projects could be back on the table.
Here are the options as pitched by the department heads.
- Public Works: Retro-fit a new Ford Dump Truck for snow removal and sidewalk replacement efforts
- Recreation: Master park plan or upgrade the Hoopes park pavilion
- Police: Update police mobile video and AED equipment
- IT: Live streaming equipment to host hybrid Borough Council meetings
Now this budget is not final, at least not officially. That won’t happen until after the public hearing on November 17 where the numbers will be reviewed one final time and the councilmen and woman will get to have their say on who gets their projects and who doesn’t. If you would like to weigh in on where the funds go, and you should, hearing will be November 17 at 7 p.m. in Borough Hall.
Battle for Best West Chester Bar
Ok, now onto some more fun news – where is the best bar in West Chester? Yes, this is another ranking but it is not some outsiders reading Yelp reviews, this contest is being run by the Drunks of West Chester, true devotees to the West Chester bar scene. That said, I am beginning to question their readership, for all the quality establishments in West Chester – for some reason (cough) WCU freshmen (cough) Barnaby’s has made it into the final four. I think it’s time for residents to speak up.
In the final rounds of voting we have:
Baranby’s vs. Ram’s Head
Jake’s vs. Split Rail Tavern
Voting in the final four opens today at noon and will remain open for 24 hours in their stories. Voting in the finals will take place Saturday. And if these wouldn’t have been your choices, that’s because you didn’t vote. Let’s make our voices heard.
WCU homecoming’s financial implications
Last week West Chester Police James Morehead reviewed his team’s game plan for West Chester University’s homecoming weekend. A full court press which included a large house party offensive and a smothering out-on-the-street defense. The efforts paid off. Arrests were down 66 percent from their peak in 2019 but the results came at a cost. Not only were officers out for extended hours, public works crews were needed to clean up trash left downtown during late night celebrations. The check for which is being written by the borough and its residents.
As a public university, West Chester University is exempt from paying the property taxes that fund services such as the police and trash collection. At one time West Chester did get some money from the West Chester University Foundation to help support additional police on the streets in the neighborhoods surrounding the university but those payments have since ceased. Now Borough Council is hoping to resume the relationship and the payments, this week authorizing councilman Bernie Flynn to contact the University to begin discussions.
Little mid-write up reminder to subscribe to the blog to get all the updates. It only takes an email address.
Now that is scary stuff. West Chester Police are also investigating a home invasion that took place on Price Street. On Sunday night several men forced their way into a West Chester home. The incident which took place on 100 block of Price Street occurred while at least one resident was home. The robbers made off with clothes and electronics. If you have any information concerning this incident, please contact the West Chester Police Department at (610) 696-2700.
Drink your milk, don’t dump your milk. This week a fan attending a Henderson football game reported having milk dumped on her car while at the game. The car was parked near the Penn Medical buildings and the incident was apparently unprovoked – but recorded.
Stop means stop. This week the Borough police department joined units across the state in participating in the 25th annual Operation Safe Stop. The event is a reminder to all drivers that they must respect the stop sign that emerges from the side of the bus as much as any other. Pennsylvania driving regulations state oncoming cars must stop unless there is a physical divider on the road (grassy median, guard rail, etc.). This includes all cars at a four way stop.
High fives to the East Football team which ended its winless streak last weekend with a win over Sun Valley. “When you’re 0-7, you always have choices and our players are sticking together. They’re pulling for one another,” Coach Scott Stephen said about his squad. Also special shoutout to Mitch Ragni, who ran for a record-setting 98-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Hopefully the Vikings can build on that momentum as they head into homecoming this weekend.
Also congratulations to West Chester area school teachers and the district which recently agreed to a new five-year contract. Under the agreement the district’s more than 1000 educators will receive an annual salary increase of 3.5 percent and a new starting salary of just over $51,000. In exchange teachers for the salary adjustments teachers agreed to move to a high-deductible medical plan.
“With the current shortage of teachers, an increase in the starting salary will allow the district to maintain its competitiveness to attract and retain new, highly qualified teachers,” said Superintendent Dr. Bob Sokolowski.
Also a hearty slap on the back to Assistant Borough Manager Sean Metrick. Mr Metrick got the official word from Borough Council this week that he will in fact be the new Borough Manager. He will assume his new role on January 1, 2022. Sean joined the borough this time last year with this particular transition in mind. He has served the last year as assistant borough manager and director of parking, prior to that he served six years as Narberth Borough Manager. It is too early to tell which direction Sean will look to take the borough but I think a new perspective might do us good.
And finally, and not that you didn’t already know it, but congratulations to you for settling in one of the best places to live in the country.
“I think this makes sense. I think we should lead by example”Michael Galey, West Chester Borough Council President
Say hello to a vaccinated borough workforce, not to say they weren’t before, but rather to say, now it’s mandatory. This week Borough Council, after much discussion, voted 7-0 to require all its employees to get the vaccine.
Unvaccinated employees will be given a window of time in order to get the vaccine as well as the (paid) time off to do it. Educational resources and medical experts will also be made available to answer employee questions. For those with vaccine concerns there will be two allowable exemptions – one on medical grounds, such as those allergic to the vaccine, and one on religious.
All three mayoral candidates were on hand this week to share their thoughts on the decision, despite, as current Mayor Jordan Norley put it, “I don’t have a vote here tonight.” That said, he was supportive of the mandate as was Lillian DeBaptiste and Eric Lorgus. Beth Ann Rosica said, “As a Libertarian I don’t support mandates.” So, there you go. Election day is coming up soon, here is more on the candidates including those running for Borough Council, who will have a say.
Also say yay! to a curbside composting option. This week Borough Council also approved an agreement with WasteWell for curbside composting. This means as a West Chester resident you can now contract with the curbside collection service at a discounted rate. Starting next year residents will be able to contract for the bi-weekly service at a rate of $15/month. Then in the spring you can get 40lbs of compost delivered for free.
Finally, say hello to Tom Gorman, Jeff Kitchen and Eric Wilcomes your new West Chester Borough Pension Fund Committee- Borough Council selected three very qualified (and generous) individuals to lead this initiative. They will join the Borough Manager, the Borough Finance Manager, a Borough Council member, and a Pension Board Manager, who is yet to be hired, to help determine the best way to invest the borough’s pensions. It is estimated the new Pension Fund Committee will save the fund roughly $300K in management fees a year.
Despite being sucked onto the Ted Lasso band wagon, I wasn’t convinced we had enough tea-drinkers to support two tea shops. And now we have our answer, we don’t. Tranquili Tea Temple on N. Church Street is closing its doors on October 30. In a message left on the door of the shop, the owners blamed the closure in part to a labor shortage but thanked the community for their support. “We’ve really enjoyed getting to know all of you. With the labor shortage, we can no longer run two locations,” they wrote.
Fans of their tea can still get their fix at their King of Prussia location.
Also, say goodbye to the Marshall Square Park fountain. Water has been shut off for the season, but don’t worry it will be back in all its glory next spring.
Pay it forward.
Have a new or gently worn coat you are looking to get out of your already limited closet space? Here are a couple of groups looking to help.
1) West Chester University is hosting a coat drive. Their goal is to collect 200 women’s and men’s winter coats. You can drop your coats at Schmidt Hall at 225 Rosedale Avenue – free up some closet space and do your good deed for the day. They just ask that you first check to make sure the coat is clean, has all its buttons and the zipper works.
2) The Gary Mercer real estate team is also hosting a coat drive. They too are accepting gently used coats but they are accepting both adult and children’s sizes. You can drop those coats off at their office, 300 Willowbrook Lane.
Also, a shout out to the Peirce Middle School 7th and 8th grade girls field hockey teams which combined conditioning with community service collecting trash while getting their warm up run in. In total the girls collected 10 bags of trash and perhaps inspired other athletes to do the same? Way to go, girls.
Finally, did you sign up for Stewards of Children, the child sexual abuse training being offered by the Chester County District Attorney’s office, yet? It’s a free virtual training that teaches adults how to recognize, prevent and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. Not only is it super important for the protection of our kids, if you attend during the month of October you will be entered to win WCU swag and a $50 gift card to Split Rail Tavern – potentially the best bar in West Chester. Register and see all available dates here.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? Halloween will be in the air around our house. We’ll be carving pumpkins, finalizing our costumes for our first trunk-or-treat event and – thanks to a little supply chain fear – hitting Monkey Fish Toys for their OcTOYberfest and a jump on our Christmas lists.
If you are still sorting out Halloween activities don’t forget to mark your calendars for October 27, 6 p.m. for the Borough Trunk of Treat event behind Borough Hall and note trick-or-treating will take place on Halloween night in the borough from 6 – 8 p.m.
And for you over 21 treat seekers, Chester County History Center is hosting their annual Halloween (Costume) Ball on October 30; Sluethound is running a “Spirits Haunting Spirits” tour of borough pub haunts, and Artillery Brewing is getting in on the action with their first Halloween party. They have tapped a keg of their seasonal Headless Horseman of Canton Pumpkin English Brown Ale – on draught until the keg kicks.
Now for you planners, the West Chester YMCAs (Airport Road and Oscar Lasko) are currently offering a free trial membership for those looking to run off candy calories.
Mark your calendars:
Oct. 23 – Homecoming, East High School
Oct. 23, Labyrinth Dedication Celebration, Everhart Park, 5:30 p.m.
Oct. 24 – Affirmation crafting, Shadyside Park, Pavilion F, 2-5 p.m. Boards and paints provided but if you have some of your own please feel free to add to the mix.
Oct. 27 – West Chester Trunk of Treat, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., behind the West Chester Borough hall (401 E. Gay St.) The event is free and open to the public.
Oct. 30 – 2021 Halloween Ball, Chester County History Center, 6:30 -10:30 p.m. Costumes highly encouraged. Tickets $100
Oct. 31 – Trick or Treating in the borough, 6 p.m.- 8 p.m.
Nov. 8 – Blood Drive, Oscar Lasko YMCA, 1 – 6 p.m.
Nov. 10 – Abandoned Pennsylvania: Ruins of the Family Dream
Nov. 13 – Elks Art & Antique Show, Elks Lodge, 401 W. Washington Street, Open to members and nonmembers. Tables available for artisans and merchants. Contact the Elks for details.
Nov. 14 – 2021 Fall Wedding Showcase, Chester County History Center, 1-4 p.m., Admission $5.
Nov. 27 – Small Business Saturday, Downtown, free metered parking
Stay safe. Stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
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