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It’s Friday, November 19. It’s official. Your cost to live here just went up and no, this time it’s not inflation or property values. It’s another tax increase. Also, the Borough backs away from getting financial advice from residents. While the Financial Ad Hoc Committee was credited with some innovative ideas, it was determined their work here was done just as they turned up a suspicious $2.7 million withdrawal from the Wastewater treatment plant. Plus, the new chocolate shop and the latest details on the Hotel Indigo.
Attention: Your cost to live here just went up
This week Borough Council voted unanimously to adopt the final 2022 budget and while there’s nothing too jaw dropping about the final numbers – we are looking at a 4 percent real estate tax increase and not-too-terrible 6.5 percent sewer rate increase – there is little to get excited about either. The events that once drew residents downtown or to the parks have been slashed. Revenues are down across the board. From recreation to housing to parking, all revenues are projected below pre-pandemic levels for 2022. Parking the cash juggernaut that drives the borough budget is still projected $1 million below 2019 levels.
The Wastewater plant continues to be beleaguered by costly upgrades and repairs. And unless something changes, we are probably looking at a future of modest annual tax and sewer rate increases – but there was a sliver of good news tucked between to the sad looking line items. After securing a flat rate on healthcare costs, the borough was able to redeploy the funds to get a few things done on its capital projects to-do list.
- Public Works will get to retro-fit its new Ford dump truck
- Recreation has negotiated a playground equipment upgrade for Marshall Square park.
- The Police department will be updating its mobile video and AED equipment
But IT is still not getting the equipment it needs to host hybrid Borough Council meetings.
So that’s it. The 2022 budget is in the books. There has been little discussion or debate after the first round of revisions – not a single resident showed up to weigh in this week. It seems neither Borough Council nor the residents have the energy or the ideas for a fight this year.
As to the future of borough finances, that is somebody else’s problem. See goodbyes.
The Hotel Indigo
This week Borough Council approved, upon HARB (Historical Architectural Review Board) review, changes to the Hotel Indigo agreement. Under the new proposal developer Zukin Properties has asked that the height of the building be reduced to 73 feet or from seven stories to six. According to the Daily Local, rising construction costs were the reason for the reduction.
The hotel design which suffered significant back and forth between the developer and Borough Council, even ending up in the Court of Common Pleas, was finally approved in March of 2019. Height was one of the areas of contention with the borough preferring no building to extend above 60 feet in the Town Center and many developers, including Zukin Properties, finding this limiting.
Once completed the new hotel will feature 108 rooms – choose from either a king bed or two queens – a fitness center and a ground floor restaurant said to be operated by the Big Fish Restaurant Group, a Delaware beach staple. The new hotel will go up on the corner of Walnut and Gay Streets across from the post office and its look will mimic existing downtown structures. Demolition of the former Rite Aid building is planned for early next with construction expected to take 16 months. So don’t expect to book a room until 2023.
Programming note: In case you were wondering what happened with the bulk trash fee discussed last week, don’t worry, I didn’t forget you, it was punted to next month’s Borough Council working session. So, stay tuned – and the best way to do that is to subscribe.
Come ready with a plan b. With travel expected back near 2019 levels, it’s probably not too much of a leap to expect Thanksgiving Eve drinking levels to rebound as well. Unfortunately West Chester has already been dealing with a bit of a DUI problem as of late. Arrests for driving under the influence rose to 19 in October this is up from one the year before. Also up, assaults (66% year over year) and public drunkenness (350% over last year). Rideshare options continue to be in short supply so designate a driver or watch your consumption if you are heading out next week (or really any time).
Take another look. West Chester police are still seeking assistance in locating Uriel Angeles-Hernandez. The 26-year-old white Hispanic male was last known to reside in West Chester and is currently occupying the West Chester PD’s most wanted list. Mr. Angeles-Hernandez is wanting in connection with two sexual assaults that happened earlier this year.
Don’t rake all those leaves. According to Doug Tallamy, bestselling author and entomologist , who spoke at West Chester University this fall, a modest leaf covering helps guard against flooding. While this leaves don’t absorb the water, the leaf debris does help corral the moisture giving it time to soak into the ground and replenish the water table.
Shout out to West Chester University Football’s Jackson Taylor. The sophomore linebacker was recently named PSAC East Defensive Player of the Year earning first-team all conference honors in the process. He was joined on first-team All-PSAC East Football team by running back Ja’Den McKenzie. In all the 6-5 Golden Rams placed nine players on the all-conference team (2-first team, 7 second-team).
Also cheers to Wrong Crowd which celebrated its one-year anniversary last week. Combined with Artillery, the westend now has a nice little beer garden feel and I’m digging it. And speaking of anniversaries, Bar Avalon is celebrating 20 years in the borough. Why not stop in, try their smoked manhattan and toast to another 20.
Say hello to a new chocolate fix. This week Kilwins chocolate, fudge and ice cream opened on the corner of Church and Market streets in the window-lined former office of retired State Representative Andy Dinniman. While I’m not familiar with the chocolate chain, many in the area are. “SO EXCITED FOR A KILWINS IN THE AREA!!” one West Chester Mom wrote on Facebook. Apparently the chocolate covered pretzels are to die for.
Say, hello, to dining under the snow. This week Borough Council voted to allow sidewalk dining year round. However, under the provision restaurants need to limit their sidewalk setups to tables, chairs and standing heaters. They also approved a plan that would add outdoor tables to the side lot of Artillery Brewing. Under the conditions of the plan outdoor dining would need to end by 9 p.m. during the week and 10 p.m. on Saturday and noise must be kept to a minimum. Swing by this weekend if you’d like to check out the new set up.
Finally, say hello to a new education option. This fall the Riverstone United Christian Academy opened on Hannum Avenue, part of Providence Church. The school provides students sixth through tenth grade with a Christian education option or as they describe it “a place to explore biblical truths in their daily lives through a faith-focused education.” They also promise small class sizes and in-person, hybrid and cyber options. If you are looking for new education option, they are holding an open house this Sunday at 2:30 p.m..
Your work here is done. This week Borough Council said goodbye to their Financial Ad Hoc Committee. The committee was credited with modernizing the financial reporting system, setting the new sewer rate, establishing a volunteer pension board to review pension investments, and transferring police dispatch to 911. They also reviewed police staffing levels, the borough budget and the financial impacts of the sale of the wastewater plant and with that it was determined by Borough Council their work, as outlined, was done and the committee should be disbanded.
While some members of the original committee have already resigned others, have expressed interest in reviewing other initiatives, including the use of part-time police officers; investing capital in higher interest rate funds; and reviewing the overdraw of $2.7 million from the wastewater treatment plant by the previous Borough Manager in an attempt to “bankrupt the wastewater treatment plant – to make it look non-profitable as a way to eliminate it.” – wait what??
I don’t know but maybe we should revisit that last one?
In January three new members are set to join Borough Council including at least one new member of the Finance committee. I guess we’ll see then what they see as worth investigating.
Also, this week we say goodbye to Norm Eavenson. Norm, who passed away this week at age 74 from COVID-19, was well known in the area as a high school basketball talent evaluator. He had been covering East Coast hoops for more than 30 years helping hundreds of athletes realize their dreams of playing at the next level. In his final Twitter post he left aspiring players with this simple but effective advice, “Take hundreds of shots a day.”
Pay it forward.
The YMCA angel tree is back and sadly once again it is full of angels in need of a little holiday assistance. If you’ve never participated, your angel comes with a wish list and sizes for clothes and shoes. You shop for the items, wrap them and stuff them in the provided Santa-sized sack and return to the Y. I know Toy for Tots (West Chester PD is a collection site if you prefer this method) is supposed to make it easy with no directions but I find it impossible to make a decision.
Also, West Chester is looking for a little help spreading the love to our collegiate neighbors and vice versa. Earlier this year Borough Council voted to reinstate the West Chester Community Campus Committee with the goal of improving town-gown relations particularly in the areas of health, safety and quality of life. Now they are looking for residents to staff the committee.
While not stated, patience, understanding and open mindedness would be appreciated. If you are interested, submit your letter of interest and your resume or biography to Dana DiDomenico in the Borough Manager’s office. Deadline for submissions is December 1.
Finally, know a local teacher that goes above and beyond? Help them get the recognition they deserve, nominate them for a Heart of Learning Award from Citadel.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? We will be spending some quality time at the Oscar Lasko YMCA checking out their new gymnastics set up – which, let’s be honest, is clearly wasted on our four-year old but I am sure the more seasoned gymnasts are appreciative. Also, I would love to check out the “Running of the Turkeys.” It is a race taking place Sunday at 11 a.m. outside of Kildare’s. Runners must complete a mile course carrying a 12 lb. frozen turkey.
The turkey is your entrant fee and all fees will be donated to John Dibella’s Turkey Drop. No need to register. Just grab your turkey and meet at the starting line. Amazing.
Also, the West Chester University orchestra is holding a free performance on Friday night. Described as a performance that will “charge your batteries.” It begins with the “caffeinated” works of Huapango by Moncayo, and ends with the compellingly unique Symphony No. 1, “Afro-American Symphony” of William Grant Still.
And finally the Santa Express gets started this weekend. I guess supply chain issues have everyone starting a little earlier this year. If this is a holiday tradition of yours, I’d get those tickets now. Several sessions, especially in December, are already sold out.
Wait, one more thing – Dia Doce mini-boxes are back!! And they are pie-themed for Thanksgiving!!! Hurry, Tuesday is the last day to order.
Mark your calendars:
Nov. 20 – Max Weinburg’s Jukebox, Uptown Theater, 8 p.m.; tickets are $59.50. Uber fans can upgrade to add in a meet and greet with Max and a personal signing session.
Nov. 20 – Symphony Orchestra Concert, Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre, 7:30 – 9 p.m., This event is free and open to the public. Note masks are required while in the venue.
Nov. 21, Running of the Turkeys, Kildares, 11 a.m., no registration required just bring a 12 lb frozen turkey with you.
Nov. 27 – Small Business Saturday, Downtown, free metered parking
Nov. 27 – Shave Off for Charity, The Shop on Market Street, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Cheer on as West Chester PD goes back to their clean cut ways. Food, drinks and fun for the whole family.
November 27 – Santa on a fire truck, Downtown 3 p.m.
November 28 – Menorah Lighting, outside the old courthouse, 4:30 p.m.
December 3 – Green Santa at the Chester County History Center, 4 – 5:30 p.m. take a photo of your kids or your pets with Santa dressed in his traditional green garb. Event sponsored by the West Chester Green Team.
December 3 – Traditional Tree Lighting Ceremony, outside the old courthouse, 6:45 – 8 p.m. featuring surprise guests and live music
December 3-4 Holiday Cheer Concert, Uptown! Theater, 5 p.m. Tickets $15 adults; $10 kidsDec. 4 – 33rd Annual West Chester Friends West Chester Charity Ball,West Chester Golf and Country Club, 6 – 10 p.m. Tickets $200/each
Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Go forth and be neighborly. I’ll see you in two weeks.
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