The easiest way to be in the know.

It’s Friday, January 7. Hello, 2022! I don’t know about you but I am ready for a new start. That said, COVID cases are on the rise (again), West Chester’s bulk trash fee goes into effect this week. I get the details from Public Works Director Al Vennettilli – early communications from the borough were a bit confusing. West Chester’s new mayor is sworn in and several downtown restaurants left before the ball dropped last Friday. Heads up – there is a lot in here. Feel free to skim, I won’t be offended. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.

Have you had COVID yet?

We are in the middle of another COVID spike. This one began between Christmas and the New Year.

No? Well, you may be the only one. Between December 27 and January 2, 5,500 people in Chester County tested positive for COVID-19. According to the Health Department’s data, it was a near doubling in incident rate from the previous week, which was already a near doubling from earlier in the month. All of which is a likely an under count. The county does not include home test results in its numbers.

Also staggeringly high is the number of tests coming back positive. Last week that number was over 25 percent. Fortunately, at least for now, deaths have not followed suit. No deaths due to COVID were reported by the county over the last week.

While the symptoms have generally been reported to be milder with the Omicron variant, especially among fully vaccinated individuals, a COVID positive still comes with a minimum 5-day quarantine and those numbers could start disrupting life again. While schools remain open for now cases are clearly on the rise, both my elementary students reported having substitute teachers this week. One had a sub for a sub, despite their school showing no teacher positives for the last week of available numbers. Add this on top of a continuing substitute shortage and it appears despite all our efforts, parents are back in a waiting game.

Also, having early pandemic flashbacks, small business owners. I’ve already seen at least two establishments (Yori’s and Two Birds Café) forced to close due to “extremely short staffing.”  Both are expected to be open again by Monday.

What you need to know:

  • If you took an at home test and it was positive, report it here.
  • In alignment with CDC guidance, Chester County Health Department updated its quarantine guidance. If you are out and about on the web note, you may find contradictory information while they work to update all resources. You can find the official guidance here. Also good information on when to test, when to quarantine, for how long and who to tell, here.
  • Yes, there is a shortage of test kits. Although there are also a lot of helpful people around here if you find yourself in desperate need and according to a recent update in the Philadelphia Inquirer, West Chester should be getting a new PCR and rapid testing facility soon. Although, where and when is not exactly clear yet.
  • West Chester Area School District has updated its indoor sports attendance policy. Until further notice only immediate family members of the athletes will be allowed to attend events.
  • Worried about the hospital situation? Help is on the way.
  • Worried about the school situation? Have a bachelor’s degree? You could be a substitute teacher. You’ll just need your clearances. Here’s how to get emergency certification.  

Introducing West Chester’s New Bulk Trash Fee

Not bulk trash but taking this space to remind you Christmas trees collection occurs the first two weeks following New Year’s Day. If it wasn’t out there this week, make sure it’s there next week.

As promised West Chester Borough rang in the new year with a new bulk trash fee and it had a lot of people raising a lot of questions. Now, if you are a regular reader you were probably not one of them but to be fair the Borough’s social posts on the topic weren’t exactly clear. So, let’s see if I can break this down for you.

Good because I have questions. 

First – exactly how much will I have to pay for my bulk trash? That depends on what you plan on putting out. The new fee, which is $35 per item, only pertains to large items – those with a dimension total 30’ or over. Think dressers, mattresses, box springs, etc. If your bulk trash items are smaller than this you will not need to pay anything to have them picked up.

The post said I will have to make arrangements to have items picked up. Will West Chester still have regular bulk pickups? Yes, there will still be regular bulk trash pick up the first full week of the month as there has been. Most items will continue to be picked up free of charge. Remember the new rule applies only to large items

I think I’ve got it. There are now three classes of trash – regular, bulk and extra bulky. How do I know the difference? Well, you are going to have to break out a tape measure. For any item with a dimension total of 30 cubic feet or over (for example: 2’ x 3’ x 5’ or 4’ x 4’ x 3’) you will need to go to the Public Works Department, pay a $35 fee and schedule a time to have the items picked up. 

Wait, did you say I will need to go to the Public Works Department? Where is that anyway? Is there no online option?  All very good questions. Yes, you will need to go to the West Chester Public Works Department which is located at 205 Lacey Street, because no, there is no online option at this time. However, electronic form and payment options are being worked on. Public Works will also be adding a drop-box for people to submit their forms and payments after hours but for now, Public Works Director Alberto Vennettilli recommends residents come to the office (remember 205 Lacey Street) so they can be sure the items are correctly being charged. 

Do I get the form at the Public Works Department or is that online? You can find the form here, but I am sure they also have copies available at Public Works.    

Why now? Haven’t we had enough financial hits lately? Yes, everyone seems to be feeling it. Borough, too. And each time Public Works takes these large items to the dump they get charged. And as I understand it, while you may get rid of that mattress every 8 – 10 years, Mr. WCU senior who has been sleeping on his brother’s hand-me-down for the last four years may not be so eager to haul that relic home when he moves out in the spring. This also applies to his dressers, box springs, couches, etc. In the past you were essentially paying (via taxes) your bulk trash fees and theirs as well. Now, in theory, the student or the landlord will be on the hook for the fees. Of course we won’t know how that pans out until sometime this summer. 

In the meantime, for anything that is not absolutely trash, you can try the West Chester Buy Nothing site. They do a wonderful job keeping things out of landfills and they don’t charge a thing. 

Side note: I have seen a lot of people shocked to see this increase come through, clearly they have not been reading this friendly neighbor update. See here and here. If you run into them, perhaps gently push them in the right direction. No one deserves to be blind-sided. Subscribe here.

The warnings

Maybe just steer clear of dining in the area? No disrespect to those in the Westtown/Dilworthtown area not under scrutiny by the Chester County health inspector but last month it was Pizza Peddler, and this month it’s El Limon and New King Wok. 

El Limon, a Mexican taqueria part of the Shoppes of Dilworthtown crossing, racked up 13 violations including storing cooked rice in grocery bags, no soap at the handwashing sink and cockroach activity in the food prep area. The site was treated by pest control prior to the visit but apparently more treatments are needed. Yikes.

Also under investigation, New King Wok on E. Street Road across from the Amish Market (and the Peddler) was cited for 12 violations among them no soap at the hand wash sink in the prep area, improperly stored chicken (for example, cooked chicken found in cardboard lids previously used for raw chicken) and prepared food with no date markings.  

Seriously, do they know it’s Christmas time at all? West Chester Police are investigating a burglary that took place in the 100 block of Lacey Street sometime between December 23 and December 26. The burglar forced entry through a locked rear door and left with multiple items including jewelry and money. If you have any information about this incident, contact West Chester PD at 610-696-2700.

Slow down we still have 360 days to go. This week the West Chester Borough Fire Department reported coming to the aid of several pretty nasty area crashes including one involving an entrapped passenger at the corner of E. Ashbridge and N. High Streets, another involving a flipped truck at S. High and E. Miner and one involving a construction vehicle on fire inside a secure property. 

Also, in case you missed it, West Chester Fire Department responded to a 2-alarm fire at the University Court Apartments on the 700 block of South Franklin Street just days before Christmas. Firefighters were tipped off to the blaze by a passerby who noticed the building’s roof on fire. Fortunately, the complex, which houses primarily WCU students, was mostly empty as students were home for break. However, at least five students were forced to evacuate and three firefighters suffered minor injuries. Fortunately, no other injuries were reported. 

In total, the West Chester Fire Department responded to over 1500 calls last year. And…

Slow down we still have 364 days, 22 hours to go. This week the West Chester Police Department is seeking help identifying those involved in a pretty nasty beat down outside Pietro’s in the early morning hours (1:30-2:30 a.m.) of New Year’s Day. If you recognize anyone in this video, contact Officer Carabello at 610-696-2700.

In the meantime, come on people. I have a good feeling about 2022. Let’s all plan to stick around to enjoy it.  

The Accolades.

Congratulations to Rustin’s Dayshawn Jacobs who was recently named the Daily Local’s Football All-Area Player of the Year. He was also designated the number 1 running back in the state and named a first team all-state selection.  It doesn’t hurt your case when you set the Chester County single-season records for rushing yards (2,741) and touchdowns (43), while leading the Golden Knights to the District 1-5A final.    

Also, shout out to fellow Knight Ellie Keefer who was named the 2021 Daily Local News Girls Cross Country Runner of the year. All while balancing school work – way to go, guys!

“I am the part of West Chester that often gets pushed to the side. I am the part of West Chester that needs a voice.”

West Chester Mayor Lillian DeBaptiste

Hello. 

View Mayor DeBaptiste’s swearing in ceremony.

Hello, Madam Mayor. Lillian DeBaptiste was sworn in this week as the borough’s first black female mayor. She was accompanied to her ceremony by a who’s who from the West Chester community from former mayors and political leaders to leaders at West Chester University and business. After receiving praise and wisdom from the aforementioned group and being officially sworn into her new office, Mayor DeBaptiste took some time to recognize those that were not there that day. 

Her father for one. Former West Chester Mayor Clifford DeBaptiste was home battling COVID. She had strong words for those that haven’t taken COVID seriously – “West Chester starts with ‘w-e’,” she said. “It doesn’t start with ‘m-e’.” She also had a message to all minorities, immigrants, people of all color, she see you. 

“I am a walking paradox,” she said. “I represent the best of West Chester.” And went on to mention her coming up in the West Chester Area School District, her degree from West Chester University, the experiences of her parents – her father serves as her model for the role. “I also represent the least of them. I am black. I am female. I am the part of West Chester that often gets pushed to the side. I am the part of West Chester that needs a voice.”

The ceremony in keeping with the message of diversity ended with prayers provided by leaders representing the area’s three main religions Christianity, Judaism and Islam followed by an Irish blessing. 

Also, say hello to Good, Bad & Ugly a new cocktail bar that has opened under Stove & Tap. I don’t know much about them but I do know they have a pool table and they are open. I’ve got next.

Goodbye. 

Once home to the Pita Pit, the empty store front is now being prepared for a hot chicken place. One of two expected downtown in the coming months.

Perhaps not surprisingly the year ended with a few goodbyes. Although to be fair, some of these happened earlier and I missed them. 

First farewell to Cirillos Pizza. Under the same ownership as the Spicy Pig and at the same Market Street location, Cirillos Pizza, an artisan pizza shop offering signature pies like the memorable pickle pizza, opened late last year shortly after the Pig closed. Unfortunately, pizza is a tough business in this town. Just before Thanksgiving, they closed their doors again. This time for good. 

“We tried to hold on as long as possible with no help. Unfortunately we had to close our doors,” they shared with fans via their Instagram page.  “Thank you to all our regular customers who kept us going. A 2 year labor of love. Hopefully the future is brighter moving on!”

Also we say goodbye to Rimon’s Coffee and Grocery on W. Gay Street.  I first learned about Rimon’s from a 2019 column Daily Local by reporter Bill Rettew. It was owned by a couple from Indonesia who invested their savings to open a convenient mart downtown. They offered a mix of coffee, sandwiches and random supplies. At the time they were doing a solid business to construction workers and courthouse staff, as volume at both took a hit over the last few years, perhaps it is not a surprise the little mom and pop shop could not hold on.  

And best of luck to the Pita Pit. After six years stuffing unleavened bread with your favorite toppings, Tiko, Bessa and Bella, owners of the Pita Pit, shared they would be ending their West Chester run on November 30. “It has been an honor being a part of this wonderful city and community!” they shared via Facebook.

Finally, we are saying goodbye to a couple of long-serving educators who made retirement their New Year’s resolution. A big thank you to Ms. Algier, first grade teacher at Westtown-Thornbury, and Ms. Calogero, EL teacher at East Goshen, for your years of service. 

Finally, finally, finally, say goodbye to La Baguette Magique – not forever but for January. The French bakery is closed for renovations.

Pay it forward.

First Fire Company on the verge of a big delivery. Photo First Fire Company Facebook.

What do you do when you find you have $1800 left in unused meeting funds? If you are the First West Chester Fire Company you turn to your neighbor, who happens to be Hillsdale Elementary School and ask – how can I help? Working with the school, the fire company adopted a family in need of some extra holiday cheer. That was last year. This year they decided to add two more stops on their Santa-led fire truck. 

“It’s all about the kids and our community. When the families and their children see Santa stepping off of the fire truck to deliver their gifts it is such a rewarding moment,” said Station 51 President Andy Rongaus. 

Feel lucky to have amazing organizations like First Fire Company in our community? Support them.  

60-degree December days have you looking for ways to do more to protect the environment? West Chester Green Team is looking for members to join their Water Committee. The purview of the committee includes rain gardens, water pollution and I’m guessing storm water management. It seems when it rains, it pours these days. Message them, if you’re interested. 

The freakin’ weekend. 

View from our back deck. This is as dedicated as I was feeling towards getting a good snow pic this morning.

What are you up to this weekend? We will be out enjoying our first snow of the season (we were away for the actual first snowfall) and sticking close to our phones to see how many of the weekend’s events will be cancelled.

If you also find yourself, newly available: tonight marks First Friday in the borough. Enjoy free metered parking, if you can find it. While you’re out, warm up with some hot chocolate from Gryphon Café or Ghost Chili Cheddar sliders from Side Bar. Want to pretend it is not January? Artillery is serving a mix-up with Wrong Crowd, a strawberry milkshake saison that will only be available tonight and Gemelli is running a buy one pint, get one half off special through Sunday. 30 flavors will be available to choose from. Resolutions are made to be broken!

Mark your calendars:

  • January 7 – First Friday, Downtown West Chester, free metered parking
  • January 7 – Double Vision: the Foreigner Experience, Uptown! Theater, 8 p.m. Tickets $35 + $3 service fee. 
  • January 8 – Best of Boston, Uptown! Theater, 8 p.m. Tickets $25 ahead, $30 at the door + $3 service fee. 
  • January 8 – The Sin Brothers, Pietro’s Prime
  • January 10 – Monday Movie: To Sir with Love, Uptown! Theater, 7 p.m. Tickets $5 + free popcorn 
  • January 17 – Monday Movie: Selma, Uptown! Theater, 7 p.m. Tickets $5 + free popcorn 
  • January 19 – 3rd Wednesday Book Discussion, West Chester Public Library, 1- 2 p.m. Always want to join a book club? Now’s your chance. The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles is being discussed. Spring and summer titles will be selected. Bring your lunch and get to share. 
  • January 20: Community Conversations Part 3: Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community?, Rustin High School, 6:30 – 8 p.m. Registration required by January 18 to attend. Event is free but note, you must live in the WCASD.  
  • January 22 – Light Up the Night: Uptown! Fundraiser, Uptown! Theater, 6-10 p.m. Tickets $125 January 24 – First day back for WCU
  • January 24 – Monday Movie: Ratatouille, Uptown! Theater, 7 p.m. Tickets $5 + free popcorn 
  • January 24 – Fun with STEAM – Zoom presentation by the West Chester Public Library, 5-6 p.m. Geared toward kids 5+ the event is free but registration is required

That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week. 

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

3 thoughts on “West Chester Weekly News Roundup

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