Hands up, January. I surrender.

The easiest way to be in the know.

It’s Friday, January 14. Hey, we’ve made it two weeks! COVID surges. Latest numbers, new testing sites and how to get answers from the health department. Plus, PECO announces a second project downtown – where they are headed and how long it will last. Hint: probably the rest of the year. And congratulations to the 29(!) West Chester seniors who will be taking their sports prowess to the next level. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.

It’s a mess around here.

PECO is currently finishing up work on Church Street. Expect to see them back on Gay Street next week.

Or to say, PECO’s work continues downtown – with a second phase in the works. They have names, Harmony 4 and Harmony 1, I believe but it’s confusing and internal so for the sake of clarity let’s call them PECO 1 and PECO 2. PECO 1 is happening now and is centered on and around Gay Street. PECO 2 is new (yippee) and will involve Market Street.  

PECO 1

Right now: PECO is currently wrapping up on Church Street between Chestnut and Gay Street.

Up next: Gay Street from Church to Darlington. Expect road closures during this time.

What’s left: High Street between Chestnut and Market Street. Repaving of Gay Street (again). Once PECO has completed all work involved in project 1 and a small piece of project 2 which involves Gay Street, they will repave Gay Street and the portions of Church and Darlington Streets dug up as part of this project.

Time to completion: Approximately 3 months + PECO 2 work on Gay Street + repaving. The best guess is sometime this spring. 

PECO 2 

Scope of work: Market Street between New and High Street; Church Street between Gay and Miner Streets.

Up first: The PECO 2 project will start with a small piece that needs to be completed on Gay Street between Church Street and Ryan’s Pub.

Time to completion: Once Gay Street portion of Project 2 is complete they will switch back to Project 1 and finish paving those roads. They will then return to PECO 2 however at this time no permits have been issued for this second scope of work so there is currently no timetable for when it will begin. However, I wouldn’t expect them out of town anytime soon.

“PECO’s track record seems to be eight to ten weeks per block,” John O’Brien, Business Improvement District Executive Director said in an email.

COVID Part-2

COVID continues to make life difficult -regardless of vaccination status.

While I don’t normally like to dwell on what we all already know. COVID is inserting itself so much lately it’s really quite hard to ignore. This week Chester County Hospital hit record high hospitalizations, the courthouse reinstated its mask mandate and West Chester area parents got the dreaded email – remote would be an option once again.

On Tuesday the school district announced starting next week West Chester Area School District would offer students “temporary access to classroom instruction.” The option, which will be available for the next two weeks, is for students grades 3 – 12 who are for are forced to miss school for COVID related reasons (sickness, mandatory quarantines, vaccine appointments). Unlike previous hybrid experiences this is a listen and learn model. Students will be able to observe their teachers presenting a lesson but they will not be interacting with the classroom. The virtual student’s mike and camera will be turned off. Also, note this is optional. Attendance of virtual students will not be taken and students who are not in the classroom will continue to be marked absent whether they tune into to view the lesson or not. You can learn more about this hybrid but not approach here.    

Latest available County COVID data

Chester County Health Department (week 12/31)

  • Positive case counts: 6103
  • Incidence rate per 100,000: 1162.50
  • Percent change in positive cases from prior week: +395

West Chester Area School District (week Jan. 2)

  • Positive case counts:432
  • Positive students: 384 
  • Positive teachers: 50 
  • Percent change from prior week: -39%

With numbers still on the rise, COVID hospitalizations at Chester County Hospital set a new record this week. Chester County Hospital admitted 73 patients with COVID last week. This is up from a previous high of 45 COVID patients in one week set in December of 2020. The closing of Jennersville Hospital on December 31 could definitely have impacted these numbers. COVID hospitalizations in total for Chester County remained just below the peak (3 cases off) set in late December 2020. 

For your reference: WCASD dataCCHD dataCCH data

On the upside there is evidence that Omicron has peaked or will soon – fingers, toes-crossed that is us. In the meantime, have questions about this latest surge? Chester County Health Director Jeanne Franklin is hosting a zoom call on Omicron and the current state of the pandemic in Chester County January 20 at noon. Register here, if you’d like to attend.

Eye on Water Quality

Stormwater management project completed at Hoopes Alley. This project was funded by the borough’s Stream Protection fee.

Last week Chester County released its annual report on water conditions in the county. The report tracks the health of the county’s water resources by analyzing the findings of various target metrics recorded at 18 sites across the county. The researchers caution that while a year’s data is helpful it is really the long term trends that are important.

That said, a couple of things to note:

Chester Creek, which is fed by the Goose Creek tributary that runs through the east end of the borough, saw a drop in biotic diversity in 2020 from Fair to Poor. Bio diversity is a common measure of a waterway’s health – the higher, the better.

Chester Creek continues to see elevated levels of phosphorus. Elevated phosphorus levels, often caused by runoff of fertilizer and lawn chemicals or from wastewater management plants, can lead to excessive aquatic plant and algal growth.

In the waterways directly surrounding West Chester all showed increased levels of chloride. While these counts remained well below PADEP standards, chloride levels in Chester Creek have been rising steadily since tracking began in 1998. Elevated chloride levels are often caused by runoff of road salts used to treat in icy conditions. Low levels of chloride occur naturally but elevated levels can be damaging to freshwater systems.

For more information on the state of our waterways you can find the full report here.

“What I did that day for those 22 minutes, I look at that as a dark blot in comparison to serving my country for three years.”

Gary Wickersham, Capital rioter 

The warnings

Don’t follow your friends off the bridge. West Chester resident Gary Wickersham, who retains the distinction as the oldest person to storm the Capital on January 6, is now the oldest person to be sentenced for it. Perhaps, age led to some last minute wisdom, because the Judge did cite his leaving once things escalated as the reason behind her sentencing choice – 90 days home detention and a fine. In his interview, Mr. Wickersham suggested boredom led to his trip to Washington. Perhaps we can help him find something to do a little closer to home?

Then again, maybe some people shouldn’t be leaders. This week West Chester Police arrested a Mr. John Elder of Delta, PA who was found drunk in a residence that was not his own very early last Sunday morning. It is believed Mr. Elder entered through an unlocked side door. No evidence of theft was reported but Mr. Elder was taken into custody regardless. 

The Accolades.

Also in Accolades: West Chester University wins distinction for its sustainability programs.

It’s not easy stepping up your game. So a shout out to these West Chester high school seniors who have committed to play and learn at the collegiate level. 

Henderson: Dan O’Neill, University of Maine, Baseball; Eddie Smink, Stony Brook University, baseball; Jackson Snyder, Mount St. Mary’s, baseball; Zachary Klein, Washington College, baseball; Jackson Rutecki, Campbell University, baseball; Ryan Brutsche, Virginia Wesleyan, lacrosse; Delaney Turner, Old Dominion, lacrosse; Grace DePrisco, Old Dominion, lacrosse; Bella Collier, West Chester University, soccer; Noel Kiefer, Misericordia University, soccer; Katie Simpson, Duquesne University, swimming; Rylee Kelly, University of Rhode Island, swimming; Krista Marlin, Penn State University, swimming; Lily Horencamp, Yale, diving; Dylan Smolders, University of Delaware, swimming

Rustin: Ella Slachta, University of Tampa, lacrosse; Skylar Baur, University of Albany, lacrosse; Alexys McClain, Drexel University, lacrosse; Madison Battersby, Longwood University, lacrosse; Mairead Hopkins, West Chester University, softball; Allyson Black, Millersville University, softball; Gina DelGiorno, Mount St. Mary’s, softball; Lindsay Krafchick, Duquesne University, soccer

East: Brynn Klueber, Eastern Michigan University, lacrosse; Sonia Piombino, High Point University, cross country and track; Victoria Kim, Williams College, golf; Dylan Heyduk, Susquehanna University, baseball; Gavin Lill, University of Pittsburgh, baseball; Lizzie Carr, Purdue University, volleyball

It’s funny you can glean a few things about the area when you look at announcements in bulk. For one, I’ve learned the West Chester area has some pretty serious lacrosse programs and two, the West Chester Henderson baseball team better come ready to play. 

Speaking of college education, West Chester University has a few new distinctions of its own to show off. It was recently named a Princeton Review Green College and a Sierra Club Cool School. While it’s not exactly a leader, #227 out of 328 institutions reviewed by the Sierra Club, it is among a small minority of PA schools included on either list. So there you go, leading among the back of the pack but as WCU Sustainability Director says, “it’s inspiring to read about the creative climate and sustainability initiatives our peers are undertaking.” Here’s to upping the game in the future.

“It’s my job to make sure that employees understand that we’re working for other people in this town, people we may never meet, and they depend on us to make good decisions, look out for their safety and guide change in a positive direction.”

Sean Metrick, West Chester Borough Manager

Hello. 

Say hello, Mr. Borough Manager to Sean Metrick, who recently assumed the borough’s top position after serving as assistant borough manager for a little over a year. While Mr. Metrick is not exactly new to Borough Hall, there are still some questions about how he will lead. Will he follow his predecessor Mike Perrone and continue to shrink the government’s role and operating budget or will he look to be more expansive adding back events and services? Only time will tell for sure but a profile this week in the Daily Local began to give us some clues. 

For one, unlike his predecessor, he is looking to hire again. He also mentions focus areas of infrastructure, storm water management, safety and walkability.

Also, say hello to a new improved Oakbourne Park. State Rep. Dianne Herrin announced this week Westtown township was awarded a $1.5 million grant to improve the park including its playground, walking trails and ADA accessibility. If you have any Little Leaguers, or we spent a bit of time there this fall for soccer, you are probably already familiar with this park located just off of S. Concord Road. Maybe it too will become a “destination park”?  

Finally say hello, to new COVID testing sites. I hinted they were coming last week and it looks like they are now here. Curative has opened a free testing facility at the Government Services Center (601 Westtown Road); there is also another location in West Grove. Note: While located at the Government Services Center, the testing site is being run independently of the County Health Department. For questions or to schedule an appointment, go directly to the Curative website. I tried it on Thursday and they had same day appointments available when I looked. If the West Chester location does not show up when you search it means no appointments are available at that time. However, according to CCHD, appointments are added on a rolling basis so continue to check back often.   

Goodbye. 

Say goodbye to the shimmer and shine. Downtown holiday lights get put away after this weekend.

Say goodbye to seeing high school sports live – at least for the time being. In a message that went out to parents, students and fans last week, West Chester Area School District stated it was temporarily adjusting its attendance policy for indoor athletic events. Under the updated guidance there will be no student section and only members of the athlete’s immediate family (parents, guardians, siblings) will be allowed to attend the events. Masks will be required for all attendees regardless of vaccine status. 

And while we’re here, say goodbye to seeing West Chester University students until February. While classes will resume as planned on January 24, the University has announced the first two weeks of instruction will be remote. That said, buildings will be open for students that need them including residence halls, dining facilities, computer labs, and the library. According to a letter sent to students, faculty and staff the change was made based on “updated guidance from public health experts and to continue to keep our University community safe.” 

Sadly over the holiday, West Chester also said goodbye to a couple of well-loved residents. Darryl McLain, a long-serving Ward-2 judge of elections and the borough’s most memorable Santa Claus passed away December 26 at the age of 66. “She had a charismatic personality. She literally lit up every room she stepped into,” said Zayah McLain of her great-great aunt. Read more about her life and infectious energy here.

We also said goodbye to long-time resident and retired WCU professor Ray Doyle. A regular presence in the University history department for 30 years, Ray ended his tenure in 1995 as chair of the department. He also served for many years as a correspondent for the Daily Local and in 1974 co-wrote a booklet on the history of the borough in recognition of its 175th anniversary. More recently he could be found teaching art appreciation classes at the West Chester Senior Center and spending time with his grandsons.

Pay it forward.

Cornerstone Fellowship church on W. Gay Street is participating in a children’s literacy event in honor of Martin Luther King Day.

6 Ways to give back for MLK Day

Monday is Martin Luther King Day – aka, a national day of service which imo never quite gets there but in hopes that this is its year. Here are a few ways to give back locally. All of these are donation-based, virtual or outside. See: COVID, Part 2. 

  1. Grab books for the Children’s Literacy book drive. The goal here is to collect 500 books that feature characters of different races, ethnicity, orientation and ability – so children of all varieties can see themselves in the lead. Drop off locations include the Good Will Firehouse, 552 E. Union St. and Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, 426 W. Gay Street. Donations accepted between 9 and 11 a.m. The books will be distributed to the children through the Charles Melton Center, Gaudenzia Kindred House, and Casa Youth Advocates. Need some book ideas? Here you go (courtesy of Casa Youth Advocates.)
  2. Participate in a community conversation. Another way to get involved is to learn more about a topic affecting our community – in this case fair housing. Listen in as panelists PA State Senator Nikil Saval, Adrian Garcia, Director of Fair Housing – PA Human Relations Commission, and Lila Singleton, Executive Director -CYWA discuss what housing justice looks like in Chester County. Conversation will take place via Zoom from 10 – 11 a.m. Event is free but registration is required.  
  3. Get creative with a “draw your neighbor” community art challenge. Draw your neighbors, neighborhoods, or something that depicts what the word neighbor means to you then drop off your artwork at the Friends Association between 9:00am and 3:00pm or email it to them at k.olivencia@friendsassoc.org. Open to all ages and skill levels. 
  4.  Join a beautification crew. The Friends Association is also looking for volunteers to help spruce up the space outside their 113 W. Chestnut Street offices. Clean up activities planned for 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Note: this event is weather permitting. Sign up here.
  5. Participate in the Melton Center’s Annual MLK Day Food Drive. Any non-perishable items will be accepted but if you need ideas – PB and J, soups, canned fruits, veggies, fish, meats and beans, instant mash potatoes, oatmeal, rice and pasta, cereal and fruit juice (100% juice preferred). Donation accepted between 9 – 11 a.m. 
  6. Drop off in kind donations to the Friends Association. Requested items include: Kitchen items (dish sets, pots, pan and glassware), bathroom items (towels, wash cloths, bath accessories), bedroom items (twin, full and toddler sheets, blankets, pillows) paper products (TP, tissues, diapers, pads, tampons), cleaning supplies (detergents, cleaners, mops, brooms, dustpans) and gift cards. Drop off between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. 

The freakin’ weekend. 

Throw back to last Friday when it was good to be a kid again.

What are you up to this weekend? We have been exposed. As of right now, it is just one of us and no positives but that may just be a matter of incubation. Anyway in light of these new developments, we will be laying low, ordering sushi and playing some of those board games we got for Christmas. This one, surprisingly enough, is fun from 4 to 40 (plus).

Heading out this weekend? Kildare’s is hosting a Beatles tribute band on Saturday, West Chester’s semi-pro b-ball team the Wildcats host Phoenixville on Saturday. They are on a six game winning streak and, as far as I know, they still allow fans. And Two Birds Café is back and they brought some new menu items with them.

Oh, and Monday after you’ve done your good deed, stop by Greystone Oyster Bar they will be honoring Betty White’s birthday with hot dogs and martinis. Available until 4 p.m.

Finally, The Melton Center is hosting a free health screening next Thursday, 4-6 p.m. Blood pressure, weight and BMI screening provided as well as a complimentary meal prepared by the Filet of Soul Culinary Institute. No registration required, but the meal is provided on a first come, first serve basis. Can’t make it next week? Another one is planned for February 17. Same time. Same place. 

Mark your calendars:

  • 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
  • January 31 – WCU Faculty recital, Stephen Ng, Tenor, Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre, 8-9:30 p.m.
  • February 7 – First day of in person classes for WCU
  • February 7 – WCU Faculty recital, Kimberly Reighley, Flute, Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre, 8-9:00 p.m.

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.

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