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West Chester Weekly News Roundup: Feb. 18, 2022

Unseasonable winter workouts.

The easiest way to be in the know.

It’s Friday, February 18. Yay! Gay Street may soon officially be a West Chester street. What this means for the long-term vision for downtown. Plus, West Goshen gives the green light to an ALDI, West Chester wants your thoughts on electric vehicles, and local schools update their masking policies for students. It’s February Madness around here. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up!

The abandoning of Gay Street

West Chester, this could all soon be yours.

This week West Chester Borough Council voted unanimously to accept PennDot’s offer to abandon part of Gay Street. 

Yay? 

Ok, I grant you that this does not sound like the most exciting news but if you are a fan of the Gay Street Open Air Market (aka Gay Street closure) this is an important step in making that a yearly event – and really any events that require the closure of Gay Street. 

And why does PennDOT care if we close Gay Street? 

Well, because Gay Street, or PA Route 3 as PennDOT knows it, is a state road and they are responsible for what happens on it. This includes changes to traffic patterns, repairs and closures. To close Gay Street the last two years, the borough had to first obtain permission from PennDOT. This proved to be a cumbersome and prolonged endeavor. If you’ll remember, both years the closure began much later than originally planned. This was due in large part due to a delay in receiving necessary permissions. Just this week Business Improvement District Executive Director John O’Brien encouraged the borough to go ahead and apply for permission now for a Memorial Day closure just in case this process of abandonment takes longer than expected. 

If PennDot “abandons” Gay Street it then becomes a West Chester road?

The map above illustrates the section of Gay Street PennDot has agreed to transfer to West Chester.

Yes, or at least part of it. Under the approved agreement PennDOT will abandon Gay Street from Matlack to New Street and it will “thereafter be owned and maintained by the Borough.” While Chestnut Street will become the new official PA Route 3 detour. The only stimulation PennDOT put on the abandonment is that the borough not close the road permanently without prior PennDOT approval.  

So, wait, does this mean we are going forward with the Gay Street closure? 

No, official decisions were made this week but this is a good sign and a crucial first step toward making the closure a permanent event. We also learned roughly where the members of council stand on continuing with the closure even with the additional challenges this year. See here, if you need a recap. While there are some differences in what they see long term – some would like to see the street permanently closed 24/7 while others prefer a more limited approach – as of right now, six of seven members expressed interest in finding a way to close the street in some capacity this year even if that is only Memorial Day to Labor Day, Thursday through Sunday. Safety concerns would still need to be addressed particularly around proper barriers but to quote, Councilman Brian McGinnis, “If Phoenixville can do it, West Chester can do it.” 

What’s your EV style? 

Electric vehicle use is an important part of West Chester’s energy transition plan, but limited off-street parking options could prove a barrier to large-scale adoption.

What would it take to get you to say goodbye to your gas powered vehicle? The West Chester Area Council of Governments (which includes West Chester Borough as well as neighbors East Bradford, West Goshen, and Westtown) wants to know. It is all part of their ambitious plan to transition the region to 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2050. Reaching that goal will require significantly increasing the number of electric vehicles on West Chester roads but to do this they first need a better understanding of how many EVs are on the roads now and what are the barriers to greater adoption. 

“Electric Vehicles can help eliminate the burning of gasoline, which represents about a third of our carbon footprint in the car-centric West Chester area,” said Jim Wylie, member of the West Chester Area Clean Energy Future Steering Committee. “But they also present a few challenges for us. Charging at home, just as we charge our phones, is the logical path forward, but not all of us have access to off-street parking. And that’s just one barrier. This survey will help us quantify this and other barriers to electrifying our personal transportation,” he said.

What’s keeping you from an EV or do you already have one? Take the quick survey and share your thoughts. 

Note – West Chester is currently (waaaaay) under-represented in this survey and while, I know it is not a competition. We are losing badly. 

The warnings.

Image via West Chester Police on Instagram. Watch the full clip here.

That is snow good. (Sorry.) West Chester police are looking for help identifying an individual wanted in reference to an assault that took place during Saturday night’s snow storm on the 50th block of South High Street. And while the blurb does not mention location, that just happens to be the same block that houses Barnaby’s. If you have any idea who the bespectacled gentleman is, contact the WCPD at 610-696-2700. 

And to give you a fuller picture of this fun evening out, same night, same West Chester block, and, I’d venture to guess, same unnamed West Chester establishment, a Mr. Bradley Thoeny of King of Prussia was brought in on disorderly conduct charges for fighting as was a Mr. Ryan Howley of Malvern, PA. 

Just say no. Last week a couple of drug investigations culminated in the arrest of several individuals on varying charges. A Mr. Akir Griffin, 19, of Norristown, was charged with possession with the intent to deliver prescription meds and Mr. Bashir Jackson, 19, of Philadelphia was served similar charges in relation to his possession of heroin and cocaine. Devon Taggart, 27, of Clifton Heights was also charged with possession with intent to deliver as well as illegal possession of a firearm. All now await preliminary hearings.

Finally,

Don’t lend people your gun. Some things should just not be shared.   

The Accolades.

While not quite March, there is a little basketball madness happening around here with West Chester high schools securing both the girls and boys Ches-Mont hoops titles this week. On Tuesday night at West Chester University Hollinger Field House, Rustin’s girls basketball kicked it off with a win over a talented Downingtown East. After leading comfortably for most of the game, Rustin found itself down by one with less than a minute to play. But have no fear, Laine McGurk was there. The junior standout nailed a jumper to take back the lead and the team followed with a couple key free throws to keep it there. “I knew that once that ball went into her hands, she was gone and that ball was going down,” Rustin coach Lauren Stackhouse told PA Prep Live. The Lady Golden Knights will be back in action on Wednesday as the sixth seed in the PIAA 6A District One Tournament. 

Then following on that energy, West Chester East grabbed an upset win and the Ches-Mont title from Downingtown West. After losing to the Whippets in both conference meetings this year, East stepped up to the challenge and came away with a convincing 55-48 win over the (former) conference leader. This is East’s third straight Ches-Mont basketball title. The Vikings will look to build on this momentum as they also start tournament play next week. They are 7th seed in the PIAA 6A District One Tournament and will play on Tuesday. 

Also in postseason action, the Rustin Boys basketball team. They have secured the 10th seed in the PIAA 5A District One Tournament and they play tonight.

Finally some cheers for the experts. West Chester University cheerleading and dance squads both walked away with some serious acclaim at this year’s national competition. The Dance Team brought home the school’s first ever gold in elite competition when they were named the 2022 Open Division Hip Hop National Champions. “The team is very proud to bring this national championship home to West Chester University,” said Julia Adams, team co-captain. At the same event, the cheerleading squad placed fifth all among competitors and were the top performing Division II cheer squad. ESPN is expected to schedule an airing of the competition soon.

Hello. 

The West Chester Police station is located in Borough Hall at 601 E. Gay Street.

Say hello to the state’s first Police Department run Emergency Protection from Abuse Site. When a victim feels they are in an abusive situation they can go to the courthouse and request a temporary protection from abuse order. This order gives them immediate protection from their abuser. Since abuse does not just happen during business hours, on nights and weekends there is a judge on call somewhere in the county to review these requests. Previously, victims would have to drive to this location to complete the paperwork and meet with the judge in person. Not always feasible. Now victims can also go to the West Chester Police Department where they can complete everything via Zoom including meeting with the judge. In only its first weekend open, the West Chester police reported assisting with four restraint requests. 

Also, attention, West Chester shoppers you may be getting an ALDI (and a Popeye’s Chicken). This week the West Goshen supervisors voted 5-0 to approve the plan to build an ALDI supermarket at the site of the former Spellman Building (829 Paoli Pike). The plans also call for the addition of a fast food restaurant with drive through. It was confirmed at the meeting the mystery establishment would be Popeye’s Chicken. 

Concerns were noted around flooding. Montgomery Ave and down into the Borough already experience significant flooding from an already restricted Goose Creek and this development is only expected to make things worse. Despite concerns the plan was praised by the supervisors for bringing an affordable food option to the area that can be accessed by pedestrians. The approval came with a condition to revisit plans for an adjacent field to try and improve stormwater management around the development.  

Goodbye. 

Students at St. Agnes can go sans masks starting on Feb. 28. However, masks would still be required on buses.

Get ready to say goodbye to masks in school, if you go to Catholic school. This week the Archdiocese of Philadelphia updated its mask policy to make masking optional in all its suburban schools including St. Agnes School and St. Maximilian Kolbe starting February 28. Masks would however still need to be worn while riding the bus which is covered by a separate federal law and for five days after returning from having COVID.

The West Chester Area School District is also reviewing its masking policy. Last week Superintendent Dr. Robert Sokolowski notified families that he would be recommending changes to the Health and Safety Policy and this week the Education Committee voted unanimously to take the recommendation to the full board next week. Under the new recommendations masking would only be required when levels of community spread are high. After which guidance would go to recommended during time of substantial spread and optional when at spread is moderate or low (or a 7-day incident rate of 50 or less per 100,000 people). Currently masks are required in schools any time the county transmission level is above low.

While cases have dropped significantly over the last several weeks, (the current incident rate is 158 cases per 100,000 versus 1190 per 100,000 seen in early January) the transmission rate in Chester County still remains high. Note: the incident rate will need to fall below 100 and the positivity rate below 10 percent (it is currently at 10.4 percent) before mask usage becomes recommended. However, Dr. S. dismissed the idea of simply selecting a date to change the requirements stating in his letter, “While some communities may be pointing to a date on the calendar for removing masks from K-12 schools, our plan will continue to be based on developing information.” 

One parent wants to take it several steps further removing not only the masks but those that determined they be worn in the first place. According to a report in the Daily Local, last week West Chester resident and former mayoral candidate Beth Ann Rosica filed a petition with the Chester County Court of Common Pleas seeking the immediate removal of the West Chester Area School District school directors. In her petition she stated that they have “created and implemented illegal policies that violate Constitutional rights and, as such, caused irreparable harm.” In other words, she is not a fan of the mask policy. I am not sure if she is looking to recall all school board members or just a select few, a similar suit has been filed against the Downingtown school board. 

If this name and legal measures sound like they go together, that may be because this is not Ms. Rosica’s first West Chester-based lawsuit. She previously filed a lawsuit against the Borough of West Chester and former Mayor Dianne Herrin in opposition to a pandemic isolation measure that ended after 30 days.

Also, say goodbye to a local employer. Philadelphia Business Journal reported this week, West Chester-based data analytic firm Waypoint Consulting will be acquired by Wipfli, a large accounting firm-based out of Milwaukee. According to the report, Waypoint’s 25 employees will be asked to relocate to one of the firm’s other regional locations.  

Finally, this week Borough Council voted unanimously to approve the suspension of Lieutenant Chris Daly’s employment with the West Chester Police Department effective December 31, 2021. Sergeant Daly has served in the police department since at least 2015 and was currently serving as Lieutenant of Professional Standards. As of yet, no reason for the suspension was given.  

Pay it forward.

WCU students celebrate their award winning business idea. Image credit: West Chester University

Sitting on the next “big idea”? Well, West Chester University Entrepreneurial Leadership Center would like you to get off your butt and bring it to them. It is all part of the 2022 Business Idea Competition. Now, in its tenth year the Business Idea Competition celebrates (and funds) business ideas that have not yet been commercialized. Interested entrepreneurs can participate in one of four tracks:

So, think big, put pen to paper and get your business ideas in by February 25. Grand prize is $2500; first place in each track will receive $1500.  

Have an old prom dress sitting in your closet waiting for its second wear? Well, it’s never going to happen – there is never another occasion, unless it’s another prom that you’ll wear that dress – and face it, then, you’ll just want a new dress. So, claim back the closet space and get that lovely dress dancing again. All three area high schools are hosting Prom Dress Shops this year. Each is currently accepting gently used dresses, shoes and accessories. And you can feel good knowing, you have made someone’s day extra special and the dress got a second wear. Dresses, etc, can be dropped at the front office of the high school of your choice. 

Just note: East and Henderson are accepting dresses until May but Rustin’s collection ends March 4.

The freakin’ weekend. 

Taking advantage of the unseasonably warm temps while they last.

What are you up to this weekend? Hillsdale elementary, where two of our young students should be today, has lost power and is closed. So we are currently coming to terms with our now extended President’s Day weekend – some of us are more excited about this development than others. At least it should be nice enough to kick them outside.

Or maybe we’ll walk down to Iron Hill and try their beer and Girls Scout cookie pairings? Beer for me, cookies for them. I think we all win. This Friday and Saturday only. Also, Yori’s has brought back its popular Brownie parfait – brownies, fudge and whipped cream. Wow. And your favorite fur-parents expected their first human baby? Lucky you. Luxey Little Ones has just the onesie for such an occasion.

And planning ahead? Tuesday is National Margarita Day. Stop by Mas for a $5 getaway.

Finally need a little help working off the Valentine’s chocolate? 352 Jitsu is offering a free class to get you kick-started. 

Mark your calendars:

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

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