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West Chester Weekly News Roundup: April 14, 2022

Pretty in pink: Spring in the borough.

The easiest way to be in the know.

It’s Thursday, April 14. As flooding gets worse around the borough, West Chester has money to spend – but does it have a master plan to fix the problem? A look at what is planned for this year. Plus, two fifth graders organize a rally for Ukraine’s kids and it seems my concerns over West Chester’s coffee shop shortage may soon be over. Wishing everyone a happy Easter but before we get there – let’s catch up.

Rainy days and flooded roadways

After only a few days of rain the water at E. Chestnut and Montgomery Avenue is already almost at street level. Flooding here has become a perennial problem for emergence services.

As I was on the east side of town last week taking pictures of the newly sold Davis Oil property, I noticed Poplar Street had sprouted a leak. At first I thought this might be a new drainage tool being utilized by the borough to help manage its stormwater, but as I got closer, no. There was no tool, no grate, no pipe – water was literally shooting directly from the ground. Which brings me to – West Chester’s flooding problem.

Whether it’s due to increased population density (see new developments here and here), greater rainfall intensity, or a degradation of our stormwater management systems, flooding is a growing concern in the borough. In an interview with the Daily Local earlier this year new Borough Council Manager Sean Metrick listed stormwater improvements, including flooding issues at Goose Creek, among his priorities. 

The Marshall Drive Stream project calls for the addition of gabion baskets and rebuilding of the stream banks to stop further erosion.

West Chester does have several stormwater management projects budgeted for this year. They will be fixing several pipes and culverts that transport the runoff and they are extending the stormwater sewer extension on W. Washington. In total they will be investing more than half a million dollars in stormwater improvement projects and that does not include the Marshall Drive Stream Protection project already underway. This project is aimed at preventing further mechanical erosion of the stream by clearing debris and trees, regrading, remulching and doing, essentially, whatever it takes to keep the steam bank from sliding into the stream. 

While it’s a start, a lot of these projects, like the Marshall Drive Stream project and the Plum Run project before it, are simply repairing existing damage. “These projects help control floodwaters and prevent further erosion but don’t address the underlying cause of the problem- rainfall entering our municipal storm system in the first place,” Mr. Metrick said in an email. 

According to Mr. Metrick, the Stream Protection Fee generates about $1.1m in annual revenue. About $770k of that goes back into maintenance and new projects. In addition, last year West Chester was awarded nearly $2 million through the American Rescue Plan. While there are several ways these funds can be spent, stormwater management is one of them. Between the two it could be an opportunity to tackle some of those underlying problems Mr. Metrick mentioned. 

However, where exactly that money would be best spent is not entirely clear. I was not able to find a master Stormwater Management plan guiding the borough’s actions. Actually, at the moment, it’s not that easy to find much information about the program that launched with a Stream Protection Fee in 2016. That however, I have been assured, is changing. 

“I hope to get more information out this year geared towards your questions in a self-service format on our website,” Mr. Metrick shared via email.

Exciting. We’ll just have to wait and see if it answers all my questions.  

“We’re literally sitting on a time bomb that we’re sure is going to go off at some point, but we don’t know when.” 

Jon Zang, West Goshen

What good is a mobile home if you’ve no place to park it?

This week the story of a West Goshen mobile home community served as the basis for a national article on another affordable housing option brought down by a redhot real estate market – the mobile home. The story first reported by Daily Local reporter Bill Rettew back in December tells of the West Goshen Mobile Home Park which was sold to Walkart, Inc., an investment firm. Walkart would like to dissolve the park and put high end apartments in its place. 

Located on West Chester Pike near Strasburg road, West Goshen Mobile Home Park was established in 1957 and is home to about 60 families who pay roughly $600 to rent the land, well below the area average of $1852 a month for a roughly 900 sq. ft apartment. (Note: rent only includes the land. The mobile home unit must be purchased separately.) 

For now the property is protected by a West Goshen zoning ordinance, which would need to be changed to allow for an apartment complex, but showcases the growing difficulty to find affordable housing options, especially those with enough space to raise a family, as real estate prices continue to rise. 

The article was written by States Newsroom, a consortium of reporters focused on covering statehouses across the country, and was picked up by publications from New Hampshire to West Chester, OH. 

For Kids by Kids: A rally for Ukraine

Community organizers Cat Farrelly and Zoe Kamins speak at their rally for Ukraine.

Here’s a story for when you just don’t feel like following through on that volunteer event you signed up for on Saturday morning… 

On Friday April 1, between 150 and 200 people gathered at the steps of the courthouse to show their support for the Ukrainian refugee crisis but unlike previous efforts this wasn’t focused on the adults. This rally was designed to raise awareness about the plight of children dragged into this crisis and it was organized by two fifth graders at Greystone Elementary, Cat Farrelly and Zoe Kamins.

Cat had the idea. “One night I was in the car with my mom and I was hearing a lot about what was happening in Ukraine and I wanted to do something to help them,” she said. 

Zoe researched organizations. “I spent the whole night looking for organizations that help kids. I really liked Voices of Children Foundation because they help kids get through war trauma.”

Then they decided to go big. “Our first few ideas were to do some fundraisers around the school but we wanted to think bigger,” said Zoe. “We wanted everyone to know about us. We met up with [PA State Rep] Dianne Herrin and that is where we came up with the idea for a rally.” 

A challenge that paid off. 

It is estimated between 150 and 200 people attended the Kids 4 Ukraine rally.

“It was kind of hard and kind of stressful,” said Cat about putting a rally together on short notice. “We had to find all the speakers and decide how we were going to raise money.” Then their first date got rained out and the whole event had to be postponed by a day but in the end… “It went really well,” she said. 

“I had no idea what to expect but whenever someone stopped. Everyone would start cheering so loud,” said Zoe. “And I got to see my first and second grade teachers there.”

The rally is done but this is not the end for the girls who are already pushing limits. I asked them if they had any idea when they started fifth grade that they would be running an organization supporting war-torn kids in a country halfway around the world. They both laughed at that idea.

“If I thought I was going to be running an organization like this I would think I would be at least 20 years old. Not ten years old,” said Zoe.

“Same,” said Cat. 

If you want to support these efforts and help push the girls to their $5,000 goal, donations are being accepted for another week. And keep an eye out for their Kids4 Ukraine t-shirt coming out soon. 

Great minds think alike. Read about 11-year old Liv Ward this week in the Daily Local. Liz is a Stetson student who has been busy collecting diapers and match box cars so Ukrainian kids have something to look forward to once they finally reach safety. 

The warnings.

Keep a spare set of keys handy. This week the West Chester Fire Department along with the police and EMS were called out to North Franklin Street to free a child locked in a vehicle. Fortunately, temps have not yet started to rise very high and the kid was quickly rescued, given a once over by EMTs and sent back to his parents. Take this as a friendly reminder to keep doors locked especially with toddlers around. Cars can turn particularly dangerous on hot summer days.  

Keep your head up. This week several quick-acting spectators worked together to rescue a deer caught in a soccer net at the Rustin Football stadium. Fans were there to watch a baseball game when they noticed the deer tangled in the net. Thankfully the deer was cut free without incident – unfortunately the poor soccer net which did not survive the ordeal. 

The inflation is real. West Chester Police are seeking help identifying three more individuals wanted in regards to an attempted theft at Giant in Bradford Plaza last weekend. This marks the fifth, sixth and seventh person wanted in connection with a theft at the grocer in the last two months. While it’s hard to identify faces in the blurry picture, if they were attempting to walk out with the cart as shown, they are quite ambitious and perhaps a little delusional. 

The Accolades.

This week in accolades we are wrapping up winter sports by honoring a few standout performances. A big round of applause to the following Ches-Mont All-League First team selections:

Spring sports. Keep an eye on the field, the track and field, especially if Rustin is on it. Last week the Golden Knights (boys and girls) took first in the Ches-Mont American Super Meet. Leading the way for the girls, track (100M, 200M) and field (long jump, triple jump) standout Ava Alexander. Ava won all four events even after breaking her nose in a weightlifting accident. Also, impressive Ellie Keefer winning the 3200M and 1600M and Maddie Miller taking home first in the 400M and 800M. The boys secured victories in the 4×100 relay and the triple jump. But even before the outdoor season began, back in March, Ava and teammates Maddie and Ellie, snuck away to New York to compete in the Nike Indoor Nationals during which Ava took first place in the Girls Triple Jump by .06 of a meter.

Finally, congratulations to the West Chester YMCA Gymcats on hosting their first 2022 YMCA Pennsylvania State Gymnastics Championships. The team welcomed more than 200 athletes from across the state to their newly updated Oscar Lasko training center on Chestnut Street. 

Hello.

Hoops at Kathy McBratnie Park

Speaking of exceptional young athletes, say hello to Athletes Untapped, a new West Chester business born of West Chester University’s Business Idea Competition. Started by husband and wife team and former collegiate athletes Gene and Elaine Williams, Athletes Untapped is an app that helps connect young athletes with coaches for one-on-one skill development. 

Gene and Elaine decided the coaching match game needed an upgrade after reviewing the highly popular CoachUp, which launched more than a decade ago to much fanfare and more than $2 million in venture capital funding, but who’s technology has not kept pace. 

“Elaine and I were very unhappy with their platform,” said Gene. “It’s not coach-friendly and their tech is pretty outdated. So we decided to build something better.” Athletes Untapped differentiates itself with a video upload feature that gives coaches the ability to critique form and upload personalized training videos directly through the app. 

Athletes Untapped is starting focused – the app currently only assists with basketball and soccer connections – but its pool, or perhaps I should say, its bench runs deep. Over the last six months, Athletes Untapped has reached out directly to dozens of coaches and former collegiate athletes across the region building out a network of coaches that is now more than 100 strong. 

With a solid network of coaches in place, and just in time for summer breaks, Athletes Untapped is ready to meet the kids. Outreach is planned to local elementary, middle and high schools. And while some may see thousands in potential scholarships, this app is really about the love of the game. “We are helping young kids get better at sports,” Gene said. 

Also weeks after learning Fenn’s Cafe was closed and lamenting the state of coffee in West Chester, rumor has it we may be saying hello to a new coffee option. According to plans reviewed by West Chester’s Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB), a new coffee shop will be setting up shop at 123 N. High Street, the former home of Jane Chalfant and conveniently located across the street from the Hotel Warner. Interestingly Jane Chalfant owner Kiki Comeford told me they struggled to sell their clothing to a new owner in part due to the size of the location but, I guess, coffee is not a market that can head online. No word yet on when we can expect this new location to open. 

Say hello to better wine pairings. Fox 29’s Bob Kelly was out at Carlinos this week checking out their new(ish) wine shop. A collaboration with Sicilian-based Tonnino Winery, the in-store wine shop opened late last year. 

And finally, say hello to having your say. The Daily Local announced last week it is bringing back commenting on its articles with some ground rules

Goodbye.

401 W. Union Street, former West Chester Preservation winner.

Say goodbye to saying goodbye. Nominations are now open for the West Chester Preservation awards back for their 11th year. The awards recognize projects large and small that highlight and preserve West Chester’s history – and the people behind them. If you know of an individual, project or place that has contributed to the character of the borough, the preservation committee wants to hear about it. You can find the nomination form online or grab one while at the BID office on North High Street. Nominations due by June 10. 

Also, basketball fans say goodbye to open court time. The pickleball craze has come to West Chester

P(l)ay it forward.

(You know I love a good pun.) Downtown West Chester is looking for musicians to play at its new “Fête de la Musique” event planned for June 21. The event is based off a Parisian tradition that involves musicians playing street corners across the French city. The West Chester version will be a bit scaled back but still musicians, beginner to seasoned, are needed to fill the air with music from 12-9 p.m. If you are interested in participating, email Rebecca Schmidt for details. Maybe some of the Porchfest performers will be up for an encore by then?   

The freakin’ weekend. 

Fun in the field: the Borough Easter egg hunt at Everhart Park.

What are you up to this weekend? We have a busy weekend of football games and egg dying. My parents are visiting from out of state so the boys are excited to show off their athletic talents. Also, I was tipped off to this Easter Egg hunt. It’s not West Chester but it’s one pandemic tradition I have been kind of missing. 

Before I go, some exciting news. The site hit some pretty big milestones this week – more than 2000 followers on Facebook and more than 1250 email subscribers! Thank you to all who have been reading for the last couple years and those that have joined recently. What a great community we have! If you would like to recieve your own updates by email, you can sign up here.

Mark your calendars:

That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and everyone have a Happy Easter, Happy Passover, and/or fun spring break. I’ll see you next week.

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