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It’s Friday, Sept. 23. West Chester’s OutFest was canceled due to an abundance of hate. Why the Borough backed down and what’s next for this commUNITY? Plus, it’s budget season. Should you plan for another tax increase? It is undecided. It is fall and we are Oktoberfesting this weekend. After this week I think we need it. But first – let’s catch up.
Magic 8 Ball, will the Borough raise taxes this year? It is undecided.
It is that time of year again when we get our first look at the Borough of West Chester’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year and an early indicator as to whether or not a tax increase is in our future.
The Borough budget is broken down by its half-dozen or so departments. Each department puts forth an operating budget and a separate list of capital expenses. With a few exceptions, the operating budget should remain pretty consistent year over year. There will, of course, be inflationary increases but with the exception of say a pandemic shutting down the town, you look for steady shifts rather than large jumps. Below are a few areas where line items did not quite fit that pattern.
2023 Budget Mood – Feeling, okay
- Expect parking revenues to continue to increase, although at a slower pace than this year. +7%
- Income from rental permits is also expected to rise helped along by the planned opening of the new Market Street Apartments. +20%
- On the other hand, deed transfer tax is expected to drop as real estate transactions slow. -21%
- No new grant funding is expected in 2023 but the Borough will receive a second installment from the American Rescue Plan. +$1.048 million*
*On the grant front, the Borough will form a group to better identify and apply for available money. “I believe we have a team in-house with the skills to do it,” Borough Manager Sean Metrick told Borough Council during his annual budget presentation on Wednesday.
- The Police Department is preparing for a sharp increase in workers’ comp insurance. +119%
- Fuel costs continue to be a concern.+ 67%
- A big jump in Enterprise lease payments one year after entering the program. +47%
- Work in the Borough is getting more expensive and so is the Public Works budget. +11%
- Building, Housing and Code enforcement requests additional help. +50%
Capital projects under consideration and their costs:
- Hybrid and & streaming meeting solutions for Borough Council Chambers (better microphones, please) – $30K
- Replace existing virtual servers and other IT upgrades – $55K
- Complete a Comprehensive Park Plan – $100K
- Addition of adult rec activities (hello, volleyball, bocce, pickleball, and disc golf) – $20K
- Sidewalk, street, and alley repairs – $40K
- Vehicle purchases – $375K
- Fire equipment replacement – $105K
Bottom line: The budget presented on Wednesday is $250,000 over.
Now it is up to the Borough and Council to reconcile the difference either by making some cuts or raising taxes and fees. According to several members of Borough Council all options are on the table.
If you would like to see the proposed budget for yourself you can find that here. Note: specific capital projects were not listed in this year’s budget, only a line item for $550,750. Project overviews were given at committee meetings.
Pop quiz: Who is the highest-paid official in the Borough? Answer at the end of today’s newsletter.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Now Canceled West Chester OutFest
Earlier this week the West Chester Business Improvement District shocked the Borough (and the greater Philadelphia region) when it pulled its event application for the CommUNITY OutFest planned for Oct. 1 on Gay Street. The afternoon-long street fair was to be a celebration of “those in our community who are marginalized,” but after receiving a slew of what the organizers called “hate-filled” emails they decided to postpone the event.
“The whole point of the event,” said West Chester Business Improvement District Executive Director John O’Brien, “was to bring joy to the Borough.” The majority of concerns centered around a couple of scheduled drag queen performances and the appropriateness of those performances at an event where children may be present.
Update: A rally has been scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 1 at 2 p.m. at the historic Chester County Courthouse. It will be followed by a March downtown and an afterparty at Split Rail Tavern. A larger celebration continues to be in the works but many in town didn’t want the day to go by unmarked.
OutFest: What Happened?
What was said exactly? While the Borough and the BID have not released the content of the letters, on Wednesday Borough Council President Michael Stefano shared that several of the emails compared the drag queen acts to “pedophilia” and suggested the performances were “grooming” kids. A right-to-know request for the emails has been filed by West Chester resident Beth Ann Rosica. Beth Ann was one of the voices of dissent but said at Wednesday’s meeting she was not looking for the event to be canceled, only that the drag queen performances be removed.
So what exactly were these drag queens planning to do? “I believe they were going to lipsync show tunes,” said John. Drag queens have had a long history in the gay and theatrical communities. Not familiar with their significance? This video provides a brief and colorful overview.
Why did West Chester bow to the haters and cancel the festival? This has been the big question swirling around the actions taken this week and it is perhaps best described as procedural. The Business Improvement District which was organizing the event in collaboration with the Oscar Lasko YMCA noted they were already short of vendors and volunteers when the hate mail started pouring in earlier this week.. “We would need more security, more volunteers. We just didn’t feel like we were in a position to be successful,” said John, who clearly struggled with the decision. So he pulled the event application.
In hindsight the event does appear to enjoy wide support within the Borough, but how wide was not known at the time. The outpouring of support came, unfortunately, after the event application was pulled.
“If we got those responses before perhaps we would still be having OutFest,” said Borough Council member Lisa Dorsey at Wednesday’s meeting.
Instead, there is no application and without a Borough Council approved application an event cannot occur in the Borough. The next opportunity to put forth such a request would be at next month’s Borough Council meeting.
What’s next for the festival? It will be back. The Borough, the BID, and now it seems the residents are committed to making this happen. “I want to work with the mayor to make this more of a community-based approach,” said John. Work on what that could look like is now underway. In the meantime, if you would like to volunteer reach out to John directly to let him know. And in case that was too subtle – IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE THIS EVENT HAPPEN, VOLUNTEER!
“I do have faith in this community. I do think we can pull it together,” said John.
I do too, John. I do too.
Make sure your best suit is pressed. West Chester Borough is heading back to court, this time as a defendant. The Borough’s Parking Services is listed along with former department head Hector Mojica as a defendant in an injunction case being brought against the department by West Chester residents Sharon and Jackson Denton of Price Street. The case details are unknown at this time but the Borough’s legal budget line doubled in the 2023 budget proposal and Borough Council has been spending a lot of time in Executive Sessions discussing legal matters. The case will be heard by Judge Jeffrey Sommer on Oct. 3 at 9 a.m. at which time we should all know more.
Maybe use a word other than “dropped.” This week we also learned that one of two felony charges has been rescinded against Susan Miller Wright, the longtime United Methodist Childcare worker accused of child abuse after a witness reported she purposefully dropped a fussy infant on his head. She is still facing charges of endangering the welfare of children, recklessly endangering another person and simple assault but with the aggravated assault charge dropped the case has been moved to Common Pleas Court.
Always hand over the keys, before passing out. West Chester resident William Myles was stopped by police earlier this week after his car was found to be blocking the intersection of East Chestnut and North High Street around 10 p.m. on Sunday. Mr. Myles was in the car asleep at the wheel at the time of the stop. The sleepy Mr. Myles was later given a lift to the West Chester police station where he was charged with a DUI.
We take parking very seriously around here. Although, we generally prefer tire down.
A round of applause to Andiarios on Gay Street which was named to this year’s New York Times Restaurant List – subtitled – “50 places in America we’re most excited about right now.” Chef Tony Andiario was lauded for his ability to showcase “regional ingredients” and his ability to persuade diners that “there are few places better situated for cooking Italian food than this college town 30-mile west of Philadelphia.”
Also, chest bumps to Rustin Football Coach Mike St. Clair who was selected by Hyundai and the Philadelphia Eagles as this week’s High School Coach of the Week. Coach St. Clair has been with Rustin since that program’s start in 2006. After going 3-8 in their first year as a school, the mighty Golden Knights have only suffered one other season with a record below .500. They are once again off to a strong start having already crossed number one off of their yearly to-do list – win West Chester. Rustin will be back on the field tonight against Chichester.
And finally congratulations to officers Douglas Gilbert, Luis Lopez-Torres, Ryan McMillen and Cara Dougherty, the newest members of the West Chester Police Department. The officers were sworn in at Wednesday’s Borough Council meeting.
Say hello to West Chester University’s new science center. Yes, it’s been around at some level of access for over a year now, but last week marked the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for West Chester University’s Sciences and Engineering Center and The Commons (SECC). The 175,000-square-foot, $130 million project marks the largest in University history and aims to “provide a living-learning environment for the next generation of scientists.”
While University dignitaries were glad-handing and celebrating their newest building, several students took the opportunity to raise questions surrounding a long-standing one. In an open letter published Sunday by the WCU Quad, students raised concerns around Schmucker Science Center namesake Samuel Christian Schmuker. According to the letter, Professor Schmuker, while popular during his tenure at the University, was a known eugenicist with concerning views on race and intellectual disabilities. On the latter, he is quoted as saying, “The blight of feeble-mindedness is hanging over humanity. This tide must be stemmed: they must not be allowed to bring others of their kind into the world.” The building was named after the professor in 1963. No response to the charges has been made by the University.
Also, this week we say hello to City Buns. The new bakery specializing in swirl-shaped delicacies opens tomorrow on High Street. While I was not invited to this week’s soft opening (cough) firstname.lastname@example.org (cough), our friends at West Chester Grub were and they describe the buns as “easily the best we’ve ever had… perfectly sweet, gooey and moist.” Buns will be available from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. or until they sell out. Perhaps, a Saturday morning detour is required.
Finally, all you Tesla fans, say hello, to convenience.
This week we are sad to report we are saying goodbye to former President of the Fame Fire Company John “Pup” Stout. John passed away this week at the age of 64. West Chester born and bred, John was a graduate of East High School and a long-serving member of the Fame Fire Company. During his time there, he served not only as president, vice president, and trustee but for more than 20 years as an active firefighter. A visitation is scheduled for tonight at DellaVecchia, Reilly Smith & Boyd Funeral Home at 410 North Church Street. A memorial service will be held Saturday at Fame. In lieu of flowers, donations to Fame Fire Company are being requested.
Ready to say goodbye to those leaves? No, well I am sure you will be by the time the Borough yearly leaf collection begins late next month. Leaf collection begins on October 31 and will run for six weeks. Just leave the leaves in the street and a sweeper will be along to sweep them away. Collection begins at 8 a.m. so make sure to have them out early.
- Southwest quadrant starting Wednesday, Nov. 2 and collecting each Wednesday, Thursday of alternating weeks.
- Northwest quadrant starting Monday, Oct. 31 and collecting each Monday, Tuesday of alternating weeks.
- Southeast quadrant starting Wednesday, Nov. 9 and collecting each Wednesday, Thursday of alternating weeks.
- Northeast quadrant starting Monday, Nov.7 and collecting each Monday, Tuesday of alternating weeks.
Not sure if you are in the Southeast or Southwest quadrant or what I mean by alternating weeks? You can get a detailed schedule for your address here.
Pay it forward.
In counter to all the negativity in this week’s issue, a little positivity. This week the West Chester Friends Association has nearly completed the equity mural depicting a pixelated portrait of an African American individual surrounded by home and family icons on the side of their Chestnut Street headquarters. The design is artist Noah Burns’, a Rustin grad and current sophomore at West Chester University, vision of the Friends’ Association’s philosophy “housing is a human right and everyone in this community is deserving of a safe, secure home.”
I think that is a beautiful sentiment that should extend beyond the house to the community where that house is located.
Also, it’s National Diaper Need Awareness weeks. Diapers are expensive and when you can’t afford them you get creative and this is one area one should not have to improvise. If you have an untouched supply tucked in a closet (I know we did once the kids were fully potty trained) or are making a Target run this weekend, West Chester Food Cupboard will gladly take your donations. All sizes are needed.
Feeling artistic? West Chester Film Festival is accepting submissions for next year’s film festival. All films must be 30 minutes or less and be the work of independent filmmakers. The early bird deadline is Saturday but submissions will be accepted through the end of the year. Just remember that this is an international festival so your competition will come from far and wide.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? Some friends of ours are having a campout in their backyard. They do it every year. They have several families, a bonfire and lots of smores. In the past, we have bailed before tents went up but we thought we might give it a try this year. Also, our firstborn hits double digits this week. HBD Max! Seriously, where does the time go?
If you’re hanging around this weekend the Unite for HER 5K is tomorrow, so is the Chester County Art Walk in East Goshen Park and Levante is hosting an Oktoberfest at their Carter Drive location. Just remember it is West Chester Family weekend so prepare for lines and make reservations where you can. If you go over to Levante, coolly mention you saw the event listed here. I tried to get them to advertise, but they never responded.
And for those of you who prefer less aggressive shows of support, I created you a button.
(Thank you in advance).
Mark your calendars:
- Sept. 23 – Comedy Sportz Philadelphia, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. Improvisational comedy competition Tickets $25 in advance; $30 at the door. This is an all-ages event
- Sept. 23: Willkinson Lecture Series: Dr. Noriko Manabe, “The Persistence of Culture Wars”, Swope Music Bldg. 3:30 – 5 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.
- Sept. 23: Criterions Jazz Ensemble Concert, Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, 7:30 – 9 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.
- Sept. 24 – Fall Fest Weekend, Highland Orchard, 12 – 7 p.m. Pick your Own apples and pumpkins. Plus local vendors, kids activities, hayrides, beer, wine and of course, their legendary apple cider donuts.
- Sept. 24 – Coffee in the Park, Everhart Park, 9:30- 11:30 a.m. All proceeds go to support Friends of Everhart Park; Coffee $4; tea, decaf, juice boxes, and granola bars are also available.
- Sept. 24 – Movie in the Park: Minions: the Rise of Gru, West Goshen Community Park, 7:30 p.m. This is a free event.
- Sept. 24 – Unite for Her 5K Run/2K Walk, downtown West Chester, 8:30 a.m. $30 (Note: price increases after Aug. 31)
- Sept. 24 – 2022 Chester County Art Walk, East Goshen Park, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Check out more than 30 local artists whose works will be displayed along the Paoli Pike Trail. Also food trucks, music, and live demonstrations.
- Sept. 24 – Preacher Lawson @ WCU, Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, 8 p.m. Tickets – $35/adults; $30/students
- Sept. 24 – Oktoberfest, Levante Brewing Co, West Chester Taproom, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
- Sept. 24 – Oktoberfest, Downtown West Chester, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. come out for $6 beers or ciders at select West Chester restaurants.
- Sept. 25 – West Chester Railroad 25th Anniversary Celebration, West Chester Railroad, enjoy free admission, special tours, and discounted rides.
- Sept. 26 – $5 Movie: Encanto, Uptown Theater, 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $5, including free popcorn.
- Sept. 26 – WCU Faculty Recital: Guitar, Swope Music Bldg., 8 – 9:30 p.m.. This event is free and open to the public.
- Sept. 28 – WCU Chamber Orchestra Concert, Philips Autograph Library, 8:15 – 9:45 p.m.This event is free and open to the public.
- Sept. 28 – Dr. William Darlington: West Chester’s Janus of American Botany, 7 p.m. This is a virtual event presented by the Chester County History Center and is part of events celebrating the 300th anniversary of Humphry Marshall’s birth. The event is pay as you wish.
- Sept. 29 – Yoga in Everhart Park, Everhart Park, 6 – 7 p.m. Classes are $5 and all proceeds go to support West Chester Parks & Rec.
- Sept. 30 – WCU Symphony Orchestra Concert, Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, 8:15 – 9:45 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.
- Sept. 30 – Better Than Bacon: Improv Comedy, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance/ $30 at the door.
- Oct. 1 – Coffee in the Park, Everhart Park, 9:30- 11:30 a.m. All proceeds go to support Friends of Everhart Park; Coffee $4; tea, decaf, juice boxes, and granola bars are also available.
- Oct. 1 – Flannel Fest, Highland Orchard, 12 – 7 p.m. Food, games, drinks, flannel, live music and adoptable pups – what more does a fall festival need?
- Oct. 1 – Oktoberfest Open House, West Chester Public Library terrace, 1- 4 p.m., Enjoy free bratwurst, hotdogs, and pretzels, along with a craft beer and wine cash bar. Plus, a make-and-take craft for the kiddos!
- Oct. 1 – Luca, West Goshen Community Park, 7:30 p.m. This is a free event.
Quiz answer. As of today that would be Borough Manager Sean Metrick with a salary of $150,000, just dollars ahead of Police Chief James Morehead at $149,483. The honor, however, will change next year if the police chief’s 15 percent pay raise goes into effect as budgeted.
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
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