West Chester’s Washington Monument Syndrome

West Chester’s Washington Monument Syndrome

Published: Jan 7, 2011 at 9:09 pm

At last week’s West Chester Borough Council meeting, where Borough Council increased taxes over 20%, the taxpayers of West Chester were effectively given two choices: pay onerous trash collection fees, or increase taxes. Likely a majority of the more than 100 in attendance acquiesced to the 20% property tax increase, meaning that the average taxpayer would see a yearly increase of $130.

But the West Chester residents were presented with the classic Washington Monument Syndrome: cut the most visible and appreciated service in order to provoke outcry and then increase taxes instead.

West Chester residents were not told, as we can see in the minutes from their August 2010 meeting, that Borough Council voted to use brick instead of concrete for the sidewalk around our recently-built Chestnut Street parking garage. In fact, Board President Holly Brown said that she “does not feel the $9,500 cost is too much” for for this frivolous expense.

Shockingly, prior to the vote to spend $9,500 on brick pavers instead of concrete for the sidewalks, it was noted that “Council added over $800,000 for two extra facades for the alley sides plus $300,000 for an extra elevator” on this very project! Also in the minutes is that “change orders in the (Chestnut Street garage) project have increased the cost over $170,000.”

We are also a borough that overpays for electricity so that our residents can subsidize alternative power. We are a borough that pays, according to the April 2010 Borough Council minutes, “$500,000 for a Municipal Building Energy Retrofit Project.” We are also either paying to build a parking garage solely for West Chester University’s use, or paying the legal fees to back out of it.

West Chester residents were given a choice between their trash and their taxes. The real choice was between brick pavers, two extra facades, an extra elevator, subsidizing alternative energy, low-energy lighting, and a University parking garage versus a 20% tax increase.

It looks like our Washington Monument will stay open after all. I wonder how brick pavers would look around the outside?

SEAN CARPENTER

West Chester Borough

Originally published December 23, 2010 in the Daily Local News.