With COVID-19 cases spiking, Coatesville City Council has enacted an emergency declaration requiring that masks be worn in public and banning public gatherings of more than four unrelated people.
City Manager James Logan said the restrictions are necessary to protect public health because COVID-19 cases jumped by 197 in the city in just 20 days. As of the Dec. 14 remote meeting, Coatesville had 595 cases and five deaths. The state of emergency will extend at least until Jan 4, when council will meet at 6 p.m. to reorganize for 2021.
During the meeting and during a Dec. 9 public budget hearing, council members expressed great concern over recently observed maskless public gatherings of local citizens, and also said some residents who have lost jobs during the pandemic will be needing food and financial relief.
However, council member Carmen Green said she believes finances “are looking up” for the city, because for the first time in many years council was able to adopt a true balanced budget with no tax increase and without dipping into the city’s “rainy day” reserve trust fund.
Council passed the $16.5 million budget by a 5-1 vote, with Nydea Graves, who had pushed to reduce the police budget, casting the no vote. Council President Linda Lavender Norris was absent from the meeting, and due to technical difficulties, council member Carrie Arvilla Hunt’s vote was not audible.
Taxes will remain at 13.759 mills. The spending plan calls for $11,738,903 in general fund expenses; $1,054,044 for solid waste expenses, $340,172 for debt service, $3,018,933 for capital reserve expenses; $288,302 for liquid fuels, and $89,000 for the annual Grand Prix.
Council also approved salaries and wages. The city manager will be paid $116,160, the finance director $76,505, the police chief $115,118, and the fire chief $70,045. The budget also includes $75,000 for an assistant city manager, a position not yet filled.
Local entrepreneurs and investors also reported they are moving forward with planned projects despite the pandemic.
Jamie DePetris of DEPG Coatesville Associates and Legend Properties said the firm has commitments from Prosper Bank and Elite Therapy to lease 20,000 of the 34,000 square feet planned for the Gateway Project at First Avenue and Route 82. Prosper Bank will finance the project.
Dennis Dantzler asked for council’s approval so he can apply for an economic development liquor license to open Andrea’s Jazz Cafe at 236 E. Lincoln Highway on July 1, 2021. The venue will offer live music and Creole cuisine.
Saying the project will be a good fit for the city, council said it will approve a formal resolution in January.
Sonia Huntzinger, economic development director of the Second Century Alliance, a nonprofit organization working to revitalize Coatesville, reported during the city’s quarterly Nov. 17 Keystone Opportunity Zone public meeting that five businesses opened this past year in downtown Coatesville despite the pandemic.
During that meeting Logan said Coatesville is no longer just in the steel industry. The city manager said the city of about 13,000 people is steadily moving toward nurturing innovative culinary, hospitality and manufacturing businesses.