By Scott Whaley
“There are no bad ideas.” That’s how Chester County Commissioner Joe Melaro opened a Town Hall Meeting at Besso’s Thursday evening.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways to best utilize the $3.3 million in ARP (COVID relief) fund that county is slated to receive.
A group of about 35 included interested citizens, along with city and county officials.
Melaro opened the floor too, and no one was shy about pitching their suggestions to the group.
The most popular suggestion was the overwhelming need for local childcare/daycare services. Most agreed that the lack of these services had a negative impact on everyday lives and the local economy.
Stories of how local residents drove out-of-county for day care or simply chose not to work in order to stay home with small children. Single parents are especially hit hard.
Local realtor Craig Casey said that he had recently sold four homes in Jackson to people that really wanted to live in Chester County but couldn’t because of the day care situation.
Jason Bramblett, owner of the Bramblett Group, said that he had several employees that had to make a choice between working or staying at home with children.
Regulations governing day care centers are stringent and those guidelines would have to be met prior to funding this service.
Another popular suggestion also involved children. Kirbi Fahs, the County Manager of the Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse said that they needed a larger facility to implement all of their services. She said that their current location is too small to offer the privacy to their clients and a group of forensic case workers that interview children and parents. They have been looking for some time but have yet to find an alternate solution.
“Due to lack of privacy we now have to cancel appointments at the last minute when these interviews take place.” Fahs said. “This is inconvenient to our other clients.” She went on to say that the conference room we use now will not hold the number of people we need it to, especially when we must follow COVID guidelines.
Fahs went on to say that, depending on the size of the new facility, a day care center could also be housed in a separate area of the same building.
An addition to the Technology Center was discussed. Additional programs could be added which could include classes on childcare services and administration.
The installation of air purification systems, including UV light technology could be installed in local schools to protect children. These systems could also be installed in government buildings.
An investment in technology was also mentioned where upgraded software would greatly improve the efficiencies of businesses and service providers alike. The use of this technology could reduce the need for the face-to-face interactions which led to exposure possibilities.
Expanding the local library was also mentioned. This is something that has been discussed for some time. This expansion would improve its ability to serve those citizens with additional programs and book selection.
Melaro said that he was pleased with the turnout and planned to share a summary of the meeting at the next county commission meeting on Sept. 13. He also urged citizens to contact him with their thoughts on how to best utilize the use of these funds. He represents the fourth district.
“According to the guidelines we’re working with now we must present a plan on how we will use this money by 2024 and spend it by 2026. Any unspent money must be returned,” Melaro said. “Some of the guidelines for using these funds will probably be changed before it’s completely implemented. We aren’t sure right now.”
He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, text or telephone at 731-394-1610.