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Chester County ARP Funds survey questioned

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By Kendall Patterson
Editor

Did all of the commissioners really vote broadband as number one on their surveys?
Were the options on the survey that the county took in January actually the commissioners’ ideas?
After the survey results were released in the Chester County Independent last week, District 5 Commissioner Tim Crowe explained to CCI how the answers to both of those questions is no.
On Thursday, in an email from Chester County Mayor Barry Hutcherson’s assistant to CCI and all of the commissioners, new survey results for Jackie Butler and Andrea Holland were sent as corrections to the ones that were sent out February 8 which were the ones published in the newspaper. This is what sparked Crowe to give all the details of what has been going on.
“When I seen other commissioners were changing. I’m thinking, okay. Why are they changing? Was it a typographical mistake or was it ‘we’re getting heat?’”
According to Hutcherson’s assistant, Butler visited the county office and said that he never filled out the survey. As to how did a survey have his name on it, Mayor Hutcherson’s office said they did not know.
For Holland, the assistant mentioned Holland said she updated hers sometime in between January 14 and January 31, but her newer version was not the one that was released.
He said that the list of projects that the county should look into spending the funds on was a “pre-assigned” list given by Mayor Hutcherson. The pre-assigned list was the same list of items that was on the county’s survey that county residents could fill out.
“We were given a list of several items, and then we were asked to choose from that list of what we would like to move forward with,” Crowe said.
According to Mayor Hutcherson, the items included on the survey were decided upon by compiling the commissioners’ top six choices.
Then when it came to filling out the survey, Crowe said “broadband is typed in as number one and everything else is written, that is the sheet we were given to put our responses on.”
Hutcherson said that there was an understanding that broadband was number one for all of the commissioners and that is why it was typed in at the top of all the commissioners’ choices.
He continued stating that he did not have the completed surveys in front of him at the time and did not know for sure if broadband was number one for all of the commissioners, but from what he knew, broadband was the number one priority for everybody.
When CCI questioned Hutcherson specifically about Crowe’s survey, Hutcherson said that it should be the same as what Crowe submitted. Besides that, he did not know why what Crowe submitted and what was released to the public was different.
It is worth mentioning, for those who did not see the survey and are not aware, an “other” option was given on the community survey, but was just to select more of the pre-assigned items; not to type/write in your own thoughts if you had any.
As more evidence to how the survey was handled by the county, Crowe sent CCI text messages from January 13 between himself and Mayor Hutcherson’s office explaining his stance in it all.
Of the pre-assigned list items, Crowe’s number one choice would have been to give funds to the Carl Perkins Center, but what ranked even higher than that, and a choice not included on the survey options, was his request to have more public hearings and public input.
The text from Tim Crowe to Mayor Hutcherson’s office reads: “Good morning, let me first say on the pre-assigned list we were given there are things I may be open to and some that I am not. However my number one request is that we hold more public hearings with all the commission and have a forum that allows for public input from anyone that wishes to speak. But from the list given at this point the main one for me would be Carl Perkins Center. Next Broadband, some sort of resolution to the old medical building, transfer station at solid waste. These are just some considerations too. Please do not take my reply as I’m being difficult, I just want transparency, community involvement, and putting aside politics is paramount here and no rush decisions. Thank you, for all you do I am quite sure your job is difficult. Also should anyone ask I am still a HARD NO on buying the Regions building.”
As previously stated, Commissioner Crowe is in favor of the people being able to share their input with how these funds are used, as well as sharing input on other county business.
In the last county meeting that occurred January 10, Mayor Hutcherson limited discussion of the funds to the individuals/ organizations who reached out to him before the meeting instead of having an open discussion with any audience members who desired to speak. In public hearings/ forums, attendees should not have to reach out to the mayor before the meeting is held in order to speak.
In Crowe’s text message from January 13, it says how if Crowe were to choose from the pre-assigned list, his number one item would be the Carl Perkins Center, yet the commissioners’ survey results that were sent out to CCI and all of the other commissioners on February 8 had Crowe’s number one as broadband.
His text message then goes into how all of his choices were “considerations.”
In a phone call with Crowe he had a lot to say about the items on the list and those that he may or may not consider.
“There’s a lot of thing of things that I’m willing to consider. Some of those are on that pre-assigned list. Some of them are not. I’m not locked in to support or not support anything. It’s a consideration, and I feel like most of the county commissioners feel that way. That’s’ why I feel that open meetings to allow the people to come in and talk, voice their opinions, tell us what they think, tell us what they think they need. We can consider all of that, even besides the things that has been given. It’s like my example on broadband. I think that is important, but that doesn’t necessarily mean am I ready to commit to give Aeneas money. No I’m not. I want to hear their proposal. I want to hear what they can offer. How many people can they serve? Then if they can’t serve the entire county, what can we do to help the rest of the people in the county that can’t have access to Aeneas. A big point to me is affordability. It doesn’t matter if you have three internet service providers going by your house whether you live in Henderson, Montezuma, Masseyville, Enville… If you can’t afford it then how is us dumping a bunch of money into an internet provider helping you. So we need to consider how we can help that person. Could we put up hotspots around the county? That’s just another consideration. But that was something we never got the opportunity to voice… I feel we need to have more work sessions where people can voice their opinions to us and we can voice our opinions. Everybody is upset about the solid waste fee. I understand that. Nobody wants to pay more fees and taxes. I understand that. That’s why I am considering. Doesn’t mean that I am signed on to support but I am considering the solid waste transfer station. Why I would be considering that is, if they can show me how we can do that with these funds and we could save enough money on it where we can go back and readdress that fee at a later date. Then yes I would consider that. But if we can’t save any money, and it’s just going to cost us more money then I wouldn’t consider it/ support it. It’s a consideration.
That’s why if you’ll notice on my list, I didn’t have anything for recycling… because I know they are very good about reaching out and getting grants on the recycling part. That’s why I thought, if they want to do something on that part… Maybe they can get the grant and that’s why I would consider the transfer station. if we can save enough money that we could go back and readdress that fee and take a little more of that burden off the people that’s why that’s one of my considerations. But at this point I’m not locked in to support or not support anything. It’s considerations.
Just like it is stated in last week’s issue of CCI, Mayor Hutcherson said the goal is to use the COVID-19 relief funds for as many options included on the survey as possible. If that cannot be done, he said other methods of funding the projects would be searched such as grants and other means.
As CCI talked with Crowe, he continued to express that that is not the way problems in the county should be managed.
“Throwing money at a problem is not always the solution, and if somebody comes and they’ve got a project that is a very, very expensive project and then there’s no other way for them to get the money to finish that project, what good is it for me to vote to spend two, three, four hundred thousand dollars on a one million dollar project that they have no other way of coming up with that fund, so why would I want to support that? That goes all the way back to what I’m saying. It’s consideration. You consider. Then, you prioritize. Whenever I get ready to vote on funding, then I need to vote on what I think is the most feasible for the people of this county that we can support.”
Discussions on the ARPA funds are scheduled to continue during the Chester County Commission’s special called meeting on Tuesday, February 22. To see the full agenda for that meeting see

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