Chester calls on Pennsylvania leaders for help as city navigates turbulent financial struggles
CHESTER, Pa. - The mayor of Chester called on state leaders in Harrisburg to dip into a multi-billion dollar rainy day fund to help the decades-long financially-strapped suburb of Philadelphia.
Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland and members of city council will head to Pennsylvania's capitol in hopes to hammer out a plan to get $8 billion directed to Chester.
The city of more than 32,000 has been designated a "financially stressed municipality" since 1997, and some believe it's in danger of becoming disincorporated and divided.
As Chester tries to navigate turbulent financial waters, Mayor Kirkland claims the state-appointed receiver keeps preventing local solutions to Chester's money woes. One of those proposed solutions involves a plan to sell Chester's water system to Aqua PA for $440M.
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"With $12M separate from the $440M up front - which would have helped the city with its financial woes - the receiver instead decided not to have that conversation," Kirkland said.
When reached for comment, Receiver Michael Doweary told FOX 29 that courts on both the federal and county level have been clear. Doweary asserted that the only ones standing in the way of the receivership process are "certain city officials" from the City of Chester.
Chester gets a quarter of its annual revenue from the casino and the recycling plant, the ladder of which became a hot-button issue in the wake of FOX 29's Philadelphia Mayoral Debate. Candidate Jeff Brown's comments about Philadelphia hauling its trash to Chester sparked ire from his constituents and Chester residents alike.
Covanta - the company that owns and operates the trash-to-energy plant on the banks of the Delaware - said the City of Chester gets $5M yearly for Philadelphia's trash. A spokesperson for the company previously told FOX 29 that a study showed the plant operates below federally regulated standards and does not pose a health risk to people living nearby.
Meanwhile, locals believe years of bureaucratic corruption and an overgenerous pension plan for city employees that's no longer in place for the fiscal disaster.
"You can't give people pensions at 47, 50-years-old, and medical benefits until they retire, until they're like 65-years-old," Rick Nardone said. "It doesn't work, we don't have the tax revenue."
For now, Chester's leaders claim that ongoing and unsolved financial distress has made it nearly impossible to attract new businesses and vendors.
"It's hard to get other businesses and other entities to come in and work with you, because the fear that the same thing is going to happen to them, that they won't get paid after rendering their services," Mayor Kirkland said.