I was with a guy last night and asked why he wasn’t at the city council meeting. He said he can’t take it anymore. They just keep telling lies.

Wow! I didn’t expect that response from a guy who was gung-ho on seeing the Chester political landscape change five years ago. I guess he’s not seeing the type of change he expected.

Chester folks are starting to get tired of being in the papers reading about issues of doom and gloom only to hear city officials say everything is under control. Somebody is being less than truthful.

This summer it was the Act-47 recovery plan bomb shell from…

Econsult Solutions, the state-appointed firm in charge of digging through Chester finances, who predicted that the city’s deficit would grow from a $16.2 million cumulative deficit in 2016, to a $37.3 million deficit by 2020.

In August, city government said…

A detail of the proposal will be made public sometime in October. For now, City Council has accepted the Act 47 Recovery Plan proposed by Econsult Solutions, but the full complement of amendments have not be released to the public. Those details are still to come.

Don’t look now, but it’s December 9th and I don’t think that detailed proposal promised for October has surfaced yet. Who knows, maybe it has.

Councilman Nichols was quoted as saying, they agree with 90% of the plan as is and had already implemented 50% of it at the time it was drafted by Econsult. However, the plan calls for cuts, which included a 30 percent reduction in staff to the Chester Fire Department and cutting the police force by 10 percent, which city government said they are not in agreement with. In fact, the city plans to build a new fire house.

This week we learn from an audit that the three city pension funds are grossly under funded. Last night, Nichols said…

…many of those concerns were previously accounted for in the Act 47 Recovery Plan. (The) number is now much lower, citing a $5 million payout on Dec. 3 on the $9 million owed for 2015, and he said the city has paid $2 million on the $6 million owed for 2016. They have until Dec. 31 to fulfill the payments for 2016.

…which sort of implies they were a year late with last year’s pension payment and need to scarf up $4 million before the New Year’s Eve parties to not be late for this year’s payment and still owe $4 million from last year. That statement wasn’t too assuring, but, who knows, maybe it will all work out somehow.

Nichols stated that the arbiter came up with the fireman contract which is in place today draining the city coffers. What he doesn’t state is that they could have appealed as the previous administration did many times to prevent the deal from going forward as drafted.

Compounding the pension issue is the news of massive overtime boosting pension payment…

One officer, the audit reads, was able to raise his monthly pension from $3,618 to $10,272, and in the process earned $155,808 for the additional hours. His yearly salary was $240,525 that year. His annual pension is now $123,264.

Nichols called the 3,500 hours that the officer racked up in a single year “humanly impossible.” What most folks find humanly impossible is that it took an audit before anyone seemed to realize someone was working that much overtime. Nichols did promise an investigation. It can’t be that hard to find the person who approves overtime. With payroll being the city’s largest expense, the Director of Public Finance probably already knows the responsible party. Who knows, maybe no one was responsible and the overtime was warranted.

Then we hear…

“The city’s having fruitful conversations with the Fraternal Order of Police in how to address the issues with the pension,” Nichols said. “There are great ideas that will be in the next contracts.”

…but the city has agreed with the recovery plan which says to cut the police force by 10 percent, which city government said they are not in agreement with. Who know how well these fruitful great ideas play out at contract time.

And then the much ballyhooed reappointment of Darren Alston to police commissioner which many have seen as a strange move considering there is also a police chief in place. Most of us can’t understand why the department needs a commissioner and a chief. Then, Alston decided to retire less than a year after being appointed. You mean, no one saw this coming? Alston just up and decided he wanted to retire or did he do what most folks do, plan a retirement date well in advance and had an understanding with the mayor that he would be leaving within a year? Who knows?

Finally, there’s the Harrah’s issue. It’s gotta be embarrassing when the newspaper states that the new deal was sealed by Sens. Tom Killion, R-9 of Middletown, and Tom McGarrigle, R-26 of Springfield, as well as state Reps. William Adolph, R-165 of Springfield, and Nick Miccarelli, R-162 of Ridley Park, with no mention of Chester’s state rep being at the table. However,

Kirkland assured people that the city was at the forefront of negotiations. “This mayor and council went to Harrisburg … we petitioned them on Harrah’s and the need for us to continue to receive the funding needed for our community.”

“We all crafted the deal … Chester was at the table fighting for Chester’s interest.”

Either Kirkland and crew had private meetings in Harrisburg and nobody reported on them or they were with the other guys who claimed to seal the deal but just forgot the Chester crew was in the room. Who knows?

There’s plenty of reason to understand why people trying to follow Chester political news are frustrated and don’t know what to believe. The city could do themselves a huge favor by informing people what’s going on before we hear about it in a recovery plan, audit or newspaper. To always be in reaction mode, often times with information contrary to what they’re reacting to, is starting to wear on the people of Chester.

People just don’t know what to believe.

photo: Nafis Nichols is Chester’s chief financial officer. DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA FILE PHOTO