I haven’t missed a Municipal Financial Recovery Advisory Committee Meeting where the Chester Receiver’s team provides a monthly update what they’re up to. The meetings are rarely more than 15-minutes and there’s hardly ever any input from the Chester City government representatives on the committee, Councilman Jacobs and Mayor Kirkland. 

I always wonder why Councilman William Morgan isn’t on the committee since receivership is all about the money and Morgan is the head of Chester’s finance department. Lately, I’ve wondered how the mayor could justify participating in picking up trash at community clean ups during the Municipal Financial Recovery Advisory Committee Meetings. One time it was his excuse for not joining the meeting. 

One of the agenda items in yesterday’s Municipal Financial Recovery Advisory Committee Meeting was the Receiver to suggest the City table the resolution to establish residential parking zones in a few areas of the city. This turned out to be a very contentious topic as the Receiver explained why the timing is bad for residential zoning and Kirkland and Jacobs explaining why it’s necessary to get done right now. 

Here’s a quick summary of the parking situation.

The City of Chester entered into a contract with a parking vendor to manage all aspects of city parking. The vendor installs parking meters and collects the money from them; writes parking tickets and collect the fees from tickets; establishes residential permit parking zones and rules, and so on. In exchange, Chester was to receive $1,000,000 up front and share in the parking revenue over some long contract period. 

Apparently, since Widener University put the squash on parking meters on their campus, the contract will not be satisfied and, to date, rumor has it, Chester has only received $300,000 up front money. (The Widener matter is held up in the Media courthouse with no prospect of being decided anytime soon). 

Curiously, the Receiver’s team is working to cancel the parking vendor contract. What hasn’t been publicly shared until yesterday’s meeting is the penalty Chester will have to pay if the contract with the parking vendor isn’t satisfied – $12,000,000.

Why anyone would sign such a contract is baffling unless you were certain the contract was bullet proof. 

In today’s Chester City Council meeting, the Council may vote for residential parking zones to be established. The Receiver’s team explained that the parking vendor has total control of all aspects of parking assets and would receive all the money pertaining to residential parking permits. Al Jacob’s seemed aware and didn’t see it as a problem as long as residential permit parking is established to help homeowners who live near places that congest street parking.

The Receiver points out the difficulty that would exist if City Council approves residential zoning which is within the scope of the parking vendor’s contract. How much more difficult will it be to cancel the parking vendor contract if, at the same time, City Council is giving them more work and more revenue to satisfy more of their contract by starting residential zoning?

The Receiver seems certain the parking vendor contract will end soon, but Chester City government isn’t hearing any of that and seems to want to prolong the contract with the parking vendor by introducing residential zoning.

Residential zoning does not break the contract with the parking vendor as I heard someone say. It is within the scope of the contract that the parking vendor handle residential zoning. However, there are other aspects of the contract that will probably never be satisfied, like installing 1500 meters city wide; getting meters on Widener Campus, etc. Killing the contract now will prevent Chester City from ever having to risk paying a $12,000,000 penalty for an unfulfilled contract. 

Somehow, the city seems to think city personnel and the Chester police department would be managing the residential zoning operation when the Receiver made it quite plain that the parking vendor, by contract, owns all parking assets. 

The level of disconnect between the Receiver and City government is obvious after watching that meeting. It doesn’t appear the people at the top of city government understand what’s going on with the work the Receiver’s team is doing, often times with their own city employees. 

Also joining yesterdays meeting was the Receiver’s boss (of sorts) Kim Bracey, the Executive Director for Local Government Services at the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). She tolerated as much as she could of the meeting before jumping in to say the parking discussion should have been held before the committee meeting. That’s when we learned that scheduled sidebar meetings between the Mayor and Receiver had been cancelled by the Mayor months ago, according to the Receiver. 

In Bracey’s frustration, she blurted out directly to the city councilman and mayor, ‘You are not hearing us anyway.’

If it wasn’t clear to you before now that there is a huge disconnect between Chester City government and the Receiver, this meeting proved it. As I was quoted in the Daily Times on April 4…

“Unfortunately, I’m not seeing a lot of cooperation between the city government and the receiver,” Roots said. “There seems to be a rift between what he’s trying to accomplish.” Roots said he’d be different. “I’m looking forward to working with him,” he said. “Some things are definitely going to change in this city. We need to be ready to embrace this change.”

Call me crazy, but it seems like the city is looking for a political win before the primary on May 18. People have cried out for quite some time for help with the parking situation in certain neighborhoods near Widener University and Crozer Hospital. Everyone agrees something needs to be done. But, to act right at this moment will likely cost the city $12,000,000.

That’s not cool!