PHOENIXVILLE -- In response to Housing Authority of Chester County's chairman Donald J.L. Coppedge's letter of complaint, Borough Council directed its president, Henry Wagner (D-Middle), on August 25 to write a letter of apology.
He has done so, but it may not be exactly what some Council members had in mind. And, along the way, the drafting attracted fresh support for the Main Street-Community Development Corporation and its director -- from sources not previously on the record.
Coppedge's letter to Wagner of July 29 took issue with the substance and style of Main Street-Community Development director Barry Cassidy's comments on HACC in a video report July 21 posted on phoenixvillenews.com.
Cassidy's "smug, venomous remarks," Coppedge wrote, "were outrageous. Worse, as Mr. Cassidy is a Borough representative, his remarks reflect very poorly on Borough Council."
Cassidy had said that in light of what he considered "conditions that border on squalor" in HACC properties in Phoenixville -- Fairview Village and King Terrace -- and "arrogant, "nasty" responses from HACC to Borough officials, he questioned "the ability of the [agency] to maintain, rent and provide safe and adequate housing for those they are charged to serve," and said in the video report he would oppose any attempt of the Authority to redevelop Fairview "on the general principle that you get what you give."
And so Council ordered up the apology, in spite of Wagner's reminder that Council had agreed unanimously to "ask Mr. Cassidy to intervene," to serve as a liaison between the Borough and HACC.
The draft apology circulated among Council members this week.
In it, Wagner rehearsed the events in the relationship between the Borough and HACC over the past year, on issues from Fairview and King Terrace maintenance to the future of the Community Gar
den and Labyrinth in HACC's Fairview redevelopment proposals.
He noted that Cassidy's evident frustration was not just his own, that several members of Council "felt frustrated by the Housing Authority in the efforts to have their concerns for safe and sanitary living arrangements addressed."
Since April, Wagner said, when residents of Fairview and King Terrace came before Council with their own concerns -- "I remain committed to having those conditions adequately addressed," he wrote -- "a great deal of progress has been made." HACC's selection of Pennrose Properties as developer of the Fairview site and its commitment to maintaining the Community Garden on the redeveloped site "were heartening and did a great deal to rebuild what had otherwise become a shaky relationship between the Borough and the HACC."
Then came the note of regret: "I apologize to you for having made you feel as though you needed to deal with the HACC's perceived offenses by our appointed liaison through a formal letter," he wrote, "and did not feel comfortable enough to speak to me in person about your concerns.
"I truly hope that if there are any future concerns that you will allow the Council and me the opportunity to address them personally," Wagner concluded.
"I've shared my thoughts [with Wagner]," said Richard Mark Kirkner (D-North) on Wednesday. "I'm the one who made the motion for it." Just how Wagner drafted the letter, Kirkner said, "is his call. It's his letter. Writing letters by committee is a [censored].
"I hope Mr. Coppedge receives it in the spirit in which it was written," Kirkner said.
Asked if he saw the Coppedge-Wagner exchange and its issues as influencing Council's planned reconsideration Monday evening of its professional services agreement with the CDC, Kirkner said he did not. "I've tried to make this [CDC issue] not about character or personality but about finances."