Chester mayor says goodbye

CHESTER – Monday’s Chester City Council meeting turned into an emotional farewell for outgoing, longtime Mayor Ken Morris, who called the current council “the best one I’ve worked with.”

Morris, who has been in office for 14 consecutive, and 18 total, years, closed the council meeting by saying goodbye and offering thanks. Tearing up, he did it with difficulty at first but later hit his stride.

“I couldn’t have done all this without everybody around me,” he said, singling out City Clerk Sandra Parkins and Solicitor April Manypenny Raines for special praise.

Morris, 57, lost his bid for re-election on June 10 in a five-way race for mayor. Weirton Steel retiree Larry Forsythe, 66, beat Morris 209 to 153. Forsythe gained 17 votes in Monday’s canvass, while Morris gained 10 votes.

The addition of the provisional ballots during the canvass put Morris and challenger Cody Williams in a tie for second place.

Because of a required 48-hour waiting period, the election results will not be official until Parkins certifies them on Thursday morning.

Morris used his parting remarks to praise, and sometimes defend, the city departments. Regarding the poor condition of some city streets and alleys, he said, “You only have so much money to work with.”

Morris advised city residents not to be too quick to criticize if something goes wrong.

“If you have brown water, don’t berate the water department,” he said.

As for the city’s finances, Morris declared, “We’re in good shape.”

Morris said goodbye with George Burns’ familiar sign-off from “The Burns and Allen Show”: “Good night, Gracie.”

Monday’s canvass, which added 57 provisional ballots to the total count, also showed that Forsythe beat Morris in all five wards. Williams benefited the most from the canvass, gaining 20 votes for a total of 153.

City council voted to accept all the provisional ballots but declined to accept two absentee ballots that were submitted past the deadline. The provisional ballots were tabulated by Democrat Anthony Bernardi and Republican Pete Arner.

The canvass did not change the outcome of any races in last week’s municipal election, Parkins said.

Also Monday, council:

Voted to change the city’s insurance carriers for property and liability insurance and for workers’ compensation coverage. Council accepted a bid from the Scottsdale Insurance Co. to provide property and liability coverage at an annual savings of about $5,000. Council also agreed to switch back to BrickStreet Insurance for workers’ compensation, for an annual savings of about $3,600.

Morris said staying with Travelers Insurance for property and liability would have meant an annual premium increase of $7,000.

“They said it was because of $80,000 in claims from us over the past year,” he said.

However, the city learned that at least one claim for $25,000 came from the city of Chester, Pa., near Philadelphia, Morris said.

Morris told Assure America agents George Gresko and Becky Provenzano that there needs to be better communication between the insurance carriers and the city.

“We can require the carrier to give us quarterly updates,” Gresko said.

Gave longtime school crossing guard Tom Thoman a plaque for his years of service.

Learned that Morris had appointed Pete Arner and Bill Kell to the Chester Water and Sewer Board, to fill vacancies left by the resignations of Ron Miller and Rusty Smith. The water board is comprised of three council members, three residents and the mayor.

Learned that the swearing-in ceremony for new office holders is scheduled for 6 p.m. June 30.

(Huba can be contacted at