ARPA Funds, Splash Pads Discussed During Finance Committee
The use of ARPA funds for the fiscal year were top priority. Recommendations for funding for splash pads, a playground, a housing repair program, were discussed.
As the City of Wheeling nears the end of the fiscal year on June 30 City Manager Robert Herron updated the City Council’s Finance Committee on the state of expenses and revenues. Herron said revenues are “strong” at 91% of expectations; however, he noted a $700,000 reduction in revenue associated with the business and occupancy tax.
American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, funds were top of mind Wednesday as unspoken funding for the fiscal year dries up. Some projects on the agenda were not discussed as the Committee tried to prioritize projects.
Splash pads were, once again, center stage at the City Council meeting–a topic that has proved controversial in the city with Councilor Dave Palmer, Ward 6, making front-page headlines when he questioned the legality of their addition to a May meeting’s agenda on procedural grounds.
These water features are considered safer forms of play for children, reducing risks associated with ‘kiddy pools.’ Splash pads do not require lifeguards, positions the City of Wheeling has expressed issues with filling.. Mayor Glenn Elliott said on his recent vacation to Florida he say “eight times” the amount of kids using splash pads compared to ‘kiddy pools.’
While the two proposed parks at Heritage Port and Warwood would recycle their water in the system, the Grandview pool park, which has been completed for over a month, sends its water straight to the sewer system. Councilor Ben Seidler, Ward 2, said this was a bad design, with Mayor Elliott adding that recycling water was a “common sense” thing to do.
Councilor Palmer, Ward 6, and Councilor Jerry Sklavounakis, Ward 4, both questioned the long-term expenses associated with the splash pads saying the current proposals only deal with the cost of building them. City Manager Herron stated that the Wheeling Island splash pad, which has been active for 25 years, has seen minimal maintenance associated with it.
Mayor Elliott said these splash pads were a good use of ARPA funding saying the letter of the law was geared to outdoor activities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, over $770,000 of ARPA money has been proposed for the construction of splash pads in the city.
The Finance Committee approved the addition of engineering costs and construction plans for Heritage Port and Warwood splash pads to the City Council agenda.
A playground on the Market Plaza in downtown Wheeling was discussed. The project would be a “natural play” playground, and would be constructed by a private company tied to the Figaretti family. A proposed daycare center near the site would have exclusive use of the playground during business hours.
30 to 40 full-time jobs would be created. Mr Fiagaretti cited the construction of Doris on Main and the Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel Lofts, both bringing housing to downtown and increasing the need for childcare and a playground in the area. Currently, there is a 24 to 30 month waitlist for childcare services in the State of West Virginia.
Speaking to me about the project Vice Mayor Chad Thalman, Ward 1, said access to child care is an important issue to him, personally. “By adding this playground we are facilitating a new child care center opening up,” Vice Mayor Thalman said. “That’s something we need here in the City of Wheeling. When I talk to parents and business owners, lack of child care is a problem here.”
Councilor Seidler, Ward 2, said this project was one of the most impactful on the list to fund, and urged its adoption. He continued, saying access to childcare is at a “crisis point.” The resolution was approved up to $201,000 in ARPA funding.
A resolution to fund the Victorian Homes program with $500,000 reimbursed by ARPA funds was approved. The program helps homeowners with homes built before the 1950s repair and remodel the outside of their buildings. 220 applications have been received and are being scored by a board scheduled to meet Thursday, June 22.
$500,000 in repairs for the roof, lighting, restrooms, and HVAC system of the Centre Market were approved, to be charged to ARPA funds. City Manager Herron noted an additional $100,000 had been earmarked by Senator Shelley Moore Capito’s office for the project with a city match, and a $40,000 grant from the state was also approved.
A $531,000 resolution from the Department of Operations to replace many of their trucks was approved. Many of the vehicles in use date to the early 1990s, and frequently break down. Councilor Palmer, Ward 6, said the use of ARPA funds would reduce the burden on the general revenue fund.
The YWCA requested $250,000 in funds for a project to remodel and repair their historic building, a project that will cost them $16 million. The organization had previously been awarded the money in 2022, but a spokesperson for the YWCA said these funds were returned. The resolution was approved, to be charged to ARPA.
All resolutions passed during the Finance Committee meeting will be presented to City Council at their July 5 meeting.
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