The Splash Pad Saga is Over
Wheeling approved a splash pad to be built at WesBanco Arena, and rejected one at Warwood's Garden Park. The move ends months of back-and-forth between members of Council, the public, and media.
For months now the City of Wheeling has been caught in a standoff over an unexpected source—splash pads. These water features have given endless fodder for local news media to chew on. Tonight the ‘will they or won’t they’ question was answered—they will and they won’t.
The saga began May 16 when an ordinance appeared on the City Council’s agenda to approve splash pads for WesBanco Arena and Warwood. Councilor David Palmer, Ward 6, contested the legality of the agenda item, saying it failed to be properly added to the Health and Recreation Commission’s agenda and therefore could not be heard at the meeting.
Then, at their June 6 meeting, a motion was made to table splash pads despite Mayor Glenn Elliott assuring his colleagues that they appeared on the agenda properly. This action was in response to The Intelligencer running a story critical of the project.
At the Council’s June 21 meeting splash pads, again, were discussed, this time allowed for their first reading. City Manager Robert Herron advised Council they must act at the July 5 meeting or risk losing the contract signed with CT Consultants.
Councilors were also told about the city’s current splash pads–on Wheeling Island and at the Grandview Pool–with multiple elected officials asking about the long-term costs associated with the projects, which is estimated to be $27,430 per year per splash pad.
Finally, at their July 5 meeting the Council took official action on the splash pads. The cost to build both splash pads sat about $800,000.
Councilor Rosemary Ketchum, Ward 3, asked if the Council were to approve one splash pad, but not the other, could funding be reapportioned, to which City Manager Robert Herron agreed.
Palmer said he couldn’t understand how the city would fund splash pads considering there are four in the City of Wheeling, they are used only in summer, and the Council has yet to fund the LifeHub or paving projects while money is running out.
The first ordinance that was moved for a vote pertained to the engineering costs for the WesBanco Arena and Warwood splash pads. The project totals $66,000 and will be funded through ARPA. The ordinance passed 5-2, with Councilors Palmer and Seidler voting in the negative.
The second ordinance pertained to the WesBanco Arena splash pad at a cost of $348,500. A motion was made for adoption, and it ultimately passed on a 6-1 vote, with Councilor Palmer voting in the negative. The Waterfront will see the construction of a splash pad.
The last splash pad-related ordinance would see the feature be built in Warwood at the Garden Park pool at a cost of $359,622. In a great turn of events, the ordinance was rejected by a vote of 3-4, with Councilors Seidler, Ketchum, Sklavounakis, and Palmer voting in the negative.
When asked what made the Warwood splash pad different from the WesBanco Arena one, Seidler said it ultimately came down to money and location.
“I think the WesBanco splash pad is going to get a little bit more use. It’s at our waterfront which is one of our prime locations within the city,” Seidler told the Hudson Household Editorial.
Seidler says the splash pads are great for neighborhoods, and his own kids love them, but that it ultimately came down to money.
“Not that the Warwood [splash pad] is any less important,” Seidler said. “I do really support the splash pad idea. If this were brought back in a year I would very likely support it. This is strictly a matter of looking at our finances and prioritizing the money we have left.
Speaking about prioritizing funds, Seidler said, “It’s a no-brainer to me,” when speaking about spending funds on the LifeHub rather than the Warwood splash pad.
Ketchum, speaking before the vote, said that the Warwood splash pad was the most expensive out of the two and therefore made sense to not support it. Ketchum also expressed concern about how ARPA dollars were being spent, mentioning other projects that need the support.
By summer 2024 the City of Wheeling will have five splash pads, three operated by the City of Wheeling (WesBanco, Grandview, Wheeling Island) and two privately owned (Oglebay and Wheeling Park).
Two of the Wheeling-operated splash pads recirculate their water, and therefore need to be tested multiple times a day. The Grandview pool splash pad, however, sends its water directly to sewage lines–something multiple members of Council, including Mayor Elliott, voiced concerns about.
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