Wheeling City Council Adopts Nine New Demolitions; Councilor Abruptly Exits Meeting
The Wheeling City Council recognized multiple groups around the City, assured residents festivals will go forward despite Streetscape project, and announced more than $2 million in new proposals.
The Wheeling City Council held its first of two scheduled meetings for the month of May, with proclamations made, appointments announced, and ordinances adopted. Meetings are held on the first and third Tuesday of the month, and agendas are available on the City of Wheeling’s website on the Friday prior to a meeting.
Development Committee Meeting
The Council’s Development Committee met at 5:00 PM, where Vice Mayor Chad Thalman, Ward 1, proposed a program that would loan money to property owners to encourage the repair of sidewalks. For fifty years now, property owners have been responsible for the maintenance and repair of sidewalks outside of their property, but many of the City of Wheeling’s public right-of-ways have been left in disrepair.
Vice Mayor Thalman proposed a $500,000 program that would see property owners receive 75% of the funding needed to replace and repair sidewalks, with a three-year deadline to pay back the loan. The program would also set aside an additional $500,000 to replace and repair sidewalks owned by the City of Wheeling.
Councilor Dave Palmer, Ward 6, and Councilor Jerry Sklavounakis, Ward 4, questioned where the funding for this program would come from. Councilor Palmer continued, asking what the consequences would be if a recipient did not pay it back. “Where does it end? Will we be painting buildings and repairing roofs,” Councilor Palmer asked, speaking about the multiple funding programs offered by the City of Wheeling for revitalization efforts.
City Manager Robert Herron spoke about a study done by the City of Wheeling concerning the quality of sidewalks in the communities of Warwood, Wheeling Island, and Woodsdale, saying 231,000 sq ft of sidewalks need to be replaced in these three neighborhoods. Cost estimates range from $12 to $15 per square foot, or $6.9 to $7.5 million for the three communities covered in the study.
Mayor Glenn Elliott, responding to pushback against the proposed program, said, “We see people pushing baby strollers in the middle of the street,” because of the current state of sidewalks. Mayor Elliott said “doing nothing is not constructive,” and urged the council to take action. A motion to direct City of Wheeling staff to set parameters of the proposed sidewalk repair program was adopted by unanimous consent.
Wheeling City Council Meeting
All members of the Wheeling City Council were in attendance–something that has only happened one other time since the Hudson Household Editorial began covering meetings in February. The City Council Chambers were filled past capacity, thanks to the many students from area-middle and high schools present to accept a proclamation by Mayor Elliott.
Mayor Glenn Elliott began his mayoral report by proclaiming May 2 “Day of Outstanding Achievement in Competitive Robotics,” recognizing the nine schools–out of fourteen slots allotted to West Virginia–who represented Ohio County in Dallas, Texas, at the Vex Robotics World Championship on April 25 through April 29. Several teams made it to the elimination round of their division, with Wheeling Park High School’s team “Iron Patriot Mark 1” finishing 5th place in their division.
Mayor Elliott proclaimed May 6 “Wheeling Dog Day,” saying the City of Wheeling was pushing to become a dog friendly city, pointing to three dog parks that have been opened in Wheeling over the past few years, and recognizing HB 2648, passed by the West Virginia Legislature during their regular session, which expands the ability for dog-owners to bring their pets in certain businesses.
Mayor Elliott continued his report, saying the upcoming “TBT” or “The Basketball Tournament” –which will be held at the WesBanco Arena from July 25-29–is a “grand slam for the City of Wheeling.” “Hopefully the condition of the streets don’t turn people away,” Mayor Elliott said of the Streetscape project, which has seen sidewalks ripped up and lanes closed on Market St and Main St in downtown Wheeling. City Manager Robert Herron, speaking about upcoming flurry of events in the city, said the WV Division of Highways has given assurances that accommodations will be made to ensure access to events are as unaffected as possible.
Chair of the Historic Landmarks Commission, CJ Kaiser, spoke about the work of the commission–part of a new initiative announced by Mayor Elliott to have Commission Chair’s give updates during City Council Meetings. Chair Kaiser spoke about the thirteen historic districts in the City of Wheeling, with a fourteenth–Dimmeydale–under consideration by the National Park Service. Chair Kaiser said the work of the Historic Landmarks Commission was important as it slowed down the rate of demolitions, giving the City of Wheeling a chance to offer other solutions.
Mayor Elliott finished his mayoral report by yielding time to Mary Clark, Wheeling resident. Clark remembered her daughter, Amanda, who passed away in 2022 due to a drug overdose. “I never believed it could happen to me,” Clark said. She spoke about the need for support systems to help family’s deal with the issue of drug addiction and overdose, leading her to found Amanda’s Angels for Hope. Clark directed people to the nonprofit's website, amandasangelsforhope.org, and said, “Too many people are struggling alone–they don’t have to.”
Unfinished Business From April 18 Council Meeting
Each of the nine proposals held over from the council’s April 18th meeting were passed unanimously. Adopted proposals include: 1) A petition to vacate and abandon an area near the 2300 block of Water St, 2) the renaming of Park Rd in Mozart to Schmulbach Rd–affecting 20 people, 3) the renaming of Esther Ave in Mozart to Lucinda Lane–affecting 10 people, 4) an $82,780 contract with Savage Construction of Wheeling to repair storm drainage, sewer systems, and a retaining pond along I-470, 5) a $31,196 contract with Sutphen Corporation of Chicago, IL, to repair WFD Ladder 6, 6) a $655,000 contract with Jarvis, Downing, & Emch Inc of Wheeling, for structural repairs to fire stations 2 and 10, 7) a $96,040 purchase of a leaf machine from Southeastern Equipment Company of Cambridge, OH, 8) a contract with Century 21 of Wheeling to represent the City of Wheeling in marketing the retail space in the future 11th St Parking Garage and 1107 Main St, and 9) a $312,939 contract with The James White Construction Company of Weirton, WV, to improve the sewer system in Georgetown along National Road.
Proposals adopted today total nearly $1,200,000 in new spending, yet almost no debate was heard by members of City Council. The council often rushes through proposals, offering little information about the scope of contracts, sometimes totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is unclear when these proposals are discussed if not at City Council meetings.
The only proposal passed today to receive debate was the contract with Century 21 to represent the City of Wheeling in marketing the retail space in the future 11th St Parking Garage. Mayor Elliott proposed amending the ordinance to add the 1107 Main St building–a property owned by the City of Wheeling. Councilor Palmer informed Mayor Elliott this amendment could not occur due to a motion on the floor to adopt the ordinance as written. After a brief discussion, Councilor Thorngate withdrew his motion to adopt, allowing Mayor Elliott to propose his amendment–which passed unanimously.
Remarks from Councilors
Members of the Wheeling City Council were given the chance to offer remarks.
Councilor Palmer talked about an event, Grooving at the Grove, on May 13 hosted by the Elm Grove Business Association at the YMCA. Councilor Palmer also commented on the West Virginia Supreme Court’s decision to side with the City of Wheeling in a dispute between it and the City of Benwood and the Public Service Commission of West Virginia
At issue was a proposed sewage rate increase passed by the City of Wheeling in 2021.The City of Benwood raised concerns to the PSC regarding the rate increase in 2021 and the PSC sided with Benwood, causing Wheeling to seek advice from the courts. In April of 2022, the West Virginia Supreme Court sided with Benwood and the PSC, but the City of Wheeling asked the court to reconsider its decision. In April of 2023, the West Virginia Supreme Court announced its new decision, overturning its 2022 ruling and siding with Wheeling–allowing the city to increase its sewage rates.
City Manager Herron spoke of the decision, saying the “people of Wheeling will be treated fairly” because of it, and that it will have a “positive impact on the Wheeling Pollution Control Division.
Councilor Rosemary Ketchum, Ward 3, congratulated Wheeling Heritage for their work on the Wheeling Public Art Trail, which was recognized by American Trails as part of the Advancing Trails Awards Program. Councilor Ketchum also congratulated the Ohio County Solid Waste Authority for their successful Earth Day event held on April 22.
Councilor Sklavounakis announced the Ward 4 Crime Watch meeting for May 9 at the Temple Shalom at 7:00 PM. Councilor Sklavounakis also recognized the Robotics teams mentioned in the Mayor’s Proclamation, saying their success shows the excellence of the City of Wheeling’s school systems.
City Manager Report
City Manager Herron announced that several types of permit requests required in the city can now be applied for online–media about this to come in the following weeks. Mr Herron also spoke of the Streetscape project, stating that the timeline would likely be extended past its originally scheduled completion date.
Asked about the Market St bridge closure, Mr Herron said the WV Department of Transportation was designing a new deck, but that he did not know when the project would move forward. Mr Herron updated the council on the Forest Hills Road Slippage–which a member of the community spoke about last meeting after waiting forty years for repairs–stating that crews had toured the site on the morning of May 2.
Eight new ordinances were announced today, including 1) a $23,500 contract with Savage Construction of Wheeling to correct a road slippage on E Cardinal Rd, 2) a $38,000 demolition contract with Doty Salvage of Moundsville, WV, for the former St Gladys (sp) Church at 4414 Wood St, 3) a $60,000 demolition contract with Aster Oilfield Services of Bellaire, OH, for 310 North Huron Street, 1211 Lind Street, 4326 Water Street, 4335 Jacob Street, 64-37th Street, 3730 Jacob Street, 3842 Eoff Street, and 2625 Eoff Street, 4) an amendment to noise and peace ordinances related to animals, 5) a $1,759,745 contract with Ohio Valley Industrial & Business Development Corporation, of Wheeling for improvements to the Stone Center building, 6) a contract with Top Notch of Wheeling for grass cutting from April to September, 7) a $405,600 contract with O’Brien’s Rent All & Sales Inc. of Wheeling for 23rd St sewer system reconstruction, and 8) the FY 2023 CDBG and HOME program plans, approved 7-0.
Just over $2.2 million worth of new projects were announced by the City Council.
Ms Knollinger spoke about an ordinance approved by the City Council in December 2022 to create a no parking zone on the south side of 5th St in North Wheeling due to concerns over visibility of oncoming traffic. Knollinger stated that the city originally painted the curb yellow, indicating a no parking zone, but said the work had been undone–claiming a member of council overruled the decision.
A known agitator in the City of Wheeling–and regular speaker at council meetings–spoke out against the upcoming June 10 Pride on the Plaza event hosted by the Friendlier City Project. Councilor Ben Seidler, Ward 2, abruptly walked out of the meeting as this woman spoke–closing the door loudly behind him. Councilor Seidler then gave an interview with a legacy newspaper denouncing the woman who spoke, saying, “hate has no place here.” The Hudson Household Editorial will not be sharing the article from mentioned legacy newspaper as it is a word-for-word retelling of the known agitator’s rant—something we do not see journalistic value in posting.
The City Council adjourned and is scheduled to meet on May 16.
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