Wheeling City Council Approves WesBanco Arena Improvement
Wheeling's Council met and decided to enter an agreement to renovate the WesBanco Arena.
Wheeling’s City Council met Tuesday, August 15, to discuss several issues including funding for new Wheeling Police Department equipment and an agreement between the city and Regional Economic Development Partnership to improve the WesBanco Arena, among others.
Councilor Ben Seidler, Ward 2, was absent.
Top of the slate of ordinances considered was a Memorandum of Understanding between the city and REDP, agreeing to their work in redeveloping the Wesbanco Arena, home of the Wheeling Nailers.
The project would see the commercial kitchen moved and expanded and the construction of a ‘loge suite,’ or box-style seating. Mayor Glenn Elliott said the project would expand capabilities of the kitchen, increase ticket sales at the venue, and “will make the arena more competitive.”
The proposed agreement saw some push back at the August 1 meeting where Julia Chapman spoke against the measure saying it would only benefit the “elite of Wheeling and wealthy tourists,” and alleging it would be an indefensible burden on taxpayers.
Councilor Dave Palmer, Ward 6, spoke about the statements made by Chapman saying there would be no burden on taxpayers.
“This is untrue,” Palmer said of the claim. “Funding will come from the Greater Wheeling Sports and Entertainment Authority.” Palmer claimed there would be no additional fees to taxpayers and no increase in ticket prices.
The Agreement passed unanimously, 6-0.
Council also passed a $149,451 ordinance expanding the excess liability policy for city employees, a $820,806 ordinance for water main improvements on Bank Street, and a $88,676 ordinance for equipment to outfit new Wheeling Police Department vehicles.
Council heard first readings of five ordinances including a fee for sewer and water rate-payers in the city using credit or debit cards, a contract not exceeding $100,000 with Evolve of Pittsburgh to update the city’s comprehensive plan, the addition of two handicap parking spots on 12th St, a $2,000,000 transfer from the city to WVU Health Systems for re-development of the former Ohio Valley Medical Center, and the creation of a loading zone at the Laughlin Memorial Chapel.
The proposed $2,000,000 transfer from Wheeling to WVU Health Systems comes as the organization plans to redevelop the former OVMC for a regional cancer center and youth psychiatric care site, and as West Virginia University faces an unprecedented budget shortfall.
Mayor Glenn Elliott announced two new appointments to city boards and commissions tonight, both receiving unanimous votes from Council.
Roanne Burech, member of the Board of Directors for the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, was named to the Wheeling Hall of Fame Board.
Unique Murphy, Community in Schools Site Coordinator at Wheeling Park High School, was named to the Wheeling Human Rights Commission.
During remarks from Council Councilors Jerry Sklavounakis, Ward 4, and Rosemary Ketchum, Ward 3, spoke.
Sklavounakis spoke about the August 5 Wheeling Arts Festival calling it a “tremendous event,” adding that it was “wonderful to see the community” show up. Sklavounakis said Wheeling Park was a wonderful backdrop for the venue and congratulated Ketchum and the Wheeling Arts and Cultural Commission for their work on the event.
Ketchum echoed Sklavounakis’ praise of the event saying the Arts Festival “exceeded our expectations,'' while noting the amount of work that went into putting it on. She thanked her colleagues on the Wheeling Arts and Cultural Commission and encouraged colleagues to continue their support of their work.
Ketchum spoke about a mural opening inside the Ohio County Public Library by Vondell Bell to be unveiled on August 22 at 12:00–the public is encouraged to attend.
Ketchum also congratulated Dan Mileson for the opening of Waterfront Hall near Heritage Port, a project she said was highly anticipated in the city. She extended her gratitude to Lara Graves and the reopening of Avenue Eats in the building. Ketchum said she hopes the project will be a catalyst for Water St and the Heritage Port area at large.
City Manager Robert Herron had a lengthy update for City Councilors tonight.
He began by informing the Council that a new fire truck purchase, costing $860,000, would be heard during the September 5 meeting and encouraging Councilors to support it.
The WVU Health Systems re-development of the former OVMC has started with underground tank removal. Herron said work can be seen starting this week.
Updating the Council about a previously passed placemaking sign for Heritage Port, Herron said the foundation building had begun with an expected completion date coming in four weeks.
Herron announced a $650,000 Congressional spending allocation for WesBanco Arena.
The WV Department of Highways says a complete deck replacement was needed for the Market St bridge which was closed in 2022 due to damage from a fire. The project may be expected to begin in October or November and be completed by spring 2024.
The Suspension Bridge, which has seen millions of state and federal funding to remodel, has seen supply chains delay work. No decision has been made on resuming vehicular traffic on the historic structure. Vehicular traffic on the bridge stopped in 2019 due to safety concerns.
The Wheeling Fire Department celebrated a ‘tree-topping’ ceremony, signifying the completion of the main structural components. Expected completion date is the end of December.
The Market St Parking Structure is around 65% complete, Herron said, and the pace should pick up as future stories are uniform allowing for quicker turnaround. Supply chain issues regarding an emergency generator have slowed the project scheduled to complete in December.
During public comments Michael Borsuk, Wheeling native, spoke on behalf of the Ohio Valley General Hospital, or Ohio Valley Medical Center, History Group. He described the group as concerned citizens, former OVMC employees, and those interested in preserving history.
Borsuk said the demolition of the former OVMC was inevitable, but the destruction of its history was not. The group has had access to the building to collect records, some 70 boxes so far, now archived at the Ohio County Public Library. He asked the city and WVU Health Systems to continue working with the group to ensure the history is preserved.
Some 750 employees were employed at the former OVMC before it closed in 2019, at the time the third largest employer in Ohio County. Many were informed by a paper taped to the building announcing its closure.
The historic structure will soon be demolished with a cancer center and children’s psychiatric care center taking its place.
The Wheeling City Council entered an executive session to discuss property acquisition. While it was not disclosed what specifically was discussed, after a thirty minute session it was announced that no decision had been reached.
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