Wheeling City Council Considers Over $1.17 Million in Proposals; Unanimously Approves Demolition of Historic Buildings Without Debate
The City Council and Finance Committee met on April 18, where they unanimously approved the demolition of historic buildings in East Wheeling for a multi-billion dollar, out-of-state company.
The Wheeling City Council and the Council’s Finance Committee met on Tuesday, April 18, 2023 for their final public hearing of the month. Councilor Ben Seidler, Ward 2, was absent.
Meeting agendas for the City Council meetings are typically available on the city’s website by the Friday before a scheduled meeting. A schedule of meeting times can be found on the city’s website. The agenda for the April 18 meeting can be found here.
The Finance Committee met briefly at 5:15 PM in the City Council Chambers and approved unanimously the March financial statement.
Mayor Glenn Elliott during the Mayor’s Report updated the community on the private restoration of the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Building–Wheeling’s only “official” skyscraper. Members of the City Council met with developers from Canton, Ohio, where the Council members were informed the original cost of $28,000,000 has now grown to $41,000,000, and that interest rates had more than doubled from 3% to 7%. The company, Coon Restoration, said it was looking for new funding sources. Mayor Elliott said the city was doing what it could to ensure the project moves forward.
Mayor Elliott yielded time to the Municipal Tree Board Chairwoman, Karen Cox, to address the Council before they considered codifying the board into the City Charter. Cox spoke about the three years of work the Tree Board has done, saying they have counted over 1,150 trees on City property, and that more than 300 new trees have been planted. The City of Wheeling’s trees have helped collect an estimated 2 million gallons of storm water.
Cox noted that the work of the Tree Board was not just for beautification, pointing to studies that show green spaces increase the health of community members, increase revenue for businesses, and help capture pollutants. Cox encouraged members of the community to take part in this year’s Earth Day celebrations at Heritage Port on Saturday, April 22, as well as volunteering for community cleanups taking place on Friday, April 21.
Mayor Elliott proclaimed the month of April as Fair Housing Month in recognition of the 55th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1968. Members of the Wheeling Human Rights Commission–Chairman Ralph Dunkin, Comm’r Vincent DeGeorge, and Comm’r David Miller–accepted the official Proclamation. The Wheeling HRC has put billboards up around Wheeling in celebration of the Fair Housing Month.
During the Clerk’s Report, City Clerk Jessica Zalenski announced two new ordinances: 1) a petition to turn 108 South Huron St–currently vacant–into a parking lot was referred to the City of Wheeling’s Planning Commission, and 2) a petition to demolish 144, 146, 148 16th St. was adopted. 144 and 148 16th St and buildings covered by the East Wheeling Historic District. It appears Enterprise Rent-a-Car, a multi-billion dollar, national corporation, has purchased these buildings to expand their footprint. The site is currently zoned for commercial and parking lot uses. A lot directly across from these historic buildings has sat abandoned and empty for many years.
Six ordinances from the City Council’s April 4 meeting were considered today. First, the A-1 Cleaning Services contract for the Police Headquarters continued to be tabled. Sources tell me the reason for this is due to a dispute between A-1, an out of state company, and Russell Nesbitt, a Wheeling-local company, over the cleaning contract.
Two ordinances amending and re-enacting Article 505, 507, related to Animal Welfare and penalties for Animal Cruelty were adopted unanimously. These changes bring Wheeling in line with the Cities of Charleston and Huntington, and define the requirements for structures protecting animals who live outdoors from the elements, as well as updating penalties for noise complaints.
The Municipal Tree Board was codified unanimously. A contract with Cast and Baker of Cannonsburg, PA, totaling $474,550 for sewer improvements in North Park to be charged to the Water Pollution Control Division Bonds was approved unanimously. The Municipal Council Levy Estimate for Fiscal Year 2023-24 was approved unanimously.
Councilors were given the opportunity to give their remarks.
Councilor David Palmer, Ward 6, said the Ward 6 Crime Watch meeting would take place on April 19, at 7:00 PM, at the Elm Grove Civics.
Vice Mayor Chad Thalman, Ward 1, spoke about an apparent road slippage on East Cardinal, to which City Manager Robert Herron said a contractor would be hired to resolve this issue by the next City Council meeting. Vice Mayor Thalman also spoke about citizen concerns that North 19th St in Warwood had been skipped during street cleanings, to which City Manager Herron said no roads were skipped and noting the City’s three active street sweepers and one backup sweeper were operational. Vice Mayor Thalman said the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Building is a “gem” of the Ohio Valley.
Councilor Rosemary Ketchum, Ward 3, praised the Sanitation department and the City’s Public Works department for the installation of trash cans in Center Wheeling. Councilor Ketchum announced the next East Wheeling Crime Watch meeting for May 1, at 6:30 PM in the new Police Headquarters. Councilor Ketchum invited members of the public to attend a special South Wheeling History trivia night at The Foundry on April 20, at 6:00 PM, hosted by the Ritchietown Renaissance.
During the Report of the City Manager, City Manager Robert Herron spoke about a paving project at the Ohio County airport beginning May 1, to be completed by Cast and Baker of Cannonsburg, PA. CM Herron also spoke about the Homeowner Repair Assistance Program, whose budget is $2,000,000 funded through ARPA, saying 88 projects have been completed, 202 projects are in process, and 99 projects have yet to start. CM Herron recognized Seth McIntrye, the City of Wheeling Finance Director, will be resigning from his position. The City is looking to hire a new Finance Director.
Nine original proposals were announced, including 1) A petition to vacate lots 1 through 8 of Water Street as part of a Lane Abandonment, 2) a resolution for Park Road in Mozart to be known as Schmulbach Road, 3) a resolution for Esther Avenue in Mozart to be known as Lucinda Lane, 4) an $82,780 contract, charged to ARPA, with Savage Construction of Wheeling for “field renovations'' of I-470, 5) a $31,196 contract with Sutphen Corporation of Amlin, OH, to repair Wheeling Fire Department Ladder 6, 6) a $655,000 contract with Jarvis, Downing & ECMH of Wheeling for structural repairs to WFD Stations 2 and 10, 7) a $96,040 contract with Southeastern Equipment Company of Cambridge, OH, for a “leaf machine,” 8) an agreement with Century 21 of Wheeling to market the retail space in the future parking complex on the corner of 11th St and Market St, 9) a $312,939 contract with James White Construction of Weirton for Georgetown sewer improvements.
Original propositions announced today totaled more than $1,177,900 in contracts.
Two original resolutions were announced and approved unanimously. First, a resolution leasing property to the Macedonia Baptist Church. This property currently sits unused and overgrown. The church plans to make the space into a terraced greenspace with gardens and seating areas. Second, a resolution to participate in the Northern Panhandle Home Consortium, a program that assists first-time home buyers obtain property.
The public was given a chance to speak, of which three members rose for three minutes each.
Mr Dodd rose, calling himself a “hometown boy.” Dodd complained about a retaining wall slippage and other road damage. Dodd implored the City to repair the problem, saying it has been 40 years waiting for help.
Mr Gebhart spoke against the Fire Service Fee. Gebhart claimed his property was not covered by the City of Wheeling Fire Department, yet he had to pay the service fee. He made a comment about the size of the Fire Department’s workforce.
Ms Ditmar began by saying she “needed to mention race” to get the Council to care about anything. Ditmar spoke about the need to fix playgrounds and bridges in the city. Ditmar rebuked Mayor Glenn Elliott for an op-ed he wrote in The Intelligencer about the importance of a DEI Coordinator position being considered by Wheeling, WV City Government, Ohio County Schools, and the Ohio County Commission.
The Wheeling City Council then went into an executive session to discuss “property acquisition.” No information was given as to what the acquisition was, and upon exiting the executive session Mayor Elliott said not agreement was reached. The City Council adjourned.
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