Wheeling City Council Holds Final Meeting of March
The City's Rules and Finance Committee's met beforehand. Several nominations were announced and approved. Multiple resolutions passed, others offered for next meeting.
The Wheeling City Council met for its second and last meeting of the month today, March 21, 2023. The Wheeling City Council Rules Committee and Finance Committee met at 4:45 PM and 5:15 PM respectively.
As I reported on March 7, the Wheeling City Council Rules Committee was considering amending and reenacting ordinances regarding animal abuse in the City of Wheeling. This amendment came after a citizen-complaint about a dog being held on an outdoor porch throughout the winter, and said dog howling for hours. The City Solicitor contacted the City of Huntington, the City of Charleston, and the City of Wheeling’s legal department to revise the proposed amendments.
The definition of weather as it relates to quality of life for animals was rewritten to match the Cities of Huntington and Charleston. The City Solicitor also noted that the current penalty for animal cruelty– a $1,000 fine– had not been updated for some time. Penalties for noise complaints related to animals are currently set at a minimum of $100 fine and a maximum of $500 fine. Currently the Wheeling Police Department is tasked with making animal abuse citations, in coordination with the Dog Warden.
Dog Warden Roger Bise was present for the meeting and, speaking on the amendments, said he appreciated the Wheeling City Council Rules Committee for updating the language of these ordinances, and praised the Wheeling Police Department for their cooperation. Mr Bise, speaking about the specific complaint filed by an East Wheeling resident, informed the Committee that the Ohio County Animal Shelter has provided the family in possession of the dog with a dog house. The resolution to accept these changes to ordinances passed unanimously by a voice vote.
The Rules Committee also sought to codify the Municipal Tree Board into the City of Wheeling’s charter– in effect the city’s constitution. Chairwoman Karen Cox spoke about the board thanking members for their work on this project. The City Solicitor commented, saying this will help the City of Wheeling become “tree city USA.”
The Municipal Tree Board is a Council-appointed, volunteer board that seeks to coordinate the urban canopy planning of Wheeling with other city agencies and private companies and residents. The Board is made up of no less than seven members and no more than eleven. Their meetings are open to the public and scheduled for the first Monday of the month at 11 AM in the Ohio County Public Library in the basement classroom. The resolution to accept the codification of the Municipal Tree Board passed unanimously by a voice vote.
The Finance Committee met briefly to discuss the February 2023 budget. According to City Manager Robert Herron, the city’s revenue is slightly higher for the month of February compared to this time last year. The General Fund is lower than 2022 and 2021, but higher than 2020, sitting at $2,165,000 for the fiscal year.
The Wheeling City Council came to order at 5:30 PM with every Councilor and the mayor present.
Mayor Glenn Elliott gave a brief report, stating he was out of town last week. Mayor Elliot announced two nominations: (1) Mr Joseph Sparksman (sp) to join the Wheeling Housing Authority, and (2) Mr Dave Schafer to the Board of Zoning Appeals. Both nominations were approved unanimously. On a side note- Mr Schafer, who is a 20 year veteran of the Wheeling Fire Department, appeared to bring his two daughters and wife with him. He spent much of the time before the meeting explaining to his daughters who their Councilor is and what the Council’s job is, which I found touching!
City Manager Robert Herron gave his report announcing the Wheeling Police Department has moved to their new Headquarters, and a public open house and ribbon cutting is to be scheduled for mid-May.
City Manager Herron also jokingly derided local newspapers, presumably the Intelligencer, for incorrectly reporting the planned opening of the City Dog Parks for mid-May. Mr Herron corrected the record, saying reopening of these parks should occur in mid-April, as I correctly reported in my article from last meeting.
After City Manager Herron gave his report a conversation between Mayor Elliott and Mr Herron occurred. The gist of this back-and-forth stemmed from a meeting proposed to communicate about the city-wide Parks and Rec plan for the year. Mayor Elliott asked by Mr Herron did not attend and had instructed his staff not to attend. City Manager Herron cited the City Charter saying the meeting time should have been communicated to him directly, not through a member of his staff. Mr Herron cited the City Charter twice, in effect saying the planning of the meeting and, or, channels of communication used to discuss the meeting were not in accordance with the Charter.
Two resolutions from the March 7 meeting were brought for a vote:
(1) The first affects private homeowners with dilapidated structures. When a building becomes a hazard to the community based on its structural integrity, the City of Wheeling can step in and have the property razed, with the cost being charged to the owner as a lien on their property. This resolution would increase the amount of money the City can claim on these liens.
The resolution was adopted unanimously, 7-0.
(2) The second resolution will amend the zoning code in Wheeling, in effect loosening requirements and dimensions for buildings built in Downtown Wheeling.
The resolution was adopted unanimously, 7-0.
There were four original resolutions proposed tonight but not voted on. To summarize:
(1) would authorize the expense of $21,000 to Mattucci Roofing to repair Fire Station #4’s roof,
(2) Would authorize all necessary documents to hire a daily cleaning service for the new Wheeling Police Department Headquarters,
(3) the creation of a program designed to provide funding for homeowners to restore their homes built before 1940, and
(4) a $243,472 expenditure to Dagostino Electric Services Inc, for cabling and wiring for the new Wheeling Fire Department Headquarters.
There were three original resolutions proposed and voted on, each passing unanimously 7-0. (1) Adopting the General Fund Budget for FY 2023-34,
(2) adopting the Coal Severance Budget for FY 2023-24, and
(3) submitting the FY 2021 Annual Action Plan to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Department.
Councilor Jerry Sklavounakis, in announcing the resolution to create a program to fund homeowner repairs to homes built before 1940, gave more specifics on the program. Councilor Skalvounakis said the goal of this program was to deliver money directly to residents.
This new program, if adopted at the April 4, 2023 Wheeling City Council meeting, will begin accepting applications for a 60-day period beginning that night. Homes with incomes less than $120,000 can apply for grants of $5,000. Grants will be awarded based on a score-sheet, and homeowners will have to provide 20%, or $1,000, of the grant to receive it.
Councilor Dave Palmer offered an amendment to the resolution, reducing the size of the programs fund from $500,000 to $150,000, with the caveat that members of the Council could increase the budget at a later date. Councilor Palmer raised concerns about criteria being lowered if the grant money wasn’t fully dispersed. The amendment was rejected without a vote after Councilor Palmer proposed it but no other member would second the proposal.
For the first time since I began reporting, the Wheeling City Council recessed their meeting to meet privately for an Executive Session in the room behind the City Council Chambers. The Executive Session lasted for thirty minutes. On their return Mayor Elliott explained the first time of business, concerning a “property acquisition,” could not be agreed upon.
Mayor Glenn Elliott announced the appointment of Ms Jessica Zalenski, Wheeling resident, as the next City Clerk. City Clerk Brenda “BJ” Delbert will continue working for the City of Wheeling. Clerk Delbert, jokingly, commented that she had only missed three Council meetings in five years. Members of the Council and the Mayor of Wheeling offered their praise of the work Ms Delbert has done as City Clerk and wished her well in her new job.
Comments from Councilors:
Councilor Rosemary Ketchum announced a meeting at the Mozart Fire Department to discuss the renaming of duplicative street names in the city. Councilor Dave Palmer offered any assistance Councilor Ketchum needed, joking that it took him six to nine months to change a similarly duplicative street name in his district. Councilor Ketchum also spoke about an upcoming event on April 4, 2023 at 12:00 PM, at the Ohio County Public Library, where they will discuss the impact urban renewal has had on Black neighborhoods. Councilor Jerry Sklavounakis commended the Wheeling Police Department chief for “solving” a long standing issue Ward 4 had concerning safety. It is unclear what the problem or solution was but Councilor Sklavounakis joked his Crime Watch meetings may not be well-attended because of the effectiveness of the “solution.” Vice Mayor Chad Thalman announced a meeting about the North Park neighborhood, tomorrow, March 22, at 5:30 PM in the City Council Chambers.
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