Wheeling City Council holds meeting; Approves funding for Clay School viability study
The Wheeling City Council met at the City-County Building for its second and last meeting of February. Multiple ordinances were approved with vocal community support.
Members of the Wheeling City Council and Mayor Glenn Elliott pose with a family member of Henry Warwood, whose birth 200 years ago was recognized by a Proclamation marking February 23 in honor of Mr. Warwood.
The Wheeling City Council met today, 5:30 PM Tuesday, February 21, 2023, for their second and final meeting of the month. In attendance were Mayor Glenn Elliott, Vice Mayor and 1st Ward Rep Chad Thalman, 3rd Ward Rep Rosemary Ketchum, 4th Ward Rep Jerry Sklavounakis, and 6th Ward Rep David Palmer. 2nd Ward Rep Ben Seidler and 5th Ward Rep Ty Thorngate were absent. Rosemary Ketchum opened with a prayer followed by a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Roughly 30 members of the public were in attendance, including citizens, a member of the Human Rights Commission, Homeless Liaison Melissa Adams, and media.
In the mayoral report, Mayor Glenn Elliott highlighted the success of the Facade Grant program, which awards grants to applicants for the restoration of their historic facades. Mayor Elliott touted over $800,000 of awarded money, adding that these grants encouraged more than $3,200,000 in private investment into the City. The mayor also noted that a new private condominium construction project in a currently-vacant lot will be built at 1115 Main Street. A Proclamation from the Mayor was announced, marking February 23, 2023, in honor of the 200th anniversary of Henry Warwood’s birth, an English immigrant to Martins Ferry who was influential in the former town and current Wheeling neighborhood of Warwood, West Virginia.
An ordinance was up for consideration which would authorize the City of Wheeling to pay Tipping Point, a private development company, $27,000 to conduct a development study for the Clay School, a former primary school in the East Wheeling community which has stood vacant for two decades. Three members of the community, including a former Clay School attendee, a concerned citizen, and the Program Director for Wheeling Heritage spoke in favor of passage. Each reiterated that they were not opposed to tearing the structure down, but were in support of a study first to determine what the options are. Ron spoke of the need for the city to show it is one of action, not just intent; followed by Mr. Jeff Johnson who stated the building in its current state is an eyesore, and that it is important to involve the community.
I spoke to Mr. Jeff Johnson after the meeting where he talked about why he spoke at the City Council meeting in favor of this ordinance. As a student of the Clay School beginning in the early 90’s, Mr. Johnson expressed his dissatisfaction with the state of the building. He said he does not want to see the building sit still, but he also doesn’t want to see it turn into a parking lot- an idea he found “unacceptable.” Mr. Johnson stated that whatever happens to the Clay School, whether it be demolished or restored, there must be wrap-around services that provide for the community, pointing to Education, Health, Financial Literacy, among other services. Mr. Johnson, who owns property in East Wheeling and whose parents reside in the community, commended the community for an outpouring of support at a meeting of stakeholders discussing the Clay School hosted in January.
A motion to approve the ordinance was brought by Rep Rosemary Ketchum, who said this was an opportunity to address blight in the East Wheeling community. Rep David Palmer spoke in opposition, saying his biggest fear is the money will be spent, but the project stalled, and in two years time the city will be in the same place. Rep Palmer then asked for the motion to be tabled to which City Clerk Delbert explained a motion to table could not occur while a motion to approve was being considered. Rep Jerry Sklavounakis made a statement to the effect saying the private company should foot the bill to conduct its own research study. Mayor Elliott brought up concerns the East Wheeling community had with the 2006 installation of the JB Chambers soccer field, which sits across from the Clay School. Ms. Betsy Sweeny of Wheeling Heritage, responding to a question from Mayor Elliott, assured the Council that Tipping Point’s intention with the Clay School development study was to be creative and forward thinking. A vote was held and the ordinance passed 4-1, with Rep Palmer voting in the negative.
The council unanimously approved four ordinances offered during their February 7th meeting: (1) a $112,000 A demolition project with Aster Oil Field Services funded through ARPA, (2) a $240,000 project with Regional Economic Development of Wheeling to install solar panels on the Stone Building, housing Williams Lea, funded through the TIF bonds, (3) the creation of a no-parking zone on Lane B from Nutel Ave to Clifton Ave, and (4) the creation of three “Combat-wounded” parking spots, one on Chapline St, 16th St, and Water St, respectively.
The Council gave brief remarks. Vice Mayor Chad Thalman recognized Chuck Howley, a Warwood native, for his admittance into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Rep Jerry Sklavounakis announced the Ward 4 meeting and Ward 4 “Crime Watch” meeting to be held on the second Tuesday of March. Rep Sklavounakis also commended his colleagues who offered support in finalizing a scoresheet and budget for a potential program involving Victorian homes in the city. Rep Rosemary Ketchum announced the South Wheeling “Crime Watch” meeting will take place at 6:00 PM February 25, at the Trinity Lutheran Church. Rep Ketchum also noted that the Heritage Trail will be closed at 37th St.
City Manager Robert Herron gave his remarks. The concrete pour scheduled at the 10th St Parking Garage has been delayed due to weather conditions and has not been rescheduled. City Manager Herron also noted that the City’s contract with Aster Oil Field was $70,000 under budget, and the city has $200,000 left to spend for demolition- enough for potentially eight to fifteen structures. City Manager Herron commended the Water Pollution Control and City of Wheeling Water Department for their handling of monitoring due to the East Palestine train derailment and leak into the Ohio River earlier this month.
Before adjourning a brief question period occurred between Mayor Elliott and City Manager Herron where the intention of the city to have a contract out to bid on restoring the Tunnel Green as soon as this spring. Mayor Elliott also inquired to City Manager Herron what could be done about the ever-present smell of the water treatment plant, which can often be smelled across Center Market and parts of South Wheeling. City Manager Herron proposed potentially adding covers to the “digester” at a cost of between $5-7 million. Various ordinances were presented today which will be voted on at the next City Council Meeting. Of note, multiple Facade Grant applications, a redevelopment plan for the former Ohio Valley Medical Center building, and allowing Tito’s Sloppy Dogs to acquire property in Center Market for a second location.
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