City Loosens Residency Rule

West Virginia residents from Wellsburg to Moundsville now will be able to patch potholes or plow streets in Wheeling, as City Council voted Tuesday to loosen the residency requirement for city employees.

That vote came in a 4-2 decision, with Councilman Robert “Herk” Henry and Councilwoman Gloria Delbrugge in opposition. Councilman David Miller was absent.

Council also approved new rules prohibiting residents from parking vehicles in their front yards and establishing new requirements for those seeking to hold parades or public assemblies on city rights of way. Those votes were unanimous.

The new residency requirement would allow the city to hire from within an area bounded to the north by Bruin Drive, located between Wellsburg and Follansbee, and extending south to include Benwood, McMechen, Glen Dale and Moundsville. The previous rule required employees to live in Ohio County or the small portion of Wheeling that lies in Marshall County.

The city Human Resources Department requested council look at the issue, citing difficulty in finding qualified applicants for some positions. City Manager Robert Herron previously said it doesn’t make sense that an employee can live 20 minutes away in West Liberty but not five minutes away in Benwood.

Henry previously said he opposed the change because he did not want to see city employees’ tax dollars going to other counties.

And in order to hold a parade or public assembly, applicants for a permit now must notify Herron’s office at least 10 days prior to the event and show proof of at least $1 million in liability insurance coverage, up from the previous requirement of $100,000.

The new rule also prohibits others from interfering with the planned route and subjects offenders to a $500 fine.

In other business, council unanimously approved the transfer of $140,000 in Tax Increment Financing from the state to the city’s parking fund. Herron said about two years ago, the city purchased the L-shaped parking lot north of the Century Equities building near 12th and Main streets for that sum, and this is a reimbursement of that expense.

The lot will remain in use for parking for now, but Herron said the city plans to market it for redevelopment along with other city-owned downtown properties.

During the meeting, Herron also said the new council chambers on the ground floor of the City-County building should be ready for use by the first week of January. Progress on the work stopped when Ohio County needed the space to test voting machines, but with the election over Herron said he expects work to begin today.

“I don’t anticipate that there will be any more delays,” he said.

Council also heard from Wheeling Health Right Board President John Saunders, who again asked city officials to consider restoring federal Community Development Block Grant funding to the organization, which received about a $20,000 share of the city’s annual entitlement before being cut off this fiscal year.

Saunders said Health Right’s free clinic on 29th Street serves thousands of Wheeling residents each year and the need for its services is growing.

“We continue to see people lose their benefits in manufacturing. … We’ve really counted on this city support,” said Saunders.