Six Firms Remain in Running to Craft Plan

Six firms remain in the running to help Wheeling leaders craft a plan to guide them into the next decade, as members of a steering committee on Tuesday narrowed down a pool of nine applicants seeking the job.

That committee, a sub-group of the Wheeling Planning Commission composed of five commission members and four other residents, met Tuesday to discuss those proposals. Most of the meeting took place behind closed doors, as the discussion involved contractual matters.

West Virginia requires its cities to maintain comprehensive plans – broad documents including provisions for land use, housing, transportation, recreation, urban renewal and other areas. Wheeling hasn’t updated its plan since 1997, however, and must do so before the end of 2014 to comply with a 2004 law that now requires municipalities to develop a new plan every 10 years.

City Council has set aside $100,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant money for that purpose.

Following the closed-door session, committee members decided to schedule interviews with six firms: ACP Vision and Planning of Columbus; Michael Baker Inc. of Pittsburgh; Compass Point of Blue Ash, Ohio; Peter J. Smith and Co. of Buffalo, N.Y.; Poggemeyer Design Group of North East, Pa.; and URS Corp. of Morgantown. The committee chose to reject proposals from Environmental Planning and Design of Pittsburgh, City Architects of Cleveland and Benchmark Planning of Kannapolis, N.C.

Planning Commission Chairman Howard Monroe said some of the companies’ cost estimates came in higher than expected, others lower.

But Tuesday’s decisions, he said, were more about the overall quality of the proposals – experience, time schedule and a plan for engaging the community – than money.

“Cost was really almost not an issue tonight,” Monroe said. “Cost will obviously be a factor at some point.”

The committee hopes to schedule interviews over the next couple weeks and then make a recommendation to the Planning Commission.

If all goes according to schedule, City Council may be able to award a contract by September, with opportunities for public input possible before the end of the year.

“The sooner we can start, the better off we’ll be,” Monroe said.