Council Discusses Building Security

An Ohio County sheriff’s deputy will remain on duty at the entrance to the City-County Building until 6 p.m. on evenings when public meetings are scheduled after normal business hours, Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron said Tuesday.

Herron was responding to Elm Grove resident Bill O’Leary, who questioned building security during City Council’s meeting Tuesday – just six days after former Wheeling police officer Thomas Piccard opened fire on the Federal Building just a few blocks away. Authorities shot and killed Piccard before he seriously injured anyone.

O’Leary said he was disappointed to see no one was on guard duty when he arrived at the building for the 5:30 p.m. meeting.

“Anybody could come in with a gun,” O’Leary said. “I would hope that in light of what has happened, and before anything else happens, that this council and the commissioners could sit down and get a guard. I don’t think it’s going to break the city.”

A deputy has guarded the entrance during normal business hours since last June, when an X-ray conveyor belt scanner also was installed there. Herron told O’Leary that Sheriff Pat Butler has agreed to keep a deputy at the entrance for an extra hour past the usual 5 p.m. on after-hours meeting days, acknowledging the lack of a guard after 5 p.m. Tuesday was the result of an oversight.

“I didn’t remind (the sheriff’s department) that we had a 5:30 meeting today,” Herron said. “It was a scheduling issue.”

In other business, council voted unanimously to enact a new ordinance restructuring the operations of Wheeling’s Human Rights Commission. The new legislation gives commission members the option to retain formal discrimination complaints from city residents or forward them to the West Virginia Human Rights Commission within 10 days.

If commission members choose to retain a complaint, they would have the authority to investigate, determine whether probable cause exists to proceed and attempt to mediate the dispute.

Should such mediation attempts fail, “if in the judgment of the Commission circumstances so warrant, the Commission shall cause the complaint file to be immediately sent to the State of West Virginia Human Rights Commission” for adjudication, the ordinance states.

Council also voted to provide the West Virginia Division of Highways $219,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant money to help pay for the cost to replace the Schenk Street bridge connecting National Road with the Peninsula area of the city. Following February’s partial collapse of one of the span’s beams, the DOH agreed to foot the remainder of the bill to replace the bridge. Herron said the work should take place in the spring.

Also, council voted to lease about 19,000 square feet of land along W.Va. 2 near Ohio Valley Medical Center from the state Department of Transportation for $1 per year. Herron said the space will be used to provide additional parking for those visiting the hospital, helping to alleviate a scarcity of parking in the Center Wheeling neighborhood.